Author Topic: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on  (Read 667 times)

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Offline Alpha60

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Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« on: October 10, 2018, 03:37:13 AM »
The 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge, albeit obviously biased and extremely dated work, written from the perspective of pre-Vatican II Scholasticism.

Now, Scholastic theology is not really something the Orthodox get excited about, but the works of the Schoolmen, such as Thomas Aquinas and the authors and editors of the Encyclopedia, tend to be comprehensive and useful as accumulations of data in a systematic format, which, while in my view is not spiritually edifying, nonetheless is very useful for the acquisition of information.

However, on this point, the Catholic Encyclopedia suffers from being dated, and in several cases, in outright error.  For example, the authors of the liturgical article did not know about the system of Syriac Orthodox service books, and made the mistake of claiming substantial portions of the rite were undocumented, while praising the efforts of the Syriac Catholics to organize the West Syriac liturgical texts.  The Eastern Orthodox monastic community gets badly slighted with what I believe is accidental calumny; owing to ignorance of the vast treasure troves of priceless manuscripts which were even in 1910 beginning to be published, hailing from the the libraries of Mount Athos, St. Catharine’s in Sinai, and elsewhere, the authors incorrectly concluded that scholarly efforts in Orthodox monasticism were altogether lacking and the libraries of the monasteries therefore were assumed to pale in comparison with the splendid Vatican library, when in fact over the course of the 20th century it became apparent the Athonite libraries possessed many treasures thought to be lost.

The work is also hopelessly out of date in its articles discussing the governments and ecclesiastical conditions in various lands (although it is extremely valuable as a historical record of what those conditions were like at the turn of the century, in particular of note to the extent it predates the terrible ethnic cleansing of Christians by the Turks in WWI and in the subsequent population exchange with Greece).  In this respect, it parallels the 1906 Jewish encyclopedia, which shows its age with articles on obscure Jewish populations delving into the dark psuedoscience of craniometry, yet on the other hand is an invaluable resource for studying the diverse habitations and denominations of Jews that existed before the Holocaust and the homogenization brought about by mass Jewish migration to Israel (which has critically endangered the Aramaic speaking Jewish culture as well as the distinctive rites and practices of smaller Jewish groups such as the Romaniotes of Greece, the Kochin Jews of India, whose most notable member, Vidal Sassoon, was not alive when the encyclopedia was written (although an entire article chronicles the histort of the Sassoon family), and the Mountain Jews of the Caucaucus region, among others.

However, in the case of the Catholic Encyclopedia, if some enterprising Roman Catholics were to undertake to update it, by correcting erroneous articles as mentioned above, and in other articles, leaving the original source to provide a historical contrast between the RCC of 1910 and that of today, for example, the articles dealing with the Roman Rite liturgy or the Holy Office, which is now the CDF, that would be extremely useful.  New articles on important subjects like Vatican II, newly formed religious orders like Opus Dei, the crisis caused by sex abuse, Fatima, and unsanctioned apparitions like Medjugorje, would be extremely interesting.  Ideally this new material would also be released into the public domain or alternately licensed using an open source license such as the Creative Commons license.

I myself would work on it, except I am not Roman Catholic, and while I have studied RC phenomena like the Medjugorje cult and the Western liturgical patrimony extensively, my own biases as an Orthodox Christian would have the effect of any contribution I made being in effect a mere gloss, particularly since I reject Scholastic theology, which underpins much of the dogmatic content of the volume in question.

It should be noted that on Wikipedia, on articles on theological subjects, there has been much copy-pasta from the Catholic Encyclopedia as it does provide a public domain base which Wikipedia editors have, with varying degrees of success, adopted to cover subjects in a more neutral manner.  However, this use of it is inconsistent, and does nothing to furnish us with an up-to-date compendium of Roman Catholic thought, which an update of the 108 year old Encyclopedia would surely provide.
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2018, 04:20:06 AM »
How do you do an online update to a work that wasn't a wiki to begin with? You might as well just say, "I wish there was a Catholic equivalent to the OrthodoxWiki."
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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2018, 11:45:42 AM »
I guess I never understood what wandering in the woods had much to do with church services.

Offline Brigidsboy

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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2018, 12:25:57 PM »
The New Catholic Encyclopedia is a multi-volume reference work on Roman Catholic history and belief edited by the faculty of The Catholic University of America. It was published in 1967. Perhaps you might consult it to see what updates were made to the 1911 edition.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2018, 12:26:27 PM by Brigidsboy »
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2018, 06:09:27 PM »
I guess I never understood what wandering in the woods had much to do with church services.

Well, if you're St. Seraphim in the woods you can make friends with a bear, invent an Orthodox-friendly version of the Rosary, begin to glow and levitate, and pray some people out of Hell. :D
« Last Edit: October 10, 2018, 06:09:55 PM by Volnutt »
Christ my God, set my heart on fire with love in You, that in its flame I may love You with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and with all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, so that by keeping Your commandments I may glorify You the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Amen.

Offline Alpha60

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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2018, 08:44:01 PM »
The New Catholic Encyclopedia is a multi-volume reference work on Roman Catholic history and belief edited by the faculty of The Catholic University of America. It was published in 1967. Perhaps you might consult it to see what updates were made to the 1911 edition.

The problem is of course that it predates the implementation of the Novus Ordo Missae, the SSPX schism, and the very important pontificates of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, so to the extent it covers Vatican II et cetera, it remains inadequete; also it suffers from the considerable disadvantage of being under copyright.

How do you do an online update to a work that wasn't a wiki to begin with? You might as well just say, "I wish there was a Catholic equivalent to the OrthodoxWiki."

I did not say anything about the tech, but, as a matter of fact, it would be trivial to write a script that would crawl the online version at newadvent.org (a robot or “spider”), and dump the contents into a wiki engine like MediaWiki, and it would be even easier if New Advent would donate a database dump (they have added links and are doubtless keeping the encyclopedia in an SQL database, which Wikipedia also uses, and while some minor automatic edits would probably be needed to convert their links to MediaWiki links, for example, it would still be trivial).  Open source tools exist which help with much of this, but seriously, one semester of web development at your community college coupled with middle school level CS knowledge is enough to do this.  It’s easy stuff, very easy, infinitely easier than the task NewAdvent went through to convert the print volumes into hyperlinked online pages.

The only trick would be obtaining New Advent’s permission, which would be desirable from the standpoint of netiquette, if not neccessarily required, since the underlying text is not copywritten (their html code might be, but reading it to extract the text is still allowed unless they say otherwise in their AUP or put up a robots.txt file to that extent) but they would probably grant this, in return for publishing rights, which would be a win because then the collaborators would not have to deal with hosting expenses.  And it would be a win for New Advent because it would provide additional media for them for advertising purposes as it matured.  Their editorial staff for that matter could potentially be a very good source of leadership and direction for the project if you could get them that interested.

In a worst case scenario, one would need to acquire the phyiscal books, OCR scan them (there are companies that do that) and then dump each entry into its own article, which would be an intermediate text file which would then be fed into MediaWiki.  And many people have done this.  The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, instead of printing a third edition, decided to publish online a free digital update to their seminal 1977 and 1991 editions, which were always considered masterpieces of literary criticism in the SF genre, on a par with the works of Damon Knight and Gardner Duzois.  Many other encyclopedias have digitized and moved to online platforms, which may be public wikis or use a wiki only as a backend CMS, or which migjt use a different CMS altogether.
"It is logical that the actions of the human race over time will lead to its destruction.  I, Alpha 60, am merely the agent of this destruction."

- The computer Alpha 60, from Alphaville (1964) by Jean Luc Godard, the obvious inspiration for HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

This signature is not intended to offend any user, nor the relatives of Discovery 1 deputy commander Dr. Frank Poole,  and crew members Dr. Victor Kaminsky, Dr. Jack Kimball, and Dr. Charles Hunter.

Offline Volnutt

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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2018, 08:50:19 PM »
Yeah, but I'm just saying, updating something that was never intended to be updatable (the exact words of the various original authors of the Catholic Encyclopedia) seems kind of dodgy.

I could grab an ebook of Huck Finn off Project Gutenberg and take out the various words that bother people so much and then publish it online as a "Corrected Huckleberry Finn" and nobody could sue me for it, but it would still be kind of unethical since I'm not Mark Twain (as far as you know).
Christ my God, set my heart on fire with love in You, that in its flame I may love You with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and with all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, so that by keeping Your commandments I may glorify You the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Amen.

Offline Alpha60

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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2018, 02:49:19 PM »
Yeah, but I'm just saying, updating something that was never intended to be updatable (the exact words of the various original authors of the Catholic Encyclopedia) seems kind of dodgy.

I could grab an ebook of Huck Finn off Project Gutenberg and take out the various words that bother people so much and then publish it online as a "Corrected Huckleberry Finn" and nobody could sue me for it, but it would still be kind of unethical since I'm not Mark Twain (as far as you know).

Saying the Catholic Encyclopedia was never intended to be updatable seems to be a ridiculous assertion, since almost every encyclopedia ever published has received over time new additions that contain additional information not available at the time of publication.

I am not proposing a change in the theological perspective of the Encyclopedia; ideally the updated encyclopedia would remain aligned to the conservative group that one finds on websites like the New Liturgical Movement (which is, by the way, one of the best liturgical resources on the Net).
"It is logical that the actions of the human race over time will lead to its destruction.  I, Alpha 60, am merely the agent of this destruction."

- The computer Alpha 60, from Alphaville (1964) by Jean Luc Godard, the obvious inspiration for HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

This signature is not intended to offend any user, nor the relatives of Discovery 1 deputy commander Dr. Frank Poole,  and crew members Dr. Victor Kaminsky, Dr. Jack Kimball, and Dr. Charles Hunter.

Offline Volnutt

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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2018, 04:39:21 PM »
Yeah, but I'm just saying, updating something that was never intended to be updatable (the exact words of the various original authors of the Catholic Encyclopedia) seems kind of dodgy.

I could grab an ebook of Huck Finn off Project Gutenberg and take out the various words that bother people so much and then publish it online as a "Corrected Huckleberry Finn" and nobody could sue me for it, but it would still be kind of unethical since I'm not Mark Twain (as far as you know).

Saying the Catholic Encyclopedia was never intended to be updatable seems to be a ridiculous assertion, since almost every encyclopedia ever published has received over time new additions that contain additional information not available at the time of publication.

I am not proposing a change in the theological perspective of the Encyclopedia; ideally the updated encyclopedia would remain aligned to the conservative group that one finds on websites like the New Liturgical Movement (which is, by the way, one of the best liturgical resources on the Net).

I guess we're using different meanings of the word "update?" I meant updating in the manner of editing the text like a wiki. Yes, updates to the CE were meant to be published as new editions, but that's not quite the same thing imo.
Christ my God, set my heart on fire with love in You, that in its flame I may love You with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and with all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, so that by keeping Your commandments I may glorify You the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Amen.

Offline biro

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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2018, 12:09:51 AM »
For what it's worth, the Roman Catholics have been out of communion with the Orthodox for a long time, and shouldn't be expected to have perfect harmony in an encyclopedia.
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Offline theistgal

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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2018, 10:44:29 AM »
For what it's worth, the Roman Catholics have been out of communion with the Orthodox for a long time, and shouldn't be expected to have perfect harmony in an encyclopedia.

Hmm...well, I was tempted to respond with a snarky comment about the current schism within your own communion, but you know, that would just be rude.  ;)

Anyway, as someone who volunteers for Librivox (here's all my stuff  :) https://librivox.org/reader/10665?primary_key=10665&search_category=reader&search_page=1&search_form=get_results), a nonprofit group that records public domain audiobooks, I know a little about this stuff. We've had it drummed into our skulls that we must record the public domain stuff *exactly as is,* warts and all. We're not allowed to "update" or "correct" anything, even when the language is vile and/or racist (Volnutt's observation about Huckleberry Finn being an excellent example).

Like it or not, whatever's in this 1913 edition of this encyclopedia, being in the public domain, can't just be "updated" or "corrected" without incurring a whole lot of copyright issues. It is what it is. 
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Offline Peter J

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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2018, 09:04:47 AM »
The 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge, albeit obviously biased and extremely dated work, written from the perspective of pre-Vatican II Scholasticism.

Notwithstanding the tiny caveat that you added, your praise of the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia seems to me to be extremely naive.
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Offline Alpha60

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Re: Something I wish our Catholic members might work on
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2018, 11:56:04 PM »
The 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge, albeit obviously biased and extremely dated work, written from the perspective of pre-Vatican II Scholasticism.

Notwithstanding the tiny caveat that you added, your praise of the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia seems to me to be extremely naive.

The 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge, albeit obviously biased and extremely dated work, written from the perspective of pre-Vatican II Scholasticism.

Notwithstanding the tiny caveat that you added, your praise of the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia seems to me to be extremely naive.

On the contrary, when it comes to articles dealing with facts, for example, articles relating to church architecture, or the articles on various nation-states as they existed before the Great War, as a source of information on the demographics of prewar Europe or of the Ottoman Empire before the genocides against the Armenians, Assyrians, Suroye and Pontic Greeks (basically, all Christians the rampaging genocidal killers could get their blood-soaked hands on), or for internal information concerning the pre-Vatican II workings of the Catholic Church, for example, the function of the various dicasteries, the nature and size of various religious orders, the types of benefices and other aspects of ecclesiastical organization, and so on, it is incredibly useful.   Even the articles on liturgics are remarkably good; there is a bias for the Roman Rite, but there are excellent articles on most of the others, and the article on liturgical books contains accurate explanations of the functions of the liturgical books in the Roman, Ambrosian, Byzantine, Maronite, Coptic, Armenian, and East Syriac Rites (unfortunately the authors did not have the relatively easily obtainable information on Syriac Orthodox service books, so put in the usual hemming and hawing about how these books are obscure and disorganized, but how the Syriac Catholic service books are so much better; this pattern was repeated in the article on the Ethiopian service books).  So basically the work also has a predictable pattern when the authors reach the limits of their knowledge on something not pertaining to Latin Rite Roman Catholicism, and that is to allege that the non-Roman church, assuming it is not Protestant, is disorganized, its material obscure, its monastics, backwards and so on, and thus appeals to RC superiority become instantly recognizable scaffolding to conceal gaps in the editors’ collective knowledge.

Once one understands this and the other limitations of the work, this book, like the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, which is also a fantastic treasure trove of information, becomes exceedingly useful as a source of otherwise obscure information.   For example, if you want to know how many Christians lived in Edessa in 1911 before the Genocide, vs. how many lived in Ephesus or Nicea, or Antioch, or Nisibis, this is the book you would want to consult.   In like manner, if you want to know the history of the Kochin Jews of Kerala, India and of the Sassoon family (as in Vidal) or the nature of Karaite liturgics or gawk at the silliness of Kabbalah, or lament at all of the beautiful, distinctive cultural centers of Judaism in Eastern Europe destroyed by Hitler, and read with sorrow about nearly extinct and extinct Jewish people and traditions, like the Romaniote Jews of Greece, or read about religions such as Zoroastrianism and Mandaeism (which are also well covered by the Catholic Encyclopedia), the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906 has you covered.

Tragically as far as I can tell there is no equivalent Anglican Encyclopedia (an Encyclopedia Anglicanorum would be epic), and the Orthodox Encyclopedia (the book, not the Wiki) is very limited.   The Orthodox Encyclopedia wiki is also embryonic; the material on Wikipedia is more expansive and reliable at present.
"It is logical that the actions of the human race over time will lead to its destruction.  I, Alpha 60, am merely the agent of this destruction."

- The computer Alpha 60, from Alphaville (1964) by Jean Luc Godard, the obvious inspiration for HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

This signature is not intended to offend any user, nor the relatives of Discovery 1 deputy commander Dr. Frank Poole,  and crew members Dr. Victor Kaminsky, Dr. Jack Kimball, and Dr. Charles Hunter.