Wednesday, July 31

Here's an account of today's canonization Mass.

<Here's a photo of indigenous dancers in front of the Pope and here's another.

I watched the Mass off and on, with a trip to Sam's Warehouse somewhere in the middle. Watched in on EWTN, Univision and Galavision to get the whole experience. The nicest moment, I thought, was after the declaration of canonization, rose petals were dropped and showered down on the congregation from the ceiling.

Millenials supposedly more spiritual than their boomer parents.

For a deeper look, you might be interested in this book, forthcoming in September from Loyola Press:

The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy

I didn't know that there'd been a dust-up about the Democratic National Committee listing Faux-Catholics for No-Choice on the party website as a "website of interest" under the "Catholic" category. The Catholic League has spoken up on the matter.

Here's the page in question. I'm sure if you look, you can find an email address to which to direct your objections, as well.

And, we're moved to ask, why does the DNC offer a special category of "Catholic" links anyway? There's also a slew of "Jewish American" links, but no general "religion" links or "Protestant" links. Why would the DNC feel the need to do this? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Before they added the other link, CFFC was the only "Catholic" link on the list. Get your stray curious Catholic on the website, point him or her towards CFFC. A nice service, brought to you by the Democratic party.

From Newsday: An article about a molesting priest and the nice letter he got from his bishop

After finishing six months of psychiatric treatment in the wake of a complaint that he sexually abused a 10-year-old altar boy, the Rev. Andrew Millar returned to Long Island in 1999 and told the Diocese of Rockville Centre he wanted to retire.Writing in response, then-Bishop John McGann thanked Millar for his 41 years of "priestly goodness" and said he was pleased Millar had agreed to reside in a parish in Manorville where he could assist a pastor who was going on a sabbatical. Eight months later, Millar was arrested at Tobay Beach for sodomizing a 15-year-old Great Neck boy who is learning disabled. He later pleaded guilty.McGann's Sept. 1, 1999 letter, which has come to light in a civil lawsuit against the diocese, does not mention any sexual abuse concerns about Millar. The bishop did note that he hoped the diocesan retirement benefits would allow Millar "to live the ongoing years of your priesthood in the dignity and respect to which you are entitled."

Well, I've felt neither smart nor sassy today, obviously. I think my two hours of super-early work took it out of me. Not much stamina here, I guess. And I still have a manuscript to proof before tomorrow.

Well, other bloggers are doing just fine without me, filling the 'sphere with wit, wisdom and justly dished-out scorn. The comments section on the Sects in Guatemala post has produced some interesting reading as well.

Light blogging so far. I had an article to write, which I did - the baby slept extra late this morning, so I had no choice but to take advantage of his lethargy and use that time for work. And now I have other stuff to do, so...later!

BTW - the nap pictures are victims of limited bandwidth at Earthlink. They will be back up tomorrow.

Today is the feast of Ignatius of Loyola.

Here's a link to basic infomation and more links.

Take a gander at the not-exactly-ecumenical language in this article from Zenit about the Church in Guatemala

Brother Pedro de San José de Betancur's canonization could give a boost to the Church in Guatemala, a country overrun with non-Catholic sects. According to some experts, over the past 30 years, Protestant groups and assorted religious sects have succeeded in attracting 30% of the population.

An interesting article, anyway.

Tuesday, July 30

Pope canonizes Brother Pedro

Scads of photos of the Mass here including this one of the Holy Father under a huge painting of Brother Pedro and this long shot of the Mass, which was held at a racetrack.

I particularly liked this detail noted in the article:

As the pope officially pronounced Pedro de San Jose Betancur a saint, a young man rang a bell Betancur once used to collect for the poor.

A very interesting column by Marvin Olasky on school choice in Canada

Let me emphasize this: Canadian school choice has helped all students, and particularly the poor. The correlation between socioeconomic status and school achievement has dropped in provinces that fund independent schools. This result suggests that school choice contributes to the pursuit of educational equity rather than takes away from it. Educational choice has gone the furthest here in the province of Alberta, which instituted it in the 1960s. Independent schools now receive per-student about 60 percent of what public schools spend; special needs students receive 100 percent of what the government would spend on a similar child in a public school. Home-schooling families receive about one-sixth of the public school costs. Fears that government would dictate to Christian schools have diminished over the years.

It was Uganda, not Nigeria. For more links to the country's approach to fighting AIDS, see the comments on the post below, as well as Fool's Folly
Excellent piece from NRO about the recent AIDS conference and the establishment's willful blindness to the reality. Reality being the failure of the safe-sex mantra. Also:

Perhaps the most telling evidence of this cultural and sexual agenda is the fact that the Catholic Church, which has official status at the United Nations, was not invited to attend the conference. The Church was barred from the event even though the U.N. acknowledges that it cares for over one-quarter of all the world's AIDS patients. Conference organizers decided to ignore the knowledge garnered through these treatment programs, however, because they knew that the Vatican would mention other things as well. "We do not understand why the Vatican was not invited," said Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán. He added that U.N. officials "have been saying the same thing [about condoms] constantly for the past dozen years," despite the fact that the safe-sex message has led to "no visible results." In fact, "the number of AIDS victims is rising." Perhaps it was for fear of heresies like these that Barragán was not invited.

By the way, some of you might remember that a couple of months ago, I blogged about a New Republic piece on the anti-AIDS effort in one African country - I think it was Nigeria, but I'm not sure, so don't quote me - which focused on abstinence and monogamy. It's working. No one talks about it. Are condom manufacturers in charge of the world or something? Does anyone know?

The bishop's board meets today. This article from the Post outlines the various objections to the membership - except those offered by critics of the pro-abortion figures on the board. Figures.
The Holy Father is in Guatemala today, canonizing Brother Pedro de San Jose Becantur. Here's some information on Brother Pedro
Tim Drake has some WYD observations up.
Diocese of Springfield, Mass defends its continuing financial support of an abusing priest, saying canon law won't let them do anything else.
From Canada's National Post: a story on the shape of Catholic Church buildings after Vatican II.
Jonathon Last on the upcoming, eagerly awating Godless March on Washington

Hopping around their web world, one quickly gets the impression that there are two basic types of atheist. The first is the sincere, scholarly atheist, the type who walked away from the Unitarians when they got too evangelical. The Maine Atheists Union typifies this bunch. They want to "think freely" and "live free," and one of their main precepts reads: "Nobody has all of the answers and nobody ever will. Take the time to get as close as possible to the truth." The other group is like Orwell's embittered specimen from "Down and Out in Paris and London," "the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him." These shrill types can be found in places like MSN's God is a Lie! chat community and, of all places, high school.

Monday, July 29

Rumble at the Holy Sepulchre:

Monks fight it out over rooftop territory.

The rooftop compound of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre bore scars of conflict on Monday after Egyptian Coptic and Ethiopian monks traded blows over a chair at the traditional site of the crucifixion of Jesus. About 11 monks were taken to hospital after clerics from the rival sects that jealously share the courtyard on the roof of the Jerusalem shrine threw rocks, metal rods and chairs at each other in the latest chapter of a centuries-old dispute.

More information on the NJ priests arrested in Montreal
23 youth defect during WYD
A commentor on a post below tells us to lighten up on Andrew Sullivan. Well, for the record, I've never been a Sullivan basher. I've taken apart a couple of his statements on sexuality, but with respect, because I do respect him. I've given him due credit as an often perceptive observer of the Catholic scene (a marvelous cover piece by him in TNR years ago on that subject first brought him to my attention.) So I don't think that asking why this very public Catholic hasn't commented on the pope's visit is "Sullivan-bashing." It's a legitimate question. I'm legitimately interested.
A reader has asked what I thought of last night's Sex in the City.

Heavy Sigh.

It was so dumb, dumber than usual, and so ill-informed...

See, Miranda's this chick who's a lawyer. Last season, she had ...uh..mercy sex with her ex-boyfriend Steve the bartender because he'd been diagnosed with testicular cancer, only had one left, and was feeling insecure. So, of course, she got pregnant. Had the baby in the last show of last season, fights over territory with Steve, and in last night's episode, accedes to his request that the baby get baptized, despite her own atheism.

Miranda, Steve and his blowsy mom (in a cameo by Ann Meara) meet with a Catholic priest. The potential humor lay in the fact that Miranda dealt with the baptismal rite like it was a contract up for review, red-lining objectionable points detrimental to her client's interest. I say "potential" because the scene would have been funny if she'd come up against a priest who put her in her place. But no, the priest says nothing and evidently gives in - unheard of, of course, except perhaps in some parishes in Boston, we might assume - supposedly eliminating mentions of "Satan" and so on from the rite because, as Carrie's narration intones, the Catholic Church is as desperate as (I can't remember the exact analogy) a single woman for a date...or something...implying that it will do anything for members in these troubled times.

Coming as it did on the same day a million gathered in Toronto proudly calling themselves "Catholic" and more will probably gather in Mexico and Central America under the same banner, the scene and the comments were not just typical artsy anti-Catholicism. They were just dumb anti-Catholicism. (Oh - is there any other kind? No. Sorry).

I have to say, though, that I found one tiny scene rather moving. Carrie, who is quickly becoming cyncial and bitter about love and the possibility of finding it, is (another ridiculous point) the baby's godmother. As she holds the baby and the water is poured over his head, a bit drips down on her arm. The camera hovers on the water on her arm, then focuses on Carrie's unguarded expression as, once again, her narration intones her surprised hope that perhaps this water might wash away her "unoriginal cynicism."

Three seconds of nice in thirty minutes of insults. Pretty bad ratio, but it also shows some lost potential - when supposed New York sophistication, which evidently results in nothing but unhappiness for four miserable women, is expressed without contrast to anything else meaningful you have a far less interesting show than you would if the same miserable women were offered challenges to their assumptions (which have brought them little but unhappiness) along the way.

I'm also waiting for... the post-Toronto interviews with Garry Wills in which he can continue to assert how unpopular and out of touch John Paul II is. Waiting....waiting.

Update:A commenter comments that he was on CSpan this morning. Anyone else see it? Will it be repeated?

A commencement speech worth reading

A reader sends along this one delivered by Mark Helprin to the graduating class of Hillsdale Academy

Several years ago, I was speaking in a university town in Massachusetts. By some quirk which I hope never to see reproduced, and before I knew what was happening, I found myself debating my entire audience on the subjects of human sacrifice and cannibalism. These well-educated and polite people -- only a few of whom would actually have murdered or eaten one another -- who had sons and daughters, Ph.D.s, and BMWs, were defending the Mayan and Aztec practice of human sacrifice -- that is, in the main, of children -- and the South Sea custom of cannibalism. It wasn't that they were for such things: they weren't. It wasn't that they were not against them: they were. It was that to take the position that human sacrifice and cannibalism are wrong is not only to reject relativism but to place oneself decisively in the ranks of Western Civilization, such a position being one of its characteristic distinctions, and this they would not do. They were ashamed to do so, and they were afraid to do so. My charge to you is that in this, you never be either ashamed or afraid.Civilization is vulnerable not only to munitions, it is vulnerable to cowardice and betrayal.

Thanks to a reader for passing this one on.

Stem Cells grow blood vessels in mice's eyes. And mind you, they're stem cells from adult (mice) blood marrow, not embryos.
Jeff Jacoby asks who the real extremists in the abortion debate are

and

here, Ramesh Ponnuru shows us

A basic, bare-bones account of the WYD Mass
From the Washington Times:A survey of some recent Catholic books, ranging from Garry Wills' tome to Benedict Groeschel's.
More on the Catholic Answers post below: I see from a quick look at the schedule that the subject of the matter of the program has expanded a bit from the time I used to listen to it about three years ago, from the Catholic station in Tampa (which, incidentally does not broadcast the program any longer, I don't think.) It includes many more non-apologetics topics than I remember - movie reviews, interviews with people like Michael Rose, pastoral counseling shows. So yes, I can see why a caution would be necessary.

But I think what struck me, and perhaps others, as odd about this pre-emptive warning is that I've never seen anything like it in relation to any other Catholic-labeled program in this diocese or any other. Not any speech or program led by, let's say, folks veering left-of-center. Not any university or college which calls itself Catholic but hosts, sponsors and pays for all sorts of views spouted by self-proclaimed Catholics, views that won't be found in the Catechism or any corner of Scripture. It just seems that in many dioceses (not all), when it comes to folks who might be called proudly "orthodox" by some or "conservative" by others, warning flags go out, attention is diverted and invitations are rescinded, but others, with the opposite views aren't subject to the same warnings and hedges around their speech. The bishop has the responsibility to be the primary teacher within his diocese. Yup, he sure does. No argument there from me.

I may have missed something, but it seems that after months of ...er..pontificating on the state of the Catholic Church in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals, the NYTimes op-ed page has fallen suddenly silent on matters RC over the past few days. I wonder why? Does the sight of a million people attending Mass somehow present some sort of evidence against their hopeful implications of the impending death of Catholicism?

Another moment of deafening silence, this time from a normally quite talkative corner of the Web:Andrew Sullivan. Hey. Yer Pope was up the road, Andrew. Waddya think?

The text of the Pope's homily on Sunday

The text of his remarks at the Friday vigil

Martin's Roth list o' Christian blogs has been transformed into Blogs4God.

Sunday, July 28

Quite a marvelous piece in praise of the Holy Father from the Globe and Mail. I'll quote a bit of it, but you must read the whole thing:

...in the final act of his life, he has given us an even more remarkable incarnation: the Suffering Pope. Arthritis, various operations and Parkinson's disease have transformed the vigorous man who visited Canada last in 1985 into a shuffling, quivering wreck. Parkinson's freezes the muscles, bends the back, stifles the voice and makes ordinary movements an exhausting battle. The strength of will it must take to travel all this way and then deliver an address to a throng in the summer heat is unimaginable. Yet he does it, and with joy. His disease has made his face, once so expressive, into an impassive mask, but when he faced a roaring crowd of 300,000 on the Toronto waterfront this week, he smiled several times. Those smiles brought tears to many who saw them; he so plainly wanted to be there, spending the last measures of his failing strength to inspire others.

A lovely piece from the WaPo on the Stations of the Cross on Friday in Toronto and the vigil on Saturday.

A massive prayer swept down one of Toronto's busiest streets Friday night, echoing off buildings, as more than 500,000 people whispered Hail Marys in unison and watched a reenactment of the final hours of the life of Christ. "Jesus Christ, you fall under the weight of human sin and you get up again in order to take it upon yourself and cancel it," the crowd chanted. "Give to us, weak men and women, the strength to carry the cross of daily life and to get up again from our falls." Some people knelt on the sidewalks, others gathered in groups, some stood still as they watched the dramatization of the Way of the Cross, which describes the events that led to Jesus's final suffering and death. John Paul II, who was an actor and playwright before he became pope in 1978, wrote the text of this reenactment.

From the Hartford Courant, Jason Berry and Gerald Renner restate the charges against Legion of Christ founder Father Marcial Maciel Degollado and wonder if Maciel will be at the Pope's side in Mexico.

Save your pixels. For equal time, here's Fr. Neuhaus' defense of Maciel from the March First Things. Scroll down to "Feathers of Scandal" to read it.

London monastery deemed a world masterpiece re-opened to public.

Ten years after it was left to vandals and the elements, a Catholic monastery in Manchester opened its doors again yesterday to reveal why its neglect has been one of Britain's architectural tragedies.The colossal Monastery of St Francis was built by Edward Welby Pugin, son of Augustus, the creator of the Houses of Parliament's intricate façade and interior. Marked out by its distinctive green bell turret, it was the spiritual home for its inner-city flock for more than 100 years after its consecration in 1872 at Gorton, east Manchester. But its congregation disappeared with the slum clearances and after the Franciscan friars left in 1989, its redbrick and stone splendour fell into ruin. It was about to be converted into flats, while pews, crucifixes and even doors had been sold by developers, when the World Monuments Fund named it as one of the world's 100 most important endangered buildings five years ago. ...The building is still majestic, despite missing statues and 19th century wall paintings, scrubbed away by volunteers who thought the building needed a good clean.

Bulletin notice of the day:

A local radio station is going to start broadcasting the Catholic Answers Live radio program, the apologetics call-in apostolate of Catholic Answers, naturally. A notice of the broadcast appeared in today's parish bulletin, noting that the Bishop had given permission for the program to air, but also that

...the views of "Catholic Answers Live" do not necessarily reflect the views of the Diocese of Fort-Wayne- South Bend.

I'd be fascinated to find out what those disputed views might be, exactly.

News photos of today's Mass
Next stop: Guatemala
Kathy Shaidle has some good links to WYD commentary over Relapsed Catholic way
Three priests of China's underground church reportedly sent to labor camp.
Pope calls on young to keep hope.

In his homily, he also jokingly referred to his age, saying: "You are young and the pope is old and a bit tired. Being 80 or 82 is not the same as 22 or 23, but he still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations." The pope, who lived through the horrors of World War II, Nazi occupation of his native Poland and later Communist prosecution, told the young people not to be discouraged by life's ups and downs. "Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young. Do not let that hope die."

Next WYD to be in Cologne, Germany
From the Dallas newspaper: (LRR) Diocese of Tulsa did nothing about priest who had been caught in odd situations with boys:

We need to be ultrasafe – to have zero tolerance – in order to protect children," Bishop Edward Slattery told the Tulsa World in March. Privately, however, he was keeping on the job a pastor who had been accused of inappropriate behavior with several boys, sent to a treatment center in 1994 and then moved to new parishes. He kept the Rev. Kenneth Lewis on the job until last weekend, despite new allegations of early-1990s misconduct and the vote by U.S. bishops last month to crack down further on abuse.

Other Catholic news from Canada:

Two New Jersey Catholic priests nabbed for picking up prostitutes in Montreal

- Two New Jersey priests, including the former head of a Catholic high school for boys, were arrested in Montreal on charges of soliciting sex from minors, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark said.
The Rev. William Giblin, 70, and the Rev. Eugene Heyndricks, 60, were caught in a police sting operation Wednesday, archdiocese spokesman James Goodness told The Star-Ledger of Newark in Saturday's editions. The arrests were connected to the breakup of a prostitution ring that employed boys as young as 14. Giblin, ordained in 1959, served as headmaster of Seton Hall Prep, run by the archdiocese, until the 1980s. He retired last year, Goodness said. Heyndricks, ordained in 1981, served until this week at St. John Nepomucene in Guttenberg, a post he held since November 2001


Saturday, July 27

Thanks to Bill Cork for finding this nice article on saints from the Houston paper
I think there's a bit of misunderstanding here regarding the whole "professional Catholic" angle of this thread. My statement about the number of bloggers who are already involved in church work was intended to point out that these are people who are in positions to influence things in both directions ("up" and "down" - by trying to influence the hierarchy and by teaching, and so on), and so their day-to-day ministry already involves "doing something." I wasn't suggesting that somehow, what they do is in any way "superior" to what any other part of the Body is about, but was in response to Maureen's specific critique of this group of people (the St. Blog's folks) as being nothing more than critics. I was simply trying to point out that such is not the case. St. Blog's people aren't doing all that can be done, and are just laboring in one tiny corner of the vineyard, but it's not fair to say that they're doing "nothing." Their day-to-day ministry involves a great deal of "something" - ministering as priests, writing, evangelizing, ministering to families bringing their children for the sacraments in parishes, contributing to the music during worship, working in Crisis Pregnancy Centers, teaching kids in Catholic schools - it's not the whole answer, but it's not nothing.

So I hate to think of anyone coming away from any post of mine thinking that I disparage "ordinary parishioners." For that is the exact opposite of my view of Church. First, I am sure that VOTF is people with many, many "professional Catholics", both paid and volunteer. Most advocacy groups within the Church are. Secondly, I have consistently tried to point out that the greatest strength of the Church lies, not in the professionals, but, just to take one example, the older people who attend daily Mass and then spend the rest of their days, when they're not caring for their grandkids, working down at the St. Vincent de Paul Society or some other church ministry. They are the backbone of every parish and, ultimately the Church. Next to them are the people at the other end - the families with kids who may not have time to do much extra in the parish, but who fill up the pews and the desks in Catholic schools and who are preparing the next generations. The church would survive just fine if every diocesan and parish employee was suddenly...uh...raptured off the face of the earth. But that wouldn't be the case if the other two groups disappeared. At all. Think about it. Think about the good those first two groups are doing. Think of the heaps of trouble the latter are responsible for. Take yer pick.

The only caution I have is about seeing "lay involvement" as a panacea, and that caution is not related to snobbery about who knows better or is more familiar with the documents of Vatican II. That's not my song, and I'm sorry if I've given the impression that it is. No, most of the time, when I say express caution, I am thinking of two things. I am thinking of the uselessness of 90% of the professionals drawing paychecks from the church and 99% of the volunteer-staffed commissions, committees and boards, and I'm wondering what is to be gained from adding to their number. Secondly, I am thinking of the enablers among us, some of whom are, professionals - most chancery staffs, for example, some are not - big diocesan donors, for example, who get warm feeling when they're in contact with bishops - as well as sometimes misguided parishioners who have replaced an authentic sense of what church leadership should be all about with some sort of near-celebrity worship. Hey, folks - I thought Vatican II was supposed to take the priests off those pedestals, not keep them there.

So, no, I'm all about the Church as the Body of Christ, and I'm also of the view that professionalization of ministry, both clerical and lay, paid and volunteers, has been of dubious value to the Church, and I see tendency of the VOTF wing to go in that direction - to claim that the solution is to make even more of us professional Catholics than already are, and that is trouble. Don't you think? Don't you think we need more people at Holy Hours and at the bedsides of the sick and fewer at meetings brainstorming with big sheets of paper and differently- colored stickers as they prioritize? Where would you rather be? Where should you be?

I gues what all of this is working up to is my admission that I'm not so sure that VOTF is - that it is the "voice of the faithful" and not just one more well-meaning group that is quickly becoming just as "professionally Catholic" as the chancery, with simply plainer offices, a smaller budget, a slightly different ideological angle. But, as is always the case, my eyes and ears are open, waiting for enlightenment and correction.

Let me clarify the post below. I am all for change. I think it's necessary. I simply think that the kind of change we're talking about involves, first of all, attitudes - that is, not allowing bishops and other clerics to pull the wool over our eyes and misuse their power. Some of that can be affected by the addition of laity to structures - in vetting the names of potential bishops and in regard to finances and dealing with priests who have abused. Whatever way that can happen, I'm for it. But my point is this - I don't necessarily see VOTF's way of doing it as effective, especially considering the problems that have already emerged in relation to the group, and I don't necessarily see writing and talking about it as useless. It's raising awareness and helping form a new way of thinking about these things. But the rest of it is up to us and can't be organized. Let's put it this way: as long as the parishioners of St. Celestine's are spending their summers fighting for their admitted abuser pastor and as long as folks in Milwaukee continue to weep over Weakland, we are fighting an uphill battle. And that has nothing directly to do with the hierarchy and everything to do with lay attitudes, Difficult ones, not covered by VOTF's agenda.

Besides, long-time readers of this blog know what I think is an important way to breaking the destructive impact of clerical entitlement and self-protection that lead to all of this, a way that brings plenty of brimstone down on my head when I mention it: the expansion of the married clergy beyond the converts from other Christian denominations. Yeah, yeah, it brings other problems, and it's not a panacea. But...well, we've been through that before and I don't want it to be a distraction.

My point is related to St. Blogg's. I'm convinced the parishioners and staff of St. Blog's are doing something, not only in their writing, but in what they're doing in their ministries outside the internet.

It's not the end of the story, though. I'm interested in what some of you might term "more concrete" suggestions. Is there an alternative way to impact more change without dithering with self-absorbed agendas and other pitfalls of "alternative" organizations?

4 from Zenit:

WYD pilgrims build Habitat for Humanity houses, do other social service

Jean Vanier speaks to WYD pilgrims

(You know those Catholics - only concerned about babies until they're born and all)

Peruvian health minister asks forgiveness for forced sterilizations

and

A ballet based on the life of Mother Theresa is being created

Friday, July 26

Letters in the WaPo disputing Hanna Rosin's portrait of TC

Also in the Post: Another article outlining objections to McHugh's presence on the panel

No mention of Panetta, natch. He's controversial to me. Anyone else care to join me? Maybe we can get a Post article written about us, too.

Reader Maureen, a consistently moderating influence around these parts, has issued a challenge for other readers to refrain from being so reflexively critical of VOTF. After all, she says, at least they're doing something. What are we doing about the problem, we being St. Blog's parishioners and staff.

Good points. Let's take them one at a time.

I can speak for no one but myself, so I guess that's what I'll do. I've not devoted a lot of time to analyzing VOTF in this space, mostly because I found the reports of the group's activities in the secular media singularly unenlightening. That is to say, the articles all said what I would expect them to say, but I didn't know if that was the real story or not. I didn't know if VOTF was really trying to steer a middle course and stay out of hot-button issues about which it could do nothing, or if there was, indeed another agenda lurking and energizing the group. I suspected the latter, but only because I know that Caucasian Catholicism in the Northeast tends to be very, very liberal - when it's not just indifferent, that is. But I didn't know, so I didn't say much, leaving that to Mark Shea and others.

The meeting this past weekend shed some light on the matter, as well as reports on VOTF's message board battles, accounts of which you can find over Mark's way. What they revealed was, it seems, a leadership that is not exactly centrist and agenda-free. You've got your SIECUS-associated speaker. You've got your censored message boards. Already I'm bored.

Plus, the whole money thing gets me. Yes, I've said for ages that finances are a key part of this - I think laity should be the controlling factor in parish and diocesan finances - like a broken record, she says again - it's our money, after all. I think that money talks, especially when diocesan and parish administrators are so oriented toward the bottom line, which they are. But I don't agree with VOTF's establishment of itself as an alternative financial base to the Archdiocese. Rather than set up their little fund to replace the Cardinal's fund, they should simply have strongly encouraged, exhorted and nagged people who were dissatisfied with and distrustful of the Archdiocese to give to individual institutions in the diocese. They should have come up with a list of particularly needy Catholic schools and charitable institutions and told people to bypass any other funds and write their checks directly. Write ten checks if you need to, but just do it, so you make sure these services don't suffer, but that whatever money you give goes to people who need it to live and grow in Christ, not to lawyers and pedophile priests' retirement funds.

But other than that, I've simply watched. I respect the rage and the energy, but, as I've said before, I just don't know what they think they can accomplish.

So, the reader persists - at least they're trying, right?

Well, this is what I'll say in defense of the good people of St. Blog's.

Maybe I'm prejudiced in this funny way, but I do believe that writing is "doing something." Bloggers hash out ideas, argue, bring news to light and bring theological and historical perspective to that news. Catholic bloggers are doing a service - dare we call it ministry - that no one else - and I mean no one else is doing, not even, for the most part, the Catholic press. We are seeking, day by day and (for some!) hour by hour to understand this situation and, in doing so, help others understand it and move forward.

That's doing something.

As the story fades in the current news cycle, we're trying to keep it alive, asking questions, not letting anyone off the hook - compliant parishioners, bishops who welcome pro-aborts on board their little panels, and ourselves, as we seek to balance justice and mercy in our view of things. That's doing something

Secondly, most of the folks in St. Blog's are already engaged in church ministry of some kind. We are writers and speakers, psychologists, DRE's, priests, seminarians, music ministers, publishers, Catholic school teachers, grad students preparing for ministry, apologists, and so on. We are out here in the real world of Church, ministering one-on-one in our parishes or one-to-thousands on paper. We may not have formed a club and come up with a budget, but we are committed to opening ourselves to the Spirit and answering the call to holiness, one day at a time, one person at a time. This situation has been frightening, shattering and clarifying. It has invigorated most of us and given us a sense of what has been lost in the past few decades and what desperately needs to be rediscovered and shared. We're just praying that we can help.

That's doing something.

Finally, as important as it is for the structure of the institution to make way for the Gospel being preached, rather than put up obstacles to it, my interest in Church history prompts me to take the long view. I'm with Catherine of Siena, calling for clergy to mirror Christ, not princes. I'm for stripping them of their mansions and their fascination with the proper social and political contacts. But I also am not convinced that me sitting in a meeting hall haggling about mission statements and worrying about a budget for an organization is going to do a whole hell of a lot about any of those problems. No, I'm not particularly interested in those kinds of organizations which, I regret to say, can't do much. The secular press and the justice system actually have more power to impact in those areas than even fifty of me sitting in that darn meeting room enduring some unendurable opening prayer service about empowerment. And in the end, the temptation of our instutional problems, as serious and as meritorious of attention as they are, is to distract us from the work of Christ that we can be doing right here and right now, with other human beings in need. We should do what we can to demand accountability and transparency and fidelity to Christ on the part of our leaders, at the same time as we demand it of ourselves. But we can't let institutional issues distract us from the good work that needs to be done and is, in fact being done. By the Sisters of Life. By the Missionaries of Charity. By the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. By the people in your parish who visit the home- and hospital bound and organize weeks of dinners for the parents of a terminally-ill child. By the underpaid teachers in your Catholic school. By the good priest in your parish who is doing the work that four priests would have done forty years ago. The call to focus on the way we live out the Gospel in our own parishes, neighborhoods and communities, is not a distraction. It's at the core of the problem. And, I cannot help but believe, somehow, in ways I'm not exactly sure of, it's at the core of the solution as well.

That's doing something

Paterno's gonna let a girl try out for the kicker spot at Penn State.
Hysterical Matt Labash piece on the Jolie/Thornton breakup

There is, of course, an immutable law of celebrity: The more nauseatingly and insistently two stars proclaim their togetherness, the closer they are to coming apart. (Witness Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, Jennifer Lopez and Puffy, or America's Sweetheart, Julia Roberts, who has declared her eternal devotion to everything that moves, and several things that don't). Meanwhile, celebrity couples that evidence staying power, like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, tend not to conduct interviews with their legs coiled around each other's heads. A stable marriage is about more than wearing each other's panties and draining each other's blood. Sure, that's part of it. But these things are no substitute for the things that really matter: responsibility, fidelity, mental stability.

A nice story about JPII's lunch with some young people today

One of the young people asked the Pope if he was happy with the turnout on Thursday night, when some 400,000 people attended the welcoming ceremony opening the festivities in Toronto. "I must say it wasn't a bad beginning," the Pope responded, according to his spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls. Navarro-Valls said the Pope, who rested for much of Friday, took another boat ride around Lake Simcoe, which residents in Ontario's cottage country have dubbed the Holy Sea. "He ate a lot. I think he ate more than me," said Shirley Tso of China.

Tim Drake has commenced his WYD blogging
A reader has ties to Manley:

Suprised that I am that Catholics live in this Scandinavian enclave (meaning, of course, Lutheran), your blog reminds me of a true wedding anouncement for this region of Iowa in the late 1940's. A nearby town is named "Fertile", Iowa . When my brother-in-law's parents were wed, the local newspaper announced "Manley man marries Fertile Woman". A true story that is always repeated whenever our family gathers. That passed for risque humour back then... and are we better or worse for the change?

An excellent comment on solving This Problem here. One of our commentators, naturally, but still I thought it merited special mention. His point? I short - if you know of a church employee who's committed a crime - go to the police. The District Attorney's office. Whoever - until you get some wheels of justice going.
Blogs coming later:

My answer to "Why bother?" and

My answer to the accusation that us St. Bloggers are just sittin' around bitching while at least the VOTF folks are doing something.

Dinner first, though. Then a walk. Then Joseph Goes to Bed (The Adventure Continues....)

The parish reading group can probably skip this one:

Abusing priest writes autobiography

A priest who was convicted of sexual abuse has written an autobiography that criticizes the Catholic church for a lack of sexual education in the seminary and says he should be forgiven for past sins. In his book called "My Journey Alone", the Rev. Bill Garding tells how he has suppressed his homosexuality since he was a teenager and later sought "approval and love" from an adolescent male parishioner.

I'm sorry but I think the Catholics of Manly, Iowa could do better:

The priest runs around in the middle of night putting brightly-painted portable toilets on people's lawns. You pay to send one to someone's lawn. They pay to have it taken off. And so on. It's a fund-raiser. I mean, couldn't they think of something else? Like a pink flamingo or something?

I'm sorry, but I think this is funny:

Police chase ends when criminal's prosthetic leg falls off.

Speaking of questions of evangelization, Christianity Today has a very interesting article today about George Barna, who has tried for a decade now to help churches grow and respond to their prospective members through the conclusions of his marketing-type research. It's very interesting. Of course, the guy's a former Catholic.
Religious Orders recruiting in Toronto

The Grey Sisters win the prize for the crowd-stopper at the fair. Their booth sports a plaster image of a nun's habit with a hole for the face area so young women can see what they would look like if they joined.

Here's a photo.

Somehow, I don't think it's working, do you?

Let's bring this all together, shall we?

Amid much hoopla and expressions of remorse, the bishops of the United States have convened a board of lay people to review the church's process for dealing with sexual abuse on the part of clergy, and, I suppose, particular cases as they arise. There has been much discussion of the panel over at HMS Blog and Domenico Bettinelli has dug up his share of information. There's an article on a controversy related to one of the panel's members in today's NYTimes, but no, it's not Bennett, and it's not Panetta - it's Paul McHugh who is part of the effort to combat repressed memory syndrome, a stance which doesn't charm victims' advocates. It's a legitmate question, but no more legitimate than Panetta's role on the board. Or others, including the NY attorney who's donated $18,000 to pro-abortion political candidates, including the Emily's List PAC.

The membership of this board is quite telling, and would be even more so if we knew how members were selected. But what we can tell from the membership at this point is this basic reality of the bishops' attitude:

Despite their protestations of remorse, they evidently do not believe that this Situation is in any way related to issues of faith. Long-time readers of this blog know that I am not an advocate of the black-and-white "the liberals did it" line of thinking on this. Active homosexuality obviously plays a role in the scandal, since that is the nature of the overwhelming proportion of offenses, but other factors play into this as well - Cardinal Law and Cardinal Egan are not exactly theological liberals, and both have been responsible for protecting perpetrators Egan especially in Bridgeport. We have seen members of "conservative" orders and movements here and there exposed as abusers. What is at issue is not the usual play between "liberal" and "conservative" or "dissenting" and "orthodox" - it is this structure and the ethos that runs rampant in it at this moment that encourages clerics to protect their own no matter what the cost, usually not out of a great love for the perpetrators, but because the perpetrators have information on a wide variety of other enablers' sins, ready to uncover and use if necessary to protect themselves. As Fr. Doyle has pointed out, clerical sexual abuse is nothing new. Many of the victims he has counseled are elderly men now. Sandra Miesel has pointed out in comments and emails that the evidence from monastic rules and medieval penitential books points to the persistence of the problem and the church's awareness of it.

But yes, something about the modern age brought a rush of perpretrators into the ranks of Western Catholic clergy, for some reason. Or discouraged authorities from doing something about the perpetrators. All of which has been discussed for months and which will probably fill up the comment thread here again.

But the fact is, whatever the specifics and from whatever ideological direction perpetrators and protectors come, what is at the heart of their sins is, obviously, a lack of fidelity to Christ. An absolute failure to put His love and His call first, above drives, desires, fears and ego. The structure didn't fail. There were policies in place and, as I have said, the Gospel was always there, if anyone had bothered to check. The people who were running the structure failed because they turned away from Christ. Faith in Christ, further, is of a piece. Yes, we can differ on some issues, but on others, we simply can't, and, within the context of the Catholic Church, as set down in the Catechism, as elaborated in Tradition which illuminates the Scriptures, it's clear what some of those issues are:

Protection of the weak and helpless. Use of the gift of the body in accord with God's design. The value of each individual human life. Just a few, as I said.

If you turn from the Church's teaching on these issues, you've made a statement. You've said that you know better. You've declared that you don't buy into the sense of the Church's authoritative teaching. You've said that it's all up for grabs.

So what are you doing on a panel that is charged with administering a particular facet of the Church's moral teaching? How does that make any sense?

I guess it only makes sense if you don't see any of this - at any level - as a moral failure, and only see it as administrative glitches with legal implications.

The behavior of the bishops in regard to priestly abusers tells us much. The appointment of people who contribute money to pro-abortion candidates and who publicly support abortion, even late-term, tells us even more. It tells us that on the institutional level, this is a group of careerists who are still into self-protection as the ultimate critereon for action, who haven't changed a bit, and who still do not have a clue as to what the real problem is.

An excellent piece by John O'Sullivan on NRO about the state of religion in the West. It's especially useful because O'Sullivan looks at the issue as it relates to all of Christianity, not just Catholicism, and therefore avoids the superficial, short-sighted and incorrect analysis of "It's all Vatican II's fault" that church attendance has declined in Europe and the US. He also remarks, as a sign of hope:

My colleague, UPI religion editor Uwe Siemon-Netto — a rare former foreign correspondent with two theology degrees — points to such events as the sale in France of over 100,000 copies of a new translation of the Bible within a month of publication, the packed theaters for performances by the Comedie Francaise of a new translation of the Psalms, the crowds in Germany attending consolatory religious services after the 11th of September, the rising numbers in opinion polls (since the 1960s) who describe themselves as religious believers, and the large congregations at non-mainstream evangelical services in churches often established by Third World immigrants.

An abuser was up for parole yesterday over in Wichita. Most people who showed up to testify spoke against it. A couple, however, spoke for paroling the guy, including one Monsignor (speaking on his own and not as a diocesan representative) and one woman:

Angela Burger worked with Larson while he was in charge of the Vietnamese resettlement program in Wichita. She told the parole board Larson was a very good man.
"I'm not saying he is totally innocent," she said. "I'm just saying it is not all this bad."

Heh. My husband and I, although without a drop of Italian blood between us, have actually had this conversation, echoed in this WSJ piece:

Why in the world aren't Italian-Americans rising up in protest against those dumb Olive Garden commercials?

An unofficial Italian-American survey of opinion on this pressing subject conveys some of the pain. "That Italian relative who comes over to the U.S. and is taken by his family to the Olive Garden, that's just hilarious," says George Guattare, a graduate student in Chicago. "I mentioned this to my mother-in-law, Bruna, from Italy, and she totally died laughing. That would be the last place I would go, unless of course I hated her."

Search on for more Dead Sea Scrolls
Yes, today is the feastday of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Mary's parents.

It's also the feastday of Blessed Titus Brandsma:

Titus Brandsma, Dutch priest, educator, journalist and modern mystic, has much to say to Twenty-first Century Christians. His joyful countenance in the face of chronic illness and finally, at the torturous hands of the Nazi’s, is a study in humankind’s sharing of its portion of the Cross of Christ. The frail, bookishlooking clergyman with the big cigar, labeled “That dangerous little friar” by his enemies, was able to perform heroic acts of suffering, followed by forgiveness, because his faith and trust in God was so firmly rooted in prayer. Unlike Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who made a deliberate commitment of her life as an atonement for sin, Father Brandsma did not seek martyrdom, yet when he was thoroughly convinced it was God’s Will, he was able to accept humiliation and even death.

No, it's not an earthquake.

It's the the Archdiocese of Los Angeles racing like hell to defend itself.

Cases are exploding out there, with 142 currently under investigation, and more to come since, as this New Times LA story says, ...

.... legislation signed into law earlier this month by Governor Gray Davis may prove to be the most devastating blow yet to Mahony's troubled domain -- as well as to Roman Catholic dioceses throughout California -- before the current scandal runs its course. The law extends by three years the statute of limitation for accusers to file civil lawsuits against child molesters and organizations that knowingly harbor them. More significantly, it provides a one-year window of opportunity, beginning January 1, for any alleged abuse victim to pursue legal action against the church. That means untold numbers of priest abuse victims who've never come forward because the time limit for their filing a lawsuit expired will now get their chance.

Around 200 Cuban youth were allowed to attend WYD

Thursday, July 25

An account of the Holy Father's presence at the WYD opening ceremony yesterday.

"With your gaze set firmly" on Jesus, John Paul said, a hush falling over the assemblage, "you will discover the path of forgiveness and reconciliation in a world often laid waste by violence and terror. Last year, we saw with dramatic clarity the tragic face of human malice. We saw what happens when hatred, sin and death take command."...
In recent public Masses, the pope has appeared frail. He has slurred his words heavily and been unable to finish speeches. But this week, he has appeared to many Vatican watchers to be less encumbered by the disease that has imprisoned him.

I'm certainly not a professional "Vatican watcher," but even from my limited perspective, I'd agree with that observation. He appeared to be totally engaged by the young people who surrounded him. His voice was clearer, with a hint of spontanaity and vigor that's been missing in what I've heard recently, at the weekly audiences and so on. What I've also seen in the recent past - strain and frustration - was happily missing as well. It was a moving, welcome sight.

This article from the mighty Tampa Tribune (for which I used to write book reviews at - hold yer breath - forty dollars a pop) describes the first meeting of the area's Voice of the Faithful chapter. After reading the short piece, I'm moved to say: give me a break. One hundred people at a meeting in the St. Petersburg diocese and Bishop Lynch goes unmentioned? I have a very hard time believing that such a thing happened.
Regarding comments: If they're marked "archived" they're still accessible in exactly the same way the active comments are. I guess the Pixel Genies just store them in another vault or something.

The best comments - and the reason I have the comments section in the first place - are those that expand our understanding of a linked story or a posted thought by offering new information or a rationally presented position.

And remember, just as you have the freedom to read this blog or not, I have the power to delete comments and ban users.

BWAA-HA-HA-HA-HA

This blog has several links to more information about the forced sterilizations in Peru. (Scroll down for it)
Ah...who says that the up-to-date people are really up-to-date

As news gradually leaks (ha) about the ineffectual nature of condoms (see HMS Blog for more), leave it to the "alternative Catholics" in Toronto to help kids by passing out incentives to disease and misery - here's a photo of their cute condom packs.

For more WYD (and other Catholic related) news photos, click here and browse.

A reader remarks:

July 23 - Seven women who took part June 29 in Austria in a simulated priestly ordination were officially excommunicated at midnight Monday.....When SNAP asked the bishops in 1994 why there was no national policy to address priests who abuse children, they were told "these things take time" (8 years from 1994, 17 years since the Mouton/Doyle/Peterson report). When we all ask why Rome has not responded to the US bishops' recent proposal, we're told "these things take time". (???) It took only 25 days for Rome to move on a group of women who held a bogus ordination.....Where is that sense of urgency regarding the protection of our children and the integrity of our church?

Pope in a Boat at Lake Simcoe.
Wretched Bishop O'Brien of Phoenix has brought on a lawyer with integrity to help clean things up. This piece from an alternative Phoenix paper predicts he won't last long.
Image of Juan Diego unrealistic

For Pope John Paul II's visit to canonize the Chichimeca Indian, the church has replaced traditional renderings of the 16th century figure in which he is depicted as a sparsely whiskered, dark-skinned Indian. New versions show him with a full-beard and light skin. The image is causing an uproar in Mexico, where many people feel their Indian heritage is being insulted.

German cardinal dies unexpectedly
Interesting....Greg at HMS Blog reports that Deal Hudson says that some US bishops have called for a plenary council to deal with the issues of homosexuality and dissent and their role in the present crisis.

A plenary council is a gathering of the bishops of a single country. In the 19th century, three plenary councils were held, all in Baltimore, all to discuss issues that were impacting the growing US church. We are probably most familiar with the Third Plenary Council, which discussed issues of education and eventually produced what we know as the Baltimore Catechism.

Someone can clarify, but plenary councils are different from, say, a regular old "bishops' meeting" (like Dallas) because their decisions have the force of law for the Church in that country, while the bishops' meetings don't necessarily.

Domenico Bettinelli points us to the qualifications of Bishops' Board Member Panetta: publicy supportive of partial-birth abortion.

Yay, bishops! Strong, united voice for the Faith! You go, guys! Lead us on to glory!

In this New Republic article about the post 9/11 blood debacle we are privy to the interesting tidbit that a couple of days after the tragedy, when blood banks were already becoming aware that they had too much blood already that was going to be wasted, and people needed to stop donating, the Washington DC Red Cross ....

... got a call from the U.S. Congress to run a blood drive among senators and representatives--and to present each member with a videotape of him or her giving blood to show constituents.

Over at The Corner, Rod Dreher posts a link to a horrible story of forced sterilizations in Peru - 200,000 of them

David Morrison, who investigated these events a few years ago, blogs about it a bit this morning and promises more later.

Sean Gallagher has thoughts on why bother. Scroll down for his good words...after the stuff about his big heavy work day today....
The NCCBUSCC (M-O-U-S-E?) is sponsoring a daily WYD webjournal page on its site. Here's the link.
Today is traditionally the feast of St. Christopher. My oldest son is named Christopher, so...happy feastday, Chris! I pray that he's doing his best to be a Christ-bearer down there in the wilds of Knoxville.

Wednesday, July 24

Valiant sisters around the globe:

In China, nun detained for teaching catechism class

and

In India, an Ursuline sister arrested for facilitating the conversion of 94 from Hinduism.

Meanwhile, back in the US, Sister Sandi Monroe has just finished up her two-week summer course on "Was Mary an 4? Meeting the Women of the Bible through the Prism of the Enneagram" and is hurriedly packing up to return to from campus to her own apartment, because if she doesn't beat the rush hour traffic back home, she might miss her appointment at the hairdresser's.

From Zenit: How the Pope is spending his time on Strawberry Island
Well, they've appointed all but one of the members to the bishops' board. Here's the list.

Leon Panetta?

Fark had a link to this police blotter story because of the first item relating a couple's fight over a Mountain Dew. I found almost every item on the list so strange, though, that I really did think this was an Onion type of deal, and what pushed me even closer is the title of the minister's sermon listed in the events listing at the end.

But I don't think it's satire. I think it's serious. It's Tennessee.

I can say that because I lived there, you know.

One of the experiences that has prompted my "why bother" train of thought was seeing, several months ago, Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens on C-Span. In that interview, Hitchens explained his atheism/non-Christianity (whatever he isn't) in something like the following words:

A man was executed 2,000 years ago in Palestine. I have no responsiblity for that event and it has nothing to do with me...

Thanks to reader Ken who sends along this Atlantic interview with Garry Wills
Peter Nixon has posted good, lengthy thoughts on the "why bother?" question
An interview with Peter Gumpel, SJ, the man in charge of writing the brief on Pius XII's canonization.

As it happens, Fr Gumpel is not only an academic expert on this period: he was also a first-hand witness of it. Now aged 78, he remembers as a boy of ten watching his grandfather, a close personal friend of Field Marshal Hindenburg, turn white with anger when he heard that the German president had appointed Hitler chancellor. ‘Hindenburg promised me he would never do this!’ said the grandfather. The old man and one of Gumpel’s cousins were subsequently shot by the Nazis, and the same fate would have befallen Gumpel and his mother if the Nazis had caught them hiding a former socialist minister in their apartment near the Kurfürstendamm.

Dreher on the Pope in Canada
From yesterday's WaPost: Left Behind series has sold 35 million copies.

Here's my take on the series.

Or...does it all come down to Hell?

The threat of eternal damnation played an enormous role in past thinking and acting on these questions of evangelization and mission. Isn't the hesitancy to evangelize partly rooted in our sense that since the nice agnostic down the street seems content and in some ways is probably a better person than we are, we probably don't have much to offer him, so let's leave him alone and let him reach eternal life his own way?

(Remember - I'm trying to paint a picture here, with the ultimate goal of reaching an answer.)

Best comments on the Web, that's what I've got. Here's a sample:

Ever since the conversion of Constantine, missionary work was done by a materially superior culture bringing its faith to materially inferior cultures. Missionaries had the dual function of evangelizing and civilizing. Now the most advanced civilization the world has abandoned its Christian faith, and has its very material success to prove that it did the right thing. We Christians are closer to the Church of the first three centuries than we are to anything since, in terms of evangelism. For the first time in 1700 years, we must bring our message to an advanced, and therefore self-satisfied culture. How did the Church convert the Roman Empire? By living as if the world and its glories were worth nothing compared to the kingdom of God; and by martyrdom. Finally, why should the Church evangelize? The King commands it.

NY Post gossip columnist Neal Travis does some reporting on former Bishop McCarthy

I'm told that McCarthy flew to Washington, D.C., Monday for a closed-door meeting with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo. The popular McCarthy emerged from the session reeling in disbelief at what the pope's representatives told him. I understand Montalvo directed McCarthy to "leave the New York area . . . sell your house in Dutchess County . . . find a bishop who will take you in . . . but you can never again say Mass publicly . . . and you will remain 'in supervision' for the rest of your priestly life." Others who know of this conversation say it's a virtual "death sentence" on McCarthy and that the Papal Nuncio is clearly echoing Egan's line in the controversy. Many believe that the rigid Egan wants the protégés of the late John Cardinal O'Connor (of whom McCarthy was one of the most prominent) out of his hair. Egan would clearly like me and Gannett's White Plains newspaper, the Journal News, out of his hair as well. I'm told that the other day the cardinal left a blistering message on McCarthy's voice mail: "How dare you! If you and your friends think this will help you - forget it! This is all rubbish! I'm outraged that you and Eileen White [she was O'Connor's chief of staff] would leak these things."

Lotsa he said - she said - he said here, and a distinct underreporting of McCarthy's situation (Travis said it in involved one woman, other reports say...more than one over the years), but intriguing, nonetheless.

If you're not in the habit already, check out the Touchstone blog. Interesting stuff.
I hope you're reading all the comments on what's becoming known as my "why bother?" blog below.

A quick read-through, however, fails to yield an answer to this, the fundamental question I guess I was asking. And I guess the answer isn't there because I didn't pose it so explicitly:

How do you evangelize a culture that doesn't think it needs evangelizing?

Of course, that could be said for any culture that Christianity has ever encountered, except for one intriguing difference: the culture doesn't think it needs the Christian message because it thinks it's already basically Christian, as it understands Christianity.

And if this is the case, could it be possible that they're right? That they don't need it?

And finally, how does a Church that's talked itself out of the missionary imperative evangelize? And why?

So which is it?

Frail Pontiff arrives in Toronto...

Robust Pope arrives in Canada

or...Ailing Pope arrives in Canada

Tuesday, July 23

Well....it's only money after all.

Boston Catholic Charities says, sure thing, we'll take the dough.

Need a snappy retort to all those snide comments about Juan Diego's supposed non-existence?

Well, here ya go - an article offering three pieces of evidence attesting to the truth of his story. Good stuff, but maybe not so snappy, since you'll have to be explaining how one of the pieces of evidence was discovered in the great state of Georgia.

Put yourself in the place of the parents of a young man you know was seduced by a priest at the age of 16.

Now imagine that twenty-five years later, this priest's parish gives the bishop a standing ovation shortly after learning that his actions would not keep him from his pastorate with them.

Yeah, that would warm the heart of any parent. Any victim. Anyone with a conscience, I'd think. Warm their hearts in rage, that is.

But no, the good people of St. Celestine's parish in Evansville are at it again, spending their summer days writing letters and organizing support of their priest who committed the act described above.

Listen. I can think of better things to do. Surely there are sick to be visited, poor to be tended to, children to be cared for, unborn children to speak for and uh...victims to listen to. Weeping tears of regret for the admitted perpetrator who is a grown man and should be able to take care of himself would, you'd think, be low on the list for the People of God in Evansville. But apparently not.

The deeply ironic thing about this case, which has popped up on the radar now for months, is that the patron of this parish, St. Peter Celestine V is best known as a man who was elected to the papacy and then, finding himself entirely unsuited to the job (as he knew he was before his election), resigned. He got out and went back to try to live the life of a hermit to which he was called in the first place.

Can we paint a more ironic picture than a parish named for a resigned pope fighting against the departure of their admitted pederast pastor? I think not.

Hey, did you all catch the Pope rapping his cane in apparent anger at the bottom of the airplane steps in Toronto yesterday? Scared me, and I'm five hundred miles away.
Americans brought candy bars to European kids after WWII....

Turks bring...

circumcision to Afghan boys:

"These boys have missed being circumcised because perhaps there was trouble in their homes or their parents were too poor to afford it," the Turkish officer said. "Wherever we travel, we like to help the community by doing these sort of things -- even at the rural areas at home." The boys being circumcised on Tuesday -- aged between two and 11 -- were a mixture of ashen-faced fear and confused apprehension as they awaited their turn with the team of eight surgeons and their assistants.

An odd story from New Hampshire and not just because it involves a priest named MacCormack suing a bishop named McCormack. Really.

More strangeness than similar names abounds, though. Priest MacCormack claims he's been silenced and harrassed by the diocese because of his knowledge of a cover-up involving a dead priest, a leather undergarment and lots of videotapes, not of the EWTN variety. It's hard to tell what the real deal is here, but we can at least add it to the Great Priest Stories of 2002, right up there with the Ecstasy-selling fellow from Pensacola and the Padre from Peoria who manufactured the date-rape drug.

I think a lot about faith. Why people believe, why they don't.

And I have to say that after years of pondering these questions and observing the world and the Church, I sympathize with the unbelievers.

Why? I simply think that the Church today doesn't even try to answer the questions people are asking, either in words or actions. It's not grappling with the issues intellectually, and it's not answering them with compelling witness. For the most part. Of course, there are pockets here and there, and there are many saints walking among us. But as a Body, the Church isn't quite getting it these days.

Let's look at the questions first. As I see it, the fundamental questions don't change, but the context in which they're asked does. It's the context that the Church is way behind in admitting, much less understanding, and that's part of what prompted me, incidentally, to start writing those Prove It books. I felt that catechetical materials for adolescents were, for the most part, treating kids like they were eternally six years old without a serious question in their heads, living in a world of sentimental, unquestioning conviction of God's existence and love. Not at all. So I wrote.

But the situation is no different for the rest of us out here in the world. Everyone is still asking about meaning and purpose and life after death, but the context of that questioning is completely different than it was half a century ago. How is it different?

First of all, most people don't believe that explicit, conscious faith in Christ is essential for salvation, and for good reason: it's not, and there's ample Scriptural (yes - try Romans 2:12-16 for a start) evidence as well as Church teaching to support that conviction. Further, most people believe that eternal life more or less just happens after you die and has little if anything to do with the quality of your life beyond a vague "good intention" or "fundamental option" towards goodness and doing the right thing.

Secondly, most of us have no problem with the immanence of God. God is everywhere, accessible anywhere, so what is the point of church buildings and rituals? Is God any more present there than He is with me right now at my computer?

So, the unbeliever, either serious or casual, quite reasonably asks ( within that context) - why bother? If a reasonably good life and high intentions is good enough to get me saved, why bother to do anything more? If God is everywhere, why bother with church and its structures?

Please note that I'm not saying this hypothetical unbeliever is correct in her conclusions. All I'm saying is that this is the context of the contemporary disinterest in organized, traditional religion. And it's a context that the Church absolutely fails to acknowledge. Check that - it does acknowledge it in a backhanded kind of way by appealing to all sorts of reasons to be a part of church except the content of the message and the presence of God - community, social benefits, programs for the kids and the hoped-for resultant social control of same kids, feelings of belonging, and so on. And sometimes people come, and sometimes they go on to a place with better community, music and more clean-cut looking kids.

And meanwhile, the questions go unadressed, partly out of a fear of offense, partly because we're afraid of the answers most of us - even church people - would provide.

It all comes down to this, in my mind: Why Jesus, why here and why this way? What difference does it make? And don't tell me about your healed lives and your warm hearts. If I, the casual unbeliever, can go out on the street and find people who have equally healed lives and warm hearts for reasons that have nothing to do with your church, why, again, should I bother with your church or any of them?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

(And yes, I have my own answers to these questions. But I'd like to hear what you think first, and shape my response in that context)

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mom!

Monsignor Earl Boyea, president of the Josephinium seminary in Columbus, named an auxiliary bishop of Detroit.

Here's what his mom had to say about it:

"At first, it was beyond me, but I do think he has the spirituality and the God-given knowledge for this. And he understands obedience -- something that parents teach. That's important."

Chaim Potok has died. That's too bad (he was only 73 - I would have thought he was older, for some reason.) I loved his books - I think I read My Name is Asher Lev two or three times when I was a teenager. Whatever little I knew about Judaism then, I learned from Potok's novels.
Great guy or protector of clerics who abuse?

This article from Cleveland asks that question of their Auxiliary Bishop Quinn.

From the Nashville Tennessean:A story about a psychologist who studies the stigmata
From a month ago, but still worth a look: Baby born weighing 12 ounces (the same size as your soft drink can) survives, does well, goes home.

What a great country - a place where all babies in and out of the womb are valued and cared for and nurtured, no matter how small....

Never mind.

Instapundit has more links to discussions of the Steve Earle song
Scary stuff

Those two drunk American West pilots had been drinking for almost 6 hours before they flew, and had a $122 bar tab.

Two good feastdays today:

Bridget of Sweden

and

John Cassian

From the LATimes (LRR): There are people out there praying for Hollywood. Are you?

Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Bruckheimer don't know me, but I've been praying for them and their staff. I belong to a group called Hollywood Prayer Watch. For five years, we've been bombarding Hollywood with intercessory prayers. We pray for its children and families. We pray for its drug addicts and dealers and prostitutes and homeless. We pray for people in the entertainment industry. We pray for law enforcement officers who patrol Hollywood and politicians who represent it. We do this in the belief that prayer can transform Hollywood's worldwide influence. On the first and second Saturday of each month, 150 of us from the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood arrange our schedules so that someone is praying every minute of those days, in half-hour segments.

Boston archdiocese says "No, thanks" to VOTF's money.

So much for cooperation on that end of things. Writer Sandra Miesel made the very good point that she had to wonder about the intellectual capabilities of these folks who evidently can't figure out how to just write a check to an charitable institution or two without having to go through another organization. Heh.

They're seeing the Virgin in trees in Chicago.

Very nice. Nice that she's in Brazilian windows, as well.

How about this. How about, instead of looking for Mary in trees, windows and in the sky, we all concentrate on seeing Christ in each other instead? I'm for that.

Now, I'm a Steve Earle fan. He's made created some great music that you can find on albums like El Corazon and I Feel Alright.

But this is just dumb, even for an iconoclast and self-conscious Bad Boy:

Earle's new album features a pro-John Walker Lindh song.

A new country-rock song, 'John Walker's Blues,' recorded by maverick Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Steve Earle, is drawing both raves and condemnation. The song is a stately ballad punctuated by the sound of Arabic prayers and refers to Lindh's interest inn music videos, boy bands and religious fanaticism....But Martha Bayles, author of "Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music" and a literature professor at Claremont McKenna College in California, said Earle's apparent identification with Lindh reflected "a psychological need to repeat the good old days of the radical 60s, just like Mom and Dad."..."Never mind whether the cause makes any sense -- the point is to march in the streets and get on TV. It sounds as if Earle is singing to this crowd," Bayles said.

Monday, July 22

A terrible discovery underneath a Greek Catholic monastery in the Ukraine:

For two years, the Rev. Volodymyr Dolganyuk lived in the small, spartan room at a monastery here studying the word of God. For two years, he had no idea that just beneath his feet lay the work of unspeakable evil. Then one day someone decided to unseal the basement of the 17th-century building and came across a few bones. And then some more. And still more. By the time all the rubble and sand had been cleared out of the catacombs, the remains of 225 people had been unearthed -- not those of ancient ancestors, but of fathers and mothers and siblings of today's Ukrainians, probably victims of a wave of killing by Soviet secret police after World War II.

Yes, more template games being played. I'm letting you interpret the middle pictures - what my life is all about "in between naps."
Brazilian priest says calm down: Image is cleaning stain -- not Virgin Mary.
Looking for Catholic-related news photos? Click on this link. You'll find all you need, included scads of WYD-related phots. Like this one, which gives you one more hint about the clue-impaired press. It's captioned:

Workers set up giant banners of young Catholic martyrs killed for their beliefs, in preparation for World Youth Day at Exhibition Place in Toronto, July 22, 2002

Ummm...I believe the gal on the right is Therese of Lisieux. Known for many things. Martyrdom not one of them.

Via Holy Weblog:

A very interesting story about two indigenous Mexicans who will be beatified by JPII. The two were martyred because they espied their fellows engaging in traditional tribal worship, told the priests and Spanish soldiers about it and....

The soldiers burst into the ceremony, dispersing the crowd and beating people with their swords. Bautista and de los Angeles took refuge on the church grounds. As dusk settled on the pueblo the following night, angry villagers gathered outside the church. They banged war drums. They whistled. They hacked at the church doors with hatchets. They called for Bautista and de los Angeles to come out. The dozen or so Spanish soldiers protecting the church fired their muskets in the air. But the mob only grew larger and angrier. As the night wore on, the villagers threatened to burn down the church buildings. They threatened to burn down the entire pueblo.



When the soldiers ran out of ammunition, they pressured the priests to hand the two men over to the crowd. Bautista and de los Angeles asked to be given final confession. As they were pushed out into the crowd, they repeated the words of the crucified Jesus: "Father, into your hands we commend our spirits."

In a comment on a post below, Nancy Nall reminds us that Sex in the City is really about gay men, a point to which I alluded a few days ago (I think in my granola conservatives post), and with which I agree...sort of. But I wonder...if that's true, does that mean that "gay men" are nothing but horny bastards with no greater sense of purpose in life? Surely not? Is that an adequate explanation?
See the comments section for a passage from a letter in response to Hannah Rosin's TC article, sent on by Fr. Shawn O'Neal.
I've watched HBO's Sex in the City off and on for a couple of years, as I said a few days ago, mostly with morbid fascination.

Last night's episode - the first of the new season - was noteworthy, in my mind, for a vivid breastfeeding scene, perhaps a little too open for some, but brave and honest in my mind. But I still don't like Miranda's attitude towards her baby, though. "Think of this (the baby carrier she's lugging around - get a stroller, for heaven's sake) as a big purse," she said to her friends when they thought they should begin to watch their language in front of the tot.

Anyway, the big puzzle of this show has always been this, to me: these women (in their mid to late 30's now, still being sluts in the city, still acting like adolescents) shy away from commitment and serious relationships and disparage what they might call domesticity and its supposed contraints.

For what? I've never been able to figure it out. What's at risk for them? None of them are terribly interested in their careers - Miranda's a lawyer, but her interest in it seems primarily financial, the others have little jobs that are useful mainly for plot turns (the Sarah Jessica Parker character is, of course, a writer and her columns frame the episodes, but it's as if all she could do was write pieces about dating because she had nothing else to say) and they have no great passions - art, creativity, devotion to a cause - that would suffer from the time required for marriage and family.

It's unrealistic and dumb. Well, it's supposed to be a dumb show, I know, but that particular illogic has always nagged at me, for it works to make the whole show even more an anti-feminist pseudo-feminist piece of propoganda than it already is, by its nature. Women have sacrificed marriage and family quite often throughout history, but most of the time, there's a purpose for the sacrifice, intentionally or not: they put their art first (Iris Murdoch comes to mind. Her husband John Bayley says that children were never even a possibility for Murdoch, emotionally speaking. She saw them as potentially destructive to her art and thought), they put their professions first, they put their causes first, they put religious profession first. These women are supposed to be free and liberated, but for what? Their lack of a hint of a greater purpose makes the show even more insulting to women than it already is, if that's possible. Perhaps therein lies the ultimate indictment of the whole sorry ideology. It all comes down to this: 3 thirtysomething (and one fortysomething) women looking for nothing but sex and shoes and wondering why they're feeling empty at the end of the day and wondering why all they have is each other. Well, yeah.

Contrast that fantasy with this article from the NYTimes magazine about Mary Jo Copeland, a complicated and sometimes controversial woman from Minnesota who is devoted to the needs of poor, neglected kids and families in crisis. She raised twelve children of her own, then she and her husband gave themselves to this ministry which has helped scores and perhaps, we might assume, even saved some lives.

Contrast a life like that - fertile and life-giving in every respect - with the flashy yet ultimately dreary dried-up lives of the Sex in the City girls, for that is what they ultimately are - girls, not women, in hardly any sense of the word.

Saudi royal who owned Derby winner War Emblem dead of heart attack at age 44.
A reader sent me news of this when it happened, but I neglected to blog it at the time. But in today's WaPo, there's a brief notice of Senator Sam Brownback's conversion to Catholicism (scroll down for that story)

After working closely with Catholics and evangelical Christians to oppose human cloning and restrict stem cell research, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), converted to Roman Catholicism in a quiet ceremony June 27 in Washington.Brownback, a former United Methodist, often has spoken of his Christian faith in connection with issues such as abortion and the civil war in Sudan. But he declined to discuss his reasons for embracing Catholicism. "It's a personal matter," aide Erik Hotmire said. The ceremony was performed at the Catholic Information Center by the Rev. John McCloskey, a priest who belongs to the conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei and who has helped to convert several celebrities, including former abortionist Bernard Nathanson and intellectual Robert Novak.

Brownback's sponsor was Rick Santorum.

A kind of a weird story from Africa about some nuns defending Archbishop Milingo against the evil Maria Sung

THE Catholic nuns in Lusaka have called on government to protect Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo from the 'unblessed' marriage with Maria Sung....And according to a statement released by the Daughters of Redeemers of the Catholic, Maria Sung should have inquired on the implications of marrying a Catholic Bishop. "The said marriage is not even recognised nor registered by the USA law. The Zambian civil nor traditional law, needless to mention the Ngoni tradition to which Archbishop Milingo belongs, does not recognise it," reads part of the statement. The statement further states that Sung has been married twice, the second man being an Italian from Naples.



David Morrison has a blog!
More on visas denied to WYD attendees:

from the CBC:

Many have been refused visas because of concern among immigration officials that some people may not want to return home after the event. Approximately 6,000 visa applicants have been turned down....Immigration officials won't talk specifics, but a spokesperson says in order to get a visa, applicants must prove they'll only be in Canada temporarily, and will return home soon after World Youth Day....Nearly 50 per cent of those who applied in the Dominican Republic have been refused visas. So too, have youth from Guyana, Vietnam, Nigeria and several other countries.

From the Toronto Star

A story focusing on a Pakistani refused a visa

and here, a story about the entire delegation from Sierra Leone denied entry. (scroll down for the story)

Ah yes, the trip:

It was very nice, although conducted under the strain of two more or less constant stress-makers: a strangely acting vehicle and a 15-month old's needs.

I have to say that Joseph did very, very well. He had a couple of crying jags in the car, but they were mostly in protest of the sleep that was overtaking him. He slept fine in the tent with us, loved the beach at Lake Huron and cooperated in our sightseeing.

We began Wednesday night, driving to Port Huron, which Michael figured would be an easier border crossing than Detroit. He was right - it took seconds to cross on Thursday morning, which, I assure you, wouldn't have been the case at the Ambassador Bridge.

On Thursday, we got up and drove through Sarnia and started up the Lake Huron coast, stopping at the village of Bayfield and the small town of Goderich. We liked Bayfield better. After some disputes and failed attempts to find campsites, we ended up at the Sauble Falls Provincial Park.

Now, you must have guessed by now that this was my first time ever camping. I was never in Scouts or Campfire Girls, and camping was not one of my family's pasttimes. We didn't go full out on this trip - we basically slept in a tent, and sat by the fire Michael built in the evenings, drinking Labatts Blue. We didn't cook or anything like that. I was fascinated by all of different set-ups people have for camping. I can see how it could be an addictive pasttime - getting your hands on the newest, jazziest stuff to make the experience more endurable.

Sauble Beach on Lake Huron is a typical mini-beach town (the big beach town on Lake Huron is apparently Wasaga Beach, which my guidebook says attracts 2 million visitors a year. I believe it - they were all there on Saturday morning when we were trying to make our way up to Midland), sort of a Daytona-ette on the Great Lakes. But the beach is long, and we did our beaching at a fairly underpopulated end. This was also the first time I'd been to a Great Lake beach. No, it's not the Atlantic Ocean, but it is similar to the Gulf of Mexico, which hardly has any surf unless a storm is coming. The sand was nice - perfect for grabbing up in fistfuls and flinging at the lake (why do children instinctively do that?) and the water didn't seem too frigid - not as cold as the Atlantic up in Maine where I spent much of my childhood summers. We did hear someone complaining about the "hot" sand, and I still can't believe the guy was serious, although Michael thinks he was perfectly serious. I'd have to say the nice thing about spending some time at a Great Lake beach, as opposed to the ocean, is that you don't come away feeling as if you've had all of the water in your body sucked out of you - that feeling that being surrounded by salt produces.

To tell you how deeply pathetic our Indiana lives have become: we had to go to CANADA to even start to get tanned this summer. Quite a change from the past.

Anyway, on Friday, we headed up to Tobermory, which is at the very tip of the Bruce Peninsula, with Lake Huron on one side and the Georgian Bay on the other. It reminded both of us of a Maine seaside town. We took a boat ride out into the bay to see a couple of "shipwrecks" - actually boats that were purposefully sunk in the harbor in the early 20th century because they were damaged beyond repair, and then out and around Flowerpot Island an uninhabited island that houses a lighthouse and where we could have, if we'd a mind to, disembarked for a little hiking and swimming on the rocks. Joseph said no, so we stayed on the boat for the return trip.

On Saturday, we broke camp (actually Michael did that work. I rode Joseph around the campground in the stroller to keep him clean and out of the way) and headed over to Midland. The drive (except for the Wasaga beach part) was gorgeous - more hills around Owen Sound and so on than there were around the Bruce Peninsula, and the Georgian Bay is beautiful.

Midland is the sight of a shrine dedictated to the Jesuit martyrs of North America. The church, built in 1926, is an interesting structure. It's stone on the outside, but the interior is all panels of darkly stained plywood that are shaped, when the reach ceiling height, to be reminiscent of the shape of a canoe. It was intended to be a rustic-looking church, and it is, in a very striking way. There are relics, of course, including half of Brebeuf's skull. Joseph kissed a reliquary holding, I think, some of Isaac Jogues' relics, and was amazingly well-behaved in the car the rest of the day. Michael remarked that he must have had a conversion experience. There were some WYD pilgrims there (the WYD cross had been there the previous day), as well as scads of Indians (Asian). There are lots of other smaller shrines on the property, mostly dedicated by and for national groups. We climbed up the lookout overlooking Georgian Bay and saw the sights as the Jesuits would have seen it (minus the speedboats in the Bay, I guess). The Pope was there in 1984 and said Mass on the grounds.

On his visit, the pope also visited the recreated mission of Sainte-Marie-Among-The-Hurons, which is an impressive Williamsburg-like recreation, complete with volunteers (college students) acting out roles of soldiers, Jesuits, blacksmiths, and so on. It was, of course, painstakingly "balanced," although, I have to say, in this particular case, I have a difficult time seeing what harm the Jesuits brought to the Wyandot people. They were already under frequent threat from the Iriquois, living through horrible winters, afflicted by disease and so on. I also have to say, though, that the beginning of the tour was pretty nifty - you're in a theater where you watch a film that lays out the history of the settlement (the Jesuits were there from 1639-1649. At the end, under attack, with several martyrs, lots of disease and the Iroquois on the warpath, they burned the place, withdrew to an island in Georgian Bay for the winter, then went back to Quebec with the Christian Wyandot (Hurons). Excavation of the site began in the 1940's), and, of course, dramatizes all perspectives - the Jesuits, the Christian Wyandot and the traditional Wyandot. You are then exhorted to "judge for yourself" who was right and wrong, and *poof* the screen is raised and the reconstructed village is open for your inspection.

The Church of St. Joseph is the spot of Brebeuf's original grave, although it was too bad that the little guy with the big puffy hair who was the Jesuit For The Day had a hard time answering a child's question of what a "martyr" was.

You might be interested to note that Brian Moore spent a lot of time in Midland researching his novel Black Robe, a book well worth reading and a movie well worth seeing (although it has nekkid people in it, folks. But they're natives...so I guess that's..okay with you?), the experience of both of which is greatly enhanced by a visit to the area, although it would probably be even more powerful in the winter. Don't think that's going to happen for us, though.

Then it was off, making our way home. We skirted Toronto, saw the big CN tower from afar (We went up it two years ago, when we went to Niagara, Toronto and Montreal on our wedding trip described here), then shot over to London, where we stayed on Saturday night, rose on Sunday morning, went to Mass (where I discovered that I could quiet Joseph for literally minutes at a time by showing him the stored photos in my digital camera. As long as he didn't scream "Da-da!" in joyous discovery in the middle of it), and then came home.

Some random observations:

It was nice to see all the people I used to see down in Florida during the winter up in their summer homes. It all felt vaguely familiar, somehow.

Candians like gravy on their french fries. (chips) Vinegar, too. Even McDonald's offer it (the gravy), along with something called "poutine." What's that?(See comments for a kind reader's explanation.)

Canadian waitresses looked at me in confusion when I asked for "whole wheat" toast. They call it "brown." Whatever they call it, they certainly have better bread up there - thick and substantive.

All teens are the same, everywhere.

The only bad part of the Martyr's Shrine was the gift shop. It was pretty bad, with hardly anything actually related to the Shrine offered. I was also deeply annoyed at the gift shop at Ste. Marie. Not a religious item for sale at all - except for copies of the Jesuit Relations. I was hoping for a native-carved statue or something. Nada.

Native peoples in Canada are called the "First Nations." They've been given patches of Canada here and there.

The first night at the campsite, a child at the neighboring site starting screaming like a banshee in the middle of the night. It was a little startling, as we wondered if the First Nations ghosts were haunting us.

Michael ordered bacon with breakfast one morning and I was surprised that he got "regular" bacon, not Canadian. I ordered a BLT kind of salad at dinner one night and was equally surprised to find that the "B" was, indeed, Candadian bacon.

As usual, I am struck by the extreme sacrifices of those who brought the faith to this land and our present-day indifference to it. I'm also struck by the murky role and questionable long-term impact of culturally and socially-supported religion. To understand, all you have to do is look at Quebec, which has the lowest proportion of church-attending Catholic Canadians of any province. It's 32 percent in the rest of Canada - 20 percent in Quebec.

At Mass on Sunday, a woman got up to explain why their promised WYD pilgrims had never materialized. (part of the plan for the foreign pilgrims was for them to spend a few days scattered throughout Ontario, put up by parishes, getting to know the area, engaging in charitable work, etc.). They could never contact a couple of African groups, their Bangladesh group decided not to come, and just when they thought they might get part of another parish's huge Ecuadorean group, they learned that 180 of them (out of 300+) had been denied visas - so, when you hear about lower numbers for WYD, take into account that many probably ended up in the same boat - unable to attend because the Canadian government wouldn't let 'em in.

All in all, it was a good trip. I'll be glad when Joseph is a bit older and doesn't embrace dirt as his best friend, but then I'm sure I'll have other things to complain about, so I'll just not complain.

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