Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Dale: The bratwurst is ready!
Dale: I've been watching the Bob Sungenis Death Spiral for the past two months in astonishment. I own two books either written or edited by him, "Not By Faith Alone" and "Not By Scripture Alone." The former is decent, but the latter is (and will remain) indispensible. There's nothing in either of these two books that's problematic--most definitely not on the scale of the last two months, with the geocentrism and Jewish issues.

The geocentrism flap, while striking, is ultimately not a real problem. Imprudent and unsustainable, but if he wants to die on that hill, so be it. Fortunately, that issue died down and CAI moved on to other topics. Unfortunately, one of the other topics was the singularly awful "Reflections" paper, which I will not rehash here. Suffice it to say, I squeezed my spleen dry and poured it on the document before going on to newer outrages. But in so doing, I didn't even touch the Jewish section, which is beyond my limited competence.

Mr. Sungenis leapt into the fray, and produced a decent rebuttal to the Catholic section. Had he stopped there, no problem. But he decided to assault the Jewish reflections as well. The document has since been modified somewhat, but here's the current form, and here's an answer to a critic, complete with a litigation threat. For further background, here are the criticisms of John Betts (scroll down for the 9/15-16 posts--his blog doesn't have archive links) and Bill Cork (look for 9/12-16--too many posts to link to).

I was shocked by Sungenis' writings, but one of the shocks was its familiarity: I've seen the exact same style, tone and citation approach before. Unfortunately, the writings are by certified Catholic bashers like Bill Jackson, Bart Brewer and irony of ironies, Mike Scheifler. It's the same prooftexting used against Catholics--how many times have you had quotes from The Glories of Mary ("See--they exalt her above Christ!") or obscure papal encyclicals ("Catholics think the Pope is God!") tossed at you? There's even the beloved decades-old newspaper article cited as Magisterial Proof angle ("The January 23, 1917 issue of 'Our Sunday Visitor' had an article demonstrating that the Pope has a ring with '666' on it which he wears while re-sacrificing Christ in the Mass and selling annulments. QED. So there.") There's the same protestations of love ("It's because I love Catholics that I speak out against their Satanic religion--come out of the Whore!"). And there's even the suggested depravity of a religion which bears no relation to reality (the alleged Talmud citations allowing sex with children--Confessions of Maria Monk, anyone?). Oh, sure--you see Rabbis advocating that all the time... Then there are the global theories reminiscent of Avro Manhattan and Jack Chick, but see John Betts for more on that. Here's a picture that may help rebut the notion that the Church is Israel's useful idiot.

I only have one question. I'm not the only one to have run into this type of anti-Catholic hate before, and it's certain that someone at CAI has stumbled into similar attacks. Didn't anyone notice the similarities?
Dale: Don't know why our links went on the fritz, they just did.
Can't access the *$%@ template, either. If you have any helpful suggestions, please let me know.

"Hey, it's Blogger!" doesn't count, even though I'm tempted to agree...

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Dale: Greaaat sports weekend here in Michigan.

1. "Hi, my name is Dale, and I'm a Detroit Lions fan."

"Hi, Dale!"

2. Don't talk to me.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Dale: The most disturbing terrorism news of the year, and it's still ongoing. The Radioactive Freighter.

A freighter from Hamburg (the city where the Al Qaeda cell that planned 9/11 was based) has been stopped before it entered NYC, boarded, and moved 12 miles outside of the city harbor.

Who boarded it? Just some Navy Seals and a NEST team. Read on, and wonder about the news blackout.

Here are the links:


Rod Dreher at NRO's Corner.

Asparagirl, with an assortment of valuable links, and difficult questions.

Rod Dreher again. Methinks Rod's sounded the "all clear" much too early, though. Especially given the fact they've moved the ship further out now, and the fact we really don't have a clue as to what the initial radiation readings were. That, and the irrefutable proverb of our times: the first casualty of war is the truth.

If you needed any further evidence that we're living in a radically changed world, here it is.

This is a good letter, for the most part. There has been a vitriolic reaction to the bishops and their leadership for the better part of the year. Some of it no doubt crosses the line (mea culpa). Even I'm getting tired of talking, albeit for different reasons. More on that below. However, it misses a vital point: the reason there has been a nonstop "bitch fest, an endless loop" is because nothing has been done to satisfy the craving for justice. Yes, justice, not self-righteous posturing. An honorable few recognize this (e.g., Bishop Wilton Gregory), but the fact is the bishops have shown that they are not accountable to anyone on this earth for the scandal, nor have they suffered any consequences. Because of this, every new outrage that comes to light (qualified non-apologies, the Reflections document, Abp. Weakland's $450K payoff, Cardinal Mahony's apparently mendacious posturing, blaming America and ignoring the victims on 9/11, etc.) is another fistful of salt in an unhealed wound. No wonder there's so much shouting--it hurts.

But that in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, even if the language is regrettable. At least it shows that those doing the shouting still care about the Church. Be worried when the voices grow colder, quieter, and finally still. It's a bad sign for rescuers searching for people trapped in rubble, and its a bad sign for the Church. Rest assured, many voices have grown still, and they have gone off in search of new homes.

As I said earlier, I'm tired of talking about it. People on my side of the aisle have to face this fact: nothing--nothing--is going to happen to the bishops responsible--not because of the scandal, not for the mendacity, not for the bizarre theological novelties. Some have tried to counsel a wait and see approach, but this is whistling past the graveyard. There's no precedent for removal or even discipline in these cases. Sure, there may be--perhaps--a quickly-accepted resignation or two at the mandatory retirement age, but removal? Nope. Not even a rebuke. Go ahead--check back in a thousand years...

None of our shouting is going to make an iota of difference. Look--nine months of near-rebellion in Boston has resulted in what? Zilch.

It's pointless to argue about it any longer. Time to hunker down, put our heads to the storm, pray, and hope for the best, whatever that may be.
Dale: A little background on my spleen venting of yesterday, from Mark Shea's comment box:

"Another day, another moral outrage. I've basically become numb to the actions of our shepherds, which can't be a good thing.

If memory serves (and it may not), this is the same diocese where a priest who did time for possession of child pornography has his own parish. To the credit (I guess) of all concerned, the priest makes all and sundry aware of this gruesome fact, but it's still unnerving.

As I write this, I hear a co-worker's radio, which is broadcasting an excerpt from one of last year's many funerals for the FDNY's heroes. The Bishop may remember: one of the 300 plus for those who were turned to ash by the "wake up call," one of whom was his brother in the priesthood, Fr. Mychal Judge. A pipe band is playing Amazing Grace. Yes, it saves a wretch like me. It also saves those with wretched thoughts like Bishop Gettelfinger. My dad is a retired fireman, so it's taking everything I have to not load up with double-aught buckshot and keep blasting away at this example of moral idiocy.

After painting this bullseye on myself, I await, with sad exhaustion, commentary about how it is unCatholic to criticize them, the dangers of detraction and, of course, the perils of media bias.

Dale Price"

There you have it. For those of you who think I went too far, well--let's just say yesterday was the wrong day for me to read such sentiments.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Dale: I've got an idea: How about a vow of silence?

It would certainly be better than this crap (material courtesy of Mark Shea). Blame America first: It's something the Sixties People (TM) do. BTW, why haven't you all retired yet?

It's a typically rancid stew of moral equivalence and liberation theology, courtesy of Evansville Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger, a man who keeps a convicted possessor of hardcore child pornography on the diocesan payroll. As a priest.

Here it is, just in time for the anniversary of 9/11. Here it is, annotated:

"September 11, 2002: A year later

I worry!

Bad pork? Alas, it is not that simple or happily resolved. Unfortunately, the Rt. Rev. needs Moral Maalox.

Have those in our hall of government moved beyond frontier justice?

Nope. Why, just last night I saw a story of how "Doc" Ashcroft gunned down a terrorist suspect with his Colt Peacemaker, all by his lonesome. Just to watch him die.

Has there been a conversion of heart not to repeat the subjugation of “less powerful” to “reservations” under its authority?

Huh? Translation?

Lest you forget, note what the United States and Canada did to native Americans by condemning them to harsh conditions on designated “Reservations” after wresting the land from them.

Train to Tangent City, now boarding. What the hell does that have to do with anything, except as a cheap ploy to make his largely white flock feel guilty? I would note that the odds the Bishop stuck a "for sale" sign on the Evansville chancery, and has contacted the local Indian casino seeking potential buyers, are astronomical indeed.

Have we learned anything from the apparent motives of those who used our own technology, arrogance, power, energy and smugness against us in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Sure have! For one, they are evil beyond description. Two, they aren't immune to bullets or daisy cutters. Three, they ain't basically bright, when you get right down to it. Can you say "miscalculation"?

Let us never forget that those who terrorized us were committed to the mission of “getting our attention.” They died for their cause—just to get our attention!

Actually, they were committed to the mission of killing as many of us as possible. Including a 2 year old girl going to Disneyland with her mom and dad, you gasbag. They died for the cause of imposing a totalitarian Islamofascist state, a revival of the Caliphate. They got our attention, all right. A year later, thousands of them are dead or imprisoned, and the rest are running for their lives. They've learned to be careful what you wish for.

The message from the oppressed has been very clear.

"Oppressed." Dr. Evil voice: "Riiiiight." Led by a multimillionaire, and the privileged and educated of several Arab nations. And non-Arab regions, such as decidedly unoppressed Marin County, California. But, the message from these folks has been clear. Message: "Aiiiieee! The infidel Americans are attacking agai---BOOM!"

Power to trammel on the rights and to take advantage of impoverished needs of its citizens under the guise of “national security” (translated into financial benefit) does not exonerate the United States, nor any other nation bent on the same course, from accusations of oppression.

This is so bloated with pseudomoral flatulence that its hard to decode exactly what the Bp. is trying to say here. Is he talking about the war? GATT? Bad ham? Boiled down, here's the message, with a rolled up newspaper: "Bad America! Bad! Bad! Bad!" Got it.

Must we Americans continue to be blind?

Sure! As long as I don't have to listen to the Music of the Sixties People (TM).

Must we continue to be deaf?

Great! No Sixties People Music!

Have we forgotten the haunting ballads of the late 1960’s?

Oh, s--t. Sigh. Which haunting ballad would that be? "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" Or maybe "Happiness is a Warm Gun"?

How many more must die?

As many as Doc wants ta gun down, hombre...

Our president and his colleagues must learn to listen to those who counsel him from nations and territories beyond our borders. So must we!

Like, maybe Bashar Assad? Ayatollah Khamenei, or whoever poor captive Iran's head mullah is? Assorted (sordid?) heads of state from the Amalgamated Union of Appeasers and Jew-Haters (a/k/a "Europe")? Or maybe he means the Kurd Gasser?

Terrorism is terrorism under any title. “National Security” seems to be just another title for the same."

Well, of course it is. When you're morally bankrupt, sure. Here's three moral landmarks for you, next time you get the itch to rub salt in the wounds of a still angry, grieving nation: First, men who hijack planes full of innocent passengers and turn those planes into flying bombs for the purposes of killing thousands more innocent people are EVIL. Second, the nations that sponsor and harbor such men are also EVIL. Third, fighting these first two is NOT evil.

And please don't identify yourself as a Catholic bishop. If you keep it up, lawyers are going to be held in greater moral esteem than the leaders of the Church in America. Hell, maybe even pimps.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Dale: We celebrated Maddie's birthday yesterday. My mom and dad came down early as did Heather's mom, and were, as always, Godsends in helping us get organized and ready. Our backyard is, due to southeast Michigan's drought conditions, dead. Only the hardier breeds of crabgrass and other weeds are surviving, and they aren't exactly thriving. Strangely enough, the front and side yards aren't doing so badly. Another pleasant feature of our backyard is that we own The World's Stupidest Dog (TM), whose two talents appear to be (1) barking at invisible evil, and (2) leaving poop mines in the backyard.

Guess who got to go a-collectin' in the desert backyard yesterday? Mom and Dad arrived as I was in the middle of the Poop Patrol, and Mom jokingly referred to it as a substitute for an Easter egg hunt. Well, I won...

Dad drove off to the dollar store, and picked up two sprinklers to help cure the dead yard. After two days of evening soaks, it seems to be helping a little. The moms helped put up the Veggie Tales streamers on the chain link fence, and put the balloons up, too.

It got much hotter than I expected, and most of our guests (close friends and family) decided to camp out inside with the AC. While crowded, it wasn't so bad. I also had the honor of grilling, which, frankly, I love. I figured that since we were feeding over a dozen people, I'd better have a serious bed of coals ready. I sure did. Along with a thorough soaking from the lighter fluid. Apply lit match...


"Now that's a fire!" Some singed hair, but that was pretty much the only injury. The real injury was to the first batch of brats, burgers and hot dogs: Coal black in a matter of moments. Memo to file: sometimes less is more, especially with charcoal briquets. The food cooked better after the first serving: slower, more fun, and tastier.

Maddie seemed to have a very good time, especially playing with her cousins. She spent a little time in the wading pool, and less eating: too many interesting people to interact with. She passed on our efforts to feed her her cake, and was only briefly interested in the presents, most of which make noise. I've put several people on notice that they can expect drums and chemistry sets for their kids in the future. Actually, they were all very nice, and involve classical music or spelling. But I think the thing Maddie liked best were her two helium mylar balloons, both decorated with teddy bears that say "It's the Big 1!" She's still grabbing the strings and dragging them around with her wherever she goes.

Yes, she's walking a lot more now. Heather and I have a game where we sit or crouch on the floor, and one of us puts Maddie facing the other, who coaxes her to walk over. She takes a few steps, and we cheer and applaud wildly after she makes it over, the receiving parent hugging her. She grins or laughs, and we turn her around to do the same for the other. She loves it, but she gets to the point where she knows she won't fall to the floor, so she takes a half step and dives forward. We still cheer and hug.
Dale: Another reason to be a cat person. Since we have two cats, we must have twice the protection. Thanks, Molly and Bailey. Now quit knocking our stuff over at night...

Friday, September 06, 2002

Dale: Happy Birthday to you/
Happy Birthday to you/
Happy Birthday, Dear Madeleine.../
Happy Birthday to You!

Maddie turns one today. She was born on September 6, 2001 at 2:14pm. She weighed 8 pounds, 12 ounces, and was 21 inches long. Labor lasted eight hours. The "lifequake" that began in our lives that day continues still, thankfully. She took four steps on her own yesterday, and did so on two different occasions. She says "mama", "Wuz zat?" while pointing at everything, and "Bob" as she grabs her beloved "Spongebob Squarepants" pillow. She's developed what we call an "evil laugh" after she's discovered a fascinating new object. In short, she's nothing we could have expected, and everything we hoped for. Happy birthday, baby girl.
Heather: I was thinking of these things on my car ride home. It's one of the few times I'm all by myself, truly and completely. I usually am listening to newsradio; that's how I keep up with the world.
I'm reading a couple books, one I've mentioned before called Mitten Strings for God. It's beautiful and I hope if affects how I parent all of my children. I've even extracted Dale's promise to read it by Christmas. Another is Vicki Iovine's Girlfriends' Guide To Toddlers, which is a healthy dose of humor along with a reality check. I started The Sacrificial Mother by Carin Rubinstein today.

I'm reading the last there more as prevention than cure. I read the jacket in the store and recognizes some familiar aspects from my own mother. I'm smart enough to know that, despite my every wish, it's a natural tendency to make the same mistakes as one's parents. Simply put: I don't want to do that.
So I'm reading it to avoid repeating history. That leads me into my next topic: Dale as a father.
Today was another of his days off so he was home with Maddie. Two weeks ago when he was home, my mother called. Her car had broken down and she needed him to help cart her and a friend around on their errands, which he did without complaint--toting his daughter with him. Of course Grandma was horrified to spend time with Maddie [NOT].
The Sacrificial Mother cites mothers who give up sleep to care for their children during the day while they work nights, those who go without new clothes until they fall apart for the sake of their children, and so on. When I got home that Friday two weeks ago, I had no clue the kind of day Dale had had. He confessed that he hadn't even had a shower, poor guy. I took charge of the little charge and let him either nap or shower or both, in either order. He did both.
I think of that as I read the introduction to The Sacrificial Mother. It mentions how rare it is for men to make sacrifices and that they, not the children, benefit from the woman's sacrifices.
Once again, I'm grateful that I married a representative of the minority. I think perhaps he would stand to benefit from reading this one too. Partly because I think it will help him understand my thoughts, but his own as well. While the book is directed at women, I see some of the things he's given up for our daughter and for me and think, "Yes, I don't remember the last time I was alone at home, but what about him? Doesn't he deserve these things too?"
There's not a thing he wouldn't do for his daughter and he'd nurse her too if he could. I look for the book The Sacrificial Parent to give as a gift to my beloved husband. I don't know if I'll see it soon, but a girl can dream.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Dale: Sobering 9/11 links.

The first is on Iraqi connections to terrorism against the U.S., including the 1993 bombing of the WTC. Here's another interesting story about Iraq and the first WTC bombing.

The last is to James Lileks, who simply, clearly and movingly explains why we cannot forget.
Dale: Madeleine's first birthday is tomorrow!

We're planning for the party, which will be held Saturday, to allow my parents to drive down. It also gives me an opportunity to bring our lawn back from the dead (it's rained once here in the past month). Approximately 14 people will be here Saturday. We have made a list of food and decorations, but I am curious about memorable decorations. If anyone has any suggestions, comments or observations on any aspect of a one-year old's birthday (apart from "she won't remember any of it"), we'd like to hear them.
Dale: Viggo Mortensen ("Aragorn" from LOTR) comes across as a very nice guy.

Dale: Lunch Blog IV: "Deep Hurting."

Actually, the title is nothing serious. It's a reference to one of my favorite TV shows of all time. First person to guess wins 100 points. ("Points for what?" "Exactly...")

On to some overdue responses:

1. Ahem. It could just be me, but at a distance of 2000 miles the howl of a Husky sure sounds an awful lot like a whine. Actually, I'll give Shawn a lot of credit for not raising the controversial fumble call that took place earlier in the winning drive. That was a close one (incomplete pass v. fumble, for the uninitiated who don't follow major college football). I couldn't have really faulted it if it had been ruled incomplete, even if the instant replay seems to favor the on-field call. As to the twelve men on the field penalty, well...I'll be charitable and pass up the obvious targets that blunder presents.

Here's hoping there will be a Rose Bowl matchup. Or at least that Washington smacks around USC. I despise the University for Spoiled Children.

2. Jack over at Integrity posted a thoughtful response to my "Clash of Virtues" post. It's worth reading, and I'm more than happy to let him have the last word.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Dale: The Archdiocese of Detroit drops the ball on the Granholm controversy. Its official spokespersons weigh in with a squeak:

"In campaign appearances, Granholm describes herself as "100-percent pro-choice." While she has said she is personally opposed to abortion, she also doesn't believe in imposing those views on others.
* * *
In Granholm's case, excommunication will not happen, said Ned McGrath, spokesman for the diocese. "It's not something the church just throws around," he said last week. As for the protesters, Richard Laskos, another spokesman for the archdiocese, said they should channel their energy toward working for a candidate they agree with rather than waging a negative campaign against one they don't."

Contrast this with a recent authoritative statement, directly on point [my emphasis in bold]:

-------BEGIN EXCERPTS------------------

"Since the entry of Catholics into the U.S. political mainstream, believers have struggled to balance their faith with the perceived demands of democratic pluralism. As a result, some Catholic elected officials have adopted the argument that, while they personally oppose evils like abortion, they cannot force their religious views onto the wider society. This is seriously mistaken on several key counts. First, regarding abortion, the point when human life begins is not a religious belief but a scientific fact -- a fact on which there is clear agreement even among leading abortion advocates. Second, the sanctity of human life is not merely Catholic doctrine but part of humanity's global ethical heritage, and our nation's founding principle. Finally, democracy is not served by silence. Most Americans would recognize the contradiction in the statement, "While I am personally opposed to slavery or racism or sexism I cannot force my personal view on the rest of society." Real pluralism depends on people of conviction struggling vigorously to advance their beliefs by every ethical and legal means at their disposal.
* * *
Scripture calls us to "be doers of the word and not hearers only . . . [for] faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (Jas 1:22, 2:17). Jesus Himself directs us to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you . . ." (Mt 28:19-20). Life in Christ is a life of active witness. It demands moral leadership. Each and every person baptized in the truth of the Catholic faith is a member of the "people of life" sent by God to evangelize the world.
* * *
As bishops, we have the responsibility to call Americans to conversion, including political leaders, and especially those publicly identified as Catholic. As the Holy Father reminds us in The Splendor of the Truth (Veritatis Splendor): ". . . [It] is part of our pastoral ministry to see to it that [the Church's] moral teaching is faithfully handed down, and to have recourse to appropriate measures to ensure that the faithful are guarded from every doctrine and theory contrary to it" (116). As chief teachers in the Church, we must therefore explain, persuade, correct and admonish those in leadership positions who contradict the Gospel of life through their actions and policies. Catholic public officials who disregard Church teaching on the inviolability of the human person indirectly collude in the taking of innocent life. A private call to conversion should always be the first step in dealing with these leaders. Through prayer, through patiently speaking the truth in love, and by the witness of our lives, we must strive always to open their hearts to the God-given dignity of the unborn and of all vulnerable persons. So also we must remind these leaders of their duty to exercise genuine moral leadership in society. They do this not by unthinking adherence to public opinion polls or by repeating empty pro-choice slogans, but by educating and sensitizing themselves and their constituents to the humanity of the unborn child. At the same time we need to redouble our efforts to evangelize and catechize our people on the dignity of life and the wrongness of abortion. Nonetheless, some Catholic officials may exclude themselves from the truth by refusing to open their minds to the Church's witness. In all cases, bishops have the duty and pastoral responsibility to continue to challenge those officials on the issue in question and persistently call them to a change of heart. As bishops we reflect particularly on the words of the Office of Readings:

Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead, let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ's flock. Let us preach the whole of God's plan to the powerful and the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season, as St. Gregory writes in his book of Pastoral Instruction.

Priests, religious, catechists, Catholic school teachers, family life ministers and theologians all share, each in their appropriate way, in the Church's task of forming the Catholic faithful in a reverence for the sanctity of life. We call them to a renewed commitment to that task. In their words and example, they should witness loyally and joyfully to the truth that every human life, at every stage of development, is a gift from God. Physicians, nurses and healthcare workers can touch the lives of women and girls who may be considering abortion with practical assistance, counseling and adoption alternatives. Equally important, they should be conscious evangelizers of their own professions, witnessing by word and example that God is the Lord of life.

Catholics who are privileged to serve in public leadership positions have an obligation to place their faith at the heart of their public service, particularly on issues regarding the sanctity and dignity of human life. Thomas More, the former chancellor of England who preferred to give his life rather than betray his Catholic convictions, went to his execution with the words, "I die the king's good servant, but God's first." In the United States in the late 1990s, elected officials safely keep their heads. But some will face a political penalty for living their public office in accord with their pro-life convictions. To those who choose this path, we assure them that their course is just, they save lives through their witness, and God and history will not forget them. Moreover, the risk of witness should not be exaggerated, and the power of witness should not be underestimated. In an age of artifice, many voters are hungry for substance. They admire and support political figures who speak out sincerely for their moral convictions. For our part we commend Catholic and other public officials who, with courage and determination, use their positions of leadership to promote respect for all human life.

We urge those Catholic officials who choose to depart from Church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life to consider the consequences for their own spiritual well being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin. We call on them to reflect on the grave contradiction of assuming public roles and presenting themselves as credible Catholics when their actions on fundamental issues of human life are not in agreement with Church teaching. No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life. Certainly there are times when it may be impossible to overturn or prevent passage of a law which allows or promotes a moral evil -- such as a law allowing the destruction of nascent human life. In such cases, an elected official, whose position in favor of life is known, could seek legitimately to limit the harm done by the law. However, no appeal to policy, procedure, majority will or pluralism ever excuses a public official from defending life to the greatest extent possible. As is true of leaders in all walks of life, no political leader can evade accountability for his or her exercise of power (Evangelium Vitae, 73-4). Those who justify their inaction on the grounds that abortion is the law of the land need to recognize that there is a higher law, the law of God. No human law can validly contradict the Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill."

The Gospel of Life must be proclaimed, and human life defended, in all places and all times. The arena for moral responsibility includes not only the halls of government, but the voting booth as well. Laws that permit abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are profoundly unjust, and we should work peacefully and tirelessly to oppose and change them. Because they are unjust they cannot bind citizens in conscience, be supported, acquiesced in, or recognized as valid. Our nation cannot countenance the continued existence in our society of such fundamental violations of human rights."
-------END EXCERPTS-------

Perhaps Messers McGrath and Laskos don't recognize it, but surely the Bishops of the Archdiocese do--they signed it in 1998. Game, set and match to the protesters, who are fulfilling their responsibilities under it. As far as the officialdom of the Archdiocese, however...No admonishment of the candidate appears to be forthcoming.

It's a sad commentary: 1998's bold statement of Catholic teaching becomes 2002's toilet paper.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Heather: I just got Madeleine to sleep a little while ago.
This is the third night in a row she's fallen asleep in my arms but not nursing. Part of me is relieved by that, as I know intellectually that she's physically ready to be weaning and she needs to learn not to have that way of falling asleep. She nurses for a little while and then shifts position so that she's cuddled against me, her head resting somewhere on my chest. I think she's listening to my heartbeat.
She's a beautiful little girl. I love feeling her weight change from the waking lightness the the sleeping heaviness; I love holding her close and feeling that she's trying to tell me she loves me; I love listening to her breath go smooth and even with the occasional snort or sigh.
We tried letting her cry it out... once. We couldn't take it. Part of me is burdened by having to put her down every evening; I miss my TV shows and can't get any chores done during that time. I suppose that is part of motherhood, like not being able to bathroom in privacy anymore (she comes looking for me). It's sort of like having a stalker, only one whom you know won't hurt you when she finds you but will only wail until she does.
Another, larger part of me cherishes those quiet minutes in the dark, feeling her warm body go limp with sleep, watching her eyelids droop closed. I study her angelic face in the semidarkness every night and almost weep for the times when it won't happen anymore. She is growing so quickly and our next one is coming sooner than we realize.
God grant us the knowledge to be good parents and not make our first feel usurped or replaced, for I can't imagine loving another child like I love Madeleine.
Heather: Please pardon, I need a little venting.
Dale and I are at that stage of life where friends are getting married and having children (like we have in the past 3 years). One newlywed couple we know is of different faiths: she was raised Catholic, he is atheist. I don't know his background. When I saw them recently, she admired Madeleine but said, "No babies for me!" She told me that she and her husband aren't planning on having children, as he doesn't want them. She did say, though, "We're young, things could change." Dale's opinion is, if she's saying that NOW, it's only going to grow as her clock ticks down its time. I agree.
But that's not all. They're going to be practicing Unitarians. I admit I haven't done much research on what the Unitarian faith teaches; my total personal experience is from the Simpsons: "You just winged him, Bart. He's a Unitarian." The lady in question justifies it by the fact that Unitarian is the only service her atheist husband will attend willingly.
I have some questions, none of which were appropriate to ask at the time. If they aren't planning on kids, what difference does it make whether he goes to any religious service at all? I mean, one point of Dale becoming Catholic, at least in my mind, was to present a united front to our children. If there are no kids to unite for, why not let him sleep in on Sunday and go to the church she was raised in?
Additionally, doesn't it disturb her somewhat that an atheist can go along with Unitarianism? Apparently, they don't strictly teach the idea of Jesus' divinity or else he probably wouldn't be comfortable with them. (Frankly, I think if you're not occasionally uncomfortable with your actions versus your faith, you aren't giving at least one of 'em much thought.) I'm trying to come up with a comparison but I think it's something like "birds of a feather flock together." I wouldn't be comfortable hanging out with a bunch if KKK members or neo-Nazis because their views would make me quite uncomfortable AND I would worry that strangers would think I held their views too. Guilt by association, I guess. In other words, if the atheist is comfortable with Unitarians, their Christianity is diluted enough that he can swallow it (read: is virtually meaningless). [Note: That is NOT to say I think the Unitarians and their beliefs are on a par with neo-Nazis or the KKK. I'd much rather strangers think I'm Unitarian than either of the other two, though my first choice is the truth.]
They aren't the only couple I know where one is atheist, the other indifferent, and they want no children. Sad as it is, it doesn't surprise me much that atheists want no children. Why would they? It's all eventually for naught anyway; the sun is going to blow up and swallow the earth and end humanity if we don't do it ourselves before then. Yeah, I know, in five billion years, but there's still a finite end somewhere along the line. If there is no God, no afterlife, why have kids?

Saturday, August 31, 2002

Dale: Hail! To the victors valiant! Hail! To the conquering heroes! Hail! Hail! To Michigan, The Leaders and Best!

The process of shaping my infant daughter into a Michigan Wolverines fan continues. As my father made me a Michigan fan, so shall Madeleine follow the Maize and Blue with devotion. She's getting there (Heather, for mysterious reasons, is a State fan). A truly magnificent game, the kind the Wolverines invariably end up on the short end of. But not today...

Nope. Nor did my gift for negative prophecy come through, either. As kicker Philip Brabbs (0 for 2 field goal attempts on the day, and not remotely close on either one) came on to the field, with five seconds left and 44 yards facing the kick, I put my head into my hands. I then turned to my wife and said, in frustration: "He's going to miss. He can't kick [crap]!" Mercifully, the ball sailed right down the middle of the uprights, with room to spare. A few seconds later, I called my dad, who answered the phone with a shouted "Go Blue!" It's his birthday, and a better present couldn't be had. He got the stuff from us earlier this week.

Hail! Hail! To Michigan, Champions of the West!

Friday, August 30, 2002

Dale: Won't you please help?

Finally: a cause that can unite all of humanity, regardless of creed.
Dale: Proof of evolution?

MLB's owners and players grow brains--just in time.

The bad news is we'll have to watch the Tigers flail around like turtles on their backs for a few more weeks, but at least Ernie Harwell will get a proper send off.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Dale: I am noodling a story line for a film, a sort of religious/action hybrid. Stay with me.

Here's the idea:

The Lord, sick of rampant heresy in His Church, decides to confront it with a novel and very direct approach. He commissions St. Pius X to return to earth in the flesh, armed with a matte-finish wrought iron crozier and mirrored sunglasses. The mission is simple: the heresy-fighting Pope is to confront the heterodox personally, call upon them to repent, and if they refuse to do so, beat the snot out of them with the crozier.

I call it The Excommunicator.

SCENE: A swanky NY apartment at night.

[TE knocks on the door of said apartment]

TE: Frances Kissling?

FK: Yes?

TE: Abortion is a mortal sin, Miss Kissling. Catholics can in no way be a part of this hideous practice. Repent.

FK: Oh, great. Another nutjob.

TE: Wrong answer. [Wham!] Arrivederci, baby.


But it probably won't work as a film. Even with the slam-bang ending (a no-holds barred confrontation with the NCCB at its annual meeting, complete with Matrix-style special effects), I think it's probably a tad too...parochial, appealing only to a certain segment of Catholics. The scene from Blazing Saddles, in which the villains consider assorted plans to get rid of the residents of Rock Ridge (who are interfering with their plans for a railroad expansion) probably applies here:

Taggart: I got it.

Hedley Lamarr: What?

Taggart: Let's kill every first-born male child in Rock Ridge.

Hedley Lamarr: [pausing] Nah, too Jewish.
Heather: I just had a Mommy Moment that brought tears to my eyes.
We've had dinner and are waiting for Dale to finish something before we head out on our evening walk. Maddie and I are in the living room, she investigating her Disney's First Baby Books and I reading one of my own ("Mitten Strings for God," which, if I never pick up again, I'll have gotten my $4 worth out of and I'm only on page 30 or so).
I see her crawling among her toys scattered on the floor. She finds her Madeline doll, the one that goes with the story books. She picks it up, says with quiet surprise, "Bay bay," and cuddles it right to her. Then she picks up her other soft baby doll and cuddles that one under the other arm.
Where did she learn this, to cuddle a baby so? Have we been that blessed?

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Dale: And let perpetual light shine upon him.

Two Sundays ago, after Mass ended, Dan Maleski, I and our spouses walked in St. Mary's parking lot enjoying the bright afternoon sunshine. He showed me his new Buick LeSabre while his wife Karen spoke with Heather and Maddie. We checked under the hood, marvelling at the heady V-6, and examined all of the other features of the loaded vehicle: leather, a CD player and a trunk you could stuff a side of beef into with room to spare. Yes, the vehicle had a lot of miles, but as Dan pointed out, his van had almost 220,000 miles, and he had a buyer lined up for it. Trust me--the buyer is getting a vehicle that should be good for another 200,000 miles. We talked some more about the usual pleasant topics, including the vacation he and Karen were about to go on and shook hands as we parted. Dan took special care to say goodbye to Maddie, and wished us luck on our impending child, which he had just learned about 20 minutes earlier after asking Heather "So--When are you having another one?" We vowed to have lunch again the next time we were up in Alma, and this time I would buy. Or at least try to.

Wednesday I saw his casket lowered into the ground at Riverside Cemetary. Dan was 44, and died after a massive heart attack while on that vacation.

What kind of guy was Dan? He was a doting husband to his wife Karen and father of two grown children, Angie and Andrew. He had a ready smile, firm handshake and a great sense of humor, which came in handy when forced to deal with me. Angie just graduated from Smith College and was married six weeks ago. Andrew works at a car dealership and helped us get our minivan. Andrew's getting married in the next 18 months.

Dan was, in the sterile words of obituaries, "active in his parish", which understates his faith by several orders of magnitude. A better sign can be seen from the Rosary service held during the Tuesday evening visitation: it was nearly impossible to find a parking space within a block of the funeral home. The director was astonished at both the afternoon and evening visitor totals--in excess of 250 (there are only 10,000 people in Alma). One of St. Mary's former priests arrived at the visitation in tears, apologizing that he wouldn't be able to preside at Dan's liturgy because of the death of another one of his friends.

Dan worked for a company that manufactures die sets (as in tool and die), and had done so for 17 years. He wasn't in management, although he was a foreman. The company has 9 facilities across the U.S. What did the company think of Dan? The CEO attended Dan's funeral, cutting short a trip to the plant in California to do so.

The funeral procession leaving St. Mary's in Alma was over a half mile long, with attendance at the funeral mass rivaling the weekend masses.

And, mercifully, the presider at the funeral (a different priest who also had been at the parish for several years before being rotated out) knew Dan and his family personally, and was able to talk about what a joy it was to watch Dan's faith come alive as he started to participate in various parish ministries, which included being an Extraordinary Minister and a member of the Knights of Columbus.

Another one of those ministries was the "Adopt an Alma College Student" program, whereby St. Mary's parishioners meet an out of town Catholic student and act as a surrogate family for that student--having them over for dinner, picking them up for mass and so forth. In 1989, the student the Maleskis adopted was Heather. At that point, Heather had not gone through Confirmation, believing that she had not been ready in 9th grade. Now, tentatively, she thought she was and asked the priest if she could get confirmed in Alma. Father said "absolutely" and entered her in the RCIA. Dan was her sponsor, and ensured she made it to the classes and to Mass.

In 1993, Heather's father suffered a massive heart attack, from which he died a week later. It was Dan and Karen who had the grim duty of telling her that horrible news, and Dan took her down to the hospital in Warren in the middle of a nighttime snowstorm, a 140 mile trip one way and two and a half hours on a good day. He got back to Alma in time to go to his scheduled shift at the plant.

I wish I had known Dan longer, but I am thankful to have known him, period. I am also thankful for the role he played in keeping the embers of Heather's faith glowing. Who can say where we'd be without the actions he took? We can't know, but with hope we will find out. I strongly suspect that many, many people came to Christ or stayed in Him because of Dan Maleski.

I want to see God and, in order to see him, I must die.--St. Teresa of Avila, Life, Chapter 1.

I trust that if you haven't seen Him already, you soon will. Rest in peace, good servant.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Dale: Another Installment in a Seemingly Endless Series of Lunch Blogs.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out to you the weblog of I. Shawn McElhinney, Rerum Novarum. Given that I'm a big Leo XIII fan, he starts off with a big lead at first, so to speak. (P.S., any links to information re: Pope Leo's canonization cause will be greatly appreciated.)

But then there's the substance...

I've known Shawn mostly through interactions with him on Steve Ray's message board. Let me say this: he's one of the most thorough and charitable Catholic writer/apologists I've had the pleasure to read. When you read one of Shawn's essays, bring a lunch--he's comprehensive. But he also manages the difficult balancing act of being readable as well as thorough, which is no mean feat.

In short, you'll find no better traditional Catholic defender of the Second Vatican Council, its legitimacy and actual reforms (as opposed to the dread "Spirit of Vatican II (TM)" variety) than Shawn.

Which is a roundabout way of referring you to a series of his reflections on L'Affaire Dreher [remember who coined that first :) ] that Shawn published yesterday, calling for a ceasefire in one of the bloodier skirmishes. Start at the link, and scroll down, not up. I agree with the insights, and thank him for the kind references to me and my (tiny) role in the discussion.

Finally, to amplify the statement in the reflections: despite my criticisms of yesterday, I definitely appreciate Stephen Hand's work. Mr. Hand does something seemingly unique for an orthodox Catholic: he emphasizes that Catholic social teachings are also part of the heritage and tradition of orthodox Catholicism, and refuses to cede them to so-called progressives. This determination is seen in his links to articles on Dorothy Day, testimonies by those who serve Christ at Catholic Worker facilities, and (gasp!) criticism of Catholics who seem a touch too comfortable with unbridled capitalism, to name but a few examples. This is commendable, and ought to be imitated.

Dale: Thanks, Heather.

The love of my wife humbles me: a living sign of God's love, and a fountain of grace.

I'll leave it at that.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Heather: Dale posted a link to Amy Welborn's recent blog, and in there she said something like: "This condescension toward converts has got to stop." (My apologies if I misquoted.)
I couldn't say it better myself.
I was raised a pretty nominal Catholic. Yeah, we went to Mass regularly on Sundays and for Christmas up through high school, but I'd never heard of holy days of obligation until somewhere in college (I think). We observed a lighter Lent (we were let off the hook on Sundays) but none of us three kids got confirmed until adulthood.
I guess I was the most observant of us kids as, when I was home from college, I would go to Mass with my mom the once a month minimum that she asked without a lot of gnashing teeth or whining. I never saw her or my dad ever go to confession. The closest is when my mom goes to the communal penance services during Advent and Lent, though she doesn't take advantage of the opportunity for individual reconciliation.
So I was Catholic, I guess. I would have called myself "a recovering Catholic" if you'd asked.
Somewhere along the way, though, it started to matter. Dale and I had been dating about six months and I was talking about him with a friend's mom. Mind you, she's not Catholic but is a very devout Christian (evangelical, I think). She had some words of wisdom for me: "Heather, have you talked about religion with him? I know your faith means a lot to you." Actually, I hadn't realized it did until that moment. You can take the girl out of the Church, but you can't take the Church out of the girl.
I asked Dale about religion and we agreed that it was important for a family and children. We agreed that both parents should be the same faith to avoid confusion for the kids. My next question, a little nervously, was, "Would you be willing to be Catholic?" (He was raised more loosely Methodist than I was Catholic.) His reply? "I can think of worse things," in such a tone that he'd be willing to investigate it.
Investigate it he has and continues to do. Yes, I'm the cradle Catholic but he's the one I go to with questions. He has no less than 8 two-inch binders of information he's printed up from the Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic Answers, and other sources in answer to his questions. He has accumulated at least 7 shelves of books to explain things he wondered. He goes to confession every other week or he does not take Communion in Mass. He can tell me what was decided at the Councils of Trent, Nicaea, et cetera and when those occurred. He is a paragon of Catholic example and here's the stunning part for Father McCloskey: he's the convert! Not I!
HE has motivated ME to investigate beyond "We just do it that way because we always have;" my 1970's formation classes of crayons and glitter; my former indifference to the music and sacrament and liturgy; my crumbled distrust of the Catholic "patriarchy." HIS knowledge, curiosity and respect have taught me so much!
It hurts me sometimes when I think about his offhand mention that sometimes he feels shortchanged. We've both heard of the days of "smells and bells," lots of drama and awe, whispered rosaries and covered heads. Now we come to Mass with teenagers in spaghetti straps and jeans, chewing gum with their hands in their pockets. We see 9- and 10-year-old kids standing on the pews, leaning on grandparents who read the bulletin during the homily. We see the (maybe?) ten people coming for confession every week and the sparsely populated Holy Day masses.
Still he comes. I come as much out of habit; he comes out of love. That's why the converts are so vocal, Fr. McCloskey. THEY are not coming out of habit but out of love.
Dale: Lunch Blog Redux, Part II. This time, mercifully, it's not scandal related.

James. Lileks. Rules.

The funniest writer on the internet belts Opie and Anthony (thanks to Amy Welborn for the link).

P.S. Warning--the language is a bit coarse, so avoid if you're easily offended.
Dale: Lunch Blog, Redux. Unfortunately, it's scandal-related.

"It's a cradle thing, you wouldn't understand"--The Sequel.

Hoo, boy. More condescension, this time from Fr. John McCloskey. Sorry for stinking up your Church, guys. Maybe if you spoke louder, more slowly and enunciated more clearly, we Donatist chowderheads would finally understand...

Good Lord. I guess when it comes to opinions about the scandal, no converts need apply.

Update: The profound irony, of course, is that Fr. McCloskey is known for his involvement in the conversion of influential people in Washington, D.C.--most recently, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Make of that what you will.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Dale: A Clash of Virtues.

Jack over at Integrity argues that the firestorm caused by Rod Dreher's WSJ article is the product of a clash between advocates of compassion and reason. In the former camp are those like Rod Dreher, Amy Welborn, et al who argue that no action has been taken to address the root of the problem, namely complicit bishops (I count myself a member of this group). In the latter group (the reason camp) are those who argue that what has been done (namely ZT policies) is imprudent, and that we are not, or perhaps not yet, in a position to judge whether the refusal to remove bishops is incorrect. Jack takes pains to point out that he does not regard those in the first category as irrational, and also makes clear that those in the second do not lack compassion, but I still think the description is flawed.

Rather, what we are seeing here is more explicable in classic Catholic terms: it is a clash between the cardinal virtues (justice, fortitude, prudence and temperance) and the theological ones (faith, hope and charity). Those of us in the first camp emphasize justice for the victims, prudence inasmuch as the scandal cripples the Church's Gospel mission, etc. Those in the second stress faith (sometimes going so far as to question that of the other side) in the ultimate triumph of the Church, the need for hope as expressed in renewed prayer, penance, and so forth.

The differing emphases to some extent result in the parties talking past each other. To those in the second camp, the members of the first sound harsh, abrupt and judgmental. To those in the first, people in the second sound pedantic and pietistic--"pray, pay and obey" reborn.

Who's right? Well, like Jack, I believe those who share my views on this are more correct, even though the other side raises good points. And they aren't called "cardinal" virtues for nothing, either: to have any real world meaning, the theological virtues have to be anchored on justice, fortitude, prudence and temperance. Otherwise, it simply sounds like pious sloganeering.

The solution? Well, speaking from the first side, I'd like to hear a little more outraged justice from the other side. A recognition that justice has not been done, that the status quo is not only unacceptable, it's annihilating the moral authority of the Church in America. Finally, I'd like to hear an acknowledgement that in criticizing the handling of the scandals, I'm not a bad/ignorant Catholic wounding my Church.

In return, I will pray more, do penance, look to the Cross with hope and perform charitable acts, and ask others to do the same. I've started already.

Daniel Maleski, 1958-2002. Eternal rest, grant him O Lord.

I'll let Heather tell you about this good Catholic, husband, father and friend. Please pray for the repose of his soul, along with his wife, Karen, and his children, Angie and Andrew.

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Dale: The Detroit Lions are playing their first ever game at Ford Field, their new stadium. It's just an exhibition game, but I still wanted to see the new digs, and the local Fox channel is showing it live. The Lions got the football, and wonder of wonders, drove 74 yards down the field for the first-ever touchdown at FF.

I said "Touchdown!", and Maddie, in the middle of lunch with Heather in the kitchen, raised both her hands in triumph! Cool, but I've advised her to not get used to it. Maybe the Wolverines will have a good season...
Dale: Is there a Bishops' Select Committee for Antagonizing the Faithful?

If so, then this is clearly a directive from it.

Actually, the ruling makes sense, at least in terms of appropriateness. Given that so many of the congregants have been taught that they are going up to a table for a meal which represents a big celebration of "us," kneeling as part of that process certainly seems out of place.

Nice to see such pressing "problems" addressed with determination and speed.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Dale: It's Amy Welborn's world. I'm just a squirrel trying to find a nut.

She addresses the Catholic scandal debate here, here, and here.

In this corner: Madeleine Price, the 11 month old "Zweiback Smasher", still not quite able to walk on her own, but awfully mobile and fueled by plenty of God-given baby energy.

In the opposite corner: Dale Price, the 33-year old "Graying Lawyer," able to walk on his own, but not quite as mobile as he used to be and fueled by plenty of Maxwell House.

Prediction: Maddie in a knockout. Down goes daddy!

IOW, I have a day off and am home supervising my daughter. It's fun, except for one thing: This is Heather's first day back at work. Maddie seems to know Mommy's gone, and is clingy. Heather hates it, to put it mildly. It's not to say she doesn't like teaching (she loves it), it's just that she desperately loves being a mom. A tough day, indeed.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Dale: Welcome, Mark Shea readers! Take a look-see around the place, kick the tires, whatever. It will soon become obvious to you that Heather's the brains of this outfit.
Dale: Who says war never solves anything?

This is from James H. Toner, Professor of International Relations and Military Ethics at the U.S. Air War College in Alabama. He wrote the following in a letter to First Things magazine:

"A number of years ago, while teaching at a university in Vermont, I was invited to join a public affairs panel to discuss just war issues. I soon discovered that I was the sole supporter of that notion, and I was getting much more than I was giving. Indeed, the audience seemed hostile, not only to the concept of just war, but also to me. An elderly man in the rear of the audience stood and said something to the effect that he wanted to support my views on just war; he added that he was a classical musician. I remember thinking to myself that there was one person in the room who agreed with me—and that he was probably a nut. “I want to tell you,” the man continued, “what is the sweetest music I have ever heard.” I was still mentally cringing. “Although I have heard wonderful music thousands of times, the most beautiful was the sound of U.S. Army tanks. You see, they were coming to [the death camp which then held him as a young man], and that sound meant that I would be able to grow up.” The audience and I had the grace to sit in silent reflection for a few moments, and I felt rather like Edward Everett must have at Gettysburg."

Dale: Lunch Blog, Part II.

It's almost football season, so it must be time for The All-Maddie Team! Our daughter raises her hands in the air whenever I say "touchdown!" Since we live in Lions country, and her dad is (for mysterious reasons) a Lions fan, that means she'll get rusty on Sunday afternoons. Alas.

At least my fantasy football team should be good. I'll spare you the details, as it may make my beloved ill.

Dale: Lunch Blog, Part I

A/k/a, No-Scandal Radio. I have to keep my blood pressure down somehow.

What I've been reading lately: The Works of G.K. Chesterton. It's poetry, and when he's on, G.K.'s work enthralls.

Yes, the above title is out of print, but there are plenty of collections available on Amazon. "Ballad of the White Horse" and "Lepanto" are epic standouts, although his lesser-known compositions are also enjoyable. If I had to describe his style, I would use this comparison: if you like Kipling, you'll like Chesterton.

A Landscape With Dragons by Michael O'Brien (of "Father Elijah" fame) is a useful diagnosis of the problems with popular culture aimed at children. Even where you find yourself disagreeing with him, you have to concede that his argument is well-presented. The recommended reading list at the end alone is worth the price. A must for parents.

Catholic Christianity, by Peter Kreeft. Everything by Kreeft is good, and this is no exception. A beautiful survey of the Catholic Faith, well-narrated.

Good reading!

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Dale: This, to put it charitably, sticks in my craw. It's a cradle thing, you wouldn't understand. Essentially, Thomas Hoopes at the National Catholic Register takes on Rod Dreher of National Review, targeting Mr. Dreher's not-yet-available-online article on the Pope and the Scandals. I don't know anything about Mr. Hoopes, and I've only had a couple of brief but pleasant exchanges with Mr. Dreher (can I call you "Rod"?). I admit to bias: I've read just about everything Rod's written about the scandals, and I agree with him almost 100%.

Actually, the first three points of Mr. Hoopes' commentary are essentially unobjectionable, although #3 becomes problematic in light of number 4. 4 is where the problem erupts, and Hoopes blasts those who have publicly criticized the bishops and the Pope. Here it is in full to avoid questions of context:

"Arguments like Dreher's are very much a product of precisely the circumstance he criticizes: There is a lack of solid Christian formation. It seems that people who came into the Church (I don't know how Dreher did) through apologetics were totally unprepared for the current scandal. They believe because the Church is eminently believable; it makes sense intellectually. But when faced with sinful pastors, the intellect isn't enough to hold the faith together. Apologetics alone produces a weak faith. Catholic faith has to be based on love for a person, Christ, and trust in him and the knowledge that he is at the heart of the Church, which is his body. That requires prayer. When you know him you aren't as scandalized by some of the things that happen. You know that he is the Lord of the wheat and the tares (and this parable not only applies, it is in the Gospels in order to speak directly to today's situation as much as any other), the Lord who chose Peter and Judas, the Lord who made sinful men and not angels the ministers of his sacraments, the Lord whose ways we can't fathom. You believe with St. Catherine that his popes and bishops should be confronted privately, not publicly, you believe with St. Paul (and Christ in Revelations and JPII) that his erring churches need to be set straight through exhortation."

I don't think there is any other way to read this attack but this way: if you publicly disagree with the way the scandal has been addressed by the bishops and the Pope, your faith in Christ is weak. Excuse me? There's even a whiff of an accusation of Donatism flung at the critics ("the Lord who made sinful men and not angels the ministers of his sacraments..."). It's hard to read this sort of thing charitably. I, like Mr. Dreher, am a convert. Like him, I came from an increasingly relativistic mainline Protestant denomination seemingly bent on self-destruction. I came to the Catholic faith because of Jesus Christ, and for no other reason. To argue that (entirely unlike those more fully grounded in Christ) I'm upset at the scandals simply because I'm a badly catechized convert with a head full of soundbites from "Catholic Answers" tracts is patronizing crappola of the highest order. Explain to me how one privately remonstrates with shepherds like Mahony, Law, McCormack, or Daily--men more attentive to liability concerns than governance in persona Christi. And lest we forget, Paul acted sternly against immorality within the congregation. See 1 Cor. 5:1-13 for an illuminating example of St. Paul going well beyond mere exhortation. No, St. Paul is no help on that score. To be absolutely clear, I am not scandalized by "sinful pastors." Like me, all pastors are sinful. No, I am scandalized by monstrous pastors, men who used their collars to prey upon children. I am scandalized by the knowing inaction of their bishop superiors who allowed them to run free for decades. Bishops who remain, and will remain, securely in office, with all of the privileges thereof, until they retire.

And I don't appreciate the pietistic finger-waving that dismisses these well-founded criticisms as the product of the weak faith of converts. There are more pungent phrases that better convey my anger, but I'm trying to curb my language.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Dale: Well, that didn't help. Cardinal Keeler claims that the "Reflections" document was just some ecclesial brainstorming:

"Cardinal Keeler, the U.S. Bishops' Moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations, said that the document, entitled Reflections on Covenant and Mission, does not represent a formal position taken by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA). The purpose of publicly issuing the considerations which it contains is to encourage serious reflection on these matters by Jews and Catholics in the U.S."

Ooookay. Um, then why say this in the original Reflections document:

"Participants examined how the Jewish and Roman Catholic traditions currently understand the subjects of Covenant and Mission. Each delegation prepared reflections on the current state of the question in each community." (emph. added)

Here's how Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines "reflection": ...4. a fixing of the thoughts on something: careful consideration." In other words, in most understandings of English, a "reflection" is the product of careful thought, of ideas long weighed. It's not something you do to get the pot bubbling.

Ultimately, the "Reflections" document is indeed what the Catholic participants believe about the relationship between Christ, Christian evangelism and Judaism. That's what's so distressing. I'm not saying that the Jewish people and Jewish thought don't have a special relationship to Christianity, worthy of deep consideration. I'm certainly not saying that evangelism is a not profoundly sensitive issue with respect to Judaism, nor that Jewish people should not be approached with profound sensitivity and respect, especially for their freedom of conscience. Yes, there ought to be a recognition that they deserve some "space", given the hideous treatment endured at the hands of so-called Christians. However, contra Reflections, that does not mean that the Gospel is not for them. Not if the New Testament is to have any meaning.

The problem is the eagerness of our titular shepherds to abandon the Christian mission on the basis of no authority whatsoever. What else are they willing to toss aside after due "reflection"?
Dale: Yes, an excellent day. A red letter day. Couldn't beat it.

And, to think that Heather wanted me to take yesterday off instead.... Actually, that idea made sense, extending the weekend and all. Given the insane, non-stop busy previous week, it was tempting. Only one problem--an unavoidable deadline at work. The good news was that I could make the deadline, so I did. That left today free, and the unexpected thrill of hearing our baby's heart beat for the first time. 180 beats per minute. That means girl.

As prospective parents, we received all sorts of folk advice as to how to determine the sex of our child. There was the "how sick are you" test (always posed to Heather--like dad's never ill or something). If the mother's sick a lot, that's supposed to mean it's a girl. Then there's the "how does she look from behind" test, one fraught with enormous (no pun intended) peril for the husband. If mom looks the same as she did before she was pregnant, that means "boy." Prospective dads: she looks the same. It doesn't matter how she looks: she looks the same.
Another one of the proposed scientific tests was the ever popular "how's she carrying the child" test. If mom's carrying the child high, that means boy. Or girl. We heard both. Science! Then there was the pendulum swing test, which involves hanging an object on a string over the womb as mom lies on the floor. If the pendulum swings lengthwise (along mom's body), it's a boy. Perpendicular, it's a girl. All of these tests pointed to "boy." It really didn't matter to me. By this time, I was regretting the fact we hadn't let the damned ultrasound determine our child's sex. Even the unsolicited self-proclaimed psychic (a nice woman who claimed her talents were from the Lord--and hey, she didn't make money off it, so what the heck?) said boy. All of the accumulated folk wisdom and insights, and we got Madeleine.

The one test that seemed semi-scientific was heartrate, which was high during the visits. It was high this time, too. Plus, my gut instinct (also scientific) says girl. Hey, it was right the last time! We even have the name lined up.

Anyway, today was a great day. We weren't prepared for the heart monitor. If we'd thought about it, we'd have taken the tape recorder with us. It doesn't change that moment of wonder, though, when you realize there's another person growing, another child being given to you. I really can't describe it, but the feeling never goes away--it grows along with your unborn child.

Afterwards, I did my best to get Heather eating more, as we drove through McDonald's. The iced tea, added to my five cups of coffee (I couldn't bear to through my good friend Mr. Coffee through a window) woke me up for the trip to the Detroit Zoo.

We arrived at the parking garage, where Heather and I discovered we were now card-carrying members of the Venture Party, a/k/a Minivan Nation. Two thirds of the vehicles in the garage were either minivans or SUVs, tending strongly toward the former. I've also never seen so many strollers being broken out. We fit right in. I also saw a significant number of dads for a Tuesday morning, which was impressive. Lots of kids, lots of young families. The only real danger was that, at the end of the day, I would be standing before a pewter Chevy Venture, pushing the unlock button and getting frustrated because we couldn't get in. You see, we passed three other vans identical to ours on the same floor.

The zoo is well maintained, and worth a stop if you're in the area. If you want to see the whole thing, budget five hours. The high points (since the camels didn't spit on anyone) were the primate areas, and the Arctic Ring of Life, as described by Heather. Maddie was intermittently amused, but more by us than the animals. We were too pooped to go to the petting zoo at the end, which she probably would have liked. At that point, we'd been there three and a half hours. We limped back to the Venture, drove back, and Daddy decided he needed a nap. Plus, he got to watch one of his favorite Babylon 5 episodes, "Endgame." I'll go into the glories of the finest sci-fi series ever made at another time. Suffice it to say it's a magnificent episode in a magnificent series, surpassed only by "Severed Dreams" in Season Three, and "Sleeping In Light" at the very end. Spoken like a true geek, I know.

The best part was that my daughter fell asleep on me as I rested on the couch, and pretty soon I was out, too. Heather snapped a picture, which I'll treasure as a momento of a blessed, blessed day. Thanks be to God.
Heather: This could be from either of us, but I won the coin flip.
Madeleine took her first step yesterday, toward her daddy (how I wanted it). She promptly collapsed into his arms but she really did take a step on her own. It won't be long until we're chasing as fast as we can run, I know, and we'll still have to carry her all over the planet as she requests. I was deathly afraid that she would wait and take her first steps next week, after I was back at work. I missed her start crawling--that was at Misty's. At least we have this.
She took her second step this morning at the doctor's office, this time toward me. It was my second prenatal visit, which sounds kind of weird as I still have no signs besides amenorrhea. I'm barely 11 weeks along.
When the nurse asked about signs (swelling, weight gain, sensitivity, etc.), and I said, "Nothing, not a blessed thing," and Dale concurred, she was a little concerned. Dale was able to make this appointment as he had a bonus day off; he wanted to take it when both of his girls would be there.
So after taking my weight (I've actually lost 3 pounds--chasing an infant can do that) and blood pressure (102/80) and showing us to the examining room, she came in with the Doppler. I wasn't expecting it, as last pregnancy it was my third visit. Given I've had no symptoms, even though they took blood and urine last time and would have called if I wasn't, she wanted to be sure. She even forewarned that she might not be able to get heart tones as it's still so early. Well.... she got them. Loudly.
That's a strong little heart in there, audible at 11 weeks, going about 180 beats a minute. It wasn't easy and at first it was in the background, but then she got them so clearly... now the little one growing in me seems so much more real. The tests weren't wrong and God has seen fit that our love overflow again to a second child. I got tears in my eyes.
We proceeded to the zoo and I was on a not infrequent basis hugging my tummy, where this whole separate person is growing fingers and toes. Maddie wasn't terribly impressed with the animals but I think she had a good time. She was asleep through the coolest part (no pun intended)--the Circle of Life Arctic Exhibit. There's this plexiglass tunnel, over and beside which is the polar bear pool. One swam right up to it and then was walking on it--right over my head! Dale caught my attention for it. That was just awesome, though a polar bear's backside isn't the most aesthetically pleasing thing I've ever seen. Their feet are enormous!
So today has been a good day. We heard the coming baby's heartbeat four weeks earlier than we were expecting, Maddie took her second step, we had a wonderful day at the zoo, it's not quite 6 PM and daddy and daughter are dozing on the couch in front of one of his favorite TV shows (one of his favorite episodes, even). Does life get much better than this?

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Dale: Train to Rantburg, Now Boarding.

There are certain irritations in life with which I seem almost forced to interact. First, there is the "Beastmaster" syndicated television series, a profoundly stupid fantasy program featuring cheesy CGI, laughable-to-nonexistent plotlines, and the worst acting this side of community theatre. The lead "actor's" sole talent seems to be an indefatigable ability to smirk in any situation. I say "forced to interact" because syndicated television means that you can be ambushed by this crap at any viewing hour of the day. And I find myself mesmerized by its train-wreck awfulness. "Look, honey--he's smirking again! And this time, he doesn't have the ferrets stuffed in his pants!"

Second is Northwest Airlines, which has a deathgrip on airline travel out of the major Detroit airhub. Northwest, too, is run by people with elusive talents, only two of which repeatedly manifest themselves: (1) the ability to understaff the ticket counter at peak hours, and (2) the little-known fact that they've hired Penn and Teller to work part-time in the baggage department--always when I'm flying.

The final irritation is much more serious. This irritation is the bishops of the Catholic Church in the U.S. Unlike the first two, I can't change the channel or fly another airline with these guys. Nor, does it appear, that there's a chance in hell that I'll get new ones, either through resignation (ha!) or removal (double ha!). Today, I attended a Mass presided over by Bishop Kenneth Untener, the bishop of Saginaw. Even though I have enormous problems with the Bp., (I regard him as a veritable pinata of error-soaked platitudes), he's not the target of my scorn this week.

In light of two events last week, I'm about to propose to the National Spelling Bee that "c-a-t-h-o-l-i-c-b-i-s-h-o-p" be allowed as an acceptable alternate spelling for "incompetent." Or "prevaricator." Or "clueless." The problem is, as has been pointed out on other blogs, that the bishops in this country have not viewed themselves as ordained shepherds to the apostles or shepherds of souls for many decades. Instead, they behaved like corporate executives. Some claim that they behave like CEOs, but I don't think so. Being a CEO entails much more responsibility than these gentlemen are willing to assume. Instead, they've behaved like corporate vice-presidents, with most of the perks and pay, but almost none of the responsibilities. They have managed to turn the Catholic Church in America into a going concern called "God, Inc." (Motto: "Why God? Because Mentioning Christ Makes People Nervous.") Henceforth, as long as they insist on behaving like VPs, I'll be referring to them as veeps.

The first source of my disgust is the deposition testimony of Cardinal Law in the Shanley case. Not only has the buck never stopped anywhere near Cardinal Law during his career, he's not even sure what a dollar bill is. What a load of crap. Until this week, some part of me had felt a slight degree of sympathy for him, considering his undeniable good work for civil rights, immigrant issues, the poor, and his proposal for a new Catechism. This seemed to, in a very limited sense, make Law into something of a tragic figure, and in the classic sense of the term tragedy. This always fell far short of my sympathy for the dozens of victims of his priests, but it was there. Now, the only tragedy is continued tenure in office, and his blinkered determination to stay there. Would it kill one of the veeps to stand up and admit "yes, I failed in my Christ-ordained duties. Yes, I let a pervert/perverts run loose on my watch. I repent utterly of my actions. Please forgive me"? Apparently, it would. Meanwhile, the Church burns as they wiggle, shamelessly.

The second source of anger is a mission statement coming from one of the veeps' subcommittees. Actually, given what it says, "non-mission" statement is more accurate. Essentially, the veeps' subcommittee said that the Gospel is not for the Jews. No, really. The document has a couple of points buried in the Catholic section: the need to be respectful of Jewish tradition, and to avoid stupidity in witnessing to Jewish people. After all, there's a river of blood between Christians and Jews. And most of it, horribly, is Jewish. Plus, Judaism occupies a special place in Christian thought--as Peter Kreeft says, biblical Judaism is the only religion that Christianity regards as completely true. Still, that history, and that position, do not require us to abandon our Christian tradition. Which, unfortunately, the document does. Here's the money phrase:

Thus, while the Catholic Church regards the saving act of Christ as central to the process of human salvation for all, it also acknowledges that Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God.

This is the line that trumps all the others. All of the other gasbaggery about "witnessing" to Jewish people, the duty to evangelize all people, welcoming Jewish converts, etc.--has to be read in light of the above sentence. Why in God's name would Jews ever convert to Catholicism? According to "the Church", they are already IN a saving covenant. There's no point. Not unless you are really moved by hearing "Gather Us In" accompanied by a ukelele and an oboe.

What a slap in the face to Jewish converts, and the painful struggles they went through. Someone call Cardinal Lustiger and let him know--guess what? You didn't have to go through all the trouble after all--the theological giants on a USCCB subcommittee have spoken!

Here's a helpful hint before the next time you guys do a reflection--consult that last section of your Bible--that "New Testament" thing--before you put pen to paper. And consult it as the Word of God, not something to be explained away in embarrassment for the sake of interreligious dialogue. Romans 11 might have helped you prepare the Catholic response better. It certainly would have prevented you from giving the Gospel away.

It's not enough that I have to be uncertain about the safety of my children in the Church. It's not enough that I have to put up with bowdlerized liturgies, gutted churches, and the goofy errors supposedly mandated by the spirit of V2 (the council, not the missile). Now I have to wonder whether the Gospel itself is going to be compromised. Thanks, veeps.

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