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Thursday, April 28, 2005

"That guy needs to be beaten with a sock full of wood screws."

[Another Language Alert. Been that kind of week, so continued apologies.]

One of the great regrets of my life is that I never had the opportunity to meet my wife's father. He died in 1993, two years before I started dating his daughter. Heather assures me that he would have (actually, does, but that's a story for another time) approved of me. Since the above quote is from him and I happen to love it, I agree.

That quote came to mind as I read James Lileks' bleat for today, (no, it's not directed at him) and had to stop myself from roaring in full-throated approval:

Earlier today a commercial for “Star Wars” came on, and Gnat was unimpressed. I did my Darth Vader impersonation: no impact. “But he’s evil! He used his michondian concentration for personal gain!”

“It’s just a commercial, daddy. Oh! Look!”

I froze. The Bratz are now Baby Mommaz.

Yes, the hooker-in-training dolls have children. Bratz are the main reason I do not keep a supply of bricks around the house, because everytime the commercials come on I wish to pitch something kiln-fired through the screen so hard it beans the toy exec who greenlighted these hootchie toys. The Baby Bratz are as bad as you can imagine: “Bottles with Bling.”

Judas on a stick, why not just refit the Bratz so they have Real Oozing Gonorreal Flow Action?

“They know how to flaunt it, and they’re keeping it real in the crib.”

What exactly is the penalty for failing to keep it real in the crib? Someone busts a cap in yo Pamper? I know I am old and so out of step it’s a wonder I don’t just appear as an indistinct smear, but was it really necessary to push the Age of Sultry Hussyism down to the infant stage? And who, exactly, are the Babyz flaunting it for? Are we going to see a commercial with Elmo in sunglasses, sitting with his legs sprawled, spanking some pliant Babyz with one hand while gumming down some mashed crack?

It is a deranged fantasy of mine to one day be able to write with about 1/100th of the brilliance and verve of Mr. Lileks.

But the finisher, following his description and links to another set of toys being sold to the kids, is the capper:

Pimp culture. Brought to you by people who want their daughters to go to college and get law degrees!

I hate Bratz. I hate them with a visceral passion. I stab the remote when the commercials come on. I am appalled by the fact they are ridiculously huge sellers. I'm sure the manufacturers would express shock that they are perceived as offering "pimp culture," and would coo that their products are simply harmless dolls for a new generation.

To which I offer the following rebuttal lifted from Cicero:

"Bullshit."

The best--best--thing that can be said for them is that they are shoving a shallow superficial consumer culture down the throats of young girls, telling them that they only matter if they have the latest and best fashions, are attractive and can hold the attention of equally superficial cute guys. Take a look at the toys at your local store: there is no other message, and slang from the butt end of rap culture features prominently on the product. It's not like there's a "Bratz Engineers" set in the works--"the girls with a passion for slide rules."

Or is that "rulz"?

"Well, don't buy them, then."

To which I offer another rejoinder from the vaults of Socrates:

"Pull your head out of your ass for thirty seconds."

This is just another facet of what I call the Skank Factory for Girls--the requirement that every girl who matters has to remake herself for the Maxim/FHM (official newsletters of the Skank Factory for Boys) crowd. When Hillary Duff became popular, I wondered how long it would take for the inevitable Britneyization to take place. For the most part, it hasn't, though she was on the cover of Maxim once. Hopefully just a slip. No reason to be confident, though.

For a prime example of the Skank Factory for Boys, check out the Homies Dogs in the Lileks link--if you haven't already.

Look--do I think you're a rotten parent if you get your kids this stuff? No. Just ask yourself whether a development exec would have even contemplated something like Bratz or Homies Dogs or Pimp/Ho Halloween costumes as recently as 15 years ago. It's pretty tough to answer "yes," and that says a lot about where we are. And where we are going.

It would be nice--but apparently it's asking too much--if the SFfG/B wasn't pitched to pre-teens. My greater point is that even if--if--I protect my kids from it, it's still percolating everywhere else. The ten year olds in rap couture who scream "m----rf----r" (see? I have standards) at each other as they walk down the street (we actually got a fulsome and sheepish apology out of one group of girls who did this, mirabile dictu) in the middle of summer--what am I supposed to do for them?

"If you don't like it, keep your kids in sensory deprivation tanks"?

The lowest common denominator keeps getting a little lower, and no parent can fight every battle and hope to win.

All I want is for my children to enjoy as innocent (note: not "isolated," thank you) a childhood as possible. It's not asking the guys driving the Engines of Consumerism too much to show a little decency and regard for the culture they are shaping and the children they are influencing.

Or is it? I'm thinking Jeff Culbreath has a point. But the bigger problem is dealing with the wider world, alas.

In the meantime, I'm going to be running over to Home Depot for a box of wood screws. See you there!

[Update: Added the "Look" paragraph. I'm not trying to smack around fellow parents trying the best they can.]

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

By the way...

Speaking of papal "installations."

Is that the official word, or is there something else that works?

Please?

Whenever I hear "papal installation" I end up picturing myself, covered with drywall dust and wood shavings, holding my Craftsman drill and yelling across the hall to my wife: "Hon--the pontiff's installed. Go ahead and flip the switch."

[Save the "medication adjustment?" comments. Waaay ahead of you.]
Very interesting...

Someguy has info about the Installation Mass homily worth pondering.

No excerpting--go and read the whole thing.
Blogs for your perusal.

1. Jeff Culbreath has pulled up stakes, both in the real world and on-line. His new blog-home is Hallowed Ground. Go--visit. There's something worthwhile everyday, even if you've already read what's there.

BTW, keep doing business with Minuteman Printing. I passed out a couple of business cards recently, and the reaction to the parchment cards was, and I quote, "Cool."

2. Frequent commenter Yurodivi has Der Gottesnarr. I understand that's German, and that's certainly topical these days. Prod him into posting more often.

3. Finally, I stumbled across Marcus the Bard's place. He's British (always a plus), but even better, he describes himself as an "Old School Gamer -- AH, SPI, SJG, Classic GW, OD&D/1e AD&D."

Translation: "Avalon Hill, Simulations Publications, Inc. [I said I wouldn't cry...], Steve Jackson Games, Classic Gamma World, Old [or "Basic/Expert/Companion/Master/Immortal"] Dungeons and Dragons/1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons."

Further translation: "Hail, Fellow Geek--I salute you!"

I'll go so far as to say that we may have been separated at birth.

All of the above will be blogrolled when I steel my stomach for work on the ol' template again.

[Update: Marcvs is not British, but he's a New Yorker who lives in Britain, which is still cool. He also notes that Classic GW means "Classic Games Workshop" [a legendary British gaming publisher], and OD&D means "really old--as in Chainmail old--D&D." As in worth several hundred dollars a pop "really old." However, he does not entirely discount the separated at birth theory.]
You may have noticed, but I'm not usually able to be described as "upbeat."

Seriously.

If there's any descriptor that fits my mindset, it's "hopeful, but not optimistic." It only sounds paradoxical. Trust me, it's not.

So it is unusual for a news story to leave me heartened. But this one did.

The link is to the transcript of a roundtable of Catholic laity recently conducted by the Detroit News and occasioned by the election of Benedict XVI.

A diverse group, but in large measure mostly in agreement. And that's what's so heartening about it.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Waiting for Popot.

[Update: Sorry--bad language alert. Should have been in originally, but it was a late, late evening post.]

I have a hypothesis about a certain strand of progressive Catholicism: all the screeching about the Pope and clericalism has turned them into the most expansive papal/clericalists around. They are the mirror image of what they hate. Though I am loathe to quote possibly-syphilitic German philosophers, Nietzsche was on to something when he warned against fighting monsters lest one become a monster in the process.

They don't want the clerical brotherhood abolished, they simply want a much larger pool of applicants from which to select.

Likewise, they don't hate the Papacy so much as want it to be a steamroller acting in their interests.

With that in mind, Fr. Charles Curran weighs in:

I grew up as a typical pre-Vatican II Catholic. I entered the seminary at 13 and became a priest 11 years later, never questioning church teachings. But

"Dear America: I never thought I'd be writing a letter like this to your forum. Though I was educated by nuns who savagely beat us with copies of the Baltimore Catechism whenever we asked questions, gave the wrong answer or exhaled without permission, my friends tell me I am very pastoral and theologically flexible. Even though I read the letters here with interest, I didn't think something like that could ever happen to me. Then, one day after the Council, I met the Spirit of Vatican II in the Rectory...."

as a moral theologian in the 1960s, I began to see things differently, ultimately concluding that Catholics, although they must hold on to the core doctrines of faith,

"As defined by me."

can and at times should dissent from the more peripheral teachings of the church.

"As defined by me."

Unfortunately, the leaders of the Catholic Church feel differently.

The temerity! Gosh, you might think they have some kind of teaching responsibility or something.

In the summer of 1986, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the powerful enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy around the world,

Equipped with x-ray vision, heresy-crushing kung-fu grip, a death ray and an evil, taunting laugh.

concluded a seven-year investigation of my writings.

Seven years? Whatever else it is, a rush to judgment it ain't.

Pope John Paul II approved the finding that "one who dissents from the magisterium as you do is not suitable nor eligible to teach Catholic theology." Cardinal Ratzinger -- Now Pope Benedict XVI -- told the Catholic University of America to revoke my license to teach theology because of my "repeated refusal to accept what the church teaches. I was fired.

Imagine that--a Catholic employed in an official capacity actually has to believe all that s**t. Even though your average working Catholic doesn't have the luxury of repeatedly telling his employers to blow it out their ass, much less have seven years grace after doing so. The Long, Long Night of Charlie Curran is failing to moisten my eyes.

It was the first time an American Catholic theologian had been censured in this way.

"Your Yankee Academic Freedom Forcefield is no match for my Inquisition death ray, Herr Curran. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

American Exceptionalism: It's Not Just For Politics Anymore.™

At issue was my dissent from church teachings on "the indissolubility of consummated sacramental marriage, abortion, euthanasia, masturbation, artificial contraception, premarital intercourse and homosexual acts," according to their final document to me.

The Gospel According to Free Willy. Quelle suprise.

It's true that I questioned the idea that such acts are always immoral and never acceptable (although I thought my dissent on these issues was quite nuanced).

Sen. Kerry's down with that.

Unfortunately, the Vatican — which was already moving toward greater discipline and orthodoxy — was having none of it.

"While I don't think much of papal infallibility, I myself am never wrong. Never. Ever."

Seven years earlier, it had punished the Swiss theologian Hans Küng because of his teachings on infallibility in the church. Later, Cardinal Ratzinger "silenced" Brazilian Franciscan Leonardo Boff, an advocate of liberation theology, for a year. Just recently, Ratzinger said U.S. Jesuit Roger Haight could not teach Catholic theology until he changed his understanding of the role of Jesus Christ.

Ah, yes: Haight, Boff and Kung. Respectively: "Jesus as dead body," "Jesus as Che Guevara," and "Jesus as Hans Kung."

Nope. No problems there.

Since 1986, no Catholic institution has offered to hire me.

"All I am left with is tenure and this lousy endowed chair at Southern Methodist University!

I mean, come on--METHODISTS?

It's the reputational equivalent of living in a refrigerator box, dammit!

WHEN WILL THE REPRESSION STOP?!?"

Although I remain a baptized Catholic and a Catholic priest — the pope and the cardinal did not move to have me defrocked — my case sent an unmistakable and unequivocal message to Catholics around the world

Don't flatter yourself, Padre. My cradle-Catholic wife had never even heard of you prior to this post and thought you were a member of the Rat Pack (her terminology, not mine).

I doubt that one in 15,000 of your American co-religionists have the faintest clue who you are, either.

"Uh--'Charles Curran'? 1980s?

Oh, wait: wasn't he that short bald power forward for the Sixers? The 'Round Mound of Rebound'? No?"

It's the fundamental lack of notoriety that's funny. After all, Fr. Curran wouldn't have had to go through five paragraphs of introducing himself if his "predicament" were all that well-known.

On a related note: here's a serious contender for the funniest religious book title ever: Holy Siege: The Year That Shook Catholic America. Deals in part with the Curran case.

Yeeaaaaaaaah--rocked the world, all right.

But, I suppose, "The Year That Led To Much Kvetching Amongst The Subscriber Base For The National Catholic Reporter" was less...felicitous. If much more true.

Oddly enough, it's long since been out of print.

that deviation would no longer be tolerated. Official Catholic teaching has always given the impression that the pope and bishops will not and cannot change moral teachings because these teachings are based on God's law.

Maybe...because they are?

Given his approach to morality, the wonder of it is that he didn't put God's law in scare quotes. I've seen no indication that he believes there is such a thing. This essay sure doesn't.

Certainly Pope Benedict XVI will insist upon the same approach.But it doesn't have to be that way. History shows that the Catholic Church has changed its moral teachings over the years on a number of issues (without admitting its previous position had been wrong). A very sorry page in Catholic history, for example, is the fact that for over 1,800 years the popes and the church did not condemn slavery.

Wrong.

Next?

And until the 17th century, popes, in the strongest terms, condemned loans with interest as violating God's law.

The secular world still condemns it--your state has usury laws. I guarantee it. It's still immoral to charge exorbitant interest on loans. The economic realities have shifted since the 1600s, altering the teaching accordingly. But the underlying premise is still valid.

Unless he'd care to pen an essay in defense of the morality of loansharking.

History is not the only argument for change in Catholic moral teachings. Catholics generally recognize that many (if not all) of Catholic moral teachings on specific issues belong to the category of "non-infallible" teachings.

So, "non-infallible" = "ignore"? Got it.

Despite the "creeping infallibilism" that seeks to put more and more teachings beyond question, the fact is that many moral issues are open for reinterpretation and rethinking.

"According to me."

Dramatic changes have occurred in some aspects of papal social teachings in the last two centuries. Pope Gregory XVI in an 1832 encyclical condemned freedom of conscience in society as an "absurd and erroneous teaching or rather madness." Pope Leo XIII in the 19th century condemned "the modern liberties" and opposed the equality and participation of citizens in civic and political life. The people, he wrote, are "the untutored multitude" that must "be controlled by the authority of law."

It is difficult to know where to begin, though it's important to note that social teachings are in play here, and he's doing a crapload of paraphrasing. "Freedom of conscience" as practiced in revolutionary France was something rightly to be feared, and the excesses associated with the condemned propositions were what disturbed the 19th Century Popes. Say what you will about Bl. Pius IX, seeing your friend murdered right in front of you by revolutionaries claiming to be the vanguard of progress and liberty might justifiably cause you to be jaundiced about the concepts.

And, at the risk of sounding like an elitist, Leo XIII had something of a point. Those Jay Leno bits asking college students who the Vice President is (and getting a correct answer rate of 10% on a good night) bother the hell out of me.

Vatican II, however, accepted religious liberty for all human beings. In dealing with civic, political and economic life, contemporary papal social teachings gives great importance to history and to the notion that social ideas can change with the times.

Social teachings. Again, watch the phraseology carefully. The phrase "three card Monte" applies here.

In these areas, church teachings now emphasize the freedom, equality and participation of the person, as well as a "relationality" model that sees people in multiple relationships with God, neighbors near and far, the Earth, and self. But in papal sexual ethics, an older methodology still prevails. Unchanging human nature and the eternal law of God, not historical development or the person understood in light of relationships, constitute the primary considerations.

The distinction is obvious, and I suspect Fr. Curran knows it: human organizations can and do change. Fallen human nature has not, and cannot. Hence Jesus Christ.

If the "historical developments" (read: corpse count and wholesale devaluation of human life at all levels) of the 20th Century did not and cannot convince you of this, nothing will.

The many people both inside and outside the Catholic Church who experience some dissonance between papal sexual and social teachings are right.

"People who think like me are the smartest people I know."

There is a different methodology at work in these two areas.

That's because different considerations and data (namely the written Word) are involved. This is not as difficult as the tenured exile would like it to be.

Some changes would logically occur in sexual teachings if these teachings employed the same methodology as used in papal social teachings. Likewise, papal sexual teachings, like social teachings, would not be able to claim absolute certitude on complex and specific issues.

I don't claim to be a Bible scholar, though I have studied much and am a voracious reader on things Biblical. Still, I don't claim to have encyclopedic knowledge. But even in my admittedly limited reading, I have yet to stumble across a theory that ascribes the writing of Leviticus to Gregory XIV, or Romans to John Paul II. Then again, I give the Mueslix sampler over at the Jesus Seminar a wide berth, so who knows what those guys are saying?

In other words, the teachings aren't subject to the whims of the current holder of the Chair of Peter. They aren't, to be blunt, his teachings to change. No Pope, deo gratias, has the power to overturn revelation. For a Catholic to argue otherwise is reasoning worthy of a Chick tract.

There are two possibilities here:

(1) He knows this, but he has a pulpit and is going to press an old grievance, bamboozling a laity that, on any given day, would see many of its members get creamed by a toaster in a religious knowledge contest.

(2) He actually believes the Pope can issue an edict reversing course on fundamental morality.

"Attention, laity. Now hear this: those Jews were way too repressed and primitive. Ditto Paul, who was probably a self-hating closet case. Anyhoo, go ahead and boff a sibling, or whatever, if that feels right to you. Use the Pill or something. That's what it's for. Or surf one-handed online in those special chatrooms. Be safe. That is all. Deus lo volt, and all that. This is Rocket Pope, signing off."

As amazing as it seems, it's (2). Fr. Curran, enlightened modern progressive that he is, has a concept of papal supremacy that would have turned the most eloquent ultramontanist into Keanu Reeves. "Whoa."

History reminds us that change in Catholic moral teachings always comes from the grass roots.

I don't know about that. If anything, it demonstrates that the changes so demanded involve an end to moral laxity, especially among clerics. History certainly demonstrates that grass roots action is the swiftest way to change the clerics themselves. Think "orthodox laity, Arian bishop."

Interviews with ordinary Catholics mourning the death of Pope John Paul II indicated that even those who admired and loved him strongly disagreed with some of his specific moral teachings. Even the staunch defenders of the papal condemnation of artificial contraception for spouses recognize that the vast majority of Catholics do not follow the pope.

Educated by the likes of Fr. Curran, we shouldn't be surprised.


Monday, April 25, 2005

That's my boy!

Leading our superb head pastor around at the parish potluck last January. More here and here. [No other family pictures, alas.]

Of his own volition, he walked up to Father and grabbed him by the hand and started walking around the parish hall, jabbering a good deal of the time. No doubt offering some suggestions for changes throughout the Archdiocese.

Yes, he's adorable. And, beating you to the punch--"Yes, he looks more like his mother."

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Never heard that one before.
I really, really have to buy Ignatius Press stock.

It appears that the Catholic bookstores in Motown (including the wildly uneven (1) official archdiocesan one) were emptied of the works of the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as of Saturday afternoon.

Well, actually, not quite. I was able to find the Pauline Books and Media version of this document at the last one I visited.

Just a thought--the fact that Dominus Iesus was even remotely controversial in Catholic theological circles only proves that you need a Cardinal Ratzinger in the first place.

-------------
Footnote:

(1) Memo to the wonderfully nice folks who man the archdiocesan store: the works of Aussie Michael Morwood (a Catholic Spong, only with less intellectual rigor) aren't fit to line a litter box, much less the shelves a respectable Catholic bookstore.
A break from the Bene-diction here of late.

[If you are new here, I periodically talk sports--football and hockey mostly, with sidelights into baseball and basketball. This is not an apology, merely an advisory.]

I know what you are thinking:

Why did the Lions take their third receiver in a row in the first round?

Two reasons: (1) you can't pass up talent like that, and (2) they need one.

No, (2) is deadly serious. Despite the addition of Charles Rogers and Roy Williams the last two years, the Lions' receiving corps remained thin. For starters, despite great promise and ability, Rogers has shown all the durability of a thrown champagne flute the last two seasons. He's played in six whole games. His injuries are described as "freakish" (i.e., not chronic or likely to repeat), but you can't count on that. Roy Williams was also hobbled by ailments near the end of last season. And after those two, you have the towering talents of Scotty "Where Are Your Testicles?" Anderson and Az-Zahir Hakim (a good locker room presence with speed, but another champagne flute). The Lions needed another pair of hands, and M. Williams has the best in the draft. I know his speed was supposedly lacking (in the high 4.5s), but he hasn't played ball in over a year. He'll be faster than that. If Rogers is healthy (gigantic if), an NFC North defensive coordinator has to face the prospect of twice stopping an offense featuring Rogers, the Williamses, newly-signed Kevin Johnson as the No. 4, Marcus Pollard at TE and Kevin Jones, who shows every sign of being a 1500 yard RB this season. The question remains at QB, but perhaps Harrington can do a Drew Brees transformation in his fourth season, too. If not, Jeff Garcia is waiting in the wings.

If the Lions had passed up a bona-fide defensive can't miss prospect, I'd be upset. But those were all gone as of the Lions' pick.

Time will tell, but it looks like the Lions may--MAY--be turning the corner.

But these are the Lions.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Oh, that's it.

I puzzled over the media firestorm concerning Benedict XVI's compulsory membership in the Hitler Youth. I couldn't make sense of the outrage over this--it's not like he had much of a choice.

Then it hit me--of course!

Such a decision runs counter to our venerable American tradition of 14 year old martyrs...

Friday, April 22, 2005

Quo vadis, Hugh?

I'm a big fan of Hugh Hewitt (alas, his radio show is broadcast on tape delay at midnight in these parts), and if you have never visited it, his blog is well worth your time.

While he is an evangelical (a member of the wholly-sane Presbyterian Church in America), what is less well known is that he was raised Catholic and only left the Church in his adulthood (roughly 1990). Fortunately, he's not one to chuck darts at his former co-religionists, as his recent positive coverage of the late PJPII and BXVI have demonstrated. In an article in the December 2002 issue of Crisis, he gave a few reasons why he left (emphasis added in bold):

Conservative radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, who is author of The Embarrassed Believer: Reviving Christian Witness in an Age of Unbelief, says he’s "on leave" from the Catholic Church. He argues, "The American Church...needs a reformation." But, he despairs, "none is even remotely close to occurring."

Hewitt points to the new cathedral in Los Angeles as "the perfect expression of the American Church today—so sterile it could be an air conditioning plant and designed to please non-Catholics with the taste of the leadership."

Hewitt describes his move from Roman Catholicism to Presbyterianism as partly positive and partly negative. He considers himself an "ex-pat, obliged to move to a Protestant expression of faith because I experience God’s presence more easily and more conclusively as a Presbyterian and began to do so over a dozen years ago." Presbyterianism works for him in ways Catholicism no longer did. "The Presbyterian confessions and order of worship are very left-brain and made me into a much better Christian," he says.

But some of the reasons for Hewitt’s move were direct reactions to problems he saw in the Catholic Church. Hewitt says, "The American bishops literally drove me out. I could not read the paper without muttering about their inanities. James Malone, the bishop of Youngstown, my bishop, who confirmed me, sputtering about nuclear weapons and poverty"—all this while Hewitt worked in the Reagan White House.

"These silly men," Hewitt complains, "issued reams of nonsense and met and met and met even as the liturgy collapsed into incoherence and the preaching dissolved into eight-minute homilies on the need for love. There was also the problem of the Responsorial Antiphon. It would almost always cause me to either laugh or grind my teeth. Is there a worse collection of ‘music’ anywhere? And the Christian Rite of Initiation, and the revamped Sacrament of Reconciliation—all of it just another set of committee reports from priests and nuns bored with the old Church. I could go on, but my guess is that you have heard it all before."

Hewitt concludes, "There is enormous energy and talent within the American Church which might over the years genuinely renew it and rebuild it. But I need God on a much more immediate basis."


With that in mind, I found this blog post to be very, very interesting (emphasis also in bold):

Pope Benedict XVI is a scholar, and a teacher. Scholar/teachers have students, and they stay close with many of them. Father Joseph Fessio, Provost of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, studied under the new pope in the early '70s, and has stayed a friend and student for thirty years. He was my guest today. Here is a short and important --in fact crucial-- excerpt from that conversation. A complete transcript will be posted later at Radioblogger:

"His deepest love is the Mass. And so he wrote a book called The Spirit of the Liturgy, and it is clear that he believes that what happened after Vatican II, that Council, was that the way the Mass was celebrated really represented a break from tradition. It was no longer in continuity. So, he has said publicly that the previous rite should never have been abolished because it was a rite that had nourished saints for centuries. At the same time, he was the one who had to negotiate with Lefebrve and others, and who had to tell the pope, 'We can't take anymore, they have broken the rules here, they have ordained bishops.' So he deeply wants to have the Mass celebrated as he says in his homily [today] with solemnity and rectitude. So I think he will reach out to those who have a love for the pre-[Vatican II] Mass."

Make of that what you will, but it's obvious that Hugh is going to be watching developments very, very closely. It is very unlikely that he will be the only "exile Catholic" to be doing so.

Interesting times, indeed.
I haven't seen a better graphic bullseye...ever.




[Hat tip: Gathering Goat Eggs.]
Mr. Hand...turning...into Mr.....Fist....

Bill Cork unearthed this bit of yawping about the new Pope from Fr. John Pawlikowski:

Consequently [in the wake of the issuance of Dominus Iesus--which is Latin for "The Lord Jesus," not "The Dominion of Jesus," as the article mistakenly claims], Rev. John T. Pawlikowski, president of the International Council of Christians and Jews, called on Ratzinger and the Vatican to clarify whether it believed Jews could attain salvation through Judaism, and whether the Church has completely abandoned its doctrine of proselytizing to Jews.

"We still have among major Church leaders... strong assertions that all salvation has to be said as coming through Christ," Pawlikowski said, adding, "I don't think we can make the affirmation 'There is no mission to the Jews,' unless we really confront some of these realities head on — otherwise our Jewish friends will hear almost conflicting messages."


"'All are welcome,'" meet 'Door Not Hitting A**'. 'A**', meet 'All.'"

This is precisely the problem that has to be remedied, pronto. As Bill correctly notes, Fr. Pawlikowski is a universalist. He does not believe that Jesus is, in fact, Lord. He has no business attempting to present "the Catholic position" in ecumenical/interfaith dialogue because it is clear he has utter contempt for that position. Instead, he prefers to offer up his own theological freelancing. Not only is he doing a disservice to the Church he draws a paycheck from, he is doing a disservice to the non-Catholics he speaks to. He needs to be fired. Now.

I don't suggest holding your breath, though.

It is precisely this sort of mixed messaging--the eagerness of Catholics in positions of authority to substitute their own views for official teaching that lies at the heart of the mess we are in today. It's not always this obvious. Often it's more subtle--an accurate presentation of authoritative statements followed up by a description of them as "the opinion of the Magisterium," or "But other scholars say..." And, yes, I know--it's not an exclusive flaw of progressives--conservatives can do the same, subtly shelving pretty clear teaching on the death penalty, just war and economic issues with sludgy rhetoric. Yes, yes--I know--not all of the settled issues are on the same moral plane or involve the same calculations. But the rhetoric is still suspiciously familiar, not to mention convenient.

Either way, this is the problem that has to be addressed, and soon. And it doesn't matter how many toes get stepped on or egos get bruised in the process. We can't have the Fr. Pawlikowskis of the world constantly rewriting the weather bulletins about hurricane warnings just because they find the forecasts to be "too negative."
The joys of a fearsome reputation!

A couple of days back, I was wondering how best to describe this blog to the flood of new readers. That was sort of useful, but this is even better:

I AM NEW TO THIS COMMENTING THING, BUT I TRIED TO POST EARLIER THIS WEEK AND I DON'T SEE MY COMMENT. ARE YOU CENSURING YOUR COMMENTS. I WAS ONLY KIDDING ABOUT TALKING TO THE ENQUIRER. LOVE MOM

Yes, folks--this is the kind of place where my own Mother fears being deleted!

Bwa-hahahahaha!

[Seriously--that is my Mom's comment--I called her to confirm it.]

LOOK UPON MY BLOG, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR...

Oh--before I forget:

Hi, Mom!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"Don't let the door hit your a** on the way out" vs. "All are welcome/all are welcome/all are welcome/in this place."

Apologies for the Haugen reference. In the memorable phrasing of Aristotle Esguerra, I know I've just inflicted a "liturgical earwig" on you, but it fits the commentary.

The region of Michigan I hail from (the central Lower Peninsula) was a popular destination for German immigrants, especially from Bavaria. The stream continued into the early to mid-20th Century. I knew a customer who shopped at the store where I worked who had been a radioman in the Wehrmacht during World War II, and transplanted to the area after the war to farm. [As an aside, I also knew a Polish cavalry officer who moved into town, too--of his 70 man company that mustered into service on September 1, 1939, exactly 7 would survive the war. Never say small towns lack "diversity" in my presence.]

Indeed, the immigrant stream consisted largely of farmers (Germans looking for more land--quelle suprise!) and they settled in quickly and became the backbone of the region. Slightly clannish, they established social clubs for Germans throughout the region and State. Bearing titles like "the Germania Club" or "Carpathia (!) Club," they were by, for, and of the Deutsch. They still exist today. More power to 'em. As long as you are German, you can join. It doesn't matter if you are an anesthesiologist or a zoologist, a Republican or an anarchist. If you are a Teuton, welcome aboard!

All of this is a prelude to the hubbub caused by the elevation of the new Pope, who has stated in the past that he thinks (though he's not pushing for it) that the Church will be a smaller but more coherent entity in the future. This has led to a lot of discussion, including, unfortunately and uncharitably, the first sentiment in the above title. That is an evil mindset, and runs wholly against the Great Commission.

However, in all of the discussion, the other extreme has been touched upon only peripherally--the impossibly Big Tent, which stretches and deforms the term "Catholic" until it is literally without meaning. A lot of the problem facing the Church in the West today is that Catholicism is treated like an ethnicity, and the Church like a glorified Germania Club, with a theological debating society appended to it (attendance and dues optional). What you do and what you believe is relatively unimportant next to the ethnic descriptor--"I'm Catholic." Just be nice and don't damage the Club grounds. And far too often, the Church's shepherds have indulged this mindset to the point of negligence, all in the name of "being pastoral." As a result, the lowest common denominator prevails.

Look, I want the Church to be as large as possible. Frankly, I want everyone to be Catholic. For all of the flaws of the clergy and laity, I believe that Catholicism is absolutely true and a wholly life-changing and life-giving faith. I want everyone to have what I have (periodic gouts of bile optional).

But in order to be that, it has to be coherent. There have to be bright lines. It has to mean something. It has to be true. If preaching truth offends, I don't want the dissenters chased away by howling orthodox mobs waving torches. I want them to embrace the truth--conversion--like I did. The flip side is that I don't want them on prominent soapboxes, beating the drums for all the errors that have left a huge and growing swath of mainline Protestantism (Motto: "The Almighty's Cautionary Tale") bled white and a half-step from clinical brain death. Fr. Feelgood and Sr. Medea need to be corrected, and, if necessary, have the car keys taken away before they kill someone. But that has to be done with the understanding that Christ died for them, too, and their best shot is to persuade them that they need to stay on the Barque of Peter. If they won't listen, so be it, but no rejoicing. Even though he behaves like a total turd (and is regarded as a brilliant theologian only within the windy halls of his own cranium), Matthew Fox's defection is, at its heart, a great tragedy. But the truth has to be preached even if it does have the effect of driving some out.

Because the risk is this: the failure to preach it will drive out even more, who will regard the ersatz "gospel" of the Fr. Feelgoods as the option they preach it to be, and will confuse the imitation with the real thing. And that is an even more horrific tragedy.
Ad multos annos--and then some.

A very interesting, if sci-fi-ish, look at the potential impact of life-extending technologies on the Papacy (and other institutions).

Though I am reminded that eternal life without God is the very definition of Hell itself....

Thought-provoking stuff, to be sure. It reminds me of a short story contained in the long-out-of-print anthology, The Last Man on Earth, in which the protagonist discovers a serum for immortality. The only side effect is the complete loss of the emotions and indeed, the ability to form attachments with human beings at all. It's a trade he's willing to make, but learns quickly of the cost.

Likewise this--I wonder if such technology might not end in perpetual madness. Our frames simply were not built for this sort of thing--at least not in their current forms.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Pontiff.

The always-engaging Patty has come around to my way of thinking ("Sister Havana" is running through my brain right now), but she adds a hilarious image to the SuperPope discussion:

"Papal Flying Heresy Daggers."

Now that would be an action figure.
Insight into Benedict XVI's view of the problem of secularism.

An interesting couple of parables taken from the new preface to Introduction to Christianity:

According to Ratzinger’s analysis, post-Enlightenment Christianity in Europe had been conned into adopting an evangelical strategy too superficial in its approach and too intimidated by Enlightened objections to Christian doctrine. He illustrated the reasoning behind this anemic strategy with a parable, one that Søren Kierkegaard once recounted about a fire that breaks out backstage right before a circus is set to perform. In panic the stage manager sends out one of the performers—a clown as it happens, and naturally already in costume—to warn the audience to leave immediately. But the spectators take the clown’s desperate pleas as part of his schtick; and the more he gesticulates the more they laugh, until fire engulfs the whole theater. This, said Kierkegaard, is the situation of Christians: The more they gesticulate with their creed, the more laughable they seem to their skeptical neighbors, until the world becomes engulfed in the flames of war and mutual hatred—a hell on earth as prelude to the hell after death. If only these Christian clowns had first thought to change out of their goofy costume, he implied, the theatergoing world might have been spared.

Kierkegaard did not explicitly say just what kind of funny clothes he thought Christians should now strip off to make their message of impending doom more credible. But whatever costume this Danish philosopher felt Christians should doff, his parable, at least for the professor from Regensburg, does not get at the real dilemma of preaching the gospel to a secular culture. The very news that a fire is on the way—and, above all, that we can be spared by the simple expedient of a belief in a transworldly message (why not just leave the theater?)—strikes the contemporary secular spectator as much more incredible than any costumed language in which it might be couched.

Change the rites of the Mass from Latin to the vernacular, call on nuns to modernize their habits, introduce guitars and folk music in the Church’s worship, address the modern world in tones of respect and hope, praise modernity for its achievements—the core of the message will still seem absurd to the secular mind.

So maybe Kierkegaard misled us with his famous parable. Perhaps another story is more appropriate. For that reason, the future cardinal began his book with an even more somber narrative, one of the fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. Once upon a time, a poor widow sends her young son Hans into the village to fetch a simple meal, and along the way into town he discovers a lump of gold. Thrilled, he heads back home to show his mother his amazing good luck. But no sooner has he started back than he meets a knight who persuades him to exchange the gold for the knight’s steed. “The better for plowing!” the knight assures the boy. Further down the way, a farmer explains that the widow can’t eat a horse, so why not exchange the horse for the farmer’s cow? After making this seemingly reasonable bargain, the boy continues home but then meets up with a neighbor carrying a goose under his arm. Of course the widow wants a meal today, says the neighbor, so why not exchange cow for goose? Done. Finally, nearly home, he meets up with a boy who tells him that if he exchanges the goose for a whetstone he can keep his knife sharpened for slaughtering any number of geese in the future. Done again. But when he gets home he notices the clumsy stone in his pocket and, puzzled at its presence, throws it away before crossing the threshold of his home, none the sadder and certainly none the wiser.

Anyone who has followed the path taken by Protestant theology in the past two centuries, and by Catholic theology in the past four decades, already knows the point of this story: All the costume changes in the world won’t matter if the messenger has squandered his treasure by altering his message to suit the convenience of the audience.

For Ratzinger, creeds matter only if what they proclaim is true, and if Christians deep down don’t really think so, then all the translation strategies in the world will mean nothing:

"The worried Christian of today is often bothered by questions like these: has our theology in the last few years not taken in many ways a similar path? Has it not gradually watered down the demands of faith, which had been found all too demanding, always only so little that nothing important seemed to be lost, yet always so much that it was soon possible to venture on to the next step? And will poor Hans, the Christian who trustfully let himself be led from exchange to exchange, from interpretation to interpretation, not really soon hold in his hand, instead of the gold with which he began, only a whetstone, which he can be confidently recommended to throw away?"

Here we have a very helpful insight into where the Pope intends to steer the Church in the 21st Century. Buckle up--it sure won't be dull.
Lest we forget, the left has its own version of SuperPope.

Rocket Pope! Powered in part by abortion and experimentation on human life.

Nice!

[Thanks to Tom at the Donegal Express.]
"WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?!"

--Patrick Star.

Good Lord, Sitemeter just about shorted out! Many thanks to Amy and Mark for their generous links. We don't get 1000+ page views per day much in these parts. Make that "ever." In fact, this is so far beyond even a blast from those eminent bloggers that I wonder if there's another link out there that's a partial cause. If you know of any, leave a comment. I hate to leave such folks unacknowledged.

I almost feel like putting the Paypal button back up. But given the embarrassing cricket notes from last time, I'll pass.

Welcome, huge surge of new readers--you just arrived at Catholic blogdom's 98th floor (the air's a little thin up here). Think a combination of dwarf-tossing meets the Ultimate Fighting Championship meets Face the (Catholic) Nation. If that doesn't help, try this: I like hockey fights and the Liturgy of the Hours. A sort of "Jungian-duality-of-man-thing," to quote Full Metal Jacket.

Anyhow, thanks for the visit--and yes, I do need to update Greatest Snits.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Repeat after me:

"SuperPope does not exist. SuperPope does not exist...."

I've done some surfing among fellow parishoners, and I'd like to toss a bucket of cold water on the ecstasy, if I may.

Yes, I'm very, very pleased with the selection of Cdl. Ratzinger to the papacy. Even though I was more of an Arinze man (and the Church is going to have to select a Pope from the areas where it is growing explosively sooner rather than later), I am by no means disappointed with the outcome. Ad multos annos, papa!

[Impending Qualifier Alert.]

But.

Let's tamp down our expectations a little, shall we?

We'd all like to see Pope Benedict XVI come swooping in on a jet liner to visit every rotten diocese in the English-speaking world, opening the six-pack of theological whoop-ass on free-lancing bishops, bizarro Jesuits/Dominicans/Paulists/Etc., feminista religious (male and female), whack job liturgists/liturgies and so forth. Yes, I would love to see him visit L.A., soak a copy of Gather Faithfully Together in lighter fluid and burn it in public in front of a sackcloth-clad Cdl. Mahony who had just announced his retirement from office and watch the Pope announce that the retired archbishop's penance would be to run a gauntlet between rows of the families of the victims of his pervert priests. And then watch him announce his visit to the Diocese of Dallas, then Manchester, then...

We would all enjoy the announcement of an interdict on every Catholic education institution that failed to publicly adhere to a much more fearsome version of Ex Corde Ecclesia.

I, too, would delight in an announcement that failure to adhere to the last jot of Redemptionis Sacramentum--and the rubrics in general--would result in the appointment of a co-adjutor just promoted from faculty work at a FSSP seminary.

Indeed, we can all construct scenarios in which the wicked are given their just reward by a stern Pope bent on rooting out every last problem in the Church.

But it's not going to happen like that. He's Benedict XVI, not Kickass Micromanager I. Will he take a firmer hand? Almost certainly. Will he more forcefully confront the centrifugal forces of dissent within the Church? Yep (and that will be interesting to watch, too). Will, at the end of the day, he have a collection of heads mounted over the windows of St. Peter's? No. Collegiality, folks.

Bishops, religious, theologians and chancery personnel who didn't listen to Pope John Paul II for 26 years aren't going to start listening to his successor, now, are they? If you were frustrated before, don't magically expect things to get all better. You will be disappointed. Modernism didn't just emerge like Athena from the brow of Zeus, and it won't be cured by SuperPope fiat, either. If St. Pius X and Pius XII couldn't do it, what makes you think Benedict XVI can?

But--and this is a happy qualifier--Benedict XVI is going to make it much harder for them to manuever, and since they aren't exactly replicating themselves, that will probably be sufficient.

Things will get better. But far more slowly than any of us want them to. Patience, people.
Benedict XVI.

Initial impressions:

1. Two days?! I thought less than four, actually. But more than four ballots, to be sure.

2. That'll work.

3. Holy crap--who would have imagined this two years ago?

4. My dog has been barking incessantly since the Pope walked out on the balcony. Puzzled, I went outside to try to figure out her problem. After going around the yard, I was able to discern an almost imperceptible, high-pitched keening sound coming from the southwest...

5. Well, Chris Blosser's going to be swarmed under for the next several months.

6. If Ignatius Press is publicly traded--BUY!

7. John Allen's going to be able to get the 2006 SUV of his choice.

8. The prophecies of St. Malachy are officially starting to weird me out a little bit. Yes, it's one of those "you can fulfill it yourself" deals, but still. The world's most consistently interesting alleged Renaissance forgeries.

9. One more point about the name: remember who the last Benedict succeeded. Subtext: I am following a Saint.

10. Book Recommendations (his writings may sell as well as, or better than, PJPII's, given that he has a more accessible writing style):

a. Introduction to Christianity: An explication of the Apostle's Creed. One of the minds behind the Catechism, it shows here.

b. Called to Communion: a short primer on ecclesiology, and offers insight into future governance. It won't look like Paris after the invention of the guillotine, folks, at least as far as lousy bishops are concerned.

No matter how much we might want that. But crappy theologians are another matter--Ex Corde Ecclesia may be taken into the shop and given to Q for some "enhancements."

c. The Spirit of the Liturgy: what the new Pope thinks of modern Catholic worship. Hint--needs improvement.

d. Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World. The Church's outstretched hand to Judaism will not change, though you probably shouldn't rule out a different approach to non-Christian religions.

11. He's not going to be as hopeful as PJPII. A flintier, grimmer assessment seems to inform his worldview. Ironically, that may be the most hopeful thing about the papacy to come. To paraphrase his acceptance commentary, we all have much work to do in the vineyard.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Good article about Cardinal Maida in Rome.

Just before the Conclave started, Cardinal Maida visited his "parish" in Rome, St. Vitalis, and got a warm reception:

Applause greeted Maida after he rose at the end of mass to salute the congregation.
"It is especially significant that we come together at this historic church. You've witnessed many conclaves, and today, on the eve of another conclave, we pray together," Maida told them in English. "Pray for me. Pray for my brother cardinals, for the church ... that we be guided by the Holy Spirit."

Mauro Medaglini, who was ordained as a Catholic deacon Saturday night in the church, was gleeful after meeting Maida. "I said to his eminence that it's a good omen for me, a good start, that I meet him now," Medaglini said.

When Pope John Paul II installed Maida as a cardinal in 1994, he also named him the titular leader of the Church of St. Vitalis, named for a martyr whose Second-Century death by being buried alive is portrayed on a recently restored side wall mural in the front of the church. The church's formal name also includes the names of St. Vitalis' wife, Valeris, and children Gervase and Protase.

The church is on a busy Rome street, Via Nazionale, and -- coincidentally -- across the street from the Hotel Michigan. One of the oldest churches in Rome, it is built in the rectangular basilica style and reached by 35 steps.

One of my great-grandfathers was named Vitalis--I wonder if it was a deliberate homage, or just an interesting coincidence. All I need now is about $2500 to get over to Rome for a visit and to start the geneological research...
My prayer for the Conclave.

Lord, may the one selected be the man the Church needs: the right man, in the right place, at the right time.

Black smoke so far, so it's no time to slack off in the prayer department.
Apparently it's unchristian to wish a scorching case of the clap on someone.

[Or: This Old Blog, Part III.]

No matter how much they deserve it.

I looked it up.

Alas.

Nothing major has blown up of late--in fact, Adventures in Quick-setting Concrete went remarkably well, considering I had two curious toddlers who insisted on examining it close up. And, no, I don't think I live above an old Indian burial ground (though, honestly, that thought ran through my fevered brain when Lucy found the cat skull, I swear).

Even if we did live above one, I think the irritated spirits would be feeling more pity than outrage by now. (There's another story aoout our house that I've shrugged off as apocryphal, but I'm not going to discuss that at the moment.) Why? Well, some new repair work around the house has revealed to us further perfidy from the Three Dollar Renovator!

Our house is cinderblock, clad with vinyl siding (which is why most people are amazed that it is, in fact, cinderblock). A lot of people don't like it, but as long as it doesn't look like cinderblock, I rather like it. It just feels more solid. Sure, I'd prefer brick, but I'd prefer a lot of things. Wishes are like excretory orifices, as the saying goes.

Speaking of excretory orifices: We experienced water damage in our bedroom--the product of a regular leak and an ice dam. People living in warmer climes: count yourself blessed that you don't have to deal with the ice dam phenomenon. Short version: heavy snowfall can melt on a roof even in subfreezing temperatures, even with the finest of insulation. The snow turns to ice and migrates toward the eaves, with sometimes hideous results. Take it from someone who spent the better part of two hours on a ladder in February with wind chills measurable in the single digits hammering away at ice nearly six inches thick--you don't want this.

Be that as it may, we hired someone to fix the leak--again, $3DR avoided minor expense, costing us more. But finally, we are able to afford to fix the damage to the inner bedroom wall (one of the benefits of being overtaxed throughout the year). The subcontractors (who arrived on time this morning, as promised--I revived with cold water) started working and discovered that this particular area had experienced a lot of leaks in the past (remember, it's cinderblock--no drywall-black-mold-making-me-homicidal-suicidal-Falling Down-style here).

And the king of all assh--er, the $3DR knew it. Instead of addressing the leak with concrete and plaster, HE COVERED UP THE AREA WITH WALLPAPER AND PAINTED OVER THE WHOLE THING.

Hide the problem, don't fix it. Well, we're getting it fixed right this time. Speaking of fixing...

"Kids, we're going to hide Daddy's guns, OK?"

If you are buying a house in the metro Detroit area that has been recently renovated, call me first. I may be able to spare you some trouble.
I haven't been able to find "red rum" at any party store in the area...

All work and no play makes Dale a dull boy
All work and no play makes Dale a dull boy
All work and no play makes Dale a dull boy
All work and no play makes Dale a dull boy
All work and no play makes Dale a dull boy
All work and no play makes Dale a dull boy
All work and no play makes Dale a dull boy
All work and no play makes Dale a dull boy
All work and no play makes Dale a dull boy
All work and no play makes Dale a dull boy

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Get out...

At the decided risk of renaming the blog This Dysfunctional House, I am compelled to tell this true story.

Monday nights are the parish bible study, led (more or less) by yours truly. Pause for a moment to consider the condition of lay biblical literacy described by the last seven words of the previous sentence.

All set? Fine.

Anyway, it starts at 7:15pm. Last night, we had to leave early as a family because, in the hullabaloo caused by the Great Pipe Break of '05, Heather had left the Buick parked at her friend's father's home. As we were getting around to leave, I noticed Lucy, our mutt and the world's only living brain donor (canine category) was trundling out from under our deck with something in her mouth.

What does she have n---[whiplash double take]---!

That looks like a skull.

A half-mummified animal skull.

Lucy trotted out toward the corner of the backyard, past the oblivious children, looking a little furtive.

"Um, Heather..."

"Yes, hon?"

"I think the dog's got a cat skull in her mouth..."

"WHAT?!"

I ran after the dog, who had dropped the whatever in the corner of the yard.

Barking Dad arrived.

"Lucy--get away from there!"

Lucy was not thrilled, but since this was the Big Alpha Primate in He. Means. Business. mode, she complied.

Agog, I looked it over, and I walked back.

"It's a cat skull. With some hide still attached to it. Uh, where did you bury that dead kitten you found a couple years back?"

Lucy has a fascination with moon craters--she gets a yen to build them in the yard quite frequently. Maybe she dug the kitten's remains up.

Heather insisted on seeing it. "Oh, no that's too big to be the kitten. And there's still an eye in the socket!"

Yep. Sure was.

The mystery was where the dog found it. We walked back--and saw the crawlspace door still yawning wide open. In the confusion, I had forgotten to put it back in place. Lucy must have smelled it and went under there to get it.

Our best scenario is that it went in to die before we bought the house and mummified there because our crawl space is narrow and dry. In fact, that seems likely. Our cats and dog would have gone nuts if it had gotten in there any time while we owned it. Either way, it's getting a deep burial.

OK. Now what? He asks with trepidation.

Monday, April 11, 2005

How was your weekend?

Mine stunk, not to put to fine a point on it. Hence no blogging in the interim, nor response to comments. On Saturday evening, a water pipe coupling came loose in my house as I attempted to water a bare patch on The Most Ridiculously Uneven Lawn In North America.

You see, we bought our house from a fellow in the business of reclaiming houses in dubious condition. In too many particulars, the renovation itself was dubious, with the overriding principle apparently being "spend no more than $3 to solve a $10 problem." To whit: not anchoring the outdoor spigot to the house with a couple of bolts.

It was an almost idyllic Saturday evening. I'd grilled some burgers for dinner, and afterwards we all went back out into the backyard for a last dose of fresh air before putting the kids down. Rachel was happily playing on a blanket and Dale and Madeleine had established a non-aggression pact regarding wheeled toys with seats. Earlier that day I had purchased some insta-turf (the stuff that comes with the grass seed and fertilizer bundled together in green recycled paper) from the Depot to cover up some unsightly spots on the lawn. The directions (I know--have to turn in the Man Card for reading them) indicated to water twice daily. I met them halfway and decided to do it once. I uncoiled the hose with a couple yanks and marched to the far end of the lawn. I set the spray attachment and squeezed the handle.

Not much distance. Squeeze again. Less so.

Change from "Jet" to "Shower." Repeat.

Dying to a trickle.

What the--?

I went back to the spigot to see what was the matter and heard Niagara roaring inside our house. I tore open the cabinet just inside the door and took an unrelenting blast of water to the face (I later found my glasses with both lenses knocked out--I do not remember that happening). After desperately trying to couple the pipe to the pipe joint and failing miserably (it cannot be done--trust me), I called for help. Fortunately, our good friends and neighbors kitty-corner to our house came to my rescue immediately. According to Shelly (the wife of the pair), Brian (the husband) looked like he was about to vault the chain-link fence--which would not have been a good idea in her book. Apparently, they were afraid the fridge had fallen on me.

Most people put a shutoff valve right where you can find it and, you know, shut off the water. But no.

Remember, there would have been no problem if the spigot had been properly anchored by a couple of masonry bolts from the Depot. An investment of less than $5. But such is unworthy of The Three Dollar Renovator! Likewise a sensibly-mounted main shutoff.

Instead, I watched waves of water advance across the linoleum toward the hall. My eldest came to the window and asked what was going on. It would be nice to report that I sent her off with a gentle admonishment to go back into the yard to play.

It would be nice indeed. Instead she got Roaring Dad. No obscenities (though Brian reports that a 2 megaton F-bomb proceeded my call for help--I honestly don't remember that, but it's certainly true). I still apologized profusely later.

As to the shutoff valve--welcome to the scavenger hunt. Brian handed me one of my downspout extenders and we managed to divert the water outside. As we rigged this up, I noticed about half the neighborhood's children were in our backyard, and two of our three were still playing--even the barked-at Maddie. Joy, one of the neighbor girls, had picked up the now disconsolate Rachel, wailing to beat the band because of hunger. At thirteen, she tried her level best to soothe Boo, but nothing short of Mama was going to do that. She's a very good kid, though.

Did I mention that Heather had gone out to dinner with one of her close friends? And she wasn't due back for another 45 minutes at the earliest?

None of the neighbor kids so much as cracked a smile at my predicament--I must still have had my soaked rottweiler face on. No humor, just dumb questions. Which I was able to answer without a verbal guillotine by now. As I tried to rig up a better diversion, the next thing I saw was a polished pair of black shoes. They happened to be attached to one of [Old Suburb's] Finest. Shelly had flagged him down during a neighborhood patrol. He was a fully-decent guy, and tried to figure out where a shutoff might be, going around the house with Brian to do so. He also judiciously ignored my implied death threat against The Three Dollar Renovator! I went into the crawl space--no shutoff. But at least now I was muddy.

Is our water bill going to be grim next month, part of my mind gibbered as I watched the water drip through the floor.

Time to call a professional.

Please, if you are in the business, do not take this personally. This is not directed at you:

CONTRACTORS SUCK. WITH A CAPITAL "S."

After explaining that I had a water jetting out of a pipe, one lady politely informed me that she'd get the on-call guy to call me.

We're still waiting. That ad's getting blotted out of the yellow pages tout suite. Don't strain yourself there, pal.

I ONLY HAVE WATER JETTING OUT OF A WATER PIPE SOAKING EVERYTHING IN SIGHT! MY TWO YEAR OLD'S KAYAKING ON THE KITCHEN TABLE, AND MY HAIR LOOKS LIKE SYNDROME'S IN THE INCREDIBLES FROM THE ENDLESS DELUGE BLAST!

BUT MY HEAD'S STILL ON MY TORSO, SO TAKE YOUR FRICKING TIME!

Sorry--extreme frustration brings out my inner Kinison.

After much searching, the shutoff valve was finally found--up under the flooring. Right where you can't find it in a major break.

Next call--find Heather. Her friend's dad steered me to a restaurant, and she was still there. Yes, this is an emergency. They found her and she sped home. S helly had arrived to take charge of Rachel, and shoo the gawkers from the yard. Maddie and D3 marched across the street with her.

The clean-up process began. Brian brought over some towels, and I used some of ours, too.

I called another plumber--nobody before tomorrow, sorry. Since the main was off, that meant no water before Sunday. Ish. I thanked her for her candor, but said I'd have to look elsewhere. She understood. I won't blot those guys from the book.

Heather arrived. It wasn't as bad as she thought it would be. She was picturing the kayaking scenario. Soon enough, she went over to Brian and Shelly's--Rachel had awakened.

And she was most unhappy.

In the interim, I left multiple messages for my brother in law, Obi-wan Kenobi ("you are our only hope"). "Ben" does bathroom and tile work, and as a result has much experience with plumbing. He redid our bathroom two years ago (magnificently), and he said he owed me a large favor (I used some leave time in February to go and change my sister-in-law's flat tire. It was all of about 0 that day, with a stiff breeze. Rather unpleasant, as the British might say.)

Since plumbers were not an option, Brian decided to run over to the Depot to get a shutoff valve and solder. As we attempted to do what shouldn't be done at home by non-plumbers (think open flame, enclosed space, delicate timing, easily overheated parts), we noticed that a steady trickle continued from the pipe. The shutoff was, indeed, cranked off fully. Soldering was tried. And failed.

The phone rang: Obi-wan was finally able to return the call! "Ah, young padawan--there will always be a trickle. And that will prevent the pipe from being heated sufficiently to allow the solder to work. I shall be there shortly, with light saber and tubing. In the meantime, wad up some white bread and jam it into the pipe--that will stop the leak. Also, turn on the kitchen sink, as that will divert some of the remaining flow."

So encouraged, we listened and followed the instructions. He arrived with his two sons, who I herded into what had just become the busiest Saturday night daycare around. Brian and Shelly's middle son, Vincent, was ecstatic. "Sleepover?" he asked hopefully.

He's five.

I also got around to apologizing to Madeleine, who accepted my apology and said I shouldn't yell in the house. I agreed. No trauma, thankfully.

I made it back home to get a lesson in soldering--in two minutes, voila--new shutoff and new connection to the outdoor hose. He turned the main back on. No leaks--if the solder isn't all around, you can tell easily--it shoots out in a fan shape from the leak.

We left and picked up the kids. Many thanks and much rejoicing. There's some gift certificates for chain restaurants forthcoming, too. This was no minor inconvenience.

The floor fan was set to "Turbine" and ran all night, just to be safe. Clean up still continues.

And, if nothing else, we learned that we have good neighbors. Very good neighbors. That's a very valuable gift from a situation that could have been far more disastrous than it was.

I could tell you how I ripped up my hands trying to mix concrete on Sunday...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A useful coping method.

If you are like me (which, if you're really like me, would make you a 35 year old stocky orthodox Catholic male going through serious NHL withdrawal at the moment--but that's not important right now), you have a very low tolerance threshold for extended commentary by the usual suspects from the Catholic Dissentariat. However, I have developed a technique for surviving this situation with your spirits (and TV) intact. It's analogous to the old nervous speaker's trick of picturing your audience in its underwear.

What you do is this:

1. Clearly identify the dissenter as such (hint--do the initials "CNN" appear on your TV screen?);

2. Find the mute button on your remote control;

3. Completely activate the mute button (beware the "soft mute" setting); and

4. Pretend that the individual is lip-synching this song instead.

Try it--it really works!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

This is just mean.

Which, of course, is why I heartily enjoy it. Per an anecdote (perhaps slightly garbled--I missed part of the speech) from George Weigel, Pope John XXIII polled the bishops as to which topics should be considered at the forthcoming Second Vatican Council. The bishops duly sent in their responses, one of the most thoughtful being a cogent essay about man's search for meaning in the modern world by the young bishop of Krakow, Poland.

Alas, not all were so thoughtful. Many were simply laundry lists of ideas, and one of them actually suggested discussing the search for intelligent life in the universe. One of the curial officials reviewing the submissions saw this one, noted the submitter (with an arched eyebrow, we can imagine) and said:

"Perhaps he should start by searching for intelligent life in his own diocese first."

Ouch....
The Afterimage.

I can hardly say what Pope John Paul II meant in the larger scheme of things. I suspect determining that will take the better part of a century of careful, dispassionate thought, far removed from the idiot canned analysis of right now. Hence the term "afterimage"--we are all going to be blinking and trying to focus on what he meant for a long, long time to come. Was he flawless? No. I agree with just about every syllable of this Rod Dreher column. There are other areas where honest faithful Catholics can find fault--but I'll save that for after the funeral.

Moreover, while I understand it, I'm not quite on board with the whole "the Great" phenomenon. Let's all take a deep breath first, and then take the time to truly study the man and his words first. I think eventually the tag will fit, but for now I'll stand with Treebeard and avoid being hasty.

What I can do is say what the Pope meant to me as someone who converted to Catholicism during his reign. For my entire adulthood, he was The Pope, a man bestride the world like a colossus. Like, love or hate him, the one thing that you could never do was ignore him.

A lot of this is a function of Western culture, which is many respects was and still is an increasingly-estranged child of the Catholic Church. I have a theory about Americans as a people: deep down, (1) we are all default Brits and equally so, (2) we are all default Catholics.

Here's the proof: if you hear the term "the Queen," who do you think of? If it's anyone other than Elizabeth II, you are lying. I don't care if you're a Southie from Boston or Cheech Marin--The Queen is that white haired lady on the cover of People, not the wife of Juan Carlos, or the titular head of the Netherlands, or any other female monarch. Pleasant though she may be. There's only one "the Queen" in America, and she's British.

Likewise "the Church." Lenny Bruce was right--there's only one "the Church," and that's Roman Catholicism. It even percolates into popular culture--as fellow papist Roger Ebert notes, every time you have to battle supernatural evil in the movies, it's always Catholicism that supplies the heavy artillery. Thus, when an American hears "the Church" in conversations, he doesn't think "Methodist." He thinks "Catholic."

Even as an adolescent lapsed Methodist, I knew that The Church With The Definite Article was qualititatively different. And so was its head bishop. All Americans know this instinctively. Even the press. Yes, even Christiane Amanpour. Try another comparison: when the Vatican is considering a statement about genetically modified foods, it's news. When the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. and other mainline Protestant leaders (Frank & Friends!) condemn the federal budget--cue the crickets. Sure, the evangelicals are something of an exception: MSM has a growing awareness (and disdain) for the evangelicals, and a recognition of counter-culturalism there, too. But there's no focus--no one person or institution that can presume to speak on behalf of what is admittedly a very diverse group. A middleweight with a wicked hook, but hard to pin down.

But for the once mighty-mainline, the unkindest cut of all: being ignored. For all its flaws, the media knows a lightweight when it sees one. The mainliners float like a butterfly and sting like one, too.

"Lose this number until you ordain a transsexual, buddy."

The Pope--this Pope especially--was a heavyweight. Even I could see that. He travelled constantly--to my humble home state, no less--and, even at a distance, seemed fearless.

Which brings me to this: I can define him using less than five words: "Be Not Afraid," and "Hope." I can comprehend his leadership by using each as a lens.

Be Not Afraid!

Christ has triumphed over death--what are you afraid of? The travel, the meetings with millions, the preaching, and even some of the things that did and do strike me as dubious, like Assisi--all can be better understood by realizing that he simply was not afraid.

Christ has triumphed over death--why should we be afraid of the prayers of animists? Christ has triumphed over death--I am not going to let the communists intimidate me. Christ has triumphed over death--the West needs to learn that it is killing its own soul. Whatever else can be said about him, it is clear that he never feared for himself or his reputation.

Hope.

As in the Christian variety, not the mindless secular kind (usually called "optimism"). The latter is the mindset that tells you to "turn that frown upside down," or says "It looks like someone has a case of the Mondays--cheer up!" Christian hope is not like that. Rarely noted is that there is a grim realism underlying even his most hopeful statements. Consider, for example, the projection of "a new springtime of evangelization." To even float such a statement requires a recognition that, for right now, we are in the middle of February. At the latest. The important thing is that hope compels us to recognize that spring will come. Hope tells us that no matter how long and difficult the haul, with Christ we, too, will triumph. Hope also does not deny the difficulties.

Before the Walls of Minas Tirith....

Finally, I am thankful for his call to arms. He woke us to the fact that we are in a serious battle for the soul of humanity itself. Everywhere, and from every direction, humans seem bent on effacing the Imago Dei from their persons, a massive act of self-mutilation unseen in history. By calling attention to it and giving it a name--the Culture of Death--he gave us a chance to confront it. Moreover, his unrelenting ecumenism also gave Catholics the prospect of having some surprising allies in the fight. Go here for Exhibit A--an impossibility fifty years ago. Also see Hentoff, Nat. By the way, Catholics--don't forget that the ecumenism of the trenches is your opportunity to witness to others. That being, of course, part of the idea. Don't botch it.

Things were such with this man that the papacy wasn't the huge stumbling block for my conversion that it is for others. Without going into detail about my own story (look for it in Surprised by Truth MXI: Yep--That's Pretty Well Everybody), I remember reacting to the anti-papal polemics I found with something on the order of "Antichrist? But this guy's Polish...." Beyond that, there was the obvious Christian witness of the man. If the Catholics can produce someone like this, there has to be something to it...

Finally, I have three concrete reasons to be thankful for John Paul II's unwavering, across-the-board witness to life: their names are Madeleine, Dale III and Rachel. I honestly doubt that I would have all three of my children but for that witness. The world of More Stuff Now! says having three children in three years is deeply stupid (it certainly can be very difficult, there's no sugarcoating that). However, their beatific faces--and the fearless, hopeful smile of John Paul II--object. The latter four are right.

Goodbye, Holy Father--you will be greatly missed.

[Update, 4/8/05: Slightly revised in response to a good point from Christopher Johnson, and tweaked here and there. It will stay here, though--I can't move it to the top.]
Fun stock answers for common Pope-related questions.

Feel free to use them yourself!

1. "So, who do you want for Pope?"

Not sure--I'll let you know when I see the ballot.

2. "What are you looking for in the next Pope?"

A guy who looks good in the hat and is comfortable riding in the Popemobile. In other words, a good sense of balance.

3. "Don't you think the next Pope should 'get with the times?'"

Interesting question--let me answer it with another one: Do you think Pius XII should have "gotten with the times" from 1939-1944?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Some first impressions.

Before the bigger essay later. This is a sick day, as both The Eldest™ and The Boy™ are ill.
Exorcist ill, complete with the projectile vomiting. Some of it hitting your humble blog host. The upshot is that Heather and I have had about five solid ours of sleep in the past 48. In other words, if what you are reading looks like Esperanto, apologies. By the time you read this, I may have started my own homage to Linda Blair's signature role.

1. Heather said the Holy Father's body looked unnerving. I agree, and that, too, is a tribute to him. Even in his weakness--his very weakest--he was fully alive. You only notice that witness now that he's gone.

2. The press coverage has been pretty solid: Foxnews and MSNBC mostly. Jesse Jackson had a very good week in my book, saying in a Fox interview late Saturday night "Thank God for this Pope." I wanted to watch Mark Brumley on Saturday, too, but they had him paired with the Rev. Drinan. We have only one TV, and I didn't want to end up changing the channel a la Elvis. Yesterday evening, Fox had Janet Smith and Christopher West, and Geraldo didn't talk over them. Wonder of wonders.

3. The music employed by the Church, and used in the bumpers for the coverage, which is much different from the Sunday Catholic worship norm. The reason? We are talking about death and resurrection right now. Whatever the virtues of most modern popular Catholic worship music, it is not generally about those subjects.

Which says a lot, when you think about it.

4. "The Holy Spirit Elects the Pope" meme needs to be retired, pronto. The Holy Spirit protects the Church. It's hard to imagine Him positively gifting us with the likes of Alexander VI, or one of the other bad popes. The difference may be subtle, but it's important.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Now he belongs to the ages.

Au revoir, Holy Father. May you receive your crown soon.

He witnessed to Christ to the end, as frequent commenter Terry noted:

I'll admit it. I've been struggling with my faith a bit about the last month or so. I don't know why, but I find it being strengthened by the passing of this man. I don't know if it's the peace he's said to be feeling despite his imminent path; the touching vigils; seeing people of every race, gender, and tongue there to pray for him. I don't know.

But I'm finding it tough too. Perhaps it's the uncertainty and my natural aversion to change. After all, he's the only Pope I've ever known. I also remember all the nasty things I said about him in my non-Catholic days, as well as some of the propaganda I bought into not long after I entered the Church.

And now I've come to realize what he means, who and what he stands for, and how much I'll miss him. And right now, his message really stands out: "Be not afraid..." A couple of more hours to Divine Mercy Sunday Papa. You've suffered in dignity for so long, it would be downright poetic to go home and experience Him Who Is and His divine mercy.

Thanks for this, Terry. And, if you think about it, we both got our wish--there are parts of the Church Universal where it is Mercy Sunday right now.

Other comments and remembrances are welcome here. I'm piecing together a few of my own, too. I simply ask that you remember my rule on this subject. Thanks.

Friday, April 01, 2005

For the great Servus Servorum Dei.

Almighty and everlasting God, the eternal salvation of those who believe, hear us on behalf of Your servant who is sick, for whom we humbly ask the help of your mercy, that, being restored to health, he may render thanks to You in Your Church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Or, if this is his time:

Almighty and merciful God, You bestow on mankind both the remedies of health and the gifts of everlasting life. Look graciously on Your servant suffering from bodily infirmity, and strengthen the soul which You have made. At the hour of his death may he deserve to be offered without stain of sin to You his Creator by the hands of the holy angels. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[--Both taken from the Catholic Prayer Book of Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.]