Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poem of the day

Die Nacht
-Hermann von Gilm

Aus dem Walde tritt die Nacht
Aus dem Bäumen schleicht sie leise,
Schaut sich um in weitem Kreise,
Nun gib acht.

Alle Lichter dieser Welt
Alle Blumen, alle Farben
Löscht sie aus und stiehlt die Garben
Weg vom Feld.

Alles nimmt sie, was nur hold,
Nimmt das Silber weg des Stroms,
Nimmt vom Kupferdach des Doms,
Weg das Gold.

Ausgeplündert steht der Strauch;
Rüke näher, Seel' an Seele,
O die Nacht, mir bangt, sie stehle
Dich mir auch.

The Night
Out of the woods treads the night,
out of the trees she gently steals,
she looks around in a wide circle,
now be careful.

All the lights of this world,
all flowers, all colors
she erases and she steals the sheaves
away from the field

She takes everything, whatsoever is lonely,
takes the silver away from the river,
takes from the copper roof of the cathedrals,
away the gold.

The shrub stands plundered;
come closer, soul to soul,
oh, the night, I am afraid, will steal
you from me, too.


Casting the First Stone

An examination of the connection between mandatory celibacy and the sexual abuses of the Catholic Church

The recent history of the Catholic Church has been scarred with the bright red marks of scandal and controversy. The sex-abuse scandal is the most recent, and perhaps the most damaging of all the scandals in modern history. According to CNN, “Allegations of church-based sex abuse are increasing across Europe, including in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. New abuse allegations have surfaced in Brazil, home of the world's largest Catholic population.” This is a grievous and terrible offense, made even more dastardly by the nature of the alleged crimes against children. The current leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has especially been under scrutiny with accusations of his involvement in scandals in his home country. The Church stands in a very dark light. Shrouded in mystery to much of the world, many have condemned the organization of the Church as superstitious and corrupt. History would seem to be on their side. The Catholic Church has never been free of controversy, and indeed, many Catholics seem to make it their aim to stir up as much social unrest as possible, as in the case of Guy Fawkes, or the Jesuits of revolution-era France. The popular solution to this controversy is for the Church to abandon her teaching on celibacy, which many laud as the reason for the abuse of priests. The psychologist Felix Schottländer claimed that “the source of almost every known form of neurosis lies in refusal to accept one or more of the three fundamental conditions of human life: having a body, having sex and being a social creature” (Görres 31). Nonetheless, as a religious organization, the Catholic Church has many virtues to speak for her, and in a spirit of mercy, one must pause before passing judgment on the Church as a whole. Regardless of one's personal religious opinion or affiliation, it would be a terrible injustice to make demands or accusations of the Catholic Church without a thorough analysis of the situation. For the Church to redeem herself, the result of this analysis will put forth sufficient reason and facts to believe that celibacy is not the cause of the sex abuses among the Catholic clergy. It is necessary first to scrutinize the history of celibacy in the Catholic priesthood. The next step is to allow the Catholic Church to defend herself by putting forth the reasons for the celibacy of her priests. After this, a logical and psychological examination of the relationship between the nature of celibacy and sexual repression must take place, of which an important questions to consider are alternate reasons for sexual abuse from members of the clergy.

The Catholic Church holds that celibacy is something which Jesus himself condoned, and is, in fact, a practice in the imitation of his virginal life. However, the roots of celibacy in the priesthood have been under much scrutiny, as to if celibacy in the priesthood is rooted in suppression and denial of the self. In order to draw a conclusion as to the connection between Catholic celibacy and the sex abuses, the history of the practice of priestly celibacy should be examined Much of the historic abhorrence for the sexual act has its source not in true Catholic theology, but in the heresies of the early Church, such as Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, and Manichaeism. These dualist doctrines taught that the body was evil and interfered with the soul's ability to attain a more holy union with God, especially sexual intercourse. Their influence subtly made its way into the thoughts and writings of many doctors of the Church, including Saint Augustine who was so convinced of the inferiority of sex that he viewed Marriage as a lenience for sinfulness. Saint Jerome also considered a married bishop who had children while serving as bishop was guilty of adultery, supplanting his dedication and his vow to serve God with earthly concerns. There was even an antimonian heresy, Nicolaism, in the first century which taught that as long as one abstained from marriage, clergy were allowed to exercise their sexual desires as they wished. However, though celibacy was held in high favor, it was common practice for bishops to be married until the fourth century. Various councils, including the council of Elvira in 306, The Council of Nicea in 325, and the Council of Carthage, contain statements in their canon forbidding the marriage of those in clerical offices. In 1123, the first Lateran council forbade priests from entering into marriage and that marriages in which priests were already involved were null and void, and sixteen years later, at the second Lateran council, all priests who refused to comply with the measures enacted by the Nicean and the Lateran councils were to be stripped of office, and their masses to be declared invalid. However, these councils were legitimate as far as the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church was concerned. The Eastern and Byzantine Rites, which are both in full communion with the Pontiff in Rome, understand celibacy in the following sense: “Neither our Lord, nor the apostles, nor St. Paul, expressed a command that the ministers of the word and the community of believers in Jesus be unmarried or abstain from the sacrament of marriage or its rightful use” (Bilaniuk 32). There has been little change since, and today in the Catholic Church, celibacy is mandatory for priesthood in the Latin Rite, and in no other. Thus, celibacy seems not to be a necessary factor of Catholic priesthood, and was in fact a more recent addition to the canon of Church law. Nonetheless, the history of the virginal priesthood is not a forceful suppression or a denial of the sexuality of a priest, for the option still remains for a man to become a priest within full communion with the Catholic Church, and be married as well. It would seem, then, that the Catholic Church is not responsible for the repression of the sexuality of men, but that any repression which takes place is the free decision of the individual, and thus the sexual abuses of the clergy cannot find their source in an institutionalized repression. In the view of the Theologian, R. J. Bunnik, however, “optional celibacy does not only mean that every priest is free to choose his own state of life; it also means that we leave the Holy Spirit to show us the variegated forms of tomorrow's ministry” (Bunnik 86). Essentially, according to Catholic theology, some are called by God to a life of life-long virginity, and others to the married state, whether or not within the context of the priesthood. The next step, therefore, must be to examine why the Catholic Church holds celibacy to be a venerable, life-long condition.

The Catholic Church, though its foundations are not rooted in a tradition of mandatory clerical celibacy, nonetheless holds that virginity for the kingdom is a completely valid, beneficial, and beautiful way of life. The reasons for priestly celibacy are many and varied, though the some that come foremost to mind are the principle of availability and the complete dedication to God. As to availability, priests must be attentive to the people in a way which is impossible for a married man to do so. A single priest can be supported by the rectory of a Catholic parish, and it would be impossible on such a meager budget as is the majority of Catholic churches to provide house and care for a family, keeping in mind that the priest is not meant to have any other occupation than his clerical profession. A priest can also go into instances of famine, natural disaster, social upheaval and disease where it would be a great failure as a husband and father to bring his family. It is also a great offense to the family of such a supposed priest to consider his obligations to his parish, which he is under oath to fulfill, and would leave his wife and children in a state of almost single-parenthood. In the words of Ida Görres, “It is something quite different for a girl to decide for the sake of 'free' motherhood, to condemn her child in advance to being half-orphaned from birth” (Görres 52). It is indeed so that much of the reason and motivation behind the mandatory celibacy of the priesthood is the confused notion that sex is a license for evil. However, this is not, and never has been the understanding of the marital union. The Catholic Church in fact teaches that the union of the spouses in Marriage is an image of the divine Trinity, a divine oneness that is inseparable and holy. In like manner, the priesthood is a marriage, of the priest in the person of Jesus, and the Church, the Bride of Christ. Therefore, according to the Church, “both ways of life, marriage and virginity, are two different realizations of the sacramentum on different planes of the mystery of the Union” (Görres 24). Even in the perspective of all these reasons for celibacy, none of them can nor should stand on their own without considering the priesthood in the light of the virginal priesthood of Christ. The very nature of the priesthood is action in persone Christe, in the person of Christ. The priest is the idea of the angelic man who offers his entirety to following the example of Christ in every measure possible. Celibacy is not denial, but a free offering of the sexual self for God and for mankind. In this offering, men and women do not lose their sexuality, it flows out in a continual replenishing which cannot be exhausted. In fact, the call to be chaste is a universal call which every Catholic is subject to in different measures, such as chastity in marriage, otherwise known as faithfulness, or the chastity of children and unmarried persons. The Catholic Church in her theology bases her commitment to upholding the value of celibacy on the foundation of a spiritual and almost reverent understanding of human sexuality. In one sense, the Church regards sexuality with much greater serenity and sanctity than most of the world, which would reduce sex to a biological function. In this way, it is difficult to consider the Catholic Church at fault for the sexual abuses of her ministers, due to the reverence and purity with which she treats sexuality. It is the personal theological, emotional, or psychological defect of the individual which is the root and propagator of any error which may occur in the setting of the priesthood.

There are many myths concerning the priestly sex scandal, one of which is that a large percentage, sometimes even the majority, of Catholic priests abuse children. Sadly, this view of the issue is based more on rumor and prejudice then on fact. According to a variety of research, ( Loftus and Camargo, 1993; Jenkins, 2001; W. V. Robinson, 2002; Goodstein, 2003) only 2% of Roman Catholic Priests abuse minors The sexual abuses that have occurred in the Catholic priesthood are at the same or less percentage of the clergy as percentages of other men in religious positions of other faiths and generally at a lower percentages than non-religious men in close contact with minors. Another misconception is that all priests who are abusers are pedophiles, and a similar myth is that those priests who do abuse minors are homosexual and that they sexually-abused hundreds of victims. While it is indeed true that a vast majority of priests who do violate children choose boys, 90% of abuses occur with adolescent males, and not pre-pubescent boys, and are thus not pedophiles. The stereotype of the priest who abuses innocent alter-boys is a perverse and disturbing fabrication. The majority of those who abuse also do not affiliate themselves as homosexual, but heterosexual, and cite ease of access, decreased chance of exposure, and fear of pregnancy as the main reasons for their choice of victim. The sentiment that priests who have abused children have abused vast numbers of victims is the result of a few select cases which dominated the press in 2002, in which the offenders had over one hundred victims each. However, current data suggests that those priests who have offended have abused no more then 8.6 victims, of which the majority of cases have been fondling, not penetration. More evidence for the integrity of the Church versus the individual is the data which suggests that 66% of sexually-abusing priests were victims of sexual abuse themselves in their youth. According to Kenneth M. Adams of Royal Oak, the main reasons behind troubled sexuality in priests are insecurity about family of origin, incest, or other abuse, interruptions in the ability to attain relationships and form emotional attachments, identity crisis in the realm of sexual maturity, or addictive or compulsive sexuality, often under the influence of shameful sexual notions. He is also of the opinion that the priesthood attracts those with such complexes as an escape or relief. Thus it is, that the person, and not the institution, has the defect, and must seek change and treatment through the proper means, including psychological counseling.

The most prevalent beliefs, however, are that the Catholic Church has not done enough to counter the instances of clerical sexual abuse, and that sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated successfully. This is the basis behind the current attacks on Pope Benedict XVI and the demanded removal of all priests and bishops who have dirtied their hands in the mess in the past. However, this is not an accurate portrayal of the Church's efforts, which include the preventative measures taken by psychological testing prior to admittance to the ministry, and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. While it is true that many bishops have been lax in their addressing of sexual abuse among their peers, the vast majority of dioceses in America have been vitally effective in the removal and treatment of offenders. With regards to the successful treatment of abusers, in studies conducted by the Saint Luke Institute in Maryland, only 4.4% of priests who were treated for sexual abuse relapsed into destructive behavior. Thus, the removal of all priests who have offended in the past based on the notion that all sex offenders who have offended in the past will offend again is misguided and unjust. In this light, the Catholic Church does not seem the offender, but the 2% of her priests who are in great need of psychological help.

In conclusion, it is not the case that there is sufficient evidence to believe that the Catholic Church, and even less so that celibacy, is the cause of the sexual abuse which has been unveiled internationally. Nor has it been evidenced that the Catholic Church blatantly ignores or dismisses instances of sexual abuse as a rule. The facts do not support such an accusation, and instead, such factors as childhood abuse and psychological abnormalities in the individual are to blame. However, one of the most pressing questions to consider now is why the abuses of the Catholic clergy have been made such an subject of public outcry when the abuses of men who are husbands, fathers and high-school coaches have a much, much higher percentage of occurrence, and are usually far more brutal. Why is it the case that the Catholic Church has been an object of slander and revulsion, when pornography is a multibillion dollar industry and has claimed the innocence, bodies, and lives of thousands of young women? Why is there no spotlight on this, or other, social corruptions? There seems to be an imbalance of weight in the scales of public justice, a weight which seems to make the Catholic Church a scapegoat for anger and mistrust. The Pope's aid was indeed correct when he likened the attack on the Pope to the anti-Semitic propaganda of pre-war Germany, where Jews were made out as villains and amoral persons, becoming the whipping-boy of Germany's rage and poverty in the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles. Public opinion is a dangerous thing, which may do much good and much harm in the same blow. It is important, therefore, not to condemn when injustice calls for action and not to wound when scars call for healing. It is time to help those who have fallen to stand back up on their feet and continue on, not smear their faces further into the mud. Let he who has never sinned cast the first stone.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Little Bird in a Gilded Cage

Language is the collection of symbols and sounds used to convey meaning from person to person, whether it be written or spoken. English, Hebrew, Japanese, and all such linguistic codes are one kind of language, a language of cultures, but there are other, more subtle uses of language. Calculus is a language, using the complexity of numerals, integrals and differential equations to convey the concepts of fractals, imaginary numbers, and the splendor of the Mandlebrot set. Art is a language, and perhaps one of the most controversial, speaking across political and social boundaries. Likewise, music is a language, a language of notes, phrases, beauty and silence, which conveys messages, stories, and knowledge. Music is a powerful language and the most profound of all musical dialects is the singing gesture, in which the human body is the instrument. Vocal music is the language of the unbiased soul in the body, the expression of the self as an instrument of beauty. When one sings, it is the heart and the mind, not the society, not politics nor religion, gender or race which phonates the air and spins the currents of sound to reach far off and distant ears, to touch hearts and move minds. Peoples of completely different backgrounds, ethnic boundaries and cultures may be bound together in the magic of O la che buon Echo, or swept together in the sorrow exuding from Bach's Cantata 106. The pure grandeur of Beethoven's Choral Fantasia elevates all to new heights of majesty, while the simplicity of Gregorian chant has served for thousands of years as a bridge to the divine. The Ragas of India serve in like manner for all its many cultures, whether Sikh, Muslim, or Hindu, as prayers of beauty and encompassing truth. Thus, it is that the language of vocal music crosses the boundaries between peoples of different ethnicities. Vocal music can create a shared experience among persons by nature of the universality of its emotive prowess, such as in Nobuo Uematsu's The Promised Land. Vocal music can also cross ethnic lines by nature of its commonality, such as in folk or popular songs. Lastly, vocal music can bring differing ethnicities together through the power of assembly in the form of a choir.
Music has been an integral expression of man's nature since ancient times. Indeed, one source claims that “In all probability, man was gifted primevally and throughout an endless span of time with a singing voice which he possessed long before he was able to speak” (Husler 214). Singing, therefore, is a natural and integral form of human communication. Vocal music crosses the boundaries between peoples of different ethnicities by nature of it's emotive prowess, tapping into the complex emotional subconscious of both singer and listener. What music communicates between persons delves deep into the secret resources of the heart and conveys intimate feelings and ideas of such concepts as life, death, love, and beauty. A Requiem is a mass for the dead, a treatise to the awe and fear man has held for death over the centuries. It is a shared fear or the unknown, a common fact that man must die, no matter who or what he is. Bach's Cantata 106, a requiem cantata, gravely states “Es ist die alte Bund, Mensch, du must sterben.” It is the Fate of everything, man you must die! How sharply this contrasts to the In Paradisum, the seventh movement of the Faure Requiem. The listener is raised to new heights of hope with the soaring, angelic soprano line, and one cannot cling to the hope of eternal life. All men and women must interract with the questions which good music confront them with as universal dilemas of life, death, sin and redemption, regardless of age, sex, or race.Music demands of man his subjectivity, sweeping him along into realms of feeling inside his person that he cannot escape. Vocal music connects with man on an intimate level, even moreso then instrumental music can because of the integral nature of the vocal mechanism to the person. The very human body is the instrument which creates beauty in this situation, and thus it is the human person, body as well as soul, which is active in the creation of Beauty. When one listens to a vocal performance, whether in a concert hall or in a church, they are sharing an experience with every person in that concert hall. Every performer and every listener is swept together in the intricate, emotive harmonies of Whitacre, the splendorous magnitude of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, or brought to tears of mourning at the tender, heart-broken conclusion of David's Lamentation. Through the common experience of emotion in great works of beauty, vocal music tears down walls between individuals, stripping the heart bare in the seizure of objectivity. Person to person, the human soul is all that is left once creed, dress, culture and background have been washed away in the rush of emotion which vocal music demands of its listeners. The emotional prowess of vocal music creates a common experience for all who listen and thus, the language of vocal music crosses the boundaries between peoples of differing ethnicities.
The foundations of high culture rest on the cultivation of the aesthetic, a vital part of which is the growth and cultivation of music. Indeed, no culture would be complete without musical identity and every people, race and nationality expresses their unique characteristics through music.Vocal music, being the simplist form of musical expression for humans, has had a leading role in captivating the sensibilities of cultures around the world. Thus vocal music dispells racial boundaries by nature of its commonality in culture.Der Erlkönig by Schubert is a prime example of the German aesthetic. It conveys not only the terror that one feels at the approach of Der Erlkönig, or Death, for the little boy, but also the German romantic sensibilities and nationalistic poetry, in this case Goethe. Through der Erlkönig, a piece of Germany is presented for those who wish to listen and hear the sounds of pounding hooves and terrified cries, the passion of German Romanticism.Likewise, the music of A. R. Rahman convays beautifly the voice of the Indian people. In his vocal pieces, one can smell the spices on the air, see the lush green of the Indian forests or the barrenness of the Indian deserts, and drift within the swirling, smoky tendrils of the sensuous musical lines of the singers. The folk music of country villages and the pop songs of modern metropolises also tell the story of the peoples who sing them. The songs of peoples are a voice crying out for those who would stop and listen, hearing the thoughts and hearts of a race in the gentle, angry, sorrowful or joyful swell of sound. Vocal music is a window into the hearts of nations and cultures across the globe, and thus, a method of communication between peoples of different ethnicities or racial backgrounds. Vocal music crosses bariars wetween peoples of different ethnicities due to the intimate position it holds in cultural identity across space and time.
The concept of man as an image of the Living God does not leave the expression of the aesthetic to the individual, but demands more. Just as God exists in an eternal community of three persons, thus, to be a true expression of the goal of human existence, singing must be a communial expression. Choirs are the collaborative efforts of individuals working together as one voice, creating a community between the individuals, but also between all the cultures of the individuals in the choir. Vocal music brings different ethnicities together through the power of assembly, in which all different backgrounds and cultures must come together and make music. The Agape Choir is one such example. Consisting of men and women from all different races and backgrounds, their mission is to spread the message of peace to all races and countries. Their brightly colored costumes and expressive performance style convey their philosophy that all colors and shapes, all men and women, no matter where one comes from singing brings people together in the creation of beauty. In like manner, choirs can also serve as a method for spreading understanding and peaceful intentions across races. One such example is a youth chorale in Lebannon. The choir was made up of both Jewish and Muslim boys, who through their communal offering of beauty were able to make peace between their warring parents. Likewise, many cultural festivals feature choirs from across the globe, as in the Cantus festivel, held in Salzburg, Austria. The David Jorlett Choralle from America, the St. Peter's Preperatory Orchestra from Australia, the Naple's Civic Orchestra from Italy, and the Verrinshav Folk choir from Latvia all lent their instruments and voices with one accord to aid Armenia orphans. Due to the communal efforts of all the choirs and orchestras, the assembly was able to offer medical and educational supplies to impoverished children. Not only did four cultures come together to offer a common sacrifice of song, but they were able to cross another ocean, and touch the lives of the youth of a fifth race. In this way, vocal music has the ability to transcend cultural barriers through the formation of choral groups.
The human person is an entity continuously seeking to know and to make itself known, and the expression of this desire is language. Vocal music is a language which conveys the secrets of the human person in a unique and stunning way, for music takes part intimately in the expression of beauty of the natural world, and the music of the human person is the singing gesture. Because vocal music is common to all peoples, the language of vocal music destroys barriers between peoples of different ethnicities, cultures and races. Singing creates bridges between ethnicities by nature of its emotive prowess and ability to connect intimately with the individual, bonding person to person. Vocal music also destroys ethnic boundaries through the expression of cultural identities, which bring together races which would naturally be far removed from each other. Lastly, vocal music crosses barriers between races through the collaborative efforts of choirs. As a young girl once said: “you're never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there's always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out”(Lorde 80). Music is a part of the human person, a part that their very bodies were meant to play and that their souls quietly yearn for. If each person does not let out that part of themselves, they are keeping bound a bird inside their hearts. However beautiful or large the cage, the hidden bird who has never seen the sun or felt the rain, never twittered its own melody, will grow gray, once bright feathers molting and shedding to litter the floor of the human heart. Singing must be a part of human interaction, for without it, an integral part of human expression is cut off. We must not be birds in cages. Humans must soar free in uncontained skies, with a song in their breast.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Poem of the day

A thing of Beauty is a Joy forever
-John Keats

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.

Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast
That, whether there be shine or gloom o'ercast,
They always must be with us, or we die.

Therefore, 'tis with full happiness that I
Will trace the story of Endymion.
The very music of the name has gone
Into my being, and each pleasant scene
Is growing fresh before me as the green
Of our own valleys: so I will begin
Now while I cannot hear the city's din;
Now while the early budders are just new,
And run in mazes of the youngest hue
About old forests; while the willow trails
Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails
Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year
Grows lush in juicy stalks, I'll smoothly steer
My little boat, for many quiet hours,
With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.
Many and many a verse I hope to write,
Before the daisies, vermeil rimmed and white,
Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees
Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,
I must be near the middle of my story.
O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
See it half finished: but let Autumn bold,
With universal tinge of sober gold,
Be all about me when I make an end!
And now at once, adventuresome, I send
My herald thought into a wilderness:
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.