Friday, June 30, 2006

As we head into the Fourth of July weekend, this would be a good time for Americans to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our liberty in the last two hundred years or more, making this the land that everybody in the world is "chomping at the bit" to get into, including those snotty Europeans who complain about us. And speaking of The New York Times, if you're in The City So Big They Had To Name It Twice on July 10, there's a protest against their "loose lips" editorial policy. It starts at 5 pm, across the street from their 229 West 43rd Street location.

God bless America. HOO-rah.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sometimes you feel like a nut...

Today, the Christian world celebrates the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. In the reformed Roman calendar, it is recognized as a solemnity, and is a holyday of obligation in many countries (if not the USA). The traditional Roman calendar notes it as a double octave of the first class. Either way, it's up there on the food chain.

And speaking of food...

The Catholic blogosphere has plenty of meditations on this day. This writer has decided on a different approach:

Image courtesy

"At the train station in Naugatuck, Connecticut, candy and ice-cream shop owner Peter Paul Halajian used to meet the commuter trains carrying baskets full of fresh hand-made chocolates. The most popular of his candies was a blend of coconut, fruits, nuts, and chocolate that he called Konabar..."

Eventually Peter Paul merged with Cadbury, which later merged with Hershey. Not only is there a recipe for the Mounds and Almond Joy confections on the internet, but you can also bake a cake out of them, with recipes to be found here and here.

Of course, to learn about the Feast itself, what better place to recommend than the guy who's smart enough to recommend me -- TrueRestoration. But for me, I can't think of a better way to celebrate this feast than to bake a cake out of something that says "Peter Paul," unless the gang at Fisheaters has a better idea.

But hey, that's just me.

Cat Fights Revisited

Continuing the subject of annulments, and the prospect of explaining to some airhead in the mainstream media what they are, as opposed to what they are not, it seems those who are "Against All Heresies" are not the only ones who call it a "loophole." Athanasius Contra Mundum provides a competent explanation in light of the situation with actress Nicole Kidman.

A review of some comments boxes demonstrates what this writer has been saying for years; that when it comes to divorced Catholics, there is never a shortage of the faithful remnant who have it all figured out what you should or shouldn't be doing, not only with your marriage, but with your life, and why. The answer is simple; pray to God that you and your spouse will reconcile. While you're at it, sprinkle enough holy water all over the house. Otherwise you obviously haven't tried hard enough. After all, they know far better than you what went on in your house, your meeting with the pastor, your bedroom...

This approach -- besides making the would-be counselor look like a blithering idiot -- reduces the Almighty to some sort of magic genie. Rub the lamp hard enough and you get your wish, just like that. It doesn't work that way. God answers all prayers, but we aren't always listening, and when we do, the answer is not always the one we expect. When my wife left me sixteen years ago, I spent the year that followed learning from family members of things they had seen for themselves, things of which I was completely unaware. I learned of a plan that actually tricked me into making a commitment before its time. I saw for myself how I had turned into a madman trying to please those whose thirst for contentment could never be quenched. I was a hysterical, I was a wreck, and didn't even know it. By the end of the first year of separation, the mother of my son was a woman whom I had never met. That was not something I was sorry to learn; it was a gift allowing me to accept that which I was powerless to change. My prayers were answered, if not in the way I originally expected. My ability to live some semblance of a peaceful existence today can be attributed to this.

But hey, that's just me. And the more cases you discover, the more varied they are. (And for those ready to reply, be advised, the above is for the purpose of illustration, and does not begin to qualify anyone for a competent evaluation.)

Marriage is a mutual consent of two individuals who, until the time of the bond, led completely separate lives. They have minds of their own after the bond, ergo it's fair to say they had them beforehand. And it takes TWO to contract that bond. The role of a tribunal is to determine whether BOTH parties were capable of, and did indeed contract, that bond at the time in question. The number of years together, even the number of children, while making the breakup all the more incredible, becomes irrelevant, as all rests upon the existence of the bond to begin with.

It is not the role of the armchair critic who appears from out of nowhere; I don't give a rat's @$$ how many scapulars they wear around their neck.

[FOOTNOTE: I will not be taking comments on this particular piece, and judging from the ones I have received so far, this was the right decision. In at least two cases, it is painfully clear that the reader did NOT read what I had written. I am more than willing to entertain any private correspondence. In order to do that, you must send me your e-mail address. I will be in touch.]

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hearts Revisited

Since writing my piece on the Feast of the Sacred Heart entitled "In corde Jesu," I have come across the episode of The X-Files to which I referred. It is from the series' sixth season, and is entitled "Milagro" (6X18). It originally aired on April 18, 1999. A piece of the dialogue, from the mysterious writer named Philip Padgett (John Hawkes), describes a vision:

"I often come here to look at this painting. It's called 'My Divine Heart' after the miracle of Saint Margaret Mary. Do you know the story... The revelation of the Sacred Heart? Christ came to Margaret Mary, his heart so inflamed with love that it was no longer able to contain its burning flames of charity. Margaret Mary... so filled with divine love herself, asked the Lord to take her heart... and so he did, placing it alongside his until it burned with the flames of his passion. Then he restored it to Margaret Mary, sealing her wound with the touch of his blessed hand."

Just when we thought the influence of Christendom had faded from the culture. Hope breeds eternal...

Deus, Deus meus

I've had reason lately to be reminded of a Psalm, one that was a favorite of General George "Blood and Guts" Patton. Psalm 63 (62 in the Vulgate) was featured as a voice-over in the 1970 movie Patton:

(A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.)

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

To see thy power and glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.

Because thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.

Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:

When I remember thee upon my bed and meditate on thee in the night watches.

Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth.

They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.

But the king shall rejoice in God; every one that sweareth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.

Somebody say "Amen."

The sun is out, but...

...things are still screwed up in the Nation's capital. Bus service within the District is a damn joke, with people waiting well over an hour during the evening rush to catch a bus, sometimes in the rain. The scene underground is better, but not by much. Passengers can find themselves packed like sardines for nearly an hour without moving, as was the case yesterday. The record-breaking rainfall in the past few days has created mini-floods in low-lying areas throughout the city. With nary a cloud in the sky today, basements at the IRS, Justice, and others along Constitution Avenue, are still closed as everything dries out.

But what really gets under my skin, is the routine indifference demonstrated by the public transportation system, even at the slightest show of precipitation, or congested traffic. You'd think these idiots would realize that people still have lives to get on with, day care centers to get to before they close, dinners to fix, and an overall wish to get home sometime before getting up the next morning. Frankly, I don't think they know, let alone care.

METRO recently got a new general manager, one who's supposed to be a real go-getter. His latest proposal is bringing street musicians to the underground, like so many other cities. I'd actually support such an idea. But frankly, he's got one really big-@$$ first priority. He needs to send a clear, unmistakable message to every last man and woman behind the wheel of a bus or train, a message that can be summed up in two words.

Show. Up.

If there's any part of that two-word message he and those pinheads on his payroll don't get, they should consider another line of work. The rest of us have to get to ours. Even when it rains.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Yesterday, the Catholic blogosphere became the setting for a good old-fashioned cat fight. I just don't have another word for it. Neither will you.

Carolina, author of The Crescat, announced her availability to the so-called dating scene, two years after her divorce. She neglected to mention in her original post whether she had a declaration of nullity, and was therefore free to marry in the Church. This omission was all that was needed for Mary Alexander (no relation), author of Against All Heresies, to go on a jihad against the notion of annulments as a "loophole," and to extend her outrage to Carolina's comments box. ("Why not try reconciling with your husband. That is what a good Catholic would do." Hey, kids, can you say "restraining order?")

That's the short version. Obviously there's more. The reader can look for his/herself at the comments, and see the long version, if they have nothing better to do. Oh, sure, I got my own two cents worth in, as part of my ongoing campaign of shameless self-promotion, in this case what I've written on the subject in question. That would be here, here, and, the one you definitely don't wanna miss, here.

Mary is obviously right about the indissolubility of marriage, and in taking Caroline to task, you could say she means well. Unfortunately, Mary also falls into the same trap as many who write on the subject of annulments. It goes like this: there are a lot of them, therefore there are too many, therefore they're obviously handing them out like candy, and that's all we need to know. This line of reasoning (and I use the term "reasoning" guardedly), calls into question the sincerity of conviction of those who are "free to marry in the Church" following a divorce. It also lends serious doubt to the authority -- not only in practice, but in principle -- of the local Church, through her bishop, "to bind and to loose" that Our Lord left His Apostles.

The result is that, even if I have an annulment, I am still damaged goods, and a truly righteous Catholic lady should (ahem!) beware.

Carolina's mistake is a more innocent one. She has since clarified her blog to leave no mistake that she is free to marry. But while she may enjoy a favorable response (oh, okay... many favorable responses), I'm wondering if this medium was the best way to go about it. There are websites for Catholic singles, including Ave Maria Singles and Catholic Match. She could have made a beeline for one of those services, and kept it out of her weblog, thus avoiding the Inquisition entirely.

We can say all we want about our concern for the soul of another. There are usually two ways to go about it. And yet, all too often, we pick the one that makes the most noise (which is especially hard to resist in the blogosphere). Whether it achieves the desired effect or not, it is inconsistent with the concept of "fraternal correction" as found in Matthew 18.

That would make it the wrong way, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Monday, June 26, 2006

After the Rain (Ad Random)

This past week, the middle Atlantic region of the USA has been getting a lot of rain. And when it rains, it pours. I'm talkin' cats and dogs here, people. Last night was no exception. Sometimes the power goes out. Now personally I don't understand how lightning can strike the same transformer twice in a single year, but hey, that's just me.

Anyway, here's what we're looking at in the world lately:

• Most mwbh readers are familiar with the re-translation of the Roman Missal by the bishops of the English-speaking world. We've covered that in our "Critical Mass" series. In the next week or two, there will be examples provided on what's wrong with the current situation, how it needs to be fixed, and why.

• Somebody just figured out that the late Pope John Paul II was Jewish. This isn't news to some of us, of course. It was through his mother's side: "Emilia Kaczorowski - Emily Katz in English - was Jewish and that she was the daughter of Feliks Kaczowski, a businessman from Biala-Bielsko in Poland. Katz is a common surname amongst East European Jewish families..." A few sedevacantists and assorted yahoos have been having a field day with this; I have no idea why. Wait till they find out that Jesus and all twelve Apostles were... well, you know.

• Earlier this month, we covered the issue of affordable housing. Essentially, it's all being torn down and replaced by units for the luxury market. There will be some examples of affordable alteratives showcased here in the near future. None of them are pie-in-the-sky academic projects, but have actually been built in large numbers. None of them will come from the alleged "Catholic town" of Ave Maria, Florida.

• I'll probably be reviewing movies and/or books at another website later in the year. It would help if I actually went to a movie now and then. Too busy dancing. And speaking of dancing, what with the July Fourth weekend coming up, there will lots of dancing, maybe two or three nights in a row like in the old days.

Now, if you'll all excuse me, there's something else I actually do for a living.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Dancing in the Womb
Image courtesy of faithmouse.

Today, both the Western and Eastern churches celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist (or as he is known in the East, John the Forerunner).

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior...
(Luke 1:39-47)

It is a pious tradition (which is not to be confused with defined dogma) that at the moment of leaping in the womb, John was cleansed of the stain of original sin, thus preparing him to make straight the Lord's path.

Whether by accident or by design, I found the following in my inbox this morning, sent to me by my sister in Christ, Mrs Gigi Strube. On the occasion of this solemnity, it should speak for itself.

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From: Ted Harvey
Assistant Minority Leader
Colorado House of Representatives

To all interested parties,

I want to share with you an awesome experience I recently had in the Colorado House of Representatives. It is a humbling experience to look back and realize that God used me to play a role in His divine orchestration.

As I was leaving the House chambers for the weekend when our Democrat Speaker of the House mentioned that the coming Monday would be the final day of this year's General Assembly. He went on to state that there were still numerous resolutions on the calendar which we would need to be addressed prior to the summer adjournment. Interestingly, he specifically mentioned that one of the resolutions we would be hearing was being carried by the House Majority Leader Alice Madden, honoring the 90th anniversary of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

As a strong pro life legislator I was disgusted by the idea that we would pass a resolution honoring this 90 year legacy of genocide. I drove home that night wondering what I could say that might pierce the darkness during the debate on this heinous resolution.

On Saturday morning I took my eight year old son up to the mountains to go white water rafting. The trip lasted all day. As we were driving home, exhausted and hungry, I remembered that I had accepted an invitation to attend a fundraising dinner that night for a local pro life organization. One of my most respected mentors had personally called me several weeks earlier and asked me to attend, so I knew I'd have to clean up and head over.

After our meal, the executive director of the organization introduced the keynote speaker. I looked up and saw walking to the stage a handicapped young lady being assisted to the microphone by a young man holding a guitar.

Her name was Gianna Jessen.

Gianna said "Hello," welcomed everyone, and then sang three of the most beautiful Christian songs that I have ever heard.

She then began to give her testimony. When her biological mother was 17 years old and 7 1/2 months pregnant she went to a Planned Parenthood clinic to have an abortion. As God would have it, the abortion failed and a beautiful two pound baby girl was brought into the world. Unfortunately, she was born with cerebral palsy and the doctors thought that she would never survive. The doctors were wrong.

Imagine the timing! A survivor of a Planned Parenthood abortion arrived in town just days before the Colorado House of Representatives was to celebrate Planned Parenthood's "wonderful" work. As I listened to Gianna's amazing testimony the Lord inspired me to ask her if she could stay in Denver until Monday morning so that I could introduce her on the floor of the House and tell her story. Perhaps she could even begin the final day's session by singing our country's national anthem!

To my surprise she said she would seriously consider it. If she were to agree, she wanted her accompanying guitar player to stay as well. A lady standing in line behind me waiting to meet Gianna overheard our conversation and said that she would be willing to pay for the guitarist's room. Gianna then said that she would think about it. As I was driving home from the banquet my cell phone rang. It was Gianna and she immediately said, "I'm in, let's ruin this celebration." Praise God!

When Monday morning came, I awoke at 6:00 to write my speech before heading to the Capitol. As I wrote down the words I could sense God's help and I knew that this was going to be a powerful moment for the pro life movement.

Following a committee hearing, I rushed into the House Chambers just as the opening morning prayer was about to be given. Between the prayer and the pledge of allegiance I wrote a quick note to the Speaker of the House explaining that Gianna is an advocate for cerebral palsy. I took the note to the Speaker and asked if I could have my friend open the last day of session by singing the national anthem. Without any hesitation the Speaker took the microphone and said, "Before we begin, Representative Harvey has made available for us Gianna Jessen to sing the National Anthem."

Gianna sang the most amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner that you could possibly imagine. Every person in the entire chamber was completely still, quiet, and in awe of this frail young lady's voice. Due to her cerebral palsy, Gianna often loses her balance, and shortly after starting to sing she grabbed my arm to stabilize herself, and I could tell that she was shaking. Suddenly, midway through the song, she forgot the words and began to hum and said, "Please forgive me I am so nervous." She then immediately began singing again and every House member and every guest throughout the chambers began to sing along with her to give her encouragement and lift her up.

As I looked around the huge hall I listened to the unbelievable melody of Gianna's voice being accompanied by a choir of over 100 voices. I had chills running all over my body and I knew that I had just witnessed an act of God.

As the song concluded the Speaker of the House explained that Gianna has cerebral palsy and is an activist to bring awareness to the disease. "Let us give her a hand not only for her performance today but also for her advocacy work," he said. The chamber immediately exploded into applause. She had them all in the palm of her hand.

The Speaker then called the House to order and we proceeded as usual to allow members to make any announcements or introductions of guests. For dramatic effect, I waited until I was the last person remaining before I introduced Gianna.

As I waited for my turn, I nervously paced back and forth praying to God that he would give me the peace, confidence and the courage necessary to pull off what I knew would be one of the most dramatic and controversial moments of my political career.

While I waited, a prominent reporter from one of the major Denver newspapers walked over to Gianna and told her that her rendition captured the spirit of the national anthem more powerfully than any she had ever heard before.

Finally, I was the last person remaining, so I proceeded to the microphone and began my speech:

"Members, I would like to introduce you to a new friend and hero of mine-- her name is Gianna Jessen. She is visiting us today from Nashville, Tennessee where she is an accomplished recording artist. She has cerebral palsy and was raised in foster homes before being adopted at the age of four.

She was born prematurely and weighed only two pounds at birth. She remained in the hospital for almost three months. A doctor once said she had a great will to live and that she fought for her life. Eventually she was able to leave the hospital and be placed in foster care. Because of her cerebral palsy her foster mother was told that it was doubtful that she would ever crawl or walk. She could not sit up independently. Through the prayers and dedication of her foster mother, she eventually learned to sit up, crawl, then stand. Shortly before her fourth birthday she began to walk with leg braces and a walker. She continued in physical therapy and after a total of four surgeries, she was able to walk without assistance.

She still falls sometimes, but she says she has learned how to fall gracefully after falling for 29 years.

Two years ago she walked into a local health club and said she wanted a private trainer. At the time her legs could not lift 30 pounds. Today she can leg press 200 pounds. She became so physically fit that she began running marathons to raise money and awareness for cerebral palsy. She just returned last week from England where she ran in the London Marathon. It took her over 8 1/2 hrs to complete. They were taking down the course by the time she made it to the finish line. But she made it none the less. With bloody feet and aching joints she finished the race.

Members would you help me recognize a modern day hero. Gianna Jessen?

At this point the chamber exploded into applause which lasted for 15 to 20 seconds. Gianna had touched their souls.

Ironically, Alice Madden the Majority Leader and sponsor of the Planned Parenthood Resolution walked over to Gianna and gave her a hug. As the applause began to die down I raised my hand to be recognized one more time.

"Mr. Speaker, members, if you would allow me just a few more moments I would appreciate your time.

My name is Ted Harvey not Paul Harvey but please let me tell you the rest of the story.

The cause of Gianna's cerebral palsy is not because of some biological freak of nature, but rather the choice of her mother. You see when her biological mother was 17 years old and 7 1/2 months pregnant she went to a Planned Parenthood clinic to seek a late term abortion. The abortionist performed a saline abortion on this 17-year-old girl. This procedure requires the injection of a high concentration of saline into the mother's womb which the fetus is then bathed in and swallows which results in the fetus being burned to death, inside and out. Within 24 hrs the results are normally an induced stillborn abortion.

As Gianna can testify the procedure is not always 100% effective. Gianna is an aborted late term fetus that was born alive. The high concentration of saline in the womb for 24 hrs resulted in a lack of oxygen to her brain and is the cause of her cerebral palsy. Members, today we are going to recognize the 90th anniversary of Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood..."

BANG! The gavel came down.

Just as I was finishing the last sentence of my speech. The climax of the morning. The Speaker of the House gaveled me down and said, "Representative Harvey, I will allow you to continue your introduction but not for the purposes of debating a measure now pending before the House."

At which point I said, "Mr. Speaker I understand, I just wanted to put a face to what we are celebrating today".

Silence. Deafening silence.

I then walked back to my chair shaking like a leaf. The Democrats wouldn't look at me. They were fuming. It was beautiful. I have been in the legislature for five tough years and this made it all worthwhile. The House Majority Leader wouldn't talk to me the rest of the day. Was it because I introduced an abortion survivor, or was it because we touched her soul? She could hug an inspirational cerebral palsy victim and advocate, but was outraged when she discovered that the person she hugged was also an abortion survivor.

The headline in the Denver Post the next day read Abortion Jab Earns Rebuke ( The Majority Leader is quoted as saying "I think it was amazingly rude to use a human being as an example of his personal politics."

Yes Representative Madden, Gianna Jessen is a human being. She was when she was in her mother's womb and she was when she sang the National Anthem on the Floor of the Colorado House of Representatives. The paper went on to quote Gianna Jessen, stating she was glad Harvey told her story.

"We need to discuss the humanity of it. I'm glad to be able to speak up for children in the womb," she said. "If abortion is about women's rights, where were my rights?"

Leslie Hanks, one of the matriarchs of the pro life movement in Colorado, was in the House Chamber that morning and told me that it was the single greatest moment she had witnessed in the State Legislature in the 20 years that she'd been lobbying in the Capitol.

All I can say is, "Glory to God!" He orchestrated it all, every minute of it, and I was so honored to have been chosen to play a part. May we all continue to be filled with and to fight for the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ!

In His service,
Ted Harvey
Assistant Minority Leader

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Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Renwick Gallery is featuring an exhibition "Grant Wood's Studio: Birthplace of 'American Gothic'" through July 16. Wood is most famous for his painting "American Gothic," which inspires the cheap knock-off shown above. The real thing was on display at the Renwick, until it was returned to The Art Institute of Chicago (which rarely lends it out) on June 11.

In Corde Jesu

Image courtesy

The bus into town ran a little late this morning, and the traffic across the Roosevelt Bridge into DC was lighter than usual for the AM rush. There can be only one possible explanation.

Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart, and commuters were delayed by attending the early morning Mass.

Outside of devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, there is none more popular or more identified with the traditional piety of Catholic life, than this feast that occurs on the Friday of the week following the Feast of Corpus Christi. It was on that earlier solemnity that a novena to the Sacred Heart began, culminating in the Mass and Office of today.

"Christ's open side and the mystery of blood and water were meditated upon, and the Church was beheld issuing from the side of Jesus, as Eve came forth from the side of Adam. It is in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that we find the first unmistakable indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Through the wound in the side, the wound Heart was gradually reached, and the wound in the Heart symbolized the wound of love." (1917 Catholic Encyclopedia)

There were various monastic communities who took up the devotion, but the real tip of the biretta has always gone to St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90), a Visitation nun who had a vision. While praying before the Blessed Sacrament, she saw Our Lord with his heart beating openly, and the sight of it all sent her into a spell of ecstasy. "He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart." To say the least.

But perhaps the finest explanation of this vision can be found in an episode of The X-Files, a detective series that ran on The Fox Network for nine years, and to this day has a formidable cult following. [UPDATE: I have since found the episode in question, details of which can be accessed here.]

It seems there were people being murdered by their hearts being removed by hand. Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) visited this Catholic church, and upon coming across the image of the Sacred Heart, she runs into this creepy guy who explains the story behind the image to her. His account portrayed an almost sensuous quality to her reaction to this vision, in a way I have read or heard no where else. (Now if I can just find the synopsis on one of those X-Files fan club sites. Stay tuned...)

A common practice in many Catholic homes until the mid-20th century (including mine), was the "Enthronement of the Sacred Heart," in which the family placed the appropriate image of Christ on the wall, and together recited the necessary prayers, pledging the consecration of the family and the home to Him, in return for special graces. Fisheaters has a good explanation of the whole she-bang, just in case it makes a comeback.

It could happen.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Chickadees Revisited

One month ago today, mwbh ran a piece on the outspokenness of the recording artists The Dixie Chicks entitled "If they're only paid to sing and dance...". Recently, columnist Michelle Malkin devoted a segment to their behavior on her daily news webcast Hot Air Vent. That provoked a tale in her comments box that is just too good to pass up:

"I ran into Natalie Maines in the Nashville airport in 1997. Their first album had just come out but the money wasn’t rolling in yet, because she was on my Southwest flight to Austin... The dumb little woman stood in the terminal for an hour yakking on her cell phone at the top of her lungs - OBVIOUSLY begging people to notice her. A flunkie with her was wearing a CMT (Country Music Television) sweater, again clearly trying to point out she was 'somebody.' As far as I could tell, nobody but me even noticed... She walked up and down the terminal, blathering (pun intended) self-importantly into her cell, loud enough for everyone to hear... Best part of the story. Not only was she wearing spike heels and jeans way, way, way too tight… she was also wearing a fur coat. A clearly REAL fur coat..."

In light of the above, we are moved to tip the Black Hat for this week, to comedienne Kathy Griffin, whose Bravo TV series My Life on the D-List devoted one segment to her tour of Kuwait and Iraq. After wearing her contempt for the current administration on her sleeve, she nonetheless puts politics aside long enough, to raise the spirits of the men and women in uniform.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hey, Katie, this weblog turns four today...

...let's go for a pony ride, okay?

[UPDATE: To honor this, the fourth anniversary of mwbh, and to further upgrade the site, a counter is provided to gauge the number of visitors, courtesy of SiteMeter. Thanks to Stephen Heiner for the tip. Let the "hits" keep on comin'!]

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Where The Heart(land) Is

"We come from people who brought us up to believe that life is a struggle, and if you should ever feel really happy, be patient, this will pass."

Photo courtesy

On a clear day driving down the Interstate in western Ohio, you can see for miles, the endless rows of corn or soybeans broken by the occasional patch of towering oaks or an adjoining farmhouse. The road underneath the overpass goes ever on, perhaps to a little town that once was the waystation for a whole township (which is how counties are divided out there, with origins in the reference to the "town" and the surrounding "shire"), and now has only a tavern, a church, an antiques market, and a former post office converted to a video rental store.

The midsection of America has been the subject of culture writers on both coasts at one time or another, as if flying over another country on the way to the other side of their own. This curiosity has gathered temporary steam, in light of the release of Robert Altman's new film A Prairie Home Companion, a slice-of-life drama set against the backdrop of the Saturday night radio variety show of the same name produced by Minnesota Public Radio. Many of the regulars from the real deal are in the film, as recording artists Robin and Linda Williams and sound-effects wizard Tom Keith share the stage with Oscar-winning actresses Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep. Then there is the host of the show, none other than the Garrison Keillor, appearing as "G.K." -- which is to say, as none other than himself.

In an article from Slade magazine, Sam Anderson writes: "Keillor has, through three decades of canny self-marketing, turned himself into a kind of EveryMidwesterner. When he started as a writer and radio host in the early 1970s, America's major regions had all been thoroughly mythologized -— there was Faulkner's Mississippi, Steinbeck's California, and everybody else's New York. But the Midwest was, relatively speaking, a blank slate. Like Faulkner, Keillor invented a fictional territory -- a mythical Minnesota hamlet called Lake Wobegon, 'the little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve' -— and dedicated his career to exploring it..." This is the Keillor we all came to know and love, the one which people who romanticize the Midwest believe (from forty thousand feet above it while sipping martinis) has yet to be the victim of his success. In extolling that success, Anderson observes: "And yet the movie made some people crazy with hostility. How has someone so relentlessly inoffensive managed to become so divisive?"

The "people" to whom he refers is none other than Rex Reed, who castigates the movie and its star performer, in the pages of The New York Observer: "It’s like notes for a movie that was never completed, retrieved from a wastebasket and filmed all night in a broadcast studio before the parking meters ran out of quarters... [t]he chronicles of a fictional Minnesota hamlet called Lake Wobegon have now been cloned into a rambling screen fable that is not only corny, lumbering and dull, but also pretentious, because it pretends that a lug-load of tasteless cracker-barrel baloney can pass for 105 minutes of heirloom charm."

Slate is an online magazine founded in Redmond, outside of Seattle in Washington state, and now operates out of Washington city, as well as in New York City, where The New York Observer may safely be found. The truth, like the region in question, is somewhere between the two ends.

I used to listen to PHC quite regularly. At some point, for reasons I will never understand, Keillor moved the show from St Paul, Minnesota, to New York City, and also changed its name, though maybe not in that order, I honestly don't remember. Then he decided that the idea had run its course, and the show bid the airwaves a fond adieu. But after two or three annual reunion specials, Keillor brought back the whole kit-and-kaboodle. In the process, a few people noticed he might have been getting "too big for his britches," as we say out there. But that doesn't stop people from applauding every time he begins his small-town narrative: "Well it has been a quiet week in Lake Woebegon, my hometown..." There was a time when people didn't applaud at that line, but had the decency to wait until the end. Maybe they think Keillor needs the affirmation. Maybe he thinks he does.

What the majority of Midwesterners don't need, however, is for Keillor to use the show to air his views on politics. Oh, there are a fair number of Democrats in the American midsection, most of them in the upper Midwest around the Great Lakes. This as opposed to, say, the Corn Belt states of Indiana or Illinois, at least outside of Chicago. But Midwestern Democrats, at least outside the urban areas, tend to be the union-organizing-small-business-owning-populist variety, as opposed to the New-York-Times-reading-pseudo-intellectuals to whom Keillor seems to ingratiate himself in recent years.

I've even heard a few naughty words eminate from his voice. Mind you, this is on "public" radio, on what might be easily mistaken for a family program!

What Keillor has forgotten, unfortunately, are some key aspects of the Midwestern sensibility.

For one thing, they know to avoid unpleasant subjects like politics and religion amongst their neighbors. If you have to see these people at the grocery store every day and the Moose Lodge one night a week, you have to learn to get along, and you do that by finding out what you can agree with, and make the most of that.

In addition, Midwesterners don't like being alienated by something like entertainment, which is supposed to lighten the daily load, not make you fidget nervously in your seat or provoke deep metaphysical thought. If you want to get into politics, then run for Dog Catcher. If you want to entertain, then keep your bellyaching to yourself and do your song-and-dance already. It's Saturday night, and me and the missus are sitting by the fire to relax, dammit, not be talked down to by some fancypants type who's seen too much of the "bright lights, big city" for his own good.

It's remarkable that, in an age that demands constant sensory stimulation, a radio show can still warm the heart and stir the imagination, and bravo to public radio for at least believing in it. But let's face it, public radio is hurting these days. Many once unique stations, like WETA in Washington and WVXU in Cincinnati, have sold out to the "talking heads" format, as if we don't get enough of that on the AM band. Obviously, they missed what went wrong. What went wrong was, they missed the obvious. Right in front of them. So I suspect the downhill slide will continue, and that in spite of himself, there will be enough of what's good about Garrison Keillor for us to keep the magic alive on a Saturday night.

Alas, it was the non-formula formats that I enjoyed on the long straight road to the homeplace, as I reminisced about a world that once existed in my childhood, and in the stories my parents and grandparents told me. If I didn't have satellite radio in my car these days, I do believe I'd go quite mad.

Either that, or travel by air to keep the damage to a minimum.

But hey, that's just me.

Monday, June 19, 2006

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

• "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?" Paul McCartney reached that point in his life yesterday. In light of the unfortunate breakup of his second marriage, a question that has lingered for nearly four decades has been answered. But at least he isn't losing his hair. He was my favorite Beatle, by the way. (Various)

• In Rochester, New York, a man tried to hold up an auto-parts store. Two employees managed to overpower him, and beat him with a metal pipe. The man pleaded guilty to robbery. Now he's suing the auto-parts store. (AP)

• In Tampa, Florida, two opposing attorneys could not seem to agree on various minutiae, such as a location for taking the sworn statement of a witness in an insurance case. A federal judge had enough of the delays, and ordered them to appear together to settle the matter once and for all with... a round of "rock, paper, scissors." (AP)

• A young girl from Plymouth, England boarding a plane was stopped, when it was discovered she was carrying a gun in her luggage. The model in question was a pink Bugs Bunny water pistol filled with candy. Despite her protests, the implement of destruction was registered at the airport firearms desk, tagged and packed separately. (Washington Post Express)

• A bookstore in Melbourne, Australia, attempted to enter the Guinness Book of World Records yesterday, through an effort to assemble the largest collection of unwanted copies of... Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code." (Washington Post Express)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hey, this coming Sunday is Father's Day. That means I'm gonna go to the restaurant where my son is a waiter, make a few unreasonable demands, and then leave him a big tip! Yessir, it's the gift that keeps on giving...

Critical Mass: Found (!!!) in Translation

The news hit the blogosphere last night. With a vote of 173 to 29, the American bishops voted overwhelmingly to approve the revised English translation of the Order of Mass. Sometime before the end of the decade, Catholics of the Roman Rite will, upon hearing the priest say, "The Lord be with you," will respond with the literal version of the original Latin, "And with your spirit," as well they should. In addition, "[t]he new translation alters the wording of key texts spoken by Catholics during worship, including the Nicene Creed, the Gloria, the Penitential Rite, the Sanctus and Communion."

And that's just the beginning.

Rome has long been concerned over the lack of fidelity to the Latin text, at times to the detriment of the meaning of the text, and theological clarity. This is not inconsequential. "Lex orandi, lex credendi." "The law of praying is the law of believing." We pray what we believe. It is precisely what we believe -- as opposed to how many parish committees we join -- that makes us Catholic. This is far from a luxury at a time when the bishops are still considering a response to the sex abuse scandals, inasmuch as clarity of belief can include our recognizing grave sin when we see it. Can anyone argue that we have?

This weblog went into some detail on the revised texts in a series last fall entitled "Critical Mass: Lost (and Found) in Translation," with Part I and Part II.

The reaction from the progressive academic community has not been reassuring. Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, has been quoted by the AP and CNN, as saying that the new translation would "cause chaos and real problems and the people who are going to be at the brunt end of it are the poor priests in the parishes."

We'll get back to that later.

Similar reservations have been expressed by some bishops themselves, who have been directed by Rome to adhere to the norms of the 2001 instruction Liturgiam authenticam throughout the process. For example, in the proposed text for the Nicene Creed, "one in being with the Father" was to be replaced by "consubstantial with the Father," a more precise term which Bishop Trautman of Erie, as chairman of the bishops' liturgy committee, didn't think you poor illiterate slobs could handle. So the word was tossed out in the final vote, albeit subject to approval by Rome. (See the concluding portion of Part II above, for an analysis that even this poor illiterate slob could figure out.)

A casual glance might seem to justify a concern with the adjustment Catholics would have to make, after living with the current translation for nearly forty years -- until you consider what the detractors are not telling you.

(Okay, kids, this is the part you won't get anywhere else at St Blog's.)

The revising of the many liturgical texts of the reformed Latin rite, whether the Breviary or the Book of Blessings, as well as the translations into the various languages, has been continual since the Second Vatican Council. The process of re-translating the official English text of the Roman Missal began roughly a quarter of a century ago. In my library are reports from the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) that most priests would never get to see, so this writer has been following this for awhile.

And I'm not alone. In 1992, Catholic World Report began reporting regularly on concerns related to this process, and later in the decade, the Adoremus Bulletin continued to go into depth. At the time, the changes being considered by progressive liturgists and translators, in the case of the generic "Ordinary of the Mass," were even more radical than what was voted on this past week. This included the employment of "inclusive language," not only in the case of the "horizontal" (references to people), but the "vertical" (references to God and/or Christ) as well. In addition to some standard texts, ICEL wanted to employ additional "alternate texts" that had no Latin originals, presumedly to "adapt" to the specific needs of the English-speaking world -- if not what some critics would have considered the creative whims of the translators.

An example of the "creative" that was considered during the mid-1990s, was the plan for the Introductory Rite of the Mass, which would have reorganized the various options as they now stand, into a system of five different scenarios -- to name two, not just the Kyrie without the Gloria, but depending on the occasion, the Gloria without the Kyrie. The result would have been a complete departure from the Roman Rite, beyond even that of the officially reformed texts.

Among those intrigued by the creative possiblities back then, is a priest who's complaining about the results now. In the early 1990s, I was on the staff of a Jesuit parish in Georgetown as a sacristan. In this capacity, I had the honor to serve many of the Jesuit Fathers in the Georgetown community, including Father Reese. I remember him as a popular and engaging individual, especially with the young adult crowd. I daresay the good Father was not above introducing certain adaptations into the Mass in their proposal stage, such as the alternatives to "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith" after the Consecration. With the prospect of a different introduction for each of the four in the English translation (like they already use in Canada, don't ask me why), at least you can tell them apart. Now if so many priests have their own way of doing this or saying that, aren't people already used to "winging it" to some degree on a Sunday morning?

Then there are the time-honored hymns which succumb to constant updating, including the purging of male pronouns, with the release of every new service book on the market. In the case of annual hymnals, that's potentially... you guessed it, annually. This last issue has been the subject of an excellent article in Touchstone magazine by Anthony Esolen entitled "No More Hims of Praise."

The upshot is, we've all had four decades to get used to the liturgical intelligensia re-inventing the wheel!

So now, the same forces that are whining about the adjustment of the faithful to eighth-grade-reading-level phrases like "Make holy these gifts, we pray, by the dew of your spirit" (from the proposed epiclesis of Eucharistic Prayer II), thought absolutely nothing of even wreaking more havoc themselves, and doing it more often over time. What stopped them in their tracks?

At one time, the norms of a 1969 Vatican document, known by the French name Comme le prevoit, served as a guide to translations, employing a convention known as "dynamic equivalency," which is basically a deference to the overall meaning of a particular text, as opposed to a slavish line-by-line translation at the expense of the unique qualities of the language in question. In the last decade, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (once known as the Holy Office) has reasserted its oversight responsibilities in the matter of official liturgical texts, working in relation to the Congregation for Divine Worship. This was inspired in part by a proposed English re-translation of the Rite of Ordination that was deemed completely unacceptable by the Holy See. (The head of the former Holy Office at that time was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.) Then Rome called for an overhaul of ICEL, and created its own body, known as "Vox Clara," assigned with specific oversight of the process of vernacular liturgical texts. Then the late Pope John Paul II released Liturgiam authenticam, which called for, among other things, fidelity to the Latin texts as a matter of theological clarity.

True, the result of this effort will not be the language of normal conversation. But since when do we apply a pedestrian vocabulary to every situation? We use "courtly" language for all manner of formal occasions -- for the courtroom, for college graduation, and so on. Is the Banquet of the Lord's Supper to be reduced to a stop at the all-night diner? One should hope not. Such was the message of the Right Reverend Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds and Chairman of ICEL, who addressed the bishops this week on this very issue, among others: "Let me take one example, the use of the word dew in the Epiclesis of the Second Eucharistic Prayer... It has been objected that this translation 'does not resonate or communicate with contemporary Christians.' But surely, dew still exists. I noticed an advert on the street yesterday for a drink called Mountain Dew! Dew has a unique set of natural and scriptural associations: it speaks of freshness, new beginning, water (and hence life), beauty, descent from above (and hence divine blessing), and manna (Exodus 16:13-14) (and hence Eucharist). It still appears on the ground in the morning as it did in the time of Moses on the journey through the desert. American people know what dew is - rather better, I suspect, than Europeans, since so many of you get out of bed earlier than we do!"

(You can read Bishop Roche's entire address, or the bullet points from Doxaweb at The Weight of Glory.)

The concern of liturgical progressives for the sensibilities of the faithful, then, would seem less than forthright. They themselves were prepared to go to greater lengths, and with less deliberation than has been shown of late. But with Rome stepping into the process to ensure that the lex orandi is in sync with the lex credendi, the party is over, and they're just plain sore about it.

Down at the race track, it's known as "backing the wrong horse."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Critical Mass: To Be Continued


Yesterday we mentioned the vote by the American bishops on the new translation of the Order of Mass. Some of it has been covered here in the past, which is why I'm waiting till the meeting is over to comment on some of the buzz, including what the opposition isn't telling. (Stay tuned...) Meanwhile, here's a jewel worthy of Tiffany's, discovered by The Lion and the Cardinal, and brought to my attention via "Don Jim" Tucker. Click on the picture to learn more.

Listening to Enya

I had a dream one night.

I went home to Ohio, with the idea of living there again, indefinitely. For a number of years, it always felt as though I could return after having spent half my life away, and I could pick up right where I left off. This was reinforced with every trip home. But something happened this time. No sooner had I settled in, than I realized that everything around me had changed. It was more than the transformation of physical landmarks, or strip malls where there was once open fields, or friends moving away or getting older. It was as though I was suddenly a stranger. It was as if, at some point shortly before my return, I reached the point where I had finally stayed away long enough for everyone and everything to move on.

When I lived back home, I moved freely among musicians' circles, and sat in with professionals. The whole time I've lived in DC, that has been nearly impossible. It's not that the calibre of musicians is any higher around here, so much as they are less accessible. This never made any sense to me. I used to read about them in newsletters, and I see them in e-mail notices, a lineup of bands that, with a minor change here and there, three or four of them were merely various combinations of the same people. For example, if you were a really good fiddle player, you wouldn't want to be confined to one style. So one band would be devoted to Irish music, one to New England style, one to southern mountain style. Except for a piano player in the second or a banjo player in the third, it was the same damn band! If corporations did that in a marketplace, there would be antitrust laws against it. But I've seen a few people corner the lion's share of the action.

The point is, for all the pretense of being socially alternative or progressive (you know, "hippie dippie," that sort of thing), the end result is sooooo East Coast elitist.

It was even more crass when I was playing zydeco, back in '02 and '03. I used to sit in with the bands, and it was great. My chops were at their best in years. I was holding my own, and the guys in the band were totally cool with it. Problem is, the promoters weren't. "David, people are paying for the authentic Louisiana experience," one told me. Apparently a clique of middle-aged, middle-class, East Coast wannabes have to be the ones to show guys actually born and bred in Louisiana, as to what the "authentic Louisiana experience" really is. Uh-huh. Looking back, I think it was jealousy. I see it a lot in musical circles -- the wannabes. They've never played an instrument in their lives, but they hang out with the band (and sometimes, at least in the case of the women, it doesn't seem to stop there). Then a yutz like me walks in from out of nowhere, and they can't take credit for it, and it infuriates them. It's all more eilitism to me. So I decided then and there, that I'd wait until the time was right, or I spent time in Louisiana myself.

Then again, it has been awhile, so...

I've changed over the years, in a way that I wouldn't had I stayed in Ohio. I pronounce some words differently, like "EYE-ther" instead of "EEE-ther" (either) and "NYE-ther" instead of "NEE-ther" (neither). (I notice when my son calls me "Dad," there isn't that midwestern twang to the "a" sound, more like... California or something. It probably has to do with him not being midwestern, you think?) I've met people from all over the world, people I would have otherwise merely read about. I've seen events that made world history happen right in front of me. I've had opportunities that I never would have had, had I stayed in Cincinnati.

So, why the dream?

I was never much of a joiner, really. In a small group, I'm the life of the party. But "schmoozing" in crowds is not my idea of a good time, so much as an excuse for idle and insincere chatter. I suspect my dance pals don't even notice. That's because we see each other at things where I dance more than "schmooze." When I'm with "Sal," I talk with her mostly, and she's better at that sort of thing anyway. I suppose most women are.

In the prayer Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen), we speak of our earthly life as "this, our Exile." We refer to this world as a stop on the way to what he hope to be our true home. We all have our limitations, and we make the best of them until then.

"She's got legs, she knows how to use them."

Acknowledgements to "that little ol' band from Texas," ZZTop.

Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory!

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi in the Roman Calendar. A piece written by this author with the above title appears as a guest column today at, the weblog of Stephen L M Heiner, a native of Singapore currently (as of this week, in fact) residing in St Mary's, Kansas.

I am described thus: "His humor and attitude adds much levity to the blogosphere..." Yep, that's my mission from God -- spreading joy. Thanks, Steve.

An interesting aspect of this feast was broached by the two of us as this was being prepared. It is listed on the traditional Roman calendar as a "Double of the 1st Class with Privileged Octave." As we went to press, there was insufficient time or space to delve into the meaning of octaves, or extended observances of eight days. There were numerous solemnities with octaves in the Roman calendar until 1955, when Pius XII eliminated a number of them. (An example of supposed excess was when Christmas and St Stephen's Day had near-simultaneous octaves.) They became even fewer in the calendar reforms following Vatican II.

What has happened in recent years has been that major feasts that appear on a weekday are allowed by territorial bodies of bishops to be transferred to the nearest Sunday. An example of this is Epiphany (January 6), and more recently, Ascension (Thursday before the week preceding Pentecost). This fate as also befallen today's solemnity, which in the USA has been transferred to the following Sunday. Neither adjustments have been made in Rome, or in the mind of this writer.

Furthermore, they were probably unnecessary. At a meeting of the American bishops some years ago, the prospect of moving Ascension to Sunday was on the agenda. Archbishop Pilarczyk of Cincinnati went on about how "this is the way things are going," as if it were some sort of fait accompli. Then up spoke Ukrainian Bishop Basil Losten of Stamford, who described the custom of octaves in the Eastern churches, and how weekday observances could be extended naturally over the entire eight days, including Sunday. He was politely listened to, and just as politely ignored.

The exercise of moving an observance to Sunday overlooks the value of sacred time. The Magi are remembered at the culmination of a solemnity that extends for twelve days, not a length of time that varies from one year to the next. Christ ascended into Heaven 40 days after He rose from the dead, not 43 days after. There is a significance to the Feast of Corpus Christi being on a Thursday, a day of the week associated with devoted to the Eucharist, in much the same way as Saturday is devoted to the Blessed Mother.

At a time when a liturgical counter-reformation is being considered, perhaps the custom of octaves in the Western church is worthy of a second look.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Mid-Week Ad Random

• My parents celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary today. When I say "celebrate," that is to say that one of them will mention it to the other in passing, and Mom will go back to doing laundry, and Dad will continue reading the paper. Next year is the 55th; I'm waiting till then to send a card.

• The American bishops are meeting in Los Angeles this week. Hopefully they'll take one look at that butt-ugly new cathedral and decide what not to do on their own turf. They'll also be voting on the revised English translation of the Mass, a continuing subject of some detail here at MWBH. We'll get back to that later in the week.

• I finished class for the spring quarter at the Art Institute. Last time I was in college, I did two animation films. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented me from obtaining an academic minor in multimedia. I did reasonably well, and I expect a "B." I'm taking the summer off, and will return in the fall, probably

• Tomorrow, for the second time in my four years in the blogosphere, my work will appear as a guest column on another site. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


There have always been homeless among us. Since the 1980s, two things have happened. One is that institutions for the mentally disabled experienced cutbacks, letting a number of marginally disabled people out on the street. The other was the disappearance of rooming houses and other forms of SRO (single room occupancy) housing, that were once the mainstay of people starting out in the world, or the marginal income worker, as many were either razed or converted to condominiums.

In the last few years, their ranks have been joined by whole families. Soup kitchens and shelters in New York City and elsewhere report a rising demand for high chairs and baby cribs in their facilities.

Since there is only so much in the way of material resources here on the planet, those who hoard the lion's share of it might reasonably be held responsible for the deprivation of someone else. A case in point is the USA itself. For the rest of the world to live as well as we do, it would require the natural resources of six planet Earths. Now where are we gonna get those, eh? And until we figure that out, is it any wonder that people would do anything to move here?

From 1950 to 2000, the average home in the USA has doubled in size, and holds half as many people. Does everybody need a family room and a living room? Does every single person or couple need a kitchen and a formal dining room, or can they live comfortably with an eat-in kitchen (which I do, by the way)?

Habitat for Humanity International is to be admired for building homes for lower-income families to live. But they're having a problem lately. People aren't donating land for projects like they used to. And it's occurred to them (finally!) to turn their efforts away from detached homes in favor of townhouses and apartment-sytle buildings.

Much has been written about the homeless, and much of the above has been mentioned here before. People listen to experts talk about the plight of the homeless, when in fact, if they were experts, their body of knowledge would include a solution. Usually it requires the Federal government, and more money. But we've been there, and it hasn't worked. Local elected officials might well afford to be less dazzled by the plans of developers, whose intentioned invariably involve displacing some of the people who put them (that is, the local elected officials) into office in the first place.

From time to time, MWBH will post some ideas for affordable approaches to housing, in the hope that someone with the means (including Mr Tom Monaghan, if he ever runs out of ideas) will make something of them. Until then, this piece will end with a reference to the only decent article (other than this one) ever written about the homeless, by Joe Bob Briggs:

"Unless you have personally taken a homeless person into your house, you're not an expert on the homeless... They don't need money. They need us."

Hey, look who didn't get the memo!


At the center of the controversy is the church's concept of Christ, said Jesuit Father Lawrence J. Madden, director of the Georgetown Center for Liturgy at Georgetown University in Washington. It's a question raised in the bestselling book "The Da Vinci Code."

Because the earliest Christians viewed Jesus as God and man, Madden said, they generally stood during worship services to show reverence and equality. About the 7th century, however, Catholic theologians put more emphasis on Christ's divinity and introduced kneeling as the only appropriate posture at points in the Mass when God was believed to be present.

Things started to change in the 1960s, Madden said, when Vatican II began moving the church back to its earliest roots. What has ensued, he said, is the predictable struggle of an institution revising centuries of religious practices.

The argument over kneeling, Madden said, is "a signal of the division in the church between two camps: those who have caught the spirit of Vatican II, and those who are a bit suspicious. Because it's so visible, what happens at the Sunday worship event is a lightning rod for lots of issues."

-- David Haldane, Los Angeles Times (May 28, 2006)

At the name of Jesus every knee should bend...

-- Saint Paul, Letter to the Philippians (2:10)

From Our Bulging "What I Meant Was..." Files

Washington's soon-to-retire Theodore Cardinal McCarrick was quoted on CNN recently, as seeing no problem with the idea of "civil unions" in light of some proposed legislation. The archdiocesan website has published a clarification of his remarks: "In trying to reply to a question, I mentioned people who may need the right to take care of each other when they are grievously ill and hospitalized, but it was always in the context of the proposed legislation and in no way in favor of a lifestyle that is contrary to the teaching of the Church and Scripture. I realized that my words could have given the wrong impression to someone who did not take my remarks in context."


A lot of things can seem reasonable enough, when there's an understanding of where the limitations are. If all we were talking about was the ability for two bachelor or spinster roommates to have power of attorney in a hardship situation, that would be one thing. If no one ever gave any public indication of re-defining marriage, to be something that no known civilization ever meant it to be, that would be one thing also.

No one could be that naive -- including, one should think, His Eminence.

At least one historic figure was in favor of same-sex marriage. It was the Emperor Nero, who for one occasion was the bride, and for the other the groom. Should our society ever adopt a provision such as "civil unions," it should be clear not only what it is, but what it is not.

And what are the chances of that?

Monday, June 12, 2006

June Weddings and Other Clichés

As a sacristan for a Jesuit parish in the early 1990s, we did a booming "business" in weddings -- 10 am, 12 noon, and 2 pm every Saturday, and more often than not, all slots were filled. After all, what better place for a haute couture Catholic wedding than in Georgetown? I had quite a time fifteen minutes before the second or third wedding telling the couple from the previous blessed event, that the photo shoot in front of the altar was directly in the way of the next blessed event. The parish prided itself on catering to the "progressive Catholic" in the population, and yet with one exception (and I do mean only one), every wedding procession culminated with the bride being "given away" by her father, uncle, or any older male relative with a pulse. They can purge all the male pronouns they want, and call God their "Mother" till they're blue in the face, but she's still "Daddy's little princess" in the end.*

I thought of those days recently, while reading a post by Mary Alexander (no relation) entitled "The Tawdry Bride":

"Hours before her son's wedding in New York City two years ago, Lisa Brettschneider was a little taken aback by the scene in the suite of her daughter-in-law-to-be at the Mandarin Oriental hotel... When the family got the proofs, Mrs Brettschneider deemed a few images inappropriate for public consumption, including one of Alison's favorite shots, which showed her G-string and back tattoo. 'My in-laws weren't too happy about that,' says the bride, now 29, who owns a women's clothing showroom in Manhattan. 'But it was such a cool shot.' Adds her mother-in-law: 'I kept saying, "You're going to have to show them to your kids one day..."'"

As I remember my first wedding twenty-four years ago, it wasn't all that extravagant. My brother was the best man, and for the bachelor party, some of the guys brought their wives along. I don't think they would have broken up anything anyway. The ceremony itself was a Byzantine Rite wedding, so we as the bride and groom were led together to the altar by the priest as a matter of course. The bridesmaids wore cocktail dresses suitable for re-wearing in public. The men of the party wore "morning coats," as God forbid they should wear black tie before six in the evening (a lesson universally lost on the would-be fashion plates in Georgetown). A choir from my own Roman Rite parish sang two of my favorite motets (Mozart's "Ave Verum" and Durufle's "Ubi Caritas"), the bride and I wore matching flower wreaths on our heads during the reading of the Gospel, and we had to stand for two hours. The reception was at the Evans Farm Inn in McLean, a lovely pastoral setting since closed down to make way for luxury townhomes (for reasons totally beyond me). We wanted chicken cordon bleu for the sit-down dinner, but Papa K didn't want anyone to think he was cheap, so it was prime rib at the get-go. Oh, and nothing less than an open bar! A square dance band played, and the bride and groom danced the "Salty Dog Rag" well into the night.

Ten years later, she filed for divorce after running off with some guy who dumped her soon afterwards. C'est la vie, c'est l'amour, eh?

At the risk of not sounding like the Roman Catholic poster boy a few of you may still think I am, I don't miss the marriage. By now I would have had a heart attack, or would have "gone postal." But I'm grateful that the union produced a fine and talented son, who has been cracking me up since he was a toddler. And I had a rather colorful set of in-laws. We lost Papa in '91, and Nana passed away only a few months ago. I used to call her once or twice a year for Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, that sort of thing. And I'm still in touch with some of the others to this day. It drives my former wife crazy, as if I give a rat's behind.

Still, it's a fate I don't wish on anyone. And to those who marry this month, or at any month, let me give you this solemn assurance, that no one will care how much above the national average you spent on the big day. Skip the limo and get a live band; music is usually best in its natural state, and deejays are usually obnoxious as a rule. Remember that it's not just about the bride, which may not mean much now, but there's a message there somewhere. If involving the groom reduces the chance of the event resembling a cotillion, it will be worth it later on. Go to the pre-Cana program. Don't fall asleep. Find a priest who's not about to apologize, either for being one, or for what he has to say. In summation, avoid any excess or novelty at all costs -- in the case of the latter, unless you want to be embarrassed by your wedding album ten years from now.

For all that went down the tubes, I'm still not embarrassed by mine.


* In the Catholic Rite of Marriage, the rubrics actually call for the bride and groom to process down the aisle together. The practice of "giving the bride away" is a concession to a Protestant culture. No kidding.

Friday, June 09, 2006

So much for the sixth of June, eh?

While I was out...
©2006 Chris Muir seems we've been busy throughout the world.

Personally, I can't imagine what keeps these Al-Queda types going. I mean, even if they accomplish everything they set out to do, they'll never have a normal life. They won't have time for a family, for children, mowing the lawn, having a backyard barbeque. Plus, they'll have to be looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives. And they call this living?

I suppose there are things in this life worth dying for. Evil isn't one of them. As long as the USA is the world's babysitter, it won't matter if we pull out of Iraq tomorrow. We'll probably move next door to Iran and start something there. And you know something? The powers of Europe can whine about it, but when it comes down to it, they wouldn't have us any other way.

That's reason enough to blow them off. And start charging rent for using a piece of Manhattan for the UN.

Closer to home, "Sal" is in Ithica, attending a college reunion at Cornell. No, she didn't go there, but her home-care client did 65 years ago. Got a call from her last night. It was going down to the 50s, and she didn't bring a jacket. Four years in this country, and she still has to get used to having all four seasons, bless her heart. I told her she needed a light jacket, and it was a perfect excuse to go shopping. She felt better.

I've been following further developments in the stories I've written over the last two weeks. I figure if someone wants the immediate buzz, they'll go elsewhere. Mine is the way-station for in-depth analysis... yeah, how's that? Besides, I've got a major animation project I'm working on, and Macromedia Flash isn't the easiest program in the world to master. Even their own programmers find out new stuff every day that they didn't know the thing could do. What's up with that?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On this day in 2006, absolutely nothing happened.

Some years ago, I used to moonlight for a Marian magazine; you know, the kind that publishes the monthly hallucinations from Medjugorje, and interviews "visionaries" that turn out later to be involved in real estate scams or some such nonsense that provokes the prophesied "persecution" from the bishop.

Anyway, you'd be amazed how many times the world was supposed to end or there was going to be this great chastisement. All it took was a comet heading this way or a millennium going the other way.

But me, I was just in it for the money. I lasted eight months.

Closer to the present, Ann Coulter is coming out with a book called "Godless." She was interviewed on NBC Today this morning, wearing the trademark short black dress to show the world that even vehemently conservative women can have legs to die for (because, when it comes to the major issues of our day, isn't that what really makes the difference?). In other developments, the remake of "The Omen" is coming out today. I saw the original thirty years ago. Not a very redeeming piece of work, as the forces of evil have all the brains, and the forces of good are all superstitious loonies who can't see what's going to happen next.

"Thou knowest neither the day nor the hour." What part of that don't Christians get? Beats the hell outa me, but until they do, the date that goes "6/6/06" is going to make for great marketing.

Meanwhile, in the Archdiocese of St Paul-Minneapolis, Stella Borealis comments on the appointment of a new coadjutor bishop, to eventually replace the present one, who can't figure out why a certain renegade parish keeps pissing him off.

Finally, about an hour's drive west of Detroit, there's a little town called Hell, Michigan. Today they are celebrating the Day of Sixes with live entertainment, a costume contest, a "Gates of Hell" play area for the kiddies, and (here's where it gets weird) the sale of deeds to one-inch plots of the town for the expected price of $6.66. That's right, kids. You too can own a piece of Hell on Earth.

After all -- Deo volente -- there's always tomorrow.

[UPDATE: Concerning the sixth of June, there are tributes from that date in 1944, as the blogosphere remembers, courtesy of]

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

[THIS JUST IN: Tonight, in Major League Baseball, the Angels take on the Devil Rays. Hmmm...]

Monday, June 05, 2006

"You say it best when you say nothing at all."

(Apologies to the late Keith Whitley, who wrote the song that inspired this post.)

It's amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word, you can light up the dark
Try as I may I could never explain
What I hear when you don't say a thing

Recently the Pope has been visiting Poland. I admit I haven't given it much attention. But a recent address got mine.

It seems the Holy Father has been calling for charitable dialogue among Christians of varying confessions.
He said he had made "restoration of full unity among Christians" a priority of his pontificate, and has said he would support ecumenical aspirations "steeped in prayer, mutual forgiveness and holiness of life."

Benedict, noted, however, that Christian churches would become "more credible before the world" if they met "contemporary charitable challenges" together, and promoted marriage and family life across denominational boundaries.

"In today's world, in which international and inter-cultural relations are multiplying, it happens increasingly often that young people from different traditions, religions or Christian denominations decide to start a family," Benedict XVI told the meeting.

Now this has caused a bit of a stir in some circles, just as it did when the late John Paul II made gestures of ecumenism to Anglican and Orthodox leaders, to name two. Depending on how you spin it, such sentiments can appear to be a short walk to the idea that all religions are the same, just different ways to the Truth.

Therein is where we find, what the Bard referred to as "the rub."

Traditionally, marriage between Catholics and non-Catholics is not encouraged, and with good reason. Marriage is hard enough when a man and a woman agree on matters of Faith, let alone all that other stuff that gets in the way (including how to raise the kiddies). The former 1917 Code of Canon Law took a very hard line: "Everywhere and with the greatest strictness the Church forbids marriages between baptized persons, one of whom is a Catholic and the other a member of a schismatical or heretical sect; and if there is, added to this, the danger of the falling away of the Catholic party and the perversion of the children, such a marriage is forbidden also by the divine law." (1060)

Now, the caveat for invalidity is carefully worded, and leaves open the possibility that a non-Catholic might be converted, or that the union would occur with the proper dispensations. In fact, many pious Catholics led virtuous lives while married to non-Catholics, even unbelievers. One thinks of St Monica, the mother of St Augustine, who married a pagan. Then there was Elizabeth Leseur, who married an athiest, one who upon her death, eventually became converted and was ordained to the priesthood.

All day long I can hear people talking out loud
But when you hold me near, you drown out the crowd
Old Mr Webster could never define
What's being said between your heart and mine

One could almost justify these public statements, if they were the only way to keep people of varying creeds from killing one another. People have been known to do that for religion, you know? But with the capacity to blow the world up several times over, it might seem to be a good time to consider a different approach. Mutual cooperation for humanitarian causes, for example, can create bridges of understanding that can keep whole populations away from each others' throats.

What's more, you don't see leaders of other faiths going out of their way to sugar-coat their convictions to appease Rome. The Pope dropped one of his traditional titles recently, in a gesture of good will to the Orthodox. What was the response? Some of their prelates were wishing he had dropped a few others along with the one.

But the biggest problem, I think, is when a spiritual leader is compelled to utter something publicly ad nauseum. I think the Pope should keep a few flash cards with him at all times, with the big bullet points on the really important stuff that you don't want to nuance into oblivion. Just say it the same way over and over again, and people will get the idea that you meant what you said the first time, know what I mean? Otherwise there is a risk here, I think, that once you make a five-minute statement a certain way, you spend the next five weeks trying to explain what you really meant. In Dominus Iesus, Pope Benedict made it clear enough that salvation only comes through the Catholic faith. You can pretty much leave it at that. Would that others looking for a daily sound bite would do the same.

Benedict has made the unity of Christians, particularly the Orthodox, a priority of his pontificate. That's all well and good, but I hope whoever does the pre-game advance work for him makes it clear enough to everybody else invited to the table, that there's pretty much only one way we expect this to end. In the meantime, I don't assume a pope goes out of his way to speak error in matters of faith and morals, unless it's too obvious to ignore. But it's not, and it can't be. To be a Catholic, is to believe that the Holy Spirit protects him from speaking error in just such matters.

Unfortunately, the charism that protects his mouth doesn't extend to our ears, let alone the spin doctors in the mainstream media.

The smile on your face let's me know that you need me
There's a truth in your eyes saying you'll never leave me
A touch of your hand says you'll catch me if ever I fall
Yeah, you say it best...

But hey, that's just me.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"And then along comes Mary..."

Before we start the workweek, here's a little bedtime story from Right Wing Nation. (Parental discretion advised... sort of.)

Pentecost Ad Random

"So, how did it go, today, Mr Alexander? Any funny business?"

Well, since you've asked...

No, and I haven't heard yet of anything anywhere else either.

But that doesn't bother me so much. Turns out the bishop has Confirmation later in the day, so he didn't celebrate the 11am Mass. I did the readings as scheduled, though, and "Sal" said I sounded just perfect.

The cathedral choir was lovely. They did a Kyrie and Gloria from a Renaissance setting -- Palestrina, from the sound of it. But then they had to throw a bone to the other side of the tracks by doing a choral version of Jesuit John Foley's "One Bread, One Body." I used to do that song back in my "folk mass" days, but I gotta tell ya, I did it with a little more... well, a little more pep than I was used to hearing from anyone else. Probably one reason why I stopped. Seems people had this idea that to make a song appear more reverent than the 60s "hootenanny" style, required that it be done more slowly. The result in many cases wasn't sacred, just a lot of sap.

That's a whole 'nother story, as they say. Most parishes where I go that use a guitar for the music, the player is little more than a three-chord prop for the pianist. Seems like a perfect waste of a Sunday morning to me. Then again, I've been playing for forty years now, and know quite a bit more than three chords. I worked out a beautiful arrangement of "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" that I'll have to record for access to this site one of these old days.

Next time I get involved in a choir, I'll stick to Gregorian chant. Fewer surprises, fewer disappointments.

But hey, that's just me.

Novena: Postlude

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium.
Amen. Alleluia.

Give them virtue's sure reward;
give them thy salvation, Lord;
give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Come, O Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, And enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V: Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created,

R: And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Oh God Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Ghost, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise and to ever rejoice in His consolations, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Somewhere over the rainbow...

Photo courtesy Gerald Augustinus; origin unknown.

Tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Pentecost, the birthday of Mother Church. In cathedrals across the land, gay activists intend to use the blessed occasion, to call undue attention to how they spend their free time, by wearing rainbow sashes. Presumedly, they will attempt to receive Communion while so doing. They won't get far in Arlington, Virginia.

I am the designated lay reader for the 11am Mass tomorrow, when the Bishop usually presides. Should this turn out to be the case, it will be my first such exercise in the presence of His Excellency. If any of these clowns have any funny ideas, they'd better take them somewhere else if they know what's good for them. It's bad enough they have to parade around like the rest of us care about their damn fool nonsense.

But making me look bad? That, and dissin' Mama -- well, y'all be walkin' on the fightin' side of me.

Consider yourselves warned, boys.

Ode to Billy Joe

"It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty, Delta day..."

I used to hear this song ad nauseum when I was a kid. It was written and recorded in 1967 by a Mississippi singer-songwriter named Bobbie Gentry. Gentry also had a hit later in the decade with "Fancy (Don't Let Me Down)," which was an even bigger hit for Reba McIntyre.

Gentry has refused to lend any speculation, either to what was thrown off the bridge, or why Billy Joe jumped off it to his death. "She has stated in numerous interviews over the years that the focus of the song was not the suicide itself, but rather the matter-of-fact way that the narrator's family was discussing the tragedy over dinner, unconcerned that Billie Joe had been her boyfriend."

It hasn't stopped others from trying for themselves.

Have a nice day.

Ninth Day: The Fruits of the Holy Ghost

Da tuis fidelibus
in te confidentibus
sacrum septenarium.

On the faithful, who adore
and confess thee, evermore
in thy sevenfold gift descend.


The gifts of the Holy Ghost perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Ghost, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Ghost. These fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.


Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Thy heavenly fruits, Thy charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to Thy inspiration, may merit to be united eternally with Thee in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...

Friday, June 02, 2006

...and with summer here, and school almost out, it's time to start thinking about getting the "new" house looking more presentable. Be afraid, be very afraid!

Memo to Rocco Palmo

If the worst thing they ever did was "take a drink of water these days," the American Jesuits wouldn't have "the ire of the local Sanhedrin" to worry about. Since we don't expect to hear jackboots tramping on the Georgetown campus any time soon, they barely have that concern at present.

Eighth Day: The Gift of Wisdom

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
melt the frozen, warm the chill;
guide the steps that go astray.


Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written "all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands." It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Savior: "Take up thy cross and follow Me, for My yoke is sweet, and My burden light."


Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all passing joys and satisfactions of the earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.

Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Critical Mass: Petitions Without Apologies?


Today, the reformed Roman calendar commemorates St Justin the Martyr (circa 100-165), the first great Christian apologist, who traveled throughout Asia Minor defending the Faith, eventually traveling to Rome, where he won the crown of martyrdom. He wrote two "apologies" and one "dialogue." It is one of the former for which he is best known, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

1345 As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:

On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.

The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.

When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.

Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves... and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.

When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.

Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.

He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek:
eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.

When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: "Amen."

When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the 'eucharisted' bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.

The part where Christians "offer prayers for ourselves" is understood to be what is known as the "Prayer of the Faithful" in the reformed Roman liturgy. While its restoration was called for in the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy at the Second Vatican Council, detractors among traditionalists insist -- and this is the short explanation; the long one will come along soon enough, I expect -- it is a superfluous innovation, with no real connection to the liturgy as celebrated in the early days of Rome.

How they maintain that position in the face of the above is beyond me. In the traditional Roman liturgy as codified by Pope Pius V in 1570, the form in general use for four centuries thereafter, the priest turns to the people following the Nicene Creed and says, "Dominus vobiscum/The Lord be with you." The people respond "Et cum spiritu tuo/And with your spirit." The Mass then proceeds to the Offertory Antiphon. However, an antiphon would not be proceeded by a call for an oration as is done here. Where is the oration? Dom Cabrol, among others, suggests that a series of general intercessions must have appeared there at one time. Is it mere "antiquarianism" to restore what was clearly provided for in the distinctly Roman form of the Mass?

To be honest, most of what passes for this litany is rather trite. Parishes generally compose their own, which hardly measures up to the standard of the official text of the reformed liturgy, such as it is. Were that not bad enough, some Masses are known to call out, "For whom else shall we pray?" followed by spontaneous petitions from the assembly. That's when it really goes downhill.

Detractors will highlight this innovation as proof that history has left us with no real model to follow for these petitions. And yet we have long had such a model every year at Good Friday, and it inspires the guidelines for such intercessions set forth in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:

70 As a rule, the series of intentions is to be

• For the needs of the Church;

• For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;

• For those burdened by any kind of difficulty;

• For the local community.

Nevertheless, in a particular celebration, such as Confirmation, Marriage, or a Funeral, the series of intentions may reflect more closely the particular occasion.

Prototypes for general use, as well as general seasons of the year, can also be found in an appendix of the current Roman Sacramentary.

As discussions continue for a liturgical counter-reformation (the "reform of the reform" alluded to by the man once known as Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI), this is one area of official reform that is under critical review in academic circles.

(Thanks to Rich Leonardi for the heads-up, and the nifty icon. Atta boy, Richie.)