Tuesday, December 31

Good stuff Catholics do:

Washington Jesuit Academy:

Funded by the city's Jesuit institutions, including Georgetown University and Gonzaga and Georgetown Prep high schools, the academy is a middle school designed to remove boys from troubled families, corrosive neighborhoods and the distractions of adolescence, and provide them with a rigorous program of high expectations and intensely personal support. The idea is to put them on a path to college and, along the way, perhaps improve the academic strength of the inner-city applicant pool for schools like Gonzaga and Prep. (A similar program serves girls at Washington Middle School for Girls, a five-year-old facility in a renovated apartment complex in Anacostia.)

Ventures like this -- and the city has been blessed with a few of late, including SEED, an in-town boarding school that's part of the charter system, and KIPP, an extended-hours charter school structured much like the Jesuit Academy -- are often dismissed by defensive and frustrated public school administrators as tiny jewels that pluck a few lucky children out of the city's reality and smother them with attention so that they succeed..

Yes, and your point is?.

This is the point: For not much more than the city's schools spend, the Jesuit Academy -- part of a nationwide Nativity Network of small schools committed to small classes (12 is the max) and extended hours -- takes children who were almost certain to fail and infects them with the confidence, love of learning and study skills they need to take full advantage of their curiosity and intelligence. Nationwide, about 80 percent of Nativity students, drawn from a population in which most kids do not finish high school, graduate from college.

The school's philosophy is clear from the start. As headmaster John Hoffman puts it, "Healthy demands are made and accepted" in a setting of small classes, long hours and close relationships between students and teachers. Rather than choose boys by test scores, the academy recruits through boys' clubs, cops on the beat, teachers and tutors who have run across kids with gumption.

The difference between 20 years and 20 months...

Joseph and Christopher reading

..perhaps not so great after all.

From the NYSun:

If the public schools followed the Catholic school example...

If New York City’s public school system could educate a child for what it costs to educate a child in one of New York’s Catholic schools, the city would be spending about $6.5 billion less on its Department of Education each year. ....The Archdiocese of New York is able to administer to about 110,000 students with a total central administrative staff of 28. At that level, the city’s school system would have no more than a few hundred administrative staff. But New York has almost 9,000 administrators, secretaries, clerks, accountants, and other assorted bureaucrats. In total, the city’s school system employs more than 136,000 persons, a ratio of about one employee for every nine students.

What one person can do:

A man whose anti-abortion campaign has led to dozens of Scripture-laced billboards across Indiana and Kentucky says he never anticipated it would grow so large. John DeFriend said he thought the Billboards for Life campaign would be a one-year project when it started in 1994, but has kept at it because he hoped to change some hearts about abortion as well as "save some lives." DeFriend first rented billboard space in 1973 with a friend in Minnesota soon after the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision legalized abortion throughout the country. "I wanted to do something about it right away," he said. DeFriend, who now lives in Floyds Knobs about 10 miles north of Louisville, returned to the billboard idea after he had lived in Indiana for a few years. He says the group has spent more than $2 million on the billboards, with money coming from individuals, Roman Catholic parishes and Knights of Columbus chapters in Indiana and Kentucky. It now has 35 permanent billboards and each fall up to 150 more bear such messages for two to three months.

Man sues Albany diocese, and one of its therapists, in particular, for malpractice

A Capital Region man who said he was sexually abused by several priests filed a lawsuit against the Albany Diocese on Monday, accusing his church therapist of pressuring him to not hire a lawyer and making his psychological problems worse.The lawsuit was filed by an unemployed man in his 30s who said he was repeatedly abused between the ages of 10 and 13 in the Albany Diocese, said attorney John Aretakis, who filed the suit. The victim is referred to in court papers as John Doe.Between March and November, the man met with a nun and trained therapist, Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, nearly 100 times, but she made almost no notes or records of his treatment, according to the lawsuit.Smollin asked the man to sign a waiver permitting her to discuss all aspects of his case with Bishop Howard Hubbard, according to the lawsuit. Smollin also urged him on several occasions not to hire a lawyer and said, "Bishop Howard Hubbard can no longer be your friend" after he did so, the lawsuit said.

A profile of a priest doing ministry in San Quentin

NY Bishops suing state over contraceptive law.

The state's Roman Catholic bishops and some Protestant churches are suing the state to overturn a law that will require employers -- including religious hospitals and agencies -- to offer prescription contraceptives to employees. The New York State Catholic Conference called the law that is effective Wednesday "a governmental assault" that "intrudes on any religion that does not share the goals and ideals of the abortion industry." The Catholic church employs thousands of workers in 40 hospitals, 60 nursing homes and in hundreds of social service agencies and schools statewide. "Such an outrageous law ought to alarm anyone who loves America and the freedoms for which it stands," said eight Catholic bishops including Cardinal Edward Egan, New York's archbishop, in a statement announcing the suit.

Of course, it's entirely possible that the law wouldn't have been passed at all if not for the loss of a certain degree of moral credibility on the part of certain Catholic leaders.

A year-end review of the Situation in Louisville

Monday, December 30

Accused NH priest apparently kills self

Guess the state in which this happend:

Elderly man takes golf cart on interstate


New Tolkien book discovered

When homeschooling goes really, really, really bad...

An interview with the man who drove Hank Williams on his last ride with an examination of the eternal question...when exactly did he die? The driver says there's no mystery - he didn't die in Knoxville at the Andrew Johnson Hotel, as some claim - he was still alive in Bristol, he says:

The teenager stopped in a small town to gas up and get a bite to eat. Carr said it could have been Bristol, Tenn., about 120 miles northeast of Knoxville, or it could have been Bluefield, a town in West Virginia. It was dark and he was bone-tired in unfamiliar territory. He specifically remembers a service station on one side of the highway and a diner and a cab stand on the other. He pulled in to gas up."I remember Hank got out to stretch his legs and I asked him if he wanted a sandwich or something," Carr said. "And he said, 'No, I just want to get some sleep.'"I don't know if that's the last thing he said. But it's the last thing I remember him telling me."At the cab stand, Carr picked up a relief driver who helped him drive for a few hours before getting out somewhere in rural West Virginia.Carr drove on, but became increasingly concerned about the eerie silence in the back seat. He pulled off the road to check on Williams, who was lying with his head toward the passenger seat and had his left hand across his chest....

Pope to publish book of poetry

An unprecedented book of poetry written by Pope John Paul (news - web sites), including the pontiff's thoughts about choosing his successor, will soon be published in his native Poland, the Catholic Information Agency said Monday. The agency said the book's working title was "The Rome Triptych, the Meditations of John Paul II" and that it had been written over the last several months. The pope, the author of several best-selling books about faith, has not published any poems since the start of his pontificate in 1978. " John Paul's work is a poetic meditation about themes of finality, a last will of sorts. The pope will discuss the choice of his successor, for example," the church-based agency wrote.

A different kind of conflict between bishop and priest:

Belgian bishop removes priest for banning French speakers

Belgium's perennial language dispute got a new twist Monday after a Flemish priest was removed from his parish for banning French-speakers from celebrating Mass in his church.Father Jos Verstraeten celebrated his last Mass at the St. Peter's church in Wezembeek-Oppem outside Brussels on Sunday at a service attended by flag-waving Flemish nationalists who backed his stance against French-speakers. In an unusual move, the priest led the congregation in singing "The Flemish Lion," a rousing nationalist anthem.The priest was moved to another parish by Belgium's top Roman Catholic churchman, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, after he shut his church doors to local Francophones who had held a weekly service there

Christianity Today collates reports on the murders of three missionaries

An interesting list of books of the year from John Wilson, editor of Books and Culture

Sunday, December 29

Well, here's some good news.

Reader Jim writes to note of the John Carroll University website:

I see that they have *removed* the listing of Planned Parenthood as a recommended "Counseling Site". Instead, the JCU website now recommends WomanKind, which is a Pro-Life counseling and assistance center (approved and funded by the diocese). John Carroll University is a Catholic college, and never should have listed Planned Parenthood in the first place.

Here's the site.

Monsignor Foster's accuser asks church to reopen case.

Religiously-themed board games gaining in popularity

The Globe looks at Thomas Monaghan

Vatican sets date for release of WWII archives

The documents scheduled for release do not involve the papacy of Pius XII but cover the years 1922-1939, when he was a Vatican diplomat in Germany and later secretary of state. Specifically, they cover the Vatican diplomatic missions in Berlin and Munich, and include a series of documents relating to the rise of "National Socialism" -- the Nazi ideology -- and the "condemnation of racism," a statement from papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said. The documents will not be released to the general public, but will be made available to scholars who request access, the statement said. The Vatican said in February it would open up its Germany-related archives to help end what it called the "unjust and ungrateful speculation" surrounding Pius XII's wartime actions.

Saturday, December 28

Interesting site:

Some enterprising fellow will be putting up an entry from Samuel Pepys' diary every day starting January 1 (the first entry is already up).

There have been geocities problems over the past few days, but if you are still interested in those few Christmas pictures I have posted so far, they're here with more to come later.

Everyone arrived here safely. Christopher drove up from Tennessee, and Katie and David got here from Virginia, after some completely unnecessary panic on my part about their tight layover time in Cincy - 35 minutes, and their plane left late from Virginia, and I was sure they were going to miss it.

Turns out - it was the same plane. This never happens (usually the planes from here to Cincy just sort of go back and forth all day - I've never seen on come from someplace else to Cincinatti, and then come straight here) - so we were all - including Katie and David - surprised and relieved.

Polish priest shows up in Connecticut, says he's there to help out, assaults teen girl

Accused priest died of heart attack in Bahamas

Thursday, December 26

The webmistress in the cloister

No, it's not about me.

She's a godsend," said Brother Bryan Paquette, who manages ICS Publications, which publishes works of history and spirituality from the Institute of Carmelite Studies in Washington.From her office nook in the La Plata monastery, Sister Marie Bernardina has spent the last two years spicing up the publishing house's Web site, which is run by priests and friars of the Carmelite order. "Check out our Best-Sellers," it urges, harking back to her days as a marketing student at Bowie State University.In addition to her regular work on the Carmel of Port Tobacco site, she has been tapped by the Carmelite friars to update their vocations Web site."Indefatigable," Mother Virginia Marie, 68, said of the sister's workload....

She squeezes it all into no more than an hour or two a day. The Carmelite nuns pray at least seven times daily, plus do household chores. The Internet has given them an outlet to the world they live apart from, but it hasn't blemished the simple life of solitude they've opted to lead."We pray," said Sister Marie Bernardina. "God comes first."

Umm..Merry Christmas from St. Patrick's Cathedral..

There are just a few Christmas photos here. I had digital camera troubles yesterday (nothing serious - just weak batteries) that put a cramp on my style, but it's all fixed, so we can get busy now, especially since Joseph got his new snow pants, too..and especially since everyone else is descending tomorrow.

A Blessed Christmas (remember - it's only just begun...)

We were, of course, blanketed with snow on Christmas Eve and into the night. Christmas morning, we awoke to what looked like a Christmas card, especially in an older neighborhood. It was gorgeous. It also required shoveling right away, because well, we had to get to Mass, didn't we? So Michael spent the first part of the morning out there pushing the snow to the side so we could make our trek. Got to Mass, along with the other hundred or so who were there - Joseph made it through the Gospel, but then had to be removed to netherregions until the Sing of Peace ("Peesh!). We didn't get around to opening gifts until after that - around lunchtime. And then there was a turkey breast to be cooked (Christmas Eve dinner - blackened salmon - Michael's idea - turned out great) and...nothing else to do...a lazy, relaxing day.

I have a few photos that I'll post later.

Michaell has a year-end letter posted here, and it makes me tired to even just read it. I'd forgotten we did half the stuff he recounts!

Wednesday, December 25

Peace on Earth Watch:

Christian worshippers attacked in Pakistan and India

Confessional blows up in Italy.

Suspended Miami priest dies in Bahamas on vacation with another suspended Miami priest

The Rev. Charles Peterman, who has been administrating the church since Nickse was suspended in June amid the sexual abuse allegations, asked the congregation to sit. He wished them a merry Christmas and broke the news in Spanish: ``It's very difficult to say this, but these aren't normal days. Yesterday, Father Nickse died.''Many of those in the crowd were not hearing the news for the first time, but there were gasps and sobs.Parishioners and church secretaries consoled each other in the church offices Wednesday afternoon, where the phone rang constantly with people asking about Nickse.''¿Por qué, por qué?'' (''Why, why?'' ) cried one woman.An oversized photograph of the priest rested on an easel by the Christmas tree. A collage of photos hanging on the door showed Nickse, in shorts and a T-shirt, cleaning up his church after Hurricane Andrew; in another shot he was leaning against a broken bulldozer. ''How's my driving? Call 1-800-BISHOP,'' someone had written underneath.

Nickse and Castellanos are two of the most prominent of 12 South Florida priests who have retired or been suspended since 1998 because the Archdiocese of Miami received sex-abuse complaints about alleged misconduct dating back years.Nickse was named in four suits alleging sexual abuse. Richard Fiallo, 31, alleged that when he was an altar boy, Nickse sexually abused him in a racquet club Jacuzzi and in Nickse's car.
''I don't feel like any personal vendetta has been satisfied,'' Fiallo said Wednesday. ``But I do feel shortchanged because I wanted my day in court against him. I wanted him to have to face his accuser before a jury.''Another former altar boy and a former teenage parishioner sued Nickse, alleging similar sexual misconduct. The three men claim the abuse occurred between 1982 and 1985.A fourth plaintiff alleged sexual abuse when the man was already an adult.After the church received its first complaint against Nickse, he wrote a letter to his parish denying the allegations and saying, ``I forgive my accuser.''

Even in a difficult year....

Catholics returning to the Church...

Tuesday, December 24

But no longer at ease here...

Monday, December 23

Well, at least they weren't doing it for radio.

At least.

Good for them:

Kentucky Knights of Columbus want to establish a retreat center expressly for victims of clerical sexual abuse.

This past weekend, we visited a couple of local churches that were new, at least to me. On Saturday, we were up in the northern nether reaches of Fort Wayne, a land called DuPont, which I never visit, but is a big growth area and home to one of the newer Catholic church buildings around, the parish of St. Vincent de Paul. It was nice enough with a interesting crucifix and attractive baptismal font, altar and ambo, although the placement of the ambo didn’t seem optimal to us, but who are we, anyway. The Eucharistic Chapel was a good distance away from the sanctuary – actually a short hallway, but too far, in my book. To me the optimal arrangement, if you’re going to have a separate Eucharistic chapel, is one that is constructed behind the sanctuary – I saw one somewhere – I can’t remember where – that was quite nice – one tabernacle, visible to both the larger church, but then, on the other side, to a smaller chapel.

The church was constructed, as most are, in the round – or half-round. Despite the historical importance and the symbolic power of the cruciform arrangement, I’ve never quite understood some people’s scorn for a more circular layout. No, not bunches o’chairs strewn in a circle, but a well-constructed setup that offers a good view of the altar wherever you sit. One of the more interesting church visits we had was to the Shrine of the Little Flower up in Royal Oak, Michicgan, which was built before Vatican II, and with a distinct circular arrangement, surprisingly.

Most irritating at St. Vincent's was the typical lack of representational art or color. Big white, boring walls. Stained glass that looked like ocean waves. Mary and Joseph statues stuck in nooks. And – in the church itself, not one (that I could find) statue, painting or window devoted to St. Vincent de Paul. Not even an explanation of who the fellow was.

The liturgists tell us, of course, that we don’t need representational art because it distracts from the truth that we are the Church. Posh. We are the Church, but we’re not the entire Church, thank God. Look. I live in a house. In a few days, I’m pleased to say, all my children are going to be here. We are a family.

Does putting pictures on the wall distract us from that reality? Does having old photographs of my mother and her brother when they were children, or my grandparents portrait, or a photograph of my dad with my two older sons render us all stupid and forgetful of the fact that we are a family?

Uh, no. In fact, most of us would say that it strengthens our sense of family because it reminds us of the fullness of who we are, roots us in the past and gives us hope for the future.

It just might be the same with Church. Might.

We ended up going to Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, which is new, but not as new as St. Vincent de Paul, not quite as nice, but with the same great expanses of white space on the walls. A little more representational art, including a large statue of St. Elizabeth and some children out front.

And, Michael noted, a large crucifix in the sanctuary that had not been there on his previous visit a couple of years ago, when their sanctuary crucifix was naught but a small processional number.

Times, they are a’changin’.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Michael wrote about this at his blog, but it’s worth retelling here.

Yesterday morning, we were sitting in the living room, trying to figure out where to go to Mass. Yes, our parish is but half a mile away, but we’d missed the 8:00 am, and we really, really didn’t want to endure the MegaMass 10:30 if we didn’t have to. So we were there looking through the diocesan directory, trying to find a 9 or 9:30, when Michael saw what he thought was a small log in the back yard. He looked closer. It wasn’t a log. It was a rabbit.

See, our living room is defined by this enormous, floor to ceiling picture window. We have a bird bath right on the other side, and most of the time, it’s better than television. It’s especially good if you’re rather short, like Joseph.

So anyway, from the comfort of our couches, we studied the rabbit, who looked rather strange, especially since he was just lying there. He was obviously injured – his back end wouldn’t move, although the slight movements in his front end showed that he was still alive.

Michael took him out some carrots and some water and I wondered what you did about an injured wild rabbit in your back yard. Do you take it to a vet? Do you put it in a sling and nurse it back to health?

As it turns out, I didn’t have to worry.

A few hours later we returned from Mass and a few other errands. I looked out the window. Couldn’t see the rabbit. A big old bird – a hawk - was blocking my view. I thought at first it was eating the carrots. Maybe not, I realized, as he took a break and raised his bloody beak. Guess I won’t have to worry about what to do with the rabbit.

So yes, right there in full view, ready for viewing, was the hawk ripping apart the bunny, shaking its fur off its beak, clutching the body with its talons. Well, good for Mother Nature, but not something we wanted to watch all afternoon, so Michael took a rake and moved the rabbit to the back of the property. As he relates, it took the hawk a good while to find its lunch again, but once it did, it settled down and spent a good hour and a half feasting.

I was just glad Katie wasn’t here (she and David are in Virginia until this Friday), for I don’t think we have enough Kleenex in the house to deal with that many tears.

Incidents like that always make me think of Disney movies. Really. Or actually, all kids’ entertainment that sanitizes nature and pretends that the food chain doesn’t exist or is solely composed of herbivores.

Priest attacked with nativity shepherd

Italy baffled by its low birthrate

Italians continually cite the expense of children, but as a society, Italy is much richer than it was in the aftermath of World War II, when its fertility rates were more than double what they are now. Unemployment has always been higher than in other wealthy nations, but that can hardly explain why the well-fed Italians of the postwar years would have steadily fewer children than their parents.Part of the economic issue may have to do with a gap between the lifestyle Europeans expect and one they can afford. Salaries are lower than in the United States, and consumer goods can be more expensive. Like most Europeans, the average Italian has only two-thirds the wealth and purchasing power of the average American, according to the World Bank.

Wasting no time:

Bishop Lennon says he's selected properties to sell

One woman's long journey to religious life

which included marriage and kids.

This article mentions a small organization called "Sister-Moms" just for religious women who are also mothers. Interesting. And before you reflexively scoff, remember St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. And St. Jane de Chantal. And....well, lots and lots of women.

Comments have been out since late yesterday, it seems. If they don't get back on by this evening I'll go ahead and try to switch to another system.

Sunday, December 22

Via Relapsed Catholic:

How one Canadian school has succeeded in secularizing Christmas

After Law:

Who's next?

Among the prelates under rising financial and legal pressure is Los Angeles' Cardinal Roger Mahony, who faces an onslaught of civil lawsuits in 2003 because the California legislature has lifted the statute of limitations for one year.Having spent nearly $200 million on a new cathedral, Mahony's archdiocese now faces budget cuts. A grand jury has subpoenaed its records on 17 priests, and Mahony has been personally implicated in the case of the Rev. Michael Baker, who says he admitted to the archbishop in 1986 that he had molested several boys. Baker was sent for psychological treatment and then transferred to nine different parishes before leaving the priesthood two years ago.Cardinal Edward Egan of New York also is under intense scrutiny for his past handling of abuse allegations. When he was bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., for example, Egan allegedly gave an accused priest $17,000 to settle bank debts and hire an attorney, the Hartford Courant has reported.Prelates in smaller dioceses who are under pressure to step down include Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien of Phoenix. He faces a grand jury investigation by a prosecutor who has suggested that the bishop's resignation might help to avert criminal charges against church leaders.And in the diocese of Toledo, two priests have called for Bishop James R. Hoffman to step down, particularly in light of eight lawsuits accusing the Rev. Dennis Gray of molesting numerous boys before leaving the priesthood in 1987. Although victims say they told church officials about the abuse before 1987, Gray left the priesthood with a clean record and went on to work in the Toledo public schools until this year.One of the priests urging Hoffman to retire, the Rev. Patrick Rohen, said he is "breaking the code of silence.""I will tell you, I fear retaliation," Rohen said. "But somebody's got to speak out on this. The whole problem is the world of secrecy and shame. In order to get beyond this denial, in places where cover-ups and incompetence have been demonstrated, those bishops should retire."

Fun article from the NYDaily News on textbook errors and misrepresentations

If by "fun" you mean "depressing," "infuriating," and "one more reason to homeschool."

From the Plain Dealer:

A nice article about the wonderful little "cross-tipped" Catholic churches that dot the landscape of Western Ohio.

All is not flat in the vast field that is west-central Ohio. There are spires - dozens of them - that compete with the corn in the landscape. n the two counties of Mercer and Auglaize, 25 Catholic church buildings grace the horizon - one, it seems, at every crossroad. The area has been dubbed the Land of the Cross Tipped Churches for the many towers that rise above the trees and reach toward the heavens. The church buildings, most of which are 100 or more years old, were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979; the routes that pass in front and behind are considered an Ohio Scenic Byway, one of 14 designated by the state. Take a tour of these roads, and it's impossible not to feel inspired. "When I was growing up here, I thought the whole world was like this," said Sister Barbara Ann Hoying, director of the Maria Stein Center, the former motherhouse of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. In fact, there is no other place quite like it.....

Perhaps not, but a close second would be the Painted Churches of Texas, built, like the Ohio churches, by Germans, but also by Czech immigrants, as well.

By the way, there's a description of one building, not a parish church, in Ohio:

From Maria Stein, you can travel either east to Minster, to the towering St. Augustine Church, or west to Carthagena, to the majestic St. Charles Seminary. Both are major stops on any tour of the area. St. Charles, a sprawling facility on 900 acres, was closed as a seminary in 1969, and it now serves as the retirement center for members of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in America. Church officials are hoping to turn the largely empty building into an independent-living facility open to the public, and are working on securing financing. Inside the building’s Chapel of the Assumption is a stunning mosaic of Christ ascending from Jerusalem, created by a German artist and reconstructed behind the altar in the early 1960s.

We've been there. It's huge. It's got a nice Gaspar del Bufalo relic (his forearm bone). But I've got another good idea for the use of this huge, mostly empty building. Let the USCCB buy it and use it for their meetings (as well as keeping the retired priests and brothers there). It's literally in the middle of fields, away from the distractions of the city. It's a religious house. It is eminently more suitable for bishops' meetings than hotels in Dallas or DC.

Not that there aren't other enormous empty former seminaries and motherhouses available for the same purpose. But that's another issue, isn't it?

Churches being built and refurbished in Manhattan

George Weigel remembers a moment in Cardinal Law's episcopal career.

Money Talk:

From Boston, the Archdiocese is re-approaching donors now that Law is gone

and in Long Island, tales of donation challenges

In the New York metropolitan area, Brooklyn is the only diocese that publishes an audited financial statement in its diocesan newspaper, The Tablet."We have not released financial statements and I do not know of any plans to do so,” said Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for Cardinal Edward Egan of the Archdiocese of New York.Rockville Centre stopped publishing financial statements a few years ago, but the bishop's finance council planned to discuss possible changes to the practice, according to Novarro.Asked who the finance council members are and when they would decide, she replied: "We're not releasing the names. They're five people who have volunteered their time. We don't want them to be hounded by the media. We will release the information we should release when we're ready to release it and not before.”

Philadelphia Catholic museum on hold

The project had been underway for nearly two years. In March 2001, church officials announced the purchase of a six-story office building to house the museum, and said they hoped to open in June 2003, to coincide with the opening of the nearby National Constitution Center and Liberty Bell Pavilion.

Christmas in Saudi Arabia

In Lebanon and Syria, with substantial Christian populations, Christmas is celebrated openly in all its religious and commercial glory - and even some Muslims go Christian shopping just to see the holiday fanfare.But in Riyadh, the mere mention of Christmas leads many expatriates to lower their voices and fidget, fearful of unwanted attention or risking their jobs. Just buying a Christmas card requires a whispered journey into a greeting card underworld.At the Riyadh gift shop where a few festive decorations were tucked in among other goods, a Filipino employee shakes his head when asked about Christmas cards. But he gives directions to another shop, advising an inquirer to look for the Filipino manager."He'll give you one in secret ... secret because it's 'haram' here, you know," he says, using the Arabic word for "forbidden" known to anyone who has run afoul of conservative Islamic social norms.

From the NYTimes (LRR):

The story of a boy - now a 66-year old man - who says he saw the Virgin in the Bronx in 1945

Every evening at 7, Joseph Vitolo walks out the backdoor of his boyhood home in the Bronx and ascends a long stairway to a shrine that overlooks the northern tip of the Grand Concourse. He then leads the few people who have gathered in the recitation of the rosary. On some nights, no one shows up and he performs the service alone. Other nights, Mr. Vitolo is himself absent, having fallen asleep in front of the television set or lost track of the time. Mr. Vitolo, a slow-moving 66-year-old with a gravelly voice and sandy hair flecked with gray, has sought to carry out this nightly act of devotion since Oct. 29, 1945. That is when, at 9, he said he witnessed the Virgin Mary hovering over the spot where the shrine is now. The sighting catapulted Mr. Vitolo, a child of Italian immigrants, to news media celebrity. Spurred by extensive newspaper coverage, more than 30,000 people eventually crowded the spot, just south of Van Cortlandt Park, hoping to be touched by the heavenly presence that, it was said, had been communicated to the child.

Saturday, December 21

In India, they've been celebrating the 1950th anniversary of the arrival of the Apostle Thomas

Good Stuff Catholics Do:

Omaha Catholic high school students collect 100 tons of food for those in need.

From Chicago magazine:

A look back at the big church scandal of the early 1980's: Cardinal Cody's financial mess in Chicago, an article written by the son of one of the original reporters on the story for the Sun-Times

From Slate:

Why isn't Cardinal Law in jail?

Official portrait of JPII to debut in Philadelphia

The canvas depicts an upright, beckoning pontiff, and is based on photos from the early 1990s. Shanks said he wanted to show Pope John Paul II in his prime and in his element -- he's depicted in the transept of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. "(It) represents ... the most profound spirituality I have ever confronted or have felt while painting, owing to the nature of the subject, of course," said Shanks, who is not Catholic. "But also, I think, in terms of the psychological penetration achieved, the integration of the man, his spirituality, and that of the building that he is standing in."
Shanks, 64, of Andalusia, put aside other commissions, including a portrait of former President Bill Clinton, while he worked on the Vatican job for more than 21 months. He wouldn't say how much he was paid for the project.

This Mel Gibson/Jesus (blogged below) project sounds quite fascinating and has the potential to be a powerful tool for evangelization. Strikingly powerful, as a matter of fact, and that got me thinking.

I’m not a Mel Gibson fan – I don’t hate him and I can see his appeal, but it was really never there for me the way it is for some. But his devotion to this project fascinates me, because you can see two important parts of him at work in it: his faith and his arrogance. Like it or not, in more cases than we like to admit, arrogance (or maybe what is perceived by outsiders as such), bravado and a desire to prove oneself are a vital ingredient in accomplishing Big Things – even in religion, in which humility is a virtue. Humility is a virtue, but in order to do anything substantial, that humility and realistic assessment of ourselves in relation to God and others can and must co-exist with a sense that I can do this thing, and I can do it in a way that no one else can.

But that wasn’t really my point. Here it is: We all know Gibson’s take on faith – at least we know part of it – he has never, to my knowledge, given an in-depth interview on the matter – he’s a Tridentine Catholic who has no truck with post VII Roman Catholicism (his father was deeply involved with these issues).

Now, I ask you – when you think of Tridentine, dissatisfied Catholics what do you think of? Well, I think of my mother, first, who was all of that, but secondly, I think of infighting, backbiting, nitpicking and more or less continual condemnation and defensiveness. I don’t, I’m sorry to say, think of an outward-looking commitment to bring the truth of Jesus to the world at large.

Maybe it’s a lesson for all of us. Churchy types of all stripes spend their hours and spill their ink and waste their bytes arguing over semantics, the niceties of ritual and the precise interpretation of papal bulls, encyclicals and footnotes.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood Guy, who probably feels as strongly about those intricacies as any other who shares his ideology, has decided, instead of going inward, to bring the story of Jesus to a world that needs it, badly, instead.

Maybe Hollywood Guy has a lesson for the rest of us.

From the WSJ:

An article by Douglas Kmiec, possible nominee for the DC Court of Appeals, concerning "concerns" about his religious faith:

Judge Me By My Work

Does someone with this strong embrace of life and family warrant a presidential nomination to the federal bench? That is hardly for me to say, and I am not campaigning for appointment. I like teaching far too much for that, and I fully recognize that judicial service would preclude other counsel that I may now freely share with government leaders in these times of national emergency. I will point out, however, that as Ms. Aron and her counterparts frame the question, it is irrelevant. Transparent moral beliefs and a gratitude for the gift of life may be measures of the quality of a person; they are not, however, the most appropriate or direct yardstick for sizing up a potential federal appellate judge.

Why not an appropriate yardstick? Because disqualifying a person from a federal post on the basis of his religious or moral beliefs cuts deeply against the guarantee of religious freedom secured in the First Amendment; it might even contravene the Article VI admonition that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." And why not a direct yardstick? Because the job of a federal appellate judge is far more straightforward than these intractable issues--issues that, in the end, must be resolved as best we can within our many communities, informed less by top-down government edict than by bottom-up moral, religious and family belief.

An interview with Jim Caviezel, in the middle of his portrayal of Christ for Mel Gibson

The physical and emotional torment, aside, Caviezel nevertheless insists he's thrilled -- no, honoured -- to be part of Gibson's film. "Doing this movie, particularly at this time of year, it's extraordinary," Caviezel says. He also believes it was meant to happen, was almost preordained."I believe there are no coincidences. The fact Mel came to me when I was still 33 years of age [the same age Christ died], there was a reason. I believe that Our Lord meant it. I believe He has a great hand in this film. That's why I'm continually asking Mary for help, to show me the perfect way to be her son."
The film, which will shoot in Italy until February, is clearly a labour of love, as well, for Gibson, describes himself as an old-fashioned Catholic (the former Road Warrior will only attend Mass if it's said in Latin). He has seen the raised eyebrows among his film peers in Los Angeles. He has heard their derision and snickers. Gibson admits the dead-language thing has made it difficult, nay, impossible, to find a distributor. But Gibson, who is both directing and financing the project, has kept faith in his original vision of this biblical drama.

At a press conference in Italy recently, the Academy Award-winning director of Braveheart joked that no U.S. studio wants to touch his movie with a 10-foot pole. "They think I'm crazy," says the action hero of such flicks as Mad Max, Lethal Weapon and The Patriot. "Maybe I am. But maybe I'm a genius. I want to show the film without subtitles. Hopefully it'll be able to transcend the language barriers with visual storytelling." Much of the script, which Gibson co-wrote, is based on the diaries of St. Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) as collected in the book The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Mary Magdalene will be played by Italian seductress Monica Bellucci. The screenplay was translated into Latin and Aramaic by a Jesuit linguistics scholar based in Los Angeles.

A LaSalette Shrine in Massachusetts lights up every Christmas

Friday, December 20

In Boston today, a priest was deposed in a sexual abuse-related civil lawsuit of another priest, admitted his suspicisions, expressed regret that he'd not acted on them and urged the accused priest to come clean about the whole matter.

Hoatson said he was not surprised earlier this year when Garry Garland and David Carney accused Ryan of molesting them and photographing them naked when they were students at Catholic Memorial two decades ago. Church authorities placed Ryan on administrative leave after the allegations first surfaced in March. At the time, Ryan was a parish priest and a vicar who oversaw 16 parishes.Hoatson, who now works in New Jersey but who was a teacher at Catholic Memorial in the 1980s, said he had misgivings over the large amounts of time Ryan -- a former chaplain at the school -- was spending with student athletes.

"I couldn't understand why a former chaplain who held a big archdiocesan job was still coming back ... to be involved in the football and basketball programs," Hoatson said. "After all, we had a chaplain in the school and I was supposed to be the moderator of the football program. Yet Father Fred continued to insert himself in the lives of the young men who played football and other sports," he said. Hoatson said he was sorry that he did not follow through on his hunch about Ryan.

As you probably already know, Mother Teresa's miracle was recognized and her beatification has been set for October 19

In honor of Katie's piano recital last night, I post this story:

Man arrested for refusing to make way for a piano recital scheduled for a church

Brunklaus said she had received a request from Comfort-Waldorf six weeks prior asking to use the church for a piano recital so that the children could show their parents how much progress they had made. Brunklaus agreed.Services at the church are over shortly before 1 p.m., she said, and Traugott often makes use of the quiet time to use the church for further prayers. This day, she said, the church had held a Christmas party downstairs and the recital was scheduled for around 3 p.m. But at 2:45 p.m., "he was still going strong," she said.Asked repeatedly to stop, or at least to pray silently, Traugott refused, she said. Delayed by the confrontation, the recital finally had to be moved downstairs, the players using a portable piano. Brunklaus called police.

The guy seems to have been protesting the fact that the Blessed Sacrament was not going to be removed from the tabernacle during the recital, which, I understand, it should be in this kind of situation....

A fascinating piece from Andrew Greeley on discoveries about the history of Christianity in China

And this is a surprise?

Foreign born Hispanics hold more traditional moral views than those born in the US

Among foreign-born Hispanics, 51 percent said they found divorce acceptable, compared with 65 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics, 59 percent of blacks and 74 percent of whites. There were similar differences among those who found abortion acceptable: 14 percent of foreign-born Hispanics, compared with 29 percent of native-born Hispanics, 28 percent of blacks and 43 percent of whites. In addition, 91 percent of foreign-born Latinos said they thought it was better for children to live in their parents' home until they were married. That was compared with 57 percent of native-born Latinos, 46 percent of whites and 47 percent of blacks."You can call it 'The Melting Pot', you can call it assimilation, call it whatever you want, but what is clear here is there is a process of change going on" in terms of Hispanic attitudes, Suro said.

At the moment, we're eating oatmeal, reading the paper, and watching the Wiggles Christmas special. Do you know what's striking about it?

Christmas is mentioned. Frequently. Jesus is mentioned. They just sang an Irish song about birds coming to visit the Holy Family, complete with children acting out the song.

Do you know how refreshing that is? Do you know that we're just about sick to death of "Holiday specials" and "Holidays With Joe" (of Blue's Clues)? Do you know how frankly shocked I was to see those radical Wiggles thumbing their Aussie noses at our American evisceration of Christmas?

Oh. So not everyone has a child under five years of age? Pardon me.

The Wiggles.

Well, I don't see the problem. Mattel has decided to make a pregnant Barbie-type doll (hey, she's married, with a 3-year old. And she's a doll, remember.)

Not everyone likes it

The pregnant Midge comes with a protruding, rounded belly. Toymaker Mattel veered from reality, however, in the way Midge delivers the baby. Lift off the belly section, and the curled up infant drops out. Because Midge's pregnant look is achieved with a detachable part and tiny magnets, her instant flat stomach returns far faster than any abs an exercise machine can deliver.While the Yorktown Wal-Mart thought it best to sidestep an issue that seemed to bother some of its customers, other Hampton Roads Wal-Marts have done well with Midge.Both the Newport News and Hampton stores sold out of the pregnant doll, store officials said....Even though the doll was a hit, several shoppers at the Hampton Wal-Mart complained, said Kitty Worley, who works in the toy section of that store. Some customers told her they wouldn't buy the new Midge dolls because they didn't want their little girl playing with a pregnant doll and that the Barbie line of dolls is supposed to be a role model for young girls.

Yeah. We're not bothered by modeling unrealistic body images, but we're bothered by a baby.

Logic strikes again.

Thursday, December 19

Gray Davis banned from playing Santa at Catholic children's home because....

Well, you can guess:

Despite a 20-year tradition of California governors delivering Christmas gifts to the St. Patrick's Home for Children, the school's director barred Davis from school grounds unless he would ask forgiveness for and disavow his views on abortion. Monsignor Edward J. Cavanaugh, director of the home since 1952, asked the governor to sign a letter declaring that he repents "of ever having promoted the killing of innocent unborn children." "We don't let any pro-abortion people in our grounds here," Cavanaugh said. "He should get his life together and he should change his whole philosophy on the unborn. He should stand up for the sanctity of human life."

Davis refused to sign the letter, and instead invited children from the home to the state Capitol to fetch their gifts. "He's entitled to his point of view and I'm entitled to mine. I'm unapologetically pro-choice and I'm not changing my position," Davis said. "Having said this, the tradition is about children, not grown-ups, I didn't want the kids to be disappointed."

It's okay for them to be dead, just not disappointed.

Don't look for much blogging today. You can blame

a)Richard Bausch, who wrote this book that kept me planted to the couch until way too late, literally unable to put it down until it was finished.

b)work that really must get done today.

I'll probably be back in full form either tonight or tomorrow - but tomorrow's pretty busy, too, so don't hold your breath.

In the meantime, you might want to keep your eye on Philadelphia. A Norbertine priest faces an indecent assault charges (not with a minor, but still...at a YMCA whirlpool with a "mentally challenged" man...).

In addition, the fury over the supposedly restricted child-porn priest continues. The Cardinal (have you ever seen his house? Now there's some apostolic poverty for ya. Anyway.) has said he was unaware of the situation and at a loss to explain why the pastor allowed the priest to minister publicly on occasion. Said this at a press conference yesterday.

Wednesday, December 18

Do people go to college to learn how to do local broadcast news? Do they get degrees in it? Do they tell their parents what they do for a living?

Tonight, on one of our local stations, the consumer watch segment, always hosted by the male anchor, was devoted to some bizarre sandpaper mitt leg hair removal system. No, he didn't test it, but he went to a tape of two women doing so, one of whom was his co-anchor. Yeah. She sat there in a chair, sandpapering her leg, and then when it was concluded that the old method worked best, proven by a close-up of the stubble on her leg, so there she sat again, slathering shaving cream on her leg, and shaving.

Back to you, Dave.

Thanks to reader Kirk for sending along this link to a Gallup poll of Catholics and their Mass attendance habits

I have to get other stuff done right now, so I leave it to you to pick apart..

Bishop Lennon meets the press

Says he supports settling with abuse victims:

Lennon said he has asked that all parties "set aside, except for activity mandated by the court, the day-to-day litigation activities for a period of time so as to permit all parties to actively pursue the potential for a comprehensive settlement of all cases."Lennon said he would continue to offer counseling and outreach support for victim survivors."And I will also begin to meet with victim survivors who wish a meeting with me. Respectfully listening to them, I hope to learn and appreciate the depth of their suffering."I will in turn extend to each of them my apology on behalf of the church for the abuse which they have suffered."He said selling off some of the church's properties and bankruptcy still have not been ruled out as a means of paying claim settlements.

This UPI article says that no reporter asked him about the claims that he knew about abuse in two cases for laicization, didn't report to the civil authorities, but should have. I find it strange that he wasn't even asked.

More documents.Too depressing.

Because, you know....gays and lesbians are so victimized by discrimination

In an unusual move for a U.S. automaker, Ford Motor Co.'s Jaguar brand is launching an advertising campaign targeting gay consumers, the company said Tuesday. The campaign germinated from a major internal study at Ford and Jaguar on how to reach gay consumers, which tend to be fairly affluent with a taste for luxury goods. Ford estimates there are some 14 million gay and lesbian consumers in the United States who wield $450 billion in purchasing power. "They spend more money on luxury cars and they have more money to spend," said Simon Sproule, a spokesman for Jaguar. "

From the NYTimes, a long article about the NY Presbyterian minister accused of abuse

So began a hushed investigation last February that exploded this month into a public litany of sexual abuse allegations leveled against one of Westchester County's best-known ministers. Eight men told the Presbytery that during the 1970's and 80's, when they were teenagers, Mr. Miller initiated oral-genital contact with some, masturbated in front of others, took nude photographs of one and exposed himself to all eight. The Presbytery read these charges publicly at a regional meeting in Middletown on Dec. 3, and the next night they were read again to the Mount Kisco congregation. In both cases, the identities of Mr. Miller's accusers were not revealed. Three of those men agreed to interviews on the condition that their names be withheld.

Once Mr. Miller was apprised of the findings and warned that the Presbytery would seek a church trial, he resigned, voluntarily renouncing his jurisdiction, which means that he is no longer an ordained minister and can never be a pastor again. He then sent a letter to the Mount Kisco congregation saying that in his longtime struggle to accept himself as a gay man, he had done "things that were wrong and inappropriate to my position as a minister." He said he would "carry the burden of this wrongdoing for the rest of my life."

Among the most troubling aspects of the case to many in the town is the suggestion that numerous people were aware of Mr. Miller's inappropriate interest in teenage boys. Some said that they had been told to quash ugly talk that was circulating about the popular pastor. Others said that they had heard youths snickering about Mr. Miller but had decided to ignore the remarks. Doug Phillips, associate pastor at the church under Mr. Miller, said parents had twice complained to him during the mid-1980's about the minister's use of "inappropriate language" around their children. He was concerned, he said, but met with Mr. Miller and thought the issue had been resolved.

Was Bishop Lennon wrong in not reporting abusing priests he was involved in laicizing to the civil authorities?

Two lawyers for alleged victims of defrocked priests say archdiocese documents raise issues about the role of Bishop Richard G. Lennon in overseeing problem clergy.The documents, reviewed by the Herald, show that Lennon - interim head of the Archdiocese of Boston - was responsible in his role as assistant for canonical affairs for overseeing the formal dismissals from the priesthood of the Revs. Paul J. Mahan and John J. Geoghan. Both were dismissed, or ``laicized,'' on Feb. 17, 1998.Lennon was familiar in the mid-1990s with case histories of both men, but there is no indication in subpoenaed files that he alerted civil authorities to their pasts.

The NYTimes reports on the reactions of 3 CT parishes that lost their pastors this past weekend

In interviews today, parishioners at each church said it was difficult to believe that their pastor could be guilty. Still, the parishioners said, they were keenly aware of other abuse cases, especially some notorious cases in the Bridgeport Diocese.

"It's like a plane crashing into our house," said Judith Mastoloni, director of religious education at St. Paul Church. "We live close to the airport, but it could never happen to us."

Mrs. Mastoloni said it was hard to believe the charges. "I could almost swear there has never been anything in our parish," which serves 700 families in Greenwich and in towns across the New York border in Westchester, she said. "I am sure people would have come to me. I am not only the director of religious ed, but this is my parish. I know the parents. My grandchildren were in the program. My grandsons used to run through Father Al's house chasing a dog."

Nevertheless, Mrs. Mastoloni said, she thought the resignation was appropriate. "Guilty or not guilty, step aside," she said. "Let's get this straightened out."

......At St. Mary's in Ridgefield, parishioners said they supported Bishop Lori. "The bishop had to do what he had to do," said Joe Gulick, a member of the church for 30 years.

Maria LaRosa Smith said she had faith in Father Morrissey, the pastor since 1992. "We want our Father back," she said. "I think the person who made the accusations did so against three pastors from well-to-do parishes. He decided it was a good way to get income."

Other parishioners said they also suspected a financial motive. Mrs. Mastoloni of St. Paul said she was curious that one man had accused three different priests. The accuser is being represented by Tremont & Sheldon, a Bridgeport law firm that has represented many other victims of sex abuse by priests and negotiated a multimillion-dollar settlement last year in lawsuits involving 26 people and accusations against 5 priests.

Read Fr. Paul's comment here. It's #5. Do we get it yet? Do we see how these people operate? OF COURSE they present themselves well. OF COURSEthey are skilled at crafting a winning public image.

If they didn't, they couldn't continue exploiting, abusing, and doing other sick things behind the rectory doors. It's all part of the horrible game they play with the rest of us, and it will be a great day when we get over that bump on the road to seeing all sexual predators, no matter what profession - ministry, education, social work...whatever...for what they are and refuse to be taken in by their carefully crafted personas, designed to deceive.

US stands alone at UN population conference

George Neumayr points out the historical logic of Stanford's decision to clone embryos for research purposes

David Starr Jordan, the first president of Stanford University, was a "biological elitist," writes historian Kevin Starr in Americans and the California Dream. Jordan promoted a cult of the Strong. He did not want the "eugenically inferior" to populate America.

He thought that the "survival of the unfittest is the primal cause of the downfall of nations." He worried about "those whose descendants are likely through incompetence and vice to be a permanent burden on our social or political order." "Sons and daughters of the Western pioneers, yours is the best blood in the realm," he told Stanford students. "It is blood which tells."

Now for Stanford it is stem cells from cloned embryos which tell. Jordan's pursuit of a superior race of humans unblemished by bad blood continues at the school. Stanford announced last week that "it will establish a new Institute for Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine," an effort to "develop a new series of embryonic stem cell lines that will serve as models for a wide range of genetically related diseases."

Weakness is so intolerable to the Stanford ethos that the school is willing to clone humans embryos for experimentation in order to eradicate it. But Stanford officials, lacking the rhetorical chutzpah of their founding president, conceal their intentions in medical cant.

More on the Philly-area priest in the story below.

The archdiocese took away his public duties when the charges emerged, and Father DePaoli entered the Villa of St. John's Vienny, a Catholic health facility in Downingtown. In 1988, he went to the House of Affirmation, an after-care facility in Hopedale, Mass., for two years, Rossi said.After his recuperation, Father DePaoli spent several years at St. John the Baptist parish in New Jersey, Rossi said. With the sacrament ban in place, he came back to Philadelphia to reside at Immaculate Conception in 1992, Rossi said. He went to St. Gabriel's on Dec. 2, 1995, with the understanding that he would work within the restrictions imposed by the archdiocese."He had no parish responsibilities," Rossi said. "He was simply in residence there."

Oh. Well, that's nice. Get convicted of possessing child pornorgraphy, spend the rest of your life hanging out at the rectory. Surely the man had to do something to earn his keep.Seems to me that if a guy like that insists on remaining in the priesthood and attached to the diocese, they should put him to work as the Chancery maintenance man or something...

LA Archdiocese drive for needy schools and parishes sets record numbers

Despite this year's sex abuse scandals and economic downturn, parishioners in the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles have pledged $16 million to aid their needy parishes and schools -- the highest figure in the annual fund-raising campaign's 10-year history.

Tuesday, December 17

Kenneth Woodward on the wound that has not yet healed.

A "gray area"

They told the priest to stop saying Mass after he was convicted of possessing child pornography. They said he stopped. He didn't.

They found out when parishioners called in compliments on his homilies

The Rev. Edward M. DePaoli was barred from celebrating Mass in public, hearing confessions and performing marriages after he was found guilty in 1986 of receiving a child porn magazine called "Joy Boy 33" through the mail.He was never formally defrocked, however, and has continued to live in church residences for 16 years. During that time he has been allowed to wear clerical garb, but he's been prohibited from all public priestly duties.In recent years, however, DePaoli had occasionally participated in Masses at St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in Stowe, with the permission of the church's regular pastor, according to Catherine Rossi, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.Rossi said the permission was withdrawn about a month and a half ago after the archdiocese received phone calls from parishioners who said DePaoli was taking part in Mass. "Actually the calls that came in were people complimenting him on a great homily," Rossi said.
DePaoli had no active assignment at the church, but lived in its rectory, she said.

Word Up:

If you're ever in a public place that's supposed to be quiet (like a library for instance) and you hear a toddler bellowing "Hello!" every two seconds....

come and say hi.


Bishop starts process to defrock priest

10 years after the guy pled guilty..

Supremes ask Bush administration for opinion on abortion case

The Supreme Court put the Bush administration on the spot yesterday, asking for its views in a politically charged abortion case involving aggressive efforts to deter doctors from performing abortions. The administration will consider whether a law that protects access to abortion clinics can be used to punish protesters who list doctors' personal information on the Internet and advertise doctors and clinic staff members as "wanted" on posters. .....

Justices have been asked to hear an appeal from the anti-abortion activists, who were ordered to pay nearly $110 million in punitive damages to the doctors for violating a racketeering law and the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The activists maintain that their activities are protected free speech. The Bush administration's Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Theodore Olson, could have filed the administration's opinion in the case without being asked, but didn't

Kopp faces new charge

James Kopp, 47, already charged with intentional second-degree murder, pleaded innocent to reckless murder with depraved indifference to human life. If convicted, he could get 25 years to life in prison. ''There was new evidence that was brought to our attention that warranted the second count,'' said prosecutor Joe Marusak. He declined to elaborate, citing a gag order, but the indictment was clearly linked to Kopp's admissions in a Buffalo News interview last month.

All right - here's an article from Wired about what the Vatican Archives is putting online for the rest of us to see.

Now, if anyone can go to the archives or museum section of the Vatican site and dig out the spot where these treasures may be seen, I'd greatly appreciate it, because, for the life of me, I can't figure it out.

What's going on the Indy Archdiocese with their accused priests.

• Rev. John B. Schoettelkotte of Bristow was placed on administrative leave after the archdiocese substantiated an allegation that he abused a woman 30 years ago.

• Rev. Jack Okon of Indianapolis was placed on leave after being accused of fondling two teenage boys in the 1970s.

• Rev. Micheal H. Kelley resigned from a southern Indiana parish, admitting past sexual misconduct with adults.

• The late Rev. Albert Deery was accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing schoolgirls.

Because, you know, this is all because of homosexuals in the priesthood. Anyway.

The board has investigated some of those priests, said DeLaney, but not all of them. And it isn't reviewing allegations against priests who have died, she said.

Jay Carrigan, vice president of Voice of the Faithful-Indiana, said knowing where the lay board is in the process is a step forward. His group is a lay Catholic organization that supports victims of priest abuse and priests who are not abusers.

The group has been pushing the archdiocese to tell the public how many priests are under investigation, how many victims have come forward and how much money the church has spent to settle cases against priests.

It also wants the archbishop to appoint a victim of priest abuse to the board.

Twice the group has made these requests by letter, the latest sent on Friday.

Borcherts said the second letter had not arrived.

In response to the first letter, Buechlein didn't give the group the information requested. He also dismissed the idea of appointing a victim of priest abuse to the board, referring to counsel he had received from DeLaney, a former Marion County deputy prosecuting attorney.

Putting a victim of abuse on the board wouldn't be fair to priests, DeLaney said."It is unrealistic to think that any person traumatized can make judgments without having that trauma impact those judgments," she said.

I think I'm just about bowled over here. I guess if the bishops can put a victim of abuse on their board, maybe the Archbishop of Indianapolis could, too. And I guess priests are always and everywhere to be trusted to be totally objective about the failings of their brother priests?

Is there light at the end of a tunnel?

Or - when a baby finally has a night of 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep is it more accurate to say that there's darkness - blessed, quiet darkness - at the end of this particular tunnel?

George Weigel in the LA Times (LRR)

Let the healing begin.

This seems to be the consensus Catholic response, ranging from victims groups to the church hierarchy to the Catholic press. It is an entirely appropriate sentiment if the question is reconciling the victims of clergy sexual abuse to the church.

But it is a hopelessly inadequate reaction if the question is fixing what is broken in the structures of Catholic belief and practice in the United States.

The jargon of the therapeutic culture in which "fixated ephebophilia" masks the reality of homosexual molestation and "observe the boundaries" replaces "don't commit grave sin" is part of the problem, not part of the solution, to a crisis caused by priests who broke their vows and bishops who failed to lead

Via Andrew Sullivan

From gay activist to Dominican

Twice before, Baikauskas, who turned 50 this March, had considered the priesthood. The first time he was in eighth grade. He had made a pact with a friend. Though back then a boy entering high school could choose to leave home and devote his life to God, Baikauskas’s family quickly put an end to that possibility. The thought wouldn’t enter his mind again until 1989, a year after Baikauskas, a recovering alcoholic, stopped drinking. He planned to give the Dominican friar every opportunity to turn him away. At their breakfast, he laid it all out: “I’m 47 years old. I’m divorced. I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’m gay!” Baikauskas laughs as he gives each statement greater emphasis. “And you still want to talk to me?”

“Well, of course,” the friar said.

Within a year, Baikauskas would be accepted into the Dominican Order of Preachers at St. Dominic Priory on the campus of St. Louis University. This past August he started his first semester at the Aquinas Institute of Theology. He hopes to be ordained in 2007.

Dontee Stokes found not guilty

Dontee D. Stokes, who admitted shooting a Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting him nearly a decade ago, was acquitted last night of attempted murder in a Baltimore trial that drew national attention amid the church's unfolding sex scandal.The jury of 11 women and one man took about eight hours to find Stokes, a 26-year-old West Baltimore barber, not guilty of attempted murder and five other counts that could have sent him to prison for life.Jurors did, however, convict Stokes of three lesser handgun charges, which most likely will bring a sentence of probation.Accompanying the verdict was a handwritten note from the jury, asking the judge for leniency during sentencing.

Cardinal Law discusses his future

The text of his statement.

Monday, December 16

The Pope greets Lionel Ritchie, who was part of the bill at the Vatican's annual Christmas concert.

Rockin' at the Vatican.

Vatican approves norms.

A summary of the abuse claims paid out by the Louisville diocese over the past twenty years.

San Antonio priest part of School of the Americas protest.

Louisville priest removed

National Review board meeting in Cincy today.

Bishop McCormack reflects on his future:

Bishop John McCormack told parishioners yesterday he is haunted by his part in the church sex scandal, and for the first time apparently questioned whether it could affect his future as leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester.``These days, my past haunts my present and clouds my future with you in New Hampshire,'' he said at the opening of Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral.However, McCormack tempered the remark by adding the best way he can help alleged victims is ``to serve and lead the church in New Hampshire well.''....McCormack criticized the attention paid to the sexual abuse crises, calling it a ``bizarre interest in the details of these horrible acts which repulse us.''McCormack also said too much attention has been paid to his shortcomings. ``Among the many choices and decisions that I have made as a priest and bishop, my mistakes and failings have been lifted up, scrutinized and characterized by some to be such that I am a harmful person or one who lacks moral character,'' he said.
``Little consideration is being given to any good that I have done in the past, and many are being led to question whether I can do any good in the present or in the future.''

The Globe's account of Bishop Lennon's first Sunday on the job also...

Shedding some light on the sequence of recent events, Coyne said that Law had decided to offer his resignation by Thursday, Dec. 5, the day after he won permission from the archdiocesan Finance Council to file for bankruptcy if he concluded such a step was necessary. Law's decision came just two days after lawyers for alleged victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley made public 2,200 pages of church documents on eight priests, one of whom had been accused of terrorizing and beating his housekeeper, another of trading cocaine for sex, and a third of enticing young girls by claiming to be the second coming of Christ.

Coyne said Law flew to Washington to convey his desire to leave to the papal nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, and that Montalvo urged him to go to Rome to discuss it with the pope. Law arrived in Rome Dec. 8, and spent several days consulting with Vatican officials before meeting with the pope on Friday.

Coyne said that Lennon had known as early as Dec. 11 that he was going to be named apostolic administrator of Boston, meaning that the Vatican had decided to let Law go well before Pope John Paul II accepted Law's resignation Dec. 13.

Coyne said that Lennon, because he was appointed by the pope, has the full authority of an archbishop to ordain priests, name pastors, and close churches, as well as the secular rights to settle lawsuits or file for bankruptcy. Lennon's situation is different from that of many diocesan administrators, who are chosen by local bishops and whose authority is more circumscribed.

Sort of a lost weekend for me. I came down with the cold that's afflicted everyone else in the house (except David), so I although I did things, I don't remember much of it, honestly. It's been that kind of fog.

Saturday morning, we started of by heading to lovely Decatur, Indiana, to watch the momentous battle between the St. John's Eagles and the St. Joseph's Commodores 5th grade basketball teams. Katie continues her energetic play, chasing down her opponents like she's got a contract out on them, and hauling that ball up in the air from great distances - she is going to make a 3-pointer before the end of the season, I'll bet.

Of course, they lost (0-4 so far) in a show of strong defenses - I guess that's what you could call a 14-9 final score.

Did I do anything Saturday afternoon? I don't remember. Honestly. Saturday night, we went over to the very hospitable Nancy Nall's house for a lovely open house, and yes, this was the first time we'd actually met face to face! . We took Joseph, who gave their dog some work to do each time he spilled something on the rug, and who also made a religious statement of course when he grabbed baby Jesus out of the manger, dropped him on the floor where - yes - the dog immediately rushed, eager for another snack. We obviously made our exit before the Trivial Pursuit game. It was a very nice evening - thanks Nancy!!

Today, Katie and I went to a production of The Christmas Schooner a musical of the heartwarming genre (is there any other kind for the season? Should there be?) based on the true story of German immigrants who brave the wintery waters of Lake Michigan to get tannenbaums from the north shore of the lake down to Chicago. Sort of - if I'm not giving away too much here - an Edmund Fitzgerald thing, only a little more cheerful. Just a little.

Sunday, December 15

Canadian Archbishop's letter scolding clerics leaked to press

Archbishop Marcel Gervais delivered an unprecedented rebuke to the Ottawa archdiocese's priests and deacons last week.In a copy of a letter that was accidentally faxed to the Citizen and Ottawa-area Roman Catholic school boards along with a Christmas message, the archbishop said he was "quite angry at the poor turn-out" for a celebration at Notre-Dame Cathedral last Monday."In fact, I was ashamed at such indifference," the Archbishop told the archdiocese's 93 priests and 79 permanent deacons.The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated last Monday, is one of four annual events that Archbishop Gervais has previously told priests they must attend and promote. Permanent deacons have also been told they must promote the events.However, the archbishop wrote in the letter that he recognized this year's event "was held on a Monday night and that, for many of the priests, Monday is a much-needed day off."

Cardinal Law reflects

He was asked if he held any bad feelings toward the news media or the lay and clerical groups that had voiced outrage at his mishandling of the abuse crisis, and that contributed to the mounting pressure on him to resign.''I have no hatred in my heart for anybody. I mean that,'' he said.''I really think that what I have done is best for the church and I have to leave it at that,'' he said. ''I think it is best that I return quietly. My statement issued yesterday will have to speak for itself right now. I hope you understand.''....Law did not accept an offer from the Globe for a formal interview, but he did talk briefly about the last tumultuous week in Rome and his feeling of great sadness. He consistently reiterated what he had said in a five-paragraph written statement released by the Vatican Press Office on Friday that his offer of resignation ''was motivated by a desire to do what is best for the archdiocese.''

....He did not discuss his meeting with the pope or any of the legal proceedings that he still faces. Much of the discussion was about other issues, including the Middle East and, specifically, the possible war in Iraq. He mentioned a statement that he had crafted at a US Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in November that outlined the application of the theology of ''just war'' in the current context. Law pointed out that an actual present threat would be required for the United States to fight a just war under Catholic theology.Asked if he was disappointed that such statements of morality by the church on important questions of the day had been muted by the scandal that has shaken the church, he said, ''Of course I am.

Where'd Shanley go? Provincetown.

Saturday, December 14

Diocese of Providence starts selling property

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence plans to sell the bishop's summer home, a Watch Hill mansion appraised at $4 million, to help pay for its $14.25-million settlement in some three dozen sexual-abuse lawsuits.

In a paring down reminiscent of other dioceses that have compensated victims of abuse in recent years, the Providence diocese is also considering selling at least eight other properties, including vacant land near Aldrich Mansion on Warwick Neck, to pay for the September settlement, the diocese's financial officers said yesterday.

Chief Financial Officer Michael F. Sabatino, and the Rev. Msgr. William M. McCaffrey, the diocesan secretary for planning and financial services, discussed the diocese's 2001-2002 financial report yesterday, revealing not only the effect of the settlement on diocesan finances, but the internal workings of the diocese as it fought 10 years of litigaton. The diocese spent between $3.5 million and $4.5 million in legal fees to defend the lawsuits.

The diocese, which has assets around $100 million, is counting on the sale of property -- not directly related to ministry -- and insurance money, to pay for the settlements and legal fees. It is not necessarily a smooth course; the diocese is trying to recover insurance money from carriers it had decades ago, when much of the abuse occured. Typically, nationwide, insurance companies have balked, rarely giving as much as a diocese wants. One of the Providence diocese's major insurers in the 1970s, has already refused to pay once.

The diocese's financial officers acknowledged yesterday that the costs of the settlements, coupled with nearly $4 million in stock market losses over the past year, will curb spending.

Friday, December 13

Three priests resign from Bridgeport diocese

What is Bishop Lennon like?

Really interesting stuff from John Allen today. Written pre-resignation, but still pertinent.

Only the pope can request a cardinal’s resignation, and John Paul II’s personal bias undoubtedly leans against doing so. The pope himself, it should be remembered, has faced calls for resignation, albeit for very different reasons — on the grounds that he is too old and weak to govern. He has consistently spurned those suggestions. “Jesus did not come down off the cross,” he recently said. Hence his inclination would doubtless be that Law should stay put and clean up the mess he’s made. That view is widely held in the Vatican. Seen from Rome, the life of a retired cardinal seems fairly sweet. One enjoys the privileges of high ecclesiastical office with few of the burdens. Staying on the job in the midst of crisis, on the other hand, is a daily ordeal. (Recall that the Vatican never removed Cardinal Michele Giordano of Naples, even when he was facing a criminal trial for loan-sharking in 2000 that could have landed him in jail. Privately, several curial officials opined that resignation was too good for him). Hence keeping Law where he is, which can look from the United States like letting him off the hook, seems instinctively to a certain Roman way of thinking like the most fitting sentence possible.

Gee...he must have been talking to Mark Shea or something...

Never fear to step in and make foolish statements:

If Boston doesn’t get an Archbishop from within, here are my three guesses for the New Man:

Chaput, D’Arcy or Gregory.

BTW, suggestion #9 in the comments is very, very smart...

Plus ca change?

The lawsuits are still being prepared.

The files are still being released

The subpoenas are still out

The Archdiocese of Boston is still in crisis – financial and otherwise.

What does this change at the top signify? What could it accomplish?

First, it clears the way for some leadership that might be able to accomplish something. Cardinal Law’s presence hampered this possibility for several reasons. First, he was too closely involved in the sins at issue, and in too direct a way.

Say I’m the DRE of a parish. (I’m not anymore, but I was once). Say I make a series of lousy decisions that impact the parish negatively – I institute new procedures for reception of First Communion, for example. I ban or strongly discourage traditional First Communion dress (don’t laugh, it’s been done.) I institute a burdensome series of parents’ meetings and declare that if parents can’t attend every one of them, their child may not participate. Etc.

Say that this series of decisions causes great dissension and hurt, but I persist, over a period of three years to enforce them. Say my First Communion classes end up declining by 50%.

I’ve made a mess. I may have had good intentions, but it is highly questionable whether this has brought anyone closer to Christ, which should be my prime motivation in decision-making.

Should I stay to fix it? Or should someone else be brought in?

Well, sure, if I wanted to stay, I could very well stay to fix it. It would take compromise, a lot of meetings, some humility on my part, some openness on the parish’s part, but I could, given a change of heart, remain in this ministry and fix this problem.

But say I’d done something else. Say I had consistently allowed and encouraged incompetent catechists to run wild in my program. Say we were all friends, we hung out together, we supported each other, and I allowed these jokers to continue messing up because I had some attachment to them. Perhaps their incompetence took various forms: some taught heresy, some taught nothing, and some were mean to kids. But no matter what the complaints, no matter how many tearful first-graders were presented to me, I soldiered on, letting my friends stay in place in the classroom. And through it all, I consistently misrepresented the situation to my pastor and to concerned parents, telling them that it was probably the kids’ faults. You know how kids are.

Could I fix this situation?

Perhaps, but the chances are slim. Why? Because of my personal connection to the problem. This is not an issue of misguided programming. This is an issue of personality, of a deeper sense of betrayal of my ministry, one which makes me fundamentally untrustworthy.

It’s not a direct analogy – we have no sense that Law was acting to protect friends. I’m not suggesting that. I’m just suggesting that the nature of his personal involvement in these decisions – his willingness to sacrifice principle and the safety of children for the preservation of some sort of relationship (even if it is bishop-priest) and the well-being of perpetrators, plus his apparent occasional prevarication renders him untrustworthy. He didn’t institute a failed program. He personally supported abusers. It’s not something you can scrap, apologize for and replace. It’s a personal betrayal that cripples you as a leader, both in how you are perceived and truly, how you can act, since you will always, at some level, concerned with self-preservation.

But….only time will tell. There is certainly a power struggle of sorts going on in Boston, and it will take great skill to resolve it. But what’s most important, right now, is that the victims of priestly sexual abuse be given their due, be ministered to, and that the Archdiocese right itself morally and financially, so that it can get on with the business of witnesses to the love of Christ, rather than the desperate need for self-justification.

A busy day in Rome:

Pope John Paul II has named Monsignor Ronald W. Gainer, a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, as the Second Bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky.

The announcement was made by Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, papal nuncio to the United States, at 6 a.m. EST today. The papal nuncio is the pope's ambassador and liaison to the church in the United States.

Prior to his appointment today, Bishop-Elect Gainer, 55, served as the Judicial Vicar of the Tribunal and the Secretary of Catholic Life and Evangelization for the Diocese of Allentown. He also served as chaplain to the Carmelite Nuns of the Ancient Observance (Calced Carmelites) in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. At the time of his appointment, he served as a member of the Diocese of Allentown's Council of Priests, College of Consultors, and Priest Personnel Board.

Bishop-Elect Gainer was ordained for the Diocese of Allentown on May 19, 1973. He was named a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by Pope John Paul II on August 20, 1991. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters of Divinity Degree (summa cum laude) from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, PA, and a Licentiate Degree in Canon Law and a Diploma in Latin Letters from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy.

He was born in Pottsville, PA, on August 24, 1947, to Anna M. Meko Gainer and the late Francis F. Gainer. He attended Mary, Queen of Peace Grade School, Pottsville, and graduated from Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary High School, Pottsville, in 1965. He attended St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, from September, 1965, to June, 1973.

In addition to his work with the Diocesan Tribunal and promoting works of spiritual renewal and evangelization as Secretary of Catholic Life and Evangelization, Bishop-Elect Gainer has taught canon law, has served in parish and campus ministry assignments, and has served as spiritual director to diocesan chapters for separated, divorced, and widowed persons.

Thanks to Meggan for passing that along

A link to statements issued by various individuals and organizations regarding Law's resignation

Good question:

What about the bankruptcy issue?

Cardinal Keeler and Dontee Stokes take the stand

Spokane County won't pursue clerical sexual abuse cases because of the statute of limitations.

Holocaust Museum honors Polish dissident and Holocaust rescuer

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski has seen it all.

At 80, he has outlived most of the friends who shared his intense experiences, those miraculous moments of carving life out of the wreckage of war, while risking death.

Twice the foreign minister of Poland, an author and historian, an anti-Communist dissident and ideologue of the Solidarity movement, a prisoner in Communist jails for seven years, an activist in the Polish underground, a survivor of eight months at Auschwitz, Bartoszewski is also the last prominent founder of a movement that clandestinely rescued, hid and smuggled Jews to safety in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Members and organizers of Zegota, or the Council for Aid to Jews, set up in Poland in 1942, operated under Nazi occupation laws that promised instant execution for any Poles -- and their families -- helping Jewish citizens, even for just sneaking in a piece of bread to a Jewish fugitive.

...Zegota was financed by and functioned as an agency of the Polish government-in-exile. It saved and helped 4,000 Jews, including 2,500 children. The goal of the group, he explained, was to arrange for escapes, secure forged documents, find overnight shelters and ensure fugitives were fed.

..."I did not know I was doing anything great," said Bartoszewski, who became involved in Polish exile groups and intelligence work. "I am a Catholic, raised in a Catholic school. We were taught to love our neighbors. It was one of the Ten Commandments; I simply took it for real.

A list of the nineteen bishops who have resigned since 1990 over sexual issues either their own or the mishandling of others'.

Domenico's got observations from the front line

Peter Gomes, Harvard chaplain and theologian - Protestant, openly gay, for what it's worth professes sympathy and support for Law in the Globe

When I told some colleagues that I, a conspicuous Protestant, thought I should say a word in this sulfurous climate on behalf of a brother cleric, I was advised against it and told that every angry Catholic and militant secularist in town, not to mention the unbridled forces of the city media, would be against me.The question was sharply put: ''Why would you support a man who has lost all support?'' The answer is simple, at least in my profession: ''Because he needs it.''I cannot imagine what breakfast at the cardinal's residence on Lake Street must be like, with the table laid with the morning edition of the local papers. The news is bad enough, but when columnists and editorial writers weigh in with their shrill characterizations and cries for arch-episcopal blood, one cannot help but empathize just a bit with the Nixon-like figure who is damned at every turn. Those who not long ago were pleased to be pictured with the cardinal, kissing his ring and attending his charitable events and proud to be known as archdiocesan insiders, now, like the disciples on Maunday Thursday, have forsaken him and fled. If a public figure is treated like Nixon, we shouldn't be surprised if he behaves like Nixon, to whom Norman Cousins, in The Daily Telegraph of July 17, 1979, ascribed the motto: ''If two wrongs don't make a right, try a third.''


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