Saturday, September 13, 2003

The Holy Father's Health Seems To Be Slipping
Just followed up a link over at Mark Shea's to find that the Pope's health has been slipping dramatically over the last few months. Remember to pray for our good pastor, and for the Church he governs.

I can imagine someone else being pope, but I don't like the idea, given how the College of Cardinals now stands. May God grant John Paul II many more years of life and leadership, even if he is leading the Church from a sickbed. Lack of action is better than what might otherwise ensue with the wrong man at the helm.

Conservative Short Stories
OK, class, here is an idea that I don't think I have ever seen anyone ask about. List your favorite short stories with a demonstrably conservative theme. Stories with a strong Catholic theme work as well, since belief in a transcendent order is one of the hallmarks of conservatism.

I'll start with three:
Russell Kirk: Ex Tenebris
Nathaniel Hawthorne: Earth's Holocaust
nathaniel Hawthorne: The Birthmark

Currently Reading?
Russell Kirk's The Surly Sullen Bell, a collection of his gothic ghost stories. I don't have a lot of time for reading right now, but I am managing to sneak a few pages in at a time. One story I highly recommend is Ex Tenebris. I won't spoil it by telling you the plot.

The title comes from lines in a sonnet by Shakespeare to which I formed an instant attachment:

No longer mourn for me when I am dead.
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with viler worms to dwell.

Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot
If thinking on me then should make you woe.

I must confess that I am not as familiar with Shakespeare's sonnets as I ought to be. Kirk uses this quotation exceedingly appropriately in the story that gives the book its title.

It Is Now Mid-September
Fall is coming on fast. It seems to be getting colder every day this past week. It is time for apple picking and fresh cider. And the Red Sox are still 2 games ahead in the Wild Card race (though four games behind of the Yankees for the Eastern Division.

I can't say that I much like the new wild card system with three divisions that baseball has adopted.

I think there was merit in the system that implicitly said that, if you can't win your division, you don't deserve to get into the playoffs. It is making baseball too much like hockey, football, and basketball with their interminable playoffs. True, it gives the Red Sox a second chance.

But inevitably, they still have to get past the Yankees. It is fact of life that the Red Sox are cursed with having new York in the same division. There have been times when the team from the Bronx has gone through interludes of mediocrity, allowing the Red Sox to win the division, and providing broader opportunities for the Olde Towne Team to let down the fans in an even more spectacularly memorable way than merely losing a pennant race.

It seems that the only winner is the team's ownership, which gets to sell seats and derives other revenue from having a (brief) appearance in the playoffs.

Friday, September 12, 2003

The Insurance Companies Are Still Balking
So far, they will only be ponying up $17 million towards the $85 million settlement. But an independent review of the available coverage conducted last year estimated that $90-100 million is available.

The Archdiocese will bear the cost up-front, and sue the insurers for the rest. Cardinal Law resisted taking this approach. A new wind is blowing from Rome. The orders Archbishop Sean came in with evidently made settlement a very, very high priority.

Since I did so well with the dates for the settlement and the amount, why don't I take a public stab at the date for the resolution of this dispute, and how much the insurers will eventually pay? I would guess that the liability carriers will end up paying something like $40-45 million. I expect it will take 2-3 years for the dispute with the insurers to be settled once and for all. And the Archdiocese will have to pay through the nose for this sort of liability coverage in the future, or self-insure.

It's About Time
The Israeli government has voted to exile Arafat. The man is responsible for countless murders over 40 or more years. If you ask me, exile is too nice, but politics is the art of the possible.

Just What We Don't Need
OK it has been a long time since we have had one, but the weather prognostications that we may receive a visit from what is now a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic is a little unnerving. Fabian didn't even pelt us with beachballs, as Chris at Maine Catholic and Beyond had suggested. But this one is very dangerous, and it may very well visit us (though probably not as a Category 5) next week.

Requiescat In Pace
You could fill an entire graveyeard with this year's celebrity dead. Television actor John Ritter died unexpectedly from a heart ailment at the age of 54. Most people remember him from his role in Three's Company, a show I never watched. Nor did I watch the show set in Washington of which he was a star. Of course, since we gave up network programming 6 years ago, I never watched his most recent series, either. But I remember him from his first recurring role, as the minister on The Waltons. Not many TV stars of his age can claim 4 series that were continued for more than one year (the definition of a "hit"?). Requiescat in pace.

Requiescat In Pace
Country music's lengendary "Man in Black," Johnny Cash died last night at the age of 71 from complications from diabetes. Cash's wife had died a couple of months ago. I don't care for country/western music myself, but my parents did. I think we still have several Johnny Cash record albums in the closet somewhere, though the covers are not in good enough shape to make them valuable. Cash had a rough early life, and wore black in atonement for his sins, a very worthy thing to do. Requiescat in pace.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Victor Davis Hanson Is Great Today
What else would you expect from the most clear-headed commentator on the war on Moslem terrorism? His work is nearly always a "must-read." Makes me wonder what insights of Andrew Sullivan's are more worthwhile than VDH's.

September 11th Recalled
I think it is important that we never forget the profound peace that was shattered by murderous barbarians two years ago today. I offered these recollections last August in stream-of-consciousness form.

I was in my study doing what I did every day, watching the news on the net and the radio. I had driven to an inner suburb to drop my wife off at her school, and had come back. I don't remember if I noticed any planes taking off from Logan that morning. I probably didn't. They are more or less always up there. Both my wife's school and our home are on approach and take-off routes.

The first sketchy report that a plane had struck the World Trade Center came to me from WBZ News Radio, Boston, a little before 9:00 am. At first, I passed it off as a small plane and an accident. In November, 2001, we saw how little damage a small plane in Tampa did to an office tower. Probably not a big deal. My first thought was that it would send the equities markets lower.

The reports become more disturbing. Four planes unaccounted for, jetliners, two from Logan. Reports (false) of car-bombs at the State Department. Military aircraft being scrambled. The Pentagon. The second tower of the World Trade Center struck, not an accident. We are now at war. Pearl Harbor.

Fox News is on TV. Then the second tower to be struck collapsed. A knock at the door. A suspicious package was found in the alley behind our building, and the police wanted the building evacuated. It just seemed natural. It was only 5-10 minutes before the police verified that it was nothing.

The first tower to be struck collapsed. It was to be a welcome-back-to-school night at my wife's school. Tried my wife's cell number. Since she keeps her cell phone turned off, I contented myself with talking to the school's secretary, who said that the back-to-school night was still on (it was cancelled later). That seemed to be enough confirmation that everything was OK there. A small Catholic school in the suburbs isn't much of a target, right?

Back to the TV. Shots of people jumping out of the towers before they collapsed. Can't they get helicopters up to rescue them? People running away from the scene covered in dust. Fifty thousand people work there. Only a few thousand could possibly get out. Tens of thousands of people could be dead. Telling this to the cat while choking back tears. He is looking at me oddly, sensing something amiss. A quick calculation. Two planes, loaded with jet fuel for cross-country flights; were the two explosions combined equal in force to the detonation of a nuke? Can't do the math. Depends on the nuke, I suppose.

Wonder if anyone I went to college or law school with works in the World Trade Center. Scenes of the Pentagon on fire. President Bush en route to an undisclosed location. A brief and unsatisfying word from Barksdale AFB. Financial markets closed. End of work for the day. Just submit what I have done.

My wife got a chance to call during a free period. She saw the coverage in the faculty lounge. Seems calm enough for now. Why are there tears in my eyes? Capitol Hill and the White House evacuated. US Supreme Court not in session (not the first Monday in October yet). All of Washington on edge. Every city in the country suddenly on a war footing. One plane unaccounted for. Did I know anyone flying today? US Air Force fighters to shoot down the remaining plane once they catch it, and rightly so. All air traffic stopped. The last plane crashed in Pennsylvania. In-laws checking in from Anchorage. Some worries about a plane there, otherwise all well. TV reporting cell phone calls from the planes and from the World Trade Center to 911 and to loved ones. Heart-breakingly sad. Barbara Olson.

Other buildings near the WTC might collapse. Manhattan locked down. What about all those tanks full of aviation fuel, or heating oil, or whatever in Chelsea, Everett, Revere, etc. Lists of names of the passengers scrutinized. Did the passengers on Flight 93 mutiny against the bastards? Good for them. Palestinians cheering the news. Make them pay for that later. Retrieved the car from the Common. Police everywhere. Security guards at the Museum pacing around out front. Picked up my wife and exchanged news and hugs. Police guarding the courthouse/registry complex.

The TV is back on. My wife hates the coverage. I'm glued to it. A lot more people than they thought got out of the WTC. Logan Airport a crime scene. All the cars parked there being towed away. People looking for information about family members, friends, room mates. Not as many people in the hospital as you might think.

Reporters in the rooms the hijackers were staying at in Florida, talking to their neighbors. A cell operating in Boston. Al Qaeda and bin Laden. Afghanistan. Attending flight school and not being interested in landing procedures. Hijackers were Saudis and Egyptians (maybe, but who knows who they really were?). Who knew about it in advance? Saddam Hussein? Khadafy? Arafat? China? Time to clean up the world neighborhood anyway. Time to put out the world's trash. Guess we just became the world's policeman, like it or not.

The entire world is watching this. Chilling thought; this isn't like a battle where the number of injured exceeds the number dead by 4-6 to one. The people who didn't get out of the building are dead or dying. Intense fire. Hundreds of firemen and police among the dead.

A prayer service at Saint James that night, like the people streaming back to Church after the news of Pearl Harbor. Comforting, healing prayers in the presence of the Sacrament. An annoying reporter from some radio station with a mike in my face as we leave. More phone calls and e-mails with my wife's family. Sleeping little.

I don't think I've written in stream-of-consciousness since a high school exercise. I didn't intend to, or even realize I was, until I was a few paragraphs in. I'm not even sure if I did an historian's first job of getting the chronology right. I left it that way, because it seemed appropriate. I haven't read any, but I'm sure hundreds have recounted their memories of the day in this format. Nihil Obstat can have a field day with the grammar of it.

Even though I didn't know anyone who died that day, I still choke up when I think of the enormity of the murderous rampage these people were able to inflict.

Everyone, especially on the East Coast, has memories like this stored up.

Never forget how the peace of this great nation was hacked at by barbarians who could not master the use of toilet paper. It is two years ago now. Memory fades, other concerns step to the front. The war seems to be dragging on interminably, with troops being killed by the same barbarians in Afghanistan and Iraq on almost a daily basis. And there are so many more fronts in this war that have not even been opened yet. But the war must be fought, and it must be won, and not just declared a victory and moved on from. We owe ourselves and our children and grandchildren the peace that only victory can bring.

God bless America!

Let's roll.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The First Part of the Rebuilding of the Archdiocese is Done
The $85 million settlement has been agreed to. Check out Boston.com for details. Of course the agreement in writing of the victims themselves is a requirement. I am pleased to see that this is working on the timetable I spelled out before Labor Day (a settlement agreed to before early September, and official by Columbus Day).

The money was a tremendous struggle. Now comes a process of defrocking the molesters in the priesthood, rebuilding confidence, dealing with active dissent in the priesthood, women religious, "leading" laity, and local theologians. Then we have to get back to the hard work of making disciples of all through examples of holiness. That last one is asking a lot, as even the most pious of us is not always holy.

Rebuilding the Catholicism of the Archdiocese of Boston is a bigger process than can be easily described. Every parish, every faith group, every Catholic journalist, liturgist, priest, nun, music minister, or BITP (body in the pew) needs to remind himself what the purpose of the Church is: salvation of souls through preaching Christ's word and through the Sacraments. I spent ten minutes (I wish it could have been more) before the Blessed Sacrament this morning praying for a this and for a special intention.

We have a great example in the holy life at the head of the Archdiocese now in Archbishop Sean. Who better to lead us now (other than Bishop Bruskewitz) than a Capuchin monk? Let's pray for him as he grapples with the task ahead.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

May God Have Mercy On Her Soul
Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's documentary maker, who created one of the greatest propaganda films of all time, Triumph of the Will, died at the age of 101. Technically, she was a brilliant producer of films. But morally? May God have mercy on her soul.

Looks Like It Will Be Settled For About $85 Million
This morning's Boston Herald reports that the Archdiocese and the plaintiffs are very close to a settlement of Boston's pervert priest cases that will end up being $85 million.

I had said it would be settled for between $75-80 million. I was off a little bit.

It is interesting how much the Archdiocese had to give, as the party least interested in trying these cases. If the $85 million figure is correct, the plaintiffs' scarcely budged off their minimum $90 million, while the Archdiocese had to come up considerably from their original offer of $55 million.

Let us just hope that the end of Boston's pervert priest crisis really is in sight.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Change in Blogging Status
Recta Ratio is great fun and I truly enjoy bringing it to you. But I am undergoing a change of career and personal concerns that will force me to blog very much less for the time being. This isn't a formal hiatus. Just don't expect the usual 6-12 blogs per day. I may only post 1-2 on any given day, and may only post every few days for the forseeable future. No one is sadder at this change than the Fitzpatricks. I thank everyone for reading my rantings.

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