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August 31, 2006

The Summa

A friend of mine has a photo album entitled "Summa Summa Summa Time."  I admit it.  For a split second I thought this was about theology.

Posted by Thomas A. on August 31, 2006 at 04:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Turpitude (not to be confused with "terp-itude") means "shameful wickedness" or "baseness."  It is ususally used in the context of "moral turpitude."  Once in a while you will see "turpitudinous" in print, as in "characterized by or having turpitude as an attribute."

And you, Lindsay, gave me "vocab points" for using it in a post once.  That's how it came up.

Posted by Thomas A. on August 31, 2006 at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 30, 2006

Ooops...I created life this weekend, again...

In order to help me be more civically engaged, Isabel dropped off today's Diamondbarf at my apartment.

The headline: "Plan B's popularity skyrockets." Apparently the abortion pill will be doing very well at the next student government elections. Among the uplifting thoughts in this article:

Sexual health coordinator for the Health Center Tara Torchia said "there are more educated people on a college campus and they have more access to the emergency contraceptive pill

I'm assuming her quote ends there, since the editors forgot to include closing quotation marks, but what I really want to know is why, if these people are so educated, they are so dumb as to get pregnant when they don't want to be pregnant...apparently on a repeated basis.

But don't worry, the Health Center isn't trying to push pills on our young girls. Health Center physician Dr. Shelley Parr explains

"We do see some women who use it frequently, and we try to counsel them to use more effective methods of birth control rather than relying on Plan B."

(Did she just suggest that Plan B might not be as effective as other contraceptives?)

The health center offers counseling when a woman requests an additional prescription for the drug in a short amount of timem such as three times in six months, Parr said. Anytime students go through the health center for prescription birth control, Parr said they are encouraged to participate in a "contraceptive education" session where they watch a video about the various forms of birth control, Parr said.

I like how they let us know "Parr said" twice in the very same sentence (three times in two sentences), just in case we had forgotten who they were paraphrasing (really it should be more like "Parr roughly said"). So education is "offered" and "encouraged" but not a prerequisite. I wonder how many girls in a state of pregnancy panic volunteer are eager to watch a video about contraceptives. And who stars in it? 

Next up in the article, we have a brilliant quote from Melinda Chateauvert "who teaches Gender, Sexuality and the Black Family:"

this not [sic] necessarily an indication that students are sexually irresponsible..."What it does mean is that we have more women taking precautions...It's available widely in Europe without prescription and without an age limit, and we haven't seen ill social effects."

No, nothing irresponsible about having had unsafe sex and needing the morning after pill...multiple times a year. And since when do we use Europe as a standard for social normalcy? Europe is so far gone socially, I'm not sure we'd be able to tell if the Plan B pill was having an effect. It would be like trying to determine if a person about to die from ebola had a cold. (Note that I did not say an ebola victim.)

But the award for ill-thought quotation goes to the following:

"I think it's a great thing," Chipkin said. "If people have accidents, especially on a college campus where a lot of this happens on a Saturday or a Sunday...having Plan B is crucial."

If people have accidents? You can almost hear the gum-smacking in her voice.

We're talking about the origins of life, not incontinence.
If you have accidents, wear a diaper.

Posted by Peter Terp on August 30, 2006 at 08:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Music matters

I hope you're not tired yet of reading my discourse on sacred music, because I have several more posts in that series coming up.  I'm glad that people are finding them helpful.  Thanks for your comments.

Posted by Thomas A. on August 30, 2006 at 06:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


You may be aware, particularly if you have read Scott Hahn's excellent book "The Lamb's Supper" on this topic, of how the book of Revelation is in large part about the heavenly liturgy.  As a Presbyterian he was astounded when he saw for the first time how the depiction of how the details of how the saints and angels worship God in heaven are present in the Mass - the altar of sacrifice with Jesus on it, censers full of incense and gold vessels, etc. 

But he didn't say anything about harps.  Have you ever wondered about that?  In Revelation they play harps, but although there is correspondance in many other details, the harp has never been a traditional instrument for use at Mass.  In fact, the norm historically has been the unaccompanied human voice.  In the West we may have admitted instruments to some extent, but in the East they would never admit such an unwarranted innovation as an organ.

Perhaps the harp has a symbolic value which is more important, so that it's not about harps as harps, but about some spiritual reality that harps symbolize.

In OT liturgy, harps were used to accompany the Psalms.  They are full of references to the cithara.  Awake, lyre and harp!  I will awake the dawn!  Upon the harp I will solve my problems.  That is, until the Babylonian Exile.  By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept; it was there that we hung up our harps.  After the return from the Exile, one might expect them to take up the harp again, but they didn't, singing their music unaccompanied instead.  Neither did we start to use it in Christian liturgy, on any official basis.  That's because the Babylonian Exile wasn't really over.

In the New Testament, things in the Old Testament are spiritualized.  Or, if you prefer to look at it this way, the historical events of the Old Testament point to spiritual realities of the New Testament.

The real Babylonian Exile, though, is the exile from paradise that began with the Original Sin.  Even though we have the Church now, we are still on the pilgrimage from exile to heaven.  The fact that the harps are back in heaven in Revelation signify that the Exile is over.

Posted by Thomas A. on August 30, 2006 at 06:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Civic Minded Five!

The Freshman Writing Office just dropped photocopies of A Practical Guide for Integrating Civic Responsibility into the Curriculum in our mailboxes (I wonder if they upheld their civic responsibility to get permission before distributing copies of copyrighted material). I haven't had the time to read over the whole thing yet, but here are some of my favorite parts so far:

Civic responsibility means active participation in the public life of a community in an informed, committed, and constructive manner, with a focus on the common good.
We encourage you to work with your students to reshape or change this definition entirely to formulate one that works for your class.

So not only is the official definition of civic responsibility about as vague and meaningless as the awards introduction that Jon Stewart read at the Emmys, civic responsibility can pretty much mean anything at all. I think I'm going to work with my students to entirely change this definition to read "Civic responsibility means actively bribing your teacher with Star Wars toys because he doesn't make enough money to afford them all on his own." I think that will be a much more useful definition. However, the writers of this guide suggest incorporating some of the following into a revised definition:

Addressing society's problems in an informed manner.

I wish someone would inform me what it means to "address society's problems" in a classroom. On second thought, I probably don't...unless it's "You know what society's problem is? Meaningless academic jargon."

Showing respect as well as dissent for laws.

If you are a parent thinking of sending you kid to college, I want you to pay special attention to that one. I have just been officially ordered by my employer to teach your children how to become dissenters. Respectful dissenters, perhaps. But dissenters nonetheless. I wonder if it makes any difference which laws I teach students to disagree with...or maybe I should just encourage them to dissent against all laws, just to be safe. I think this one goes along with another bullet that reads

Questioning governmental policies and practices.

Now, I'm all for intelligent and open discussions about government. I for one have no desire to live under a tyranny...but don't you think that a political science teacher is probably better equipped to handle this kind of thing? There are actual majors and fields of study dedicated to this line of work. It's like the English department trying to encourage the Math department to only use complicated Shakespearean characters as examples in all of its word problems in order to help students better understand literature. Actually, that would be a pretty cool Math class. Sign me up!

Recognizing the difference between legally defined and culturally defined citizenship.

What in the blazes is "culturally defined citizenship?!?!" Are illegal aliens supposed to get a vote just because they eat McDonald's and wear blue jeans? I don't want to bring dark cynicism into my classroom, but it's kind of hard not to with this kind of mumbo-jumbo.
The list goes on for another ten perplexing bullets...and every single one of them feels like a real bullet going through my traumatized brain.

Oh, and check out this allegedly authentic quote from a "service learning student":

"My idea of citizenship and civil society has changed as a result of my experience. I now feel like it is my duty to give back to the community by becoming an involved citizen. Because of this wonderful experience, I now see the positive effects service learning has on society. This has helped me really feel as though I am a part of America."

Maybe if they spent a little more time learning how to form concrete arguments instead of being civically responsible, that paragraph might have an ounce of meaning in it. (Not to mention the fact that it reads like a statement issued by a brainwashed terror hostage.)

I don't know about the rest of academia, but I barely have enough time to teach my students how to create a coherent paragraph.

Posted by Peter Terp on August 30, 2006 at 04:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2006

The World's Last Night

Wow. It just occurred to me that whether or not I pass my defense, this was my last summer day as a student...ever...

And I spent most of it photocopying syllabi, proofreading my introduction, playing Super Metroid, and delivering Isabel her driver's license after finding it with my gymwear.

Super Metroid isn't even a very good game.

It's a shame I don't drink.

Posted by Peter Terp on August 29, 2006 at 09:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No Poetry in Suffering...

While concocting my course policies, I discovered that the President's Commission on Disability Issues of the University of Maryland stoically warns us against expressing any kind of emotional response to human suffering:

Never use the terms "victim" or "sufferer" to refer to a person who has or has had a disease or disability. This term dehumanizes the person and emphasizes powerlessness.

(Oddly enough, the terms "victim" and "sufferer" actually would make a person more powerful and more human in a Christian context, wouldn't they?)

Also, realize that there is nothing at all pitiable or tragic about having some kind of horrible, rare, or painful disability, and that people who do not have disabilities are never, ever to be considered normal people:

Be careful not to imply either that people with disabilities are to be pitied, feared, or ignored, or that they are somehow more heroic, courageous, patient or "special" than others. Never use the term "normal" in contrast.

Here's another one I like:

Avoid terms that define the disability as a limitation; such as "confined to a wheelchair," or "wheelchair-bound." A wheelchair liberates; it doesn't confine.

Surprisingly, such people are merely "wheelchair users." I was half-expecting the term "wheelchair-liberated."

Of course, we wouldn't call them "the wheelchair liberated" since

Never use the article "the" with an adjective to describe people with disabilities.

So, for example, you would never want to use more concise language like "the deaf" when you could use a more awkward phrase like "people who are deaf" (as if we didn't know we were talking about people).
Someone should forward these guidelines to the people over at The American School for the Deaf those backwards-thinking traditionalist jerks have no idea what psychological trauma they are inflecting on people who are hearing impaired!

Now, if I had time for this kind of thing, I would scour the University Website and find examples of UMD violating its own policy, but I have syllabi to write!

Posted by Peter Terp on August 29, 2006 at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2006

The spiritual significance of tarantulas

Every once in a while I have to sneak a peek at the referrer logs to see what goofy things we are at the top of Google's list for.  It is equally amusing that people search for these things and that their searches brought them to us.  This week it's:  "What is the spiritual significance of tarantulas" and "Beaver attacks."  I note with some amusement that we place well for "Jesuit Jokes," too, even though we don't tell that many.  Maybe with a determined effort we could move up in the ranks.

But I really must take my hat off to Eve Tushnet, who always seems to have the best.  Malign Fiesta.  Ecstasy shark.  Inspirational story vulture.  That's great.

I really don't know, by the way.  Maybe if you found a priest who's also an entomologist.

Posted by Thomas A. on August 28, 2006 at 07:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

International Man of Mary

Reprinted in full from John "The Best Thing About the National Catholic Reporter" Allen's column "All Things Catholic":

The Feast of the Assumption was Aug. 15, and to mark the occasion thousands of pilgrims gathered at the Sanctuary of the Holy Rosary of Pompei, one of the world's most famous Marian shrines. Among other things, the pilgrims celebrated the 100th anniversary of the gift of the shrine to the Holy See in 1906 by Blessed Bartolo Longo, its founder and a tireless advocate of the dogma of Mary's Assumption.

Beatifying Longo in 1980, John Paul II called him the "Man of Mary."

If every saint (and near-saint) has an interesting story, some are more interesting than others, and Longo's may be close to the most interesting of all. He holds the singular distinction that he was once a priest -- but not of the Catholic church, or even of the Christian God.

Improbably, Longo was a priest of Satan.

He grew up in a Catholic household, but fell in with a different crowd when he went to Naples for law school. Attracted to the 19th century "Spiritist" movement, he began attending séances, and eventually became involved in a Satanic cult. He was formally made a priest, and regularly conducted Black Masses and other Satanic rituals for the better part of a decade.

Eventually, however, Longo came under the influence of a Dominican who brought him back to Catholicism. Longo became a lay member of the Dominicans' Third Order, taking the name "Brother Rosary."

Longo organized a petition drive for world peace from 1896 to 1900, collecting more than four million signatures in dozens of countries. For his efforts, he was nominated for the 1902 Noble Peace Prize.

At the same time, Longo also led a petition drive supporting the dogma of Mary's Assumption. More than 120 bishops signed, and the petition was given to Pope Leo XIII. Some questioned the idea of a layperson meddling in theology, but Leo declared that the Holy Spirit can speak through any of the baptized.

Longo did not live to see the proclamation of the Assumption by Pius XII on Nov. 1, 1950. Forty years later, however, John Paul acknowledged him as the father of "the promotional movement of the definition of the dogma."

The moral of this story? If a former Satanist can become the architect of an infallible papal declaration, maybe there's hope for us all.

Posted by Thomas A. on August 28, 2006 at 06:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack