Thursday, November 14

Ma'am? Ma'am?

Two British mental health workers visited a woman patient, chatted with her, and then left without realizing she was dead, newspapers said on Thursday.

From The New Republic:

best takedown of Sex and the City I've ever read

Now, a part of the reason for the show's portrayal of women seeking sex for sex's sake is that the series' two creators, Darren Star and Michael Patrick King, are gay. On this level, Sex and the City is part of a long imaginative streak in popular art, a trend that includes Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart and George Cukor and Rock Hudson and most of the writers of the 1970s series Bewitched and many other gay figures whose portrayals of heterosexual life brilliantly subverted heterosexual conventions even as they were providing models for (unwitting) straight boys and girls. But there is a quality to Sex and the City's subversions that is more bitter than playful, an element that is almost vindictive.

Running through Sex and the City is a subtext that amounts to a manifesto for a certain kind of raw, rough, promiscuous, anonymous gay male sex. Star and King sounded the call to arms in one of the very first episodes, when they had Stanford Blatch, Carrie's loyal gay friend, declare that "the only place where you can find love is the gay community. It's straight love that's closeted.".... One of the most recent of the half-hour-long episodes had the women finding happiness for a full ten minutes in a gay men's dance club. A segment this past season sent Carrie and Samantha, both blondes, on a train across the country, joking all the way about Some Like It Hot. Some of the quartet's boyfriends in the show's first two seasons actually wore their sweaters tucked into their pants; and if the actors playing these straight guys weren't gay, I'm Montgomery Clift. Sex and the City's ongoing impersonation is admirably resourceful and daring. But the show's misogyny is not admirable at all.

Commenting on Sarah Jessica Parker's recent pregnancy, Michael Patrick King said: "Sarah's our workhorse, our show pony. We put her in high heels and tell her to run thirty blocks. Now, all of a sudden, she has to be babied." In its caricature of women who talk about sex like men, and, like men, have orgasms every time they have sex, the show represents a kind of counterattack on women's biology. The expensive, mismatched, chic-ugly clothes that Carrie wears; Sarah Jessica Parker's confused interpretations of her character as a black girl one episode and a self-conscious suburban cutie the next; Samantha's robotic-erotic, stud-like manner (and the sweaty, atrocious acting of Kim Cattrall, who could not stand still and convince you that she is a person standing still); the women's starry-eyed gold-digging; their countless humiliations: the picture of heterosexual life projected by Sex and the City, though it sometimes hits the nail right on the head, is the biggest hoax perpetrated on straight single women in the history of entertainment. The series' misogyny is matched by its homophobia: the only regular gay characters, Stanford and Anthony, are self-hating and flaming, respectively. Perhaps the exhilaration that the show provokes in some of its fans stems from the reactionary character of its assumptions about sexual identity.

Also in TNR,

Michael Sean Winter takes down George Weigel's approach to the Situation

Miscellaneous responses to miscellaneous comments:

Honestly, 53 million doesn't seem to me to be an inordinate amount with which to run the Church in the United States. My post below was...a joke.

When I said below that a sexual attraction to minors was something..different than "just sin," I wasn't saying that sin wasn't serious, nor was I saying that this proclivity was something other than sin. It is sin, of course. But what we have to wrestle with is this: priests aren't perfect. Priests sin. Like all of us, they have their particular areas of temptation: sloth, greed, name it. Priests go there, just like the rest of us. But I don't think any of us would say that a priest struggling with temptation in that way is unfit for ministry. Many who defend the continuing presence of predatory priests in ministry do so on the grounds of forgiveness, repentance and our common sinfulness. I was simply trying to point out that there is something else in this particular temptation that is different in some way than those other types of temptations.

Finally, I want to make clear that when I said "forget the bishops" I didn't mean reject the bishops. I meant - let's stop worrying about what the bishops have done, because - well, it's done. Let's worry about how our bishops are implementing this policy, but most importantly, let's turn our attention to what we can do to build up the Body of Christ, no matter what the bishops do.

Update on the Holy Father's speech before the Italian Parliament:

Mafia boss surrenders, inspired by seeing Pope on television.

A fugitive Mafia boss facing 30 years in prison for murder surrendered Thursday, saying he was inspired by Pope John Paul II's historic speech to Italy's parliament, the suspect's lawyer said. Benedetto Marciante was particularly taken by the pope's comments on family values, lawyer Roberto Tricoli said. Marciante surrendered at a Rome prison. "In 30 years of practice, I've never experienced anything like this," Tricoli said from his office in Palermo, Sicily. "It's a miracle." Tricoli quoted his client as saying the pope's comments, which were broadcast live Thursday on Italian state television, awakened his own religious beliefs despite the "adversity" facing him.

Rod quite reasonably wonders what the USCCB needs with $53 mil a year. I think I have an idea:

$20 million to make sure Ex Corde Ecclesia isn't enforced.

$20 million to delay implementation of Rome-mandated liturgical norms and translations

$10 million to hunt out unauthorized citations from the New American Bible

$2 million to hotels for biannual meetings and

$1million for security to keep the hoi polloi away from bishops during said meetings.

Jay Nordlinger makes my point

Would someone please tell me why the White House is so squeamish about partial-birth abortion? I mean, shouldn’t those on the wrong side of the issue be the squeamish ones? Why should the Bushies be afraid of it?

Virtually the entire country opposes partial-birth. They know it’s a barbaric practice. It makes Democrats uncomfortable. It’s nearly impossible to defend. Even Moynihan called it “infanticide.”

I mean, it’s a no-brainer. We, the Republicans, oppose partial-birth, and we’re supposed to be the extremists? So Ted Koppel and the others won’t like it — big deal. The country will.

Fear not partial-birth legislation. Let Lott rip on it. You won’t be sorry. And, if you’ve got power and can’t outlaw partial-birth abortion, what’s power good for?

What's done is done.

We can argue all we want, but the policy is there, voted on, approved.

Where do we go from here?

I hope we go in this direction: towards greater attentiveness to what's going on in our church, and a willingness to accept the sad truth that when it comes to priest matters, bishops think and act differently than we might assume. The fact is, for most bishops, relations with priests and protection of priests comes first, before anything else, including the integrity of the Gospel. The reasons are complex. They are, of course, priests, and as such, have closer ties to priests as a body than they do with any other element in the Church. The priests are their primary employees, and there is a direct "boss-employee" relationship between them. Bishops aren't too bothered by the displeasure of lay people, unless those lay people are big donors. They are, however, bothered by the displeasure of priests. Finally, most bishops run dioceses that are already experiencing a priest shortage, and one that only promises to worsen in the next twenty years. They need their priests.

So anyone who didn't understand that before gets it now, and gets the fact that with very few exceptions, this bishop-priest axis is the primary reference point for acting on this crisis. We understand that if we want justice for lay victims of abuse, we must work very, very hard, take nothing for granted and use every means at our disposal to achieve that justice. We cannot take for granted that bishops and priests are going to quickly rally to the side of a victim. We can hope, but we can't assume. So we can't report something to the diocese and then rest, thinking it's being taken care of.

Even with the policy.

For you see, we all know that even with the policy, the bishop can still do what he wants. He can. Look at Dallas. The issue there is not abuse of a minor, but a sexual indisgression with an adult, an unwanted advance. The bishop isn't removing the priest, and no one can make him. Look at Arlington. What a mess. There, too, there's discipline going on, but we're certainly reasonable to wonder if the excitable Father Haley hadn't raised a stink, that at least the pornography-harboring fellow priest would still be where he always was. Because the bishop can do what he wants.

Of course the Vatican can always step in, which it does - but again, that sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. Galante was brought into Dallas to give credibility to a beleagured bishop and to, we can presume, break him of the habit of protecting sexual abusers and such, but it doesn't seem to have worked. The bishop was perfectly willing to let the priest attached to the St. Sebastian's website continue in ministry, is all for this cathedral rector, while at the same time, moving pastors who didn't do fingerprint checks on Missionaries of Charity.

We can hope and pray that these norms have an impact, and that the discussion of the last ten months will have an impact, as well, but the evidence isn't exactly edifying - well into this, as you remember, two New Jersey priests were arrested in Montreal for soliciting up underage male prostitutes. You'd think they'd learn. You'd think they'd either put a lid on it or get out of the priesthood. But no - it shows both stupidity and the compulsive nature of the proclivity to sexual interact with youth - and heaven knows what these guys would be doing today if they weren't arrested in Montreal.

So, we're left, once again, with the question,what can we do?

Be alert to possible situations of abuse by any church employee, and don't be quiet about it. If your youth ministry volunteer seems inordinantly involved in the lives of the kids, and seems to be engaging them as peers and spending lots of private time - step up and do something. If you hear of a priest inviting a kid to socialize with him in private - for God's sake, say something and don't shut up until something's done. Priests should have better things to do, after all.

Try to help others understand the difference between forgiveness and allowing to continue in ministry. This is the story that keeps popping up, and will continue to. We have not seen the end of parishes crying over their lost Father Predator who only did it once twenty years ago. People really need to understand that the desire to be sexually involved with a child or youth is not normal and goes beyond the way we normally speak and think of sin. It betrays a wealth of problems that should alert anyone to the fact that such a person isn't fit for ministry to others. He may be fit to fix cars, but a person who harbors sexual desires for a child or a teen, even if he recognizes it and fights it, doesn't belong in ministry.

I think, finally, that all of us have become attuned to our own failures over the past ten months. We have discovered how much we depend on the broader church to do the work of Christ in the world, and how much we have defined our own participation by the checks we write to pay other people to do what we should be doing. We've learned that much of that money perhaps has not been well spent. We've learned that we don't have to give to a diocese in order to support the work of the Church. If we suspect that the diocese is misusing our funds, or that those funds are going to either support predator priests, even in exile, or to pay diocesan lawyers to further victimize victims, then we need to stop writing checks to that diocese and write them to the institutions we want to support instead - the schools that need help, the health ministries, the immigrant ministries, the Catholic Charities. That money doesn't have to go through the diocese. It can go directly to the organization.

We've also seen that there's great work ahead. Yes, the bishops need to work to build trust, but the job of restoring the good name of the Church in America belongs to all of us. Look around. We live in a country in a time that is great need of the love of Christ. Forget the bishops - unless they need some fraternal correction - and just get on with it. The world needs Christ. Let's get to work.

The abuse review board will meet in Covington, KY next month.

You've heard about the professor at St. Xavier University in Chicago who blasted a student at the Air Force Academy in an email.

He's apologized (sort of) and so has the University.

From the Jerusalem Post:

A very, very interesting and fairly balanced article on Vatican-Jewish relations.

.... The head of Rome's Jewish community, Leon Paserman, is concerned that the theological and political dialogue between the Holy See and the Jews seems frozen.

Paserman, a retired business executive, acknowledges the current pontiff's expression of regret for the persecution of Jews during the past two millennia. He credits him with having led the way to recognition of Israel by the Vatican, and the establishment of diplomatic relations. But since the pontiff's return to Rome from his millennial pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Paserman says the situation has changed. He blames the current war between the Palestinians and Israel, plus the Vatican's effort to nurture links with the Islamic world.

Paserman also cites the influx of Muslims into Europe as a contributing factor, as well as political hostility toward Israel. Paserman refers to the papal resort to parallelism in condemning suicide bombings, arguing that no one should take his own life for political purposes while at the same time expressing understanding for the plight of the Palestinians.

BUT BBC correspondent David Willy, who has been monitoring the Vatican's arcane politics for longer than the former Karol Wojtyla has been the Holy Father, says, "There couldn't have been a pope with more understanding of the relationship with the Jews."

A seasoned journalist whose assignments included the Yom Kippur War (which he covered from the Israeli side) as well as numerous journeys and one-on-one conversations with the pontiff, Willy believes the pope's outreach to the Jewish people is as sincere as it is profound. He cites the unprecedented and highly symbolic visit to Rome's main synagogue in 1986, the pope's reference to contemporary Jews as "our elder brothers," his personal contact with Polish Jews he has known for decades, notably Jerzy Kluger "with whom he still is in touch," and his inclusion of Italian Jewish leaders in the Vatican's public receptions.

Willy said the pope's millennial pilgrimage to Israel "affected him profoundly." Bearing in mind that he spearheaded the church's decision to recognize and establish formal diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, Willy refers to the pontiff's need to also consider the church's relations with the Muslim world, and the status of its clergy and parishioners in the various Arab states.

Pope addresses Italian parliament

Urges Italians to have more children:

His speech, interrupted about 20 times by applause, was anticipated for weeks by Italians and treated as an enormously symbolic event for this mostly Roman Catholic country.However, it was not without opposition: A handful of deputies said they wouldn't attend to underscore that Italy remains a lay country and a dozen or so gay activists protested at a nearby piazza.

The 82-year-old Polish-born pope covered most of the general topics he has addressed in his 24-year pontificate, including respect for the dignity of man, democracy, peace and justice.But his emphasis was on Italy and particularly what he called "the crisis of the birth rate." Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world 9.3 births per 1,000 inhabitants and one of the oldest populations.The United Nations has warned that Italy's economic future is at risk because its shrinking work force will be unable to support its aging population without an influx of migrant workers.

The pope called the situation "another grave threat that bears upon the future of this country, one which is already conditioning its life and its capacity for development.""Above all, it encourages indeed I would dare to say, forces citizens to make a broad and responsible commitment to favor a clear-cut reversal of this tendency," he said.

The pope also urged clemency for Italian prisoners."A gesture of clemency toward prisoners through a reduction of their sentences would be clear evidence of a sensitivity which would encourage them in their own personal rehabilitation for the sake of a constructive reinsertion into society," the pope said.

And he called on European leaders, who are drafting a new EU constitution, to recognize the role Christianity has played on the continent."There is a need to guard against a vision of the continent which would only take into account its economic and political aspects," and not its religious ones, the pope said.

Norah Vincent rocks.

"My husband woke up this morning singing 'O Canada,' " said the well-to-do woman sitting on my left in the theater last week. "What a terrible night," she added ruefully.

This caught me short. What was she talking about? Had I missed some late-breaking news about the death of Prime Minister Jean Chretien? Had terrorists attacked Toronto?

Then I realized. She meant the previous day's midterm elections in the United States.

Apparently the specter of jackbooted Republicans banging home their belligerent agenda in Congress untrammeled by sensible dissent had turned her husband into an expatriate overnight. To survive the coming coup d'etat, he would have to emigrate. Or joke about it, as would his wife, who would be dining out on that gibe for months.

I know this woman. She is a solidly upper-middle-class, stay-at-home mother of two whose husband has a cushy job in the arts. They own a large, well- appointed Victorian home on a pricey chunk of real estate in the quaint suburbs. They are living the American dream, but their politics haven't caught up yet.

Toledo city councilman is proposing domestic partner coverage ordinance.

Here's why:

"Ah, I’m going to get worked up and say something I shouldn’t. I really dislike politicians who wear religion on their sleeve, but it’s going to come up, so I must tell you it’s because I am a Christian and a Bible-reading Catholic that I think we must move forward with this legislation."


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