Saturday, June 21, 2003

And You Thought the Bush Twins' Behaviour Was Embarrassing
Former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who is currently second in the polls among Democrat presidential aspirants for 2004, acknowledged that his 17 year-old son has been arrested for burglary at a Vermont country club.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Dave Kopel On John Granger
National Review On Line carries Dave Kopel's excellent review of John Granger's wonderful The Hidden Key To Harry Potter. If you find yourself hopelessly fuddled over the Potter books, or think you are reading something favorable to Wicca/paganism, take the time to read Granger's book. I think that will ease many people's fears over Harry Potter and the wizarding world of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley.

Last night, Granger sent Mark Shea a list of things to look for and plot developments he expects in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. There is an excellent discussion thread that accompanies Granger's text. Take a look at it before reading Order of the Phoenix (but if you have not read the other books, by all means, read them first). Each story builds on the one before

And no, I am still not going out at midnight to buy Order of the Phoenix. Our discount price is good through Sunday. I'll buy it tomorrow afternoon. After all, Mrs. F, who has dibs on it, is only half-way through a re-read of the Goblet of Fire (necessary since it has been more than a year since we read it, and there are many fascinating plot twists in it that will undoubtably be developed in Order of the Phoenix).

Liberia's President Renounces Pledge To Step Aside
Remind anybody of a certain bishop in Dallas? There the open warfare between Bishop Grahmann and his mouthpiece, and everyone else who is not hopelessly corrupt or on the payroll continues, with little sign of a let-up.

Is a corrupt and incompetent bishop owed true allegience? No. But the Church is owed it. While the bishop in some senses represents the Church, the Church has a wider and even more authoratative existence beyond the bishop. In Rome. In Peter's successor.

Who Would I Put On the National Review Board?
OK, I just laid a load of criticism on the US bishops for the make-up of their National Review Board. Many of the folks on it are old-time big Democrat contributors and campaign operatives. The bishops turned to their natural allies of long-standing in the Democrat Party to make up most of the board. Perhaps they perceived no other option.

Here is how I would structure a board of nine members (assuming they would all accept).

Chairman: William Bennett. Recent revelations about gambling problems don't prevent this stalwart for education and moral values from serving his faith in this vital role. Much more to be trusted than Brother Bob.

Four devout pious Catholics with law enforcement backgrounds who are essentially apolitical. These would be the sort of folks who serve the Justice Department no matter the idealogical bent of the administration (and preferably have served below the level at which the public takes notice of them under Adminstrations of both parties). These would be hard-nosed diggers for information and people with reputations as tough prosecutors.

Peggy Noonan
Someone who can craft public statements wonderfully, and is a wife and mother who loves the Faith.

Michael Rose
An investigative journalist who follows up leads and can articulate his findings in a way ordinary folks understand. And he is someone who can see through the defenses the Lavender Mafia will throw up.

Father Benedict Groeschel
He has been critical of even the perception of a Scandal in the Church. "Gay priests? What gay priests? There are no gay priests." His is a position that I find to have its head in the sand to an astonishing degree. He could almost be the bishops' Baghdad Bob. But let him see every report. I believe him an honest man. His perception of the situation may change after wading through the thousands of pages of data released in Boston alone.

Father Andrew Greeley
I knew I'd shock some folks with this one. But Father Greeley, however much I disagree with his views and dislike his fiction, has no love for the "Lavender Mafia" (he may have coined the phrase), and is probably a heterosexual. His public image makes him a good person to have out front on a board like this.

Of course this will never happen. But I think a make-up like this would be better suited to the task at hand.

Developments In St. Louis
Several things pop out from the article linked above.

*First is that slimy Clinton lawyer Robert Bennett will likely emerge as the next chairman of the National Review Board, if they pick an existing member as the next chairman, which I think they will.

He has emerged as the spokesman for the board going to bat for the bishops. He said Keating's comments were "beyond the pale." Most likely, Bennett has been undermining Keating's position within the board for some time, and that was a major contributing factor in Keating's resignation. It is no wonder that Keating could not be effective within the board, since it's stacked with Democrat-Party-at-prayer Clinton rump-swabs like Bennett, who will labor to broom (not solve) as much of this as possible, just as he did for Clinton. It is no accident that Robert Bennett was chosen for the board, and no coincidence that someone practiced in defending the indefensible will chair it now.

*Many bishops do indeed think that the crisis is passing, and that it is time for business-as-usual.

Cardinal Mahony and his cronies are convinced that, if they continue to stonewall, the public will lose interest, the prosecutors will grow weary, and they can safely, under the cover of the next big non-Church news story, have a few shredding parties (if they have not done so already). Time for them to get a nasty, shocking dose of reality that the crisis continues and will until a full breast is made of every nasty, dirty secret Cardinal Mahony is hiding in the files he is refusing to turn over to investigating authorities. If Cardinal Mahony falls with a bigger thud than Cardinal Law because of the revelations contained in the files he is protecting, too bad. Personnel, even Cardinals, are fungible. The Faith and the people of God generally are not.

*Archbishop Montalvo's statements make it clear that the Vatican understands this crisis through the prism of the bishops (and probably the most guilty ones) not through independent sources of information, except for impressionistic surveys of the major American media.

While there is some recognition that the crisis exists, his emphasis seems to be forces in the media and the Church that he says are magnifying it for their own ends.

Sorry Archbishop, but the buggering of thousands of young boys by hundreds of supposedly celibate priests and the covering up of these facts for decades and the re-assignment of known perverts to situations in which they would again have access to children is not something that is magnified out of proportion. It is a gigantic sin that towers above the Church, killing its public perception of holiness and bellowing so loudly that it drowns out anything you may say to the contrary. For many it is an ugly, faith-shattering reality.

Recommended reading for Archbishop Montalvo: various blogs here at St. Blog's. Then he might get a truer perspective on the crisis without the self-serving assessments of the most guilty bishops, or the anti-Catholic bias of many major media.

*A few bishops have been reluctant to cooperate in the survey, but seem to understand that the crisis is not a media invention. They recognize that there has been real sin, and crime committed. Those sins and crimes have hurt many.

Bishop Wuerl seems to fall into this category. So does Dallas' Co-Adjutor Bishop Galante. Bishop Lennon to a lesser extent (not being a patsy in the ongoing litigation prevents him from wanting to come clean) seems to be in this category, too. Bishop Wuerl admits that the Church is vulnerable because of the sins of many bishops and many priests.

*There are indeed forces with darker agendas (like forcing the acceptance of the end of the norm of priestly celibacy, ordaining women, ordaining openly and actively homosexual men, changing Church teaching on sexual morality and life issues) that are using the crisis.

Archbishop Montalvo is right to say this, but wrong to emphasize that this is the primary thing about the Scandal that we ought to know. Yes the Boston Globe and the New York Times, and other media groups want to either force the Church further down the Democrat-Party-at-prayer path, or discredit its teachings. But it is important to remember that reporters did not go out and bugger young boys by the hundreds. The stories are not made up. Through the sinful actions of priests and bishops, the American hierarchy handed its most virulent enemies, the "progressives," a wonderfully thick club to beat it over the head with. The media, despite their motives, can be forgiven for shooting the fish the bishops so conveniently placed in a barrel for them.

The stories are getting the attention they deserve. And until the Church takes the necessary steps to redress the situation (a. prospectively ban men with significant same-sex attraction from the seminary, b. justly settle the existing claims for the past actions of pervert priests, c. vigorously defrock active homosexuals who have already been ordained, d. watch the currently inactive homosexuals in the priesthood like hawks from now on, and e. universally return to a vigorous emphasis on the traditional sexual morality taught by the Roman Church in all its plentitude) the situation will not be perceived to have been fixed.

In other words, settle the litigation, make the worst of the problem less likely to happen in the future, force the make-up of the priestly ranks to more closely resemble what the Church teaches about human sexuality to the extent it is possible, and get back to basics on matters of sexual morality, and the public will perceive that the crisis is being solved. Review boards and surveys and Talking About Touching programs are not the solution. Justice for those who have been wronged, and closer union with Christ through Saint Peter's successor and the structure and belief system around him is the way.

*As to the "Catholic" groups using the crisis to advance socially liberal ends, VOTF is the primary group doing this, but sometimes the victims' groups sound like pale echoes of the VOTF line.

Bishops should demand of groups like VOTF that they explicitly endorse the moral teachings of the Church, and accept, without reservation the permanence and immutability of the theoretical structure of the church as it is now (male celibate priests only with a hierarchical structure with all important decisions about the belief and structure of the Church made in Rome) as a precondition to any dialogue with them. If they don't accept these preconditions, they are not Catholic groups, and there is no point discussing anything with them, except exhorting them to return to the True Faith. If the groups accept these preconditions, but lose half their members because they are not secretly holding out for one day pushing for the ordination of women, or the routine ordination of married men, then we know that the members were not really Catholics, but people who grew up in the Church without actually believing in it.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

And Things Get Odder Yet in Altoona-Johnstown
Criticize the local bishop for not following Vatican teachings on homosexuality, liturgy, etc., and get passed over for pastorships and eventually find yourself essentially fired. That seems to be the story of Father James Foster.

There is something very odd about this whole situation that I can't quite put my finger on. Why would homosexual activists have tried to pressure Bishop Adamec who appears to be pretty much on their side?

Boston's Attention Fixed On Bulger Testimony
UMass President William Bulger, the former long-term President of the Massachusetts State Senate is testifying today under a grant of immunity before a congressional committee looking into the relationship between the Boston FBI, Bulger's fugitive brother James "Whitey" Bulger (a South Boston Irish gangster who apparently murdered some 19 people, and raped, robbed, intimidated countless more during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s) and President Bulger himself.

It was long thought that political foes of President Bulger faced violence at the hands of Brother Whitey (Bulger made a joke of it often) and that Bulger used his power as President of the Senate to retaliate against law enforcement officials "going after" Whitey. The whole story is a twisted tissue of law enforcement, Massachusetts' corrupt state government, the mafia, the Irish mafia, rogue FBI agents using Whitey as an informant (one has been convicted of tipping Whitey off just before he went into hiding and disappeared 8 years ago), and allowing him to commit murders under their protection.

It all stinks to high heaven, and is too sordid and involved for extended commentary here.

If this sort of thing interests you, watch the commentary at the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, or listen to Howie Carr's radio show this afternoon (3-7 Boston time), as he will be broadcasting live from the hearings.

Practically Our Back Yard
The Boston Globe has a nice profile of the new Asian gardens at the Peabody Essex Museum. We just walked through them two days ago. They do look nice.

I May Be Wrong, But the Implication Seems To Be That This Was a Suicide Attempt
The Boston Herald this morning reports that Patrick McSorley, victim of Father John Geoghan, was pulled from the water at Pope John Paul II Park. McSorley has been an active victims' advocate, and is on record as saying that he feels re-victimized whenever the bishops deny responsibility.

You can't miss the symbolism of trying to drown yourself at a park named for the pope while the US bishops are gathering for their semi-annual meeting.

Now McSorley has already been given his financial settlement. But what of long-term counseling? The money is nice, but it does not salve the problem (other than his attorney's problem about how to afford his country club dues). If McSorley was receiving counseling, how effective was it? The Archdiocese runs a system of hospitals. Was nothing done for him through them, a remedy that might have prevented this terrible incident?

This highlights the emotional fragility of many of these victims. Of course what he apparently did is not rational. But, given the inner torments he may be suffering as the result of his abuse, it is understandable. And let's not forget that the triggering incident was Father Gaygun's abuse of him and the Archdiocese's indifference.

McSorley is on life support and has only a 50/50 chance. Prayers for him and his family would help.

Governor Keating's Op-Ed In Today's NYT

Sadly, a few church leaders, including some in large dioceses, chose to resist and obstruct the board. When we asked valid questions, they gave us few or no answers. Where information and cooperation was called for, we received delay or an outright refusal to help.

These few leaders turned to their lawyers when they should have looked into their hearts — and I expressed my disgust with them. I am a candid person, and that makes some people uncomfortable. So be it. Obstructing justice, excusing and concealing those who victimize innocent children: these are not the actions of holy men. They are sins — and they are crimes. God may hold them accountable in the next world, but we will certainly hold them accountable in this one.

Ears burning a little, your Eminence?

The Palestinian Barbarians
When last we heard from the brave Palestinians, two different groups of terrorists were competing for the glory of having shot and murdered a seven year old Israeli girl. Well, today they blew up a grocer. Perhaps this will go down as the Boston Tea Party of the Palestinian National Cause. And how glorious it is! Those grocers and first-graders are mighty hard to kill, you know. Undoubtably, Palestinians, once they have their own nation, will look back with pride on these incidents as a vital part of their heritage.

Bishops Gather In Saint Louis
While the bishops planned for a rather low-key event, the Keating resignation and the O'Brien hit-and-run have focused the spotlight on them again. However, the bishops seem to be planning to conduct most of their business behind closed doors.

There is to be some discussion about a plenary council. I don't favor such a thing simply because, given who the US bishops are, I don't think anything positive can come from a gathering of them. I don't think the votes are there to bring about the sort of change that is needed. How many of them, absent recent positive orders from the Vatican, would vote on their own initiative to screen out homosexual candidates for the priesthood? How many would vote to put a stop to wreck-o-vating traditional churches, to restore the reserved Eucharist to a central place at the altar of every US Catholic church, or restore the "sacred" in sacred music, or adopt new educational materials that actually teach about the Faith, and not watered-down pap? With the US bishops as they currently are, the votes are just not there for genuine reform.

New directories for catechists and for deacons are to be approved. Big deal, you might say. but I am very leary of the directory for catechists because of the types that will be staffing it, and the recommendations they will be making. I anticipate them making the situation much worse, not better. When, in the last 50 years, has a national church bureacracy been staffed by conservatives? The answer to that would be a big, "NEVER!".

And of course the victims' groups and VOTF are in St. Louis, too, to make things hot for the bishops. The bishops do deserve to have their feet held to the fire, especially since many of them will be publicly preening themselves on what a splendid job they have done protecting children over the last year (never mind the preceeding 50).

But these groups have agendas that are not compatible with the health of the Church. The victims' groups, potentially quite powerful, and with much public sympathy, have been a disappointment. They often sound a "me, too" to VOTF's demands. And like VOTF, their spokesmen are quite whiny. But, unlike VOTF, they do good things when not complaining about how the bishops are not talking to them, like setting up the website with the names and status of all pervert priests and now a website listing bishops who are not doing their job regarding pervert priests.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

George Neumayr Pulls No Punches In His Latest
A carpenter is left to bleed to death while the bishop who hit him speeds away in a luxury car. This is an apt image for a liberal club that preaches a Christianity indifferent to Christ the carpenter -- a Christianity so flabby, secularized and morally empty that it barely aspires to the philosophy and holiness of Chappaquiddick Ted Kennedy.

Let us make the obvious point: O'Brien did starkly what the Mahonys of the American church do subtly. They, too, create the most hapless of victims, then sprint for the high grass. They witness life-altering accidents but don't bother to call the cops.

Tough stuff. But not unjustified.

Also notice that, since the departure of Rod Dreher from National Review, the American Spectator and George Neumayr have taken up the slack on the pervert priest issue.

Another Reason To Like John Derbyshire
This posting on the homosexual agenda from National Review On Line's The Corner:
I refer you to the case of 69-year-old Harry Hammond, arrested last year in England and fined over $1,000 for holding up a placard that said: STOP IMMORALITY. STOP HOMOSEXUALITY. STOP LESBIANISM.
I am willing to bet that a poll of homosexuals would show a majority believing that this prosecution was right and proper--probably, in fact, a majority feeling that Mr Hammond got off too lightly. Homosexual activists will stop at nothing to shut down all discussion of, and objection to, their "lifestyle." They do not want mere tolerance or grudging acceptance: they want whole-hearted approval, with the silencing, by force of law, of anyone who does not approve.

Potter Mania Getting A Little Out Of Hand
Yesterday afternoon, we took advantage of some excellent weather and strolled down to Pickering Wharf, and found that a toy shop there is planning an extravaganza for the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. We chatted with the proprietor for a while. He seemed very...uhhh...into all this.

Today, Barnes & Noble rang me up to tell me that the copy of the book I have on order will be available Friday at midnight.


Now I'm looking forward to continuing the story (though Mrs. F. has dibs on the book first). But isn't this a little much? I will go to the store to buy the book sometime Saturday. But I am hardly going to go to Barnes & Noble at midnight to get my copy. I don't go anywhere at midnight to buy something. The closest I ever came to that was a day-after Thanksgiving sale at Target on 5-disc CD players a couple of years ago. We left the house at 6:30am, got there just before the doors opened, had a donut, and walked away with one CD player from the 5-6 huge piles of them in stock. There was a long line of people waiting, but not everyone was buying the CD players. We were only there because something we wanted was available at a very good price, and we did not know how many they had in stock.

Panic promotions like this seem odd to me (and yes, I did see Jingle All the Way). If the discount price was the issue, and I didn't have a copy on order I could understand trying to get the bargain price by showing up early. But since my price is guaranteed (the B&N lady told me as long as I buy it before closing time Sunday) why would I charge down to the store in the middle of the night for my copy? Who do they think I am?

More importantly, what kind of lives do the people who have the guaranteed price but will still be there at midnight lead?

Archbishop Michael Sheehan Named Apostolic Administrator of Phoenix
This was sort of a no-brainer. Archbishop Sheehan had done a nice job cleaning up Santa Fe after the effects of a sex scandal there 10 years ago. So he is rewarded with a greater burden: continuing as Archbishop of Santa Fe, and working to clean up the mess O'Brein felt in Phoenix. He is planning to split his time between the two dioceses.

Holy Spirit help him.

I Was Wondering About This This Morning...And Lo And Behold, Someone Wrote About It Today
One of the joys of life is the annual strawberry harvest. Now you have to pick at the right time of the day. Bending over in the hot June sun can be hazardous to your health. But if you pick nice and early, before it gets too hot, the bounty that you bring in delights the palate, and, when frozen, brightens a bleak March snowstorm.

Well, this year in New England, you haven't had to worry too much about the June sun when picking strawberries. In fact, it has been so cold and rainy that the berry season is substantially behind where it normally is in mid-June. It is raining again today.

This is significant because many towns around here have strawberry festivals in the next week. But this year, very few berries look like they will be ready in time. The June strawberry season might lag into early-mid July, just as the forsythias stayed yellow into the fortnight before the end of May (they are usually green around May 1st-8th).

So if you head out for berry picking (my own favorite spot is Brooksby Farm in Peabody, where I also pick apples and raspberries, and buy fresh sweet cider from mid-September on) plan on going later. Don't sweat it if you are not able to go this weekend. There will be plenty of nice berries later.

The good news is that the wet weather, if it continues, means better fall foliage, and a richer apple crop. And the reservoirs are full and the water tables recovering from our drought conditions of early last year.

Good Stuff Catholic Kids Do

One of Saint Blog's Best Sticks With It
Blogging is said to be a lonely pursuit. It is said by some to lack the interaction with collegues that other forms of journalism have. It certainly doesn't pay.

But the sense of immediate interaction with fellow employees is replaced by reading other blogs that you particularly enjoy and interacting with their authors in the comments boxes. The other blog authors you interact with regularly become your collegues. The ones you don't read are largely terra incognita. But the authors you read a lot are friends you have just never met (or perhaps you have; I don't think it makes a difference).

Personally, I see no point in reading a blog to criticize it constantly. Believe me, constantly criticizing the work of one other blogger or blog is boring. It is terrible reading. It is really childish and immature. It is only making a reputation for you as an -ssh-le. If what you read there constantly offends or irritates you, don't read it. There are plenty of blogs I just ignore. There are commenters I would just as soon delete. Life, to me, is too short to get hung up on petty controversies.

More importantly, I think those on the Catholic Right ought to work together against the forces on the Catholic Left, just as we do in party politics. I would much rather make common cause with someone who agrees with me on 75% of the important things and work together towards common goals, than constantly pick at the 25% we don't agree with. Sometimes a point needs to be made. But it can be done in a dignified and restrained manner that puts no stress on the overall ability to work together towards common goals.

Even I am not right 100% of the time. Speculation sometimes does not pan out. I might even have a fact wrong. Hey, that is life.

My neighbor and friend Domenico Bettinelli reacted today to some of the carping a couple of very small-minded people have been hurling at him and his work; petty, nasty, nitpicky carping. He thought about giving up blogging. Fortunately, he thought better of it. St. Blog's is much better for having Domenico's insights and information available to it. I, for one, rejoice that Domenico has not given up his blog. There are a few blogs I click on maybe 10 times a day. Domenico's is one of them. It is, in my opinion, one of the best.

Now if we could just find a way to make blogs a paying enterprise without cutting out some of our readership.

A Natural Aristrocracy For Our Day
James Duncan Phillips, the Salem historian, came up with this description of the kind of people who make a good community in Salem and the Indies, which I read last year as part of a project on Nathaniel Bowditch:

"It is not the flamboyant morons of Hollywood or Broadway, however smart, who make for the eventual good of a community, but people of taste, culture, and mental activity, living decent, restrained lives."

That is about as good a definition as Edmund Burke might give today.

"James Ossuary" Inscription A Fake

Canada About To Completely Cave In To Cultural Deterioration
Calling it part of the "evolution of society," Prime Minister Cretin has indicated that his party (which has an overwhelming majority in Parliament) is drafting a bill that will bring Canada in line with the recent court decision requiring recognition of gay marriage. The decision will not be appealed. It will not be reversed via constitutional amendment.

Canada is just giving in, like Belgium and the Netherlands.

While the law being drafted will protect truly Christian churches, which abide by biblical injunctions against the practise of homosexuality by not requiring them to perform gay marriages, it probably will require them to recognize such marriages in their treatment of health insurance for employees, etc.

What is next? Will the next vice to receive official sanction be polygamy or bestiality? Do we drop the age of consent next, or restrictions on having sexual relationships with and marrying members of your own family?

We are well down the slippery slope now. We started down it when the national organization of psychiatrists said they no longer considered homosexuality a mental disorder. Since then, momentum has built up behind a do-whatever-pleases-you-whenever-you-like-with-whoever-you-like model for social order. Libertinism has replaced the pursuit of ordered liberty.

"Progressive" opinion is in the driver's seat, and has taken on the air of inevitability, just as it always does. We will fight the good fight, but the enemies of civilization are tireless and relentless. We will yield an inch here, and a foot there, only to find ourselves just where the forces opposed to ordered liberty and restraint wanted, but perhaps a little more slowly than they wanted. And civilized society based on normative values that would have been readily apparent to all in, say, 1910, or 1810, or 1210 or, 610 declines further and recedes further into the past.

That is the despair of the conservative. He can never completely reverse trends like this. He knows, of course, that in the entire history of mankind, there has never been any ideal time. But since the so-called "Enlightenment" (perhaps since the Reformation), and never more so than since 1950 (except for brief, violent aberations like the French and Russian Revolutions), he knows that he and his predecesors have fought one rear-guard action after another. He knows that ground has been steadily lost in the area of the proper ordering of society, while in some areas like the material condition of man and the growth and diffusion of wealth, there has been tremendous positive advance.

What is the remedy? Prayer is the only answer I have. Nothing else will transform Canadian law back to where it belongs. Nothing else will reverse the peculiar favor abortion has with the US courts. Nothing else will reverse wha the Massachusetts SJC is about to do. Nothing else will bring people back to leading Christian lifestyles. Nothing else will restore the unity of Christianity, and advance its doctrine so that it makes disciples of all men.

Before kingdoms can change, men must change. Men have changed for the worse. Kingdoms are now following suit. To effect a change for the better, or a reversal of the change for the worse, prayer is the only vehicle that will work.

Update: David Frum offers some insights on this situation at National Review On Line today.

The Big Topic At the Meeting Between Pastors and Bishop Lennon Was Delinquent Benefits Payments
Bishop Lennon called the Archdiocese's pastors together and made them aware of serious delinquencies by many parishes in paying their portion of things like health insurance premiums for lay employees (parish staff and school teachers). Those benefits will have to be curtailed, and employees let go if the delinquencies are not made up. That is just a fact of life.

Parishes have been hard hit by the Scandal, though many were not meeting their obligations before it broke. Now they are in a real bind. And the Archdiocese is in a bind because of the impact of what it has done in the past regarding pervert priests, and because many donors believe that not all that could be done to solve that crisis and make it go away has been done.

Parish staffs ae fairly minimal already in most respects. Mrs. F. taught a class of 25 kids this past year (far above the "optimal" number (though that was the size of my class in grammar school).

Bishop O'Brien's Resignation Accepted by the Holy Father
That should ratchet down the intensity of the scrutiny this story is receiving. There really was no choice but to defuse the situation in this manner. O'Brien can't run a diocese with serious criminal charges hanging over his head, especially when those charges pertain to his own personal conduct, not merely his administration of his diocese.

And I don't think it does much good to say that, if the Pope had accepted the resignation before, this would never have happened. If God was calling the victim, he would have died in some way. Who is to say that ex-Bishop O'Brien would not have been driving around Phoenix anyway, and still run the poor fellow down? God's will is impossible to second guess.

The information getting to the Holy Father on what is going on in individual dioceses needs to be upgraded somehow. He needs more sources of information than the bishop, and the press. With independent information, he can make better judgments regarding matters that come before him. Then, when a bishop like O'Brien comes to him and says that there is some problem in his diocese, and that he feels obligated to offer his resignation, the Holy Father would know whether the bishop is modestly underestimating his abilities and resigning unwarrantedly, or whether he really is responsible for making a great mess.

If you think the last point fanciful, go back through the lives of the saints and count up how many reluctant bishops or abbots asked the pope again and again to be released from the burden they carried for the sake of their own spiritual life. If the pope gave in to all the requests, we would have had a lot of holy hermits, but not nearly enough good leaders at the episcopal level.

If the pope had dossiers on each bishop, even each priest in each diocese, filled with information from secret but knowing sources loyal to him, then he might not reject the offered resignations of so many bishops, and might make better appointments to the rank of bishop, not just in the US, but around the world. Yeah, I know. It sounds like the "Pope's Secret Police," and bishops and priests would hate the idea of an influence like that in the Church, and also the centralization of power in Rome it implies. But how else can we get better and more reliable information than the often self-serving presentations of the bishops themselves into the hands of the pope?

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Bishop Lennon and the Archdiocese's Pastors Meet Today To Discuss Finances

Robbery At JP Parish
Blessed Sacrament Parish in Jamaica Plain was robbed of some $1,000 in cash, and $17,000 in checks by a grab & run bandit. Banks have stopped payment on most of the checks. The cash was not such a large loss, but will be felt in this time of tight budgets for Catholic parishes in Greater Boston.

More Details About the Accident and the Victim
I only bring this to your attention because as responsible Catholics, we have decisions to make regarding how to view it, and what sort of response is appropriate. If people are going to be sending scathing letters to the Vatican, at least let the letters be informed by the facts.

Bunker Hill Day
This is the anniversary of the bloodiest single battle of the American War of Independence. It happened quite early in the war, and its outcome colored British tactics for the next 8 years. Penned up inside the town of Boston after the retreat from Concord, the British under General Gage and the newly arrived Generals Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne planned to make thier position more secure by seizing the heights of Charlestown and Dorchester, and then converging on the main rebel force at Cambridge.

The New England rebels pre-empted this plan by fortifying Breed's Hill in Charlestown. The next day, with frigates and shore batteries bombarding the rebel positions and burning Charlestown, General William Howe landed on the Charlestown shore with an eventual force of 2,500 redcoats. The New England rebels under Massachusetts' Colonel William Prescott, New Hampshire's Colonel John Stark, and Connecticut's General Israel Putnam were not impressed and held their ground. Two frontal assaults were driven back with huge British losses. Howe's third assault only succeeded when the rebel defenders ran out of ammunition. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting erupted in the redoubt as the Massachusetts men there withdrew. Doctor Joseph Warren, the leading figure of the Massachusetts rebel government was killed at the end of the battle as he and other volunteers tried to cover the retreat.

Howe, who had lost 1,054 killed and wounded, including 10 of his 12 aides, found his troops too decimated to pursue. The rebels lost some 300 killed and prisoners and a few hundred wounded.

Howe, who succeeded Gage in the supreme command later in the year, was transformed by the bloody experience. He would win a knighthood and much praise for his handling of the army, driving Washington from position after position in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Never again, even when his aides told him that all he need do was press an attack on a dispirited American force crouching behind makeshift entrenchments to finish Washington off, would he commit his forces to a direct frontal attack. He would use flanking movements, coups de main, amphibious landings. But never again would he hurl his army against defended positions. Because of that, the Continental Army would live to fight another day, again and again.

Today, the battlefield, except for the block-sized area where the monument is located- the site of the redoubt- is covered over by highways and row houses. A tall obelisk of Quincy granite was built in the 19th century. The National Park Service administers the site. Authentic re-enactments of the battle on the site are impossible because of this, and because of National Park Service regulations.

But a perversion of the spirit of Bunker Hill is perhaps the battle's most enduring living legacy. Many state workers and city workers in Suffolk County have long had the day off as a result of union contracts. So Bunker Hill Day is primarily comemmorated in Massachusetts as a Hack High Holy Day (the other being Evacuation Day, the anniversary of the British evacuation of Boston, which by historic coincidence took place on March 17th). It is most unfortunate that this is the most we do to remember the bravery of those Yankee rebels, and the intrepid redcoats whose descendants are now our staunchest allies.

Governor Keating Stands By His Comments As He Resigns
And he is right when he says it will all come out eventually. Nothing Cardinal Mahony and friends can do will stop it, other than blatantly criminal behaviour like shredding everything.

Alexander Pope Said It Best
"Let not this weak, unknowing hand
Presume Thy bolts to throw
And deal damnation round the land
On each I judge Thy foe."

Further Thoughts On the Bishop O'Brien Situation
My own thoughts and prayers just now are with the family of that poor fellow who was run down, and for the repose of his soul.

For the rest, there will be time enough hereafter.

The facts will come out. They certainly can't be covered up now. When they do come out, we can all make an informed decision about Bishop O'Brien's relative culpability (relative to the other driver, relative to the victim's behaviour) and what consequences beyond the criminal process should flow from it.

Right now, we are all assuming a great number of facts not in evidence yet, at least not in the AP copy I read. The mind does tend to race ahead to petitions to Rome, etc. But let the police complete their investigation, and the prosecutors show us what they have before we start firing off the letters to the Vatican.

It is impossible to spin this positively. And I have no inclination at all to do so. It is no secret that I think Bishop O'Brien's plea deal with the County Attorney was a very bad thing for the Church, and that O'Brien should have taken his lumps and gone through the criminal process for what he did. But the two situations have nothing to do with one another. One involves malfeasance in the performance of his duty as bishop. The other is a terrible human tragedy which has resulted in the death of a man.

Some people, I gather, are gloating over this development as a sort of belated justice for O'Brien. Don't go there. No one on earth is so gifted at discerning the will of God that he can proclaim this divine retribution. Besides, there is a man dead because of this.

No jury has yet been convened, and if there will be one out in Maricopa County, I won't be on it. And no one has appointed me to judge the state of Bishop O'Brien's mind or soul. I'll leave that to the proper authorities, including He Who makes final judgment.

The Catholics of Phoenix can use our prayers.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Silas' Surgery
We just got word that they performed a sextuple bypass on my wife's godfather today. The operation was successful. There is some concern about bleeding, as Silas has been on blood thinners for a while. But the doctors say it is a common enough complication, and nothing to be particularly concerned about. They may go back in this evening to tighten a few sutures up (I imagine) to deal with it if the bleeding persists. Thanks to everyone for their prayers, and please keep 'em coming.

I Absolutely Agree With Lane Core On This One
We have slid down so many slippery slopes in the last 40 years that you would think we would recognize one when it is coming. But I guess no one in the mainstream press will raise an alarm about a coming development they see as just "enlightened" and "progressive."

Things Just Get Worse for Bishop O'Brien
Bishop O'Brien might have been well-advised to junket in Louisville for a few days in advance of the USCCB's meeting. Instead, he was tooling around Phoenix, and managed to be involved in a fatal hit and run accident. He is currently under arrest for leaving the scene of an accident.

Apparently, a pedestrian was crossing the street, but was hit by not one, but two cars, and killed. O'Brien was driving one of the cars. Both cars fled the scene. A partial license plate number taken down by a witness led the police to Bishop O'Brien. O'Brien was taken to a hospital, but it is not clear why O'Brien is there.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with O'Brien's other problems in administering his diocese. We can only pray for the repose of the soul of the poor person killed in the accident, and his family. And pray that justice is done, and for the Catholics of Phoenix.

The Altoona-Johnstown Situation Gets Weirder
Thanks to Domenico Bettinelli and Mark Shea for the link.

Well, I'm not sure what to make of the situation.

Is there an ad hoc group of homosexual priests? Is it all a hoax? Is it the work of homosexual activists outside the priesthood? Is it the work of someone who wants to paint homosexual advocates in a negative light? Is it the work of one homosexual priest? Or one anti-homosexual?

Now the police are involved, and so far, seem to have as weak a grasp on it as everyone else.

More Evidence of A Takeover of Society By Barbarians We Generated Internally

Blogging Going Corporate
Today's Boston Globe has an article on the uses corporations are making of blogging. Mark Shea's blog is mentioned in the article.

And notice, I'm not even complaining about mine not being mentioned, unlike a certain person who claims to have invented the Catholic blog.

I Guess Gray Davis Won't Be Running for President
Normally, the incumbent Governor of California, especially if he is in his second term, would be a powerful candidate for an open party nomination for the presidency. But first there was the state energy crisis, in which Davis and his advisers made many serious errors in judgment. Now there is a budget crisis. Davis failed to defeat political neophyte Bill Simon's effort to unseat him by a substantial enough margin to be a convincing national candidate. Now Fox News reports that it appears likely that a ballot initiative to recall Davis will indeed get before the voters.

Whether Davis is in fact recalled by the voters remains very much an open question. It is not clear who would step up to the plate and run if Davis loses the recall. What is startling is that this could be the first of 31 efforts to recall California's governors to succeed in reaching the ballot. Also of note is that there has been no major development since the 2002 election in which Davis was re-elected, no smoking gun of personal corruption; just a lingering odor of incompetence.

So the Governor of California seems to be a politcal goner, as his own party jockeys for position to hold onto the governorship, and big name Republicans prepare to put themselves forward.

I'm guesing that Democrats, sensing blood in the water, will turn on Davis, and leave him to his fate. The Clintons could not have been happy about the possibility that Davis' reputation might recover (which would mean Hilary facing an incumbant Governor of California, with all the fundraising potential that has, in 2008). So Democrats will let the sharks take Davis. And Hilary will smile at the convenient political demise of another rival.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Sox Win 3-2 In 14
The Red Sox beat the Houston Astros 3-2 to sweep the weekend series. It took a 14th inning single by Manny Ramirez with a runner on second to win this one.

Request For Prayers
This Fathers' Day we find ourselves with the ironic necessity of asking for prayers for Mrs. Fitzpatrick's godfather. He was admitted to the hospital in Anchorage yesterday complaining of angina. Doctors think he will need at least a quintuple bypass. We don't know whether that surgery is taking place now (not good news) or tomorrow (somewhat better).

Silas is in his late 70s now. He was born in the Midwest, and enlisted in the Marines during the war. If I recall correctly, he fought at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima. He settled in Anchorage after the war. Aside from being godfather to Mrs. F. (he and his wife were next-door neighbors to Mrs. F's family in Spenard at the time) Silas is also a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, who tends his strawberries, smokes his pipe, visits his wife at the nursing home daily, loves quiet weekends away at his cabin, and enjoys his great-grandchildren. And a gentler, kinder, more gentleman-like fellow you could not wish to meet. Silas is also a regular parishioner at Holy Family Cathedral, the church where Mrs. F. and I were married. Silas was, if I recall that ever-so-fuzzy morning correctly, the one who got me to the church on time.

Update: Silas' surgery will start at 7:30 am tomorrow (Anchorage time, 11:30 our time) and should last over 7 hours. He has been angina-free for about 12 hours, and they let him eat lunch. Some of the blockages are severe (80-90%), but they should be able to deal with them. They say his prognosis is good. But please keep the prayers coming.

Chalk One Up for the Evil Empire
Governor Frank Keating is resigning as chairman of the National Review Board. He is making loyal noises about only having planned to stay one year anyway. But the idea of stepping down never came up in public until Cardinal Mahony made it clear that he and a few of his cronies among the more pervert-friendly bishops were planning on jettisoning Keating.

Governor Keating was not a great leader for the board. The board itself is stacked with far too many Democrat-Party-at-prayer types. But Keating was a good man in an impossible job. How can you police bishops who are not only supreme in their dioceses (except for the Pope) but also able to sack you if you offend them, unless you yourself are on a first-name basis with the Holy Father? Perhaps not even then.

So the pervert-protectors win this round. There will be other battles. And we know who the enemy is.

Happy Fathers' Day
Recta Ratio wishes all the fathers in our audience a happy Fathers' Day. My own Dad died back in 1989. Mrs. F.'s Dad is in Anchorage for the summer, so we sent a card and made a phone call.

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