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Friday, February 25, 2005

Whooooooo-hoooooooooooo!

Doug's back in the States! He arrived safely late last night at Sea-Tac International, jet-lagged and terminally sick of gelatinized military "meat." Mom and Dad treated him to some grilled beef, and a barbeque is planned for Saturday.

Tap the kegs! Slay the fatted calf!

Unfortunately, he's not back in Michigan for a couple weeks, so that party is on hold for a bit.

Fine--I'll still loft a Heineken in his honor today, anyway. By all means, feel free to do so as well.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Happy birthday, son.

Our boy turned two years old today.

According to him, There Goes A Bulldozer is the best thing ever committed to celluloid.

Well, he didn't exactly say that--but the look of utter joy as he watched said it better than words.

We love you, pal.
A turn for the worse?

The Holy Father is undergoing a tracheotomy:

Pope John Paul II, who appeared to have rebounded from the flu, suffered another breathing crisis and was rushed back to the hospital Thursday. Italian news agencies reported he was to undergo a tracheotomy, a procedure in which doctors puncture a hole in the throat and insert a breathing tube.

* * *

A tracheotomy would have serious consequences for the pope's abilities to carry out his duties. The operation would prevent him from speaking and probably require a long hospital stay. Anesthesia is also risky for a person of the pope's age and disabilities.
Outside medical experts said John Paul may have pneumonia. The Vatican declined to respond to such speculation, saying only that the pope suffered from a "syndrome of influenza" and that a new medical bulletin would be issued Friday.


Adam Cardinal Maida issued a prayer earlier this morning:

Father of all life, we ask your special blessing and protection for our Holy Father on earth. According to your will, restore him to the service of your church and keep us all in your peace.

Amen.

[Update: The Vatican confirms a tracheotomy was performed.]

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Housekeeping.

No, I haven't forgotten today's the day we may learn the fate of Terri Schiavo. I will be joining the blogburst on her behalf later. A recent reading has left me a little gobsmacked.

Also, it has come to my attention that I have to explain to people what this blog is, and is not. It apparently is not obvious. More later.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Twenty-five years ago today.

The Miracle on Ice.

It still brings a lump to my throat.

Here's my previous thoughts on the greatest sports upset of all time, and its mastermind, the late, great Herb Brooks.

New stuff: an excerpt from The Boys of Winter, with a brilliant portrait of Mike Eruzione.

Go buy Miracle. You'll be glad you did. This is the film version of Brooks' speech from before the game:

Great moments are born from great opportunity.

That's what you have here, tonight, boys. That's what you've earned here tonight. One game.

If we played them ten times, they might win nine.

But not this game. Not tonight.

Tonight, we skate. Tonight, we stay with them, and we shut them down.

Because we can!

Tonight, WE are the greatest hockey team in the world.

You were born to be hockey players, every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight.

This is your time.

Their time is done, it's over. I'm sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Screw 'em.

This is your time. Now go out there and take it!

Finally, lest we forget, the U.S. had to beat Finland to actually win the gold. Brooks' speech from that game's second intermission was more terse, but oh-so-true:

"If you don't win this game, you'll take it to your f*****g graves. Your f*****g graves!"

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Extra, extra: National Catholic Reporter lashes out at Catholic laity!

Demands that they pray, pay and obey instead.

NCR's Joe Gucc--er, Feuerherd unintentionally pens the most enlightening, heartening and amusing piece of 2005. It's fascinating to see the flower children at the Reporter dressing up in ultramontanist drag, but it only works as camp (think Carson Kressley playing Batman, and you've got it). Remember this the next time (and it will probably be next week) that the NCR makes noise about the laity being ignored. The progressives are perfectly willing to see lay groups destroyed if they display an inauthentic consciousness.

They aren't concerned so much with empowered laity as with power itself.

Diocesan social action directors charged with taking the church's election-year message to the faithful were harassed from below and, in some cases, subverted from above.

Given that diocesan bureaucrats are the source of much of the mischief plaguing American Catholic life, I'm not exactly rosining up the bow for a pity dirge.

That, and I'm fresh out of rosin. Not to mention violins.

Harassment came from parish- and diocesan-based conservatives who viewed a second term for George W. Bush as a secular second coming;

And in one fell phrase Feuerherd reveals that John Allen is the only honest-to-God correspondent at the otherwise benighted hovel of leftist bedwetting and nostalgia that is the Reporter.

I'll say this very slowly and carefully, allowing for time to adjust the hearing aids:

If John Kerry had been a Methodist instead of a self-professed Catholic, the Great Catholic Firestorm of 2004 would not have occurred.

Instead, the Senator was the Usual Article, a frowning, quasi-serious politico who talked up his altar boy service and rosary-carrying in his trained speaker's timbre even as he bragged about his determination to trash the bedrock principles of Catholicism. On the dime of "fellow" Catholics, no less.

Many--I would venture to say most--of us who found ourselves in the President's corner did so because we found the prospect of a religious fraud like JFK II being elected as a direct affront to everything we are trying to live and pass on to our children and others. The thought of watching the architects of beige Catholicism wave the awful Kerry like a totem for their brand of anything-goes over the next four years was a vision of hell. In one stroke, much of the fragile renewal of American Catholic life would have been destroyed, as cowards in miters posed in photo ops... Bush has some serious flaws, but, in the final analysis, he doesn't make us puke.

We dodged a bullet. Nothing less, and nothing more.

That the old Catholic left (including rancid men like Robert Drinan) woke up on November 3, 2004 with a horror-induced migraine was strictly a bonus.

the subversion from some bishops and clergy who placed the "five nonnegotiable issues" promoted by a conservative Catholic group (abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and gay marriage)

Behold why my patience with progressives is fraying beyond repair--nothing is ever "nonnegotiable" for the religious left. Except their hold on power. More below.

And calling the decision of a handful of bishops to exercise their teaching authority instead of being nonentities "subversive" is rich. At Denver the bishops said this was a perfectly kosher option. That it was inconvenient to the ever-willing-to-negotiate Reporter is irrelevant.

Delightful, but irrelevant.

over the teaching promoted by the U.S. bishops.
Every four years, the bishops, through their administrative board, release a statement outlining their views on current issues through the lens of Catholic social teaching. No candidates are endorsed or parties supported.


The suspect was identified as being between 5'6" and 7', of gold-complexion, and made entirely of straw.

Neither did the CA pamphlet, JF.

In October 2003, the administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released "Faithful Citizenship," an 8,000-word statement on church social teaching, which declared that "as Catholics, we are not free to abandon unborn children because they are seen as unwanted or inconvenient; to turn our backs on immigrants because they lack the proper documents; to create and then destroy human lives in a quest for medical advances or profit; to turn away from poor women and children because they lack economic or political power; or to ignore sick people because they have no insurance. Nor can we neglect international responsibilities in the aftermath of war because resources are scarce. Catholic teaching requires us to speak up for the voiceless and to act in accord with universal moral values."

Only 8,000 words? Message received! I tried to read it all the way through--honest. I gave up after the first two thousand words and skimmed the rest.

I have recently pondered the problem with the seamless garment/consistent life ethic, and it comes down to this: it effectively places everything on the same moral plane. To wit: the intentional destruction of human life is equal to "turning away" from poor women and children "because they lack economic or political power." The second is bad, but the formulation is so vague as to make it useless as part of a decisionmaking calculus. Is someone is being "turned away" from because of a "lack of power" when she is not given direct grants of money, or is she being turned away from when the moribund bureaucracy which purports to educate her and her children demonstrates that it is more interested in protecting its prerogatives? Both, perhaps? Something else?

There's a line in The Incredibles that exposes the fatal flaw at the heart of the SG strategy:

Helen Parr: Everyone's special, Dash.

Dash Parr: Which is another way of saying that no one is.

If everything is important, nothing is.

As a prime example of how quickly the garment becomes a mental straight jacket, consider this incoherence from newly minted USCCB president William "My kingdom for a definite article!" Skylstad in June 2004:

The Church teaches consistently that human life is to be cherished and protected against threats, particularly the lives of those most vulnerable: the pre-born; the ill; the aged; the poor. The immigrant, the sorrowing, the confused, the misunderstood.

Ministering to the "confused," eh? Sounds like a full time job at the USCCB. Physician, heal thyself. And please give me a call when the legislation permitting a 9 month window to kill the "misunderstood" for the convenience of others gets introduced.

Yes, all human life is sacred--even that of the "confused." But not all human life is under threat in the same way or with the same level of violence. Hence the prioritizing, which consistent ethicists refuse to do.

The garment has become a garotte for effective pro-life witness. Time to run it in to the tailor.

The document provided a set of 10 questions Catholics should consider before entering the voting booth and offered a set of principles drawn from Catholic social teaching. The bishops promised an extensive diocesan-based effort to promote "Faithful Citizenship" -- brochures summarizing the statement, videos explaining Catholic social teaching, and a Web site providing "liturgical and homily ideas, education materials and lesson plans for various age groups, and information on conducting nonpartisan voter registration and education programs."
So far so good.


The USCCB "promises" a lot of things. Learn to live with disappointment, Joe. The rest of us have been for quite some time now.

Not so by the way, gentle reader, that transition sentence is your cue to boo the mustache-twisting villain, entering stage right:

Then, in early 2004, an El Cajon, Calif.-based conservative group, "Catholic Answers," published its "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics," a 2,500-word pamphlet that urged Catholics to vote based on the "five nonnegotiable issues."

EEEEEEE-VIL!

Said the pamphlet, "It is a serious sin to deliberately endorse or promote any of these actions, and no candidate who really wants to advance the common good will support any action contrary to the nonnegotiable principles involved in these issues."

That no serious rebuttal was ever attempted by SG proponents is the most telling thing about the whole episode.

In the outreach effort that ensued, the diocesan social action directors were blindsided.

Still out of rosin--sorry!

Millions of copies of the "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics" were distributed in church parking lots and foyers and inserted in parish bulletins. Catholic Answers took out a full-page ad in USA Today, and proponents of the nonnegotiables disrupted efforts to promote the bishops' official view of the 2004 election.

Which, in less than 1,500 words was what, precisely?

It was political hardball, with some social action directors subject to e-mail campaigns in which chanceries were flooded with correspondence questioning their orthodoxy and commitment to church teaching.

"As a person who gave numerous … presentations on 'Faithful Citizenship' … before the election in November, I ran into significant resistance from self-described pro-life Catholics at nearly every talk," a social action director told me recently. "In fact, through forwarded e-mail to the [chancery], we learned that I had been targeted by a coterie of these folks because they (correctly) presumed that I would be advocating a consistent ethic of life approach to evaluating candidates and issues, rather than advocating 'authentic Catholic teaching' that labels abortion as the single most important issue."

Which is why your orthodoxy is in serious doubt, O Anonymous One Who's Very Likely Tom Allio From Cleveland. If you hear "yes, but" often enough from someone, you quickly come to understand that they really mean "No."

In this case, diocesan officials stood firm. Parishes were instructed to use Faithful Citizenship and those of the state Catholic conference, and not the Catholic Answers Voter's Guide.

Talk about man bites dog: It's at this point in your usual Reporter article that the correspondent starts shrieking about infantilization and repression of the legitimate aspirations of the laity. Here, the Diocese could have dropped an interdict and NCRep's editorial staff would be whooping it up like Eagles fans on a four hour tailgate bender.

Nonetheless, "we were inundated with the [Catholic Answers] voting guide," reports the social action director.

Poor baby.

The experience of this social action director was the norm in this election cycle, reports Catholic University of America associate professor of Religious Studies William Dinges. For a paper he is presenting at the Feb. 18-23 meeting of diocesan social action workers, Dinges interviewed 22 diocesan social action directors around the country. He described his findings at a Feb. 16 presentation at the university.
Dinges said he was surprised "by the number of people who told me that they have 'never seen the conflict this bad before.' " There is little civility when conservative activists challenge diocesan workers presenting the teaching of the bishops.


You refuse to engage the other side and shut down them down by fiat, but still puzzle over the lack of civility.

The religious left in a nutshell.

"I was struck by the sense that this has really gotten ugly," said Dinges.
So who are the conservative activists? Dinges places them in five groups: Catholic traditionalists, conservatives and neoconservatives, the "radicalized element" of the antiabortion movement, Republican political partisans and "evangelicalized Catholics."


Sounds like a real fringe element there--oh, everyone to the right of Commonweal's editorial board, if not its contributors.

[Ed. Note: I rather like Commonweal, too.]

Though there was clearly some organized effort to disrupt and disparage the church's official outreach, most of agitation was caused, said Dinges, by individuals acting in small groups, frequently with the support of conservative parish clergy who showed little fear of contravening diocesan guidance on election-year activities.

Translation: It was an actual, honest, grass-roots lay movement. For which crime the Rep wants to get all Inquisitorial on their glutei. Deus lo volt, and all that.

I feel like I've entered the Bearded Spock parallel universe.

Further, said Dinges, in some dioceses the activists "were emboldened by the actions of some bishops," particularly in dioceses where bishops threatened to withhold Communion from pro-choice Catholic politicians. In some cases, chastened by the hostility diocesan presenters received at Faithful Citizenship education efforts, bishops simply cancelled additional sessions, leaving the Catholic take on the election to the Catholic Answers crowd.

"Coterie," "crowd"--can "ilk," "lot," or "rabble" be far behind?

In the absence of examples of real misbehavior by pitchfork-wielding mobs, my suggestion is to have a hanky, a blanky and shut up. A refusal to answer the questions is not the problem of the questioners.

Anything new here? Is there anything new here? Dinges thinks so. In the immediate post-Vatican II era, he noted, disputes between liberal and conservative Catholics centered largely on intra-church issues, such as liturgical practices. Today's tug-of-war is focused on the "broader culture wars in American society" and liberal Catholics and their conservative brethren are no longer even "pulling on the same rope."

Sounds about right, actually. See "yes, but" above. I have sufficient reason to be concerned about whether we are on the same team anymore, and that doubt grows by the day.

Said Dinges, "We do not even know how to talk to each other -- to have responsible adult conversations -- in areas where there is serious disagreement." The structures that are supposed to facilitate communication within the church, says Dinges, are "dysfunctional."

Actually, he's wrong: the structures are what they have always been. The "problem" is that, in the age of the WWW, they are no longer effective at silencing the inconvenient and ramming the bureaucratic party line down the throats of those who are craving something more authentic.

Then there's the difficulty of "dialoguing" and "communicating" with those who reflexively describe you with words like "crowd," "coterie," "neo-conservative," "radicalized," and "evangelicalized" (whatever the last means. Probably has something to do with the fact progressives are not big on evangelism. Whatever.)

There's no point. You've already shelled the common ground pretty well into oblivion, and I think orthodox Catholics already know how stupid you think they are. Hearing it from you in person isn't going to help. There's no trust--period. They're convinced there's nothing you wouldn't jettison, water-down or negotiate away, if push came to shove. And it's fully-rooted in those old and still-raging battles over the liturgy, doctrine, education, etc. The only things that have changed are the arena and the recognition by the orthodox that if they don't organize, strike first and keep hammering away, they are going to lose.

Sucks being on the receiving end, doesn't it?

Besides, we're having too much fun--"Come and see 'em run!" pretty well sums it up for us these days.

Dinges is to present his paper at the social action meeting on Feb. 19. The title of the gathering: "The Church in the Modern World: Founded on Truth, Built on Justice, Animated by Love."

Sounds like a corker.

Tell you what--start emphasizing the first item on the list, and then maybe we'll have something to talk about. After all, the next two are phony without it.

I still post at the other blog, too.

On occasion. Here's proof: The Thief.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

All right--the circus is in town!

Well, OK--not my town. More like a continent away, to be precise. But the notorious annual Religious Education Congress begins in Anaheim today. Given the history of such gatherings, it promises to offer further insights into the proverb "a picture is worth a thousand words." Not to mention causing a serious run on Maalox among orthodox Catholics.

This year, Roger Cardinal Mahony will be getting into the swing of things with an online chat, but, alas--no presentations.

How To Get The Most Out of Your PR Firm, Hair Gel and You and Applying Vatican Directives: Birdcage or Catbox? How To Decide would have been both educational and practical.

Since it is ostensibly a religious education conference, I was interested in what the speakers had to say about November 2003's announcement by the American bishops that most of the catechetical books used to educate Catholic children were defective--sometimes grossly so. It wouldn't be fair to have expected it to be an issue at last year's conference, given the short notice. However, they've had better than a year to digest it, surely it's a hot topic of discussion for the 2005 Congress.

So, scrolling down...

Hm.

I see Seeking Healing and Wholeness Through Music, Meditation and Movement--probably not there.

Dry Bones Dancing! (exclamation point in original). Weeeellll...

Homosexuality, Celibacy and the Priesthood: Opening Up the Conversation. It's under "Young Adult Ministry", per the description of Dr. Beaudoin's presentation. Erm--no.

Princess Diana, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Other Short Stories. Sounds diverse, but unlikely.

Enough is Enough! Stand UP! A Rallying Call for People Who Believe in the God of Love, Justice and Mercy (exclamation points and capitalization both in original). Sounds verbose. But still, no textbooks.

Awakening to the Power of Transformative Ritual. Doesn't Sting talk about that?

Here's the Church, Here's the Steeple, Open the Doors, Where Are All the Young Adult People? Scared away by transformative ritual, perhaps? Actually, I think I saw a lot of them there at the Baptist church down the street.

Sister Catechist and Sister Media Visit the Museum. WATCH OUT FOR THE ALBINO ASSASSIN, SISTERS!

This is getting a little demoralizing....

Wait--I think I found it!

Shall We Dance? Grace Incarnate! (Exclama--oh, you know the drill.) Sorry--eye/scrolling fatigue.

I'll keep looking. Surely there's at least one presenter taking the issue head on.

Right?

Right.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

This is overdue.

Thanks to all who offered kind words in the box on the 2005 CBA (honestly, I'm not particularly put out by getting omitted). I'm truly grateful for the compliments, even if never know quite how to react to such things. But "thank you" is certainly warranted.

I've strongly considered shutting this sucker down twice over the past three months, and the endorsements are a strong argument against that.

Thanks again!
"No good deed goes unpunished" meets...

"I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."

Deputies who rescued two people from a burning building are being investigated for possible OSHA violations.

The state is investigating a complaint that Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies broke workplace safety regulations when they saved two people from a burning apartment building.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking into whether the sheriff's department suggested that its deputies enter a fire without protective equipment -- before firefighters arrived on the scene.


I've got nothing.

Insert your own punchline.
Fools.

For want of the will to close a 6.5 million dollar per team gap, the NHL and NHLPA have blown up the season. It would have taken all the creativity God gave salad, but it is evident there not a brain neuron to be found in this sorry bunch.

To hell with the lot of them--all of the posturing of the past year by the Bettmanians and Goodenowers has been revealed to be just that: rank posturing. At the very last instant, both sides backed away from the "inviolable" linking and salary cap stances.

Too late. Why couldn't you have done this last June? There's no honest answer, apart from pride. Jerks.

I am going to miss professional hockey--especially come April. There is nothing like the thrill of sudden death playoff hockey. The words "Game 7" have a magic all their own.

Now...a test pattern.

I have likely seen Steve Yzerman and Chris Chelios play their last games. Probably Brendan Shanahan, too--he's been talking that way of late.

I will never forgive the game that.

And if the NHL/PA thinks that the fans will return like they did for baseball, you've got another thing coming (Spare the Rob Halford takes--Mgm't.).

Hockey is often called "the fourth major sport." That's a polite courtesy title--like the title "slugger" or "champ" given to a little boy.

It's not anything resembling a "major" sport. Not even close. Hockey is a niche sport in America, where it is woven into the culture in only a few select places. The strongholds of the devout can be named safely on the fingers of one hand: Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York. That's it. Most people have learned they can live without hockey--especially outside those states. It's an afterthought, and getting dimmer in the mind all the time.

When it returns, it will return to the sound of crickets. Entire franchises will fold--count on it. The fan base will be greatly shrunken. When it comes back, it better be humble. Because it's going to be humiliating to learn how little most people care.

For want of a brain, the sport was lost.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The tragic twilight of Thomas Gumbleton.

Bill Cork points out this story from my own backyard, a Freep story about the recently-submitted resignation letter from America's longest-serving bishop.

Well, "story" is a bit generous. "Hagiography" is a more like it--but that's par for the course. The secular media always plays slow-pitch with the auxiliary bishop. Every assertion from him is treated with an almost-supernatural awe, a deference they would never accord one of the dread inflexible "conservative" prelates.

Despite offering a ripe target, there will be no fisk today. Instead, just a brief commentary.

The story of Thomas Gumbleton is tragedy in the classical Greek sense: the story of a man endowed with great gifts who squandered them in willful blindness. He is without dispute a charismatic man. He can preach. He handles the scriptures deftly, if with a tiresome, consistent, cloying PC preciousness--God as a distant, transcendent It, never an immanent Father. Got to avoid the big He, don't you know? But give him credit--the old radical has his gifts.

And he also lives as advertised: very humbly on the grounds of St. Leo's. No pampered and lace-bedecked prince, he.

Some of this is no doubt a product of his formative years. It is significant that he became a bishop in 1968, because his mindset never evolved past the pointless children's crusade sloganeering of that most unrevolutionary of years. He pretty well peaked in the 1970s, as is seen in his affiliation with the senescent Call to Action and Pax Christi, both born in the disco decade. He's been a nonentity as far as the governance of the Detroit Archdiocese since 1994, as the article indicates. Essentially, the deal is this: the loose cannon can roll around on the deck as he likes, but has no input at all on the nuts and bolts of governance. It's frustrating for those who despise the sight of bishops trashing the faith, but since he'd do that anyway, you might as well get his hands off the wheel.

Just one of those things Detroit Catholics can only marvel at: Ecclesiastical civil war as chess match. Check and counter-check.

But perhaps the saddest part of his career--and its most consistent thread--is his willingness to be a dupe for overseas thugs in his monomaniacal focus on America as the locus of evil in the world.

I'm reminded of his last visit with a peace delegation to Belgium in January 2003, to protest the U.N. sanctions against that country and the planned U.S. invasion. He protested the enforcement of the no-fly zones, and the civilian casualties he claimed resulted from it.

Oh, I'm sorry--did I say "Belgium"? I meant "Iraq." You'll forgive my confusion, though--he might as well have been visiting Belgium for all the brutal nature of the host regime mattered to him. His record of silence on such visits is thundering--and damning.

Now, let me clarify--I have no problem with a robust criticism of U.S. foreign policy and economic behavior. A bracing challenge to both reminds us that our ultimate loyalties are not to Caesar, but to the One who permits Caesar to wield his sword. But criticism of Caesar means criticism of Caesar everywhere--not just in America. Gumbleton's refusal to do any such thing gives his "peace witness" a crabbed, Potemkin village ludicrousness that invariably wrecks it. Instead of being a powerful advocate of peace who stood up for the powerless everwhere, he became just a stock leftist name that appeared on The Usual Letters, received the Usual Periodic Admiring Piece in local papers, and went to the Usual Conferences thereafter, in a spiral of irrelevance.

According to the Free Press, he is said to be going to Cuba soon. Will the fierce advocate of gay rights bring up the arrest and torture of homosexuals? Will the vaunted voice of the voiceless attempt to meet with imprisoned dissidents, living in horrid conditions? Or will he do the Usual Thing and swoon like good leftists do in the presence of Castro's patented Latin Heat? I have a suggestion on how to bet it.

With the gifts he has, Thomas Gumbleton could have been a prophet, but instead he chose to be a partisan.

What a waste.
That boy's crazy.

The above is more often than not a term of admiration where I come from.

It sure fits Larry Earley, a Florida hunter who killed a wild boar with a revolver. A really, really big wild boar.

We're talking 1,140 pounds big.

Sure, it was a .44 Magnum he dispatched "Hog Kong" with. But still--that boy's crazy.

If you ask me what you should hunt a half-ton wild boar with, I have two words for you:

"Air support."

Monday, February 14, 2005

It feels happy...it feels happy...

Heather has a couple of new posts over at TLH&B II.

Check 'em out!

Yes, the plan is to blog more over there--for both of us.

As Rachel permits, of course.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Sergeants' War, Part II.

You are probably thinking "Ooookay, Dale. Thanks for the history lesson. I think. What the @$%^ does that have to do with anything?"

Actually, it's aimed right at the weak part of Rod Dreher's piece, quoted below.

American Catholic family men are in a position analogous to those of the men of the 106th on December 18, 1944--we are fighting a sergeants' war. Just what are we supposed to do? My hands are pretty full trying to shepherd my little squad of five to safety in an increasingly-hostile world. In this daunting task, I've had almost no training and virtually no outside help. I went through RCIA, pre-Cana and I was instructed--sorta--on how to receive the sacraments.

That's it. And that's apparently supposed to get me and mine by, according to the powers that be. Because, as well all know, everything just keeps getting better and better. The war will be over in spring, and all that. The brass should know better--all the signs of a huge problem are there--but for some reason it acts like it hasn't a clue.

You're on your own--and good luck with that.

That's where Rod's call for a massive counterattack breaks down--quite literally, there's no division left to do it. As a result, any outrage is necessarily going to be sporadic and locally-organized.

The first thing that has to be done is to recognize the problem--and it starts with a realization that Catholicism probably has a bigger problem with its men than it does with its women. Yes, I know--male clergy and all that, man-centered, patriarchal, blah, blah, blah--but look at the pews. No, not a sewing circle with "No boyz allowed," but tilted more in that direction. If only one parent is there with the kids, it ain't going to be dad, 99 times out of 100. If Catholic men don't want to show up on Sunday, who's going to stop them? That's a longer term problem, and can't be addressed quickly.

What can be done is to start mentoring and discipling men who are there on a large scale--training for righteousness, as the evangelicals say. From the get-go: confirmation, RCIA, pre-Cana, marriage rehearsals, baptism or catechism classes for the kids--for whatever reason and whenever they manage to walk through the door. Because, odds are, you aren't going to have a second chance to reel them back in.

And we'd better listen very closely to the evangelicals, because they have essentially written the book on this sort of thing.

Many evangelical churches have strong pastors and men’s ministries that encourage manly virtues, and succeed in making men see faith and family life in a manly light—partly because they are not afraid to tackle controversial moral issues from the pulpit. Unfortunately, I would say that there are few Catholic churches in the United States that have pastors or men’s ministries that present faith or family life in a manly light. It is no accident that evangelical churches have higher rates of male participation than do Catholic churches. Priests and Catholic men need to rectify this by revisiting the life of Our Lord, and by embracing the array of manly virtues that he displays throughout the New Testament.

In other words, change the culture--here, the inner culture of American Catholic life. I'm convinced that the men in the pews are good men who want to do the right thing, they want to be faithful Catholics and solid family men. Men who are more than willing to be courageous defenders of the weak and opponents of the corrupt whenever the opportunity presents itself. They just need to be prepared for it and know they aren't all alone in the trackless forest. If you start equipping Catholic men for the various challenges and calls of Christian life, and mentoring them along the way, you probably won't get much of Rod's demand for righteous outrage.

That's because there will be far less call for it.

Is there such an organization out there? None of the comment box suggestions below really fit the bill. If there isn't, then one needs to be created--stat.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Sergeants' War, Part I.

In mid-December 1944, the 12,000 men of the newly-formed 106th Infantry Division--nicknamed "the Lion Men" for the divisional shoulder patches--arrived in Western Europe to battle Nazi Germany. Brought to the front with their equipment in the famous Dodge 2 1/2 ton truck all the way from the ports of Normandy, the Lion Men were spread across a 27 mile long front running roughly along the border of Belgium and Germany. What was interesting about the 106th was that, like other American divisions raised late in the war (and unlike the British and Commonwealth forces), the division did not represent "scraping the bottom of the barrel" quality-wise. In fact, it was the opposite: the troops of the 106th were assembled from the closing down of the elite and advanced training programs established by the Army shortly after Pearl Harbor to provide for innovative leadership. With the war nearing the end, the schools were closed, and the bright, ambitious soldiers from these programs shifted into combat units. The Army's experience with these men showed that with seasoning, they made magnificent and flexible troops.

The 106th was given the task of replacing the crack, but exhausted veterans of the Second Infantry Division, and they did so on December 11-12, 1944. Most of the men of the 106th (average age: 22, making them the youngest division in the line) had no combat experience whatsoever--just a few weeks of basic training. They were also not particularly well-equipped for their mission, being deficient in anti-tank weapons (especially low on bazooka rounds), mines, machine guns and automatic weapons.

Furthermore, that 27 mile line they were expected to man was by any acknowledged military standard far too long--especially for untried troops with inadequate equipment. But the big brains at HQ in Paris reasoned that since it was a quiet sector, this would not be a problem. After all, springtime was coming, and the Germans were beaten--everyone knew that. The American Army had enjoyed an unbroken chain of victories in Europe, and the Nazis were beyond mounting a counterattack.

This was exceptionally fortunate, because, as noted above, almost none of the men of the 106th had any combat experience at all. Again, basic training and some brief in-theatre orientation when they arrived was the extent of their "experience." Their commander, Maj. General Alan Jones, was no incompetent and knew of their inadequate equipment, but his efforts to remedy this would, as military bureaucracy dictated, take time. This was made much worse by the fact that their nearest supply depot was almost forty miles away through the bad and narrow roads of the rugged Ardennes forest. Somehow worse yet, the green troops were deployed by their green officers in the worst possible way--if a serious, heavy assault happened--right up against the front with no depth or reserves to deal with a breakthrough or threatenened encirclement.

Yes, it was extraordinarily fortunate, indeed, that the Germans no longer posed a significant offensive threat.

Unfortunately, no one told the Germans that.

You see, they had managed to assemble a massive force behind their lines, nearly 2,600 tanks and 250,000 men. About half this force was poised to smash into the unprepared 106th.

As they did, at four o'clock in the morning on December 16, 1944. For two grim, agonizing days, the brave but overmatched men of the 106th fought fiercely against odds that ranged up to 8 to 1 against them. Gen. Jones desperately tried to arrange resupply and reinforcements, to no avail. Two of the division's three regiments were surrounded, quickly ran out of ammunition and were forced to surrender late on the 18th. In two days, almost 9,000 men of the 106th had been killed, wounded or captured.

The remainder, more often than not small groups of men led by corporals and sergeants, fought desperately to delay the Germans or battle through the enemy's nets. In the short, desperate and almost unknown skirmishes, the men of the 106th demonstrated unbelievable heroism and cleverness.

During the early hours of the Nazi assault, the 423rd I & R Platoon, under 1st Lt. Ivan H. Long, of Pontiac, Mich., effectively held a road block. The Germans, learning at great cost that they could not smash through the block, went around. The platoon was faced with the alternative of surrendering or making a dash through enemy territory. The men were without overcoats or blankets. Among the 21 dough[boy]s were only four "D" ration chocolate bars. They had little ammunition. But they fought their way through the snow and gnawing cold to rejoin the division with every man safe.
Cpl. Willard Roper, Havre, Mont., led the group back as first scout. After 72 hours of clawing through enemy patrols, tank and machine gun positions, the exhausted and footsore men, some of whom had lost their helmets, could still grin and fight.


One of the most noteworthy efforts at St. Vith was the leadership of Lt. Col. Thomas J. Riggs Jr. of Huntington, WV, commanding the 81st Engineer Combat Bn. Once a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. Col. Riggs first won fame as an All-American fullback at the University of Illinois.
On the morning of Dec. 17, Col. Riggs took over the defense of the town. He disposed his limited forces, consisting of part of his own battalion, the Defense Platoon, the 106th Headquarters' Co. and elements of the 168th Engineers and waited for the coming blow. The wait was short. Soon a battalion of German infantry attacked behind Tiger tanks. Time after time, more tanks and infantry tackled the engineers' line, probing for a weak spot. During these attacks, Col. Riggs was in the center of the defense, rallying his men and personally heading counter-thrusts to keep the enemy off balance.
Col. Riggs was captured while leading a patrol in the defense of St. Vith. Marched across Germany, he escaped near the Polish border and made his way to the frontier. He was sheltered three days by civilians and then joined an advancing Red Army tank outfit. After fighting with it for several days, he was evacuated to Odessa and from there was taken to Marseilles. He rejoined the 81st, in the spring when it was stationed near Rennes, France.


Cpl. Lawrence B. Rogers, Salt Lake City, Utah, and PFC Floyd L. Black, Mt. Crab, Ohio, both members of the platoon, along with two men whose identity never was learned, successfully held a vital road junction against Tiger tanks supported by infantry with a machine gun, rocket launcher, two rifles and a carbine. The four man volunteer rear-guard stopped the advancing force. They held the enemy at bay for two and a half hours, retreating only when their machine gun failed to function.

T/5 Edward S. Withee, Torrington, CT. 81st, Engr., volunteered for what seemed to be a suicide mission. His platoon was pinned down in a house near Schoenberg by four enemy tanks. All were doomed unless escape could be made while the enemy's attention was diverted.
Withee attacked the four tanks and the supporting infantry with a sub-machine gun. His platoon withdrew safely. When last seen, Withee was pouring fire into German infantry. He was listed as missing in action until April, when he turned up in a POW camp. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

There was the magnificent bluff of 220 pound Capt. Lee Berwick, Johnson's Bayou, LA. of the 424th [Regiment]. He talked 102 Germans and two officers into surrendering an almost impregnable position to a handful of men. He boldly strode to the very muzzle of enemy machine guns to warn of the "huge force" supporting him and ordered the senior officer to surrender. It worked.

Enemy artillery fire on the second day of the attack damaged a mortar base manned by Pfc. Harry V. Arvannis, Moline, IL, 424th. He resumed fire holding the tube between his legs and aiming by hand. After firing about 10 rounds, he saw a squad of Nazi infantrymen creeping towards his position. Training the mortar on them he shot his last 30 rounds of ammunition, killing or disabling eight of his attackers. The other four rose to their feet and lunged at him in a bayonet charge. Arvannis and his assistant gunner emptied their service pistols, stopping three of the four. The fourth was upon them, bayonet gleaming.
Pfc. Arvannis threw his four pound revolver at the German, hitting him squarely in the forehead, killing him instantly.


There's much more at the site--a truly inspiring look at men whose gallantry deserves to be remembered--but isn't. This was a defeat, after all--the worst the Army would experience in Western Europe during the Second World War. Such stories are invariably, and just as wrongly, overlooked. And what is also striking about the accounts of the courage of the 106th is this--it is an account of men reacting as best they can to a disaster, trying to salvage what they can and get themselves and their buddies out. Their leaders, while well-intentioned, can do nothing for them.

The men of the 106th were on their own.

On to Part II.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Appropriate Response to Evil...

...starts with calling evil evil.

Rod Dreher channels Matt Millen and asks Catholic men: "Where are your testicles?"

That's a tough question:

"I loathe cruelty and injustice," Teddy Roosevelt once wrote to a friend. "To see a boy or man torture something helpless whether in the shape of a small boy or little girl or dumb animal makes me rage." It's fine to be conventionally virtuous, he said, but if these qualities are unsupported by "something more virile, they may tend to evil rather than good."

"The man who merely possesses these traits, and in addition is timid and shirks effort, attracts and deserves a good deal of contempt," wrote Mr. Roosevelt.
By that chivalrous understanding of manhood, we Catholic men – bishops, priests and laymen – are a pretty contemptible lot these days.

Father Matthew Bagert, a Grand Prairie priest, was picked up on child pornography charges last week. Days later, Bishop Charles Grahmann turned up in the parish pulpit, weeping and telling the flock to "welcome him back," as Jesus supposedly would have. Once again, a bishop counsels cheap grace to thwart justice, corrupting the concept of Christian mercy as part of an excuse-making strategy for the clerical class.

And you know what? It works. If the recent past is any guide, Father Bagert's ultimate guilt or innocence won't much matter to most Catholic men, who remain largely mute and accepting as unspeakable things come to light.

Why aren't the men who run the Catholic church raging against the cruelty of priests who prey on kids? Why do so many good priests and Catholic laymen remain as docile as eunuchs despite it all? Do we think we're not going to have to answer to God for our moral cowardice?

Within the church, there is a culture of what C.S. Lewis called "men without chests." Most of us go along to get along, shirking our duties as Christians and men to protect the weak and guard the integrity of the religious community.

Here we are on the fourth Ash Wednesday of the church's long scandal-ridden Lent. As we examine our consciences in Mass today, we ought to be asking ourselves what our sons and daughters, if they remain Catholic, surely will one day: Where were you when the church needed good men to stand up to defend what's right?

As I said, tough stuff. I don't have an easy answer to any of Rod's questions.

At a bare minimum we can change the vocabulary. It's long past time to drop the euphemistic therapy-speak and recover the stern language of sin, repentance and judgment.

And preach it.

Every time one of these abominations happen, the language used is astonishingly judgment-free and soul-killing: "boundary issues," "transgression," "inappropriate," "treatment," "healing"--anything but an acknowledgment that something truly hideous has been inflicted.

Let me put it into plain colloquial English: Matthew Bagert gets his sexual jollies by lusting over pictures of naked, exploited and abused children.

If that doesn't stir up righteous anger, I respectfully submit that your soul is dead. I also think you have no business posting a comment below.

Bagert is not someone who "transgressed boundaries" or "demonstrated inappropriate behavior." What he did was monstrous. Profoundly, disturbingly evil--gratifying himself with the exploitation of the pain of the weakest and most helpless among us. Roosevelt's analogy of animal torture is an apt one, if a couple of orders of magnitude too mild. Perverts like Bagert power the horror machine--and he knew it.

Shorthand? He's a morally sick man who has no business being around children again. Ever. Any attempt to place him back into a parish should be resisted to the broken hilt.

Discarding the euphemisms puts the Tear Duct Tour of Charles Grahmann into a slightly different light, doesn't it? Lest we forget, Dallas' limpet-bishop played a major role in keeping the hellish pedophile Rudy Kos in business. To say that he lacks judgment is an understatement on a par with describing sarin as insecticide. Asking that the parish receive Bagert back into ministry less than a week after his arrest demonstrates that his moral compass is shot.

The second thing we need to do is to somehow unwarp the understanding of Christian forgiveness. Rod's right--it's devolved into cheap grace. I can forgive someone without having to pretend that it never happened. But that's precisely what Bp. Grahmann is asking the parishioners to do--play a great big game of "Let's Pretend." There's no example of Christ ever doing anything remotely similar to what he's asking.

Never mind doing so less than a week after the arrest. Still, his boss is begging for unconditional acceptance. After all, I may have missed it, but there's no evidence Bagert has repented, is there?

What's the proper response? At a minimum, I think it starts with a public rebuke. We also have to remember that the first reaction of the Shepherd of the Faithful of Dallas was to dispatch his low-watt sock puppet to bash converts. The second was to portray the behavior in terms of therapy--it's an "addiction," don't you know? Well, if it's an addiction, then what's there to forgive? The poor fellow's merely a compulsive who can't help himself.

To repeat: Matthew Bagert gets his sexual jollies by lusting over pictures of naked, exploited and abused children. It's not asking too much to want him far, far away from children.

Spare me the Donatism charge, too. Yeah, whatever. All us converts are.

The fact is, it's long past time to inter therapeutic Catholicism with every other dead-end heresy Catholics have chased with fervor across the millenia. Anyone incapable of speaking in terms of sin, repentance, restitution, justice and judgment when faced with such crimes against God and man is not speaking as a Christian pastor. Hell, he's not speaking like much of a human being.

I'll be blunt: He simply cannot be trusted. His office is still valid, but the man is another matter. He has to be called to account. You should attempt to meet with him to discuss the matter. I know--ha, ha, ha--write to the nuncio while you're at it. But still, the effort has to be made. When--and it's almost certainly when, not if--he avoids you, you have to proceed. A man unable to care about whether your children are in danger is--at a bare minimum--undeserving of a dime of your hard-earned cash. Your children don't belong in programs under his so-called oversight. You may even have to worship in another diocese. Whatever you do, you can't docilely follow such people over the cliff, much less lead your family with you.

I also think like-minded men have to band together. Many voices are more impressive than one, and harder to dismiss as a wacko in the wilderness. A new organization? Maybe so. An organization that focuses on improving the personal holiness of the men involved as well as acting for change--well, why not? If it gets big enough, it's going to get heard. And it doesn't have to be a jeremiad factory, either, only calling the wayward to account--there are good clerics and religious who deserve to be touted and supported, too. This is literally flying from the brain to the keyboard, so bear with me--it's very ill-formed at present.

That may not be much, but it's a start.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Ah, popularity.

Eau de sour grape? Perhaps--a little.

About that 2005 Catholic Blog Popularity Contest.

To quote Jim Carrey: "It's an honor just to be nom--"









Hold off on the same consoling words from last year, all of which boil down to:

"But Dale, your blog doesn't fit into any of the categories. You need your own category! Yadda. Blah. Spam. Spam. Spam. Spam."

Maybe so. But I don't think there's ever going to be a category for Blog By A Man Whose Writing Style Often Suggests He's Thirty Seconds From Experiencing a Rage-Induced Aneurysm, do you?

Perhaps I'm wrong. Wait till next year!

Anyhow.

The Good (underrated category):

The selections of Jeff Culbreath and Hilary at Fiat Mihi, as well as Fr. Al "Is he Catholic Yet?" Kimel's Pontifications and SAM. All good and, for some reason, underappreciated sites.

The Bad (Omissions):

Lane Core? Come on. The Blog from the Core getting zilch is a bad, bad joke.

Eve Tushnet. Perhaps the most undervalued Catholic blogger in all of cyberspace. She deserves way, way, better.

David Morrison. See Eve Tushnet.

The Mommies. Sleepy Catholic moms deserve the accolades (as my wife screams "Amen!").

Fr. Rob Johansen. Have we forgotten his work for Terri Schiavo already?

The Mighty Barrister. How about a Lifetime Achievement category?

The Surprising:

The astonishing--and perhaps oddly so--popularity of a blog I'd never heard of before: Catholic Apologetics of America. I felt vaguely out of it when I read the nominations, but then again it appears nobody else really has heard of it, either.

Still, it must be nice to have such devoted readers...
It probably is.

The Scene:
Madeleine, sitting at the lunch table last Friday (I had the day off). Mom boils up some tortellini, but Maddie decides she wants a peanut butter sandwich instead.

No way. We don't make separate meals for the kids.

Maddie decides this would be a good time for a meltdown.

But instead of screaming, she pulls her arms to her side, grunts and screws up her face, looking for all the world like Dick Butkis from the old NFL Films highlight reels. We studiously ignore her.

She continues to grunt-growl, and slowly her face turns beet red.

Heather and I lose it, and start laughing.

She stops, glares at us, and yells:

"This is harder than it looks!"

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Moon over Parma...

Ah, Cleveland!

Mist-ed Jewel on the Shores of The Inner Sea!

Thriving Polis Where A Mighty (flaming) River Runs Through It!

Or, as we Tiger fans like to think of it: The Mistake By The Lake.

Well, if nothing else, this last descriptor certainly applies to a reliably...interesting segment of that city's Catholic chancery. Your honor, Exhibit A for the Prosecution. Entitled Ten Challenges for Catholic Leaders In the Aftermath of the Presidential Election, it inspired (enraged) someone enough to send it to me out of the blue. For analysis.

All-righty. OK--here goes.

1. Divisions exist within our Church that are deep and that jeopardize our ability to build community at the parish level and to be communities of salt and light to the larger society. (There is a great deal of alienation that needs to be addressed).

I wonder if the real problem here is that sixty five percent of Ohio's mass-attending Catholics refused to vote for John F. Kerry in the election of 2004. Not that the President is some kind of unalloyed prize to the Catholic voter, mind you. Ha--hardly. But I suspect that the alienation is largely on the part of the disappointed author.

2. A creeping fundamentalism within the church provides space for some to demonize others (i.e. the notion that you can’t be a good Catholic and vote for John Kerry).

I.E., Mr. Allio apparently received a lot of personal e-mail on the parenthetical, and it irritated him to no end.

It's right here where he loses me for good. One of my personal irritants is the term "fundamentalist," especially when deployed by so-called progressive Catholics. It's an empty label, a thought-substitute of staggering proportions, and a term that says far more about the one using it than the person allegedly being described. Let me propose a definition that should help break progressive Catholics of the desire to use the term:

"Fundamentalist, n. What an unserious Catholic calls a serious one."

Does it sting? Good.

That's the idea. Don't use it so often and it won't.

3. Outside organizations with significant resources are extremely well organized and energized. They are well situated to serve partisan purposes. They can and will exploit the divisions within the Church.

The evil Catholic Answers does. Heaven forfend the laity be cited authoritative teaching and have their consciences tweaked.

News flash--unity is not the only mark of the Church (bonus points for capitalization, BTW). And false unity is no mark at all.

4. The independent statements of a few bishops has had a negative impact on the unity and teaching authority of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Cheeky! I wonder if Bp. Pilla read this before it went out to the entire planet. After all, it translates as: Shut up, Burke, Chaput, Jugis, Donoghue, et al. Even though that Denver-confab-interim-document-thing said those bishops could do precisely what they did.

To be fair, the memo also said the bishops could behave as Mr. Allio evidently prefers: as lumps of mitered inerti--er, in a more "pastoral" fashion about life issues.

I sense real pique in the comment about "independent" (read: rogue) bishops. A whiff of embarrassment with one's secular friends, perhaps?

Really, what does he want? Instead of clear statements, what--better a bland, vanilla and false surface unity than risk the slightest offense? United by pap? That's a sure recipe for irrelevance. There's a reason no one cited Faithful Citizenship--no one could make heads or tails of the "teaching authority of the USCCB." As is often the case. Thank God for independence--I'll take the clarifying power of "negativity" over "unity" any day of the week.

5. Reflection and dialogue are required about how our faith should influence our politics.

Internal "dialogue"--fear it! Re-education is coming.

6. Teaching on the consistent ethic of life needs to be strengthened not diluted. (Too much of the Presidential campaign was reduced to jingles and slogans).

My one moment of qualified agreement. So long as it's taught as a "hierarchy of truths" (!): your support for a higher minimum wage doesn't excuse a full-throated support of an unrestricted abortion license.

Which, sadly, means we probably don't agree at all.

7. More than ever there is a need for clarity in our teaching and messaging.

My one moment of unqualified agreement. Wasn't that what those awful independent bishops were doing?

Which, sadly, means we probably don't agree at all.

8. Greater emphasis needs to be placed upon the proper formation of one’s conscience.

That 65% figure is downright nightmarish. Re-education must proceed at once!

9. Catholics are more than ever politically homeless. There is much work to be done among the laity to reform our political system.

Again, another moment where I'd like to think we're in agreement. And for once, we probably are with the first sentence. I don't see how any Catholic could pull the lever for the Republicans without a good deal of resignation. Of course, a good deal of the energy eventually used to pull that lever comes from the fact that the Democrats are, at a national level, far worse. And they aren't getting the memo, either.

So, yes, perhaps qualified agreement again. But that second sentence is likely where we part ways. It's vague and broad enough to give plenty of pause.

10. A great challenge of our Church is to penetrate a national media that seems solely focused on the Church’s position on sexual and family matters while ignoring Church teaching on war and peace, social justice and human rights.

Here's where I get irritated by the social justice wing: why isn't abortion a human rights issue? Why isn't traditional marriage a social justice issue? People snuffed in utero don't have to worry about housing, a living wage or job training. If the family unit disintegrates, you've got a bigger problem than worrying about the city building an incinerator in your neighborhood.

In other words, start thinking in terms of fundamentals, or some of us are going to continue to think you have lost your way.

Where Do We Go From Here: Recommendations for Action
· Redouble our efforts at educating our parishioners and students on Catholic Social Teaching
and the demands of the Gospel.

Hopefully, success in that endeavor will not be measured by whether the Dem candidate in 2008 breaks 40%.

· Offer opportunities for clergy education on “Catholic Faith, Political Responsibility, and the Common Good”


As long as it's not re-education.

· Engage Catholic Public Officials in dialogue about their unique vocation as a politician

Argh--the D-word. As long as it doesn't disintegrate into an endless cycle of pastoral affirmation. At some point, you have to break out the lumber for the wayward.

Of course, there's no hint of that here.

· Provide greater attention to educating our lay people about developing a well-formed Christian conscience

For starters, get rid of those frigging Catholic Answers guides...

· Develop national and diocesan strategies about changing the manner in which the media views Church teaching and our positions on public policy

Good luck with that!

By the way, try not to water down the positions you value less.

· Create opportunities in our parishes for respectful dialogue among parishioners with diverse perspectives on how faith should inform one’s politics

This is probably the most troubling suggestion. Why? Because it hints that "There are no wrong answers. What's important is that we talk." I can think of no greater--and more damaging--waste of time than this. It sounds more like a deprogramming session for Bush voters than anything else.

I'll pass.

Mr. Allio has chosen the issue which matters most to him--poverty. No question that's an essential issue, and one that unjustly gets ignored. There are no doubt many Catholics entirely too comfortable with their own material status, and uncaring about the poor. Flipping randomly through the Bible will quickly inform the reader of the stupidity of that mindset.

But he shouldn't pretend that he's any less divisive than the caricature of Catholic Answers he waves around. He's privileging his agenda, and it's one that's less life-and-death than that big issue he never manages to mention even once. Moreover, with poverty, it's far less clear what constitutes a "right" solution. Nevertheless, he's ramming it through with the authority of the Bishop of Cleveland.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Ack. Ayn Rand.

Though she assumed room temperature years ago, she'd be 100 this year. Let the retrospectives begin. Oh, Joy!

Where's my barf bag?

Well, even if I spatter the floor, I can use Atlas Shrugged to pick it up--the couch-propping page count makes it very absorbent.

Again cribbing from Mark's blog, I note that he has several excellent quotes about the horrid woman and her pedantically awful work. Do not miss Whittaker Chambers' review of Atlas Shrugged. Perhaps the best summary of her oeuvre this:

The more I think about it, the more her worldview resembles a Soviet era socialist-realist novel with the word "communism" scratched out and "capitalism" written in. The joke has it that they were "boy meets tractor" romances. In her case, it's more like "masochistic girl meets skyscraper." In Atlas Shrugged, the world's oppressed capitalists go on strike. They then withdraw to what sure seems like a commune.

Indeed: Objectivism reads like Stalin in entrepreneurial drag.

Think of it as Das Kapitalism.

Then there's the fact that her philosophy is best suited and most attractive to the anti-social loner, not someone who takes on the responsibilities of family life:

Family fares even worse in Rand’s universe. The virtual absence of children in her work has been noted by many critics, starting with Whittaker Chambers in his infamous roasting of Atlas Shrugged in National Review. Actually, John Galt’s private utopia in Atlas features a nameless young woman who makes it her career to raise rational children; but this brief passage comes across as little more than a pro forma nod to motherhood. In her 1964 Playboy interview Rand flatly declared that it was “immoral” to place family ties and friendship above productive work; in her fiction, family life is depicted as a stifling, soul-killing, mainly feminine swamp.

The only quote from Rand I remember--or need to--is this one:

"Altruism is the root of all evil."

Well, of course. Spoken like a childless dissolute bitch.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Lord Jim and the Charge of the Lightweight Brigade.

Boston is a lovely town, but I have to admit that one of the advantages of not living there is that I don't have to see the masthead of the Boston Globe wherever I walk. The Globe, you see, routinely publishes the columns of one James Carroll, ex-Paulist, professional novelist, amateur theologian and even more amateurish historian.

Not to mention a convinced anti-American.

Unfortunately, Mark Sullivan noted a particularly egregious column from the moonbat's pen, blasting the Iraqi election.

Now, listen: good arguments can be made against the war in Iraq, from its WMD basis to the way it was fought after "Mission Accomplished" (ugh) to the evidence of a lack of a coherent strategy to any number of different things. I'll listen--and you'll probably find me nodding along on several points.

Do me a favor first, and at least acknowledge two things: (1) the fall of Saddam Hussein and his would-be dynasty of horror is a good thing, and (2) regardless of the mistakes of the war, we now have an obligation to make it right and not abandon the Iraqis. You break it, you buy it.

But Carroll and the reflexive Bush haters can't even do that. Exhibit A is this catbox liner.

Indeed, this one proudly bears all the signs of having been written by and for a pep rally of the "Resist Pope-Tsar Chimpy McHitler Brigade", a gathering where the wearing of the aluminum foil chapeau is mandatory.

IN THINKING about the election in Iraq, my mind keeps jumping back to last week's train wreck in California. A deranged man, intending suicide, drove his Jeep Cherokee onto the railroad tracks, where it got stuck. The onrushing train drew near. The man suddenly left his vehicle and leapt out of the way. He watched as the train crashed into his SUV, derailed, jackknifed, and hit another train. Railroad cars crumbled. Eleven people were killed and nearly 200 were injured, some gravely. The deranged man was arrested. Whatever troubles had made him suicidal in the first place paled in comparison to the trouble he had now.

* * * [Remainder of flight from reason snipped]

Something else about that California train wreck strikes me. As news reports suggested, so many passengers were killed and injured because the locomotive was pushing the train from behind, which put the lightweight passenger coaches vulnerably in front. If, instead, the heavy, track-clearing locomotive had been leading and had hit the Jeep, it could have pushed the vehicle aside. The jack-knifing and derailment would not have occurred. The American war machine is like a train running in "push-mode," with the engineer safely back away from danger. In the train wreck of Iraq, it is passengers who have borne the brunt. The man with his hand on the throttle couldn't be more securely removed from the terrible consequences of his locomotion. Thus, Bush is like the man who caused the wreck, and like the man who was protected from it. Deranged. Detached. Alive and well in the bubble he calls "freedom," receiving applause.

Read. Savor. Enjoy--especially the contradictions. Like the one where Carroll first decries the "emasculation of the American military" then screams about "the American war machine." Being a hard leftist means never having to employ reason.

My main problems with this--and all of the other deranged missives like it--are two-fold.

First, it ignores--completely, utterly and irrationally--what the Iraqis themselves thought about the election. Sixty percent showed up--dodging, and occasionally spitting on, the killers trying to deny them that right. If it's raining on Election Day here, you won't get fifty percent of Americans out to dodge rain drops.

Carroll can't bring himself--for one minute--to celebrate with those brave Iraqis, which says more about his pathologies than it does about anything else. It's proof positive that Smirkyphobia rots what's left of the mind. And it puts him in some pretty hideous company--al Zarqawi the decapitator, for starters.

Not that it ever bothers him. Interesting....

The second related problem is that Carroll and his ilk truly don't give a tinker's damn about the Iraqis. He's the Noam Chomsky of Catholicism, a college football fan who always roots for the team playing the team he hates, then forgets that the first team even exists the following week. The difference between Carrollsky and a true college football fan is that they don't have a home team. All they do is root against the United States.

As I said, Carroll is the Chomsky of Catholicism: with all of the profound dishonesty, dogmatic precommitments, privileging-of-revisionism-over-reality and blinkered leftism that implies. Like many, he's a perpetual child of the summer of love (1967-1972) that resulted only in used condoms, a perpetual nostalgia-fest and a boundless sense of political and spiritual entitlement (it suffuses his equally-blinkered writing on Catholicism).

It comes down to this: he lacks the honesty to admit that the election was a good thing. For him to admit otherwise would force him to acknowledge that America brought about some good. He commits intellectual seppuku before he gets close to doing that.

Which brings me back to this: the Iraqis are a mascot to the left. Like the Somalis, Cambodians and Vietnamese before them. Paradoxically, the only thing that makes them important to the Stop Bushitler Now! types--indeed, the only thing that makes them fully human--is that the U.S. is involved. Once we leave, they'll revert to irrelevant brown people who can butcher each other in large numbers without rousing Carroll from the contemplation of his retirement portfolio or the next phone conference with his literary agent. I'm straining to remember his decrying of the repression of Nicaraguan Indians by the sainted Sandanistas. Or the mass murders of the Hmong and Montagnards in Communist Indochina. Or, more recently, the repression of the Iranian mullahs or the genocide in Darfur.

Oh, that's right--no American war machine to assail in those places. Hence, they don't count.

Let me salute Carroll and his breed appropriately--with a tall finger. I'll also pause a moment in a mix of pity and gratitude. After all, he's playing to a pathetic choir, hearing only the applause of a dwindling number of equally-overfed, nihilistic, preening baby boomers who have never done anything to advance human freedom for anyone. Anywhere.

Hey--isn't that Woodstock retrospective on?