Wednesday, April 10

Whom Oprah Helped: an estimate of how her imprimatur helped sales of various titles. Like I said...tears are flowing.
A review of a biography of the fascinating Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, best-known for the amazing Barcelona church called Sagrada Familia

One of the contradictions of Gaudí's life is that as he grew ever more conservative in his personal philosophy and more fanatical in his Catholicism, his architecture became more eccentric and flamboyant, not less. His "unfinished magnum opus," van Hensbergen says, "employed a wild stylistic kleptomania that pulled together the language of the waxworks, the diorama, the carnival, the landscape, the grotto, the fairground and the religious shrine into an elaborate whole."

"Gaudí's architecture was, despite its superficially fantastical appearance," van Hensbergen writes, "profoundly literal in a way that had not been seen in Europe for hundreds of years. Gaudí did what Goya and El Greco had done before him -- illustrated precisely the plastic reality of the spiritual world." And he did it in a way that even those who may be immersed in the sexy, whimsical material world still find fascinating.

Do you agree that the coexistence of a more conservative "personal philosophy" with flamboyant, eccentric artistic style is necessarily contradictory? I don't. Or at least I can't tell from the review the real nature of Gaudi's religious convictions - the author mentions celibacy and austere fasts - but it seems to me that deep religiosity, which implies (again, at least to me) implies a deep intimacy with God which is, contrary to popular thinking, something that frees rather constrains. When you're focused on God, and allow yourself to be defined solely by His love for you rather than what the rest of the world thinks, that's liberation, not restraint.


They've made a movie based on one of the Dumbest Books of All Time: Joshua.

Harsh words for Cardinal Mahoney from one of LA's alternative newspapers.
Well, there ya go, mate:

If we think embryonic stem cell research is wrong, why don't we support adult stem cell research like the Catholic Church in Sydney, Australia has promised to do with money, not just words.

Here are a lot of things that are true:

All human beings are created in the image and likeness of God.
That identity is distorted by sin. Therefore, human beings are not, by nature, filthy sinners, nor are they walking on earth as pure, undistorted images of their Creator.
All human beings are in need of God's grace and forgiveness. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God Romans 3:23.

Sidebar: Do you know how I, no Bible memory whiz, was able to just type that out without effort or research? Because my daughter attended a Church of God run pre-school, and part of her education was memorizing a Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet, which she would recite, in the process unconsciously mimicking the deep Southern accents of her teachers. The best was a verse from Isaiah, which came out of her mouth as a very labored, "Aaah-zay-ah Nahn Forty-Nahn." Or something. I do remember it had a lot of "Nahns" in it. That one up there was the first one - A.

Anyway. All human beings are sinners with the potential to fulfill God's hope for them. That's who we are, and our lives are a journey of sanctification (if we choose) - of cooperating with God's activity in our lives, becoming more fully His.

So with that in mind, I proceed to the issue at hand, which is the constant caveat I'm hearing these days in relationship to so many of the clergy accused of either perpetrating sexual crimes and sins against children and youth, or covering it up.

He's a good man.

The column in question begins,

Bishop Anthony O’Connell is a good man.

It’s in the East Tennessee Catholic, the diocesan paper for O’Connell’s first diocese, of which he was also the founding bishop.

The columnist goes on to ask who of us would want to be defined by our worst moments, and then moves on to the issue of abortion, correctly maintaining that women who obtain abortions are still loved by God, and so on.

The column above this one, written by a priest, never specified the issue, but was all about the necessity of forgiveness.

Most of the letters to the editor were on the same wavelength.

Good man. Did great things in the diocese. Forgiveness. Move on.

I feel about these words the same way I'm beginning to feel about the Bush Middle Eastern "policy." And? What do the words mean? What are their consequences?

I really don't understand what these peoples' points are. Are they trying to make sure everyone knows that they think and feel the "right" things, the things that they believe Jesus is all about? Are they trying to reveal something they think we don't know - that individuals can, in fact, accomplish good things but at the same time be less than moral exemplars? (An idea which is, incidentally, the theme of most modern biography)

I think everyone knows all of this - about the possibility and hope of redemption and so on, about not allowing the good that people do to be tainted by their sins and flaws. I knew this already? You did too, right? So what's the point of making these kind of thoughts the focal point of commentary?

It reminds me of those times when, as a high school teacher, I witnessed the misdeeds of teenagers being discussed. No matter what the offense - no matter how innocuous or how serious - for example, breaking into your school the night before graduation and coating the halls with motor oil - someone - maybe a parent, maybe another teacher - would say,

You know, they really are good kids.

And I never understood why people were moved, all the time, every time, to say this. To avoid seeming judgmental? To appear merciful? If it were parents, the motive was clear - to find an angle that would excuse the behavior and mitigate the punishment. Of the good kids.

Is that's what's at work here? If so, what might these commentators suggest be done? A public apology and continuing in ministry? But isn't that what we're all so bent out of shape about - that this is exactly what was done? Over and over?

I can't imagine so. Then what? It seems to me it's all about wanting to sound what we think is Christlike, forgetting in the process, all the things that Christ said about what to do when a member of the Christian community sins, which is anything but non-confrontational, and all of the things he said in particular about religious leaders who misuse their position and those who would harm little ones.

I'm sort of at a loss here, but the Beauty of the Blog is that I can come back to it later, perhaps with some insights from you as well?

Eve Tushnet on a roll today....

You know what fun I have seeing from whence my visitors come. Enron,, lots o' colleges and universities, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.....

Someone from the Diocese of St. Petersburg spent quite a lot of time here today.


Yesterday, I shared a tale of a bishop's Catechism-phobia. One thing I didn't mention is my reflection on the supreme irony of Church professionals, lay, ordained, and vowed - who have been bleating for decades about the need to treat Catholic adults as...adults...and leave the supposed infantalizing tendencies of pre-Vatican II days behind - these very people deciding that those same adults must be protected from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

A priest wrote to agree and added:

Oh, it's worse than that! They believe having the catechism in their
possession will actually infantilize the laity further (like dependence
on the Baltimore Catechism for our parents' generation). The only way
the laity can break free of the old church (and the CCC represents the
old church), is to somehow communicate to them the mysterious (and
indeterminate) nature of the faith so that they can truly be Christian
adults, thus superceding allegiance to rote doctrine and truth. In
other words, "keep them stupid and we can do what we want!"
modernists really believe that ambiguity is the soul of theology (of
course, you can't argue with the Lit-Niks; there's no ambiguity in
church renovation. After all, EACW is the only truly inspired document
in the canon).

For the mystified: The EACW refers to Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, a document issued by an American bishop's committee that was embraced as Gospel by many liturgists, resulting in the fabulous magenta-carpeted, bare-walled worship spaces you so enjoy.

One more thing: I just told Joseph to go get his shoes.

He got them!!!!! Not bad for 12 months and 6 days old.

I'm off to the library. More later on my reactions to the latest issue of the East Tennessee Catholic, the paper for the Diocese of Knoxville, the diocese of which the deposed Bishop O'Connell of Palm Beach was the founding bishop. The issue is filled with letters and columns about the situation, including one that begins, "Bishop Anthony O'Connell is a good man."


Finally, someone asks The Question:

Was the Archdiocese being blackmailed?

It's a column you must read. I'll quote part of it:

Was Cardinal Bernard Law moved by charity for a retired priest who, whatever his sins, had served the church for decades? That might make sense, if only Law's history was one of charitable impulses toward retired priests. Instead, his record includes more than a decade spent rebuffing reasonable requests for a meager pension from scores of honorable men who left the priesthood, some after 25 years of faithful service, to marry.

'' ... the trusts that have been set up for the medical and pension/retirement care of clergy are specifically limited to those who are in `good standing.''' the Rev. William Murphy wrote on Law's behalf to a group of former priests petitioning for pensions from the retirement fund to which they all had contributed.

Shanley was one of those deemed to be in ''good standing.'' Even as the archdiocese was negotiating with his rape victims, it sent emissaries to California to meet with Shanley and agreed to increase by $300 his monthly stipend. Why?

Excellent question...and there's more. Read the piece.

What's a mistake?

Accidentally dumping cayenne pepper instead of cinammon into a recipe: mistake.

Not being stricter earlier with the baby and his sleep habits so that now you've got a one-year old who still wakes up three or four times a night: mistake

Opening an email attachment from someone you don't know: mistake.

Being aware of a priest's years of ,extreme predatory actions towards children, yet continuing to assign him to parishes, giving him recommendations for work with youth, and never alerting civil authorities:Not. A. Mistake.

The Boston Herald's Joe Fitzgerald must be one of the last standing defenders of Cardinal Law:

There's more than one side to a story, even this one.

The mistakes the cardinal made were, in hindsight, obvious; he's acknowledged them and apologized for them, over and over, which is what we do in this business, too, when we screw up.

But none of them warrant quitting, which is why he should not yield to the pressure of the moment, intense as it must be, though that's easy to say from the outside looking in, the only perspective the media have, this column included.

What Fitzgerald obviously misses is that what Cardinal Law did was not a "mistake." We don't know why he did it, although I would be absolutely fascinated to indeed, know what moved him to cover up for Shanley, but it was not a mistake. It was, as a BC professor of moral theology says in this piece from the Herald something more:

``The Shanley case seems to have been decisive as to the extent in which Cardinal Law knew about criminal activities and refused both to inform law enforcement authorities or even his colleagues within the church,'' said Pope. ``This is not just making a mistake. It is a serious and grievous moral failure.''

Asked why he believes Law has refused to step aside despite three solid months of blistering public attacks, Pope said, ``Cardinal Law is devoutly loyal to the institutional structures of the Roman Catholic Church. But he also has a strong sense of his own importance to the church and a strong belief that the church in Boston has been a victim of attacks from the mass media,'' Pope said.

"I think there is a moral myopia that has made him focus so strongly on protecting the public image of the institution that more important concerns were lost sight of - like protecting the kids.''

And maybe something else. Who knows.

So yes, the Cardinal should resign. He should stand before the Church he was consecrated to lead and teach, confess his sins - not mistakes - sins, and retire to a monastery.

Among the ranks of the saints are many bishops who have resigned and retired to monasteries, some probably because of age, others because they felt the job was an ill fit.

Among them is one of today's saints, Macarius of Antioch, who resigned to become a pilgrim. Others:

Helladius of Toledo
Vincent Strambi
Lawrence the Illuminator
And then there's this one:Gaudentius of Ossero who:

Bishop of Ossero, Istria in 1030. falsely accused, he travelled to Rome in 1032 to defend his name. On the way home, he fell ill in Ancona, and stayed there to recover. He then resigned his see, and became a Benedictine monk under Saint Peter Damian.

Cardinal Law has been publicly silent for weeks on these matters. Is that courageous leadership? If he is so convinced that the attention to this is a factor of press bias and anti-Catholic agitators, let him be a fearless spokesman for the Faith and do battle with those forces. But he's staying behind walls, protected, silent.

What does his silence and his spokespeople's insistence on characterizing this as a "mistake" tell us?

Michael Kelly on the Middle East. The evidence is, of course clear, as is the central question. After 9/11. President Bush's administration declared an all-out offensive against terrorism directed at the US, an effort that would not stop, he said, until terrorism was defeated. Why, then do we deny Israel the same right of response? Why do we imply that Israel, beset by suicide bombers and surrounded by nations dedicated to the proposition that it has no right to exist, doesn't have the same right and even obligation to respond to threats to its existence with as much intensity and finality as we claim for our own defense?

Also don't miss Krauthammer on the Israeli-Lebanese border. Very, very scary.


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