Friday, May 31

Detroit archbishop meets with his priests; says he's sorry he's not around more.

We've been on the front lines," Rev. John West, pastor of St. Rita Church in Holly, told reporters. "We're with the people seven days a week and we've been listening a lot to our people. And now I think the important thing is that we're coming together to listen to each other, to really try to understand."

Some attendees also called on Maida to spend more time with priests in his diocese. A member of many national church committees, Maida travels extensively as part of his duties and wasn't in Detroit while many allegations of abuse against priests were surfacing.

Good news. Richard Russo has a short story collection coming out in July. The title story, "The Whore's Child" was published in the Atlantic a few years ago - I clipped it and saved it. In case you don't know, Russo very deservedly won the Pulitzer this year for Empire Falls, which is an excellent book, although I must confess I liked Nobody's Fool and Straight Man better.

Speaking of writers I love, I'd wondered if Michael Malone, author of Handling Sin and a couple of literate mystery novels was ever going to return to books after his years writing for soaps (yes). Did a little search and found I was way behind the curve. He did - last summer. Here's the Amazon description of the book, First Lady:

Not quite so dramatically, Michael Malone apparently fell off the face of the earth. (He became a highly successful television writer, which is almost the same thing.) Today, even some sophisticated readers of mystery fiction have forgotten Malone, who wrote two masterpieces involving a pair of detectives in a small town in North Carolina, Justin Savile and Cuddy Mangum: Uncivil Seasons, one of the few nearly perfect novels in the history of detective fiction, published in 1983; and Time's Witness, in 1989. Unlike too many cops portrayed in detective fiction as stupid, corrupt, or both, Justin and Cuddy are fully developed as intelligent, honest cops who try to do their jobs as well as possible, even though they have their human flaws. Cuddy is arrogant and impatient; Justin drinks too much and likes the ladies a bit more than he should, seeing how he's married (just barely now, as his wife has moved out of the house). First Lady is the first volume about these terrific characters in more than decade. Thankfully, Malone's publisher is also releasing the first two books in trade paperback editions, which I can recommend as strongly as anything I've praised in's pages.

Very little is as it seems in this poetically written mystery novel. A serial killer seems to be on the loose, but is he really a serial killer? Justin discovers a pattern that seems brilliantly thought out and then, as in E.C. Bentley's Trent's Last Case, holes are punched through the theory by various members of the law enforcement community (including, in this case, two women from the FBI). First Lady is utterly contemporary, with some gruesomely described violence and a healthy dose of (very discreet) sex, but it's also a wonderfully constructed old-fashioned puzzler, with a cornucopia of clever clues, a near-surplus of suspicious suspects, and a boatful of red herrings guaranteed to fool the most assiduous armchair detective.

Well. I learned about two fascinating people tonight.

First is Athanasius Kircher, a 17th century Jesuit intellectual wonder, whose life and times are described in this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Even a partial catalog of Kircher's accomplishments tends to make one's jaw drop. A German-born Jesuit priest, he served as a professor of mathematics at the Jesuit training institute in Rome. Nicknamed "the master of a hundred arts," Kircher also knew dozens of languages, including Chinese and Coptic. His scientific writings -- studied with rapt interest by scholars (Roman Catholic and otherwise) around the world -- included works on acoustics, astronomy, chemistry, mineralogy, and optics. He also published some of the earliest scholarship on ancient Egypt. His theories about the hieroglyphics turned out to be wrong, for the most part; but Kircher had enough insights and suggestive ideas to make him a recognized pioneer.

And for almost a century after his death, no learned traveler would consider his or her trip to Rome complete without a tour of Father Kircher's museum: a collection of ancient artifacts and stuffed beasts (including such exotic creatures as the aardvark) as well as the master's own inventions. There was, for example, a statue whose eyes and lips began to move in an uncannily lifelike way as it addressed visitors, who were momentarily startled out of their wits. (A concealed assistant operated the proto-robot.)

Not merely erudite, Kircher was also a sort of intellectual daredevil. He entered the mouth of an active volcano, and published a vivid account of what he saw: "The whole area was lit up by the fires, and the glowing sulphur and bitumen produced an intolerable vapor. It was just like hell, only lacking the demons to complete the picture." Examining the blood of plague victims with a microscope, Kircher developed what must have seemed, at the time, like a bizarre theory: Disease might be caused by very tiny organisms entering the body from the outside. And while Kircher was the most respected intellectual in his church, with the full backing of the Pope, some of his intellectual explorations tested the very limits of acceptable thought. His cosmological theories, for example, appeared suspiciously compatible with the ideas of Copernicus and Galileo. The Inquisition prepared an internal document listing the worrisome passages, just in case.

The second, mentioned in the Kircher story, was one of his biggest fans and a tremendous intellectual in her own right: Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, a 17th century Mexican nun who wrote poetry, plays, prose and music. Sort of the Hildegard von Bingen of her time, but without the herbs.

Ann Wilson helps us out on contemporary art.
Florida priest arrested in Michigan on sex abuse charges
See, this is just weird.

That African archbishop who got married in the Moonie ceremony is comin' back our way.

An African archbishop who embarrassed the Roman Catholic Church by marrying a South Korean acupuncturist last year is preparing to resume his ministry, a Vatican official told an Italian magazine.

Monsignor Tarciso Bertone declined to disclose the whereabouts of Zambian-born Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, 71, but said he was expected to return to Italy by the end of the summer, according to 30 Days, a religious affairs monthly

I don't know the whole story. Anything but. But what I do know leads me to think that this Milingo guy isn't quite all there. You know? I'm just wondering what kind of "ministry" he might be fit for.

Reader Erik Keilholtz offers a useful art lesson:

I have seen the pile of candy piece. Let me set the stage:

It was on display with 8 other equally vacuous "pieces" at San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art. The show was highly praised by the local art critic. "Daring." "Deeply reflective." All of the usual adjectives.

I went to see it with two fellow artists.

[First aside: none of us are hostile to modern art. All of us have been profoundly influenced by modern painting and sculpture and music. We are long-time friends of good painterly abstraction, and even have been known to champion some "pretty out there" art and music. End aside.]

We did not know whether to laugh or to cry. All of the pieces were of the same sort: take a fairly juvenile idea and conflate it into a monument. Every single one of the ideas expressed could have been better expressed in writing. And that last sentence is the problem with conceptual art.

How did this situation arise? The common answer is to blame either Marcel Duchamp or Andy Warhol. Certainly they are tempting targets,especially Warhol. But when it came down to it, Duchamp was pretty much on the sidelines of serious art and Warhol rose when the problem already had been looming. The situation is complex, but there is a root cause: in addition to faddishness (which accounts for the museumspeak drivel that you wrote about), the teaching of art in Universities is mainly to blame.

The artists and art faculties lacked the education to defend the ideas of art as being uniquely suited to being expressed in the art itself and
looked to politics, literature and cultural theory for the sort of ideas that they could express in their art. They were also a little less than enthusiastic to be in a discipline that required so much physical craft skill (after all, the University is an idea place, not a training center for mechanics). So the skills and traditions of art were neglected and
the promotion of ideas (especially Marxist ones) was boosted. In short,these folks were trying to fit square pegs into round holes, and thought that hitting the poor thing harder and harder would resolve the problem.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? I hope so, but I am not optimistic. The current caste of administrators has entrenched itself (they even have degree programs in "museum studies" where they practice this theory writing and drafting goofy codes of ethics (ones that would exclude 80% of the great works of the past due to the close relations between curators, critics and artists - relations that greatly helped art )), and is not going to admit that they are a bunch of hair-brained fools anytime soon (please note, there are some intelligent people in the business, but they are often eclipsed by these poor bunnies who think that the measure of success of a museum is the amount of controversy they can generate).

The other part of the problem is the dreadful condition of art education in this country. The average person (even with a so-called college education), simply cannot refute the nonsense that is plastered on the gallery walls next to the "pieces." They know, deep down, that it is balderdash, but they are overwhealmed by the cock-surity of the writer,
the two-bit Derrida-isms (if I see the word "simulacra" in the verbiage at a gallery once more I will scream), the arguments from authority(never mind that a Harvard degree should be a source of embarrassment these days,particularly for an art historian), and the average Giuseppe backs away and says nothing.

There will be no change unless more folks are ready to do their homework and vigorously join the debate. I generally recommend to people who want to grasp the problems, triumphs and failures of modern art Robert Hughes's book Shock of the New.

Speaking of LifeTeen....LifeTeen founder and vicar general of the Diocese of Phoenix settled a sexual-harrassment lawsuit a few years ago:

The Diocese of Phoenix quietly paid $45,000 to settle a sexual-harassment claim in 1995 against one of its most prominent priests, who has since been promoted to second-in-command in the diocese to Bishop Thomas O'Brien.

Monsignor Dale Fushek, pastor of St. Timothy Catholic Community in Mesa and the founder of Life Teen, the largest Catholic teen ministry program in the country, told parishioners of the claim during Good Friday services last month.

Fushek and church officials insist that he did nothing wrong, and that the payment, made to a former employee of St. Timothy's, was done simply to avoid the greater costs of fighting a lawsuit.

"Several years ago, I found myself in a situation where my own words and actions, which I considered to be words and actions of affection, were interpreted by an adult staff member as having sexual connotations," Fushek said from the pulpit in a recording obtained by The Republic. "This man complained about that to the diocese."

Fushek told parishioners the matter was quickly resolved through the diocese.

Gee...get a graduate of Notre Dame's summer liturgy program in, and she'll fix 'em:

In New York churches, icons compete for space. (NYTimes, link requires registration....did I tell you my husband got interviewed by the Times today? No? Well, he did.) Seems as if in some multi-ethnic parishes, everyone wants their own patron saints up on the wall.

Update: Someone takes exception to the Notre Dame slam. Please note that I didn't slam Notre Dame as an institution. I slammed the Notre Dame summer liturgy degree program. I've known and been exposed to numerous products of this program, and believe me, I know of what I speak. And all I said was that the hypothetical "she" would fix 'em. And I bet she would, too.

Let me hasten to add that one of my recent correspondents is a very smart lady who is a graduate student at Notre Dame, and is someone who seems to be on my wavelength, whatever that frequency might be. If she's a typical ND graduate student (in a religion-related field, no less), then we're in good shape...there are lots of good people at ND - the Maritain Center, Duncan Stroik, etc. I'm not a Notre Dame basher...but that summer liturgy program...sheesh.

The headline on this AP story stacks the deck from the start:"Abortion Foes Reveal Deceptive Tactic". Of course, the "deceptive tactic" was merely something that investigative journalists do all the time: posing as someone else in order to see what the reaction would be:

Life Dynamics, a Texas-based anti-abortion group, said one of its activists has called more than 800 abortion clinics nationwide in recent months, pretending to be a 13-year-old girl impregnated by her 22-year-old boyfriend.

Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher said more than 90 percent of the clinic employees handling the calls indicated they would conceal the information provided by the caller — a possible violation of state laws requiring the reporting of sexual abuse of a minor.

So. The Life Dynamics group calls and finds out that 90 percent of clinics are willing to...break the law in terms of reporting abuse and statutory rape,'s the pro-life group that gets the bad rap? Where's the outcry? Where's the Boston Globe Spotlight coverage? Secrecy, failure to report crime...haven't we heard this before?

From the beginning of this mess, the fault lines have puzzled and frustrated observers.

For years, the press, as well as a good number of Catholics themselves, have seen disagreements within the Church in terms of “orthodox/progressive” or “conservative/liberal.” And don’t write me critiquing the terminology, hollering that I should just come out and call the “progressives” heretics or heterodox. I’m not committing, I’m just reporting.

We’ve seen it with every papal visit, every story about a bishop’s conference, every conflict about a Catholic university.

But then in late January, it all started to fall apart.

This is because the first major player in this story was Cardinal Law, the anti-Bernardin, upholder of orthodoxy (we thought), oppressor of nuns wearing stoles at baptism, now seemed to be way too sympathetic to priests whose views on sexual morality didn’t match his (we thought).

Now, the fact that Law seemed to be guilty of over-protection of his clerical charges didn’t surprise observers comfortable in The Paradigm, but something else did: the fact that the primary voices raging against the sins of Law were not from Call to Action. They were William Donohue of the Catholic League. Rod Dreher of the National Review. And over time, voices which perhaps did not rage, but indeed suggested politely that Cardinal Law might do the church much good if he stepped down were not the progressives. It was Buckley, Bennett, Noonan and so on.

What to make of this? How does this fit into the paradigm?

It obviously doesn’t. We’ve seen the vastness of this problem, and we’ve seen that “orthodoxy” or “progressivism” have little to do with it. As I’ve said before, what lay Catholics are seeing, for the very first time, spread out for them in the papers, with hard facts that are hard to deny, is that with much of the clergy, the needs of the brotherhood trump ideology and theology. Every time.

And so you have the rage. We’re told to focus on Christ. To put the gospel above the call of the world and the flesh. What’s the use of even trying if our leaders obviously aren’t?

I have thought long and hard about Andrew Sullivan’s contention that the rage is somehow related to the Catholic laity’s dislike of traditional moral precepts, but it simply doesn’t make any sense, not any way you look at it. Even as a side issue, it doesn’t compute, especially since the most vociferous public ragers seem to be Catholics who take Catholic moral teaching seriously and try to live it.

A side note: I have been fascinated, by contrast, with the relative reticence of the usual Catholic progressive voices on this issue. Call to Action has come out against zero tolerance. The pages of America and Commonweal should be tinted yellow, they’re so full of caution. It’s been especially noticeable as the scandal has spread beyond child sexual predators, has bishops have been revealed to be paying off ex-lovers and being fascinated with male triathletes. You’d think that when the sins of the hierarchy are being revealed, the progressives would be at the forefront, protesting, putting ads in the New York Times and planning out their next banner.

I think I have an answer. They know. They know that this cycle of revelations is nowhere near over, and as the child abuse issues fade, the press, motivated by nothing but a desire to keep a fruitful story going, will start poking around for more clerical sins. What Bishop Lynch is up to down in St. Pete with his triathletes and his boat has nothing directly to do with child sexual abuse, but you can be sure if this interest in the sex lives of clerics and Bishops Who Protect Them hadn’t been in the papers every day since January, the reporters at the St. Pete Times and the Tampa Tribune (especially – they are too often the LA Times of that area, too worried about their sources drying up if bad stuff is reported) wouldn’t have been inquiring about Lynch and his friends.

So yes, the progressives know. They know what bishops and prominent clerics, especially those on “their side” have dark pasts and …uh…interesting present lives. They are deathly worried that in this tornado that’s a brewing, that’s enveloping any story that has the terms “priest” and “sex” on the same page, many, many of their heroes will be taken down. It’s already started to happen, and they’re already whining, “witch hunt.”

(It’s worth noting what a reader pointed out to me. The term “witch hunt” is entirely inappropriate in this context. There were, indeed, no witches. There are, indeed, bishops and clerics who are exploiting their positions, living lies, and making the rest of us pay for it.)

So in the end, there are a number of reasons Catholics are angry – as varied as the types of Catholics that exist and sit in the pews. Some are angry because they see this as a slap in the face: we’re trying to live serious, committed Catholic lives here. We’re raising our kids, giving of our time and resources to good causes, trying to live out our lay apostolate in the world, and doing it all as we struggle with finances and the more negative temptations American life has to offer. And there you are, bishop, in your big house, with your secretaries and servants, writing letters about the importance of following Christ, making us feel vaguely guilty that maybe we’re not doing all we could, and you’re using our good will to hide the sins of your priests and our money to pay settlements.

And yes, some are angry because they see it as one part of the piece of the post-Vatican II decline of the church. And others are angry because they think the whole thing would be fixed if women were ordained.

But mostly, people are angry and shocked because no matter what the particular issue: protection of a pedophile, pay-offs to an ex-lover, belligerence towards victims in legal proceedings, secrecy, misuse of diocesan funds…whatever the specifics, the general issue is the same: You call us to follow Christ and put Him first. You’re not. You’re not listening to Christ. You’re listening to accountants, lawyers, psychologists, and the threats of those who are blackmailing you with their knowledge of your own sins. We’re supposed to believe that the Church is the Body of Christ, His presence embodied in the world, in Word and Sacrament and love. How are we supposed to believe this anymore?...that's what I'm sensing lies at the core of most of the anger. The world turns, indifferent to all that is good, and the one place we thought we knew we could find and understand Christ was this place – this Church. Where is He?

That, I think, is the source of the rage. We are lost enough. We are surrounded by enough uncertainty. We are enveloped by enough counter-signs and enough challenges to the very notion of Truth, the very value of Love. When we think of our Church, we want to be able to think of Christ, clearly and unequivocally. And of course, we’re reasonable people. We know that leaders are human, make mistakes and sin. We’re not wanting to place anyone on pedestals. But we want to know that this Christ of whom we sing, preach and to whom we pray is real and is what He says he is, and that as difficult as it is, casting our lot in with Him is the best way, the real way, the only way. Catholics are angry because, in the end, their own leaders have shown that fidelity to Christ is the least of their worries, the least of their concerns. And the sight of a systemic disregard for the Gospel in this area naturally leads to the question: What else? What else has this infected? What is real here and what is just one more protection racket for those who lay burdens on us, but are absolutely unwilling to bear those burdens themselves?

More on modern art.

Seinfeld was a "show about nothing" and much ink has been spilled analyzing that slogan, trying to figure out if it's emblematic of contemporary life in any way. You could say the same of much contemporary art, the examples of which you see in museums are marked mostly by vacuity and pretention - vacuity because there, is, quite often literally nothing there - and pretention because of the bizarre lengths the wall cards must go to explain what the artist is up to. It usually involves phrases like "uncover the connection between" or "confronts the viewer with" or "examines the boundaries between". The most astonishing pieces were, as my husband notes, the string of lightbulbs on the floor (part of a twenty piece series, as I recall.) and the pile of candy in the corner. Here's the idea behind the candy: It originally weighed 175 pounds, the ideal weight of the artist's partner, before the fellow unfortunately died of AIDS. The viewers are welcome to take pieces of the candy, and in the process, they become the AIDS virus, slowly eating away at the body of the victim.

Now, that's kind of an arresting idea, and would be kind of interesting, in my view, as part of something else - I don't know -a performance art installation, a memorial to AIDS victims or something. But does it even between the same walls as El Greco's Assumption of the Virgin or Hopper's Nighthawks or anything else that requires a modicum of what we'd traditionally call artistic skill, rather than simply ideas? Of course, this gets to the heart of the question of what art is - which is not something I'm qualified to debate.

But I had to wonder as I left the Art Institute - surely this isn't it. Surely there is other contemporary art being created today, art that is more than piles of candy, strings of light bulbs and canvases with nothing but a date painted on it. Is there? I'm not a full-time art maven or anything, so I'm not scouring the globe, but my casual interest in art has revealed to me only one really consistent source of contemporary art that's actually about something, and that's Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion. I don't think they post the art they feature in most issues online, but I'm sure the journal is in your local university library or even in your better bookstores.

MIchael gets busy and shares details of the Chicago trip - but ha - only I have pictures!
Episcopal appointments - unusual because, according to my husband, episcopal appointments, like new CD releases, usually come down on Tuesdays. But a reader alerted me to:

Fr. Daniel Conlon of Cincinnati (53) goes to Steubenville; Msgr. Roger Foys (56), vicar general of Steubenville diocese, goes to Covington. A little reversal play there - Covington's right across the river from Cincinnati.

Andrew Sullivan leads this morning with a paean to Voice of the Faithful.

There's been some debate about this group, which claims to be trans-ideological, that is, not in anyway pushing for the liberal agenda we'd naturally expect a group of lay Catholics from Boston. I don't know. What I do know is that NY Times writer who penned the story on this clearly doesn't understand the demographics of the contemporary Church:

Most of those joining are hardly habitual rabble-rousers. They are devout, mostly middle-aged or older, and many are eucharistic ministers, parish council members, Sunday school teachers. Some nuns attend meetings, a former archdiocesan spokesman is involved, and some priests are quietly supporting chapters forming in their parishes.

First, she doesn't understand that Catholic "rabble-rousers" with a more liberal agenda are, generally, middle-aged and older. In fact, it's just a fact of organizational dynamics, I believe, that most people with an interest in this issue with the time to come to meetings and vent, no matter what their perspective, are going to be middle-aged and older. Younger people with an interest in church politics are few and far between, mercifully. (For their own sake. There are better things to do, you know)

Secondly - if VOF was an explicitly liberal group, she thinks that nuns wouldn't be involved? I'd say, with an uncharitable snicker, that the fact that the room isn't filled with nuns is a point of evidence in favor of the non-ideological stance of the group.

But as I said, I don't know. I welcome your knowledgeable comments.

One thing I do know is what I think of Sullivan's assessment:

I profoundly believe that this sex abuse scandal is not the real crisis. It's a symptom of the deeper one of a Church without leadership in America, without confidence in its own doctrines, and credibility among its own people.

Of course Andrew's spot-on here. But he's way off in the rest of his analysis, for he sees the problem lying in the disconnect between the way Catholics supposedly live or would like to live their lives - free from sexual constraints, I guess, merrily contracepting, and so on - and the doctrines they're supposedly hearing preached. Change the teaching - become Episcopalians, I guess - and watch all the Catholics get happy once again.

I don't think so. I mean, look at the Episcopalians. The ones that remain, are happy, I guess - all ten of them, but it's not a model I'm looking for.

Yes, there's a crisis of leadership. I have to go get the baby ready for the sitter right now, but I'll respond in more detail a bit later. Promise. It's on my mind.

A Boston (of course) priest was removed for sexually abusing minors. A few years later, he was put in charge of reassigning "problem" priests, including those implicated in sexual abuse. Oh. And we wonder why Boston has had a problem?
Catholic Church in England considering closing half of its seminaries. That's two out of four, in case you were wondering.
Defining Abuse Down by Michele Cottle in the New Republic. She makes the valid point that the Weakland case was not one of abuse and shouldn't be described as such.

This is not to suggest that Weakland shouldn't have been driven from office or, at least, required to do heavy public penance. He should have been--but for his financial sins, not his sexual ones. In a stupid, self-serving attempt to hide his affair, Weakland handed over nearly a half million dollars of the archdiocese's money (money that Marcoux reportedly managed to blow through in less than four years). For that abuse of power and trust, Weakland deserves to be excoriated.

But such fine distinctions seem to be getting obscured in the current climate of sexual hysteria. The New York Times reports that, at Sunday mass at Milwaukee's Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist (formerly presided over by Weakland), the Reverend Carl Last, referencing Weakland's sins along with the tidal wave of other abuse cases, noted: "Sexual abuse in any form, especially of the young, is a terrible violation. And cover-ups and payment of hush money make it worse."

Similarly, while the secular press has noted how increasingly confusing this case has become for Catholics to process--what with the love letter and all--Marcoux has been treated with kid gloves. Which is much better than he deserves. Because while all those priests for whom child molestation became the hobby of choice are utterly contemptible, so is someone who poses as a victim in order to extort money from a church. And barring new revelations, it certainly seems as though that's what Marcoux has done. If so, someone needs to go after him for it--and not just for the sake of the $450,000 that he pocketed. You can bet that there are scores of morally flexible opportunists out there, watching to see how easy it would be to wring a bit of cash out of an embattled diocese.

Well, I don't see Marcoux's actions as being tied to the current crisis, even in his own mind. After all, the settlement was paid out several years ago. No, this was clearly an embittered, grasping opportunist who decided that his opportunity was to blackmail the Archbishop of Milwaukee, knowing, evidently, that the man was too weak to stand up to him.

Back in business this morning, but slowly. I think I'm catching the cold Joseph's had, although I will fill myself up with echinacea in an attempt ot thwart it. Haven't had time to catch up on the Blogs, so pardon me if I'm repeating any discussions that have already been worn to the ground.

Thursday, May 30

We're back. The house is still here, and David apparently didn't get arrested, and if he did, he posted bail before we got back.

Chicago pictures here. They're not very good - either too far away, or too dark. But you'll get the idea.

Wednesday, May 29

Well, I'm done. Pure tuckered out. Expect a return to full-force blogging tomorrow evening sometime. God bless!
Well, we had a grand old time today, and in the midst of it all, Joseph took three long naps, so here I am in the hotel room at 9:55, fully expecting to be up for a couple more hours. We'll see.

We left Fort Wayne about 7, made it to Chicago a little after ten. We headed to the Field Museum, which is the huge, enormous natural history museum here, featuring all kinds of interesting exhibit, including the famous T-Rex skeleton, "Sue", lotsa mummies, meteorites that fell through farmhouses in Indiana and Illinois, dead stuffed animals. Every schoolchild in Chicago was also there. It's a lovely area of Chicago - there on Lake Michigan, with the Shedd Aquarium across the way - big magnificent building evocative of stolidity and seriousness and great aspirations.

We then headed out to St. Charles and the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibition. Michael met with a couple of people, Katie, Joseph and I wandered, checked out the competition and met up with some acquaintances. We signed books for an hour, which was such a gratifiying experience - so many people said they loved my books and that they sold well. That's nice for a writer to hear. Although our biggest thrill was perhaps the guy from Stamply Enterprises who also runs the Catholic Freebies site recognized us from ....our blogs! He could even comment authoritatively on the zoo pictures! Cool.

The most impressive exhibit I saw was of Cornwell Scribe Works which bills itself as "Medieval Art for Modern Minds. This is absolutely gorgeous work - illuminations and such - , and I want you all to go visit the site and order bunches of stuff.

We signed books with Mary-Louise Kurey, with whom we're having lunch tomorrow after a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, and then home.

So. I go out of town for one day and find out that Andrew Sullivan linked me. Thanks so much, Mr. Sullivan!
review of that new Jesuit book in the Weekly Standard:

The blood-curdling vows by which the Jesuit binds himself perpetually to poverty, chastity, and obedience are typically made for the first time when the novice is twenty or twenty-five years old--not at the conclusion but at the outset of the ten years of training in which he will learn what precisely he has committed himself to defend. The more intelligent and idealistic the aspirant, the more spiritually precarious his position, as he comes to grips with the full power of the Church's adversaries and the all-too-human frailty of her defenders. Loyola's gamble was that, if a man's own desire for God could be made present to him, he would willingly endure the required sacrifices until he saw the truth "from inside," and was motivated no longer by discipline but by love. For four centuries the gamble worked.

No more. The recently published "Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits" is a quirky yet convincing depiction of the collapse of the renegade Society of Jesus: papists who hate the pope, evangelists who have lost the faith. Deprived of their reason for existence as Jesuits, they respond either by putting an end to their existence as Jesuits (deserters outnumber active members in the United States) or by indulging a willed imbecility in which the explosively divisive questions are never permitted to surface.

A stunning piece of drivel from Billboard magazine. I really don't understand why Billboard is running pieces on the problems of the Catholic Church, but you know, I guess they just can't help jumping on the bandwagon. The tie-in? Let's see:

In terms of the tattered image of the Pontiff and the scandal-ridden Catholic Church he leads, it would appear with each passing day that Sinéad O'Connor has less and less to apologize for.

Viewers may recall the Saturday Night Live installment of Oct. 3, 1992, during which O'Connor performed an electrifying a capella version of Bob Marley's "War," a song adapted (with the phrase "racial injustice" changed at one point to "sexual abuse") from a famous speech given by Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. As the song ended, O'Connor held up an 8-inch-by-10-inch color photo portrait of Pope John Paul II and tore it to pieces, saying, "Fight the real enemy."

Tuesday, May 28

There's a move to beatify Antoni Gaudi, the fascinating architect of Barcelona's still unfinished Sagrada Familia Cathedral
Thanks to a reader to pointing me to this article from the January issue of Crisis. It's called The Hidden Hand Behind Bad Catholic Music. Can you guess what that "hidden hand" might be? OCP - Oregon Catholic Press. A little history, first:

It wasn't always like this. Before 1980, the OCP was called the Oregon Catholic Truth Society. It was founded in 1922 in response to a compulsory school-education law that forced Catholics to attend public schools. Archbishop Alexander Christie got together with his priests to found the society. Its aim: to fight bigotry and stand up for truth and Catholic rights.

In 1934, the Oregon Catholic Truth Society released a missal called My Sunday Missal. It was good-looking, inexpensive, and easy to use. It became the most popular missal ever (you can still run across it in used bookstores).

But the rest of the story is as familiar as it is troubling. Sometime in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Oregon Catholic Truth Society began to lose its moorings. Catholic truth had to make room for the Age of Aquarius. Thus, in the course of a single decade, a once-reliable representative of Catholic teaching became reliably unreliable. Money given to the organization to promote truth was now being used to advance a revolutionary approach to Catholic life, one that repudiated traditional forms of the faith. The only thing that did not change was the breadth of its influence: Under the new dispensation, it was still a powerhouse of Catholic publishing.

It's kind of far down on the page, so you might not notice it, but read this comment offered in response to the Miami Mega-Rectory story.


Make it Stop.

The Smoking Gun alerts us to priest hijinks of a different sort: a Byzantine Catholic priest who runs a verrrry strange wrestling website.

As if the Catholic Church doesn't have enough problems, a Pennsylvania priest has created a wrestling web site that would even embarrass Vince McMahon. Featuring hundreds of photos of young men (some of whom are minors) in nothing but clingy Speedos, the so-called Junior Professional Wrestling Association is the brainchild of Rev. Glenn Michael Davidowich, the 38-year-old pastor of St. Michael's Byzantine Catholic Church. Davidowich's web site offers 50 separate videotapes--at $20 a pop--of matches between young men using names like HardKore Kid, David Goliath, Sven, Latin Heat, and Bad Brad (you could be excused for mistaking those monikers for porno star handles).

Another priest is mentioned in association with this mess: a "James Curran" of Georgia. I'm in the middle of getting ready for our little trip, so I don't have time to do a search and see if there really is such a creature in Georgia, but perhaps one of you will. If you're really, really bored.

Cranky Prof has an account of an interesting procedure for a parish council election. It strikes me as very smart and a vast improvement over anything else I've witnessed.
Comments, comments lotsa comments. I'm so glad! Be sure when you check back to the blog, you check the comments, as well.

In a comment on my hypocrisy blog, a readers wonders if I've gone soft. No way. I think in the blog in question I don't back off from my constant call for us to question our leaders, withhold our financial support if necessary and do whatever we can in our power to do something about the terrible situation they have perpetuated.

But....That said, I'm hearing a lot of folks hope that this tragedy will mark a sort of springtime for the Church. A renewal. A reform. I can certainly hope for that too. But reform and renewal doesn't come from the top down. It hardly ever does. We want the whole church renewed, and that means us. What are we going to do if the bishops do nothing or what amounts to it? Give up? Say that the moment for renewal has passed? Or are we going to continue the renewal at our own grassroots level, beginning with our hearts, moving on to our own parishes and schools and neighborhoods and cities, letting Christ live more fully in us...even if the bishops don't seem to be interested?

A View From the Core: Blogstyle.
Are we hypocrites?

It’s worth considering. We spend our days raging against the episcopacy and calling them to task for violating their charge – as Christians, as Catholics, as those called to serve and lead.

And we’re right to do so.

But, I wonder if we should stop every once in a while and ask ourselves, Who are we?.

Jesus’ words about judging are often misunderstood and taken out of context. In Matthew 7:1, Jesus does indeed say, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.” But a few verses later, in using the imagery of the splinter and the beam, he says, “You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” We can’t help but conclude that what Jesus is saying here is to look carefully at our own character and flaws before we turn to help others see their own faults. We’re not to be arrogant, thinking that we are somehow more virtuous than anyone else. We’re to be keenly aware of the lapses in our own lives, the size of the gap between our ideals and reality.

It’s not that we’re to be paralyzed, either, waiting for our own perfection to take shape before we can help others. That day will never come, obviously. It’s that this whole business of discerning and growing spiritually is to take place with an acceptance and awareness of our common lot.

So. American Catholics. You rightly want your bishops to lead as Christ calls them to lead, and to be mindful of the spiritual care of souls above all, and to not even consider the cost.

What about you? What about us? What about me?

Someone wrote me over the weekend and mentioned that perhaps we have the leaders we deserve as Catholics. I don’t know about that, but I can’t help but consider the reality that as a whole, American Catholics mirror the culture. They are no less prone to have abortions, view pornography or be obsessed with getting money and stuff than anyone else. We want our pews padded , our homilies affirming and amusing, and everyone to dress nicely and smell good in church. We listen to Jesus’ words and decide he really didn’t mean any of it, and if he did, he’ll understand if we ignore him, because you know, he accepts us just the way we are.

So sure, the bishops need to listen to Christ and the bishops need a revolution of sorts to awaken them to their purpose and what it means to live under the Sign of the Cross.

As do the rest of us.

So here’s what I’m doing. I’m going to keep praying for the bishops. I’m going to keep writing and pointing out splinters. But I’m also going turn my own words to the only place, in the end, I’m ultimately responsible for: my own soul. I criticize the bishops for being safe and not striking out to take the risks of deep discipleship. Maybe it’s time to bring my own beam to Christ and take the risk of allowing him him whittle it down as he wills. No matter how much it hurts.

Regular, devoted, obssessed or otherwise disturbed readers might have notice a slight change in my posting patterns over the past week. You're right. No need to get the medication adjusted.

Last week, I started taking Joseph to a baby-sitter three mornings a week. I had planned to do this in the fall, but looming deadlines and barely-touched manuscripts made it a necessity right here and right now.

And it's worked. I've written more on this book that's due June 1 (hah) in a week than I had in the previous two months. It now looks that I might miss the deadline by a mere week or so, instead of the couple of months I was envisioning.

And Joseph? He's fine. I've been through this before, so I know the pattern: First day is great. Second day, baby recognizes this as the place where He Was Abandoned and raises bloody hell.

Actually, it wasn't too bad until this morning - day 4. He trotted willingly up the walk, greeted the cat with delight and grinned when he saw the babysitter. Then you could almost see his little wheels start turning: There are other kids here. There's new toys. There's snack. There's a nice lady. There's a cat.... then it all comes together...No Mommy! And tears and wailing commences. She assures me that he only cried for about ten minutes, and when I arrived he was happy as a clam, eating some lunch, but let's just say my productivity the first half hour wasn't too efficient.

Oh, yes - so I'm not paying someone to take care of my baby so I can blog, as much as I enjoy it. I'm firm with myself. After I cleanse myself of guilt, I get to work. And it works - finished an OSV column and wrote an entire chapter of the book this morning. So on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, look for light morning blogging and the regular "schedule" after that.

Thought for the day:

(About all I can manage these days)

I don't really care if the bishops listen to me, you or any other human being with an opinion when they meet in Dallas.

It would just be a hugely welcome change if they simply listened to Christ.

And, as a reader comments, what He said was:

"Whoever becomes humble like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whover welcomes one such child welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matt 18:4-6

New Catholic blogs: here and here.
Fr. Jim Tucker has an excellent de Lubac quote for your consideration today. Put in on a postcard and send it to your favorite local bishop.
My husband has added the comment function to his blog, too.
Please read this distressing summary of news reports about the Burnhams, American missionaries held captive by rebels in the Philippines for a year now. Their condition is unknown, and the American government has announced plans to pull out troops that were committed to fighting terrorism (and, it was hoped, free the Burnhams) by July 31 whether the missionaries have been released or not.

A Jesuit analyzes the present and predicts the future:

A propos of Dallas, I don't suppose any one of us believes the action taken, whatever it be, will not make things worse. When roughly a third of the participants have Paul Marcouxes and Bill Urbanskis ticking away in their past, with Wilton Gregory in the chair and Comrade Pilarczyk playing Lavrenzy Beria on the high table, the best we can hope for is that they do nothing whatever, and issue a stern statement of concern for water quality in the Olympia valley.

My fear is that we'll get several "tough-minded reform-oriented task forces" stacked in the best Bernardin manner by the worst imaginable characters: a token tame conservative for the OSV crowd, a pack of drones, and a cufflinked chairman of the Wuerl/Sheehan/Brunet stripe who can be trusted to make the right noises in front of the cameras while leading the hounds off into a cul-de-sac. The NYT will run a few complimentary "Bishops Get Serious" articles and then shift our attention once more to the ongoing drama of Law's death-of-a-thousand-cuts (Law must be the only Samurai in history to commit hara-kiri with an olive fork).

Anybody remember the brief piece Ralph McInerny had in Crisis about ten years ago in which he remarked how disedifying it was to see our bishops gathered in a hotel, having Mass in a conference room with stackable chairs, &c? He suggested a return to the pre-Bernardin practice of meeting at a monastery. Now the fact is that you can probably get more in-room porn channels at a typical monastery than the Omni Shoreham these days, but his idea is on the right track. Part of the problem is that these guys are really deluded into thinking that they are CEOs of Kodak or General Dynamics. They will probably bring in Dr. Joyce Brothers as a facilitator, and Dr. Joyce will probably have a better ability to articulate the religious dimension of the crisis than all but a handful of our shepherds. "Somehow the answer is on my PalmPilot, if I could only find it."

I absolutely agree that the bishops should be meeting in monasteries or religious houses, rather than hotels. Most of them have plenty of room, a few pretty close to these parts. There's St. Meinrad down in S. Indiana, and just a few miles east of here, in Ohio, there's a huge former Precious Blood seminary that's now empty but for the retired priests and brothers who rattle around in its quiet hallways. It's in the middle of fields, with nothing else around but little farming communities with their little Catholic churches, steeples rising high into the sky, reminders of a time when the Church was in full growth mode, rather than perplexed survival mode - perplexed because it doesn't know why it's drowning.

Hey! It works!

The comments have started, and they're good ones too - some interesting stuff related to the post below on the mandatum. To see, just click on the comments link below each post. Thank you!

Before you get your hopes up about Dallas, recall how the bishops have dealt with the mandatum, which is:

Acting on instructions from the Vatican, U.S. bishops have ordered Catholics who teach their faith's doctrine, morality, Scripture, law or history at Catholic schools to obtain a "mandatum" (mandate, in English) from the bishop of the diocese where the college is located.

The document, which the bishops agreed should be obtained by June 1 -- this Saturday -- attests the theologian teaches only authentic Catholicism.

Despite opposition from many professors and academic groups, the U.S. bishops' conference agreed to require the mandatum and put procedures in place last year. But the bishops gave themselves latitude.

Each bishop can word the mandatum as he likes. He can let theologians seek one, or issue them unasked. Even this week's deadline is not absolute.

....Many U.S. bishops opposed the mandatum until the Vatican insisted on it, he said. He also noted the risk of lawsuits if a job is lost or tenure is denied for lack of a mandatum. Phan expects most bishops to say "to hell with it."

Sister Mary Ann Hinsdale, a Boston College theologian, agreed, noting the clergy sex-abuse scandal now rocking the church is absorbing the bishops' attention. "I don't think they're thinking about the mandatum," she said.

Hinsdale said Boston Cardinal Bernard Law told her faculty he wouldn't ask them to seek mandatums.

An archdiocesan spokesman said Law has yet to reply even to those who did request one. Said the Rev. Christopher Coyne: "It's still an open question."

American Catholic bishops. Men who obviously never had to sign a mandatum for courage.

ABC's Brian Ross talks about his Weakland story

Ross and producer Jill Rackmill picked up the scent of the Weakland story after working on a piece on Chris Dixon, who claimed he'd been abused by Anthony O'Connell, the former bishop of West Palm Beach, Fla.

"We picked up some other leads and heard that this was not the only bishop, that other bishops had paid out such settlements."

Notice the plural in that last sentence.

Pope took a piece of J23 to Bulgaria

Probably the most popular pope of modern times, he is revered in Bulgaria because he served there as a priest from 1929 to 1934 and fell in love with the people and country.

Sofia's new cathedral was built to replace one destroyed by bombing in 1944. According to the Rome daily, La Repubblica, the relic, wrapped in a medieval cloth, will be kept in the cathedral as an object of veneration.

The cathedral authorities were expecting a relic in order to make a shrine, but had no inkling they would receive such a spectacular present from the Vatican.

It has now emerged that the Pope chose to give them a relic.

A whole lotta plaintiffs in Kentucky.

In the beginning, there was only Mike Turner, a prosperous construction company owner, who allowed his name to be made public along with his embarrassing memories of having been sexually violated as a boy by his parish priest.

Then, Mr. Turner began getting phone calls, and 10 men came forward with similar tales, then 20 more, one after another in a cascading effect.

In the month since Mr. Turner went public with a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Louisville, this heavily Catholic area has been shocked to see more than 90 men bring shame-steeped complaints against 14 priests, a deacon and a lay parochial school teacher. The complaints cover a 25-year period that crested in the mid-1980's.

NY Times: Link requires registration.

Monday, May 27

Comment system has been installed. I hope it works.

I still welcome your emails, particularly if they contain questions, but if you have a general opinion on a post or link that you want the world to see, please use the comment function.

A reader disagrees with a reader:

I read Michael O'Brien's essay and did not find it 'smarmy' or 'self-congratulatory'. Although I've read three of O'Brien's novels, I'm not a particular fan of his. ..Nonetheless, I found his essay to be a moving and honest account of a real encounter with evil.

Over the next couple of days I think I will follow the Cranky Professor's lead and install a comment system. I love you peoples' email, but it's beginning to wear me out. Maybe a comment system would be more efficient for all of us, although if y'all get out of hand, I'll pull the plug, I promise. Be nice.

Hmm... A reader, who is also a writer, takes strong issue:

I'm surprised that you were impressed by Michael O'Brien's smarmy
self-congratulatory essay. "Look at me! I'm so special! I had heaven's protection to stay safe unlike those OTHER boys who didn't pray or attend
daily Mass." Overlooks lethal clericalism in his analysis.


I didn't see the essay as self-congratulatory. I saw it as the result of decades of struggling with the question of why he didn't get drawn into the trap, and his conclusions have nothing to do with him, and everything to do with others - his family and the one other student who seemed to hold out some understanding.

You really must read this fine, fine essay by novelist Michael O'Brien on Victims, Scandals, Truth, Compassion? An author reflects on his own childhood encounter with abuse. It's part of a special issue of Catholic World Report devoted to The Situation. It's far more interesting than U.S. Catholic's special issue on the same topic.
Can a church go broke? Time looks at how the Church is rushing to protect its assets:

Practically every Catholic institution in the U.S. is searching for ways to protect itself financially. The Boston archdiocese, for instance, is considering a complete reorganization of its corporate structure to protect against future liability. One possibility would be for it to hold all its real estate in trust for its parishes, which would make it even more difficult for new claimants to squeeze much money out of the archdiocese for priests' misdeeds

Sunday, May 26

Photos from our trip to the zoo here.
World's tiniest baby goes home. Weighed 10 ounces at birth (at 27 weeks gestation), was up to 4.4 pounds after three months.
Wicked, wicked. Wicked funny, that is.

Don't read if you're into being all positive and everything, and don't say I didn't warn you.

A Pastoral Letter: This piece came in "over the transom" and is rumored to have been written by the most poisonous clerical pen in the English-speaking world.

Hey! Guess who else was at the zoo?

Try everyone else in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Seriously. We arrived at 11 am, and the parking lot was full. People were parking on the grass. But once inside, it didn't seem all that crowded. The place is expansive enough to accommodate a lot of people, I guess.

It's a nice little zoo, although I was always hold the Knoxville Zoo in first place in my affections. Joseph was moderately interested. Stared at peacocks, monkeys, kangaroos and warthogs. Was indifferent to giant tortoises, giraffes (too far away) and zebras (same). He was most taken, as you might expect, with the goats in the petting zoo. Taken isn't the word. Highly entertained and fascinated would be more like it. I have some cute pictures of those encounters which I'm in the process of uploading. They're particularly appropriate since he's wearing his overalls and looks like a regular Farmer Joe.

In this farm exhibit, they have this surprising little area in which you can pick up and baby chicks. Surprising because I thought that surely as much holding as those chicks get during the day can't be good for them. But there they are, in this big box in a shed, unsupervised by any zoo personnel. That, in fact, provided our only scary moment. Katie brought a chick over for Joseph to touch. He reached out and tried to grab it - by the head.

Now he's crashed on the couch, David apparently gave up on his big work plans while I was gone and is at the golf course, Michael went to buy chicken wings (race is about to start) and I'm going to try to knock off most of the next parables chapter. Hah.

Good Morning and a blessed Trinity Sunday to you.

Don't look for much, if any blogging today until this evening. I think we're about to head out to the zoo (went to Mass last night, okay?) - "we" being Katie, Joseph and I. The two men are working - David's last day of school is this Friday, and he has a couple of papers, a couple of projects and several exams over the next few days. Today he's got to do something for chemistry, write a paper on the Jackson State Incident and start another paper comparing characters from Chronicle of a Death Foretold with characters from some other book. Michael's working on a book all day. I'm a little stir crazy, and a trip to the grocery story just won't fix that today, so to the zoo we go. Back later, maybe with some pictures, too.

Pope visits Bulgarian monastery ; health seems to deteriorate by the minute:

The Vatican has confirmed that the pope will visit Canada, Mexico and Guatemala in July and his native Poland in August. As if to end speculation that John Paul might decide to retire while in Poland and remain in his homeland, the Vatican said he will go to Croatia in September for a beatification.

"The condition of the pope is visible to all," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. "He will continue to travel within these limitations. The pope notes the big show of affection wherever he goes, and this encourages him."

However, one of the Orthodox churchmen who welcomed John Paul expressed alarm at his condition. Metropolitan Simeon praised the pontiff's mission and goals but said: "I think people around him should tell him he has to stop. He is suffering like Christ."

Wrenching. Heartbreaking. But on this Memorial Day weekend in particular, it's important to remember. The New York Times pulls together accounts of final telephone calls and emails to produce an terrible view from inside the World Trade Center on September 11.

Saturday, May 25

Go read Tim Blair on the story of Nancy Crick, the Australian woman whose desire for suicide in the face of illness became a celebrated cause among euthenasia - philes. And read through to the end of the post.
More thoughts on Goodbye Good Men from a St. Blog's seminarian.
Disgraces: A Parable by Archbishop Rembert Weakland.

Read and enjoy. Or be puzzled.

A Statement from Bishop Sklba, acting bishop of Milwaukee:

Make your own judgments. Here's the Archdiocesan website.

Sometimes families have moments of enormous joy, and sometimes they experience terrible numbing heartaches beyond description. The times of happiness become the most cherished and treasured of memories. Special weddings and anniversaries and great personal accomplishments, for example, or splendid new beginnings continue to shine like luminous gems in the minds of family members. Their mere recollection can reunite later generations in laughter or pride year after year. Like valuable heirlooms, these joys are passed on across the years and in the process become beautifully polished treasures. We have known all those realities in recent months as we celebrated the remarkable accomplishments of the Archbishop, and we dare not forget them if we are a people of genuine gratitude.

Seasons of sadness also come to every family at some time in their journey together through life. Tragic deaths, profound disappointments, losses and sorrows of all kinds are likewise part of human existence. The recent and sudden report has occasioned a deep sense of personal grief for the Archbishop as well as for ourselves. Experience teaches us to be wary of first impressions or quick conclusions and suggests that we leave ample space for the care and the benefit of the doubt we instinctively feel for someone we have come to know and love so deeply.

To be a family is to pull together with deep respect for the inherent dignity of each person and mutual care for the wounded weaknesses we all bear. This may be especially important when we are disappointed by the actions of those we love.

To be a family of faith is to recognize that God alone is the true source of all unity and that God's healing mercy and truth are always with us.

We know from our own experience of family heartaches that sad and difficult times can also become opportunities for coming together in mutual care and common support. People unite in their search for renewed strength and reclaimed purpose. They become one in their rediscovery of the power of God in their midst.

We make our own the joys and sorrows of those we love. We are never alone in our pilgrimage through life because others help carry our burdens and walk with us in our triumphs. Husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters all share each other's successes and failures. Over the years both are woven together into a single fabric of human existence. Both are at the core of every family and every bond of friendship, and central to both success and failure is the presence of a loving God who alone and ultimately makes all things right.

Moreover, the God of Holy Week's painful confusion is also the God of Easter's victory over sin and death, and likewise the God of all the lavish gifts of Pentecost. Still, no one enters heaven without their scars and wounds. The longer we live, the more obvious is that truth. Those wounds don't go away, but rather they become occasions for God's healing grace at the very core of everything that makes us a family of faith. The shining golden nails in the corpus of the Cathedral's new central masterpiece is a stunning reminder of that perennial truth.

We are a people of faith, for we know without the faintest shadow of doubt that our healing God is with us all, sustaining us especially in our wounded weakness and holding our hands as we cross dangerous paths.

We are also a people of hope, for our God is not only with us during our journeys, but eventually welcomes us home with open arms and festivity whenever we arrive.

The one thing we absolutely owe each other is the charity (Rom 13:8) that lifts up the truth without sacrificing either compassion or kindness. As Paul said so clearly to his friends in Corinth, especially when singing the praises of true charity (I Cor 13:13), "Faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Therefore we enter this new moment "living the truth in love" (Eph 4:15) and remembering Archbishop Weakland with the respect and love he has earned from his dedicated public service in our midst for the past quarter of a century.

Um...maybe Cardinal George should have a chat with this guy.

Archdiocese of Miami buys $582,000 house for a pastor.

Loyal parishioners at St. Richard Catholic Church in Palmetto Bay have stumbled upon a rattling truth between the lines of the Sunday homilies, in the familiar, hand-to-hand rituals of tithing and togetherness, in the sometimes startling words uttered outside the confessionals.

They found out the Archdiocese of Miami, which oversees their parish, has purchased a $582,000 home for their pastor. And, understandably, many are outraged at the idea. In a Herald story last week, they pointed out the boggling ironies:

• The priest who will live in this house is the same priest who suspended tutoring sessions for foster children to keep the electric bill down -- it's too expensive to run the A/C for the kids.

• He is the penny-pinching pastor who skimps on church repairs and claims there are no funds to fix the old, broken sprinklers.

And yet this pastor, the Rev. Stephen Hilley, has come into some fine new digs. The archdiocese bought him a 3,935-square-foot house in the walled-in community of Pine Bay Estates South. That's more than three square feet per family -- Father Hilley presides over more than 1,300 families. He'll have four bedrooms, 3 ½ baths, and a pool.

What an outrage. I think someone misunderstood the Gospel down there in Miami. It's "In my Father's house there are many rooms" not " Father's house should have many rooms," okay?

The difficulties faced in doing something about a suspicious priest
Top fundraising priest in NY suspended:

As vicar for development, Monsignor Kavanagh is one of the archdiocese's most powerful clerics. He was involved in the planning for the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner, a prestigious gala that has drawn politicians up to and including campaigning presidential candidates, several archdiocese officials said. He also oversees the annual Cardinal's Appeal fund-raising drive, which is currently under way, and has worked closely with Cardinal Edward M. Egan. At the same time, he has presided over St. Raymond's, which has a school noted nationwide for its basketball program.

The charge that led to the suspension was made by a man who said he had a relationship with Monsignor Kavanagh as a student at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, once the archdiocese's main high school for young men headed for the priesthood, said the archdiocese's spokesman, Joseph Zwilling. Monsignor Kavanagh, who turns 65 on Monday, was rector of the seminary from 1977 to 1985. He was assigned to St. Raymond's in 1988 and was named vicar for development in 1994

On one of the cable news networks this evening, a story about the FBI agent who issued a memo critiquing the agency's handling of the Moussaoui case identified her, right off the bat, as a "mother of four."

Huh? When's the last time you ever heard a male professional involved in a news story as a "father of four" or two or one or seven?

Friday, May 24

From a priest re/Goodbye Good Men

1. Because of the extreme pressures present in formation to conform and go along, it’s going to be impossible to get anything like a scientific study of Rose’s conclusions. The anecdotal approach is probably the best one can hope for.

2. The seminary where I taught had a preoccupation with the “product at the end of the pipeline.” When I asked at a faculty meeting (my second one in my tenure) whether we might allow the young men to be called individuals instead of products, I got a blank stare from the formation director. The conformation fix was in, and the students demonstrated it in a thousand little ways. A new seminary administration (including the unceremonious firing of the previous formation director) did away with this pipeline expectation in favor of formation interviews that were not ambushes designed to intimidate. We learned a lot more about these guys and what they needed to be effective priests after that.

3. Near the end of my time there, a new auxiliary bishop (a priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago) visited the seminary to lunch with the faculty and ask us questions about the students (his real purpose was to tell us he knew as much as we did and he demonstrated that elusive fact by telling us 17 times in one ten minute oration that he had taught at Harvard for a year). He was concerned with the overwhelmingly conservative stance of the incoming seminarians (uncomprehending orthodoxy he called it), and he wanted to know what we were going to do about it (this man also, in a deanery meeting I attended as a parish pastor some months before asked all of us whether we bought the National Catholic Reporter for our parishioners, and seemed extremely disappointed when we said no). Since I was adjunct faculty (and therefore expendable), I pointed out that we had five years of the program to deal with the rough edges and I thought the young men were, for the most part, very dedicated to the pursuit of their vocations and very much loved the church. This man came to visit my parish not too long after this meeting, picked a fight with me about drinking water before Mass, and totally alienated my folks. He now has his own diocese down south.

4.I think Michael Rose has used older incidents to maximum effect, and the blanket indictment of the seminary system is, perhaps, too harsh for this time; however, the Zero-Tolerance Bishop of Belleville, Wilton Gregory, has first-hand information about my seminary in a previous time-many of his arrested molesters graduated from my seminary in the ‘80’s. None of this made it into Rose’s book.

5. Moral of the Story-I don’t think there was any nation-wide conspiracy to exclude orthodox seminarians; I think the Left and its fellow travelers react in lock-step because that’s the way they are (they’re not democratic, they’re fascists); the force necessary to enforce ideology is the force that’s used, and victim groups (i.e., gays and dissidents) get special treatment. Michael’s book isn’t complete, and sometimes, probably not fair, but it opens a door to a scene that is incredibly troubling and some problems that need to be visited now, in the midst of our travails. I know and understand your and Michael’s (your husband) views on gays in the priesthood. I still maintain that when you get a bunch of these boys together, it’s not seminary, it’s summer camp. And, since I was told by my own archbishop (who was NCCB president at the time) shortly before he ordained me, that I was lucky I came in as convert clergy because, with my theology I’d never have made it through the seminary the regular way, I think Rose probably also has a point on the theology end of his argument.

In case you missed it back in March, here's my husband's take on the book.

And then here are some more thoughts from a recently-ordained priest with a brand new blog.

Excellent piece from Slate on the attitudes of congregations towards their wayward priests.

...Yet after mass on the Sunday the story came out, several of Father Mark's parishioners told a reporter for the Courier that they were standing by him, too. "We love Father Mark,'' one man said. "It's too bad it gets so much publicity,'' said another.

"Father Mark is not only my priest, but my friend,'' said a third parishioner, Donna Maurer. "He always has time for you.''

It wasn't that Ms. Maurer doubted the charges. Still, she, too, called the attention they were getting "very unfortunate." She explained, "There are a lot of murderers who get more respect than these priests. I understand their victims do have rights, but I don't feel like Father Mark should be condemned.''

This kind of reaction isn't unusual. On the same day, in nearby Celestine, Ind., the Rev. Michael Allen stood before his congregation and confirmed the newspaper's account that he, too, had had sexual contact with a teen-age boy years earlier—a relationship that started when the boy was hospitalized for depression following the death of his father. The priest received a long standing-ovation.

When the Rev Michael Pecharich was recently removed from San Francisco Solano Church in Orange County, Calif., some even spoke of naming the new parish center after him.

In Lowell, Mass., those loyal to the Rev. D. George Spagnolia, who was removed from ministry pending an investigation into past abuse allegations, began wearing purple ribbons to show their solidarity. "People here are all for Father,'' one woman tearfully told the Boston Herald. "Father married my daughter. He baptized my grandson. He's done nothing but good for the people around here.''

As it happens, however, the first priest of whom the writer speaks is the same priest in question in the article I blogged below about the Bishop's Listening Session. Those folks don't sound too forgiving in that particular article.

Here's my review of Michael Rose's Goodbye! Good Men and Ugly as Sin. For another perspective, similar to mine, but offered in much more depth, see the May issue of Culture Wars - not available online, but I guess you could get you a copy somehow. The review is by Fr. Robert Johansen, who was ordained last year. Here's an excerpt, "printed" with his permission:

I know both from personal experience and that of many other priests and seminarians that many of Rose’s allegations are true. But Rose’s tendency to play fast and loose with facts, to use dubious sources, and to stick to stories which have been shown false undermines his credibility. This is unfortunate, as it only serves to obscure discussion of the real remaining weaknesses in American seminaries.

Furthermore, Rose’s method is in itself potentially misleading. Most of the stories Rose relates date to the 1970’s and 80’s, in many cases twenty or more years ago. But Rose’s relentless style might easily lead readers into believing that these stories are representative of what is going on in most seminaries today. Even the secular press, such as the New York Times, has published articles marveling at the devout and loyal atmosphere prevailing in many American seminaries, and the devotion and orthodoxy of most seminarians today. If a book like GoodBye! Good Men had been written ten years ago, it would have been timely, provocative, and maybe even prophetic. But why, at a time when many people acknowledge that things are improving, does Rose choose now to bring out his catalogue of horrors from the past?

In fairness to Rose, he does point out in the later chapters of his book that there are signs of encouragement in American seminaries, but this admission is confined to just three or four institutions. That hardly balances out the overwhelmingly depressing portrait that he paints. If one could be confident about the accuracy of that portrait that would be one thing, but Rose’s questionable methods and his manipulative technique cast a pall of doubt over his account. The fact is that the grip of the “progressives” in American seminaries has loosened considerably since the nadir of the 80’s. In most seminaries today, men of outspoken loyalty to the Church and deep devotion, who might have been turned away fifteen years ago, are welcomed and find encouragement. Even places notorious for scandal and dissent in the 80’s have seen the return of traditional devotions such as Eucharistic adoration.

This is not to say that American seminaries have turned the corner, or that everything is OK. Many weaknesses still exist, and priestly formation is not all it could and should be. Most American seminaries, although making an honest effort, do not come close to living up to the norms and standards set by the Church. It is even possible that some of the same people responsible for the abuses catalogued in GoodBye! Good Men are still occupying positions of power in some seminaries. But there have been enormous improvements in seminaries across the country in the last decade. Seminaries such as Kenrick-Glennon in St. Louis and Sacred Heart in Detroit have shown remarkable development in the last decade, and now enjoy the confidence of bishops known for their orthodoxy.

GoodBye! Good Men is in many ways an unfortunate book. It is unfortunate because the story of the problems in American seminaries needed to be told, but it needed to be told with scrupulous concern for accuracy and truth. It needed to be told in such a way as to elicit more than righteous indignation from the faithful. It also needed to be told with more nuance and penetration. It is also unfortunate because Rose’s failure to make distinctions will actually distract attention from the real remaining problems in American seminaries. Rose’s credibility problems and his relative lack of analysis do little to shed light on what may be done to strengthen our seminary system. Only in the last two chapters does he have anything to say about what factors come together to make a good seminary. Goodbye! Good Men may create a great deal of controversy, but I fear that ultimately it will do little to serve the Good.

By the way, Johansen's specific questions about matters of fact and accuracy are, indeed, spelled out in the review. Interesting reading.

From the American Prowler: A pro-life leftist from Ohio and musings about the long-ago era when there was actually debate about abortion on the Left.
Catholics taking over Raleigh.
Coming later (I hope - after Katie gets home and can watch Prince Joseph for a bit) - my review of Good-bye Good Men with some quotes from another review sent to me by a priest who takes serious issue with Rose's methodology and some of his claims. Like me.
Mark at Ad Orientem offers some thoughts on the Boston Archdiocesan paper's recent commentary on its Boss.
From a reader:

How ironic is Steinfels’ endorsement of the archbishop’s efforts to “ease the polarization in the Catholic church.” I can’t think of anyone who has given more aid and comfort to those who would just as soon identify church and culture than Rembert Weakland. Maybe these revelations, and the lengths to which he would go (financially and morally) to stifle them give us a further insight into his character. His willingness to, not just tolerate, but celebrate the gradual destruction of Catholic morality (not to mention his own cathedral) seems to be seated in the same area of his character as his libido. Yeah, he’s “a free person,” but not anymore. The Holy Father’s right: the exercise of freedom in a merely autonomous manner is enslaving, and this relationship, with its radioactive financial and personal fallout, will hang like a millstone around the neck of his so-called legacy. My prayers are with him, but more so for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee; the folks there have suffered long and hard for the dalliance of their leader with the toxicity of the moral aspects of modern American culture. The post-war generation’s “We Know Better Now” arrogance claims another victim.

Now for something specific:

A priest in Michigan has written with the following proposal. I think it's excellent, and encourage any of you to agree to communicate this idea to your own pastors and bishops and to anyone involved in Catholic communications that could help spread the word.

From Fr. Robert Johansen:

I am currently organizing what I am tentatively calling a "Prayer Vigil for Holiness" here at St. Joseph parish to coincide with the Bishops'
meeting in Dallas June 13-15. My pastor, Msgr. Eugene Sears, has approved it, and I have submitted a proposal to my Bishop, James Murray of Kalamazoo, asking
for his support and to encourage other parishes within my diocese to schedule a similar event. Now I'm trying to spread the word to priests and concerned Catholics across the country, to do something similar.

The idea is this: two nights of prayer for our bishops and the Church in this country while
the bishops are meeting to discuss the clergy abuse scandal and adopt measures to repair the damage. I am adopting several prayer intentions in general
for the Vigil:

1. For the bishops themselves, that in their meeting they will be open to the Holy Spirit’s call to zeal and holiness, and that they will address the scandal and issues it has raised with courage, prudence, and fidelity to Catholic teaching.

2. That our bishops would be emboldened to act courageously as shepherds and speak out prophetically in defense of chastity and purity, in the face of a
culture that belittles them.

3. For the victims of abuse, that they know that Christ suffers with them, and that the Church reaches out to them with compassion and love, and that they
might be healed of the injury and pain that they have experienced.

4. For those who have committed acts of abuse, and for those who have enabled or tacitly condoned abuse through neglect, inattention, or complicity:
that they might be moved to true contrition and repentance, and offer acts of penance and reparation for those they have injured.

5. For priests, for their encouragement in this time of difficulty, that they live as counter-cultural signs of God’s salvation given to us in Christ. That
they might live in ever greater fidelity to the teaching of the Church and their own vows.

6. That God would inspire young men of zeal and holiness to follow Christ in the priesthood, and that those men will be open to hearing the call and
respond generously.

7. For Catholics everywhere, that they will support their priests and bishops when they speak in defense of Catholic teaching, and boldly live out
that teaching themselves. That all Catholics would rededicate themselves to strive for the virtues of purity and chastity.

At our parish I am planning for the Vigil to go on over two nights, the first being Wednesday June 12 (the night before the meeting starts), opening
with Mass, and continuing till 11:00 or midnight with Exposition, Eucharistic adoration, perhaps the rosary, and a guided meditation. The second night
(Thursday, June 13) will begin with Solemn Vespers, continue with Exposition and Adoration, the rosary, and end with Benediction.

The purpose is twofold: to pray for our Church and our shepherds, and to provide an opportunity for Catholics to stand behind the Church’s teachings on
sexual morality, the nature of the priesthood, and the necessity for individual striving for holiness. The bishops need to know that there are plenty of Catholics who will stand behind them when they have to say and do difficult but necessary things in response to the crisis brought about by them failure of some of our priests and shepherds.

No gloating here.

As the Weakland Turns fills me with no great joy. How could it? It's awful, all around. I can only pray that the people of the Milwaukee Archdiocese who hold their leader up as some kind of hero for his "maverick" ways can see the connection here:

An archbishop who sees the Church as something to be remade in whatever image he deems most fitting - both figuratively and literally - uses the resources of the Church for his own end.

Do you see? In the end, it shouldn't be surprising that an archbishop who sees the church in his archdiocese as clay to be molded according to his own vision would also see it as a bank account to be used to cover his own sins. If an archbishop decides he can make his own rules..well then, he's going to make his own rules. And surprise, surprise, what we have at the end is what we always have when individual power trumps all: an inability to draw any lines at all and the ascendancy of personal power over objective standards.

Moving beyond Weakland, I've been thinking this morning about What Can Be Done. The issue of the misuse of power by our episcopacy is an age-old one. We're human beings living and believing within a human-run church, so it will always be a problem, but that doesn't mean we should do all we can in the present time to hope that more of our bishops would start seriously listening to what Jesus says about religious leadership. This morning's solutions, some totally serious, others probably crazy:

Pray. Of course. There's a very good idea floating around for specific, focused prayer that I'll post on later but that you can already read about at my husband's blog.

Encourage your "good" bishops to be strong and, if necessary, break ranks, speak out, and work for real action. Write. Email. Call. Thank your bishop for his service and encourage him to remember that maintaining the brotherhood of bishops is far less important than serving the people of God. When the former threatens the latter, ranks must be broken and risks must be taken.

Vote with your wallet. We've discussed this before, but I maintain that if you live in a diocese that's engaging in suspicious activities or is acting immorally in this regard, don't give your money to the diocese. Just don't do it. Give it directly to the causes the diocese says that its funds support, but keep the chancery's hands away from your money.

This is something that is way beyond our power as laity, but how's this for an idea: all bishops must be at least 70 years old. I mean it. That way, they don't have time to build up kingdoms, they have little at stake in terms of concerns about future promotions so they might be a little bolder in their decision-making when need be, they're generally wiser, and...they'll be out of there in five years or so.

Excellent piece by Russell Shaw on Catholic Exchange today about the threat of the Church's moral authority eroding because of The Situation.

His answer? It doesn't have to - if lay people would just live their faith consistently and in every aspect of life:

The Catholic Church similarly could recover moral authority eroded by the scandal, but the longterm trends aren’t encouraging even so. Nor will they be unless and until an essential condition for turning things around is met: Loyal Catholic lay people must do what they should have been done all along and shoulder responsibility for being "the Church" in the public arena as their special share in its mission.

It’s hardly a new idea. "What the soul is in the body, that the Christians are in the world," declared the Epistle to Diognetus, a famous piece of Christian apologetics composed around the year 200 A.D.

Thanks to a reader for getting the news that EWTN will, indeed, be offering gavel-to-gavel coveraage of the Bishop's meeting in June. From an email she received from EWTN:

am not sure if I already answered your message. We will be airing
gavel to gavel coverage of the Bishop's Conference in June. We just received this information. We do not have the times yet, but it appears that it will take
place June 12-15th. Please check back with us for more information. God bless.

Dreher on Weakland:

Marcoux, who exploited his relationship with Weakland to rob the Catholic people of Milwaukee of nearly half a million dollars, doesn't deserve pity. Neither does the archbishop, who was willing to throw Marcoux nearly half a million dollars of money that didn't belong to him — all in an effort to maintain his reputation.

What would $450,000 have bought? How about raises for underpaid Catholic-school teachers in Milwaukee? Or coats for the homeless to keep them warm in the icy Wisconsin winter? Or hot meals for the hungry at soup kitchens, or medical treatment for the poor, or scholarships for underprivileged kids, or retirement care for priests and nuns who served the Catholic people of that archdiocese faithfully and without complaint? Instead, the Archbishop of Milwaukee invested it in a cover-up.

It is especially galling when you consider the case of Fr. William Effinger, who died in prison several years ago, where he was sent for sexually assaulting a child. Weakland knew Effinger was a serial pederast, yet reassigned him from parish to parish. After Effinger went to jail in 1993, the boy he molested sued the archdiocese, but the suit was thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired. Weakland directed his lawyers to countersue the boy's family, and the archdiocese thereby recovered $4,000 in court costs from the victim.

An interesting article from the WSJ about Patrick Henry College which, as you may recall, is a small college in Virginia established to meet the needs and desires of homeschoolers, in particular. The college was recently denied accreditaion by the American Academy of Liberal Education, a traditionally-minded accreditation group.

The writer makes clear why:

The AALE did not name Patrick Henry's religious identity as the reason for its decision. Rather, Patrick Henry had not complied with two essential criteria. By insisting that its faculty teach only a strict creationist doctrine and by requiring that students and teachers sign a profession of faith, the school had failed to ensure that "liberty of thought and freedom of speech are supported and protected." Relatedly, the school was not providing a "basic knowledge" of the biological sciences.

Of the five evangelical colleges I have visited in the past year, four teach evolution along with creationism and "intelligent design," encouraging their students to think critically about each theory. But Patrick Henry is clearly not prepared to have students take this risky approach--in any discipline.

In each of the (nonscience) classes I attended there, the professors resembled drill instructors: Information was presented along with what the students were obliged to think about it. A class on state and local government culminated in a professorial diatribe against governmental regulation. Not that I disagreed! But there was something so heavy-handed and anti-intellectual about the whole approach that it was easy to understand why the AALE arrived at its decision.

...The professors resembled drill instructors...maybe that's why homeschoolers do so well in spelling and geography bees?

Hold the email - it was a joke.

Of course, the place to go for all of your Weakland news would be the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, including a profile of his accuser.
Here's an article from the AP containing a handy list of bishops recently accused of sexual sins. Keep it in your wallet.
Boston Globe praises Cardinal George, says he "gets it."
NY Times article on Weakland explains how The Letter came to light - sort of.

The letter was given to news outlets by Peter Isley, a sexual abuse victim and a vocal critic of Archbishop Weakland.

Mr Isley, the Milwaukee representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that he had never met or spoken with Mr. Marcoux and that the letter had been delivered to his house anonymously. He would not say when he received the letter.

"I took it as a kind of insurance, in case they came after me," Mr. Isley said. "This is yet another piece of evidence in a pattern of behavior and action documented for over 15 years that Archbishop Weakland and many other bishops have been thoroughly compromised on the issue of sexual abuse and misconduct."

And then, in another NY Times article, reactions from Milwaukee Catholics:

Can you believe this is happening?" asked the Rev. Jeff Thielen, 53, the pastor of St. Lucy Catholic Church in Racine. "I think all the bishops should quit. They should all quit and be replaced. The hurting has to stop. Someone's got to do better by all of the victims.

"I've been a priest since 1974. I almost wish I wasn't a priest. How can people stay Catholic in the face of this? It's unending."

Father Thielen, who happened to be at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on routine business today, termed the matter a catastrophe for the church.

"You think of that money, $450,000, and they're closing schools, and there's homeless people on the street, and people aren't getting enough to eat," Father Thielen said. "How can you justify that? I just could cry."

Father Thielen wondered whether the accusations might explain Archbishop Weakland's response to claims of misconduct against other priests.

"Priests were transferred to other parishes and little kids got hurt that shouldn't have got hurt," Father Thielen said.. "He never should have done that.

"I was talking to one of the other pastors the other day, and he said that things aren't going to change until they start putting bishops in jail. That's what the priests are starting to think."


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