Sunday, May 12, 2013

A foggy Sunday meditation ...

(Above: if it wasn't for the hams ... Ben Kingsley hamming it up as Trevor, and Benedict Cumberbatch channeling a triple layer of Richard Burton pork, as usual only the darkness and the baddies providing some light).

It's a grey foggy morning in Sydney, the mist silencing the clamour of cars and the commentariat, and a perfect setting for a Sunday meditation. No need to count the rivets on the third runway planes this morning ...

Which is just as well, because a trip to the movies offers no hope at all. It's impossible to underestimate the strength of mind, the challenge to the will, to sit through both the latest Star Trek and the third Iron Man in one day, and emerge vaguely sane.

Put it this way, if JJ Abrams is the solution, the studio suits don't have a clue about the problem ...

But why do it, why don the cilice and suffer?

Well because it was there, and because there's no other way to experience or explain the shallowness of Star Trek trotting out torpedoes and Klingons as a feeble thought experiment related to drones - for a nano second, before the explosions recommenced, or the mind-numbing eruption that climaxed Iron Man in a shipping yard in Miami because the film-makers just loved the government inducements to film there ... unless you see it in 3D, and in the break duck out to roam amongst the hippies in Glebe for a bit of organic nosh at Iku, where, the pond and The Checkout kid you not, they actually sell organic water (as opposed to the inorganic stuff).

Usually the pond settles for reading the reviews in The New Yorker, and when Anthony Lane describes Iron Man 3 as an oratorio of aggressive sound, rest assured he's just being modest and under-stated. Take away the distilled ham of Ben Kingsley, and all that's left is pure CGI corn. (but you have to subscribe to read the full text of Battle Weary).

So the fog comes as a blessing and a relief after that triumph of the will - She certainly understands the pond and knows how to bung on just the right weather - and we can turn to William Pfaff reviewing a book by Garry Wills in The New York Review of Books, under the header Challenge to the Church (outside the paywall for your reading pleasure at this moment in time).

At first the pond was excited. The front page had made it a headline item, and it seemed that Wills and Pfaff were going together to take down the Catholic church (a bit like the American crypto-fascists in uniform in Star Trek taking down the American crypto-fascists in uniform. Yes the Star Trek franchise goes Starship Troopers is the take-home message).

It turns out that the argument - by believer Wills - is as old as the hills, involving that hoary old beast, transubstantiation:

The priest’s consecration of the bread and wine at Mass, which is what makes a Mass a Mass in the contemporary understanding, causes the substance of bread and wine, while truly remaining bread and wine, and retaining the physical and material “accidents” of bread and wine, to become at the same time the true substance of the body and blood of Christ, the Messiah whom God had promised to the Jews. In the Eucharist, the bread and wine become a new species (again, a term from Aristotle). This definition (by the Council of Trent in 1545–1563, in reaction to the Protestant Reformation) marks the difference between Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics on the one hand, and many of the other Christian churches, for whom the Eucharist is merely symbolic or a memorial of Jesus. 
Wills says all this is mistaken; transubstantiation does not happen; and the manipulation of this error made it possible to establish among the early followers of Jesus of Nazareth a caste of leaders who were to become the Christian priesthood, and would over the centuries develop into the clerical hierarchy that reigns over Catholicism today, in March electing as its head the new Pope Francis.

Yes, yes, all that and more, but it turns out that angry Anglicans and protesting Protestants have run this  line for centuries, and what's it led to? Angry Anglicans wandering in the wilderness shouting at women and gays as the cause of all their troubles ...

Wills even takes up one of the pond's favourite themes, the compulsion to wear frocks, not that there's anything wrong with frock-wearning, though it's suggested Australian naval officers pick the right time and place:

Early in this book Wills describes his wonderment as an altar boy at the multiplicity of symbolic garments a mere parish priest must wear to identify his ecclesiastical mission and consecrated status. In what might be read as mockery, he details at length what over the centuries has become the canonically decreed clothing and ornamentation of the priest, particularly when he says Mass. He also tells how, as a young caddie, he first recognized their worldly vanities when profiting from lay deference in parking spaces at the country club and in teeing-off on the golf course.

Oh that just gives us time to admire a discreet understated number, featuring a woman in just the right supplicant Pellist pose:

Which in turn just gives us time to note Pell's week-old Pellist rant for the Daily Terror, headed Missing Girls, which concludes:

All Australians should support legislative and educational efforts to ensure that unborn children are not denied the right to live because they are girls.

Indeed. The pond thought of adding a coda:

All Australians should support legislative and educational efforts to ensure that girls and women are  denied the right to become a Cardinal - oh the horror, the horror at the thought - or even unimaginably, dare to imagine that they might become Pope - because it should be remembered that they are girls or women, and therefore of inferior stock, and incapable of leadership, and anyway we've had the masculine fix in now for many a year, and just try and snatch those frocks away from our cold dead patriarchal hands.

And don't you worry about any prejudice against women in the church ... remember, we've reserved a special place of humility for them, as powerless irritating nuns ...

Meanwhile, the Newcastle inquiry into the shabby ways of the church wended on its way last week, with valiant attempts to pin all the blame for everything on the whistle blower, rather than the church or the investigating plods who managed to do bugger all by way of accumulating actual evidence or taking much of an interest in anything.

You can read the transcript for proceedings here at Lawlink NSW, in pdf format, but it's all too depressing for the pond, and you might prefer to settle for a Newcastle rag's summary of the headlines here.

Meanwhile, one Father Brian Mascord has flagged that attention might now turn away from whistle-blower Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox to focus on what actually happened and what wasn't done, or more to the point, what was done wrongly:

‘‘It is possible that allegations of cover-ups and conspiracy may be made against priests and members of the laity [during the inquiry],’’ Father Mascord said. 
 ‘‘Please do not rush to judgment. 
 ‘‘We believe there will be some bitter truths coming. Many of these truths are already known, others may come as fresh revelations, and again be of great concern for all of us. (Church figure warns of 'bitter truths': inquiry)

Please do not rush to judgment?

Indeed, the Catholic church has spent decades not rushing to judgment, but instead avoiding, deflecting, dissembling, concealing and covering up in a bid to avoid judgment, while offering pious claptrap of the Pellist kind about abortion and the right of women to control their bodies ... as opposed to the right of priests to fiddle with the bodies of children while being shielded by the church from the consequences of their crimes (we'll leave talk of sin to others) ...

Meanwhile, the pond is pleased to report on the latest developments in the angry Sydney Anglicans makeover of their online site, which violates all 101 rules of the 101 of website design, such that at the moment visitors are greeted with this sorry sight:

Yes, the entire front page goes funeral black, and you're greeted with an offer to click here and visit the latest news right away, or if just visiting, an offer to go to the homepage, and cop a dose of soppy sentimentally about discovering Jesus and reading a clap happy story.

It's pathetic, it's tragic, it's just so wrong, but the pond isn't in the business of fixing up failed Anglican follies.

The best they could do for the moment is admit they goofed, go back to the old format, have a re-think and do a tinker later when they've worked out what they want the site to do. But that would involve the admission of error, and as the world knows, the Angry Sydney Anglicans fancy themselves as error free ...

It makes it all the funnier when you slide past the funeral black that you come up against Michael Jensen offering Five Vital Tips for Cultural Analysis, which involves impersonating a former footballer:

OK you preachers out there – bring it in close. (This is my Peter Fitzsimons impersonation)

Oh dear sweet long absent lord, shall we tell him it's Peter FitzSimons?

Shall the pond tell him that FitzSimons specialises in truly hideous jokes, his Booga Patta joke in today's Fairfax just one of many dreadful examples, while asking questions like this ...

Sorry, how does it actually work again, for religious folk of all descriptions? What is the model? Is it that your god allows such terrible things to happen, but the belief is that if enough people fall to their knees and ask him to change things, he becomes an interventionist god? I pose this as a serious question. What evidence is there that it does work?

Of course Jensen isn't up to the job.

He doesn't mention stepping into a cow pat once, and instead bleats about mining Facebook for sermons, while lurking behind a funeral wall of black on a website that has made a series of fundamental errors in terms of layout and beguiling readership ...

Should the pond tell them? No, if they want to step into a FitzSimons' cow pat, it's on their heads ... or their feet ...

Here you go Michael Jensen, wrap that red bandana around your head and get with the cow pat jokes ...

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