Sunday, January 26

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

But no:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

200 march in NH against McCormack

Now this one, I'm torn about:

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

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

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

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

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

Love at Goon Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saw a couple of movies this weekend. Barbershop was okay, a harmless slice-of-life kind of movie, notable, as you might know even if you’ve not seen it, for one character’s screeds against the modern civil rights movements, inveighing against Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson and the reparations movement. Jesse Jackson and others pressured the filmmakers and the studio to edit those scenes for the video release. It’s not even worth discussing, is it? The comments were totally in character and were clearly understood as much by the other characters in the movie, who argued with him, heckled and shouted him down as he went on. There’s not much that aggravates me more than people who insist on seeing artistic expression as prescriptive in one sense or another. There are lots of levels at which you can argue with the promotion or presentation of a piece of art: should a particular book be assigned reading in schools that profess to be Catholic? Should taxpayers’ money support the display of a certain piece of art that might offend large numbers of them? Should there be controls on how available and accessible certain films or television shows or channels are?

That’s a different argument. But when it comes down to the content of the movie or book or painting itself, those who create those things can censor themselves for any reason they want – the realities of the market included, which they do with great frequency – but it’s just silly for outsiders to go to work and put demands on those who create.

A Beautiful Mind:

Finally saw it last night, and this is what I thought:

They did a great job with Russell Crowe’s makeup as he aged. Seriously. Most impressive.

But as a whole? Even without reference to the hash they made of Nash’s life and the realities of his mental illness (outlined here – in short, he was hospitalized many times, not once, his presence at Princeton during the 70’s and 80’s was not as benign and charmingly eccentric as the movie makes it out to be, there was another child, born out of wedlock, and most importantly – his wife divorced him in the early 1960's - they remarried later, but still...), the movie was your typical, simplistic Ron Howard job which leaves no surface unscratched, and that’s about it - no serious efforts to ask questions about Nash’s illness in the context of his unique brilliance and explore what both tell us about the life of the mind.

Not a few times in the past, pro-life gays and lesbians have been prohibited from walking in the March for Life under their own banner. March leaders have even had them arrested for doing so.

Thankfully, that didn't happen this year, and the group was allowed to march.

Now, this is just wrong...

From a John Allen article in NCR:

Religious orders and Catholic movements have joined the antiwar push. The Community of Sant’Egidio organized marches for peace in dozens of cities around the world Jan. 1 to coincide with the papal peace message. The most dramatic gesture came from priests of the Comboni order in the Italian region of Puglia, who refused to celebrate Mass on the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6, as a sort of “eucharistic strike” to protest against preparations for war.

So...eucharist is...a commodity. A tool. I can't think of an incident that better exemplifies the wrong-headed notions of Eucharist that pervade our Church. Not even clown masses. Nope. Not even that.

Cardinal says he thinks Novak's efforts will fail

A top Vatican official has predicted that Michael Novak, an American Catholic intellectual asked by the U.S. government to try to persuade Rome of the morality of a possible “preventive war” in Iraq, will fail. Cardinal Walter Kasper, in an exclusive Jan. 24 comment to NCR, said with respect to a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq, “I do not see how the requirements for a just war can be met at this time.” Asked if he thought Novak’s mission to persuade the Vatican could succeed, Kasper responded: “I don’t think so.” “I am of the opinion of the pope himself, and of the Secretariat of State, of the Roman Curia,” Kasper said. “I do not think all the methods of peaceful negotiations, of diplomatic relations, have been exhausted.”

The laity get involved in Dallas, revealing the details of deal:

Five and a half years ago, reeling from weeks of embarrassing testimony about cover-ups and the largest clergy abuse judgment in history, Dallas Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann cut a secret deal to resign.

It wasn't Pope John Paul II forcing his hand, however. It was a group of influential laymen threatening to publicly denounce him – a group that today, concerned about resurgent scandal in the diocese and the bishop's refusal to yield to his Vatican-appointed successor, is finally talking.

This is not the way things ordinarily work in the hierarchical Catholic Church. "Telling a bishop what to do is very contrary to our mentality spiritually," says the group's leader, D Magazine publisher Wick Allison.

....Mr. Allison's group of businessmen and corporate lawyers say they began pressing Bishop Grahmann in August 1997, starting with a meeting at the Tower Club, high above downtown. In addition to Mr. Allison, those present included lawyers Daniel Hennessy and William McCormack, investor Mike Maguire and James M. Moroney Jr., retired publisher of The Dallas Morning News and former chief executive officer of its parent company, Belo Corp. In recent interviews, they all confirmed various elements of the following account but largely deferred to Mr. Allison for elaboration.

A jury had recently concluded that diocesan leaders conspired to conceal the Rev. Rudolph Kos' predations, and it assessed the church a penalty of nearly $120 million. Four things, the lay group said in a series of communications with the bishop's office, now had to happen, and three quickly did:

The bishop dropped plans for an appeal. He fired Randy Mathis, the defense lawyer who had taken the Kos case to trial in the face of much damning evidence. (Mr. Mathis continues to represent the diocese in other abuse lawsuits.) And he removed the pastor of All Saints parish, the Rev. Robert Rehkemper, who had blamed parents for letting Mr. Kos molest their children.

But Mr. Allison and other members of the group say Bishop Grahmann dug in his heels on the fourth point, his resignation.

San Bernardino Diocese publishes victim's story

The Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino is responding to the church sex abuse scandal in an unusual way: It published a victim's firsthand account and is distributing a video to its parishes to raise awareness.

Wish it weren't "unusual" to do such a thing.

A close look at Bishop McCormack's stance in abuse cases

A Globe examination of thousands of pages of internal church records make clear that McCormack, now bishop of the Manchester, N.H., diocese, was an administrator whose first sympathies frequently lay with his brother priests. With him, their words often carried greater weight than those of their victims.

As Law's secretary for ministerial personnel, McCormack's practice was to confer directly with an accused priest, but he frequently heard the victim's story only by proxy, through an aide's written report. When he did come face-to-face with victims, McCormack sometimes reacted to their charges skeptically, and even dismissively. In one case, he told a parent that a priest could not have molested children, when he knew otherwise.

He gently directed accused priests to lawyers and therapists and seemed especially solicitous of his seminary classmates, sometimes clearing the way for their return to ministry despite evidence in church files about their sexual misconduct.

''There was never an intent by Bishop McCormack to protect a priest to the detriment of a victim,'' McCormack's spokesman, Patrick McGee, said last week. ''His job was twofold: to help the victim and assist the priest. The balance is hard to measure.''

Look for posts later (maybe during today) about: A Beautiful Mind, Barbershop, Love at Goon Park and maybe at least one religion-related thing...

Army chaplain training camp at Fort Jackson, SC

Ousted S. Illinois priest lives in lavish digs


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