Wednesday, November 20

Lots of stories about Ave Maria University from the local perspective here.

No one puts this kind of request better than Kathy does, so I will just steal her phrasing:

Will the person who came here searching for "shirtless Ukrainian boys" PLEASE go away?

Later: Oh. I assumed everyone would understand that. See, webpage counters allow you to see the search terms that people use to reach your page. It's quite entertaining. And, in this case..disturbing.

Medjugorje priest Jozo Zovko banned from speaking at the National Shrine in DC

Organizers said they had expected more than 3,000 people to turn out to hear the Rev. Jozo Zovko, a prominent supporter of claims that the Virgin Mary has appeared to six teenagers in the Bosnian village of Medjugorje, where he was once a pastor.

The Rev. Walter Rossi, director of pilgrimages at the National Shrine, said officials there decided to prohibit Zovko from saying Mass and speaking publicly about the Virgin Mary after they received a letter from his bishop describing Zovko as a "disobedient Franciscan" who has been stripped of "every faculty" to serve in public ministry since 1989.

The letter from Ratko Peric, the bishop of Mostar, did not explain the reasons for Zovko's original censure, which was imposed by Peric's predecessor, now deceased. But the letter said that despite the loss of his faculties, Zovko had continued to hear confessions, a violation of church law that resulted in further penalties in 1994.

"Though unaware of what precipitated this action, or of any credible allegations against Father Zovko, the National Shrine must abide by Canon Law," Peter Sonski, a spokesman for the Shrine, said in a written statement. "Since he is under censure and may not exercise his priestly ministry, Father Zovko cannot take part in this event as planned."

...Zovko, who began a speaking tour of the United States on Nov. 5, has not been blocked from appearing anywhere but Washington, which was to be his final stop, according to Petta. He said the prayer service would still take place this evening, but that Zovko's Bosnian translator would speak in his place.

Here's the question: the guy has been stripped of his faculties. What is any Catholic group doing sponsoring his public activities????

Let's catch up on our reading, shall we?

Yes, I'm still working on the three biographies over on the left, but I've had to read some other things for work and felt moved to do some other kinds of pleasure reading besides. First the work:

I just read and wrote about two defenses of the Harry Potter books from a Christian perspective: Connie Neal's The Gospel According to Harry Potter. Neal has taken on a daunting task in this and her previous book - defending Harry Potter to evangelical Christians. She does quite well.

This book is not really a defense, though - that was the job of her first book. This one is more a book-by-book guide to moments which are useful for understanding Christian themes. So each little chapter starts with a scene from the book, continues with her explanation of the scene, and wraps it up with Christian material - So in the section on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Neal looks at the vanity of the poseur wizard-author Gilderoy Lockhart (played by Kenneth Branagh in the film) as an opportunity to reflect on arrogance, humility, and the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. In the same section, the issue of “pure blood” wizards is examined in light of the New Testament proclamation of radical equality and the liberation of Dobby, the house-elf is a chance for Neal to reflect on the liberation from sin and death we are given through Christ.

You get the point. I suppose it's nice for people who like that sort of thing, but really, it's nothing that you or I couldn't do ourselves, given an afternoon and the specter of a youth group with Nothing To Do in our future.

The other was far more interesting, and a book I've mentioned here before - The Hidden Key to Harry Potter by John Granger, published by Zossima Press.

Neal looks at what the interested Christian reader "might" find. Granger goes a step further. He suggests that whatever Christian themes and imagery we find in the Harry Potter books have been put there completely on purpose by Joanne Rowling:

Joanne Rowling is a Christian novelist of the Inkling School [identified with the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and others] writing to ‘baptize the imagination’ and prepare our hearts and minds for the conscious pursuit of the greater life in Jesus Christ. Harry Potter is a Christian Hero.

He actually makes a pretty strong case, built on statements Rowling herself has made, as well as the content of the book. Granger brings an infectious enthusiasm to the material, one that made me actually want to go back and read the books again, if only to check out if what he's suggesting is plausible. I do think, quite honestly, that he overstates his case a bit - suggesting that the name "Harry Potter" might well have been chosen to suggest "Heir of the Potter" - the "potter" of course, being God - but then again, we can't get annoyed with Granger because he presents his hypothesis with such a sense of wonder, fun and conviction, and quite cheerfully invites the reader to call him to task when his predictions about the course of the series don't come true.

Over the weekend, I immersed myself in Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which won the Pulitzer in 2000, and which I've never even been remotely tempted to read. But last week at the library, I thought of it for some reason, and decided to check it out. I'm glad I did.

Actually, I found the first 3/4 of it utterly captivating and gorgeously written. In case you don't know, the novel is the story of two young men who are involved in the Golden Age of Comic Books in the late 1930's. You can see what I was never tempted to read it. But what I found was something much different from what I expected - for one of the young men is a Czech refugee interested in magic and escapism, and his escape to America involves a Golem, and the character he and his cousin create is called The Escapist, which becomes a wonderful metaphor for what both of these characters were trying to do with their lives, and not in a bad way, either, as we might think at first.

So yes, I really enjoyed the book (except for the last 1/4, which I didn't hate, but which struck me as predictable and in need of an edit), and spent all day Sunday reading it to the sweet sounds of football. And the baby running laps around the coffee table.

Well, so much for that.

I was going to have a nice quiet evening, reading the First Things and New Republic that came this week. Of course, no deal. Because the Baby Formerly Known as The Baby Who Won't Sleep decided to reclaim the title, not, as was his previous habit, in the middle of the night, but at the beginning of the evening this time.

So, yeah, at a certain point, he threw himself into what we have know come to recognize as his pre-verbal signal of fatigue: he runs laps around the coffee table. So, of course, I cooperated.

Two and a half hours later, he's finally asleep. Not that he spent all of that time crying. Not at all. Much of it was spent lying next to me in my bed, eyes wide open, in uncharacteristic silence. I was starting to get a little annoyed when in went the little finger into the mouth and the gnawing began. Of course, I thought, deeply ashamed. More teeth. And sure enough, those bottom gums are fairly swollen. Give the kid a break. Or at least some baby Motrin.

I did get a bit of the First Things read, lying there with the baby staring at me, clearly wondering just when the hell I was going to do something to help him. Just the easy stuff, though - the letters - good responses to Neuhaus' "Scandal Time" reflections - the book reviews (a review of Terry Teachout's biography of Mencken, with an emphasis much different than Jonathon Yardley's review in...where..TNR, I guess), and the back of the book - hey, Mark - didja know he mentions you in his contribution to commentary on blogs?

Now I really am wondering if they'll be called the Snowbirds"

Monaghan announces plans for the town that pizza built

Monaghan said the university in Florida will also include a strong sports program. He said he hopes to finish its construction by 2006.

And by the way...

There are no plans to close the Michigan campus or move the law school to Florida.

Re/some comments below. I, too, assumed that Monaghan's expansion plans - particularly for that big crucifix- in Ann Arbor were the victims of anti-Catholic liberal Ann Arbor sentiment - until I actually went to Ann Arbor. It became clear to me that among other things, the city has a strong anti-sign ordinance - there's nothing more than about five feet off the ground, it seems - and that huge crucifix would violate such an ordinance.

So much for the conspiracy theories:Kopp confesses

Kopp said his outrage over abortion prompted him to shoot Slepian. He insists, however, that he intended to wound Slepian to prevent the physician from performing more abortions. And he said he hopes that jurors will believe his account and understand his motives when his murder case goes to trial next year in Erie County Court. "The truth is not that I regret shooting Dr. Slepian. I regret that he died," Kopp said. "I aimed at his shoulder. The bullet took a crazy ricochet, and that's what killed him. One of my goals was to keep Dr. Slepian alive, and I failed at that goal."

....Kopp said he decided to make a public confession because he feels badly that his supporters have been misled, and he wants them to know the truth about his actions and the reasons behind them. He said his only regret about the Amherst shooting is that Slepian died. He said he is haunted by feelings of sorrow for Slepian's wife and four sons.

...Kopp said he understands why some people will accuse him of being a hypocrite advocating pro-life positions but shooting to death another human.

He said his attack on Slepian was consistent with his pro-life viewpoint, because it prevented Slepian from performing more abortions.

"I didn't intend to kill Dr. Slepian," Kopp said. "Why do you think I used force against Dr. Slepian when he was within 10 hours of taking the lives of 25 babies? The question answers itself."

Cardinal Law's knowledge of the abusers for whom he was responsible continues to be more evident.

For links to all the Boston stories about the most recent deposition records, go to Poynter.

The Boston Herald has a particularly helpful summary:

The late Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham, who is alleged to have molested 50 or more boys over a 29-year career at parishes in Sudbury, Salem, Lowell, Gloucester, Brighton and Lexington.

Birmingham, a seminary classmate of Bishop John B. McCormack, one of Law's former personnel subordinates and now bishop of Manchester, N.H., died in 1989.

Law reassigned him twice in the 1980s despite multiple allegations.

The Rev. Eugene J. O'Sullivan, who pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a St. Agnes Church, Arlington, altar boy in 1985, yet was allowed by Law to take an assignment with the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., in which O'Sullivan worked with children.

Law admitted he was not aware of any steps by Boston to alert parishioners in New Jersey to O'Sullivan's crimes, saying of the priest ``he worked evidently well'' there.

He was recalled to the Archdiocese of Boston in 1992 and banned from serving as a priest.

The Rev. George J. Rosenkranz, who served at Blessed Sacrament Church in Saugus in the 1970s and was arrested in a public men's room in 1981 and charged with lewd conduct - charges later were dropped after church intervention.

Law said he did not remove Rosenkranz in the 1980s, letting him serve at St. John's Church in Salem until 1990, when the priest, who faces multiple suits, was put on sick leave amid abuse allegations.

The Rev. Anthony J. Rebeiro, who was placed on administrative leave from the Chelsea Soldiers' Home and Quigley Memorial Hospital in August after accusations surfaced that he sexually abused a child 30 years ago.

In March 1984, charges surfaced that Rebeiro had exposed himself and masturbated in front of a parishioner's wife while her husband was at a funeral.

Law testified the charges were ``terribly serious,'' yet wrote to the alleged victim's husband saying ``I find this matter is something that is personal to Father Rebeiro and must be considered such.''

Law claimed to have no recollection of seeing that letter sent over his signature, and stated later in the deposition he signs many ``routine'' letters without reading them.

`Did I on April the 3rd, 1984, three days into the job, read every letter that was put before me?'' he said. ``Probably not.''

The Rev. Daniel M. Graham, whom Law allowed to remain as a parochial vicar on the South Shore until mid-2002, though the priest admitted to molestation in 1988.

MacLeish asked Law why Graham, who was not supposed to ``be involved in ministry that involves minors,'' according to church's own requirements for his readmittance, was given such a post.

``Do you have any explanation?'' for the apparent special treatment of Graham, MacLeish asked.

``No, I really don't,'' Law said.

It is all just too outrageously pathetic. Before you start helping the Cardinal come up with his excuses, put yourself in his place, back then in the 1980's and beyond. A priest credibly accused or even admitted to have abused a minor is brought to your attention.

What is your first instinct?

Yeah. That's what I thought. It's not to reassign to another parish, is it? No, it's not. You may not have degrees in theology and you may not be ordained, but when you're presented with a child molestor in a collar, your own sense of what it means to faithful to Christ tells you what to do.

(Hint: turn the guy into the law would be a good start)

It's quite obvious to me what was going on here. In one sense, Law is telling the truth - he had all of these subordinate bishops, and dealing with these issues really was their job. He is, of course, ultimately responsible, but I have no doubt that these other bishops were almost totally entrusted with the task of figuring out what to do with these cases before they presented them to him.

That said, you would think the Cardinal would get suspicious when, time after time, these bishops were telling him that everything was okay, and, to all appearances, not a single accused abuser was being removed from ministry.

(By the way, that strikes me as another way to state this problem, and one that highlights its seriousness: Up until 2002, most, if not all, priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, continued to be supported in their ministry by the Archdiocese.)

But he didn't, and he keeps telling us that gosh, he doesn't know why.

So what we're left with is this: The Archdiocese of Boston was ministered to by a crew of bishops who protected their classmates and friends accused of child molestation. They seem to have consistently misrepresented the problem to the Cardinal, probably assuring him that their buddies had promised never to do it again, and so on. Add to the mix the fact that the Cardinal seems to have his own terrible blind spot in regard to victims and an indifference to the impact of these cretins, and, oddly enough, no interest - not even, it seems, the mildest curiosity as to the details of these cases, or even the slightest inclination to view them as matters for serious investigation. I mean, if your auxilary bishop came to you and said, "Hey, Fr. Creep exposed himself in a public restroom, but we're taking care of it," wouldn't you, if you were ultimately responsible for the Archdiocese, want to call Fr. Creep in yourself for a talk, put him under evaluation and see if maybe there's another job he could find - like at Home Depot or something?

So yes, what we have here is a culture - a system in which priests were protected, no matter what, until they had all been backed up against the wall either by the law or by plaintiffs' lawyers. It is a culture that came to be because some had evil intent and others were afraid of their own darkness being exposed, quite frankly.

There's no defense here. None. And I don't know why anyone even tries to continue defending Cardinal Law. But believe me, they will.

Is the Right to Life Party in NY on its last legs?

The NYTimes (LRR) wonders:

The first four times that Right to Life Party candidates ran for governor in New York, from 1978 through 1990, they averaged 113,000 votes, 2.5 percent of the total — very respectable numbers for a minor party.Then the slide began. The party's nominees got 68,000 votes in 1994, 57,000 in 1998, and on Nov. 5 of this year, 43,000, less than 1 percent of the total. It was the first time in the party's history that it failed to reach the threshold of 50,000 votes that under New York law guarantees a party a row on the ballot in every election for the next four years.Failure to reach 50,000 votes has often been a death blow to small parties. It forces them to gather signatures for each and every race they hope to enter, an extremely labor-intensive and difficult process.

The article continues to look at various explanations and projections for the future, and ends with this very interesting and inadvertently self-damning quote from the head of NY's National Abortion Rights Action League:

Right to Life will not go away, Mr. Diem said, even if it means filing petitions every time one of its candidates runs for office.But Ms. Conlin said her group would be there every time, looking for a chance to challenge those petitions. "We are absolutely committed to keeping them off the ballot," she said.

Democracy, anyone?

Usually they only go one or two at a time and we have a name for them:

Ave Maria College moving from Michigan to Florida.

So. If they develop an athletic program will they be the "Snowbirds?"

Ave Maria officials originally were interested in moving the campus to Domino's Farms, the Domino's Pizza headquarters in Ann Arbor Township. The township and Washtenaw County Planning Commission opposed plans to rezone the site for academic use. Soon after announcing that they were looking to expand, officials from Collier County, Fla., which includes Naples, contacted the university and offered to join with them to build a town to house the university, Falls said. The town will be built by Ave Maria College and the Barron Collier Cos., a real estate and land management company. The university is expected to have an initial enrollment of 650 students, which officials expect will grow to no more than 5,000.

Thanks to a reader to passing along this obituary from the WaPo:

Glenn L. Archer Sr., 96, who retired in 1976 as executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization that works to protect religious rights and church-state separation through court action and education, died Nov. 15 at Montgomery General Hospital. Mr. Archer was named director in 1948 of the newly established Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State. It became the nation's best-known advocate of absolute church and state separation and a major opponent of government aid to parochial schools. Mr. Archer said in interviews that the schools had no right to exist "at public expense." ...Mr. Archer and his organization also charged in 1955 that U.S. Catholic cardinals who vote for a new pope violate U.S. laws and should forfeit their citizenship. He said U.S. law barred a citizen from taking part in a foreign election.

More nuns!

Contemplatives, this time:

Poor Clares in California trying to build a new monastery

At their Los Altos Hills monastery, 16 cloistered nuns sleep on sacks of straw in ``cells'' that measure 7 by 9 feet. Mega-houses are rising in the surrounding neighborhoods, but the nuns still follow vows of poverty, chastity and prayerful obedience to God.Now, even as the economy falters and the world totters into uncertain times, they have embarked on a faith-driven project: the $3 million rebuilding of their home.``It's so strange that the new building is happening when the economy is down,'' said Sister Annuntiata, a former Texas middle school teacher who is one of the 16. ``It's almost like God is saying, `Trust me.' ''In amounts just enough to keep the project moving, donations keep arriving in the mail. When construction crews leave every afternoon, the Poor Clare sisters, as they are known, march outside with magnets tied to strings and hunt for discarded nails, which they use to build their own tables, chairs and beds.


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