Wednesday, January 29

Cool Pro-life stuff here.

Vignettes from Catholic school life:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeopardy + Nebraska = Love

Wal-Mart is taking over the world.

But you already knew that.

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

Jesus Sells.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Lord.

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

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

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

Vignettes from Catholic school life

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

Oh yeah. I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Lady of Perpetual Posting, Pray for Us!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Law's attorney questions judge's remarks

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

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

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

A chronology of Christianity in Japan.

Next time you think about desecrating a nativity scene….

Think twice

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

No, not that Jessica Lange...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How wildly appropriate...

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

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

And she’s like, shocked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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