Thursday, June 20

A story:

Many years ago, I started teaching high school theology in a Catholic school in Florida. That first year, as was the case every year, I had the usual collection of students. A few stood out for good or bad reasons. One of those (for the good reasons) was a girl named Nancy Murphy. She sat in the front row, in the middle, was good natured and popular, but was also clearly cut from a different cloth from most of her classmates. She behaved impeccably, for one, was unfailingly attentive and would, at intervals, turn ever so slightly in her perch to give a mild evil eye to misbehaving classmates. A gem.

The next year, another Murphy appeared in my class. Erin - Nancy's younger sister. A little taller, a little looser, but also cut from the same, obviously wonderful cloth. Who had produced these girls? (And their brother, not one of my students, but evidently just as marvelous).

The answer came on my end of story. My son David, a student in elementary school, got a teacher. Mrs. Murphy was her name, and she was a wonder. I could never say enough of her as a teacher, and neither can David ("Mrs Murphy was awesome" he will still say today, years later). She also helped me out when I was in an incredibly tight spot - I had to be at my school far earlier than David's school began, and sooner even that before-school care started. Molly (that's her name) got to school at the crack of dawn and volunteered to let him hang out in her classroom. It was one of the nicest things anyone ever did for me - and when Katie came along, she did the same for her. For a couple of years, I returned the favor by taking her son Patrick to school with me, but I still can't help but feel that she did me the bigger favor, and I'm still grateful.

Fast forward through the next few years, and this is what you see: Molly and I becoming friends. Molly being diagnosed with cancer, first of the breast then bone. Both daughters getting married. Me moving away. And then, some terrible news - Nancy's young husband Michael, had been killed in a car accident, on his way back fto South Florida from taking Nancy and their very new baby to stay with Molly, recuperating from brain surgery.

Pain heaped upon pain. Who could endure it? I can't imagine.

Of course, the Murphy's have endured. They are, from a distance, the same wonderful, intensely supportive family they always have been, amazing witnesses to love and faith to all who know them. Really.

And now Nancy and Erin have started a business.

Nancy moved up to Lakeland and lives a block from her sister and a few blocks from her mom and dad. She wants to stay home with Emma (born just a few days after Joseph. Nothing like procreating at the same pace as your former students), so has started this business that sells homecrafted soaps, bath salts and bubbles, lotions, as well as baby slings and personalized stationary products. I received my first order from them today, and I can attest that it is, as their name says A Finer Thing. Please stop by their website and check out their products. I'm sure you'll find something wonderful for yourself or to give as a gift. And say hi to Nancy and Erin for me!

Reader Don contributes the following regarding a Supreme Court decision handed down today:

Today's US Supreme Court decision in Atkins v. Va. (by Justice Stevens)holds that it is an 8th Amendment violation to execute the mentally retarded. This is based on evolving societal standards. Link here.

Justice Scalia (along with Rehnquist and Thomas) dissented. Link: here.

In quibbling with the majority's reliance on allegedly evolving standards, Scalia could not resist a shot at the USCCB:

The Court cites, for example, the views of the United States Catholic Conference, whose members are the active Catholic Bishops of the United States. See ante, at 12, n. 21 (citing Brief for United States Catholic Conference et al. as Amici Curiae in McCarver v. North Carolina, O. T. 2001,
No. 00—8727, p. 2). The attitudes of that body regarding crime and punishment are so far from being representative, even of the views of Catholics, that they are currently the object of intense national (and entirely ecumenical) criticism. Scalia, J., dissenting, n.6.

Whether or not you agree with the majority on the 8th Amendment issue, it is interesting that Justice Stevens is willing to rely on the USCCB to save
murderers from the gas chamber. I don't recall that he has been swayed by the USCCB's views on the deaths of 1.5 million completely innocent
unborn babies every year.

Apples and oranges, I know -- the unborn babies haven't been "punished," so
the 8th Amendment doesn't apply. The law is a ass, said Mr. Bumble.

Well..maybe source #1 was wrong:

Domenico Bettinelli reports that the Vatican is expected to give quick approval to the Charter and Norms


I don't believe that "the crisis" is "only about one thing." By no means. I agree with you on that score. I just feel duty-bound to harp on the issue of clericalism because so many people resolutely ignore it!

Interested in matters philosophical? There's a big discussion of God's alleged omnipotence going on in That End of Blogdom, linked by Disputations, here.

Oh, and by the way John, re your post on celibate priests and the joy of books, we have a copy of Jungmann in this house, and I believe I was the one who brought it into the family, and no celibate priest am I....

More from Brooklyn, the Fun Place to Be a Catholic:

It's an old story (from April), but worth reading, from Newsday:

Bishop Thomas Daily repeatedly ignored warnings about a priest's late-night parties with teenage boys in a Queens rectory, years before the priest was arrested on sodomy charges, according to the fellow priest who complained.

The colleague, the Rev. John McVernon, said recently that he told Daily of his misgivings about the priest in four separate meetings but nothing was done.

"I told Daily, 'There are things that are going on in the rectory that give me pause.' He listened attentively," McVernon recalled. "Nothing changed after that first visit."

McVernon said Capellupo hosted late-night dinners of steaks and chops for young male parishioners, paid for by the parish, and that vulgar and angry language emanated from his room.

"Have you ever read 'Pinocchio'? It was like Donkey Island. That's all I can say. It was weird. Why was the weirdness allowed to go on?" McVernon asked.

Deal Hudson is upbeat about the future, and encourages us to be, revealed in an interesting entry at HMS Blog
George Will on the uses of the Holocaust - in this case, to enhance one's career:

the June 14 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, William F.S. Miles, professor of Jewish historical and cultural studies at Northeastern University, reflects uneasily on his experience at a two-week course for college teachers conducted by the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. There he heard colleagues say how the explosive growth of Holocaust studies has turned that genocide into a ``wonderful, creative teaching opportunity.''

Participants in the course said ``a gendered approach to the Holocaust is truly exciting'' and ``we can examine victims in terms of their class, too, or their national origins'' and ``you can tie (the Holocaust) in to dance, art, architecture. Even Web-page making.''

Republicans plan to introduce legislation banning partial-birth abortion
Last week in Dallas, Bishop Doran of Rockford (a place that lives in my memory because it's where I used to go to the allergist when we lived in DeKalb), ILL, expressed a great deal of caution about "zero tolerance" mainly because he said he couldn't face his priests with such a policy. The impression he gave was of primary loyalty to priests, rather than victims or the truth.

A reader writes to correct that impression by sending along the bishop's most recent column from the diocesan paper. And I must say, it's a very impressive piece, one of the more thorough and honest ones I've read from a bishop. Read it here. I also have to say I'm gratified by what he says about the issue of priests who leave active ministry for valid reasons:

The term “laicization” occurs in the draft document we’re considering in Dallas. This is complicated and if you want to skip this paragraph, I understand. “Laicization” is a favor granted by the pope to a priest who asks for it and, in rare cases even if he doesn’t ask for it, whereby the priest is absolved of all of the obligations of the priesthood including celibacy. I have reservations about using that mechanism of church law in these cases because it is not per se a punishment.

There are priests who, for example, may have been forced into the priesthood by internal or external compulsion in the past, or those who were ordained even though they were demonstrably unfit for priesthood. After a period of time they ask the Holy Father to be relieved, and in charity he accedes their request. In many cases, those who have been laicized are honorable people and I would not want to lump them together with priests who have abused children and who are, therefore, criminals in Canon Law and in civil law. That is something that we bishops will have to address.

From the LA Times (LRR): Preachers don't talk about hell anymore:

The tendency to downplay damnation has grown in recent years as nondenominational ministries, with their focus on everyday issues such as child-rearing and career success, have proliferated and loyalty to churches has deteriorated.

"It's just too negative," said Bruce Shelley, a senior professor of church history at the Denver Theological Seminary. "Churches are under enormous pressure to be consumer-oriented. Churches today feel the need to be appealing rather than demanding."

...."Once pop evangelism went into market analysis, hell was just dropped," said Martin Marty, professor emeritus of religion and culture at the University of Chicago Divinity School. "When churches go door to door and conduct a market analysis ... they hear, 'I want better parking spaces. I want guitars at services. I want to have my car greased while I'm in church.' "

The sexual exploitation of minors is a society-wide problem, and you're going to find perps whereever you find kids. Churches, youth ministries..and schools. As I've commented before, it seems as if every week,we're treated to a new story of a 43-year old female teacher stealing away with a 14-year old male student.

Andrea Neal of the Indianapolis Star documents some local cases, most of which revolve around a single high school in that area:

• Jeffrey Hess, a former Carmel music teacher, was charged last year with public indecency and indecent exposure for an incident that occurred at Skiles Test Nature Park. The charges were dropped last week when a police detective failed to show in court.

• In January, former Franklin Community Schools teacher Denis Loveless pleaded guilty to a public indecency charge, which occurred in the same park.

• Last August, former Carmel High School math teacher Richard Daniel Rice committed suicide, a few hours after being charged with five felony counts of child seduction.

• Last year, two former coaches from Carmel High School, Richard Doucette and Donald Renihan, were charged with crimes for sexual contact with children. Renihan served a brief prison term, then married his victim upon release. Doucette last week signed off on a plea agreement that will be heard in Hamilton County Superior Court this summer.

Education Week ran a special series on the problem a few years ago

Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO writes of a recent case, which was tried under a very accepting judge:

On May 22, Pamela Diehl-Moore, a 43-year-old former public-middle-school teacher, was let off on five years' probation for the "lapse in judgment" (her words) that led her to carry on a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old (male) student.

Their affair occurred during the summer of 1999, just after the boy completed the seventh grade.

"I really don't see the harm that was done here and certainly society doesn't need to be worried," New Jersey Superior Court Judge Bruce A. Gaeta said in handing down Diehl-Moore's sentence. "I do not believe she is a sexual predator. It's just something between two people that clicked beyond the teacher-student relationship."

Archdiocese of Boston, lawyers, call 30-day truce.
Today is the feast of St. Alban,the first Christian martyr in Britain:

.... Converted by a persecuted priest whom he sheltered. He then changed clothes with the priest, allowing him to escape. Caught, he was ordered to renounce his new faith. He refused and became the first Christian martyr in Britain. The second was the executioner who was to kill him, heard his testimony, converted on the spot, and refused to kill Alban. The third was the priest, who when he learned that Alban had been arrested in his place, hurried to the court in the hope of saving Alban by turning himself in. The place of their deaths is near the site of Saint Alban's Cathedral today.


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