Tuesday, June 3

Been thinking a bit about the Brideshead Revisited thing. Someone hinted at this in the comments. Although the proposed adaptation sounds deplorable, it is not so because it is a total evisceration of the work, but because it takes one thread of one aspect of one character's views and makes it the point of view of the entire work. For you see, to Charles, through much of the book, God is the villain, isn't he? As the Flytes pursue their strange, varied paths, they do so in dialogue, sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but always there, with God and their sense of what He wants and demands. But of course, that leaves out a lot. It leaves out the other characters' perspectives and sense of their own actions, and it leaves out the overarching perspective of the narrative.

A shame to take such a rich work and render it into simplistic drivel.

I want to re-recommend The Agonist to you, whether or not you ever visited there before, or if you were put off by the whole Stratfor thing. It is now a sort of group blog, totally news oriented (with opinions exchanged on the site's bulletin board), with a focus on global news. It really is the best way to keep informed on global happenings, that is, if you can take a more or less constant diet of bad news. Which the world is full of these days, from Nigeria to the Congo to the Middle East to Colombia, it seems....

Indianapolis Archdiocese cuts jobs, may sell Archbishop's residence.

The archdiocese isn't alone in facing financial concerns. Earlier this year, a shortfall in the United Way's fund-raising campaign led to a round of $2.3 million in cuts for social service agencies in central Indiana.

How a Catholic school is becoming a public charter school

(From the Dallas Morning News, Link requires registration)

For more than a decade, St. Anthony Catholic School in South Dallas scratched out an existence, surviving on donations, grants and its can-do spirit.

St. Anthony's hand-to-mouth survival took its toll. Debts mounted. The roof rotted. Twice, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas tried to shutter St. Anthony, and each time the community rallied to save the little school. Just to stay afloat, St. Anthony needed to generate about $1 million a year in gifts and grants. Now St. Anthony leaders think they've found a way to secure the financial future of their school for generations.

On July 1, St. Anthony will become a state-funded public charter school. The change will, for the first time in 15 years, give St. Anthony a reliable source of income, school leaders say.

But that security isn't cheap.

In exchange for state dollars, St. Anthony must make the ultimate sacrifice. Come July, St. Anthony Catholic School can no longer be Catholic. ....Mrs. Kratz said the decision to become a public charter school was one of the most difficult of her career. Ultimately, it came down to this: What is more important – keeping St. Anthony Catholic, or keeping St. Anthony open?

Helping make the decision was the simple fact that only four of the school's 152 students are Catholic.

"It's really our only option," Mrs. Kratz said of the conversion. "It's the kids who are important."

....When Mr. Burrell heard the news, the teacher and administrator's heart sank. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he was just beginning his fifth year at the South Dallas school. He said that he knew immediately that the switch to public charter meant he'd have to find another job. "I really felt like we had turned a corner, and that I was part of it," Mr. Burrell said of his years at St. Anthony. "Spiritually and emotionally, I have a lot invested in this school. This is where I started, and I never thought that I would teach at any other Catholic school in Dallas."But in the fall, he'll join the faculty at Jesuit College Preparatory High School, where he'll teach theology. Ultimately, he said, he could not abandon his Catholic teaching. "It's what I want to do," he said.

Pete Smith, St. Anthony's social studies and religion teacher, is leaving, too. Although he does not know where he'll be working, he knows that teaching in a nonsectarian public school is not for him. "If St. Anthony can keep its identity, then yes, it's a worthy trade-off," Mr. Smith said of the decision to accept public tax dollars. "But for me, it means a lot to teach in a Catholic school."

Some parents are conflicted about the change, too. While they generally like the thought of not having to pay tuition anymore, many enrolled their children in St. Anthony for the structure and discipline that Catholic schools have traditionally taught. "I dread the thought of them not being able to pray in the morning or go to Mass," said Tracy Reed, vice president of the school's PTA. "If it were up to me, I'd rather pay the tuition" and keep the religion. "But we know this has to happen, and we've accepted it."

Milwaukee Archdiocese sells closed church to Assemblies of God

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has sold the buildings and land of the former St. Joseph's Parish in Cudahy to an Assembly of God church, likely ending a nearly four-year fight by some former parishioners to save the parish.The group - whose appeal of the parish's merger and closing was rejected earlier this year by the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's highest court - said its canon lawyer in Rome was reviewing other options.

.....But Topczewski did confirm that 30% of the price was being financed by Nativity of the Lord Parish at a rate of 73/4%. The term is for up to five years or until the purchasing church sells its current building.

Proceeds from the sale will go to Nativity Parish. But the financing arrangement did not sit well with former St. Joseph's parishioners who opposed the merger, most of whom did not join the new parish."This is corruption," said Angela Scaffidi, who grew up in St. Joseph's. "How can the archdiocese take money from the parishioners and use that money to help Protestants buy a Catholic church that the St. Joe's parishioners paid for and are trying to save?"

Thanks to a commentor for pointing out the Boston's Globe not-positive reivew of the 6FU finale:

Of particular offense was:

Claire's journey to heaven with her father was particularly awkward. It offered a poignant moment, as she sees her troubled former boyfriend, Gabe, finally at peace, but it also raised a gnawing question. Claire encounters her baby in heaven, supposedly the child she gave up[my emphasis] a few weeks back in an abortion-clinic sequence that had horrific cattle-call overtones. By presenting Claire's ''choice'' as a baby, was Ball trying to make a big statement about fetuses and the morality of abortion? Or was he showing Claire resolve her own guilt, as the ghost of Lisa agreed to care for the ghost of Claire's boy? It was a distracting issue.

Fascinating. Our commenters here have been remarking on the subtle, indifferent horror of the abortion clinic scene, and the decidedly negative final impression of the whole thing that these two episodes have left, and we're accused of letting our perceptions be skewed by our pro-life views.

Maybe it's not just our prism, after all.

For those unafraid of the unborn, here's a Newsweek article on the chain of ultrasound imagery joints called Fetal Fotos.

No accompanying photos, though, of the "gorgeous" images. Surprise, surprise.

In case you haven't yet, you should read Peter Maass' story in Slate about his Baghdad interpreter, whom he discovered, upon returning to the US, was Baghdad blogger Salam Pax

Michael and I will be signing books at the Rosary Book and Gift shop in Lansing, MI on June 14 from 1-3, I think.

Here's a link to a view of the inside of the new rosary booklet we wrote.

Interesting piece from Reason on The flap over On the Road to Baghdad starring Franklin Graham

(The last joke brought to you in honor of Bob Hope and the late Bing Crosby's 100th birthdays last month)

The evangelical equivalent of the Swine Flu scare seems to have arrived Tuesday, in the form of a Page One article in The New York Times, titled, "Seeing Islam as 'Evil' Faith, Evangelicals Seek Converts." In that story, reporter Laurie Goodstein sits in a how-to-convert-Muslims seminar from Arab International Ministry that sounds like a hybrid of the Two Minutes' Hate and everybody's worst nightmare of an Amway meeting. "You can tell me Islam is peaceful, but I've done my homework," says AIM's mysterious headmaster.

.....But these alarms over evangelical missions in Iraq overlook two points.

The first has to do with religious freedom. Proselytizing, converting, passing out literature, importuning people with your witnessing, even vituperating rival religious beliefs, may all be fairly irritating in practice, but they are also essential to the very concept of freedom of worship. A countryside dotted with motivated, suspiciously cheerful missionaries is a signal that religious liberty is in good shape. Certainly a faith as total and dynamic as Islam can withstand the relatively feeble attractions of a few born again missionaries.

....The second point is less obvious, but will be familiar to anybody who has seen how the evangelization process works in Arab communities: When evangelicals proselytize Arabs, they don't focus on Muslims but on Christians. Specifically, on followers of the traditional eastern churches—Orthodox, Coptic, eastern-rite Catholic, and so on—that occupy small minority positions in the Middle East.

.....That evangelicals may be coming to save their congregants is hardly welcome news to leaders of these churches, who are already occupied trying to make sure things don't get any worse under a newly empowered Shi'a Muslim social order. In interviews for this story, U.S. representatives of the various Iraqi churches, to varying degrees, deplored evangelical efforts among Christians. "They concentrate 100 percent on Christians," says Reverend Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, bishop of the Chaldean diocese in the United States. "They never proselytize Muslims."

Excellent piece .

Catholic high school vows to stay open

Last year, Archbishop John J. Myers pledged a decreasing subsidy of $500,000 to the school over three years with the understanding that the school would find a way to become self-sufficient by the 2005-06 academic year.But a spokesman for the archdiocese said last week that the school's bills for the current academic year already exceeded the $500,000 intended for three years."There was no possibility in the endgame where the school could keep operating," said the spokesman, James Goodness. "Their actual needs far exceeded what we had set aside."

Now, a group calling itself Save Bishop Francis Essex Catholic has begun fund-raising efforts in an attempt to save the all-male school, which has been an attractive alternative to public school for many black and Hispanic students in this working-class suburb of Newark.Stung by the archdiocese's change of heart, the group has struck a defiant tone, palpable last Friday at the school's graduation ceremonies. "With the archdiocese's support or without the archdiocese's support, Bishop Francis Essex Catholic High School will live on," the dean of students, Amod Field, said in a speech to the graduates.He said that the school would reopen in September and that a local real estate developer had pledged to buy or lease the campus from the archdiocese and turn it over to the school.

More on O'Brien

In particular, O'Brien, 67, promised to delegate his authority in sexual abuse cases to two new administrators: a "moderator of the curia" -- roughly equivalent to a chief of staff -- and a "youth protection advocate." According to the agreement, they are responsible for reporting allegations to the police and enforcing the diocese's sexual misconduct policy.

Romley said that if O'Brien, or his successors as bishop, intervene in the handling of priests accused of sexually abusing minors or the priests' alleged victims, the prosecutor's office has the right to reopen the case and bring criminal charges.

"I've got the hammer over his head forever. He signed on behalf of the church," Romley said in a telephone interview.

Some Catholic lawyers, however, questioned whether O'Brien had the right to sign away the powers of the bishop's office, and whether such an arrangement would be constitutional.

"A bishop of the Roman Catholic Church does not have the power to permanently redefine the powers of a bishop. He can agree himself not to do something, but he can't bind his successors to do something that is contrary to Roman Catholic canon law," said Patrick J. Schiltz, dean of the law school at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.

"A specific plea agreement would not necessarily raise a constitutional problem. But an agreement that carries beyond Bishop O'Brien, that applies generally to the office of bishop in that diocese . . . is starting to edge toward the constitutional line if not going beyond it," said Douglas W. Kmiec, dean of the Catholic University law school in Washington.

From the Arizona Republic:

An immunity agreement intended to bring an end to the lingering sex abuse scandal in the Phoenix Diocese turned instead into another dramatic showdown Monday between Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien and County Attorney Rick Romley.The bishop and prosecutor took sharply differing stands about the meaning of the agreement, which is believed to be the first negotiated by a senior Catholic Church leader to avoid possible criminal indictment in connection with covering up sexual abuse.

O'Brien insisted that a key 82-word statement he signed in return for immunity from prosecution fell far short of an admission that he covered up sex crimes by priests in the Phoenix Diocese and endangered children."I certainly never intentionally placed a child in harm's way," O'Brien said at a news conference Monday afternoon. "To suggest a cover-up is just plain false. I did not oversee decades of wrongdoing."

Romley reacted angrily to the bishop's remarks. "Is he revising history?" Romley said. "Did the bishop fail to understand the confession he was signing? Did he fail to understand that he needed immunity? If he continues to lie about everything, I'll have to consider whether or not that's a breach of our agreement."

Another twist in the Pius XII controversy:

Why did he help Nazis escape?

Yet there is one important Holocaust-related matter where I think Pius clearly did act at variance with traditional Catholic teaching about justice and how the ends must never justify the means. I am referring to Pius's role in assisting Fascist war criminals to escape to South America. By and large, Pius's advocates have played the ostrich when it comes to the Vatican's "ratline." Denying Pius's complicity in the church's smuggling of Nazi and Croatian Fascists out of Europe flies in the face of incontrovertible evidence. Uki Goni's The Real Odessa (Granta Books, 2002, second edition) provides the conclusive documentation. Using previously unavailable material from the Public Record Office in England and from the U.S. National Archives and Record Administration, Goni clearly demonstrates that Pius knew that ecclesiastical institutions in Rome were hiding war criminals. "The British dossiers...show that the pope secretly pleaded with Washington and London on behalf of notorious criminals and Nazi collaborators," Goni writes. Why did Pius help these murderers escape justice? Because he was convinced they would carry on the fight against communism elsewhere. It turns out that Pope Pius was one of the first cold-war warriors.

In fact, the ratline conforms to a pattern of Vatican postwar action. Pius sought clemency for Arthur Greiser, who had murdered thousands of Polish Catholics and Jews (the Poles executed him anyway); and for Otto Ohlendorf, head of one of the notorious Nazi mobile killing squads (U.S. Military Governor General Lucius Clay rejected the pope's appeal, saying that Ohlendorf was guilty of specific, heinous crimes); and for other mass murderers. After the war, the U.S. State Department complained that the Vatican was uncooperative in expelling suspected war criminals from Vatican City. The Vatican knew that Croatian Fascists brought looted gold with them from Yugoslavia after the war, but did not report this to the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold.

What do these jarring facts tell us about Pius? Why would the leader of a church that supported the state's right to use capital punishment plead for the lives of mass murderers? If Pius was so saddened about Europe's Jews—as he wrote Bishop Preysing in 1944—why did he later help their killers escape? Why have advocates for Pius's canonization failed to address the ratline issue? Wouldn't it be better for them to admit the facts and then place these failings in the full context of Eugenio Pacelli's life? Perhaps his advocates can make an argument that, because of the Communist threat, the ratline does not disqualify Pius from sainthood. That argument has yet to be made, however.


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