Monday, June 30

Diane Ravitch shares more ridiculous textbook-censorship stories she's received since the publication of her book The Language Police

A contributor to a major textbook series prepared a story comparing the great floods in 1889 in Johnstown, Pa., with those in 1993 in the Midwest, but was unable to find an acceptable photograph. The publisher insisted that everyone in the rowboats must be wearing a lifevest to demonstrate safety procedures.....When it comes to illustrations in textbooks, certain images--women cooking, men acting assertive, scenes of poverty, and old people walking with the aid of a cane or a walker--are likewise considered unacceptable. The specifications for photographs, I have learned, are exquisitely detailed. Men and boys must not be larger than women and girls. Asians must not appear as shorter than non-Asians.

Here's what needs to end: statewide textbook adoptions. There. Get California, Texas and New York out of the picture, and give school districts the right to get whatever books they want. Increase competition, force a bit more quality. Not that school textbooks have ever been what inspired anyone to greater heights of learning, anyway, but this spinelessness in the face of interest groups - from fundamentalists to the PC crowds is getting, as Ravitch says, too funny, but in a tragic kind of way.

Illinois parish split over gay choir directors' dismissal.

Roundup of evangelical Christian leaders' opinions on Lawrence
Cleveland parish changes with its neighborhood's needs.

Garfield Heights- St. Timothy Church is remaking itself - again. The Catholic parish close to the bor der of Cleveland has recast its mission several times since it was founded in the 1920s. It originally served a popu lation with Old World roots. It ad justed to urban sprawl, white flight and economic shifts over the decades and now faces a new challenge - serv ing an aging population. The church converted a convent into assisted living for senior citizens 18 years ago to help elderly who need some care but not the full service of a nursing home. Today, St. Timothy is recycling parts of its property for use by other seniors. The church is build ing 35 apartments for seniors next to the rectory and converting parts of the rectory into meeting and lounge areas for the new tenants.

A simply astonishing story about a high school valedictorian, her family and their lawsuit.

Is this the breed that populates the Ivy League? Count me happily out.

In Rochester, the preservationists lost and the renovators won

The $6 million to $8 million project calls for renovating the interior and building an addition and new parking lot. The building - the central church in the 12-county Rochester diocese - is outdated, unable to handle the demands of the diocese’s 350,000 Catholics. But the plan has been a target of criticism by some parishioners. They believe renovation will damage the character of the cathedral, a neo-Gothic structure, and cost much more than the diocese estimates. “It’s very disheartening,” said Don Messina, 68, of Rochester. “I don’t want to see tremendous destruction. I don’t want to worship organ pipes, I want to worship the Lord.” Messina said he doesn’t oppose all cathedral renovations. He just doesn’t want the church to lose its main focus, by removing the altar, canopy and several religious statues.

CNN is reporting that O'Malley's been pegged as new Archbishop of Boston

Michael has an interesting perspective

Sunday, June 29

St. Francis Xavier Parish in Birmingham, AL, was hit by lightening and burnt up a couple of years ago. It was, according to reports, a 1970's A-frame building

Well, they rebuilt.

And 1970's A-frame, it ain't.

What was popular in 1970 isn't popular any more," said member Janet Harrod. "The classic and Old World will speak to people 100 years from now."The building overlooking Montclair Road features a 92-foot bell tower, 27 new stained-glass windows, Italian porcelain tile floors and a baptismal font made from Botticino marble on a granite base.Following the fire, the church building committee held town hall meetings to survey the mood of the church. Insurance paid $2.3 million. Church members decided to raise an additional $4.5 million to expand seating from 600 to about 1,000.The Rev. Patrick Sullivan, the pastor, said the lightning strike may have been a "blessing in disguise."

Trouble in Malawi

First black archbishop of Johannesburg installed.

Saturday: Vatican reaffirms importance of celibacy.

Saturday: Married father of three ordained Roman Catholic priest in Germany.

Saturday, June 28

A story on Mel Gibson's visit to Focus on the Family with his movie

A vaguely mocking and snide report on an abstinence convention in (yes) Vegas by the WaPo's Hank Stuever.

I am not gung-ho keen on cutesy methods of promoting abstinence, and any time a movement starts having conventions, you've got a mockumentary waiting to happen, and any gathering that features an "Abstinence Elvis" really, really deserves every rotten tomato it gets thrown at it, and I will hand one off myself in this case, but the tone of this piece was extremely irritating to me, for, like many of you, I did the old "what if this were a story about ___________" mental exercise, and knew that without a doubt a piece on a liberal feminist convention or a gathering of Unitarians or environmentalists or Muslims would not, in any way have played off of reader's negative and stereotyped expectations, and would not have been coyly and cleverly assigned to a writer well known for a...perspective.... diametrically opposed to the perspectives of the group on which he's reporting (Stuever, a good writer whose pieces I've often liked is comfortably and openly gay. Or post-gay. Or whatever.)

It all just wears me out and I am so, so tired of this modern attitude that values...well...attitude above substance and clever, ironic juxtaposition over really trying to understand why other people believe what they do and to try to excavate and appreciate whatever truth it is that is at the heart of what they do. Sometimes the ironic juxtaposition and the eyes of the unsympathetic outsider do much to reveal truth. But when that's all we get, we lose. And these days, it seems that everyone's interested in attitude and hardly anyone's interested in figuring out the truth.

Which leads to nothing, and no point at all, except helping us all feel superior, reader and writer both.

You know, going to a baseball game, even if it's only AA, can be scary for fellow.

There's all these big creatures that keep coming around wanting to shake your hand - a big green dragon, even a big taco man, for heaven's sake. Then there's a thunderstorm that's loud and wet in the middle of the game, and then there's fireworks, not just at the end as threatened,but at the beginning and in the middle too. Scary stuff. Makes you turn to your mom and say "Go home," and even your favorite - a big pretzel, doesn't help.

But, through perservence and a move to an almost-abandoned deck with picnic tables after the rain ended and the tarp was up, a move taken so you'd have more room to play, you made it, and were even, by the end, able to shake the big green dragon's hand. And to announce to anyone who's listening that you were, indeed, "bwave."

Dom asks if anyone's heard any bishops denouncing the Lawrence v. Texas ruling

Of course not, and just as interesting is the question...has the Bush administration condemned it and its quite probable consequences and implications for a broader set of issues?


Words, all words.

Which adds more fuel to fire of reflection and reaction to Rod Dreher's article in the April 2003 issue of Touchstone declaring the Democratic party to be "The Godless Party", a thesis which produced a firestorm of reactions from readers as well as this editorial defense

Missing soldiers found dead.

Another solider shot dead overnight, four wounded

US calls off local Iraq elections, appoints local leaders instead

Occupation authorities initially envisioned the creation of local assemblies, composed of several hundred delegates who would represent a city or town's tribes, clergy, middle class, women and ethnic groups. Those delegates would select a mayor and city council.That process was employed successfully in the northern city of Kirkuk, but U.S. civilian and military occupation officials now say postwar chaos has left Iraq unprepared to stage popular elections in most cities.

"In a postwar situation like this, if you start holding elections, the people who are rejectionists tend to win," Bremer said. "It's often the best-organized who win, and the best-organized right now are the former Baathists and to some extent the Islamists." Bremer was referring to members of Hussein's Baath Party and religiously oriented political leaders.Bremer and other U.S. officials are fearful that Islamic leaders such as Moqtada Sadr, a young Shiite Muslim cleric popular on the streets of Baghdad, and Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim, leader of the Iranian-supported Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, would be best positioned to field winning candidates.

Bremer promises that as soon as an Iraqi constitution is written and a national census is taken, local and national elections will follow. But that process could take months.Ten weeks into the occupation, the cities and towns outside of Baghdad are largely administered by former Iraqi military and police officers and people who had close ties to the Baath Party. Iraqi generals and police colonels, for example, are now mayors of a dozen cities, including Samarra, Najaf, Tikrit, Balad and Baqubah.The U.S. military contends that these people have been vetted and were not in leadership positions under the old government or associated with crimes it committed.

No electricity in Baghdad for 3 days; temps at 117 degrees.

Ugandan children leave their homes to sleep at night, frightened of abduction.

In Canton, the dedication of a grotto next to the home of a reported visionary and stigmatist

A small shrine next to the house on 25th Street NE was dedicated Friday, another amenity for the stream of visitors who come to the house of the woman who said she was visited by Jesus and St. Therese. Rhoda Wise, who died in 1948, also reportedly suffered from stigmata, or wounds resembling those Jesus received when he was crucified. Since the death of her daughter, Anna Mae, in 1995, the house has been owned and maintained by Our Lady of the Angels monastery in Alabama.

(That's the monastery associated with EWTN and Mother Angelica, who attributes the cure of some adolescent abdominal problems to a meeting with and prayers from Rhoda Wise)

Time takes its toll on California missions

The earth trembles as trains and trucks rumble through town. The adobe walls at the town's first settlement, the two-century-old Mission San Miguel Arcangel, are crumbling. Cracks in the stucco are widening. Paint from fading frescoes is flaking off.

Up and down the California coast, most of the state's 21 missions are under attack by termites, wood beetles, and the elements. Last fall, a beam crashed down on a statue of Jesus at the San Gabriel Mission, one of the state's oldest. At Mission Dolores in San Francisco, insects are boring through the ornately decorated altar and its statuaries. At most missions, leaky roofs threaten to make mud out of earthen bricks.

For decades, the missions, stretching from San Diego to the Sonoma vineyards, have struggled to raise the money to make repairs and save historical artifacts. Government funds aren't materializing, and the fledgling California Missions Foundation, begun five years ago to benefit the missions, has barely made a dent in its $50 million fund-raising goal.

''It is urgent. Nothing major has been done on these missions for a long time,'' said Richard Ameil, the foundation's founder and president. ''In Europe, they have all of these wonderful old buildings and churches. In this country, we tear them down.''

Last fall, the foundation asked Congress to set up a $10 million grant program. The legislation, cosponsored by 49 of the state's 53-member House delegation, is yet to make it on the agenda.

The foundation has also been expecting its share of funds from last year's Proposition 40, a $2.6 billion parks and conservation bond measure that included $267 million for historic preservation. None of the $91 million appropriated so far has gone to California missions, and it is unclear when and where the rest of the money will be distributed because of the state's budget crisis, Ameil said.

I have read several stories about the crisis regarding the state of the California missions, and I am always puzzled by the apparent absence of any concerted effort by the Church in California to preserve these missions. Perhaps it's there, perhaps I'm missing it. Or perhaps I'm not.

Evangelist discerns a "spiritual hunger" in Toledo, comes once a month

Referring to the large number of Catholics in the Toledo area and the sex-abuse scandal that has shaken that church, Mr. Stone said, "With all the things that have happened recently, I believe Catholic people are hungry for the presence of God in their churches."He said his own background - his mother’s side of the family is Catholic - has helped him understand people who are Catholic.

Mr. Scott said Catholics have made up the highest percentage of those attending the services, which are being billed as the "Holy Toledo Crusade.""What we’ve experienced in the meetings is there seems to be a genuine hunger for people to truly experience God, and not through someone else, but through their own experience. I think that’s been especially true of a lot of the Catholics who’ve been coming."

Mr. Stone said he believes denominational barriers are being broken down at the services he conducts on Saturday nights and Sundays on the first weekend of every month at the Toledo Christian Life Center."At any given service here, we have numerous denominations present, but yet the people are all in one heart and mind worshiping the Lord. One time, we had 20 different denominations represented here. That’s one of the great things I see happening in this area, where people are coming together and working together with a common cause of reaching people for Christ."

Mr. Stone said, however, he is not interested in drawing people away from their churches. "We emphasize in the meeting that if people have a church they attend to be faithful to the local church to help it to grow and reach people."

Four Toledo-area nuns celebrating diamond jubilees

Here's a photo of Mel Gibson's church, from an Australian paper.

Friday, June 27

Someone very kindly sent me this excerpt from an interview with Cardinal Arinze that's in the new issue of Inside the Vatican, although not online yet.

I think it is a pity that many people in a parish never -- or rarely -- hear the Latin Mass. In Latin texts they would hear the very same words spoken that St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Blessed Duns Scotus, and so many more recent saints, like Thomas More and Therese of Lisieux, would have spoken. This is a source of communion over time, it is an aid to sensing and believing in the mystical communion of the Church throughout the ages.

Today, when we have international congresses, we have no common language in which to pray and sing, so we use several -- English, Italian, French and so forth. Praying and celebrating the liturgy in Latin would be a beautiful _expression of our unity, of our oneness in the faith. Is there to be no symbol of our faith, no vehicle allowing us to express our shared faith with one voice?

The great Latin expressions and prayers are not awkward and distant; they are very near to us. Think of the words "Verbum caro factum est" ("the Word was made flesh"); "Agnus Dei" ("the Lamb of God"); "Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus" ("Holy, holy, holy"). These words are not difficult. And they are rooted in our tradition. Are we to forget all that? Have we no memory as a Church?

I worked in the field of interreligious dialogue for 18 years. Each of the major religions of the world has a collective memory, including the memory of an original, sacred language, which they do not hesitate to use.

The Muslims regard the Koran in Arabic as the official text. Some Muslims are able to recite the whole Koran by heart in Arabic. This is a remarkable testimony to their diligence in study, and to their love of the Arabic language in which the Koran was written.

In my own country of Nigeria, we have some 240 languages. Under such conditions, what language should we use for our common liturgical gatherings? Why should there not be a wider use of a traditional and universal language like Latin?

Interesting words on the perils of clericalism in an Dallas Morning News article

New Mexico Archbishop Michael Sheehan partially blames the Catholic clerical culture for his being buffaloed by the Dallas Diocese's most notorious pedophile priest. "Rudy Kos was my wakeup call," said the archbishop, who was rector of the Irving seminary where Mr. Kos trained in the 1970s. "I learned that you can't just take the priest's word as gospel truth when an accusation is made." It's a lesson some bishops still struggle to absorb, he said, despite the enormity of last year's sex scandals, which have cost more than 400 accused priests and a handful of bishops their ministries. ....

....Dallas Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante said that when he was ordained a priest in 1964, he struggled with the special treatment immediately given him by virtue of his position – a favored status he felt he hadn't earned. "To make Holy Orders mean that I'm above others and entitled to special privileges not attached to my call to service is wrong, wrong, wrong," he said. ...

Archbishop Sheehan holds the dubious distinction of having admitted Mr. Kos to an Irving seminary that had previously turned him away. At the time, the archbishop was a Dallas priest serving as the seminary's rector. "That Rudy Kos was ordained a priest, then did all of these terrible things, may have been the saddest part of my priesthood," Archbishop Sheehan said. "I was completely fooled by him." After being duped by Mr. Kos, he said, he developed a "zero tolerance" policy for priests who molest children – long before U.S. bishops made that their national standard. He credits the approach with turning around the Santa Fe Archdiocese, which was awash in pedophile priest scandals when he arrived in 1993. He believes the same approach will work in the Phoenix Diocese, where Bishop Thomas O'Brien resigned last week after being arrested in connection with a hit-and-run fatality, just weeks after admitting to a county prosecutor that he'd shielded abusive priests.

Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, a prelate widely thought to be on the fast track to cardinal, said there was a time when clericalism was a "healthy part" of the church because strict expectations were placed on priests. "The priest was held to accountability by the way he dressed, how he lived and his social life," he said. "You had to wear your clerical collar so people knew you were a priest. It was much like the wedding ring that spouses wear so that everyone knows that they're committed. The Roman collar said that very loudly."

Utah Bishop George Niederauer said that no priest, bishop or deacon is immune to clericalism. It surfaces when clergy see people as existing to serve them. "Jesus calls us to be servant leaders, not self-serving leaders," he said. Defining clericalism is easier than identifying it, many clergy said. Those guilty of the behavior often don't see themselves as purveyors.

The only missing piece in this article regards clerics' knowledge of other clerics' wrongdoing. It claims that clericalism works to blind clerics to the possibility of each others' wrongdoing. Balderdash. Certainly, there are surprises and secrets, but the clericalism we've seen at work in these scandals, and the scandal that makes it, indeed, scandalous, is the fact that known behavior was covered up by both fellow priests and bishops.

The Word From Rome:

Lots on the Pope's Bosnian trip:

All this has left Bosnian Catholics with a unique sense of being orphans of history. This is especially acute in Banja Luka, where Catholicism was virtually wiped out by the latest war. There were 125,000 Catholics in the Banja Luka diocese in 1991, while today there are 51,500. Only 3 percent of the refugees have returned. Thirty-nine churches were destroyed and 22 damaged; nine chapels were destroyed and 14 damaged; two convents were devastated and one severely damaged, as were 33 cemeteries. (The convent at Petricevac was one of the places that went up in flames, leaving 80-year-old Friar Alojzije Atlija dead). A background paper said that the war had produced “a total exodus of the Catholic population from this region,” that the few who remain are “predominantly elderly,” and that the church in Bosnia now risks “total extinction.”In such a climate, it’s hardly surprising that many in the Catholic community seem underwhelmed by a policy of forgive-and-forget.

The Church in China:

Aid to the Church in Need, a charitable agency that delivers help to persecuted and suffering Christians, presented its annual report on religious freedom June 26. The highlight was an update on China, presented by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, a veteran China-watcher and director of Asia News magazine.Cervellera reported on three recent documents published by the Chinese government, which assert sweeping new controls over the life of the Catholic Church, including matters of doctrine. They risk schism with Rome, which has been the object of Chinese policy since 1957 –an indigenous Catholic Church with no connection to the Vatican.The Chinese Catholic Church is divided between an official church approved by the government, and a subterranean church loyal to Rome. Together the two have some 130 bishops, Cervellera said, and of that number, more than 100 are over 80 years old. Hence the government is trying to put itself in a position to dictate the selection of the new generation of bishops.

The Pope's birthday emails

How many e-mails did Pope John Paul receive for his May 18th birthday? Between 22,000 and 23,000, according to Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, who oversees the Vatican Web site. He was speaking at a June 24 press conference on the launch of a new site for the Vatican museums.Celli said the e-mails created a logistical challenge — not responding to them, which is the Secretariat of State’s problem — but printing them out.

Printing? But isn’t the point of e-mail to avoid paper?Maybe, but in the world of the Vatican, that’s not how things work.

An interview with Sr. Jeannine Gramick:

I asked Gramick about the split in the Anglican Communion over the ordination of a gay bishop, and if she worried about pushing the Catholic church, at least in the United States, towards a similar rupture. She replied that unity based on injustice is false.I then asked if Gramick had read Philip Jenkins’ book The Next Christendom, in which he argues that the demographic shift in Christianity towards Africa, Latin America and Asia will push the church in a conservative direction. What if the global church is not prepared to adopt Gramick’s view of homosexuality?Gramick said this is a dilemma for her — do you want democracy in the church if you lose the vote? But deep down, she doesn’t believe this is how things will shake out. She is convinced that her positive stance towards gays and lesbians will carry the day.

Hong Kong bishop continues to fight for democracy

The implications of the Supreme Court's ruling on molestation cases in California

It's scary how smart little kids are, how they are just taking everything in and you don't even know it. I tell these stories, not to brag on Joseph, for I think probably every toddler on the planet is just as observant. It's simply astonishing, though, and makes you wonder what we're teaching them, what we're not, and what we could be.

Joseph is barely two. 25 months old on July 4, he'll be. Three examples:

A few weeks ago, we went to a festival (enough with the festivals! Okay. Just one more) on a downtown plaza, in the shadow of a bank building, where little kids were invited to do fun activities. As I've been watching little kids do for twenty years now. Anyway, one of the featured players was the mascot of our local baseball team. The team is the Wizards, but the mascot is a dragon. A big, green goofy looking dragon. Joseph, given the opportunity to introduce himself, was terrified. Wouldn't get near the creature.

A couple of weeks later, we were driving by the same plaza, and Joseph calmly said, "Dragon dere." Mind you, we were on a street opposite the green stretch of grass where the dragon had been, mind you that the place was empty, no longer filled with booths and people - and he still recognized it.

Last week, we were cutting through the parking lot of our performing arts center which is, not exactly a notable-looking building. It's built of greyish brick or stone, I believe, and has no external adornments. Joseph said, out of the blue, "Katie pianny teacher dere."

A month ago, I'd taken him and Katie to a performance of Smokey Joe's Cafe that featured ...Katie's piano teacher on, well, piano of course.

This one is almost embarrasing, but maybe not. We were driving, and we passed the remnants of an accident on our left. There were two police cars. Joseph looked out the window and said, "Bad boys, bad boys."


Thursday, June 26

It's been the week of southern political figures passing on: Maynard Jackson, Lester Maddux and Strom Thurmond.

Maybe these things do happen in threes...

Ah...a typical FootWayne Thursday evening. Big trip up north to join the crowds thrilling to our big new Sam's Club, with a stop on the way back by the first night of the Greek Festival at Headwaters Park. For those of you who have not been following this blog since, say, last summer, you might want to know that the horror of winter up here produces a great need to just be outside once the mercury hits 60 or so. This takes many different forms, among them the "festivals" which are held every weekend, it seems, at this big park built over a flood plain downtown. Last week it was barbecue, week before was German, I think, and this weekend it was the Greeks. The most striking sight at these festivals to me is always that of men walking around with their (usually) empty plastic pitchers of beer (pitchers emblazoned with name of the festival of the week) hooked through a beltloop. That, plus this area's favorite fair food - huge, gross pork tenderloin sandwiches with brown breaded patties flopping over the bun - were the most memorable visions that met me my first year in Fort Wayne, and which I'll probably associate with this place the rest of my life.

Anyway, stopped by the festival, listened to Greek music, ate the spinach-feta-phyllo thing, then a cheese-phyllo thing, drank beer, and watched Joseph run his legs off. I also had the great privilege of taking him up one of those big, air-filled puffy slides, (Michael did it last time at...what was it...a Spice Festival. In a different place, but a FootWayne festival, nonetheless) which was a challenge because I was barefoot and the way up to the top was slick as oil from the rain and humidity, and Joseph wouldn't climb up, so he had to be carried, and so I got a bonus exercise session today. Three times.

Nancy, how will you ever be able to tear yourself away from these excitements?

(And in case you're wondering why I've decided to call this place FootWayne, it's because that's the way Joseph pronounces it, and it strikes me as not inaccurate.)

A battle for converts in Chiapas

Evangelicals" have converted almost 40 percent of the population, almost entirely at the expense of Catholicism. Only 61 percent of Chiapas is Catholic, the lowest anywhere in Mexico. Hatred and distrust abound between Protestants and so-called "traditional Catholics," who aren't Catholics at all in the usual sense. They practice a mixture of Maya and Roman Catholic ritual, reject the Bible and hire shamans to ward off evil spirits that cause illness or sin. Nowhere is the mysterious meld of Maya-Christian credo more visible than in San Juan Chamula, in the dreamlike interior of Church of St. John the Baptist, their patron saint. Mounds of pine needles cover the floor as Chamulans flock to the house of worship, then kneel amid candles and incense that cast clouds of blinding smoke. The only sacrament received is baptism. Meanwhile, evangelical Chamulans, living in shantytowns around San Cristobal de Las Casas, eschew alcohol, chant piercing gospel songs, dance to tambourines and clap thunderously in a trance-like state. In the past four decades some 30,000 Protestant converts have been violently expelled from Chamula alone. The forced expulsions continue, and about 170 evangelical children still are banned from public schools for fear of religious "contamination."

And don't skip the part about Islam....whew.

Amid their other business, the Supreme Court today said that states can't retroactively strike down statutes of limitation

Here's the decision

The Dallas drive to get their bishop to resign has been launched.

Barbara Nicolosi saw it.

So I was at a private screening at Icon Productions yesterday, and got to see a rough cut of The Passion. There were about twelve people in the room, including Mel Gibson, his producing partner Steve and four or five other Icon staffers. After the screening, we talked to Mel and friends for about an hour. (As cool as that was, the quality of the film was such that the celebrity stuff was completely gone from the moment. I can't explain it really, except that it would be like standing in the Sistine Chapel next to, well, someone like Mel Gibson. Great art is a great leveler....) The rough cut we saw obviously didn't have the final score or special effects, and there were many more sub-titles than they will have in the finished film.

So, here's my take...

On one of our trips to Chicago, I sat in the car, waiting for Michael to finish paying for gas. We were in a northern suburb, on our way down from Waukegan to Rosemont. In the five minutes I sat there, I probably saw members of five different ethnicities. Caucasian European heritage, an African-American (or maybe Afri-Carribean or Brazilian..didn't hear him speak), a Middle-Eastern man, a carful of teen boys who looked to be Filipino, and a young woman, waiting to cross the street, who was Southeast Asian.

It got me thinking about "diversity" and the constant struggle of the Church, in this country of immigrants, at least, to minister effectively to recent immigrants.

And it struck me, in a way, that the post-Conciliar Church (not really the Council, but the implemenation), was really short-sighted in its vision, and was, in the quick embrace of inculturation and localism, particularly blind to what was really going on the world.

Think of it this way: the emphasis on the importance of the liturgy somehow reflecting local concerns and customs and needs is rooted in a vision of a world made up of static, unchanging communities, a world in which ethnic groups would remain segregated.

Which is not the way the world is anymore, especially in the "First World," and was even the direction in which the world was moving in the early 1960's. The world shrinks, people move, not just from neighborhood to neighborhood, but from country to country, mixing, integrating, dissolving old boundaries, which is happening on a broad social level, as well as on a personal level, as anyone with a life outside their home can see, and as Rod Dreher points out in this Corner post.

So in that context, it might be possible to see the post-conciliar move to "make" liturgy more particular to the local as anything but prophetic. It was not a move that took to heart the realities of modern life, could see that with rapid travel and communication, that the decrease in bigotry and mutual suspicion between ethnicities, that the expansion in human rights would lead to a human family that was becoming, indeed, more like a family. They did not see this, and so worked to create liturgical forms that worked against the reality of the growing unity of humanity rather than along with it.

I am not a Tridentine liturgy devotee at all, but I am an advocate of greater use of Latin in the liturgy. I, like you, have participated in too many multi-lingual liturgies and seen too many church bulletins with long lists of liturgies in various languages not to wonder, "Wouldn't it be easier if we just did (most of it) in Latin in these kinds of communities?"

Certainly, recent immigrant groups will always want - and deserve - their own parish-based communities that can serve their particular needs and give expression to the unique aspects of their religious life that do exist. . The existence of the Latin Mass in the 19th and 20th centuries did not prevent enormous and continual tensions between members of immigrant groups and bishops in regard to their desires for their own ethnic parishes.

But as our society, particularly in the West, becomes far more multicultural and diverse - and in a way that is not segregated, as it was in the past, but is increasingly mixed, it seems to me that it might be time to revisit the issue of liturgy in a way that takes this new situation into account and helps all of us focus on our unity in Christ, a focus we sorely need.

This isn't offered as a practical suggestion, because it's not practical in the least. But it's simply a reflection on the rarely-contradicted truth that even sincere efforts to meet legitimate needs (the greater participation of congregations in the liturgy) can produce unintended consequences (a diminished ability of the Church to present itself as a unifying force in diverse populations.)

Later: Fine. Squabble about whether or not Latin *should* be in the liturgy as is...that wasn't my point. I'm more interested in the deeper issue - was the act of the near total abandonment of Latin (which was not the Council's intention - more of a balance, as was being done in scattered spots throughout the West from the 1920's on) a move that helped or harmed the Church's ability to be a powerful sign of universality and unity? Does language have nothing to do with it?

That hospital windown in MA

And still, they come -- a quiet multitude of Hispanics, Asians, blacks and whites, young and old, a rare confluence of community in this ethnically tribal region. On Monday their cars backed up onto the street as the parking lot overflowed. Peach-colored roses, an angel twisted from gold and silver wire, and a clear plastic jug brimming with dollar bills leaned against the wall below the window. (So far, an estimated $4,000 in donations has been placed in a hospital account for safekeeping, Schepici says.) Some visitors sang "Ave Maria" and prayed the rosary. Others fiddled with video cameras and set up lawn chairs in the parking lot as they waited for the window to be revealed. One woman who has made the hospital a daily ritual claimed her neuropathy had been cured: "It's been a week, and I have no pain." A Russian Orthodox priest with poor eyesight compared the window to an icon, and 19 people who traveled that day by bus from Chinatown in New York, including a woman in her eighties, prayed for world peace.

After visiting his father in the hospital, Steve Perry, 48, looked up, scanned the crowd, shrugged and walked away. "I don't get it," he said, smiling. "I don't see anything except a dirty window."

But Barbara Cesanek, 52, needed no convincing as she peered through sunglasses at the whiteness above. "To me, it's definitely the Blessed Mother. If you follow her arms, you can see she's holding something, and it could be the baby Jesus, and she's standing on clouds," Cesanek said.

Among the believers there are differing opinions as to why here, and why now.Some say she came to warn away Milton Hospital -- which does not perform abortions -- from its recent clinical affiliation with a Boston area hospital that provides the procedure.

Others believe the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese prompted her visit. Others, like Cesanek, say Mary came to warn Boston of an impending terrorist attack. It is not unusual for sightings of Mary, the holy intercessor, to coincide with periods of personal or national distress, such as a poor economy or war with Iraq, says University of Kansas professor Sandra Zimdars-Swarz, author of "Encountering Mary: Visions of Mary From La Salette to Medjugorje."

"In a way, they are crisis apparitions," she says. "The belief is that Mary is responding to some perceived need."

The scientific explanation for some people is pareidolia, or the human ability to see shapes or make pictures out of randomness. Think of the Rorschach inkblot test.

"People all the time see things, like a pattern in the clouds. Does it look like a ship, or a dolphin, or something else?" said Kevin Christopher, a spokesman for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal in Amherst, N.Y. "It gets a little more attention if they see something of a religious nature."

Whatever the explanation, there is no sign of interest in Milton Hospital abating soon. Word spread this week that someone had spotted a cross in the soot of the hospital chimney.

Reminds me of the Clearwater sightings a few years back.

It's summer. Let's tell jokes.

A Jesuit, a Dominican and a Franciscan were walking along an old road, debating the greatness of their orders. Suddenly, an apparition of the Holy Family appeared in front of them, with Jesus in a manger and Mary and Joseph praying over him. The Franciscan fell on his face, over come with awe at the sight of God born in such poverty. The Dominican fell to his knees, adoring the beautiful reflection of the Trinity and the Holy Family. The Jesuit walked up to Joseph, put his arm around his shoulder, and said, "So, have you thought about where to send him to school?"

Contribute your religious order humor here.

Eve has a great, great list of book suggestions for kids, which got me thinking. I'm currently trying to reorganize our books (the combined holdings of two bibliophiles can easily fill a basement, and they do), and I'm running across a lot of great "Catholic" novels that I'd forgotten I had (in addition to the "Catholic" novels that I knew I had and that fill up two shelves in my study) - the Don Camillo books, the Edge of Sadness, and so on. Leaving aside the well-known figures like O'Connor, Percy, Waugh and so on...what were the works of "Catholic" or even just general "religious" fiction, popular or literary, of the 20th century that you really liked and you'd recommend others to read?

I have to admit, I find it fascinating that I've got 40 comments on altar boys and 4 comments on Iraq right now. Is it because it's an issue we feel we have more control over?

And as far as the altar boys go...someone mentioned what is, on reflection, and obvious, not to speak of sad point. Could it be that some parents are not encouraging their sons to be altar boys because...well...they're afraid of the possibility of sexual abuse?

Wednesday, June 25

John Derbyshire quietly reflects on homosexuality and the clergy

Any organization that admits frank and open homosexuals into its higher levels will sooner or later abandon its original purpose and give itself over to propagating and celebrating the homosexualist ethos, and to excluding heterosexuals and denigrating heterosexuality.

The key phrase there is "frank and open." These things I am talking about are new in the world. Catholic seminaries of 50 years ago were not, to judge at any rate from the novels of J. F. Powers, plagued with the kinds of issues detailed in Michael Rose's book, though there must have been lots of homosexuals in them.

In this sense, the problem is not homosexuals or homosexuality. I am sure that God loves homosexuals and has a purpose for them. (I even think that their prowess in the "caring professions" offers some clue as to what that purpose might be.) The problem is the sexual revolution. The problem is hedonism. The problem is the preening vanity and selfishness of "coming out," of parading private inclinations, of a kind that repel normal people, as if those inclinations were, all by themselves, marks of authenticity and virtue, of suffering and oppression. A large part of the problem, too, is "heterophobia" — the dislike, mistrust, and contempt which many homosexuals feel towards normal people.

My own reaction to all this is, well, reactionary. I rather liked the old order I grew up in, where everyone knew that the local vicar or the Latin master was a bit of an iron,* but that he kept his hands to himself and his private life private, and did a first-class job of work in his chosen line. Such a one could be a respected and admired member of the community. That homosexual schoolmaster in my National Review piece was known and liked throughout our town — a substantial place, pop. 100,000 — and widely mourned when he died.

The Rev. Robinson, with his selfish betrayal of two little babes, and Canon John, with his self-important announcements about his "lifestyle" and his bedroom activities, will never have that kind of respect and admiration, certainly not from me.The church that they and their friends are busily colonizing will soon be one that ordinary Christian families will stay away from in droves.

Organized Christianity began as a religion for women and slaves. It looks set fair to end, at least in the Western world, as a religion for homosexuals. The only thing that might turn the tide would be a determined missionary effort by the diocese of Nigeria.

From the comments:

Oh, right. Pastors should never question inerrant church teaching on faith and morals like: the Jesuits using slaves to build Georgetown University, in an era when half of the republic had rejected slavery; the Magdalene Homes in Ireland; selling indulgances until Trent, forbidding theological education to lay people. Yup, the church never changes and has always gotten it right. I seem to recall that here in the comments section of St. Blog's, the orthodox faithful make free to reject the Church's historic teaching on Just War theory. Talk about your culture of dissent.


New VeggieTales movie on the way; but this one won't be religious.

Get thee to a monastery.

A concise summation of Cardinal Law's troubles.

The question that absolutely must be answered is...why?

No longer can Law say that he always acted based on the best medical information available to him. He praised Shanley for ''years of generous and zealous care'' and an ''impressive record'' after a church-ordered psychiatric evaluation found Shanley to have ''a great deal of psychological pathology.''

Furthermore, Law's predecessor had referred to Shanley in writing as a ''troubled priest,'' and one of Law's own priests had written ''it is clear to me that Paul Shanley is a sick person.''

No longer can Law say that his first priority has been the people priests are ordained to serve - the stacks of documents produced yesterday provide no evidence that Law ever expressed a concern or a kind word about Shanley's alleged victims, who number at least 26.

The documents show that Law's administration told a California diocese that Shanley was ''a priest in good standing'' - even as scandals here made it important for the archdiocese of Boston to hustle Shanley out of town - and show that Law's only expressed concern about Shanley's later move to a New York hostel run by nuns was the possibility of negative publicity.

So. Why?

What did the Cardinals and the other Powers stand to gain by protecting Shanley?

What did they stand to lose by dealing with him as he should have been dealt with?

See, this where the "liberal/conservative" and "progressive/orthodox" paradigms of seeing Church problems absolutely fail. Law has been revered by many, many "orthodox" Catholics since his appointment as an upholder of why was he protecting a child predator? Might there be something else at work here that's beyond those easy paradigms?

Another open thread:

Has the presence of altar girls made boys less willing to serve?

Sort of Open Thread for you while I celebrate the completion of my appointed tasks by reading a book outside in the sun. And perhaps your thoughts will help me get mine organized on an issue I've been following closely, even though I haven't blogged about it in a while.


I will start off by simply saying that the situation worries me greatly. I actively search out good news stories from the country, find a few, but still don't have any sense that the administration has a handle on this, and came into this terribly ill-prepared, and the situation is even more worrisome because of what will be required if the building tensions with N. Korea, explode into open conflict , which may happen a lot sooner than we think...

From Georgie Ann Geyer

All this empire stuff on the part of the illuminati of this administration is serious in getting people killed, but barely serious in any planning for the long run. It is heedless, random expansionism without any base.

The hard road to peace

The killing of six British soldiers and the wounding of eight yesterday shows that the war in Iraq never really ended with the capture of Baghdad and the flight of Saddam Hussein. It also demonstrates that, when the British and Americans invaded Iraq, they entered one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

"Remember even Saddam Hussein found this a difficult place to rule," said an Iraqi neurosurgeon yesterday. He had spent the past four months removing bullets and other munitions from the heads of many Iraqis, 90 per cent of them civilians, who have become casualties of the war and its aftermath.

Iraqis still say they are astonished at the ease with which the US and Britain won the war militarily but have been unable to turn this into a political victory. Iraq, even after the stunningly rapid defeat of its armed forces, was never like Germany or Japan in 1945 because its people had never identified with the regime that was overthrown. Instead, they blame the outside world for supporting Saddam Hussein, tacitly or openly, for so long.

In theory, the US and British armies should be in total control of Iraq, yet they remain curiously isolated within the country. L. Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority - as the occupation administration is known - issues confident assertions that the final remnants of Saddam's supporters are being hunted down and life is returning to normal.

But yesterday in Baghdad there was still no electricity in much of the city.

Sitting outside his office in Sadoun Street in the centre of Baghdad - he said it was too hot to sit inside - Abdul Wahab al-Hashimi, a businessman, laughed contemptuously when told of Mr Bremer's claim. He said: "My company owns a lot of property in Baghdad but we haven't collected any rents because we have nowhere to put the money and we would be immediately robbed if we kept it in the office."

In the months before the war, many Iraqis would say privately that they secretly hoped, with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, they might, for the first time since the start of the Iran-Iraq war, have a normal life without military conflict or sanctions. But life in most of Iraq is anything but normal 10 weeks after the capture of Baghdad. The state collapsed and the US has not succeeded in putting it back together again. Instead, it has added another layer of bureaucracy. In one mental asylum in the city patients did not eat for 24 hours last week because the appropriate American official could not be found whose signature was necessary to spend $600 (£360) on food.

Before the war, some 60 per cent of Iraqis were dependent on the UN's oil-for-food rations to fend off starvation. Today, the figure is higher, because the only big employer in Iraq was the government and that has collapsed spectacularly

And this, via Eve

I have two articles to write this morning. They pay, you don't.


Ugandan rebels kidnap schoolgirls

A Ugandan army spokesman, Shaban Bantariza, told the BBC that some girls had managed to escape the night-time attack on their school in the north-east of the country. Twelve girls had been found hiding nearby and were rescued, but between 40 and 80 were still thought to be missing. The United Nations says the rebel LRA has kidnapped more than 5,000 children in the past year alone, using them as soldiers, labourers and sex slaves. Mr Bantarisa told the BBC's World Today programme that the raid on the Roman Catholic school near Soroti was a continuation of the rebels' 17-year brutal resistance movement.

Vatican internet news:

Vatican Museum goes online

and...the Vatican's website is under attack by about 30 hackers every month

"Fortunately, up to now no-one has managed to penetrate the pope's site thanks to a highly efficient team of specialists charged with antivirus protection who have always managed to block hackers' emails," said Archbishop Claudio Celli, secretary for the administration of the Holy See's heritage."Young Americans are the most common and aggressive of hackers around the world seeking to cross the Vatican's e-borders," he continued.

The Vatican must also fend off web surfers who harbour no hostile intent whatsoever, such as an insomniac Franciscan friar mentioned by Celli, who had repeatedly tried to enter the site.

Tuesday, June 24

Two books that focus on the issues we've been discussing are:

Ministry or Apostolate? by Russell Shaw


Full-Time Christians: The Real Challenge from Vatican II by William Droel.

Oh yes. And then there are the Gospels. And the Acts of the Apostles. And the New Testament Epistles.

You may have heard about the recent death of a wide receiver for the University of Pittsburgh's football team, who fell to his death from a catwalk up high in a Catholic church in the wee hours of the morning.

Well, the sad plot thickens as the pastor of the church is suspended by the diocese and investigated by the authorities

Gaines, a University of Pittsburgh football player who had been living at the church with a teammate after their apartment was destroyed in a fire, died June 18 after falling through the rafters and hitting his head on the back of a pew.Authorities said they do not know what led Gaines into the upper reaches of St. Anne Church in Homestead at 2:30 a.m.Earlier that night, he drank alcohol at a cookout at the church, authorities said. His blood-alcohol level was 0.166 percent, or twice the legal limit for driving.

County Assistant Police Superintendent Jim Morton refused to say who supplied the alcohol. He would not comment on the Rev. Henry R. Krawczyk's role but said Krawczyk was the only person of legal drinking age at the cookout.Krawczyk was placed on administrative leave by the Pittsburgh Diocese, effective Monday. A telephone message left for a Henry Krawczyk in Pittsburgh was not returned Monday.The Rev. Ron Lengwin, diocese spokesman, said there have been two allegations concerning Krawczyk and alcohol in the past.

Michael's rosary walk.

When I started writing about these laity issues, I had a simple, even innocuous point: People who are involved in church activities, whether ordained or lay, are generally people who are...well..interested in church activities. They enjoy planning and executing church events and programs. They are nourished by hanging around like-minded people. It would be strange if they didn't, just as it would be strange if a doctor hated the practice of medicine.

There can be unintended consequences of this, however, outcomes that while unintended, should be fully expected and guarded against. The unintended consequence is that the churchy mindset can take over and dominate the tone of the parish or diocese: namely, that the natural end, and highest expression of Christian life is to be "involved" in church activities. Because that's what most of the people planning and setting the tone experience in their own lives, forgetting, in the process, that most people don't have the time or interest to engage in church activities at that level. They are too busy trying to follow Jesus in the midst of their families, their offices and their college classes.

It's simply a caveat offered to all of us. Most Catholics are living their lives with a sincere desire to follow Christ the best they know (which depends, of course, on what they've been taught "to follow Christ" means) in the midst of everydayness. One of the vital missions of the Church is to meet this desire,build on it, expand it, and nourish it, enabling these folks - all of us - to live out their faith more powerfully in the world, not because we want an "active" parish, but simply because the world needs Christ. Desperately. In every corner, not just the parish hall.

Another weird Adamec-related eruption, this one about the priest who founded the Flight 93 chapel in PA

Monday, June 23

Believe it or not - and my husband didn't when I first told him - we went to the zoo again today. Not Louisville, of course, but here in "FootWayne." In case you've not been following this saga, and just so you don't think I'm completely nuts, I bought a family pass which brings us free admission for the rest of the year, which means that going to the zoo, about a 12 minute drive from my house, is just like going to the park, just with sea lions and pigs.

And nothing tires a two-year old fellow out like racing around zoo grounds in 80-degree weather for an hour or so.

Not that I mind. I'd rather go to the zoo than stand at nervous, constant attention by a slide, myself.

Today, we got there as the sea lions (or seals. I'm not sure which. There's a difference right? You can tell the educational placards have a big impact on me) were being fed their buckets of fish, which was fun, and I saw a peahen surrounded by her little brood of ..what...peachicks?...all with the peacock looking over them from his perch up in a tree.

The priest let his eyes wander towards the birds. They had reached the middle of the lawn. The cock stopped suddently and curving his nect=k backwards, he raised his tail and spread it with a shimmering timbrous noise. Tiers of small pregnant suns floated in a green-gold haze over his head. The priest stood transfixed, his jaw slack. Mrs. McIntyre wonderred where she had ever seen such an idiotic old man. "Christ will come like that!" he said ina loud gay voice and wiped his hand over his mouth and stood there, gaping.

Mrs. McIntyr'es face assumed a set puritanical expression and she reddened. Christ in the conversation embarrassed her the way sex had her mother. "It is not my responsibility that Mr. Guizac has nowhere to go," she said. "I don't find myself responsible for all the extra people in the world."

The old man didn't seem to hear her. His attention was fixed on the cock who was taking minute steps backward, his head against the spread tail. "The Transfiguration," he murmured.

She had no idea what he was talking about. "Mr Guizac didn't have to come here in the first place," she said, giving him a hard look.

The cock lowered his tail and began to pick grass.

"He didn't have to come in the first place," she repeated, emphasizing each word.

The old man smiled absently. "He came to redeem us," he said and blandly reached for her hand and shook it and said he must go. ("The Displaced Person" by Flannery O'Connor)

So...we enjoyed the seals, Joseph enjoyed feeding the ducks while I gave geese the evil eye , and the big attraction of the day was the Indiana farm yard, where Joseph patted a horse, goats, and saw pigs, sheep, cows, a huge turkey, and had a conversation with a rooster in which he would yell, "Cock-a-doo-ey!" and the bird would actually respond.

I love watching animals for the same reason I love watching very little children. They are so completely themselves. There is no pretense, no second-guessing, no self-doubt, no mission statements, no policy papers, no committee meetings, no therapy. They just are who they in great purity and honesty.

Which is what God calls all of us, to be, I think, and the reason why faith is so important. When God is the only One to whom we answer, and we live knowing that God is our only judge and our most faithful friend, we can begin to strip away all that inexplicably attaches to us as we grow, and we can look to God as an excited, open-hearted child does, and we can bask in his love, like the sleek sea lion, slicing through the water as if weightless, needing to be no one and nothing but himself.

Left Rail Notes

I have belatedly added Fr. Rob Johansen's Thrownback blog to my links, and have changed the "Life News - US" link to a new, comprehensive service called Life News

Okay, here's the point I was trying to make in the post below, in my typical I gotta write fast until naptime becomes In Between Naps... fashion:

In the post-V2 church, our sense of real connectedness with Jesus (as opposed to each other or ourselves or a stage of social development) through sacrament and the wealth of traditional prayer has diminished, and the importance of "ministry" in lay spiritual life has increased. Which has, it seems, in the US at least, resulted in a scene in which people are regularly left with the impression that the apex of spirituality is being involved in the institutional church.

Which is, if you think about, just another way of pronouncing the old clericalist Baltimore Catechism line, in which a picture of a married couple was captioned, "This is good" and a picture of a religious or priest was captioned, "This is better."

And someone in a comment box commented that well, you know, you'll always have the institution.

Of course you will. The question is, what is the institution for?

Later: I agree with the commentor who asserts that in some ways, the role of the laity has certainly not been expanded the way it was intended by the Council and fleshed out since. The example that immediately springs to mind is a parish financial council, which every parish is supposed to have, and many, many don't. It's that kind of institution, providing checks and balances to the ordained in matters of administration, and present in various forms throughout church history (lay participation in election and selection of bishops; lay trustees of parishes, and so on) that is largely missing from the American scene.

Our baptismal call is not to "ministry." It is - for every one of us - to bind ourselves to Christ and follow Him. That's it.

Where and how we respond to that call varies as much as we do. Some might be vowed religious, but working in a "secular" field, like medicine. Some might be married laity following Jesus in their family lives and in their jobs within Church structure. Some might be ordained serving in parishes, or laity who come to Mass once a week and work at 7-11 for 60 of the remaining hours.

The great movement of the laity that we identify with the modern era evolved for many reasons. The laity were never quite seen as the preferably voiceless sheep that some would suggest. It's simply that before the modern era, most laity were not as educated theologically as were clerics and religioius, so even without ecclesiological considerations it was simply common sense to see the religious and lay as living in different spheres of influence, although, I would have to say, the boundary is often quite fluid. Plenty of women made their spiritual and charitable marks as lay women before moving into religious life. Catholic rulers had a definite and important role in the mission of the Church. Lay people from Thomas More to Frederic Ozanam worked intensely for the Gospel in their own ways.

But in the modern era (which we would date from the Enlightenment), the idea of a distinct and important role for the laity evolved out of the heightened sense of the dignity of the individual and an increasingly educated laity. Lay movements of all kinds, from devotional to charitable to political to evangelical have flourished over the past two centuries as the laity have found their voices, and joined with others attracted to particular charisms to live out the Gospel.

This is not an invention of Vatican II, believe me.

But what happened in the wake of Vatican II was something exceedingly strange. In this country, at least, as boundaries broke down, the emphasis in lay ministry came to be on ecclesial ministry. It did. Trust me. It wasn't that anyone told us we didn't have to continue living the Gospel in the world, it's simply that we got so excited about the possibility of actually be involved in parish and diocesan decision-making that the other, more fundamental call was pushed aside.

And I ask you to honestly consider this, as you've heard it articulated at your parish "ministry Sundays" and Stewardship appeals over the years. What is the emphasis? What is the hope for the parish? The hope is that the parish will be a more "active" one. Now, one could take this to mean that the parish would be more active in the community, would be a more forceful voice for compassion and hope to the suffering, and this sometimes is the case. Most of the time it is a hope that more people will come to meetings to plan things that are taking place on the parish property.

Now, as we have mentioned here before, this is not a situation that calls for one or the other. The parish exists to worship, to pass on the faith, to give comfort to its own parishioners, to minister to them in any way they need. But that is only the beginning. The ultimate goal is that all of that activity nourishes us so that we may be ennobled and strenghtened to follow Jesus in every aspect of our lives: at rush hour, when we sense our neighbor is suffering, when we read about a local community need, when our own children or parents need us.

A couple of stories:

I once sat at a meeting (yes) where a woman who had been active in church for a couple of decades was bemoaning her spiritual emptiness. "I've done everything in the parish," she said. "I've been on the liturgy committee, I've taken classes, I've helped with the social committee..but there's still something missing. I still can't connect with Jesus the way I want to."

Another time, in another parish, I sat in Mass and heard a priest say in reference to the Ministry Fair that was going on and that would be reached by exiting out the left-hand doors. "Those of you who avoid the Ministry Fair and exit from the doors on the right hand side of the church - I am here to tell you that if you do that, you may not consider yourself a Catholic Christian."

I. am. not. making. that. up.

And it is something I saw over and over in so many ways among parish and diocesan workers over twenty years, and it is natural. You get involved in an institution, and you get invested in that institution - as an institution. You judge the success of the place by how financially solvent it is and how busy the parking lot is on weeknights.

One more thing: you might be surprised at the number of people who immerse themselves in church work as a means of specifically avoiding problems in the rest of their lives or somehow seeking to redeem themselves by putting hours into church work without really changing anything about their lives. It happens. People spend long hours at church so they don't have to go home. People throw themselves into the choir or into religious ed as energetically as they throw themselves into sinful behavior outside of church, hoping it will all balance out in the end.

My point? That "lay ministry" is neither terrible or automatically saintly. It just is. It is done by flawed people who come to the rectory office with varied motives and understandings of what they are doing. Which is fine, because that's the way human beings are - read the gospels and check out the apostles, who rarely had a clue as to what they were doing and were never perfect as they did it.

But, back to my original train of thought here. What we need here is not, God forbid, another "program" designed to help lay people understand the apostolate of the laity in the world. That kind of thing always struck me as tragically amusing: Learn how to be a better parent by leaving your kids and coming to church for a six-week study program. Learn how to be a better Christian in the world by coming to church a few more nights a week.

No - it's tone and total message I'm talking about, and in the end, it seems to me to be all tied up with the de-emphasis on the sacramental and traditional devotional life of Catholics.

For you ask...okay...the parish exists, in part, to help Catholics live out their faith in the world. How does it do this? By providing support in times of need. By providing catechesis. And.....through being the place and source of our encounters with Jesus, who is the One who does the strengthening.

When your parish is rich with prayer and devotions of every kind, that will meet your needs no matter who you are and what your inclination - whether you are nourished by Eucharistic Adoration, time to study the Scriptures, rosaries, the Liturgy of the Hours, whatever....and when that parish's Eucharistic liturgies are imbued with a sense that the One we meet here is Jesus and that is the reason we are here, then what that says is that your parish is a place where Jesus can be found, that buzzes with Divine Energy, that bursts with the Love that has the power to change the world....and in your parish, you can be filled with this, at all times, whenever you can, and you can take it and...go out. Combine that with preaching that continually points to the truth of the Gospels, which are not about staying in, but sending forth (as we heard yesterday), combine that with parish committments to do what it can as a body (tithing as a parish, being responsible for various services and charities locally, nationally and abroad), then you have the power of the whole Church - not just the laity, but the whole Church - at work.

But what happened? Our parishes, to a startling degree, stopped being those fountains of prayer, and our Church as a whole, by rapidly and almost completely denuding its life of traditional devotions, left a vacuum. Oh, Catholics still do more than almost anyone else in terms of education and health care for the poor, but I don't think we look at the state of Church life in this country, at least, as say that we have an exactly vibrant sense of being the Jesus in the world...and all I'm suggesting is that might be because we're not being encouraged to meet Jesus in all of his life-changing glory - in the parish.

Michael has extensive reflections on our trip, much more deeply reflective than mine, on taking his son around the grounds of St. Meinrad and other, related matters. Go read.

Ah yes, the traveling Mass report.

We attended Mass at a Louisville parish yesterday. The church was probably built in the 1930's, in the traditional shape, and then ripped up inside, I imagine, around 1985. You know, altar put against the side, pews rearranged in a semi-circle around it. Which, if done well, can work, but it didn't in this case, mostly because of what they had done with the baptismal font and the tabernacle (of course) - the baptismal pool had been constructed in what was now the rear of the Church, but was once the left-hand side altar space, I guess. The problem with it was that it, as well as the parts of the walls surrounding it, were constructed in this gray faux-rock stuff, with water flowing, and so on (and please note, I am all for big, prominent, baptismal pools, although as Michael has pointed out, in the ancient church which supposedly all the liturgists are trying to emulate, these big, tomb or cross-shaped baptismal pools were always in separate spaces - hence the name of the structure called a "baptistry." (Wasn't the Leaning Tower of Pisa a baptistry?)

Anyway, the total effect of this structure was not so much refreshing, sacred waters of baptism but the 11th hole at Putt-Putt.

And the tabernacle was literally stuck in a corner - even I, who can deal with a good chapel of reservation if it's attached to the Church in some way and, ideally, in some kind of dual design where the tabernacle is situated at a dividing point, if you will, giving it a place in one direction, in the church proper, and the other, in a smaller chapel.But here, it was just stuck in the corner - a small metal box with a candle flickering gamely. Weird.

But I have to say, after a very bad start (Visitors stand up and announce yourselves. No we didn't. Are you crazy?), things got much better, even from our vantage point in the uniquely-situated cry room (a glassed in portion of the choir loft). The priest prayed in measured tones and preached...well, he preached a homily that was actually structured, interesting and elevating. Note that first word: structured. He didn't wander. Worked from notes, but not in a stilted way. Preached on "wonder" - wonder at the gift of Eucharist, which is an intensification of our wonder for all God has done, the call to take the Jesus we receive here out to the world...refreshing.

So, how did you celebrate Corpus Christi? Go to Mass?

Or...did you dress up like the devil and jump over babies?

An interesting Spanish observance

A man dressed as the devil leaped over babies lying on mattresses on Sunday as the small Spanish town of Castrillo de Murcia held its traditional Corpus Christi celebrations. While many people across Spain celebrate the Catholic festival with processions and mystery plays, this northern Spanish town has for centuries chosen to protect its young from evil spirits with this unusual ritual. Dressed in a red and yellow costume, the man representing the devil was pursued around the town by a Catholic priest -- leaping over the babies in his flight while the anxious parents stood nearby. In all, he vaulted over around 20 mattresses each holding four or five babies. It is believed that the devil, known as El Colacho, draws all the evil from the children and leaves them cleansed. Parents bring their children from all across the northern region of Burgos to participate in the ritual.

Bosnian is running 35 hours to see the Pope.

Paul Elie in the NYTimes

In the recent past, when the church has had a crisis of leadership, there has emerged a bishop or cadre of bishops who are willing to break from the larger group and restore the church to its senses: Dutch bishops decrying the Nazi deportations of Jews during World War II; Archbishop Oscar Romero reversing decades of church policy in El Salvador in order to denounce the government and champion the poor.

This time, lay people have taken the lead in addressing a problem directly, expecting the bishops eventually to join with them. It has worked, to some degree. In St. Louis, for example, the bishops finally agreed to cooperate with researchers performing a survey about sexual abuse. But it is a sad day for the church when mere compliance is cause for celebration.

The Catholic tradition takes as its starting point the stubbornness of human nature, and goes on to stress the possibility, indeed the necessity, of conversion, urging the believer to be open always to an authentic change of heart. History suggests that change in the church usually follows on the death of a pope or other prominent figure. When Pope Pius XII died, for example, his successor, Pope John XXIII, called for the "opening of the windows" that was Vatican II. Alas, the present crisis will probably pass only with the passing of the current bishops and the installation of bishops who know better than to follow in their footsteps.

For the time being, it is likely that the bishops will keep going along the path they and their counselors have marked. As they return to their home dioceses and the Catholics they supposedly lead, we hope they keep in mind that the church doesn't need leaders so much as followers — that its leader lived a long time ago and walked a very different path, and that their job is to make his leadership known today, not through crisis management but through faithful example. At this point, they may have no other choice.

Thomas O'Brien's pathetic last days as bishop.

I am trying to figure out what the bishops did on Friday and Saturday, which is challenging since I was out of the news loop those days, not to speak of the fact that the bishops were meeting in closed sessions with no press conferences.

Seems to me what basically happened on the abuse front is that bishops ironed out their problems with the abuse survey, generously decided to allow both surveys (of past abuse, and how dioceses are implementing the Charter) to continue and....what else?

One concluding article.

Another one.

And from Michael Paulson of the Globe:

On Thursday, they met in private with members of a church-appointed national review board to discuss concerns some bishops had about a study the board is doing on the historic scope and nature of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests. Both bishops and board members said after the discussion that they are now confident that most, if not all, bishops will cooperate with the study, which is scheduled to be released by January.

On Friday, again in private, the bishops held a daylong "prayerful reflection" on issues that might form the basis for a plenary council, an extraordinary gathering of bishops, priests, and laypeople to discuss the state of the church in the United States. The bishops are divided over whether such a council would be helpful and plan to continue their discussion during a retreat in Denver next June.

Yesterday, Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis gave a report to the bishops in an open session yesterday in which he declared that much progress has been made over the year since the bishops met in Dallas and vowed to remove all abusive priests from ministry and to recommit the church to protecting children from sexual abuse.

Flynn, chairman of the bishops' ad hoc committee on sexual abuse, called the abuse scandal "perhaps the worst crisis in the history of the church in our country" and said that despite a "monumental effort" at change, "there is still a long road ahead of us."

Flynn said that, over the last year, "several hundred priests" have been removed from ministry because they had abused minors, "and this has been very, very painful."

In the Philippines, an apostolic administrator has been appointed to temporarily assume the duties of the bishop being investigated for sexual harrassment.

The Vatican has named a temporary administrator of a diocese in the Philippine capital whose well-loved bishop is being investigated for alleged sexual harassment, Church officials announced yesterday.

Bishop Antonio Tobias will take the place of Teodoro Bacani Jr. in Novaliches district as the latter is on vacation in the U.S. to visit his family, while the charges are being looked into by the Pope, according to Antonio Franco, Papal Nuncio to Manila.

``Bishop Tobias will run the diocese for the time being. We are dealing with this problem of the Church. We are all concerned. We hope that there will be a solution that will be good for the person and the community,'' he told reporters in a briefing.

``The diocese will be run by the Apostolic Administrator even when Bishop Bacani returns. The presence of the Apostolic Administrator is meant to facilitate better consideration and fair evaluation of all aspects of the situation, without pressure of any kind from any sector, in an atmosphere of serenity and impartiality.''

On the way down I read the really delightful, quirky memoir Running From the Devil: A Memoir of a Boy Possessed, written by Ohio guy Steve Kissing.

I got the book at the RBTE a couple of weeks ago - rather, Katie got it for me while I was signing books, and she was going on her rounds picking up books other authors were signing, and I'm sorry I didn't pay more attention to what this particular book was when she set it on the pile, and didn't go meet the author then.

It's a sort of odd book, but in a very good way. I'll pass on the official synopsis:

Running from the Devil is a funny, poignant, almost epic saga. It’s the Prince of Darkness versus the Prince of Dorkness. When Steve Kissing, a quirky kid of the ‘70s, began hallucinating in fifth grade, he was certain Lucifer was waging an all-out war for his soul. But instead of seeking help, Steve stayed silent for fear of being sent away for treatment. Or worse. So he fought back, doing whatever he could to strengthen his mind, his body, and especially, his spirit.

On one level, it's a book that anyone who grew up in the 70's, and especially who was growing up Catholic in the 70's, will appreciate. Kissing had much more of the traditional Catholic school education than I did (I had four years of Catholic education, and none of it traditional), so his memories of things like May Crowning our outside of my experience, but his attempt to find salvation through intense involvement in CYO isn't, nor is his evocation of what it was like to be a Catholic teen in the 1970's.

On a deeper level, though, his story is one that anyone - even if you're not Catholic, and even if you didn't spend your adolescence concealing your strange hallucinations - can identify with. Although it took a very dramatic and rather heightened form, Kissing's struggle was what we all face during those years: being confronted with new, inexplicable and seemingly uncontrollable aspects of ourselves, aspects that we don't think anyone else can understand, and aspects that we are convinced we must handle and figure out all by ourselves.

It's a book that is very funny, poignant, honest and hopeful. And it's got a great cover.

Sunday, June 22

We're back from our little trip, a voyage up and down Indiana, to Louisville and back which had three results:

1. I got a good running start on my research for my next book for Loyola.

2. I decided, for what it's worth, even though we're not moving any time soon, that Louisville seems like a pretty nice place to live.

3. Ditch the Canada trip. I had really, really hoped to take a trip up to Montreal and Quebec City in August, but with Joseph being 25 months old and all, and less and less thrilled with being in the car with each passing day, and with a monster trip to and from Florida with stops in between taking up a good deal of July - I don't think any of us could survive one more stop-and-go drive six hours today so we can spend two days here, then drive another three hours so we can spend two days there, and then - ohmygosh, it's gonna take us 12 hours to get home, even if we do break it up in Toronto.

Nope, not this year. It disappoints me, but there's really no point in spending all that time and money for a lot of time spent trying to corrall a 2-year old. We'll find something else to entertain us during Michael's vacation time. In one spot. With a lot of space to run around.

Random notes and thoughts from the weekend:

Saw something in Louisville I haven't seen for a while: a herd of wealthy southern women, waiting to get their table in a restaurant. It's really such a unique breed, (Louisville horse pun unintended but apt), and I'm too tired right now to dissect it, but really. Something about the hair, something about the casual-yet-pricey clothes, something about the mannerisms - even before they open their mouths and the drawl comes out, that just screams, UK, TriDelt, class of '81, married to KA, same class, Go Cats!

Even though it was Louisville, not Lexington. I'm an SEC girl from way back so I just think that way.

St. Meinrad was quiet and beautiful, although the only part of it I saw was the library. Michael took Joseph all around, letting him run his little legs off, showed him where he was baptized two years ago around this time, the church, the chapel, the shrine, the lake...As I said, I got a good enough start on my research to inspire me and put me in the mood to write this book. And no, I'm not telling you what it's about because I think it's such a good idea that I don't want to let it loose on the world quite yet.

Today we spent much of the day at the very nice Louisville Zoo, free, courtesy of that nifty family pass from our own FW zoo. Michael's sister Ann and her family, plus his other niece Abby, up from Florida visiting Ann, came from Somerset to meet us. There's a lovely, huge, graceful polar bear who really was the hit of the visit for everyone.

Here are some photos from Milwaukee and today in Louisville

Friday, June 20

Tons and tons of interesting links at Christianity Today's Weblog, including horrifying news from Uganda

Last week, Joseph Kony, head of the Lord's Resistance Army of Uganda, ordered his troops to attack Christians in the northern part of the country."Catholic missions must be destroyed, priests and missionaries killed in cold blood, and nuns beaten black and blue," he said on a broadcast Thursday that, shockingly, aired on the local radio network used by the Catholic Church itself.Yesterday, the raids began. About 20 rebels attacked the parish church in Adjumani, taking 29 hostages — including several orphans, who are refugees from Sudan.

E.J. Dionne on This Week in Catholic History

But Keating's resignation reflected his differences with most of the board over strategy. The board is hoping that cooperative bishops will persuade the rest to join them, and it sees public fights with the hierarchy as, for the moment, counterproductive. The board holds a powerful hammer over the bishops: It will produce a report next year, and some board members have made it clear that they will name the noncomplying bishops.

Oddly, Keating's resignation may strengthen the board's hand by making it crucial for the bishops to reaffirm its independence. Precisely because of Keating's credibility with the angriest Catholics, the bishops can ill afford another resignation or more charges of recalcitrance..

But beyond the internal politics is a problem of spiritual leadership. "We're in month 18 of the most serious crisis in the history of the American Catholic Church," says Scott Appleby, a Notre Dame professor of religious history who, along with Steinfels, addressed the bishops last year. "And we have yet to hear from leading figures in the church about how we should make moral, ethical, theological and spiritual sense of what happened.".

Steinfels argues that much of the responsibility for doing this now falls on the lay board: "They have to write a final report that's not just numbers and statistics, but also explains to people why this happened -- and tells the truth." The truth may not protect bishops from lawsuits, but, as the New Testament says, it could make them free..

Got a lecture in a comments box on lay ministry. Let me assure you that I don't require lectures on this score. I have served in parishes and in dioceses in various capacities for almost 25 years. I was a DRE, have worked in music ministry and liturgy, have taught and organized everything from Vacation Bible School to Baptismal Prep classes to Confirmation to RCIA. I have taught in Catholic schools, have served on diocesan commissions and parish councils, and, of course, have worked in the Catholic press.

Most lay ministers are dedicated Catholics, as the commentor stated. Duh. They wouldn't be working weekends and nights (mostly) for paltry and unjust salaries if they weren't. But they are also mostly "churchy" types. Types who actually enjoy hanging around church, doing church things. To most of them, that is the most fulfilling way to live out their faith. In Church.

Trouble is, most people either don't feel that way or don't have the time to engage in such activities. They are too busy out in the world doing stuff, or they feel as parish programs don't meet their needs.

So here's the disconnect, and a disconnect that's totally opposed to the real spirit of VII, and the spirit of the Gospels:

My parish recently had "Ministry Sunday," as yours probably does once a year or so. It was part of a stewardship appeal, four weeks of preaching about our gifts and how we should use our gifts - to build up the Church.. Which was totally the focus of "Ministry Sunday." Your charism as a baptized Catholic Christian was apparently about using your gifts to build up the parish - not using your gifts to be Christ in your workplace or family or social life.

Granted, it's a symbiotic relationship. Parish programs are supposed to be about strenghtening parishioners to live the gospel out in the world. That would, you would think, be the point of religious ed programs or liturgy committee meetings.

My experience is that the interest and inclinations of those in charge - from clerics to lay employees to volunteers - works against this ideal final result. They are churchy types. They naturally think that the end goal of all Christians is really the same as theirs - to get "involved" in Church, so their heads are usually in that space, rather than in trying to really, really encourage those in their charge to go out and spread the Gospel. Their emphasis, in the end, often comes down to stay here and talk about the Gospel.

An example. Ages ago, when I was in college, I was already a churchy-type in the making. I loved my university campus ministry, and was on the core team that planned everything. (Hi Ed! Hi Meggan!) Our goal was always to get more kids involved in stuff at the center. One of the priests, though, wasn't quite on board with us. He didn't seem to support our activities as much as we liked. Instead, he hung out at the dorms, the fraternity houses, etc, being available to those kids, answering their questions, and not making a big priority of "getting them involved" in anything but going to Mass and maybe a retreat if someone would benefit from it. This priest wasn't perfect, but his example, and his responses to us when we challenged him on this - a simple explanation of what I said above - that not everyone is really into "being active" in Church, and those people need to be reached too, so that they can be better witnesses to Christ in whatever they happen to enjoy "being active" in - has stuck with me lo these many years, and been a very useful check on my own enthusiasms and plans and opinions on what I think the rest of the world should be about.

The Word from Rome

First, on the views of some in the Vatican on how the US bishops are dealing with the sexual abuse crisis:

First, the belief that power flows from Christ to the apostles and their successors in the apostolic college, meaning the bishops, is a core Roman Catholic theological concept. As early as end of the first century, Ignatius of Antioch urged the local church to be subject to the bishop. In the third century, Cyprian of Carthage wrote, “The bishop is in the church, and the church is in the bishop.” For 2,000 years, the bishop’s office has been a guarantor of Catholic identity, often in hostile situations; it has, in effect, stood the test of time. Those who believe the episcopacy is a matter of divine intention become nervous when they believe it is threatened.

Second, many in the Vatican believe that the heart of the American crisis lies in bishops failing to do their jobs. It is conventional wisdom in Rome that the American bishops did not need a new charter and norms to combat sexual abuse, that the Code of Canon Law gave them every tool they needed if they had been serious about confronting this behavior. The problem was not law, but will. Some bishops preferred to take the advice of therapists and formation teams and personnel boards rather than taking the situation into their own hands. Yet supervision of priests is a core episcopal responsibility; a bishop, according to the traditional theology, is supposed to be both a brother and a father to his priests.

Hence seen through Vatican eyes, the solution is not for America’s bishops to “pass the buck,” whether to independent advocates or national boards, but to step up and do the job that bishops have been ordained to do for 2,000 years. Ceding authority looks from this perspective not like a healthy dose of democracy, but malfeasance.

Plus, interesting stuff on Methodists and Catholics, liturgy and the EU.

Catholic reformers today:

An interview with VOTF president James Post


A long profile of Roman Catholic Faithful's Steve Brady.

I invite you to compare and contrast. What, if anything, unites them, do you think?

Articles on yesterday's bishops' sessions:

(Remember, today's are closed, with no press conferences afterwards. Because, you know, we're all about transparency)

From the Washington Post:

Roman Catholic bishops from California and several other states agreed today to provide information on the extent of child sexual abuse in the church after researchers promised to make "purely technical" changes in the way the data are collected, organizers of the study said.

The agreement by the holdout bishops, reached behind closed doors at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops here, clears the way for the $250,000 study to proceed without changing its goals, Washington lawyer Robert S. Bennett said.

"No questions have been changed, no expectations have been lessened," said Bennett, a member of the National Review Board, a panel of prominent Catholic lay people established by the bishops a year ago to examine the sex abuse scandal and monitor the bishops' response to it.

....California's bishops, who had voted in early May to call for an immediate halt of the study, issued a statement saying they were "impressed with the responsiveness and professionalism" of the researchers from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "Next week, each diocese in California will undertake the reporting process for the survey," the statement said.

In the spring, the researchers sent a lengthy anonymous questionnaire to all 195 U.S. dioceses with the goal of determining how many priests have been accused of sexual abuse since 1950, how many victims they had, how their cases were handled and how much money the church has spent on legal fees, counseling and settlements with victims.

Kathleen L. McChesney, a former FBI official who heads the church's new Office of Child and Youth Protection, said the researchers agreed today to code some of the information on accused priests to protect their identities while ensuring that they are not counted more than once if they served in multiple dioceses.

No names are used in the survey, and the results are to be made public at the end of the year only in the aggregate, without a diocese-by-diocese breakdown. But bishops in California, Illinois and some other states had questioned whether the priests could be identified by their date of birth, ordination and other details, violating state privacy laws and possibly contributing to lawsuits.

Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the pope's ambassador to the United States, opened the conference by urging the bishops to persevere in the face of adversity. "We all know that we are going through difficult times and that some real problems within the church have been magnified to discredit the moral authority of the church," he said.

That tone was echoed by several bishops at a mid-afternoon news conference. Anytime priests and bishops show "feet of clay, it's an opportunity for people who don't like what we teach to say we're hypocrites," Bishop Joseph A. Galante of Dallas said.

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan of Brooklyn said that the sex abuse scandal has "distorted the image of the church" and that "nobody knows the real story of what the church has done" to feed the poor, care for the sick and house the homeless.

Why, oh why is it so difficult for these people, who make a living of preaching personal responsibility, to accept responsibility? Why can't they say, "Our actions and the actions of the predator priests we have protected have conspired to conceal the real good that the Church does. Further, our actions have now put much of the good that the Church does in many dioceses at risk as services are cut because of financial problems brought on by our actions and, perhaps the potential pool of those interested in serving in leadership in the Church as priests is diminished as young men look at the way we do business and determine that this isn't something they want to be a part of. We're sorry that we made this destructive mess"

And form the NYTimes

In the only sessions open to reporters, the bishops never discussed the abuse scandal. Instead they debated policy statements on American agriculture, Native Americans, deacons, women and laypeople.


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