Saturday, September 07, 2002
That could well be a standing headline. David Horowtiz's FrontPage Magazine has a fresh horror story to report.
The September New Oxford Review is out. NOR's articles won't be available on line for some months, and the dead-tree edition is hard to find unless you subscribe (which I urge people to do). This month, they carry a spirited defense of Michael Rose (who, I gather needs more defending today, this time from the New York Times). The New Oxford Note on the Capuchin monk who has decided to "come out," is splendid. There is also a fun guest column called Excerpts From the Dictionary of Diversity, by Brent Zeringue that is quite a hoot. Christopher Beiting has an interesting piece on the siren call of Byzantine Rite Catholicism. And the editors had fun with the controversy over Indian nick-names for sports teams. For subscription information, click here.
Tim Hames, writing in The Times of London puts the case for pre-emption of Iraq. Thanks to Iain Murray's excellent Edge of England's Sword blog for the link.
Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit.com has a nice essay on the cluelessness of the press.
Read this article from Fox News.
Today looks destined to be a very light blogging day. I got a very late start this morning, only finished breakfast an hour ago, and am reading the September New Oxford Review (about which I may have more later). I am still working on that project I was supposed to be substantially done with last weekend.
Friday, September 06, 2002
Matt Drudge has an exclusive on a profoundly anti-patriotic rant from Norman Mailer.
If you have questions about the direct links between Iraq and al Qaeda (and this is important in determing whether engaging Iraq is legitimate under Just War theory) read Larry Kudlow's article in today's edition of National Review On Line.
At sunset tonight, the religious new year begins for our Jewish friends. May God's blessings be upon them and their families during the coming year. And may peace prevail for Israel.
"In Thy goodness, O Lord, deal kindly with Zion, that Thou mayest rebuild the walls of Jerusalem."
Christian Books publishes this list. Many of the organizations may have a protestant color. But protestant home schoolers and Catholic ones certainly have some common concerns. At the worst, check out a meeting of a group near you and see if it is for you.
Anne Carroll, also writing for EWTN, had some valuable insights for the teaching of history from a Catholic perspective.
Steven Wood, writing for EWTN, has these recommendations for fathers who are preparing to homeschool their children.
This is a link Amy Welborn unearthed. Who says the Catholics are obstructionist and have made no contributions to science?
I particularly loved this quote concerning Louis Pasteur, which I haven't seen in nearly 20 years.
He declared "The more I know, the more nearly is my faith that of the Breton peasant. Could I but know all I would have the faith of a Breton peasant woman." What he could not above all understand is the failure of scientists to recognize the demonstration of the existence of the Creator that there is in the world around us. He died with his rosary in his hand, after listening to the life of St. Vincent de Paul which he had asked to have read to him, because he thought that his work like that of St. Vincent would do much to save suffering children.
Parents, this site is a gold mine and could provide many useful lessons on the history of science, and could suggest many hands-on scientific projects.
CNN reports more details about what Pope John Paul II said to the Brazilian bishops about ordaining homosexuals.
The pope, who has said before he felt personally wounded by the child sex scandals, told the Brazilians he felt "a duty" to remind all bishops they had to use "all means" at their disposal to keep unqualified men out of the priesthood.
Candidates, he said, had to be screened "above all from the standpoint of morals and affections."
He said those who should never be allowed to make it to ordination included "young, immature men or those with obvious signs of deviations in their affections
You go, Il Papa!!
Today's Boston Globe carries a right-on op-ed from John Mallon regarding VOTF's claim to be the voice of the Church.
Taking the position that Boston University has no business discussing sexuality for very young students (8th graders) enrolled at an academy run by Boston University, Chancellor and Acting BU President Silber has ordered the academy to shut down a support group for gay and lesbian students. Gay and lesbian groups are already protesting the decision. Would that every American educator was as clear-sighted, and as dedicated to academic excellence as John Silber is.
Next week's re-enactment fo the Battle of Antietam is drawing corporate sponsoprship in an unprecedented manner. I always marvel at and envy the numbers of re-enactors Civil War events draw. As a veteran of a great many American Revolution and Napoleonic battles, I've never seen more than 1,500 men on the field (both sides included). But some Civil War battles draw 12,000 re-enactors. There are even 3-4 novels out in the last few years featuring the Civil War re-enacting experience. Now those numbers are translating into corporate dollars to use for battlefield preservation. Given what has happened to most American Revolution battlefields, I think it is wonderful that Civil War enthusiasts are working to preserve this country's historic battlefields.
A new poll has been released by the University of Massachusetts in the race for the Democrat nomination for Governor of Massachusetts. Treasurer Shannon O'Brien is maintaining her lead. Former state senator Warren Tolman has pulled into a virtual tie with former US Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich. State Senate President Thomas Birmingham remains in last place. Birmingham is pinning his hopes on low voter turnout and his support from organized labor. Whoever wins has to face Republican Mitt Romney in November.
The Boston Globe has endorsed Rep. John Slattery, The Peabody Democrat, who was elected as a pro-death penalty candidate and switched his vote his first year in office and defeated the death penalty (it was killed by the margin of his vote) after being knuckled by the Democrat leadership, for the Democrat nomination for Lieutenant Governor. It endorsed Kerry Murphy Healy for the Republican nomination for that office, which should guarantee that no sane Republican will vote for her (since no Republican would ever willingly follow the prescriptions of the Boston Globe.
The Boston Herald has endorsed Reich for the Democrat gubernatorial nomination.
In other Massachusetts political news, gadfly Republican Jack E. Robinson, the only Republican candidate for Secretary of State, is urging voters to write in his name as the Republican candidate for United States Senate. There is no Republican challenging Senator John Forbes Heinz Kerry. US Senate, Secretary of State, 15% of the vote gets the same result no matter what the office.
Peggy Nonan's reflections on September 11th are quite moving. Read them here.
In speaking to a group of Brazilian bishops, the Holy Father made it clear that men with obvious signs of deviation ought not to be ordained as priests. He also re-affirmed the requirement of priestly celibacy, according to this AP wire story picked up by the Boston Globe.
The pope told visiting Brazilian bishops it would be regrettable if ''immature young men, or those with obvious signs of deviations, were ordained, which, as it is sadly known, can cause serious anomalies in the consciences of the faithful, producing clear damage to the whole Church.''
What most orthodox Catholics would like to see is a written directive along the same lines, made explicitly applicable to both the ordination of diocesan priests, and to the ordination of priests for the orders. There was such a directive in 1961, but its continued validity has been called into question, as has its applicability to diocesan priests. Let us hope that the Holy Father's office is working on such a document for release soon.
Manchester NH Bishop John McCormack, who is under fire for covering up homosexual abuse charges against several Boston-area priests when he was an official of the Archdiocese of Boston, and for his handling of abusive priests in his own diocese, has been removed from the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, which formulates policy on sex abuse. He was removed as the committee's chairman earlier this year. The committee has been expanded from 8 to 15 members. Bishop James Quinn, a Cleveland auxiliary bishop who had suggested to bishops that they send all documents on sex abuse to the Vatican's diplomatic office in the US in order to keep them out of the reach of prosecutors and plaintiffs' lawyers, was also removed from the committee.
Sounds like a good move to me, though the phrase, "It's about time," certainly applies.
Thursday, September 05, 2002
Father John Hardon, S.J. penned this essay on Catholic home schooling for EWTN. It is heartening.
Catholic home schooling is the planned and organized teaching and training
of children at home, for their peaceful and effective life in this world,
and for their eternal salvation in the world to come.
That is the most concise description I have seen. And yes, it is obviously modelled on the Baltimore Cathechism's famous first response.
This concern has been providing home schooling materials to parents since 1977. You can reach them here.
I'll start today's Catholic home schooling content by re-posting the link for the Fordham Foundation's excellent September 11th: What Our Children Need To Know. This site contains essays equipping teachers, and home schooling parents, with the material they need to address questions that are bound to come up. There is also a nice set of links.
Fellow Salemite and cigar lover Domenico Bettinelli has taken a peak at Voice of the Faithful's new website. His conclusion: new look for the website plus a veneer of platitudes designed to mollify orthodox Catholics, but still the same misguided dissent under the surface.
There is quite a debate going on at Mark Shea's Catholic and Enjoying It! on whether the attack on Iraq will be covered by the Just War theory. This was my contribution to the discussion.
It seems to me as if everyone has missed one very important point, perhaps because it is somewhat legalistic. I have seen many descriptions about what we are about to do to Iraq as a pre-emptive war. The British bishops (both RC & CofE) have fallen into this mode.
US leaders haven't made an important distinction. They fall into loose talk of Iraq as a "new war". On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by an international pirate gang which enjoys the support (financial, military, intelligence, and diplomatic) of various states. We first dealt with the goverment most responsible for harboring al Qaeda, the Taliban. It has been reduced to a fugitive band in the hills along the Pakistan border. The government of the Philippines next asked for help in getting rid of the Abu Sayyaf local branch of al Qaeda. The Philippine army has been routing them with lots of help from the US.
Now it is time to move on to the next campaign in the war. Iraq's is the most vulnerable of the governments that aid Islamo-fascist terrorism. Changing the government of Iraq may save us the necessity of dealing with Iran later. In WWII, we invaded Italy first because it was more vulnerable, and because it might bring Germany's Balkan allies to the table.
Unless one is prepared to say that the war in Afghanistan violated just war theory, there's no room to argue that the Iraqi campaign violates it. Or the next campaign after Iraq. We are signed on for a war against al Qaeda, its allies and supporters. It is all of a piece, and there is still much to do.
You have to be mighty concise in a comments box.
Envelopes with some white powder arrived today at the police departments of Ispwich and Swampscott, bringing the total to 13 police departments in contiguous cities and towns on the North Shore to recieve the envelopes with the message "Black September." As I said earlier, it is probably just a crank, but it is disquieting, since this is the 30th anniversary of the murder of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics by the Black September Palestinian terrorist group. Plus the looming anniversary of September 11th has everyone a little on edge.
Senator Bob Smith has become so desperate that his campaign is broadcasting commercials featuring his daughter. When an incumbent senator is down to endorsements from family members, there isn't much hope. Best to just put his campaign out of its misery quickly, and donate the left-over money, if there is any, to the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, if that is allowed by law.
President Bush has formally proclaimed September 11th Patriot Day, and has asked all Americans to mark the day in an appropriate manner. Let us hope this date never becomes a national holiday moved to the closest Monday to people can have a long weekend. The details are here.
Pat Buchanan is coming out with a magazine to amplify his peculiar isolationist and anti-capitalist views. He has long-since left conservatism behind to venture into wholly unexplored territory. Maybe it was just a niche available to him. Maybe he just read too much Westbrook Pegler in the 1950s, and not enough Whitaker Chambers.
FrontPage Magazine has this story on the absurd idea of having a Palestinian apologist deliver an address at the school on September 11, 2002.
Shortly after the car bomb in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Kharzei left a location in Khandahar by car. Someone opened fire. The US troops that serve as his body guard returned fire, and killed the assailant and others believed to be involved. Another official in the car with Kharzei was injured.
The continuing instability of Afghanistan is a troubling aspect of the war. It is clear that pluralism has many opponents in that country. They are not sheathing their swords yet. Neither must we.
It is also clear that the moment the US withdraws protection from President Kharzei, he is a dead man.
Dave Shiflett in National Review On Line provides an interesting theory on further terrorist attacks on the US. If his source is correct, what we really have to fear is a really spectacular act of terrorism, not an al Qaeda operative levelling the local McDonald's with a car bomb.
Israeli security forces intercepted a van packed with 1,300 pounds of explosives and two barrels of fuel and metal fragments, after it failed to stop at a security check point. While we are thankful that the forces of order, reason, and civilization won this round, we can only wonder what other rude beasts slouch towards Jerusalem or Tel Aviv to die, and to kill. The coming Jewish New Year (which begins tomorrow at sunset) is thought to be an attractive time for the barbarians to attack. May the barbarians, in the words of the psalmist, fall into the pits they have dug.
Various sources, including Father Rob Johansen, are saying that Michael Rose has engaged counsel and is considering a defamation claim against Johansen for his criticism of Goodbye, Good Men. True, Father Johansen has been an obnoxious critic, not merely offering criticism, but actively trying to influence other sources to condemn Rose's methodology, and ultimately his conclusions. But sicking the lawyers on him is unproductive.
Michael, G,GM is one of the most important Catholic books published in more than a decade. It is justifiably a near-best seller. You have done well to expose a situation in the seminaries that cries out for redress, a situation most lay Catholics were either ignorant of or only dimly aware of. You have had your say on the subject. There is a time to say, "I have written what I have written." We are there. Others are having their say, and some few don't agree with you. That's the way intellectual discourse proceeds, with rare exceptions (William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal springs to mind). Now, it is time to move on to another project. May I suggest obnoxious liturgical practices. There is much fertile ground for research there, and the subject matter would dovetail nicely with your two previous books. Don't fritter away talent in pointless disputes with a few who will not be convinced. You now have a broad audience willing to listen to what you have to say. This is an enormous opportunity for you. Don't blow it in petty disputes.
The saintly Mother Theresa, angel of the poorest of the poor, and true daughter of the Church, died five years ago today. Her beatification and canonization are being actively pursued. It is widely known that Pope John Paul II would dearly love to be the Pope who canonizes her, but is letting the process take its normal course. EWTN has a nice tribute here. But there are many tributes to her on line. This tribute features some of her pro-life remarks. The best tribute, though, is taking out the credit card, and sending the Missionaries of Charity a donation. The Missionaries of Charity site not only has wonderful tributes of its own, but information on making donations.
The Palestinian terrorist group Black September launched their vicious attack on the Israeli Olympic delegation at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Eleven Israeli athletes and a German police officer were murdered by these prototypes for present-day Islamo-fascist barbarism.
There is going to be a blog burst on this subject. I would urge other bloggers to consider participating in it, as the civilized world cannot do enough, in my view, to condemn this sort of assault on civilzed life. Watch Yourish.com and InstaPundit for further details.
The nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to a vacant seat on the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals will very likely be defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a straight party-line vote. With that, her nomination will not be brought to the full Senate for consideration. Even the liberal American Bar Association rated Justice Owen "well-qualified" for the appointment.
A new poll on the Smith-Sununu contest in New Hamphire's Republican primary for US Senate shows Sununu with a significant lead. The poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Research Center for WMUR-TV, gives Sununu a 56%-34% lead among likely Republican primary voters. A poll published the other day showed Sununu leading only 46%-45%. Sources indicate that unpublished polls also show Sununu with a wide lead. The primary is September 10th. The winner must face popular Democrat Governor Jean Shaheen in November.
At least 30 have been killed by a car bomb that exploded at a market near the Afghan Ministry of Information. Some of the dead are Afghan police. This is the worst violence in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban.
It only took a lop-sided vote in the House on the subject to bring them to reality.
The white powder mailed to nearly a dozen Essex County police departments yesterday was, indeed, not anthrax or anything toxic. The words "Black September" were included on paper in all of the envelopes. The police departments targeted were Salem, Peabody, Danvers, Lynn, Lynnfield, Topsfield, Hamilton, Middleton, Saugus, Marblehead, and Wenham. These cities and towns are contiguous.
The possibilities are limited to a grudge or a diversion. If a diversion was intended, the question is what was supposed to be done while the police departments on the North Shore theoretically had their heads down. There are no military bases here, or much of anything else of strategic significance.
If a grudge, the questions are why would someone pull such a stupid and ineffective stunt, and which department it was really directed against. My vote is for an ill-conceived grudge. If the sender should be caught, they are looking at serious prison time.
If you were waiting for a ringing endorsement of the coming war effort in Iraq from England's CofE and RC bishops, don't hold your breath. In fact, they have combined to condemn the possible war with Iraq. Only Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali believed the Iraqi effort was justified. One benighted Catholic bishop found the attack "wicked and foolhardy."
What the bishops miss is the fact that the effort against Iraq will not be a separate war. It is only the second (third if you count the Philippines, fourth if you count the domestic front) campaign of an extended war on Islamo-fascist terrorism. The justification is the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The goal is to wipe out the al Qaeda network, its allies and supporters worldwide. The war will not be over until that goal is substantially accomplished. This means Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Lebanon, the Sudan, and Indonesia all will need cleaning out to one extent or another. What some are misguidedly characterizing as a pre-emptive strike on Iraq is in fact just the next phase of the US response to the attack on our country. Targets are being selected with an eye on the possible impact on other targets.
The Iraqi regime, already deeply unpopular and more or less an international pariah, has been selected as the next target, because the case against it is strong, it is not a good neighbor in the world community, it poses a direct threat to us and to others (Israel, Kuwait) with its WMD program, and it is an ally of al Qaeda, giving aid and comfort to terrorists. It has also been selected because of the effect a change in regime in Iraq might have on Iran. Perhaps the presence of a more-or-less democratic open society in Iraq will spur the Iranians to overthrow the government of the mullahs, thus saving us the trouble of dealing with that regime ourselves. Such a change might also have long-term beneficial effects on the government of Saudi Arabia.
So unless the bishops are willing to say that decisive armed response against those who attacked us and their allies is not morally justified, they are mistaken in their opposition.
According to the World Tribune, the US has quietly positioned up to 100,000 personnel around the Persian Gulf in order to lay the groundwork for a larger more noticeable build-up when President Bush gives the word to begin the attack on Iraq. Lack of cooperation from Saudi Arabia ia hampering the operation, but unacknowledged help from Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey, and smaller Gulf States like Qatar is making up for that disadvantage to some extent.
It looks more and more as if war with Iraq is coming. The question is, why is President Bush waiting until after the election, when taking the Senate is vital to his ability to get anything done, and a war would push patriotic and national security concerns (issues Republicans rule) to the front of the debate. Even seemingly solid Democrat senate seats might then come into play.
The attorneys for other abuse victims are looking anxiously at the proposed settlement of the John Geoghan cases as it might serve as a model for settlement of their own. Some cases are yet to be filed, as the attorneys are waiting to see how much they will be worth, and whether a framework for settling them will be set up in the Geoghan case. The Boston Globe has the details here.
Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Rod Dreher has been collecting photos of ugly churches. He has been posting them in The Corner at National Review On Line. Check them out here, and scroll down for Rod's posts from 12:41 pm on.
Breaking news story going on while I was writing the last post. Eleven police departments here in Essex County have received envelopes containing white powder in the mail. Most likely, the powder is a hoax. But the level of police activity is up noticeably. I wondered why a helicopter, which we rarely hear here, seemed to be going by every fifteen minutes or so this afternoon.
At first glance, the case for Catholic home schooling seems to be less strong than that for protestant parents. The Catholic Church has reconciled itself to most aspects of modern science. The fact that evolution is taught in science class is not a major concern for Catholics, because ours is not a strictly literal interpretation of Scripture. Unlike our protestant friends, we have a school system of our own providing a better educational product than the public schools, and at less cost. But after one surveys the education products available, the conclusion must be reached that home schooling is not just viable, but necessary for some Catholic families.
Let us start with the relative decline of the parochial schools. This is an issue I recognize with reluctance, as I am a product of one, and my wife teaches in one. Nevertheless, the parochial schools, at least in the areas I am familiar with, are not what they were 30 years ago. The decline is due to several factors working in combination.
Most noticeable is the decline in the teaching orders, and the laicization of the parochial school teacher. The numbers of women in orders has declined precipitously since I was in school. Then, there were still 3-4 nuns per school. Now, there are many parochial schools where the entire faculty and administration (which in a parochial school consists of a principal and a secretary, with maybe a school nurse) is made up of lay people. If there is a nun on the staff, she is probably the principal. Moreover, the orders that are in the schools are among the most liberal in the Church (the School Sisters of Notre Dame spring to mind).
Now lay teachers are wonderfully dedicated folks, working at a relative loss in the parochial schools. Many of them are very good teachers. But they bring with them the same fallacious theories of education and attitudes that public school teachers have. Some have been wise enough to let the nonsense go in one ear, and out the other. But many have come to think of things like outcome-based education, bi-lingualism, multiculturalism, the whole language method, and self-esteem generation masquerading as education as natural and correct. Specific liberal attitudes absorbed in college are very common among parochial school teachers. Democrat registration is probably just marginally less than in the public schools.
Unlike nuns, most lay teachers are not outside the culture. Some, again, manage to rise above that. But for most of the younger teachers, TV shows like Friends are a good representation of reality. Their sense of morality is compromised by inculturation. With the post-modern culture comes relativistic morality. Very few people are detached enough from an immoral culture to be truly good exemplars for students. Thank heavens so many are in the parochial schools. But I do not think they make up a majority of parochial school teachers. I also think their numbers are bound to decline.
So, with increased employment of professional laity in the teaching role, multiculturalism, whole language, and other unsound accepted verities of the teaching profession have entered the parochial schools. The last issue of Today's Catholic Teacher my wife brought home had a cover story on teaching compassion for animals and the environment (not in and of itself bad, but given much more emphasis than it warrants, especially a few weeks before the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on our country). Just yesterday, Greg Popcak related a very annoying story about an 8th grade parochial school science class being directed to get in touch with Native American animal spirit guides by chanting and burning incense.
Going hand-in-hand with the increased role of the laity in parochial schools is a decline in genuine efforts to teach the Faith. Parochial (and CCD) religious instruction materials are watered down to the point where they convey only the message that Jesus was nice, and that good boys and girls should be nice like Jesus. References to the harsher realities of the Faith, like sin, Hell, and Satan, have been de-emphasized or omitted. The excellent instruction method of the Baltimore Catechism has long been abandonded for touchy-feely texts that do little to inculcate a knowledge of the Faith. The emphasis has been taken off knowing how the Church works and how the conscience should be governed to just doing nice things.
Also discipline is not what it was, even in the relatively lax period I was educated in. By the time I was in school, corporal punishment had disappeared. But students often got a good wigging for any transgressions. They were kept after school. Parents were called. Uniform codes were rigidly enforced. Silence in class was the expected, and vitally important norm. Students were expected to comport themselves like young ladies and gentlmen. Now, uniform codes are in the sights of "progressive" teachers and administrators. No one is kept after school, because that would be "unfair to the parents." Teachers who give students the reaming they richly deserve are dismissed for being "angry." The noise level in many classrooms, during lessons, is remarkable. The teachers who are inclined to do anything about this are treated as pariahs by their collegues and by the administration.
Not surprisingly, academic achievement has declined as well. Just a few years ago, parochial schools had a decisive advantage over their public counterparts in various objective measures of achievment. But the public schools in many places have been narrowing the gap. Charter schools, Latin schools, required passage of certain standardized tests, tougher standards for teacher certification, and in some places even dress codes and uniforms are slowly having an effect in improving the end product of public education. Meanwhile, the parochial schools are trending the other way, against dress codes and uniforms, and against traditional methods of instruction. The result is that the once-decisive advantage of the parochial schools is being eroded.
This is a brief, and by no means exhaustive statement, of the case against utilizing the parochial schools. I am not saying that the parochial schools are now just as bad as the public schools. But things are trending that way. I suspect that the trends will continue. Things may not be quite this bad in all respects where you are. But the fact that it is this bad in some places is a powerful incentive for parents to seek an alternative. For many, that alternative is home schooling. Tomorrow, I will make the case for home schooling.
This is a great source for home schooling Catholic parents. It includes links to support groups in many states.
Here is another collection of links that may be of aid to home schooling Catholic parents, or those considering the home schooling option.
Over the Labor Day weekend, various agents were able to smuggle knives, pepper spray, etc. onto 14 flights in 11 airports. Logan was among the airports where they were able to accomplish this. Logan has the same security people it had on September 11th. The company responsible for security at that time, Argenbright, was eventually dismissed, but its successor promptly hired its workers. Now the Transportation Security Service has taken over, and merely federalized the existing workers.
If we want genuine security at our airports, every piece of luggage will have to be searched, and sniffed. Every worker who ever gets near a plane is going to have to submit to a full search every time they come on duty. The current screeners need to be replaced by guys with special forces training: fellows with short haircuts, carrying submachine guns, and blessed with no patience for fools (who also speak English and are proven loyal Americans). And they cost money. It is the kind of security Israel has to provide for its airports. I would be willing to pay for that level of security. An extra hundred dollars per flight would be worth it to shut off this avenue for terrorists.
According to this article in the Jerusalem Post, the FBI now considers the July 4th shooting at the Los Angeles El Al counter a terrorist incident. If they proceed at the same rate, they might also come to notice that James "Whitey" Bulger has absconded for parts unknown. Maybe by 2011 they'll even get the goods on that Anthrax Killer.
I heard a story on WBZ News Radio this morning. I only heard part of the story, but it seems that the relics of various saints are for sale on eBay. I know I don't need to tell this audience that this is simony, a very serious abuse that the Church has been trying to stamp out for a long time. The idea of bones of some saints being put up for sale to the highest bidder fills the mind with disgust and sorrow.
I love our free market system, and rejoice in the commercial convenience of the internet. But this is just going too far. Representatives of eBay basically said they will do nothing about this practice, since "just about eveything for sale on eBay would offend someone."
Am I wrong, or is this the same spirit that allowed Sam Adams' chairman James Koch to cheer on various couples having sex in public places (including Saint Patrick's Cathedral)? Not only is there no sharp sense of morality in corporate executives who might allow relics of saints to be sold publically, or who sponsor contests for the most imaginative locations for public sex, they are not even sensitive enough to understand that a substantial number of consumers might very well be deeply offended by the practice. Capitalism, I repeat is fine. It is not the issue here. The issue is the lack of moral foundation in the people practicing it. Michael Novak had much to say on this topic in his excellent book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.
Update: Though the story got some publicity today, the campaign to stop eBay and other similar sites from auctioning off saints' relics is an on-going one. Here is a story from the Osgood File with contact information.
Cal Thomas penned this nice take-down of Archbishop Rowan Williams for the Washington Times. But I get the feeling that Rowan Williams is rather like what someone said of Eleanor Roosevelt: when following her around waiting for a ripe burst of illogic, one never had long to wait. Rowan Williams' expressed thought is a "target-rich environment" in that regard.
Is everyone absolutely sure that Rowan Atkinson hasn't just changed his last name and donned white beard and isn't having us all on?
I'll let you read this and make up your own minds.
A reader of Mark Shea's Catholic and Enjoying It! has raised a troubling point about one of the carvings on a door at the new Los Angeles cathedral. It depicts the Aztec god Quetzlcoatl, to which tens of thousands of humans were sacrificed by having their hearts ripped out. It was to supplant the cult of this savage diety that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Saint Juan Diego.
Mark is correct in saying that context is important. If the purpose is clearly to show the triumph of Christianity over the forces of paganism, then that is perfectly acceptable. The demons of a previous age became the gargoyles of medieval cathedrals. But given what we know about Cardinal Mahony and his administration, and about modern church design, and about what passes for culture in Los Angeles, does anyone really think that this didactic purpose is behind the carving's presence (even if it becomes the spin of Mahony's machine).
Much more likely, this is an attempt at political correctness. Admittedly, my thoughts run so far the other way that I have trouble getting inside the head of anyone who would, even for a second, think that Quezlcoatl could belong in a Catholic church. It would be a typical gesture of "inclusivity" from ecclesiatical liberals, would it not, to depict as if it were merely the image of a saint, the ancient deity of an ethnic group heavily represented among the parishioners of the Cathedral? Church liberals have been bending over for the Hispanic community for a long time. This would be utterly typical. Quetzlcoatl, I am informed, has become a quasi-national symbol for some people of Mexican ancestry. That makes the "gesture" all the more significant (and makes it all the more likely that a gesture of inclusivity was the intent). The same artist who did the cathedral's carving did one of the same subject for a community with a large Mexican population some years ago.
Despite what Cardinal Mahony's people will claim, that depicting Quezlcoatl in the cathedral is a way of Christianizing the popular figure, such a deity cannot be a proper object for inclusion in a place of Catholic worship. I am sure Cardinal Mahony would not endorse human sacrifice. But in including Quezlcoatl in the artistic scheme of the cathedral, he is, in fact, doing just that. What a nod to the culture of death this is! Why not just put Margaret Sanger on another door? We cannot Christianize Quezlcoatl. We can only provide an alternative-Our Lady of Guadelupe and Saint Juan Diego are the obvious choice.
Watch the images of the carving that will become available shortly. I will link to them when I can. Make your own decision as to whether the context is a proper one. And don't be taken in by the inevitable spin from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Father Richard Lavigne, the Springfield Diocese priest convicted of several counts of sex abuse in 1992 (but not defrocked) was ordered to take a lie detector test 30 years ago in the case of a former altar boy of his who turned up murdered and tossed into a river. Lavigne passed the test. The murder remains unsolved. But the diocese's ordering of the lie detector test is interesting. The diocese claims that it was unaware of Lavigne's proclivities until the 1980s. But they knew something about him in 1972 sufficient to order a polygraph in the murder case. Something here does not smell quite right.
Radio giant Paul Harvey was born September 4th, 1918. Paul's down-home mid-western wisdom and insight are a daily delight for the national radio audience. I even miss the crucial first monologue of Rush's show to hear Paul's noonish report. And now you know...the rest of the story. Hey Paul, good day!
Tuesday, September 03, 2002
Perhaps the talk of bankruptcy worked. Reports are circulating that the Archdiocese of Boston has reached a tentative settlement with the 86 victims of pervert priest John Geoghan. The price tag is reported to be $10 million, substantially less than the original $15-$30 million settlement that the Archdiocese would have agreed to but for the intervention of the Finance Council.
Though there is sympathy for the victims, I have never really favored throwing lots of money at them, making them winners in the pervert priest lottery. While I want to see the enablers of the perverts punished, hampering the operations of the Archdiocese in order to do that is not a viable option. Let's be honest, the Archdiocese will close 5 schools before they put any kind of dent in the Cardinal's dining expenses. I'd rather keep the schools open, and accept that the Cardinal can have Lobster Thermidor for breakfast 7 days a week if he wishes. So a lower settlement is good news.
Now, if the insurance carriers can be made to pick up this tab, and the agreement is finalized, things will begin to look up for the beleaguered Archdiocese. But the enablers of the perverts must still be rooted out of whatever positions they occupy in the Archdiocesan administration, and the seminary given a very thorough cleaning out.
An 89 year-old woman from Peabody (that's the town I grew up in, and is Salem's neighbor on the west) has contracted West Nile Virus from a mosquito bite. This is the first recorded human infection in Massachusetts this year.
National Review On Line has posted an archive of its September 11th commentary. Included is Paul Johnson's excellent historical perspective on the clash with Islam.
My only quibble with the archive is the lack of the original date of publication of the articles. They were not all published September 12th. Historians like to know these things.
The race between Rep. John Sununu and Sen. Bob Smith for the Republican nomination for Smith's US Senate seat is too close to call according to the latest poll by the Concord Monitor. Sununu is ahead 46-45%. Sununu has been endorsed by the Manchester Union Leader, and National Review (and Verus Ratio). Sununu fares better in head-to-head polls against popular Democrat Governor Jean Shaheen. Nine percent remain undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 4%.
The communist government of China has begun blocking Chinese users from accessing the search engine Google. This is part of the communists' effort to crack down on free speech and the free flow of information. Google refused to block access to information deemed subversive by the Chinese government.
The validity of the plaintiff's case against Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, the judicial vicar of the Archdiocese, crumbled over the last two weeks. The plaintiff withdrew the action today. It was accordingly dismissed with prejudice. The Boston Globe has the details.
But David Horowitz has a blog. David's new crusade is to promote fairness and even-handedness in higher education. Given that 80%-90% of college faculties are liberal, this is going to be a tougher fight than stopping reparations.
Greg Popcak in Heart, Mind & Strength discusses an 8th grade science teacher in a Catholic school having the students burn incense and chant to get in touch with "Native American animal spirit guides." In Science class? In a Catholic school?
I bet the chant wasn't even Gregorian.
I'm working on Cardinal Ratzinger's The Spirit of the Liturgy. I have found the first 50 pages a bit of a slog, due to my own lack of philosophy and theology. I am hoping that the content becomes more prescriptive and less philosophical in the remainder of the work.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is tentatively moving towards steering Britain into a place alongside the US in an attack on Iraq. Today's declaration that the Bush Administration is correct in assessing the threat of an Iraq with deployable weapons of mass destruction comes days after the Tories pledged support to the government on a war with Iraq. Blair's troubles, aside from natural slickness in his own nature, have been the result of pacifist and pro-Moslem elements in his own party. The support of the Conservative Party on this issue gives Blair some room for maneuver. With 169 Tory votes on the issue in his pocket, Blair has a little freedom to act. Whether he really will use it to commit substantial British forces to the attack remains to be seen.
Andrew Cuomo, former functionary in the Clinton Administration, and son of uber-liberal Mario Cuomo, will drop out of the race for the Democrat nomination to challenge Governor George Pataki. The nomination, therefore, will go to Comptroller Carl McCall, who has been consistently ahead of Cuomo in the polls. Pataki still looks good.
Jack Taylor, writing in the December 2001 New Oxford Review expresses some of the reasons for home schooling, and some of the concerns home schooling parents encounter.
Leon J. Suprenant, Jr. addressed that matter in the May, 2001 issue of the New Oxford Review.
"Home-schooling parents, on the other hand, are very concerned about the sex education, poor doctrinal formation, and lax moral discipline that has gone on in some Catholic schools, as well as any other particular concerns that reflect poorly on the local Church. Given these generalized yet grave concerns, some home-schooling parents are leery of letting the local Church exercise any role in the formation of their children beyond the mere dispensation of sacraments, regardless of whether the concern is justified in a particular case. "
This, coupled with pastors attempting to centralize all catechesis in the hands of their religious education program, is the crux of the problem. In many cases, Catholic home schooling parents have an easier time overcoming the administrative roadblocks thrown up by the secular education authorities than dealing with the local parish. Many liberal pastors absolutely do not want to see 15 year-olds who know more about the Faith than their CCD teachers. They prefer the children to be as weak in knowledge and practice of the Faith as they themselves are (they call it being"open-minded" and not rigid).
I recommend changing parishes if home schooling parents run into pastors who want to dumb-down the potential of home-schooled children. I know that is easy for me to say, with hundreds of Catholic parishes within an hour's drive, and not so easy for families in less concentrated, and less Catholic areas of the country. But there are also many Catholic pastors who are supportive of home schooling parents. Give your own a try. If he proves recalcitrant, shop around.
Ellen Fanizzi discusses the secularization of the nation's Catholic and parochial schools in an article extracted from the archives of the New Oxford Review. This is exactly what home schooling parents are fleeing. I see the same process at work in the school where my wife teaches. "Whole language" just got its nose, shoulders, and a hump into the tent on the grounds that it is cheaper to not buy separate spelling, phonics, and grammar books.
George Neumayr, writing in the American Prowler, has nothing good to say about Cardinal Mahony, or Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral. It looks to me like the worst sort of New Age architecture and interior design masquerading as a Catholic church. I can't say that I have liked much that has been built as Catholic churches for the last 30 years. But the Taj Mahony is perhaps the worst I have seen. I see that other bloggers have been having a field day with it. But Mahony is laughing all the way to...wherever, and utterly thumbing his nose at responsible critics, because he can. Thanks to Mark Shea for the link.
In the reformed calendar of feasts, today is the feast of Pope Gregory the Great. His traditional feast day is March 12. Born in 540, Gregory had been Prefect of Rome, retired to the monastery of St. Andrew in Rome, became secretary to Pope Pelagius II, and was selected to succeed him in 590.
In the 14 years of his papacy, Gregory developed the liturgy in recognizable form, encouraged the growth of the Benedictine order, tried to enforce ecclesiastical discipline, fought heresy, reached out to pagan England via St. Augustine of Canterbury, increased the secular power of the papacy, and attempted to keep the Eastern Church in line. He died in 604.
The similarity of John Paul's efforts to those of Gregory the Great is more than accidental. Both faced a tremendously confused and demoralizing situation at the outset of their papacies. Neither fully triumphed over the forces that threaten the church. But both laid the framework for orthodoxy to triumph.
Italian immigrant film-maker Frank Capra died on September 3, 1991. He would deserve the gratitude of the American film-goer if he had only produced It's A Wonderful Life. But he also gave us the splendid Arsenic and Old Lace, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, Why We Fight, and It Happened One Night. In doing so, he not only made us feel good about ourselves, but helped define who we are as a nation.
National Review On Line's John Miller identifies the 12 hottest US Senate races for this fall. The most vulnerable seats currently held by the Democrats are New Jersey, Minnesota, Missouri, and South Dakota. Any or all of these could swing Republican. All four races feature Democrat incumbents. The Republican seats at genuine risk seem to be in Texas (thanks a lot, Phil), New Hampshire, and Oregon. In Texas and Oregon, the Republican candidates currently enjoy narrow leads. We will have no clear idea about New Hampshire until September 10th, because of the late primary in the Granite State.
To recapture the Senate, with the economy still weak, opposition to the war beginning, and the historic trend of the party holding the White House losing seats in mid-terms will take a major bit of luck and grace. Republicans have not had much luck lately. I think the Senate stays Democrat in January (more's the pity). Even if the Republicans do take it back, it will be by a 1-2 vote margin, not enough to offset the influence of liberal Republicans like McCain, Collins, Snow, and Almond who tend to vote with the Democrats a distressing amount of the time. But if the Republicans take back the Senate, even by a small margin, maybe a Breaux or a Miller might take the opportunity to switch parties, giving the GOP a more solid grip. The tenor of the races should be much clearer by Columbus Day.
No, that is not directed to pervert priests, but is National Review On Liner John Derbyshire's take on how we should best commemorate September 11th. Makes sense to me.
According to USA Today, McDonald's is about to cut the amount of trans-fatty acids in its french fries. This will almost certainly make the fries less tasty. I was amused by USA Today's assertion that consumers are "clamouring" for healthier fast food. Really? I eat more than my share of pizza, burgers, fries, and the Colonel's chicken strips. I don't think I've ever clamoured for that. I also don't think I've ever heard anyone anxiously whisper in the line, "If only McDonald's fries were better for me!" Of course, if you listen to bed-wetting types, all sorts of unmet needs would seem out there. The people who think we need less-tasty french fries, I think, are the same ones who think we need a tax increase.
I was also amused at the story's breathless assertion that Burger King and Wendy's would certainly follow suit. I don't think so. If McDonald's wants to hand its competitors the wonderful advantage of having better-tasting fries than the House that Kroc built, well that is between McDonald's board and its shareholders. Or am I underestimating the lemming-like qualities of corporate America? Of course, they will spin the change as "our fries are better." Notice, not better-tasting, just "better." Given the qualities of American consumers, they just might be stupid enough to buy it.
The Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida is getting another new bishop. Two successive bishops there have had to resign over sex abuse charges. Now Bishop Sean O'Malley, currently heading the Diocese of Fall River, MA, will be taking over. O'Malley has had responsibility for cleaning up the mess left in Fall River by James Porter, the pervert priest currently in prison in Massachusetts. Good luck, in Florida, Bishop O'Malley.
Michael Newdow, the atheist crank whose lawsuit managed to get a panel of the Ninth Circuit to hold that the Pledge of Allegience is unconstitutional because of the phrase "under God," is now taking aim at congressional chaplains. I predict this one goes no where. For one thing, his standing to bring such a claim is very attenuated. Secondly, the courts traditionally give great deference to Congress in its internal arrangements. Third, his damages are very remote. I doubt that this action will survive a Rule 12(b)6 motion (motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted), on several grounds.
Even if Newdow could, on paper, make out some sort of valid claim, as a matter of practical politics, I doubt that the federal courts are willing to drag their reputation further into the mire so an obvious crank can tilt at windmills. Watch for this suit to be dismissed on "procedural" grounds, like standing. Fox News has more details here.
By majority vote, our readers think Michael York turned in the best on-screen performance as Saint John the Baptist in Jesus of Nazareth. He just edged out Charlton Heston (The Greatest Story Ever Told) by one vote. Alan Badel got one vote for his performance as the Prophet of the Jordan in Salome. Robert Ryan, whose performance as John the Baptist in the really bad epic King of Kings was indistinguishable from his performance as an American general in Battle of the Bulge, got 0 votes.
Arnold Beichman, writing in today's Washington Times, has a wonderful op-ed on appeasement of Iraq. He raises at the end a fearful prospect which we must do everything necessary to avert.
Monday, September 02, 2002
On September 2, 1973, Lord of the Rings author, and Catholic convert, J.R.R. Tolkien died. He left a world full of hobbits, dwarves, elves, and orcs for billions to enjoy and be edified by today.
Something much more significant in British history than the death of Princess Diana occurred on this date in 1666. The Great London Fire destroyed more of London in three days than the Luftwaffe did in 4 years. Read Samuel Pepys' account in his memorable Diary.
No discussion of education in America today can be complete without at least a passing reference, or a link to William Bennett's K12 initiative. Bill Bennett has been fighting for higher standards in education and the promotion of excellence for a long time. There is much that his K12 program has that the home schooling parent should think about and try to adopt.
The McGuffey's Readers series served as basic reading instruction for Americans for generations. You can order a set here. Most of the work is more advanced than children two grade levels ahead in public school can do today. Order an Eclectic Speller while you are at it. I know teachers whose schools have officially gone over to "whole language" who crib their spelling lists from McGuffey's Speller. More power to them. These are invaluable tools for the home schooling parent. Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble also sell the set, or can order it for you.
The venerable Baltimore Catechism is available on line here. This magnificent teaching instrument is ideal for inculcating Catholic doctrine in the young. It is far superior to anything available in parochial school today. Only some of the disciplinary matters, like how long one must fast before receiving Communion, have been changed by Vatican II. The doctrine of the Faith was not changed, so what the Baltimore teaches remains valid. Supplement it with reading Bible passages, reading the lives of the saints, praying stations, the Rosary, even the Liturgy of the Hours, and a home schooling parent will be able to provide a superior grounding in the Faith to what parochial school kids get.
Susan Tardiff Lloyd, in the Spring 2001 Latin Mass Magaizine had these thoughts on what makes a successful home school.
Blogger was acting up and ate a post when I had time today to post. But there is time for quick post or two before sweet Morpheus overwhelms us.
The Saint John the Baptist poll will terminate at about 8:30 am Tuesday. The results so far:
Michael York, Jesus of Nazareth, 3 votes
Charlton Heston, The Greatest Story Ever Told, 2 votes
Alan Badel, Salome, 1 vote
Robert Ryan, King of Kings, 0 votes.
Leave your last-minute votes here or in the comments box of earlier reminders. I'll post the official winner around 9:00am tomorrow.
Sunday, September 01, 2002
I think it is a good thing that some Lutherans wish to maintain the integrity of their faith, and don't want to blend it into an anything-goes, I'm-OK-you're-OK schmooze fest with Wiccans and Hindus. But we have enough of a battle going on in our own Church to do more than opine about other denominations right now.
According to Time Magazine, the US Navy will be ordering all its vessels to fly the Revolutionary War-era Rattlesnake Flag with the, "Don't Tread On Me" motto. Time also reports that Secretary of State Colin Powell plans to resign at the end of President Bush's first term. This is almost too much good news for me to take in at once. Powell, who proudly characterizes himself as a "Rockefeller Republican," seems to have been on the wrong side of just about every issue since 1991. Maybe Condoleeza Rice will replace him. That would represent a truly great improvement in the personnel and policy of the Bush Administration.
This fall, the movie studios will be treating us to 4 movies that I plan to exhange specie to see. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets tops the list. Relax anti-Harry zealots. J.K. Rowling is writing about a fantasy world, in which the characters are no better or worse behaved than those in The Chronicles of Narnia, or The Lord of the Rings. She is not writing about Wicca. Take it from me. I live at Wiccan world headquarters (downtown Salem, Mass) surrounded by pagans, Wiccans, and suchlike misfits: flim-flam artists, feminists, environmentalists, lesbians, old hippies, Goths, punks, oddballs and the just-plain deranged and misguided. That is just what they are. Harry Potter, on the other hand, is pure fantasy, and very good fantasy at that. I also have a feeling that a normative ending which unites the good wizards and the "Muggles" is coming, so that the ever-vigilant will be proved to have been over-sensitive and premature in their judgment. They allow a camel to pass and strain at gnats.
The next installment of the James Bond franchise (the 20th official Bond movie-Never Say Never Again and Casino Royale are not part of the official canon) is also being released. I'm not sure, but this may be the last appearance of the excellent Pierce Brosnan as Bond. I grew up with Roger Moore in the role, and thought he was the best Bond. But Brosnan is changing my mind.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is due out. I found the first installment gripping, and just bought the video a few weeks ago. I wouldn't miss The Two Towers for any light reason. I think filming on The Return of the King has started.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Nemesis features the very accomplished Tom Hardy (Churchill: The Wilderness Years, Shakleton, Sense & Sensibilty, etc.) as what is being billed as Star Trek's greatest villain ever. If he is better than Ricardo Montalban as Khan it is indeed worth the price of admission.
I may be at the movie theater much more than usual between now and New Year's. I don't think it is a coincidence that the movies that interest me are all established franchises. I also understand that a big-screen version of Narnia is in the works, though it won't be released this year.
Weigel's superb treatment is very much on my list of books to be read. But Cardinal Ratzinger's The Spirit of the Liturgy has a way of disappearing from shelves, and was at the Carmelite Gift Shop yesterday, so my shekels went to that instead. Weigel has nudged in ahead of Michael Rose's Ugly As Sin on my to be read list. But with luck, I will get to all three before October is out.
In case you are wondering, I do plan to not blog at all on Thanksgiving Day (maybe), Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day (absolutely). I may blog lightly on Columbus Day weekend for a foliage trip, and Halloween, because just looking out our window at the costumed tens of thousands milling around on our street is just too darned interesting.
Two priests of the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT have been censured by Bishop William Lori for not informing the diocese about the whereabouts of Lawrence F. X. Brett, the pervert priest who fled to St. Maarten's after leaving a trail of homosexually raped young men in at least two dioceses (Bridgeport and Baltimore). Father David Howell of Norwalk, and Father Gerald Devore of Stamford were admonished. They will be sent to a religious house for an unspecified period of prayer and reflection. If it turns out that criminal prosecution of Brett is still an option, and that they knowingly and willfully failed to report his whereabouts when asked to do so by authorities, the religious house may not be the only house they will be doing time in.
The Catholic Educator's Resource Center may also be a good source for parents home schooling, or just thinking about it.
Catholic home schooling pioneer Laura Berquist published these thoughts on the right approach to the Catholic home school in the Summer 2001 Latin Mass Magazine.
Let's start Catholic Home Schooling Week with a list of links that parents may find helpful. There has been an extraordinary growth in the level of resources available for home schooling Catholics. Just a few years ago, this same search turned up 4-5 sources. Now there are 31. Part of the growth is due to the decline of public education, part to a parallel decline in parochial education, part to unease from more conservative Catholic parents at the social, political, and theological liberalism of parochial school teachers and diocesan education bureaucrats, and part is also attribuatable to the very significant increase nationwide in parochial school tuition.
Don't worry. I am not glossing over the reasons for this shift. I plan to address them Tuesday or Wednesday (once people are back on line paying attention) in an essay that probably will ruffle a few feathers.
Browse this list of links for a while to get a feel for what is available. I think you may be surprised.
Since this is the traditional back-to-school week, I thought it might be appropriate to honor Catholic Home Schooling this week. Each day this week, I will post essays, links and other information pertinent to Catholic home schooling parents. I will, of course, still be covering other items in the news, etc. as they occur (or come to my attention).
The survey to judge the best screen portrayal of Saint John the Baptist is still on. So far, the contestants are:
Michael York, Jesus of Nazareth, 3 votes
Charlton Heston, The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1 vote
Robert Ryan, King of Kings, 0 votes
Alan Badel, Salome, 0 votes
The voting volume is about what I thought it would be for a holiday weekend.
Come on you Chuck Heston fans. Are you going to let a Brit win this poll?
Leave votes in this comment box, or the boxes of previous (or subsequent) reminders on the poll. I will total up the votes, and announce a winner Tuesday am.
Although the calendar says summer has about three weeks left, the weather here for the last week has had a decided crispness to it that heralds things to come. We have even broken our summer dry-spell with desperately needed rain, though not in time to save the local butter & sugar corn. Sumac is starting to turn, as are some of the sicklier maples. The first of the apple harvest is in. Pumpkins are ripe or near-ripe. Fresh cider is only a week or two away. The plants are still producing tomatoes. The kids go back to school this week. Life settles back into its normal rhythm as autumn establishes itself.
And it is not just the normal rhythm of work and school that returns. Though we are no longer an agricultural people, fall and the harvest remind us of this vital and historic part of our selves. A trip to the local farmstand for apples, or corn, or tomatoes reminds us that 95% of our ancestors of two or more centuries ago were farmers. The seasonal rhythms of traditional agricultural life in New England and Western Europe whisper faintly to us. In an ever-so-attenuated manner, we regain connection with the lives of our ancestors. Though we can buy apples and corn and tomatoes year round in the supermarket, the trip to the farmstand reminds us that they are harvested here at this time of year. We think back to the labor that was involved in bringing in a crop 300 years ago.
I make no secret of the fact that the first of the months that end in "ber" ushers in my favorite time of the year. For most of these next four months you can be outside doing things without being too hot or too cold. And there are many things to do, with harvest fairs and festivals coming on (King Richard's Faire, a medieval faire, starts this weekend down in Carver, Mass). Roving around used bookstores takes on a new joy. And yes, as I said yesterday, we get back into the kitchen, ducked into only long enough to prepare fruit and sandwiches and get a cold drink out of the fridge, for most of the summer. No need to fear heating up the house now. Time to start planning on how to preserve the apples we pick (in a good year, we pick about 2 bushels). There are mince and apple pies to bake and freeze, apples to dry, and applesauce to make and freeze. Soon, green tomato jelly will be put up.
Green tomato jelly, you ask. Yes, this simple manner of making use of the unripened tomatoes that have to be taken in when the first frost threatens is a classic in our house. My father was enthusiastic about his tomato plants. From May to September, they were his pride and joy. He nurtured them with profound reverence and care. Mom, who was known to pack snacks for herself in the form of a tomato, salt shaker, and knife to slice the tomato with, pitched in also. With more than a dozen plants of Early Girls and Big Boys, we always produced far more than the three of us needed. Yet, when the first frost would come in early-mid October, it was a shame to see the yet-unripened fruit wither and die on the vine.
One year, I think in the mid-1970s, Dad heard about green tomato jelly. The prospect of no more wasted tomatoes appealed greatly. When the TV meteorologist would tell us that a frost would likely happen that night, the three of us would hasten to the tomato patch and pick any fruit still on the vine. Mom would then get to work on the jelly. I have lost the original recipe. But Maine's Paul Parent, who hosts a gardening radio show widely heard in New England, has the following simple recipe, which closely resembles what I remember.
3 Cups of green tomatoes finely chopped
2 Cups Sugar
1 six-ounce package Raspberry Jell-O
Mix all ingredients. Boil for 20 minutes. Pour into jelly jars.
Recipe by: Aunt Ruth Soucy Quantity: one jar
The easiest way to sterilize bottles, canning
jars and lids is to put them through the
dishwasher. Another method is to first wash
them in hot sudsy water, rinse them well, and
then boil them in water for five minutes.
Remove them with sterilized tongs.
Drain the containers and make sure they are
dry before filling, because any moisture may
cause mold to form. Do not let anything that is
not sterile (such as towels, unboiled tools or
your fingers) touch the inside of the jars.
Jars that will be sealed with paraffin should be
both dry and hot when they are filled.