Friday, January 31


You know, the blog links on the left haven't changed in about year. Amazingly enough, the last time I added to it, that was the full menu of Catholic blogs.

Not so anymore. There are tons and tons, all of them good, all of them giving some insight into some particular corner of the Catholic world. There are some that I read regularly that aren't over there, and at some point, I'll get around to adding them. But in the meantime you know that you can find your mostly complete list of Catholic blogs here and a list of all Christian-oriented blogs here.

Alan K. Henderson has an amusing set of criterea for any patron saint of bloggers

They give awards for mystical poetry

José Javier Aleixandre is the latest winner of the Fernando Rielo International Award for mystical poetry. The prize work is centered on belief in God, the reality of death, and the presence of God in daily life.

Below, Aleixandre discusses the world of mystical poetry, distinguishes it from the religious, and presents it as appropriate language to interrelate spiritual movements.

José Javier Aleixandre Ybargüen, born in 1924, has received some 50 literary awards. He has a licentiate in journalism and is president of the Spanish Association of Authors and Writers (AEAE).

Q: What topics inspired you to write "Not to Die Completely," the work that won the Rielo award?

Aleixandre: The book is divided in three parts. The first and principal part explores, so to speak, the love of God in the Creed, fundamental source of Catholic belief, in the course of 14 chapters.

It is a long poem in which the most important thesis is that I believe in God, that I need God to exist and to believe in him, if I don't want to die completely when I die.

The last part, also long but not as long as the first, is a eucharistic poem in which God calls me incessantly, but I resist until finally I am drawn by the irresistible magnet of his love.

The central part brings together, instead, 13 poems in consonant rhyme -- two sonnets and 11 heptasyllable 10-line stanzas -- that study God's daily presence in the usual moments of life and in relation to the loved ones around me.

But above all, as the prologue of the book, a [...] poem also justifies my enormous need to come close to God, because as it begins by saying, "no matter how much time I have, I do not have much time left, Lord."

Plus ca change

From The Church and I by Frank Sheed:

In our excitement over the Intellectual Renewal of the twenties, I was one of those who realized that with all its brilliance it hardly touched the great body of Catholics. I realized it because it had been my function in the Catholic Evidence Guild to meet the incoming members and find out how much the knew about the Faith which they wanted to teach to others, by which they were trying to live, and for which they hoped they would have the courage to die. The finding out was a gloomy experience.

They came at all ages, some fresh from school, some twenty or thirty or forty years after. With the rarest exceptions they were barely literate doctrinally. Catholic schools had a good record in public examinations, but most of them were defective in the one area which was their special reason for existence. I got the impression that doctrine was left to teachers who would not have been allowed to teach any other subject of which they were so ignorant. A regular defense of the catechism used to be that though the children might not understand the formulas, they would come back to them in later life. In discussion with those who I=entered the Guild long after their school days, I had some marvelous examples of what came back to them! I have told how in my first Guild class my own ignorance was mercilessly exposed: but I thought in my innocence that this was because I had not been to a Catholic school!

….As the years went by, the gloom began to lighten, but how slowly! Right up to the explosion of the sixties, and helping to produce it, one still found in too many schools the same repetition of catechism formulas, with no effort made to get inside them and show what effect they might have on life as we have to live it. I remember comparing learning the catechism with eating walnuts without cracking the shells. This swallowing of doctrines unenjoyed was the normal practice at all levels, right up to the teachers. I once had to give a three-day course in doctrine to al the nuns of a particular province of a particular order in a particular country. I explained that heckling – calling on the group to deal with the questions unbelievers ask – was part of my teaching method. I was told that I must heckle only the senior nuns, that sort of treatment might be bad for the faith of the younger. The result was a shambles. After half an hour I had to stop the questioning. The old ladies had spent dedicated lives teaching doctrines on which their minds had never stirred. And it was not only that one group. I could make a horror comic of things taught in our schools.

That the doctrines did not manage to get through alive did not in those days seem to anyone but us a matter of great concern. Theology was for theologians. No, one got nowhere by complaining of the ill-teaching of doctrine. I tried it for forty years or so, but nowhere was where I got, even with bishops. I remember one in particular. I had poured out my heart to him about the shameful teaching of doctrine in his schools. He listened with all politeness. When I had finished, he said, “Yes, indeed.” I felt I could read his mind: theology had never done him any good: it was just an obsession of mine, very creditable in a layman. It was only when some of us began to see and to say that Christ himself, taught as an item in the syllabus, was growing ever less real to teachers and pupils alike that we did at last cause discomfort But not enough, not soon enough, not yet.

It was not as if sermons at Mass were likely to supply for the failure of schools to make either the truths or Our Lord real. We of the street corner had the advantage of knowing when our audiences were bored – the walked away and left us talking to no one. The preacher in Church has to function without this priceless advantage. I don’t see how anyone learns to hold an audience without it.

I have heard good sermons. But from too many I cam away wondering that a teaching Church should give so little thought to teaching its teachers to teach.

Well the Hummer from mom was okay, but...LeBron ruled ineligible anyway...

Sorry that on this last day of Catholic Schools Week, it takes me all day to note that it's the feast of St. John Bosco.

From NRO:

Abortion's toll on Black Americans:

Abortion data — like all casualty data — are indeed sensitive. They reveal life-or-death decisions for women and unborn children and for this very reason should be disseminated widely. California needs to be encouraged to provide data on abortion. For policymakers to address the real casualties among blacks would take courage — far beyond the grandstanding on the military draft by Sharpton, Conyers, and Rangel. They might begin by listening to the poignant lyrics of hip-hop artist Nas in his recent mega-hit, "One Mic." Nas knows that his community has been devastated by abortion and in a courageous plea, the rapper simply asks women to stop abortion because "we need more warriors here."

Last on the block to blog this article about why fewer doctors are performing abortions.

And here's a link to the author's blog, which is very interesting reading, too.

Talk about an invitation to write your own joke...

There is a discussion at Mark Shea’s blog, as there has been off and on for many months, about the question of whether or not “bad” bishops should resign, should be asked to resign or should be pressured to resign, from the top or from the bottom, and how all of this reflects on the current papacy.

My observation is general, rather than specific.

I am always by puzzled by those who suggest that “good Catholics” shouldn’t criticize decisions made by church authorities, or shouldn’t voice disagreement. Certainly, Catholic life, as one conducted within a hierarchical structure, is a delicate balance. We know that our faith is mediated through human means, that God’s authority supports these means, and also that these human means are…well…human. There is a reason that the doctrine of infallibility is so narrowly defined.

So we are always walking this line – we don’t want to set out on a road to separate ourselves from the Church or presume to be wiser than the Church as a whole, yet we can’t be silent when we see the Gospel violated, especially by those who have a particular role in propagating it. They can mistaken, but so can we, and we know this all too well.

We see the disarray and multiplication of Protestant churches, and we don’t want that for ourselves, and we know, somehow, that the Papacy and the hierarchical structure of our church has protected us from a similar fate. Hate to tell you, but even Garry Wills admits as much.

But when I read these discussions, I can’t help but wonder at their abstract nature and their subsequent lack of engagement with either history or the reality of church. I don’t know if it’s willful or just ignorant, but the result is that the discussions just go round and round, unless, of course, Sandra interjects her usual very useful historical insight.

We like to think that the church works the same way our arguments do – in abstract. Fact is, they don’t. My own observation of these discussions over the past year has led me to the (perhaps faulty) conclusion that those who decry the airing of dirty laundry or those who tell us to just keep having faith and respecting what an apparently negligent bishop is all about are mostly people who have never worked in the Church - I mean who have never worked in chanceries, in rectories and in the bowels of Catholic institutions orwho have observed its workings close up. The impact that this has is profound – and know that while lay people who have engaged in this kind of work have insights that outsiders don’t, they still don’t have what priests have – for priests talk to each other and say things to each other that they do not say to the laity, even lay church employees.

It can be very hard on a person's faith. It's been said elsewhere that the easiest way to lose your faith is to work for the Church - and that applies to any denomination - it's not peculiar to Catholics.

Anyway, when you have worked in close quarters with a pastor or a bishop, you have seen this delicate balance writ large. You have witnessed the interaction of human strengths, weakness and flawed motives with the desire to serve Christ and His Church. And you’ve seen the pressures that go into decisions, and you’ve seen how crushingly prosaic matters like finances, ignorance and pride influence these decisions. You can no longer think of “Church leadership” as an abstract concept. It is as real as the bishop’s close acquaintances pressuring him not to be “too extreme” on that pesky abortion issue for fear of jeopardizing contributions or other aspects of the church’s legislative agenda this session. It is as real as the pastor refusing to give his associate real responsibility because he’s threatened by his popularity.

So, yeah…Wick Allison’s pressure may be extreme and notable because of its public nature – but it’s not unusual at all. Church leaders do not make their decisions in a vacuum. Most are making those decisions in the midst of a web of obligations to friends, concerns about contributions, the advice of whoever has had the savvy to finagle his ear, and, we can hope….attentiveness to the Holy

Can we take a look at history? Can we look at the many church councils convened and controlled by emperors? At the way in which the papacy was, for so many years, the tool of Roman nobility, except for a few decades in which it was the tool of the French crown? At the way in which the evangelizing efforts to the New World were intertwined with the ambitions of secular governments?

My point is not to justify these or present them as the ideal. The ideal, is, of course, for leaders – and for the rest of us – to root our decisions in the call of Jesus. But my point is to remind us all that the ideal is hardly ever met, and modern incidents of the laity – powerful or not – to influence church decisions – are not a novelty.

That said, I have decided that I am not comfortable with Allison’s move here. I can understand his frustration. He probably knows even more than he is saying publicly – that is usually the way it works – and it is clear that the appointment of an auxiliary indicates Rome’s expectation that Grahamm was on his way out.

But Allison’s arguments on his own behalf smack way too much of a sense of his – and the other founding Catholics of Dallas’s power. We made you – we can break you – is what I can’t help hearing.

People outside the church hierarchy can be, and very often are – powerful leaders. People look to outsiders, in fact, far more than they do to insiders for guidance. For every Charles Borromeo, I’ll raise you a Dorothy Day and a Catherine of Siena. But we honor and heed those people, not because of their position or their money, or their role in the founding of the community, but because of their holiness. Even the secular leaders – the kings and queens and lords – who are honored as saints – are honored because of their faith and their humble service to the Gospel.

So sure, while secular leaders and other figures have consistently tried and succeeded in influencing church policy, and we shouldn’t be surprised that they continue, we should be wary of giving them too much honor, as well.

Update: Oh, Fr. Wilson (Comment #7) is probably right. He always is, isn't he?

John Allen's weekly Word from Rome is up

Lots of stuff about ecumenism this week.

Fr. Rob Johansen wants us to know he's back in the blogging business

Thanks to a reader for sending this link to the work of Caravaggio, who is inspiring Gibson and his cinematographer:

Gibson says it is crucial that the story look realistic, not, as he puts it, "like a cheesy Hollywood epic." He chose cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, who worked with him on "The Patriot." Deschanel took as his inspiration the dramatically lit works of the Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio.

Cardinal Sin says to back Pope, not Bush

REMINDING her of Pope John Paul II's declaration that war "is always a defeat for humanity," Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin is urging President Macapagal-Arroyo not to support a US war on Iraq.

"This is now a good opportunity for you to follow the Holy Father rather than be aligned with the superpowers of the world," Sin said in a pastoral letter issued on the day US President George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address Wednesday.

Bush said the United States was determined to go to war if Iraq did not fully disarm. After Bush's speech, Ms Macapagal said she was supporting the US decision to present evidence against Iraq to the United Nations Security Council.

his pastoral letter, Sin also appealed to Ms Macapagal to remain true to her promise to be "a faithful daughter of the Church" by not supporting "the unjust war efforts being proposed by the United States of America."

"Be a peacemaker! Show the world that we Filipinos are promoters and defenders of peace. That is what Edsa I and II are all about! We are not anti-American. We are anti-war! We are not pro-Iraq. We are pro-peace!" Sin said.

Kairos guy nails it.

The really challenging thing about many American Catholics’ beliefs about their faith is not that those beliefs are false, though they surely are that, but that they are adolescent. A spirit of juvenile contradiction, self-righteousness, and absolute certainty defines the collective mass of dissenters in the US, just as it defines the outward appearance of large numbers of teenagers in high schools and colleges across the country. (Let us not forget too the obsession with sexuality as the locus of so much grievance.) It is not surprising, really, that we have an adolescent Church, after all. The boomers have bequeathed us an adolescent culture, forever lusting after youth, newness, hipness, sexuality. We are focused on “who’s hot, and who’s not,” like the in crowd in the high school cafeteria.

I'll probably comment later, but anyone who has a mind to might draw some connections between this observation and Robert Bly's The Sibling Society

A Catholic school is closing in Toledo, and here are two articles with two angles on the story:




My husband has linked to a couple of interesting articles on the Gibson Christ movie.

I continue to be amazed by those who bother to comment on this blog - when we don't get obssessed by nitpicking or verge on personal attacks (which hasn't happened this week, at least)...these comments are just so very interesting and enlightening.

Thank you all so, so much!

Pro-life message=swastika?

From the WSJ:

The secularization of Fordham and Yeshiva Universities

Though Fordham has chosen a priest to head the school (unlike, say, Georgetown), secularization abounds. Only 40% of the students are Catholic, and of those many are concerned that the school not become too Catholic. As one senior told me: "You hear it's a religious school, and you worry it's very strict." Though this student grew up Catholic, she is not especially religious and has been happy to find that the school isn't either, measured by both student conduct and curriculum offerings. Eric Caroll, a theater major from Michigan, echoes the sentiments of most students I met at Fordham: "If you went into my classes you wouldn't know you were in a religious school."

....Legal limits are part of the problem. Along with almost ever other university in New York, Fordham accepts money from the state government and by doing so agrees--under the New York's version of the Blaine Amendment--to refrain from promoting religious doctrine, a restriction that has helped to make the school's religious identity less robust since the 1960s, when the funding began.

The Blaine Amendment plays a role at Yeshiva too. To qualify for state funding, the flagship university of Orthodox Judaism rewrote its charter, splitting the seminary from the rest of the university. This had big effects, in part because, around the same time, the orthodox Jewish community in America began cultivating an outlook that discouraged interaction with the secular world.

Texas religious leaders stand behind Dallas bishop

Six prominent religious leaders in North Texas are standing behind the Catholic bishop of Dallas days after media reports that the bishop reneged six years ago on an offer to resign.

In a statement to be published in Friday's edition of Texas Catholic , the diocesan newspaper, the leaders defended Bishop Charles Grahmann and attacked press coverage of him.

"We deeply regret and challenge the recent unwarranted attacks on churches and religious leaders based on inaccuracy and bias, particularly those on Bishop Charles V. Grahmann," said the statement, signed by current or former local leaders of Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist and Disciples of Christ denominations.

Bishop Herbener [Evangelical Lutheran Church of America] said the religious leaders drafted their letter as a way to express support for a respected colleague whom they believe is being unfairly tarred by the larger clergy sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.

"It appears to me that The Dallas Morning News is trying to make a 'Cardinal Law' out of Charlie Grahmann, and that's crazy," he said. "He's done the darned best job he could do."

This one should keep us busy today:

Judge declines to sentence gay activitists

The activists, Ken Einhaus of Arlington, Mike Perez of Seattle and Kara Speltz of Oakland, Calif., told Edwards in the nonjury trial that they went to the Hyatt Regency on New Jersey Avenue NW on Nov. 12, seeking someone from the clergy to give them Holy Communion. They also wanted an explanation of why they were refused Communion the day before during Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass was held during the annual Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, said a member of the shrine staff misidentified the three as members of the Rainbow Sash movement and told the priest. The priest declined to give them Communion at the Nov. 11 service, Gibbs said, because the Rainbow Sash group had informed the church that members planned to receive Communion as a form of protest.

"The Eucharist is the core of our faith and a sign of our unity," Gibbs said. "It is very rare to deny Communion, but since it was publicly announced it would be a protest and not a sign of faith, the Rainbow Sash group was denied the sacrament.

"But the three were not members of that group," Gibbs said. "This was a case of mistaken identity." The priest, Michael Bugarin, was unavailable for comment, Gibbs said.

But lead defense attorney Mark L. Goldstone said the three believed they were denied Holy Communion either because the church believed they were gay or because officials thought they were going to protest on behalf of gay issues.

Einhaus said withholding Communion was an abuse of power, but Gibbs said canon lawyers have established a right to deny the Eucharist when priests think someone might use it as a political tool. Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton flew in to testify on behalf of the activists.

That's a shock. Anyway.

Get a load of what the judge said:

Judge Mildred M. Edwards, who is Catholic, told the activists that she had to convict them but that she would do something she had not done in 15 years on the bench -- dispense with a sentence.

"Tremendous violence was done to you . . . when the Body of Christ was denied to you," Edwards said, referring to the contention of the three that refusal of Holy Communion had prompted their actions. "As a member of your church, I ask you to forgive the church."

....At the end of sentencing, Edwards offered the activists the words priests use at the end of a Catholic Mass: "Go in peace."

A lot of food for thought here. The bishops' meeting behind a figurative fortress. The question of using reception of communion as a political statement. (For those of you not familiar with it the "Rainbow Sash" movement started in Australia - openly gay folks wear rainbow-colored sashes to receive communion, often from a priest or prelate opposed to their movement.) The amazingly pretentious judge.

Go for it.

Good Catholic school stuff

Excellent, in fact.

The religious order that runs Salesianum School in Wilmington is opening a tuition-free middle school for low-income city students this fall.

The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales said the new school, which will be called Nativity Preparatory School of Wilmington, initially will serve 15 to 20 boys in the fifth and sixth grades and expand to 60 boys in fifth through eighth grades.

The school is based on a model developed more than 30 years ago by the Nativity Mission Center in New York that includes a disciplined school day lasting more than 12 hours. "This is academic boot camp," said the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, president of Salesianum, a private Catholic high school for boys. Curran also will be executive director of Nativity Prep.

Nativity Prep's day will begin at 8 a.m. Classes will last until 3 p.m., when two hours of team sports begin. After a dinner break, students will study again from 7 to 9 p.m. The students also will attend four-to six-week summer programs outside of the city.

The school will target "students with need" who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford private school, Curran said. ....The Nativity model is in use in more than 50 schools nationwide, said the Rev. Jack Podsiadlo, executive director of the Baltimore-based Nativity Educational Centers Network. He said Wilmington's Nativity Prep would be the only such school established by another Catholic high school.

First bishop of Asian ancestry in the US ordained

Accused Polish priest appears in court

Several Kramek supporters continued to denounce Kramek’s confession alleging the Polish-speaking priest was not made aware of his rights nor did he understand the seriousness of the accusations.

Kramek, who was assisted by a Polish interpreter in court, admitted to the sexual assault while being interrogated by a Polish-speaking detective who lived in Poland as a youth.

Thursday, January 30

Gray Davis works on his Catholic cred.

Time for more vignettes

When I was in 9th grade at the Catholic high school, the girls, as did most girls at the time, had to take home ec. Our teacher was new that year, fresh out of school, and her first name was Nina and she was Church of Christ.

And, sticking by her principles she absolutely refused to call priests “father.”

So, our principal was “Mr. Henkel” (a pseudonym, in case you’re wondering), a moniker that inspired waves of suppressed hysteria every time it was spoken and did not help her cause – to teach us how to sew and cook.

One day, she greeted us with the news that we would be doing something special in class one day next week because that was the day that “Mr. Niedergeses” would be visiting.

Who? Who’s that? We all wondered.

Of course – it was the bishop. Mr. Niedergeses.

I never really understood that one – sure, if she wants to misinterpret Matthew that’s fine, but it’s not like it says, “Call no man bishop.”

I don’t think she came back the next year. At the time, I saw her attitude as disrespectful of the institution that was employing her. But I have to say, now, my memory, Mrs. Garton stands there, with her black, shoulder-length hair and her narrow glasses and her tight smile as she waits for the girls to stop giggling, as a witness to living your faith in hostile circumstances.

Which is pretty much the definition of a room full of 14-year old girls.

Bishop withdraws support from Cowdeo.

Oh, just go read it.

As you may have discerned, the Catholic secondary schools with which I have been associated, both as a student as a parent, have not exactly been emblematic of the reputed general “excellence” that Catholic schools are supposed to embody.

I know that my experience isn’t normative - it’s not, is it? – and I don’t present it as such. There are many excellent Catholic secondary schools out there, but I present my own experiences merely as a caution for parents to look carefully beyond the brochures to the curriculum, priorities and, most important, culture of the school before decided if it it’s a place that’s going to support their child’s growth in faith and intellect.

And – very importantly – to not feel guilty if you find the school wanting and you decide to send your child elsewhere.

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why I happen to hook up with such problematic Catholic schools. They’ve all been in the South, all diocesan, all struggling, all small. I don’t think the high school I attended is struggling any more – it moved from the poorer east side of town, where it was when I attended, to the happening and rich west side of town a few years back, and seems, by all reports, to be thriving.

But the other two? Oy. I’ve concluded that the problems with these schools lay in a)a history of poor leadership, especially at the Florida school b)being small anyway and serving a minority (Catholic) population and c)not being able – because of their size – to offer the programs that the larger public schools offer.

I didn’t teach in areas where there were scads of Catholic high schools, run by the diocese and religious orders, schools which had long histories and traditions of success. I taught in schools that were diocesan stepchildren – in towns far from the center of the diocese, places that seemed almost forgotten sometimes.

And so these schools are left scrambling for the teachers that they can get, some of whom were the typical valiant sacrificing Catholic school teacher, but most, unfortunately, were folks fresh out of college who couldn’t get a job in the public schools that year. They’re left scrambling for students, and most of the time caught in the place where they have come to believe that raising standards and really and truly pursuing academic excellence and a strong Catholic identity would harm, rather than help them.

They were both quite frustrating experiences

Terry Eastland on The Forgotten Option

LAST MONTH, "Dateline NBC" told the story of a young couple's decision to have a baby who had been diagnosed with Down syndrome. The story, which took place in 1998, is worth recalling as the nation continues to grapple with the morality of abortion.

In "Dateline"'s account, Greg and Tierney Fairchild (of Hartford, Conn.) receive the good news that Tierney is pregnant with their first child. But later tests reveal that their baby will have Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that can produce a wide range of physical and mental disabilities. For the Fairchilds, who both happen to support abortion rights, that prospect raises the question of whether they (or, to be precise, Tierney) will choose abortion.

The Fairchilds worry about the severity of their child's retardation and the unfair burden it might place on other children they hope to have. They learn their baby would have to undergo heart surgery. They go back and forth on abortion but appear close to choosing it.

As the legal deadline for making that decision draws near, Greg wonders about the adoptability of a baby like theirs and calls a local service. He is told it is "no problem" finding parents for babies with Down syndrome. The couple is taken aback.

"One of the things we hadn't considered," Tierney says, "was that . . . someone else would love to have [this child] and was prepared to handle it." Her husband adds, "[I]t even makes you question yourself. What is it exactly that I'm so worried about, if there are people lined up to adopt this baby?"

Brooklyn and New York church officials can't decide whether they knew a priest accused of molestation had moved from one diocese to the other.

16 priests named in new Boston lawsuits

Of the 16 newly accused priests, at least three are diocesan priests in active ministry, according to church records, and one is retired. At least 10 of the other 12 are believed to be dead, according to attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who filed the lawsuits.

"Liberal" Bernardin refused a donation from Andrew Greeley.

"Conservative" George accepts:

So when he announced a $420,000 gift Wednesday, the donation by the author, sociologist, church critic and Chicago Sun-Times columnist was cheerfully accepted.

George, who has called Greeley's sexy fiction "an exercise in the evangelization of the imagination," was on hand when the donation was announced during the archdiocese's teacher awards ceremony at St. Stanislaus Kostka School, 1255 N. Noble..

Greeley, 76, said the money would go toward scholarships and teacher pay..

To those who argue that Catholic schools were needed only by the immigrant church of yesteryear, Greeley noted that Chicago has 1.2 million Hispanics, most of whom have no tradition of religious schools. Neither did the Italians, he said..

"With proper marketing, the same thing can happen in Hispanic neighborhoods," he said..

Here's the church, here's the....

A NY state boy won a Christmas card design contest sponsored by a bank.

Gregory’s picture showed a white dove hovering over a snow-covered village -- which included a steepled church. But in December when Gregory opened his complimentary package of cards, the church’s steeple and cross had been removed -- the building made to look like another house in the village.

Wednesday, January 29

Cool Pro-life stuff here.

Vignettes from Catholic school life:

A woman in her mid-20's was in the history department. She taught honors courses.The chaplain of the school was in the habit of referring to the students, quite fondly, as "Visigoths."

One day at lunch, the young woman turned to me, and asked, "What's a Visigoth?"

A few months later, she came to me and asked for some clarifications about Emperor Constantine. "I know he had something to do with Christianity. What was it?"

Did I mention she taught Honors World History in the Catholic high school with the thousands of dollars of tuition paid by eager parents?

Of course, this speaks more loudly about the current state of teacher training than it does anything else.

Oh, and then there was the geometry teacher who spent a week lecturing his students about the Illuminati. He wasn't Catholic, at least. He was a great baseball coach though. Mercifully - for the sake of academics, if not athletics - he left the next year to go to the Episcopal school. And yeah, they've won championships since. And they're also well-innoculated against the Illuminati, I presume.

I told you that in the school in Florida I'd been preceded by a guy who taught by lounging back in his chair, sipping his coffee, shooting the breeze, and giving everyone "A's."

A student told me that the teacher has once, in a fit of work, assigned papers. This kid was assigned to write on Martin Luther. He turned in a paper on Martin Luther King, Jr that he'd written for another class the year before, "just to see." He saw. He got an "A."

Well, a new crop of theology teachers came after Mr. Relaxed departed to pursue a career as a sports agent (I kid you not) - me, a priest and a nun. Very early on, Sister was grading her first set of 9th grade test papers in the lounge. They were all pretty bad, so she graded them accordingly. The next day, same time, same place, she sat, stunned, having returned the papers. Her students had been livid at their marks, telling her in no uncertain terms that this was religion class and your religious beliefs were a matter of opinion and they couldn't possibly be wrong, no matter what they were. Never mind that this was an objective test on some portion of the Old Testament. It was still religion and didn't you know that there are no wrong answers in religion?

I'll remind you that the vast majority of these kids were products of 8 years of Catholic grammar school.

Maybe it was going to be an visual aid for a lesson on the Parable of the Sower.

Jeopardy + Nebraska = Love

Wal-Mart is taking over the world.

But you already knew that.

Jeremy Lott has a great, thoughtful piece at Reason on the merchandising of Christianity:

Jesus Sells.

Wick Allison, reportedly good Catholic and publisher of D magazine in Dallas, writes a strong column about his city's bishop

In 1997, when a Dallas jury ruled against the diocese in the first sexual abuse case, the bishop announced he intended to appeal. That would have been a disaster. I went to the elder Jim Moroney [publisher of the Dallas Morning News] to sound an alarm. He not only agreed with me, but also helped form an ad hoc committee. The committee met with the bishop and presented these facts: 1) There would be no appeal. 2) The lawyer who had bungled the case by taking it to trial in the first place, Randy Mathis, would be fired. 3) Monsignor Robert Rehkemper, who had publicly blamed the parents of the molested children, would be removed as pastor of All Saints parish. 4) When the dust had settled, the bishop would quietly step down.

His back to the wall, the bishop seemed to accede. He quashed the appeal, sent Msgr. Rehkemper to the hinterlands, and appointed Haynes & Boone to negotiate a settlement. The announcement of Bishop Joseph Galante as his co-adjutor seemed to pave the way for the final resolution.

But the bishop reneged. Once the heat was off, he decided to stay. He has now announced that he plans to hold on to his office four more years, until he reaches mandatory retirement age.

According to the bishop's logic, I shouldn't comment on this matter because D Magazine has no right to tell the Church what to do. So I won't. Instead, I'll advise my fellow Catholics what to do. Give your money to organizations like the Catholic Foundation, Catholic Charities, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which are independent of the diocese but faithful to the Church. Do not give money that will go to pay legal bills and cover up continuing blunders.

If the bishop thinks he can run this diocese by himself, let him try.

Good Lord.

Some of you may recall that a few weeks ago, I blogged about our experience of seeing a dead rabbit being feasted on by a hawk in our backyard.

I turned it into an OSV column (naturally), and I just got a letter from a lady complaining that we were quite cold and heartless to just move the dead rabbit to the back of the yard, enabling the hawk to keep at it. We should have buried it, she said.

I wonder. Does she think hawks will go get a salad or something if they can't finish their prey?

Vignettes from Catholic school life

Did I tell you the one about the ex-Catholic Mormon on the payroll?

Oh yeah. I did.

Let's do this one, from my own experience as a student.

Our senior religion teacher was a Sister of Mercy named Sister Rose. She was young, pretty, so nice, and how we loved her.

During homecoming week, there was a faculty-student basketball game scheduled. Sister Rose decided to play. The priest-principal said sure, okay.

But you have to wear your habit, Sister. We don't have nuns without habits on this campus.

(This was 1978 - it was a modified habit - blue, knee-length dress with a white collar. Veil. Sure, I guess she could have played basketball in it, but...why?)

Sister Rose was quite respectful of the principal and never displayed a hint of dissatisfaction to us, even when we asked her about it. She only told us a story.

She told us about a lady she visited once a week. She brought her groceries, sat with her, visited, did chores around the house for her. The lady was blind.

"I don't think she cares what I'm wearing," Sister Rose mused. "I hope she knows that I love God and I love her because of the way I act, not what I wear."

And I have to confess, from that day forward, I have been unperturbed by the issue of nun's habits. A couple of years later, when I spent a summer doing volunteer work in Harlan, Kentucky, and got to know two jeans-clad sisters who spent their days and much of their nights giving medical care to the impoverished only made the point clearer. Sure, I see the habit as a valuable sign, and sure, nuns are better off wearing habits than polyester print shirts and stretch pants. But for those that choose not to? Do I care? Not really. Do I judge? Not at all..

Well, except for Sister Gloria in Roanoke who wore designer suits and tons of makeup. Yeah, I judged her. Gotta confess.

Our Lady of Perpetual Posting, Pray for Us!

They’re taking votes on a patron saint of the Internet

The Archangel Gabriel is one of Christianity's great communicators -- it was he who brought word to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, the Bible says. So it was only natural that when a search began for a patron saint for the Internet, Gabriel's name arose.

According to a poll being conducted by a Roman Catholic organization in northern Italy, he is now in sixth place behind a 20th century martyr, an educator and a publisher born in the 19th century, an 18th century evangelizer and a 13th century nun who saw visions projected on a wall.

The web site,, is soliciting votes with the aim of having an Internet patron saint named by Easter. "We had lots of requests for a patron, so we decided the Internet was the best tool for finding one," said Roberto Diani, an Internet adviser for Italy's Conference of Bishops. The official choice will be made by the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Cult and Discipline of Sacrament.

….….Among the personages set for beatification this year is San Giacomo Alberione, founder of a major Catholic publishing house. He also leads the Internet patron race with 29 percent of the vote.

The others in the top six are Gabriel, St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesian order and a promoter of youth education; Sant'Alfonso Maria de Liguori, a bishop and prolific writer; and Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest and missionary who favored use of technical advances to spread the Gospel. He died of hunger in Auschwitz after offering his life in exchange for a condemned fellow prisoner. Finally, there's St. Clare of Assisi, who saw visions on the wall; she's the patron saint of television…

Er, no…Maximilian Kolbe didn’t “die of hunger.” They sort of shot him through with carbolic acid. I think that might have done it.

Law's attorney questions judge's remarks

A former superior court judge, Todd took particular exception to remarks Sweeney made in open court last week, when she rejected a motion to allow Law to delay his continuing pretrial testimony in civil suits filed by alleged victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley.''Instead of just denying the motion, as she has a right to do, the judge held a hearing at which she made what I regard to be irresponsible and intemperate remarks that the motion was brought in bad faith in order to `sandbag' opposing counsel,'' Todd said. ''It seems to me that a judge charging an attorney with bad faith is as serious as an attorney charging a judge with bias and prejudice.''Todd also objected to Sweeney's written remarks in a ruling last November, in which she said that evidence in church records contradicts Law's sworn testimony that he and his aides did not, as plaintiffs contend, return some abusive priests to parish work without first determining they posed no risk to children.''Judge Sweeney must have the sense to realize that her remarks prejudice the defendants and my particular defendant, Cardinal Law, in the pending cases before her,'' Todd said.

For those interested in the history of Catholicism in Japan, a reader points us to the story of Dr. Takashi Nagai..

one of the prominent lay leaders of the Catholic community at Nagasaki during and after WWII. He was a pioneer in radiology research before the war and was dying of leukemia before the A-bomb was dropped. After the war, his reflections on the devastations of the war became quite popular in Japan and helped the Japanese to make sense of the tragedy. His cause is up for canization to sainthood right now.

A chronology of Christianity in Japan.

Next time you think about desecrating a nativity scene….

Think twice

Jessica Lange and Brian Patrick will have the choice of bringing a new baby Jesus statue to a Fairport Harbor church at 9 a.m. on Sunday instead of facing a stiffer jail sentence for desecrating the statue on Christmas Eve. Painesville Municipal Judge Michael Cicconetti, known for his quirky sentences, ordered the couple to walk from New Street to the Fairport Harbor Police Station on Third Street with a donkey and a sign apologizing for the desecration. "I chose a donkey but not for its religious symbolism," Cicconetti said. "It is also used to describe people who do stupid things. This couple embarrassed the village."

No, not that Jessica Lange...

In the WaPost, Colman McCarthyreviews John Fialka’s book Sisters, and emerges with a most remarkable conclusion:

The pain of the sisters came, often enough, from local bishops or parish priests. Many were overlords and landlords who paid the women little or nothing, ignored living conditions in rundown convents and had no interest in providing pensions for aging sisters. In 1973, Fialka writes, "the bishops' department of education recommended that Catholic churches take a national collection to develop a retirement fund for sisters. The recommendation was ignored." Some nuns kept agitating. Now there is such a collection: "After decades of procrastination, confusion, benign neglect and worse, the Church fathers made sure that some checks are finally in the mail." A lay fundraising group -- SOAR! (Save Our Aging Religious!) -- is on the scene, as well as the church's National Religious Retirement Office.

A heavier cross than cheapskate bishops and priests has been the denial of leadership roles to sisters, a practice traceable to Pope John Paul II and his Vatican. In his concluding pages, Fialka is hopeful that power-sharing -- and not just women's ordination -- can renew the church and attract women to join religious orders. Maybe. Miracles do happen, but as the numbers slide and the pope's decrees harden, the odds keep growing.

So let me see if I've got this right: Religious sisters held roles of tremendous responsibility in the American Church, almost since the moment they started arriving. But...the numbers of sisters have declined because they've been ...denied leadership roles? And they fight with bishops?

This isn't even what Fialka himself says, so don't take McCarthy's agenda-skewed conclusion as a reason not to read the book.

Bishop asks priest to step down because of financial irregularities and suspicions about a relationship.

This is not the first time Thomson has been on leave. Thomson was pastor of Saint Andrew's in Augusta when he was convicted and fined six years ago for soliciting a prostitute in Lewiston. He was placed on leave, and the diocese says he received counseling before being installed as assistant pastor at Saint Maximilian Kolbe in Scarborough.

How wildly appropriate...

..that this happened around the feastday (1/27) of St. Angela Merici, Ursuline foundress:

Urusuline Academy religion teacher fired after her name appeared in an ad supportive of abortion rights.

And she’s like, shocked.

Ursuline Academy, which abides by the anti-abortion stance of the Catholic Church, fired Curay-Cramer, a religion and language arts teacher, for not keeping with the church's teachings. The school had offered to allow Curay-Cramer to resign, both Curay-Cramer and the school said.

Curay-Cramer, who had worked at Ursuline for 18 months, said she was surprised when the school took issue with her name being in the ad. She said the ad was the first time she had publicly stated her involvement with Planned Parenthood, for which she started doing volunteer work in April.

"I felt fairly humiliated and beside myself about it," Curay-Cramer said. "Nothing I did publicly ever had anything to do with the classroom. What was more upsetting was that I realized I couldn't go back to the classroom."

Peter Nixon asked about Silence by Shusaku Endo. I’ve written about the book, very briefly here. Endo, a Japanese Catholic, wrote several remarkable novels grappling with the encounter between Western Christianity and Japanese culture.
Don Kimball defrocked

Anyone who was involved in Catholic youth ministry in the 1980’s knows about the former Fr. Don Kimball.

Kimball, who attended school in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, was ordained a priest in 1969 at St. Eugene's Cathedral in Santa Rosa. He quickly rose to national prominence with an award-winning radio youth ministry

…and, as I recall, monthly mailings on the current hits that were to be used in youth groups,

Don Kimball, the onetime charismatic youth minister convicted last year of molesting a teen-age girl, has been defrocked by the Vatican, Santa Rosa Diocese officials said Tuesday.

Kimball, 59, refused at least three requests from bishops to resign from the priesthood, prompting Bishop Daniel Walsh to take the unusual step of initiating his removal, diocese spokeswoman Deirdre Frontczak said.

A special panel at the Vatican approved Walsh's request late last year but the diocese delayed its announcement until all the paperwork had been completed, Frontczak said.

Kimball declined to sign the papers and requested a conference with his church lawyer, but that did not affect the decree, diocese attorney Dan Galvin said.

Kimball has been "removed from the clerical state," Frontczak said. He no longer has the duties, responsibilities or rights of a priest, and he receives no compensation from the church, she said.

Well, hello there. Blogger's been down all morning, but now it seems to back in business. We'll see for how long. You get what you pay for, you know....

Tuesday, January 28

Police storm Mt. Athos monastery

In an unprecedented step the holy mount's civilian administrator called for the police as the rebellious monks vowed to defy an order demanding that they leave the far-flung peninsula today.

"We could hold out for two years," declared a defiant Abbot Methodius, who heads the ultra-conservative Esphigmenou monastery. "We are prepared to fight on even though the authorities have cut off our electricity, water, heating and food supplies."

The 117 monks, the most doctrinally rigid of the 2,000 who inhabit an array of monasteries on the semi-autonomous republic, have denounced the Pope as a heretic.

For years they have shrouded their medieval settlement with a banner proclaiming "Orthodoxy or death" while demanding that the Orthodox faith's spiritual leader, Bartholomew I, tone down his overtures towards Rome.

From a 1996 issue of City Journal (so you know it's good): The Invisible Miracle of Catholic Schools

Another onsite report by a blogging Marcher for Life

Speaking of educational problems...I see from the news that Oregon's going to shut down the schools a month early because of money problems. Any insight from the scene? Are the private schools seeing this as to their advantage?

Vignettes from Catholic school life:

An absolutely wonderful class I had my last year teaching - a senior seminar which followed a similar curriculum to the regular class, but at a more advanced level, using a college text to study world religions, and using Augustine's Confessions as a start to discussion spirituality, and novels to discuss everything else. They were absorbed by the Power and the Glory, entertained and fascinated by Flannery O'Connor and totally absorbed and emotionally engaged by Silence. It was a wonderful class, and fortunately, when I think about my years in Catholic schools, that's my most prominent memory.

By the way, I should mention that I had to fight the administration like mad to offer the class, lest students who didn't participate feel diminished in some way.

Forgive me for failing to note until this moment that today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

Here's my point:

When a school presents itself as Catholic, but the reality of the school's culture undercuts the Catholic faith, that does more harm to a kid's faith than being an openly secular atmosphere.

Example: My husband taught at a Jesuit high school The athletic director was an ex-Catholic who regularly testified to kids how he'd not met Jesus until he left the Church. And of course he was in no risk of losing his job because the school had a fabulously successful athletic program.

The head of the Theology department had a degree in chemistry and knew nothing to speak of about theology (I share your confusion. In a Jesuit school? But aren't they.......Yeah.)

One of the priest faculty members had a last name, that, with the change of one letter could be transformed into a slang word for a male sexual organ, and he gladly and jokingly referred to himself this way to students.

And you want to pay (at least) $6,000 a year for this?

In my own school, 2/3 of the faculty were not Catholic and most of them, while not hostile to Catholicism, couldn't and weren't interested in really understanding and sharing in the Catholic mission of the place. The principal, while effective in some respects, fully planned to reduce theology classes to two or three days a week before he transferred to head the Episcopal school. The new principal promptly appointed an ex-Catholic Mormon as Dean of Students.

Granted, not any one of these things destroy the Catholic mission of a school, and there can be other teachers, administrators and programs that compensate...but when you have decisions like that being made, they're usually only the tip of the iceberg.

Vignettes from Catholic school life:

The two finest teachers any of my children have ever had: Molly and Teresa, women who embodied the ideal. They were absolutely uncompromising academically, had incredible faith in God, and cared deeply for each of their students - which is why they were uncompromising, which is something hardly anyone understands any more.


Patrick Sweeney has a review of Miracles up on his blog

Vignettes from Catholic school life:

(Part 1 of a series.)

Telling the story of Cain and Abel to 9th graders. Doing so with great animation and verve, as per usual. Get to the climax: "And Cain...killed....Abel."

Audible, group gasp rises from classroom.

In Catholic schools for 8 years, they were surprised at the ending.

The Mighty Barrister has a review of the ABC show Miracles posted on his blog

Mark Steyn. On abortion.

A society whose political class elevates "a woman's right to choose" above "go forth and multiply" is a society with a death wish. So today we're the endangered species, not the spotted owl. We're the dwindling resource, not the oil. Abortion is like the entirely mythical "population bomb" touted by the award-festooned Paul Ehrlich, who predicted millions of Americans would be starving to death by the 1980s: It's a prop of the Western progressive's bizarre death-cultism. We are so bad, so racist, so polluting, so exploitative that we owe it to the world not to be born in the first place. Abortion fetishism and our withered birth rate are only the quieter symptoms of the West's loss of self-confidence manifested more noisily elsewhere, from last weekend's Saddamite demonstrations to Chirac and Schroeder's press conference. The issue this week, according to the Ottawa Citizen's David Warren, is simple: "Is what we are worth defending?" If you think the Euro-appeasers' answer is pretty pathetic right now, wait another decade, after the birth rate's fallen even lower and their bloated welfare programs are even more dependent on an increasingly immigrant workforce.

The abortionists respond that every child should be "wanted." Sounds nice and cuddly, but it leads remorselessly to Italian yuppie couples having just the one kid in their thirties. In a healthy society, not every baby is exactly "wanted": things happen, and you adjust to them. Legal abortion was supposed to make things better for that small number of women who found themselves clutching a handful of cash and riding the bus to a backstreet abortionist in the next town. But "unwanted" is a highly elastic term: in Romania in the Nineties, three out of four pregnancies were being terminated. Europe, in eliminating "unwanted" pregnancies, is eliminating itself. In Canada, meanwhile, Patricia Pearson assures us there's plenty of other folks to take up the slack:

"Immigrants to Canada from China and Eastern Europe are, I think it's fair to say, more secular and more accustomed to official support for abortion and gender equality espoused in the socialist and communist states they have fled from, than those immigrants to the United States who come from Catholic Latin America."

Well, that's one way of putting it. "Official support" means China telling you how many babies you can have: not a woman's right to choose, but the state's right to choose for the woman. Some "tolerance."

Those of us less persuaded than Miss Pearson by the benefits of totalitarian approaches to birth control will just have to do our bit as we can. Next time you're in a rundown diner and the 17-year-old waitress is eight months pregnant, don't tut "What a tragedy" and point her to the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic. Leave her a large tip instead. She's doing the right thing, not just for her, but for all of us.

I like Steyn, of course, and I generally like this column, but I am disturbed by the slightest tone of ...xenophobia? "She's doing the right thing...for all of us." Who's "us?" The caucasians? I'd be more comfortable with it if the conclusion made clear that the "us" is..the human race, not just those with Western European roots.

Am I wrong? Tell me.

Don't get me wrong. There are fabulous Catholic high schools out there in which the whole deal comes together - academic excellence, spirituality, service, care for individuals and faithfulness to the Gospel. All I'm saying is that the word "Catholic" associated with a school does not guarantee this to be the case and that when it's not, the impact on a young person's faith can be severe...

From a reader:

We've never availed ourselves of the Catholic schools in any of the six states we have lived in with children for the following reasons:

1. When I go to an open house and all I hear is that our test scores 'compare favorably' with the public schools -- did I misread, wasn't this a Catholic school?

2. When the BMWs, Audis, etc. that the students drive outnumber the faculty heaps, and, as youth minister, I get to hear the tales of drinking and
sex parties -- oh yes, the parents even confided that they felt it was better to have the coed sleepovers so they could at least be certain they would not drink and drive and condoms were available -- GEESH!

3. No joke, the elementary school in Florida, the parent who was giving the tour -- "The only blacks you're child will have to deal with are nice blacks." Looking around at the school....out of 550 students, 3 were black.

We've used the public schools when it worked, homeschooled all four for four years but when it got to high school, they've gone to public school.However, at each step of the way, we've taken seriously that we are the
PRIMARY religious educators of our children.

One more note:

My husband used to say (and I guess he still feels this way) that in his mind, Catholic high schools, in particular, were a dreadful idea - because it associates faith with control and rule-based authority in a kid's mind. In other words - law. To paraphrase, "Being pushed up against a wall and yelled at for your crimes by an assistant principal is bad enough - imagine if that figure were a priest or religious, what associations would be made."

Now, that's not going to bother those of you who see religion mainly as a means of social control, but to the rest of us whose faith is rooted in the promise of internal freedom, mercy, forgiveness and love of Jesus's a problem.

A reader asks in a comment:

Amy, In your blogging this week, I'd love to hear your ideas on how to select a school for your child as a Catholic parent. In my city we have three Catholic diocesan schools and one independent school espousing Catholic values (formed primarily by Opus Dei members who thought the diocesan schools were too liberal). My parish does not have a school yet, although we may in a few years. We also have a number of Christian private schools of various denominations (I've ruled out the ones that don't teach evolution). Then we have the neighborhood public elementary schools, a magnet "back to basics" public elementary school, and various charter schools, including a Montessori-based option. I'm wading through reams of mission statements, philosophies, class size & composition reports, and test scores, and starting to do school visits.

How can a parent without a background in education navigate this morass? In a way I'm lucky to have a lot of choices, but it adds to the confusion. I have an extremely active 5-year-old boy who will be entering kindergarten next fall. Given his activity and distractibility levels, I'm a little worried about the class sizes at the diocesan schools. What's more important: class size or student/teacher ratios? Test scores or teacher experience? Basic "3 R's" education or morals and values?

It was bad enough choosing among academic / developmental / Montessori / Waldorf / etc. pre-schools. The kindergarten process feels very overwhelming at times. I'd appreciate any thoughts you have.


Catholic education, continued:

Let me pause and give you my credentials:

First, I come from a family of educators. My parents were both teachers - my father is a retired professor and my mother was a high school English teacher and librarian. On my father's side, both grandparents were life-long educators and my aunt is a retired teacher. All of this experience occurred in public schools and universities. My mother attended a Catholic grammar school for a bit as a child, but that's the extent of Catholic education in my family background.

As for me, my only exposure to Catholic education as a student was in high school (Knoxville Catholic, class of 78). Otherwise, it was public schools, a public university and a Divinity program in a private University (Vanderbilt). My husband is a product of public schools, K-12, and then Catholic colleges. My children have all gone to Catholic elementary schools. My 20-year old went to a Catholic high school, my 17-year old is in a public high school, and homeschooling is looking like a better and better option for the others.

I've taught religion in Catholic high schools for a total of 8 years, and my husband taught in a Jesuit high school for four.

So yeah, education is my interest, but I am, by no means an unquestioning apologist for Catholic schools.

A commenter pointed out below that, particularly in years past - the "golden age" of Catholic education in the mid-20th century, it was not necessarily true that Catholic schools were better than public. I don't think I said that - and I think the stories of huge classes taught by untrained nuns, nuns who could only attend school in the summers and therefore took twenty years to get a BA - bear that out. My impression is that before 30 years ago, there was much more of a balance in quality between the two.

And, for the most part, I think the present general superiority of Catholic education to public education is rooted, as researchers consistently point out, in shared values and community. Whenever you find that in a school, no matter what type - where ever you find parents, teachers and administrators on the same page and in a good, rather than adversarial relationship, you're going to find a good school. These days, you are more apt to find that in a private school than in a public school, for a number of reasons.

My own opinion - not gospel, just an opinion - is that for grammar school-aged Catholic children, Catholic schools or homeschooling are the best course. I think it's vital that for this age, learning and socialization take place within a values-saturated environment.

But high school???? That's a different story. We had a big blog discussion about this several months ago, and I don't want to bore with repetition, but I'll just say that when it comes to Catholic secondary education, parents should approach the question with "buyer beware" at the front of their minds.

First, it is impossible to maintain with a straight face that Catholic secondary education is generally superior to public secondary education. It's not, and it all depends on where you live and what the schools in your area are up to. If you have a bright kid, and the Catholic school in your area offers only a couple of AP courses and clearly doesn't value academics as much as it values other things - like sports, or maintaining the student body (read: tuition checks) by not challenging the dull-witted children of the wealthy - your child will be probably better off going to the public high school that has an IB program or a full load of AP programs or credit arrangements with local colleges and universities.

Same with other specialty programs - I know the Catholic school I taught at in Florida - small, struggling with identity - was badly hurt by the public school's system slow but relentless attempt to build up magnet programs, particularly in the arts and an IB program. A school of 200 with quite limited financial resources just can't compete with a school that can put on productions of musicals that are actually better than the touring shows that come through town for students interested in the arts, or with expensive labs that are really necessary to teach advanced science courses now.

But what about religion, you ask? Isn't that important?

Well, sure...but when you look at a Catholic high school, you have to look very carefully at how religion is expressed in the place - in the curriculum and in the school culture.

Let's put it this way: if a "Catholic" high school has a shoddy theology curriculum and does nothing to seriously combat the insult-soaked, materialistic, sexually-charged aspects of youth culture - if it turns a blind eye to parents hosting drinking parties for kids, if it lets atheletes rule the roost, if its dances appear no different than a night at a local club, if there is no emphasis on service - then you are better off putting your kids in a public school.

As I've said before, when kids see all kinds of nonsense protected by administrators who work under the Catholic banner, all for the sake of maintaining enrollment numbers and keeping the winning football coach, and when they see teachers and administrators refusing to actually be Catholic, the impression they take away from four years of that is that Catholic means "hypocrite" and they are more vulnerable than ever to the first seriously-minded, faith-filled, evangelical Christian they meet, who, quite rightly, asks them what faith is for, if not to guide the way you live?

Later: Frank Sheed on Catholic education. I was wrong - it wasn't about Catholic education in America, but about the quality of religious education in Catholic schools in England. But it's still pertinent.

Weeping Madonna's tears dry up.

Perth's weeping Madonna has dried her eyes, just as a scientific investigation was due to report on it.Oily tears began flowing from the fibreglass statue last year on March 19 - the feast of St Joseph - and again over the four days of Easter. The rose-scented tears then seeped continually from August 14 - the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven - but stopped on January 10.

Monday, 10:00 pm: lying with Joseph, enduring his usual 20-30 minute flopping around, pulling covers up, pushing them off, asking for water before he finally succumbs.

10:20: nightly consultation with the older children, Scripture and prayer with Katie.

10:45: turn on televsion to Miracles. A monsignor in a cassock (hah) is telling a young guy that he has no interest in his findings. Young guy meets a priest outside, priest says he never called the young guy about the case, as young guy claims. Young guy meets British guy who talks about his group and other cases. Says the blood usually spells out "God is Nowhere." Young guy goes to address British guy has given him, encounters raven-haired babe.

Amy's confused.

Did anyone watch? Does it have anything to do with religion or is it just there for atmosphere?

I don't often do this, but I thought this comment from the post on the blackmailed priest below, was worth posting up here:

A seminarian belonging to a religious order sent me photocopies of the handouts distributed to him and his fellows during a (mandatory) workshop on Attaining Psychosexual Maturity held in Boston last year. What follows are verbatim extracts from the handouts. A little reflection will show why Father Ruggeri represents neither a fluke nor a failure of the seminary formation program: he is the man it is designed to produce.

First, here is the presenter's working definition of chastity:

"Chastity is the condition of being affectively present and available to all."

Clear, I hope? Next we ponder the presenter's three basic categories of Psychosexual Maturity:


-- Reinitiate dialogue with your body, your sexual feelings and desires, especially inviting forth the parts of you that are most repressed (and fostering readiness to have those surfaces will allow them gradually to present themselves).


-- Allow your sexual feelings and desires into awareness.

-- Allow yourself to focus on your emotions without judging them.

-- Thinking, fantasizing, feeling and acting are DIFFERENT.

-- Thinking about sex IS NOT the same as acting sexually.


-- Sexual feelings, like all feelings, are neutral.

-- Reclaiming and owning your sexual self leads to integration, which is the basis for self-acceptance.


There's much more of the same, but that should give you the general idea. Remember, these ideas are not being slipped under the door at night by the poachers, but being inculcated at obligatory workshops by the gamekeepers. The presenter was for several years a full-time spiritual director for the seminarians at the North American College in Rome.

Now, I'm as against repression and sexual neuroticism as anyone, but you would think that this kind of discussion would take place in some recognizably Christian/Catholic context. Perhaps it's there in parts of the workshop the commentor didn't post,but this excerpt is just so tediously predictable in how it Misses The Point.

Churchgoing Hispanics do better in school.

The new 50-page report, "Religion Matters," was released by sociologists David Sikkink and Edwin Hernandez of Notre Dame. It emphasizes that Hispanics now are the largest ethnic minority and may become 25 percent of the U.S. population in future decades.According to other research, 40 percent of school-age Hispanics born abroad are not enrolled in school. The drop-out rate for Latinos ages 16 to 24 is 21.6 percent, about twice that of whites.Immigrants — and especially Dominicans, Cubans and Mexicans — produce more single-parent families the longer they live in the United States."Religion may mitigate this trend," the new report said.

The report questioned predictions that a "permanent Latino underclass" is inevitable, and rejected the theory that poor Hispanics who take refuge in Catholic enclaves or Protestant sects will reject secular education. "Religion seems less likely to create a community of closed minds than to create the conditions in which Latino youth excel in school," the report said. The parents involved in evangelical Protestant sects, in fact, tend to "communicate higher educational aspirations" than do Catholic parents. And students from active religious families tend to do better in math and science than other Hispanics.

From the NYTimes:The Prince of Peace was a Warrior, too

That's why Jesus talked a great deal about punishment, and the moral obligation to oppose evil with a strong and swift hand. Human evil must be confronted, he said, not merely contained. Depending on the threat, a kind of "pre-emptive strike" or judgment against evil might even be required: "Be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). Allow the darkness to roam unchecked, Jesus said, and it will devour individuals and entire regimes. That helps explain why in the New Testament we see the Son of God rebuking hateful mobs, casting demons into the abyss, chasing religious charlatans out of a temple with a whip. "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth," he said. "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34).

How the Shanley case was handled:

Flatley, who served as Law's delegate for clergy sexual misconduct from 1994 to 1996, said he could not explain the omissions and acknowledged that church officials acted in other ways to keep Shanley far from his accusers in the Boston archdiocese. In a 1995 memo, Flatley recommended approval of a Shanley proposal that he be allowed to move to an unnamed country because it ''would secure anonymity for him.''Flatley, who today is pastor at St. Agnes Church in Arlington, also said during two days of depositions taken in September and October of last year that it was his standard practice to meet with Law about once every six weeks and discuss the status of accused clergy.In pretrial testimony of his own, Law has portrayed himself as an administrator who delegated authority for the supervision of accused priests to subordinates. But under questioning by attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., Flatley said that he and Law routinely discussed the specifics of clergy sexual misconduct cases.

Monday, January 27

Pentecostal flock treasures 106-year old bishop

Massey, a South Carolina-born daughter of a slave, has risen to the second-highest rank in the House of God, the Pentecostal church she joined in 1929.In her church, she also found her place in the world, achieving a national stature not often accorded black women of her generation.Massey's hearing is good, her mind sharp, her legs functional. Ask her when she was last sick, and she'll tell you 1955.

LeBron James is still an amateur, Ohio board decides

A few random thoughts on Catholic education before I head upstairs.

(We're talking elementary and secondary education here, not college)

Catholic education became great because it provided education at little or no cost to the children of the poor and the working classes, not because it provided education to the middle and upper classes for thousands of dollars a year tuition.

Catholic education always reflects its environment. Catholic education was certainly better, in general, fifty years ago than it is now, but then all elementary and secondary education was, in general, superior to the present fifty years ago. Fifty years ago, sisters who taught in Catholic schools were strict. So were all elementary and secondary school teachers. Nuns may have had the proverbial ruler, but in a public school, there was always an assistant principal or a coach waiting at the end of the hall with a paddle. With holes drilled in it to lessen air resistance.

In the present day, education is beset with pedagogical nonsense, and so are far too many Catholic schools. Frankly, that is the price you pay for the perceived need of accreditation.

Catholic schools of the past weren't perfect. Nostalgia may wax eloquent about the greatness of the sisters teaching 60-student classrooms, but don't doubt that every one of those sisters would have killed for a class of 25. My own small collection of pre-Vatican II religion texts tells me that there was certainly more to religious education than rote memorization, but in too many cases there was far too much dependence on that as the totality of religious instruction. More sisters than we realize were very poorly prepared for their work. In his memoir, The Church and I, Frank Sheed decries the state of Catholic education in the US in the 1930's on, and at great length. I'll look up the passage tomorrow.

But in the end, Catholic schools face the same difficulty that public schools face, and it has nothing to do with teacher pay, pedagogy or administration. The fundamental challenge is the culture: a culture that does not value learning, that surrounds a child with countless means of passive, instant gratification,and a culture that has few reference points in common with the material we are trying to communicate in the classroom. This culture is mediated through the mass media, certainly, but it is mediated most directly in children's lives by their parents: parents who don't read, who don't read with their kids, who value the material and the monetary over the intellectual and the spiritual, who provide their kids with every electronic device known to humanity, but wouldn't dare present their child with a book to read, who will turn their schedules upside down to get their kids to the soccer tournament, but who can't be bothered to get to Mass, and who, in the end, see their children's education as nothing more than a series of hurdles to be jumped on the way to achieving a high school diploma, which is turn, not a sign of achievement, but rather a ticket into a university and ultimately, to a job. It has nothing to do with education or learning. Nothing.

That's what we're up against, all of us - no matter what kind of school we're a part of.

Couple arraigned for blackmailing priest

Police said [Fr.]Ruggeri initially made contact with Dominic Martin between three and six weeks ago, via an Internet chat room or Web site, where Martin posed as a Catholic priest. The two began an online conversation that began with innocent discussions about priestly vestments but soon turned sexually explicit, police said.

Before long, Martin turned on Ruggeri, contacting him by telephone and telling him he would disclose Ruggeri's sexual writings to the Boston media if the pastor didn't come up with cash, police said.

Police suspect Ruggeri used parish money possibly funds from the collection plate as hush money to keep Martin quiet.

Ruggeri dropped the money off at a predetermined site near the 99 Restaurant in Lowell; he watched as it was picked up by a woman he later identified as Brianna Martin, police said.

Apparently not satisfied, the couple demanded more money from Ruggeri, this time telling him they would pass out copies of his sexually explicit writings at last Sunday's 11 a.m. Mass if the pastor refused. Ruggeri contacted Lowell police, and undercover detectives attended the Mass but nothing occurred, sources told The Sun.

The couple then arranged another drop off, Thursday morning in a trash can outside the same 99 Restaurant on Chelmsford Street, police said.

Ruggeri dropped off an envelope containing what the Martins believed was $800. This time, Lowell police swooped in and arrested the pair as they drove off on Industrial Avenue; the envelope actually contained $100 surrounded by blank pieces of paper, sources said.

Like I've been sayin' for months, we have two priorities in front of us:

1) Stop ordaining sexual predators


b) Stop ordaining idiots.

The new LA Cathedral as public space:

Los Angeles, we are occasionally told, does not have enough of the urban loci that unite and beautify so many other large cities. The cathedral and its plaza do both of these things, and if they don't have the weathered grace of historic landmarks, they have the more vital, if sometimes irritating, contrasts of city life.

The plaza and gardens of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels were designed with workday sanctuary in mind; the cafe added another lunch-hour destination to an area perhaps over-dependent on Koo Koo Roo and California Pizza Kitchen. And if anyone finds it odd to be standing in line with 20 or so very short nuns in full habits, ordering a pastrami sandwich from a menu emblazoned with a purple banner reading Our Lady of the Angels, it doesn't show. "Mayonnaise or mustard on that?" the lady in the hairnet asks. "Mustard," says the young man with a lip stud. "Wait, do you have Dijon?"

Although they have no idea how many freelance tourists or downtown denizens visit during the week, church officials estimate that 300 people on organized tours and 40 to 100 students on field trips tour the cathedral each day.

At lunch hour, the tables are often full, forcing some visitors to arrange their meals on the nearby benches or balance themselves on the walls that surround the olive tree grove or a bed of day lilies, whose trumpets echo the mod orange and yellow of the cafe's chairs in a way that is almost eerie.

Happy Catholic Schools Week, y'all.

Let's all celebrate the way my daughter's school marked the occasion today:

We could all wear pajamas to school.

Or not.

I'm going to focus most of my posting this week on the issue of Catholic education and catechesis. I meant to start earlier, but I got inspired to write something else for possible publication, and you know how that goes. The muse visits, you just have to entertain or she'll stomp off in a huff.

So look for more later tonight or tomorrow, and if there's any topic you'd like to see broached, drop me a line or enter a comment.

And don't forget...tomorrow's "Wig and Big Sunglasses Day."

Via Mark:

the California situation.

To me, this is crucial:

Weigand said one of the most important reasons he spoke out is that he wanted to address recent questions from parishioners about the Davis-Kavanagh incident. As the shepherd of the diocese, Weigand said, he needed to deal with these concerns."People wanted to know how the governor could remain a Catholic in good standing and still have those policies," said Weigand. "I said he can't be."Weigand also said he has tried repeatedly over the past four years to talk to the governor about his abortion-rights policies but has been rebuffed. "I just want to sit down and talk with him and explain the teachings of the church."

Let's think about this another way. Say that the Catholic politician in question was rabidly racist or misogynist, conducted his office according to those principles, and defended himself as a "good Catholic" all the while.

Who would be defending his conscience then? Who would be in the papers quoted as saying that all of this was perfectly compatible with Catholicism, when you really think about it the right way, you know.

We all know what the answer to that question is.

Why are evangelicals silent about possible war with Iraq?

Or are they?

Thanks to Domenico for pointing out this article about the priest shortage in Boston

More than two dozen priests were removed from parishes in 2002 under a strict new archdiocesan policy for handling allegations of clergy sex abuse. While some may be reinstated, a provision banning even one-time offenders from public ministry is likely to exclude many whose records were clear for decades.``No one expected it,'' said the Rev. Christopher Coyne, an archdiocesan spokesman.Some older priests who might have delayed retirement to help maintain parish staffing announced over the past year that the stress of the abuse crisis led them to step down.A higher-than-usual number of priests died over the past year.
The newest class in the pre-theology program at St. John's Seminary is far smaller than what is necessary to maintain parish staffing. In most years, at least a half-dozen men enter pre-theology; six years later, nearly all become priests. But this past fall only three students entered, making it all but certain that the archdiocese will produce a tiny ordination class at the end of this decade.

Note: Take a moment to read comment #6 here.

Greg Popcak has great comments on my Goon Park post below and its ramifications for contemporary childrearing.

A reminder that in addition to the links on the left, I have another page of links here.It probably needs some cleaning out, but you might find something of interest there..

Update: Link to links fixed.

Did the Democratic candidates for president make a good choice in attending last week's NARAL dinner?

Naomi Emery doesn't think so

SOMETIME SOON--say, around Spring 2004, when George W. Bush begins spending his money--whoever becomes the Democratic nominee may have second thoughts about his attendance at the NARAL dinner in Washington on January 21, 2003. Or at least he may wish that cameras hadn't been present, for the images that emerged were not helpful. There they stood, the six hopefuls, like spindly schoolboys, summoned into the principal's office to be brought into line: into the party line, which they spouted with reverence.

As Ryan Lizza wrote in the New Republic, there was never a hint of a Sister Souljah eruption. Dick Gephardt begged mercy for previous sins. After the six had delivered their speeches, they sat while Kate Michelman, who had summoned them, gave them their orders: She expects from them no less than a full-throttle filibuster every time George W. Bush names to the federal bench a judge that does not meet her strict standards of purity. Did any of the senators sitting there wince when she said this? Did they think that they might today be in the minority because they had refused to vote on Bush judges? Did they consider what the country might think if they tied up the Senate, perhaps in wartime, to thwart abortion restrictions that most voters favor? But what will happen if she snaps her fingers, and they do not come running? Will they be called once again to the principal's office? Will they be kept after school?

TNR's Ryan Lizza on the same spectacle:

So when the six Democratic presidential candidates spoke before a core Democratic interest group, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Tuesday night, one question that hung in the air of the Omni Shoreham ballroom was, which Democrat would "Sister Souljah" NARAL? The answer was nobody. Prior to the event there was some whispering that Dick Gephardt might try to burnish his general election bona fides by criticizing partial-birth abortion, but it didn't happen. As an aide to one candidate explained, the NARAL event was "box-checking." There remains an iron triangle of Democratic constituencies--blacks, labor, pro-choice women--whom every candidate must appease during the primaries. Tuesday night, the six Democrats dutifully checked the abortion box.

Elizabeth Fitton on the value of the RTL party in NY

Here's a page with information on a talk my husband is willing and ready to give where ever he's needed

Dave Barry has a least I guess that's really him. Seems to be.

Sunday, January 26

See, now we thought this was stuff you'd only find in an evangelical megachurch in between the McDonald's and the skateboard ramps.

But no:

Bowling alleys in churches date from the 1950's, in St. Louis, at least:

Epiphany Lanes and St. Mary Magdalen Bowling Lanes are the last of a dying breed.

The lanes, which belong to their respective south St. Louis parishes, are almost identical icons of family life from the 1950s and '60s. Both welcome parish regulars as well as outsiders for weekly league nights, private parties and open bowling sessions.

Magdalen Lanes, which opened in 1950 , is equipped with 10 lanes and automatic pinsetters. It bills itself as a family-oriented bowling center that provides the community a good game of tenpins. The church also hosts small leagues, private parties, open bowling sessions and special events designed to attract different segments of the church parish.

Of course, it is a bit curious why a church would need its own bowling alley. Isn't its mission to get souls out of the alleys and into the pews?

According to Terry Signaigo, Epiphany and St. Mary Magdalen were merely trying to keep up with the times.

"Back in the '50s, that was the way for a lot of Catholic parishes to make money. St. Anthony's, St. John the Baptist, Mary Magdalen, Corpus Christi - it was the thing to do. Probably 30 or 40 churches had bowling alleys at that time," said Signaigo.

200 march in NH against McCormack

Now this one, I'm torn about:

The IHM's have a big motherhouse in Monroe, Michigan. And I mean big - 376,000 square feet, with 240 retired sisters living there and (according to the article I'm about to link) 250 employees there on a daily basis. It's a huge place and not energy efficient, to say the least. It needed renovation, so the sisters decided to go whole hog - er, whole....hmm...tofu? and do it an ecologically sound manner which would not only save the earth blah blah blah it would also just make more sense, economically, in terms of energy costs.

So it's done and it cost $56 million bucks

Seeing the figure, my cynical, blogfodder-seeking heart went leap! higher than a Tampa Bay Buc fan, but then I started thinking about it, and well, yeah, it probably would cost that much to do such an extensive renovation in such a large plant, and well, why not be ecologically responsible?

But er...where did the money come from? They're not out begging for the retirement fund for religious are they, crying poor, are they?

Well, I wasn't going to watch the new ABC show Miracles mostly because I just don't watch much network TV anyway, but this article leads me to think I should take a look at it, even though it's probably like everything else, which is, in turn, like everything else. We'll talk about it Tuesday morning around the water cooler, shall we?

Love at Goon Park

Read this over the week. It’s an engaging biography of Harry Harlow, the psychologist who did a series of very important primate studies from mid-20th century on, studies that illuminated the vital role of love in life, particularly maternal love.

Late 19th-century and early 20th century faith in “science” had brought, by Harry Harlow’s time, the psychological profession to the firm and unwavering opinion that

a) there was really no such thing as “love,” and anything on an infant’s part that we might want to define as such was really nothing but expressions of reflexes and a desire for the food that the mother provides and that

b)parents must strictly ration the affection they showed their children, even infants, because overly affectionate parenting (mothering, especially), produced whiny, dependent children.

These beliefs made their way into countless child-care books and programs during the early part of this century.

Before and during World War II, various heretics began to question orthodoxy. They studied British children sent away from their families to live in the country during the War. They studied children left in orphanages and hospitals, places where children lived with as little human contact as possible (because of fears of communicable diseases, overworked staff as well as the prejudice against affection). What they found, as we all know today, is that children deprived of affection develop serious problems and are even more susceptible to illness. Children denied affection may grow up, seeming to be “strong”, but their strength is really an expression of their inability to engage in normal human relations.

But this was the era of the empirical study, most of which were done with rats. And you really can’t test rats on love. Mainstream psychology refused to take these heretical voices seriously, both because their views were so radical and because their evidence was mostly observation, as opposed to controlled lab experimentation.

So along comes Harry Harlow with his monkeys. Harlow’s work focused on the role of affection and social contact in emotional development. He took baby rhesus monkeys, for example, and put them in cages with different kinds of cloth mamas. He found that no matter what, the babies clung to cloth mamas for comfort and support. They did so even when their food was offered by another device (calling into question the belief that babies only love their mothers because they are the food providers). They did so – frighteningly – even when the mamas were equipped with devices to scare or threaten them. They would get scared by the shakes or sudden jabs with blunt-ended rods, but then they would return, crawl up and hang on to the very same mama who had harmed them.

He tested how the babies reacted in a strange environment when the mamas were in the room, and when they were taken out. Again, confounding current wisdom, Harlow found that the babies acted with much more confidence and curiosity about their environment when the mamas were in the room.

Harlow’s most disturbing experiments were about isolation and depression. He raised babies in isolation for various periods – even up to a year, evaluated the damage (which was extreme) and then tried to find how best to rehabilitate the babies. He constructed an upside-down pyramid in which a monkey was placed. The monkey would spend two days trying to scramble up the sides, then give up and grow increasingly more listless as the days went by. Again, Harlow and his fellow experimenters tried to then figure out how to repair the damage.

You can imagine that Harry Harlowe is reviled today in certain quarters, and even those of us not resolutely opposed to animal experimentation might wince at some of these experiments and wonder about their necessity – isn’t it common sense? Doesn’t everyone know that babies need the constant presence of a dedicated caretaker on whom he can depend? Doesn’t everyone know that human beings are social beings and need contact and attachment, even for the sake of physical health?

Sure, it is common sense. But the problem is that in the decades before Harlow, scientists of all stripes had decided that common sense was wrong, and millions of children, particularly those in institutions, suffered because of it. Harlow didn’t conduct his experiments because he looked at the way human beings instinctively treated their babies – he did it because of the perversions that his fellows had wrought and how these ethos had not only harmed many institutionalized children, but had diverted interest away from finding ways to help children who had been abused and neglected by their own families. And in this context, no one would take any new ideas seriously unless there were “studies.”

The book reminded me of the important of historical context. Always, always. Harlow sounds like pure monster engaging in unnecessary research unless you understand what he and others like him were fighting against in the mainstream scientific community. I remain unconvinced about the necessity of the isolation and the depression experiments, but the maternal affection studies played an important role in ridding us of the noxious parenting and caregiving advice – based on nothing, as so much of the social “sciences” are - of the early 20th century.


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