Saturday, July 31, 2004
Letter on the Collaboration on Men and Women The title seems to be in the right place. Catch the whole content at: http://zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=57636 Paragraph 2 begins: "Recent years have seen new approaches to women's issues. A first tendency is to emphasize strongly conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men." This is not so recent. Lots of times in history a subjugated class or people have rebelled against injustice. Isn't that what the Exodus was about? "Faced with the abuse of power, the answer for women is to seek power." Perhaps. Perhaps some women find power and violence freeing to a degree. It will be an empty freedom, but reading on ... "This process leads to opposition between men and women, in which the identity and role of one are emphasized to the disadvantage of the other, leading to harmful confusion regarding the human person, which has its most immediate and lethal effects in the structure of the family." Interesting the emphasis here. Women have been degraded in Western society through the centuries. Men have emphasized their own role to the disadvantage of women, sowing confusion, and passing injustice onto the children of the oppressed. Not to say that two wrongs make a right, but the CDF has criminally failed to recognize right out of the chute the essential problems that have led to the rise of feminism in the West. "A second tendency emerges in the wake of the first. In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality." Ah! Feminism is the root of the Gay Rights Movement. This is incisive reporting that would put the NCR to shame. Seriously, I find the beginning of this letter to be as flawed as the blogosphere arguments I see that set up the worst of the arguments of one's adversaries for the sole purpose of blasting away. What would have been really interesting? The CDF sitting down with Catholic feminists and coming to a collaborative agreement on what to tell the bishops. If the CDF can't model collaboration with women, how can it hope to say anything substantive on the issues of men and women in society?
Burn When we were kids, Dad would take us to a remote and uncrowded beach about 25 miles from home. Days of splashing in the cool waters of Lake Ontario and playing bocce or baseball in the fields near the shore. Before sunblock and before sundown, we would all be red and burning from our home star's merciless rays. I remember trying not to stick to the back seat of the car. I remember the wind in my face as Dad would drive home and the feeling of anti-relief as the car slowed and we pulled into the driveway and the burn felt even worse than it did before we pulled onto the expressway home. Mom would rub cream on us, and we would get tucked into fresh sheets. Did I get childhood revisited upon me yesterday. Brittany and I went to Oceans of Fun. I don't know what's made me more sore: the sunburn or the aches from six-plus hours of water slides, wave pools, and climbing stairs to gain potential energy. Anyway, the sheets sure felt good last night. But I couldn't decide if I felt more like a kid or an old guy.
Outside the box Thank you to the patient comments filling in the gaps of my light knowledge of 19th century European history. Vatican I bishops scurrying from Rome in the face of armed conflict does not exactly conjure confidence in an enduring institution, but if my neck were on the line, I cannot say I would do differently. Having no wish to debate the facts of history, I will only add that if the millions of European Christians shaken by the Great War had lost any hope that the Church had any power or authority circa 1920, perhaps their grandparents had begun sliding down that slippery slope in the previous century. John Allen quotes a friend who muses about today's examples of ecclesiastical impotence: "Would it be possible, she asked, to raise the same critical questions that American Catholics are currently debating about communion and Catholic politicians, but with respect to Catholic businessmen whose firms engage in ethically suspect practices in Africa? (Mining in war zones, for example, or refusing to make AIDS medications available at reasonable costs?)" It probably would not be possible. The Communion debate strikes me as evidence of a concession and retreat than authentic out-of-the-box thinking that might actually stem the tide of injustice. Even Darling of the Right Cardinal Arinze is refusing to fuel that flase fire in his public statements. Are bishops even aware of what Catholic-run businesses do in their dioceses? I'd fall over in a faint if more than a few were. "Could one imagine the pope relocating to Africa for six months, inviting the world's media and political leaders to join him for a rolling seminar on the continent's future? These are the merest wisps of ideas, intended only as examples of what "thinking outside the box" might look like." For wisps of ideas, they seem pretty inspiring to me. What kind of episcopal leadership do we see in the US? It's been a long time since an episcopal mansion was unilaterally sold and a bishop volunteered to live in a mursing home or a rectory guest room.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Sports Ticker I heard that if the Montreal Expos move to Washington, there's thinking to rename the team after the Homestead Grays, not the Senators. They danced around naming a MLB team for a Negro League team in Kansas City, nodding at the Monarchs when the Royals were created in 1969.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Theological revisionism The boldness of Catholic traditionalists amazes me. But I was steered to this commentary in Crisis: http://www.crisismagazine.com/feature1.htm as an example of someone who makes the startling admission that maybe, just maybe, some things were a little bit off kilter before Vatican II. A conservative magazine allowing something like that to hit print. What can I say? Truly amazing. Read this commentary, my friends. I found it lacking on some points. Our pope's input at the Council seems over-emphasized compared to what I've read elsewhere. But at least it comes to grips with the notion that John XXIII and a few others saw clearly the need for a Council. And perhaps, comes the admission from Johnston, we would have been far worse off than if the Council had never happened. I would characterize Vatican I as criminal neglect. That would have been the time to lay spiritual groundwork that might have lessened the impact of the next century's cultural and military upheavals. Who knows? Maybe Catholics enlivened by a real Council could have delayed or even prevented the carnage of world war. Or maybe that was too much to ask for of the world's bishops. It would have been a catastrophe for Vatican II to have been delayed any longer than it was. And even so, too many bishops were far too luke-warm in their application of its principles. It was left to the laity to transform naive enthusiasm into parish reforms. There's not a question that we made mistakes in implementation. But to latch on to errors as evidence the whole notion of renewal was screwed up is just plain wrong. Glad to see Crisis thinks so too.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Loss of a sense of sin Whom else? The bishops, of course. Some bishops wring hands when the pope talks about apologies. How can we ask forgiveness? We're Holy. Bishops and others who suggest sex abuse victims are overplaying their hand and that they should just "get over the abuse" have badly missed the point. Forgiveness is a difficult decision to make. It involves a degree of humility and acceptance that just works at odds with those who have been abused. We all agree victims get healthy when they can face their abuse, recover self-respect, forgive the abuser and move on with life. When bishops attempt to retain both roles: spiritual leader to the victims and administrator of material resources, they are bound to fail in one or both tasks. Maybe the answer is simple: 1. Bishops should be leaders in giving example as contrite shepherds: apologizing for past mistakes and listening directly to those who have been victimized. 2. In dioceses with severe scandals, bishops should willingly turn over some of their authority to a co-adjutor so as to avoid the inherent conflict of interest between protecting the material resources of the diocese and honoring the needs of victims. They don't need to wait for the Vatican to appoint an inquisitor. They don't need to get permission from above. But they need to move without delay.
Monday, July 26, 2004
Importing seminarians: proceed at your own risk John Allen in The Word From Rome: "Many observers believe that the handwriting is on the wall for Krenn. In one sign of eroding support, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna said on Austrian television that the country's bishops have long warned Krenn that he should not accept seminary candidates rejected by other dioceses, but that he did not listen." Bishops who don't listen. I wonder what an American list of such bishops would look like. The serious side of this problem is people, perhaps including some bishops, who are convinced that quantity trumps quality as a sign of the general health of the priesthood. Bottom line, does anybody really agree with this line of thinking? I'm curious to see if the so-called John Paul II priests and bishops will have visible fruits other than numbers on their side. I'm not sure I would say that "successful" priests need to have big accomplishments on their resume either. Though a pastor who resurrects an inner city parish, or who successfully shepherds a merger, might be evidently top shelf material. Above these things, I think a most successful pastor is a guy who manages to attract lay people to do great things. I've seen parishes like that, and even been in one or two myself. But getting back to imports ... I can understand that a young guy might shovel himself a hole in one diocese for a few stupid reasons, but still be great ministry material. But a transfer directly into a seminary for another diocese is a bad idea. Almost as bad as living in a rectory for a year before shipping out. Better that a seminary reject work in the diocese for a few years. If in his twenties, he should be working at least three to five years before heading off to major seminary. In the meantime taking courses and perhaps serving as a hospital chaplain or school teacher or youth minister or such. If he has a job outside the Church (which might be the best way to go) he should be volunteering ten to twenty hours a week in the parish or in some ministry. That way, he could build experience, gain friends and colleagues among the laity and clergy, get a head start on his studies and gain the needed experience to temper youthfulness or to reform an initial misstep. Giving young people a second chance to work out their life's path is a valuable approach. But diluting the priesthood just to puff up one's episcopal ego is a bad way to go. It's bitten Krenn on the butt. Hopefully we don't see similar bite marks on some American bishops over it.
Friday, July 23, 2004
Bishops mired in messes of their own making Sex abuse and cover-up might be making headlines from Scranton to Austria, but the real idol taking a beating is the Almighty Altar of Pseudo-Orthodoxy. Bishops from left coast to right are taking quick action on lay people. Liturgical ministers sign pledges in Oregon. Women's ordination advocates are fired almost before the print on the installation invites are dry. The average person in the pew yawns. Since when were communion ministers a danger to children? Since when were members of the Women's Ordination Conference shuffling sex predators from diocese to diocese? And that's after they signed a charter agreeing not to do it. Take a poll, my friends. Ask your Catholic neighbors who's more dangerous: a bishop exporting predators to Dallas or a woman wearing liturgical vesture? What's more scandalous: a bishop's screaming fit in court or a European ordination cruise? New bishops emerge like rabbits from Rigali's red hat. But do all the cardinal's men have what it takes? It's an old song, but it needs more airplay, no doubt. It is essential, absolutely essential for a bishop to have pastoral experience before ordination. A profile of insufficient pastoral experience: serving as a weekend rent-a-priest while riding theological shotgun at the chancery, backed up by advanced degrees in Rome and the favor of a prince of the Church. A bishop may have the potential to be a good pastor without ten or twenty years in a parish. But the modern system seems to be little better than on-the-job training. With all the hits the bishops are taking, you'd think well-tested and proved leaders would be slotted to lead dioceses. You'd think St Paul's advice would be well-heeded. Wouldn't you think? But this orthodoxy-at-all-costs approach is just burying us. You can tell how bad it's getting by how deep they've gone to find priests who fit the magical episcopal profile. Before a person can become a bishop, maybe he needs to write a few essays: "Why is accountability important to the Catholic faithful?" "Why it's a very bad idea to ship predators off to another diocese." Those are the kinds of publications that will arouse interest from the pew. What do you think?
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Ralph Nader has a good point on this score Too bad we don't have a none-of-the-above option in the presidential race. These predictions: it would increase voter turnout; it would outpoll Ralph Nader; the Big Two would never go for a challenge on their pseudo-constitutional monopoly. Nader proposed it on NPR a few weeks ago. If we had that option, I do believe it would be the only viable moral choice for Catholics. As it is, I'm considering walking into the voting booth on November 2nd, and voting for every race except the presidential one. I'm waiting to hear a bishop come out and say that anyone who votes for either Bush or Kerry is excommunicated.
That won't likely happen.
Yea, Rhinos http://www.democratandchronicle.com/sports/rhinos/0721UL4VJ82_sports.shtml The only Rhinos game I have yet seen is the 1999 Cup final against Colorado. I caught it on ESPN2 that year. They might draw Kansas City in a later round, but assuming a baseball conflict isn't happening in Rochester, it will be a home game, as my hometown would outdraw a match at Arrowhead here in KC. Playing the Wizards would be nice, as the Rhinos lost a 2-0 lead in the last five minutes before bowing out in overtime in 2002's round 4.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Various things as I stay up late My dear wife's hamster got loose again last week. We keep the "prey" in the basement (three rabbits, two guinea pigs and Jack the hamster) away from the "predators" on the main floor (three cats and a dog). Jack found his way under the sink and cabinets next to my den and was not to be moved. A little while ago, as I was finishing up some computer stuff I heard the little guy rustling near my chair. Block the doors, quick! Get his exercise sphere. Jack is not pleased about being returned to his "habitat." But at least he's not thirsty now. He's been scarfing off the rabbits' food for four days now. He's pouting now, but he'll soon see the wisdom of dried corn, sunflower seeds, bits of fresh broccoli and carrot, and a water tube that's always filled. Won a backgammon tournament tonight. Have any of you played? I learned in college, but gave it up until six years ago when I started playing online. I'm getting the itch in my mind I'm playing a little too much these days. When I was younger, I started noticing my miserable attitude when I would lose at games. A college friend brutally pointed it out to me. I thank her. One moment of honesty and I can do a better job assessing if and when the games are taking over my life. Day off tomorrow. Anita suggested we three hit the art gallery. Sounds good to me. Weather report says it will be too danged hot to do much of anything outdoors. What's playing now ... The Australian Broadcast Corporation's classical web site. A good show called "Perspectives." The past two weeks, I've been listening to the morning show from ABC. The weather reports just slay me. Winter in Australia. What a hoot. Temps in the teens and even single digits in places. That Celsius scale, of course. I know the high in Esperance, Western Australia yesterday was 15. Probably useless information that's taking up three or four brain cells. What's on the bookshelf now ... Lamar Alexander's Six Months Off. Not nearly as well written as Bobby Fischer Goes To War but lots of fun. I yearn for the day when I could take my family to Australia for six months. But heaven knows what Jack would get into while we were gone. Meanwhile, if you're a chess player, get this book. Serendipitous thing: just as I finished it and brought the book out to the living room, Anita mentioned they arrested Bobby Fischer in Japan. Lo and behold, there it was on CNN. Good night, all.
Monday, July 19, 2004
The Right Rejoices for Richmond As a former resident of the Richmond diocese, I follow goings-on there, as does my wife. (We met in far reaches of Roanoke thirteen years ago this month.) I met the former bishop, Walter Sullivan, during my job interview. I knew of him from my membership in Pax Christi, of course. I'm sure that a peace-activist bishop being assigned a diocese with a major military facility was a mutual burden at times. (Maybe the Congregation of Bishops thought it an anti-American move at the time.) Sullivan asked very insightful questions. But I didn't like him as much as other bishops I've met. My colleagues criticized his less-than-average leadership skills. I didn't think the diocese had a discernable direction, and it didn't strike me as being very progressive. Sure, there were flaming liberals here and there in parishes and one or two in the chancery. You find them everywhere; they keep the Church afloat. It was a different experience being in a place where Catholics were only 5% of the population. I think sensible Catholics there have concerns other than orthodoxy and heterodoxy. So I'm amused at the glee over the DiLorenzo era beginning in Virginia. St Bloggers talk about Fr Russell Smith being appointed "diocesan theologian." My wife tells me he's a pastoral, gentle man with a sharp mind and he plays a mean flute. Some pastor (I forget his name this moment) sounds off about the ordination and the St Blog's pile-on commences. Anita knew him, too. He's always been a radical. It would have been news if he didn't criticize a bishop. She also said that when the last bishop was ordained they used the cathedral for that one too, and parishes only got two tickets each. My wife and our maid-of-honor scored those two seats, by the way. The reality is that a bishop cannot do it alone. Wise pastors know this. It takes about ten hours to drive from one end of the Richmond diocese to the other. That's without potty breaks or stopping to see the magnificent scenery in the Blue Ridge. Virginia Catholics seemed most concerned with living as Catholics as a cultural minority. Catholic identity is a heck of a lot more than getting the right beliefs on diocesan commissions. Diocesan commissions do not institute theology. They attempt to work Catholicism deeper into the bones of the faithful and into the ambient society. (The ones that do their jobs, that is.) Any schlep can fire people once he gets the big chair. Heck, even Donald Trump can do it. The real trick is gathering and inspiring good people to work for you once you're in place. So I say cheer all you want. But somehow I don't think there's a gospel passage in which Jesus suggests, "Fire their butt if they don't agree with you."
Sunday, July 18, 2004
The Right Sees the Light Michael Rose, well known for his recent books criticizing seminaries and sacred architecture, weighs in on the Austrian seminary scandal here: http://www.cruxnews.com/rose/rose-16july04.html. "What does come as a surprise to many is that such bacchanalia fests would take place at seminaries known to liberals as "arch-conservative" (a completely meaningless label) and directed by priests and a bishop regarded as theologically orthodox." Surprise? Not a surprise to this liberal. The larger numbers of heinous predators were trained before Vatican II, and sheltered by bishops trained before the council. At least Michael Rose admits traditionalist-leaning groups are not free of the taint of scandal. The Society of St John in Pennsylvania seems to be going down hard these days. I'm glad to see at least one right-leaning Catholic realizes that it is easy to compartmentalize one's life when it is burdened with sin and addiction, even sexual addictions. The outward signs of "orthodoxy" are completely irrelevant to the inner cesspool bubbling in the minds and hearts of predators. And as for Austria, so much for the thought of instilling traditional or monastic virtues into seminarians. If boys, indeed, will be boys, maybe it's time for a change of leadership if the curia insists on continuing the seminary system. What if the "boys" in charge were just chucked out? Think about it. Put women religious and lay people in charge. We'll hire the faculty. We'll set the discipline. We'll recruit students or turn then out on their duffs when they flunk out or are found unsuitable. Women and lay people can't preside at the Eucharist, but I bet we could do a much better job than the stiffs in charge right now. Any applicants interested? Check out this website: http://www.kirche.at/stpoelten/ and apply. Bishop Krenn might be properly loosened up to accept lay applications right now. Give it a try and tell me what happens.
Friday, July 16, 2004
Iapetus, one of my favorite moons ... ... image here: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2004-182. Fifty percent reflective on one side, four percent on the other. Why? I'm not convinced by the Phoebe drift theory. Phoebe is pretty far out; and what could possibly be the mechanism for Phoebe to lose dark material in such quantity as to appear on a whole hemisphere of its big brother? I suspect these medium sized moons will reveal big surprises in the years ahead. Reminds me of the game SolarQuest. Anybody ever see it or play it? When I lived in Illinois 1988-91, my young friend Christopher and I staged epic battles after choir practice. For the uninitiated, the game is something of a Monopoly clone: players struggle for supremacy by purchasing planets and their satellites, building fuel stations, and trying to hammer the opponent into bankruptcy while avoiding getting stranded somewhere without fuel. One year, my friend and I played a 24-hour long game. One of us had the monopoly of Saturn's moons and the other Jupiter. The latter monopoly was more valuable, but landing on Titan, you could still take a pretty rough hit on your cash supply. Eventually, I wrested control of the Galilean satellites and Chris succumbed to big-time rents in the Saturn system. Iapetus never figured much in those battles, though. John Varley, in his novel Titan (ca 1980), explained its dark hemisphere by a species of sentient life that "lays its egg" on a small moon to gather raw materials in its infancy. The adult form is about 2,000 miles across with a hollow interior filled with various creatures and adventures for the astronaut protagonists. X-rated, but a fairly decent read.
Administration, ownership, etc. A few weeks ago, a debate partner decried the Vatican II attitude, "the pastor is only the administrator, not the owner of parish property." I think a pastor needs to be a pastor. Ownership seems at odds with the gospel, not to mention the practice of the Church. I'm thinking of that pastor who swindled hundreds of thousands from his Manhattan parish. If he was really like the CEO of Enron, the bishop would just give him a severance package and tell the parishioners, "Tough nougies." Actually, I think the bishop "owns" the parish. Not too sure that's the very best solution, but that's what the comment boxes are for, right? My friend challenged me, "And show me how a parishioner owns the parish." Speaking from the liberal perspective, it is highly beneficial for the parishioners to have "ownership" of the parish. The alternative is that the priests and staff are seen as a service agency to cater to the laity's every whim.
Andrew Greeley's op-ed in today's Chicago Sun times is here: http://www.suntimes.com/output/greeley/cst-edt-greel16.html Worth consideration, I think. Especially the part, "I can think of only one way that bishops might earn a hearing for their teaching. While insisting on their convictions, they should refrain from questioning the integrity and good faith of those who disagree." The cheers and favor bishops gain from the radical right will be drowned out in the continuing erosion of credibility within and outside of the Church. Cardinal Bernardin had it right all along. So did the person who said, "If you want respect, give respect."
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Credentials for lay people In the thread below, Liam makes a good point about credentials for lay ministry. While I don't entirely agree with him, I think there is a value in permitting lived experience to substitute for academic achievement. I've seen this done well. In my previous diocese, there was a bit of resistance to pastoral associate certification. Some rural PA's saw it as a potential threat, a justification that a ruthless pastor could use to evict someone out of a position. Bad administrators will usually find an excuse to can someone, and we tried to encourage people that five, ten, twenty years of experience was important evidence of a person's skill in a ministry position. Personally, I find there is always something new to learn. I never had conservatory training as a musician, so whenever I sit down at the organ console, piano bench, or strap on a guitar, I'm not putting my diploma to work. But even in theological areas, I find it vital to stay updated and keep my mind sharp and aware. When handled properly, certification is a good thing. It permits people to take pride in their leader, and the minister has a useful benchmark to guide their own progress in skills.
Priests: Professionally Competent or Spiritually Savvy? Ideally both. But I'm concerned with a few things I read about the disdain for priests who take some care (or pride) in being competent in what they do -- counseling, liturgy, preaching, for example. A parish priest should be more of a jack-of-all-trades than a specialist. Specialists have their role in the Body. Musicians play. Counsellors listen. Preachers preach. Administrators bug us about budgets and stewardship. Sometimes a priest needs to be able to handle lots of things reasonably well. Not only should he work on things he knows little about, but he should also be able to allow parishioners to take pride in his specialty, and work to improve it. ("Our priest is so good as a confessor." "Father Joe makes religion so understandable when he teaches.") I've known a few clergy who seem to rest content on their spiritual bearing. I think this is a grave error. Holy people belong in religious communities so they can support and be supported by preachers, teachers, bookkeepers, and the rest. Even there they shouldn't be exempt from contributing to the good of the community. But passive individuals, inspirational as they might be, rarely have the charism to be a pastor, much less a parish priest. You don't have to be a priest to be a holy and spiritual person. (If you did, women would be ordained.) But if you want to be a priest, you should be ready to work hard improving your talents, shoring up weak areas, and paying little mind to those who say that priests belittle their vocation by attending to professional skills. Every baptized person is called to holiness and deep spirituality. One would hope that such holiness and spirituality is already well-practiced by the time a person enters seminary. Anything less is a gamble with both the resources of the school and diocese, and possibly a waste of time for the candidate. But that doesn't mean a good priest can't accept his own God-given talents, develop them, and utilize them for the Gospel. To do otherwise would be ... sacrilegious.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Don't get me started on the foster care system A few tickles of conversations here and there about gay individuals or couples adopting children. About a month ago, I heard a piece on NPR which stated there has yet to be a definitive study of children of homosexuals. The CDF naturally has a problem with this. Elsewhere on the net I was accused essentially of being a heretic for the simple suggestion that kids are worse off in the foster care system than being parented by homosexuals. One thing clues me in that this discussion is not about kids. Or their safe and healthy upbringing. Because if it were, the Catholic Church would have come out more strongly against the ills of the foster care system. And it would have done so years ago. It would not have waited for the alleged problems of thousands of kids with gay parents. The hierarchy would have addressed the situation of millions of children without parents. When Anita and I were taking classes for being foster and adoptive parents, we heard a story about a young boy who could have been adopted by his grandmother. The lady was retired, and living in an apartment that didn't permit children. The management looked the other way until the child was five, but then it was time to move or cut the kid loose. Her suggestion to the social services people was that if she could only get a living allowance for housing, she could care for her grandson properly outside of a retirement location. No go. Sadly, the woman and boy separated: she to subsidized elderly housing, he to the foster care system where he bounced from home to facility to home and all over till he landed in jail as a teen. Our facilitator said a social worker estimated the state of Ohio spent about $500,000 on prison, legal costs, social workers, special ed, etc. by the time the lad reached age 18. Maybe he would have been a delinquent under granny, but a nice little $50,000 home somewhere in a small town might have been a good investment for the state. What am I getting at? The CDF needs to lay off the gay parents. They suspect, but there is no proof gays make worse parents than heterosexuals. We have more important issues, namely, the millions of children worldwide who languish in foster care or worse. In almost every case, a child is better off living in a one or two-parent permanent home than in a foster home or group home. You think the world is falling apart because gay couples want to adopt children? Get serious. The world has already come to an end for way too many kids who are buried in circumstances that are no fault of their own. As long as a social service agency runs the prospective adoptive parents through the ringer (our experience), I have little doubt the best parents are adopting the lucky kids. Frankly, I have far more serious worries on my mind for parent-less children. Unless and until the morality of this situation is addressed, I'm afraid the gay adoption flak is little more than using children to manipulate emotions on an unrelated issue.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
More priests on the loose The bishop calls this a "prank," but folks in the bloggerhood are hot over it. Prediction: the bishop(s) will take more heat for this than the seminarians involved. And I think he should, not just because he's a noted conservative. In general, seminaries have problems. Big problems. They do not appear to form candidates for the priesthood. They do a better job forming young men for clericalism and the clerical culture. Catholics don't need that. We need real leaders: priests who take initiative, who are self-disciplined and spiritual, who can lead by example. Over-emphasis on Church as a hierarchy does a grave disservice to the real needs of Catholics, both young priests and laity. Is anyone else getting the idea that "orthodoxy," or whatever your PC term is for conservative isn't the solution to the sex abuse and cover-up crisis? Turn the clock back to 1950 and what would we get? More sex abuse, most likely. And bishops who think sexual cavorting and child porn is a "prank?" The "boys will be boys" mentality of this bishop (and others no doubt) is just burying us.
Bobby Fischer Goes To War What I'm currently reading: a great book by David Edmonds and John Eidinow. I was at Scout camp as the endgame of the (first) Fischer-Spassky match was wrapping up. I remembered our high school chess club so crowded I couldn't get a game until the second wave of buses left the parking lot 40 minutes after dismissal. Numbers didn't help our team, though. My sophomore year, we saw defections from a disspirited squad that went 2-11. One win came when our opponent accidentally rescheduled a postponed match with the county champs the day our match was set. So we faced off against the junior high team in their district. We got our other win when our opponents didn't show up. I was tired of losing, so I devoured two excellent books from the local library. Irving Chernev's Logical Chess Move By Move. As the title suggests, it takes you through whole games, explaining each move as it was made. The other was by Edward Lasker, which gave me over 600 pages of quizzes. (Choose the best move, if A. then turn to page 234; if B. then go to 242 -- can't recall the type of book this is called.) The books helped, but I didn't begin to understand chess till I began playing in tournaments at the end of 10th grade. Personally, I vowed that next year would be different, and I convinced my friends to join me in the weekend events at the chess club. We had a great underdog experience that next year. We started 0-2-1 before winning seven straight matches to finish off the regular season. We won three playoff matches to meet the eventual state champs in the final. We lost, but that finish, plus tying for third in the state scholastic gave us a heady experience of success. We repeated our state finish my senior year, and the county league title also eluded our school -- until years after I graduated. Any chessplayers in the bloggerhood?
Monday, July 12, 2004
Making progress One of my young parishioners approached me last weekend with the question: when was I going to have the children's choir retreat like I promised? Our accompanist was out on vacation, and I wasn't feeling very musical one day last winter. So when the kids came for choir, we went on a "pilgrimage" through the church, stopping at various locations to pray and sing. Strange children: they liked the organ loft best of all. We have half days of school when classes resume in mid-August, so it looks like the Children's Music Retreat is a go for one of those afternoons, once the committee is assembled. I can keep their attention for seventy-five minutes, so three or four hours should be no problem, right? I've lost a lot of patience for VBS's. In Virginia, the DRE and I cannibalized a canned VBS shtick and added all sorts of things: morning chapel, hot lunches, an all-day format for a week, electives in liturgy planning, visits from the rabbi's wife and daughter to teach folk dancing, field trips to the synagogue, other churches and battered women's shelters. And lest you think it was all work, the kids also had an afternoon at the parish pool, plus a family picnic followed by evening prayer the final night. Faith Camp was a huge success, but perhaps a bit beyond this year's means at my present parish. I'm convinced the hope of the future of Catholicism is not in some idealistic perfect catechesis, but in appealing to the religious imagination of children. Young people I know lap up the opportunity to explore and express their faith when given the right conditions.
Friday, July 09, 2004
Hallelujah! Hockey Purgation is Over Guess I'll be at Kemper on October 15th. Name the team contest is running for about another week. I hope they don't pick something silly like Ice Gators or Frostbite or ... ick ... Ice. Maybe I can hope a dog or a dinosaur won't be part of the logo. And the team nickname will have an old-fashioned "s" on the end of it.
A Timetable of Republicans and Abortion on Demand and a Devious Question I thought it was self-evident. 1973: Roe v Wade shocks us all by setting up abortion on demand with no restrictions to speak of 1976: A few years under Ford. Looks the same. 1980: Still the same, but then True Believers (TM) would expect that from the Democrats. 1984: Hmm, surprisingly we still have abortion on demand. 1988: Still have abortion on demand, but hey: America feels good about itself now. 1992: Read my lips: No change. 1996: Safe, legal, but not rare. No change either. 2000: Ditto, but thousands of Floridians were disenfranchised to make the world a safer place to be a fetus. 2004: By chad, no change. Why am I not surprised? If your sensibility is bothered by the flip way I've addressed the senselessness of legalized abortion, I slightly apologize. Which is more than you'll get from the Republican mainstream. They have no interest in seeing the Democrats extract themselves from their self-imposed hari-kari with sensible Catholic voters. And they have no interest in splitting their party like a wishbone either. If the One Issue approach is to succeed, I think it's going to take a third party. It's also going to need to be a party with a very wide umbrella to cover both liberals and conservatives. A conservative-only pro-life effort will split the Republicans and open up easy street for the Democrats. I'm amused by this whole line of thinking. Are conservative pro-life Catholics (and others) committed enough to start reaching out to liberals to get abortion shut down? Or will their conservative sensibilities keep them in the Republican grip? And if they come to the realization that the cause is hopeless there, is it a mortal sin to remain in that bed? What do you think?
Thursday, July 08, 2004
Playing games with gam--ing Listening to NPR this morning while brushing my teeth: a local story involving the "gaming industry." Where did they ever lose those two little letters? Is there something about gam--ing that makes gam--ing marketers squeamish? Should that tell us something? Somebody called the house the other night. My wife was asked if she would support a ballot initiative or something to permit a casino in southern Missouri. She was frank. She said no. The caller asked her why. "Gambling destroys lives," she replied. The person stuttered a bit then said a stunned good-night. I just love my wife; she doesn't play games. When I play cards on Wednesday night, that's gaming. I play bridge for the enjoyment and competition. If my friends decided to have a poker night, that would be gaming. Friendship, enjoyment, competition, and after that, a few dimes and nickels changing hands. When the pros set up their blackjack table and slots, let's call a spade a spade. It's gambling, not gaming. The "gaming industry" manufactures Monopoly, Scrabble, Twister, and even a few billion decks of cards. The gambling industry provides an outlet for people to gamble their money. When Kenny Rogers renames his movies, when sports announcers fall into line ("Coach is a real gamer going for it on fourth down"), I'll consider the lame attempts of the gambling industry to recast their business in a better light. Meanwhile, they've tarnished enough of society; I wish they'd leave the real gamers alone.
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
A good and necessary example of hospitality We had our first funeral this morning with the new pastor. One thing struck me was his welcome at the beginning of Mass to non-Catholics. I found it refreshing to hear a sincere welcome to those who do not ordinarily worship with us. If I could be certain other clergy could pull of the statement with sincerity, I'd think saying it from time to time at Sunday Mass would be a good thing. Catholics should be proud enough of the way we worship to be able to welcome newcomers, explain a bit of how and why we worship, then pray naturally without apologizing for what we do. In the context of welcome, I think the "mandatory" statement in missals about sharing Communion gains a needed perspective. Making this the first comment to non-Catholics at the Mass, though theologically true, is a clumsy piece of etiquette that should be framed in proper perspective: Christ welcomes all, and in Christ's name, we welcome them too.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Things political My Catholic Republican lunch of last week has paid some dividends. A parishioner introduced himself to me in between Masses this weekend, asking me how I enjoyed last Monday. We had a good chat about making a difference locally, he with his party involvement, I with ministry. It gave me a moment to reflect on my initial involvement in campus politics (my candidate finished fourth, fifteen votes behind a dog) then to two years working for the university's development office, and then into parish ministry. My involvement in my parish bloomed about the same time as my interest in politics. In the long run, I found parish liturgy far more conducive than politics. Especially given that dog thing. Who knows how the timeline would have been affected if my friend Brian had outpolled the dog, or if my alma mater had taken me more seriously as an employee? I like the choice of John Edwards. I've never known such a drastic change-of-life, but I think that is an advantage for him. As the Democratic primaries began to weed out candidates, I thought he had potentially more appeal than Kerry, whom I still dislike. Aside from approving of the VP candidate choice, I must point out the decidedly un-democratic way vice-presidential candidates are selected. As long as the office is in the feeding chain, mainly meaning the inside track for the next open presidential race, these choices are too important to be made by the presidential candidate and his advisors. People of the party should be making the decision, not the candidate. A presidential candidate should be able to work with the people's choice, or simply, get out of politics. I'm amazed that this de facto line of succession (Dan Quayle excepted) has been allowed to stand as long as it has. Well, maybe not amazed on second thought: no one ever said the Two Party system was inherently democratic.
Friday, July 02, 2004
"It's my day off and I'll blog if I want to ..." Small stack of things. First, go to the Cassini web site and see the rings of Saturn. Nature is far more wonderful than we can imagine, and these things aren't even living. Due to the emphasis of my undergraduate education, I prefer the geology of moons and planets over the physics of rings, but the rings are pretty amazing all the same. A good friend and musical collaborator in town this weekend. Her first cd is pressed, so I get a chance to hear the final result of all those studio sessions I played a few years aback. She says she has a large backlog of new songs for the next recording. I'll enjoy the listening. The 2004-05 parish budget provided me with a music software upgrade. I've been using Concertware since 1995, so I'm excited about the package I'll be getting next week at the office. One of the many quirks that has popped up in Cware over the years: when they upgraded our fonts at the parish for the new bulletin format last year, it was all added to the music software. Sadly, the pull-down menu is now too large for display on any page, so since last year, I've only been able to use fonts A-H for lyrics. No more Times New Roman. Computers have really spoiled me: I'm now looking forward to e-mailing music to choir members and instrumentalists. Sibelius also has a web publishing function, so I'll be getting a music page I'll link to Catholic Sensibility. The rains came this morning, so the grass, dandelions, strawberries, plantain, woodsorrel, and all can rest easy and grow a bit more today.
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Post-Council Reconciliation A commenter named "camilam" and I were involved on a thread elsewhere about the finer points of exactly what the Cincinnati priests said or didn't say about ordaining women. From there, it was an easy step to a substantial list of everything wrong with the Church since Vatican II. (What else?) I invited the person over to my blog (since a link isn't listed on camilam's posts) to continue. camilam wrote, "Here are a few practices that have been introduced into parishes which have no basis in the council decree and in some instances are opposed to them. The council nowhere says: 1) That children’s confessions are to be omitted before first Holy Communion and postponed several years beyond the age of reason; 2) That general confessions and general absolutions are to replace individual confessions;" In the interests of focus, I've left off at the first two points. That's enough to chew on for a day. Almost everywhere pastors and DRE's have moved First Reconciliation prep from 5th grade or so to 2nd. My problem is that the sacramental preparation was moved, instead of adding one extra catechietical time for younger children. Here's why. Child development specialists are right. Children don't develop a real sense of right and wrong until grade 4, 5, 6. Their sense of sin, if carefully cultivated, should deepen around age ten. I think they need a new way of preparing for the sacrament at that age as well as at age 7. I have no problem with Reconciliation being "taught" at the age of reason. It's probably a good idea for your active Catholic family. But to suggest that a person needs formation in Penance only at grade 2 is about as silly as thinking a single preparation at grade 5 is adequate. So your friendly internet liturgist gives thumbs down to the pre-Vatican II practice, the early post-Vatican II practice, and the JPII practice. That's right: all of them are messed up. For the record, I think teens are ready for another quantum leap in reconciliation awareness, but that's another story. General confession with general absolution is form III in the Rite. It was deep-sixed on John Paul's insistence about ten years after it was promulgated. I think the Holy Father chickened out theologically on this issue. I think form III deserved a try. It works for "devotional" confessions. I think form III is wholly inadequate for people who are serious about using the sacrament as a means of purging themselves of sin and really working on their moral life. But I think venial sins, the routine venial sins that never seem to go away, are a good subject matter for communal celebrations. Priests in Chicago and a few other places report form III functions as it was envisioned. In concert with form I, it might actually work to bring people back to the sacrament. My most serious present concern about putting all our hopes in the form I basket is the sex abuse scandal. We're seeing anecdotal and some statistical reports about dropping Mass attendance these past few years. I've heard nothing about a recent drop in "private" confessions. It wouldn't surprise me if it were happening in some places. And not having any workable alternatives (don't get me started on form II) isn't a good thing. I think the framers of the new Rite of Penance had the start of something. I just hope the pope hasn't screwed it up. So, friends, have at it.