Monday, March 31, 2008

Woodward: Feast of the Annunciation


Ave Maria Gratia Plena

Was this His coming! I had hoped to see
A scene of wondrous glory, as was told
Of some great God who in a rain of gold
Broke open bars and fell on Danaƫ:
Or a dread vision as when Semele
Sickening for love and unappeased desire
Prayed to see God's clear body, and the fire
Caught her brown limbs and slew her utterly:
With such glad dreams I sought this holy place,
And now with wondering eyes and heart I stand
Before this supreme mystery of Love:
Some kneeling girl with passionless pale face,
An angel with a lily in his hand,
And over both the white wings of a Dove.


--Oscar Wilde


This early poem of Wilde's expresses quite forcefully one of the most astounding things about Christianity -- the fact that, in the bare outline of its central truths, it is so very ordinary. Those classical allusions are not just the poet's way of showing off (although he was certainly capable of showing off). They underscore the vital difference between the Gospel and the long mythological tradition that echoes in it -- the difference between the fanciful stories that men make up about God and the very simple story God chose to make up about Himself.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Vehige: Tip No. 1 for Reading Aristotle

I’ve decided to read Aristotle’s Organon—that is, his works on logic—and I thought I’d pass on some of the things I’ve learned as I tried to wade through these texts without the help of a teacher. Here’s Tip Number 1:

Read aloud, and read slowly

This was something I learned in graduate school when I took a class on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Throughout the semester, the professor read everything aloud and very slowly before lecturing on it. Not once did he read Aristotle silently the way my other professors would scan a text before commenting on it. At first, I thought he was doing this for the sake of his students, but as we moved through the Metaphysics and Aristotle’s ideas became more obscure, I realized he was doing it for his own sake as well. He was still trying to understand Aristotle, and reading aloud helped him.

I’d forgotten all about this until a few weeks ago when I was trying to wade through one of the many obscure parts of the first book of the Organon, “On Interpretation.” (By the way, what makes Aristotle’s logical works difficult is that they’re little more than his lecture notes; thus, they’re not only terse, they’re dry as well. I don’t remember his Ethics being quite as difficult.) I was about to give up trying to make sense of what I was reading when I remembered the technique employed by my old professor. I read aloud, and I read slowly, and—voila!—I suddenly understood what Aristotle was saying. The more I kept at it, the more I was beginning to understand. Suddenly, I’d finished the chapter and, oddly enough, it made sense to me. So did the next chapter and the chapter after that one. I even went back and reread some of the passages in “The Categories” (the first book of Aristotle’s logic) I didn’t understand, and after rereading them aloud, they made sense to me.

Could this result be because it was my fourth or fifth time through these texts? Or was it because I was finally reading the text aloud, experiencing it in a different way? Probably a little bit of both; yet, I can’t help be thinking it had more to do with reading the text aloud than with reading the text another time.

At any rate, if you’re trying to read Aristotle (or any difficult passage of philosophy or theology), try reading aloud. It just might help.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Woodward: The Joys of Paraphernalia

I entered the Roman Catholic Church in February 1972, at the beginning of the age of felt banners, tie-dyed chasubles, and the music of the St. Louis Jesuits. I have reason to believe, on the basis of that baptism of fire, that no degree of liturgical ugliness could ever succeed in driving me from the bosom of the Church. It's also because of those years in the aesthetic wilderness inspired (or excused) by the "spirit of Vatican II" that I now feel entitled -- for myself and for the whole Church -- to have some pretty things at Mass. And so I welcome Pope Benedict's steady reintroduction of many of the trappings that adorn the liturgical patrimony of the Western Church -- the mozzette and the Roman chasubles and the ombrellini and the camauri and the brocaded copes and the antique miters and the return to the original "ad orientem" altar in the Sistine Chapel. After decades of studied banality, it's good to see the Church once again dressing up for God.

Now, if only Msgr. Marini would get those flabella and the sedia gestatoria out of mothballs....

Monday, March 24, 2008

Woodward: "Carnis Resurrectio"

Every so often, the secular world discovers (or rediscovers) what it is that Christianity actually teaches, and then there follows a period of either pleased or disgusted astonishment as the realization sinks in. Something of the kind apparently is going on right now with respect to the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body (carnis resurrectio, the resurrection of the flesh, as the Apostles' Creed forthrightly puts it). The Slate article I linked to last week was an example of the interest the topic is generating. And then an Associated Press story this Easter weekend highlighted some recent books on the topic -- books that document the history of the Christian doctrine of the bodily resurrection of the dead and arrive at the unavoidable conclusion that that doctrine involves the resurrection of...well...bodies. Isn't theology weird?

The AP story focuses on recent work of Kevin Madigan and Jon Levenson (with whom I'm not familiar) and N.T. Wright (with whom everyone ought to get familiar), and summarizes their findings thus:

The scholars say resurrection occurs for the whole person — body and soul. For early Christians and some Jews, resurrection meant being given back one's body or possibly God creating a new similar body after death.

I guess I have two reactions to a "news" story like this. The first reaction is: Good. As a Christian, I want the whole world to know just how strange and surprising the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men."

My second reaction is: Simple restatements of fundamental Christian doctrine now qualify as breakthrough discoveries in religious scholarship? The world must be even more depressingly post-Christian than I thought.

The AP story goes on to explain that the beliefs of 21st-century Christians "have been molded by Western individualism, and scholars say many important teachings from early Christianity have been skewed as a result." No argument there. Then the story says this:

Wright and others say the church should teach what the first Christians believed.

No argument there either. And as it happens, I can recommend a Church that still does teach "what the first Christians believed."

In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection.

--Catechism of the Catholic Church, §997

Catholicism -- "ripped from today's headlines."

Vehige: Personal Litany of Saints

My, oh my, oh my . . . how did I miss this? Robert Gotcher of Classic Catholic tagged me a few moons ago about who would make my personal litany of saints. Not one to pass up free blog posting ideas, I would have jumped on this had I seen it. Alas, I did not see it until yesterday. Here’s my list:

1. St. Josephthat I may have the obedience to the word of God that he does (see Matthew 1-2).

2. St. Augustine of Hippo—that my conversion may be as perfect as his was.

3. St. Thomas Aquinasthat I may be as dedicated to the truth as he was and possess the intellectual virtues as he did.

4. St. Thomas More—that I may be the example to my own children as he was to his.

5. St. Ignatius of Loyola—that I may implement in my life the discipline of prayer that he implemented in his own.

6. St. Teresa of Avila­that, God willing, I may soar to the heights of contemplation as she did.

7. St. Theresa of Lisieux—that I may have the childlike trust and humility toward God the Father that she did.

8. St. Josemaria Escriva—that I may sanctify my daily work as he recommends.

9. Fr. John Hardon—that I may be as dedicated to catechesis as he was.

10. Pope John Paul II—that I may have his devotion to the Blessed Mother and be the kind of example he was in this fractured world of ours.

Orate pro nobis.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Vehige: The Empty Tomb


An excerpt from Fr. Roch Kereszty's Jesus Christ: Fundamentals of Christology:

If the story of the empty tomb had been a later legend, it would have not been linked to the women, but to one of the apostles, "the official witnesses."

Moreover, even the Jews themselves do not deny the fact of the empty tomb in the fourth quarter of the first century; they merely try to explain it as part of a fraud committed by the disciples (Matt 28.11-15).

We must also conclude to the historicity of the empty tomb from the fact that the message of the Resurrection was preached in Jerusalem. In the words of Althaus: "The Resurrection kergyma could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned." If the opponents of the nascent Church could have pointed to the corpse of Jesus in the tomb, it would have completely discredited the message of the Resurrection in Jerusalem.
Of course, the empty tomb doesn't prove that Christ rose from the dead, but it does provide a place to begin a powerful defense for believing in Christ's resurrection. More on this in the days to come.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

George Herbert: "Easter Wings"

[Since I've been drawing on 17th-century English metaphysical poets for a running commentary on the Triduum, please indulge this old English major as I conclude on the same note. Herbert's typographical joke may strike some as "cutesy," but on what day of the liturgical year are Christians more entitled to a smile?]


Lord, Who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With Thee
O let me rise,
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day Thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.



My tender age in sorrow did beginne;
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With Thee
Let me combine,
And feel this day Thy victorie;
For, if I imp my wing on Thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

George Herbert: Sepulchre

O blessed body! whither art thou thrown?
No lodging for thee, but a cold hard stone?
So many hearts on earth, and yet not one
Receive thee ?

Sure there is room within our hearts' good store;
For they can lodge transgressions by the score:
Thousands of toys dwell there, yet out of door
They leave thee.

But that which shows them large, shows them unfit.
Whatever sin did this pure rock commit,
Which holds thee now? Who hath indicted it
Of murder?

Where our hard hearts have took up stones to brain thee,
And missing this, most falsely did arraign thee;
Only these stones in quiet entertain thee,
And order.

And as of old, the Law by heavenly art
Was writ in stone; so thou, which also art
The letter of the word, find'st no fit heart
To hold thee.

Yet do we still persist as we began,
And so should perish, but that nothing can,
Though it be cold, hard, foul, from loving man
Withhold thee.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Richard Crashaw: Christ Crucified


Jesu, no more! It is full tide.
From thy head and from thy feet,
From thy hands, and from thy side
All the purple rivers meet.

Thy restlesse feet now cannot goe
For us and our eternall good
As they were ever wont. What though?
They swimme. Alas, in their owne flood.

Thy hands to give, thou canst not lift;
Yet will thy hand still giving be.
It gives, but oh, itself's the gift.
It gives though bound; though bound 'tis free.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Woodward: Resurrection

I don't often think of the left-wing online journal Slate.com as a source of theological insight. But they have an article up for Easter week, written by Larry Hurtado of the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity, that is as sound a brief explanation as I have ever seen of what the Church understands itself to be doing when it professes belief in the "resurrection of the body."

A sample: "The [early Christians'] hope of resurrection reflected a strongly holistic view of the person as requiring some sort of body to be complete. With ancient Jews, early Christians saw resurrection as an act of God, a divine gift of radically new life, not an expression of some inherent immortality of the soul. That is, the dead don't rise by themselves; they are raised by God and will experience resurrection collectively as one of the events that comprise God's future redemption of the world and vindication of the righteous."

Take a look. But don't expect too many links from here to Slate.com.

Woodward: The Good Friday Prayers

These prayers, especially as they are structured in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite -- the liturgy of Bl. John XXIII -- have received considerable attention recently, particularly the prayer for the Jews. The older form of the liturgy has traditionally afforded Catholics on Good Friday the opportunity to pray for the conversion of several other non-Catholic groups as well -- "heretics, schismatics, pagans" -- using a nomenclature that Christians don't often resort to any longer in polite conversation. The ordinary form of the Roman rite, the liturgy of Paul VI, keeps it simpler: a "prayer for the Jewish people," a "prayer for those who do not believe in Christ," and a "prayer for those who do not believe in God."

That third prayer of the ordinary form -- the prayer for those who do not believe in God at all -- is particularly interesting to me because it invites us not only to pray for non-believers but also to take some more direct action on their behalf:

Grant that, in spite of the hurtful things that stand in their way, they may all recognize in the lives of Christians the tokens of your love and mercy, and gladly acknowledge you as the one true God and father of us all.

There is profound truth in that prayer, both psychological truth and ecclesiological truth. It suggests that many atheists and agnostics lack faith in God because of something "hurtful" in their life experience. It implies that faith in God is man's natural state -- the human default position, if you will -- and that a lack of faith is most often the result of something having gone wrong, some hurt the unbeliever has endured. That matches my own experience with the unbelievers I have known. Their atheism is, in almost every case, a reaction to something that has happened to them, some personal catastrophe that prevents them from believing in a loving God. Get to know an atheist well, and chances are you will discover the "hurtful thing that stands in the way" of faith. How do we counter a lack of faith that is grounded in such a "hurtful thing"?

The Good Friday prayer gives us the answer. We as Christians must show unbelievers "the tokens of [God's] love and mercy" at work in our own lives. It always comes back to us, doesn't it? Just when we think a nice prayer for someone discharges our obligation as a Christian, we get reminded that we also have to do something ourselves. In this case, we have to be an example of God's love -- maybe the hardest task of all. The Good Friday prayers remind us that people often come to a knowledge of God the Father through a knowledge of His children. As Christians, that truth is our greatest opportunity, and our greatest responsibility.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Woodward: Judas

Today is "Spy Wednesday," the liturgical commemoration of that moment from which Judas "sought an opportunity to betray" Jesus. The Gospel for today begins with Matthew 26:14 -- "Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests...."

Judas' motive in betraying Jesus is one of the perennial mysteries of biblical exegesis. Some have suggested that Judas was a frustrated "progressive" who, realizing that Jesus' messianic role was purely spiritual and not that of a political liberator, handed him over in a moment of vengeful disappointment. Others, basing their theory on John's passing comment (John 12:6) that Judas kept the common purse of the disciples and was apparently embezzling from it, have theorized that Judas was prompted to his betrayal purely to enrich himself.

St. John Chrysostom had a theory of his own on this question, and (like everything ever written by that great saint and Doctor of the Church) it bears thinking about. Here is his gloss on Matthew 26:14.

"Then" -- when, that is, [Judas] heard that this Gospel should be preached everywhere (for that made him afraid, as it was indeed a mark of unspeakable power)....

What is the "then" to which St. John Chrysostom is referring here? It is the verse that immediately precedes today's Gospel -- Matthew 26:13 -- the last verse in the narration of the anointing of Jesus, by an anonymous woman (traditionally associated with Mary Magdalene), with costly oils from an alabaster jar. Jesus says of the incident: "Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."

St. John Chrysostom believed that Judas, the "son of perdition," was horrified by the prospect of Christ's gospel being "preached in the whole world," and for that reason resolved to prevent such a universal evangelization. It's a provocative interpretation of the biblical passage. It reminds us of how destructive the narrowness of our individual world views can be when they bump up against the immensity of God's eternal purpose. Judas may well have believed that he knew exactly what the world -- his own little world -- needed from a messiah. Jesus' mission, however, was not the paltry liberation of one particular group of people from an oppressive political system, but the liberation of the "whole world" from its enslavement to sin. The "unspeakable power" (in St. John Chrysostom's words) that could bring such freedom "made [Judas] afraid."

It still makes people afraid. Perhaps the scope of the claim that Christ makes on our lives frightened Judas in just the same way that it frightened the poet Francis Thompson, who examined that fear in the great poem "The Hound of Heaven," which describes the flight of a sinner from the Christ who is pursuing -- following -- him:

For though I knew His love who followed,
Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.

It's what we must give up to follow Christ that makes us all afraid, despite Christ's own assurance that we give up nothing in comparison with what we gain -- and once we've made the decision to follow him, the nothing we have given up really does look like nothing. It's only the moment of giving it up that's hard. Perhaps it's that moment that Judas never quite got past.

[By the way, don't look in today's Gospel reading from the Lectionary for the "then" that St. John Chrysostom bases his brilliant commentary on. It's not there in the version used in dioceses of the United States (although it is there -- tote -- in the Greek of Matthew). When are the Mass readings going to correspond precisely to any respectable translation of the Bible?]

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Woodward: Palm Sunday


The Donkey
G. K. Chesterton


When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Woodward: Marriage, Washington Post Style

Eliot Spitzer is the last subject I'm interested in dwelling on here, but I do continue to be astonished at the intellectual and moral sludge the story seems to be churning up from the bottom of the public opinion pond. Two examples oozed to the surface recently in the pages of the Washington Post (free registration required).

Columnist Eugene Robinson is bewildered as to "why a woman like Silda Wall Spitzer would subject herself to such searing public scrutiny -- and, by her presence, make what could only be seen as a statement of unconditional support -- at a time when a part of her must have wanted to wring her husband's neck."

Mr. Robinson apparently thinks that unconditional support is an overrated marital virtue. Or maybe it's only overrated for a woman like Mrs. Spitzer, a wife who (Mr. Robinson informs us) "is as smart and accomplished as her husband." Stupid, unaccomplished wives, I guess, can be as unconditionally supportive as they want.

Another Washington Post columnist (and co-moderater of the paper's "On Faith" feature), Sally Quinn, also is appalled that Silda Spitzer stood next to her husband as he admitted his adultery. Ms. Quinn invites us to "think of the message this image sends -- not to just adults, but to young children, both boys and girls. For young girls, it says this is an acceptable role for women -- to be lied to, cheated on, disrespected and humiliated in public. You take it and must still be supportive, because that is what is expected of women."

Expected of women?? It's expected of any husband or wife, at least in my understanding of marriage. Surely one message that could reasonably be derived from Mrs. Spitzer's public behavior (or Mrs. Craig's or Mrs. Vitter's or Mrs. McGreevey's or ...) is the message of forgiveness. Sally Quinn looked at Silda Spitzer and "all she could think of" was "Taliban women covered from head to toe in burqa, a few paces behind their men, appendages to their all powerful husbands, or Indian women committing sati, throwing themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre." Funny, but all I could think was "she's a much better person than he is."

If you approach marriage as a power arrangement, one that you're willing to tolerate only as long as you're not lied to, or embarrassed, or otherwise emotionally wounded by the selfishness or venality of your spouse, then the rightness of wringing somebody's neck or kicking the bum out -- making sure someone "pays the consequences" -- is probably self-evident (as it is to Mr. Robinson and Ms. Quinn). "Since you reneged on the 'forsaking all others' part, I'm outta here on the 'till death do us part' part." Like any other violated contract, it's something for the lawyers to sort out now.

But what an impoverished understanding of marriage that is. I have no idea whether it was the understanding of any of those sad couples whose public agony we have been asked to witness over the last couple of years. Perhaps it was. Perhaps their "relationships" were as calculating and self-serving as Mr. Robinson and Ms. Quinn think all marriages should be. But I'd prefer not to think so. I'd prefer to think that when wives stand by their errant husbands, or husbands by their errant wives, they are doing so as an acknowledgment that, for better or worse, they are now one flesh and that they themselves are not willing to tear apart what God has joined together.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Woodward: Hypocrisy

I have been hoping that someone, somewhere amid all the punditry surrounding l'affaire Spitzer, would make this point. And maybe someone has, but I missed it. So I will make it myself, perhaps superfluously.

Eliot Spitzer, we are being told by commentators both left and right, is a hypocrite. But among all the things he may be guilty of, is hypocrisy really one of them? Hypocrisy (just to define our terms, as Socrates advised) is "a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion." It's easy to remember this technical definition (and the technical part is important) if one bears in mind that hypokrinesthai is the Greek word for "to act on a stage." Pretense is the essence of hypocrisy -- playing the role of a virtuous person when one is no such thing.

There seems to be general agreement now that Eliot Spitzer is "no such thing." But was he
pretending to virtues that he did not have? Is, for example, the prosecution of a crime a simultaneous declaration that one has never oneself been guilty of that crime? More pertinently (for those of us who are not public prosecutors), is the belief that an act is immoral a simultaneous declaration that we have never ourselves committed such an act? Am I disqualified from saying that it is wrong to lie if I sometimes lie myself? If so, then perhaps the most famous public confession of hypocrisy in the history of the world is St. Paul's in Romans 7:15.

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.


Doing "the very thing I hate" -- and the thing for which I have publicly declared my hatred -- does not make me a hypocrite. Merely pretending that I hate it when I don't; or, really hating it, pretending that I don't do it -- those things would make me a hypocrite. There is no way of knowing whether Eliot Spitzer -- or anyone -- is guilty of the first of those two varieties of hypocrisy. There is no solid evidence that he is guilty of the second. If we take him at his word -- the words he spoke today in resigning -- then he seems to have done something that he himself knew was wrong. And that makes him ... a sinner. He is welcome to the club.

The larger point here is that what the secular world now likes to call hypocrisy, Christianity has always simply called sin. For Christians, the most serious moral failing is to live in a way that is not in accord with one's core beliefs. For the secularist, the most serious moral failing is to persist in a set of core beliefs that is not in accord with the way one lives. If you commit adultery, that can only mean (in the modern world view) that you really, deep down, don't see anything wrong with adultery, and how dare you then lecture anybody else on sexual morality? The practical uses of such a world view are easy to see. It's a handy way to shut up all those annoying, moralizing Christians.

La Rochefoucauld (or somebody) once famously observed that "hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue." In our own time, it seems to have become the homage that vice pays to vice.

Woodward: Papa Benedictus Linguam Latinam Amat


Et ego Papam Benedictum amo. Magnopere.

Greeting some visiting Swedish Latin students and their teacher at his Wednesday audience, the Holy Father spoke to them in a language they could understand. Father Z has the scoop.

(You don't really need a translation, do you?)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Woodward: "Our Flag Still Waves Proudly from the Walls"

March 6 is a big day here in Texas. On this date in 1836, the defenders of the Alamo (including legendary figures Davey Crockett and Jim Bowie) were overwhelmed and killed by the forces of the Mexican leader Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. In defeat, these heroes had bought valuable time for Sam Houston to assemble the army that defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21 and won independence for Texas.

The commander of the forces at the Alamo, William Travis, is one of those historical figures who managed to crown a fairly disreputable life with one defining act of heroic nobility. The letter written from his desperate position in the besieged fort is justly famous. I defy anyone to stand in the Alamo today, read the words that Col. Travis addressed to "the people of Texas and all Americans in the world," and not feel a chill.

Woodward: I Am Not Offended

Catholics, we are told, should be deeply offended by the preaching of one John Hagee, pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, who alleges that Roman Catholicism is a "false cult system" associated, in some semi-literate hermeneutic sense, with the "great harlot who is seated upon many waters" in chapter 17 of the Revelation of St. John.

Sorry, but I'm not offended.

Let me back up a bit here, for the benefit of those readers of Thursday Night Gumbo who have been living in a cave the last few days. (And no, that's not all readers of Thursday Night Gumbo....).

The Rev. Mr. Hagee has endorsed the presidential candidacy of John McCain, thereby enhancing his own public profile a lot more than he could ever have enhanced Mr. McCain's. And because the Rev. Mr. Hagee has expressed in strong (if biblical) language his conviction that Catholicism embodies false religious teaching, there have been calls for Mr. McCain to "denounce" or "dissociate himself from" the theological and ecclesiological opinions of the Rev. Mr. Hagee.

Honestly, isn't American politics nowadays a source of unending embarrassment?

To "offend" is to "cause to feel vexation or resentment usually by violation of what is proper or fitting." And the same Webster's entry offers this additional insight into the word's connotation: "Offense need not imply an intentional hurting but it may indicate merely a violation of the victim's sense of what is proper or fitting."

"The victim's sense of what is proper"?? In what sense can I (or any Catholic) become a "victim" by becoming aware that John Hagee thinks I (or we) hold erroneous religious beliefs? I think he holds erroneous religious beliefs. Should he be offended? I could go further and explain why the Rev. Mr. Hagee's interpretation of Revelation is not only incorrect but profoundly ignorant. Should even that be a cause of "offense"?

Where does this end? We seem to be moving toward a society in which any ideological dispute is to be settled on the basis of which disputant can become more offended. Americans have an absolute right to their own ideas, but when did that become an absolute right to their own unviolated feelings?

William Donohue can earn his living, if he likes, by being offended. That gives him no franchise to claim that I am offended too. The John Hagees of the world have not the minutest power to offend me. But I am sort of offended by the suggestion that I should be offended.