Saturday, February 01, 2003

A National Loss
I was probably one of the last to find out about this morning's loss of the crew of the space shuttle Columbia. We were just getting up when the awful event happened. It was a full two hours plus before we checked the news. We have, of course, been here before. I remember very clearly the loss of the Challenger.

It is not yet time to assign blame. That will come later. There will be time enough for that. The odds favor some sort of mechanical failure or human error. Though the fact that the first Israeli astronaut was aboard, and that Drudge is reporting that some of the wreckage hit a place called Palestine, Texas raises suspicions of sabotage. But we won't know the cause for some time. And we ought not jump to conclusions.

A loss like this comes at a terrible moment for the nation, and for the families involved. From what I could see of the crew profiles, all were in the prime of life (in their 40s, with families). All were gifted and civilized people. Their talents and their idealism made them valued citizens of our great republic. Their loss cannot be calculated. It can only be felt.

These honored dead were pioneers. They were each devoted to the ideal of exploring space and making use of it. America has lost many pioneers in its history. But we have so few today, that the loss of even one is felt very keenly. Seven at once hits like a hammer blow.

Now there are families to be comforted, remains to be gathered, tears to be shed, eulogies to write, services to be held, and causes to be discerned. We pray today for the families of those who died. Seven families now missing fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles. Seven families that must pick up and carry on somehow with a great vacancy at the family table. We pray that God will comfort those who mourn deepest, and assuage the mourning of our afflicted nation as well.

And for those seven courageous people,
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace. Amen.

Friday, January 31, 2003

Catholic Child Enslaved by Sudanese Moslems
Today's Salem Evening News carries the story of Francis Bok, who when a young child was captured and enslaved by Moslems in the Sudan. His story reminds me of that of a modern day St. Patrick, except that if he were to return to the Sudan he would be murdered.

That such things are still going on today is a shocking commentary on how Islam views the rest of the world. That human slavery continues to exist after centuries of effort to abolish it is deeply troubling. In the case of Francis Bok, one rejoices that he has found freedom and a new life here in the United States. But how many more unredeemed Francis Boks are there living in misery and slavery under Islamic oppression?

Al Qaeda In Baghdad, And In Afghanistan
Fox News reports that US intelligence has detected al Qaeda operatives in Baghdad. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, al Qaeda blew up a bridge killing 18 bus pasengers.

More On Mandela
Lowell Ponte, writing for FrontPage Magazine, takes a closer look at Mandela's ungenerous, if not senile, remarks about the US and President Bush.
Over at National Review On Line's The Corner, Rod Dreher had more to say about Mandela.

British Government: Al Qaeda Has A Dirty Bomb

If Attacked With WMD, We Will Use Nukes
I suppose it is the only deterrent left. But if Iraqi forces mingle with the civilian population, that will be very difficult. Nuking a brigade formation in the middle of the desert is one thing. But what if that brigade is in an unevacuated city? Tough question.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Bob Tyrell's Column Today Is Great
Townhall.com carries it.

Shoe Bomber Gets Life With No Parole
There was never any question about guilt. The sentence seems perfectly just to me.

Four Killed Outright In This Chopper Crash In Afghanistan

The Decision for Armed Resolution of the Iraq Crisis Is "Weeks, Not Months" Away

Nelson Mandela Is Blind To Reality, and A Jerk
He asks why the US is not ready to just go along with the UN
"Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations is now a black man? They never did that when secretary-generals were white,"
It is unfortunate that the common sense and discretion of some famous people do not live as long as they do.

We Do Have Allies In Europe

Myrtle Beach To Buffalo
Elliot Abrams, the long-time Accuweather meteorologist for Boston, just told us that compared on a year to year basis, this winter from last winter is like moving from Myrtle Beach, SC to Buffalo, NY. Last winter was indeed unusually mild. Most of the time during the day you could go around with a sweater and windbreaker. Gloves? We didn't need any stinkin' gloves. Snowfall? What was that?

This January has been quite cold, though thankfully not very snowy. We were very close to the average snowfall for this point in the season the last time I looked (around 20 inches cumulative). But we have not had the freeze/thaw cycle that has become the norm. Things have just stayed frozen. We haven't had any pleasant days in the 50s. In fact, it has rarely been above freezing. Now we are entering the historic heavy snow period for the year (and yes, the 25th anniversary of the Blizzard of '78 is coming).

They Will Squeal Like Stuck Pigs
Massachusetts is going to have to institute some moderately draconian budget cuts to reduce its deficit for the current fiscal year. Just this past fall, the state was paying for radio advertising for more people to take advantage of WIC. That sort of mindless spending was what you get with a caretaker governor who really does not care. Now we have a real governor, with a background in business, who has to face hard realities that others shunned. Of course each and every special interest will scream bloody murder at any spending cuts. But I hope people even here in benighted Massachusetts can see that public penury is often a necessary precondition for general prosperity.

The real screaming will start with consideration of the budget for the next fiscal year, when the projected deficit will be even larger. State government here has been held hostage to the Big Dig's exorbitant costs for too long. Had they just added a single lane in each direction to the existing elevated Central Artery, it would have been much cheaper than burying the whole system. But there were too many politically-connected contractors whose palms have been greased by this project for a decade and more now. For fifteen years, since the Dukakis era, whatever the contractors wanted, they got at our expense (and since much of the funding for the project came from the federal government, I do mean "our expense").

Recently, the mayor of Boston put an additional 400+ people on the city payroll (all from his own neighborhood of Readville). If we could do without them before January 2000, I think we can do without them now. They would be the first to go if I were making the decisions in Boston. But of course, Mumbles Menino, perhaps the most inarticulate mayor of a major city in the developed world, will try to make the cuts hurt, by closing schools, cutting fire and police, before touching his patronage clients. That way, people turn against spending cuts, and begin to favor tax increases to solve the problem. That is the way government in Massachusetts has always worked. And a new Republican governor is not enough to change that.

Myths About Cardinal Law's Resignation
George Wiegel demolishes the myth that VOTF, and the Boston Priests' Forum (and the Boston Globe) drove Law from the See of Boston.
Thanks to Mark Shea for the link.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Bug Chasers, Gift Givers, and the Culture of Death
William Luse over at Apologia has taken up the "Bug Chaser" story that Drudge told us about last week.

Here is a quick excerpt that, I think gets to the heart of the matter:

It is said that we live in a "culture of death," and it is true, but we had to prepare ourselves to live comfortably with it by first creating a culture of sterility. This we have been doing for many, many years. When contraception came conveniently along and made possible that pursuit of sensation at the expense of the soul (soulless sex, it has been called), we still couldn't get it right, but we won't quit trying because we can't admit that the thing we're after doesn't exist. But now that our scruples are assuaged, and we have assented to our ability to sever sex from the genesis of life, now that we no longer believe that carnal love must, by its nature, be at least willing to bear fruit, there is nothing left but sensation. It is the impermanent, fleeting, and ephemeral remnant of what was once whole cloth, the act of love. All acts of love engage both body and soul, and all are life-giving in one form or another. But the ghost of the child that once hovered as a possibility over this particular act is now, more often than not, just a ghost, or, if he happens unexpectedly to appear in the womb, he will, about a third of the time, be made into one.

I figure that of all the acts of sexual congress going on between men and women at any one time, over 80 percent of them are undertaken with no intention, hope, or even tolerance for the possibility that a child might issue from it. Hell, we can hardly replace ourselves anymore. Now that we've sewn salt in this once fertile field, we are reaping the husks from the harvest, and those of a more perverse inclination are reaping the whirlwind. I'm not making excuses or saying the bug chaser shouldn't be held accountable for his actions. I'm just saying that the culture around him hasn't made his pilgrim's progress toward the land of unknowing very difficult. If sex isn't about having kids, then it's about something else, like sensation.

Very well put. The full remarks are very much worth your time.

It May Be Snowing Lightly In Boston Now...
But the BSO has announced its summer schedule at Tanglewood.

Seventy New Claims Filed Against the Archdiocese
Garabedian represents these new plaintiffs. Radio report only as of 11:00 am. Nothing in the Globe's Boston.com site yet.

Feckless Euroweenies Block Minimal Alliance Action To Protect Turkey
Are France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg really still allies?

Coast Guard Deploying To Persian Gulf
Coast Guard cutters and personnel will be deploying to the Persian Gulf to protect naval vessels from suicide bomber attacks.

And more troops from the 10th Mountain Division are deploying as well.

Lord protect them, and all our armed forces in this crisis.

Victor Davis Hanson, writing in National Review On Line, has a positive view of the President's State of the Union speech.

Archdiocese May Have To Close Several Schools
''The Catholic Church is in crisis,'' it said. ''Stories of secrecy, scandal, and mismanagement abound. But amidst all of this chaos, a lesser-known tragedy is unfolding - the unraveling of the Catholic education system.''

I am not one of those people who think of Catholic education as a distraction from the central mission of the Church. On the contrary, I think it is vitally important to that mission. Rather than see Catholic schools closed left and right because of budgetary constraints (something else we can thank Law, McCormack, Banks, Daily, Ryan, Shanley, Geoghan, Desilets, Paquin, Foley, Birmingham, et al. for) I would rather see the liberal nun running the office canned, and the Catholic education system of the Archdiocese new-modelled to emphasize excellence and Catholic orthodoxy.

A complete and thorough review of text books, teaching and administrative personnel, and methodology should be undertaken to purge the Catholic schools of the fallacious theories and methodologies of modern education, and their advocates. Every Catholic school teacher and principal should be a vigorously orthodox Catholic. Every teacher should demand high behavioural standards from her students. And they should not only promote self-discipline over self-esteem, and excellence over diversity but strive to get high levels of academic achievement from each student as well. It is time to toss aside the useless "Butterfly curriculum" religious textbooks, and teach the Faith again.

If Catholic schools are turned into factories of excellence and orthodoxy, they will survive and stand on their own financially. If they are not (and Sister Carr is no one to turn them around, as she is one of the worst offenders in the entire system) they will wither. This is one reason why we need a permanent Archbishop of rigorously orthodox outlook and winning personality very, very soon.

This sort of thing is part of what I have in mind for the schools of the Archdiocese. Thanks to Amy Welborn for the link.

The Operational Pace Will Be Rapid
Richard Pyle, in a column originally written for the Washington Times, and carried at FrontPage Magazine, agrees with me that "decapitation" of the Iraqi leadership in the first few minutes of the war is the best mode for fighting the war, and that our technical superiority has increased markedly since 1991, while the military resources of Iraq have dwindled. He hints at what I have said, that a commando strike on Saddam's headquarters may well be the first overt act.

I will say that, though it may be the option most likely to get things over with quickly, and ease the task of the rest of the forces we will use, it is highly risky and dangerous for the commandos executing it. They will need to be either supported in Baghdad (probably by airborne troops) after they succeed, or removed if they fail (and are still alive). And then ground units will still need to link up with the commandos and airborne troops within a few days. It is not quite a suicide mission, but it is uncomfortably close to one. Shades of Market-Garden (Arnhem) and the Keyes Raid are somber reminders commando strikes and surprise airborne drops like that don't always work. And it is by no means certain that they will hit the right target.

Our Special Forces are a precious resource. We don't have many of them, and they will have other missions, including spotting for the Navy and Air Force pilots. A commando strike on Saddam's headquarters would probably require somewhere between a reinforced company and a whole battalion. And at least a regiment (three battalions) of airborne troops would need to come in within 5 hours to support the commandos or extricate them (less, perhaps only a battalion, to extricate them, the whole regiment to support them in position against heavy opposition for 4-7 days).

The alternative, though, is rapid armoured and mechanized advances through Iraq, brushing aside what resistance the Iraqi military is capable of mounting and bypassing it to get to Baghdad inside 4 days. This means deploying and maneuvering by brigade-sized units, not by divisions as we did in 1991. Hopefully, enough agreement with Jordan and Turkey has been reached that our forces can strike from several directions at once, rather than just from Kuwait. Since Saddam's plan is to give up Iraq's frontiers, and lure US forces into house-to-house fighting in Iraq's cities (and then unleash WMD against them while they are so engaged) we should meet very little resistance at first. The Marines will have a tough job securing the coastal area and terminal for the Iraqi oil industry around Basra, especially since Saddam is planning a gotterdammerung with his oil industry. The Marines will probably use a combination of amphibious and helicopter assault to accomplish their landing. A sizable percentage of our ground forces will be needed to blockade the urban areas our armoured spearheads will be bypassing.

The downside to this more conventional plan is that, while it will still be rapid, it will leave the Iraqi leadership intact to give orders to use WMD and to encourage resistance. Of course special forces could be used to spot for missile strikes on suspected Iraqi command and control centers, including Saddam's personal headquarters. But missiles usually don't kill everyone in a hardened shelter. Saddam and his cronies might well be so far underground that they will survive numerous missile strikes. But if he is so far underground in a hardened shelter with plenty of alert, well-armed, and loyal guards, even a battalion-strength commando assault may fail to kill him.

The Iraqi government should nevertheless fall within 7 days from the outset of ground fighting. Once a benign government is in place in Iraq, I think then, we will look back on the hysteria of the Left (think about Susan Saran-wrap's insane commerical last night) about massive casualties, drafts, and months and years of fighting with an amused curiousity, much like the way we consider the Luddites today. We will wonder what they were making such a kerfuffle about. And we will at last relegate their misguided notions, bred too much on Vietnam, to the ash heap of history.

My background on this type of thing is good. I've been studying warfare for 30 years. Though I am only an "expert" on 18th century warfare (a re-enactor who has worked his way up to the rank of "Major" and an historical consultant for 13 years), I am no babe in the woods regarding modern warfare. The books I read more often than the Bible in high school were General von Mellenthin's Panzer Battles, and Churchill's History of the Second World War. I've handled some of the weapons currently in use (and ridden in a British Challenger tank). I have dined with, and got drunk with, several officers and NCOs now on their way to the Persian Gulf (ironically, since I am a British re-enactor with ties to modern-day descendants of the units I re-enact, I know more career men in the modern British Army than in the US Army, though I have friends who are US reservists who are also now en route).

In December, 1990, I sketched what Desert Storm would look like on a napkin in a Denny's for a fellow re-enactor. I had it exactly right (Schwartzkopf was also a student of von Mellenthin). Given that an amateur like me could see exactly what was going to be done, it is astonishing that the Iraqi military did not. This time, though, I have less detailed information on deployments than I had in 1991. The press is either less informed on military matters (and less curious) than it was then, or the Administration is doing a better job concealing preparations. I can only make my prognostications based on the limited information available. But I will continue to put together the scraps of information I come across, and figure out what the picture they fit into looks like.

I should hasten to add that my experience is all theoretical. My experience does not equate with what the members of our, and our allies' armed forces are about to experience. For me "battle" has been a fun 1-2 hours with few risks, not the disorienting nightmare that real war is. I've been thrown from a horse, fallen into a ditch while leading a bayonet charge, suffered heat exhaustion, sunburn, insect bites, been deafened temporarily by a triple charge in the barrel of my right hand file man, had asthma attacks, and suffered flint cuts to the hands (interestingly, despite my knee problems, I've never had a dislocation in a battle). But I have never gone into a "battle" with any genuine fear. My life has never been seriously in jeapordy. Of course someone on the other side could do something stupid, like use a ramrod and leave it in the barrel (and fire it across the field). I know of one incident when a re-enactor was impaled on a fired ramrod. Another friend had a mild heart attack after being stung repeatedly by bees. And you have to be careful with bayonets and handling loaded muskets. But on the whole, decent training removes most of the dangers, and re-enacting is less dangerous than skiing. For those who are about to experience genuine battle, those of us at home can only pray for their safety.

More On Bug Chasers
Tammy Bruce, a lesbian and feminist, writing for FrontPage Magazine, takes on the gay thought police, including Andrew Sullivan.

Post SOTU Polling Positive

Text of President Bush's State of the Union Speech
Courtesy of Fox News.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Well Done
President Bush did what I think he needed to do with the State of the Union speech. Tomorrow, I'll have some analysis, and the complete text.

Saint Thomas Aquinas
Today is the feast of one of the greatest doctors of the Church. I almost missed it, because this is not his traditional feast day, and I use Father Engelbert's terrific, but pre-Vatican II Lives of the Saints. His traditional feast is March 7th.

Looks Like Likud

That Worm Did More Damage Than First Reported
It disrupted some ATMs and 911 response centers. The fact that it was traced to Hong Kong, if I am correctly remembering, does not mean it was not a terrorist effort. The jury is still out on that.

The Wind Chill At Logan Airport At 9:00 am was -17
The raw temperature was a balmy 5.

Byron York Is a Very Good Investigative Reporter
National Review On Line's Byron York links "peace movement" money to the Mumia cause.

The Islamo-Fascists Want To Murder Oriana Fallaci
FrontPage Magazine carries George Gurley's profile of La Fallaci, originally printed by the New York Observer.

More On the Outrage Done To Briton Tony Martin
FrontPage Magazine carries Val McQueen's detailed discussion of the outrageous treatment of Tony Martin.

Why Didn't They Just Defrock the Bastard?
Today's Boston Globe has an article on the lengths the Archdiocese went to to keep Shanely under cover.

In one instance, Law's aides decided not to share a summary of sexual misconduct allegations against Shanley with the church board which reviews cases of accused clergy and advises on their future assignments and discipline. Law's assistants also neglected to tell the board that Shanley had taken a position working with an accused sex offender at a Catholic-affiliated hostel in New York City.

Another selection from Monsignor Helmick's depostion regarding Shanley:

In a separate deposition of Monsignor William M. Helmick, who served as secretary to Medeiros and Law from 1971 to 1987, MacLeish focused on Shanley's seemingly untouchable status during his earlier tenure as a street minister to runaways and gay youth, and his years as an administrator and pastor at the now-closed St. John the Evangelist Parish in Newton.

''Have you, in your entire experience as a Roman Catholic priest, ever seen a priest acting as brazenly as Paul Shanley appears to act?'' MacLeish asked, in a transcript of the deposition released yesterday.

''Not to my memory,'' replied Helmick, who agreed with MacLeish's characterizations of Shanley's public remarks as ''perverted'' and ''insubordinate.''.

Asked if he had any explanation for Shanley's charmed existence, given the number of complaints against him, Helmick answered, ''I don't.''

This Will Be a Big News Day
President Bush delivers his State of the Union speech tonight. The Israelis are having a vitally important general election for the Knesset today. And here in Massachusetts, Governor Romney is going to unveil some proposed spending cuts.

A Test Every Graduate of Parochial Schools Ought to be Able to Pass
Noel J. Augustyn' Salvation Apititude Test, originally pubished in the New Oxford Review, I think is a good bench-mark. No one ought to graduate from a Catholic high school without getting an 85% on this test. Sadly, I don't think more than 20% would, in fact, pass it today. Take the time to take the test yourself. When Mrs. F. and I took it without preparation on a lark more than a year ago, she scored 98%, and I scored 97%.

An Oldie But A Goodie
I originally published this one as part of Verus Ratio's Catholic Homeschooling Week in September. I am re-posting it now for Catholic Schools Week.

The Case Against Parochial Schools

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.

Catholic Schools Week
Amy Welborn treats us to some highly useful comments on the state of parochial school education. I think she has nailed most of the problems spot-on.

But allow me to amplify from what I have observed. Mrs. F. teaches in a "working class" inner suburb's parochial school, so I am quite familiar with the situation. Amy is absolutely right that the parents one runs into the most don't value education. Primary education is just a means to get the kids to high school, which is just a means of getting them to university, which is just a means to get them a job. They are interested in vocational training, not education. They do little in the home to foster education. They don't read themselves. They have no respect for the process. And the parents act more like union shop-stewards for the children, protesting at every deprivation of accustomed liberties, militating against every exercise of discipline by the teacher, and screeching like banshees if a child is flunked, even after plenty of warning. It is as if the Baby Boomer canard "Question Authority" has taken on a life of its own, and been translated into "Undermine the Teacher's Authority."

Most importantly, the parents are overwhelmingly not practising Catholics themselves. Greater Boston has a huge percentage of cradle Catholics, but also huge numbers of "recovering Catholics," Baby Boomers who have decided that everything they learned in Catholic schools in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s was hogwash, that the Church is hypocritical, anti-women, unprogressive. They are in the grip of their prevailing left-wing politics, and the Baby Boomers' self-absorption and materialism. The children are put in mediocre Catholic schools just so that they will be safer than in the truly horrific public schools. Maybe at the back of some parents' minds (at least the older ones) is that the children will receive the sacraments in the proper order, so that they can marry in the Church. But that is less and less a consideration.

As to the Catholic content of the education they will receive in a typical parochial school, it is watered down, and often lacking altogether. Religion class is the first to be bumped when a scheduling conflict arises (even over the nearly universal Friday afternoon art class). Do you think children go to Mass daily? Weekly? Sometimes, they don't even go monthly as a class or as a school. The content of the materials used for religious instruction is decidedly poor. The Baltimore Catechism method went out 40 years ago, at least in Boston. Nothing useful has replaced it. The underlying message of materials supplied by the major publishers is that Jesus was nice, and that we ought to emulate him by being nice. Nothing about sin, death, judgment, hell, the devil (that would be too scary). Unless they run into a, informed counter-cultural conservative like Mrs. F. along the way (and they are very few and far between in Boston area parochial schools), the kids will graduate knowing nothing about the Rosary, the saints, the history and structure of the Church, the Mass, traditional hymns, etc. They may know some Bible stories, but probably will not be able to understand their sequence or their historical context. And there is nothing distinctively Catholic in knowing Bible stories.

The majority of the teachers themselves don't have a proper foundation. They graduate from college and know nothing about the Faith themselves, and yet are expected to teach it to children. Many only took the much lower-paying parochial school job because they could not get a job in a public school. And even more of a handicap is that many Catholic school administrators, strapped for funds and in urgent need of a teacher, are not over-scrupulous in hiring only Catholics. Non-Catholics are beginning to appear on Catholic primary school faculties in much the same way they have infiltrated Catholic colleges and high schools. The older teachers who have a better foundation are fast disappearing from the schools. It is cheaper in this time of declining enrollments and pared budgets accelerated by the Scandal, to hire teachers fresh out of college, as they are paid less. And even the older, better-formed teachers are not altogether free from the "recovering Catholic" syndrome dictated by liberalism and materialism.

As Amy points out, the general educational standards of the parochial schools are in decline, as they are throughout the education industry generally. The parochial schools are a little bit better than the public schools. But consider this. Since accreditation is required by Catholic school bureaucrats (refreshingly, there are few of these), the parochial schools are drawing on the same pool of potential teachers as the public schools. The teachers are graduating from the same teacher education programs, and are absorbing the same flawed pedagogical instruction on method and what to emphasize as the public school teachers. They have the same poor background of general knowledge as public school teachers. This in part contributes to the more secular outlook of the parochial school teacher of today. The same relentless diversity-mongering and political correctness that drives the public schools motivates the parochial school. The result is that kids know less about their culture and their faith when they graduate than they would have 40 years ago.

Martin Luther King Day may just be a meaningless holiday to most of us, but it is a week-long (or longer) PC fest in most parochial schools (followed hard by Black History Month in February) with much more classroom time devoted to it than Thanksgiving or Columbus Day. In liberal Democrat Massachusetts, Presidents' Day reports usually feature Kennedy, Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton (though Mrs. F. is careful to make the students pick from a list that includes both Democrat and Republican presidents, and excludes Kennedy and Clinton).

And a New Age-type thing called "Spirits Week" is entering the parochial schools. The "Spirits" celebrated have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, but more with the spirit of hedonism and materialism. It is usually at the end of the school year, and includes a wear-funny clothes day, an ice cream treat, field trips, a dress- down day, and other nonsense.

When I was in parochial school 25-30 years ago, excellence was the watch word. Today, it is diversity. I suspect that the "excellence" we were prompted to would have been seen as pale, thin stuff indeed by parochial school graduates of the 1930s. Latin has not been available at most Boston-area parochial schools since the early 1960s. French was taught as a lingua franca of the civilized to the upper grades (5-8) in my school days. But Spanish now has largely replaced it. Again, it is practical, a concession to the fact that the population contains many Spanish-speakers. Again we see the rejection of classical modes of education in favor of acquiring skills that allow you to get on and get a job.

Discipline? Also declining. It has often been said that the advantage of parochial schools is that they instill discipline and prepare the student to learn later. Discipline, though, isn't what it used to be. True, Catholic schools can get rid of the rotten apples much more easily than public schools can. But the school is always loathe to dispense with another tuition-paying parent, just because their child is an unruly menace, or so slow that he is holding back the entire class. Corporal punishment disappeared before I started school in September, 1969. But keeping kids after school, and other methods were common and fairly effective. These disciplines have been eroded by more "progressive" methods that are less effective.

At least they make them wear uniforms? Well, sometimes. But uniform standards are in decline. Often one sees the shirt and tie and dress trousers requirement for boys reduced to polos and khakis. You see, it is easier for the parents to care for that type of clothing than the traditional rig.

National Review's John Derbyshire wrote last year (I don't have the link, sorry) about the "It's-easier-for-them" phenomonon, by which traditional standards are relaxed to make things easier for the teachers, the parents, the administrators. The education field is the home of this trend above all others. Teachers let the students correct their own or their peers' papers, because it is easier for them (the teachers). Parents successfully push the schools to relax the uniform because it is easier for them (the parents). Parents don't go to Mass because it is easier for them. Administrators don't demand that parents support the teachers because it is easier for them (both administrators and parents). Well yes, everyone has to do less work for their admittedly poor pay, and the parents end up doing less. But the students suffer.

It is little wonder that so many of the most pious families, and the parents most keen on giving their children a truly excellent education, are homeschooling. I don't see the general trends Amy and I have pointed out changing any time soon. Even though Mrs. F. teaches in a parochial school, and I went to one, if we should be blessed with children, we will home school them.

Monday, January 27, 2003

"There'll Always Be An" America
We're within a month of commencing military operations in Iraq, and Howie Carr started his radio program with a discussion of Super Bowl commercials. At the first commercial break, he said, "We'll get to the war in a minute."

Are we a frivolous culture, or what? One bad thing about the all-volunteer military is that it breaks the bond between the culture and its armed forces. As long as the folks going off to fight are volunteers, the rest of society doesn't take it as seriously as we ought. We all need diversions, but we don't even have as much of a sense of a country about to go to war as we did in the late fall/early winter of 1990/91. It is nothing like what people of my age imagine 1942 must have been like. We had it briefly after September 11th. But it was gone even before Afghanistan was liberated. We are not only frivolous, but have a short attention span as well.

Mozart's Birthday Today
I doubt that listening to Mozart's music has any particular effect, except at the margins. But Gaspar likes to listen to W.A.'s string quartets (my cat has decent taste in music; he also likes Locatelli's The Art of the Violin, and my own favorite, Vivaldi's concerti). Mozart was at the turning point between what we call classical music, and what we call baroque. His more baroque works are favorites of mine. Here is a complete chronological list of his works. For a cheap way to acquire his works, Naxos is in the process of publishing all of his works at about $6.00 per CD. You can buy them over time at Borders and hardly notice the expense.

Happy Birthday, Wolfgang!

Anybody know any better Mozart sites? I'll be glad to post more links.

1,000 Tons of Iraqi Chemical Weapons Unaccounted For
According to UN weapons inspector Hans Blix. Maybe that 1,000 tons is what Uday Hussein had in mind when he threatened chemical attack in retaliation for US invasion.

Is It Just To Execute Someone Who is Known For Certain To Have Committed Terrible Bloody Crimes If We Have Doubts Over Whether They Did What They Are To Be Executed For?
I submit that it is, if not just, at least not particularly troubling. So therefore, I have no trouble taking out Saddam Hussein for his connections to al Qaeda, even if it later turns out that those connections were not as strong as we think. He is a notorious bad actor, and the world will be better off without him and his cronies. I would lose no sleep if he is eliminated in our attack, but it later turns out from captured documents that he was not as culpable as we think.

When you start two wars, gas inhabitants of your own country, attack a distant country for no good reason, and shoot at American and British pilots, you lose the benefit of the doubt. That is why I have been in favor of giving Saddam his quietus since September 11th. In fact, I favored it even before that. But September 11th made it of vital importance that the world neighborhood be cleaned up as much as possible, that real or potential allies of our al Qaeda enemies be taken out of the equation. Saddam is certainly not blameless, and he is vulnerable. Hopefully, others will take their cue from the destruction of Saddam's regime, mend their ways, or overthrow their leaders so we won't need to make a huge effort like this again.

Armies teach hard lessons. It is time to teach another lesson.

Remaking Mobs
Interesting. Except the author spells the name of historian George Rude as "Rud" throughout. And Rude's thesis isn't new. I read his book on the crowd in the French Revolution in college 20 years ago. In fact, it was first published in 1959.

The Case Against The Buchananite Case Against War With Iraq
Robert Locke, writing for FrontPage Magazine, reprises his correspondence with a Buchananite journalist regarding war with Iraq.

We Had A Break
The cold weather abated briefly yesterday, when temps in Boston reached 36 degrees (does anyone not in a science-related field even bother with Celsius anymore?). But it snowed last night (just a dusting) as a cold front slashed and burned its way through New England. Back to the teens today and probably tomorrow. Wind chills are nasty again. It may get above freezing again on Wednesday.

Oh the joys of winter in New England!

Israeli Elections Tuesday
Without putting too fine a point on it, if Israel is to survive, Likud must have a working majority.

Check Out Ad Orientem
Mark Sullivan at Ad Orientem posted some very interesting material Friday concerning a Virginia parish. The pastor, on first glance, seems to need some scrutiny of his mental health. But on reflection, I think he is just parotting back the "cutting edge" stuff that is still being peddled in some Catholic seminaries today. In one astonishing message, he talks about the church as a meeting place that is only sanctified by the presence of a congregation (as if the Real Presence in the reserved Eucharist in the tabernacle was not the sanctifying element), mandates reception of Eucharist in the hand and under both Species, heaps contempt upon reverence, encourages talking, howling, laughter in the church before Mass (but Heaven forbid that people extend their greetings into what he undoubtably thinks is the most important part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word).

Looking at what one arrogant and untactful pastor with thoroughly wrong-headed ideas can do to a parish does put one in mind of what the US bishops have tried to do, bit by bit, for the last 20 years especially. It is only a difference in scale and timing that removes Father "TQ" from the USCCB's staff. If forced out of Holy Family parish, he'll fit right in on the staff of the USCCB, or maybe Cardinal Mahony's staff.

Powell's Sensible Remarks
Secretary of State Colin Powell is beginning to concentrate his efforts on the direct links bewteen al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. I will refrain from saying it is about time, and applaud the change of emphasis.

If war with Iraq is a national security necessity, and I believe it is, then making its inception contingent upon the findings of UN weapons inspectors was a frail and unreliable casus belli to begin with. It depended upon the actions of people not synchronized with our own national security apparatus, people and governments with their own agendas and priorities.

Our priority is to destory al Qaeda and any government that has given it aid or comfort in any form. Iraq is one such government, and perhaps the most vulnerable one. The justifications under the new line of reasoning are murky, relying upon intelligence that is often sketchy and contradictory. We are deep in the shadow world of international terrorism here. Yet the ambiguity also offers an opportunity. It may well be that our policy justifications will have to take on a,"We have some intelligence that justifies this action, but can't show it to you" air.

We will just have to rely on the government not to squander US military resources. But I am willing to take that risk, and give the President carte blanche to seek out and exterminate al Qaeda sympathizers and allies (even some-time allies) across the world, by whatever means necessary. Anything to prevent another September 11th, or something worse.

Game Day
Well, it was Super Bowl Sunday, after all. We had the cold cuts and rolls, the chips, and the liquid refreshments. So we turned the TV on in the evening, and played the 4 hour plus A&E production of A Year In Provence. Reading Hotel Pastis last weekend put me in the mood for Peter Mayle. And a pleasant time was had by both of us.

The game? What would I care about that? The Patriots were not playing. They were not even in the playoffs. I like baseball much more than football, but wouldn't watch the World Series if the Red Sox were not in it. So what would I care about a team from California playing a team from Florida? I could not name a single player on either team.

Congratulations to the winners (I think Tampa Bay).

But the big sports news is that the Red Sox' spring training camp opens in under 3 weeks.

Pressure For Bishop McCormack To Resign Builds
And rightly so. But I don't think that the Massachusetts-based rent-a-riot crowds will do the thing. With the pressure of a criminal indictment gone, McCormack may just hang on until New Hampshire Catholics are as upset about what he did here, and what he has done there, as Massachusetts Catholics are. If he keeps his nose clean, he may prevent that. If he fails to do that, if there is one hint that he has in the last year or from this time forward rendered any assistance to any pervert priest, his whole house of cards will collapse quickly.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Not Really A Surprise
Today's Boston Herald reports that, due to the Scandal, Boston faces a worsening of its current shortage of priests. In the last year, more priests have retired than usual, more died than usual, some were removed from parishes due to abuse allegations, and only 3 students enrolled in the pre-theology course at Saint John's Seminary.

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