Saturday, September 21, 2002

The Menace of the Cowardly Hun
The Washington Times has an excellent editorial on the absurd policies and statements coming out of Berlin these days. And check out Jonah Goldberg's take on the German mess from National Review On Line. I believe a French statesman, back when France still had a few (it may have been Clemenceau), said the Germans were always at your feet or at your throat. We can add on your back.

Bishop Skylstad of Spokane Has His Problems, Too

A Feast of Our Own
The end of September is hard upon us. The harvest is coming in day by day. Even after what was a very dry and hot summer (and in fact it is an uncomfortably warm and humid 85 degrees or so as I write this), there is still an abundance of produce coming in. Tonight's full moon is the Harvest Moon.

We were going to pick apples today, but will defer the trip until tomorrow, hoping for cooler weather. The apples we pick will be converted to apple sauce, mincemeat, apple butter, apple pie, and dried (we just finished off the last of the 2001 dried apples in an apple pie last week). If I can obtain some honey made by Brooksby Farm's bees, I just might try my hand at mead. With so much locally grown produce on the market, it is an appropriate time, in fact better than the artificially late Thanksgiving we celebrate, to be thankful and rejoice at the abundance of God's blessings. It is the time for that feast known throughout the British Isles as Harvest Home.

Harvest Home has much in common with the traditional Thanksgiving. But it is specifically a celebration of the end of the harvest, where, if one reads the menu of the first Thanksgiving, that holiday was more a time for generalized thankfulness for blessings, and a celebration of meat. In November in Europe, it was traditional to slaughter the livestock that was not to be nurtured through the winter. New wines are usually available in November in Europe. Cider from the apple crop has fermented long enough to be quite potent by then. November is also a good month for hunting, at least here in New England (which is why wild turkey and venison were on the menu in Plymouth Colony for the first Thanksgiving).

But the harvest is coming in now in September. So Harvest Home has more to do with seasonal vegetables and grains (and the things that are brewed from grains and the fermented juice of the vegetal matter) than with meat, though meat is a part of it. Harvest Home was never a celebration dictated in advance by the calendar, but rather depended upon the progress of the harvest in a particular area. It was declared locally, not by a central government with an eye to making a three-day weekend (indeed the concept of "weekend" was unknown). Sometimes, the local squire declared, "Harvest Home" and set out a feast for his dependents.

And if you should choose to mark the feast, what should be on the table?

For the first 100 years, the settlers of New England grew pumpkins, corn, apples, onions, rye, barley, hops, peas, cucumbers, beets, and beans. It would be most fitting to eat something like what our forefathers in American civilization ate, and to do so as a family, with some friends in attendance. We are having a Harvest Home dinner next weekend with some of my wife's family in from the west coast.

Pumpkin pie says Thanksgiving too clearly to the 21st century mind, and is best deferred until then. But pumpkin soup is a great way to start a Harvest Home meal. Perhaps a salad with apples, onions, sour cream, and some greens, rather like a Waldorf salad, would be a nice second course. For the main entree, a pork roast with apples, or a pot roast seems appropriate. Some vegetables that complement the meat are needed. Onion pie, corn custard, peas with mint, perhaps some fried cucumbers all would do well in this role.

For dessert, an apple pie of course, perhaps an Indian Pudding, served with homemade vanilla ice cream (ice cream makers are very cheap now, are hardly any work at all, and only require table salt and ice), and a Vermont cheddar.

To drink? Beer and hard cider for the adults, and fresh sweet cider for the children and those who don't drink. The gentlemen can finish the gustatory treat with a cigar. Something not altogether unlike this will be on our table next weekend (details to be worked out still). The pewter tankards that usually only come out when I am "on campaign" will be filled with cider, and raised in salute to Harvest Home.

Saint Matthew
Today, the Church honors Saint Matthew, one of the Twelve, and perhaps the author of the first of the synoptic Gospels. As everyone knows, Matthew was a tax collector for King Herod, based at Capharnaum. Capharnaum was close to the border separating the realm of Herod Antipas from that of Phillip the Tetrarch, so would have been a natural collecting place for customs duties. Tax collectors at the time of our Lord were despised by the Jews and considered public sinners, rather like prostitutes. Christ's association of Matthew with His ministry was part of His message, that He had come not to heal the healthy, but the sick.

If Matthew wrote the Gospel that bears his name, he wrote it in Aramaic, the common language of the area, and the one spoken by the Lord on a day-to-day basis. It was later translated into Greek. It is not known where Matthew exercised his ministry after the Ascension of the Lord, or where he died.

Friday, September 20, 2002

House of Cards
The Guardian has this analysis of the Iraqi military. Unless we are being fed a lot of hogwash about the decline in Iraqi capabilities, Saddam's only real hope is NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) blackmail.

All The War News Worth Reading
Rowan Scarborough and Bill Gertz keep us up-to-date on developments across the world.

Victor Davis Hanson Is a Precious National Resource
National Review On Line's Victor Davis Hanson dismembers the usual objections to the Iraqi campaign.

A More Complete Treatment of Woodward's Keynote
Ad Orientem's Mark Sullivan covered the keynote of Boston College's series on the future of Catholicism more thoroughly than the Globe reporter, on whose account I based my blog yesterday. Kenneth Woodward did, unwisely in my opinion, urge discussion of married priests and priestesses (though he said he did not support those innovations). I wouldn't go that far. Structural change, as far as I am concerned, means enforcing the Vatican's rulings on homosexuality in the priesthood, the Holy Father asking for resignations of bishops who have not done their job in protecting the laity from pervert priests, cracking down on dissent now, while we have the chance, and enforcing Vatican teaching on morality and the faith more thoroughly than we have in 50 years.

Tumbling Woman Is Gone
The statue I blogged about the other day, the one depicting a woman who had jumped from one of the towers of the World Trade Center last September 11th, has been removed from Rockefeller Center. Someone at the Rock got the message. It was supposed to stay on display until Monday.

St. Polycarp's Closing, More To Come
St. Polycarp's parish in Somerville is being closed. The Boston Herald has details here. I have some difficulties with the statistics compiled and published annually by the Archdiocese, but what we have for St. Polycarp's is curious. In 1998 (as of the end of June) St. Polycarp had 4,333 parishioners, had baptized 26 new Catholics, and buried 33. On their face, those numbers are not encouraging, but not reason enough to close the parish. In 1998, St. Polycarp's was merged with St. Ann's parish. In 1998, (again as of June) St. Ann's had a population of 10,000, had baptized 84, and buried 79. So St. Ann's was demographically just marginally healthier than St. Polycarp's, but about twice the size.

With the merger, the two parishes shared a pastor and rectory. The joint pastor would say Mass at St. Polycarp's at least once every weekend. Let us skip forward to the latest statistics the Archdiocese has published. Because of the merger, there are no longer any figures for St. Polycarp's. St. Ann's now has a population of 11,712. It buried 118 parishioners, and baptized just 69. Something is wrong with the statistics. The combined parishes should have had a population of 14,000, minus 360 or so buried, but with 120 or so added back via baptism. So 13,000 (more or less) should be the population. More than a thousand Catholics just disappeared in the merger. One wonders if the statistics the parishes send in to the Archdiocese are at all reliable.

I will admit to not being privy to the financial details of St. Polycarp's operation. It has somehow acquired a debt, when the parishioners claim it had none before the merger. Now the parishioners are beginning the process of protest and criticism we on the North Shore saw recently at the closing of St. Joseph's Polish parish in Peabody. The process that I warned of in my June New Oxford Review article on the Archdiocese is continuing. Declining numbers of priests and the aging of the sacerdotal population combined with declining numbers of laity in the pews on Sunday are forcing the closing of parishes, one after the other. In early 1998, there were 389 parishes. There were, as of June, 2001, 362. If current trends continue, we will drop below 350 in the next two years, and reach the 300 level before 2010.

Salem, with a working class population (which below age 55 has just about disappeared from Sunday attendance) and seven parishes clustered within a dozen blocks or so will be a prime target. St. Mary's (2001, 1035 members, 17 buried, 15 baptized) formed as an ethnic Italian parish and sitting on prime real estate near downtown Salem would be a tempting target for closing. As things stand now, our parish, St. James, would absorb St. Mary's. St. John the Baptist Polish parish could also be on the block (2001, 1100 members, 26 buried, 13 baptized), and would be absorbed by Immaculate Conception. But closing these two parishes would not exactly provide a source of strength to the parishes that absorb them.

There is a broader problem with the statistics for Salem as a whole. The following are the figures for 1998:

Immaculate Conception, 3,200 bap. 45, funerals 61
St. Anne, 4,000 bap. 72, funerals 34
St. James, 5,300 bap. 47, funerals 68
St, John the Baptist, 930 bap. 6, funerals 38
St. Joseph, 4,870 bap. 75, funerals 62
St. Mary 2,035 bap. 12, funerals 21
St. Thomas the Apolstle, 2,130 bap. 69, funerals 78

Now let us look at the figures as of June, 2001
Immaculate Conception, 5,500 bap. 37, funerals 68
St. Anne, 5,000 bap. 67, funerals 36
St. James, 5,271 bap. 30, funerals 55
St. John the Baptist, 1,100 bap. 13, funerals 26
St. Joseph, 4,800 bap. 50, funerals 65
St. Mary, 1,035 bap. 15, funerals 17
St. Thomas the Apostle, 5,000 bap. 61, funerals 65

Now some of the growth for St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas is probably due to delayed reporting of former St. Joseph's (Peabody) parishioners. St. Thomas is geographically closer, but like St. Joseph's (Peabody), St. John the Baptist is a Polish ethnic parish. But has the number of Catholics in Salem increased by 5,000 or so in the last three years? I doubt it. How did Immaculate pick up 2,000 parishioners with a negative baptism/funeral ratio at both ends of the three-year period? Were they under-reporting to begin with? St. Anne's somehow picked up a thousand parishioners, though the baptism/funeral ratio should have given them a growth of 200 or so. How did St. Thomas double in size? Was it all former St. Joseph's parishioners? One can't tell because St. Joseph's had already been closed down and therefore disappeared from the statistics in 1998.

On the plus side for the Salem parishes is the fact that there is not much demand for Salem's real estate for development purposes. Properties are going unsold or unrented for years even in the downtown. Some redevelopments have failed. Downtown Salem has a large and ubiquitous homeless and unsupervised teenage population, a high tax rate, and a small commercial base, as well as inept political leadership (Democrat, of course). If Salem real estate should ever become more attractive, some of these Salem parishes would be given the shove into oblivion very quickly by the Archdiocese.

Other factors come in as well. The two historic parishes, Immaculate Conception and St. James are unlikely to be closed, though the Archdiocese is not known for its sympathy for historical preservation. St. James has the added benefit of sitting on real estate governed by historic commission protection, and being in a part of Salem where there is absolutely no demand for development. It also has a huge church that could accomodate all of the practicing Catholics in Salem. If St.Thomas is kept open at all, it would probably be as a chapel for St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery, which borders it. The ethnic factor tends to work towards the benefit of St. John the Baptist, as it is now the only Polish parish in the local area. St. Joseph, with an ugly modern church, might survive because it operates the only surviving Catholic school in Salem (though all of the parishes had schools in the late 1960s, and the buildings are all still standing). One is struck by the fact that St. Anne's is the only demographically healthy parish in Salem. It has a charming church built in the syle of a 19th century French village church (it is a French parish) after a fire in the early 1980s. It's interior is not as lovely, and in fact is rather modern and stark.

It would appear that the statistical information available to the Archdiocese as it decides which parishes should be continued and which should not is highly suspect. Let us hope that the financials provide a more reliable benchmark. But there are many factors to be considered.

Red Auerbach Is 85 Today
Many happy returns to the famed cigar lover and former Boston Celtics coach, general manager, and grey eminence.

Catholic Charities Planning Cuts
Based on the past reporting of fellow Salemite and cigar lover Domenico Bettinelli and others, perhaps Catholic Charities should just cut the word "Catholic" from their title, then they would be of no more concern to us than the United Way.

While I Was Looking For Something Else...
In TCR I found this fabulous treatment of Father Joseph Fessio's views on the Scandal and the dereliction of duty by the bishops. Father Fessio was addressing a September 13th gathering in Illinois. Read down to Father Fessio's three-part litmus test. Any bishop or pastor who does not agree with these propositions should be dismissed by the Vatican as they are not theologically sound. Father Fessio is absolutely right-on, as usual.

He traces the Scandal to a breakdown in Catholic moral teachings that started with the rejection of Humanae Vitae. Pope Paul and his successors have made it worse by appointing reconciling "manager" style bishops when American society needs saints and prophets willing to risk public contempt as they call society back to Faith and morality. Fessio points to the April joint statement by the American and curial cardinals in which they called for a crack-sown on dissent as a hopeful sign, though Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz is the only one who has done anything in that direction.

Father Fessio is a shining jewel in the tarnished crown of American Catholicism. A stalwart for classical education, and a pillar of orthodoxy and right reason, Father Fessio is what a Catholic scholar should be. If the Jesuits had a lot more like him, I wouldn't be recommending a second suppression. Sadly, the number of prominent and theologically solid Jesuits can be counted on two hands (and some may think I am being optimistic). Long may Father Fessio enlighten and enrich public discourse and Catholic education!

Sudanese Pilot May Plan To Crash Plane Into White House
The Washington Times' Bill Gertz has the latest scoop from the twilight struggle against terrorism. A Sudanese Air Force pilot with ties to al Qaeda has gone missing. He is said to have plans to hijack a jetliner and crash it into the White House. Meanwhile, a major al Qaeda attack on US forces in Singapore has been thwarted.

Unless We Are Lulling Them To Sleep
Unless this is a massive effort at disinformation, we won't be taking out Saddam until February. That would just about give us enough time to move adequate forces to the region, and allow operations to proceed with maximum flexibility with the end of winter there. With a little good fortune, Saddam and his henchmen won't be around to celebrate St. David's Day.

Still, let's get the congressional vote done now, during the election, so Democrats are too afraid to block the war effort.

Idiots, Fools, and Cowards
The usual suspects in the US House of Representatives form an anti-war coalition. There are 19 of the dullards now, all Democrats of course, but they predict dozens more Democrats will join them. Democrat representation in the House needs to be trimmed by about 19 seats, maybe more.

Vatican Official: Gays Should Not Be Recruited For Priesthood
I'll have more to say about this later. But for now, here is a link to a story in today's Washington Times discussing Monsignor Baker's article. I've said we need this is writing, but we need it in the form of a directive from the Holy Father that would unquestionably bind both diocesan seminaries and the orders. Monsignor Baker's article was even published in America with a counterpoint from Archbishop Gumbleton, who thinks gay priests are just fine and dandy.

Foliage Report
According to the Foliage Network, low to very low color now predominates in New England, though only far-northern portions of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire have low color now. Only a tiny stretch of coastal Massachusetts is reporting no change at all. Based on this report, I would say peak foliage will be in 2 weeks, the weekend of the 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th (Columbus Day). Generally speaking, if you plan to visit New England to view the fall foliage, you can't do much better than planning for Columbus Day weekend.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Freeman's Farm
When last we left Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne in the late summer of 1777, his Brunswick detachments sent out to Bennington, Vermont in search of supplies, had been routed by New Hampshire militia under John Stark. Now we can multiply his strategic problems. His supply lines to Canada were tenuous. The small force that was to sweep up the valley of the Mohawk under Colonel Barry St. Leger and join him at Albany, had given up the siege of Fort Stanwix and withdrawn to Oswego.

Now, the whole purpose of his expedition to Albany, a junction with Sir William Howe's army operating from New York, was rendered impossible because Howe had taken his army to capture Philadelphia, leaving Sir Henry Clinton with far too few troops in New York to do anything really helpful for Burgoyne. Burgoyne might have been better off just taking Fort Ticonderoga and calling it a season. But his orders told him to go to Albany, and he would at least try to carry them out.

On the other side of the hill, Congress had finally settled the command of the Northern Army on Horatio Gates, after flirting with Phillip Schuyler. Daniel Morgan's regiment of riflemen was sent to bolster Gates, as were thousands of New England militia, and, as second-in-command, Major General Bendict Arnold. Since Arnold was an aggressive and inventive commander, he at once got off on the wrong foot with the conventional and slow-moving Gates. Gates deployed his force on the west bank of the Hudson in fortifications atop Bemis Heights north of Stillwater. The area to his front was covered with heavy woods broken by small clearings that were or had been farms. Burgoyne was to his north approaching through the woods.

Due to the fact that most of his Indian scouts had deserted after Bennington, Burgoyne was virtually blind, with no idea of Gates' position or strength. Burgoyne cherished hopes of smashing through the militia in front of him and wintering at Albany. To figure out the American disposition, Burgoyne decided on a reconnaisance in strength with about 2/3 of his forces advancing in three columns. The heavy woods would preclude easy reinforcement from one column to another.

Burgoyne's left, closest to the Hudson, was commanded by Baron von Ridesel, a veteran Brunswick commander with three Brunswick regiments and 8 light artillery pieces. Riedesel was to march south along the river and attack the American right. The center column was commanded by Brigadier Hamilton with the line companies of 4 British regiments and 6 light guns. Burgoyne was with this column, which was to attack the American fortifications head-on. On the right, General Fraser had the elite light infantry and grenadier companies of 10 British regiments (including some still in Canada), the 24th Regiment, and a company of Brunswick riflemen, with 8 artillery pieces, and a company of British marksmen in support (there were also some Canadians and Indians with Fraser). Fraser was to occupy high ground west of the American fortifications and outflank them.

Starting out at 11:00 am, Fraser made the best progress. Riedesel had to stop to repair destroyed bridges frequently. Gates was well-informed about Burgoyne's movements, but was doing nothing. Arnold begged, and cajoled for the order to attack Burgoyne's columns before Fraser outflanked them. Finally, Gates consented to allow Morgan's riflemen and Dearborn's light infantry to attack under Arnold. Arnold could support them if necessary with other forces from his wing. They collided with the Canadians and Indians under Fraser at Freeman's Farm at 12:30.

At first Morgan's men were successful. But a counterattack pushed them back. The battle swayed back and forth across the clearings until two pm. Burgoyne arrived in the clearing with Hamilton's column and formed line as best he could, though there was still a gap between his force and Fraser's. Arnold, with his whole wing engaged, tried to break through that gap in order to defeat the two columns in detail. The fighting swayed back and forth for 4 hours. Arnold begged for reinforcements, but Gates sent none until the very end of the battle. Then the units he sent did not join Arnold, but attacked Fraser (who was only lightly engaged), on their own.

While Gates was dilatory in supporting Arnold, Riedesel did the sensible thing and marched to the sound of the guns. He found Hamilton's column decimated (the 62nd Regiment in the center of the line suffered 83% casualties, while Hamilton's other three regiments had losses of nearly 50%). With Riedesel up, Burgoyne threw his entire line into a counterattack, which cleared the field.

Burgoyne lost 600 killed, wounded, and captured, and had only been engaged with about half of Gates' force. Burgoyne might have followed up the next day with success, but was persuaded to rest his men. Then a dispatch from Clinton informed him that Clinton would try to make a diversion into Gates' strategic rear. Burgoyne decided to dig in and wait to see if Clinton could accomplish anything for him. In the end, Clinton could to little but take the Hudson Highlands. Gates did not weaken his force significantly to deal with Clinton. Gates' force got stronger in the intervening weeks, while Burgoyne's supply situation worsened. Burgoyne's small army had one last trial ahead.

Mr. & Mrs. Fitzpatrick Out For a Walk
We wish. Actually, it's my favorite Gainsborough, called "The Morning Walk." I came across this web version while looking for something else. To really appreciate it, click on the painting for a full-screen enlargement

It's Done
The Geoghan settlement is official. The checks were given to the plaintiffs' lawyer this morning after a Suffolk Superior Court judge gave approval to the settlement on behalf of a 17 year-old plaintiff. For the Archdiocese, that's 86 down, and hundreds to go.

Former BC High Jesuit To Be Arraigned
Father James Talbot, SJ, who once coached soccer at Boston College High School, was indicted yesterday on three counts of homosexual assault on BC High athletes in the 1970s. The allegations against Father Talbot include providing beer to teenage boys, and having them engage in "aggression drills" (essentially they would wrestle). Then Father Talbot allegedly would expose himself and sexually assault the boys. He will be arraigned this afternoon. Other charges are pending in New Hampshire, where Talbot served in the 1980s.

The Banality of Evil
Mark Levin, writing in National Review On Line, notes the media's disbelief of the charges against the Buffalo al Qaeda cell on the grounds that they play soccer. He correctly notes that terrorists try to blend in with American society.

If The Church Had Dealt With Homosexuals As the Boy Scouts Now Do...
Harold Johnson in FrontPage Magazine covers the efforts of various government entities to make the Boy Scouts bow to the imperatives of political correctness and admit gay scoutmasters. The Boy Scouts did at one time do this. But so many suits for homosexual abuse of young scouts arose, that they changed the policy to bar homosexuals. The Catholic Church has long had an official policy that homosexuals should not be ordained. At least that is Rome's policy. However, the American Church has for 50 years and more adopted a "don't ask" de facto policy in this regard. The result of this, combined with the institutional reflex of covering up any problem, is that the Church is now beset with thousands of claims of homosexual abuse that will cost hundreds of millions and huge amounts of public trust to completely clear. Whose policy has been the wiser?

Today's Barbarian Outrage
A Palestinian barbarian blew himself up on a bus in Tel Aviv this afternoon killing 5 civilized people and wounding about 40. Islam, we are told, is a religion of peace.

Boston College Launches Series On "The Future"
Boston College last night inaugurated a multi-year program on the future of Catholicism. A crowd of 4,000 heard Jack Connors of Hill, Holliday, Cosmopolous, and Conners explain that he had re-directed his philanthropy from the Archdiocese to his parish and other Catholic efforts. Kenneth Woodward, Newsweeks' religion correspondent gave the keynote address in which he called on the Church to examine married priests and priestesses. If last night's keynote set the tone for the series, it will be a VOTF leader's dream. And it will have nothing to do with the reality of the Church. The Globe has more details here.

Saint Januarius
Today the Church honors Saint Januarius, an Italian bishop and martyr of the early 4th century. During the persecution of Diocletian, in 305, Januarius was arrested at Benevento, where he was bishop. After refusing to adjure the Faith, he was beheaded. His body was buried on the spot, but was later transferred to Naples along with two phials containing some of his blood. Januarius has become the chief patron saint of Naples. His intervention is credited with saving the city during three eruptions of Mount Vesuvius.

Three times each year, including on his feast day, the blood in the phials, which is more or less solid, becomes more or less liquid. No less a skeptic than Montesquieu, who saw the blood of Januarius liquify twice in 1728, has testified that no tricks are used by the religious of Naples to bring about the liquification. For a good discussion of this miracle, read this article.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

According To the Globe
We have a settlement of $10 million just about finalized for the Geoghan victims. Fifty who were molested by Geoghan as children will split $9.3 million. Sixteen parents of victims will split $160,000.00. Twenty people to whom Geoghan exposed himself will split $540,000.00. The only thing unsettled is a judge's consent to the agreement on behalf of one plaintiff who is a minor. Tomorrow morning, the victims' attorney and the Archdiocese will be in Suffolk Superior Court to obtain that consent.

According to The Onion
The Onion tells us that al Qaeda has done something not even the most dovish leftist in France can forgive them for- telemarketing. Are the mass murdering Islamo-fascist nutters now torturing us by dialing for dollars? You decide.

The Barbarians Are At It Again
For the first time in 6 weeks, a Palestinian barbarian has blown himself up and taken innocent civilized life in the process. This one was standing at a bus stop, but wandered out among the traffic in the road. A policeman approached him, and he detonated himself. The police officer was killed, and three people were injured. This time, the attack took place in the Palestinian city of Umm el Fahm. Islam, we are reminded, is a religion of peace.

Disgusting and Disturbing
Matt Drudge points out that Rockefeller Center's concourse has been "adorned" with a sculpture of a naked woman falling from the World Trade Center last September 11th. Artist Eric Fischl has chosen to depict his subject at the moment of impact, as her head just begins to hit the pavement. The display of such an object in Manhattan is a very poor choice by the company that runs Rockefeller Center. According to this story in the New York Post, a security guard at the Rock, who is forced to look at the object day-in and day-out, is considering suing. The object is on display through Monday, and was not commissioned by Rockefeller Center.

Aside from considerations of good taste, I have, as you might expect, extremely conservative views on art and its purpose. Art can entertain, but its most important role is to inculcate approriate values of piety, patriotism, duty, honor, honesty, thrift, chastity, faith, and respect, through physical representation. Obviously, this does nothing like that. It panders to and exploits the continuing sorrow and grief of those who lost family and friends in the World Trade Center. It does nothing to elevate. It depresses and degrades. It is an insult to the good people of New York, and especially to the families of those who died that terrible day. It does not belong on public display.

It does not even inspire a feeling of, "We'll never let that happen again." My first thought was to compare it to "artistic" depictions of the victims of the Holocaust. But at least from that we can take the lesson of the evil of anti-Semitism. No, this work of Fischl's is as if he had created a tableau of sailors in one of the compartments of the USS Arizona drowning. The wickedness of the foe does not appear. All that is there is the image of a woman dying. The context is removed, and we are left with only the fragile human condition at the moment of death. Just as importantly, there is no indication of the life of the heart, or the mind. The woman in question may have been praying the Pater Noster or the Sh'ma Yisrael the moment before, or thinking of loved ones. But you would never know it from this depiction of the demise of the human animal.

Art has done worse in the last 100 years. But this is a particularly insensitive in-your-face effort put on a display when public grief remains high. I would urge that no collector purchase it, and no public forum display it. The price of bad art should be oblivion.

"Unconditional Access" My Foot
Rush Limbaugh picked up the fact that Iraq's "unconditional" access to UN weapons inspectors actually has a fair number of conditions, as I predicted it would. Seems as if Saddam Hussein has been taking English lessons from Bill Clinton.

I Couldn't Let Today Pass...
without noting the birthday of Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1709. Johnson is known to us today as the subject of the greatest biography of all time, Boswell's Life of Johnson. But he was much more than the devastatingly curmudgeonly conversationalist depicted by Boswell, who only knew him late in life. Johnson's Lives of the English Poetsand his Rambler and Idler essays place him solidly among the greatest social and literary critics of all time. His Dictionary was the first of the English language. Johnson was a firm defender of the role of divine revelation in the making and proper conduct of human society, at a time when deism and atheism were predominant in society.

Russell Kirk thought of Johnson, along with his friends Edmund Burke and Adam Smith (though I would call Smith more of an acquaintance than a friend) as one of the pillars of order produced by the 18th century. Indeed a large amount of disillusion and doubt of human reason alone as the prop for social order runs through Johnson's work. Kirk thought that this comment (originally written of Robert Louis Stevenson) applies to Johnson, "The Tory has always insisted that if men would cultivate the individual virtues, social problems would take care of themselves." It seems reasonable enough to me.

I was at first perplexed to find that Paul Johnson prays for the intervention of old Doctor Samuel for his writing. But Johnson, despite his gruff exterior, was a virtuous man, charitable, a patriot, God-fearing, and loyal to his friends. Perhaps Paul isn't far wrong in thinking of him as among the saints.

Boswell records a conversation shortly before his death between Johnson and a liberal minister named Adams.

Johnson: ...As I cannot be sure that I have fulfilled the conditions on which salvation is granted, I am afraid that I may be one of those who shall be damned (looking dismally).

Adams: What do you mean by damned?

Johnson (passionately and loudly): Sent to hell, Sir, and punished everlastingly.

Adams: I don't believe that doctrine.

Johnson: Hold, Sir: do you believe that some will be punished at all?

Adams: Being excluded from Heaven will be a punishment; yet there may be no great positive suffering.

Johnson: Well, Sir; but if you admit any degree of punishment, there is an end of your argument for infinite goodness simply considered; for infinite goodness would inflict no punishment whatever. There is not infinite goodness physically considered; morally there is.

Boswell: But may not a man attain to such a degree of hope as not to be uneasy from the fear of death?

Johnson: A man may have such a degree of hope as to keep him quiet. You see I am not quiet, from the vehemence with which I talk; but I do not despair.

Mrs. Adams: You seem, Sir, to forget the merits of my Redeemer.

Johnson: Madame, I do not forget the merits of my Redeemer; but my Redeemer has said He will set some on His right hand, and some on His left hand. (Boswell- He was in gloomy agitation, and said, "I'll have no more on't.").

People today who talk with much insouciance about universal salvation with that, "Oh, I'll get into Heaven, everyone will except maybe Hitler and Stalin" air, would do well to read this passage and think long and hard about the Four Last Things.

A War To Be Conducted By Raids and Arrests
The Washington Times' Bill Gertz has the latest on the operational structure of al Qaeda. It seems leadership and direction from the top is lacking, so that local cells now have a high degree of autonomy. This will make it more difficult to figure out what they are doing. One of the folks rounded up recently seems to have been involved in the murder of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl, which is the first direct link between that atrocity and al Qaeda.

Liberal Protestants Fading Away
According to the latest Glenmary Research Center survey of membership in various religious groups, mainline, liberal protestantism is fading away from the American landscape. The Catholic Church has experienced significant growth (16%), largely because of Hispanic immigration. Evangelicals and Mormans are seeing rapid growth. There are more than 62 million Roman Catholics in the US. Presbyterians declined 12% to 3.1 million. The Mormons and the Assemblies of God grew by about 19%. Southern Baptists grew 4.6%.

Demographic shifts among Catholics are interesting. Growth here in the Northeast, and in the Midwest, was slow. Rapid growth in the South and West more than made up for that. That statistic gives the lie to VOTF's claim to be the authentic voice of the Catholic laity. The typical Catholic layman is not an upper-middle class white suburbanite with liberal social views. VOTF may dominate parishes in the more affluent Boston suburbs, but they have no reach or appeal to the vast majority of Catholics. That is a refreshing thing to remember.

The Often-Profound Walter Williams...
is on today in his thoughts on America the Sissified. Less Oprah, Norm Mineta, Tim Robbins, and Phil Donahue, more Norman Schwartzkopf, Oliver North, Gordon Liddy and Jeanne Kirkpatrick is what we need now as we start the second year of the war on terror, with Iraq very high on the agenda.

Cardinal McCarrick On The Scandal
The Washington Times interviewed Theodore Cardinal McCarrick. McCarrick, wearing his pink blinders today, dismisses the gay subculture, which most priests believe exists, according to recent surveys, and points to an increase in the number of men entering seminaries. He also notes that Washington parochial schools enroll 2/3 protestants and other non-Catholics. If that is the case, one wonders why are they still open, unless they are making converts, which I doubt they are. The purpose of Catholic schools is to instill the Faith in young Catholic laity in a more complete manner than public schools/CCD can.

More Efforts To Desecrate Civil War Battlefields
Fox News has word of another attempt to develop hallowed ground, this time part of the Chancellorsville battlefield. Normally, I side with developers. If someone wanted to fill in the Grand Canyon and build a huge mall, I wouldn't bat an eye. But encroaching on this nation's battlefields or historic (pre-1850 generally) properties riles me mightily.

Rappaport Loses Big
Massachusetts Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Jim Rappaort lost by almost a 2-1 margin to non-entity Kerry Murphy Healy after Mitt Romney injected himself into the race in Healy's favor over the weekend. There was an unprecedented barrage of television and radio advertising for the race over the weekend. Independents, women, and those who made up their minds late broke to Healy in huge numbers.

Two weeks ago, Rappaport was leading in all the polls. Before that, his lead was commanding. But Romney's campaign gurus told him to beat Shannon O'Brien, who won her primary, he needed a woman on the ticket. So he went back on his pledge of neutrality in the lt. governor's race, and chose Healy as a "running mate." Then over the weekend, he virtually demanded that Republican voters give him Healy, not Rappaport. And Republican primary voters did as they were told. What is left of the Republican party in Massachusetts drifts further left.

If Romney does not win November 5th, maybe the time has come to dismantle the Massachusetts Republican Party altogether, and follow New York's lead with the creation of a Conservative Party. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

WFB Talks Sense
William F. Buckley, Jr. has an excellent column on the Reflections on Covenant and Mission's disturbing disinclination to bring Jewish people to Christ. The Holocaust is no reason to back off on directly evangelizing Jews. In fact, as that historical atrocity has deepened our love and appreciation of that people, so should it deepen the Church's commitment to reaching out to them in the hope that the entire Jewish people will one day embrace salvation through Christ and His Church.

Regarding "Niggardly"
National Review On Line's John Derbyshire presents an excellent discussion of the "niggardly" controversy. I disagree with his conclusion, seeing no reason why the word ought to be suppressed out any sense of noblesse oblige.

If You Are Running Linux, Update Your Virus Scan
There is a new worm, called Slapper, which seems to be creating an army of drones to eventually launch denial-of-service attacks. The worm affects Linux users running Apache, the software that powers 2/3 of all websites on the Net. Windows seems to not be affected by Slapper.

Primary Day
On our walk to the train at 5:30 am, we were accosted by one political hopeful, and saw that City Hall was already open. The polls are opening as I type this.

For Massachusetts voters, just a reminder on those candidates Verus Ratio is supporting:

Governor Mitt Romney
Lieutenant Governor James Rappaport
Treasurer Bruce Herzfelder

Governor A Pox On All Their Houses, but especially Thomas Birmingham's
Salem Rep. in General Court Michael Ruane

It Does Look Like a Griddle
Mark Sullivan at Ad Orientem called our attention to the similarity between the proposed new church at Fatima and a pancake griddle. He's right. It does resemble a griddle, though my first thought was some table-top variation of a billiards set-up with a circular rack.

I also noticed Mark has posted one of my favorite quotes from Evelyn Waugh in the margin. Seeing that is a good way to start any day.

Brazilians Ought To Visit The Pope More Often
The Holy Father told a group of Brazilian bishops that a bishop's first concern is to promote unity with Rome and the rest of the Church. Zenit carries the details here. It was about 12 days ago that the Holy Father told another group of Brazilian bishops that the local churches ought not be be ordaining homosexuals. If the Brazilians elicit this much clear, steady common sense from the Holy Father, we should see if some Brazilians can visit him every few days.

He's Also No Lee Atwater
Roger Fontaine, writing in the Washington Times, takes on Dick Morris' dishpan offerings on practical politics here. If this is the best Morris has to offer, one wonders how he became so successful. My guess is that for a few years' he was genuinely in touch with that bored and selfish ennui in the American electorate that allowed Bill Clinton to get to the White House and stay there.

Joyce Malcolm's New Book
National Review On Line's Dave Kopel defends Joyce Lee Malcolm's new book, Guns and Violence: The English Experience against the predictable attack of the Hive on anything that can be construed as "pro-gun." Kopel puts liberal arguments against Malcom's position under an electron microscope to find, unsurprisingly, that they amount to nothing. I'd also like to recommend Joyce Malcolm's little-noticed but excellent first work on the subject, To Keep and Bear Arms: The Evolution of an Anglo-American Right.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Unrestricted Inspections
According to the Secretary General of the UN, Iraq has agreed to unrestricted weapons inspections. We shall see what this means. My guess is that Iraq has agreed to highly restricted "unrestricted inspections." That will not do. Anything less than inspectors of a most adversarial point of view and highly knowledgeable about what they might be looking for allowed to show up without the slightest prior announcement absolutely anywhere they please (including the most sensitive military installations), allowed inside immediately, and then allowed to examine anything they want for as long as they want, whatever Iraq has agreed to will not suffice. I doubt very much that Iraq has agreed to this.

My guess is that this is an empty gesture on Iraq's part, an effort at causing delay and obfuscation while they feverishly work on obtaining a working bomb and delivery system. We, nevertheless look awfully unreasonable if we push forward on the invasion plans while negotiations on how many inspectors and notice etc. are proceeding. If I am right, being taken in by this gambit will be highly dangerous. One dislikes sounding unreasonable, but the UN should reject the "acceptance," unless inspectors can be in Iraq doing what we want them to do within 120 hours.

Sungenis, Anti-Semitism, Etc.
Mark Shea has an excellent mini-essay on the problem of anti-Semitism being spewed by Bob Sungenis. I hope no one is being taken in by the folly of Sungenis.

Oh Joy of Joys!
The J. Press Fall Catalog appeared in my mailbox today. This is always a milestone of fall for me. Fall is a time to stock up the wardrobe, especially suits. I have enough ties to last a lifetime (when I was in law school, Filene's Basement sold Brooks Brothers ties for less than $10, so I made it my hobby to acquire as many as possible). Unless the moths or Gaspar's claws get at them, my sweater supply should last quite a while too. I replace khakis as needed (they have a tendency to give out in the crotch). At the start of the summer, I buy a couple of polos or madras shirts and a pair or two of shorts. But fall means suits and sport jackets.

The catalog provides a fine opportunity to check out the available goods without a trip to Cambridge (which is not in my normal orbit). What will it be this year? The Super 120 wool flannel gray chalk stripe looks good. But I also need a new blazer. Camel hair would be nice. And J. Press sells jackets of such good taste: three-button, natural-shouldered, center-vent, mostly undarted, excellent wool, well-tailored. It is so hard to find suits made that way these days. If you can find a three-button jacket somewhere else, it will be darted, have padded shoulders, have no center vent, or may even have polyester content (YUCK!). And way too many suit makers sell suit trousers with pleats. J. Press is always sure to offer the traditional flat-front.

When will suit makers figure out that heavy men can't wear darted suits without heavy shoulder padding (which looks ridiculous) and should not wear pleated trousers? I'll take the "American classic look" pioneered by J. Press and Brooks Brothers decades ago (though "B-Squared" has gone trendy over the last 15 years). It fits my body type (short and fat) and is never inappropriate. It never hurts to dress like Pete du Pont.

I had a nasty shock last week, when I looked at Brooks Brothers' catalog and found that they are playing ducks and drakes with their shirts. For the uninformed, Brooks Brothers produced the best shirts you can buy without going to a bespoke tailor. Their shirts were always cut generously for those of us with spare tires. The Oxford cloth button-down has been the very epitome of a classic shirt. Now, they are making it "No Iron," which means a different texture in the cotton (assuming it is all-cotton). If the texture is different, it may not take the dye as well, which could mean that the pink, or yellow shirts will be a half shade off what we are accustomed to. Dare I hope that the people making the new "No Iron" shirts are using the same generous measure as the previous manufacturer, so that their shirts will still fit around my fat belly? If not, my salesman there will be having a less Merry Christmas than usual. So will I, because I'll have to spring for custom-made shirts from now on.

Thoughts About Oil
For some reason, the issue of oil came to mind on my way back from the library just now. Two somewhat related considerations popped up. First, when the US starts taking out the Iraqi regime we should be aware that, if he is able to do so, Saddam Hussein might very well set off some sort of gotterdammerung with Iraq's oil supply. We all remember the Kuwaiti oil fires of a decade ago, set by Iraqi forces as they withdrew from Kuwait. Like Hitler ordering his generals to leave western Germany a zone of scorched earth in the path of the Allies, Saddam might very well attempt to have the Iraqi oil industry destroyed. He might even set off a nuclear device, if he has one, undergound among the oil fields, hoping to make the price of his demise very steep to the world. The only way to prevent that would be a coup de main, a sudden massive strike that completely decapitates the civil and military leadership of Iraq in the matter of a few moments, so that no orders to create that environmental disaster can come down from on high.

But let us not overestimate the ability of Iraq to do permanent damage. If no nuke is set off, we can proabably undo any damage he does in two years, at the outside. Hopefully, like Hitler's generals, Saddam's will be none too enthusiastic about carrying out such orders. If he somehow does have access to nukes (or even radiological weapons) we will have a lot worse problems than buring oil fields to deal with.

And very willing to light the match for Saddam will be our friends in the Saudi royal family. They have been using every bit of diplomatic skill and bribery at their disposal to keep the price of oil artificially high for a very long time. They want to keep the price of oil at about $25 per barrel. As a result, American consumers have over the past two years been paying much more than the price we became accustomed to in the immediate wake of the Persian Gulf War.

If Saddam is unable to stop the flow of Iraqi oil for a long time, the likely result of a regime change will be a lower price at the pump. A new America-friendly regime in Iraq would find the UN sanctions limiting the sale of Iraq's oil gone. Production would increase. The price of oil worldwide would drop, much to the discomfiture of the drug habits and conspicuous consumption of various Saudi princes. Cheaper oil isn't a war-aim, but a potential happy consequence. So, while the US is not fighting for cheaper oil in Iraq, the Saudis are fighting very hard to prevent an Iraqi regime change, so that oil prices stay high.

What Scurries for Cover When the Light Is Switched On
Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating announced that the national review panel he is chairing is generally satisfied with how the new sex abuse policy is being carried out in the vast majority of the country's 195 dioceses. But there are serious questions about how it is being handled in 13 dioceses. At some point in the future, Keating said, the board will publicize the names of the bishops who are not implementing it (assuming the Vatican does not nix the whole thing in the meantime). The Boston Globe has more to say about that.

In a related development, a member of VOTF has announced that he is developing a database of pervert priests, which will enable lay Catholics nationwide to gain information about the abuse history of priests.

Both moves are sure to generate controversy. I can hear the episcopal loyalists protesting that the review panel has no right to question how bishops are doing their jobs. But by naming the bishops who are not getting rid of the perverts, and keeping track of the perverts directly, all that is being done is shedding daylight on the situation. If a bishop does not protect the laity from perverted priests, he should be held up to public disapprobation. It is amazing how that has a way of changing most bishops' minds, and reminds them of what the Holy Father recently said about disordered individuals not being made priests (admittedly, this is dealing with getting rid of ones that have already slipped through to ordination with the encouragement of the local branch of the Lavender Mafia, which is a rather different matter).

On the pervert priest database, people do have a right to know. If they rise up against a pervert appointed to their parish, and it becomes impossible for that person to "exercise his ministry" there, so much the better. That is what we are trying to achieve, a purification of the priesthood. Look what a little light of day about Saint Sebastian's Angels has managed so far. There is a great need for much more of this sort of thing. My only concern is that priests who are accused and exonerated must be removed from the database.

We all know what scurries for cover when the light is turned on.

Massachusetts Primary
The race for the Democrat nomination for Massachusetts' governorship seems to be very much in flux. Aside from the fact that State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien is ahead (and I think will win), none of the other three candidates can be entirely sure where they stand. Polls show Robert Reich, Thomas Birmingham, and Warren Tolman all in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th place. Ultimately though, at 8:00 pm tomorrow, it is only who is in 1st place that counts for anything. It will be Shanon O'Brien.

And if Mitt Romney doesn't smarten up, it will be Shanon O'Brien in the winner's circle on November 5th. Over the weekend, he injected himself in a most unwise manner against Jim Rappaport's campaign for Lieutenant Governor, and in favor of Kerry Murphy Healy, his "hand-picked running mate." Polls are showing the race narrowing. But Republican voters have no reason to vote for Healy, other than Romney's endorsement. She is too much like Jane Swift- someone who has not paid her dues and has a political tin ear (she has run two unsuccessful campaigns for the state legislature and was state party chairwoman for a whole 4 months when Romney decided he needed a woman on the ticket). If anything should happen to Romney, Massachusetts would have another not-ready-for-primetime governor, selected for the job only because of gender. It would be entirely appropriate for Republican voters in Massachusetts to end the silly idea of Republican gubernatorial canidates picking a "running-mate" (the Democrats have never adopted the practice, and it happened for the first time in 1990 on the Republican side).

Healy is not in favor of the ballot initiative to define marriage as a state between a man and a woman. She is weak on ending bilingual education. She is pro-abortion (much more so than Rappaport, though there are no statewide candidates in either party who are pro-life). She has not signed on to the "No New Taxes" pledge, which for more than a decade has been the one article of faith of Republican candidates for office. She is to Rappaport's left by a fairly considerable margin. Therefore, an application of William F. Buckley's "rightwardmost viable candidate" dictum compels a vote for Rappaport.

In case you are wondering why I am only talking about the gubernatorial race in the Bay State, it is because it is the only one. If there are Republican candidates for the congressional seats, they have no chance at all. The Massachusetts Republican Party has failed to produce a challenger for Senator John Forbes Heinz Kerry, the first time since the 19th century that a "major" party has failed to challenge a US Senate seat in Massachusetts. Basically, the Massachusetts Republican party can produce a viable candidate for governor, or maybe US Senator and nothing else, because there is just no one coming up from the "farm system" of local politics. Bleak times, or a complete re-alignment are ahead for Massachusetts.

Who Cares?
Matt Drudge usually has a sense for what people care about. But now he is running banner headlines proclaiming that Al Gore is running for President in 2004. Does anyone truly care about Al Gore, other than yellow dog Democrats? Is anyone salivating for a Bush-Gore rematch? If there is to be such a rematch, Gore will have to get past John Forbes Heinz Kerry and his almost billion bucks. He'll have to shake down a lot of Buddhist monks for that kind of money.

Review Board Meets Today
The review board created by the US bishops to monitor sex abuse policy is meeting today on chairman Governor Frank Keating's home turf. We shall see if any news comes out of the meeting.

Blogger Has Some Kinks Today
Usually, when Blogger goes down, it is on the posting end. Posting was unavailable for parts of the day yesterday. At least in the last half hour, it is people trying to view Blogger sites who are having a very slow time of it. It should be fixed soon.

Rose v. Johanson ?
National Review On Line's Rod Dreher has this to say about Michael Rose's possible libel action against Father Rob Johanson. This situation continues to develop, and bears watching. It is also a cautionary example of how far you can go in Internet discussion.

"Risky Seminarians Must Go"
TCR reprints Ellen Rossini's article , from the National Catholic Register, on what the Holy Father said to the Brazilian bishops regarding homosexuality in the seminary.

FrontPage Magazine Is Excellent On the War
Today's FrontPage Magazine carries excellent discussion of various war-related topics. Ronald Raddosh profiles anti-war activists. Jamie Glazov reviews Daniel Pipes' new book, Militant Islam Reaches America. And Michael Totten states the liberal case for the Iraqi campaign. David Horowitz has really turned FrontPage into a hot site for conservative thought.

Foliage Report
The Foliage Network is reporting (as of Saturday) very low color throughout New England, except here in coastal Massachusetts, where there has yet to be any appreciable change. No leaf drop is reported yet. The only exception seems to be in Aroostock County, Maine, where the leaves have made it to low color. I noticed a maple that was 25-33% red here in Salem yesterday, but little else.

Weekend Sports Recap
All you need to know is that the Patriots plastered the Jets, the Red Sox' chances of getting even the weak sister (I mean wild card) spot in the playoffs have just about vanished, and the Boston College Eagles had the weekend off (they play Miami next Saturday).

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Yom Kippur
Our Jewish friends have entered upon the holiest day of their calendar with today's sunset. May their prayers and contemplations help them to live even more as the Lord wishes them to.

With Minutes To Spare
Beat the deadline on the project by about 20 minutes. What was the line the Danny Glover character because famous for in the Lethal Weapon movies?

I'm way too tired to have my head in the game tonight. I'll just mention an unusual historical coincidence. Yesterday, we marked the death of James Fenimore Cooper in 1851. Today, we mark his birth in 1789.

Out Again
Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, the Archdiocese of Boston's top canon lawyer, who was just re-instated into his position this week after the claims of sex abuse against him fell apart, has been put back on administrative leave because the accuser has apparently alleged new facts or provided some sort of corroboration. If Monsignor Foster is indeed innocent as he claims, then the delay will do him little harm. If there is any veracity to the claims of the accuser, then he ought not to be working in any priestly capacity anywhere. The standard of proof, I think, should be something less than what would sustain a criminal conviction. Until the accuser is shown to be substantially lying about material matters in this claim, as he may very well be, it would be best to keep Foster on leave.

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