Tuesday, November 30, 2004

We can't close out November...

...without talking about one of my favorite saints. Saint Andrew.

It was my great-great-grandfather, Andre (Andrew) Alexandre, who came to America from France. My father's middle name was Andrew, and St Andrew is the name of the parish in Ohio where I grew up -- a parish that, on this year's feast day, ended its sesquicentennial celebration with a solemn liturgy where my old friend Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk was the main celebrant.

In the Eastern Church, Andrew is known as "The FIrst-Called," because Jesus called him (Andrew) to follow Him (Jesus) before He (Jesus again) called anybody else. And it was Andrew who fetched his brother, Simon Peter, to join up. The rest, as they say, is history.

Andrew was martyred by being tied to an X-shaped cross. Not all crucifixions were alike, you know. This one was designed to prolong his suffering.

Andrew is the patron of Greece and of Scotland. There are many customs of food and what-not associated with this saint. They can be found here:

http://www.wf-f.org/standrew.html

Now, back to work on my OWN website. Almost done (whew!).

(Stay tuned...)

That Was The Week(end) That Was

(We had some problems with Blogger yesterday, or this report would have been posted sooner. I just know you're all in suspense by now...)

Did I mention our Thanksgiving dinner would be in Leesburg? What I meant was Leesburg Pike! That's also known in northern Virginia as Route 7, the road to Leesburg. But not before it runs through Falls Church, which is in town, and where we were. Good thing I asked Sal before we left. That would have been quite a scenic route.

Sal's friend was married to a Muslim, and lived in an apartment building down the street from the local Islamic temple. In fact, most of the occupants of the building seemed to be Muslim. Anyway, the husband's friend showed up, and he wasn't able to eat until five o'clock, since he was participating in some post-Ramadan fast. This got us on a lively discussion of various fasting practices among the "children of Abraham."

The table was set for a feast befitting a king, and we all sat back and watch a pro basketball game from the Phillipines. Some team called "The TJ Hotdogs" barely squeezed a victory passed another team called "The Realtors." Don't ask me why. But at least it's still a team sport in that country, a welcome sight for a guy who used to be a fan of pro basketball.

The next day, Sal and I started up Old Rag Mountain with a group of Scouts from my parish. We got about two miles up, when one of us realized that her first hiking experience was going to have to end then and there. So the two of us turned back. I showed her some of the things to look for on the trail. From there it was on to a little town in Rappahannock County called "Little" Washington, where we stopped for tea. Closer to the big town, we saw Ray: The Movie, which I thoroughly recommend. The website is pretty good too.

Speaking of websites, all my pages are up, but the ones with text need to be fixed. See for yourself:

http://stu.aii.edu/~dla312

Sal and I were in the office late Saturday night, as I frantically acted out on a working hypothesis on what had to be done to stay on track. I can't remember when I was quite so wired! It happens that I have an anxiety condition, for which I am being treated. Still, I have to be careful sometimes.

Didn't do ANY Christmas shopping, I am proud to report. And the office is pretty quiet today. I'm catching up on the news, and hope to have a report this week.

In addition, I got quite a few e-mails after that piece on Gerard, including some questions that call for an answer. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Giving Thanks

It's evening in the Nation's capital. The streets are quiet.

For of all nights of the year, this is the worst for trying to leave town. Add to that the drizzling rain and the road conditions that result.

And five weeks before I turn fifty, I just got my long-anticipated invitation to embark on a major rite of passage -- I get to join the AARP. Can't wait for all those discounts. Oh boy!

Back at school, I'm ahead on at least one thing. The design for my portfolio page is finished, and online:

http://stu.aii.edu/~dla312

The picture is only a few years old, actually. A little more gray since then, but other than that...

Some of you have wondered what would become of the website of the late Gerard Bugge. For the time being, A Catholic Page for Lovers will continue to occupy the same server as the website of his parish, St Benedict's in Baltimore. Discussions are pending with his family. We'll keep you up to date.

"Sal" and I will have Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's house in Leesburg. Paul will be joining us. So while everybody's in the other room chattering away in Tagalog (the Phillipine national language), us boys will try to catch a movie. To a guy like me, who's used to having Thanksgiving dinner at IHOP when no one else was around, a "normal" experience would be quite refreshing.

Next morning, we'll join the gang of Troop 111 and their families for the annual After Turkey Day Climb up Old Rag Mountain in the Shennandoahs.

Saturday and Sunday will be spent mostly on school work. This boy's got a website to build. You kids will get to see it as it happens, by giving the above a little click.

Some day I'll have a grandchild to bounce on my knee and read stories to. Then we'll watch football, or an old movie, and we'd both fall asleep on the rocking chair. On that day, Deo volente, the years of doing without will finally be realized for what they are.

A reminder to be thankful... for doing with.

Monday, November 22, 2004

"Farewell, my friends, I'm bound for Canaan."

For those of you who read this weblog, particularly if you are more devout a Catholic than I am (it could happen), you must wonder why I bother remaining in the Church. After all, I find enough wrong with what's going on, with the scandals in the news, the priests who act like clowns when celebrating Mass, and like total jerks when they're not, the "conservative" bishops who cover for them, and then...

And then...

Were I not convinced that being a Catholic was the only sure way of getting to heaven, it wouldn't be worth the trouble it takes to get up early on Sunday morning.

I think of that sometimes, when I attend an Orthodox Liturgy at the Russian cathedral downtown. I could kneel there in a corner for hours, close my eyes, and listen to the voices of heaven wash down on me.

I also think of it when I encounter those folks who wear their faith on their sleeve, to the point where you wonder if they wear it anywhere else. Go to the Old Latin Mass on a Sunday morning, and there are a few of them in the crowd. You can tell who they are, by the way they treat strangers.

And yet, there are stories where Christ appears as a stranger. You wonder if He was trying to make a point.

And there are still others who, astonished at the beauty to be found in Truth, that this discovery overshadows the devastation around them, and their devotion to that Truth is overshadowed only by their humility, not to mention the certainty of Christ's promise, that the Holy Spirit would be with His Church until the end of time.

This morning, I learned that one such man was called home last Thursday, after a long illness.

Gerard Serafin (aka Gerard Bugge) lived in suburban Baltimore, and was the author of a website, A Catholic Page for Lovers, and an adjoining weblog, A Catholic Blog for Lovers. Within the text of his online writings, the word "heart" was always highlighted in red.

Few readers knew that Gerard was a laicized priest, who was separated from the clerical state after certain improprieties were alleged. While they were never completely proven, Gerard bore his cross in admirable fashion, and never stopped preaching the Faith within the limits of his new-found situation. Yet those who knew him realized he was wounded by his experience, particularly when those in positions of authority continued to make trouble for him, in ways that do not bear repeating here.

None of this deterred Gerard, who kept his humble place in the procession of the Church, a pilgrim going forward, his eyes on the Cross, facing ahead.

Gerard was in love with the Liturgy, properly and reverently celebrated with the unity and mind of the Church. His pages spoke of the beauty of the Eastern Christian traditions, as well as the ancient heritage of the Roman Rite. With respect to the latter, he called for, and foretold of, a renaissance of tradition in worship. He was also active in promoting inter-faith relations, being a founding member of the Saint Maximus Society, where Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox, and other Christians would meet for fraternal and spiritual fellowship. They used to meet at his home in Catonsville, outside Baltimore, but in recent years, at Gerard's spiritual home, St Benedict's in Baltimore. He also authored the parish website, where the viewer would be shown an oasis of beauty and truth in worship, with arms that reached out to the poor and desolate - a place ever ancient and ever new, amidst the desert of modernity.

It is from that parish, that Gerard will be buried today. I wish I had known sooner; I would have dropped everything to be there.

And I didn't even know him that well.

We met several years ago, when I moderated a listserv devoted to the traditional Latin Mass. Gerard posted some sort of statement -- I can't remember what -- that was amazingly enough to get him removed from the list. That decision was made by the administrators without consulting me as moderator. They owned a number of other Catholic lists attached to their website, and presumed their ownership as a license to do as they wished with people. My online defense of Gerard caused my list to be closed down, and my removal as moderator. The administrators (who shall remain nameless, which is more dignity than the bums deserve) where unmoved, as were other moderators associated with them. Not to mention my assistant, who couldn't wait to take over my position.

Gerard was shocked by it all, that those who claimed to preach the Truth so ardently, could be so oblivious to living it. I saw all my work going down the drain, but I never regretted defending Gerard; it was the right thing to do, and that was enough.

Gerard got over it. I took a bit longer. It soured my experience with e-mail lists, until the weblog phenomenon came about, and I found my place on the bandwidth again. Thankfully, he had found a place in the new medium as well, and was a rallying point for those of us in the Catholic blogosphere, setting up the directory which I highlight on my site to this day as "St Blog's Parish." Where many around him saw devastation in the sanctuary, Gerard found a springtime in the house of his Mother Church, and his love affair with Her was to be seen with every entry.

But what is most telling about the man, in the depth of his heart, is the final entry on his weblog.

"[F]or those concerned about my physical condition lately... I will be seeing my main doctor this Thursday, God willing. Let's hope for the best."

Gerard managed to keep his appointment that day, if not the one most of us expected.

As this is written, one can imagine the chant that might echo within the sacred walls of the Church, as he is carried to rest.

"In paradisum deducant te angeli:
in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres,
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
Chorus angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem."


"May the Angels lead you into paradise;
Upon your arrival may the Martyrs welcome you,
and lead you into the holy city of Jerusalem.
May a choir of angels welcome you,
and, with poor Lazarus of old, may you have eternal rest."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Dappling With A Song In My Heart

I was reading Father "Don Jim" Tucker's Dappled Things early in the morning -- as I am wont to do nearly every work day -- and I came across his reference to the website of the schola cantorum (the choir school) of St Michael's Church in Auburn, Alabama. The good father writes: "It still amazes me to meet older people who can still sing the Gloria from the Missa de Angelis or Credo III from memory after having learned them in the choirs of their parochial schools, lo, so many years ago."

In times of antiquity (that is, in ancient Rome and Greece and the Holy Land and thereabouts), there was little distinction between public oratory and what we know as "chant." Even today, if you listen to the street hawkers in major cities, and the hot dog vendors in the ball park, you will hear a two-or-three-note melodic line, not unlike the town criers in days of old. There's a reason for that, folks. Chant is the most natural way to sing in the world, as it is an extension of the natural rising and falling of human speech.

Tell that to your weenie pastor who says "I can't sing," but still kids himself and everybody else, into thinking that he's "totally supportive" of his parish music program.

I still remember daily Mass at my parochial school, in the town in Ohio where I grew up, and how the older children would chant the Mass settings together in unison. There was something called the "Archdiocesan Young People's Hymnal," I believe. And I can still remember hearing them singing "O Esca Viatorum" to this day. I remember learning the chants in class along with other children's songs, using the then-popular "Ward Method." Those were a series of books designed to teach sacred music to children. I understand they are making a slow but steady comeback.

Having been in parish choirs for much of my life, and having directed small ensembles of children, as well as adults, I've become somewhat cynical toward the Catholic music industry over the years -- not just because of weenie pastors, but the weenies they hire. Everybody touts "Vatican Two" as the excuse for every damned gimmick that comes down the pike, but it was that very Council that proclaimed Gregorian chant to have "pride of place" in sacred music, "all other things being equal." (Go ahead, look it up, I'll wait right here... Okay, you're back. Now then...) There is a segment of the industry that has gotten wise to this, albeit a long time coming, but at the parish level, the latest rendering of Haugen or Haas (those guys have gotta be stinkin' rich by now) rules the day. As I endure the typical "contemporary liturgy," people stand there like tree stumps watching a few people with too much sugar in their diets up near the altar, shaking up and down with tambourines and guitars, as if that'll get anyone to join in.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, it ain't gonna happen. But have a cantor lead a simple Kyrie or Gloria. Guess what? They sing! I know; I've done it. I couldn't believe it either.

To this day, I can walk into a little country church for Sunday Mass, and as often as not, I'll cringe as somebody who can't play an organ to save their lives tries to anyway, goading the assembled beyond their collective reach, and settling into new heights of mediocrity. I'd love to throttle the pastor some day, and just step in front of the lot of them. With a simple Gregorian setting, and a few traditional hymns (generally easier for crowds to sing than the contemporary drivel better suited to a recording studio), we could raise the roof.

Not to mention the collection for that week.

So, if you belong to that "little church by the side of the road," and you guys can't afford a music director, go to the website from down Ala-Good-Time-Bama way, and download a copy of Jubilate Deo. And while you're at it, read what authors Arlene Oost-Zinner and Jeffrey Tucker have to say about damn near anything else on the subject. They've got a great collection of articles and resources, including some of the great musical treasure of the Church.

That means... if you're Catholic, it's already yours.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Thanks to "Doug" for the following:

When someone tells you to ask yourself,
"What would Jesus do?,"
remember that at least one valid answer is,
"Freak out and knock over tables."

Friday, November 12, 2004

Encounter with Absolom

"0 my son Absolom, my son, my son Absolom! Would that I had died instead of you, 0 Absolom, my son, my son!" (2nd Samuel 18)

Last Sunday night, I got a call. It was one of my son's AA friends. Paul had been more depressed than usual lately, and had swallowed a bottle of Tylenol. He then panicked, and called his buddies, one of them an EMT. They rushed him to the hospital....

Paul is nineteen now, and after graduating from high school five months ago, was faced with his mother's remarrying and leaving the city, effectively throwing him out onto the street. He has a good job, waiting tables at an Italian restaurant, and is staying with friends. But the living arrangement is temporary, and this is his third since graduation. He is trying to "find himself," as the saying goes. It's been a hard search.

I've been renting a studio apartment for the last ten years, having spent the last fourteen trying to support two households. I would have loved to be able to just go out and buy a place big enough for both of us. But nothing like that happens right away. Try telling that to his mother. And even if he lived with me, the fact is that he is no longer a child, and must still face the challenges that accompany the coming of age.

Sometimes, when you find yourself retreating into "the dark place," it only takes one more thing, and....

I threw on my clothes and rushed to the hospital. He was still in the ER when I got there. Since he was no longer a minor, I needed permission from him to consult with his caregivers. I convinced him that his interests would best be served if I was totally in the loop. They believed they caught him just in time, and while preparing to give the antidote by IV, were hopeful that the damage to his liver would be minimal, if any.

After staying with him a couple of hours and getting him settled down, he drifted off to sleep. I went to my car in the parking lot, and kept my vigil there, in the hopes of being available at dawn the next morning.

I awoke before eight, and rejoined my son in the ER, just in time for them to take him to a private room. We were joined by a nurse, a "watcher," to ensure that Paul would do no further harm to himself. My conversation with him was enough to convince me that such was no longer an issue.

I was there on Monday and Tuesday evenings. I could hardly concentrate at the office. Conferring with his mother was important, given her knowledge of his medical history and experience with hospital work. But it seemed as though she still had to be calling the shots from four hundred miles away. Not anymore, I assured her; she lost that prerogative when she left town. Paul said he would consider coming to live with me. I told him it would take awhile to find a place, and that he would have to move away from the suburbs outside the Beltway, and into town.

He got out of the hospital on Wednesday, and I was there to take him to the county social services center. I haven't been able to get him on my health plan up until now, but for the moment, his immediate needs are taken care of.

Paul is a brilliant and talented young man, whose innocence was shattered by growing up in what we used to call a "broken home." Being a "good Catholic" and attending church every Sunday does not spare one the pitfalls of the human condition. Paul has not been to church in over a year. But AA has provided him with a spirituality of sorts, and he prays -- down on his knees, literally -- twice a day. He used to draw a comic strip about life with Father -- "The Daily Dad," he called it.

He also reads about Thomas Aquinas, in a quest for meaning to his life. He's also earning a reputation as a local hip-hop artist. That conjures up images of decadence, but I've learned that the genre is more than that. He has even worked the Angelic Doctor into one of his works, telling his listeners how "curiosity didn't kill the Catholic."

Paul grew up in a Byzantine Rite parish along with his mother. With a spirituality similar to that of the Eastern Orthodox Christians, I found the perfect book for him; Steps of Transformation: An Orthodox Priest Explores the Twelve Steps, by Father Meletios Webber. With insights into the Twelve Steps of AA, combined with the writings of the Eastern Church Fathers, Paul seemed to appreciate it.

But the road to daylight is a long and winding one. After visiting the clinc, he went to join his friends who rallied around him. I went home, alone.

Meanwhile, I have spent the remainder of the week getting caught up. And wondering what might happen next, and how it is I managed not to fall apart. I wish I could tell you it was my faith. I am not without it, but its presence appears as the wind in the willows, what Isaiah remembered as "a still small voice."

But never mind me. Pray for my son. Please.

"I read the news today, oh boy..."

• The special issue of Newsweek, which gives the reader an inside account of the presidential campaign this year (entitled "How Bush Did It"), just came out on Monday. I highly recommend it. There are some very telling insights found in its pages. Some readers have already commented on them, and there will be more with my own two-cents worth, at a later date.

• Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, passed away the night before last in Paris, and the wire services show the French soldiers carrying his casket in procession. Personally, I've never been all that impressed with the guy. I question whether Arafat ever left the situation better than he found it, and wonder if he preferred to play both sides in an attempt to maintain the illusion of authority. Well, he won't be doing that anymore, will he? I still hear stories about how Israeli military and police treat Palestinian civilians like they're all criminals, at airport check-ins, on the street, you name it. We can stick our noses in their business all we want, but the fact remains; as long as the sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael cannot get along, there will be no peace in the Middle East.

• The American bishops are meeting in DC next week. I used to get press credentials to get into the event every year. Starting last year, I didn't. I won't this year either. They'll no doubt spend most of the week stumbling all over one another with the whole priest-sex-scandal thing, and various pressure groups will be standing around outside hamming it up for the cameras, trying to make everybody think somebody inside should give a rat's behind. (Trust me, they don't.)

• I admit, I haven't commented as much lately. There's a reason. Stay tuned...

Friday, November 05, 2004

Kerry: "I can't believe I'm losing to this idiot."
mwbh: "And this would make you a..."


This piece in the London Times was so priceless I actually called my folks in Ohio, made them put on the speakerphone, and read the whole thing to them, much to their amusement. But why should they have all the fun? Read for yourself:

"John Kerry constantly squabbled with his difficult and hypochondriac wife, ran a campaign team riven by internal feuding, and repeatedly begged the Republican senator John McCain to become his running-mate... [Kerry] was so obsessed with getting advice from a multitude of rival advisers that one aide confiscated his mobile telephone. His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, became such a moody distraction that in the closing weeks of the campaign another aide instructed her to stop whispering advice in his ear and back off... [Teresa] drove her Secret Service detail mad with her chronic lateness, constantly demanded attention, including her husband’s [and] even sent him off on errands, such as fetching bottles of water..."

My favorite is the family hiking trip. Thanks to the crack research team at Cruxnews for digging up this gem.

CNN reports that Kerry supporters and campaign workers are becoming despondent and going in for therapy, in shock over what might happen to this country.

According to most of us, nothing we can't handle. God bless America.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Ad Random, Post-Election

Most people have seen maps of the USA with the electors' choice by state, as seen at the USA Today website's "Election 2004" page. They also supply a more detailed analysis with a county-by-county comparison. The latter includes a contrast of this year's election, with that of 2000, which is facilitated by an animation at Bettnet.com. (You can barely see it, but most of Alaska's votes went Republican, and are confined to its southern coast, the rest of the state being largely uninhabited.)

This model casts into serious doubt any notion that the Democrats are the "party of the people." The bulk of their support is confined to the West and upper East coasts, and in the more cosmopolitan, more expensive, urban regions.

One of them, Hollywood, is the scene of great despair, as the great thespians, having long taken for granted their role at center stage of the public square, wonder out loud what that world is coming to:

"For a rich and powerful demographic used to getting its way, Hollywood was downbeat yesterday as President Bush — more heinous than a mid-February release date to so many celebrities and other bold-faced names — made his gracious victory speech... Not only entertainers were said to be dispirited. The literary crowd in New York was crying into its Evian... 'Sure, I feel terrible,' said New Yorker editor David Remnick, whose published endorsement of Mr. Kerry was a first for the magazine. 'There are a lot of long faces today.'... And 'Fahrenheit 9/11' propagandist Michael Moore's Web site actually went silent... That's the same Mr. Moore who only a couple of weeks ago had paused in his anti-Bush road trip to opine: 'I have a feeling that slackers are going to rise up in this election. The slacker motto is: Sleep till noon, drink beer, vote Kerry.'..."

They can make jokes about why the land between the coasts is known as "flyover" states if they will. But it will only encourage the alienation, and the observation made today by Robert Novak:

"Democrats confront a grim future. Bush's 3.5-million-vote edge in the popular vote reflects a party out of touch with the country on social issues, the role of government and the war against terrorism. Democrats face the bitter reality of minority party status and what to do about it."

From where sitteth yours truly, they may already have. Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), wife of a former president who needs no introduction, is already getting a good look-over. A defeat of Kerry may have made such a possibility all the more likely.

(We've mentioned that before, haven't we?)

Such a choice only reinforces the current malaise descending on the Democrats. Will choosing a former first lady, with a history of questionable legal, political, and professional conduct (to say nothing of enabling her husband in the same), who appeared to have relocated to a new state mainly to run for public office there and come off looking like a native, only encourage the delusion of elitists in Hollywood and elsewhere?

Be that as it may, the Republicans have no reason to rest on their laurels. There is some question as to whether Bush was able enough to court young voters among his slim majority (and yes, 51 percent against 48 percent can safely be called "slim"), and the pressure on him to resolve the situation in Iraq will not go away.

The Republicans didn't win big time, so much as they bought time. Somewhere in the distance, a big can of 2008 model year Whoop-@$$ is waiting for them.

They'd better start lining up the heir apparents now; their adversaries aren't wasting any time. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Today is the first day of the rest of American life.

"To be a faithful Catholic necessarily means that one is pro-life and not pro-choice... To be pro-choice essentially means supporting the right of a woman to terminate the life of her baby, either pre-born or partially born. No Catholic can claim to be a faithful member of the Church while advocating for, or actively supporting, direct attacks on innocent human life... Some have wondered whether one may vote for a candidate whose stand on abortion and other life issues is contrary to the teaching of the Church if one believes that that candidate has a better position on other issues of importance to Catholics and indeed to our nation (e.g., national security, taxation, job growth, economic policy, etc.).... Proportionate reason does not mean that each issue carries the same moral weight; intrinsically evil acts such as abortion or research on stem cells taken from human embryos cannot be placed on the same level as debates over war or capital punishment, for example. It is simply not possible to serve and promote the common good of our nation by voting for a candidate who, once in office, will do nothing to limit or restrict the deliberate destruction of innocent human life." -- Most Rev Paul S Loverde, Bishop of Arlington, Oct 31 2004

The issue of abortion is, in reality, the perfect "litmus test" of a candidate. It betrays his or her definition of what constitutes a "right."

The murder of innocent human life, whatever one's personal sentiments at the time, whomever one is trying to placate for the sake of political gain, cannot possibly be enshrined as something "inalienable" or "self-evident," as our Founding Fathers would have intended. For a lawmaker to reduce such notions to whatever one feels like doing, regardless of the cost to others, is to confuse "freedom" with "license." Such does not lend itself to the creation of just law, but rather to institutionalized chaos.

An election this close is a sign of a seriously divided and polarized nation. Even the Roman Empire could not stand against such loss of equilibrium.

When you go to the polls today, you will stand alone. Your friends will not stop inviting you to their cocktail parties if you vote for a candidate other than the one whom they want. No Hollywood starlet or nouveau riche recording artist will be there to remind you of the "kewl" thing to do. Only your conscience will be there. Use it to tell you what the right thing to do.

As a wise man once said, "There's no right way to do the wrong thing, so do the right thing."

Monday, November 01, 2004

Oh, and another thing!!!

"John Kerry throws a football like a girl."

Saints and Sinners Going Bump in the Night

Yesterday we attended Mass at my home parish as usual. The young curate was the celebrant and gave his homily. He noted the coincidence of this weekend being both that of the Marine Corps Marathon, and the final one before the presidential election.

He continued with a reference to a letter from our bishop on the moral responsibilities of Catholics with respect to the exercise of voting rights. The tone of the young priest became more tentative than usual, as he was careful not to say anything that could be construed as endorsing a particular candidate. He went so far as to hold up an IRS publication which outlined the limitations of religious bodies in political life with relation to their non-profit status.

Across this land, Catholic priests are biting their tongues to the point of drawing blood, while in other parts of town, Protestant ministers of predominantly African-American congregations openly endorse a political agenda, to the point of inviting the candidate himself to the pulpit -- invariably a Democrat.

This cannot possibly make any sense. In fact, it stinks. It is simply one more example of the latent anti-Catholicism in American life. (Then again, maybe it's not so latent.) What is the point of a candidate bragging about his faith playing a role in his life and his character, if he then turns around and eschews bearing witness to it in his public life?

It is already reported that President Bush has used questionable methods in fighting the war in Iraq, as a recent edition of The Wanderer reports on the use of chemical weapons, and the long-term effect on civilian populations, even American soldiers themselves. Meanwhile, Senator Kerry has said outright (when he's not on television telling us about how he was once an altar boy) that he will support legalized abortion from the first day he enters office.

I am downright sick and tired of having to choose between the lesser of two evils every four years. That is why, when C-SPAN did a re-broadcast of the alternate presidential debate among the four "third-party" candidates, I was more than impressed by the civility in tone among the men themselves. I voted for Pat Buchanan in the 2000 election. My family told me I was wasting my vote. But I'm supposed to vote the one whom I believe to be the best candidate. Since when is that a waste? Alas, he is not running this year, and so the most likely choice for me will be Michael Peroutka, of the Constitution Party. His chances of winning are admittedly not good. But that is not the point. His candidacy is not the problem; the fact that we must presume a two-party system to be carved in stone -- THAT is the problem.

For Halloween, "Sal" and I attended a party in Takoma Park, the local enclave for aging hippies living off Mummy and Daddy's trust funds. The event was touted as an "anti-Bush" affair, and the "donation" for admission was to go to some sort of cause. What cause? "Well, we're considering an AIDS education program for kids, but we haven't decided yet." So, I'm just supposed to hand over a twenty to these nimrods so they can go out and (for all I know) buy condoms for little kids? And they think they can tell us how to run the country?

We politely declined, in favor of something later on to honor our hostess.

In addition to such luminaries as the above, I wish to hell Hollywood would stay out of the business of politics, as if they had any more to add than organized religion. That goes ditto for the rock stars. Where were these geniuses when Clinton was barging into Bosnia, or bombing the Chinese embassy using outdated intel? That it's not on the front page now doesn't mean that various ethnic groups of what was once Jugoslavia won't keep killing one another for several more centuries. I didn't hear squat back then. I don't wanna hear it now.

I am damn sick and tired of all the rhetoric about Bush and Cheney being the "candidates of the rich." It is both overly simplistic, and terribly misleading. Whatever their family origins, both Bush and Cheney worked to make their own fortunes, the latter through manual labor during his early years. Kerry married an heiress to the Heinz fortune, and is descended in part from Boston's "Brahmin" establishment -- which is about as "old money" as you can get in this country.

We hear enough of what Bush may or may not have done to fulfill his military obligations, while serving stateside in the National Guard -- which most guys of his generation would have done if they had the chance. I should know; I was old enough to register during the last year of the Vietnam draft. What we do NOT hear enough of, is how Kerry's picture appears in a museum in Hanoi, visiting a North Vietnamese delegation in Paris in the early 1970s. If we are to assume the accuracy of any reports of Kerry's heroic acts while serving in Vietnam, it is nonetheless wise to remember, that the Vichy regime in Nazi-occupied France was led by a puppet French general, who was a hero from the previous Great War.

That's what some "political analyst" for Rolling Stone magazine would have us believe is the man for the job? Give me a break.

This will be another close election, one that even the major media outlets (in a rare display of public restraint) are giving up trying to call. After all, there's plenty to do with picking on Catholics. Like me, columnist and papal biographer George Weigel has had enough of it, and takes on The New York Times, among others:

"About the time the Times? story appeared, the National Catholic Reporter editorially accused Archbishop John Myers, Professor Robert George, Father Richard John Neuhaus, and me of 'a deliberate... attempt to delegitimize the Democratic Party in the eyes of American Catholic voters...' It?s not the Reporter?s Gang of Four who have misrepresented the Catholic position on the inalienable right to life as a sectarian quirk that cannot be 'imposed' on others; it?s the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate. Myers, George, Neuhaus, and I did not devise an approach to embryonic stem-cell research that plays on the fears of the sick and the elderly through misleading promises of medical silver bullets, and that dismisses the considered moral judgment of the pope and the bishops of the United States as 'extreme right-wing ideology'; the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate did that all by themselves... All we have done is to point out the obvious..."

Somebody had to.

This election has also been characterized by an abysmal lack of civility, of vicious personal attacks in the public square, of neighbor against neighbor, as a guest writer for the Washington Post observed yesterday:

"I used to know my neighbors. Now I only know how they are going to vote... One day I was talking with the man across the street, and he told me that when he and his wife moved in they had envisioned potluck dinners with the neighbors... 'Oh, this isn't that kind of neighborhood," I said. "I think they do that in Alexandria...'"

I know what I'd be thinking: why didn't the agent tell me that before I went to settlement?

If Bush wins, the ongoing attempts to outsource various Government operations will continue in ernest. I'm beginning to wonder if, rather than saving money, the result will be the evolution of Government operations as another form of profiteering, at the expense of the basic premise of civil service. Unlike yours truly twenty-four years ago, a contractor does not take an oath to uphold the public interest. They are not accountable to the American taxpayer; I am.

If Kerry wins, the aforementioned initiative will not be stopped, but will probably change course and buy time for more reasoned voices, irrespective of partisan affiliation or public service status. What's more (and I can only speak from general experience here, allowing for exceptions) a political leadership that is less aloof, more accessible, and gives the average civil servant credit for their consultative value, will be more likely. On the other hand, there will be the occasional weirdness in the name of "political correctness." The mandatory AIDS/HIV education program under Clinton was a case in point. In my agency, we didn't get some gay guy offering details of his sex life; others weren't so lucky.

Of the two, Bush is the lesser of two evils. Then again, if Kerry is elected, at least there's less of a chance that Hilary will run in '08.

That should give us enough time to talk Condi Rice into running. (You go, grrrl!)

The rest of you, until the dust settles at dawn on Wednesday, stay tuned...