Sunday, December 1

Fr. Stanley wants to know what we consider a good homily. Any help?

As the Washington Times notes,

on Wednesday, the Supremes will hear oral arguments in the Scheidler v. NOW case

In an interview, NOW lead attorney Fay Clayton declined to predict the outcome of the oral arguments Wednesday, but numerous "friend of the court" briefs say that if abortion protests can be labeled as extortion, then all protest — including the youthful anti-globalization foes of the World Trade Organization and Greenpeace's protests against the use of seal fur — is imperiled.

"What's at stake is the First Amendment right of free speech," says Seattle lawyer Theresa Schrempp. "NOW is alleging that extremely minor criminal conduct — jaywalking, trespassing, standing on the steps of an abortion clinic — constitutes extortion under RICO," the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. "Showing up at regular political protests are being catapulted into a major felony," she says. "It's like being in the middle of a Kafka-esque novel. Even parking in front of an abortion clinic — in a public parking space — is being called 'an extortionate act.'"

The huge fines for being charged under RICO — which allows injured parties to sue for triple damages — dissuades all protesters because, "People say it's not worth the risk to be part of something like this," she says. Therefore, activist groups such as the Seamless Garment Network, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Catholic Worker houses and the Sojourners community are among at least 40 individuals and two dozen organizations that have joined the case as "friends of the court." If access is denied to protest abortions, then access will be denied to protest other matters, according to one brief from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

2 California priests organizing day of penance for abuse.

The life of a Norbertine missionary priest in Peru:

Baeten has a mission based in Santa Clotilde, population a little more than 1,000, in northeastern Peru, in a lowland jungle straddling the Napo River from the Ecuadorian border to where the Napo joins the mighty Amazon River near Iquitos, a city of about 200,000.

The 69-year-old De Pere native and St. Norbert College graduate has been staying at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality for treatment of an illness he contracted in Peru.

"I get to the villages two, possibly three times a year," Baeten said. "We take care of some 20 communities on the river, about 500 miles long. The land is tremendously underpopulated. When we go, the majority of the villagers participate (in services)."

Baeten was ordained into the Norbertine order in 1959 and went to Peru in 1966, after Pope John XXIII asked for the establishment of missions throughout Latin America. Except for the occasional visit back home, he's been in Peru ever since. Baeten said he worked in the San Norberto Parish in the capital city of Lima for four years; volunteered for a year helping survivors of a devastating 1970 earthquake in the Andes Mountains that killed more than 60,000; and established the Parish of San Marcos in San Juan Lurigancho, just outside Lima, a year later with mostly mountain immigrants as members.

Then in 1987, he went to help fellow De Pere native and Norbertine the Rev. Jack MacCarthy, a doctor who had set up a hospital and mission in the Napo jungle. "(MacCarthy) runs the hospital, I run the parish," Baeten said. "The hospital has 20 beds and receives thousands of people a year. We have three Mexican sisters helping us. One runs the grade school and high school, there's about 1,000 students now." He said one of the mission's greatest assets is its two-story, 47-ton boat. Baeten said it is used to travel the Napo's 500-mile length, bringing supplies and visiting medical help to the villages and transporting sick villagers to a hospital in Iquitos. The boat is the only means of travel, other than walking, in the mission area.

In Europe, it was rather common to use churches as means to track the motion of the earth in relation to the sun - positioning the floor and windows so the light of the sun would follow a specific path when, for example, the winter solstice arrived.

They've discovered that an early 19th century California mission was probably built with the same purposeful design:

This little-publicized feat of 19th-century architectural engineering - which a local archaeologist thinks friars used to mark the start of the Christmas season - has wowed visitors since its discovery just three years ago. And on the morning of Dec. 22, early risers can witness the light show, too.

"It's almost blinding," said the Rev. Edward Fitz-Henry, the mission's pastor. "Words can't really describe it. It's really wonderful."

The eerie spectacle begins at daybreak on Dec. 22 when the morning sun hits the front of the church.

A seemingly transfixed beam of sunlight penetrates the window above the choir loft. As if passing through a magnifying glass, it narrows and intensifies. It shines a 20-square-foot rectangular window of light onto the center aisle. The light crawls up the entire 180-foot length of aisle and then hits the main altar.

It begins at the left of the altar, and then passes across it to the right. All the while it illuminates the gold-leafed surface of the tabernacle, which is located atop the main altar platform.

"It lights up like a Roman candle," says CSU-Monterey Bay professor and archaeologist Ruben Mendoza. "It's brilliant."

After 20 minutes, the beam disappears.

That spectacle signals the winter solstice, which brings the longest night and shortest day of the year. That solstice has the shortest period of sunlight, because our hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun. Though the solstice does shift a bit, the longest night usually begins the evening of Dec. 21. The light show is the morning of Dec. 22.

Mendoza, who has been digging at the mission since 1995, said the phenomenon seems to be the work of church designers. Although he has not cemented his theory, he said the church alignment "looks too premeditated" to be chance.

Here's a link to a book on the subject:

The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories

A young man who was treated for a near-fatal cancerous lymphoma ten years ago is now playing football.

The treatment may have done its work, but the family believes that Buffalo's famous Fr. Baker had something to do with it, too:

But then Gaylord spent 11 days in Children's Hospital undergoing tests and biopsies. He was about to be transferred to Roswell Park to begin an experimental form of chemotherapy when new X-rays came back. "Those 11 days, during those tests and stuff, I was about two weeks away from the final stage," he said. "Then when they did the X-rays, they virtually found nothing left (of the cancer) in my chest. "They actually had me take the X-ray over again. They thought they had the wrong one. They thought they had the wrong kid." Gaylord's grandfather, Jack Gaylord Sr., put a Father Nelson Baker medal he received from the priest himself on Peter when he was hospitalized. The Gaylords credit it in Peter's recovery.

More on Fr. Baker.

How preachers figure out how to do what they do

Most sermons used to be heavy on theology and theory. "The typical mainline sermon in the 1950s would have been fairly didactic," said Thomas G. Long, Bandy professor of preaching at Emory University's Candler Theological School in Atlanta and a nationally recognized preacher. "Students were taught to take the biblical text, find the idea, break it into its constituent parts and let those parts be the parts of the sermon."

That kind of sermon is still preached in places but is not prevalent. Yet although many pastors try to be more relevant in their sermons, their efforts often fall flat. Experts say ministers are often too busy with other pastoral duties to do the necessary hard work of reflecting on Scripture as they prepare their sermons. Some preachers, out of fear of offending the congregation, avoid taking strong moral or political stands. And several pastors say too many of their colleagues have a misguided belief that sermons are primarily for enhancing their listeners' spiritual self-esteem.

"I don't think Jesus spent two seconds thinking about his own self-esteem, but most homilies have to do with 'I'm okay, you're okay' stuff, and I've preached all of those homilies," said the Rev. Raymond B. Kemp. Powerful sermons, Kemp adds, instead remind listeners of "the constant call of Jesus to conversion and to action."

Kemp is coordinator of Preaching the Just Word, a program conceived by the Rev. Walter J. Burghardt, a nationally acclaimed Jesuit preacher, because of his concern over the thin content of much Catholic preaching. The program, which operates out of Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, offers five-day workshops that show priests and ministers how to address social justice issues more effectively in their sermons.

This approach keeps congregations engaged but not always in agreement with the sermonizer. "I just got off a call from a woman who said I used the pulpit for political purposes," said the Rev. John J. Enzler, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Potomac and a graduate of Kemp's program.

The woman, he said, was upset about a recent sermon in which he questioned going to war in Iraq and imposing capital punishment on the accused sniper suspects. But Enzler said such complaints should not deter pastors from preaching about difficult moral issues. "It's pretty easy to just get up and talk about Scripture," he said. "What is not so easy is to say, 'I think the war in Iraq is wrong,' or 'Capital punishment for . . . snipers is wrong.' "

Here's what I want to know: Why doesn't Fr. Enzler use the unease caused by the possibility of war or of the random murders of the snipers to address deeper spiritual questions that nag at all of us - am I prepared to die? Am I really aware of the brevity of life? How does that impact me? Am I open to God's forgiveness, or am I wasting the time I have on earth in bitterness and anger? Am I living in fear or am I trusting in God's care?

I am all for tying everything together - including the political and social ramifications of the Gospel - but I am not impressed by preachers who think they're all that because they get up and question the wisdom of invading Iraq. I'm impressed by preachers who work hard at understanding the deepest longings and fears of the human heart and tying that in with the Gospel.

Because, you know - that's where the answers are.

Catholic University drops out of the Association of American Universities

The Catholic University of America has dropped out of an elite association of research universities it helped found more than a century ago, prompted by concerns it can no longer keep up with the pace of major scientific research set by the group's larger institutions.

The college in Northeast Washington will lose little more than bragging rights by leaving the Association of American Universities, an influential lobbying and support network whose members include Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Catholic was the only college in the District to belong to the AAU and the only church-controlled member.

But the move also reflects a larger shift in mission for Catholic, a relatively small school for the AAU -- with relatively modest finances.

As the cost of graduate education continues to rise, campus officials said Catholic may soon have to consider whether to close some of its 45 doctoral programs to devote its limited resources to others. Catholic's strongest programs are in theology and the humanities, low priorities in AAU's increasing focus on federal funding for scientific research.

"We still give 100 doctorates a year. And we still do about $15 million a year in sponsored research," Provost John J. Convey said. "But that's small compared to places like [the University of] Michigan."

....Some faculty members expressed dismay at the decision to leave because of Catholic's historical affiliation with the AAU, he said, but few on campus have protested loudly.

"It didn't seem like a big deal to me," said Mark Mirotznik, an associate professor and chairman of the biomedical engineering department, one of Catholic's doctorate-granting disciplines. "It seems like it was unusual we were still in it -- the AAU outgrew us."

Andrew Hill, president of the Graduate Student Association, said the move has sparked little discussion among doctoral students. "We're a very humanities-centered institution," he said. "The university has tried for a very long time to be a lot of different things, and the scale of what it's tried to be has been beyond its means. The administration knows that, and the students know that."

In Louisville, they dedicated an historical marker commemorating the life of the first Catholic chaplain killed in the Korean war.

Church-going Black women and their hats

(From the NYTimes - LRR)

My Toledo-area contact sends along this overview of the Situation there.

Apologists (for what? I don't know. I can't figure it out..but there's always someone out there who wants to defend the indefensible) like to point out that most of the abuse cases coming to light in the present actually occurred in the past, sometimes far into the past. Granted, although we all know that it usually takes abuse victims years - decades - to come forward, but be aware that there are cases of recent abuse coming to light, and even if the actual abuse happened, say - 10 years ago - the protection of the abuser by the hierarchy has continued, through policy after policy, right up to Dallas. Obviously - that's why there was the rash of priest-dismissals and disappearances over the summer. Because they'd been protected up to that point. This article makes clear, though, that attitudes hostile to victims are not in the past:

When SNAP founder Barbara Blaine, a Toledo native and abuse victim, was to appear Sept. 5 at the University of Toledo law school, the Rev. Thomas Quinn, diocesan communications director, told a Blade reporter: "Where do we place the bombs? And you can quote me on that."

Smooth, padre. Real smooth.

Many points in this article also bely the argument that bishops were acting on the best advice available. At least in the cases cited in this article, church authorities were warned by psychologists that these men posed a danger. They ignored them.

1986, a sex-disorder clinic director wrote a chilling note about Father James Rapp: Don’t leave this priest alone with children.For years, the 46-year-old priest of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales said he tried to stop molesting teenage boys, and for years, he couldn’t help himself, court records show.After he was caught abusing two boys in Jackson, Mich. - 75 miles north of Toledo - he was sent to a Maryland clinic in 1986.But the diagnosis of ephebophilia, a sexual attraction to adolescent boys, soon would be forgotten. And in early 1991, the priest’s Toledo superiors sent him to a remote parish in Oklahoma.In the following years, the cleric went on a sexual rampage, raping and molesting at least three more boys in a case that led to a lawsuit - and a settlement of $5 million, the second-largest ever paid to a victim of a priest.Lawyers for the victims laid much of the blame on his Toledo superiors for failing to follow the advice of the doctor they hired a decade earlier. The ex-priest, now 61, was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1999.


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