Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chaos at a D.C. Parish

There was a Washington Post articles a few days ago (1/18) that detailed a disturbing chain of events occuring at a D.C. parish.

Before I start analyzing this, a disclaimer. Obviously I do not attend this parish. My comments are my take on the situation given the perspective presented in the article and my understanding of Catholic teaching as it pertains to this.

Apparently the trouble is at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Anacosta. It' s one of the D.C. Diocese's traditionally-black parishes and opened 85 years ago by black members of the community who wanted their own church. Black and white pastors have come and gone over the years, but none has brought so much controversy with him as Fr. Donald Fest, the current pastor at Our Lady. He is of an order of priests devoted to black Catholics, so you wouldn't think there would be a problem, even if he is white.

You'd be wrong. Protests, fliers handed out before Mass, and other disruptions, lead mostly by Bill Aston, a member of the parish, have led to major distress in the parish. Aston and other dissenters call Fest a "racists" and have submitted petitions to try to drive him out of the parish. They complain that he runs the parish "like a plantation." Fest, who has worked in Baltimore and New Orleans before coming to Our Lady, says that "If I'm a racist, the I've picked some--well, I didn't pick them--assignments."

The auxiliary bishop of Washington has said that the "upset group should obey the pastor or find another church." Alston, however, doesn't want to obey, saying that "it's not going to happen like that." There are issues with a brother, who is black and opf the same order as Fr. Fest, who runs parish activities and committees. The dissenters don't like his leadership style. They don't like the new rules for the church's famous "Panorama Room", which used to be available for unfettered access. Now you ust have a key and ask permission to use the room for church purposes only. You must alos acquire liability insurance. Members of the church finance committee didn't much like the change, but, as one mbmerr said, "the changes were necessary....this is an archdiocese church. It is not their church."

The Catholic Church isn't a democracy. Never has been. Seems like some of these folks have an issue with that. The dissenters call Fest a racist, and in p ublic there are "plenty of references to race." They've compared Fest to a Grand Wizard of the KKK and some believe that the Church isn't doing enough to satisfy the needs of black Catholics in worship,b y adding such things as gospel music and longer, Protestant-type sermons.

Not all the parishioners feel this way; it appears to be a relativly small minority that is disrupting the whole. There's an impasse--they won't stop protesting,a nd Fest won't leave until he's reassigned.

OK, my take: how can you accuse a priest who has dedicated his whole life to serving black Catholics a racist? He's white--that doesn't make him a member of the KKK! Let's get real! Just because he doesn't do things "your way" doesn't mean he's a bad guy. So you have to get a key to the room and use it only for Church purposes--geez, sounds pretty reasonable to me. Sounds like the way most churches and halls and things are run these days. Sounds like the "dissenters" don't like the idea of someone coming in and changing what they're used to. Sorry, guys, but that's life. What is he doing that so egregious?

And we've also got the whole I'm going to rebel against the Church vibe. Um, look. The Catholic Church is many things, but a democracy it ain't. The auxiliary bishop is right--if you don't like it, leave. Just because your ancestors built this church doesn't mean that you have a special right or ownership to it. Everybody's ancestors built a church building somewhere. That doesn't give you any cool authority.

And the part about adding stuff to the services? OK, gospel music (in correct, limited doses) is fine. We do plenty of gospel-inspired pieces in our choir and the congregation loves them. But "Sister Act" like stuff doesn't belong in the Catholic Church. We just don't do that. It's not our thing. Sorry. It would be like asking a Gospel Choir to sing Panis Angelicus--they'd probably look at you like you were nuts. And the "Protestant like sermons"? They have Protestant Churches for that. The sermon is not the main focus of Catholic Mass--the Eucharist is. And 99.9% of Catholics would jump out of their skins if we had long Protestant like sermons! My parish can barely stand 10 minutes!

I hope this has a peaceful resolution, but this is one strange situation. How can there be such vehement opposition to a pastor? Crazy.

5 Catholics...the world is ending!

With the confirmation of Justice Samuel Alito today (YAY!!!), the Supreme Court now has 5 (GASP!) Catholic judges! Including, dare I say, the Chief Justice and the conservative justices!! The world is ending! The Pope is setting up residence on the Potomac! eeeek!

OK, sorry, just had to get that out of mysystem. Soo glad he was confirmed and that he's on the Court. He will be a great jurist and I'm proud of GW and the Senate Rs for GETTING IT DONE (and thanks to the Senate Ds who actually did something logical and voted for him).

All you anti-Catholics, calm down. I'm sure that B XVI won't offer the opening prayer of the Court session in October, and he won't celebrate the Red Mass, either. Whoa, Nellie...it's OK. :) I just hope GW gets in some congratulatory points during SOTU (State of the Union) tonight. Which y'all will watch, right?? :-D (my foreign readers are excluded, unless you get CNN or something. Then it's on, but at like 3 in the morning or some other obscene time.)

It's done!

The encyclical, that is. Whew! It always amazes me how much information a Pope can pack into an encyclical, and this one is no exception. In the 27 (internet-accessed, printed) pages I read, we managed to cover what love is, how God is love for us, how the Eucharist is the fulfillment of this love, love of others, love of God even though we can't see him, charity, charitiable works in society, the proper place of the Church in society (it is not the same as the state), premarital sex, and other things. Whew! Are you surprised it took me awhile to read? That's basically a summary of the high points B XVI hits, but here are my favorite parts...

1. mentions terrorism several times, including that, too often, God's name is linked with "vengenance or duty of hatred and violence", which I took as a reference to jihad and Muslim extremism, but there are, as we know, other kinds of religious extremism as well that this would cover. But I thought jihad was probably the most relevant reference in today's world.

2. That love between a man and a woman is the "very epitome of love", so I guess that rules out anything else. :) Like we needed to be told that.

3. Takes on the argument (first verbalized with Nietzsche, I think) that "the Church, with all Her rules and commandments, turn [s] the most precious thing in life bitter?" Doesn't the church just stop our happiness? B XVI's answer? No. The Church isn't against "eros" as such, but is against a "warped and estructive form of it" because it strips love of its dignity and leads to its dehumanization. This is also where he touches on premarital relations and says that these lead to the dehumanization and degredation of man. Love must be "disciplines and purified" if it is to provide the "beauty that God intended" it to have, which leads to purification and growth. He also says that the body and spirit must be unified in love or you also lose the dignity and greatness of humanity.

Today, B XVI says, love has been reduced to "pure sex" (it's so funny to hear a pope write or say "sex"...I'm sorry) and has become "a commodity" which leads to humanity (my emphasis) becoming a commodity. Is that what we want? No. At least, I don't think so. This reminds me of Thomas Howard's great parallel in On Being Catholic where he describes discipline in terms of the discipline of dancers and musicians. One must deny the body certain things in order to achieve the freedom of perfection and ability to perfectly express oneself.

4. Onto homosexual "marriage"--only "monogamous marriage can become the icon of the relationship between God and His people" and vice versa. This is why the Church is against pre-marital sex, adultury, co-habitation, homosexual "marriage". God has given us the standard and expectation of love that we must imitate and follow. It's not up to us to change the rules. God has given us the greatest example...and we don't want to follow that? Do we really want less than we were created for?

5. B XVI had already written quite a bit on the Eucharist (i.e., God is Near Us , etc.) before ascending to the Papacy, so I wasn't too surprised to see him write about the Eucharistic ties of live. The Eucharistic Communion, he writes, "includes relatity of being both loved and of loving others". We need a "correct understanding" of the Eucharist in order to understand Jesus' teachings on love. God is not fully invisible to us, because we can see Him in the Eucharist. We also see God through our love of neighbor--the whole thing about loving God and loving your neighbor because they are the same thing.

6. The majority of the end of the encyclical deals with charity and how we are to do it. We are responsible for making sure that everyone has "what is needed for a dignified life." We must, however, also treat people with love, since that if often more needed than corporeal gifts. Catholics know this concept as the "corporal and spiritual works of mercy." The book of James says this...we can't just wish people a good life, we have to provide it. And in the same way, St. Paul says to the Corinthians that without love all is worthless "if I speak with the tounges of men and of angels...." etc. it is part of the Church's 3 fold responsibility--to proclaim the word; to celebrate the sacraments, and to exercise ministries of charity. However, B XVI then goes on to say that Justice and Charity are two different things, and condemns marxism several times (yeah!), also saying that the role of Justice is to be provided by the State, not the Church, and that Church and State operate in functionally different realms. This does not, however, stop Christians from brining Christian tenents into their personal lives and state functions (ARE YOU READING THIS, DEMS???) "politics and faith meet" in certain spheres, but not all. "Citizens of the state," he writes, "are called to trake part in public life in a personal capacity. So they cannot relinquist their participation in the many dicfferent economic, social, legislative, adminsitrative and cultural areas which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good ." In the words of The Incredibles , B XVI "needs us to engage!" He also mentions tax relief as a good thing!!

The end of the encylical brings up the ideas of volunteering, the dignity of humanity, a long section on Mary and love, and a section I found intriguing, the idea that Christians, while providing charity, must not try to force those they are helping to accept Christ. The Christian, he writes (I'm paraphrasing here), knows the time and the place for a sermon, and the time and the place for a loaf of bread and some water. The key is not to link charity to acceptance of God. We are to serve all people, not just those who share our faith.

Overall, it's a great encyclical, written in a style that I like. JP II, as much as I loved him, could be, shall we say, "flowery" at times which made for a harder analysis of his arguments. B XVI is much more linear, with everything building on everything else. He writes like the professor he was for 20, 30 odd years. There are lots of "in conclusion" and "in summary" and stuff like that. So if you get lost, just look for those. :)

Monday, January 30, 2006

I'm still working on it!

Still working on BXVI's encyclical...I want to read it through and get my thoughts before reading those of the media (you know, have my mind set before it's clouded with dirt...:) It's been a busy week and I've only been getting to it incrementally. I'm also chugging toward the end of Augustine....one more book! One more book! I've gotten through most of the density so I'll have that report soon, too. Also reading Scott Hahn's Letter and Spirit which is also incredibly good and I'm taking a lot of notes, so that's also slow (er) reading (well, than usual). Combined with the fact that I'm getting ready to move in a month or so, so there's a lot going on! Whew! But I promise I will have new stuff up soon...meanwhile, there's a lot of archieves to go through and such.

One note: hurray that the Cowboy Phenomenon did not manage to sweep in the goods at the SAG awards. Whoopee!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The First Encyclical (sung to "The First Noelle"..or not)

Big day in the Catholic World.>> B XVI's got his first encyclical out, and it's on love, baby (maybe should've released on Valentine's Day? Hmmm...) I am printing off a copy from the Vatican's website as we speak, will read and have comments for y'all tomorrow.

By the way, does it strike anyone else as waay cool that the Successor of Peter, a Galilean fisherman, now has a website and e-mail? Who says the Church doesn't evolve? I wonder if Christ ever envisioned this. You know, they're sitting by the fire one night, talking, and Jesus says, "just imagine, Peter, in 2,000 years, your successor will be able to instantly communicate with anyone in the world via a little machine, and you'll have one place to put everything the Church says and believes, and anyone can access it, at any time!" But this probably didn't happen. I mean, these are the guys who had trouble with the loaves and the fishes. :) So Jesus probably didn't want to warp their minds too much with 21st century technology. And i"m not being disrespectful to the Apostles...just having some fun here!

Check back tomorrow for the write-up. And I'm almost done with the Confessions --really! I'm on Book X (with only two more to go--I think)...

More later, amigos...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Roe at 33 (a milestone its victims won't ever reach...)

OK, I know I'm a little late posting on this but I had "procedures" at Children's yesterday and am still a wee bit out of it (yeah, drugs...OK, not), but I need to post on this, so here we go.

I'm not sure what else can really be said on this. Obviously, it's heartbreaking. Think of all those millions of children that never saw sunlight, never were kissed, never went to school, never learned to read or heard music or played soccer in the fields during the summer. Think of all those babies who never even opened their eyes and saw another human being smile back at them. And what did they do, to deserve death in a cold, sterile procedural room? Nothing. They were conceived, either from a night with too many beers, or a rape, or in a marriage where the parents just didn't want another child. They could have been found to have a genetic defect, or something else that the family just didn't want to "deal with". This last view is exemplified best in this bone-chilling post from DailyKos:

if anyone ever says (none / 0)

I can't abort my extra-chromosome kid I'm gonna kick them in the face. Sorry folks, I don't want to spend my time raisin' that kid.

I, you--NO ONE--has to "accept" whatever plops out. Having a kid, in the grand scheme of things is 1) not that special, and 2) not that hard to do.

"I don't want to spend my time raisin' that kid?" There's nothing ro even say about this. I cannot imagine it. What if my mother had said that before I was born? I wouldn't be here. Because, you know, us genetically flawed kids can't do anything worthwhile in society, right? Worth isn't determined by a W2 or a college degree. Worth is determined by God, and how much love you give. Even the "imperfect" are worthy of love. They can give love. It chills me to think how many on the pro-choice side are esentially condoning eugenics---the same thing that Nazis did during WWII. We were horrified by it then; now it occurs, hundreds of them, every day in America, and they're OK with it.

But we on the pro-life said cannot be. I"m not saying burn the clinics and kill the doctors because that's wrong. It goes against our message that all life is sacred. And it is! We must pray even harder for these people, that their hearts be changed. "Let not our hearts be hardened," the psalmist askes in Psalm 95. How can we allow the destruction of our most innocent? Society is gauged on how we value life, the most innocent and the weakest. Last week we saw that Oregon has allowed people to end their lives when they are no longer "worth living". And we allow parents to abort their children if their childrens' lives are "not worth living" or are just "inconvenient". Yes, I've read the stories of mothers who felt they had no choice. But there is a choice . That choice is life. Give the child up for adoption. I would love to have your child, since I can't have children of my own. Many people would take them, and love them, and give them a good life. A life infinitely better than death. Even those that the DailyKos reader sees as so unimportant, I would take. I've seen Down Syndrome kids, CP kids, MS kids, kids of every kind at Children's. And you know what makes them special? How loving they are, how great they are. Sure they have their challenges--don't we all? But that's no reason to kill them!

As for the idea that having a baby "isn't that special" and "isn't that hard to do", um, I'm sorry, but having a baby is the greatest thing you can do. That doesn't mean it has to be hard. Many great and lovely things are quite simple. You are creating new life--and that's not special? How jaded have we allowed ourselves to get?!

Abortion hurts our country in so many ways, not the least of which is the corruption to our nation's soul that abortion allows. We are not protecting the "least among us". this is our most basic duty as Christians. Forget, for a minute, hunger, and education,a nd equal pay for equal work and all that stuff. NONE of that matters if you don't have life . Without life, none of the rest of it matters at all. So to all those "pro-choice" Christians, I would remind you that that is THE issue. We cannot have anything else without life. And to Catholics: THIS IS IT. It is so important. Even more important that the death penalty, hunger, what have you. Vitally important. I would ask us all to remember that.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pittsburgh's goin' to the Suu-per- Bowllll....

All right, I have to deviate from just one minute...

We rock! We roll! Pittsburgh's goin' to the Super Bowl!
We rock! We roll! Pittsburgh's goin' to the Super Bowl!

The Bus rolls on to Detroit....GO STEELERS!! WOOHOO!!

All right, i'm done now. :-D

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Overjoyed to death, part 2--responses

Gotten some feedback--good and bad--relating to my post yesterday about SCOTUS' decision to uphold the Oregon "right to die" law. Usually i'll respond to comments in the comments field on the blog, or email back if I feel it warrants it, but some of the criticism is broad based, so I thought I'd respond to it here for a change. I'll lay them out and give my responses point by point:

1. In response to my comment that St. Paul tells us our bodies are not our own:

No, no, St. Paul tells you that so I don't see how it pertains to other people.
Well, actually St. Paul says it to everyone who reads and believes the Bible. Last time I checked I wasn't the only one who read and believed the Bible. And our bodies are not our own; as St. Paul continues, "we were bought with a price." Jesus died to save us, God gave us the gift of life. We aren't to play Russian roulette with it.

If you want to live a life devoid of quality that is your business and right. I'd be happy to take a bullet to protect said right.

"devoid of quality"? Well, who determines quality? I mean, to some people it's the ability to dance the pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty or be able to play Beethoven. To others, it means simply being present, being alive, and being with family, as much as possible. Law should not be determined based on such a broad definition. God decides when our lives don't have "quality" anymore. As scripture says, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away." Only He gets to decide when we're done living.

However, what you fail to understand is that just because you believe something that doesn't make it right nor does it mean everyone else has to believe it.

Thios is a charge Republicans (and Catholics) get a lot. That just because we feel this way doesn't mean we can make everyone else feel this way or that we're right. Now, this may apply, say, in my opinion on ice cream (Chocolate is the best!) or that I think Rachel McAdams and Reese Witherspoon are good actresses. Obviously I cannot say these opinions are finite and absolutely correct and force them on the general population.

But let's phrase this is something more similar. If I said, "murder is wrong, but I can't inflict my opinion on anyone else," people would think I was nuts. Murder is wrong, plain and simple. If I kill you for no good reason, I'm a murderer. Society inflicts its opinions on people every day--it's part of living in society, the giving up of some "rights" for the good of others. Most of us have come to the conclusion that you can't steal, kill, rape, etc., another person withouit consequence.

So it is the same with these "personal" decisions, like assisted suicide and abortion. There are some things (like these) that are intrinsicly wrong. They thoroughly disrespect life at the most basic level. These laws say that only certain people are worthy of the "right to life." That's not cool. It is not good for society to sanction the killing of its members. In Europe, where many of these laws are in place in countries such as England and Holland, the reach of this legislation has expanded to include infanticide (doctors killing babies who they deem unfit for life) and "wrongful birth suits," such as one in England where a mother sued for damages after she gave birth to a handicapped child (the child, by the way, was seven at the time of the lawsuit;. Can you imagine?). We have no right to mess with life.

If someone is sane and an adult and they decide they've had enough of life it's none of your, mine or anyone else’s business if they end it.

I really don't think sanity should be a criteria. Plenty of sane people have done some nutty things; note the rare use of the insanity defense in court. "They've had enough of life"--well what's next? Teens getting approval to commit suicide? If doctors have an agenda, they'll say no one is "fit for life" and that they are "sane" and able to determine that they are ready to die. Some of these people (again, as seen in Holland) are clearly not, and doctors and families use the law to deplorable ends to terminate lives. Slippery slopes, here we come!


Maybe my copy of the Bible is defective, but surely yours, too, also includes Matthew 7:1, which admonishes, "Judge not lest ye be judged."

This isn't judging. Like I said above, there are some things that are intrinsically right and wrong. If I say a rapist is a criminal and what he did was bad, that's not being judgemental. It's stating a fact. I hear this a lot in gay-rights debates. There are certain things in the world that are not open for discussion. Jesus did not come to Earth for all of us to hold hands and sing 'Kumbaya' (one of my favorite phrases) He gave us the 10 commandments (including "thou shalt not kill") and the Beatitudes, and such so that we would know how to live the way He wants us to--the way that leads to Heaven. He say forgive your neighbor, but he didn't say tolerate everything your neighbor does and write it off as OK. When He forgave sins, He said, "go, and sin no more." Jesus didn't give anyone a free pass, and He didn't expect His followers to, either.

Whatever your experience in suffering might be; whatever the martyred saints tell us about suffering, it's all just prelude to an individual's personal commune with God and the spirit of Christ. The decision of what a mentally competent person does at the end of his or her life is the decision of that person, not yours, nor the Supreme Court's. You're free to follow your conscience as follows. Kindly allow others to do the same.

Isn't this sort of "relativist" Christianity that the Pope warns us about? I mean, if this is a valid point, then why have the 10 commandments? Why have rules? Why have laws? Let's just let everyone do whatever his conscience tells him. That just doesn't wash. Sure, it's not my decision, but laws affect more than just one person. They affect all of society and what society thinks about an act. Look at abortion for an example. So many times people say, "well I don't feel guilty, because it's legal, and since it's legal it can't be wrong." Huh?

This isn't about a power trip, it's not about controlling other people's lives. It's about setting a standard in our societies and countries that says we respect all life, even when a person is ill and suffering. We still love them and see value in their lives. We still value their contributions to humanity. The Church used to condemn people who committed suicide to Hell, because it was seen that those who committed suicide were basically saying that their lives were so bad no one--not even God--could help them. Dante saw it as a sin of the flesh, leaving those who committed suicide to be constantly mutilating their bodies in Hell.

Life is the greatest gift we have. It cannot be treated cavalierely. We must fight to protect it, and to convince people that life always has worth, even when it is hard to see. It is then that God can use us most effectively, if we can trust in His will and not be so wrapped up in what society says is "worthwhile." God has His own standards.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Overjoyed to death

Did anyone else happen to see the pics in the papers about the women who brought the assisted-suicide case before the Supreme Court? If you did, I hope you're as disturbed as I am. I'm not able to track down a pic right now, but these women (all about 60+) were enraptured that their "right to die" had been protected. They actually were ecstatic, one of them thrusting her fists in the air like Rocky after he finished a run. It was disgusting. I mean, we are praising the right to die . I cannot imagine a life so horrible that death would be something I would be this enthusiastic about, and believe me, I'm not just talking out the side of my mouth here. I do know something about terrific pain and suffering, thank you very much. And there's no way I would ever, ever, ever want to voluntarily commit suicide. Besides thar, the reasoning for the Oregon law are specious at best. Pain today can be controlled very well (as I well know) by IV narcotics and other drugs that can make you, if not pain-free, then you're pretty close (like 98%). There is no pain so horrible that we can't treat it. There's hospice care to ease the natural process of dying. There's no reason to have this law.

People are so afraid of suffering anymore. It wasn't always so. St. Polycarp, a first century martyr and bishop of Smyrna, wrote this prayer before his death:

Lord God Almighty, Father of Jesus Christ...I bless you because you have thought me worthy (emphasis mine)...to be numbered among the martyrs and to drink out of the cup Your Anointed has drunk from...For this and all your blessings I praise you and give you glory, through the eternal high priest, Jesus Christ the heavenly, your dear Child.

Even up to our age, the late John Paul the Great was the foremost teacher on how to live with suffering. Life does not become meaningless just because we deem it so. Life is not defined by our ability to walk, talk, speak, or go to the movies. Life is defined by love. And as long as we can love, then God is with us. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta also had this to say on suffering:

Try to increase your knowledge of the mystery of redemption. This knowledge will lead you to love, and love will make you share through your sacrifice in the passion of Christ. My dear children, without suffering our work would just be social work--very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption. Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death. All that He has taken upon Himself and has carried it in the darkest night. Only be being one with us has He redeemed us. We are able to do the same....to take upon myself some of [the poor's] sufferings.

Redemptive Suffering is a Catholic doctrine I'm quite fond of, and I would hope that more people would study it and embrace it as a concept. If the Son of God could not escape suffering and pain, how can we expect to? And how can we say 'no' to God at the end, in a final act of Satan's non serviam ? How much pride can we as human beings have? It seems like there is no limit to it. At least not in Oregon.

Our bodies are not our own, St. Paul tells us. Yet we contiually act as if they were. What arrogance, or rather, what despair overcomes these people so that they feel their lives are no longer worth living when they deem themselves not functional enough, or in too much pain? God can use everything we give him--and when we are done giving Him all that we can, He will take us home. But not before then.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Some recent film round-ups, both DVD and theatrical release:

1) Fried Green Tomatoes: Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary-Louise Parker, Mary Stuart Matherson. Great film in the Southern woman friendship genre (which I love about a middle-aged woman unhappy in her marriage who discovers a murder-mystery story from an old woman in a nursing home (Jessica Tandy). Film spends most the time flashing back to the 1930s, when Idgie (Mary Matherston, I think) and Ruth team up to be best friends and cause trouble in the town of Whistle Stop, Alabama. Great story, lots of fun, poignant moments.

2) Life is Beautiful : I saw this movie when it first came out but I had forgotten how funny and life-affirming it is. Roberto Benigni plays Guido, a waiter with an impeccable sense of humor and comic timing , who has the ability to turn everything into a fairy tale. He falls in love and marries his principessa , Dora, played by his real-life wife, and together they have a child, Giosue (Joshua). Guido is Jewish and is arrested on Joshua's fifth birthday and taken, along with his son and brother, to a concentration camp; Dora follows them, unwilling to be left behind to wait for their return. To make the experience pliable for Joshua, Guido tells him that the camp is one big game and the first to earn 1,000 points gets a real tank as a prize. It's a wonderful, touching story about family and faith and the first half is really, really funny. Winner of 3 1998 Oscars.

3) The Producers : Saw the musical last year, and loved it. Very funny. The movie? Not quite as funny--some songs are cut ("The King of Broadway", "Where Did We Go Right?", and "Springtime for Hitler" is cut down substantially), and Matthew Broderick's Leo seemed a bit too tightly-wired in the beginning to be truly funny...itdefinitely felt like he was acting in the beginning. Nathan Lane does a fine job, as does Robert Bart (George on D.H.) and Uma Thurman. It's a good movie but it's not as good as, say, last year's Phantom (which I LOVED) or 2003's Chicago . It just screams "this is a musical that has been filmed exactly from the stage version"--even the costumes are the same, and no material's been added or changed, just deleted. It often feels like it's the stage version just held outside. But I will say the exterior shorts of old-time NY are nice, especially the ones in Central Park.

Note on the Oscars: alas, for long time readers of my blog, I do not know if I will be able to make my long-time Oscar predictions this year, simply because I haven't seen any of the films nominated. Out of the 10 Golden Globe nominees for best picture, I had seen one ( The Producers )> I have ZERO intention of seeing Brokeback Mountain, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, or Munich. They are all downers that either have moral values I am intensely disposed against or portray America and American politics as dark and shady, or that the war on terror is all relative, or whatever. These are thigns I do not agree with implicitly, therefore I will not spend $6.50 to see these films. I will, however, see Walk the Line probably this week. That actually looks good.

A direct line to God, huh? What's the number?

So apparently the Mayor of New Orleans has a direct line to God. From msnbc.com:

During the speech Monday, Nagin, who is black, said that the hurricanes that hit the nation in quick succession were a sign of God’s anger toward the United States and toward black communities, too, for their violence and infighting. He also said, “It’s time for us to rebuild New Orleans — the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans.” “This city will be a majority African American city,” he said Monday. “It’s the way God wants it to be. You can’t have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn’t be New Orleans.”

On Tuesday, Nagin said his comments about God were inappropriate and stemmed from a private conversation he had with a minister earlier. “I need to be more sensitive and more aware of what I’m saying,” he said.

The mayor said his speech was really meant to convey that blacks were a vital part of New Orleans’ history and culture and should be encouraged to return. “I want everyone to be welcome in New Orleans — black, white, Asian, everybody,” he said.

....The mayor’s speech also attacked America’s efforts in Iraq. “Surely [God] doesn’t approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely he is upset at black America also. We’re not taking care of ourselves.”

well, this is almost too much for one piece of commentary. Let's start with the obvious--can you imagine what would happen to a GOP or Right wing politician if he'd said something like, "God means New Orleans to be a milky New Orleans?" (or some other white food?) There'd be calls for resignation and defamation. He'd never be good for anything ever again in elected office. Pat Robertson said something equally as crazy last week and the media was all over it. I had to dig for this story on MSNBC after hearing about it on the morning news.

First of all, I don't believe that God punishes people like that. What did Abraham say to God, "There are 10 righteous people" in the city, and God saved the city for the sake of those 10 righteous ones. I'm pretty sure there were good people in New Orleans. Not that I'm completely ruling out the idea, God being God, but I don't think so. And if I though so, I certainly wouldn't go around boasting like a peacock that I knew that this is what God wanted. Hello?

And the war? Well, let's see. God told quite a few of his prophets to go to war in the O.T., and the Church has Just War theory. Whoever got the idea that Jesus was a pacifist obviously has never read the book of Matthew or looked at Christian history. Christians are not passive; we are not meant to be passive. We are meant to fight for the rights of ourselves and others and to defend the defenseless from tyranny. And that's what's happening in Iraq, just like it happened in Afghanistan. That's what happened in WWI and WWII. Try to be as cynical as you want, but war isn't just politicans talking. To meet Just War requirements, it must have a higher purpose.

As for that direct line to God, one New Orleans resident said it best on GMA: "If Nagin has a direct line to God, why didn't he use it during the evacuation?" Good point. As my pastor says when someone's cell phone rings in Mass, "That better be God calling." Turns out He calls Mayor Nagin on a regular basis!

Oh, Sister....

You know, I love nuns. The good ones, that is. That may seem like a contradiction in terms, but I assure you, it's not. It amazes me how many nuns don't really seem to care about what the church teaches, or engage in a gross form of cafeteria Catholicism in order to bend their vocation to fit their political agenda.

Today's latest example is from the Akron Beacon Journal , one of the more avowedly liberal papers in my state. The northern part of Ohio is endowed with many Catholics (German, Polish, Italian descent, mostly) and a lot of our state's convents. So it's not surprising to read a lot about the Church in these papers. But what saddens me are letters like the one I read today. Written by a nun, it essentially said "don't lump all Catholics in with Republicans" (that's actually a paraphrase of the headline), and then continued on to say exactly how the Republican party doesn't aline perfectly with Catholic values, and that the Church is for "peace, love and justice" (oooooh gag me with a spoon!).

Can we, again, get real for a minute? This doesn't make me sad, it makes me mad. First off, as I have discussed many, many times, you cannot be a good Catholic and vote for politicians that go directly against explicit Church doctrine . For example, no voting for Pro-Choice candidates!! Now, I admit, the Republican party is not perfect. We don't "perfectly embody" Catholic doctrine. But I tell you what--until the Left starts recognizing that abortion and assisted suicide legislation are not Catholic and aren't exactly even Christian, Catholics of good conscience will be voting for Republicans. Because abortion is a top-tier social issue. If you're Catholic, you are essentially told to be pro-life. Now I know this is America and we don't like to agree with Rome or the Catechism , or what have you. Well that's just our darn individualism (which is good in other places). But Catholics votes for G.W. in higher numbers than ever before (for a GOP candidate), so that should tell the left something. The Dems love to parade the death penalty issue around when there's a Catholic audience, but here's the difference--Catholics aren't told that there's no acceptable instance of the Death Penalty. Catholics believe in "just War" theory, so we're not all about pacifism and isolationism.

The part that's really irritating is I know that people will read her words and assume they are Gospel because she's a nun, and shouldn't a nun know what's going on? One would think. One would expect that to be the case. Alas. No so. So a common layman like me has to go and tell you where a nun, a Bride of Christ, has gone terribly wrong. "I bet Our Lord is sorry He ever married you," comments a character in The Divine Secret of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood to a particularly vindictive nun. I wonder how many others fit that description.

Monday, January 16, 2006

B XVI creates problems for his handlers...

...because the man likes to ad-lib. Apparently, this isn't something that the papal communication team likes too much. From totalcatholic.com:

What his audiences find amazing is how easily the 78-year-old pope can stand and deliver an impromptu talk or sermon that ranges over Scripture, patristic writings, social ethics and pastoral policies. "He's using a fluid form of speaking to deliver a content that is very pastoral. It's on a high level, but you can see that his audience follows it," said Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Vatican spokesman. When the pope presided over a Mass in the Sistine Chapel to baptize 10 infants in early January, he was supposed to deliver a sermon presumably prepared by his staff. The text, released to journalists ahead of time, was nothing special. Maybe that's why the pope pitched it. Instead, he stood beneath Michelangelo's fresco of the "Last Judgment," looked out at the small congregation of parents and relatives, and began, "Just what happens in baptism?" Then he extemporized on the topic for 16 minutes -- twice the length of his planned homily. The Vatican press office, meanwhile, sent out an urgent disclaimer telling reporters to ignore the prepared text. The pope did the same thing when he visited a Rome parish in late December, preferring to wing it through a sermon on the Annunciation and its significance in salvation history. He began by examining Scripture and the account of the angel's first words to Mary. The Gospel originally used the Greek word "Kaire," which contains an element of rejoicing that is missing from the "Hail, Mary" translations in other languages. He connected Mary's reaction with feelings of joy and fear people sometimes feel toward God. Nowadays, fear and apprehension seem to prevail, he said. "If we look around the modern world, where God is absent, we have to say that it is dominated by fear and uncertainty: Is it good to be a human being or not? Is it good to be alive?" he said. As one longtime Vatican observer commented, "Even in his spontaneous talks, the flow of argument and the citing of sources is impressive. It's as if he can reference 2,000 years of Christian thought in his head." At his weekly general audience, the pope now regularly punctuates his prepared remarks with explanatory asides. The off-the-cuff comments are typically more direct and succinct than the written reflections. At the Jan. 11 audience, for example, after mentioning the third-century theologian Origen -- probably just a name to most of the pilgrims in the audience hall -- the pope gave an impromptu lesson on his thought. Origen, he said, believed the fundamental difference between man and animals is that man is able to know his Creator. "It's important in our time that we don't forget God, amid all the other knowledge we've acquired," he added. That knowledge can be problematic, even dangerous, without an awareness of God, he said.

Always another protest...

Seems some Italians are pretty perturbed about what they read as the Pope's "interference" in public and government affairs. Sigh....From the IHT :

Meeting with Italian politicians last week, Pope Benedict XVI repeated his opposition to gay unions and to the abortion pill, RU-486, which he said hid the "gravity" of taking human life.
"The Vatican is free to express an opinion, but Italy must remain a lay state and the government can't become a megaphone for the church just to get the Catholic vote," Anna Annunziata, a regional counselor from Tuscany with the Democrats of the Left, the nation's largest leftist party, said as she marched Saturday in Milan.
Organizers at the demonstration in Milan said the protest had drawn 150,000 people, but the police put the figure at 60,000. About 1,000 protesters joined the march in Rome, police officials said.
"In Italy, the pope speaks as though he's a member of the government," said one of the demonstrators in Milan, Daniela Labella, a civil servant, who complained about the church's continued challenges to the abortion law.
Although the issues of abortion and gay unions have become controversial topics before the hotly contested general elections set for April, members of the Berlusconi government dismissed the demonstrations on Saturday, reiteratering their support for the "traditional family."
Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli said he had found the demonstration in Rome in favor of same-sex unions "nauseating," the ANSA news agency reported. The culture minister, Rocco Buttiglione, who is close to the Vatican, said the government had called for an inquiry into the abortion law to strengthen the "bond between mother and child."
The Vatican won a major victory in June when it campaigned to defeat a referendum to ease Italy's strict fertility law, which took effect in 2004. The church is now moving to put abortion and traditional marriage on the electoral agenda.
Though Italy's center-left opposition advocates the recognition of civil unions as part of its campaign platform, centrist members of the coalition have stopped short of calling for the legalization of same-sex unions.
MILAN Protesting what they see as the growing interference of the Roman Catholic Church in domestic politics, tens of thousands of Italians took to the streets here over the weekend in support of abortion rights, while demonstrators in Rome gathered to endorse the legalization of same-sex unions.
In Milan, protesters chanted slogans against Silvio Berlusconi's government, which they accuse of planning, with the support of the church, to undo a 1978 law that makes abortion legal during the first three months of pregnancy.
Meeting with Italian politicians last week, Pope Benedict XVI repeated his opposition to gay unions and to the abortion pill, RU-486, which he said hid the "gravity" of taking human life.
"The Vatican is free to express an opinion, but Italy must remain a lay state and the government can't become a megaphone for the church just to get the Catholic vote," Anna Annunziata, a regional counselor from Tuscany with the Democrats of the Left, the nation's largest leftist party, said as she marched Saturday in Milan.
Organizers at the demonstration in Milan said the protest had drawn 150,000 people, but the police put the figure at 60,000. About 1,000 protesters joined the march in Rome, police officials said.
"In Italy, the pope speaks as though he's a member of the government," said one of the demonstrators in Milan, Daniela Labella, a civil servant, who complained about the church's continued challenges to the abortion law.
Although the issues of abortion and gay unions have become controversial topics before the hotly contested general elections set for April, members of the Berlusconi government dismissed the demonstrations on Saturday, reiteratering their support for the "traditional family."
Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli said he had found the demonstration in Rome in favor of same-sex unions "nauseating," the ANSA news agency reported. The culture minister, Rocco Buttiglione, who is close to the Vatican, said the government had called for an inquiry into the abortion law to strengthen the "bond between mother and child."
The Vatican won a major victory in June when it campaigned to defeat a referendum to ease Italy's strict fertility law, which took effect in 2004. The church is now moving to put abortion and traditional marriage on the electoral agenda.
Though Italy's center-left opposition advocates the recognition of civil unions as part of its campaign platform, centrist members of the coalition have stopped short of calling for the legalization of same-sex unions.
MILAN Protesting what they see as the growing interference of the Roman Catholic Church in domestic politics, tens of thousands of Italians took to the streets here over the weekend in support of abortion rights, while demonstrators in Rome gathered to endorse the legalization of same-sex unions.
In Milan, protesters chanted slogans against Silvio Berlusconi's government, which they accuse of planning, with the support of the church, to undo a 1978 law that makes abortion legal during the first three months of pregnancy.
Meeting with Italian politicians last week, Pope Benedict XVI repeated his opposition to gay unions and to the abortion pill, RU-486, which he said hid the "gravity" of taking human life.
"The Vatican is free to express an opinion, but Italy must remain a lay state and the government can't become a megaphone for the church just to get the Catholic vote," Anna Annunziata, a regional counselor from Tuscany with the Democrats of the Left, the nation's largest leftist party, said as she marched Saturday in Milan.
Organizers at the demonstration in Milan said the protest had drawn 150,000 people, but the police put the figure at 60,000. About 1,000 protesters joined the march in Rome, police officials said.
"In Italy, the pope speaks as though he's a member of the government," said one of the demonstrators in Milan, Daniela Labella, a civil servant, who complained about the church's continued challenges to the abortion law.
Although the issues of abortion and gay unions have become controversial topics before the hotly contested general elections set for April, members of the Berlusconi government dismissed the demonstrations on Saturday, reiteratering their support for the "traditional family."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

For the Prostestants: What to do in a Catholic Mass

At one point in my life, I was engaged to a protestant guy, and as we began to plan the wedding, one of the underriding (like that?) questions was, "um, how do we explain the protocol of a Catholic Mass to half the guests that aren't Catholic?" Given that I, too, have many non-Catholic friends (in fact they override the Catholic ones), we got this question a lot. And Catholics, of course, feel free to read and comment. And I am basing this on my experience and understand of how the Church operated. Alas, there are parishes that do not follow the below guidelines. Sic their bishop on them!!

So, for posterity, I am recording what to DO and NOT to do if you are not Catholic and yet find yourself in a Catholic Church (note: these are guidelines for a general Mass. There's no way I'm going into all the possible variations for feasts and solemnities and Holy Week and Christmas and what have you. But these'll get you through). I've attended Lutheran services, and they are fairly similar to the Catholic Mass, with a few changes. So here we go:

1. When you enter Mass, you'll notice people dipping their right hand in the holy water fonts by the doors and making the sign of the cross. This is to remind us of our baptism and note that we are entering a holy place. Do it or don't do it--up to you.

2. When a Catholic enters the pew, he will not just slouch in. He will genuflect towards the tabernacle, make the sign of the cross, and then take his seat, acknowledging the True Presence of Christ in the consecreated hosts that are stored in the tabernacle. Again, up to you.

3. Most Catholics will then kneel and pray. Mass is preceded by five minutes of "sacred silence", so this is not the time to ask your neighbor what he thought of the latest Jennifer Aniston flick. Look through the hymnals and books available; one of them will probably have an Order of the Mass, with the congregation's responses in bold, so you can follow along.

4. Mass begins with an opening hymn and procession. Stand up. NOTE: Catholics do not sing in four-part harmony! The quickest way to reveal Protestant roots is to begin singing the Alto/Tenor/ Bass/ your own harmony line to "The Church's One Foundation" or whatever the opening hymn is. This is particularly true if the opening hymn is "A Mighty Fortress". Only Catholic choirs sing four-part--the congregation doesn't. Don't do it.

And Catholics and Protestants do not have the exact same hymnal, so don't expect to know every hymn.

5. Introductory rites: The priest opens the Mass with "The Lord be with you". Then we have the penintential rite ("Lord have Mercy"/ "Christ have Mercy"/ "Lord have Mercy"). Unless it's Lent or Advent, the Gloria ("Glory to God in the highest/ And peace to His people on Earth"), which is sung, follows. This is similar to the "Hymn of Praise" some Protestants sing, although the words are totally different.

6. Then we have the opening prayer. Sit.

7. The Liturgy of the Word: First reading, from the O.T. (or Acts/ Revelation, depending on the feast/ season) Notice "reading", not "lesson". The response after the reading is "Thanks be to God"

8. Responsorial Psalm: Sung by the cantor or small group (if small group, could be in four-part harmony). The cantor will sing the refrain and the congregation repeats it after each verse. It's usually a psalm, but could be another scripture verse.

9. Second reading; an epistle.

10. Gospel Acclamation (stand): Unless it's Lent, some form of "Alleluia". Same protocol as Pslam. If it's Lent, then it's "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ / King of endless Glory!" (no Alleluia during Lent)

11. Gospel. The priest/deacon will say, "The Lord be with you". Response: "And also with you". The priest will then announce the reading, which the congregation will reply to with "Glory to you, Lord" while making the sign of the cross on their foreheads, lips, and heart, to remind them to keep Christ always present in these areas. The Gospel is then proclaimed. At the end, the congregation replies, "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ." Sit.

12. The Homily, NOT the sermon. Not the most important part of Mass, thus is short. A reflection on the readings of the day and how they apply to our daily lives.

13. Stand for the Creed-usually the Nicene, but occasionally the Apostles'.

14. Intercessions--when the reader/ deacon reads the prayer requests of the faithful. Response is "Lord, hear our prayer."

15. Liturgy of the Eucharist begins--this happens EVERY SUNDAY. The gifts are brought up to the altar, the altar is prepared for Communion, and a hymn is sung. Offetory is also taken at this time. we're sitting at this point.

16. Stand for the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer. Note that this can be chanted. If everyone around you starts chanting (it seems that we Catholics are born with an extra chip in our head that allows us to do monochant without much of a problem), just join in if you're comfortable, and stay silent if you're not.

17. Followed by the "Holy", which is sung.

18. Now everybody kneels (!) for the Eucharistic Prayer. Eucahristic Prayer I is the longest and usually reserved for special feasts. Usually you'll get 2 or 3, which are shorter. This can also be chanted.

19. After the Consecration, the "Memorial Acclaimation" (Christ has died / Christ is risen / Christ will come again) is sung.

20. The Eucharistic Prayer finishes, leading to the Doxology (Though Him / With Him /In Him/ In the Unity of the Holy Spirit / All Glory and Honor is yours, Almight Father / Forever and Ever) followed by the Great Amen.

21. Stand. The "Our Father" is prayed. NOTE: The Catholic "Our Father" does NOT segue right into "for the kingdom". This is the surest sign that there's a Protestant in our midst. :) When I was a cantor in college, we always (well, almost always) had Protestant organists (it was a Protestant school, after all) and the first time they would play for us they would give themselves away by going right into it, stopping abruptly when they realized they were the only ones going on. STOP. We say it after the priest gives a brief prayer.

22. The Sign of Peace. Everyone hugs or shakes hands or kisses (depending on the level of affinity) with the people around them.

23. The "Lamb of God".

24. Kneel again. Time for Communion. The priest distributes Communion to the Eucharistic Ministers and the distribution begins. Hymns are sung throughout, or a piece by the choir. Some churches only do vocal music after Communion is finished as a "song of praise". Whatever.

This is the big sticking point: Catholic doctrine says that you shouldn't receive communion if you're not Catholic. The reason is simple: Catholics see the Eucharist as a sign of their oneness in Faith. When you receive Eucharist, the exchange is thus: the distributor says "The Body/ Blood of Christ" and you answer "Amen". The "Amen" implies that you believe what was just told to you. If you don't, then you're essentially committing blasphemy by taking it. That's not cool. If you're not united with the Catholic Church and don't believe what we believe, then why would you want to receive Eucharist? But some of you will do it anyway, and I will tell you that the Church floor won't open and God won't smite you with thunder (at least I've never seen it) but it's not generally accepted practice. It is quite acceptable to remain in your seat in silent prayer while everyone else receives. You won't be the only one sitting there, trust me. All the little kids'll be with you. :)

25. After Communion, people kneel until the priest/ deacon is seated and the altar servers begin clearing the altar. Sit.

26. Stand. After Communion prayer is prayed. Annoucements (if any) are read.

27. Final blessing.

28. Closing hymn--you stay until the hymn is over!! I don't care if the choir is launching into all 11 verses of "O Sons and Daughters"--you stay!!! It's polite! And it's not the Indy 500 out in the parking lot, anyway!

That, my friends, is the Order and Etiquette of the Catholic Mass. A few other points:

--no gum chewing, please.
--wear nice clothes, i.e. not ripped jeans or a trampy t-shirt or something with inappropriate messages (i.e., a shirt with a Darwin fish wouldn't fly). Remember it's God's house you're visiting.
--Refrain from any and all snide comments about the Faith during Mass!
--Catholics do not bring Bibles to Church--the priest doesn't announce a particular verse that he's preaching on and have everyone open up. You may see some Catholics with St. Joseph's Missals, which give the Order of the Mass and the readings for the particular day. That's not the same thing.
--The Homily will most likely be under 10 minutes. Shocking, I know.
--Catholic Churches don't pass out bulletins with the reading in them. These readings can be found in one of the books in the pews, normally.

Hope this was helpful--Catholics, let me know if I've left anything out.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Islam and evolution toward the West...impossible?

According to BXVI, yup (courtesey the Corner):

The Asia Times Online columnist Spengler notes that Pope Benedict XVI is recently reported to have observed that Islam cannot reform itself along the lines the West is depending on. The reason is very simple: unlike Judaism and Christianity, which take the Bible to be the inspired word of God, mediated through humans and therefore subject to interpretation, Islam believes the Koran is the literal and direct word of God, dictated to the Prophet. If you believe this, then it's easy to see why diverging too far from the plain text of the Koran is blasphemous (and we know what happens to those deemed to have blasphemed against Islam). Spengler is amazed by the silence from the Western media over this remarkable statement attributed to the current Pope -- a statement Spengler endorses -- and he suggests that we shrink from acknowledging it because the consequences of the Pope being right about this is too horrible to contemplate.

Um, yeah. This is too horrible to contemplate. I mean, whew. If you believe that the Koran is the direct word of God dictated by the Prophet then blasphemy is pretty easy to come by. Can you imagine what would've happened to Christianity if we took everything in the Bible as literal? I mean, the no cutting your hair thing that the Amish cite would've had most of us dead by now as "infidels"....woo boy. This, combined with the sobering concluding chapters in George Weigel's The Cube and the Cathedral don't paint the happiest picture for world affairs, especially in Europe...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

mini-bookshelf: new stuff

More mini-book reviews as I plow through the pile:

-- True Believer by Nicholas Sparks: came out over the summer but I just got around to reading it now (I got the sequel for Christmas, ergo I had to read this one!). Typical Nicholas Sparks story--boy meets girl, girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love but there's some obstacle that prevents the love. That's not to say it's not enjoyable and that there aren't a few twists that you don't see coming, which I like. Jeremy is one of those men who expose cons on TV and in the media and has gone to a little NC town (a Sparks trademark) to investigate the appearances of so-called "ghosts" in the local cemetery. While there, he meets Lexie, the local librarian, and the two both, albeit reluctantly, become smitten. Sparks is in his element writing about the South where he grew up and giving us characters we actually care about. Also deals with the matter of believing, not seeing, and the issues of faith, while not directly talking about God (if you want characters that directly talk about God you need to read Richard Paul Evans, who I also highly recommend--his latests is The Sunflower ). Good read, esp. during the winter. There's just something about his books that lends themselves to fall/winter reading. Not sure what it is.

-- Our Oldest Enemy: America's Disastrous Relationship with France by NR Political writer John J. Miller and Mark Molesky. Good book about our misconstrued ideas that France is America's "oldest ally" while really they've been trying to screw us over for about 200 years. Well-written, meticulously documented, well-researched, and funny to boot. The last few chapters on the War on Terror are particularly relevant. Excellent for the poli sci/ history buffs out there (who I know read this!)

More later--still working on the Confessions (I know, I know...) and there are many theological books in the pile, including Scott Hahn's newest, B XVI and Hans Ur Von Balthazar, JP II, and St. John of the Cross. They're coming--really!!

Priest fights abuse allegation charges in NY


After nearly four years of fighting sex abuse charges, Monsignor Charles Kavanagh will have his day in a Church court. It's what the Vatican ordered. It's what Kavanagh wants. "This is what I prayed for," Kavanagh said. "I understand the need in this climate for significant review. All I want is a full and fair hearing and I'll be fine." In 2002 a former student accused Kavanagh of abusing him more than 20 years ago, when Kavanagh was head of Cathedral Prep Seminary in Manhattan. The claims were made beyond the statute of limitations. The Archdiocese of New York suspended Kavanagh, then pastor at St. Raymond Church in the Bronx, and pressed on with an internal investigation. They sent their findings to the judicial arm of the Vatican, which found the evidence merited a full trial by a Church Tribunal. "It's good for the people of faith of the Archdiocese of New York," said Joseph Zwilling of the Archdiocese of New York. " They know I hope now that the Church takes those allegations very seriously." While not overconfident, Kavanagh says the facts should exonerate him. "I feel that if I do this honorably my name will be cleared," he said.

I'm glad to see a priest actually challenging these claims in court. I've been getting kind of tired of dioceses just rolling over and accepting these charges without a detailed investigation, especially ones past the statute of limitations like this one is. I don't know how it will turn out, but I'm glad it's been challenged in court.

Talking with the Presbyterians? Hmmm....

Comments to follow:

Via Yahoo!

Pope Benedict XVI stressed his commitment to bringing Christian churches closer together during a meeting with a delegation of Presbyterian and Congregational church leaders at the Vatican. The pontiff made the point that the meeting with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches came on the 40th anniversary of the "Unitatis Redintegratio" papal decree committing the Catholic Church to dialogue with other churches to overcome "the tragic divisions which arose among Christians in the 16th century", according to a statement released by the Vatican. The pope said he intended to pursue the strategy of his predecessor John Paul II who stipulated that "purification of memory" and "inner conversion is the prerequisite for all ecumenical progress".
"Dear friends, I pray that our meeting today will itself bear fruit in a renewed commitment to work for the unity of all Christians. The way before us calls for wisdom, humility, patient study and exchange," Benedict XVI said.

Well I am all about Christian unity as long as major theological points are sacrificed. I want a "good peace" but not at the expense of theological truth. Happily, I don't believe B XVI will allow that (especially based on the title of his last book, Truth and Tolerance , which I've got to read soon....it's in the pile). But any dialogue is good, and hopefully it will lead us closer to fulfilling Jesus' prayer that "all may be one."

The Culture of Death and Agca's release...notes

A round-up of news from the Catholic world...with pithy comments ;-)....

--The man who shot JP II will be released from prison this month. "Agca served 19 years in Italy for the assassination attempt before being pardoned at the Pope's behest in 2000. He was then extradited to Turkey to serve a separate sentence in an Istanbul jail for robbery and murder. "Agca is expected to be released between January 10 and January 15," Anatolian said, adding that he may then be required, like all Turkish men, to perform his military service."

Given that JPII officially forgave him, and it seems that Agca experienced a conversion while in prison, it seems fitting to the late Pope's memory that he is being released. I'm sure that his time in the military would curb any still-existing tendencies toward violence. (or so one would hope).

--B XVI elegantly ties scraments with theology at his first baptism; while baptising 10 babies (five boys, five girls) in the Sistine chapel (appropriately before Michaelangelo's Last Judgement , he decried the "culture of death" (yay!), stating that:

"In our times we need to say 'no' to the largely dominant culture of death... "(There is) an anti-culture demonstrated by the flight to drugs, by the flight from reality, by illusions, by false happiness ... displayed in sexuality which has become pure pleasure devoid of responsibility," he added. He singled out ancient Rome's Colosseum amphitheatre and the gardens of the emperor Nero, where Christians were once martyred, as a "real perversion of joy and a perversion of the sense of life."
"The anti-culture of death was a love of lies and of deceit. It was an abuse of the body as a commodity and as a product. Even in our times there is this culture and we must say 'No' to it," he said.
(information from Yahoo! News)

The article also mentions this was the first time that B XVI spoke "off-the-cuff" to reporters (which, as I gathered from the article, was sort of unexpected and not exactly welcomed). I'm glad he talked about this issue, instead of the generic "importance of baptism" on which he was supposed to discuss. Too many priests and bishops in our Church do not discuss the important of this issue enough. It should be preached with regularity and passion, reminding us all of the importance of protecting all human life as our duty as Catholic Christians. It is of vital importance. Kudos to B XVI for continuing this important work.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wither Christmas songs?

Am I the only one who attends a parish that recycles the same 5 or 6 Christmas songs over and over all season? I mean, we only get Christmas for two (or three?) Sundays anyway, the only time all year we can access the great Christmas hymnody that our Church has. And we always get stuck with the warhorses-- "Joy to the World", "O Come All Ye Faithful", "The First Noelle", "O Little Town of Bethlehem", "What Child Is This?" What about "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear?" "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (which is one of my favorites, but probably too politically incorrect!), "Of the Father's Love Begotten", "The Holly and the Ivy", "Angels from the Realms of Glory", "Good Christian Men, Rejoice!", etc? Why is it always the same five? I'm starting to get a wee bit irritated. And we don't even do "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", which I love .

Do other parishes do this? Or is it just mine? Have we really sunk to the musical low of not being able to sing more than 5 or 6 songs and writing the others off as "too hard" or "too old"? Say it ain't so!

Mel--play me a good Christmas song, quick!

Rapture and Rosaries

I was in German Village in Columbus yesterday (which may explain this occurence, for those of you who understand the eclectic make up of the place), and saw both of the following on one vehicle:

1) a rosary dangling from a rearview mirror
2) a sticker that read "in case of rapture, this car will be empty"

This is strange because, as a rule, Catholics don't believe in the rapture. At all. The fact that we don't, and because of many other things, has even led to the book Will Catholics Be 'Left Behind?' , by Carl Olson, which explains the faults of Rapture logic and debunks it. It's a great book, available via Ignatius Press.

Oh, and another note, while were on the topic: please, good Catholic people, don't read the Left Behind books, or get the kids' ones for your children. They ar virurently anti-Catholic dressed up as Christian literature, but it's pretty clear that the Catholic Church is (again) the anti-Christ. Just because it's an NYT best-seller (indeed, maybe because it's an NYT best seller) doesn't mean it's good! (see my thoughts on the DaVinci code other places in this blog). What amazes me about this Protestant notion (and yes I know not all Protestants believe in the Rapture, or think we're the anti-Christ) is that it directly contradicts the biblical idea of a tree and its fruit. It we really were the anti-Christ, then I don't think we'd have over a billion members that believe Jesus Christ is their savior and are living to serve Him and believe in Him. I don't think there'd be anything good coming out of the Church, and yet there is much good fruit. But we're still the anti-Christ. Isn't this a little old? Just a bit? And to go in the "if this happened to Jews/ Muslims/ other Christians, the reaction would be..." category--can you imagine if someone wrote a book saying these same things about Jews/Muslims/ other Christians? The reaction would be incredible.But you can say it about Catholics and end up on the best seller lists for years. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

More Christmas pics

For those interested....

Me and my Grandma at the Hilton Columbus our first night there

L-R: Me, Bryan, and Mel after Midnight Mass

Paige, Molly and Ryan in the Lilac Room at the Hilton playing Battleship. I love Ryan's hat!!

Melanie rolls in the Christmas paper after the carnage of Christmas morning....

Me and Grandpa (we all call him "pa") at the Hilton

O Come All Ye Irritants...

All right, let's get down to the nitty gritty...

I love my church. Love it a lot. I love my parish a lot, too, given that it's the church I grew up in. But lately there have been some things that are, well....irritating.....

We have a visitng priest that comes in sometimes to fill in Mass slots when our (one) priest/pastor can't do them. That's fine, I'm cool with that. But could we please have a priest who is going to, um, "go with the flow"?

For example:

--He still doesn't seem to have come to terms with the whole "God the Father" idea. In the Doxology, he says, "Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit (notice all those "Him"s?), all glory and honor is your, Almighty God , forever and ever." Hmmm. So "Him" is OK in the Gloria, the first part of the Doxology, and everywhere else, but not here? Are we uncertain that God is a man? I think that was settled about, oh, 4,000 with the Jews on Mt. Sinai...or with Joseph...or Abraham....hmmm....I'm sorry, but this just irritates me. Stick to what's in the book, please! It's there for a reason. The Vatican's approved this version, not the version you have in your head. Grrr.

--And it continues with the part after the Lord's Prayer, when the priest says "and protect us from all anxiety." Well, Fr. Visiting Priest adds " undue anxiety." One of these days I would love to ask him just what constitutes "due" anxiety, since I seem to remember Jesus saying something about not to worry about the future because tomorrow has enough problems of its own, and that worrying didn't do any good because God will take care of us. But according to this priest, um, that's not the way it is and we should have some "due" anxiety. Whatever that means....

As for the rest of it? Some of the folk groups take the music much too slowly and change the keys (which irritates me, but probably no one else) --otherwise it's good. And my parish really does quite a nice job with Masses and our pastor is excellent at giving a good Mass and preaching well and he always has the right amount of reverence. But I just get irritated when people change things on me to be "politically correct." Does this bother anybody else? Feel free to share stories....


(OK, a lot of minis today)

Snapshots of what I've been reading lately (and it's a lot):

The Constant Princess by Pihlippa Gregory: Very good novel about the life of Catherine of Aragon and her marriages to both Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Henry VIII after Arthur's death. Thrillingly paced and elegantly written, the novel takes us from Catalina's childhood in Spain to her 'trial' before the peers as Henry VIII attempts to overthrown his marriage to her and take up with Anne Boleyn. If you like historical fiction, especially British historical fiction, snap this up. Gregory's books are always meticulously researched, and the 'fiction' is really in the character's thoughts and deeds, but most of it is corroborated with solid scholarship (she always lists her sources at the end). Good stuff.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton: This novel won the 1921 Pultizer Prize and was made into a 1995 movie (I think) starring Winona Ryder, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Tells the story of Newland Archer, a lawyer in 1870s upper-crust NYC society who marries May Welland, a nice but rather intellectually dull girl, whom he is happy with until he is captivated by her divorcee cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska. Wonderfully written with luminous prose, this book is a great exploration of desires, social manners, and societal constraints, as well as a desire to do one's duty. Excellent.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion: Explores how we deal with grief and suffering as she recounts 2003, a harrowing year where she lost her husband and almost lost her daughter twice to strange illnesses and medical mishaps. Good psychological exploration of death and loss and how we deal with it. Also religious undertones--she's Episcopalian, her husband was Catholic...so that plays into it a bit.

Now for a Catholic book.... The New Anti-Catholicism by Philip Jenkins: Discusses the idea that Catholic prejudice is so ingrained in American culture and media that if you mention it to anyone, you're seen as oversensitive and a little nutty. Gives numerous examples of anti-Catholic bias in the culture as well as a history of Catholicism and anti-Catholicism in America. I didn't agree with all his points, but I agreed with most of them. A fairly good representation of the problem we face (and I especially enjoyed the political parts).

The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith: Great fiction series, book 5 in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. If you haven't read this series already, go out and buy them. They're mystery books, but they're so much more than that, with explorations into morality and societal norms, as well as great African settings. Precious Ramotswe is a private detective in Botswana who takes on many varied cases with the help of her assistant, Grace Matuski, and her fiance Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. Great books, quick reads, and very enjoyable. The sixth book, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies is out in hardback, but I haven't read it yet. :)

I think that's it for now...I'll let you know when I've got more, and of course I'll give you fuller reviews on the Catholic theology/ apologetics/ etc. that I'm reading (still working on The Confessions ...sigh)

Popcorn mini: The Family Stone

Saw The Family Stone on New Year's Day, and I have to say it was one of the more enjoyable films I've seen. It's a nice blend of comedy and drama that keeps you laughing one minute and induces melancholy the next. The film revolves around Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney of My Best Friend's Wedding fame) bringing home his workaholic, uptight girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) to meet the rest of his rather...eh..."special" family for Christmas. His family includes matriarch Sybil (Diane Keaton, in other great role), his father (Craig T. Nelson...remember Coach ?), his brother the "documentary filmmaker" turned pot-addict (Luke Wilson), sister Anne (Rachel McAdams...that girl is awesome in whatever, I'm telling you) whose NPR tote bag tells you everything you need to know, and another brother whose deaf and gay who comes along with his partner, who is black. It's a real fun mix, and it gets better as worlds collide and Meredith has to call in her sister, Julie (a great Claire Danes) for reinforcement. Not something that's going to win Oscars, but it's a well done film that I found really enjoyable.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

FPOY (Thanks, Corner)

Hah! The First Post of the Year (FPOY)....and nothing profound to say, other than I enjoyed seeing Dick Clark back in action. :) My wishes for the New Year? Let's see... (some predictions, too)

1. That B XVI have a great first full year of his pontificate, proclaiming and teaching the Truth of the Church in the spirit of JP II-- "Be not afraid!"

2. That the Blue Jackets will win some games

3. that I will really begin working out in earnest (I'm trying...)

4. The GOP will keep Congress in a squeaker and we'll keep the Ohio G.A., too. I'm not so sure about the Gov.'s race.

5. That good priests will be ordained and our seminaries will see an increase in seminarians

6. That B XVI will canonize many good, holy saints for our Church

7. That my parish will get a second priest (to replace the visiting priest we have to likes to play with the wording of the Mass...more on that later).

8. That I'll get a date. :) (OK, so maybe that's more of a wish...)

9. That things will continue to progress in Iraq and the media will not notice.

10. There will be some sort of controversy at the 2006 Turin games, somehow involving an ice sport (like, say, figure skating...)

11. Some very leftist movie will win Best Picture (boy I hope I'm wrong), but Narnia will be one of the best selling DVDs of the year (if not the best selling).

12. A Papal decree will come down that will clean up the way we say Mass and restore some of the reverence...and hopefully clean up the music. No more "praise bands" with songs no one knows!! Please!!

That's all I've got for now...feel free to add your own predictions in the comment slot, or send them to catholicpostergirl@yahoo.com....catch y'all later!