Saturday, May 31

A row in Westchester, NY about a pastor's transfer

In an unusual act of defiance, a Roman Catholic pastor in Westchester County has publicly criticized Cardinal Edward M. Egan for transferring him to another parish, saying the cardinal was ignoring the wishes of parishioners and acting out of personal animosity.The pastor, the Rev. James E. Borstelmann, 61, of St. Joseph's parish in Croton Falls, said in interviews last week that he had refused the transfer to a church on Staten Island and was even thinking of moving to another diocese, under a bishop who was "more pastoral than bullying."

A brief report on Ca-go.

Well, this is how hagiography gets going.

As I told you, Joseph decided he was going to see horsies in Chicago. As we approached, he announced that he was also going to see bunnies. Not exactly what the place is known for, but whatever.

So on Thursday morning, as we're actually going into the city from Bloomingdale (where we were staying for the show in St. Charles), I hear the cry from the backseat, "Horsie!" As I turned, I saw one of those tourist horse-drawn carriages on a sidestreet, so I suppose that's what he saw. Later that day, as we were leaving the Blues Festival, walkng through Grant Park, we saw an older couple standing in front of a little round bit of landscaping. They were looking at - you guessed it - a rabbit.

As I said, this is how those stories begin:

The young saint told his parents what he foresaw in the great city: two creatures of God that would appear in the midst of the creations of men.

Of course, they would leave out the part where the young saint had to be taken out of Mass at the St. Therese Shrine because he was tearing up paper, loudly, and protesting, loudly, when it was taken away from him...

So yes, we were there a little more than twenty-four hours and we saw a lot.

We saw scads of new books, a few that were even interesting, at the Religious Booksellers’ Trade Exhibition. We saw several homeless fellows taking naps in the Cathedral, and heard their snoring echo off the ceiling, competing with the drone of a docent talking to a group of kids. We saw a woman at a restaurant eat an enormous amount of food: As we sat next to her, trying valiantly to control the young saint, she steadily worked through her meal: a huge salad, her very own inch thick stuffred pizza, a large piece of tiramisu and a couple of glasses of wine. We saw lovely white beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium, spouting water out of their heads at us, sending Joseph into fits of giggles. My husband is absolutely certain that he saw actor Tim Robbins walking around at the Chicago Blues Festival, and I believe him.

We also saw two shrines to two very different kinds of girlhood, both in the company of an 11-year old girl.

The first, on the way up, was the National Shrine to St. Therese in Darien, Illinois, naturally, by Carmelites.

There is quite a lot there: the tiny chair upon which Therese sat, writing The Story of a Soul, a map of North American she drew when she was twelve, first class relics, and, in the chapel, a vast bas-relief wood carving of important moments in the life of Therese. It’s not the most inspiring building every constructed, as you can tell from the photos, and what's even more dissatisfying is the museum-like quality to most of the display. There's one reliquary in the chapel, under that gorgeous bas-relief, but the others relics and items of interest are in the center of an adjoining room, grouped in a roped-off circle in the middle. Not the best arrangement.

The next day, we gave Katie her reward for watching Joseph during our book signings by taking her to the famed American Girl Place in downtown Chicago, a place where, according to her “everyone” else in her class had been, some multiple times, except for her.

“American Girl” , in case you have no daughters or granddaughters, is a trademark for a line of books, dolls and other products. It started out as a book series – and a good one – for elementary age girls, each series focusing on an “American Girl” from different points in history. Molly goes through World War II with pluck, Addy deals with life as an African-American girl during Reconstruction, and so on.

The $98 dolls and hundreds of dollars worth of accessories, came next, and then a magazine, books and clothes.

Then there’s the shrine in Chicago, where you can buy American Girl products, watch a live musical production, eat in the tea-room, and even pay $10-20 to have your doll’s hair styled (in a little beauty-shop chair) while you shop.

On one hand, I have no problem with the American Girl ethos. I’ve read interviews with the editor of the magazine, and they are consciously and purposefully positioning themselves in opposition to the over-sexualized alternatives that are out there for pre-teen girls. They say they want to be there to support girls in remaining girls – not little made up, bare-midriffed, clones of Britney Spears – for as long as possible.

And, as the American Girl all grown up – Martha Stewart – likes to say, “That’s a good thing.”

But still – it’s a little spooky, watching these girls walk around the store, clutching their dolls (because, you know, you’re supposed to bring your doll with you to the American Girl store, whether her hair is getting done or not, or whether or not she has the need to check into the Doll Hospital), and sometimes even grown women doing the same thing.

For in the end, as it so often is in our culture, the American Girl ethos, as worthy as it may be at its core, in the end, turns out to be about something else. The American Girl store, right off the Magnificent Mile, near Cartier, Saks and Ralph Lauren, is not so much a shrine to innocent girlhood as it is a shrine to Stuff and the money that buys it.

An innocent and charming girlhood is there – for a price. If you fill your bedroom with enough of the dolls and their sweet little miniature schoolbooks and pets, you too can be the American Girl, an identity confirmed you can finally reach the shrine, sit in the tearoom waiting to see your doll’s new hairstyle.

It’s a scene that screams spiritual emptiness, frankly, of a culture that has deprived its daughters of the possibility of defining themselves through God’s love, leaving them only with their pricey dolls and their shrines in which to seek their identity.

Now, one of the objects on display at the St. Therese shrine is a little tiny toy china teacup. It’s probably safe to presume that she probably sipped tea out of this cup -- in the company of her dolls.

But it wasn’t an American Girl.

And neither, needless to say, was St. Therese, whose life moved beyond the care and feeding of a doll and its cups to the care of a different sort of cup: the chalices she cared for as sacristan, and the adult faith and firm identity as a soul invaluable, not because it own precious little things, but because it is precious to God.

Friday, May 30

'Sister Barbara', an actress dressed like a nun
parades in front of visitors of Germany's first Ecumenical Church Congress in Berlin on May 29, 2003

Did I not call this a few days ago? Did I not say that this Congress, as worthy an effort as it is, can't help but pulse with DieterVibes?

Yes, I believe I did.

We're back from our little Chicago jaunt. Had a lot of good feedback at the RBTE, went to the National Shrine of St. Therese, went to another national shrine - the American Girls store, - the Shedd Aquarium, spent some time at the first day of the Blues Festival, Katie went swimming twice in the hotel pool, Joseph stuck his feet in.....I think there's more, but I have quite a bit to do this morning - a column to write, David's upstairs packing up his stuff, and then the 29 hours from 4pm today to 9pm tomorrow are going to be beyond insane as we juggle graduation, recitals, parties and David's move. I might blog a bit later, but we'll see...

Wednesday, May 28

Dorothy Rabinowitz reviews what sounds like an excellent documentary airing tonight on PBS

Documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim's last work--airing tonight on PBS, 8 to 10:30 p.m. EDT (check local listings)--about Americans taken prisoner in the Battle of the Bulge reveals a story largely unknown to all but a few war buffs. It's also one that comes at a propitious moment, and not only because we are just past Memorial Day. For, within this bleak history stands a testament to honor and heroism all the more potent for its lack of trumpet flourishes. Even in this tale told so somberly it is impossible to miss the quintessentially American stubbornness and idealism it reflects in its down-to-earth way: as though there were nothing out of the ordinary about men who, for the sake of a principle, would defy captors holding the power of life or death.

Tuesday, May 27

Israeli Arabs tour Auschwitz

It was the largest organized visit yet by Arabs to the camp, which annually sees about 500,000 visitors, according to the Auschwitz museum. The group of Israeli Arabs included intellectuals, professionals and businessmen, most in their 40s. About 200 young Jews and Arabs from France are accompanying the group on the visit, which continues Wednesday. "We came here in order to know what happened exactly in order to express our sympathy and solidarity with the Jewish people," said Awwad Nawaf, 57, a teacher who lives in Nazareth. "We hope this will help us and the Jews to live in good neighborhood, and to understand each other. We hope it can help stop the bloodshed and the cruelty." The joint visit was the idea of Rev. Emil Shoufani, 47, an Arab Catholic priest from Nazareth, in northern Israel. He hoped the trip could help lessen the deep-rooted bitterness between Arabs and Jews, which has worsened after more than 30 months of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Big church congress in Germany this weekend:

A religious event set to draw up to 300,000 Christiansto Berlin over the next five days could prove a turning point in reviving the flagging fortunes of the church in Germany, according to the event's organisers.

With a heady mixture of prayers, politics and pop, the Kirchentag or church congress, is set to dwarf music festivals, sports fixtures and other popular attractions in Europe this summer, and could prove to be the biggest ever international religious event of its kind.

"The Pope draws more people when he goes on tour, but that is just for a few hours. People are coming here for five days," says Theodor Bolzenius, Kirchentag spokesman. "This is going to be historic."

The religious extravaganza, organised jointly at a cost of €18m ($21.4m, £13m) by the lay associations in the German Catholic and Protestant churches, comprises over 3,200 individual events, starting with an open-air service at Berlin's landmark Brandenburg gate, where a huge, inflatable orange halo has been erected.

Here's the website. It's in German.

The coolest thing about it is the little picture up in the upper left-hand corner - it changes with the various pages. Ordinary people with lights over their heads in halo-like fashion. Very Teutonically Hip, very Dieter, if you ask me.

"And now...we pray!"

Here's the official website for the Pope's upcoming trip to Croatia

Here's what the Croatian church is doing in preparation:

A prayer chain and fund-raising campaign have been launched for the occasion of John Paul II's 100th and 101st international apostolic trips. Those two trips will take the Pope to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. On Friday, the secretariat of the Croatian bishops' conference announced that Croatian Caritas, Croatian Catholic Radio, and the Radio Maria Association are planning the prayer chain and fund campaign, called "Pope-Ecumenism-Tolerance." It will include five weeks of unbroken prayer for the success of the Pope's visits. It will also be five weeks of fund raising for the most needy in the two countries, regardless of nationality, ethnic origin, or religious affiliation, the Catholic agency Croata Ika reported.

Tomorrow it's off to 'Ca-go, as Joseph calls it. When asked he will tell you that he is going to see horsies there, but, we are not so sure.

The purpose of the trip is to sign some books and check out the competion at the Religious Bookseller's Trade Exhibition. Michael will be signing for OSV, and I'm there on behalf of Loyola Press. On our whirlwind trip, we hope to visit a couple of shrines, per usual, see some of downtown Chicago we've not yet seen and perhaps go to Wheaton to see the museum at the Marion E. Wade Center that holds The Wardrobe (although whether it really is or not is controversial) of C.S. Lewis, as well as other memoribilia of Tolkein, Sayers and so on.

And maybe a horsie - somewhere.

Monday, May 26

Cardinal Mahony's best friend, George Neumayr, narrates Sunday's scene at the LA Cathedral:

Reality continues to outpace satire at Cardinal Roger Mahony's cathedral in Los Angeles. The perplexing cathedral now boasts one more innovation: a chapel dedicated to honoring "victims of sexual abuse by priests," reports the Los Angeles Times.

Mahony invited the media to his chapel opening on Sunday. But he didn't tender an invitation to the honorees. And they weren't touched. While Mahony "knelt silently in the chapel in front of television cameras," reports the Times, Mary Grant of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests "fumed" outside the church building.

"A public relations stunt," Grant said to the Times. "Clearly this continues to be about the cardinal and not the victims…I think Cardinal Mahony knew that if victims were aware of this ahead of time, they'd be here telling parishioners that real change needs to happen -- and that the priests who abused them are not yet behind bars."

Such as accused molester Carl Sutphin, the former associate pastor of the cathedral. Mahony reluctantly sacked Sutphin, whom he had brought with him from St. Vibiana's, after Cardinal Law got popped last year. Sutphin, who lived at the cardinal's residences long after the cardinal knew of his sexual abuse, is fighting the molestation charges in court. Making the state prove its case is part of the "healing process" in the archdiocese. Prosecutors considered Sutphin a "flight risk," owing to Mahony's pattern of protecting pedophile priests, and asked the court to set bail at $500,000. This episode last month resulted, reports the Ventura County Star, in the following comic exchange at Sutphin's bail hearing. Judge James Cloninger: "Let me make sure I understand what you're saying…You're suggesting that the Catholic Church would help him flee?" Deputy District Attorney Douglas Ridley: "Yes, that is what I'm suggesting." Cloninger ended up setting bail at $200,000.

The Los Angeles Times reports that nine "retired or former priests from the diocese have been charged with crimes in Los Angeles County, and prosecutors want to see the personnel files on 31 other priests or church officials who they say are suspected of abuse." But Mahony is stonewalling them: "Mahony has argued that he can't turn the files directly over to prosecutors because of privacy issues."

Stonewall in private, play reformer in public. This has been Mahony's strategy from the start. Mahony's ludicrous chapel opening is just the latest empty, con-the-public gesture. Did Sitrick and Company, the public relations firm Mahony hired last year, conjure this one up?

A nice piece on Rose Hawthorne Lathrop from the Globe

Nathaniel Hawthorne's Puritan ancestors settled in New England with the hope of cleansing the Anglican Church of any Roman Catholic taint. They would have been appalled to hear that one of their own had converted to Catholicism, let alone become a candidate for sainthood.

And yet in February, Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York began canonization proceedings for Hawthorne's daughter, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop. She became a Catholic in 1891, and-with the assistance of Alice Huber, an art student-began caring for terminal cancer patients in a three-room tenement flat on Mott Street, on New York's Lower East Side. Two years after her husband's death in 1898, Lathrop took religious orders, and, as Mother Alphonsa, cofounded the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne. Today, the order runs six hospices in five states.

Small dust-up in Pittsburgh over a house being sold to a small Opus Dei-affiliated group.

Sunday, May 25

Click on the picture if you want an explanation. Not that it will help.

A remembrance of four chaplains who sacrificed all on a troop ship in 1943

The freezing waters of the North Atlantic were sapping the life from young Ernest Heaton as he floated next to a lifeboat too full to take him aboard.

"So I asked a guy, 'If I put one arm in the lifeboat, could you hold it against the side of the boat?' He did."

The 19-year-old U.S. Army Air Forces soldier hung there until dawn, when a Coast Guardsman pulled his near-lifeless body from the water.

Heaton, now 80 and living in Vero Beach, is one of 230 men who survived the sinking of the Army troop transport ship Dorchester. Another 672 died during the terrible early morning hours of Feb. 3, 1943, after Nazi submarine U-223 torpedoed and sank the Dorchester.

The incident has become an American legend because of a stirring example of faith and courage shown by four chaplains who were aboard the Dorchester.

The four lieutenants, all of different faiths, went down with the doomed ship. After working to calm hundreds of scared GIs, the chaplains gave four of them their own life jackets.

Alexander D. Goode, a Jewish rabbi; John P. Washington, a Catholic priest; George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; and Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister, were last seen praying on deck with their arms linked as the ship went down.

It's been a bad week for Catholic ordained types and the outdoors here in Indiana. Maybe it's the long winters or something. A priest in Terre Haute was arrested at an interstate rest stop for public indecency, and right here in our own Fort Wayne, the word comes across the wire that a permanent deacon, who was given a big community service award a couple of months ago was arrested and pled guilty to an indecent exposure charge, and was suspended from his duties by the bishop.....why blog this? Well, because it's weird that two things like this happen in one state in a week. Secondly, this second case is particularly sad and interesting. The deacon in question is a pillar of the local Hispanic community, and is on the staff of the mostly-Hispanic parish here in town that the diocese just last week announced it's closing and merging with another parish.

By the way, those of you who have been with me for a while have heard me rail about skewed priorities, particularly in relation to Hispanic ministry in an area like this, which has an exploding Hispanic/Latino population. Yes, that's the answer. CLOSE their parish. No. Let's close TWO of their parishes - one in South Bend and one in Fort Wayne. That's the way the Catholic Church in the US grew and flourished in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Actually, the test will be what, exactly they do with the 1200 members of St. Paul's (the FW parish) that they're throwing in with St. Patrick's. The test will be if they get a primetime Sunday morning Spanish language Mass (as, of course they had three of at their own parish), or if they get the good old 2pm Sunday afternoon liturgy, as is so often the case.

We'll see. And we'll see what the story is with this unfortunate case of the Deacon in the Park.

An updated story on the official announcement of the parish closings from today's paper, with the good news that the pastor of St. Paul's (the predominantly Hispanic parish) is being named pastor of the parish with which they're merging. So perhaps there's hope.

Molokai's other saint

A Roman Catholic nun whose ministry to Kalaupapa's leprosy patients on Molokai lasted twice as long as Father Damien's may take her first step toward sainthood.Mother Marianne Cope, who garners just a fraction of the attention given the Belgian priest who died in 1889, is on a Vatican waiting list for a hearing on her canonization cause -- an inquiry that could lead to her designation as "venerable."News of that progress in Rome comes as the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints reviews a miracle attributed to Father Damien de Veuster -- an unexplained healing that, if verified, could make the Belgian missionary a saint.

Dallas Catholics respond to their bishop in the letters section of the Dallas Morning News

Former Church insiders in Boston complain that they're being frozen out.

God bless anyone who does anything for the Church, and there is no doubt that Boston is still a mess, still in an absurd bunker mentality, still trying to figure out how what to do and how to proceed, especially since they still do not have anything but interim leadership...but there's something about anyone complaining about feeling "left out" that always irritates me. Maybe it's because as a child, the most frequent correction I received (or at least that I remember) was, "Stop whining." You want to help? There are Catholic schools that are struggling mightily in your Archdiocese. Lend your help to them. Go get your hands dirty, unless that's not the high-profile savior role what you had in mind and think you deserve when you offer to "help.."

You can tell that I hold wealthy lay benefactors who like being tight with church hierarchy in the same high esteem as I hold...the church hierarchy, in general.

With all due respect, of course.

Self-mortification and religion:

Shiite Muslims in Iraq celebrate the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by slicing their foreheads open with razor blades. In the Philippines, 14 Roman Catholics nail themselves to the cross in a macabre, Good Friday re-enactment of the suffering of Jesus. Closer to home, dedicated members of Opus Dei, a traditional Catholic lay group, privately practice "mortifications of the flesh" such as self- flagellation with a small whip and the wearing of a "cilice," a spiked wire mesh band wrapped around the upper thigh.

Why do people whip and cut themselves in the name of God?

What's pain got to do with it?

.....The Roman tradition has many stories of saintly self-mortification, but these practices are rare among Catholics today.

"We have moved away from physical penance to a more enlightened sense of spiritual penance," said the Rev. Gerald Coleman, president of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Seminary in Menlo Park. "What makes us holy is not wearing down our bodies."

Coleman acknowledged that some priests, monks and traditionalist lay people still hurt themselves in the name of God. But he doesn't look kindly upon those penitents.

"Any group that does something like that has not moved into a balanced sense of spirituality," he said. "They think there is something evil about the body. That is a denial of the incarnation."

"The Catholic church profoundly believes that there has been only one sacrifice," Coleman added. "That is Christ and he died for all of us, once and for all."

Yup. Living simply and accepting the suffering that comes your way is not the same thing as purposefully inflicting pain on yourself, which despite its presence in some strains of our tradition, has never struck me as having anything to do with the Gospel.

Well, perhaps not having "anything" to do with the Gospel is a mite strong, but I stand by my point.

Jesus tells us over and over that if we are his disciples, we must expect suffering. His way is our way, and since his way involved suffering, ours will as well.

But what is this "suffering?" The key to understanding this, it seems to me, lies in the Gospel first. When we read the Gospels and listen to and observe Jesus, the suffering that is called for seems clear. We are called to bear any suffering, first, that comes our way as the consequence of being faithful to God and all God calls us to be. That can be anything, can't it? It can be the suffering we endure as others mock us for sticking to our values. It can be the pain that results when we make the right choice, leaving the momentary pleasure of the wrong choice behind.

Secondly, we are called to bear suffering that is a result of living out the specifics of the Good News: to forgive, to live simply, to not strive after earthly things, but to trust in God's provision for us, to put God first, to put the needs of others before our own. To love "because He has loved us first" as today's reading from John's letter said. When we think about the ways we could be living that out in our own lives, the way they are now, it might give us pause. We see what we're called to. We see how we're only going halfway or less, and the reason is that we know drawing closer to the path Jesus forged will involve some kind of suffering.

Third, we are called to bear the suffering that comes our way from tragedy, illness and death - ours and of our brothers and sisters. Here, we look to Jesus again, and see how he bore his cross. We see that the ultimate hope that carries us through is the deep trust that despite all appearances, God will work through these events, and bring good out of them.

In Christianity, the general term for the practices discussed in this article is "mortification." They are generally embraced for one of two reasons: as a means of penance, and (related but not exactly the same) as a means of bringing temptation and desire under control - of disciplining oneself in the ways of suffering so as to better prepare oneself for the suffering that one might be called to endure, to focus one's mind, not on physical comfort, but on God, so that one might be able to truly experience God in all things.

Which is fine - and which is not unique to Christianity, either, I might add. It must be a inherent human instinct to practice this kind of mortification and self-discipline as a means to self-control and submission. That's fine. There is great diversity within spritual practices, even within Christianity, and when I wrote my Loyola Kids' Book of Saints, I explained these types of things when they came up - with Catherine of Siena or Simon Stylites, for example - as practices these people engaged in because they felt that they helped them come closer to God (for the reasons I outlined above.) A person who is tormented by lust, for example, in earlier ages, would have found it normal and even spiritually valuable to counter the temptation with mortification. That's fine.

The problem is twofold. First is that it becomes some kind of model for the rest of us, and there's no reason for it to be. This purposeful mortification is not what I see Jesus calling us - in general - to in the Gospels. I think that if we threw ourselves fully into the life he calls us to, which is truly seeing and treating each person as our brother and sister, and truly forgiving, and truly giving ourselves over to love, no matter what the price - that's sacrifice a plenty.

(Although there are those who find the self-mortification necessary in order to strengthen them for that we come around to that point again. Just to let you know I haven't forgotten).

But the other risk is of hubris. (And there are risks in any spiritual practice or stance. The other side, which might completely discount the value of mortification, can fall quickly into sloth and indifference). There is a strain in the writings of some of those who have practiced mortification which would probably make most you very uncomfortable if you read it. It is an implication, as a commentor noted, that the sacrifice of Jesus was not sufficient. That God won't continue to forgive sinners unless I wrap wire around my middle to do penance for their sins. That's dangerous.

Finally, I leave you with a quote from a letter of St. Jane de Chantal to a priest to whom she was giving spiritual direction:

Take my word for it, our Lord is more pleased with our accepting the relief our body and spirit require, than by all these apprehensions of not doing enough and wanting to do more. All God wants is our heart. And He is more pleased when we value our uselessness and weakness out of love and reverence for His holy will, than we do violence to ourselves and perform great works of penance. .....What God, in His goodness, asks of you is not this excessive zeal that has reduced you to your present condition, but a calm, peaceful unselessness, a resting near Him with no special attention or action of the understanding or will except a few words of love or of faithful, simple surrender, spoken softly, effotlessly, without the least desire to find consolation or satisfaction....

Good, balanced piece from the Baltimore Sun on Catholic colleges - new and established.

and another one from The Boston Globe, focusing on Magdalen College in NH, (and before you get riled up, the Globe piece is by Naomi Schaefer, regular contributer to the WSJ, who's writing a book on religious colleges.)

Saturday, May 24

Cardinal Law surfaces:

Cardinal Bernard Law, who has kept mostly out of sight since resigning six months ago over U.S. Catholic Church pedophile scandal allegations, resurfaced in Rome on Saturday at an old-style Latin mass.The former archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts declined to discuss the scandal in which his old archdiocese faces legal suits from hundreds of alleged victims."I have come to Rome for meetings," Law told reporters.It was unclear if Law, who has spent most of his time in a monastery in the United States, would be meeting Pope John Paul. He sat in the first row during the Latin mass at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The Vatican permitted the mass as a gesture of reconciliation with breakaway traditionalists and Law was among six cardinals to attend.

Aside from the Cardinal Law appearance, I have to admit that any good will I have in regard to this liturgical move sprang a tiny, slow leak brought on by a slight case of the creeps when I read this final paragraph..

Traditionalists placed dozens of black veils in a basket at the entrance so women could cover their heads the way they were obliged to before the Second Vatican Council reforms.

Whoa, people.

First, thanks for the heads-up from those involved in Tridentine liturgies (something in which, by the way, my interest is close to nil, except for the sake of justice - justice for those who desire the rite and justice to the tradition which sustained it for so long.) that the basket full o' veils is present as a convenience and that the Unveiled Woman is not shunned. Good to hear that.

In reflecting on all of this, however, I am struck by what seems to be inarguable - this division didn't have to happen. Reform and restoration of the liturgy, the necessary stripping of accretions, the attempt to restore certain ancient aspects of the liturgy could have been accomplished without Clown Masses and Grooviness. Why wasn't it?

As an historian, I am fascinated by this, and would love to see an objective study - digging back into diocesan records, and so on - of that 1965-1970 period to see what bishops were actually telling their priests to do, and then what the priests did and, from a very concrete standpoint, how it got so crazy so fast. Now there's a dissertation topic for you. No charge.

In the comments, I am struck by someone (finally) focusing on Cardinal Law's presence at this liturgy. Does it, as the commentor says, show us one more time how the Cardinal just doesn't seem to get it?

Today.... it's just me and Joseph so far. Katie spent the night at a friend's house and went with them to an auction somewhere in the hinterlands. David is in a different hinterlands, at a golf invitational, having arisen at 6am to catch the bus at school which was taking him there. Michael is in Cincinnati, watching the Marlins play the Reds. As for me, I've been working on the editing to this blasted manuscript I need to get it's probably good no one else is present to hear me rage..

From Forbes:A cover story and other articles on the coming flood of sex-abuse litigation: Sex, God and Greed.

Priests in Brooklyn release names of guys they'd like to see considered for their next bishop

If the Pope is having trouble selecting a successor to Bishop Thomas Daily, some priests in Brooklyn and Queens are more than ready to help - in fact, they've already told the pontiff what kind of leader they want and nominated five candidates.

It's only their opinion - priests don't get to vote for bishops - but behind it is a lively, larger issue that has Daily at odds with a group called Voice of the Ordained, which was organized a year ago to give metropolitan-area priests a greater voice in decision-making....In the meantime, the group asked priests in Brooklyn and Queens to choose a candidate to succeed Daily. Fifty-one priests and bishops were nominated. The names of the five mentioned most often were sent to Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the chief papal envoy in Washington, with a request that he forward them to Rome.

....Four of the five names were published - the other was withheld at the man's request. Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Sullivan, a nationally known spokesman on human and social services, was on the list, along with three pastors - Msgr. Martin Geraghty of St. Francis de Sales in Belle Harbor, Queens; Msgr. Raymond Chappetto of Our Lady of the Snows in Floral Park, Queens, and Msgr. Peter Kain of St. Ephrem in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

But perhaps even more important than the names were the qualities priests said they wanted in the next bishop. The most notable was that he come from within the ranks of Brooklyn priests - an indirect slap at the Vatican's choice 13 years ago of Daily, whose previous job was bishop of Palm Beach, Fla.

I vote for the guy who didn't want his name published...

The chapter from Thomas Reese's Archbishop on how bishops are selected in the modern church.

Ordination season:

Rockford ordains record number

Cleveland ordains 10

Washington ordains most in 14 years

Six in Cincy

Nine in Boston...but not a single first-year candidate for next year's seminary class yet..

Nine men are to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests in a ceremony Saturday, but St. John's Seminary in Boston's Brighton neighborhood has no first-year candidates for the fall yet, New England Cable News reported Friday. The seminary is expecting some transfers. Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, told NECN that it was the first time since the early years of the seminary, which was founded in 1884, that there have been no first-year candidates at this time of year.

Here's the USCCB survey of the 2003 class of ordinands

We found three changes in the ordinands since the research began in 1998. First, the average age at ordination rose from 34.8 to 36.8 years. Second, the level of education prior to entering seminary rose. Whereas in 1998, 30 percent had less than a B.A. or B.S. degree, in the 2003 sample it was only 21 percent. Correspondingly, the percentage who had received a Masters Degree or professional degree beyond the B.A. rose from 13 to 30. This is a notable change in only five years. Third, the percentage born outside the U.S. rose from 24 to 28 percent. The two principal countries of birth today are Vietnam and Mexico, in agreement with past studies.

The study was directed by Dean Hoge, our premier priest-study-er, who is also the author of an interesting book called The First Five Years of the Priesthood

A revivial in a Florida prison:

Michael A. Baysen is at Martin Correctional Institution, serving two life sentences for armed robbery. And it's a good thing, he says, because it was in prison that he found God. "I was predestined to come to the penitentiary," said Baysen, 40, of West Palm Beach. "If I hadn't come to the penitentiary, I still would have been asleep spiritually."

In an attempt to "awaken" more inmates, dozens of Treasure Coast Christians held a tent revival May 17-18 in the recreation yard of the maximum security prison.

In six two-hour sessions, the evangelists attracted more than 700 of about 1,000 inmates, including some of the state's most dangerous murderers, kidnappers and rapists. The hope was that they, like Baysen years earlier, would accept Jesus Christ as their savior and escape the bonds of spiritual imprisonment, said the Rev. Paul Smith, revival organizer and pastor of Miracle Baptist Mission in East Stuart.

...Each of the weekend revival sessions was led by a different church or ministry. Churches that led the services or whose members participated in some way included Friendship Baptist and the Love Regeneration Center in Fort Pierce; Lighthouse Baptist in Port St. Lucie; St. Joseph Catholic, Miracle Baptist and Abundant Life Ministries, all of Stuart.

Newark lays off 44

Friday, May 23

Pardon me... if I'm a little verklempt this week. My second-to-the-oldest son David graduates from high school next Friday and will promptly move away to go to college. A sign of my state: I pulled out Where the Wild Things Are tonight and read it to Joseph for the first time. The very same copy I'd read to Christopher (20) and David (almost 18)...I usually don't tear up until last page (...and it was still hot..) - which I do every single time, and have for 18 years - but tonight, I just opened the darn book and started reading, and they started. Time goes so fast, and the worst thing about it is that God may lead them away on their own path, as He should, and as they must go, but for some reason, He doesn't see fit to take away a mother's stubborn, unyielding passion to make everything all right in her children's lives, to leave that supper waiting....even when they're out of reach and really should be making everything all right all by themselves, on their own, out of their own strength.

...and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him...

and it was still hot.

A Christian enclave in Iraq

Tucked in a corner of this ancient, somber Muslim city is a neighborhood that wears skimpy clothing, eats cheeseburgers and drinks beer.It is called Ankawa and it is home to a small but lively community of Assyro-Chaldeans, or Assyrian Christians, one of Iraq's smallest — and proudest — ethnic groups. They number 1.3 million in Iraq and are descendants of the indigenous people of Mesopotamia, with a language that dates back to 3000 B.C.

An equal number of the Assyrian Christians have settled outside the region, mostly in Chicago and Detroit."We are the remains of the original Iraqis," said Yonan Hozaya, a senior official in the Assyrian Democratic Movement, a political party. "You must take care not to lose us."The neighborhood here is in no danger of disappearing. It is the main meeting spot for many in this city. A steady stream of slowly cruising cars flows past on the main thoroughfare, referred to by locals as Champs Élysée for its lively shops. Young men sit low behind the steering wheel of their cars. Women walk arm in arm. Liquor stores abound.

Ankawa stands in contrast to the rest of Erbil, a Kurdish Muslim city where alcohol is not for sale and most women wear a hijab head covering. Young people are not allowed inside the city park at night without being accompanied by a family member.

Here's a link to the Jesuit's "Standing for the Unborn" statement.

As far as I can tell, it's only available in .pdf form on the internet, which is a pain, but it's also in the May 26 issue of America magazine if you want to go search it out:

It's a good statement, and I have no argument to make with it, nor do I have snide anti-Jesuit remarks to make.

One thought did pop into my mind while I read this, however, and it applies not only to this statement, but to all official Church statements on abortion.

They could all use a little contrition.

Seriously. This would be nice to see in the midst of all of this inspiring verbiage:

We believe in the right to life that begins at conception...we are sorry for our obvious failure to communicate this belief powerfully and clearly through our institutions.

We're sorry for being silent when other Catholics misrepresent the teaching of the Church on this issue or try to diminish its importance.

We're sorry that we don't spend more of our resourceds directly helping women and girls in need..

We're sorry that every single Catholic college and university doesn't have an officially sponsored, well-funded program for students facing this problem in their lives.

We're extra sorry that students leave these same Catholic colleges and universities not understanding the value of human life at every stage of development.

We're sorry that so many defenseless human beings, real and unique, have been killed. We're going to stop writing documents now, and we're going to try do something concrete about child killed in abortion is too many, brings us sorrow, and moves us to action.

Okay, I really don't know what I think of this:

McDonald's helped sponsor papal visit to Spain

Microsoft thinks it has a good thing going with Xbox headlining Lollapalooza this summer. But McDonald's quietly scored an even more divine sponsorship coup this month, teaming up with the Roman Catholic Church in Spain to sponsor Pope John Paul II's visit there.

A highlight of the Pope's trip was a massive pray-in at a Madrid aerodrome, with tickets going for between $11 and $45 apiece. According to a report in The Guardian, believers received a backpack (dubbed the "pilgrim's bag") full of papal merchandise, including a "You Will Be My Witness" tour cap, CD, rosary and prayer book, plus vouchers for dinner (a burger, fries, soft drink and an ice cream or baked apple pie) at McDonald's.

Despite the absence of a Soccer Jesus figurine in the package, more than half a million people showed up for the event, ensuring that Catholic leaders would more than offset the estimated $1.5 million cost of the visit (profits beyond that are going to charity) and that McDonald's would have lines out the door in the evening.

The Pope and other Vatican officials speak of the dangers of globalization; Spain's RC chuch involves THE symbol of globalization in sponsorship of the papal visit. Is there a Spanish word for chutzpah?

And paying to go pray with the pope? Is this typical on papal visits? The only factor that would even come close to excusing such a thing is if parishes and other groups bought up tickets and then distributed them, but even then......

From a Baghdad parish

St Elya's stands next to a Shia mosque, whose minaret soars high above the simple cross on top of the squat, white church. This is a country where religious and family bonds are tight, and where Christians and Muslims are still expected to marry within their own communities. But despite fears of a Muslim state, I saw no tensions on the ground between the two communities. During the bombing of Baghdad, both Christian and Muslim families took shelter in the basement of the church. Fr Basha supplied the mosque with its generator, and I saw how, throughout the day, Muslims wander into the yard of the church to fill up plastic containers with clean water from the two tanks beside the grotto to Our Lady. In common with other Christians I spoke to, Fr Basha does not believe that Christians face any danger from a militant Islamic regime. The Americans may not have brought security and stability to Baghdad, his reasoning goes, but they will not allow Shia extremists to seize control.

"After so many years of having one voice and one party, it will be a challenge to live with diversity", Fr Basha told me. "There is a possibility of exchanging ideas if we accept each other. As Christians, we should be tolerant and our Christian culture should remind us that we are peacemakers. This is not a principle to be declared but a reality to be lived."

But there was less optimism at the headquarters of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) where I was taken by Bishop Jaques Isaacs, the portly, chatty rector of Babel College....

Thursday, May 22

I had read about this someone's blog, I'm sure..but now the book is out:

Pieces of Intelligence:The Existential Poetry of Donald Rumsfield

Until now, the poetry of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been hidden, "embedded" within comments made at press briefings and in interviews. His preferred medium is the spoken word, and his audience has been limited to hard-bitten reporters and hard-core watchers of C-SPAN.

The Unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know we don't know.

Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Women sue Erie diocese for defamation...

American Life League plans a Campus for Life

Now the league is on a mission that critics and supporters alike are applauding: construction of a 70-acre educational center devoted to abortion-related issues, a combination college campus and boot camp that would teach about everything from stem-cell research to the history of Roe v. Wade to how to handle media interviews. The aim of the "Campus for Life" is to be a national clearinghouse, a central spot for a divided movement still reeling from the legalization of abortion 30 years ago.

"It became apparent that there was a gap and someone needed to stand in it," said Joe Giganti, spokesman for the 300,000-member group, which has grown from a $1 million annual budget in 1985 to $7 million today.

The campus will emphasize scientific issues -- including the use of stem cells, cloning and the biological and psychological impacts of abortion -- which abortion opponents say reflects a shift in their movement, from a focus on ethics and religion to science. Technological and scientific advancements, such as sharper ultrasound equipment and the use of human embryos for lifesaving therapies, have forced themselves upon the abortion debate over such questions as when life begins.

"I think the fact is that science is forcing a reevaluation of some positions on both sides," said Sean Tipton, spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the country's largest medical association of fertility doctors.

There are other antiabortion organizations that gather scientific data: the mainstream National Right to Life Committee has a research director; the National Catholic Bioethics Center focuses on the relationship between Catholicism and the fields of medicine and science; and the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center has a research arm. But none is as broad as the American Life League's project, which aims to have TV and radio production studios and college-level courses that at least one college has said it is open to accepting for credit. The site overlooks Interstate 95 in Stafford.

Christians stand firm against Mugabe's repression in Zimbabwe.


Sadly, the Roman Catholic Church is just as timorous as the Anglican. Robert Mugabe’s second marriage to his wife Gracie was officiated by Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe. Chakaipa’s attendance caused offence in some strait-laced Zimbabwean circles, since the President had enjoyed an adulterous relationship with Gracie before the death of his first wife, and two children were born out of wedlock. Other churchmen feared that by sanctioning the Mugabe marriage, the Church was condoning the regime and undermining its own prophetic role. Chakaipa remained on good terms with Mugabe. When the archbishop died three weeks ago, the President sought to declare him a ‘national hero’. Pius Ncube[Archbishop of Bulawayo, outspoken critic of the regime] spoke out against this move, declaring that ‘national hero status is political and the archbishop was not a politician’. In the end, Chakaipa was laid to rest at Chishawasha, a Roman Catholic mission. Robert Mugabe gave an oration at the funeral. Pius Ncube approached him during the Peace and shook his hand ‘just to show that I have nothing personal against him’.

Ncube is an astonishing man, fighting a private battle against despotism and murder that has unmistakable echoes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s lonely crusade against Nazism during the second world war. Bonhoeffer was executed just before the end of the war; Ncube is running the same kind of risk. Like Bonhoeffer, Ncube is estranged not just from the ruling regime but from much of the Church that he serves, since its leading members have preferred to collaborate with the regime.

But none of us in Britain has the moral right to condemn the churchmen on the ground in Zimbabwe, any more than we have the right to condemn the Protestant pastors in wartime Germany who cheered on Hitler. We cannot imagine the perils they are under or the compromises they are forced to make; nor do we know the little acts of human goodness they still perform. This exemption cannot be made, however, for the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches in London. Our bishops do not live under daily threat of arrest, torture and mutilation. They are not followed by the secret police. But our churches, too, are mesmerised by Mugabe, and afraid to speak against him, as the shameful story of the archbishop’s visit to Britain last week demonstrates.

When the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust, the vigorous US-based group which fights for freedom and human rights in Zimbabwe, proposed that Pius Ncube should visit London, the news was greeted with dismay. The Catholic bishops did not show delight and gratification at the chance to give moral support to a fellow Christian in his lonely battle against terror. Incredibly, it seems that Ncube was asked to reconsider his plan. At the time of the Bishops’ Conference, during Low Week after Easter, the Catholic establishment looked set to block the Ncube visit. It is still unclear why Westminster Cathedral felt so uneasy about Ncube, though sources say that David Konstant, the Bishop of Leeds who has responsibility for international affairs, came under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe. There are also intriguing suggestions that No. 10 Downing Street, which has close links with Westminster Cathedral, was putting steady pressure on the Catholic Church to play down the event. Moves to block the visit altogether were stymied at a party given by the Bishops’ Conference on 29 April, when the shadow foreign secretary, Michael Ancram, a prominent Catholic, made it known that he would cause a public fuss if Ncube was stopped.

In the end, a deal of sorts was hammered out. Ncube would come to Britain, but a publicity ban would be put on the visit. The Zimbabwe Democracy Trust had been planning to make the most of its illustrious visitor, with interviews tentatively planned on Breakfast with Frost, Newsnight, Channel 4, etc. Some had even been formally booked. They were cancelled. In the end, the Catholic Church, rather than celebrating their remarkable guest, and sending the message of support back to Zimbabwe, hustled him through Britain as if he were an escaped convict. The British government treated him with equal distance. Attempts for a meeting with Tony Blair — normally ready to join forces with any transient pop-star or footballer — were rebuffed. This week Ncube travelled to Washington, where he has been granted a series of high-profile meetings with senior administration officials, including the secretary of state Colin Powell.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and Primate of All England, has got off to a shaky start. But the Ncube episode will put a permanent stain on his term of office. He has just one comfort. His Church of England counterpart, Rowan Williams, has behaved just as shamefully by allowing the Anglican Bishop of Harare to rant unchecked on behalf of Robert Mugabe. The behaviour of both archbishops, and both churches, is incomprehensible. They are sanctifying evil.

Part of the Pope's message to the new Ambassador to the Vatican from Zimbabwe on May 17:

Making reference to your Government's land reform program, Your Excellency has remarked that this is a vehicle for improving the people's standard of living, achieving equity and establishing social justice. In many countries, such agrarian reform is necessary, as noted in the document "Towards a Better Distribution of Land" published in 1997 by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, but it is also a complex and delicate process. In fact, as this same document points out, it is an error to think that any real benefit or success will come simply by expropriating large landholdings, dividing them into smaller production units and distributing them to others (cf. No. 45). There are first of all matters of justice to be considered, with due weight being given to the various claims of land ownership, the right to land use and the common good. Moreover, if land redistribution is to offer a practical and sustainable response to serious economic and social problems in a given country, the process must continue to develop over time and must ensure that the necessary infrastructures are in place. Finally, and no less important, "indispensable for the success of an agrarian reform is that it should be in full accord with national policies and those of international bodies" (ibid.).

Feelings of disenfranchisement or of being unjustly treated only serve to foment tension and discord. Justice must be made available to all if the injuries of the past are to be left behind and a brighter future built. Insofar as the authentic common good prevails, the fundamental causes of civil strife will disappear. The Catholic Church pledges her full support for all efforts to construct a culture of dialogue rather than confrontation, of reconciliation rather than conflict. This in fact is an integral part of her mission to advance the authentic good of all peoples and of the whole person.

Jewish leaders hopeful about Vatican archives

...after a private audience with the pope on Thursday, World Jewish Congress (WJC) chairman Israel Singer said they were seeing eye to eye on the archives issue.

"I wouldn't normally say this, but we agreed on everything," he said in a telephone interview.

The Jewish leaders said before the audience that they now better appreciated the complexities of opening archives and did not want the issue to block progress on inter-faith dialogue that has improved tremendously in the past 40 years.Singer said WJC President Edgar Bronfman raised the archives issue with the pope during the meeting."We did this in a friendly way. We were encouraging them to open the archives, but it's not like we came in with an aggressive approach. We came in with a negotiated approach," he said.Singer said archives relating to Pius XII's papacy may start being opened to scholars between 2005 and 2007 in phases.

Tuesday, May 20

Gates Foundation gives $$ to Cristo Rey schools

Impressed by the success shown by a network of four Jesuit high schools in working with urban teenagers, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and another major charity pledged $19 million today to bolster the schools and export the model to 12 additional cities.The Cristo Rey schools, as they are known, began in 1994, and now include schools in Portland, Ore.; Austin, Tex.; Los Angeles; and Chicago. The new money is intended to expand the program to New York City, Cleveland, Denver, Tucson, the Boston area and elsewhere.

In a telephone news conference announcing the donations, Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education for the Gates Foundation, praised Cristo Rey schools for reversing the trend toward shuttering Catholic schools in the inner city.

In a Chicago neighborhood where 62 percent of the students do not make it to graduation, some 85 percent of the Cristo Rey students graduate, and all of this year's graduates are going on to college, said the Rev. John Foley, who founded the schools.

Mr. Vander Ark said the unusual business model of the Cristo Rey schools also intrigued the Gates Foundation. To meet expenses, the schools double as temporary employment services. Students work without pay five days a month in entry-level jobs at local businesses, which pay the schools roughly $25,000 a school year for their services. The money offsets operating costs, and the jobs provide the students with work experience.

"They're small and personalized, academically rigorous college prep programs," said Mr. Vander Ark, who praised the schools for exposing teenagers to the business world and instilling in them a "culture of respect and responsibility."

Bishop Grahmann responds:

Recently, the life of reconciliation underwent a dramatic test for Christians in the Dallas Diocese. With the wise counsel of our coadjutor bishop, priests and laity responsible for assigning our clergy and after much discussion, I came to a difficult decision. I approved the assignment of a priest who, some years ago in another country, failed in the priestly virtue of chastity – he fathered a son. Repentant of his sin and forgiven by God, he continued his priestly service in a selfless fashion for more than 20 years.

[editor's note: During which he was sued for child support and was repeatedly told by the LA Archdiocese to stop exercising priestly ministry.]

Now, after years of a blameless ministry, Monsignor Ernesto Villaroya was assigned to another parish. When his 20-year-old sin was discovered, some people appeared with sacks filled with rocks to stone him. It seemed that there might be no forgiveness, no compassion, no reconciliation and no acceptance. While I can understand their concern, I thought of the scene in the Gospel when Jesus came upon the woman caught in adultery who was about to be stoned by another group. Jesus addressed the group, asking that those without sin cast the first stone. No stones were cast. As the group slowly departed, Jesus asked the woman if there was no one to condemn her. Her reply was no. Then Jesus said, "Neither will I condemn you. Go and sin no more." (John 8:10)

The scene described is no different than in our diocese. But the outcome threatens to be a contradiction to what Jesus did and taught.

After 2,000 years, we seemingly haven't been able to put into full practice the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We just can't get rid of those stones. If St. Francis of Assisi or St. Augustine of Hippo showed up today, we probably would stone them. They did some pretty bad things but repented.

The message of the Gospel isn't that complicated: mutual love; being the first to love; loving everyone, especially the sinner, the poor, the one ostracized; being ready to die for the other according to the example of Jesus. Jesus had some strong words for the hypocrites: On the outside they all are shiny, but on the inside they are filled with dead men's bones.

If I could go through our deliberations again in this case, I would add one more step to the process. Besides consulting with Monsignor Leon Duesman, the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Frisco, I would have invited the parishioners to an open meeting and discussed with them the details about the priest's background before finalizing the assignment. We know that a priest can't minister effectively in a community where he isn't received. Currently, the reaction is mixed. I am hoping more parishioners will agree to give him a chance in the spirit of reconciliation.

It is exactly this spirit of the Gospel that the million young people at World Youth Day wanted to live. At the heart of it was reconciliation. They wanted to be part of building a new kind of world, a civilization of love. Maybe we older people simply have missed the heart of the Gospel. Maybe it will take the young people to destroy the stones in our bags.

It was the right thing to assign the priest to his new ministry. God is saying something: Throw away those stones!

Click here for the story that provides the details in this case.

A response at the CWNews blog begins:

What could one possibly say that could be bad enough about this piece by Bishop Grahmann in the Dallas Morning News? The Bishop's decisions flowed from the purest evangelical motivations, but, sadly, are being obstructed by a mob of unconverted, judgmental, stone-lugging Laity. Not a WORD about the fact that the good people of Saint Francis Parish were already deeply suspicious of the Diocese because their previous pastor was unceremoniously yanked without even the chance to say good-bye, let alone an explanation, despite their repeated entreaties over months. Not a syllable about the fact that this was a situation in which a rape allegation had been raised, in court, only to be dismissed because it was brought too late....


Nothing like trying to "read" two Cloned Jesus novels in one evening......

I guess there are worse ways to make a living, though...

All right. We've covered 6 Feet Under.

What about South Park's take on a fetal-blood-sucking Christopher Reeve, as described in a letter that Mark Shea reprints?? (permalinks don't seem to function correctly - scroll down to Monday, May 19 and the post entitled, well..."South Park pro-life?")

Oh...and what about Malcolm in the Middle's family foray into church for the sake of free day care? I didn't see it but a reader wants to know if we think it was blasphemous or no....

Chime in early and often...

A priest ministering in the Dominican Republic has a blog....

Via Dappled Things via Eve

From The Christian Century, a response to Jonathon Rausch's "apatheism"

Many intellectuals associate religion--and Christianity in particular--with violence. Hence they argue that the less religion we have the better off we will be. In an article in the Atlantic, for example, Jonathan Rauch argues that the greatest development in modern religion is "apatheism"--a sense of not caring one way or the other whether God exists. The best of all possible situations, says Rauch, is to be indifferent toward religion, whether you are religious or not.

On the pages of this journal and elsewhere, I have argued the opposite. If we strip Christian convictions of their original and historic cognitive and moral content, and reduce faith to a cultural resource endowed with a diffuse aura of the sacred, we are likely to get religiously legitimized and inspired violence in situations of conflict. If, on the other hand, we nurture people in historic Christian convictions that are rooted in sacred texts, we will likely get militants for peace. This is a result of a careful examination of two things: the inner logic of Christian convictions and actual Christian practice. In his book The Ambivalence of the Sacred, R. Scott Appleby argues that on the basis of case studies, and contrary to widespread misconception, religious people play a positive role in the world of human conflicts and contribute to peace--not when they "moderate their religion or marginalize their deeply held, vividly symbolized and often highly particular beliefs," but rather "when they remain religious actors."

Even if this argument is sound (as I think it is), we still need to ask why misconceptions about the violent character of Christian faith abound.....


Here's what's going on

I'm trying mighty hard to keep my head straight for the next week and a half. Anyone who has children knows that the end of the school year can be brutally challenging in keeping-your-head department. We got through our first recital - Katie's piano - last night. She played two pieces - a Carillion Fantasia and a duet of Little David, Play on Your Harp with her teacher - the teacher really wanted me to play the duet with Katie, but I respectfully declined. It's funny. I've led music groups in church, in front of hundreds of high school kids, cantored, played guitar, but somehow, playing piano is a whole different animal to me. I quit taking piano when I was in high school because the recitals made me so nervous. I guess it's because mistakes seem so much more...obvious on piano. And believe me, Katie's teacher did a far better job than I would have.

Now we've got various medical appointments for David before he moves, his last few golf matches, Michael's trip out of town for part of this weekend, our trip to Chicago in the middle of next week, then David's graduation from high school on the 30th (with accompanying visit by his older brother, which will be very nice), then David's departure down to Virginia on Saturday, where he will be living with his dad and attending Virginia Tech in the fall, followed, finally, by Katie's dance recital that night and her last day of school and attendant celebrations on the 2nd.

And in all of that I'm supposed to be revising a manuscript, writing two columns, a book reviews, an issue of My Daily Visitor and..oh yes...being all contemplative to release my creativity.

Fat chance, I say...

From the Publisher's Weekly Religion Newsline:

Books about nuns crowd publishing:

A number of publishers are getting into the "sister act," with no fewer than five recent releases about Catholic nuns. The topic seems to be taking off even as the numbers of women choosing that religious life continues to decline--or perhaps precisely because of that fact,as most of the new books take a historical look at a way of life
that's becoming increasingly rare in the 21st century.

But don't expect saccharine stories of ruler-wielding women confined to Catholic school classrooms. Two new books tell the tales of strong, independent women bucking authority in the turbulent 1960s. "Witness to Integrity" (Liturgical Press, Mar.), the only title from a Catholic publisher, recounts the clash between Los Angeles Cardinal James McIntyre and the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which led some of the sisters to form a breakaway,independent community. Former mother general Anita M. Caspary combines her personal narrative with archival materials previously not available to the public.

Moving from the West Coast to Appalachia, the story is echoed in "Mountain Sisters" (Univ. of Kentucky, June). There, the Glenmary Sisters became frustrated with hierarchal restrictions that affected their ability to serve the largely non-Catholic rural poor and, once again some separated and formed a secular group. One issue was the nuns' outmoded clothing, which church authorities refused to allow them to abandon. "Many Appalachians had never seen a Catholic nun before and were frightened of the habit," explains editor Jennifer Peckinpaugh.

The distinctive dress worn by nuns has long fascinated Catholics and non-Catholics alike, not to mention Hollywood (remember the Flying
Nun?). Writer Elizabeth Kuhns looks at the history and symbolism of starched wimples, long, dark dresses and flowing veils in "The Habit" (Doubleday, Sept.). With illustrations that span centuries, the book concludes with the present-day debate about whether to return to the habit.

Looking forward as well as back is "Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America" (St. Martin's Press, Jan.) in which "Wall Street
Journal" reporter John Rialka uses the Sisters of Mercy as a model to describe how "America's first feminists" helped shaped the U.S. church and to explore the challenges facing orders as they become older and smaller.

Despite their declining numbers, nuns continue to inspire. In
"Stalking the Divine" (Hyperion, Sep.), Kristin Ohlson writes about the Poor Clares, a tiny congregation of cloistered, contemplative sisters in Cleveland. Captivated by their mission of praying 24/7 for the sorrows of the world, Ohlson paints a positive portrait of women who gave up the world--and did so joyfully.

Next time church politics get you down:

Count your blessings:

Police now say they are convinced that at least two people were behind the arsenic poisonings at a small church that killed a man and sickened 15 other people, and have narrowed their list of possible suspects to six to 10 parishioners. The victims drank tainted coffee after the April 27 worship service at Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church in New Sweden. Five days later, a longtime worshipper, Daniel Bondeson, shot himself in the chest and left a suicide note that convinced investigators he was involved in the poisonings and may not have acted alone. Investigators have since obtained information substantiating their belief that the crime involved two or more members of the church, Maine State Police Lt. Dennis Appleton said Monday. "....
There are about 50 regular churchgoers at Gustaf Adolph, and investigators have concluded that at least 40 of them were not involved in the poisonings, Appleton said. But he described a group of six to 10 people who are still considered potential suspects.

From Scientific American:

The Bible Code is Really True!

No, not really.

Predictably, in 1997 Drosnin "discovered" such current events as Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, Benjamin Netanyahu's election, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9's collision with Jupiter, Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, and, of course, the end of the world in 2000. Because the world did not end and current events dated his first book, Drosnin continued the search and learned--lo and behold--that the Bible predicted the Bill and Monica tryst, the Bush-Gore election debacle and, of course, the World Trade Center cataclysm.

Just like the prophecies of soothsayers past and present, all such predictions are actually postdictions (note that not one psychic or astrologer forewarned us about 9/11). To be tested scientifically, Bible codes would need to predict events before they happen. They won't, because they can't--as Danish physicist Niels Bohr averred, predictions are difficult, especially about the future. Instead, in 1997 Drosnin proposed this test of his thesis: "When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I'll believe them."

Australian mathematician Brendan McKay did just that, locating no fewer than nine political assassinations secreted in the great novel, along with additional discoveries in War and Peace and other tomes. American physicist David E. Thomas predicted the Chicago Bulls's NBA championship in 1998 from his code search of Leo Tolstoy's novel. He also recently unearthed "the Bible code is a silly, dumb, fake, false, evil, nasty, dismal fraud and snake-oil hoax" from Bible Code II ,

Keeping up with Iraq

Ethinic flare-ups in the north

Following new evictions and the burning of two Arab farm villages, Arab irregulars attacked the regional government building in Kirkuk at the weekend and battled Kurdish forces in the streets with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. Officials say at least 10 people were killed.Several destroyed villages - Albu Saraj, Jamboor, Al Behar and others - were seen by reporters along the main highway through the Kirkuk area. Residents of larger towns said efforts to eject Arab residents occur daily. Major Robert Gowan, a spokesman for the US military in Kirkuk, said: "We are trying not to allow any forcible evictions. We are trying to stop people from being killed. We want to freeze the situation in place and have property disputes settled by some kind of court. But this is a very tough, emotional issue."

US troups ambushed in N, Iraq

Looking for WMD's

Bremer says US working hard in Iraq

Shi'ites encourage US to hurry up and leave

Bahgdad womens' concerns

A guide to Iraq's Shi'ite clerics

The need for zero tolerance for Ba'athists

Martin Kramer wonders about the fellow chosen to be in charge of advising the writing of Iraq's constitution:

I am not persuaded by all the testimonials collected by the New York Times, from people who think that Noah Feldman is just the right man for the job. In an interview with the BBC, he was reported to have said that the United States "should back [an] Islamic Iraq." In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Feldman warned against excluding "Islam-inspired politicians" from government, and added this: "An established religion that does not coerce religious belief and that treats religious minorities as equals may be perfectly compatible with democracy. The U.K. is a democracy notwithstanding the Church of England." Well, the Shiite clerics in Najaf and Karbala are not the Church of England, and as a collective they can hardly be described as ecumenical. That sort of analogy, the stock-in-trade of Esposito, obscures much more than it enlightens.

And it leaves me wondering whether Feldman might be just the wrong man. Last night I attended a public lecture by Kanan Makiya, who stated that an Islamic republic in Iraq would be "a sure-fire formula for civil war." In the first chapter of After Jihad, Feldman argues that Algeria might have been spared its traumatic civil war had the Islamists been allowed to assume power. It's an open question. But Iraq is not Algeria, and an attempt to establish Islam in Iraq's far more diverse society could provoke a civil war. It could also undo U.S. strategic achievements: Islamists, even the cheery Islamists of Turkey, have not been great friends of U.S. security interests. It would be tragic if what now looks like a victory were to be turned into a defeat, by our own lawyers. Feldman might know the feeling: I see that during the recount of the Florida presidential ballot in 2000, he went down there as a volunteer, and ended up as chief legal researcher to the Gore campaign. Feldman must know that the rules are half the contest, even in the most perfect of democracies. So why stack them against your best friends—and yourself? The United States is not an umpire, it has an interest in the future of Iraq, and its appointees on the ground have a duty to protect that interest. The completely disinterested promotion of democracy should be left to NGOs and Jimmy Carter.

A lengthy analysis of the post-war situation in the Washington Monthly by Phillip Carter the proprietor of the highly respected Intel Dump blog

Hunger Gnaws at Ethiopia

Monday, May 19

This one's for all the kneejerk Jesuit-bashers out there:

Jesuit to ride cross country to raise funds for Project Rachel

A Jesuit priest who teaches at Georgetown University in Washington will spend the summer bicycling from coast to coast to raise funds for post-abortion counseling offered through Project Rachel.Father Eric A. Zimmer, an assistant professor in the communications, culture and technology program at Georgetown, planned to begin his 4,000-mile journey in Anacortes, Wash., north of Seattle, on Memorial Day, May 26, and to complete what he calls the "LifeRide" by July 20 in Washington, D.C.Averaging 80 miles a day, he will travel across the northern United States through Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, then south to Indiana, through Ohio and Pennsylvania and finally along the C & O Canal towpath from Western Maryland into the District of Columbia.,,,,

But "this is not just a fun adventure," he said in an interview with Catholic News Service before leaving for Washington state. The main purpose of the ride, he said, is to raise awareness -- and money -- for Project Rachel and the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing.

Here's the website for Fr. Zimmer's LifeRide. Very cool. Looks like he's coming straight through Fort Wayne, but I can't find anything more specific yet.

If you would like to discuss last night's 6 Feet Under, please do so - and note, I didn't say, if you want to discuss whether 6 Feet Under should exist or whether anyone should watch it. We covered that last week.

And yes, sadly, the pregnant character did have an abortion, but if you think that a presentation of abortion not accompanied by speeches explicitly declaring its immorality is a "promotion" of abortion, then consider this episode:

*This program always starts with a death. (It's about a family-owned mortuary business, and the death always figures thematically in the rest of the episode) The death this week was of a serial killer, executed in Texas, his body brought back to SoCal for burial by his (it becomes apparent) whacked-out daughter.

*Unbeknownst to her family, the 20-year old daughter in the mortuary family gets pregnant and has an abortion, but not before a scene in which, having been asked to watch her baby niece, the camera focuses on her, deliberately and intensely staring in the distance, her back to the baby. The abortion clinic seen is eerily distant, giving the clear impression of an indifferent assembly line. Four names called to go into the procedure rooms, women lined up in recovery, attached to machines, mostly unattended, four more names dispassionately called out when that batch is through.

*And in the end, when the character with the missing, presumed dead wife (and the father of aforementioned baby) has a vision of meeting her on the beach, he expresses sorrow that she has disappeared just when he was starting to get it, to really commit. He says something like, "You were a chance for me to get it together...." And she responds..."I'm not a chance. I'm a person."

End of episode.

So...for me, at least, the connection was darkly transparent, even if it was unintentional...serial killer storyline juxtaposed with an assembly-line abortuary scene...a missing, presumed dead figure not appreciated by her husband until she was gone telling him, "I'm not a chance, I'm a person."

Dehumanization every where you look. Phew.

Anyone but a cradle Catholic married priest, please....

When priests don't run the parish in the Diocese of San Bernandino

Though virtually every diocese in the country faces a serious shortage of priests that threatens to leave parishes without full-time clergy, the San Bernardino diocese, which covers San Bernardino and Riverside counties, is meeting the challenge on a scale not seen elsewhere.A dozen of the diocese's 110 parishes and missions — some among its largest — are being run by so-called parish coordinators, half of them lay persons. The rest are nuns and deacons.....

Lynn Zupan, 66, has been the full-time, lay parish administrator at San Gorgonio Catholic Church in Beaumont since last July.....
On Sundays she gets to church at 7 a.m. — an hour before a fill-in priest celebrates the first of two Masses, one in English and another in Spanish. "I'm here a half-hour early greeting people," Zupan said. But Sunday duties only scratch the surface. During the week, Zupan, who holds a master's degree in religious studies and had 12 years of experience in parish work in San Bernardino and San Francisco, supervises 11 volunteer and part-time staff members.She had the last word in shaping the parish budget, runs the business office, and fields telephone calls from the parish's 1,400 families. Planning weddings and funerals, caring for the sick and making sure parish buildings and grounds are maintained are all part of the job.

Diocese of Lansing places married former Episcopal priest as pastor

If we are going to discuss this, let us please skip over the preliminaries and all agree to agree on this: celibacy is an invaluable, irreplaceable charism, with a firm and vital place in Roman Catholicism. The celibate or consecrated religious is a sign of life in the Kingdom: a life totally centered on God. There is also immense practical value to the unmarried in ministry - believe me, as a former pastoral worker, who did so with three children, I will not argue with that for a second. At the same time, I have known many married couples - DRE and youth ministry teams, mostly - who have flourished in parish ministry and seem to have been made for it, as individuals, a couple, and as a family. And no, adjusting the rule would not "solve" any problems. Various Protestant denominations are experiencing clergy shortages as well - there is no way we can blame our clergy shortage totally on resistance to mandatory celibacy. So many other factors: a changed world in which the pursuit of material success is paramount, and is even a paramount value pushed on Catholic children by their Catholic parents; from a social and economic standpoint, the greater opportunities for education and success available to more people, and the accompanying decline of priesthood (and religious life) as a way up and out (sorry, but it's true), and so on...

But let's just look at this situation as presented to us from these two stories, especially the first. If celibacy is called for (as some argue) because it supposedly "frees" the priest or religious for service...why are we welcoming married people as pastoral ministers? In a previous thread, a couple of weeks ago, the argument was made to put permanent deacons in parishes in pastoral leadership when there is no priest. Setting aside the obvious problem that this is not exactly the purpose of a permanent diaconate, the same question arises. Say a permanent deacon is married and has children and is placed as a parish administrator...what are we saying?

I suggest that what we're saying is that this particular argument for mandatory celibacy is hogwash, and what we're doing to "solve" the priest shortage in terms of parish administration shows it. There are good, solid, theological reasons for a the presence of a celibate priesthood in the RC church -for those who are called to live out that sign to which I referred above. But it does not follow that then all pastoral or parish leadership and administration - and all that's a part of it - necessitates that all involved in those ministries be celibate. As I said, even our own Church, as it is presently coping, is demonstrating that this is not true. It seems to me that the Eastern churches figured this out a long time ago, and I really don't see why cracking the human genome was easier than the Western church's comprehension of this truth.

So that's what I want to discuss - how do these solutions support or undercut the RC church's adherence to the rule of mandatory celibacy for cradle Catholics?

Adventures at Catholic college commencements:

White House chief of staff Andrew Card at Stonehill College (protest: Catholic League and anti-war protesters)

Gibson's Jesus, Jim Cavaziel, at King's College in PA

Santorum at St. Joseph's in Philadelphia (protesters: several graduating seniors

and, of course, the the Sanchez sisters at Mount Saint Mary's in LA

For more, see the Cardinal Newman Society

By the way, I received a note from a lady for whom this was her 50th anniversary of graduating from Mount Saint Mary's, in response to an OSV column I wrote on the Chris Matthews mess at Holy Cross. She wrote:

Last week I went to my Golden Reunion at Mt. St. Mary's College, Los Angeles. At the commencement the speakers were chosen because they are two sisters of Latin decent who rose to become Congresswomen in the State of California, the Sanchez Sisters. I know this is the reason they were chosen but unfortunately they are pro-choice. There were pickets there at the entrance to the College. The College is built on top of a Santa Monica Mountain and therefore could not get up the hill. We Golden Grads did not stay for the Graduation itself only for the luncheon and Baccalaurate Mass, and were unaware of the President's choice until that morning. Most of us Grads work in some way or another for Pro-Life so this was very disturbing.

I have changed the "Catholic News" link on the left so that it takes you to Catholic World News. Unfortunately, even though the previously linked site provides many useful stories, it does so in the context of an increasingly evident anti-Israel, and perhaps even anti-Semitic worldview. So it's outta here.

CWN requires subscription to access some material, and when you want information filled in, you can always head to Catholic News Service, Zenit (for Vatican news) or just type in "Catholic" to Google News.

Sunday, May 18

I'm glad I read three days before the review is due.

That gives me three days to think up increasingly clever ways to verbally skewer it and roast it over a painful fire.

The Da Vinci Code, number #1 fiction bestseller, is an idiotic, wretchedly written piece of faux intellectualism - sort of a Fox Network version of Umberto Eco - that is basically a novelization of the theories set forth in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, with a couple of extra layers of conspiracy theories tossed in, involving groups like the Priory of Sion, the Knights Templar and the Masons on the one side and, of course, the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH (aka - in this book "The Vatican") on the other, with the likes of Da Vinci working feverishly through the centuries to protect and pass on the secret knowledge that the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH so desperately wants to destroy because, you know, the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH killed five million witches during the Middle Ages, and is rooted in the work of the Emperor Constantine, who created the concept of Jesus' Divinity at the Council of Nicaea (because you know, no one believed it before then, as the author of the novel has one his characters authoritatively state).....

Oh, it's just so painfully dumb....

And badly written too, filled with two - no - one dimensional characters who spend most of the novel sitting in cars, restrooms, country villas, planes, churches and exhibition halls explaining, explaining, explaining things to each other.

More tomorrow, I'm sure.

Saturday, May 17

This summer's travels are shaping up...

Chicago twice, once in May and once in June, both for book tradeshows, and with maybe a jaunt to Milwaukee attached to the latter trip. Sometime in June, we will spend a couple of days at St. Meinrad's in S. Indiana - not to consecrate Joseph to the Benedictines, but for me to research my next Loyola book in their library. July will be 10+ days traveling to, being in and traveling from Orlando for the Christian Bookseller's Association show, with stops at various family members on the way up and back and visits with old friends while we're there. As of this moment,we're planning a Canadian trip for August, with the emphasis on Quebec City and environs, but haven't pinned anything down on that yet...

I'm already tired...

Vatican confirms Pope has Parkinson's

Pope John Paul II has used prayer to cope with his advancing age and Parkinson's disease, a top Vatican official said in published remarks Saturday the first time a senior official has publicly acknowledged the pontiff suffers from the degenerative disease.Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Congregation of Bishops, made the comments in an interview with the Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera on the eve of the pope's 83rd birthday."If we want to look for the secret weapon that has allowed him to beat the years and Parkinson's, we must look to prayer: He puts himself in the hands of God and feels God and the Madonna by his side in the path of life," he was quoted as saying.

It's reassignment time, including in Virginia , where..

A Norfolk priest who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor sex offense last year is among the Roman Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Richmond who have been reassigned, effective June 2. The Rev. Wayne L. Ball, 42, who formerly served at St. Gerard parish in Roanoke, will move from Holy Trinity church in Norfolk to St. John Catholic Church in Highland Springs. Ball pleaded guilty to a charge of frequenting a bawdy place in Norfolk General District Court in December. He and a 41-year-old man were both charged after police found them in a parked car in a Norfolk park. Ball was sentenced to 80 hours of community service, to be completed by June 3. The case was continued until July 8, at which time the charge will be dismissed if Ball has no other criminal charges filed against him.

It struck me as I read this that in decades past, the end result of this would be exactly the same - the priest would be given his pastorate. The intervening events, though, would have been quite different. The police would have dropped charges and destroyed files. The newspapers would not have reported it, and no one would have known, and the next parish would get its new pastor.What's changed? Everyone knows about the sin (and particular weakness) of their new's kind of strange, and I'm trying to figure out a way that strikes a more appropriate middle ground, one that encompasses justice and compassion, but at the same time doesn't seem to minimize the situation, as this solution does, by rewarding the offender with a new pastorate a mere five months after the offense...


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