Monday, March 10

At the WSJ, Brendan Minter does a good job of putting the Vatican's position in context

The pope is right to say "war is always a defeat for humanity." But this universal principle is no vindication for Saddam Hussein. It is the Iraqi dictator who has caused this defeat by pushing civilized nations to the brink of war.

The pope's reference to nations that "place their trust in nuclear weapons" isn't so much a jab at the United States--the Senate, after all, just last week unanimously approved a treaty with Russia to reduce the two nations' nuclear arsenals. Rather it is aimed at Iraq, Iran and North Korea--the axis of evil--and any other nation bent on nuclear blackmail.

All this is partly the reason why the Vatican has been careful to argue that the coming war is immoral, stopping short of "declaring" it so. That is an important distinction, for it recognizes that--as just-war theory spells out--it is President Bush who must bear the moral obligation of defending his nation. The Vatican doesn't carry that burden; its role is to offer advice.

....That is about as far as President Bush should want the Vatican to go. Not having the church in favor of invading Iraq helps clarify that this is not a war of religious domination. And a call for all nations to adhere to moral principles can't hurt in the broader effort against terrorism.

See now, this is what I'm talking about.

My questions about the coming war with Iraq haven't slowed, and they are too complex to go into one more time five minutes before Tuesday, when my blog is supposed to turn into a pumpkin.

But I'll just say that one of the things that bugs me - note that term - bugs me. Not "is an airtight argument against war" or "is a defense of the status quo" - is the plain fact that the United States spent a lot of time in the 1980's helping Saddam Hussein build up his regime, and, more importantly, build up his power to bring harm to the world via biological and chemical weapons. He was, quite simply, perceived and treated as a hedge against radical Islamist states, secularist that he is.

In the delicate world of diplomacy, total honesty and transparency is too much to ask for and even ill-advised. But it seems to me that when you're making the case to wage war against a regime you helped sustain for a time, a clear explanation of what has changed and why we should trust that this - not that - is the right thing to do is called for.

The Bush administration evidently has no interest in doing this, but Jeff Jacoby does a good job here.

I am a great admirer of Reagan, whose conduct of foreign policy overall left the world a freer, safer place. But there is no way to prettify his handling of Iraq. It empowered an evil and brutal tyrant, gave free rein to his aggressive megalomania, and treated his human rights atrocities as an unimportant side issue. Had Reagan (and Carter and Bush I) seen Saddam first and foremost as a dangerous, destabilizing cutthroat rather than a "balance" to Khomeini's Iran, there is no telling how many lives might have been saved.

But why is any of that an argument against doing the right thing now? If America played a role in entrenching Saddam's dictatorship, isn't that all the more reason for it now to take the lead in toppling that dictatorship? If US foreign policy for too long disregarded the suffering of the Iraqi people, is it not good news that US policy now makes that people's liberation a priority? Are American presidents forever barred from denouncing a vicious oppressor and leading a war against him because some of their predecessors neglected to do so?

Of course not...but it makes it difficult to trust what's being presented as the right course of action now when so many of the president's essential advisors on this, if not the president himself, were involved in the earlier appeasement....

George and God

From Fred Barnes and the Weekly Standard

Michelle Cottle in The New Republic

Resigning Bishops Beat:

Bishop of Tuscon (72) resigned last week

Seems as if the Bishop of Norwich, CT (who is 75) is announcing his retirement on Tuesday.

Both are due, although Moreno of Tuscon is a little young, his health is apparently failing. Both dioceses have their troubles - Norwich announced staff reductions today - but...what diocese isn't, these days?

Hart of Norwich to be replaced by Michael Richard Cote, currently the auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Portland, Maine

Unresigned Bishop Beat:

Adamec defends himself

Remember, for all of your hierarchy needs, go visit the invaluable Catholic Hierarchy website, where a mere click of a mouse can tell you who was bishop of Morelio, Mexico in 1674 or who's being ordained bishop of Nyahururu, Kenya on March 25, 2003.

Domincans plan to open novitiate in Iraq

Father Neuhaus on just war and Iraq

Christopher Hitchens on "the religion of peace" - Christianity.

Yes, he's being sarcastic. Fight about it here.

One wonders what it would take for the Vatican to condemn Saddam's regime. Baathism consecrates an entire country to the worship of a single human being. Its dictator has mosques named after himself. I'm not the expert on piety, but isn't there something blasphemous about this from an Islamic as well as a Christian viewpoint? I suppose if Saddam came out for partial-birth abortions or the ordination of women or the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle he might be hit with a condemnation of some sort.


Joseph is always exhausting, but this evening especially so. From about 6 on, he was plain berserk, racing around the house like a Mad Baby, throwing stuff, screaming bloody murder when Katie wouldn't let him swipe her glasses off her face (and yes, she has glasses now - nifty little wire rims. She looks like such a brainy young lady, sitting there on the couch in her glasses, nose buried in a book.). Around 8, he just started wailing, and even though it was a mite early, I started The Process, which lasted until about 9:30, with several back and forths from our bed to his, stories, water, and lots of tossing and turning. Why not just throw him in his bed and let him cry, you ask? Because he'll cry so hard that he'll throw up, that's why. Which he did tonight after I thought he'd fallen asleep and had tiptoed out to quiz Katie on her social studies and continue through the Gospel of Mark with her...I didn't hear him weeping until he was well into it, which means, quite simply, he was a mess. At least I hope that's why he threw up, because if there's another reason, I swear to heaven I am never, ever going to say, "Gee, this writing project is going so well...I have all the time in the world.." AGAIN.

But anyway. Michael's feeling poorly,so he's also retired, everyone else is in bed or puzzling over calculus, and you know what? It's still Monday.

Grown-ups saving kids:

In Florida, an uncle saves his nephew from an alligator

In Arizona, a brave woman saves a 3-year old from an abduction.

Hang on to your kids, and watch out for each others', too..

Someone just wrote me and said that her high school aged children returned from a church (Catholic) youth-group sponsored lock-in over the weekend to report that

a) Hide and Seek and Capture the Flag had been played and enjoyed in the church

b) relaxation massage had been taught and practiced by the kids on each other - mostly in boy-girl pairs.

I ask you.

Bad week for Catholic high school religion teachers:

Arizona religion teacher fired for handing out Valentines that said "I hate you. I wish you would die."

Pennsylvania religion teacher and married deacon jumps to his death after running of with a 15-year old girl

Thomas Lemmon, a 37-year-old married man with two teenagers of his own, fled from his school and his family shortly after presiding over Ash Wednesday Mass this week. He had been confronted by school authorities that day with concerns about his relationship with a 15-year-old girl he had been counselling through her parents' divorce.

Again, with the Catholicism 101 for the reporter - a deacon would be presiding over a prayer service, not a Mass.

A minor point, though, in a very sad situation, made a bit sadder by the school's assistant principal's lingo of choice:

"It's difficult because the deacon had all of our trust. He obviously made some mistakes," said Ken Salem, the school's assistant principal. "We have to explain to students that just because representatives of the Church made a mistake doesn't mean they should lose faith in the Church."

Let's hope the kids learn that this was a bit more than a "mistake."

Reporters and other interested parties wade through the mass of documents released in New Hampshire, and what they're finding:

How the law cooperated with Church cover-ups

the role of alcohol

From the LA Times (LRR), an article about "Safe Haven" laws designed to prevent abandonment and killings of newborns...and how too many still don't know about the option.

In California, which has had a safe haven statute since 2001, officials are about to unveil the second phase of a $1.7-million drive to publicize the law. In Los Angeles County, all county vehicles will soon bear bumper stickers that read, "Don't Abandon Your Baby." But as these efforts are launched, a number of experts are questioning whether the safe haven concept works."We're having more babies abandoned than ever before," said Debbe Magnusen, founder of Costa Mesa-based Project Cuddle, which runs a 24-hour hotline for women who are hiding pregnancies or contemplating abandoning babies.

Yesterday was the Rite of Election for catechumens and candidates, so chances are that your local paper will run an article with the theme "Heaven knows why anyone would become Catholic now...but some are anyway."

From Albany, where the reporter needs some lessons in Catholicism 101

and from Boston

Vatican announces 12 canonizations to occur this year

Mostly founders of religious orders.

Catholicism in Cuba

Cardinal Jaime Ortega issues pastoral letter

Communists claim him for his anti-colonial fervor, and dissidents claim him as an inspiration for political reform. But Father Felix Varela was first and foremost a man of the church, Cardinal Jaime Ortega reminded Cubans in his most recent pastoral letter.Last month, on the 150th anniversary of Varela's death, Ortega released the 27-page epistle, calling for the spiritual values Varela inspired -- hope and compassion. He tackled a range of topics, from high abortion rates to national reconciliation and the desperation that leads many to leave the island. The letter, which many describe as his most candid snapshot of Cuban society, addresses the heartache of divided families and the stress of balancing a legitimate government job with work in the black market just to make ends meet.

Castro attends convent opening

"Without the help and generosity of Comandante Fidel Castro we would not be here today," said Mother Tekla Famiglietti, Abbess of the Order of Saint Bridget founded by a 14th Century Swedish mystic.The event was attended by two cardinals, the Pope's envoy Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe and the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, and Italy's deputy foreign minister Mario Baccinni. But the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, was notably absent, pointing to tensions between the church's leader in Cuba and the Castro government, which the prelate publicly criticized in a recent pastoral letter.

Remember Bishop McCarthy?

They say he's retired, but no one's really sure what happened.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Shrub Oak, where McCarthy served as pastor from 1996 until June, included a brief note about McCarthy's fate in its bulletin for this weekend's Masses. The note says Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Vatican's representative in this country, has informed Cardinal Edward Egan that McCarthy's official church status is now that of "retired bishop." ....

McCarthy's status has been the subject of steady speculation across the archdiocese since his stunning resignation in June as pastor of his parish and as an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese. He resigned at the end of a four-day period during which Egan received a letter from a woman saying she had an affair with McCarthy, McCarthy admitted to several other affairs and Egan suspended McCarthy from acting as a priest.

Since then, McCarthy has become a bit of an outlaw bishop. He refused directives from Montalvo to do penance for an indefinite period at an institution in the Midwest and to permanently leave his house in Hopewell Junction in Dutchess County, which is within the boundaries of the archdiocese.

Just last month, McCarthy visited the Vatican, where he met with Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who heads the Congregation for Bishops and is often mentioned as a possible future pope. Nothing was resolved in the meeting, according to McCarthy associates.


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