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Happy Meat Thursday!

If you are Catholic, and like me, you ended yesterday, shall we say, gastronomically unsatisfied. Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, is a day both of abstinence and fasting. Abstinence means refraining from something, and Lenten Abstinence is the “no meat Fridays” rule that Catholics routinely remember to forget to remember. But fasting? That brings up a whole new set of images….

“My abs are rockin’…”

Canon law defines fasting as eating the equivalent of one full meal over the course of the day. You can either space out small snacks over the course of the day or have one meal all at once. I chose the latter out of simple convenience: had a cup of coffee to power me through the day, and then fasted until I got home from work, when I made myself an open-faced tuna sandwhich on toast, which was the greatest tuna sandwhich I had ever eaten.

That’s the beauty of fasting and abstinence, it makes you appreciate things more. On your average day, stuffing a hamburger into my mouth would have been a nothing; I’d chorf it down and forget about it five minutes later. But after a day of not eating, and specifically avoiding meat, a Five Guys burger would cause tears of joy. Which makes today — the Thursday after Ash Wednesday — a special opportunity for us carnivorous types.

Because Lent ends on Easter Sunday, it always starts on a Wednesday. But the no-meat-on-Fridays rule kicks in immediately. Thus, two days after a day of fasting and abstinence, we have another day of abstinence. So today, the Thursday between – is a day to get some meat-eating in.

Obviously we shouldn’t gorge ourselves. That’s what Mardi Gras is for, and feasting rather violates the Lenten spirit. But we should think of today as a day of appreciation for meat, the pleasure it brings us, the way that it satisfies, the blessing that there are so many animals out there which are so delicious.

This may sound silly, but it’s a plain fact that most of us eat meat at least once a day. We come to think of it as normal, and not as the result of numerous people working very hard at jobs most of us would blanche at. So today, tip your cap to the beef rancher, the hog farmer, the butcher. And appreciate, in the most humble and devout of ways, the repast which appears at your table. Be thankful for all who had a hand in it, especially Him to whom the breath of cattle and the breath of men alike return.

[Dear Vegans, Locavores, and Others Who Are Offended: I respect your right to eat what seems the most healthful diet to you, and your not entirely unjust call to reconsider how food is raised, grown, and sold. So please don’t pester me with comments about how I’m killing myself or ruining the environment or causing human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, etc. I’m not interested in having that argument today and will studiously ignore it.]

So, Happy Meat Thursday everyone! (Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day, too, which you may enjoy without guilt.)

Yes, Popes Can Resign

Just as any king can abdicate, Popes can vacate the Papal office. And just as with kings, such abdications are rare.

How rare?

The last time the leader of the Roman Catholic Church resigned his office was almost exactly 600 years ago in 1415, and that was to end the Western Schism and reunify the Pontificate.

…the last time this happened, Gutenberg hadn’t yet invented the printing press.

Pope Gregory XII‘s resignation was a brokered political settlement: the competing claimants to the papal throne were irreconcilable, so Gregory promised that if the Avignon anti-Pope would resign, he would as well, so that an ecumenical council could elect a new man, acceptable to the Roman, Avignon, and Pisan factions. That man was Martin V.

Before that, you have a few popes forced into exile by Kings and Emperors (Gregory VII was so treated by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV in 1078), but that doesn’t count, for Vatican purposes, as a resignation or even a de jure end of a pontificate (“Clement III”, the guy Henry had elected to “replace” Gregory, is today counted as an anti-Pope).

There was one surprise papal resignation, in 1294. Pope Celestine V had been elected five months previously, to end the longest papal vacancy. For two full years the college of cardinals could not agree on a pope, and so kept adjourning their duties (after this, Popes were elected in conclaves, “with key” meaning they could not leave Rome until a Pope was elected).

Celestine, a Benedictine monk and ascetic, accepted the Papal office reluctantly, carried them out reluctantly, and then resigned, citing the desire to return to an ascetic live and an assessment of his own abilities. Afterwards, Celestine was imprisoned by his successor Boniface VIII, and may have been murdered. He died in 1296 and was canoninzed in 1313.

Two other popes that resigned: John XVIII in 1009 and Benedict IX in 1045. As this was during the  papacy’s nadir in the tenth-eleventh centuries, they reflect the chaos of that time. The ninth Benedict in particular was a thoroughly bad hat: he was expelled from the papal office twice and resigned it once, only to return, like a bad penny. He was eventually excommunicated and his eventual fate is unknown. Current Vatican Law does not have a means for a Pope to be impeached or otherwise forced from office.

And now you know…


Retired Cardinal “Stripped of Duties”

He spent decades shielding priestly molestors. He deserves no less.

A Church expert said the “very unusual” punishment showed how seriously the US Catholic hierarchy was taking the case.

“To tell a cardinal he can’t do confirmations, can’t do things in public, that’s extraordinary,” said Jesuit scholar the Reverend Thomas Reese, a Georgetown University fellow, told the Los Angeles Times.

His judgement cometh, and that right soon.

I’m Not a Particularly Good Catholic

Which is why it took Stacey McCain’s epic blog post on Anne Hathaway’s wardrobe malfunction to remind me that I should follow His Holiness on Twitter. Something to confess this Saturday before Armageddon arrives the following Friday. Mea maxima culpa.

When this story first trickled through the media, it was reported that the Pope would not follow anyone, nor re-tweet. But the first thing you’ll notice is that the Pope follows seven people: Who are these seven?

Himself, in seven other languages.

I mean, a Triune God is one thing. A Septune Pope is enough to frighten even the doughtiest ultramontanist.


Forcing Churches to Have Gay Weddings

I am shocked. Shocked, I say.

This is how shocked I am.

“They would not be able to discriminate against gay and lesbian or transgender individuals,” Dye said. “That type of protection parallels to what you find in race discrimination. If a church provides lodging or rents a facility they could not discriminate based on race. It’s along that kind of thinking.” (sic)

Which is why the analogy between ethnicity and sexuality needs to be dynamited. It’s comparing pineapples to pineapple grenades.

So that’s one prediction in my “Confessions of a Bigot” post that’s well on its way to becoming true. Anyone want to lay odds on what’s next?