Monday, April 22

I am trying to put two new columns and a couple of book reviews up on my regular web page, but with The Baby Who Doesn't Sleep around it's very slow going...I hope I'll have them up before bedtime tonight. That means around midnight, I'd imagine.

Did I mention that I haven't had a full, comfortable night's sleep since about January of 2001, when my pregnancy got huge beyond reason?

Yay. Earlier, I posted that I was mentioned in Howard Kurtz's blogging column today. It was great, but there was no link provided. Well, I wrote to Mr. Kurtz and asked him if he could see to it that a link was put into the piece...he did! It's there now. So...welcome Washington Post readers!
A lovely story, sent to me by a reader, from the April 20 edition of the Chicago Tribune about a priest doing good - more than good - heroic good.

When a parishioner told Rev. Gary Graf that he would die soon without a
liver transplant, the Waukegan priest did more than offer prayers. He
offered to donate part of his own liver.

Doctors quickly determined that Graf was a compatible donor--he is in
good health and shares a blood type with Miguel Zavala, who had been
given six months to live. Zavala's brother, Eliseo, also was a match, but
the priest persuaded him to bow out.

"I can't let you do it," said Graf, who has been pastor at Holy Family
Catholic Church for about seven years. "You are the father of four.
I'll do it."

On Friday, Graf and Zavala were recovering in separate rooms in
Northwestern Memorial Hospital following eight hours of surgery that doctors
described as risky. Graf dismissed any suggestion of heroism, saying he
volunteered "because he's my parishioner, he's family."

More on Catholic schools (scroll down for the beginning of this thought), this time from a reader:

After 8 years of Catholic elementary school, all my two children knew about our faith was, "we are all the same; we are each unique (huh?)
and Jesus wants us to be nice." Oh yeah, and don't carelessly discard those plastic six-pack holders.

It is hard to communicate one's dissatisfaction without sounding like .... well, you know, ... a true believer. I am a successful corporate tax lawyer serving in leadership positions on prominent community boards. I have an overdeveloped sense of humor and a propensity toward coarse
language when not in mixed company. My hobbies are bourbon and cigars. Yet when I disclose that I take the Magisterium seriously I am viewed, by Catholics, as some sort of weird Jesus freak.

And yes, I do think our Catholic schools are failing our children. Earth Day gets more attention than the Feast of the Immaculate
Conception. The Baltimore Catechism of my [very] tender years may have been inadequate,but it was true and it was taught. Today's superior Catechism is viewed as nothing more than a potential resource. It is an outrage.

Mark Shea reacts to Cardinal Law's analysis that this Scandal Situation has been a "wake-up call" for the entire Church:

In other news, The Cat, an international jewel thief says that his arrest for stealing the Mona Lisa is a "wake up call for art collectors". He acknowledged that he had been less than vigilant in policing his larcenous impulses but said that he hoped art collectors would take more responsibility in future and prevent him from robbing them.

In the world of sports, Bubba Joe Suggs, former fullback for the Bronx Thugs, declared that his conviction for beating his pregnant girlfriend to death is a "wake up call for pregnant single women". He admitted "mistakes were made" and urged defenseless women to be more proactive in asking overwhelmingly powerful brutes to please not victimize them. "Otherwise, I can't be sure it won't happen again," said Suggs.

In testimony before Congress, Ken Lay declared that the bankruptcy of Enron provided Americans with a much needed "wake up call" about the dangers of trustingly handing over their life savings to people such as himself. "It goes to show what happens when you give so much power to a happy-go-lucky free spirit like me!" said Lay. "I begged the good people of Enron not to give me that kind of power, but I guess it took serial acts of gross negligence and corruption to really send the employees of Enron a wake up call that would make them more responsible for the money they used to have."

In honor of Earth Day:

Why Catholic schools aren't all they're cracked up to be:

We're walking home from school the other day, and my daughter says to me,

"I asked God for four things the other night."


"That there wouldn't be so many factories, that people would take away all the land mines, that all the endangered animals would become not endangered, and that Joseph would sleep."

(Joseph is her year old brother who has, of late, decided to move from tolerating his crib to outright hating it. He's upstairs wailing in it right now.)

This is all engendered (except for the Joseph part) by her teacher, a nice lady who means well, but for some reason, has been feeding the class an undiluted diet of enviro-dogma over the past weeks.

If you have a child in Catholic grammar schools, you might ask - how much time is spent on these faux environmental issues and how much time is spent say...studying the lives of the saints? Just wondering.

Welcome MSNBC readers!

For your reading enjoyment:

There's this, Da Blog.

Then there's the homepage, with lots of articles, reviews and essays - linked over at the right. Along with links to my books, as well as my husband's blog - he's a former Catholic seminarian and seminary professor now working in Catholic publishing, so you can be sure he's always got lots of interesting things to say.

A couple of education stories:

First, a fascinating little tale about the top-scoring competitor at the U.S. Academic Decathalon.

He has a D+ average in school.

Now, the interesting thing about this story is that its focus is the controversy about the kid's eligibility - should he have been allowed to compete at all, given his GPA? But what really interests me isn't touched on at all: The winner of the Academic Decathalon has a D+ average in school. Why is this not worthy of comment? It points out, in a vivid way, the marginal role that institutional plays in getting an education. This, coming from the daughter and grandaughter of college professors? Sure. One of the things you learn, growing up in academic environments, is that having a Ph.D. is not necessarily an indication of intelligence. Consider - a hundred years ago, how would an "educated person" be defined? One who was well-read, conversant with the issues of the day, perhaps with some particular area of interest and expertise. The term would not, by any means, be automatically defined as a person with a certain degree.

This story also points out the inadequacies of our one-size-fits-all educational system. It doesn't meet anyone's needs - I take that back. It meets the needs of professional educators, and it meets the needs of parents who want their children warehoused all day so they don't have to worry about them.

Just remember: Thomas Edison was homeschooled. There.

The other story? A Tampa area parent is upset about books about serial killers being in his child's school library. I'd be upset too - that public funds were going to purchase sleazy, schlock titles written, not to educate, but to sensationalize.

Okay I've been trying to blog this since last night, but doing so requires two hands and, believe it or not, I usually don't have those, what with the baby on me pretty much constantly.

What happened was that, as He often does, God worked through the aforementioned baby, who was, yesterday afternoon merrily pulling books from my shelves. This one fell out. I don't even know why it was in my study - it's Michael's, and bears his highlighting from long ago. But since it's short, and since I figured God must have put it in the baby's hands somehow, I read it last night: It's Hans Urs von Balthasar's Test Everything: Hold Fast to What is Good which is the text of an interview, but contains some interesting nuggets. This is what I opened the book to:

[Christ] is of interest in every form and in every caricature: as Marxist Christ, as "Cristo liberatodor", as the "Christ principle" of the anthroposophers [uh...whatever]. All over the world, inside and outside of the Church, Bible groups are laboring to decipher the riddle that is Christ. The Church as an institution does not really interest anyone; as the well-known saying goes: Christ, yes; the Church, no. There is no more important task for the Church today than to demonstrate that in reality Christ, separated from the Church, does not exist, that one cannot follow him, or live from him, without her.

Accordingly, the only question the Church has to ask herself is the following: How should I look, so that humanity can see the true Christ through me? The answer does not lie in the formation of ecclesiastical structures, an all to common concern, but rather in what manner the Church can existentially become one single testimony to Christ, something which from her foundation and due to her objective constitution she already is. Nobody will convert to Christ because of a magisterium, sacraments, a clergy, canon law, apostolic nunciatures or a gigantic ecclesiastical machinery. Conversion will occur when a person encounters a Catholic who communicates the Christian message by his life and thus testifies that there exists not a but the believable imitation of Christ within the Catholic sphere.

So there. That, as we like to say "spoke to me." It reminded me once again that my fussing about Church structures isn't nearly as important as my openness to Christ and my willingness to let Him live within me.

And if you're involved in Church work, you might recall that quotation every time you think that the solution to all the problems of your parish, diocese, school, one more program. It's not.

I'm not impressed.

Not that anyone's asking or anything.

But I'm anything but overwhelmed by Cardinal Law's statement at Mass yesterday.

Mistakes were made. New policies. Can't happen again. That's very, very good.

What's missing? Any sense of personal reponsibility. That's what.

From a reader:

I'm a Jesuit High
School educated (and conservative despite that) attorney, triathlete and
Boy Scout Leader. In following our church's current crisis, I've been
struck by one thing that no one is picking up on: The Church does not
get it at all when it comes to the basics of Youth Protection (and
conversely, protection of adult leaders from false accusations of child
abuse). Thanks to the common sense guidelines of the Boy Scouts of America regarding Youth Protection, and their strict enforcement, I hope that
the Scouts can avoid this hornet's nest. the Church could learn a lot on
this issue.

I have even mentioned to some of my fellow Scout Leaders (non catholic)
that we need to increase our vigilance concerning Youth Protection,
because "We're Next" . When the piling on the Roman Catholics is over,
those outsiders who have enjoyed this way too much will try to destroy the
Boy Scouts for many of the same reasons: We have values, we don't
accept gay leaders, we have lots of men hanging out with boys (and hence our
vulnerability. )

So, what are the common sense guidelines? It's simple: NEVER BE ALONE
WITH A YOUTH! As scout leaders, we don't go in their tents and we don't
let them in our tents. We always have 2 or more leaders for any
activity. If a leader is left alone, have more than one scout with him at all
times. I remember vaguely that priests used to have rules about being
left alone in rooms with women and leaving the door open always, etc. .
Same idea, but this is much more important. (adult women can usually
take care of themselves)

Anyway, all church Youth leadership (not just priests!) should have to
abide by Youth Protection guidelines similar to the Boy Scout's. Is
there a Bishop smart enough to impose such rules?

Dreher on the issue of homosexually-oriented priests. A must-read.
Heh. From Mark Shea:

If I never have to sing another hymn to myself ("We are called, we are chosen, we are Christ for one another! We are promise of tomorrow while we are for him today!" Ugh!) it will be too soon.

Good overview of the Confab from the National Catholic Reporter's John Allen but the articlde is in the NYTimes, so of course....(all join in now!) the link requires registration.

He offers a helpful recent history of episcopal appointments, pointing out that

In the early church, local communities elected their own bishops. As late as the mid-19th century, in fact, direct papal appointment of bishops serving in territories not ruled directly by the Vatican remained rare. In 1829, when Pope Leo XII died, there were 646 Western diocesan bishops; 555 had been appointed by local secular governments, 67 elected by local clergy and only 24 appointed by the pope

Not that I would look forward to enduring some hideous, cheezy political campaign to get a new bishop. I mean, "Ambrose, bishop!" is a wonderful story and an invaluable lesson in the mysterious movement of God's spirit, but I don't know if the experience could be duplicated today.

I have to take issue with Allen's contention:

Every pope seeks bishops who will defend the church's teachings. But some, like Paul VI, sought other attributes as well: good pastoral sense, lively engagement with the culture and support from the local church. For John Paul II, however, it is often enough that a candidate supports Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical on birth control, and opposes the ordination of women.

This is just too easy, and too sloppy. It implies that JPII appointed bishops and cardinals who are just as vocal about certain hot-button issues as he is. Simply not true. Your bishop was probably appointed by JPII. Is he vigorously articulating the moral teaching of the Church? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm sure O'Connell wasn't. I know Lynch doesn't. We could go on - there is simply a lot more to episcopal appointments than "support" of certain positions, and that "more" usually has much more to do with a candidate's relationship with his fellow clerics than anything else, unfortunately.

Thanks to my blogging husband for pointing out this gem:

From the Tampa Tribune, more details on the bizarre fixation Bishop Lynch of St. Pete had for his former Communications Director

As I've said from the beginning of this particular soap opera down in sunny Florida, it really doesn't matter if you define this nonsense as "sexual harassment" or simply crossing boundaries. Whatever. The issue is...don't bishops have anything better to do than float in their pools, complimenting other men's physiques and buying them gifts?

Hmm....mysteries deepen. Politics to the fore:

The LA Times is reporting that unnamed bishops and a cardinal are going to gang up on Law at the Vatican.

Several senior American cardinals will urge the Vatican today to ask Cardinal Bernard Law to resign as archbishop of Boston in the face of an escalating sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.

Two American clerics--a bishop and a cardinal--said that America's Catholic bishops are all but unanimous in believing that Law must leave Boston for the good of the church

The cardinal, who asked to remain anonymous, said Sunday that he had been "commissioned" by other senior prelates to take their case against Law directly to Pope John Paul II's inner circle. He said that he, as well as others, would do so today during private meetings at the Vatican. Today's meetings come a day before two days of talks between America's cardinals and Vatican leaders on the abuse scandal.

"If the Holy See wants to send a strong signal of quality and standards of leadership," the cardinal told The Times, Law "will have to be replaced. This cannot be a phaseout." The cardinal said he did not want to undermine his efforts by publicly disclosing his name before speaking to the Vatican.

Well. Want to take bets on the identity of the unnamed cardinal who apparently has done no wrong himself?

Here's my take: If Law goes, it's only right and just that others go as well. It would be terribly unjust to make Law a symbolic sacrificial lamb when there are others who have been as negligent, both in their roles as administrators in Boston and in their own dioceses: McCormack, Dailey, Banks, M.A.H.O.N.Y., Egan and Weakland should all probably take a hike and check into the nearest monastery. Hey. Maybe they could form a new religious order: The Brothers of Perpetual Negligence. Their motto could be, Erratum - or, in an English version, "Mistakes were Made."

This is too bad.

Folks from an abuse victim's group picketed a church whose pastor has been removed while allegations against him are investigated.

As one might predict, the results were not pretty. The picketers were confrontational, the parishioners were defensive, and the love of Christ was left locked up in the tabernacle, apparently.

From a reader:

I am a sometimes volunteer musician in the church, so I often find myself focusing on liturgical music. Music (and by extension, the liturgical/music director) does have a certain power to guide the thoughts of the worshippers during certain parts of the mass. Unfortunately, the majority seem to have chosen to distract us from the Center of the Mass, rather than focus us on it. In my case, I find it all the more upsetting because I believe it’s a bad musical choice as well.

Even the hymnals have split in two along ideological lines: on the one hand the sleep-inducing pop-cheese found in Gather; on the other, the traditional anthems in Worship. How much more overt could it be? Let’s see, I’m walking into a church… what’s the focus going to be? Hey, look, here it is handily printed on the spine of my hymnal. Not that there aren’t good orthodox parishes that use the former. Nonetheless, it’s an indication that I am (and perhaps the even the priest is) going to be warring with the intentions of the liturgical director in attempting to keep my focus where it should be during the mass.

I know, this is a pretty small thing to worry (read: rant) about, especially in relation to the other problems Catholics are facing right now. Still, the highest doesn’t stand with out the lowest. Considering that the majority of Catholics know their Church mainly through the liturgy, and the role that liturgical/musical directors have arrogated to themselves, it doesn’t seem so small after all.

We've got both hymnals in our pews, and the music varies accordingly. Yesterday, however, we had one of the most gorgeous settings of Psalm 23 I've ever heard. All it said in the Mass pamphlet - er - "worship aide" was that is was written by a "P. Dietrich". It was one of the finest pieces of contemporary hymnody I've heard in a long, long time.

Are you a Famous Catholic? Then be sure you're going to be offered space on prestigious op-ed pages to comment on The Situation. Heading off today's list is Joseph Califano in the Washington Post.

Nothing much of note here, and a running theme that's just plain wrong:

It is no accident that the cardinals in the most trouble are those who have used their offices to circumvent Vatican II's command to open the church wide to all its members.

Ahem. M.A.H.O.N.Y.

His troubles may not be rising to the level of Law's - yet - but I wouldn't be surprised if they did eventually.

Further, what is this Vatican II stuff? Has Califano ever read the documents? I doubt it. I would bet you good money that the vast majority of prelates who claim an openness to the kind of "vision" Califano thinks VII was all about are as authoritarian as they come. My experience with Purgatory on mean..Diocesan that authoritarianism has no ideological home. It wanders where it will and settles in the heart of any leader who claims to have a strong "vision" for how things should go and will, with a grim smile, encourage all around to work toward "consensus" to "participate in the vision" and whoever can't find it in their heart do so can find another job.


So I get this oblique note from my dad this morning. "Check out Howard Kurtz's column in the Washington Post this morning." So I go. See the headling. It's about blogging. Yeah, he knows I blog, thinks I'll be interested. I am. I scan the column.


"Amy Welborn, a former Catholic high school teacher who writes about spiritual matters, calls her site "My Life In Between Naps -- The Baby's, Not Mine."

I guess I better do a lotta blogging today, to prove my mettle, eh?

Decent article in the NYTimes giving an overview of the situation in which the American cardinals find themselves. I was disappointed, however, to see this quote from Mary Ann Glendon, a legal scholar whom I very much admire:

Cardinal Law was and is the American cardinal who has been the most articulate exponent of the philosophy of John Paul II," Professor Glendon said. '`There is no way that a resignation by Cardinal Law could be interpreted except as giving great aid and encouragement to persons who would really like to turn the American church, or at least the church in Boston, into a kind of reform Catholicism, or a Catholic Unitarian Universalism."

I would respectfully disagree. Professor Glendon needs to listen to more of the quite orthodox Catholics who would see a resignation as a welcome sign of remorse and humility, and a recognition that new leadership is needed to clean up the mess.


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