Thursday, September 5

Well, now. Someone holds up the Catholic response to the sexual abuse scandal as a good thing:

It's Betsy Hart in a column contrasting the Catholic response with the Muslim response to September 11:

It seems it's the most religious and traditional members of the Catholic community who understand that while they are not responsible for the priest sexual abuse scandal, they are responsible for holding their church accountable for truly ending the scandal.And so I think of this lay Catholic response when I hear from well-meaning Muslims who write to me in response to the question I've posed more than once in the last year, "where is the Muslim outrage since Sept. 11?" "What more can we do?" they typically ask me. "We have had open houses in our Mosques, we have gone into local schools to explain our religion, we've participated in prayer services" and so on. But that says little except that Americans are by and large very tolerant.Yes, some Muslim lay people and even leaders have condemned terrorism, including the terrorism of Sept. 11, yet so often in general terms and with a "but." "But" America has to understand what it's done to foment this hatred, "but" Muslims are being treated so unfairly in the wake of Sept. 11," etc.Sure the comparison with the Catholic Church is imperfect. Many Muslims will undoubtedly bristle at it, for one thing arguing that there it was ordained priests, official representatives of the religion, preying on the youngsters. But then again, I doubt many such priests made the case that their Catholicism called them to commit these terrible acts, or had hundreds of millions of people cheering them on.

Religious observances planned in NY for September 11
But would he fit in at St. Gerard's?

Man convicted of murder and cannibalism sues to attend Mass

Confessed killer cannibal Albert Fentress has filed a $1.5 million civil suit against the state because officials at a Long Island psychiatric hospital will no longer allow him to attend Catholic Mass and act as a lector, who reads scripture from the altar....The gourmet cook and former history teacher wants a federal judge to invoke the First Amendment and order officials to allow him to participate in Mass, rather than watch it on TV or on videotape. "Mr. Fentress does not have an unfettered right to attend any religious service," said Assistant Attorney General Dennis McElligot.

Latin American Bishops complain of pressure on governments to legislate against RC values:

"Latin American governments have been pressured to legislate against Christian family unity by strong groups like the United Nations and the European Union who want to impose their experiences here," said Monsignor Carlos Aguiar of Mexico, president of the Catholic council for Latin America.

Former bishop of Springfield Ryan suspends his ministry

Daniel Ryan, a former Roman Catholic bishop of the Joliet and Springfield dioceses, has suspended his public ministry amid new allegations that he sexually abused a minor.Ryan, 72, is accused in a lawsuit of engaging in sexual relations with Frank Sigretto, then 15, at the bishop's Springfield residence in 1984. Ryan has denied the allegations.
Sigretto, 33, is the fourth man to claim in the lawsuit that he had sexual encounters with Ryan. Three others signed statements when the civil suit was filed three years ago; Sigretto's statement was added to the suit in July.

Pope instructs bishops not to ordain those with emotional disorders

John Paul II pointedly instructed bishops to be extremely careful in their selection of candidates for the priesthood, in order to avoid a repetition of the scandals linked to emotional disorders.
The Pope used strong words this morning when he met Brazilian bishops of dioceses near Rio de Janeiro, who were ending their quinquennial "ad limina" to Rome. "It is my duty to stress a renewed attention to the selection of vocations to the seminary, using all available means to obtain a proper knowledge of the candidates, particularly from the moral and emotional point of view," the Pope said categorically. "Let no bishop feel exempted from this duty of conscience. He will have to render an account directly to God," the Holy Father warned. The Pope said that "it would be lamentable that, because of a misunderstood tolerance, immature youths or youths with obvious signs of emotional disorders, be admitted to ordination, which -- as is sadly known -- can cause grave scandal in the consciences of the faithful and obvious harm for the whole Church."

Big discussion about war with Iraq over at HMS Blog.
I’ve been quite busy over the past few days, with OSV and CNS columns to write, manuscript revisions to make, a book column to write and, lurking below it all, haunting me, the spectre of the book I’m supposed to be writing…which..if I can actually get to the point of writing a chapter a day, I should finish by the deadline. Which I could, if I didn’t have to keep dealing with revisions of the last one…was it really so bad?

And during all this, of course, I’m chasing a baby, picking up Cheerios, doing laundry, and cooking – not only regular meals, but preparing the fruits of the season: peach pie, peach cobbler, blueberry muffins, not to speak of a couple of batches of cookies, one to be sent down to my son Christopher in celebration of his – gulp – 20th birthday, which is this Saturday.

Did I ever tell you that if figured out once that by the time Joseph graduates from high school, I would have been packing school lunches for over thirty years?

So, needless to say, my brain power, such as it is, has been directed and writing that actually pays me money, and I’ve been doing a lot more of the linking type of blogging than the thinking type, leaving the thinking to you in your comments, which have been interesting and entertaining.

So – what did I read?

First off, I was given the great privilege of enjoying the delicate prose and thematic nuances of Tom Clancy’s latest, Red Rabbit. Why? Because the plot involves the Pope, that’s why, and we’re All Catholic All the Time over here.

This was the first, and, I imagine, only Clancy I’ve ever read. Amazon tells me that even his fans are disappointed by this one, and I can see why. Clancy’s first problem is that his major plot point involves an historical event with a known outcome: the attempted assassination of JPII in 1980. How to wring suspense out of that?

Well, first you posit a motive, which Clancy pins on Yuri Andropov, incensed, he suggests, by a letter the Pope supposedly wrote to the Polish government, threatening his resignation from the papacy and a return to Poland if the government didn’t end its repressive tactics. So, he imagines, Andropov gets to the Bulgarians who get to Atta.

Secondly, you create a supposedly suspenseful subplot, which here involves a would-be defector from deep within the KGB, who has come to know about the plot, is bothered by it, and contacts the CIA with the promise of revealing something big if he and his family are allowed to defect. Will he (the “Rabbit”) make it? Will he be able to get the information to the Americans and the British in time for them to stop the attempt? Can you guess? Can you believe that this goes on for over 600 pages?

What was most surprising to me about this book, and perhaps it wouldn’t have been if I’d ever read Clancy before, is the lack of any real shadows. There’s not a setback, not a twist, not a betrayal, not a surprise, not a mistaken identity, not nothing. It’s like some machine in which characters are dropped in, wound up and pushed along through their chapters which almost all begin with a stated problem, followed by several pages of either dialogue or interior monologue grappling with the problem, and ending with the solution to the problem.

Oh, and our hero, Jack Ryan? A supporting character at best. All he has to do in this book is sit in England, muse over the Soviet mindset with British intelligence, listen to his ophthalmologic surgeon wife bitch about the state of British medicine, and then, at the end, take a trip to Budapest to help the defectors.

It was a big, fat, turgid, boring mess.

I also read The Gospel according to Tony Soprano, which I’ll tell you about later.

And now, for a change of pace, I will try my luck with Ian Pears’ latest, The Dream of Scipio

African-American poet writes negative review of Maya Angelou book for LA Times.

Hilarity ensues

In an April 14 book review in the Los Angeles Times, Coleman concluded, "Unfortunately, the Maya Angelou of A Song Flung Up to Heaven seems small and inauthentic, without ideas, wisdom or vision. Something is being flung up to heaven all right, but it isn't a song." She accused Angelou of writing a book full of "empty phrases and sweeping generalities . . . dead metaphors ("sobbing embrace," "my heart fell in my chest") and clumsy similes ("like the sound of buffaloes running into each other at rutting times"). The book has gotten some other poor reviews, but it seems that Coleman caused trouble by accusing Angelou of hustling the public, selling a skimpy book in large type and large hype at a high price, containing rehashed material and what may be exaggerated claims for a high-minded, race-conscious past.... Coleman's review of A Song was so scathing that her editor at the L.A. Times Book Review told her that the paper had received a lot of letters, running pro and con, and she was disinvited to a book signing at Eso Won Books, the leading African American bookstore in Los Angeles. This shocked Coleman, and according to Eso Won co-owner James Fugate, many locals. Indignant readers across the country went listserv-crazy defending either Coleman or Eso Won. ...Coleman has a similar beef with those academics who are reluctant to examine the craft of writers like Angelou. "I've been called into classrooms to say 'amen' to her as a poet," she said. "I hate having to come in and disillusion a classroom full of youth, and say, 'This is not poetry, or at least it isn't good poetry.' You're called in during Black History month, not to illuminate anything but really to say 'amen' to whatever is going on at the moment. Instead of archetypes, we're getting new stereotypes."

From a reader - something to think about.

I am a Jew and an agnostic. I have some attraction to various religions but little capacity for religious belief (yes, I've tried). I read In Between Naps from time to time, even if I disagree strongly with you and most of your audience on certain issues, because it is interesting, literate, and not without humor.But I was disquieted by the thread lamenting the Church's decision not to proselytize Jews. I recall one commenter, and I have no idea who said it and this is not verbatim, writing, "The Church has just said, 'We don't respect Jews enough to try to introduce them to Christ.'"I have no wish to slight anybody's religious beliefs, but this is the kind of "respect" that made Europe a living hell for my ancestors for the last thousand years and today as well. Today it is not being proffered on the point of a sword. Yet the casual dismissal of three thousand years -- half again as old as Christianity -- of a rich, morally intricate, and deeply humane tradition is the same. My best friend, who is now living in Jerusalem, was raised an Orthodox Jew in Richmond, Virginia. She could barely get through a day growing up without some, I'm sure, well-meaning person asking her, "But haven't you ever considered letting Jesus into your life?" Even people she encountered as casually as another musician sitting next to her in the orchestra in a strange high school when her school's band went on tour.My friend despises Christians. As a Southerner, she is far too polite to ever express her anger to one. But I hear it in her voice whenever we are speaking one on one, or in the company of other Jews only, and the subject comes up. I do not share her total disdain, but I cannot say I blame her.Personally, I applaud the Church for taking the stand that they did. Considering the history of the last two millennia, it was the least they could do.

You probably have already heard, but Michael Rose, author of Good-bye Good Men, has threatened critic Fr. Rob Johansen with a lawsuit. Read about it on Fr. Rob's blog. I'm reserving comment until I know more. And you probably should, too.
You may remember..some time ago, a Queens Catholic school principal charged that her parish's pastor sexually harrassed her by flaunting his homosexuality and misuse parish funds in support of a male teenager he had living in the rectory.

The NYPost reports that she's been put on leave. The diocese says she requests it; she denies any such request.

Settlement reached in California Jesuit abuse case
What's for sale at the LA Cathedral:

Visitors to Los Angeles' newest landmark can sip Starbucks coffee in the cafeteria, buy a bottle of Our Lady of the Angels chardonnay for $24.99, or secure a final resting place in the below-ground crypt for as much as $3 million, a practice unique to the Los Angeles cathedral. "I have never heard of this practice before of selling crypts under a cathedral," said Lawrence Cunningham, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. "It's kind of like selling sky boxes."


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