Friday, July 30, 2004

Catholic Scholars on the go....

My neck is aching from the strain of staring up at the computer; all three of my pairs of computer glasses are currently lost, so I have to use the bottoms of my bifocals and I've been working intensely at the computer for the last few hours. That's the bad news. The good news is that it looks like Catholic Scholars at UD is going to host two events at the upcoming Ethics and Life Sciences conference at UD in October. Dr. Alfonso Gomez-Lobo has accepted our invitation and has been working with us by email from Chile to work out the details. Here is how it is shaping up so far:

Thursday, October 21, Inquiry for Truth dialogue: Theology of a Few? A Dialogue on Therapeutic Cloning.
The Inquiry for Truth dialogues have been going on since 1995, sponsored by Church and Campus Connection and Secular Student Alliance. This will be the first time Catholic Scholars has been a sponsor.

Saturday, October 23, Panel Discussion at conference proper: Science, Religion and Bioethics: Strange Bedfellows or Compatible Threesome? Dr. G-L never bases his bioethical arguments on religious presuppositions, but all of his bioethical positions are consonant with Catholic moral teaching. Hopefully this will poke holes in the hoary but still passionately held (by some, including scholars who ought to know better) idea that religion and science are at loggerheads.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

July 29, 1966 ... The Day I Fell in Love

I just realized what day it is - July 29! I wonder if Bill will remember. Some years we remember, some years we do not.

July 29, 1966, 16-year-old Rae D'Orazio and 16-year-old Bill Stabosz went out on a first date, after the closing ceremonies of the 6-week program we were both a part of at Ohio State University.

Summer night... we walked and talked for hours. Bill wrote his name in ink on my arm. At some point, kissage commenced.

The next day, I got on a bus to go back to Delaware, he drove away with Ben Israel to return to Chicago. Our parting was as grief-stricken and as passionate as Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet. Our date had been as earth-shattering as was their meeting at the Capulet's party. The world turned, the universe stood on its head and I fell off the edge... we both did...

We said goodbye, not knowing what to make of this sudden passion-to-be-with-other that we had experienced, not knowing if we would ever see each other again.

That was 38 years ago. Out of that night came 9 beautiful babies, 7 outstanding surviving Stabosz siblings, 2 incredible grandchildren, and a universe of weal and woe.

Deo gratias, Deo gratias, Deo gratias!

And in a more mundane set of concerns...

... I am still struggling with the Donec Formitur retreat. Sr. Kathryn James suggested I not worry to much about the inability to stick to a consistent time and method of prayer. She gave me a great metaphor to think about, a picture of the vine and the branch:

Today I was reflecting on the words "remain on the Vine, that's all
you need to worry about." It made me think of your sharing because of the
way the word "interaction" summed up many of the invitations of the
Spirit--interaction with life, with others, with your family, with God. It
seemed to me that you do best in letting God show you how to pray--perhaps
for this moment in your life he is interacting with you in daily living and
in your relationships with others. Our only concern need be to remain on the
Vine. A friend of mine visited a vineyard for meditation and her first
discovery was that the vine was huge, old, bore many scars. The branch was
about 2 inches long. It was tiny. The rest of the old branches had been
taken away to be burned. All the branch had to do was to remain on the vine
and grow alone the wires that the owner of the vineyard had created (the
presence and direction of the Father). Those wires could be a symbol of this
retreat. As you grow along the wires, your life stretches out in always
deeper transformation, and you will bear much fruit.- Sr. Kathryn James

So I have been trying to keep that image of the thick, old, scarred vine and the tiny branches in mind. I also know that the ups and downs of my moods and health are not worthy of the worry with which I endow them while in the midst of a down period or a time when the back hurts and the leg limps. Leonard Cohen captured the illusion when he sang, in Sisters of Mercy, " When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned. "

More Rene Girard

I am getting to the end of I See Satan Fall Like Lightning . The next to the last chapter, "The Twofold Nietzschean Heritage", is quite powerful. Disturbing, even, because I have always deliberately avoided Nietzsche.

Girard says Nietzsche was the first philosopher to discover the same truth that Girard repeats over and over again in his work: that in the Dionysian passion and in the Passion of Jesus there is the same collective violence, but the interpretation is different. He quotes Nietzsche in THE WILL TO POWER:

Dionysos versus the "Crucified": there you have the antithesis. It is not a difference in regard to their martyrdom -- it is a difference in the meaning of it. Life itself, its eternal fruitfulness and recurrence, creates torment, destruction, the will to annihilation. In the other case, suffering - the "Crucified as the innocent one"-- counts as an objection to this life, as a formula to its condemnation. - Nietzsche

Girard goes on to write, "This is exactly what I have said and keep on saying: myths are based on a unanimous persecution. Judaism and Christianity destroy this unanimity in order to defend the victims unjustly condemned and to condemn the executioners unjustly legitimated. ... [Nietzsche] sees perfectly well that one is dealing with the same violence in both cases ("there is not a difference in regard to their martydom"), but he doesn't see or want to see the injustice of the violence. He doesn't see or want to admit that the unanimity always prevailing in the myths has to be based on mimetic contagion which possesses the participants and which they don't recognize, whereas the Gospels recognize and denounce violence contagion, as do the story of Joseph and the other great biblical texts."

Girard goes on to say that this refusal of Nietzsche to see the true implications of the Judaeo-Christian concern for victims drove him mad, ultimately, because he perceived what others had not - that both the myths and Judaeo-Christianity deal with the same basic violent contagion that has driven humankind forever -- but he did not perceive that the Judaeo-Christian interpretation exposed and revealed the mimetic contagion and the destruction then reassembling of culture through scapegoating.

I am barely explaining this but I admit to being surprised to hear Nietzsche given his due as in my mind I've always thought Nietzsche=Naziism. As indeed Girard explains:

"To elude his own discovery and to defend mythological violence, Nietzsche is obliged to justify human sacrifice, and he doesn't hesitate to do so, resorting to horrifying arguments. He raises the stakes even on the worst social Darwiism. He suggests that to avoid degenerating, societies must get rid of humans who are waste, who hinder and weigh them down:

"Through Christianity, the individual was made so important, so absolute, that he could no longer be sacrificed: but the species endures only through human sacrifice... Genuine charity demands sacrifice for the good of the species-- it is hard, it is full of self-overcoming, because it needs human sacrifice. And this pseudo-humaneness called Christianity wants it established that no one should be sacrificed."- Nietzsche

Girard goes on to call Nietzsche "a true Don Quixote of death", condemning every measure in favor of the weak and the disinherited. By attacking Christian civilization's concern for the victim, and "insanely condemning the real greatness of our world, not only did Nietzsche destroy himself, but he suggested the terrible destruction that was later done by National Socialism. "

"Nietzsche is the author of the only texts capable of clarifying the Nazi horror," Girard says, despite the "mountains of clever but false arguments" that some post-war intellectuals have offered to acquit their favorite thinker of any responsibility in the National Socialist catastrophe. "The Nazis perceived acutely that the grotesque 'genealogy' of Nietzsche would not be enough to vanquist the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Nazis could not wait for the superior human, Nietzsche's Overman, to emerge through peaceful historical events. After their conquest of power, they disposed of resources much superior to those of an unhappy philosopher gone mad."

Big sigh. Strange and terrible words and ideas in the last chapters of Girard's book.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

More on Rene Girard's cultural anthropology

I stumbled across an excellent site called Preaching Peace whose opening paragraphs I want to quote in full:
"Greetings! is a website dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For almost 2,000 years clergy have sought to bear witness to the revelation of God in Christ, sensing therein, something distinctive, something different, something good. At the beginning of the twenty first century, the world is need of this something different, something good. It is in need of Jesus.
The twentieth century has seen enormous advance in all manner of technology and science. The same is true of the science of theology. It is almost impossible to stand back from the trees to see the forest. The sheer mass of information, data, theses, hypotheses and theories in biblical studies, theology, church history, dogma, liturgy, philosophy as well as other important areas overwhelms us at times. It is often difficult to know which direction to turn or down which road to go. We have had the opportunity to travel broadly and widely and wish to share our insights with you. is our ‘travel guidebook.’
We believe that it is a time for stock-taking, evaluating and sifting for Christian theology and the church. We also believe that the good gospel of God in Jesus Christ has been obscured and often times completely covered over, hidden away by the very Church given the task of sharing it.
Our writing has been informed by many different writers of many different places and times. All in all, we see certain threads being woven throughout the history of Christian thought and life and those threads when viewed together form a tapestry of thought. It is this tapestry or portrait of Jesus that we wish to share here. This site has been informed by the theory of mimetic scapegoating proposed by Rene Girard and worked out in an inter-disciplinary manner by members and friends of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion. Girard’s hypothesis is an anthropological one, so in this sense it is no threat to Christian theology, but it is an anthropological theory that has profound consequences for Christian theology.
Like you, we too are on a journey to discern the will of God for us in our world today. We are seeking to discern that will on both a macro and a micro level, on both an objective and a subjective plane. In short, we seek wholeness (shalom), the peace that is ours in the gospel of the God of Peace revealed in the Prince of Peace."

This is as good a place as any to explore Rene Girard's theories on mimetic contagion and how Christ's sacrifice is a New Thing in the World whose similarities to myth is a deliberate remedy to how traditional mythologies function in human culture. His thought is not only an excellent remedy to the romanticization of myth that we've seen due to folks like Joseph Campbell but also a transformative way of looking at what, exactly, Christ's sacrifice brought to the world of human violence.  

Monday, July 19, 2004

Got to come clean though....

... I started selling books on eBay again because Abebooks was sluggish. Discovered that while mystery and science fiction don't seem to move on eBay, Catholic books do. Got all into the strategizing and the cool descriptions to entice people to want these books which yes, are good solid reading - Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Thomas Merton books, Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Song of Bernadette, Bishop Fulton J Sheen books. These are always satisfying to sell, but the whole psychology of the eBay auction works on random reinforcement, the strongest reinforcers of all as I remember from my behavioral psychology. So now I anxiously/hopefully/greedily check My Ebay five times a day to see if people are bidding, if I've made more money, if my auctions have ended and nada zilch zip.  This is the kind of "action" one gets in gambling and in playing the stock market, although as far as the actual money goes it is peanuts. Which is maybe while I tolerate the behavior in myself, thinking what an innocuous form of entertainment. As indeed it may be. BUT MIGHT IT BE MORE INSIDIOUS, she thinks darkly, might it be one of those wonderfully innocent-seeming attractions that pull us off the main track and onto the little detours so beloved by inconstant humans? And is this neurosis or conscience voicing the misgivings now? Ah, Mr. Freud, what blessings and what curses you introduced into human culture.

Too Blah to Blog

Okay, so I am doing the Donec Formitur retreat, by myself, with Sr. Kathryn James as "retreat master" and spiritual director; this is an exercise and trial in doing a variation on the Ignatian retreat over a series of weeks, not one solid block of time. I am on week two although chronologically I began the retreat sometime in May or June.
All the spiritual gurus in the Catholic tradition, including Fr. Alberione, speak about the "inconstancy" of human behavior, or human will. As in, my life has been busy this week, my health is acting up again, and I just don't "feel" like doing anything ... certainly I don't feel like continuing on in this retreat UNTIL I feel more energetic, by which I mean more positive, more oriented outward, etc. etc. Is that the inconstancy they mean? That we only want to journey seriously towards God with Christ as our companion when we're in a good mood... or, not even a good mood, because I can't say that my mood has been to crappy, but only when we are in a TRANSCENDENT mood? On or off, turn the switch, either we feel like setting our feet on the path or we feel like coasting and going through the motions... since God knows we have enough to both do and to distract us without ever needing to stop, look and listen to the voice of the Lord calling in a respectful whisper, not trying to grab our attention with stunts that say Look at Me, Look at Me, I'm here, pay attention to Me. Is that why God gets short shrift, because He doesn't resort to childish behaviors to get and keep our attention?
HAP - health, activism, presence. Donec formitur - until He be formed in me. Phone is ringing. Goodbye.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Books I am reading

Just started re-reading I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard, a stunning book of cultural anthropology that James Hillman mentions in his book A Terrible Love of War, which I bought at Sister Rose Pacette's recommendation. Both books deal with the normalcy of war and violence in human culture, and Girard's deals explicitly with how Christ is the remedy. Both books remind us that peace is not a simple matter of refraining from war, and certainly not a superior moral position that one takes in opposition to those who are "war-mongerers." Both books say that we will never understand peace unless we understand war, unless we understand mimetic violence, scapegoating, and the terrible forces in human social groups that militate towards resolving emotional unease through violence to the Other. Highly recommend both books, although I have lost Hillman's and have only read chapter one. I understand he gets critical of religion in a way that Girard does not, ie. Girard explains war and violence from _within_ a Christian framework, and Christ is the remedy, Christianity perhaps getting the remedy wrong in large ways and small over the two millenia but still essentially the remedy and the only remedy.

When my brain starts spinning and my spirit gets overwhelmed, I turn back to Murder in the New Age, a truly delightful mystery novel that turned up on one of the book hunts conducted by Debbie Hosey, my friend and partner in the Pious Ladies Bookmobile and Writers' Guild and myself.

Also a shout-out (I can't believe I wrote that) to my oldest (in years of friendship, not chronological age) friend, Mary Margaret Hassler Harayda, on the occasion of her birthday. Happy Birthday, Mary! Just remember, I know how old you are! ..... that's the thing about childhood friends... you always know how old they are.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Yes, Catholics CAN support stem cell research

At the Cooperator's Meeting last Tuesday, I went on at length about how Catholics needed to be better informed about stem cell research. Just the phrase -- "stem cell research" is useless for debate unless it is qualified. Adult stem cell research is ethical and offensive to no religious or political group that I know of. Embryological stem cell research violates the ethical principles of the Catholic Church and other religious and political groups who value human life from its beginning.

Many Catholics hear the phrase "stem cell research" and believe it is forbidden. In reality, stem cell therapies using adult stem cells are already improving life for sufferers of Parkinson's and other diseases.

Catholic Scholars at the University of Delaware is the website where I publish my own evolving understanding of the complex controversy over stem cell research, cloning and the like. Right now the site's in a bit of a mess, geared towards our effort last Spring to defeat SB55 in the Delaware legislature. Kate Rogers and I both had Op-ed pieces appear in the News-Journal, and the UD student pro-life group, Student Vanguard for Life, sent a letter to all legislators. You can read all of that here.

Would St. Paul have driven around in a hearse? You bet!

The News Journal did a featured piece yesterday about a Christian who felt himself called to evangelize using an old hearse that he fixed up and air-brushed so that it stands out as an object of curiosity. Teenagers have a fascination with death these days, and what object could be more redolent of death than a hearse? He quotes Saint Paul in his explanation of why he does what he does. We Paulines could take a page from this man's book about ways of being all things to all men.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Stem Cells: the science, the ethics

Larry Marceau gave me the July-August 2004 issue of Harvard Magazine which has as its cover article "Stem-cell science: when medicine meets moral philosophy" by Jonathan Shaw. Harvard Magazine appears to be that university's primary print public relations vehicle, although the article on stem cells is meaty and not your usual "gee whiz aren't our researchers great" PR piece. You can read it in PDF format at Harvard Magazine Online.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Too sick to blog; what would Father Alberione do?

I promised Sister Kathryn James an example blog so she could see my ideas on recording the day to day life of a Pauline cooperator, but at that meeting my promise was made with a voice that was just going hoarse. Now I cannot talk at all except in a squeak or a bellow, my head feels like a balloon ready to burst with assorted head cold matter splattering everywhere should the unthinkable happen. But it won't.

What is it about being sick that draws out the time and leaches all the color from one's surroundings? Fr. Alberione would probably have something to say about fortitude and about a happy attitude. Weakness of the flesh in the form of sickness discourages the heart and dulls the mind. Did Jesus ever have a head cold? Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life, have mercy on us all. St. Paul, pray for us. Mary, Queen of the Apostles, pray for us. Blessed Alberione, pray for us.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Confessions of a Cooperator

This is the blog of Pauline Cooperator Rae Stabosz, recording the day to day musings of a laywoman living out the charism of the Pauline Family under the patronage of Fr. James Alberione, the Founder; St. Paul the Apostle; and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles. To Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life, be all glory now and forever, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Three Persons in One God.