Tuesday, January 28

Police storm Mt. Athos monastery

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

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

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

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

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

Another onsite report by a blogging Marcher for Life

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

Vignettes from Catholic school life:

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

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

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

Here's my point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vignettes from Catholic school life:

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


Patrick Sweeney has a review of Miracles up on his blog

Vignettes from Catholic school life:

(Part 1 of a series.)

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

Audible, group gasp rises from classroom.

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

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

Mark Steyn. On abortion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I wrong? Tell me.

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

From a reader:

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

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

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

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

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

One more note:

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

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

A reader asks in a comment:

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

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

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


Catholic education, continued:

Let me pause and give you my credentials:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weeping Madonna's tears dry up.

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

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

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

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

Amy's confused.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


-- Allow your sexual feelings and desires into awareness.

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Churchgoing Hispanics do better in school.

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

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

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

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

How the Shanley case was handled:

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


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