Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Let's play hockey It's been about ten years since I saw my last NHL games: Red Wings versus the Devils at the Joe. Since then, I've seen probably about a hundred minor-league and junior games, most in the USHL. I check my hometown team at least a few times a week: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040929/SPORTS02/409290315/1007/SPORTS and catch up on the news. Chris Chelios playing for the Chicago Wolves -- that's news. Hasek backstopping Binghamton. Wow. I may have to get back to an AHL game somewhere. Too bad they didn't put a team in Kansas City, but we do have the Outlaws.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

There goes the neighborhood http://www.accessnorthga.com/news/ap_newfullstory.asp?ID=46898 Having lived in city neighborhoods as a child and young adult, I never heard concerns such as this. Where I live now, having a parish Catholic school as a neighbor can add up to 20% to the value of a home. What happens if a parish wanted to emphasize another ministry, a half-way home for troubled youth or a hospice home -- traditions with more pedigree than a prep school? What if they wanted to get out of the education business entirely? One commenter suggested the reason for the opposition to a residence of religious women is what becomes of the place when they sell the property. Does it become an apartment house or a motel, heaven forbid? (If there was nearby land, it could become a country club, but I don't know how much that development would affect property values.) We own our home again these days. Property values are up and we got a nice refi deal at the end of last year, paying off some debts and lowering our monthly payments. Maybe if a religious motherhouse had sold their property to Motel 6, the deal wouldn't have been as sweet. Or if the local Catholic school closed its doors. Does this start getting into the territory of this past Sunday's gospel reading? Unlike most of the world's citizens, I do own a home. What if the neighboring Catholic parish decided the gospel demanded outreach to the poor was called for -- a far less sexy response than educating children in white polo shirts and navy shorts? The realities of home values are a given, but what if they conflict with gospel values? If my parish or a group within my parish decided it was a good idea to house a handful of black foster children in the neighborhood, send them to the parish school, give them a fresh start in their young lives, would I be bound in good conscience to support it? I think I would.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Deal's not done Jeremy Lott sums up the state of affairs here: http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/. He posits that the man's support is waning, though a few bloggers are protesting they're standing by their man. I wonder if the lack of secular press interest isn't because pedophile clergy and fumbling bishops haven't already hardened expectations. If Deal were a priest, maybe journalists would be falling over themselves to crack the story wider. Everything Deal says and does seems calculated to keep himself above the victim line. Shouldn't some close friend just give him a hint: everything you say just makes it worse.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Bush II is no Dukakis I was reading an interesting commentary in today's Sunday paper (Kansas City Star) in which a columnist draws an unflattering comparison between Michael Dukakis and our president. Apparently, during the 1988 election cycle, a group had pieced together various tales from the vice-president's military career, specifically the incident in which Bush bailed from his plane, leaving two soldiers aboard who died in the subsequent crash. Questions were raised about the incident, and apparently some Dukakis supporters wanted their candidate to make something of it. Dukakis refused and the idea died ... as it should and where it should. For better or worse, the war records of this year's candidates are effectively done as a political issue. People who wanted to be convinced by either side were probably convinced at the outset. Everyone else is tired of the delay and some of us still hold out hope for somebody to touch on the real issues.
Hopefully this translates well to the web site. I was working on a story idea last summer and spent some time drawing a map. I prefer creating maps to stories, so the map was happily successful. I discarded the story idea, though. Posted by Hello
This is a photo of the three of us just before we moved to Kansas City from Iowa. Posted by Hello
My wife and I at a parish party shortly before we became engaged. Anita always liked this picture, so I can get away with posting it here. Posted by Hello

Friday, September 24, 2004

What's on this week's bookshelf The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. Greene is a truly gifted science writer. The Last Guardian of Everness by John C. Wright. Wright's debut science fiction trilogy was just outstanding, I thought. This book appears to be a fantasy, and I'm looking forward to reading it.
This weekend's liturgical music at the parish Psalm 34, "Taste and See," setting by Haugen Hymnody: "We Gather Together" "The Cry of the Poor" or substituted anthem/instrumental at director's/accompanist's discretion "On Eagles Wings" "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" For service music, see last week.
What's playing I was listening to ABC's (Australia) eclectic weekly program of sacred music For the God Who Sings earlier this week at the office. (You can find it here: http://www.abc.net.au/classic/audio/; just scroll down to about the third program.) I was struck by this week's feature piece (about 50 minutes into the program), Jonathan Elias' Prayer Cycle, reviewed here: http://www.canoe.ca/JamAlbumsV/var_prayercircle.html. I listened again tonight while on the computer, and I was even more impressed. I surfed to a brief bio here: http://www.sonyclassical.com/artists/elias/bio.html and was struck by this quote from Elias: "Prayer is what we turn to when the only thing we have left is hope." While I appreciate the deep spirituality of Elias' work, my hope is that prayer is a little more than a last line of defense. But if the composer is suggesting that prayer is the only thing we can turn to when all we have is hope, then I suppose I can sign on to that. Now I have to see if either of my record clubs offer this disc.
SSPX school forfeits football game rather than take the field against a girl http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/9744840.htm Presented without comment.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Abortion-Communion confluence It looks like the Eucharist is heading to be the battleground again in the abortion debate. Too bad, really. There's still a lot of good energy left in the conflict on its own terms. Sorting it all out, this is what I can find: - Abortion is a moral evil our nation, by and large, has not come to grips with. Politicians are too easily slouching their way through their stance on the issue. Republicans hide behind jurists' robes while giving lip service to voters. Democrats have sold their birthright, lost hundreds of thousands of voters for a radical stance no other Western country can match. Of course, I wouldn't want them to treat pro-choicers the way they've treated Blacks, but that card's not even on the table. - Abortion has been a thirty-year pain in the butt for both the pro-life and anti-abortion movements. Unable to convince two generations otherwise, lobbying groups are now spending hundreds of thousands to criticize bishops who would be in agreement with them right up the line on the issue itself. Maybe it's not surprising that a dysfunctional system has spawned such dysfunctional behavior in otherwise sensible pro-life people. - Bishops are barking up the wrong tree to be mixing up their issues of authority and governance with abortion, tempting though it may be to believe that a few hundred guys scarred by pedophile and financial mismanagement have something authoritative to say about people coming to Communion. Nobody questions that bishops can get people disinvited from time to time. And no doubt, the confluence of a bishop, a pastor, and a sorry politician might produce a spectacle during Mass somewhere, someday. In my mind, the question is not "Can they?" but "Should they?" - I'm entertained by neotrads suggesting that abortion is The Issue trumping all other issues, and that the war and death penalty are matters of prudential judgment, and "not at all important because I disagree with the Magisterium on them." For that matter, engaging in sexual intercourse is affected by prudential judgment. I can have intercourse with my wife, and that would be fine. But if I'm having sex for improper reasons, that would be sinful. I can examine my conscience and figure it all out. Same thing with the Iraq War. Conceding for the moment that not everybody is a pacifist, we can make judgments about the war (as we should, being Catholics and Americans and moral people) that lead us to the notion that it is proper to defend ourselves, but probably sinful, if not gravely sinful, to engage in lies, cheating, stealing, etc.. to justify the war. Just as sometimes an abusive spouse is unfit to engage in lawful marital intercourse, the same judgment can be made regarding the neocon support for the Iraq War, while they dismiss the Vatican as out-of-touch anti-American fools. - And lastly, the notion of excommunication. Ah. Like this is some new idea we should have tried twenty or thirty years ago. Or tried it in other countries, say, like Italy? The bishops look like they're making this thing up on the fly. Are there guidelines and judgments for using this last resort? Or are the speaking disinvites not working, so it's like: "Well, we could try denying them Communion. What d'ya think?" The one thing that worries me is that pro-lifers and especially anti-abortionists have lost most of their steam. Do you get the same feeling? The bishops sure look like they're running on fumes. People who have abortions haven't been listening to them for decades. People who provide abortions don't bother with them. Those who support those who provide probably want to keep making money. Those who support those who support those who provide are trying to maximize their voting popularity. (I guess.) And now we're going after those who support those who support those who support those who provide abortions for those who make the choice. This is the strategy of desperation, not effectiveness. Maybe it's time to pull back the lobbying efforts, the millions spent to sway opinion that just won't be swayed, the excommunication efforts, and all, and meet to determine the common ground for a societal conversion. Quite frankly when you start seeing your alies as the Enemy, it's time to chill: you're not doing the cause any good, and you're not doing yourself any good. Just for suggesting the mainstream pro-life movement seems out of kilter, I've been villified in the blogoscene. And heck, if you can't convince a pacifist Catholic pro-lifer, I doubt you're going to make serious headway with people who are not pacifists, not Catholic, and not particularly moral. Hard news, friends, but somebody has to deliver it.
Deal Hudson and Rembert Weakland Not without sympathy have I read the numerous efforts to come to grips with the scandal of Deal Hudson by my conservative friends in St Blog's. One blogger suggests (with a substantial stretch, I think) that the NCR has damaged the Sacrament of Reconciliation by printing their story about a publisher who seduced a young woman with drink and sex, sins for which we're sure he has confessed and been given absolution. Seeing a hero take a fall is a difficult thing. That one's hero may be Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Newt Gingrich, Rembert Weakland, or Deal Hudson is irrelevant to the shared sense of betrayal we feel when a person we have tried to align a lesser or greater portion of our life has frittered away our trust in a shameful way. Regarding Hudson and Weakland, Catholics on both sides of the St Blog's ideological divide miss an opportunity to reflect on the commonality of these scandals. Both men were public figures, admired by supporters and villified by many. Both were icons of their own brand of Catholicism. Both were tripped up by very old scandals of sex. Both presumably availed themselves (as they say) of the sacrament of reconciliation. Both scandals elicited a good amount of glee in Catholic quarters, and a lot of aversion and excuse-making in others. I now read of Hudson quitting his Crisis desk and getting bumped up to a position in a newly created subsidiary of the collective. Whatever. And the wound is opened again. Maybe he should just mop floors in penance for a decade or two, instead of doing public speaking and writing gigs, some suggest. Maybe the nasty liberal press should honor the seal of confession and lay off, like God has done, others say. This is what I think. I'm getting tired of Deal Hudson news. But maybe his fall gives us a chance to look in the mirror a bit more closely. Are we willing to treat our (meaning, I guess, mine and yours) public sinners the same and get our own agendas (petty as well as profound) out of the way as we deal with them? It is an American fault that enjoys so well the downfall of the high and mighty -- and don't let the suggestion of modern media-driven hero worship tell you otherwise. If there's money to be made in watching somebody take a fall, you can bet cameras will be on hand. (If for nothing else, everybody also likes a rehabilitation -- that sells, too.) So how'd you do comparing your reaction to Weakland and Hudson? Anything to share?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Appropriate liturgy and music for school children Ava inquired below about appropriate material for children's liturgy. More people than you want to listen to have their own opinions on this. Obviously I have mine too. 1. Masses with school children should take the parish Sunday Mass as its first model. By the time kids are in junior high, their Masses (if separate) should look pretty much like mainstream parish Masses, including communion under both forms, a wide variety in "adult" music. By the time kids are in their first year or two of full communion, their Masses (if separate) should be planned with an eye to integration in the parish mainstream. 2. Kids like all kinds of music, so I think the best liturgical music of all styles can and should be used. 3. Most Catholic school kids don't go to Mass on Sunday. Keep this in mind when forming expectations about songs and rituals you think they should know. 4. If leaders usurp the role of the assembly at school Masses, kids will remain passive. A priest I knew once with very good intentions, would boom the people's responses louder than his own script. It was no surprise that the kids were timid to silent in their responses. He didn't like my suggestion to say nothing of the people's parts at all. "But then there will be an embarassing silence," he said. Not if you take advantage of the school year start to catechize kids well. If necessary, gather the children in church once or twice before doing a full Mass. 5. Masses with children should have a predictable ritual aspect to them. If many priests are scheduled to preside, they should try to agree on a common format. Of course, if kids aren't participating, it could be for the same reason their parents don't participate: spiritual, acoustical, motivational, etc..

Friday, September 17, 2004

The The Don't get me wrong; I resist current trends as much as the next individualist, but I don't see the fuss about the "the" among traditional-leaning Catholics. It's one thing if I were to start turning nouns, adjectives, or even interrogatives into verbs. But to get criticized for referring to "liturgy" instead of "the liturgy?" Remember: there is no definite article in Latin.
A good start At the end of last Spring, fourteen choristers and their families attended the end-of-the-year appreciation brunch for the children's choir. We had over 90 children participate in last month's Young Person's Music Retreat. Wednesday this week, expectations were overmatched, as 31 kids (including 3 boys) came for their first choir practice. The choir is slightly more heavily scheduled this year, but the most exciting aspect is our new director, Cheryl. She's taking over for me this year, and is just a master of children's vocal pedagogy. More importantly, her enthusiasm for music has really enlivened the elementary program at the parish school. And that will give this year's choir a leg up on last year. There's nothing quite like the happy buzz of musical children after their rehearsal. Though my wife disagrees, I'm a far better player than conductor, and I'm really going to enjoy accompanying the kids at Mass. I offered to sweeten the pot for Cheryl and accompany at school Masses she's responsible for. As demanding as good conducting is, it's even worse when I have to play as well. I'm not good enough at any of these things to put one aspect on autopilot and pay attention to the other. Our new piano makes it much harder to continue as we had in previous years playing for kids on risers behind the console. The new pastor seems pleased with the school Masses. I think I'm going to love this year.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Liturgical music plan, 25th Ordinary Sunday Alleluia: Hughes setting, Gather Comprehensive (GC) 263. The ensemble will do a Gelineau-style verse I arranged for four voices; cantors will do a simple psalm tone. Mass setting: Proulx's Community Mass: Sanctus, Acclamation A, Amen, GC 228, 229, 231. Fraction Rite: Joncas's Psallite Lamb of God, GC 213, one verse. (Note: these pieces above are assigned for the September-November period of Ordinary Time) Psalm 113 Alstott setting, Respond & Acclaim (OCP) or Psalm 19 "Lord You Have the Words" setting by Haas, GC 27 Hymnody Gathering: Holy Holy Holy, GC 474 Communion: Song of the Body of Christ, GC 847 Closing: Blest Be The Lord, GC 617 at Gifts, cantors, choirs, and accompanists have the option of Seek Ye First GC 615, an instrumental piece, or a choral anthem. At Masses with cantors, the organist plays a prelude (organ, or sometimes piano) after the Mass call bells finish. The Celebration Choir will do an anthem before liturgy, as well as one after the Communion Song. At the Ensemble, we'll do my alternate arrangement of GC 847 (which reminds me ... I need to run the vocal arrangement through Sibelius this afternoon). Unless someone has a better idea at tonight's rehearsal, we'll probably sing GC 615. Prelude will likely be a solo piano arrangement of a liturgical song by either me or Laura, our regular pianist. Sunday night's youth choir chooses mostly different music from Spirit and Song (OCP). There you have it: this weekend at St Thomas More Church. Saturday night is also the outdoor picnic Mass, so I have extra preparations for music and with my sacristans to make sure that goes smoothly. Last year 102-degree weather forced us inside (and also spawned a move to mid-September). Outdoor liturgies are not my favorite endeavor, but the numbers expected for the picnic and our smallish worship space (we still have six weekend Masses) dictate our long practice continue. It should be fun. Here's hoping your Sunday liturgy is prayerful and fruitful for your faith community.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Balancing a naive consensus with competence Loudon (who is hardly a fool) offers the problem of a committee making naive decisions (about liturgical music, say) and overrunning the more expert opinions of music staff. In all but the best places, this is indeed a problem. In my parish, selections are not done in committee per se, but rather by a few willing volunteers who happen to be deeply involved in parish music ministry. They balance the parish repertoire list with the readings and liturgy and make generally good choices. We have yet to develop a good mechanism for discerning new music. Prior to me, the pastor did all this. In my ideal parish, a small group of music people would review the hymnal and other resources and make plans for introducing 6-10 new piece of music per year, possibly by a reading session or a hymn fest. These 6-10 would be mostly hymns, maybe a few psalm settings or other service music. Committees haggling over music can be deadly. I would prefer to give it to people to take home, pray about it, then have one person sift through the sets of choices and come up with a final plan. Presumably planners have sung plainsong, hymnody, classical and contemporary music (preferably sung all of them) and bring a desire to sing the best texts to their music planning. I think I might be another year or two from hitting the ideal at my parish. But I think some trained musicians might have to leave considerable baggage at the committee room door for this to work. It involves incredible trust as well as a commitment to forming parish musicians so good choices come easy for the naive, or hopefully, the formerly naive.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

If Bush were running against Jesus jcecil has a hilarious spoof on his page: http://liberalcatholicnews.blogspot.com/ Go over and see it. Catholic Sensibility approves of this message.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Exemplary choices in contemporary liturgical music My initial caveat is that some composers, even some worthy ones, dominate the music publishing businesses of Catholic, Anglican, and reformed churches. If my parish knows four of Proulx or six of Haugen and we need a setting of Psalm 62, I'm probably not going to go back to the same well. One internet friend has suggested that though there is a lot of good music out there these days, it is draining to try to sort through all the new bad music to find it. Perhaps that is why liturgical musicians are so eager to return to David Haas, Natalie Sleeth, or others who publish about a piece a day. (If my group likes ten St Louis Jesuit songs, then eighty should be better.) In his early career, Bruce Springsteen would bring about twenty to thirty songs to an album recording session. He and the E Street Band would whittle that to the best of what could be pressed on two sides of a vinyl disk. In contrast, GIA policy (when I spoke with them about publishing and recording my music in the early 90's) was to do this for the first debut recording. They wanted another six outstanding songs to go with my pieces they liked. Once established, I could gradually add older songs that didn't make the first cut. That was a disappointing experience, more for the philosophy than for the rejection of 90% of my work. I see in the output of some published composers nothing to suggest a significant upgrade in quality is happening. More liturgical composers need to have Bruce's 70's approach in mind when they go to the publisher. Here then are my examples of contemporary liturgical songs that deserve a second look (or a first one, if they've been passed over). Some of these I have found to stand the test of several years use in a parish. Others I hope would someday get a wider listen. "Day Is Done," text by James Quinn set to the Welsh tune Ar Hyd Y Nos. The melody is strong enough to be done without accompaniment. But the tune also works extremely well with organ, piano, or ensemble. It should be a staple of a parish's evening prayer repertoire. "Now The Silence," text by Jaroslav Vajda and music by Carl Schalk. This one also adapts well to organ or contemporary instrumentation. And one of its best features: no need to trim verses; there is only one. "I Sing A Maid" might be one of the best Marian songs composed in the 20th century. It adapts well to just about any instrument or ensemble. "I Am The Bread Of Life" by Suzanne Toolan. I used to dislike this song, but I've learned to appreciate its possibilities, plus that people identify enough with it to sing the octave plus fifth range. "Pescador de Hombres," by Cesareo Gabarain "The Servant Song," by Richard Gillard "In the Breaking of the Bread," by Bob Hurd "Where Charity and Love Prevail," text by Westendorf, music by Paul Benoit "Behold the Lamb," by Martin Willett ... to name a few If you were to press me as to the best of the publishers' darlings: "Now We Remain" by David Haas, a very good twenty-year-old song he has yet to surpass, Joncas' masterful setting of Psalm 139, Foley's "One Bread One Body" is a worthy chestnut, Haugen's "Gather Us In" is with us, like it or not. In considering some well-published composers, I think they have written things more musically interesting, even some of the moratorium subjects above. But church musicians don't have the luxury of leaning on their own personal tastes in selecting music to learn and use in worship. For example, I find Bob Hurd's gospel-inflected music far more challenging than the song I mentioned above, but my preferences must be informed in large part by the Catholics I serve. I like Willett's "Dulcimer Carol" more than "Behold the Lamb," but most of my parishes don't have time for new Christmas songs. And again, I will put in the strong suggestion that only positive comments are welcome if you have alternate preferences. A good Christian rule of thumb is to say three good things about something before the criticism is trotted out. A hard discipline, I know, but an important one. Good liturgical music is not programmed by a process of elimination, but by a prayerful discernment with readings, liturgical text, and the human needs of the people at prayer in the parish. If you want the absolute best in music, program a concert, not the Mass. Then you can sell tickets (or give away refreshments) and see how your numbers match up with Sunday Mass.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Has 9/11 changed the US? I think there is a natural human tendency to mentally bury horrific events. My wife, however, finds the focus on 9/11 bothersome, but mainly from a sense of compassion for the families of the victims. "Why do they have to be so insensitive to those who lost loved ones?" she asks. "Haven't they suffered enough?" We were at a semi-family reunion in Ohio that day. My aunt's 80th birthday was a celebration with family. Brittany got to meet her first and second cousins, uncle and aunt for the first time. My brother and I took our families to the Flight Museum near Dayton on the 10th. The whole three days had been such an excellent time. The plan for the 11th was to gather for a family lunch before we parted ways. Once the planes hit, my brother and I each thought it would be best to get home as fast as our cars would carry us. It was hard not to stay tuned to NPR on our drive. Anita and I listened in semi-shock. We prayed as we made our way along the interstate through Indiana. We saw Air Force One and its escort flying over us as we drove several miles below in Illinois. I erred in not tanking up on gas when we stopped for a snack in central Illinois around 3PM. I noted the gas station attendant taking out the 1's and putting in 2's on the price sign. I ended up not only paying a "2" price north of Peoria around 5PM, but also waiting in line with some testy people for about an hour. My wife wanted to find a motel and hide. My concern was getting across the Mississippi River. Once into Iowa, I thought I could find my way across 240 miles of anything that was open to get us home. I was going to do everything I could to get us back to Eagle Grove that night. Anita was alarmed at four police cars surrounding a nearby gas station (the one we didn't use) but we made it home without incident. There was actually some gas left in the pumps when we made Waterloo IA around 10PM. We pulled in our driveway dead tired and shell-shocked around midnight. I don't think I'm ever going to drive 600-some miles in a day ever again. I saw some other blog saying 9/11 has changed us. I disagree. If we had changed that day, people would have had a sense of pulling together and I would have seen less anger outwardly directed at other citizens and less opportunism by gas station owners. I heard the Illinois Attorney General was looking to prosecute gougers. I was too angry about it to follow through. American businesses, especially those affected by the attacks, seemed eager to return to normal. Understandable. I would be too if I owned a tourist spot or an airline. Or it could be that I haven't seen the change in American society I would wish for: greater compassion. Heck, it would be something to see Americans treat their brother and sister citizens with more kindness and respect. Instead, we have a semi-holiday of remembrance. That's fine: the liturgist in me recognizes the importance of this. But has 9/11 meant anything to any individual in terms of changing their lives for the better? I see a lot of bigotry and suspicion, especially on the internet. Anita was mentioning someone she heard on tv (?) who was calling for the eradication of all Muslims. Nice. Just throw more fuel on the fire. So maybe I'm not sure about changes. I think we could have done better. Maybe it will take a lot more time. Any thoughts out there?

Friday, September 10, 2004

Just Visiting Anita and I went out to see the new St Mark's in nearby Independence. It was last Friday, so my colleagues were off that day. The church was filled with an industrious little army of cleaners. Here are some photos: http://www.stmarksparish.com/photo_gallery1.asp?whicharea='New%20Church' I liked it. It was a sunny day outside and the brightness had no problem entering into the nave. Day chapel shared a "tabernacle wall" with the nave. The musicians seemed well-equipped. I prefer it at the entrance, but St Mark's has a very serviceable and deep font near the altar. I rarely get to visit with a Sunday assembly present to get a feel for the acoustics, singing, and other liturgical details. But it seems quite prayerful. Anita liked the day chapel and the Holy Family statues. If you're in the area, go visit.
Pressing one's advantage It's been a good summer for volunteers at the parish. I had over twenty for the Young Person's Music Retreat without hardly breaking a sweat. I e-mailed another parishioner the other night about getting some thing rolling at the Saturday night Mass. She said she was thinking about getting involved (her daughter is a new altar server) and seems very interested in our idea. There are times in life when things seem to slot a lot easier into place. This coming week won't be too busy, so I think I'll spend my extra moments pressing my advantage.
Dodging Bush The president was in the area the other day. My wife's main goal that day was to get to class and home without encountering a three-hour traffic delay. Roads to and from the community college were light, she reported. I was thinking this was unlike the time his dad decided to attend the Super Bowl in Detroit. Have you heard that story? Detroit was slammed by a blizzard and then some icy weather Super Bowl weekend. Bush I was invited to the game and the NFL people recommended he arrive very early or at the last minute. Instead, the then-VP came with all the other fans. Traffic was stopped and tons of fans were late to the game. Even the 49'ers were late, though not as late as Coach Walsh suggested when he quipped on the team bus that the good news is they were only behind 7-0, but the bad news is that the training staff had taken the field against Cincinnati. I also read that a bus full of press was stuck in traffic and a bunch of guys braved zero-degree weather in suit coats. They had left their overcaots in the hotel rooms, not thinking they would need to trek most of a mile to get to the stadium on time. I don't recall a vice president has attempted to attend a game since.

Monday, September 06, 2004

A new kind of justification for war? I think not Terrorism has supposedly given us cause to throw out all the rules on Just War. Kill, some say, before others kill us. The old rules are no longer working. Pacifism would have a few things to say about this. First, indulging in violence, even for a just cause, is mortally dangerous for the defender. Just War doesn't just give Catholic soldiers a free pass on going to confession. Killing damages the killer, be it premeditated, accidental, or done from a distance as in modern warfare. There is a reason that police officers and soldiers have higher rates of domestic abuse, divorce, and other psychological problems than most other professions. A humane person who must kill ten or twenty persons in the course of duty is still scarred by the killing. The sooner chaplains, counsellors, and others in the healing and spiritual realm realize this, the more these people can be helped. A worldwide witchhunt for terrorists, even if we can make it effective, will not be run without a price, even if it nets few physical casualties. Second, some say that the terrorists have taken the battle to civilians. We should be outraged. Okay, we should be. Taking the battle to civilians is not a Muslim novelty. The US has done it from the times of struggle against the native tribes of the Americas. And we've done it deliberately in WWII and Vietnam. In the past, our isolation has made it hard for people to do it against us. (By the way, 9/11 wasn't mainly about inflicting civilian casualties. If Al-Qaida wanted maximum casualties, they would have aimed for other targets less symbolic and more dangerous.) Pacifists recognize that the struggle against violence indeed needs to be fought in every person: civilian and those with responsibility to protect the innocent. In Denmark and Norway, WWII resisters were civilians. Women and children put themselves at risk for a cause. The battle against violence needs to be waged in every human heart. Those who give in to hatred and violence on the homefront are as much a danger to themselves and those around them as a terrorist is. And given the levels of violence and cruelty in cities, schools, sport, the media, etc., we have a lot more grave threats to our security, even given that terrorists care little for schools, offices, or the military. I suppose my conclusion here is that all must struggle against violent urges, and that the random violence at home is nothing to be trifled with. Third, the rules haven't changed. Christ's commandments are not abrogated because Saddam, Hitler, Van Buren (Trail of Tears), or someone else is particularly heinous in their lack of regard for human life. Fourth, events such as the ascension of Hitler, the funding of Osama, or the terrorist siege at a Russian school do not happen in isolation. A person doesn't wake up one morning, find the toothpaste tube squeezed empty and decide to take some hostages or start a genocide. Hitler rose to power because of the injustices visited upon the German people at Versailles. Saddam was propped up because we didn't like Khomeini. Some Muslims dislike the US because our foreign policy has been non-sensical since the end of WWII. A pacifist would never cooperate with an unjust person. Non-cooperation might have a cost, but allying with such people inevitably comes with a price. Ends do not justify the means. Either the US is powerful enough to stand above all tin pot dictators and third world thugs or we're not. If we need the Saudis or Pakistan then we might not be as all-powerful as we think. And if so, we're in a lot deeper trouble than you think. High standards and principles come with their own cost. The advantage is that the personal discipline needed adds to one's own stature, one's moral wealth, if you will. The other plus is that pacifists name their own costs. By engaging in violence, the cost is determined in part by one's adversary, and in part by one's own fallen human nature. Additionally, one runs the risk of turning as evil as one's opponent. The Quakers, for one group, were willing to pay the price. They paid native tribes in Pennsylvania fair prices for land they wanted to settle. As a result, Quakers were never targeted for attack as people were in other colonies. Did it hurt them not to raid the Shawnee, Erie, or other tribes? Would Americans be willing to pay the price of fairness in international dealings now so people forty, sixty, or a hundred years down the line won't have to pay? I don't think we've learned how to do that. My assessment of the Catholic chatter around St Blog's is this: - Some people are too quick to set aside their faith (and make no mistake: this is what they do) to give in to hatred and anger, especially for violence not directly perpetrated upon them. - Some are too quick to set aside the rules. Not surprising: discipline is not easy. - Very few people seem willing to look at the big picture in the struggle against terrorism. If the fight is to be long, then we need to look ahead and cut off the violence in 2020, 2050, or beyond. My pessimistic sense is that Americans and Catholics will not recognize the real struggle ahead. We will, as a group, look for the satisfaction of short-term revenge (not to mention cheap fuel at the pump), and set aside the difficult tenets our religion and our nation's founding principles give us.
Somebody got to our bunny; fess up you RadTrads! My wife is upset. Her copy of the Documents of Vatican II has its cover chewed off. One of her bunnies is the culprit. But I suspect the lab worker Hermione worked with before her rescue was a RadTrad. Shame! Brainwashing experiments on poor defenseless animals. Now we might have to call the deprogrammers. Any recommendations in the KC area?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Voting, the longest baseball games, and ice cream Archbishop Burke is at it again. He seemed like a reasonably smart guy for awhile, but he's been conned by the Republicans, who in reality, have no intention of budging substantially on abortion. Let me repeat it: there is no way the Republicans are going to press abortion beyond what the middle position in American society is, namely a wide application of abortion for almost any reason in the first trimester, and substantial (but not absolute) restrictions after week 9 to 12. Additionally, the Republicans risk a split of their party if they even try to move in that direction. They won't go there. No matter how much you might want them to. From what I can see, the 19 1/2 years of Republican presidential administrations since Roe v Wade have shown no willingness to cut deeply into abortion. They court voters, not justice. They pay lip service, not pipers. I didn't catch Bush's speech Friday night. Jcecil said it was just a cut and paste job from his campaign stumping, and since I didn't catch any of those, I don't think I missed much. I did read in the paper yesterday that Bush's reserving the right to wage preemptive war probably takes his stance outside the Just War sphere, despite those who hold the placards painted "prudential judgment." Um, this is serious, people. Saber-rattling makes our anger feel good about the injustice and tragedy of 9/11. But it is not the Christian way. My conscience informs me neither major party candidate may be voted for. Bush will not budge from the safe middle ground of party politics. And Kerry's lack of vision gives me no reason to hope he can substantially alter American foreign policy. For this Catholic, it looks like two losers. What I'd really like to do is suggest some serious reforms here that would net us two serious candidates who have something to offer in the way of leadership. Jimmy Carter was the last major party guy who had the gravitas for the job. And I thought we could have done better than him in 1976, so that doesn't say a whole lot about things, except that it's gone from bad to worse in 28 years. This campaign has gone on for too damn long. We knew it was going to be Kerry vs Bush by the end of February. Fine. If that's the best we can get, just hold the flippin' election a month after that. What? We have a constitution? O yeah. Then hold the conventions the first Tuesday in October after a few weeks of primaries, starting, say, around next week. Decision 2004 looks to me like that endless baseball game Kinsella wrote about in the Iowa Baseball Confederacy. Or like two little league teams matched up for about 5,000 innings. After an hour or two, who cares? Let's call the game a tie and go out for ice cream.
Crabby Catholicism Some more reflections on "crabby Catholicism," as Brigid put it. Certainly, there are deathly serious issues afoot in the world, and even in the Church. Most of these concern most of us. But I don't think I'm recommending we all put on a happy face when talking about abortion, the Iraq War, or even if our wealthy neighborhood should host a home for troubled youth or Downs Syndrome folks. I do think there is a way to bring a measure of seriousness into our lives and our conversations without letting it take over. A person who constantly frets over the Big Issue close to their heart is actually playing God. That's right: playing God. It's God's job to cry and fret over wasted human opportunity. It's our job to center our attention, belief, and faith on God. We are urged to cooperate most fully with God's will. I was looking at a photo of a pastor who opposes a Planned Parenthood outfit coming into his neighborhood. I'd object, too, but I wouldn't stare into the camera with a frown. Even if the reporter asked me to. Somewhere in between a frown and a grin is an attitude of serious ... tenacity. A tenacious person doesn't let up in effort. Tenacious people know they're on the fringe, on the outside, struggling to hold on and maintain their stance. I think it should be more that way for Catholics. Less frowning and fretting about things outside of our control. If we have to wear a grin, let it be a slight, knowing grin of serenity. We trust God. We trust our way of life and our traditions. We think people who choose killing are very wrong and misled. But we're so sure our way is the appropriate one, we don't even need to bother to yell, protest, frown, run away, or throw a tantrum to get your attention. Eventually, the fact that people don't have to live out of alignment with God will sink in somewhere. And people will come looking for those strange optimists who were so sure they had it right, they didn't even bother to buy television time.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Great Divide In bantering with Jeff on El Camino Real this week, I was struck by a great divide between us. Not the tradi/prog thing, though that is indeed a significant obstacle. No, I was thinking of the basic outlook of optimism and pessimism. I don't know Jeff terribly well, so maybe I've misread him. But I think the talk of running away from the world, of liberals not having any common ground, etc.. struck me as sadly pessimistic. While I consider myself a realist, I also embrace a good degree of optimism. I think the challenges within the Church provide us all with an unparalleled opportunity to delve more deeply into our faith and its expression in the modern world. Though I think the excitement of the early post-conciliar days has been tempered considerably, there's still a lot to be grateful for, a lot to work toward. While some people moan about the heaps of trash being published in liturgical music, it might also be that more good music is being composed than at any other time. When the wheat and chaff run through the separator, I think people will look back on these decades as very rich. While there are also tons of bad books out there, especially with the advent of easy self-publishing, I find there is no lack of good spiritual reading by modern authors. In a century or two of hindsight, I would bet that several Doctors are alive today. I think lay movements: Cursillo, ME, Renew, Generations of Faith, TEC and REC and the like give ordinary Catholics so much fodder for religious and spiritual involvement. And lot sof parishes are humming with excitement, even the tradi ones. They've discovered being Catholic as a life's choice. So like Jeff, I complain about my opposites on the ideological divide, but unlike many people on both sides, I still harbor a reservoir of hope about the state of the Church. With th eHoly Spirit's guidance, we will be part of a triumph in spite of the worst we bring.

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