Wednesday, June 4

Make me care about Martha Stewart. Make me care about Hillary Clinton's book.

I dare you.

A reminder....

Here's the official website for the Pope's trip to Croatia

Safe, legal, blah,blah,blah

Tell it to the dead baby killed by the doctor on the lam.

Good news:

Partial-birth abortion ban passed by House

Andrew Sullivan is glad, but some at The Corner have legal issues.

At NRO, read about about why pro-lifers do what they do, even Senators seemingly talking to no one on the Senate floor.

...because saving one life is worth it.

A UPI story on various Protestant/Anglican ministers crossing the Tiber... or the Bosporus or the Mississippi.

Whichever way the dissidents prefer to flee, though -- across the Tiber, Bosporus or Mississippi -- one thing is certain: hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions will "depart of fairer waters," as the Rev. Christopher Hershman of Allentown, Pa., phrased it, should the ELCA adopt an unbiblical approach to sexuality at its 2005 Church-wide Assembly, as many expect it will.As all mainline denominations have to deal with the same issue, expect some of them to implode or erode to the point of irrelevance. More important, though, expect help from the southern hemisphere, where orthodox Christianity -- Protestant and Catholic -- is growing robustly, and whence black, brown, and yellow missionaries fly north, thundering into the ears of their American and Western European brethren: Hold it, you have lost your way.

There's a big article today in the WSJ that is available only to subscribers, unfortunately, that's about Mark Belnick, highly successful lawyer, counsel to Tyco, International, a Fr. McCloskey convert and now under investigation:

In July 2000, Mark Belnick, then the top in-house lawyer at Tyco International Ltd., received a $2 million payment toward a $12 million bonus. For Mr. Belnick, it was the latest reward in a meteoric legal career that ran from some of the highest-profile business cases of the 1980s and 1990s to Tyco, a hugely successful conglomerate and Wall Street darling.

Today prosecutors say that payment bought Mr. Belnick's silence about the looting of Tyco by its extravagant former chief executive, L. Dennis Kozlowski. Mr. Belnick, facing criminal charges, has become one of the most celebrated casualties of the recent wave of corporate wrongdoing.

But few people know just what he did with that $2 million. Almost immediately, he gave most of it to a small Catholic college in California and to the Culture of Life Foundation, a Catholic pro-life group in Washington, according to e-mails to and from Mr. Belnick at the time and interviews with people involved with the donations.

Three months earlier, Mr. Belnick, formerly an observant Jew, had quietly converted to Catholicism and become an active supporter of Opus Dei, a conservative group within the church. While prosecutors accuse his boss, Mr. Kozlowski, of taking millions from Tyco to buy artwork and posh homes and to entertain friends in Sardinia, Mr. Belnick was using some of his allegedly unlawful Tyco haul for an entirely different purpose. In addition to his donations to the Catholic college and foundation, he gave money to a Catholic television network, two parishes and an Opus Dei bookstore and information center. It was all part of a midlife transformation that Mr. Belnick, the former president of a suburban Westchester, N.Y., synagogue, long kept secret from most of his friends and even his own family.

For Mr. Belnick, two journeys intersected at Tyco: He became embroiled in one of the messiest corporate scandals ever, and simultaneously pursued a sudden conversion and devotion to Catholic philanthropy.

It's an interesting article, although I'm really not sure what the point is beyond information, and the information is fascinating, offering, among other things, the Rest of Us glimpses into the world of Hot Shot Catholics...

I was sent the piece via email. If anyone knows how to get general access to it, let the rest of us know, please.

Here's the link. Thanks, Jim!

Praying the Rosary now available!

On controversial canonization efforts:

(namely Queen Isabella and Pius XII, in particular).

Why bother? This is what I don't get. There are plenty of Catholics, plenty of Catholics who aren't saints, plenty of Popes who aren't saints. Plenty of Catholic rulers with mixed records who aren't canonized saints, and ...that's okay. In relation to Pius XII, as one commentor pointed out, it's barely half a century since his death...what's the rush? This whole business of sorting out the historical record of the Church, and particularly the Vatican in the years leading to, during and after World War II, would be far less contentious if it weren't tied to even the hint of canonization.

Saints are always complicated people with flaws that they would be the first to tell you about, but a situation like this is different than considerations of Escriva's temper or Mother Teresa's doubts. As the Commonweal article pointed out, Pius XII made decisions that were often the best he could do in a terrible situation and some that were rooted in more parochial concerns. And there's a lot we still don't know because not all of the archives have been opened.

But why the push for canonization? Who is it coming from? Is it coming from the masses? Is there a huge cultus forming around the cause?

Not that I've heard of. It seems as if the push for Pius XII's canonization is coming from the Vatican, for whom the canonization would function as a blanket exoneration of Church failures during this period.

O'Brien won't surrender power

He's delegating, not relinquishing....

On Monday, Romley had said the 14-point agreement effectively removed O'Brien from having anything to do with sexual abuse allegations in the diocese."I have attempted to take the authority over sexual abuse allegations away from Thomas O'Brien," Romley said. "He is out of the picture."

[ed. note: Let that sink in, with all of its unknown consequences...]

Romley vowed to go to court to revoke the immunity agreement if O'Brien ever again became involved in handling sexual misconduct cases.But the bishop insisted Tuesday that no civil authority could strip him of ultimate responsibility for church policies, including the monitoring of sexual misconduct accusations. "I have to know what is going on," O'Brien said. "If a priest abuses a child, I have to know that. You wouldn't want me not to know about that, would you? I would have to know because I would have to take them out of the ministry."O'Brien said he will rely on his new aides to determine the credibility of sexual abuse allegations and will act on their recommendations. That has been his policy for more than a decade, he said, and it will not change.

"That's been the case for the last 14 years," he said. "Other people made judgments about the credibility of allegations. I have not done that. But when they come to me and say, 'Bishop, there's evidence that this man has abused a child,' then I take action."

From the Weekly Standard:

The only good church is a dead church

Interior Secretary Gale Norton recently announced a grant of $317,000 to help preserve an aging edifice of historical importance to the nation. Whereupon Americans United for the Separation of Church and State objected. Why? Because the group sees a manifest violation of church and state in the new policy under which the Park Service made the grant. The edifice happens to be Boston's Old North Church, where Paul Revere got the signal that the British were advancing. And the Old North Church still is--as a horrified Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United, told reporters--"an active church." Were it inactive, were it one of the dead cathedrals of Europe--if its 150 members had dispersed to other churches--why, in Mr. Lynn's reckoning, the grant would be fine.

The fascinating end of Liszt

“Saint Stanislaus,” which Liszt began composing in 1874, is a thrillingly strange piece that sways between the mundane and the arcane, as the composer’s later music often does. What happened to this artist in old age is one of the enduring mysteries of musical history: the former showman of the European salons rocketed off into regions that no other nineteenth-century composer, not even Wagner, came near. The journey had much to do with Liszt’s increasing immersion in the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, in which he had taken four of the seven holy orders by 1865 (including Exorcist). He determined to revive archaic modes of plainchant and Renaissance polyphony, and imposed upon them experiments in alternative scales and unconventional harmony. The result is a sound that is unsettling even to modern ears.

....Liszt wrote some of “Saint Stanislaus” while staying with Wagner in Venice, in late 1882. Wagner had only a few months to live, but he was still in command of all his faculties, not to mention his cruelties. He told Cosima that her father’s newest music, which he probably heard floating through the walls of the Palazzo Vendramin, was a symptom of “budding insanity.” More perceptive was an earlier comment that Liszt’s dissonances seemed to display a certain self-disgust, as if the composer were compensating for his youthful excesses. There is something to this. Many observers were suspicious of the suddenness with which the debonair superstar of the Romantic piano—the epicenter of the phenomenon that Heinrich Heine dubbed “Lisztomania”—made himself over as the black-clad Abbé Liszt.

But he was no charlatan. Even in his decadent, dandyish days, he had worked at his faith, and in old age he became that rare Christian who practices to the hilt the principle of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. He was generous beyond the bounds of what seemed credible. Most of the century’s major composers profited from his enthusiasm—even those who denounced him. He gave lessons to hundreds of pianists and never charged money. He sent large amounts to total strangers who importuned him in the mail. When staying in hotels, he often let his manservant have the more luxurious room. His spirituality, in other words, took the form of concrete action. Here was the root of his difference with Wagner, who was self-absorbed on a Pharaonic scale, and whose idea of religion came dangerously close to self-deification.

All the same, “Parsifal” succeeds in becoming the spiritually radiant work that “Saint Stanislaus” and other Liszt sacred pieces only aspire to be. It is at once popular and mystical, festive and arcane. It illuminates the highest hope that religion holds forth—the hope for a healed world. Liszt probably knew this, which is why he made his peace with the inscrutable fate of dying in Bayreuth. With a martyr’s devotion, he even asked at one point to hear Wagner’s prose writings read aloud.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Why Gods should Matter in Social Science

If it is hard to believe that conceptions of the Gods are ignored in most recently written histories, it is harder yet to understand why Gods were long ago banished from the social-scientific study of religion. But that is precisely why I have devoted two volumes to demonstrating the crucial role of the Gods in shaping history and civilization, and to resurrecting and reformulating a sociology of Gods.

If asked what the word "religion" means, most religious people will say it's about God or the Gods. Yet, for a century, most social-scientific studies of religion have examined nearly every aspect of faith except what people believe about Gods. When and why did we get it so wrong?

Émile Durkheim and the other early functionalists, who emphasized the uses of religion, dismissed Gods as unimportant window dressing, stressing instead that rites and rituals are the fundamental stuff of religion. Seen from the perspective of "true" sociology, the concept of God "is now no more than a minor accident. It is a psychological phenomenon which has got mixed up with a whole sociological process whose importance is of quite a different order," Durkheim wrote. "Thus the sociologist will pay scant attention to the different ways in which men and peoples have conceived the unknown cause and mysterious depth of things. He will set aside all such metaphysical speculations and will see in religion only a social discipline."

Fifteen years later Durkheim had not wavered in his conviction that Gods are peripheral to religion, noting that, although the apparent purpose of rituals is "strengthening the ties between the faithful and their god," what they really do is strengthen the "ties between the individual and society ... the god being only a figurative representation of the society." Thus began a new social-science orthodoxy: Religion consists of participation in rites and rituals -- and only rites and rituals.

I have long suspected that the underlying "insight" that directed our attention away from God and toward ritual had to do with the fact that Durkheim and his circle were militantly secular Jews who, nevertheless, sometimes attended synagogue. In their personal experience, the phenomenology of religion would not have included belief in supernatural beings, but only the solidarity of group rituals. Those personal perceptions were then reinforced by their voluminous reading of anthropological accounts of the impassioned ritual life of "primitives" by observers who lacked any sympathy for the objects of those worship services.

Lengthy, interesting piece refuting these assumptions by Rodney Stark, author of a new book called For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery

Belatedly responding to a couple of requests to point out that...

Fr. Rob Johansen is having interesting discussions at his blog


Sean Gallagher reflects on a year in blogdom


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