Thursday, May 9

In the most recent issue of Commonweal, three articles marking the fiftieth anniversar of the publication of Dorothy Day's The Long Lonliness: Here, here, and here:

I first read The Long Loneliness after coming to the Catholic Worker in New York and meeting Dorothy Day. Rereading it once again, I am struck at how quintessentially Day it is, in both substance and style. There are the cadences, the stories, the pointed references, the setting-matters-straight. There are her repetitiveness, her irony and complexity (early on, she quotes Chesterton on tradition, and in so doing lays the groundwork for her understanding of Christian anarchism; later in the book she quotes the agnostic William James to argue for a rediscovery of the religious value of voluntary poverty). There are Day's purposeful ambiguity—to protect her privacy and that of others—coupled with remarkable self-revelations; her keen, invigorating descriptiveness; layers of self-deprecating humor; and sometimes a wearying polemicism. Altogether, these bring to mind long afternoon conversations with Day.

In addition, there's an interesting-looking article on marriage and the priesthood, but it's not online, so I guess I'll have to truck over to the library to read that one.

From the San Francisco Catholic paper:

A good analysis of the media's blind eye to teacher-student abuse. (second story on the page).

A wonderful article about a wonderful place:

INAI, EGYPT – Nestled at the foot of Mount Sinai, St. Catherine's Monastery has for centuries been almost inaccessible to the outside world. Only the most devout visited, undergoing a 10-day camel trek to reach it. So rare were deliveries of essential goods that the Greek monks there struggled daily to survive.

Built in 527 on the assumed site of the biblical burning bush, the fortress-like complex is the world's oldest continuously inhabited monastery: A Christian presence there can be traced back to the third century. Yet despite its isolated setting and the asceticism of its Orthodox monks, today the monastery is regarded as having one of the world's finest collections of manuscripts and icons.

The ancient library – containing 5,000 early printed books, 3,500 manuscripts, and 2,000 scrolls – is of an age and diversity that only the Vatican can equal.

Too much going on today - between murder in Minnesota and purported sex rings in South Florida. Go to Poynter for all the depressing links.
The next nasty explosion: not in your mailbox. In the Northeast next week as the Bridgeport diocese's records are unsealed by court order.

The court's review found seven boxes containing confidential material, some of which had been sealed for as long as eight years. The judge ordered that most of it be made public May 16, but said the church will be permitted to argue that certain documents - psychiatric reports and those naming accused priests who were not sued - should remain under seal.

From a reader who takes my thoughts below to a more theological level. Something which is usually badly needed.

"What we have hear is a failure to trust the liturgy."

Oh, I like that. But I think the symptoms are of a greater failing.

The Mass is not about the assembled community. Nor is it even about the assembled community praying to God.

The Mass is the Son's prayer to the Father.

The priest is not acting in persona Christi just toward us; he is also acting in persona Christi toward God. If he's offering a sacrifice, he must be offering it to someone. And the sacrifice he's offering, with the assembly's assistance, is the Sacrifice Jesus offered His Father on the Cross.

This is why neither the priest nor anyone else is free to monkey about with the Liturgy (including the Liturgy of the Hours). Not because it violates canon law or the bishop's instructions or the rulings of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,but because it is nothing less than Christ's prayer to the Father.

What we need to do, it seems obvious to me, is to celebrate Mass in a way that incorporates us -- and the etymology of "incorporates" is significant here -- into the prayer of Christ to the Father. What we must not do is use the Mass as an excuse to pray to the Father apart from Christ, much less as a community-building exercise.

I think American Catholics have a peculiar problem: We are Mass-centered to such an extent that we try to fit every possible corporate religious expression between the processional and the recessional Sunday morning. There are things that we want to do, maybe have to do, as a community that simply do not fit into the Mass. The
proper thing to do is to do them outside the Mass, but the idea of getting Catholics to come to church for something other than a Mass --for a private devotion, say, or some sort of parish prayer service --has largely fallen out of our culture, apart from Christmas concerts during Advent.
[ed's note: Heh.]

We are shrinking two ways at once by both forgetting what the Mass is and forgetting how to pray as a group outside of Mass. Doing the former means we don't notice the problem with doing the latter.

Words, I must say, to tape on your parish liturgist's bathroom mirror. If, that is, you can push him/her aside from his/her morning "Thank you God for Making Me so Fabulous" ritual time in front of it.

No contest. I'll win. Or at least one of the Blogging Babes will. Why?

Because Mark Shea can't figure out to look at the "To" line on an email to figure out who the mystery guest on
Vatican Radio will be.


Progress Report: He figured it out. But I can still make my own case: Who needs those tapes more? Those high-livin' single gals? The guys who live in the Big Coastal Cities? Or me - a stay-at-home mother whose only conversation partner during the day is a 13 month old? Who needs the voices of Popes resounding through her house more? Huh?

Thanks to a reader for telling me about this essay in the Atlantic entitled "Culture of Credulity.

I have been asking Catholic friends raised in the fifties and sixties whether they would have told their parents if a Paul Shanley had molested them. They all say no. It would have hurt their parents too deeply. I doubt I could have told my own parents for that same reason. The ceremonial superstitions of Catholicism—abstaining from meat on Fridays, crossing ourselves when passing Catholic churches, carrying home palms on Palm Sunday, wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday, abstaining from food three hours before receiving Holy Communion and from water an hour before—permeated our lives much as they did for Catholics in the Middle Ages. To question the spiritual content of these rituals was unthinkable. The superstructure of the Church rose up from them. ....Priests were God's emissaries on earth, backed by an infallible Pope. The Church can't be wrong. The priest can't be wrong. "Father" had to be obeyed. That some priests would abuse this inordinate grant of power was inevitable. The culture of credulity of the still-barely assimilated Catholicism of the post-war era, I believe, is the permissive factor in the priestly abuse of children. American Catholics spent their civic lives in a democracy, but gave over their spiritual lives to a clerical absolutism.

Oh. So that's why children abused by their scout leaders run right to their parents with the news? And that's why children victimized by teachers or coaches don't keep it a secret? And that's why children abused by their own family members are perfectly comfortable with alerting their parents to the danger?

No. Sorry. It was too tempting a target for a riff on pre-Vatican II Catholicism, but in the end, it just doesn't work.

When it comes to victimization, the issue is power and its uses. Child predators are masters of manipulation and exploitation, and of entrapping their victims into secrecy, whether that is achieved through threats, twisted assurances of care and affection, or just shame.

Clerics, no matter what their denomination, who prey on children and youth, have no corner on that market.

The problem is not that the Catholic system made children particularly vulnerable. The problem is that too many people assumed that the Catholic system was exempt from the possibility of being used by child predators, and chose to either look the other way or to put up the tiresome cry, "It can't happen here. He was such a great priest."

From Charles Collins of Vatican Radio

The story on Catholic-blogging will appear tomorrow (Friday) on 105Live here in Rome. It will go out at (Rome time) 11:10 am, 5:10 pm, and 9:50 pm.

Rome is 6 hours ahead of EDT, so, on the East Coast it will be 5:10 am, 11:10 am and 3:50 pm for you streaming audio folk.

The feature will also be a "stand alone" on the website, and will appear around 4 pm here (10 am EDT), and will be available on the info page all weekend. It will be in the audio archive for a week.

The site is here.


There are five of you.
[ed - interviewed for the story] Whoever gets the most people to go to the website, listen to the story (streaming or standalone), hit that feedback button, and send an e-mail to Vatican Radio MENTIONING YOUR NAME (and talking about the site, story, whatever - name by itself is rather caddish), gets a free collection of historic Vatican Radio broadcasts.

Yes, we have such things.

You may ask, can someone mention MORE THAN ONE NAME in their e-mail? Yes, but they lack the courage of their convictions and I don't know how they can sleep at

I will stop counting next Friday (when the story leaves the archive).

Got it? That's W-E-L-B-O-R-N.

Re: The Circus Mass

A reader writes to remind me of the story of the Juggler of Notre Dame:

who performed for Our Lady" because he had no other gift to offer? I see that these circus people were from Ringling Bros/Barnum's so they were professionals doing what they knew best at risk. I wouldn't want to see
this in my parish, particularly, but I am not unduly shocked by it having happened somewhere. My first thought was "what if they fell on the altar?" So that would be a distraction, but when you have to sing some of the embarrassing claptrap, that with a little fine-tuning could serve on a pop station for lovelorn teenagers to express their sexual need for each other, that's promoted as devotional hymns, or listen to the off-key sounds produced by soloists who have inadequate backup by conventional
instruments...I'm not sure if doing something conventional badly and sincerely is any better.

Nice point about the Juggler. However, my recollection is that the juggling there wasn't going on during Mass. And that, perhaps, is a useful guide to evaluating the appropriateness of anything in this regard: Why are we doing this during Mass? Popular answers:

Because everyone's here in one space at the same time Hence stewardship appeals, financial reports, parish council elections and presentation of awards to children

Because it will make the theme of the liturgy more vivid and understandable Hence the circus, although I can't see the relationship of the circus to Passion Sunday in any way, although perhaps that's just the my fault for not being as forward-thinking as the sainted Fr. English. Hence parishioners being forced to do things with little pieces of paper cut like crosses, or with rocks, or with name tags, during Mass. Hence liturgists doing things with clay pots during Mass.

It will involve the kids in what's gonig on Hence the Passion and death of the Lord enacted by six-year olds. Hence teen-age girls in leotards and filmy skirts dancing out the Creation. Hence the homilist playing the Art Linkletter card during the homily.

What we have hear is a failure to trust the liturgy. What we have here is the extension of ego and the clamor of human voices seeking to place themselves at the center of the action. time we're confronted with the temptation to stick something extra in the liturgy, perhaps we should ask ourselves, why are we doing this. If our answer involves any of the statements above, it's time to pause, step back, and ask ourselves just why we're so intent on pushing God out of the way and unwilling to trust that everything we need to pray, to worship and to praise is there in the liturgy already. Without our tightropes, clay pots, pieces of paper, and certainly without our hideous diocesan-produced stewardship videos.

Megachurches evolve into...minimalls. (NY Times - link requires registration)

In Glendale, Ariz., the 12,000-member Community Church of Joy, which has a school, conference center, bookstore and mortuary on its 187-acre property, has embarked on a $100 million campaign to build a housing development, a hotel, convention center, skate park and water-slide park, transforming itself into what Dr. Walt Kallestad, the senior pastor, calls a "destination center."

This is a natural outgrowth of the megachurch concept, as well as of the evangelical impulse to close oneself off from the world. (Notice the irony...evangelical..with all of its implications of sharing the Good News with the world). I remember experiencing this on a small scale in the Church of God preschool Katie attended in Lakeland (it was right up the road from the Catholic school at which I taught, okay? It's not as if Catholic churches offer day care or anything, anyway....). Every single song they learned had a "Christian message" - they even took traditional nursery rhyme schemes and folk songs and replaced the lyrics. This one sticks in my mind:

Oh, Hosanna, oh don't you cry for me! I'm going through the whole wild world with a Bible on my knee!Or something like that. Obviously sung to the tune of O, Susanna

On the one hand, it's difficult to argue with a church with the resources wanting to provide services for its members, and it's clear that these churches see these services (particularly the church in Louisville with a health club) as a mode of evangelism. So what's wrong with it?

University Students told not to throw tortillas.
Catholic Charities in Boston in trouble for new reasons:

Catholic Charities officials, already reeling from dwindling donations due to the ongoing sex abuse scandal, have been ordered by the state to account for millions in missing revenue and make a full disclosure of their exorbitant administration and management expenses, according to records obtained by the Herald.

And don't forget Catholic Charities' other albatross:

The Director of Counseling Services at a Catholic Charities office in Dorcester who serves as an escort at a Planned Parenthood abortuary in his spare time.

A Boston Globe article on the Archdiocesan spokesperson, Donna Morrissey.

Or should I say, "spokesperson?" I don't think I've read an article on this matter in either Boston paper that didn't include the phrase, "Archdiocesan spokesperson Donna Morrissey did not return calls for comment."

Oh...and the article doesn't explicitly state her salary, but does say it's more than what she was making at her previous job, which was $85,000 a year.

So. Who did PR for the apostles?


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