Blogwatcher - From Cathophobia to Lenten pretzels


This week's posts highlight Pope Benedict the radical economist and perhaps second last pontiff, explore a Mondragon inspired co-op in Australia, canvas the possibility of 'Cathophobia', explain how the medieval Catholic Church changed perceptions of rape in Europe, and, finally, how to make Lenten pretzels.

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Pope Benedict's momentous decision to resign has set the blogosphere ablaze with too many posts to contemplate. Fortunately Luke Coppen offers an excellent selection here.

Not sure what to make of the fact that bookmaker Paddy Power is offering to refund all losing bets on the next pope market "if the cardinals elect the First Black Pope".

Leaving aside all speculation, however, Communio has another useful post linking to a series of online English articles by leading papabile Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan.

But will the next pope be the last one as predicted by the medieval monk, St Malachy, asks Fr Dwight Longenecker:

So Benedict XVI was second to last on the list and now the final pope, Peter the Roman, is about to be elected. It’s all very exciting to think that the second coming and the end of the world is nigh! Just when we were all so disappointed when the Mayan calendar end of the world thing fizzled out…

But hold on a minute. We might have to interrupt this program with something called facts.

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And while some are asking what will happen with Pope Benedict's "missing" third encyclical in his faith, hope and love trilogy, British economist Adrian Pabst draws on Benedict's very visible encyclical Caritas in veritate to develop his argument for a countercultural "civil economy":

The collection of essays I have recently published, The Crisis of Global Capitalism, outlines a new political economy that rejects capitalism in favour of civil economy - that is, a market economy that is firmly embedded within the mediating institutions of civil society.

The idea of civil economy draws on Pope Benedict's social encyclical Caritas in veritate, which was published in 2009. Building on the tradition of Catholic social teaching since the groundbreaking encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891), Caritas in veritate is the most radical intervention in contemporary debates on the future of economics, politics and society.


On a more practical not to say down to earth level, Australian trade unionists, with backing from a variety of church groups, are launching the Earthworker Co-operative based to some extent on the Catholic-inspired Mondragon co-operatives in Spain:

Yes, there is an alternative to capitalism: Mondragon shows the way

Why are we told a broken system that creates vast inequality is the only choice? Spain’s amazing co-op is living proof otherwise …

David Moloney notes that the initiative will "help redress our disappearing blue-collar jobs, and produce an environmentally friendly product".

You can even purchase a "licence to co-operate" with the venture here.

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Big news for theology researchers in the US with the Jesuits deciding to close the well known Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington DC:

The enormous transformations experienced by the Society of Jesus in the last forty years have influenced the allocation of human and material resources, including those dedicated to the mission of theological reflection. More recently, the Jesuits of the U.S. provinces have engaged in a strategic review of how best to meet the challenges and mission priorities of the 21st century.

Gasper F. LoBiondo, S.J., Director of the Woodstock Theological Center since 2002, observed that, “while Woodstock’s formal, independent ministry will come to an end, its rich legacy will continue to serve in the context of the research, publications, and theological forums that have advanced the church’s understanding of the role of faith in public life. All who have been associated with Woodstock Theological Center over its forty years of service can be proud of what they have accomplished, and should be encouraged by the knowledge that the work they have done will not come to an end because the value of such work will be embraced by other institutions in new forms.”

While the programming of the Center itself will come to an end as of June 30, 2013, it is hoped that some of the research initiatives might be relocated at Georgetown University and other Jesuit institutions to carry forward Woodstock’s legacy.

Australian Jesuit Dan Madigan has been a fellow at the Center which also houses an important collection of the works of Vatican II expert on religious liberty, John Courtney Murray.

This also means that Adelaide priest Fr Denis Edwards will be the last of a several Australian visiting fellows, including Fr James McEvoy also from Adelaide, and ACU's Neil Ormerod, to spend time at the Center.


Also in the academic sphere, UNSW Emeritus Professor Clive Kessler, who has been in the news over the weekend with commentary on the expulsion of Senator Nick Xenophon from Malaysia, weighs in on the use of the word "Allah" by Christians in South East Asia in a post on the ANU blog New Mandala:

A grasp of this anthropological kind of “cultural knowledge” about the Malay world is essential, I suggest, to understanding the current controversy, or at least one very significant and intractable part of it.

It has often been pointed out, as this dispute has evolved, that in the Middle Eastern Arab world the name of Allah is routinely used, and has long been, by non-Muslims and, what is more, that most Muslims in that Arabic-speaking historical context have no problem with their doing so. It is simply a routine matter to them.

So why, it is asked, should Malays, why should Southeast Asian Muslims far from the historical heartlands of the Islamic faith community, object? Do they know better? Can they know better? On what basis?

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In a post at The Tablet, Canberra Goulburn priest Fr Peter Day contrasts the abuse crisis experience in the Church with the conversion experience of Alec Guinness who wrote in his autobiography, Blessings in Disguise (Hamish Hamilton, 1985):

"I heard scampering footsteps and a piping voice calling, ‘Mon père!' My hand was seized by a boy of seven or eight, who clutched it tightly, swung it and kept up a non-stop prattle. He was full of excitement, hops, skips and jumps, but never let go of me. I didn't dare speak in case my excruciating French should scare him. Although I was a total stranger he obviously took me for a priest and so to be trusted. Suddenly with a ‘Bonsoir, mon père', and a hurried sideways sort of bow, he disappeared through a hole in a hedge. Continuing my walk I reflected that a church which could inspire such confidence in a child, making its priests, even when unknown, so easily approachable could not be as scheming and creepy as so often made out. I began to shake off my long-taught, long-absorbed prejudices."

What an irony: that Guinness's long-held prejudices against Catholicism, its 'creepy and scheming' ways, were overcome by the trust and hand of a child.

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Meanwhile, Clerical Whispers quotes Cologne’s Archbishop Joachim Meisner as complaining of a growing “Catholic-phobia” in Germany in the wake of two negative incidents involving the Church:

Meisner’s archdiocese confirmed that he recently wrote a letter to all priests and lay workers serving under him.

“In the past few weeks, the Church in Cologne has experienced a public opinion storm unlike anything I’ve every seen in my years as bishop,” he wrote, according to the Kölner Stadtanzeiger newspaper.

However, Essen Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck urges caution:

“I do indeed feel there’s been an aggressive mood against the Catholic Church recently,” Essen’s Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. “But such terms are not helpful in this debate, especially when they have historical connotations.”

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Yet while the Church is often accused over its attitudes to women, Niels Ebdrup cites research showing that the medieval Catholic Church in Denmark changed the perception of rape from vandalism against a man’s property to a crime against the raped women:

Suddenly women were regarded as individuals who should be compensated by the rapist for the injuries he had caused.

Helle Møller Sigh, a researcher at the Department of Culture and Society at Aarhus University, has studied the Danish versions of the Norse Laws, which were written down between the 1170s and the 1240s.

“We’re seeing a change in the legislation, in which rape goes from being a violation against the household – the woman’s husband or her father – to being listed as a separate crime which violates the woman,” she says.

“This is in no small way due to the influence of the Catholic Church, which wanted to create a peaceful and civilised society and help the weak, including women.”

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And for another kind of solution to the worldwide shortage of priests, journalist Garry Wills argues for their abolition:

Some think the clerical shortage will be solved by recruiting new people for the priesthood -- married priests, women priests, gay priests. When we run out of everyone else, will we start ordaining child priests? Anything to keep the sacrificing priesthood?What we really need are no priests. We should remember what Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 23:8-11:

You must not be called "rabbi"; for you have one Rabbi, and you are all brothers. Do not call any man on earth "father"; for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you be called "teacher"; you have one Teacher, the Messiah.

When Jesus told his disciples not to call themselves rabbis or fathers or teachers, he did not add that they should not call themselves priests. No one had yet imagined that there might be Christian priests.

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For a more orthodox but also radical solution, French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, perhaps a dark horse in the papal stakes, has come on board in support of married priests. (NB: Open in Google Chrome for an English translation!)

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Meanwhile, Comedian Stephen Colbert also successfully challenged Wills' orthodoxy concerning the Real Presence, notes Frank Weathers at Patheos:

I caught Stephen Colbert interviewing Pulitzer prize winning author Garry Wills when the following clip was posted by Rod Dreher of The American Conservative. I found it to be amazing not just because Wills seems to be outfoxed by the court jester who can quote the Letter to the Hebrews with the best of them, but because of Wills’ assertion that St. Augustine didn’t believe in the Real Presence.

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With this years Oscar awards only days away,  Bill McGarvey, James Martin, S.J., and Tim Reidy review this year's nominees for Best Picture.

Finally, in the "Who knew?" category, Catholic Foodie Jeff Young explains the connection between pretzels and Lenten fasting as well as offering a recipe:

How are pretzels and Lent connected? As the story goes, the pretzel is in the shape of arms folded in prayer. Pretzels can be a wonderful way to teach children the value of prayer during Lent. Letting them come into the kitchen to help you make the pretzels can be a wonderful way to teach children the value of family.

We discovered this recipe a few years ago and we have been making Lenten pretzels ever since. They are perfect for days of fasting and days of abstinence. They are also delicious. These pretzels have made my children very popular with their friends at church and at gymnastics. During Lent they like to make these pretzels and share them with their friends.

Click here to make your own.

Michael MullinsStefan Gigacz is preparing a PhD. at MCD University of Divinity, Melbourne, on the role of Joseph Cardijn at Vatican II.

Disclaimer: CathBlog is an extension of CathNews story feedback. It is intended to promote discussion and debate among the subscribers to CathNews and the readers of the website. The opinions expressed in CathBlog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference or of Church Resources.

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