Monthly Archives: July 2016

Re: the Martyrdom of Fr. Jacques Hamel

The name of the church where the attacks took place is Saint Etienne (St. Stephen). It’s an eponymous church, ie, the church after which the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray was named. “Rouvray” refers to the forest of Rouvray, a vast oak forest which once ran all the way from Paris to the outskirts of Rouen. The remaining part that’s near Paris is called the Bois de Boulogne. The part near Rouen is called “Londe-Rouvray.” It’s right next to Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

Saint Etienne is not called “the Church of the Gambetta,” as English newspapers translated it. “Eglise de Gambetta” means something more like “the church on Gambetta Street” or “the Gambetta Street church.” It’s informally called that, because the street that runs in front of the church is called “Rue de la Republique” or “Rue Gambetta,” depending on where you are standing. Leon Gambetta was a French politician who founded the Third Republic.

Saint Etienne is part of a parish cluster. The main church in it by number of parishioners is Sainte Therese du Madrillet, but apparently the seniority of Saint Etienne as a church makes the parish cluster be named after it, instead. The pastor is Fr. Auguste Moanda Phuati. He’s a Redemptorist priest. His original nationality was Congolese. Fr. Jacques Hamel was his associate pastor; he was a diocesan priest of Rouen.

The archbishop of Rouen has not come right out and said that Hamel is a martyr. OTOH, in a public secular memorial held in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray on July 29, he ended his elegy by saying, “Dear friends… dear brothers and sisters… seek the heavenly Father with the aid of Father Jacques Hamel, who is with God, his Father and our Father!” In the old medieval days, that would have been enough to serve as a straight-up acknowledgement of sainthood by the local bishop. So if he doesn’t follow up with a petition to the Vatican, it would be pretty weak sauce.

(Btw, the Google Translate version of his speech stinks. In French, he really does say that the Eucharist is “more than a symbol,” but at this hour Google Translate just has “is a symbol.” I corrected it, but who knows if that will show up.)

Father Hamel’s funeral will be held in the Cathedral of Rouen on August 2nd; it is open to the public, although the interment will have restricted attendance. This is another indication that the archbishop thinks he’s got a saint on his hands.

A prayer vigil is being held today at St. Therese du Madrillet, at 8:30 PM French time.

St. Etienne’s is still closed as a crime scene, but the diocesan website explains that when it is released “in a few weeks,” the church will reopen. Since any serious act of sacrilege or violence deconsecrates a church, they will first perform “a penitential rite of reparation” to make the church a place of worship again. (If not for the crime scene thing, the church would be reconsecrated as soon as possible, as they did in the case of my parish church in Beavercreek. But since a crime scene can’t be disturbed, and since a crime scene investigator has to crawl around doing and saying stuff not suitable for a church, it makes sense to wait on the police to finish.)

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Was Fr. Hamel a Martyr?

Jimmy Akin raises a serious question here. There’s odium fidei (“hatred of the Faith” by those killing you), and then there’s “turn the other cheek.” (Although this doesn’t preclude defending yourself first, as the list of kingly Welsh and Saxon martyrs tends to testify.)

OTOH, as a non-canon lawyer and a member of the faithful, it is my job to be part of the sensus fidei, including the early veneration and acclaim of martyrs. And my sense is that the man is a martyr.

Also, I have petitioned Fr. Hamel privately on several small matters, as is the right of any of the Catholic faithful when anybody passes, and thus I have received several small (but important!) favors from the Lord through his intercession. So yup, my personal opinion is that God also says he’s a martyr.

Now, whether or not this is recognized soon is another matter. Rouen was the site of the death of one of the Church’s greatest saints, remember, and she wasn’t canonized until World War I. So I can wait.

But I’m pretty sure I know the answer.

And if I were someone in France with a bad disease or disability, I would hie me to his funeral and try to get near his coffin. Because martyrs are really good at taking care of that sort of thing.

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First World War POW’s at Mass

Life was a little more civilized before the Nazis and the Soviets came along.

Here’s a photo of a WWI POW camp in Italy, showing Catholic Austro-Hungarian POWs going to Mass. As you can see, the camp is pretty cruddy but the religious accommodation is pretty generous.

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The Imprisoned Queen of England

Sophia Dorothea of Celle (or Zell) was the only acknowledged wife of King George I of England, while he was still just ruling Hannover.

It was a marriage born in money and power. She was the only heir of her father (his uncle), the Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg (Braunschweig-Lueneburg), and his Huguenot mistress/morganatic wife/eventual full wife, Eleonore d’Esmier d’Ombreuse, Countess of Wilhelmsburg. As heiress, she came with an income of 100,000 thalers a year, but she couldn’t inherit the duchy because that went with the male line. She was also George’s first cousin, but we all know that European aristocrats of that era weren’t bothered by that sort of genetic stupidity. George was going to inherit Celle eventually, but the marriage would lead up more gracefully to unification. (In theory.)

However, there was a lot of soap opera involved. Even though it was a sensible marriage idea (from the point of view of eliminating dynastic contention), the Hannover side jibbed at marrying George to the daughter of a morganatic marriage.

But why was the marriage initially morganatic? Because in 1658, as part of a deal to get out of marrying Princess Sophia of the Palatinate, when he gave Hannover and the obligation to his younger brother, Ernest Augustus of Brunswick-Luneburg (who was happy to marry Sophia and vice versa, and who thus became the father of George I), he had promised to remain unmarried and produce no legitimate heir. He initially kept his promise. Then he met Eleonore in 1665 and fell in love with her. They married morganatically, and Sophia Dorothea was born in 1666. Ten years later, it was becoming clear that the future George I was the only male heir born to the whole extended family, so Sophia Dorothea’s dad proposed the marriage idea and got turned down. This torqued him off, so he broke his promise, married Eleonore, and legitimized Sophia Dorothea in 1676.

This made the relatives angry, but it also got the job done. Sophia Dorothea became Duchess of Hannover, but there wasn’t much fun in it.

She bore two children: the eventual King George II of England and the eventual Queen Sophia Dorothea of Prussia.

In 1692, after ten years of marriage and much abuse by her husband, there was a scandal about her friendship with a Swedish count, Philip Christoph von Koenigsmarck. The Duchess protested her innocence. In 1694, Koenigmarck disappeared mysteriously; rumor said he had been murdered. The duke divorced and imprisoned Sophia, but he didn’t divorce his claim to inherit his uncle her father’s duchy, which he collected in 1705 when that duke died.

[It was rumored that the whole thing had been engineered by George’s long-time mistress, Ehrengard Melusine von Schulenburg. She was also rumored to have been made his morganatic wife, but George never acknowledged this in public and never acknowledged his illegitimate kids as legitimate heirs. (This did protect the claim of his “heir and spare” kids and prevent potential dynastic warfare, which is probably why he did it.) However, he did give Melusine tons of properties and noble titles, including making her “Duchess of Kendal” (her usual title in English history books) and “Duchess of Munster” (which was a real insult to the Irish). In Scottish history, she is best remembered by the reference in the Jacobite song “Cam’ Ye O’er frae France” to George “riding on a goosie.”]

So anyway, the upshot was that this lady was deprived of her freedom, her property, visits from her kids (even after they grew up), and the ability to marry again. She lived that way for thirty years. Contemporary accounts say that she never ceased to declare her innocence of all adultery or immoral behavior.

Her son planned to free her and clear her name as soon as he acceded to the throne, but unfortunately she predeceased his father. It’s a sad story.

(To add to the creepiness of George I’s court, he had so many mistresses that most of the English nobles mistook his semi-acknowledged illegitimate half-sister, Sophia von Kielsmansegg, for one of his mistresses – just because she was influential with him! Apparently people didn’t get the word about the real relationship until he made her Countess of Leinster, gave her arms featuring a bar sinister, and talked about their “common blood” in the letters patent for the title. And yeah, I’m sure that the Irish were just super-pleased by the insult to Leinster, too.)

* Morganatic marriage, aka “left hand marriage,” was part of ancient Frankish law but went against Church and international law. It was a form of marriage between two people of unequal status, signified by the giving of a “morning gift” after the consummation of the “marriage.” No dowry or brideprice was given, and the families of the people involved did not get into negotiating a marriage contract. A morganatic marriage could be ended unilaterally at any time. (And they often were, if a lord got a full marriage prospect that paid off better.) But it was still one step above being a mistress, and there was only supposed to be one morganatic marriage at a time. But since they were enacted in private and not in church, morganatic marriages could potentially make morganatic bigamy pretty easy.

Under Frankish law, the children of an unequal marriage were still automatically heirs of their fathers, but this was not true under German or international law. (Although a lot of the resulting kids were legitimized by their fathers, a lot of them weren’t.) In the eyes of Catholic and Protestant churches, this form of “marriage” was keeping a concubine. The closest English equivalent would be “common law marriage,” not that such a thing exists anymore.

As time went on, German and Austrian law did begin to recognize morganatic marriages as merely a specialized form of pre-nuptial agreement that controlled the succession of heirs to titles, without de-legitimizing children or making divorce easy. This allowed them to be recognized as true marriages by churches, and some of these later morganatic marriages did take place in churches, before consummation, instead of in bedrooms.

One notable latter-day morganatic marriage was the marriage of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to Countess Sophie Chotek, a Hungarian noblewoman of high birth. Because of their unequal (though high) rank, their marriage was severely opposed by Emperor Franz Josef. After most of the crowned heads of Europe and the Pope interceded for the couple, the Emperor finally acceded, but only under the condition that it be a morganatic marriage where Sophie would never become empress and the children could not succeed to any titles.

The Emperor refused to attend or let most of the relations attend, so the Nuptial Mass was celebrated in the tiny Reichstadt Castle chapel. But the celebrants were the parish priest with two friars as deacon and subdeacon; so the Mass itself was in full splendor, and showed that the Church regarded it as a true marriage of equals.

Here’s a picture from an illustrated journal of the day, The Sphere. (Also note that the Catholic archduchesses all wore hats to Mass.)


“The Archduke Franz Ferdinand duly wedded the Countess Sophie Chotek, the choice of his heart, at the Imperial castle of Reichstadt in Bohemia last Sunday week. The service was conducted by the parish priest, assisted by two Capuchin friars The little wedding procession, consisting of thirty-one persons, proceeded from the Archduchess Maria Theresa’s drawing room through the billiard room, where the Emperor Franz Josef and the Czar Alexander II met in conference in 1876, to the little chapel, to which no one else was admitted. First in the procession walked the bridegroom with his stepmother the Archduchess Maria Theresa, and his two half-sisters, the Archduchesses Maria Immaculata and Elizabeth, and his two sisters; and after then the bride, accompanied by her uncle, Prince Löwenstein, and Count Charles Chotek, head of the family. The Countess wore a white silk dress trimmed with myrtle blossoms, and on her forehead a diamond coronet, a wedding gift from the Archduke. Behind her came her brother, her sisters, and their husbands, and two or three court dignitaries. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s brothers were not present. From Reichstadt the bride and bridegroom proceeded to Konopischt Castle in Bohemia, a favourite estate of the Archduke’s, where they are passing their honeymoon. Our picture is by the one artist present (a Viennese).”


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Sweetness and Lightning: A Very Cute Anime

Crunchyroll currently has a very cute family food anime called Sweetness and Lightning (Amaama to Inazuma).

Kouhei Inuzuka, a dad who lost his wife six months ago, is having a hard time raising their daughter Tsumugi alone, especially since he can’t cook. He never had much appetite, but since his wife died he’s been losing weight to the point that his teaching colleagues openly worry about him.

One of his high school students, Kotori Iida, has a mom who works all the time as a celebrity chef, and her father is gone. She also has a phobia about knives, so she can’t do most cooking; and unless she gets over it, she won’t be able to keep the family restaurant going when she grows up.

So (with her mom’s permission) the girl who knows a lot about cooking but never does any, starts to teach the widowed dad how to cook. (And she also gets to play big sister to little Tsumugi, and have a father figure in her life.) So far, Dad has to do all the chopping.

It’s a charming show made from a charming manga. (The manga is also available on Crunchyroll.) Each storyline in the comic includes a recipe as an appendix, so that you can make the same dishes that the characters do.

This is a great intro to simple Japanese cooking, or an inspiration to get off your butt and do some. It also includes some useful information about European- and American-style cooking… but obviously, Japanese cooks adapt their recipes to local taste, just like American cooks do.

So their idea of Salisbury steak is served with a tomato-based sauce and a fried egg on top. (I’m not against it, mind you, but the American idea of Salisbury steak involves brown gravy and no eggs.)

I do want to point out that Kouhei isn’t some stereotypical helpless guy. He does a pretty good job taking care of the house and his job and his daughter. He just needs to know how to cook. (And to be taken out of himself, so that he can get out of his grief and depression, which are affecting his job. As Kotori points out, it’s not good for a homeroom teacher not to know the names and faces of his students. Kouhei has been living in a grief fog, and that’s understandable; but it can’t go on.)

And no, it’s not skeevy. The manga actually points out that Japanese homeroom teachers used to spend a lot of time with their students at home, as well as doing home visits with the parents to discuss the kids. Having teachers over to eat was once common. (Although I assume that this was in the days when teacher salaries were lower, so a lot of Japanese moms probably wanted to feed sensei and keep him/her from starving to death.) This is a manga and anime about a father; he just gains an extra daughter. (Albeit a daughter who intermittently has a crush on him… but Kotori tactfully keeps it to herself.)

I actually have a suspicion that the widowed dad and the divorced mom may eventually get together in the manga. It’s hard to tell, since they haven’t actually met in person yet. (The mom writes out and draws recipe instructions each week for her daughter and the dad, so she’s actually “present” in some storylines and has some personality established.) Of course, since the comic is aimed at teenage girls, it is probably unlikely that the story would go this way! Most likely, nothing will happen except teenager angst.

Also, I forgot to point out that the voice actress playing Tsumugi is actually a young kid – one of the talented kids from the calligraphy anime Barakamon. I hope she’s still having fun with her work; but if she’s only doing one series a season, that should be okay.

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Two Disappointing Flicks: Zootopia and Ant-Man

So I went to Redbox and rented some movies. (Good price.) And I’m glad I didn’t pay a movie ticket or digital rental price, because dang, I would have been upset about the waste of money.

Zootopia was well-animated and had a lot of cute and interesting bits, but oh the stupidity.

First off, it’s not suitable for kids. It’s got scenes that are really dark in ways that will frighten young kids, and there is an extended joke about nudist animals that is presented in a really uncomfortable way. The morals of the story are banged in with hammers, and it’s insulting to kids. Oh, and there’s a Breaking Bad homage sequence. In a kids’ movie.

Second, it’s not suitable for adults, because the plotline is on rails and the police don’t act like police. It’s obvious that the story went through all kinds of developmental hell, but sheesh. The plot also contradicts the supposed morals of the story, as the writers constantly trade complexity for cheap jokes and the aforesaid hammers.

On the bright side, some of the characters are likeable, and the movie is fun when it’s working. The sets are pretty. I don’t blame the voice actors, the animators, the music people, or anybody else besides the writers and directors. Who sucked.

Ant-Man spent a zillion years setting up the action, and there were a lot of talk scenes and training montages that were so boring I turned down the volume and caught up on reading blogs. There was a really good Paul Rudd movie in there, and the action scenes were fun and interesting. Just way too much talk, way too much villain annoyance, and way too much of Hope Van Dyne whining and showing off her Buffy-like martial arts powers in the training montages. (If I want to see a woman beating up the hero of a movie for five minutes, I’ll just get out my Barbie doll and have her stomp on my action figures.)

Anyway, I liked Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, and I liked the little girl actress as Cassie Lang. And the giant Thomas the Tank Engine was worth a fair amount of annoyance.

So once again, I don’t blame the actors, the animators, the set guys…..

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