Saturday, July 27, 2002

Cigar Talk
It is a rather quiet weekend with regard to news so far. My non-cigar readers will therefore please indulge the rest of us for a moment. I just wanted to let the North Shore's cigar community know that Red Lion Smoke Shop, the one around the corner from my condo, is in the process of a major renovation. It looks like it will expand its cigar operation into the vacant unit next door. The humidors were being moved yesterday. Should be up and running before mid-August, I would guess. With the end of the cigar boom of the early-mid '90s, there have been so many closures (the News Shop at Square One Mall, and the stand near Brooks Brothers at the North Shore Mall), that it is good to see one full service smoke shop around here expanding.

But I am far from a one-source guy. When I'm in Boston, I love to browse L.J. Peretti. When I'm in New York, I can't resist stopping in at Alfred Dunhill (where I bought my first box of Peravias in 1988-I still have one from that box, a 1986 vintage). And in Lexington on Routes 4&225 about 4-5 blocks north of the Green, there is a terrific liquor store (can't remember the name) with a walk-in humidor with an impressive selection.

I spend much more time shopping for cigars than smoking them. In nice weather (since I only smoke outside) I smoke at most 1-2 per month. I always give them up for Lent, and might not smoke one between November and April of any given year. I have been known to spend a half hour picking out a cigar, smelling, looking, touching for firmness (or over-firmness). I have also been known to spend a half hour in a humidor and walk away without buying a thing.

Since I smoke outdoors, I can name some places for a good smoke. Salem Common, far out on Derby Wharf near Derby Light, and Elias Haskett Derby's garden are my three favorite places. In none of those places are you likely to be an annoyance to many people. And all three are pleasant places to sit. The Charter Street Burying Ground will do in a pinch, if you don't mind wandering around old tombstones. You are certain to not meet with any objections from the inhabitants.

Lighting a cigar properly from a match outdoors is tricky. Any breeze disrupts the operation. And Salem has a sea breeze most of the time. And you don't just plunge the end of the cigar into the flame, set the cigar on fire, and start smoking. There is a ritual to be observed in lighting. You have to hold it, slowly rotating it, about a quarter inch from the flame until it is evenly lit. You blow through the lit end once. Only then do you draw on it. The operation takes about 30-40 seconds and requires that you be in the lee of something. I recommend ducking into the recessed doorway of the Hawthorne Hotel or any recessed doorway for that matter. After all, what are recessed doorways for, if not to provide a convenient place to light a cigar?

What to do while smoking a cigar? Just make sure it is something pleasurable-nothing to do with work. Cigars, unlike cigarettes, are not for the stressed out to frantically puff away on before plunging back into one's harried existence. Cigar smoking is meant to be relaxing. Chatting with a friend who is also smoking a cigar (giving mutual immunity) is pleasant. Since I smoke outside the house, in an area without yards, that means I can't pair up a cigar with port, Glenlivet, Chambord, or Cointreau, my favorite drinks. So I am relegated to making myself as comfortable as possible, and opening a book. I recommend Montaigne's Essays or Pope's Essay on Man, or Cicero's De Senectute for a properly philosophical mood. For a lighter mood, try Patrick O'Brian, or Bernard Cornwell, or Peter Mayle. I've read several issues of National Review and Cigar Aficionado on Salem Common while smoking a cigar.

Need something else to do? Pop a Vivaldi CD into your Discman and tune out the Twenty-First Century. I particularly like the Academy of Ancient Music's baroque selections . Bring along some Lindt Balls (dark chocolate preferred) or Godiva truffles and alternate, a bite, and a draw. The chocolate lingering in your mouth will impart a not-so-subtle chocolate taste, mitigating the harshness one encounters after the half-way point of the cigar.

The idea is to treat yourself to a one-hour vacation in which you are completely removed from the concerns of everyday life. You are enjoying the taste and smell of a great cigar, and your other senses are also being pampered. Endorphines are flowing. Things are seen in perspective. These one-hour vacations work quite well for me. As with all good things, don't overdo, or you won't get as much out of it.

Why We Kneel During Mass
Are the "reformers" in your parish agitating to get rid of the kneelers? Or to just stop the practice of kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer? Helen Hull Hitchcock in Adoremus has this definitive defense and explanation for the practice of kneeling during Mass. In my view, kneeling is an essential recognition of the sacred moment of the Consecration, and of the Real Presence.

One Solitary Life
This is the first time I have noticed it on the web. Traditional Catholic Reflections has the text (shorter and slightly altered, I think) of One Solitary Life, which I have always found moving. Read it here.

Read Amy's Response To Maureen
Most of my readers do not need me to tell them to read Amy Welborn. You probably read her before you get to me. But Amy posted a gem last night in response to a reader's complaint that we at St. Blog's aren't "doing anything" in response to the Scandal, while VOTF is. Read it here.

Friday, July 26, 2002

World Youth Day
I haven't said a word about the World Youth Day pilgrimage in Toronto. My attention has been elsewhere. International gatherings were never my sort of thing. I've always found it difficult to muster much enthusiasm for them.

But now it warms the heart to see the Holy Father energized by the young crowds. John Paul II has many infirmities. Age has certainly caught up with him. But his mind and heart are still vital. He is still a voice for the authentic Faith. He may be relying on others a great deal just to get through the administrative part of his role, but so have many other popes in the past.

It also brings joy to think that, with all of the problems the Church is enduring, hundreds of thousands of young people stirred themselves enough to travel to Toronto, for the most part to see our saintly Pope. May their faith mature and be strengthened by the experience.

Will No One Rid Me Of This %^&*$#@! Toilet?
According to the Associated Press, Father Daniel Kucera of Sacred Heart Parish in Manly, Iowa, has come up with an amazingly effective if annoying method of fundraising. For $10 he leaves neon yellow, pink, or orange porta-potties on any person's lawn you choose. In order to get rid of these objects the householder has to pay Sacred Heart $10. For an additional $10 you can pay Father Kucera to never leave one in your yard. He's raised $1,700 so far.

I know fundraising is difficult for many parishes, especially now with the Scandal, but does anyone else think that someone is likely to sue Sacred Heart, for trespass if not for extortion? Of course this is sort of humorous if you are the type who would laugh at seeing a neon porta-potty on your front lawn. Doesn't Father Kucera have better things to do with his time than haul porta-potties around town for short money? Shouldn't he be busy with sick calls, saying Mass, hearing confession, running his parish, or even saying his breviary?

I'm sure that the moment this story hit the AP wire the phone call from the chancery to Father Kucera was being put through. Bishops aren't known to appreciate potty humor when it might buy them a lawsuit.

But just in case, Father Kucera, my check is in the mail. Hey, we might even be persuaded to pay you extra to leave all three on the front lawn of the head of VOTF!

The Palestinians Don't Leave You Waiting Very Long
Waiting for the next Palestinian outrage? Wait no more. There are reports that a number of Jewish settlers near Hebron were shot by Palestinian gunmen today. No authoritative word on casualties, yet.

As a military force, the Palestinians are hopeless. Whenever they have taken the field (1967, 1973, 1982 in Lebanon), they have been routed by the Israelis. But as murderers of women, children, old men, and unsuspecting shoppers, they are without equal. Yet, whenever the Israeli army has had a Palestinian army on its knees, the US or the UN has stepped in and demanded that the Israelis let the Palestinians go. Always behind "world opinion" is the view that if the Israelis are allowed to finish off the armed elements of the Palestinian cause, what hope ever for a Palestinian state.

World opinion needs to rethink the value of a Palestinian state now. Do we really want another Somalia or Afghanistan sitting at the crossroads of Western Civilization and Islam- in the spot where Europe, Asia, and Africa join? That is just what a Palestinian state would be without the guidance the West could give it for a generation or two. Just as Spain needed the tutelage of Franco to become ready for modern democracy, Palestine needs to serve a long, peaceful apprenticeship with leaders hand-picked by Israel (perhaps a generation or two) before it can be trusted as a sovereign state.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Human Biological Weapons
Apparently one of the Palestinian barbarians who blew himself up was positive for hepatitis. Fragments of him were found in some of the victims who lived. Now that they have begun recovering from their wounds, they have to worry about contracting hepatitis. Will the next bomber be HIV-positive? Kind of reminds you of the efforts at biological warfare in the Odessa File. Read the report here.

A Plenary Council?
According to Greg Popak at HMS Blog, 8 US bishops signed and circulated a letter calling for a national plenary council to address the issues of homosexuality and dissent and the role they play in the Scandal. Greg did not name the bishops, but did say that the letter has gained additional signatories since it was originally sent out.

This could be good, or it could be an attempt to white-wash for the homosexual movement, depending on who the bishops are. I must admit to being a little suspicious, in that I did not think that there were 8 US bishops with enough wisdom and cahjones to call for this. Really, after Bruskewitz, can you name any? I also don't see a conclave of US bishops condemning homosexuality and dissent and blaming the Scandal on them. Just last month they refused to address the issue. Read what Greg had to say on the topic here.

Johannes Cardinal Degenhardt, RIP
One of the better cardinals died unexpectedly. Johannes Cardinal Degenhardt, Archbishop of Paderborn was 76. He had been imprisoned by the Gestapo for work with a Catholic youth organization. He made headlines recently by dismissing a priest who denied that the Lord had instituted the Sacraments. Requiescat in pace.

They Did It!
Cardinal Ratzinger's threat was no idle one. Those seven women who were "ordained" on June 23rd on a river boat on the Austro-German border failed to recant and renounce the "ordination". In accordance with the warning issued about two weeks ago, they were excommunicated Monday at midnight. Wow!

This is not a happy moment, but it is one to admire. Anyone's being cut off from the Sacraments and the life of the Church is a sad thing. I will pray that those misguided women find it in their hearts to seek reconciliation with the Church.

But one must contrast the way Cardinal Ratzinger dealt with this and the way Cardinal Law has implemented Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Ratzinger gave these women who had committed a grave offense against the Church a month to change their minds. The moment the month was up, they were officially out of the Church. The threat was made. The deadline passed. The threat was executed. Best thing of its kind I've seen since Reagan and the air traffic controllers, or George H.W. Bush and Saddam.

Cardinal Law has given a long, long time for theologians to make their application for the mandatum. Then, when it looked like they would not apply on principle, Law told them not to concern themselves with it anyway.

Holy Spirit, I know he is only a few years younger than John Paul, but could we please have Cardinal Ratzinger as the next Pope? He may not be perfect, but he is very good.

Howard ("The Duck") For President?
I heard this priceless gem somewhere today. Vermont Governor Howard Dean is thinking of running for the Democrat nomination for president in 2004. One commentator called him potentially, the "Jimmy Carter of the field".

Where I come from, that would be considered an epithet, maybe even "hate-speech," not a compliment.

Stacking the Deck
A critical part of the NCCB's June Dallas meeting was to establish a national review board to decide which pervert priests to defrock. Ignoring the fact that the Vatican may not give final approval to this plan, it seems the NCCB is determined to stack the board with liberals who will not recommend ending the priestly career of any but the most notorious offenders. They did well to name outgoing Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating as the panel's chairman. But they added Bob Bennett (the wrong Bennett brother) Bill Clinton's former lawyer (not anymore, since WJC has not paid Bennett in full despite lucrative book deals and speaking fees).

Now they have added 8 more members, including Clinton's former Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta. Panetta was out of Congress in a photo-finish with a grand jury in the 1990s. He was one of many flacking for Clinton on his refusal to go along with a ban on the odious practice of partial-birth abortion. Then, like Bennett, he was paid to publically defend the indefensible conduct of Bill Clinton. Now both will sit in judgment over others' indefensible conduct. Somehow, I just don't think they will bring a sense of righteous indignation to the job.

Seems like the bishops are stacking the deck, so that very few recommendations for defrocking will be fowarded to Rome. One ought to have known that even something as lame as this review board would be watered down through personnel decisions to the point of ineffectiveness. Time to turn the heat on the bishops back up, I think

PCing the GRE
Erin O'Connor's excellent blog column Cant Watch raises this interesting point- the adoption of essays on politically charged topics on the GRE could be used to screen out conservative grad students. The GRE people say the essays have been added to test the writing skills of potential graduate students. But the list of essay topics seems skewed to elicit liberal or conservative responses. Given the heavy liberal bias of the academy, the essay results could well be used as an anti-conservative gatekeeper.

The liberal dominace of academe has led to the founding of conservative colleges. Now, do we need our own universities and law schools to redress the same problem at the graduate school level? I started college 20 years ago this September. I was lucky to find professors in my major who, if they were Democrats did not push politics into their courses of Medieval France, or Modern European Diplomatic History, or England in the Eightenth Century. Things have changed since then. In law school, I was the outspoken conservative in my class. I can readily see liberal admissions people reading essays by conservative applicants and rejecting them, even if very well written, on idelogical grounds.

Thanks to National Review's Stanley Kurtz for calling my attention to this excellent blog, and to Erin O'Connor for her insights on this matter. I recommend Cant Watch for those interested in academic issues. Here is the link.

What Vermont Has Joined Together...
According to Fox News, gay couples "married" in Vermont civil unions are finding it hard to undo their unions. Some 4,200 homosexual civil unions have taken place in Vermont since 1999. Of that number, over 3,500 of the couples are from outside Vermont. Vermont has dissolved 6 of the unions.

The problem comes when neither of the "partners" in the union are from Vermont. Vermont will only dissolve the union if one of the "partners" has established residency there. That leaves dissolution to whatever state in which the couple resides. But Vermont is the only state that recognizes these civil unions. In Connecticut, a court has refused to dissolve one of these unions, as Connecticut law does not recognize them. The solution is inconvenient-one of the "partners" has to establish residency in Vermont.

If I recall correctly, the issue of how one would go about dissolving these unions was one of the objections to the proposal in the first place. It certainly was not the first objection. That was and remains the damage recognition of such unions does to legitimate marriage and to the family.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

USA Today Discovers the Obvious And Discounts It
There are reasons why opinion-makers rarely turn to USA Today. Today, we saw one of them. Janet Kornblum went to all the trouble of analyzing 1,200 reported cases of abuse by pervert priests. She found that 85% of the victims were male (100% of the priest abusers were, obviously, male). That means that 85% of the sexual abuse problem in the Church is male-on-male. That makes it a homosexual problem. But Kornblum then went on to blather for 12 paragraphs on why it is not necessarily a homosexual problem.

I was only surprised that the percentage was not even higher. One wonders if a small percentage of perverts who are genuine pedophiles (abusing both girls and pre-pubescent boys and toting up a very high number of victims each) do not account for large part of that 15% of victims who are female. The ephebophiles (homosexual males "chicken-hawking" for post-pubescent boys) are probably 80% of the problem. Any reasonably objective observer would have to say that if a problem consists of 80% one thing, that is the thing that must be cured first.

Havering over labelling it a homosexual problem is endemic in the media. The homosexual lobby is powerful. Best not to offend it by calling it as it is. Far, far better in the press' collective mind to find excuses not to note the trend and forthrightly describe it. Kornblum's analysis is almost the epitome of this school of thought. The article can be read here.

The Archdiocese, Catholic Charities, and VOTF
Fellow Salemite and cigar lover Domenico Bettinelli posted this insightful analysis of the havering over the Archdiocese accepting or not accepting donations from VOTF and Catholic Charities dubious Catholicism. I'm not as convinced as Domenico that VOTF will go away so soon. Money tends to find its own reason for existence, and don't forget O'Sullivan's Law (all organizations that are not forcefully, aggressively, instinctively conservative tend, over time to drift leftward-which makes me very gloomy about VOTF). Read and enjoy.

Pius XII Society
For those of you interested, this link will take you to the Pius XII Society, dedicated to promoting the beatification and canonization of Pius XII.

The Right Man For The Job
Amy Welborn had a link to a terrific interview in the Spectator with Father Peter Gumpel, SJ, the man charged with writing the brief for the canonization of Pope Pius XII. I read this interview with great pleasure, as the canonization of Pacelli is a cause dear to my heart.

At B.C., in our Honors Program class (a short cut for high-achieving students which is part great books and part thesis) during Freshman year, we had to read Hochhuth's The Deputy. We'll put aside the issue of what The Deputy was doing in the first semester of a 4 semester "great books" double course. It was presented to a group of freshmen who had not studied the details of the period (unlike most of my classmates, I would 2 years later in Professor John Heineman's excellent German History class) without any material offering a different slant by a professor who was in the process of leaving the Jesuit order. If I recall correctly, those few students who offered what defense of Pius they knew of (to my shame, I think I was not one) were shot down effortlessly. Father Gumpel's brief may end up becoming the classic retort to these baseless accusations.

Could Pius XII have done more to help the Jews? As a virtual prisoner in the Vatican, he managed to orchestrate the hiding of some 700,000 European Jews. His subordinates also saved some thousands of allied air crews (watch The Scarlet and the Black sometime). Hitler was no respecter of the Faith. He martyred many who interposed themselves to protect Jews and others. When absolute power is confronted with holiness, it is the holy who die (often in large numbers). Pius himself might have ended up in Dachau if he pushed harder. Would he have been a better Pope for doing so? No. He had responsibilities to save as many as he could, and to safeguard the Church. He did that. I think the descendants of those 700,000, if they see the evidence, would agree with me.

I Was Remiss
A reader asked if there is a Roman Catholic Faithful website. Yes, indeed, and I just plain forgot to include it in my blog. You can access it here. I have it in my Favorites.

Catholic Charities Will Take VOTF Money
Catholic Charities broke ranks with Cardinal Law and indicated that it would accept donations from Voice Of The Faithful. The Archdiocese has conceded that Catholic Charities, and Caritas Christi Health Care have the authority to do so. Catholic Charities is the jewel in the crown of Catholic social services, but its budget is under enormous pressure due to greatly decreased giving and the recession. So, VOTF will get its way on this after all.

If Catholic Charities can get away with defying Cardinal Law at will, might not the Holy Father conclude that, a decent interval having elapsed since he refused Law's resignation at the peak of the Scandal, he can now find something very important and undemanding for Law to do in Rome? Enough time has passed so that it will not appear the Pontiff is in any way giving in to public opinion. Cardinal Law's authority seems to have gone the way of his credibility.

Boston-area Catholics need to move on, but it seems unlikely to happen with Law still at the helm. I am afraid he is a daily reminder of mash notes to Shanley and Geoghan, and shuffling perverts from parish to parish. Forgiveness is one thing. Forgetting is much harder.

Who'da Thunk It?
Gee, according to the allegations specified in a lawsuit filed by a New Hampshire priest, Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack ordered a cover-up of the homosexual lifestyle of a now-deceased priest. Given McCormack's record as a top administrator in Boston, who would ever believe he would do something like that? He is only just about the primary link between the numerous Boston-area pervert priests (and a former guest at Shanley & White's gay B&B in California). You can read the full story from the Boston Globe here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

More On Ned Martin
According to the Boston Globe, Martin collapsed at Raleigh-Durham Airport on his return from yesterday's memorial at Fenway for Ted Williams. He had retired as Red Sox broadcaster in 1992, after 31 years covering the Sox. He started the year Yaz replaced Williams in left field, 1961, three years before I was born.

Ned Martin, RIP
For those in Red Sox Nation, you will be sad to learn that former Red Sox broadcaster Ned Martin died today at the age of 79. I grew up listening to his radio and television broadcasts. I can remember taking a transistor radio to school,and to the beach, and to family gatherings so that I could hear the game. To me, this is more of blow than the death of Ted Williams.

I was listening to Sean McDonough and Jerry Remy broadcast a game just this past Sunday. Since we don't watch TV in our house, I don't get to watch many games anymore. The Sox were playing the Yankees, and of course lost. But, as I listened to the game, I realized something was missing. Ned Martin, and his former partner Jim Woods brought the games to life. They were filled with baseball lore that they had picked up in their many years of covering the team on a day-to-day basis, and that they had absorbed from older broadcasters. They filled the time between pitches with memories of Stan Musial, and Hank Aaron, and Ted Williams, and Jackie Robinson, and Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller, and Warren Spahn. They brought not just the game, but the statistics that every baseball-addled kid memorized from books or his baseball cards, to life.

Today's broadcasters, though they have great merits, can't hope to compete with the way Martin, Woods, Gowdy, Barber, Allen, and Carey presented a game, and told us about baseball. They lack the depth of experience and the contact with heroic figures (who may not have been all that heroic in real life, but that never mattered) that the older generation had. Martin's death marks the end of an era in baseball broadcasting.

Martin was, I remember, a self-effacing chap with a gentle manner and a wry sense of humor. He was a product of the 1940s and 1950s. His trademark "O Mercy!" when a long homerun flew off Yaz's or Jim Rice's bat will always be remembered by those of us who came of age with the Sox of the mid-late '70s. Society is different now. We shall not see his like again. Requiescat In pace.

"O Mercy!"

Law Defies VOTF
Bernard Cardinal Law has ordered Catholic charitable institutions controlled by the Archdiocese to not accept donations from Voice Of The Faithful. VOTF has been urging its members to contribute directly to the charities, rather than to the Archdiocese, in order to show displeasure with Law's handling of the Scandal, and to prevent him from raking off some of the funds to settle pervert priest cases. The Archdiocese calls this an interference with the ability of the Cardinal to allocate resources within the Archdiocese.

Both are right, up to a point. If funds are donated to the Archdiocese for general use, a large percentage will end up in the pockets of Jeffrey Newman, Esq., and Mitchell Garabedian, Esq., not to mention the attorneys for the Archdiocese. Given the burden the Scandal has imposed upon the Chruch, this is unavoidable, and not particularly surprising. It is far better for individuals to channel contributions directly to the charities one wishes to help. But that is always the case. The Cardinal is also right that he has the power to allocate the Archdiocese's resources.

What VOTF is saying, is that they don't trust Law to make the allocations. The Holy Father has settled that issue by rejecting Law's proferred resignation. Law is in charge, at least for now. How the Archdiocese spends its money is up to him.

What I suggest is that people who are upset with the Archdiocese (and who with a pulse is not?) and those who don't want to enrich the plaintiffs' lawyers, make their contributions directly to the charities, and not to VOTF, which is amassing quite a budget for a group founded just six months ago. What does a protest group do with a million dollar budget? Buy radio and TV ads? To what end? Popular opinion is meaningless in the governance of the Church. This is not a political campaign. If VOTF wants to know what to do with its surplus, I suggest they send it to Mass Citizens for Life. They need the money much more than VOTF does. And the Cardinal can't make MCFL refuse it.

An interesting dust-up between Jonah Goldberg and Rod Dreher and Mike Potemra in the National Review On-Line's The Corner today on the subjects of the Rowan Williams, labels, iconoclasm, and claret. Too complicated to reconstruct (especially since James Robbins, John Derbyshire, and Andrew Stuttaford also contributed to the melee). You'll have to read it yourself.

New Archbishop of Canterbury
Prime Minister Tony Blair has made it official. Rowan Williams will be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Williams is a leftist from Wales who intensely dislikes the US government and nearly all its works. He is in favor of ordaining women and open, active homosexuals. Of course, one would not have expected Blair to do anything else. Were a liberal US President faced with an overwhelming public outcry against the liberalism of the Supreme Court, he would still appoint liberal justices if he had the chance. The same applies to the British goverment and the appointment of bishops.

For many years, the Church of England has tried to do a balancing act by accomodating liberals on their policy preferences, and paying for conservative ministers to retire from the Church and seek ordination by Rome. The May New Oxford Review had a great article on that topic, sadly unavailable on-line. That experiment is soon scheduled to end. I very much doubt that it will be renewed. No longer will Anglican ministers affronted by the liberalism of the English church be able to become Roman priests at the expense of the Anglican church. This means loss of pensions for converting ministers. Still, the converts will come, though probably more from the laity.

What does Williams' elevation mean for the future of the Anglican communion, and for its relations with Rome, and for Christianity in Britain? Sad to say, the cause of Christianity in Britain will be the loser, at least in the short term. Not that Christianity in the UK is very healthy now anyway. Christianity is described in the British popular press as all but dead there. One suspects that this is somewhat overstated, and that there are, here and there, palimpsests of genuine Christianity still visible. But the relentless leftward drive of church authorities there over decades is disheartening the conservative faithful. It is making what represents itself as Christ's Church in Britain a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Labour Party. And it is killing the faith of leftists as well by secularizing faith and substituting the policy agenda of Labour for the "faith agenda" demanded by the Lord.

Williams will do nothing to stop the slide, and probably will accelerate it. You can predict that he will elevate women to the rank of bishop. He will ordain open active homosexuals. He will push for full recognition of homosexual marriage. Even men "married" to their catamites will be ordained, and probably elevated to bishop status.

Williams can be counted on, also, to push Anglicans towards Europe, and away from the US. Anglicanism is one of the links that bind the US and UK together (here in Salem, the Episcopal Church around the corner flies a Union Jack next to the Stars & Stripes on Sundays). With his pronounced disdain for US policy on terrorism, and just about everything, Williams will be busily engaged cutting that binding tie, whether he realizes that or not.

But Williams will also be pushing the Anglican communion away from genuine reconcilability with Rome. At the same time, one can expect to hear much about ecumenism. What is Rome to make of ecumenism with a group that ordains women? Before this step, there was hope for eventual reconciliation. One can expect that the CofE will now nail its colours to the mast. Once it starts elevating women to bishop status, there is no going back. The institutional structure of the Anglican church will militate against reversing the innovation.

One can predict that, as the CofE moves itself ever more firmly into the role of "spiritual" enabler for socialism and "progress", more and more believing Christians will decamp for Rome. Even if the CofE is no longer paying for its ministers to become Roman priests, the exodus will continue, and will become broader among the laity. Very soon indeed, the CofE will be the emptiest of empty shells, with a full staff of very liberal chiefs, and a very few, aged Indians. The CofE will slide into increasing irrelevance. Rome will benefit in the form of many converts, but so will more "Fundamentalist" protestant heresies, and paganism.

I doubt that Williams will be the last protestant Archbishop of Canterbury (though, if he has his way, his successor may well be a woman). But the end is coming for the CofE within the next 30 years, unless something unforseen happens to revitalize it. Catholics outnumber CofE members in England by a substantial margin already. Williams will be unable to stop that trend, unless he acts in a manner completely contrary to his inclinations (like Tony Blair's role model, Bill Clinton) and somehow brings the whole CofE along with him. But the demise of the CofE will not make England a "Catholic country" again.

The demographic trends will not please the spirit of Queen Mary should she still be looking down on her former realm. The UK will continue to slide away from Christianity altogether. What will be left? A combination of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, paganism, and much, much secular humanism will predominate. Off in the corner, a minority in absolute terms and growing smaller and older, will be Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church will be the largest group among the Christians, but will never have anything like the power and influence it had before the Reformation.

Liberalism has killed protestantism. It has done great damage to Christianity. It has tried to do the same to the Catholic Church. Only the authenticity of the Faith has preserved it so far, though it's state of health is far from good. But the patient is not dead, yet. Let us pray for recovery.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Now We Are Interactive!
I've been desirous of adding an interactive feature to Verus Ratio for a while. I asked someone who has one (Mark Shea) how to go about getting one. He suggested YACCS, which he uses. So, after an easy installation, Verus Ratio has comments. Thanks, Mark (and YACCS).

Feel free to blast away. Comments are public and may be commented upon as I see fit. Warning: I take no prisoners in intellectual arguments. Though a mild-mannered, bespectacled sort in person, I've been leaving a trail of dejected, broken sparring partners since my days as Editor of the Observer of Boston College.

Now we can find out how very few people really are reading my pontifications.

As the crisis over pervert priests and enabling bishops continues, two lay groups have come to the forefront. Whether you will tend towards one or the other group depends upon how you look at the Church and the world in general. If you are conservative, you will gravitate towards Roman Catholic Faithful. If you are a liberal, you will gravitate towards Voice Of The Faithful.

Roman Catholic Faithful is a group of conservative lay Catholics who demand that the Church be the Roman Catholic Church. It was founded before this crisis began in Illinois, but is spreading nationwide. It wants the Church to respond to the crisis by banning homosexuals from the priesthood, and by cracking down hard on dissent. It was a Roman Catholic Faithful member who got into the Saint Sebastian's Angels website, and printed out a large amount of the homoerotic stuff and dissenting chatter on the site, leading to the dismissal of Bishop Reginald Cawcutt and the resignation of Father Cliff Garner in Dallas. RCF is into more power to the Pope and strict adherence to the teachings of the Church.

Voice Of The Faithful, of course, is getting much more press than RCF. It was founded in response to the crisis. Its membership is mostly in the Boston area, since Boston has been hometurf to more of the pervert priests and more of their bureaucratic enablers than any other area. VOTF wants lay people to have a real voice in shaping the policy of the Church, and in picking bishops. It is open to women being ordained as priests, and to an end to priestly celibacy. VOTF is into more power to the laity.

Aside from self-identifying as Catholics, the two groups have very little in common. The solutions each group espouses are more or less non-reconcilable. The VOTF potential member is the middle-aged-going-on-elderly woman who is a Eucharistic minister and wants people to think of her service at Mass as semi-priestly. You know the type. The RCF potential member is the old guy who switches lines during Communion to recieve the Eucharist from the priest, not the lay minister. My money is on the old guy. Because its goals are compatible with Rome, and since Rome is the ultimate authority in the Catholic Church, RCF will eventually prevail, even if it gets less coverage.

VOTF held its convention in Boston this weekend. About 4,200 were in attendence. The press was all over the convention center, almost outnumbering the convention-goers. VOTF passed resolutions and elected officers. They issued a stinging press release. They went to Mass at the Cathedral and some of them received the Eucharist from Cardinal Law himself. It was all sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The VOTF approach is fatally flawed. What they demand is not the way the Roman Catholic Church works. The Church is hieratic, not demotic. Its policies, its message, its essence will not be changed by the will of a majority. VOTF members are fundementally confused about their roles as Americans, and their roles as Catholics. As Americans, they can vote to pick their presidents, school committeemen, and brands of shampoo. As Catholics, their role is to obey and to worship. Catholics don't get to pick their bishops anymore (I know about St. Ambrose, thank you). The majority does not decide if women should be priests or if priests need be celibate. Those are the Pope's calls. In fact, it isn't even within the power of the Holy Father to change some of the things VOTF wants. If VOTF persists in its demands, it will end up as a splinter group, like the MCC.

Allow me to indulge in something that will seem like a digression. I think traditionalist Catholicism is in the same place organizationally as the conservative movement before Goldwater. There are lots of clusters of the orthodox. Because the initial conservative response to Vatican II was similar to the Republican response to the New Deal ("Its illegitimate! A pox on it and all its works!") it has not been effective in organizing itself. Orthodoxy has been outclassed and pushed out of the arena because by not accepting Vatican II, it excluded itself from the debate. Each group clings to its particular goal, whether it is the Latin Mass or what have you. And the various groups love nothing better than to nit-pick each other. New Oxford Review chastizes Peter Kreeft. The Wanderer takes on Latin Mass Magazine. Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment ("Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican") has yet to see its conservative Catholic equivalent.

A personality (some new Bishop Fulton Sheen?) and an agreed agenda are needed. More tolerance for the Latin Mass, a return to sacredness in Church architecture, cleaning up the seminaries and demanding orthodoxy on all matters from those who teach there and attend there, restoring traditional devotions, cleaning up the Novus Ordo Mass to remove the stuff that makes conservatives grind their teeth, more institutional power to Rome, downgrading the authority of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, sounds like a good start to me, as far as an agenda goes. A personality the Lord may supply in due course.

Now liberals predominate in many parish councils, and in the "ministerial" ranks of the laity. Conservatives are not in the game because they don't like the idea of lay ministry. It is like Republicans having a perpetual minority in Congress from 1932-1980 because conservatives did not like the sort of things they would have to promise to get elected to Congress. The conservative movement succeeded to the extent that it has since 1980 because it captured the Republican Party after 1964. What is the equivalent organization that orthodox Catholics can use to change the terms of the debate?

I think RCF could be the organization that supplies the shock troops for orthodox conservatism in the future. If RCF stays true to Church, and does not go off the rails at some point, I hope to see it grow so that it has an active "cell" in every parish in North America. I hope to see those RCF chapter members reach out to take places as Eucharistic ministers and parish council members and lectors. Some will find vocations. They will be turned away from liberal seminaries, and have to shift to conservative ones. But in ten years' time, there will be plenty of priests who began their active involvement in the Church through RCF. From their ranks in 30 years will come bishops. Once the RCF grows in influence in the American Church, it will transform the nature of the Church in the 21st Century. Then, the AmChurch will cease to be a dissident body and become truly the Roman Catholic Church in America.

Thomas Kincade, Artist?
There has been a great deal of discussion at some Catholic blog sites recently over the issue of the value of Thomas Kincade's art. The supercilious arts & croissants crowd dislike Kincade's work because it is not politically charged, and probably envy his success. Some think his stuff is just cheap, factory-generated fluff.

My take is this, Kincade is indeed an artist, and a very successful one. His stuff is "nice", never causing a furrowed brow. He is making a fortune out of his art. If he has helpers do some of the work, that is nothing new. Kneller did the same thing three hundred years ago. Kneller was no less an artist for that. Kincade's work is just too much in demand for one person's output to suffice.

I am a strong believer in the marketplace when it comes to art. If someone is willing to pay for it, it is worth producing. If the art community had to depend on discriminating private patronage for its bread, we would have better art (and probably less of it). Kincade is doing his thing without government subsidies. Large numbers of people are willing to open their wallets for his output. In my mind, that makes him an artist.

His work is comforting, but not to my taste. I like Gainsborough, Reynolds, David, Hogarth, Stubbs, Copley, West, Fragonard, Ramsey, and Zoffany. I'm firmly a man of the '90s- the 1790s, that is (yeah, I've heard the jokes about being one of the finest minds the Fifteenth Century ever produced).

I doubt if people will seriously demand Kincade's stuff two hundred years from now. But they also will not want the dreck being produced today by most "artists". I think the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries will be a forgotten time in the history of Western Art (and architecture). Let us hope that a more constructive period is coming.

Back At 'Ya
Sorry about the dearth of blogging yesterday. Had a terrible week in the market and a fair week of blogging, and needed a day off. Missed the VOTF convention, but it was no big deal, as we will discuss later.

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