Can the Catholic Church Learn from Opera Criticism? - The world of Opera discusses whether great operas are best presented in the language used by their composers or in the language of the audience. For a time, in the 70's and 80's, opera afficionados favored the use of the audience's language, but lately informed opinion is favoring the composer's orginal language.
It turns out, audiences want to get into the feelings which the music, costumes, tempo, and arrangement convey rather than focus on understanding each word spoken in the libretto, choruses, and arias. These modern, localized words have been selected not because they sit easily on the ears of the audience, but because they have to fit with music written for different words from another language. Alternatively, if the opera is presented in its original foreign language, the audience is not distracted trying to understanding the meaning of the oddly arranged words instead they can let their feelings flow on the crest of the music.
Truly, opera goers want to know the plot line of the performance. But they easily gain this understanding by reading a ten minute summary of what's going to happen before the opera begins. In this way the opera goer gets the understanding of the flow of the opera while being able to experience the emotional high which the composer intended.
At Vatican II, Church leaders decided that the Mass in the vernacular, the language of the local people, would be allowed. Most bishops took this to mean all Masses should be said in the vernacular. In short order, the Traditional Latin Mass was tossed into the trash bin.
The "mystery and majesty" of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which is the second part of the Mass, was de-emphasized. American Catholics instead get a flood of words in English that set forth several very important, very interrelated biblical truths and theological concepts. These words are truly wonderful and, with proper explanation, every Catholic will come to possess a much deeper understanding of the pivotal role and interrelationships that the Creed, the Offertory, the Consecration, the Real Presence, the bloodless sacrifice, Christ’s relationship with the Father, the role of Holy Spirit controlling earthly existence, Christ’s brotherly relationship with those at the Mass, and finally the Communion where man and God physically join. All these are an important part of the Sacrament. Of course, relearning and rethinking these truths, while important, is not something that needs to be done, in detail, every week. Learning truths is no substitute for just sensing of the presence of God - first in the Church at the moment of Consecration and then later as Communion is received. Of course, it is very hard to experience these feelings when biblical and theological truths are presented in a compressed format demanding considerable thought and concentration to unpack.
It is a classic case of focusing the Liturgy of the Eucharist at the head instead of focusing it at the heart. Ultimately of course, religious liturgy, just like great art, is a matter more for the heart than the head. The head part can be handled before or after the main experience with written material or a occasional explanatory sermon, but an effective presentment of either the Liturgy of the Eucharist , or an opera, must be aimed primarily at the heart.
Proponents of the liturgy in the vernacular have argued that this was the way it was done in the catacombs around Rome 1900 years ago. The Mass was celebrated in Latin , the people spoke Latin so you had a service in the vernacular. True enough, however, the groups were small, most people there knew each other very well, the spaces used were relatively small, the format and theology at that time was simple not packed with the complex meaning of today, and at least some of the time the attendees were being hunted by the authorities, so there was an immediate sense of God's presence as protector and savior. Today the Liturgy of the Eucharist is hardly any of these things, unless one thinks of a daily Mass, attended by regulars, being said in a small side Chapel rather than in one of today’s large, modern churches.
Perhaps a compromise could be worked out, the Traditional Latin Mass would be used for large groups while the modern Mass, in the vernacular, might be used with fewer than 50 present in a small place.
Something must be done. The percentage of Catholics below the age of 40 who believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the form of bread and wine is dropping steadily. These people will not come to belief through complex appeals to their heads. That restoration of belief will only come after the Church devises, or returns to, an effective stable liturgical form that appeals to the heart............. (prepared by Hugh Murray on 5/17/2010)
The Church's Teaching on the Economy and Social Justice in Light of America’s Current Plight -Today Americans are living through very difficult economic times; times which are so uncertain that many millions of people have been thrown out of work. Accordingly this paper will attempt do three things:
1) review some of the specifics in the Church's teaching, in other words, set out the Catholic’s ideal, particularly as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para 2426 and following)
2) explain how departures from this ideal led to the tremendous crash, and
3) explain how the Church's ideal might, even at this late date, be successfully applied to America’s economy to good effect.
In places, there will be a need to define certain limitations which, while not desirable, are necessary given the nation's terribly weakened condition. In other words, options which were available just a few years ago have gone by the boards and now the choices are much less inviting.
THE CHURCH’S TEACHING
The Church's teaching is really quite clear. It can be summed up in a few points:
1) People should work and society should be organized so appropriate work is available,
2) a married man should receive enough wage for his labor to support his family; that is his wife and children,
3) People must be allowed to own private property personal property (eg a car, a television, etc), as well as in most cases land and a home, and/or the actual means of production (eg a mine, a factory) but these rights are not without limits - they must consider those that have a direct interest in their operation (eg in the case of a factory those would be employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, etc., in the case of a house the mortgage holder, next door neighbors, etc.) and those with an indirect interest (eg the local community, the environment, etc.),
4) the well compensated can not justify exorbitantly large incomes by saying the "contract says I'm entitled"; such contracts are immoral,
5) workers must have a right to organize and even strike, if needs be, for just ends,
6) talented young people should be given a path so they can achieve their full potential,
7) reasonable profits are good because they allow those who provided capital to be compensated and they also allow enterprises to expand and modernize, and finally
8) the government has a duty to provide security so economic activity can be safely pursued but also to provide reasonable regulation so the natural tendencies of business to compete unfairly or take short cuts are controlled.
AMERICA’S CRASH and SUBSEQUENT RECESSION
Proceeding to the recent crash, the imbalances were many and responsibility widespread. Although there was massive regulation of most of the financial services industry, there were cracks and fissures in this regulatory regime that allowed greedy behavior to flourish. This greedy behavior manifested itself in the following:
1) independent mortgage originators and some banks pushed high cost mortgages on borrowers who couldn’t possibly pay,
2) rating agencies took huge fees and issued AAA ratings to structured pools of low quality mortgage, called Collaterlized Debt Obligations or CDOs.
3) federally sponsored mortgage guaranteeing and pooling organizations (eg Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) lowered their standards in response to political pressure,
4) brokerage firms that did pooling of lower quality mortgages modeled themselves on the federally sponsored organizations, but they took standards down to even lower levels,
5) insurance companies issued non-regulated, unsupervised insurance policies, called Credit Default Swaps or CDSs, through offshore subsidiaries to guarantee these pools of low quality mortgages (Note: These insurance companies had to use their offshore subsidaries to do this CDS business because they had to avoid the watchful eyes of the various state insurance regulastors in America.),
6) bank regulators allowed banks to originate mortgages without requiring them to retain even a token (say 10%) stake in the product they originated, and
7) government policy makers and Congressmen who wanted to keep employment high, as factory jobs were being rapidly exported, saw home construction as a way to employ people while simultaneously increasing the percentage of American households that owned thier own home. Additionally these governmental leaders seemed unconcerned about the ability of these troubled borrowers to actually pay the mortgage,
A parallel breakdown, in another aspect of American culture, has had a major impact on all this. Jack Cashill, the author of "Popes and Bankers", has noted that no fault divorce is the principle reason so many American households now exist that lack the income to both make mortgage payments and properly maintain a property. Female headed households are unbelievably common today. For instance, in 1950 only 15% of black children lived in female headed household, today 75% do.
In order to save the country's financial system, the government stepped into breach with huge programs buying these bad mortgages pools, providing cheap money to banks to keep some lending going, and attempting to keep people in their homes even though many lacked the income or skills needed to stay there. All this jumped overall US government debt, state and federal combined, to over 100% of annual GDP. This puts total US government debt at a level about 25 percentage points above the debt level of the EU as a whole. Of course, some EU countries are worse than others but on average the US would be considered a “basket case” if it was part of the EU.
After the mis-managed war in Iraq and the financial crash the American people were understandably upset with the party of Bush and Cheney. Faced with only one alternative to the Republicans, they elected a huge Democrat majority in Congress and the most liberal President in the country's history. Since then the deficit spending has accelerated. For instance, a national health insurance program was enacted which has within it a requirement that people purchase insurance regardless of whether they want it or not. It also provides health insurance for those who lack the resources to buy insurance themselves. This spending was engaged in by the new politicians in Washington who were acting as though the country was not already in a deep financial hole. The situation has gotten worse and will be getting much worse as delayed provision of the health legislation trigger in, and the budgetary gimmicks used to make the cost of universal coverage seem reasonable are uncovered.
THESE ISSUES VIEWED FROM ABROAD TO GET PERSPECTIVE
At this point there are two authors that deserve to be heard briefly on the subject at hand:
1) G. K. Chesterton, in his early work on Eugenics, was primarily interested in countering the crazy ideas of Margaret Sanger and Chas Darwin; ideas which inspired Adolf Hitler and caused so much suffering across Europe. However, Chesterton, in this work, also pointed out that the problem of unhappy, poor people stems from modern business which thinks of man as an interchangeable cog in the industrial process. Business thinks of man as a tool to be used or discarded as needed to aid in the maximization of profit. Chesterton went on to point out that government is prepared to alleviate this unhappiness and poverty by socialistic means which require the government to intrude into and control some of the most intimate aspects of people’s lives. Government will come to “suggest or dictate” dietary habits, reproductive habits, recreational habits, etc. in exchange for the provisioning government provides. Chesterton is, of course, opposed to both programs - the one proposed by business and the one proposed by government. Instead he suggests business humanize their operations such that workers are better paid. So government is not tempted toward transfer payments and heavy regulation of personal behavior.
2) Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Noble Prize, has written a book “Building Social Business” in which he discusses methods to make business more responsive to human needs. In this book he outlines a dozen or more businesses he helped organize in Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries. These businesses did a lot of different things: one provided “one cent” packages of vegetable seeds, a second provided cheap daily servings of yogurt reinforced with vitamins and minerals for school children, a third provided small cheap solar panel units to give homes access to at least a little electricity, a fourth provided small energy efficient stoves so people could cook with less wood, a fifth provided cheap cataract surgery centers, etc. Each of these businesses was organized to earn 1 or 2 percent of profit on sales, just enough to be self sustaining. The only requirement was some seed capital (sometime provided by charity) to get going and freedom from government regulation, taxes, and harassing lawsuits. The results have been dramatic - not for the business mangers who receive very modest salaries but for the people who suddenly find they are no longer suffering from disadvantages and diseases they thought were unavoidable, who see progress and hope in their lives.
CHURCH TEACHING APPLIED TO AMERICA
Now this stark situation must be analyzed using the guidelines for right economic behavior provided by the Church. This is a very difficult task because there is so little latitude for maneuver. Whole categories of assets (such as factories that provide labor intensive work) are no longer available in this country for inclusion in the plan. While the assets that are available are not very useful (such as millions of very large, newly constructed single family homes many of which are probably going to be under utilized or even abandoned).
First, long lasting, stable, well paying jobs must be made available for low skilled workers. Since labor intensive factory jobs provide steadier employment than construction employment and require less skill, America will need to bring factory jobs back to the US. To support a family these jobs will have to pay $20 per hour. To get this done, tariffs will be needed because "American made stuff" will sell for higher prices than imported stuff. American workers will have to be protected from cheap foreign labor. (This is going to upset China. They will probably stop buying US debt. So America will have to face a future where interest rates on its debt are higher, its government is smaller, its taxes are higher. This will mean America's social insurance programs will have to be reigned in very quickly. ).
Second, high paid employees, particularly in the financial services industry, will have to have their compensation reduced regardless of what their contracts say. Perhaps a twenty fold rule should be established - that is the highest paid person in an organization should get no more than 20 times the compensation of the lowest paid employee. This will be difficult to implement but perhaps a 90% tax on earned income over a million dollars per year should be implemented. If a person wants to make more than one million without paying a high tax, they should be encouraged to seek employment outside of the US.
Third, the cost of government must be reduced so families can retain more of their money for their own preferences. Social security, medicare, medicaid, food stamps, and the new health program have to be trimmed, but so too will the wages being paid to government workers. Few realize that the highest average family income in any city in America is found in the greater Washington DC area. There is no good reason for the servants of the people to be, on average, the best paid people in the land.
This three part program will be difficult to implement because America is a multi-cultural, multi-racial slurry. This is great for those who dine out and like a wide variety of choices. People are encouraged to cling to their unique heritage even when that heritage is demonstrably inadequate for today’s challenges. Accordingly, it is hard to gain wide acceptance for any reform proposal. The contrasts in capabilities, civilized habits, and internal family resources are huge between and among the various groups in America. Even Pres Obama has gotten to habit of using part of his daily public pontifications to bemoan the fact that so many Americans don’t look at things the way he does.
These three suggestions go a long way toward accomplishing the Church's goal; but devising a politically acceptable way to get there from here is much harder than simply writing an essay.
..............(prepared by Hugh Murray on 5/25/2010)
When Will She Return?
Almost no one goes to church
But history reports great faith
Though Bernard had a clear view
The maid suffered for beliefs she did not believe.
Lawyers want St. Yves cravats but need his exemplar.
From Aquino to Toulouse, Thomas came, taught, died
While his friend, Louis, threaded the eye of a needle.
Christ's visitations saw His heart under Margaret's ear
And the Cure' heard sins new to Ars.
Where Catherine had visions of miraculous images
And Bernadette discovered a grotto of healing water.
Will the valley people of the Loire, Seine and Rhone return?
Will the coastal people of the Channel, the Rivera, and Bay of Biscay return?
Will the hill people of the eastern Alps and northern Pyrenees return?
If the Paraclete wills?
But when? He knows
The world prays .... the world groans!
...................(prepared by Hugh Murray on 5/31/2010)
Human Nature Doesn't Change, but Evidently Just War Theory Does? The Catholic Church and History Professor Victor Davis Hanson agree on one thing. They agree that human nature doesn't change. Both discuss the proper way to conduct war but they part company on the proper way to proceed during hostilities.
Hanson feels war must be carried on until the losing side is totally humiliated. Hanson feels settlements between the warring parties simply lead to worse wars later. He points to many historical examples: 1) The First World War was settled, but the Germans particularly began to play the "we would have won if only ..." game. That process led to WW II which was worse than its precursor. 2) the Punic Wars in ancient Rome actually went through three incarnations before being finally settled with Rome totally destroying the city of Carthage.
In like fashion, Hanson says a willingness to crush your enemy is essential to being able to reform and rework the defeated country's political and social culture. Hanson points to Lincoln's performance in the American Civil War, Truman's performance against the Japanese, and Rome's handling of Carthage.
Of course, Hanson's approach necessarily leads to both the wholesale destruction of the enemy's citizenry and the complete refusal to discuss any settlement with the other side other than unconditional surrender .
The Catholic Church disagrees with Hanson. It has promulgated a thoroughly thought out just war theory where 1) citizens are to be protected from intentional attack, 2) where each side is to make attempts to settle the dispute rather than fight to the bitter end, and 3) finally the Church is absolutely opposed to doing morally objectionable acts in order to reach some preferred long term end, such as killing large numbers of civilians so total domination of the defeated enemy can occur. So on at least three grounds Hanson finds himself in direct opposition to the Catholic Church.
So which approach should society prefer? ................ (prepared by Hugh Murray on 6/26/2010)
America's Adversary Culture Frustrates Needed Cooperation and Sidelines Valuable Talent - The BP blow out in the Gulf has caused experts to look at the American way of regulating versus methods of regulation in places like Norway in the North Sea.
America's rule book is ten times thicker than the rule book used in Norway and yet the safety results are better in Norway .
Why the difference?
Perhaps the primary difference is in the culture of the two countries In Norway the rules are more principles based and not so prescriptive as to details. In the US, all rules are much more prescriptive as to details leaving less room for individual judgement on the part of both the operator and inspectors as to what must happen. This parallels the difference between the two legal systems. In Norway the laws are principle based giving the courts wide latitude as to how to arrive at a just result, In the US the laws and court decisions are very detail and provide less latitude for lawyers, civil juries, and judges. (The exception is the wide latitude given to juries in criminal case. In America juries can practice "jury nullification" because once a criminal defendant has been found "not guilty" by a jury he is exempt from re-trial on that charge because wrongdoers are protected from "double jeopardy".)
During a recent hearing on the gulf spill, testimony was received on these differences. The feeling was that Norway has a advantage in getting the government and private parties to safely complete difficult wells because there is a mutual trust and cooperative spirit on both sides. All are involved in trying to get a safe result. This was contrasted with the US system, where suspicion of the "other side" is inherited from the adversary culture and gets in the way of best practices. If the two sides are spending time intensely reading a rule book doting "i's" and crossing "t's" the actual regulated activity can get out of hand as the paperwork is being fought over.
There is the related problem of not allowing the most qualified person to move from gov't to private business and back to gov't because of the appearance of impropriety. The best people available can't do the work because of appearances of possible collusion. People are required to leave the industry mid career and work away from their area of expertise, because of gov't rules, before returning to tasks most suited to their experience. Again the adversary culture seems to foster rules that sidelines much needed talent............... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 6/30/2010)
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