Monday, February 28, 2005

Dreher Does Dallas

Rod Dreher has stepped in the big one, apparently.

The columnist for the Dallas Morning News has taken it on the chin lately, for holding the Pope responsible in the sex abuse scandal -- or, for not being responsible, as it were, specifically in cracking the whip with incompetent bishops, party-boy seminary rectors, perfidious chancery officials, you name it. This has earned him the wrath of a relative newcomer to the Catholic blogosphere, a retired Naval officer named Jonathan Carpenter:
"This situation with the News is not about championing reform over abuse. Many newspapers have reported and commented on abuse, but none have been as persistent as the News in painting a picture of the Catholic Church as an evil institution.

"'...the Catholic Church, of which I am a loyal member, is corrupt in its leadership,' wrote Asst Editorial Page Editor Rod Dreher on the News' Blog site Feb 7.

"Such a gross, sweeping allegation is followed by Dreher's call to Catholics not to contribute to the Catholic Community Appeal. The News supports his anti-church tirades on a Web log, or blog.

"Dreher, a political ideologue that the News hired two years ago to champion its battle against the church, has repeatedly criticized many Catholic leaders from the pope on down except for a particular bishop or priest that he supports." (excerpted from an e-mail bulletin sent recently)

This begs the question, who is right and who is wrong?

The answer: both, and neither.

First, we must distinguish between responsibility and blame. The current health of the Holy Father notwithstanding, we don't have to spend a day on the deck of a ship, to know that the Captain is responsible for everything that happens on, or because of, his vessel. There is honor in accepting this burden, for better or worse. In his suffering, and in refusing to put aside the Fisherman's Ring, John Paul II is bearing the weight of that Cross. His atonement will bear fruit, in ways beyond our natural senses.

Then there is blame. That the Pope was part of the cause of the scandal is quite a stretch. Indeed, there is much to demonstrate the opposite; that whatever has happened, has been despite every effort on his limited part. Yes, Mr Dreher, limited! The Scriptures are filled with God's chosen ones ignoring Moses, the Prophets, even a Man raised from the dead. You think the Pope's gonna score any better, having already been known to complain openly of how many bishops, including some in North America, refuse to listen to him? It's not as though he has enough Swiss Guards to go goose-stepping into every bishop's office that needs a makeover. Dreher (who's right about a lot of other things) hasn't always taken that into account.

Then again, it is more than fair to criticize the bishops, for spending years stumbling over one another in attempting to remedy the current scandals. It is also fair to criticize an individual bishop for the same. Or, as Saint Thomas Aquinas would have said: "When the Faith is in imminent peril, prelates ought to be accused by their subjects, even in public."

Even... in... public!

Three little words that mean, among other things, a free press, without which we probably would never have heard about any of this. And it most certainly would have gone on. Even now, after over a billion dollars has been spent on legal fees, compensation for damages, therapy, press conferences, and what-not, a bishop will still publicly shed tears over the loss of "a good priest" to the latter's own self-destruction.

But they still don't shed tears for the victims, do they, Mr Carpenter? I suppose when Catherine of Siena referred to the men surrounding the Pope in Avignon as "wolves and sellers of the Divine Grace," that was an "anti-church tirade" too, eh? (You gotta admit, it sounds like a pretty "gross and sweeping allegation.")

It is also more than fair to criticize ourselves. We always thought Father Feelgood was a really grooooovy Vatican Two kinda guy, telling us what we wanted to hear, taking cheap shots at Rome from the pulpit, until he got caught with his hand in the till, or his pants down. But how do we respond? Oh, let's appoint more lay people to yet another dumb-@$$ committee -- probably the same idiots who would look the other way if it happened again. (Think that's out of line? Keep an eye on this weblog, buckaroos; there's got a case in point that'll get your attention.)

Boycotting an annual appeal for a bishop's charity is a tough call. A case can be made (if the rosters of papal knighthood are any indication at one time or another), that money is the only language from the pews that a bishop can really understand. This may be one reason why, for example, the Knights of Columbus refrains from issuing opinions in internal ecclesiastical matters, yet still wields considerable influence. Those who choose to join a boycott should be completely honest with themselves regarding their motives, and send those contributions directly to the affected charities. They, and not the bishop, are the real losers of any such initiative.

Carpenter takes Dreher to task for not wishing the Pope well during his infirmity, and it probably wouldn't hurt if he did. But unless he wishes the Pope ill (which he hasn't, and won't), let's see who extends good wishes to the victims.

I wouldn't hold my breath on a bishop. Neither does Dreher, which is probably his point.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Dom Does Cable

Dom Bettinelli was on MSNBC today, and did a plug for "St Blog's Parish." The "parish directory" is on the MSNBC site. Good thing I'm near the top of the list.

I might end up having to behave now. Right now I'm listening to Alan Jackson sing a Merle Haggard tune. Suddenly I feel like bursting into song...
"Cowboys and outlaws, right guys and south-paws
Good dogs and all kinds of cats.
Dirt roads and white lined, and all kinds of stop signs
I'll stand right here where I'm at
'Cause I wear my own kind of hat."
Ad Random

Every Friday, my inbox receives "The Word From Rome," a weekly column written by John L Allen Jr, Vatican Correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. Now, I'm no fan of the Reporter, the Catholicity of which could be called into serious doubt at any one time. But I find Allen's column to be a rare exception. While not exactly ultramontanist, TWFR is an good, concise roundup of the issues, from a vantage point near the Throne of Peter.

This week's installment, unfortunately, was not one of those exceptions.

Allen recommends that reps from the Holy See visit the annual gaggle of 1960s throwbacks in Los Angeles, otherwise known as the Religious Education Congress. That being said, he did manage to publish an account that redeems him -- for the time being.
A lawyer from the East Coast is duck hunting in Iowa, and at one stage he spots a duck, takes aim, and drops it. He begins walking to pick it up, but comes across a fence clearly marked "private property." Feeling justified in reclaiming his duck, he starts to climb over. Just then the farmer appears.

"What do you think you're doing?" he asks.

"Picking up my duck," the lawyer replies.

"No way," the farmer says. "That duck landed on my property."

"Look, you don't understand," the lawyer says. "I'm one of the best trial lawyers in the United States, and if you don't let me have that duck, I'll sue you."

The farmer sighs.

"That may be the way you handle problems where you come from, but around here we have something called the Three-Kick Rule," he said.

"What's that?"

"Basically, I kick you three times, you kick me three times, and we keep going until somebody gives up. Whoever wins keeps the duck."

The lawyer decides this will probably be less expensive than a lawsuit, and agrees.

The farmer walks up and promptly kicks the lawyer hard in the private parts, bringing him to the ground. Then he gives him a shot to the face, almost breaking his nose. Finally he delivers a swift kick to the kidney, eliciting a cry of deep pain. The lawyer is writing in agony, but finally manages to bring himself to his feet.

"Okay, you old coot," he says, "now it's my turn."

"Nah, that's alright," the farmer responds, smiling. "I give up. You can keep the duck."

Nota Bene: I believe that should read "writhing in agony," not "writing." Then again...
This week's tip of the Black Hat goes to...

...Mark Sullivan, author of Irish Elk, who said the right thing, at the right time:
"Heaven knows, I'm the last person to be accusing anyone else of indifference. I don't pay attention to every tragedy in the news. All of us have lives to lead. And what can we do, anyway?

A very small thing we bloggers can do is to pass on stories that need to be told, to add our piece to the samizdat, as it were, in the hope a critical mass will be reached..."
"I read the news today, oh boy..."

• Girlymen: The Evidence - This just in from the London Telegraph, reporting that homosexual men share the same poor map-reading skills as straight women: "Dr Qazi Rahman and colleagues from the University of East London reported in Behavioural Neuroscience that homosexual men used more landmarks during map reading than did heterosexual men, adopting a blend of male and female navigational strategies." No results so far on lesbians and power tools.

• Drawing the Line - In Pakistan, "[t]wo small boys and two girls were married off to four puppies by tribal villagers in the small northern Indian state of Jharkhand to ward off evil, a report said on Wednesday." Advocates of gay unions have not stopped to consider where the line is to be drawn. Here, perhaps? What about next year???

• Steve Martin, welcome to the next level! - Earlier this month, in Gallup, NM, a homeowner found a dog on her back porch, with an arrow through its head. It had lodged underneath the cranial muscle, and did not puncture the brain. The dog, named "Easton" after the brand of arrow, is in stable condition at the vet, and will soon be up for adoption. A $1000 reward is being offered for catching the responsible party. (from the Associated Press)

• Where there's life, there's hope. - Despite the high crime of being an inconvenience for not dying soon enough, Terri Schiavo has a reprieve from the courts until 5 pm today. They will hear new evidence of possible abuse and neglect that (Duh!) may have led to her current condition. The social services agency in Florida is seeking a sixty-day delay in the removal of her feeding tube -- not to be confused with life support. (from the Associated Press, with a few minor embellishments)

Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Kathy Shaidle has a special place in my heart, because it was she who introduced me to that genre known as the weblog -- three years ago almost to the day. Typical of her sharp-witted commentary is this entry, entitled Gidget vs Gonzo.

You go, grrl... eh?
Dancing Where There's Music

A recent issue of the New Orleans Times-Picayune included this review of a book I'm sure to get on my shelf soon enough.

Robert Rand was a fixture of the DC cajun/zydeco dance scene, back before it packed up and moved to Baltimore. He wrote a book, Dancing Away An Anxious Mind: A Memoir About Overcoming Panic Disorder (University of Wisconsin Press, $24.95), which follows "his course of terpsichorean therapy and the other unexpected benefits dance brought to his life."

I particularly loved reading this part of the review:
"Because he already knew and loved Cajun music, Rand chose to learn Cajun and zydeco dancing. Enter Courtney 'Coco' Glass, native Alabamian, by day a federal government employee, by night a part-time dance teacher and regular at Tornado Alley, the successor to the famous Twist and Shout, one of Washington, D.C.'s most famous dance spots. Glass took the shy and anxious young man under her wing. At first, Rand approached learning to dance the way he would approach learning a new language, with all his typical seriousness and intensity. People suffering from intense anxiety often spend their hours in scrupulous examination of their own mental and emotional processes, to the exclusion of actually living their lives. Thus panic disorder, like many other psychological problems, arises at least in part from an excess of self-consciousness. But in his sessions with his dance teacher, Rand discovered that it is impossible to simultaneously lose yourself in dancing and be self-conscious. As a result, slowly, the healing charms of dancing asserted themselves."

Uh-huh. I can relate.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Memo to Kathy Shaidle

I like your version of the story better.
I say it's about time for a "Lynch" mob!

Some of you may be familar with the case of Terri Schiavo, the woman who was severely brain-damaged some years ago, and who is on a feeding tube. Her husband wants to yank the cord, so she can starve to death, and he can marry this woman he's got waiting on the side. Her parents are trying to save Terri from the cad. Meanwhile, the courts appear to favor him so far (after all, feeding someone who's really sick while you're waiting around for them to cash it in is just so damned inconvenient...), and the local bishop, Robert Lynch, is too busy hiding under his desk (or behind his lawyer, whichever) to speak out publicly.

But up there in Kalamazoo, Michigan, they're not so chicken. One of their priests, St Blog's own Rob Johansen of Thrown Back, is down there from time to time lending moral support to the Schiavo family. Today is apparently a critical day for Terri's case. Read all about it at:

Meanwhile, the scrolling news ticker at Fox News Channel says that Terri is "dependent on machines to live." Other outlets are reporting that she's on life support. Those who actually see her (other than her husband, who seems to have a vivid imagination) say she's alert, and sometimes responds to people around her. Besides, boys and girls, a feeding tube is for just that -- FEEDING! It's not the same as life support, which she isn't on.

Things I Learned At The Movies: Part Two

• Any person waking from a nightmare will sit bolt upright and pant.

• It is not necessary to hello or goodbye when beginning or ending phone conversations.

• Even when driving down a perfectly straight road, it is necessary to turn the wheel vigorously from left to right every few moments.

• A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty.

• It does not matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involving martial arts - your enemies will patiently attack you one by one by dancing around in a threatening manner until you have knocked out their predecessors.

• Once applied, lipstick will never rub off - even while scuba diving.

• Any lock can be picked by a credit card or a paper clip in seconds - unless it's the door to a burning building with a child trapped inside.

• Television news bulletins usually contain a story that affects you personally at the precise moment that it is aired.

• If a large pane of glass is visible, someone will be thrown through it before long.

• Word processors never display a cursor on screen but will always say: Enter Password Now.

• Most laptop computers are powerful enough to override the communication systems of any invading alien civilization.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Things I Learned At The Movies: Part One

• When they are alone, all foreigners prefer to speak English to each other.

• If being chased through town, you can usually take cover in a passing St Patrick's Day parade - at any time of year.

• The Chief of Police will almost always suspend his star detective - or give him 48 hours to finish the job.

• All grocery bags contain at least one stick of French Bread.

• It's easy for anyone to land a plane providing there is someone to talk you down.

• The ventilation system of any building is the perfect hiding place - no one will ever think of looking for you in there and you can travel to any other part of the building undetected.

• Police departments give their officers personality tests to make sure they are deliberately assigned to a partner who is their polar opposite.

• All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red readouts so you know exactly when they are going to go off.

• A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating but will wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.

• Cars that crash will almost always burst into flames.

• All telephone numbers in America begin with the digits 555.

(to be continued)
We're forgetting an important birthday today!

No, not that one!

Today marks the birthday of Robert Stevenson Smyth Baden-Powell, founder of the international Boy Scout movement. Born in 1857, he went on to a career in the military, where he became a hero for his brilliant defense of Mafeking in South Africa against the Boers. For this he was honored by Queen Victoria, and made a general at a very young age. His outdoor and survival skills employed during that defense were compiled in a book entitled Aids to Scouting, which proved to be so popular among British boys, that he revised an edition tailored to their needs, known as Scouting for Boys. Then in August of 1907, on the island of Brownsea off the British coast, he led a group of twenty boys for several days of outdoor games and skill training. Thus began the phenomenon known as Boy Scouting.

The movement spread to the USA in 1910, after taking over much of Europe, and beyond. His wife, the former Olave Saint Claire Soames, was the founder of the Girl Guide movement (known as Girl Scouting in the USA).

As his service to Scouting and the Crown continued, he was elevated to the ranks of nobility, and was declared Lord of Gilwell. Before his death in 1941, brother Scouts had already gathered from around the planet to proclaim him "Chief Scout of the World."

Found among his papers after his death, was his farewell message to brother Scouts around the world, an excerpt of which follows:
"Remember, it is the last you will ever hear from me... I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have as happy a life too... [t]he real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best..."

Everything else you could want to know about the man known to brother Scouts as "B-P" can be found at the The Pine Tree Web.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Memo to Amy Welborn: You too?

(I'm availing myself of a Federal holiday today, keeping busy at the school lab, and wandering through the mysterious labyrinth that is html code. Time for a time-out...)

Recently I've been trying to explain to someone why I wouldn't be crazy about taking a trip to Las vegas. Amy Welborn of Open Book said it briefly, and best:

"Am I wrong? Or is Vegas anything other than a celebration of artificiality and greed?"

Comments running the gamut are to follow at her site. It seems lots of people have their "Vegas moments."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


The other day, after a brief introduction to the blogosphere, the author of [enter site name here] took it down, following the predictable backlash. After the dust settled, I took a closer look at his "parent site," Fides, Spes, Caritas. There's some pretty good stuff there, actually. At present, I think it gets lost in the commentary on how people say the AIDS is God's way of punishing gays. Actually, AIDS is merely the consequences of some people's actions, one of the by-products of free will. As Catholics, we are taught that God respects our right to exercise free will, for better or for worse. There's more to say here, but that's the short version.

Anyway, there's still some interesting stuff on this gentleman's site, and I think it's worth an occasional gander. He has a grandparent in intensive care right now, having already lost the other one to Parkinson's. That's a lot to handle, without having to take on the Catholic blogosphere, thus the removal of the other site.

I think everybody at St Blog's should light a candle for this guy. We're all good sports here, right?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Coming Attractions

I've already finished one site for my web design class. Another assignment is now in the works. The subject is a city, one not normally a tourist attraction, that deals with a non-tourist aspect of that city. Needless to say, I chose the one where I came from. Meanwhile, I'll be putting up a "portfolio" page on the server tonight, that will link to past and present assignments:

The new site will be entitled:

Shall we gather at the river?
An anti-tourist's view of Cincinnati, Ohio

I'll talk about how the city got its name, the river that runs through it (or around it, I should say), that deal about which hills are the "seven hills," the role of pigs in the city's history, the story of the "floating soap," how the city was a hotbed for radio and television creativity, and finally, a unique once-a-year "slice of life."

What will not be included is the story of Cincinnati's chili parlors, since Cincinnati is famous for its special chili. An online search discloses at least two dozen distinct recipes, most of which include a dash of chocolate and cinnamon (yep, that's right!). But alas, this would probably qualify as a tourist attraction (at least it is for me), and I'd be tempted to publish my mother's recipe, which currently is not online. It's my personal favorite, though. Thanks, Mom.

I've found some of the material for this site online over the years. Now I've got to go back and try to find it all again. The chapter on local television has been touched upon here at MWBH before, and that should be interesting. Naming a source for some subjects is sometimes hard, since I've heard some of these stories since I was a kid.

But at least for all the work I put into this stuff, I find it to be a gratifying experience -- not just from a personal standpoint, but with the satisfaction of knowing my career is getting a new lease on life, at mid-life.

And that doesn't happen to everybody, does it?
Rumbling in the Pews at St Blog's

From time to time, the "progressive" wing of the Catholic press starts whining about "McCarthyism" whenever someone starts setting up a litmus test at their expense.

Apparently, one of them has learned to live with it. "I have started a new blog called Index Blogorum Prohibitorum, which will take note of Catholic blogs that are uncommonly rude and/or bigoted..." I assume Nathan is not referring to himself, let alone the pattern already established on his blog Fides, Spes, Caritas for not getting his facts right.

Dom Bettinelli is upset that he hasn't been picked on yet. Don't worry, big fella. As one of the regular nominees for the "Catholic Blog Awards," you'll get your chance to duke it out with him soon enough. It's guys like me that aren't on the celebrity circuit who will be left alone.

Besides, the guy's using made-up Latin words like "blogorum." I could take him.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Overheard at St Blog's Coffee Hour

Eric Johnson of Catholic Light gives a brilliant explanation of the Catholic "just war" theory, as applied to American military actions during the last century. And for those of you who still want to rub our noses in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, item 6 is worth contemplating.

• Letters to the New Oxford Review gave a scathing account of the recent piece by H W Crocker III in crisis Magazine entitled: "Making Babies: A Very Different Look at Natural Family Planning." Here was a sample: "Natural family planning (NFP) needs a slogan, because as a 'product'—if I might adopt business-speak—it’s not selling too well... So let me propose a new rallying cry: 'Use NFP: It Doesn’t Work!'... [It] has many strong arguments in its favor. First, it is true. NFP proponents tout its 99 percent effectiveness rate, but they neglect to mention that this is true only if the husband is in the Navy and assigned to extended, uninterrupted sea duty of three-year tours or longer. Otherwise, for most Catholics I know, NFP means a baby every two years or so..." He also paints a scenario of how a priest might counsel a couple on the subject. Personally, I thought it was hilarious. Then again, I think too many Catholics confuse anal retention with "orthodoxy" on any given day. Of course... that's just me.

Dom of Bettnet reports that the bishops in Ireland are compiling a list of approved music for weddings, in a desparate attempt to subvert further concessions to the latest hit parade. I couldn't resist the following comment: "Weddings tend to be driven less by the sacredness of the occasion, than by ingratiating [that should read 'indulging'] a young woman’s fantasies, in what ends up looking like the coming-out party she never had (or maybe did, but in a different dress). When we remove all traces of novelty (which could by definition include the bride being given away by the father, an uncle, or any older male relative with a pulse), we might someday treat it as the event in the life of the Church that it really is."
"I read the news today, oh boy..."

"LISBON (Reuters) - Lucia de Sesus dos Santos, the last of three children who claimed to see the Virgin at Fatima and who revealed a vision the Catholic Church said foretold the attempt to kill Pope John Paul, died Sunday..." She was 97. Rest in peace, dear Sister. For the rest of you... let the conspiracy theories begin!

• I missed the Grammys last night -- on purpose. I'm really not interested in seeing the usual pop celebrities show off a very narrow but highly conspicuous slice of the music industry. So I wait for the complete listing of winners to come out, and The Washington Post has published it. Ray Charles walked away with 8 awards posthumously, including Album of the Year. But the big relief is that, once again, Brave Combo of Denton, Texas, has for the second time in less than a decade, broken Jimmy Sturr's virtual monopoly over Best Polka Album with "Let's Kiss."

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Start the Carnival without me!

I'm just getting over a cold or the flu or something. The result was giving up the usual pre-Lenten revelry. What's more, my need to be in class early tomorrow morning is the main reason I won't be at the Cat's Eye Pub in Baltimore tonight, for the ultimate local Mardi Gras thing.

But a new movie opens this weekend, a film by Michael Schorr entitled Schultze Gets The Blues. It seems that...

"Schultze has spent his whole life in a small town in Saxon-Anhalt near the river Saale. Schultze's life, divided between work and the pub, the allotment, folk music and fishing, is rudely interrupted when he and his mates Manfred and J?rgen are made redundant. As entropy sets in and maintaining the daily routine deteriorates into a farce, Schultze discovers a life on the other side of the hill."

Check out the trailer. It's the next best thing to being there.
Before I forget...

No, Mark. Jimmy Akin doesn't look anything like you.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Reply to "Raines"

I read your reply to my mention of the "cohousing" phenomenon, from my recent entry entitled "Resolutions," dated January 27.

The Methodist community in Oakland (CA) you mention was the subject of an article in the unfortunately now-defunct re:generations quarterly a few years back, which can be accessed at beliefnet. Also on that page are a number of links to related sites.

The idea of living in a commune does not appeal to me. But I've always said, that if I won the big state lottery jackpot tomorrow, I wouldn't build a mansion; I'd build a village. And the cohousing model is the one I'd likely use. I'd gather as many Catholic homeschooling families in the locality as I could, and make them an offer they couldn't refuse. Now, if that's one of you, and you don't feel like waiting till I get lucky, read this page, view this slide show, and get back to me. Soon.

On a related note, it was in looking over the search engine results that you sent me (yep, we're still talkin' to you, Raines), that I was impressed with the length and breadth of the Catholic blogosphere. So, when I see once again, the list of nominations for the 2005 Catholic Blog Awards, it calls to mind the line in the movie Casablanca: "Round up the usual suspects." Now, some of the usual nominees (which are invariably the usual winners) are blogs I visit everyday myself. But I don't pretend they're all that's out there. And while these guys are all busy congratulating one another later this month, I wonder how many others will never be noticed -- not for lack of merit, but for lack of credentials elsewhere.

What is the point of the weblog as a new and innovative medium for the heretofore unheard voices, if it is merely predominated by those who have already gained noteriety in other media?

No, I didn't get nominated. Then again, I'm not the issue. Discuss.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

At least Phil got fair warning.

I've been under the weather for the last few days. I feel better today, enough to go to class for the final critique of my first web design assignment for this quarter:

It's entitled Things With Strings: Musical Instruments I Have Known. Discuss.

Meanwhile, I gotta get more rest this week. The weekend before Mardi Gras is coming up, and being the good Catholic boy I am, I am loathe to forsake the annual pre-Lenten religious observances. "Eh toi!!!"

Stay tuned...