Saturday, July 13, 2002

The Dreaded Error 503 Rears its ugly head again. Hopefully my public will see my Bastille Day blog, more like a full-length column, before July 15th dawns. I don't see any point in blogging any more, until this is fixed. Chances are it'll get lost if I do.

Bastille Day
Tomorrow (July 14th) is the national day for the people most of us love to hate, the French. What is it that we dislike so much? The answer depends upon your perspective. There are so many things to dislike about the French that it is difficult to pick out just one.

As a veteran British re-enactor, I can say that there are few joys greater than driving home a bayonet charge against "French" troops. Some of that is just disdain for lazy re-enactors who chose the French because they could keep their moustaches, whose drill is poor, and who are slow and unskilled on the battlefield. But it goes much deeper than that.

Someone portraying an 18th or early 19th century Brit is necessarily steeped in what it was like to be a Brit of that period. For them, the great enemy was France. Britain and France were at war from 1689-1698, from 1701-1714, from 1740-1748, from 1755-1763, from 1778-1783, from 1793-1802, from 1803-1814, and again in 1815. And that came a couple of hundred years after the Hundred Years' War. "Confusion to the French" was one of the most popular toasts in any British officer's mess, in war or peace (and is still heard after the first couple of bottles of port today).

In the 18th Century, England looked to the continental colossus across the Channel with fear, disdain, and loathing. Of course, there was the religion issue. England was protestant, isolated, xenophobic. Catholic France was the "great nation" the largest single one in the West, with a population more than twice England's. France was despotic under the kings, dangerously chaotic under the Terror, and globalist and destabilizing under the Directory and Bonaparte.

Englishmen viewed Frenchmen as poor, priest-ridden, ignorant peasants. The diet of the ordinary Frechman was represented as thin gruel, while Englishmen ate roast beef. If the French had wine, England had much more healthy beer and cider. Check out this print by William Hogarth called O the Roast Beef of Old England. Notice the greedy monk fingering the joint of English beef, while the half-starved French soldiers follow along. Note that the hand of authority is resting on Hogarth's shoulder on the left of the print (he was detained for sketching in Calais in real life).

Frenchmen were so poor, the English thought, that they wore clothes made from canvas and wooden shoes (the wooden shoes that we Americans think of as a quaint Dutch thing were seen by 18th century Brits as signs of hopeless poverty, and possibly tyranny: a British politician opposed a census or a tax, or some centralizing measure, with the dire prediction that the the "canvas frock and wooden shoes will soon be pressed upon us."). This attitude was reinforced by Englishmen on the Grand Tour, who were met at the quays of Calais not with glasses of Chambord or French noblemen, but by hordes of beggars hoping to batten off the rich Englishmen.

And the policy of the French government, harboring the Jacobite pretenders to an English throne they could only reclaim at the point of French bayonets, did not soften the British view. The French managed to support Jacobite invasions of the British Isles in 1715 and 1745. In 1798, the Directory aided and abetted the United Irishmen in their rebellion, and even managed to send a small force of French troops to Ireland (a rebellion put down by Lord Cornwallis, of Yorktown fame). Bonaparte threatened to invade England itself with a large French army, until Nelson smashed the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar.

You think I'm making this up, don't you? Well, if you don't believe me, read these passages from the works of the historical novelist (and Brit) Bernard Cornwell.

In Sharpe's Siege, Sharpe, commanding a small British force near the close of the Napoleonic Wars, is holding a fort miles behind French lines (Wellington at the time was invading France from Spain), but is uncharacteristically low on confidence (because of the feared illness of his wife). He confides this to his friend Captain "Sweet" William Frederickson. Cornwell puts this gem of a reply in Frederickson's mouth,

...I...would fight the bastards...Why?...Because they are Crapauds! Because they're slimy Frogs!
Because as long as they are fighting us they can't go south and give the Peer a headache!
Because the English have a God-given duty to rid the world of the French! Because its what I'm paid
to do. Because I've got nothing better to do! Because Napoleon Bonaparte is a foul little worm who
grovels in his own excrement! Because no one's ordered me to surrender just because the odds are unhealthy!
Because I don't want to live under French rule and the more of those bastards I kill the more the rest of them
will slowly comprehend that fact!

And that from an urbane gentleman who spoke fluent French, loved nothing better than to sit and sketch architecture, and appreciated French food, art, and culture. British troops always called the French the "Crapauds", which in French means "Toads". The French, by the way called the British troops the "Goddamns" because of the norotious profanity of the British soldier.

A great deal of what we Americans think comes from 18th Century England. An American whose attitudes were not formed in part by Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Samuel Johnson, Edward Gibbon, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift and, yes, John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson is actually quite rare. Of these, Jefferson was the only one who was an all-out lover of all things French. He was also the least sound and stable of the Founding Fathers. John Adams set the good American precedent of speaking English to the French king, and just making it slower and louder when the king could not understand. Washington fumed over the pretensions of the French ambassador Genet.

Americans thinking back to the early days of our own republic can recall the arrogance of the Directory in general, and Tallyrand in particular, in demanding that we grease the Great Turncoat's palms before he would deign to meet with our envoys. That was the XYZ Affair, which brought on an undeclared naval war between the US and France during John Adams' term (we got the better of them, but with help from the Royal Navy). "Millions for defense: not one penny for tribute!" was the first rallying cry of our government. And it was directed at France.

The event the French have chosen as their national day, the storming of the Bastille, represents one of the saddest events in world history, not the triumph of liberty they tell us. The French Revolution is better forgotten, not glorified. Burke spelled out the reasons for this more than two hundred years ago in Reflections on the Revolution in France. The Terror was not a step forward for freedom, but a triumph of barbarism. Bonaparte was no better, a man of blood ruling by the sword, and trying to force the rest of Europe to adopt France's "system". Why couldn't they pick the feast day of Saint Joan of Arc, or a date in the life of Henry IV? Why not the day in August when Paris was liberated?

Nor have the French done much since Waterloo to gain the approbation of the right-thinking. Socialism first reared its ugly head there, as the red flag waved over the barricades in 1830 and 1848, and 1871. Once the Germans put France in its place in 1871, French national policy consisted of nothing but revenge.

When the opportunity came for revenge in 1914, French armies failed. They were again out-fought by the Germans. Then as the war dragged on, it was the French army that was in the greatest danger of mutiny and collapse (in the same manner and in the same cause as the Russian army did-communism). France between the wars was even less enthusiastic than Britain in restraining Germany.

The collapse came in 1940, after weak resistance. There followed four years of pouring wine for their occupiers, and precious little genuine resistance, despite all the movies about the Maqui. Meanwhile, in the south, Vichy did its best to toady to the Germans, and happily shipped its Jews to the gas chambers. When American troops landed in Operation Torch, they were fired upon by the French. Then, when the Germans were too weak to hold on any more, the French finally found courage and organized an army (with American help). Even when deigning to deal with allies, they could be dificult. Churchill said that the heaviest cross he had to bear was the "Croix de Guerre", referring to de Gaulle. Winston also said that sometimes he managed to get de Gaulle into a towering rage, when he resembled nothing so much as a female llama who has been surprised in her bath.

Since World War II, France has paid nothing but lip service to the cause of the alliance. It was unable to maintain its responsibilities in Vietnam, which led the US to get involved there. The French could not even keep Algeria, which they considered administratively part of France. The French, in a fit of pique (their distinguishing national characteristic of the 20th century) and jealousy at American leadership, bolted the military part of the NATO alliance in 1966.

Almost every time the US has needed to get something done, it has been France that has put roadblocks in the way. When President Reagan bombed Libya, France refused to allow US aircraft in England to fly over France, forcing a long detour, that, if I recall correctly, contributed to the loss of a plane and its crew. France was a force against determined effort in Desert Storm. Its brittle military was entrusted by General Schwartzkopf with as much as it could reliably handle-- basically guarding empty desert.

Today, the French refuse to extradite Moslem terrorists to the US because of their hypersensitive disdain of the death penalty. As the US urges action against Iraq, it is France that is the great nay-sayer. With regard to Israel, France has praised the Palestinians, permitted anti-Semites there to conduct a vicious campaign against Jews and synagogues (as if the poor Jews of France had not been adequately betrayed by their government between 1940-1944), and counseled the US to put pressure on Israel to just roll over and let the Palestinians murder Jews to their hearts' content. And they are the leading force in creating a United Europe, not to cooperate with the US, but as a rival.

And then, there is French "culture". I'm not talking about Fragonard, or David, or even Renoir or Manet. I'm talking about that ethos so compelling to Bohemian lefties the world over. That "culture" consists of nothing but sitting in cafes on the left bank, sipping coffee that is too strong, talking about nothing (like a never ending episode of Seinfeld but with the air of a philosophe), praising the truly reprehensible Picasso and Sartre and Camus and partaking of decadence combined with communism and nihilism, and cultivating a nasty self-important attitude while wearing black.

Anti-French sentiment has really taken off in the last ten years. A good deal of the credit goes to Jonah Goldberg of National Review, and his inspired adoption of the Simpsons' "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys" monicker for the French. The war-years' attitude that the French were gallant allies forced to surrender by circumstances and who rejoined the fight as soon as possible has been replaced by a new consensus. The readiness of the French to give up and live under the heel of any oppressor has been given more attention. Doubt it? Check out this Get Fuzzy cartoon Darby Conley produced on July 3rd. Brits have been playing villains in Hollywood for years. But the French are about to eclipse them. Think about the NATO admiral in Behind Enemy Lines. Even if he wasn't French (he may have been Spanish) his character had the feel of a French admiral.

Of course, the French are not all bad. Some few Frenchmen are still pious Catholics. French peasant culture is fairly healthy. Peter Mayle writes amusing books about them. They produce nice wines (though California is gaining on them). The world owes Angier a debt of gratitude for Cointreau. Pates and truffles are the embodiment of high cuisine. France has managed to do what Britain has not-elect a conservative government. And years ago, the French actually had the chutzpah to sink the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior when it got in the way of a French nuclear test. That was the last time I gave the French a cheer.

If we wish to summon up warm thoughts for our French "partners" this Bastille Day, I'm afraid the best we can do is to sip a nice Sauterne ("its heaven with strawberries"- points if you know where that comes from), serve a nice goose pate and some brie, and fondly recall the Rainbow Warrior going to the bottom.

So, this Bastille Day, I offer this, "Confusion to the French!"

Just Noticed
I just noticed that what I published yesterday and this morning did not end up on Verus Ratio; some kind of Blogger problem, the dreaded Error 503. Obviously, by the time you see this, it will be fixed.

Judge Rules Archdiocese Finance Council Has No Authority
Judge Constance Sweeney ruled Friday that the Archdiocese of Boston may not rely on the Finance Council's refusal to go along with the settlement agreement in the Geoghan case that was negotiated and consented to by Cardinal Law. She ruled that the law establishing the Archdiocese places authority in the Cardinal alone. The Finance Council found the settlement for Geoghan's 86 victims too high, and rejected it, prefering to make the same amount the total it would pay to all of the victims of all of the pervert priests.

What this means is that, if the agreement is otherwise valid and complete (no ruling on that yet), the Archdiocese may be stuck with the astronomical settlement reached with the lawyer for Geoghan's victims. This will make Mitchell Garabedian, Esq. a very rich man, but serve no constructive purpose. In fact, the too generous terms will set a standard for other settlements which will create a huge burden upon the operations of the Archdiocese, and lead to layoffs and closings of parishes and schools. All so Mitchell Garabedian can buy that boat, or vacation house.

Friday, July 12, 2002

On The Other Hand
Jonah Goldberg, Editor of National Review On Line earned his pay refuting, in part, John Derbyshire's argument that we should not blame Islam for terrorism. He says here, that maybe we can't blame the whole of Islam, but Wahhabism, the violent and extreme variant of Islam that prevails in Saudi Arabia. He has an excellent point. Perhaps someone else at National Review will now tell us about the good things about Wahhabism, if there are any.

My own view is that there is precious little of value to humanity in general in Wahhabism. In fact, from my observations, there is no value in it for its adherents, their neighbors, near or far, humanity in general, or any visiting Alpha Centorians.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Today's Link
Well worth reading and thinking about is today's offering from National Review On Line's John Derbyshire. I remember the Evelyn Waugh anecdote from another context. Applying it to Islam was inspired.

St. Blog's Housekeeping

St. Blog's Parish

A Matter Of Subject
In looking over my postings for the last month-plus, I noticed that the Scandal, the war, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have just about dominated my blogging. Is it just me, or has the whole conservative domestic agenda suddenly gone away? I expected to be writing a lot more about the need for tax cuts, the Defense of Marriage Act, vouchers, Supreme Court decisions, law & order/the death penalty, abortion, limiting immigration, English as a national language, getting rid of "affirmative action", and higher standards in education.

It may be that the war has focused the attention of the media on warlike activities. We in the blogosphere just amplify and color the news we hear. I've been talking a great deal about the war on terrorism, both the US and Israeli efforts, because that is what is being reported. But I don't get the feeling that the American people are all that focused on the war anymore. There seems to me to be a vacuum of national interest, which the Democrats are rapidly filling up with scandal-mongering about Halliburton, Xerox, Bristol Meyers, Worldcom, Enron, etc. What I don't hear is the Republican Party standing up, and using the money it has to focus attention on issues that help Republicans. This is, after all an election year. If the current course is continued, it will be a disastrous one for the GOP.

The Most Astonishing Thing
Heard the most astonishing news story today. It seems a now-former Assistant Attorney General in Mass. AG Tom Reilly's office was arraigned today on counts of lewd conduct for abusing himself, on several occasions, in full view of several female members of the cleaning staff at the office after hours. Things like this just make you sigh. File it under, "Too Stupid To Get On In Life," or "Collapse of Morality."

Lavigne Sued By More Victims
The Springfield Diocese's notorious Father Richard Lavigne has been sued by four men in an action filed today in Springfield Superior Court, bringing the total number of plaintiffs against him to 7. One other case is before the Springfield Diocese's review board. Lavigne was suspended permanently from acting as a priest, but not defrocked, after being convicted of molesting 2 altar boys in 1992. According to the allegations of one plaintiff, Lavigne's modus operendi involved force, psychological abuse, and abuse of the confessional.

The number of pervert priests in Massachusetts is astonishing. To run down the list (and these are only the most notorious offenders with multiple accusers): Shanley (awaiting trial), Geoghan (serving in prison), Porter (in prison), Birmingham (dead), Martin (pending), Desillets (awaiting trial), Paquin (awaiting trial), and Lavigne (just released from prison and in civil litigation). There are undoubtably more in this category, and at least sixty in the "only once reported" category.

The web is so extensive that, were someone to take up the project Mark Shea suggested in Catholic and Enjoying It about three months ago and document and graphically represent somehow all of the interchanges among these perverts, and between them individually and various members of the Archdiocesan bureaucracy over the years, it would be a huge undertaking. It would also be a huge benefit to plaintiffs' lawyers, not so much as evidence itself, but in helping them to understand and frame charges of racketeering, which we will undoubtably see. I'm sure paralegals and junior associates are at work on such a project even now. Each release of documents from the chancery makes the picture a little clearer.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Blogger Won't Publish
Seems Blogger is having some technical difficulties. Publishing is unavailable. I don't want to post an awful lot, only to lose it.
So here are some miscellaneous observations that I may fully develop at another time.

*Paul Shanley was indicted today (and pled not guilty, of course) on 16 counts of sexual abuse of young boys- stemming from his years at St. Jean's in Newton. Our pastor at Mass today warned that there is more of this stuff coming. He is in a position to know, as he has had to deal with lots of reaction from the victims of Father Birmingham's predations from more than 30 years ago (when our current pastor was in seminary). I am guessing that the Scandal will heat up again before Labor Day, and kick back into high gear in September- just a guess based on what I know of lawyers' vacation schedules, and the vacation plans of people in the chancery who are dealing with this. The trial date is set for November 5th. ("Remember, Remember/ The Fifth of November/Pervert priest betrayal and plot/I see no reason/Why pervert priest treason/ Should ever be forgot"-I know, its a Guy Fawkes' rhyme, but who knows about Guy Fawkes Day here?).

*The situation on Wall Street is depressing, but not indicative of the health of the economy. I have dealt with this at length in my financial services site. Now this is a stock-exchange problem. If it persists, it could spill over into the general economy. But low interest rates are propping up the "Main Street" economy to a great extent. I don't expect interest rates to go up this year. Nor, unfortunately, do I see the Democrat Senate going along with the real solution to the problem-steeper tax cuts.

*Osama bin Laden seems to be still alive. Let us hope we do a better job in the next 4-8 weeks to make that no longer the case.

*Mitt Romney is threatening suit against the Arlington, MA Republican City Committee for printing Romney-Rappaport bumperstickers. Romney wrong-headedly persists in running with political neophypte Kerry Murphy Healy. Mitt, calm down. Let Massachusetts Republicans make the decision. That is our right, after all. There is nothing in the state constitution that encourages candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run together on a ticket. Most of the time, our governors and lieutenant governors have hated each others' guts. It was Bill Weld who started this custom of pairing himself with a running mate. That was 1990- a very recent innovation. The Democrats have declined to "team-up" before the primaries. I fail to see any real advantage for Republicans' doing so.

*Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government has no genuine hope of gaining enough support in either house of the Massachusetts legislature to sustain Acting Governor Swift's veto of the tax increases the legislative leadership has enacted. Remember this, along with Clean Elections, the death penalty, and the marriage initiative. The deadlines are past for this year, and goodness knows there are not nearly enough Republicans challenging Democrats to fill the stools at your average diner. But there is always another election for the Great and General Court the year after next. Remember.

*The ending of the All-Star Game without a winner was a travesty. Bud Selig deserves the opprobrium he is getting for this stupidity. The managers should also have done a better job of husbanding their players so that they did not run out of players - as they do in every other game they manage.

*And thank you, I am doing much better.

His Eminence Cardinal Ratzinger was extraordinarily fast out of the gate with reaction to the scandalous "ordination" performed by Romulu Braschi almost two weeks ago. Well, extraordinarily fast by Vatican standards, anyway. He has given the seven women "ordained" until July 22nd (of this year, no less) to repent, and renounce the farce of a ceremony performed by a schismatic, or face excommunication. Read the Declaration from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Holy Office) here, thanks to EWTN.

What a refreshing change from how the US bishops deal with dissent, error, and heresy! Cardinal Law has been so easy going and slow in implementing the Pope's orders regarding theology professors (even telling the BC theology faculty not to bother), giving them a period of months and months to swear the required oath, that he has basically taken something with only 5-6 working teeth anyway, and rendered it utterly toothless.

But Ratzinger's reaction to this farce is swift (well, it could have come out June 24th, but we are talking about the Vatican here, not a modern corporation), decisive, and absolutely necessary. The Church has made it clear that standing by this defiance has consequences mortal to the souls of those who participate in them. May the Church deal with other grave issues as decisively in the future. Of course, this must be followed through. If, in fact any of these people have not repented by the end of the day, July 22nd, July 23rd should see excommunications.

Of course, there is the issue of what the consequences of excommunication really are. Excommunication was a serious problem when the Church taught all (and all believed) that there was no salvation outside of the Church. Now we merely say that the Faith is the best way to Heaven, and that it isn't impossible for people outside the Faith to find eternal life. That makes the psychological stakes of excommunication much less. But it is the best threat that the Church has available to it.

But let us not quibble here. The Church through the office of Cardinal Ratzinger has done something grave, something necessary, and something just to those who have put themselves outside the history, traditions, laws, and customs of Holy Mother the Church. Cardinal Ratzinger deserves praise for forthright leadership. The Italians may not realize this, but sometimes a harsh reply made with alacrity is called for. If he were here in Salem, I'd break out the Offley Baron de Forrester 1964, and a Partagas 150th Anniversary cigar for him. I can't do any better than that.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Martyrs Of the Terror
According to Father Englebert's Lives of the Saints, which I rely on for my saints' days commentaries, this is the feast day of several martyrs of the French Revolution. Blessed Marie Rose, Marie Claire, Marie Anne, and others were killed by the French revolutionaries in Orange on this date in 1794. They were beatified by Pius XI in 1925. I have a special regard for martyrs of the French revolutinaries, and of their descendants in terror, the communists.

In the traditional calendar of the saints, this was the feast day of St. Thomas More, and St. John Fisher. But their feast has been moved to June in the reformed calendar, and we made note of it then.

Beginning Of Condign Punishment
Ananova reports that an Austrian nun who was one of those Catholic women "ordained" by Romulu Braschi a couple of weeks ago has been dismissed from her order. Adelinde Theresia Roitinger was expelled from the Hallein convent she lived at. Her former Mother Superior Sister Benedikta Linbacher told the press that,"She can no longer be a part of our order because we stand within the circle of the Church." Good for Sister Benedikta! Cologne's Bishop Joaquim Meisner responded that,<"Wishing for women priests is as pointless as wishing that men can give birth." Good for Bishop Meisner! As I wrote at the time, the Church should be very active in finding out who was present, and therefore giving their blessing to the proceedings, and who was "ordained", and dismiss, defrock, and excommunicate, as needed, and quickly.

Clericalism...And More
The deposition testimony of Bishop McCormack of Manchester in one of the Boston pervert priest scandals makes it pretty plain that he was willing to take the word of priests accused of various perversions over the word of the accusing laity. He admits doing this on at least two occasions. But McCormack has a history of doing this that predates his elevation to the height of Boston's Archdiocesan bureaucracy. In the 1960s, when he was living at the rectory of St. James Parish, Salem, parishioners brought complaints about the perverted predations of Father Birmingham to him. Nothing was ever done about Father Birmingham, who may have abused as many young boys as Geoghan, or Shanley.

One is led to conclude that there was something more to McCormack's pattern of protective silence. This was not just clericalism-taking the word of a fellow member of the "ordained elite" over that of the unwashed laity. There is an active pattern of protecting pervert priests. He even stayed for a short time at Shanley & White's bed & breakfast for gay priests in California. He was one of Shanley's protectors, and Geoghan's, and Birmingham's, and Paquin's, and Desillets'. Either the man is amazingly stupid, blindly clericalist, or an accomplice. This is what Father Andrew Greeley meant by the "lavender mafia." Since McCormack was Law's right-hand for a long time, he is probably the source for much of this scandal. Law may be the figurehead who will eventually take the fall for this, but McCormack is the man who served as a link with so many of these perverts. His is the hand holding the smoking gun.

Is Nothing Sacred? Department
Amy Welborn called my attention to this excellent description of the wholesale shell game being played on behalf of feminism with our hymns. The article is by Eric Hester in a British Catholic website called TotalCatholic.com. Check out his whole site. It is worthwhile.

When it is fresh in my mind, I'll point out some of the dramatic changes in the wording of hymns that I have noticed. There are, of course, ways to avoid bowdlerized hymns. Two hymnals that don't do this come to mind. Saint Michael's Hymnal is an anti-PC new publication. St. Joseph's Catholic Publishing offers a reprint of the pre-Vatican II Saint Gregory's Hymnal. It is worth checking out. If you have any influence with your parish's "music minister", and he is not a liberal, tell him about these two.

Still Under the Weather, But...
I still feel pretty terrible-fever now to boot, but a few things caught my attention today.

Monday, July 08, 2002

You Will Excuse Me
I'm not up to much blogging today. Caught one of those summer colds- sore throat, sinus trouble, legs as strong as boiled spaghetti. There is also nothing much catching my attention.

One thing I will write is a strong recommendation of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels. I just finished Sharpe's Fortress and loved it. Compelling battle scenes, decent dialogue, and a nitpicker's eye for historic detail make the Sharpe novels a truly great historical series-in my opinion better than Hornblower. The best series, though like Hornblower out of my field of expertise, is, of course Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels. O'Brian's writing far surpasses all others in the field. Enough for now. I need to take something for this darned cold.

What Everyone Is Talking About
The fate of the remains of Red Sox slugger Ted Williams is the hot topic around the water cooler today. In case you're from somewhere else, or have had your head buried in the sand, his son, John Henry Williams, who has been making a living off of memorabilia of his father's career for quite some time, has sent his father's body to a "freezotorium" in Arizona so that Ted can be preserved in order to sell his DNA when cloning becomes possible. His half-sister is adamantly opposed to this crack-brained scheme and is seeking an injunction.

Aside from the odious leech-like qualities being exhibited by J.H. Williams, this is highly immortal and unnatural. Sad to say, it will detract from the memory of a great baseball player. Now, when a dad takes his son to Cooperstown, and shows him Ted Williams' plaque, the son will automatically associate Williams with his corpse frozen in Arizona, and paltry efforts to sell his DNA. I hope Williams' daughter has adequate proof that this was not Ted's intent, so that he can receive the decent Christian burial he deserves.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

It's Called Tonic!
There is battle brewing in National Review On-Line's The Corner between Rod Dreher and Andrew Stuttaford over the proper name for carbonated beverages. Dreher favors "pop". Stuttaford is more familiar with "soda".

A pox on both their houses. Every true New Englander knows that the stuff is called tonic. Always has been, always will be, no matter what the national advertising says. The question is why Moxie is still sold in supermarkets here.

Liturgical Abuses-Part IV
In our tour of bad liturgical practices, we have come as far as the opening of the Mass proper. The procession is done. The priest is on the altar. The congregation should be standing in their places in the pews. The various ministers have found their seats. The altar boys (or girls) are in their place. Everybody should have put their hymnals down, and should have their attention focused on the celebrant. Now it is the priest's turn to do something foolish.

What I am about to complain of is probably on the tips of the tongues of many of you. We know what should happen next. The Entrance Antiphon should be recited or chanted. But most of the time it is not. It is usually skipped altogether. In its place, is the dreaded "Introductions Time". This is very common in places that get a large number of tourists over the summer. The priest first asks, "Anyone here visiting from out of town?". Then he asks, "Where are you from?". Each stranger is grilled in turn. "Oh, I've been there. What a lovely city Newark is! Isn't it wonderful that so many people from out of town are here with us today? Lets give them a nice round of applause." Applause in church will probably be the subject of an entire installment one of these Sundays.

The equally silly and useless practice that sometimes replaces this, and sometimes is added to it, is a query from the altar about who has a birthday or anniversary, or anyone to pray for. "How old are you dear?" " Nine? How wonderful," is just extraneous and undignified-the priest playing Oprah. Asking for special intentions is the most understandable of all. But this is hardly the way to do it. "My Aunt Tilly is having her goiter treated this week," does not belong at this time in the Mass. After all, the Mass is being offered for the repose of someone's soul, or for the parish almost all of the time. During the Prayers of the Faithful, there should always be a time for each person to silently recite their particular pressing concerns without making a public spectacle of it.

A third alternative takes place in some parishes. The entire congregation is asked to introduce themselves to the people around them. This isn't as bad as having to say your name and where you are from into the mike while Father plays at being Phil Donahue. But it, too, does not belong. The Mass is not about us, or the priest. It is about Christ's sacrifice for all of us.

Is this the House of God, or the House of Pancakes? "I'm Father Ron. I'll be your celebrant today. Today's special is fluff."

Every week, I thank the Lord that this does not happen in our parish.

Next, the priest should begin with the sign of the cross. Most of the time, this happens.

The Solemn Greeting is next. It has three acceptable forms, which any practicing Catholic will recognize. Often, however, the priest will experiment here, and make up something as he goes along. They teach 'em to think on their feet in the seminary, these days (and "these days" goes back about 40-50 years).

After the Solemn Greeting, there is a choice. The Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling with Holy Water can take place, or the Penitential Rite. In my old home parish, the pastor when I was in high school, college, and law school favored the Sprinkling. While the Music Minister intoned "We have put on Christ. In Him we have been baptized. Alleluia. Alleluia," Father McAuliffe would go up and down the main aisle sprinkling the congregation with Holy Water. This Rite of Blessing seems to be falling into disfavor. My personal preference is against it, if it is an alternative to the Penitential Rite. In addition to it, I find it useful.

If the Penitential Rite is chosen, the congregation is given the opportunity to repent. Most often, the priest choses the short form: "My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries, let us call to mind our sins." Often, priests ad lib an invitation to repent. Teeth gritting time.

The congregation responds to the invitation in one of several ways, chosen by the priest. The Confiteor used to be the sole response here. You know it. "I confess to Almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault; in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do; and I ask Blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God." After the word "fault", we are suppossed to strike our breasts (yes, this is the translation and remnant of the "Mea culpa{strike the breast}, mea culpa {strike the breast}, mea maxima culpa {strike the breast}" that you old timers will remember from the Council of Trent Mass). In my 25 years of being cognizant of what goes on around me at Mass, I have never noticed anyone strike their breasts. This form of the Penitential Rite regrettably is falling out of favor. Most Masses use the short form: "You were sent to heal the contrite, Lord Have Mercy, You came to call sinners, Christ Have Mercy, You plead for us at the right hand of the Father, Lord Have Mercy."

The reason that this is more popular is that it eliminates the next step in the Mass. It combines the Penitential Rite with the Kyrie, which should come next. But after the confession of fault, the priest pronounces an absolution. I know what you are thinking. I know the legalistic minds we Catholics have. Downright Jesuitical we are, sometimes. But the Vatican has made it clear that this "absolution" does not take the place of the Sacrament of Penance. It is not that easy.

If the Penitential Rite incorporates part of the Kyrie, then the Kyrie is skipped. But, sometimes, if the form of the Penitential Rite that does not incorporate the Kyrie is used, the priest remembers that he has to do the Kyrie. In English, the Kyrie is rendered, "Lord Have Mercy. Christ Have Mercy. Lord Have Mercy." It is the translation from the old Mass' Greek (not Latin) "Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison."

Something to be happy about has been happening lately. There is a trend I have noticed to actually use the Greek on certain occasions. I heard it today at Mass, in fact. I suppose it is OK with the "liturgical ministers", as long as it is not Latin.

The opening of the Mass has become a huge opportunity for silliness and fluff. The priest, perhaps because he is facing the congregation-usually a sea of blank faces- feels the need to perform. So he borrows from Oprah and Phil Donahue. The Mass becomes entertainment, and social, rather than a sacred occasion. Most people go along with it, because, presumably, Father knows what he is doing. But Father only knows what they teach him in the seminary and what he sees other priests doing. Goodness knows that isn't a solid foundation anymore.

A Description of a Concert We Attended
Fellow Salemite, cigar lover, and Catholic blogger Domenico Bettinelli was at the same concert and fireworks show we attended Thursday night. Here is his excellent description and meditation on the moment. Instead of the "beach" (a ten-yard-long strip) we were on the dock closest to Derby Light- the best spot for the Salem and Marblehead fireworks.

The Old Summer White House
It sure is nice to have the President vacationing in Kennebunkport again. Missed that over those 8 years I, for one, prefer to treat as an interregnum.

A Nice Mass
Today I overslept a bit, and had to attend the local Polish parish's (St. John the Baptist, Salem) late Mass (in English). About 4 dozen people attended. The music was dignified (the responsorial psalm a little too slow) and tradtional (except for a strange version of the Agnus Dei). The Kyrie was even done in Greek! For a while, I was the youngest person in the congregation, by a good 25 years. Then a teenage boy came in, followed by a mother and her two teenage children, and a couple about my age with a baby. Father Stan (I can't spell or pronounce his last name), the pastor there, is a very nice priest, a trifle difficult to understand in English. It is a shame that that parish is dying demographically. Mass there is always reverent. The community there, even to a non-Polish outsider like me, feels warm and faith-filled. And it is so convenient having a Catholic Church a block and a half away, with a Mass more than an hour after my parish's last Sunday Mass.

Gee, The FBI Isn't Sure If It Was Terrorism
The shooting at the Los Angeles Airport's El Al counter by an Egyptian immigrant on July 4th has not been classified as terrorism by the FBI. They say it may be a hate crime, though.

Let's get this straight. A Moslem from Egypt goes to the El Al counter at his local airport. He is heavily armed. He takes out a gun, and kills two people, both of whom happen to be Jews. And that is only a hate crime, like painting swastikas on a church.

The FBI, in my judgment is being too reserved with the definition of terrorism. This shooter may not have been al Qaeda-trained. He may never have visited a camp in Afghanistan or Pakistan. He may not have been acting on orders. But he certainly sympathized with al Qaeda, and its local branches (Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, al Acqsa Martyrs' Brigade, Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine) in their goals. And his act was terroristic. It was almost a classic terrorist strike- a seemingly random selection of moment and target to make a political statement. The intent was to strike at the "enemy" and spread fear. This "gentleman" even objected vociferously to his upstairs neighbor's hanging of a US flag after September 11th.

The Israeli security forces are under no such illusions as the FBI. They immediately labelled the shooting a terrorist incident, and have begun ramping security up even more at their facilities worldwide. Time for the FBI to take its pre-September 11th blinders off, and call a shovel a shovel.

Of course the Israelis know how much they have benefitted from Islam being a "religion of peace."

Bishop Galante Finally Does The Right Thing
I read on Friday that Rev. Cliff Garner, the Saint Sebastian's Angels-posting gay priest who resigned from his Dallas parish last week, will not be reassigned to parish work. Bishop Galante finally took note of the content of the posting on that site, and figured out, after I and hundreds of other Catholic commentators had explained it, that Father Garner does not belong in an assignment where he would have to deal with young people.

Maybe Father Garner can do good work in the nursing home he will be posted to. I have seen first-hand the spiritual void that exists in nursing homes. These elderly Catholics are usually all but abandoned by their families, placed in strange surroundings they have difficulty comprehending, and get next to nothing in the way of outreach from the Church. Why shouldn't a Father Garner, who has not, as far as we know, molested any young people, be placed where he can do some good. It may have been a mistaken policy to allow people of his orientation into the priesthood. But since he is a priest, he might as well be useful, as far as prudence allows.

Ted Williams, R.I.P.
Baseball lost one of its true giants Friday. Ted Williams died at the age of 83 from congestive heart failure. I was born about 4 years after the Splendid Splinter retired. So my boyhood idol was his successor in left field, Carl Yastrzemski. But older folks in my generation grew up idolizing Williams, who was probably the best pure hitter ever to play the game. Six A.L. batting titles, a .400 season, 2 triple crowns, 4 years in the most productive part of his career taken from him by military service, even a home run in his final at-bat in Fenway all point to greatness. And a man of sound politics, too. Requiescat In Pace.

Brookhiser's Washington
I finally got a chance to sit down and watch Rediscovering George Washington. Like Brookhiser's book, Founding Father, RGW was a good overview of the career of Washington, and what made him so very, in the words of another Washington biographer, "indispensible". Brookhiser, whose latest book on the Adams Family (the conservative Massachusetts ones, not the John Astin-led bunch) came out last month, is a popularizer. He has done a fair job of reading what scholars have written about Washington (and Hamilton, and the Adamses) and digesting that information to reach what he considers to be the importance and significance of the career of a great man.

It was fun to see old friend Peter Ford, commander of the Royal Welch Fuslieers interviewed on the topic of rating Washington as a general, and the outcome of Monmouth. Forrest McDonald, whose book E Pluribus Unum I am still working my way through, was also interviewed. Brookhiser did the narration himself. There was some re-enactor footage, combined with old prints. I am surprised at the reliance on 19th century prints, which are usually fairly inaccurate, instead of using the better prints done by H. Charles McBarron, Jr. for the Company of Military Historians in the 1960s and 1970s.

Rediscovering George Washington is a good documentary on the subject. It is better than another I saw some years ago, George Washington, The Man Who Would Not Be King. It is, in places, a little shallow, as is the book. But this is popularization, not original scholarship. Brookhiser has done a very creditable job presenting Washington as a subject for emulation. Goodness knows we need people to try to emulate the truly great more, and the merely popular less.

I Took A Couple of Days Off
Put down that revolver! Turn off the gas in the stove! Forget about downing that bottle of pills! Life is indeed worth living. I'm, back. We took a short mini-vacation to celebrate July 4th and my wife's birthday. We had a nice time, but it is good to be back at the keyboard.

Looking at the news, I see very little has happened. As a special treat, I even have begun that Liturgical Abuses-Part IV blog that was promised so, so long ago. But first some reflections on things that have transpired in the last three days.

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