Wednesday, November 6

This Sunday, the ABC program The Practice tackles the Situation (NYTimes - LRR)

With his series "The Practice" set in Boston and featuring two characters identified as Catholics, David E. Kelley, the Emmy-winning television writer, said he realized for a long time that he probably had the ideal forum on television in which to address the priest sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church and especially the Archdiocese of Boston.

But in this case he was convinced he could not follow the standard television formula of walking a line to steer clear of controversy, presenting, as he said in an interview, "the arguments of the two different sides to provide balance." With this issue Mr. Kelley said, "There is no balance, it's just an atrocity." Looking to avoid a case that pits a priest against a victim, which numerous shows have done, Mr. Kelley invented a case in which a man who had been raped by a priest as a teenager sues a childhood friend for endorsing the priest as a counselor even though the friend himself had previously been raped by him. .....

......The debate is augmented by Donnell's conversation with the other Catholic lawyer in the firm, Jimmy Berluti. Berluti is played by Michael Badalucco, who is Catholic himself. Mr. Kelley said he incorporated Mr. Badalucco's personal views, almost word for word, in a speech arguing against leaving the church.

"It would be like leaving God," Berluti says. "The church is not just the priests. It's you and me. We are the church."

To his and the parish priest's arguments that media coverage has tarred good priests and the charitable works done by the church, Donnell says: "What can you say? Molestation gets a bad rap? I don't look to the church like it's the United Way. For me it's about spiritual and moral leadership."

Mr. Kelley said his purpose was "to put the question out there" — Can Catholics adequately express their rage without quitting the church? The show does not specifically mention the Boston cases and the criticism of Cardinal Bernard F. Law's handling of offending priests, though Donnell does make a reference to a "Father Shane" who was sent to California, "with praise."

The mention refers to the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, one of the accused priests who was protected by the Boston Archdiocese. The script originally included the real name. "That was an edit by standards and practices," Mr. Kelley said, referring to the company's censors, who did not want to use real names. Otherwise the ABC standards department said, it had no problem with the episode.

Mr. Kelley is not leaving the issue Sunday night. He said the conflict over the baby's baptism would continue for several episodes. Next week Donnell finds himself representing an accused child molester, and the parish priest he confronted so angrily shows up and calls him on it.

In Arizona, they put copies of e-mailed prayer petitions under the head of a statue of St. Francis Xavier

The meticulously carved wooden statue is that of a very short man, much of its quite-dark body covered with a yellow sheet. Traditionally, people make mandas, religious vows involving some personal sacrifice, often in the name of their health or that of a loved one. They make pilgrimages to the church, pinning small pieces of metal or papers with hand-written prayers to the sheet that covers the statue.

San Xavier's pastor, the Rev. David Gaa (a Franciscan friar), says people can now make electronic pilgrimages, sending their pleas for help and prayers of thanks to After gaining access to the site, they click on "The Saint" and fill out the ready-made, e-mail form. The received messages are collected (but not read by Gaa or his staff) and placed under the pillow that supports the icon's head.

Gaa says that people from all over the world have been moved by their visitation with the statue. Over the years, a tradition has developed where visitors, upon returning home, mail prayers and offerings be placed on or near the statue. Gaa says that the e-mail was "an inspiration" that came to him, as just another way for people to reach out to St. Francis.

Okay then. I just blew my morning watching the news and putting up four new columns/articles up on the home page. Enjoy.

Vatican to donate $400,000 to encourage Christians to remain in Holy Land

The Vatican is giving $400,000 to Roman Catholic causes in Israel and the West Bank to try to improve life for Christians there and persuade them not to flee the ongoing fighting.

Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, head of Cor Unum, the Vatican's charity arm, will deliver the money and an appeal for Christians to remain in the region during a November 7-10 visit, the Vatican said Wednesday.

It's understandable why there is a desire among many to leave the country," the statement said. "The safekeeping of holy sites, however, would be seriously put in danger if Christians abandoned them."

Cordes will deliver the $400,000, as well as an appeal from Pope John Paul II to "encourage Christians to remain in these tortured places, like so many missionaries already are doing in heroic fashion," the statement said.

The money will be divided among the Jerusalem Patriarchate, the Franciscan order, Caritas and various Catholic communities in the region.

In South Dakota, where the Senate race is, as I write, still neck-and-neck, the bishop of Rapid City last weekend wrote a letter taking Catholic Tom Daschle to task for his extreme pro-choice position.

The Roman Catholic Bishop who shepherds Rapid City, S.D., says that state's senior senator has declared Tuesday's election to be a referendum on abortion. The Most Rev. Blase Cupich spoke out on the issue in a letter read to parishioners this weekend.

Cupich is upset over an Oct. 31, fundraising email message written by Daschle on behalf of one of the nation's largest pro-abortion lobbies, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL). As previously reported Daschle's "urgent" appeal entitled "Last Chance to Keep Pro-Choice Leadership in the Senate," urged recipients to support NARAL financially five times in the eight paragraph message.Cupich told Rapid City Catholics that a careful reading of Daschle's message could lead to only one conclusion.

"It is clear that the senator has not only aligned himself with the strident position of NARAL, but he has also made abortion THE issue of this year's campaign," Cupich wrote. "The senator regrettably has crossed the line and I cannot let it go unanswered."

The bishop noted that he and his follow clergy have encouraged their congregants and all voters to cast their ballots "taking into consideration all the issues that promote the dignity of the human person."

Those issues, Cupich said, include the education and upbringing of children, equal work opportunities, healthcare and elder care, civil rights, and, "most importantly," protecting human life in the womb.

"However, since Senator Daschle has now decided to frame this year's election uniquely as a referendum on abortion, he should know that there are citizens of good will in both parties who reject this extreme position and who cannot let it go unchallenged," the bishop continued.

Now, for the results. In general, I say a pox on all and every political party, but the excellent thing about the GOP taking control of the Senate is that perhaps we can finally get some judges confirmed. A GOP-controlled Senate isn't going to do anything more one under Democrat control about essential issues like education and life issues - not when most GOP-ers are just as scared of the NEA as anyone else, and, on the latter issus, as long as Lincoln Chaffee and Susan Collins and Olympia Snow are counted in the "GOP" column.

The most heartening victory of the night to me was that of Coleman in Minnesota - in the debate with Mondale, the differences on the abortion issue were made very clear, and Coleman wasn't defensive or weasly on the matter at all. It serves to soothe the pain of the Granholm victory - just a bit. Grrrr.

Well, that was tiring.

Stayed up too late, of course, and then ended up spending much of the night dozing on the couch with the slightly-coughing baby, turning on the TV to check on the progress of Our Nation.

My first observation concerns voter fraud. Boy, it must be easy to do.

I went to vote at the Unitarian Church (after an initial stop at the synagogue literally right next door - I couldn't remember if that was my precinct. Two years is a long time, okay?). The guy asked my name. He found it on the list. Told me to sign my name and put down my driver's license number. I couldn't remember (do you see a theme?) if that was my social security number or not (in Florida, it's not), and before I could finish my question, the guy said, "Oh, just write down the last four numbers of your social security number. That's okay."

End of examination. No ID required. Say you're someone, sign that name, and vote.

Not exactly reassuring.


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