Thursday, January 31

My daughter's teacher recommended a book. It was one that her own daughter (6th grade) had just read, and she thought Katie would like it. I can't recall the title right now, but it's about a girl in Korea after World War II. The content is a little tough, but that's okay. And it's obvious from the following conversation that some of the tougher stuff is over Katie's head anyway:

She had me read a page and asked me to explain it to her. In the story, a grandmother was explaining to her granddaughter what had happened to some young women of the village - they'd been taken away to be "Spirit Girls" for the Japanese. What's that? Katie wanted to know.

Me: Well, uh...they were taken to...entertain the soldiers against their will. They were forced to go and..

Katie:You mean, like be belly dancers?

Me:(relieved) Yeah. That's it.

Katie: That's awful! (She starts crying.)

You know, I figured if the thought of forced belly-dancing was enough to set her off, I could spare her anything worse.

After all, my motto has always been, just tell them what they want to know, which is usually not as much as you think. There's that old joke, of course, about the parent who was asked, "Where did I come from?" and proceeded to explain the birds and the bees in great detail. The child listened patiently, and answered. "Toni's mom said she came from Indianapolis."

That, in turn, reminds me of the moment a year and a half ago I told Katie I was pregnant. She paused, reflected, then asked (regarding her stepfather), "Does Mike know?"

Maybe this will mellow the Chinese:The Teletubbies are coming to Chinese television:

The series will be renamed Tianxian Baobao - Mandarin for Antenna Babies - and aired on CCTV1, the major state TV channel.

I've seen all of two minutes of Teletubbies and find them deeply creepy. Some people I was chatting with at the airport advised me to have Joseph watch Teletubbies if I wanted him to learn to wave. Thanks, I think we can handle it without Tinky Winky. So far, Joseph's television viewing is pretty much limited to Blue's Clues. He likes Steve's big old face grinning out at him from the screen.

Memories of an older clerical scandal Remember the Irish bishop who was revealed to have fathered a child living in the US? Well, he's finished up his...er...assignment in Ecuadaor and is signaling his desires to return home. He's 71 and would be officially retired, but some are afraid at what his presence might unleash (apparently a mix of revulsion and reverence - I guess the guy was popular). He was supposed to have been laying low over the past few years, but...

Some bishops have not forgiven Dr Casey for returning to a relative's funeral in 1994 wearing full bishop's regalia and for turning up at a World Cup game in Orlando where he was photographed with Irish fans.

More secular columnists weighing in the Boston scandal:

Michael Kelly, who really doesn't have anything new to say

and

John O'Sullivan in the National Review, who does.

No worldly cynic would have behaved as stupidly as the elders of the Church did. He would have handed Geoghan over to the cops and sought the moral credit of dealing honestly with the Church's most embarrassing problems. And everyone, including Geoghan, would have been better off.

So weak is the argument of avoiding "scandal" in this case that one is inclined to treat it as the rationalization of a deeper failing. And that failing is a bishops' lack of faith in their own religious mission and message.

Yes, language matters.

The government will now refer to human fetuses as...unborn children. Which is what "fetus" means, in Latin, of course.

Abortion opponents got a morale boost from the Bush administration Thursday when Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson announced that fetuses would henceforth be redesignated as "unborn children."


The immediate purpose of the reclassification was to give low-income women access to prenatal care, but the change would allows abortion opponents to more forcefully make their case that prenatal children should be afforded the same rights as their postnatal counterparts.

The word is out in Boston. Read the Boston Globe's account of the scores of settlements in sex abuse cases over the past ten years. Don't neglect to read the articles linked on the sidebars, either.
Veddy interesting article about the highly segregated Greek system at the University of Alabama. Depressing, too, not just because of the racial issue (which isn't surprising, and is more complicated than it appears), but because of the cringe-making portraits of those whose gender I share, especially, this concluding paragraph describing the climax of Rush week, the day on which the Rush-ees gather in the stadium (surrounded by friends and family???) and open the envelopes with their bids:

As the young women filed into the stadium, they were handed envelopes and led to a section of bleachers. Once they were all there, a dean stood in front of them and said the magic words: "Open them up!" With that, the squeals began. The women jumped up and down, clutching the envelopes to their chests, and they began to run--down the bleachers, out of the stadium, and on to sorority row. They ran past their parents and friends and toward their new houses, where their new sisters were waiting for them. As they went, they dropped sunglasses and cell phones and purses. They yelled and screamed. Some were crying. It was, more than one of them would later say, the happiest day of their lives.


Ouch.

I started to read this article because it's about an issue I'm following: the Andrea Yates trial in Houston, and I continued, mouth agape, marveling at the treasure trove of crass caricatures and unthinking generalizations it contained regarding the composition of the jury:

[Jury expert]Hirschhorn noted that none of the jurors has a large family, which he believes favors the prosecution.

"Couples with one child tend to center their whole universe around that child," he said. "It's hard to believe that anybody could do anything bad to such a precious being. There's a big difference between couples with one kid and lots of kids."

Oh. So people with lots of kids would "understand" the act of killing one's children????

Schreiber noted that the jury also includes two military veterans, an engineer, energy technician, lab technician and a plant operator -- careers that require people to see things in black and white, rather than in shades of gray.

"Those individuals who think in the abstract may be able to consider the evidence, apply it to the question and acquit her," Schreiber said. "However, the majority of jurors -- and very likely the leaders on the panel -- are more likely to reject anything but the criteria for acquittal provided for within the jury charge."

Did you get that, you engineers, military vets and technicians? You can't see things in shades of gray. All you're mentally equipped to do is mindlessly apply the law. Oh...and if you can see shades of gray, of course you're going to acquit Yates.

IMHO, Yates was deeply psychotic, and I don't know enough about the mysteries of psychiatric illness to know to what extent it impacts culpability. The "not guilty by reason of insanity" plea doesn't wash with me, though, and never has. "Guilty, and insane, too" is more like it. Lock her up for the rest of her life, for her own protection and everyone else's. And while we're at it, find a reason to put the creepy husband away, too.

You're not going to believe this, but we have walking. Okay, not race-across-the-room walking, but some very purposeful steps, nonetheless. Last night, Katie and I were sitting on the floor next to the coffee table where she was working on an essay for school. Michael was lying on the couch, reading about St. Therese. Joseph was wandering around, mostly trying to get Katie's pencil. Then, in the midst of his cruising around the table, he stopped, looked at me, grinned, let go of the table, and took three steps towards me, and then (of course) fell into my lap, laughing. It was as if he knew he could do it, and was just saving it for the right moment. I always knew he'd walk before he was a year, I just never thought his first steps would be before he was even ten months.

What's most amazing to me is the self-consciousness. The awareness that he done good. One more argument against the materialist's version of evolutionary development, if you ask me.

Wednesday, January 30

Boy, is Naomi Wolf whacked. I mean, totally, absolutely. The whiny author of The Beauty Myth, Misconceptions and Al Gore's makeover into an Alpha Male was in Chicago recently, touring the Chicago Children's Museum.

"I have this fantasy, see," Wolf says, looking around her. "There would be this huge pit for the kids to play and bleachers for the moms. You wouldn't need to hover and track your kid, as if you're a Soviet spy. Instead, you'd be able to sit and think and dream.'

Keeping track of kids and tending to them while they play is akin to spying?

She peppers Leah Weatherspoon, the museum's media relations director who good naturedly tags along for the tour, with questions: Why can't the museum provide a place for moms to meet in reading groups or political action committees while their kids play? Why can't there be Internet portals for moms to incubate small businesses while the kids pretend to go grocery shopping in the museum's pint-sized Dominick's?

It is not enough to provide a fun, stimulating and safe environment for kids, Wolf says. "Let's turn this place into a community center, where moms are not isolated from the rest of society."

Yah. I would definitely see a trip to the children's museum as an opportunity to "incubate a small business."

I wonder why Naomi Wolf is so helpless, and why does she project that same helplessness on other women? What world does she live in? How can she be the mother of two small children (6 years and 21 months) and not be aware of the riot and wealth of activities that mothers of all kinds are involved in, paid and volunteer? Why does she think that women must constantly have opportunities provided for them, rather than creating their own?

Here's the article.

Tuesday, January 29

Not good. First (relatively speaking, that is. First in the last two weeks.) was the priest in Pensacola arrested for selling Ecstasy.

Now - get this - it's a priest in Peoria arrested for manufacturing the date-rape drug..

Father Jeffrey J. Windy, 31, pastor at St. Patrick's Parish in Sheffield and St. Margaret's in Wyanet was arrested Friday night. He was taken to the Rock Island County Jail pending arraignment on charges of knowingly and intentionally conspiring to manufacture and distribute a controlled substance.

The Catholic Diocese of Peoria acknowledged the arrest and charges in a statement.

"The diocese is currently working to provide pastoral care to the parishioners of St. Patrick's and St. Margaret's who have suffered a great shock and sadness this past weekend," according to the statement.

I guess so.

Pizza guy wants to build big crucifix. Tom Monaghan, of course. He's apparently hoping to build a 25-story crucifix on land outside Ann Arbor which will eventually house the campus of Ave Maria College. (Now located in Ypsilanti). The story brings out the usual suspects in support and opposition, including this guy, who is not exactly a poster boy for the unity of Catholicism:

.
The crucifix's size gives some people pause, and leads John Given, who teaches Latin and Greek at the University of Michigan, to wonder whether it's meant to be "antagonistic to Ann Arbor."
Given, a Roman Catholic who attends St. Mary's parish near U-M, finds "most of what Monaghan does and what Ave Maria University stands for distasteful. But," he adds, "I wouldn't want to infringe on his right to put up something that could be seen far and wide."

Here's what Ave Maria "stands for" from its own mission statement:

...Ave Maria College exists to further teaching, research, and learning in the abiding tradition of Catholic thought. The College takes as its mission the sponsorship of a liberal arts curriculum dedicated, as articulated by Ex Corde Ecclesiae, to the advancement of human culture, the promotion of dialogue between faith and reason, and the formation of men and women in the intellectual and moral virtues of the Catholic faith.

Distasteful stuff, wouldn't you agree?

Monday, January 28

Okay. This is really strange. I got posted on the Free Republic Website. And no, I wasn't looking for myself - I regularly troll through the articles that the Freepers post in the "Culture and Society" and "Philosophy" sections, looking for column and Blog fodder. And there I was, in the former. Or rather, the title of my OSV article on Oprah Winfrey, then the article itself and a slew of (mostly positive) comments. Whew.

Here 'tis.

Now, I like Alan Keyes very much, but I'm not so sure about his new show on MSNBC called "Alan Keyes is Making Sense." I've watched it in bits and pieces and haven't been drawn in as yet. Jonathon Last watched the whole first week and has his very amusing take on it in the Weekly Standard.
Something nice:

A cinder-block church, adorned with a cast-iron bell made in Ohio, is going up in the center of the mountainous village of Chex in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

The church symbolizes unity and reconstruction.

It was built with money earned by undocumented workers in factories and on farms in Northeast Ohio.

``It is a reminder that we care about our village, especially the little ones,'' said Santos, a 40-year-old Chex native living in Tuscarawas County. ``We started the project with money, but those in Guatemala gathered more money to finish the church, and they have done all of the work to build it.''

Here's the article.

Ran across these articles last night: From the alternative Los Angeles New Times, two articles you might want to read about the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the new behemoth cathedral, Cardinal Mahoney, and deals with the death industry:

Taj Mahoney

and Unholy Alliance.

Joseph loves music. For several months now, he's been bouncing to a good beat, and now he's added another move to his repetoire: waving. He bounces, and waves one arm with great enthusiasm when a song he likes comes on. His favorites right now are:

Fuggi,Fuggi,Fuggi, a very winning Renaissance ditty performed by the New World Renaissance Band on an album put out by Nightwatch Recording, which we have on a free CD we got at the hospital called "Smart Symphonies," distributed by one of the Evil Formula Entities, Enfamil.

He also likes two cuts from the Three Mo' Tenors album:

Let the Good Times Roll and Minnie the Moocher

But really, anything with a strong beat will do. I just got him through the hated diaper change with Carlene Carter's Every Little Thing from her Little Love Letters album.

Michael Novak takes on Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's TNR piece on Catholicism and anti-Semitism.
In college, over twenty years ago, Ed, Lucy and I were best friends. Since then, we've all made our way through life and ended up ...whereever we've ended up. (as it happens, both Ed and I are in Indiana at the moment). But here's the strange and sad thing.

Over the past nine months, all three of our mothers have passed away. Mine in April, Ed's in late summer, and Lucy's late last week. I'm going to quote from Ed's letter on the subject:

I have to believe that we have some control on when we leave this life. Our Mother's would never leave until they knew that we would be fine. All three were strong dames and (my experience at least), they were tired and ready,
and they knew that we had support and love to deal with this passage.

Your prayers for Lucy and her family...

This is Catholic Schools week, so no doubt you'll be seeing lots of articles in your local newspapers about the wonders of Catholic schools. Believe some of it. My view, as a former Catholic school teacher and now 13-year veteran of having children in Catholic schools: Catholic grammar schools are not only worth every penny we spend on them and much more, they are a necessity. It should be a no-brainer for Catholic parents to send their young children to Catholic elementary schools or homeschool them with a strong Catholic sensibility. The education of young children is, by nature, value-laden, and there's no excuse for those values not being Catholic ones.

Unfortunately, Catholic secondary schools are another matter. Buyer beware. Despite glossy PR materials crowing about "values" and "spirituality", Catholic schools are not always what they'd like you to think they are, and this is why. Catholic high schools are so expensive to run, there is the constantly-present temptation to please donors and influential parents. Way too often, this leads to a watering-down of academic standards or (depending on the type of school) an achievement-oriented elitism that is antithetical to the vision of true, wholistic, Catholic education that meets the needs of all, not just the highly-motivated and well-connected. In other words, Catholic high schools fall prey, way too often, to the ills that befall all private schools.

The other problem is teen culture. For teens, the culture produced by and sustained by peers, is a very important factor in development. In case you're not getting my drift, in general, teen culture is saturated in sex, substance abuse and a certain amount of cruelty. It takes really strong kids to survive this intact, and it's only possibly when they surround themselves with similarly-minded kids who are, in turn, supported by wise and strong adults. Too often in Catholic high schools, adults are indifferent to the negative power of teen culture, and don't do enough to build up the positive elements. When this happens, serious kids end up feeling ostracized just as much as if they were in a public school, and perhaps even more, given their hopes of finding a niche in what purports to be a Catholic school.

So. If you've found a great Catholic secondary school, good for you, and good for your kids. But if you're unsure of whether the Catholic high school in your area is really what it says it is, don't feel guilty. Good Catholic high schools are a blessing. Bad ones (and they do exist) do a lot more harm than good.

It's not pleasant, but it's important. Catholics can't ignore the problem of sexual abuse within the Church. We can't ignore the facets of the ministerial culture that has stubbornly resisted honesty and integrity in dealing with perpetrators. Here are today's links on the matter:

From Saturday's Boston Globe, on another priest perp.

From the Boston Herald, an article about a (lay) youth minister convicted of sex crimes and the institutional church's response to the pleas of a church secretary to take note of suspicious behavior. See if you can connect the dots and discern motivations.

An article from the October issue of Crisis magazine on the subject.

2002 is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Peter Rabbit. An encouraging note for aspiring writers: The book, originally composed by Beatrix Potter in a letter to the son of her former governess, was rejected by six publishers.

The official Peter Rabbit site is quite nice.

Today is the feastday of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Some interesting facts about Aquinas for those who'd like to know:

He was kidnapped by his family and held prisoner for (we think) about a year. Why? He wanted to join the Dominicans. They wanted him to stay with the Benedictines and continue to play the nobleman-cleric, rather than humiliate them by becoming one of those mendicant friars.

His work was radical for its time: integrating the ancient, yet newly-discovered thought of Aristotle with Christian theology. He was condemned by some, especially Franciscans, after his death, for this.

He was not, as some might have you believe, a cold rationalist. He had a strong mystical streak, evidenced by his hymns and prayers. A few months before his death, he experienced a particularly strong ecstasy during Mass, which moved him to set down his pen and write no more. In explanation, he wrote,

"I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value.

Or, as it is popularly related, "it is all like straw."

As you might expect, there are many good online sources for information on St Thomas:Here's the Catholic Encyclopedia article. Here's the Open Directory collection of links. And Here's the full text of G.K. Chesterton's biography of St. Thomas.

Celebrate St. Thomas Aquinas today: Feed the intellect God gave you in a worthy way, and pray.

Saturday, January 26

A collection of letters to a writer from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune who is on the Church Beat. He'd written a critique of entertainment-oriented church services, and received an overwhelming number of letters in agreement. It's an interesting question - why do we go to church? When does worship that reflects our desire to express our love for God in a beautiful way cross over into entertainment? (Not a problem in my parish, by the way.)
The Whitebread, a major British literary prize, has been awarded to Philip Pullman for his children's novel The Amber Spyglass. Pullman has his talents as a writer, but this series is essentially an explication of Atheism for the Kids. I wrote about in OSV last year. Here's the article.

Friday, January 25

Also check out National Review Online's new blog-like feature called The Corner. Various writers and editors from NRO post thoughts and links throughout the day. Here's Dreher's brief reflection on the mail he's getting in response to his work on the Boston case.
Telling like it is, but not in the Catholic press. Of course. Rod Dreher comes out swinging, again, about the Boston situation.
A look at what passes for scholarship these days from the Wall Street Journal. Old news, really, but still amusing. The writer takes us through a slew of meaningless academic abstracts, filled with nothing but jargon and specious "ideas." He blames the situation on academic fads, as well as the pressure to publish in academia. He's part of the way there. It starts in graduate school, where the pressure is on, even at the Master's level in the humanities, to do something "original." This results in innumerable theses, and then dissertations shooting in one of two "original" directions (or maybe both):

1) a focus on finer and finer points of minutiae related to matters like the use of conjunctions in Jane Austen and the role of the table leg in Normandy from 1514-1527. Or:

2)The application of obscure and nonsensical theoretical paradigms to the matter at hand...Seeing John Chrysostem through the prism of Derrida, examining the Second Crusade in a Marxian framework, or stringing together disparate characters like Cicero, Clara Barton and Ethel Rosenburg in one fabulous flight of fanciful pseudo-intellectualism.

But you know, you don't even need a real academic journal to get the point. Just go to the Postmodern Generator and watch a unique, totally meaningless, jargon-filled essay appear on your screen with just the click of a mouse!

Today's report from Boston: Diocese will report abusive ex-priests.

Cardinal Bernard F. Law yesterday announced that the Archdiocese of Boston will give state officials a list of names of every former priest who sexually abused a minor, reversing his previous opposition to retroactive reporting of clergy misconduct

He's also going to convene a big commission:

The cardinal also said yesterday that he has enlisted the deans of the medical schools of Boston University, Harvard, Tufts, and the University of Massachusetts, as well as the dean of Boston College's social work school and a prominent Harvard psychiatrist, to make up a panel to advise him on establishing what Law called ''an interdisciplinary center for the prevention of sexual abuse of children.''

Good news, but it still doesn't address the important problem of....how do you break the code of mutual protection that exists among those involved in ministry?

Funny, but true:

-- A POLL of 400 registered voters by Andres McKenna Research asked Americans what they thought would be the most significant obstacle to continuing the war on terror. The largest obstacle, cited by 27 percent of respondents, was the terrorists themselves. But right behind them, at 26 percent, was the news media.


From a column in the Jewish World Review.

Good piece on cloning from the National Review.
What's going on:

Baby's had some bad bedtimes this week. Three or four hours of pretty good sleeping followed by two or three hours of half-waking, just wants to nurse, followed by a couple of hours of dead-to-the-world unconsciousness, which unfortunately usually correlates with the time I have to get up. I think his top teeth might be bothering him. It's all bothering me, but only intermittantly. Why? Welll, I'm 41 years old, and I have the grace of hindsight. Lots of it. In other words, I have a 19-year old who lives a couple of states away whom I see just a few times a year now. I know how quickly life passes, and that before I know it, this little one will be off and running on his own. I'll treasure what I have now, thanks, no matter how much it wears me out!

Thursday, January 24

Handicapping the next Pope in the Wall Street Journal.
A brief article looking at why Hispanic Catholics convert to Pentecostalism. It cites a poll that claims that no more than 53% of Hispanics in the US are still Catholic - I don't know if that number includes those who are unaffiliated as well as those who've converted, but it's a pretty astonishing number, if true:


...the acting pastor of the 12th Street sanctuary, speaking on condition that his name not be used, gave a theological explanation: In a Pentecostal environment, the intimacy with God is greater than in most of the traditional denominations, Catholic of mainline Protestant, he said.

"I have encountered Jesus," the minister stated adamantly, refusing to elaborate.

I don't doubt it. I also don't doubt that Catholics need to know that Jesus is encountered in Catholicism, too, and to be told how...when did we stop doing this and start preaching in such abstractions?

Not just Catholics, cont'd:Australian Church's Sexual Assault Crisis Deepens

The Australian Anglican church's crisis over sexual assault allegations has broadened beyond the state of Queensland with the conviction last Friday of a former Anglican priest with a criminal record for paedophilia dating back more than 40 years.

Today is the feastday of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers. A couple of quotes:

Every moment comes to us pregnant with a command from God, only to pass on and plunge into eternity, there to remain forever what we have made of it.

and

Blessed are those whose hearts are ever open to God's inspiration; they will never lack what they need to live good holy lives, or to perform properly the duties of their state. For just as God gives each animal through its nature the instincts needed for its self-preservation, so - if we offer no obstacle to grace - he gives each of us the inspirations needed for life, activity and self-preservation on the spiritual level.

When we are at a loss what to do, when human help fails us in our dilemmas, then God inspires us. If only we are humbly obedient, he will not let us go astray. Some plants point their flowers at the sun, turn them with it as it moves. The sunflower, however, turns not only its flowers, but its leaves as well. In the same way all God's chosen ones turn their hearts toward God's will by keeping his commandments. But those who are utterly filled with charity turn to God's will by more than mere obedience to his commandments. They also give him their hearts, follow him in all that he commands, counsels or inspires, unreservedly, with no exceptions whatsoever.


One of the most impressive crisis pregnancy centers, Expectant Mother Care, is being attacked by New York state's attorney general, demanding all sorts of documents, presumably to go after various aspects of the center's operation and shut them down. You can donate to help through the center's website.

They have one of those amazing, spectacular new 3-D ultrasound machines, and you can see a beautiful little clip of an unborn baby here. I watched it over and over - viewing it is a good start for contemplation of all sorts of matters.

The Boston Globe reports on the first documents released in the Geoghan case and to anyone familiar with diocesan ways, there are no surprises. There are several articles reporting on various dimensions of the documents, and the most interesting are those revealing how church officials dealt with Geoghan. Here's what Thomas Daily, now Bishop of Brooklyn, then Chancellor of the diocese, did back in 1982:

After being briefed on the allegations, Daily ordered that Geoghan be placed on sick leave in February 1980. It lasted about a year until Geoghan was reassigned to St. Brendan Parish in Dorchester and before long began visiting the home of the boys that he had allegedly raped at St. Thomas Parish.

Incensed by Geoghan's reappearance, four adult relatives of the boys sought a meeting with Daily in July 1982 to determine why Geoghan was still a priest. Within a month, Daily summoned Geoghan to his office to question him about the new accusations.

However, Daily acknowledged in his deposition that, wanting to avoid any allegation of sexual abuse, he questioned Geoghan as to whether he should be taking the boys out at night.

''And the main thrust was that he was keeping the youngsters out too long,'' Daily said. After Geoghan denied he had been acting inappropriately with the boys, Daily allowed him to go on a planned sabbatical to Rome and then return to parish work.

What do we notice about this? Several things: 1) no attention to victims 2) total denial of the problem - focusing on keeping boys that he'd previously molested out too long??? 3) taking the priest at his word, refusing to dig deeper 4) the inability to see any of what had been perpetrated as a crime.

Apparently more documents will be released tomorrow.

A summary of the most recent persecution of Christians in China.

Wednesday, January 23

News Flash: It's not just Catholics.

Well, you already knew that, but just in case you didn't here's today's evidence:

Lawsuit claims Jehovah's Witness church protects pedophiles

Okay, this would be very nice, but do you really think it will happen?

Pope intends to visit Ground Zero. That's right. During this summer's trip to the Americas - to canonize Juan Diego in Mexico City and go to World Youth Day in Toronto - sources declare that the Holy Father will stop at the WTC site in New York City.

I can barely get myself to the grocery store and the library in a single day.

Tuesday, January 22

Thanks to Kathy Shaidle at Relapsed Catholic for bringing this excellent takedown of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's New Republic piece to our attention: It's in the Jewish World Review.
A good person to read about today:

Blessed Gianna Molla, a physician, wife and mother who died in 1962:

In September of 1961, at the age of 39, Blessed Gianna was pregnant with her fourth child when physicians diagnosed a large ovarian cyst which required surgery. The surgeon suggested that Gianna undergo an abortion in order to save her own life. Gianna's decision was prompt and decisive: "I shall accept whatever they will do to me provided they save the child." She underwent the surgery but her fate was sealed. The following year, on Good Friday, Gianna was admitted to Monza Maternity Hospital. Her daughter, Gianna Emanuela, was born the next day but Blessed Gianna expired seven days later, on April 28, 1962

She was beatified in 1994, and in 1997 her daughter Gianna Emanuela, herself a physician...

...gave the following testimony at Maracana Stadium in Brazil during the Second International Celebration of the Family (1997). "Dear Mom, thank you for having given me life two times: when you conceived me and when you permitted me to be born… My life seeks to be the natural continuation of your life, of your joy of living, of your enthusiasm, and it finds its full meaning in the engagement and dedication to whoever lives in suffering. Dear mom, intercede always for all mothers and all families who turn to you and entrust themselves to you."

Today is the feastday of St. Vincent Pallotti, who said, among many other things, the following:

Remember that the Christian life is one of action; not of speech and daydreams. Let there be few words and many deeds, and let them be done well.

We could keep those words in mind as we remember that today is also the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in this country for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy. Action - not just speech, and not daydreams. Action. Prayer, assistance, lobbying, education, and whatever else you can think of to save lives. Here are some links:

Feminists for Life of America

The Ultimate Pro-Life Resource List

Crisis Pregnancy Centers nationwide

Abortion and Breast Cancer: The untold story.

Some of my writings on life issues.

Monday, January 21

Here's a hero: Jill Stanek, who exposed the practice of late-term, induced labor abortions at a Chicago-area hospital named, ironically enough, Christ Hospital. (It's Lutheran.) If you're tempted to get complacent about abortion, read this article. This is what we're fighting for. Real babies being left to die.

Jill Stanek was, of course, fired from her job at the hospital. But now she's running for Congress.

In a country which obsesses over relatively minor disasters afflicting its own, we are usually fairly uninterested in even major disasters afflicting other nations.

A good example is the hell that's raging in the Congo. The British press has been covering it far more thoroughly than we have. Here's a link to a site offering information on the eruption, as well as other "volcano news."

Finished my contributions to Living Faith for this quarter. It's not as easy as it sounds, writing 150-word devotions that actually say something meaningful.

Sunday, January 20

Airports and misallocated resources: the continuting saga. Went to pick up kids at the airport. Their flight came in at 8:03, and there was one final flight coming into the airport at 8:25. There were THIRTEEN people "working" security - ten employees and three Guardsmen.

I don't think there were that many people on the plane.

The New York Times on what the Mormons are doing with the Olympics The public answer: after some initial big plans (including a musical extravaganza that would be performed 10 times over the course of the Games), the Church has drawn back.

Ms. Cyncial retorts (cynically): I don't believe it for a second.

Good review of 3 books about Robert Hanssen from the Weekly Standard. On his wife's complicity:

But nothing points more clearly to Bonnie's complicity than a remarkable incident in 1980, when Bonnie came upon Bob counting out more than $20,000 in cash in the basement. He admitted he had sold information to the Soviets, though he claimed it was worthless "trash for cash." (In fact, he had revealed the identity of a longtime double agent within the GRU, Dmitri Polyakov, codenamed "tophat." Polyakov was later executed.) Bonnie dragged Bob to confession with an Opus Dei priest, Father Robert Bucciarelli, who according to Bonnie's later testimony exhorted Hanssen to pray, made him promise never to do it again, and had him donate the money to charity.

Many attacks have been made on Bucciarelli's penance. Shannon and Blackman even imply that Bucciarelli should have turned him over to the authorities, despite the well-known doctrine that Catholic priests cannot reveal the contents of the confessional, even under pain of death. Still, it's true that the priest failed to exercise prudential judgment in the matter. Bucciarelli's answer--pray and donate the money to charity--is laughably naive.

But if she and her husband got bad spiritual guidance from Bucciarelli, Bonnie Hanssen also failed to press the matter. It is too much to expect that any wife would turn in her husband. But if anything pointed to the need for a separation of some sort, or at least a serious turn to counseling, confessed espionage would seem to be it. One of the duties of Catholic marriage is, after all, to help your spouse attain heaven. Yet Bonnie, the daughter of a psychiatrist who had worked as an asylum nurse, did nothing.

The article has a great deal to say about the Opus Dei puzzle, as well. The focus is on what blinds us from seeing evil when it's right in front of us. Very good.

Governor James McGreevey, Catholic-by-association and pro-abortion-in-convictions, was scheduled to give a speech. On January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. At Seton Hall University. Catholic place.

Some people protested. Not the University's president, mind you. But some other people. So the speech was moved. Everyone claimed ignorance, except the university president, who declared,

``As this is a town meeting, the setting neither honors him nor supports his views. Rather, as a university - and a Catholic one - we are honoring our role as citizens who have the right to voice the concerns that arise out of our personal and faith commitments,''

And what does that mean?

Nun Strives to Save a Small Girls' School That Has a Big Impact. It's a shame schools like this have to struggle, especially in an archdiocese that is spending mega millions on building a cathedral that almost everyone seems to hate.

Or in an archdiocese that spends an undisclosed amount (perhaps in the millions) for a 192-hole in the ground that it has no plans for.

Saturday, January 19

Two articles about parents over-invested in their children. Don't know if this was planned or not, but they're both from the same issue of the Wall Street Journal: The first is on sports parents,, and the second is about academic aspirations, parental pressure, and children's misery.

Why do we do this? Why have we evolved into a culture that expects nothing from children in terms of character and moral responsibility, yet lays the heavy hand of pressure on them to perform for us on playing fields, on tests, and in recital halls?

Shocked. That's exactly what I was by the film Orange County. What prompted us to go was a review in our local free weekly by the manager/president/tsarina of the local art film theater. (No, it wasn't playing there, but she has a weekly review column). She liked. I mean, she liked it quite a bit.

My take? It was pretty okay. How's that? No, it wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible by any means, it had some funny bits, and - this is the shocking part - had hardly any "offensive" content (okay - there's a buncha drug use by the older brother, but it's not exactly presented as model behavior). It was a little loopy, got kind of dragged down by plot in the last third (as these kinds of movies always do), but it had a nice, intelligent undercurrent about writing and the writer's relationship to the life he's been given running through it. The hapless, hopeful protagonist is played by Tom Hanks' son, and IMHO, the kid's a much better actor than his one-note father.

We'll try do be classier today in our movie choice - either In the Bedroom or The Royal Tannenbaums. We need to hurry. Films like that usually don't stick around Fort Wayne very long...

Thursday, January 17

Slow blogging day, I know. We've had stuff to do, plus I'm dragging just a little bit. Maybe waking up four times a night is getting just a bit old. Or maybe I'm just a bit old for it.

Made an airport run to test out the new crack security measures. The only confusion we encountered was at the security line where one of the crack security workers insisted that I had to accompany Katie and David to the gate. I was under the impression that I was not allowed to accompany them past security, which was okay with all of us, and has been ever since that particular law was laid down after 9/11. No, she said, it's a new FAA rule, promulgated but two days ago, that people under 18 had to be escorted to the gate by an adult. I would need to go back to the Delta counter and get a special pass.

So, I went back. Before you start feeling sorry for me, remember that this is the Fort Wayne airport, which is not exactly sprawling. The people at the Delta counter were ready for me. "You want to go with your kids past security?" they asked.

"Not really," I answered, telling the so-cold sounding truth. But I had a cranky baby, the plane was twenty minutes away from boarding, and it was okay with everyone if I left. The Delta people looked at me, perplexed.

"So why are you here?" they asked.

"Because she - " pointing down to security - "told me I had to. Said it was a new FAA regulation."

They'd never heard of it. They didn't know what she could have been talking about or why.

Meanwhile, some guy who'd been at security, quietly arguing the "Catch-22 the airlines are finding themselves in" was being escorted back behind the check-in desk, for some mysterious reason, or perhaps, sin.

Good to see the airlines have their act together, isn't it?

Things are finally moving for post-Prove It projects. I just signed a contract to write a volume of Loyola Press' Six Weeks With the Bible series. My volume will be on the parables of Jesus.
More priest troubles of a different sort, and this time down south in Florida:

Feds accuse priest of selling Ecstasy

From his rectory next to St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Milton to his condominium on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, a popular priest is accused of buying and selling the party drug Ecstasy and methamphetamine.

His condo on Bourbon Street??????

Today is the feast of St. Anthony. No, he's not the Anthony to whom we pray for help in finding lost things (that's St. Anthony of Padua. This the St. Anthony who sold all he had, gave the money to the poor. and lived in the desert as a hermit and ascetic until he died at the age of 105. He's regarded, of course, as the father of monasticism.

As much as we admire the ascetics, and as much good their decision to live in that way allowed them to do, and as close as it brought them to God, it's good to remember that the Christian ideal isn't defined by asceticism. Jesus was decidedly not an ascetic, and had pointed words for those who criticized him for not being more of one.

Wednesday, January 16

More Catholic school stuff. The Washington Post reports on a relatively new Catholic high school focused on a classical curriculum.

(Hey - isn't that what all Catholic schools used to be about?)

My son David would love to go to this school. It's located above a Subway sandwich shop.

Good for them. At least on of the schools that the Archdiocese of Chicago wants to shut down isn't taking the plan without a fight.
Dahlia Lithwick of Slate continues her riffs on the idiotic Supreme Court show, First Monday. Very funny.
An upbeat story on the state of Roman Catholicism in England.
The plagiarism at the heart of Alex Haley's Roots.
You Don't Say?

In New Jersey, a "doctor" is on trial for killing two patients during an abortion, instead of only one.

During the trial, testimony was offered as to how the maternal death could have been avoided, including the suggestion that ultrasound be used during the abortion to help the "doctor" see what he's doing:

Mayer, [another testifying doctor] who last performed a second-trimester abortion 15 year ago, said he was taught early in his career that a sounding device should not be used in abortions because of the risk of perforating the uterus. He also said ultrasound guidance often is not used during abortions.

"Unfortunately, abortion is not a pretty procedure," he said. "To watch a fetus being dismembered by a suction curette is not something I would want to visualize on a regular basis."

No kidding. Unfortunately, it's something our society seems to be able to tolerate on a regular basis. Maybe if they had to see it, they wouldn't tolerate it.

Yup.

Kentucky Bishops oppose legalized gambling.

Yet even with that dependence on gaming to raise money, Kentucky's largest Catholic organization is an active opponent against a move to expand gambling to the state's thoroughbred racetracks, an issue likely to go before the Kentucky General Assembly.

The church's stance comes against a backdrop of quiet criticism that Catholics are being disingenuous if not hypocritical by fighting gambling expansion while relying on gambling.


The article goes on to relate how dependent Catholic schools are on gaming revenue. Something's wrong with that system, if you ask me. Why can't we run schools that don't need the profits of gambling to survive?

Who needs "tolerance?"

Minister calls Islam evil threat from pulpit

A Madison-area pastor has begun a four-part series of sermons on the ''evils of Islam'' and says his church's eventual goal is to convert Nashville-area Muslims to Christianity.

Maury Davis, pastor of Cornerstone Church, began the first sermon in the series Sunday, titled ''Hard Questions — Real Answers. Islam … The Evil Religion.''

''I want to go on record as telling you that I believe the greatest threat to the American way of life, to the Constitution of the United States of America and to the gospel of Jesus Christ, is the religion of Islam as it stands today,'' Davis said from his pulpit on Sunday to an audience of about 2,000.

Tuesday, January 15

This is what I want to know:

Who was in charge of the meeting where it was decided that what television needed was a program in which contestants' heart rates are monitored while they answer questions, and at a certain point in the game a live alligator will be dangled by ropes in front of said contestant to see if her heart rate will rise above the limit? And who was at the meeting at which it was decided that this masterpiece needed to be hosted by - John McEnroe?

Oh yes. And who was at the meeting that greenlighted (greenlit?) the program in which the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States gather in a circle before sessions, join hands and pump fists, saying, "Let's go make history!" Geez.

For years, television has been just bad. Now it's getting weird.

Here's a good takedown of First Monday, the Supreme Court drama.

Excellent piece by Rod Dreher in NRO about the Boston priest pedophile case. What's particularly good about this piece is that Dreher uses more "conservative," orthodox sources to make his point about the abject failure of the hierarchy in this regard.
Many thanks to Kathy Shaidle, poet, columnist and webmistresss of Relapsed Catholic, a daily must-read Weblog of religion news, spiced by Kathy's spot-on comments. She linked me last week. Lucky me!
It didn't seem like a terrible idea to me. I was asked to write an article on Oprah Winfrey focussing on her "spirituality." I complied, and the article was published. The decision was made to make it the cover article, as well.

Holy hell ensues.

I've not seen all the correspondence as yet, but so far, this is what I think people are upset about:

Putting Oprah on the cover implied approval. How? If you put bin Laden on the cover would that imply approval? If you put Martin Luther on the cover as part of an article on the Reformation, would that imply "approval?"

There are more worthy "Catholic" subjects to write about. Perhaps, but I don't know of any Catholic subjects who are selling out $185 day-long workshops on mental and spiritual health in an hour. I don't know of any Catholic subjects whose imprimateur means an automatic 500,000 in book sales. She's influential. Catholics are among those being influenced, and when that influence is partly about spiritualilty, it very much merits coverage.

Here's the article.

Joseph news for family and friends: He talks constantly. Never stops. I think he's pretty close to waving bye-bye, but I'm not sure if what I've seen so far is random flailing or purposeful communication. He associates everyone's name with the right person, plays better by himself in his various prisons, although he still prefers freedom. It is very funny when he's set free - he starts scooting, and after a few feet, he looks back to see if anyone's coming to stop him. He loves everyone, but gets especially excited when Katie comes on the scene, and he brings a smile to everyone's face - even the too-cool 16 year old, and even the 19-year old living two states away who told me last night that he put his photo of Joseph up in his room, and asked for another one. There is nothing like a baby - I highly recommend them.

Joseph has a few toys, of course, but his favorite toy is paper. Mail-order catalogues, especially. His favorite pasttime is pulling books off shelves.

More on the Nazi attitude toward Christianity.
Two contrasting stories on Catholic education:

In Philadelphia, especially in the suburbs, schools are bursting at the seams.

In Chicago, by contrast, they're closing 14 Catholic schools. That's far less than the 45 that were recommended to close when Cardinal George took over, and the story also tells of three new schools that will be opening (and not in the wealthy suburbs, thank you.), so it's not quite as lousy as it seems.

However, whenever I hear tales of Catholic schools struggling and closing, particularly those in inner cities, I always wonder where the rich Catholics are. I know they're out there. Why aren't they bankrolling these poor Catholic schools? Why won't anyone in the Church try to convince them to do so?

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world.... The situation in Belfast continues to worsen. Protestant paramilitary groups have targeted Catholic workers as "legitimate targets." A postal worker was killed last week, and a general threat has gone out to schoolteachers. Schoolteachers! One school, in particular, has been the focus of protests and violence: Holy Cross Girl's School. Here's an explanation of how the conflict in and around the school evolved back in September. It begins:

Why are grown men and women hurling missiles at schoolgirls?
The Protestant residents of the Ardoyne in north Belfast are angry that Catholic parents are walking their children to school past their houses. The girls' Catholic school, Holy Cross, is beside a Protestant enclave.

....How will the clashes stop?
The attacks are fundamentally about territory: Protestants refusing to allow Catholics to walk on "their" streets and Catholics insisting on the right to do so. Such disputes inflame Belfast's sometimes violent sectarian divide. Police have suggested an alternative route to the school - the same as was used in June - but the best hope for the future is mediation between the two communities, an end to paramilitary violence and progress in the faltering Northern Ireland peace process, three things that are notoriously difficult to achieve

Islamic fundamentalists don't hold a monopoly on irrationality, it's clear to see.

Monday, January 14

I used to live in a place where weather forecasts were unnecessary. Florida's like that. Temperatures ranging from the 50's to the 90's for half of the year, and the other half, humidity clinging to you like an unwelcome relative, only to be chased away every afternoon by the most welcome rainstorm.

Indiana's not like that. At least part of Indiana isn't. Fort Wayne seems to be located in this strange corner of Indiana that toys with any and all fronts that dare to make it this far. I don't even know why the members of our resident, toothy and briskly suited television weather brigade even bother. It's like some pathetic little farce they put on every night at 6:10 - All Dressed Up with More Lies to Tell. Their forecasts are always wrong. If you follow the forecasts from the Weather Channel for this area (ZIP code 46807), you'll see that they change as the day goes on. It was supposed to snow this morning. Then they said it was supposed to rain. It did neither. It was clear all day until about 4. Then it was supposed to be clear this week and snow on Friday. Now it's supposed to snow tomorrow and Wednesday and be clear the rest of the week.

See. It's like life. Don't bother predicting, I say. Keep planning to the bare minimum. You never know what's going to happen. After all - if you'd been asked to predict your life's course twenty years ago, would your vision even have been able to begin to see where you are now? No? And isn't it better that way?

Thanks a lot. Sometimes when you think about what the institutional Church (i.e., RC) is and isn't doing in this country, it boggles the mind. Especially when you've been involved in it, and you've seen the scores of wasted hours spent on brainstorming, planning and evaluating pointless programs that meet no one's needs. In contrast, here's an article about two young evangelical ministers who actually set up an booth for their anti-pornography organization...at a porn convention. And where does Catholicism come in? Oh, scroll down to the last few paragraphs and read about the veteran porn "actress" who says she prays the rosary three times a week. Between that, Robert Hanssen, and reading an article about totally Catholic-school educated Kurt Warner's adult "embrace of Christianity" and present fervent evangelicalism, I'm about ready to just retreat into the baby corrall with Joseph for the rest of the week.
We are down a priest, again. Our associate pastor (parochial vicar? I'm unsure of what the latest proper lingo is) of a year has moved on. Like many new priests of our diocese, he is from another country - Sri Lanka, in this case. I know nothing of how he dealt with parish life here, except in terms of liturgy. Unfortunately, that did not go well, and I think it caused some problems in the parish. His accent was heavy, but that wasn't the real problem. If he spoke relatively slowly and stuck to the order of the Mass, we all did fine - if you had a sense of what he was supposed to be saying, you could usually figure out what he was saying. You could understand about the first five minutes of his homilies, as well - after that point, he got into it, started speaking more quickly, and became unintelligable except for his frequent punctuation of "And so, my dear friends."


No, the problem with this fellow was that he didn't stick with the order of the Mass - he indulged in more extemporaneous comment than I've experienced in a Catholic Mass since about 1975. He'd precede the Introductory rite with sometimes five minutes of commentary. He'd end the Prayers of the Faithful with the same. At several points during the Eucharistic Prayer, he'd go off. Often, at the Breaking of the Bread, after the Agnus Dei, he'd inject some comments as well. Earnest, lengthy and unintelligable comments. It was really awful. At some point, I understand the pastor tried to put a stop to it, with only moderate success, and near the end of his term here, it seems as if the pastor took over all preaching responsibilities.

Well, that's over now. He's been transferred to hospital ministry in another town, a move prompted by another factor, I understand: he failed his driving test and needed to be stationed somewhere was driving was unecessary - he'll be living right across the street from the hospital.

One muses on this issue at the great risk of sounding parochial, xenophobic and less than catholic in one's Catholicism. As I wrote to someone last week, there is no doubt that the Catholic Church is the most "multicultural" institution on the planet, and it's something intrinsic to our identity and something to celebrate as well. Part of that identity is the interchange of people - folks from all variety of ethnicities ministering to each other when needed. That's great.

But the hard truth is that in some dioceses (I'm not saying it's the case in mine, because I don't know), an influx of priests and seminarians from other countries is being used to cover up the reality of the priest shortage in the United States. Look carefully at the figures when your bishop boasts about how many seminarians he have. How many of them are actually originally from his diocese? How many have been recruited from overseas? There would be no problem with this if all these recruits were being trained to be proficient in English (or whatever language they need to know to minister in their community) before they were sent out, but they're not, and there are other problems as well.

This poor preparation and desperate placement of recent immigrants into large, complex parishes is completely unfair - not only to the parishes, but, more importantly I think, to the priests who are put in situations that are built for their failure and demoralization.

Here's a good link to religion news:Religion Review.

Saturday, January 12

A nice article on the Mepkin Trappist monastery in South Carolina.
Here's an article from the Washington Post about some Buddhist monks making a mandala. A couple of years ago, a small group of Buddhist nuns came to Fort Wayne and made a mandala on the floor of the art museum. I went and watched them - it was fascinating. The basic instrument they use to make the design is a metal cone -sort of like a pastry tube shape, which holds the sand. The tube has ridges on the outside, and they run a stick up and down the ridges to control the flow of the sand coming out the end. There is of course, chanting going on the whole time. A noisily peaceful process.

After the mandala was constructed, they swept it up, put the sand in a bowl and took it to the St. Mary's River and dumped it out, expressing, of course, the impermanence of life. There are a couple of Buddhist monks around town, and I can't figure out why or where they are. There's one I've seen twice - at the post office, and walking in Foster Park, the big park across the road from us. I've seen another at the grocery store. Nothing quite stands out like a bald Tibetan in a saffron robe among a pack of well-fed Hoosiers.

Friday, January 11

William Trevor has a good (of course) short story in the New Yorker. It's called Justina's Priest. Read it and interpret it for me. Is Trevor saying that's all that's left for religion is the simple-minded, or is there something more generous in there?
Here's a deal for you, that I discovered in Barnes and Noble today. It's a small collection of out-of-print children's books called Lost Treasures, put out by Volo books, which is an imprint of Hyperion. (breathe.) There are only 6 books so far , and they're not ancient classics - mostly dating from the 60's through the mid-70's (with one originally printed in 1942.) No, not unusual, but here's what is: they're $1.99 apiece. Even the clerk did a doubletake when she rang up The Kellyhorns for Katie. Hard to pass up a bargain like that
Took Katie and Joseph to see Jimmy Neutron:Boy Genius, and I have to say it was a whole lot better than I expected. A bare minimum of crude humor (why there has to be any at all is beyond me), very creative and entertaining animation (space ships constructed out of amusement park rides), and a nice little theme: the parents have been abducted by aliens, the kids initially rejoice, then all realize "I want my mommy!" (and daddy), and then set out to rescue them. I thought the script had some very witty moments and the voices were very well realized - I particularly liked Carl, the soft-spoken, rather clueless heavy kid whose Show-and-Tell item is his asthma inhaler. (Don't worry - it's not a negative. The inhaler comes in handy later).

In his review, Roger Ebert remarked,

It doesn't have the little in-jokes that make "Shrek" and "Monsters, Inc." fun for grown-ups.

but I have to say that I'm pretty weary of all the in-jokes directed at grown-ups that have been the bane of animated films since Robin Williams' turn as a genie in Aladdin. I'm all for irony-free entertainment for the kids, myself.

An interesting article about a current exhibit in New York:

"Religious Images in 19th Century Academic Art" is a show that has gotten almost no attention from the critical community in New York since it opened last October because it would appear to be completely out of touch with what has been going on in the art world since the advent of Impressionism and all the others art isms that followed. The New York Times kissed it off as "worth a walk through."

It is worth more than that, for it demonstrates that even in a secular age like the 19th century, ushered in by the anti-clerical French Revolution, there were plenty of defenders of the faith courageous enough to produce religious art in new styles and using new subject matter.

Incidentally, I happen to have a print - lithograph - something, who knows (I don't) of the last piece described in the article, "The Missionary's Adventure."

A nice fit, wouldn't you say?

Maya Angelou and Hallmark. She's writing cards and providing aphorisms for various decorative products, as well. Here's a sample:

The Glorious Banquet Bowl, costing $24.99, says "Life is a glorious banquet, a limitless and delicious buffet."

Now that's poetry.

Thursday, January 10

James Lileks is just too funny. I almost woke up the house laughing at this paragraph:

Grr. It is recycling tomorrow, as the phrase goes - “recycling” becomes an event, a high holy day: it is Christmas tomorrow! It is Easter tomorrow! It is recycling tomorrow! - so I have to drag out the bags. Since we missed the last recycling day, and we had parties between here and there AND a holiday, this means I look as if I’ve spent the last two weeks doing nothing but reading papers and pounding the liquor. Which reminds me: of all the bottles I’ve encountered, Maker’s Mark makes the best weapon: the neck feels right in your in grasp, and the bottle is solid enough to knock out whatever teak-noggined miscreant has got it comin’ to him. There’s a video game I’d like to see: Bar Brawl 2020. The weapons are all liquor bottles. Your powerups would be little Copenhagen tins and Jagermeister airplane-portion single-servs; you’d fight your way to the back room, where you’d fight a guy who had a pool cue in one hand, a jagged bottle of Shiner in the other,; he could spit shot glasses from his mouth, too, and he’d be hard to beat because he’d be too stupid to kill. The soundtrack would be all ZZTop and similarly stripped-down Texabilly bands. I’d much rather play that game than fight dragons.

Please go read the whole thing.

Fr. Shawn M. O'Neal of Boone, North Carolina writes to add the following inside information on St. Lawrence's Basilica in Asheville: (Rafael is Rafael Guastavino, the architect)

Here's the nutshell version of how we got the present Basilica of St.
Lawrence on the old St. Lawrence site:


Rafael: "This church is too small."
Pastor: "Yeah. So what are you gonna do about it?"
Rafael: "I'll build a new one. It's on me."
Pastor: "Great! Anything to get out of a pledge drive!"



Guastavino Sr. died in 1908, a year before the church was
dedicated. He is buried inside the church on the Marian Chapel
side. His wife was supposed to be buried there, too, but the
Asheville city gov't was so appalled by the idea of someone being
buried inside a church that they passed a law in 1914 that still
prohibits burial inside church structures. When his wife died (in
1918, I believe), she was buried in Riverside Cemetary 1 mile to the
NW -- which happens to be where O. Henry is buried.

Thank you, Fr. Shawn!

I know you're thinking that because I've been particularly Blogolicious today, I've done nothing else. Not true at all! I wrote a chapter of my book, fixed Spaghetti Carbornara, took children to and from school, did laundry, played with the baby, and (here's the amazing part)... cleaned my study! You'd be amazed at the things I found.
Wiccan-Unitarian Holy Wars! Houston witch accuses Unitarian church of harassment :

Mary LeBlanc in her civil lawsuit filed this week at the Harris County civil courthouse, claimed the Unitarian group harassed her to teach them Wiccan rituals, although they said they did not want to become Wiccans, the formal name witches use.

She repeatedly declined to teach them and "they became increasingly insistent and increasingly hostile" until she was ousted from the group last year. She said the harassment continues.

LeBlanc said the harassment degenerated to the point where they were calling her "a humpbacked, toothless, redneck hillbilly witch." The lawsuit states the church members even sent people to her home to infiltrate her Wiccan meetings. ....

When asked for comment about the lawsuit, a church representative referred questions to a Fellowship member who confirmed that LeBlanc had previously attended the group and has since left.

"Some items sent by Ms. LeBlanc have been forwarded to the police department. Let me just leave it at that," she said.

Geez. Some people just don't know the meaning of "tolerance."

A question. Where's Camille Paglia? I know she's no longer writing for Salon, so I don't expect to see her there, but I have missed her perspective on the events of the last four months. If anyone has seen any commentary by her recently, please let me know where it's hiding!
Please, please let Steve Spurrier go to the Colts. Then maybe, for once, everyone can root for the same team, at least once in a while.
Maybe there's hope: Apparently, the case of the Bible-smuggler threatened with the death penalty isn't just resting quietly. Some (US) government folk are expressing displeasure. Let's see if action follows the words.
Here's something you must read: Papers reveal Nazi aim: End Christianity

The fragile, typewritten documents from the 1940s lay out the Nazi plan in grim detail:



Take over the churches from within, using party sympathizers. Discredit, jail or kill Christian leaders. And re-indoctrinate the congregants. Give them a new faith - in Germany's Third Reich.



More than a half-century ago, confidential U.S. government reports on the Nazi plans were prepared for the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and will be available online for free starting tomorrow - some of them for the first time.



This sounds like an interesting book:

Bright Promise, Failed Community:



In Bright Promise, Failed Community, respected Catholic sociologist Joseph Varacalli describes how and why Catholic America has essentially failed to shape the American Republic in any significant way. American society has never experienced a "Catholic moment" --the closest it came was during the immediate post-World War II era--nor is it now close to approximating one. Varacalli identifies as the cause of the current situation the "failed community" of Catholic America: an ineffective and dissent-ridden set of organizational arrangements that has not succeeded in adequately communicating the social doctrine of the Church to Catholic Americans or to the key idea-generating sectors of American life.


The "bright promise" of Catholic America lies in the long and still developing tradition of social Catholicism. With a revitalized, orthodox, sophisticated community to serve as the carrier of Catholic social doctrine, Varacalli sees trends of thought that would propose viable alternatives to philosophies and ideologies that currently dominate the American public sphere-ones that would thus have a formidable impact on American society

Right up my alley.

As we approach the always-sad anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision on January 22, it's worth reminding ourselves and telling others, as well, that neither plaintiff in the cases in question (Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton) had abortions, both are pro-life, and both were manipulated by pro-abortion lawyers to be "test cases" to challenge the constitutionality of state abortion laws. Here's a brief account of both women.
Popular historian Stephen Ambrose is coming under fire for apparent plagiarism. The problem is passages in several books that are virtually identical to ...passages in other people's books, without notes or attributions.

My quick, uninformed reaction is this: I seriously doubt Stephen Ambrose writes much of the books published under his name any more. I wouldn't say that he employs out-and-out ghost writers, but I'm sure most of the actual work is done by research assistants. With his supervision, and probably his writing here and there along the way, but it wouldn't be surprising if a researcher got lazy in spots, and the laziness went undetected.

Many years ago, when I was a graduate student at Vanderbilt Divinity School, someone told me of their meeting with (then) famed theologican Edward Schillebeeckx. They commented first on his handshake, which they said was creepily clammy and weak. Then they went on a riff about Schillebeeckx's works - particularly his (at the time) very popular (if dense and ultimately impenetrable) works Jesus and Christ. He didn't write any of it - it was all graduate assistants under his supervision.

Who knows if that was true. What I do know, after a few years of involvement in the book business, even just as an author, is how many books out there published under famous names are ghost-written. I'm not talking about celebrity autobiographies - I'm talking about works of popular scholarship "written by" well-known figures in their field. You'd be surprised, believe me.

Using 9/11 to rewrite history and manipulate the future: Beth Henary writes in the Weekly Standard:

Firefighters Dan McWilliams, Billy Eisengrein, and George Johnson were captured in a now-famous photo, raising a flag, Iwo Jima-style, over the ground-zero wreckage. Copies of the photo--both legal and illegal--have spread throughout the world... So it would have seemed reasonable for the statue commemorating the moment, a model of which was unveiled on December 21, to have replicated the photo exactly.



Not so. At the request of the New York Fire Department, the sculptors who worked on the statue replaced McWilliams, Eisengrein, and Johnson--all white--with firefighters of three different races, because people of all races contributed to the rescue effort.

Wendy McElroy writes of liberal feminist groups using WTC relief funds to promote their own political agendas.

Here's an interesting article about Rafael Guastavino, one of the architects of the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, North Carolina. Guastavino apparently came to the US to work on the Biltmore Estate, fell in love with the area, and stayed. I've never been to Asheville, and I had no idea they had this gorgeous church to their credit. It's an interesting story, with the unexplained throwaway line near the end about a Mass composed by the architect. I wonder what that's like?
Unbelievable. Just when I thought Joseph might be getting the hang of the sleep thing, we had a terrible night. It's hard to explain. He's not fully awake and ready to play. He's just restless, half-awake, nursing and refusing to stay in his crib for two hours. From midnight to 2 am. Actually, I think it was more like 2:30. Pretty bad. I'm pretty tired.

Wednesday, January 9

Unbelievable. I got all my work done by 2:30 pm. Word is that one of the columns might be...too..."edgy" for one of my papers. Sorry. I can do only so much heartwarming before my own edges start to fray and my cynical self bursts forth. Actually, that column in question got its start here on the Weblog, and I think it turned out well. We'll see.

I ended up skipping the Weigel this time around. Oh, I read it, but I gave so much time to critiquing Triumph that there was no room left for my qualified praise of Weigel. I highly recommend the Bottum. That doesn't sound right. But I do...the poems are excellent. Mostly about death in some form or other, but still great.

More on the Dave Thomas Knoxville connection.
Joseph was pretty cute at snack time. So of course I had to take pictures. Here they are.
My husband Michael Dubruiel will be on the radio today. He'll be on a program called Moments of Truth Live at 11am eastern time.
Hey! Here's a good saint for Catholic scribblers like me:

Blessed Tommaso Reggio, who established the first Catholic newspaper. He did a lot of other great things, too, another, less well-known Saint To Make You Tired.

Why Republicans are of extremely limited value: An article from the Village Voice reveals that buried deep in one of new NY mayor Bloomberg's campaign documents is the plan to instutionalize abortion training in the city's hospitals:

...to make abortion a standard part of OB-GYN instruction in the city's hospitals. Because his election seemed so improbable, Bloomberg's Blueprint for Public Health barely made a ripple—let alone a splash—when it was first unveiled. But should the new mayor make good on the document's controversial promise, the result will be groundbreaking. No other city is known to have institutionalized abortion training in its public hospitals. Jubilant pro-choice advocates say the move would not only improve services for the city's uninsured women but also help alleviate a shortage of abortion providers nationwide.

That's a relief.

I am still trying to figure out the news about the Vatican's new procedure regarding clergy accused of sexual abuse. Suspected abusers are to be reported to Rome without delay, which is good. This implies that so far, bishops have failed in their responsibility to deal with these cases, which they have, and that some distance from the people involved is required. The problem, of course, lies with the question of "secrecy," which I suppose is intended to protect the "reputation" of the Church as well as simplify the process of examining the case, free from the glare of publicity. But the disadvantage of "secrecy" is that it prevents other victims, who might have been reluctant to step forward, from hearing about accusations and perhaps getting the courage to step forward. And then there's the question of civil authorities - a centuries-old dispute between church and government in regard to clergy accused of crimes. The Vatican document makes no mention of them. Is this because they don't want civil authorities involved or that they take it for granted that they will be? I hope it's the latter. I really do.
Finished two columns yesterday and this morning, and after a trip to the grocery store, the rest of the day will be spent wrestling with a baby and a book review.

Tuesday, January 8

Scintillating blogging today, eh? Well, I've been writing columns instead - complete one and a half so far. I have to finish reading one book tonight, then write my book review column tomorrow on the following:

Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church by H.W. Crocker

The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explored by George Weigel
and
The Fall and Other Poems by J. Bottum.

Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's, has died. As it happens, I've lived in two places with Dave connections. He got his start in the restaurant business as a teenager in Knoxville, washing dishes at the downtown icon, Regas. Soon thereafter, he moved here to Fort Wayne, where he worked at a place called the Hobby House Restaurant, eventually featuring the chicken of a certain Colonel Sanders, and then working in one of the original franchise groups of KFC. In the late 60's he took the money he made from that and started Wendy's.

If you go to this page and scroll down, you can see a photo of a young Dave Thomas with our local Komets hockey team.

My question is - whatever happened to the salad bar? Do any Wendy's still have them? That was the main attraction of Wendy's when it started - also the fact that they bussed your table for you. Do they do that anymore?

Blogger's back. It seems to have been down most of the morning. I'll be blogging off and on today as I work on a couple of columns and a book review for OSV.

Monday, January 7

Support your isolated Cistercians: The Cistercians of Caldey Island off the coast of Wales have set up shop online. They sell candy, shortbread and...perfume, which, it seems from the site, they do indeed manufacture themselves. Be sure to read about the history of the place. It's quite interesting - monks have inhabited the island since the Dark Ages. In 1910, a group of Anglican Benedictines settled there, then promptly converted to Roman Catholicism three years later and had to sell the property to Cistercians because they couldn't support themselves. I'm glad the Cistercians figured out how to make perfume, just so we can read their descriptions of their scents:

ISLAND FERN: Crisp and fresh - a leaf green fragrance with a breath of woodland magic



ISLAND MADRIGAL: Subtle and sophisticated - with an enticing hint of spice



BROCADE: Alluringly feminine - with a woody tang and a touch of tropical mystery



CALDEY FOR MEN: Wholly masculine - blending subtle strength with restained notes of incence and spice

I want to get me some Cistercian perfume, by heaven.




A must-read article from the Boston Globe about a particularly terrible case of a priest sexually abusing children.

It is the old, well-known story. Priest abuses children. The situation is made known to church officials. Church officials send priest off for "treatment", then reassign him to a parish where's he's put in charge of altar boys or the youth group or some such rot. More accusations surface. Priest is reassigned over and over until the financial risk becomes too great and criminal charges and civil suits are in the offing. Then, as the various suits and charges are pursued, church officials scramble desperately to have records of intra-church discussions on the matter sealed:

Until recent years, the church also had little to fear from the courts. But that has changed, as predicted in a 1985 confidential report on priest abuse prepared at the urging of some of the nation's top bishops, Law among them. "Our dependence in the past on Roman Catholic judges and attorneys protecting the Diocese and clerics is GONE," the report said.

Add that to the many elements of this case that make your skin crawl.


Thank goodness, in this case, they have failed:

But for all Geoghan's notoriety, the public record is remarkably skeletal. That is because almost all the evidence in the lawsuits about the church's supervision of Geoghan has been under a court-ordered confidentiality seal granted to church lawyers.



In November, acting on a motion by the Globe, Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney ordered those documents made public. The archdiocese appealed to the state Appeals Court, arguing that the Globe -- and the public -- should not have access to documents about the church's inner workings. But the appeal was denied last month. The records, including depositions of bishops and personnel files, are scheduled to become public on Jan. 26

One has to wonder what about the continued presence of Geoghan as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston was so essential that it required such a terrible price to be paid in wrecked and ruined lives and lost faith. I have absolutely no sympathy for the institutional church on this issue. Expose the corruption, compensate the victims, and maybe then the rot will be stripped and the Church will be recognizable once again as the Body of Christ.

Someday, I will write again. I'm not sure when. Today the Christmas stuff needs to be taken down, the house needs to be cleaned, and I've got a sick little girl upstairs, down with the flu that Michael had last week, shivering and feverish.

Sunday, January 6

An interesting article from the LA Times about the relationship between the Church and the Democratic party.

One of the more intriguing elements of this article is the honesty with which it's written:

. But a case now making its way through the California courts raises the question whether state Democratic leaders are going beyond policy disagreements to target the religious practices of Catholic organizations.


In 1999, at the bidding of Planned Parenthood of California, the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed the Women's Contraceptive Equity Act, co-authored by Assembly Speaker Robert M. Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) and Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), requiring religious charities, hospitals and colleges to provide contraceptive benefits to their employees. Last July, Catholic Charities of California sued on freedom-of-religion grounds, contending that it should not be forced to provide birth-control devices if, as a religious institution, it chooses not to.

Did you catch that...at the bidding of Planned Parenthood? Surprising to find such wording in the LA Times, but how true it is, how true.

Here's a striking photograph of the ordination of 10 bishops yesterday by Pope JPII.
A fascinating and thorough piece on Robert Hanssen from the Washington Post:

But Hanssen did not feel guilty about what he had done. Instead, he viewed the disclosures as fair play in the spy game. In addition, he reasoned that as long as he regularly confessed his sins to various priests and sought forgiveness, he would remain in a state of grace.

I'm still waiting for a thorough look at Hanssen and religion - it may be too soon to expect it (he was arrested less than a year ago), but I think the question of his style of Catholicism (he's a convert, BTW), which included Opus Dei membership, membership in a conservative parish, and an apparent devotion to Chesterton at the same time he was selling information that was putting his country and real human beings at risk, not to speak of having an affair with a stripper and secretly taping his sex life with his wife to share with a buddy, is certainly worth examining. Rationalization, we hardly knew ye.

The author of the piece has written a soon-to-be published book on Hanssen called The Bureau and the Mole. Apart from content, I have to mention that the book's website is pretty nifty, visually speaking, particularly the Casefiles section. I have to take issue with the author's bizarre contention that one of Hanssen's "icons", G.K. Chesterton, has fallen into "relative obscurity." Huh? Catholics who read still read Chesterton, and in great numbers. I could name a lot of early 20th-century Catholics who are relatively obscure, but GKC ain't one of them.

Now. Bonnie Hanssen, meet fellow spousal rationalizer, April Ray. April Ray is the subject of this week's Newsweek cover story. She is the wife of Wadih El-Hage:

... now serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison for conspiracy to commit terrorism in the August 1998 bombings of two American Embassies in East Africa. Within Al Qaeda, El-Hage was nicknamed “the Manager,” according to federal prosecutors. For several years during the 1990s, the U.S. government alleges, El-Hage performed nefarious chores for his terrorist boss, like purchasing a jet plane in order to deliver Stinger missiles (El-Hage personally handed the keys to bin Laden at a dinner party). Before the embassy bombings, federal wiretaps picked up El-Hage talking about “fixing papers” and preparing “notebooks”—code, the prosecutors said, for creating false passports for Qaeda operatives.

April is thoroughly behind her man and the cause:

Like many true believers, she won’t accept that bin Laden ordered the September 11 attacks. She suspects they were plotted by the CIA or Israeli intelligence. She is opposed to killing civilians, but if the jihad against the enemies and corrupters of Islam goes on, and her 15-year-old son, the WWF fan, wants to fight, then she’d consider letting him join when he comes of age

We had a very nice snow last night and this morning. Not too light, not too heavy, and the temperature is just right, as well - you can be out in it without freezing your ears off.

First pictures of the momentous experience here!

Saturday, January 5

We thought Arlo Guthrie was Catholic, but apparently he's gotten over that:

Along the way he has explored his Jewish roots (on his mother's side), spent time with Franciscan monks, studied Buddhism and found a personal guru who awakened him to what he says is the Hindu practice of embracing all religions.



"I have three or four major traditions that I am carrying around inside me," Mr. Guthrie said, "and they are all just different views of the same reality."





From a piece in the New York Times (link probably requires registration)

A good piece by James Pinkerton on J.R.R. Tolkien's distrust of power as expressed in The Lord of the Rings.

And so he spun out his own stories, in which good and bad characters alike are tempted and twisted, like Gyges of earlier yore, by lust for various magic rings, including the Ring of Sauron - "one ring to rule them all." Tolkien's tales were challenging and disturbing, because he presumed that nobody would be completely immune to such enticement.

It's a theme you can't miss in the film, even as it's rather awkwardly expressed in a couple of places. Another theme that Peter Jackson (the director) gets quite accurately is Tolkien's antipathy to ...uh...the Industrial Revolution, I guess. Appalled at the havoc and destruction wrought by the misuse of machines, Tolkien's heart and soul belonged to The Shire.

Death Encroaches On an Order of Nuns.

No, it's not the title of a detective novel. It's an article from the Houston Chronicle about the dwindling numbers of a religious order founded in Galveston in the 19th century. The piece quotes Ann Carey on the reasons for the general decline in the numbers of American religious women (50% decline since the 60's):

Ann Carey, author of the 1997 book, Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unraveling of Women's Religious Communities, cited a number of societal factors that contribute to smaller numbers of women opting for religious lives.

"Women have many more career opportunities than we had 40 years ago," she said. "Women have more opportunity for higher education. Catholic families are smaller, so fewer children mean a smaller pool of recruits. Our materialistic, individualistic culture does not value the spiritual lifestyle. Young people are less inclined to make lifelong commitments."

The article doesn't note that there are a few communities here and there that are experiencing growth - almost all more "traditional" communities with distinctive lifestyles and community life.

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