Art

Dreary Apparitions (Complaints, Part 2)

Credulity is not a virtue. Nor is it a compliment to faith. We are advised to be always ready with a cogent answer “to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) The words emphasize faith’s footing in rationality. The faith is to be defended in accord with reason and logic. Admittedly, reason is chastened by its own limits. As Paul wrote to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” There is no acid test for “the evidence of things not seen.” But, following Paul, the search for understanding cannot—must not—be abandoned to sentimental mystification. Continue Reading
Notes on the Faustina Phenomenon

After hearing my confession, a gentle, elderly priest granted absolution and, for my penance, imposed the chaplet of Divine Mercy. I cringed. Oh, please, not that! Like the bargaining murderer in Alfred Hitchock’s I Confess, I negotiated the penance. I blurted out something about revulsion for the self-regarding jumble of Faustina’s supernatural stenography. I wanted nothing to do with the cult of Faustina and her preposterous painting commission. Please, Father, give me a different penance. A mild man, he obliged. He rescinded the chaplet and sent me to the rosary instead. Continue Reading
Paglia & the Art of Transgression

The oddities of Archbishop Paglia’s 2007 commissioned mural stirred interest in other works by Ricardo Cinalli, the Argentinian artist who painted it. Why him? Of the ten artists who auditioned for the project, what recommended Cinalli above the others? Presumably all applicants were adept at the human figure, all capable of managing the demands of a large-scale wall painting. What was the distinguishing feature of the winning artist’s portfolio? Go ahead, take a guess:   Ricardo Cinalli. El Plato (1997-98). The bulk of Cinalli’s output—prior to and close to the time of the commission—exhibits a will to startle, an inner necessity to stick a thumb in the eye of Mr. Continue Reading
Cohabitation & Mother Church

Anthony Spadaro’s recent blog post on cohabitation leads me to wonder if it might be time to retire that term Mother Church. Under the tenure of Jorge Bergoglio, the ancient maternal image of nourishment and protection for believers has shriveled to an empty figure of speech. The language remains—Mater Ecclesia—but the motivating substance is gone. What we are left with is a misleading personification, as susceptible to misuse as any other sentimental usage. Let us try the term Nanny Church. A nanny does not have the authority of a mother. Continue Reading
Gregory Baum, Michael Novak & Humanae Vitae

Gregory Baum does not know when to stop writing books. It would have been better if the man, at 93, had carried his secrets with him to the grave. Baum’s forthcoming autobiography, The Oil Has Not Run Dry: the Story of My Theological Pathway is an old man’s tell-all. Part confession, part boast, the book serves as an end-of-life apologia for Baum’s career as an influential theologian among the periti at Vatican II. Its sexual disclosures testify to the craving of the tell-tale heart to unburden itself while it is still beating. Continue Reading