Tuesday, May 20

Gates Foundation gives $$ to Cristo Rey schools

Impressed by the success shown by a network of four Jesuit high schools in working with urban teenagers, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and another major charity pledged $19 million today to bolster the schools and export the model to 12 additional cities.The Cristo Rey schools, as they are known, began in 1994, and now include schools in Portland, Ore.; Austin, Tex.; Los Angeles; and Chicago. The new money is intended to expand the program to New York City, Cleveland, Denver, Tucson, the Boston area and elsewhere.

In a telephone news conference announcing the donations, Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education for the Gates Foundation, praised Cristo Rey schools for reversing the trend toward shuttering Catholic schools in the inner city.

In a Chicago neighborhood where 62 percent of the students do not make it to graduation, some 85 percent of the Cristo Rey students graduate, and all of this year's graduates are going on to college, said the Rev. John Foley, who founded the schools.

Mr. Vander Ark said the unusual business model of the Cristo Rey schools also intrigued the Gates Foundation. To meet expenses, the schools double as temporary employment services. Students work without pay five days a month in entry-level jobs at local businesses, which pay the schools roughly $25,000 a school year for their services. The money offsets operating costs, and the jobs provide the students with work experience.

"They're small and personalized, academically rigorous college prep programs," said Mr. Vander Ark, who praised the schools for exposing teenagers to the business world and instilling in them a "culture of respect and responsibility."

Bishop Grahmann responds:

Recently, the life of reconciliation underwent a dramatic test for Christians in the Dallas Diocese. With the wise counsel of our coadjutor bishop, priests and laity responsible for assigning our clergy and after much discussion, I came to a difficult decision. I approved the assignment of a priest who, some years ago in another country, failed in the priestly virtue of chastity – he fathered a son. Repentant of his sin and forgiven by God, he continued his priestly service in a selfless fashion for more than 20 years.

[editor's note: During which he was sued for child support and was repeatedly told by the LA Archdiocese to stop exercising priestly ministry.]

Now, after years of a blameless ministry, Monsignor Ernesto Villaroya was assigned to another parish. When his 20-year-old sin was discovered, some people appeared with sacks filled with rocks to stone him. It seemed that there might be no forgiveness, no compassion, no reconciliation and no acceptance. While I can understand their concern, I thought of the scene in the Gospel when Jesus came upon the woman caught in adultery who was about to be stoned by another group. Jesus addressed the group, asking that those without sin cast the first stone. No stones were cast. As the group slowly departed, Jesus asked the woman if there was no one to condemn her. Her reply was no. Then Jesus said, "Neither will I condemn you. Go and sin no more." (John 8:10)

The scene described is no different than in our diocese. But the outcome threatens to be a contradiction to what Jesus did and taught.

After 2,000 years, we seemingly haven't been able to put into full practice the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We just can't get rid of those stones. If St. Francis of Assisi or St. Augustine of Hippo showed up today, we probably would stone them. They did some pretty bad things but repented.

The message of the Gospel isn't that complicated: mutual love; being the first to love; loving everyone, especially the sinner, the poor, the one ostracized; being ready to die for the other according to the example of Jesus. Jesus had some strong words for the hypocrites: On the outside they all are shiny, but on the inside they are filled with dead men's bones.

If I could go through our deliberations again in this case, I would add one more step to the process. Besides consulting with Monsignor Leon Duesman, the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Frisco, I would have invited the parishioners to an open meeting and discussed with them the details about the priest's background before finalizing the assignment. We know that a priest can't minister effectively in a community where he isn't received. Currently, the reaction is mixed. I am hoping more parishioners will agree to give him a chance in the spirit of reconciliation.

It is exactly this spirit of the Gospel that the million young people at World Youth Day wanted to live. At the heart of it was reconciliation. They wanted to be part of building a new kind of world, a civilization of love. Maybe we older people simply have missed the heart of the Gospel. Maybe it will take the young people to destroy the stones in our bags.

It was the right thing to assign the priest to his new ministry. God is saying something: Throw away those stones!

Click here for the story that provides the details in this case.

A response at the CWNews blog begins:

What could one possibly say that could be bad enough about this piece by Bishop Grahmann in the Dallas Morning News? The Bishop's decisions flowed from the purest evangelical motivations, but, sadly, are being obstructed by a mob of unconverted, judgmental, stone-lugging Laity. Not a WORD about the fact that the good people of Saint Francis Parish were already deeply suspicious of the Diocese because their previous pastor was unceremoniously yanked without even the chance to say good-bye, let alone an explanation, despite their repeated entreaties over months. Not a syllable about the fact that this was a situation in which a rape allegation had been raised, in court, only to be dismissed because it was brought too late....


Nothing like trying to "read" two Cloned Jesus novels in one evening......

I guess there are worse ways to make a living, though...

All right. We've covered 6 Feet Under.

What about South Park's take on a fetal-blood-sucking Christopher Reeve, as described in a letter that Mark Shea reprints?? (permalinks don't seem to function correctly - scroll down to Monday, May 19 and the post entitled, well..."South Park pro-life?")

Oh...and what about Malcolm in the Middle's family foray into church for the sake of free day care? I didn't see it but a reader wants to know if we think it was blasphemous or no....

Chime in early and often...

A priest ministering in the Dominican Republic has a blog....

Via Dappled Things via Eve

From The Christian Century, a response to Jonathon Rausch's "apatheism"

Many intellectuals associate religion--and Christianity in particular--with violence. Hence they argue that the less religion we have the better off we will be. In an article in the Atlantic, for example, Jonathan Rauch argues that the greatest development in modern religion is "apatheism"--a sense of not caring one way or the other whether God exists. The best of all possible situations, says Rauch, is to be indifferent toward religion, whether you are religious or not.

On the pages of this journal and elsewhere, I have argued the opposite. If we strip Christian convictions of their original and historic cognitive and moral content, and reduce faith to a cultural resource endowed with a diffuse aura of the sacred, we are likely to get religiously legitimized and inspired violence in situations of conflict. If, on the other hand, we nurture people in historic Christian convictions that are rooted in sacred texts, we will likely get militants for peace. This is a result of a careful examination of two things: the inner logic of Christian convictions and actual Christian practice. In his book The Ambivalence of the Sacred, R. Scott Appleby argues that on the basis of case studies, and contrary to widespread misconception, religious people play a positive role in the world of human conflicts and contribute to peace--not when they "moderate their religion or marginalize their deeply held, vividly symbolized and often highly particular beliefs," but rather "when they remain religious actors."

Even if this argument is sound (as I think it is), we still need to ask why misconceptions about the violent character of Christian faith abound.....


Here's what's going on

I'm trying mighty hard to keep my head straight for the next week and a half. Anyone who has children knows that the end of the school year can be brutally challenging in keeping-your-head department. We got through our first recital - Katie's piano - last night. She played two pieces - a Carillion Fantasia and a duet of Little David, Play on Your Harp with her teacher - the teacher really wanted me to play the duet with Katie, but I respectfully declined. It's funny. I've led music groups in church, in front of hundreds of high school kids, cantored, played guitar, but somehow, playing piano is a whole different animal to me. I quit taking piano when I was in high school because the recitals made me so nervous. I guess it's because mistakes seem so much more...obvious on piano. And believe me, Katie's teacher did a far better job than I would have.

Now we've got various medical appointments for David before he moves, his last few golf matches, Michael's trip out of town for part of this weekend, our trip to Chicago in the middle of next week, then David's graduation from high school on the 30th (with accompanying visit by his older brother, which will be very nice), then David's departure down to Virginia on Saturday, where he will be living with his dad and attending Virginia Tech in the fall, followed, finally, by Katie's dance recital that night and her last day of school and attendant celebrations on the 2nd.

And in all of that I'm supposed to be revising a manuscript, writing two columns, a book reviews, an issue of My Daily Visitor and..oh yes...being all contemplative to release my creativity.

Fat chance, I say...

From the Publisher's Weekly Religion Newsline:

Books about nuns crowd publishing:

A number of publishers are getting into the "sister act," with no fewer than five recent releases about Catholic nuns. The topic seems to be taking off even as the numbers of women choosing that religious life continues to decline--or perhaps precisely because of that fact,as most of the new books take a historical look at a way of life
that's becoming increasingly rare in the 21st century.

But don't expect saccharine stories of ruler-wielding women confined to Catholic school classrooms. Two new books tell the tales of strong, independent women bucking authority in the turbulent 1960s. "Witness to Integrity" (Liturgical Press, Mar.), the only title from a Catholic publisher, recounts the clash between Los Angeles Cardinal James McIntyre and the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which led some of the sisters to form a breakaway,independent community. Former mother general Anita M. Caspary combines her personal narrative with archival materials previously not available to the public.

Moving from the West Coast to Appalachia, the story is echoed in "Mountain Sisters" (Univ. of Kentucky, June). There, the Glenmary Sisters became frustrated with hierarchal restrictions that affected their ability to serve the largely non-Catholic rural poor and, once again some separated and formed a secular group. One issue was the nuns' outmoded clothing, which church authorities refused to allow them to abandon. "Many Appalachians had never seen a Catholic nun before and were frightened of the habit," explains editor Jennifer Peckinpaugh.

The distinctive dress worn by nuns has long fascinated Catholics and non-Catholics alike, not to mention Hollywood (remember the Flying
Nun?). Writer Elizabeth Kuhns looks at the history and symbolism of starched wimples, long, dark dresses and flowing veils in "The Habit" (Doubleday, Sept.). With illustrations that span centuries, the book concludes with the present-day debate about whether to return to the habit.

Looking forward as well as back is "Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America" (St. Martin's Press, Jan.) in which "Wall Street
Journal" reporter John Rialka uses the Sisters of Mercy as a model to describe how "America's first feminists" helped shaped the U.S. church and to explore the challenges facing orders as they become older and smaller.

Despite their declining numbers, nuns continue to inspire. In
"Stalking the Divine" (Hyperion, Sep.), Kristin Ohlson writes about the Poor Clares, a tiny congregation of cloistered, contemplative sisters in Cleveland. Captivated by their mission of praying 24/7 for the sorrows of the world, Ohlson paints a positive portrait of women who gave up the world--and did so joyfully.

Next time church politics get you down:

Count your blessings:

Police now say they are convinced that at least two people were behind the arsenic poisonings at a small church that killed a man and sickened 15 other people, and have narrowed their list of possible suspects to six to 10 parishioners. The victims drank tainted coffee after the April 27 worship service at Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church in New Sweden. Five days later, a longtime worshipper, Daniel Bondeson, shot himself in the chest and left a suicide note that convinced investigators he was involved in the poisonings and may not have acted alone. Investigators have since obtained information substantiating their belief that the crime involved two or more members of the church, Maine State Police Lt. Dennis Appleton said Monday. "....
There are about 50 regular churchgoers at Gustaf Adolph, and investigators have concluded that at least 40 of them were not involved in the poisonings, Appleton said. But he described a group of six to 10 people who are still considered potential suspects.

From Scientific American:

The Bible Code is Really True!

No, not really.

Predictably, in 1997 Drosnin "discovered" such current events as Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, Benjamin Netanyahu's election, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9's collision with Jupiter, Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, and, of course, the end of the world in 2000. Because the world did not end and current events dated his first book, Drosnin continued the search and learned--lo and behold--that the Bible predicted the Bill and Monica tryst, the Bush-Gore election debacle and, of course, the World Trade Center cataclysm.

Just like the prophecies of soothsayers past and present, all such predictions are actually postdictions (note that not one psychic or astrologer forewarned us about 9/11). To be tested scientifically, Bible codes would need to predict events before they happen. They won't, because they can't--as Danish physicist Niels Bohr averred, predictions are difficult, especially about the future. Instead, in 1997 Drosnin proposed this test of his thesis: "When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I'll believe them."

Australian mathematician Brendan McKay did just that, locating no fewer than nine political assassinations secreted in the great novel, along with additional discoveries in War and Peace and other tomes. American physicist David E. Thomas predicted the Chicago Bulls's NBA championship in 1998 from his code search of Leo Tolstoy's novel. He also recently unearthed "the Bible code is a silly, dumb, fake, false, evil, nasty, dismal fraud and snake-oil hoax" from Bible Code II ,

Keeping up with Iraq

Ethinic flare-ups in the north

Following new evictions and the burning of two Arab farm villages, Arab irregulars attacked the regional government building in Kirkuk at the weekend and battled Kurdish forces in the streets with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. Officials say at least 10 people were killed.Several destroyed villages - Albu Saraj, Jamboor, Al Behar and others - were seen by reporters along the main highway through the Kirkuk area. Residents of larger towns said efforts to eject Arab residents occur daily. Major Robert Gowan, a spokesman for the US military in Kirkuk, said: "We are trying not to allow any forcible evictions. We are trying to stop people from being killed. We want to freeze the situation in place and have property disputes settled by some kind of court. But this is a very tough, emotional issue."

US troups ambushed in N, Iraq

Looking for WMD's

Bremer says US working hard in Iraq

Shi'ites encourage US to hurry up and leave

Bahgdad womens' concerns

A guide to Iraq's Shi'ite clerics

The need for zero tolerance for Ba'athists

Martin Kramer wonders about the fellow chosen to be in charge of advising the writing of Iraq's constitution:

I am not persuaded by all the testimonials collected by the New York Times, from people who think that Noah Feldman is just the right man for the job. In an interview with the BBC, he was reported to have said that the United States "should back [an] Islamic Iraq." In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Feldman warned against excluding "Islam-inspired politicians" from government, and added this: "An established religion that does not coerce religious belief and that treats religious minorities as equals may be perfectly compatible with democracy. The U.K. is a democracy notwithstanding the Church of England." Well, the Shiite clerics in Najaf and Karbala are not the Church of England, and as a collective they can hardly be described as ecumenical. That sort of analogy, the stock-in-trade of Esposito, obscures much more than it enlightens.

And it leaves me wondering whether Feldman might be just the wrong man. Last night I attended a public lecture by Kanan Makiya, who stated that an Islamic republic in Iraq would be "a sure-fire formula for civil war." In the first chapter of After Jihad, Feldman argues that Algeria might have been spared its traumatic civil war had the Islamists been allowed to assume power. It's an open question. But Iraq is not Algeria, and an attempt to establish Islam in Iraq's far more diverse society could provoke a civil war. It could also undo U.S. strategic achievements: Islamists, even the cheery Islamists of Turkey, have not been great friends of U.S. security interests. It would be tragic if what now looks like a victory were to be turned into a defeat, by our own lawyers. Feldman might know the feeling: I see that during the recount of the Florida presidential ballot in 2000, he went down there as a volunteer, and ended up as chief legal researcher to the Gore campaign. Feldman must know that the rules are half the contest, even in the most perfect of democracies. So why stack them against your best friends—and yourself? The United States is not an umpire, it has an interest in the future of Iraq, and its appointees on the ground have a duty to protect that interest. The completely disinterested promotion of democracy should be left to NGOs and Jimmy Carter.

A lengthy analysis of the post-war situation in the Washington Monthly by Phillip Carter the proprietor of the highly respected Intel Dump blog

Hunger Gnaws at Ethiopia


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