Sunday, June 29, 2003


None of the below means I particularly like or support the Texas sodomy law, the structure and enforcement of which strikes me as deeply stupid.

But the nebulous reasoning and "logic" of the Court in Lawrence is stupider by far, and will be much more destructive, based as it is on evolving notions of right and wrong. This is especially so when you have degreed degenerates (read the link and then tell me I went overboard) cooing that all sorts of hideous behavior really ain't that bad after all.

"O, brave new world/That has such people in it."

A tempest indeed.
Lawyer Brain Teasers!

Try this, fellow barristers, solicitors, and overbillers:

Construct a coherent, rational, non-special pleading basis for continuing to outlaw polygamy using the reasoning of the majority in Lawrence v. Texas:

And there are other spheres of our lives and existence, outside the home, where the State should not be a dominant presence. Freedom extends beyond spatial bounds. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct. The instant case involves liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions....

The laws involved in Bowers and here are, to be sure, statutes that purport to do no more than prohibit a particular sexual act. Their penalties and purposes, though, have more far-reaching consequences, touching upon the most private human conduct, sexual behavior, and in the most private of places, the home. The statutes do seek to control a personal relationship that, whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals....

This, as a general rule, should counsel against attempts by the State, or a court, to define the meaning of the relationship or to set its boundaries absent injury to a person or abuse of an institution the law protects. It suffices for us to acknowledge that adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons. When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring. The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice....

"These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State."...

The case does involve two adults who, with full and mutual consent from each other, engaged in sexual practices common to a homosexual lifestyle. The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government. "It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter." Casey, supra, at 847. The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual.

Rotsa ruck!
Make the hurting stop....

The Tigers continue their death spiral. As of last Tuesday, they were on a pace to finish the season with a record of 40-122.

Of course, they've lost every game since. Alan Trammell is getting fed up with the Kitties' poor play, and is threatening more lateral moves to Toledo:

"We seem to be having a little bit of a pity party," Trammell said, disgustedly. "This is something that will never be acceptable -- sloppy baseball. That's why we'll be sitting down tonight ... There could definitely be more changes."

Prediction: Alan will be on suicide watch by game 95.

All of which means that wins over the Tigers are as remarkable as, say, sunrise.

At the rate things are going, the Tigs are making a strong move to market themselves as a contraction candidate.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

I'm just going to rename this blog "Mel!"

Yet another post about Mr. Gibson's film, this time a full review by Barbara Nicolosi. Here's a sample that indicates that Boys & The Boys were quite wrong to jump ugly with Gibson:

Let's get the controversy out of the way right at the top. The film is faithful to the Gospel, particularly St. John. It is no more anti-Semitic than is the Gospel. There are at least two members of the Sanhedrin who come forward to protest on Jesus' behalf during the sham trial. The Romans are just as guilty of cruelty and hatred against Jesus in the film. And best of all is a final look right into the camera of Mary, holding her dead Son. She is looking at all of us with a kind of , "Look what you've done"/This is for you" expression. A cinematic Pieta worthy of Michelangelo.

An apology from B&TB will not be forthcoming.

Bet on it.
The Anglicans have found their Athanasius.

Catholics are still looking for theirs.

If you have an interest in the looming disintegration of the Anglican Communion (and you should), I strongly recommend Christopher Johnson's weblog. Today, he reports on the response of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola to the assorted "It's raining men!" doings in Episcopaland, with the magnificently-titled post "Fellowship This, Bwana."

Go. Read the whole thing.

If you are Catholic, I have a followup: where is the bishop who will speak with similar urgency to the crisis in the American Church?

To Lane for his reference to "All Mel. All the Time" immediately below.

Shawn McElhinney had some thoughts which Lane blogged in the same post. Shawn e-mailed them to me, too, but I didn't see them until this afternoon. The delay was caused by (1) a two hour war to install Big Cooler, our new 10,000 BTU room air conditioner, (2) an EKG test on yours truly (more about that--perhaps--later), and (3) our discovery that Heather will have to be on leave for a year, with all the financial permutations that involves.

Blogging will continue, but expect it to be scattershot.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

All Mel. All The Time.

Yet another look the blow-up surrounding Mel's film, this time by the CT Weblog. The Catholic members of the Disclaimer Committee just won't shut up:

An unnamed "leading Catholic theologian" called the script "one of the more anti-Semitic documents most of us have seen in a long time." (It had to be one of the following Catholics, all members of an advisory committee to the Bishops Conference on Catholic-Jewish affairs: Mary Boys of the Union Theological Seminary; Philip Cunningham, executive director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College; Lawrence Frizzell, director of the Institute of Judeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University; John Pawlikowski, director of Catholic Jewish studies at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.)

"The Anti-Defamation League and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reviewed the script and we wrote a report that was sent to Mr. Gibson's company," Boys told The Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia . But apparently Sister Mary and her colleagues lost sight of the very important distinction between a statement by the conference and the one of members of the conference. The opinion of advisory board members is even more removed.

What is needed, of course, is some helpful context about the theological inclinations of Boys & The Boys. Your diligent host here at DM is happy to provide it. From last October, via Touchstone's Lee Podles, when this endeavor was still waddling around in short pants:

"In August 2002 a committee of US Conference of Catholic Bishops, co-chaired by William Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore, issued a report, Reflections on Covenant and Mission. It contained some odd statements about the relationship of Judaism and Christianity, and was attacked by some Catholics. The chief offending sentence stated that “targeting Jews for conversion to Christianity” is “no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church.”

Cardinal Avery Dulles in America (10-21-2002) doesn’t like this sentence either. He does not see how it is consistent with statements in Paul and Hebrews.

Although Cardinal Keeler pointed out that Reflections document was unofficial, such unofficial documents have a way of being presented as official teaching. A draft of a report of a bishops’ committee, All Our Children, is always trotted out as the official teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality.

Three members of the Advisory Committee on Catholic-Jewish Relations for the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (the committee that wrote the controversial report) responded in America to Dulles: Mary Boys, Philip Cunningham, and John Pawlikowski.

Boys, Cunningham, and Pawlikowski claim that “The magisterium can explicitly contradict an idea of an individual New Testament author because the Catholic tradition is one of commentary, not of sola scriptura (Scripture alone).”

Really? Well, I guess Jack Chick was right after all.

Now hear this: Stop. Speaking. On. My. Behalf. Right. Now.

Why is "ecumenical dialogue" so often the preserve of sloppy, free-range, compromising malcontents, anyway? Of what value are the fruits of such "dialogue" when you've abandoned your own position from the get-go?

Time to get the Motrin.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Ad Orientem is now Irish Elk.

Same url and love of good liturgy, baseball, and architecture, though.

For example, there's this exploration of various images of deadball-era Tigers' manager Hughie Jennings.
A new blog worth watching.

I've met Doug Sirman in Real Life, about a year or so ago over at Zach Frey's house. A very likeable, opinionated and ebullient guy who brought the most brutal (to the waistline) dessert imaginable.

With that in mind, I can't think of an adequate intro to his new blog, except to get to the point and say that he's detailing real life from the standpoint of a rehabbing alcoholic.

Go to Rehab! The Musical.

Dale Price's Sports Machine.

1. The Detroit Red Wings could be facing a very expensive goaltending problem: the Dominator is talking about coming out of retirement.

Which $8 million goaltender does Detroit keep? Hint: the one who has a Cup ring....

2. The most depressing article I've read in years: Tiger Stadium goes gently into that good night.

The pictures are enough to bring a tear to the eye of any baseball fan. I don't think there's a prayer of saving it from demolition at this point.
By the way.

Just to be clear, I still like "Rush." The last CD I bought (along with a Matthew Sweet compilation) was a one-volume "Best of."

I just couldn't make the connection between Mark Twain's fence-painter and "His mind is not for rent/To any god or government" in that particular song.

Until last week. Thanks, Jeff.
Study Resources.

Below is the handout I gave at the first official session of St. Elsewhere's bible study group. The group is good, lively and curious, which I will discuss at length later. Understand that, with two exceptions, my fellow congregants are decent Catholics who are the products of 40 years of bad-echesis: glitter, paste, construction paper, self-esteem and The Force Is Love. Every last one of them is a cradle Catholic.

They told me this at the organizational meeting. I structured the list below accordingly, using works I own/am familiar with (I own 75% of the books on the list). Yes, it's heavy on the apologetics basics, and related websites. Blank pages, remember? I am also advising them that I am a lending library for the OOP (and other) material.

Moreover: yes, I am deliberately steering them away from the historical-critical bafflegab. They want bread, so I won't had them a scorpion, at least not without saying "incoming!" I'd like to build faith, not destroy it.

If you have extra input, I'd like to hear it. If you have constructive criticism, step right up. If you have inane criticism, keep it to yourself.

Catholic Biblical Bibliography
and Recommended Websites

I. Books

A. The $8 Solution: The Catechism of the Catholic Church. The most subversive book ever published by the Church.
B. Scott Hahn. A former Presbyterian pastor, now a Catholic university professor. Any of his books/tapes are worthwhile. Start with Rome Sweet Home, the conversion story of himself and his wife, Kimberly.
C. Mark Shea. Engaging Seattle-based author and speaker. Two books are immediately useful:
1. By What Authority: An Evangelical Looks at Catholic Tradition. Shows the interrelationship of the Bible and the big-T Tradition of the Church.
2. Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible As the First Christians Did. Not a typo. Explores the four “senses” (or meanings) of Scriptural interpretation developed by the early Christians.
C. David Armstrong. A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. A good general overview of the various biblical explanations of Catholic beliefs by an evangelical convert and resident of Melvindale.
D. Steven Ray. Crossing the Tiber. The conversion story of a Michigan businessman (turned author and speaker) and his family, it also explores the Catholic teaching for Baptism and the Eucharist, biblical and historical.
E. Lee Strobel. Award-winning former crime reporter for the Chicago Tribune, now an evangelical minister at Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago.
1. The Case for Christ. Examines the evidence behind the life of Christ and the reliability of the Gospels, including atheist/skeptical objections. Very readable and engaging.
2. The Case for Faith. Strobel does the same thing for the objections people raise to faith in God.
F. Conversion Stories. These often involve thorny biblical issues and questions, and can be quite helpful in a general sense.
1. Surprised by Truth I-III. Very interesting stories by converts from such diverse backgrounds as Judaism, Wicca and Mormonism, as well as “regular” Christians.
F. The Faith of the Early Fathers, by William Jurgens (3 Volumes). Contains selections from the writings of orthodox (and some heretical) Christian writers from 60 A.D. to 743 A.D. Very well indexed, it allows the reader to research any topic from Baptism to the Second Coming to see what the early Christians believed.
G. On Being Catholic by Thomas Howard. A philosophical but readable meditation on Catholicism by a renowned evangelical who became Catholic later in life. Pretty much anything by Howard is worth a read. My wife is especially fond of Hallowed Be This House.
H. Lives of Christ.
1. The Lord by Romano Guardini.
2. Life of Christ by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
3. To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed.
4. The Life of Christ by Giuseppe Ricciotti (OOP—Out of Print). The 700 page edition is more thorough than the 400 page version. However, the shorter one is still in print.
5. Jesus Christ by Ferdinand Prat (2 vols.)(OOP).
I. Bible Commentaries.
1. A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (1953, OOP). Superb, balanced and doggedly Catholic. My personal favorite.
2. The International Bible Commentary: A Catholic & Ecumenical Commentary for the 21st Century (1998). Very expensive, but very worthwhile commentary that draws upon Catholic, Orthodox, evangelical and mainline Protestant scholars from around the world.
3. Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968)(OOP). We have a copy in the parish library. A little technical, and prone to skeptical approaches, but still valuable.
4. A Companion to Scripture Studies by John Steinmueller (3 vols.)(1941-1968)(OOP). Good, non-technical guide to issues in biblical interpretation and overviews of every book in the Bible.
5. Introduction to the Bible by John Laux (1931). Despite its age, it is still in print and available via TAN Books. A user-friendly one-volume edition that examines every book of the Bible.
6. New Testament Introduction by Alfred Wikenhauser (1958-68)(OOP). A good semi-technical overview of every New Testament book, focusing on dating, authorship, organization and similar questions.
7. IVP’s New Testament Dictionary Series. Consists of the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, and Dictionary of New Testament Background. Pricey, but worthwhile reference work (dictionary is a little misleading, it’s more a mini-encyclopedia). Written by evangelical scholars without an axe to grind, it’s fully in keeping with Catholic teaching in almost (but not quite) all places.

[Reminder re: Catholic commentaries before 1965 and Bibles before 1966—They are keyed to the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible, the original Catholic translation in English. This means some of the books have different titles, especially in the OT, which can be confusing unless you have a chart. The only NT book with a different name is Revelation, which is called “Apocalypse” in the D-R (“apocalypse” is Greek for “revelation”). Also, some of the verse numbering can be different. However, the D-R contains all of the verses.]

II. Helpful Websites for Biblical Issues.

1. The official website for the Vatican, it has official encyclicals and pronouncements from Rome on many issues.
2. The official website for the Catholic bishops of the U.S. Contains a searchable version of the New American Bible, and weekly mass readings.
3. Contains a search engine for 15 Protestant bibles. Very handy when you need a verse in a hurry.
4. The Knights of Columbus website, it contains a searchable Catechism of the Catholic Church.
5. Scott Hahn’s website, it contains a host of articles on the Bible, including a bibliography of recommended books.
6. A good source for Catholic information, including biblical studies and questions. Be sure to donate, as the site is under some financial pressure at the moment.
7. Mark Shea’s website. Contains several dozen articles on a wide array of topics, including the Bible.
8. David Armstrong’s website. A good source for general articles on challenges to the Catholic faith. Sometimes comes on a little strong, though.
9. Catholic Answers’ website. Helpful for answering basic challenges to the Catholic faith by using the Bible.
10. The website for the head “apologist” for CA, it has articles on a wide range of biblical topics, as well as several searchable catechisms.
11. This website contains the entire text of the still-valuable 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia. Volunteers agreed to transcribe every article from the multi-volume work, which took 5 years to complete. New Advent also has the works of several of the early church fathers in complete form.
12. The website for Mother Angelica’s media network, it contains an unparalleled document library, including transcripts for Scott Hahn’s “Catholic Adult Education Series” videotapes, which cover a wide range of biblical topics, especially biblical explanations for the sacraments.
13. Another website with an excellent document library.
14. Steve Ray’s webpage, with helpful articles and links to his video series. Also comes on a little strong at times.

To Fr. Rob Johansen for his reference to two of my blogs on men in the Church.

Only one of which is arguably cruel.

[Scroll down to the Columbo-esque "And Another Thing..." for June 16. RTWT.]

Monday, June 23, 2003

Same old, same old.

This blog's difficult marriage to Gomer continues its tragic muddle.

Once again, the comments server is going through its weekly extended freakout. What can I say?
"It's on official 'Dukes of Hazzard' stationery."

So went the punchline to the old Bloom County storyline relating to the unmasking of the "Elvis Diaries" as a fraud.

This was Berkeley Breathed's rather clever take on the fact there were similar clues which should have tipped off those enthused about the Hitler Diaries. It makes you think some people just want to be fooled:

[The forger] Kujau's customers were more eager to own a piece of the Nazi past than they were to verify the authenticity of their purchases, so Kujau wasn't particularly cautious about accuracy. The diaries themselves were full of flaws:

--The books were of post-war manufacture, and contained threads that were not made before the 1950s.

--The plastic monogram on the front of one diary read ``FH'' rather than ``AH.''

--The texts of the diaries contained historical inaccuracies and anachronisms.

--The ink used was chemically modern, and tests showed that it was recently applied to the paper.

The success of the fraud had less to do with the technical sophistication of the forgery than the combined and contagious gullibility of many people.

Christianity Today reports that something similar, although more technically adept, may have happened in the case of the James Ossuary:

The IAA assigned one team to reexamine the geology of the ossuary. A second team looked at the epigraphy of the inscription, the letterforms, grammar, and syntax.

"This was not a matter of competing experts," says archaeologist and writer Neil Asher Silberman. Silberman is coauthoring an article on the ossuary for Archaeology magazine with Yuval Goren, a geologist on the IAA investigative team. Noting that Shanks had obtained what amounted to a certificate of authenticity from the Israel Geological Survey before revealing the ossuary last year, Silberman says the IAA did a much more rigorous analysis.

Silberman says the IAA team found the same patina described by earlier investigators. This is a calcite buildup comparable to the mineral deposits on a tea kettle over time. They also found a "rock varnish," another natural buildup of algae and bacteria.

But inside the incised letters was a third type of patina. "They found microfossils that appear naturally within chalk stone," he said. "That indicated someone had taken chalk and powdered it up, fossils and all, and put it over the letters to make it seem that it was ancient."

Silberman says geologists can also determine the temperature at which crystallization takes place. The patina on the other surfaces conformed to what would be expected for the cool groundwaters of Jerusalem. "But within the letters it seemed as if it was done with heated water."

The other IAA team also came up with an explanation for the inscription, which had fooled some of the world's leading epigraphers, with one part in a formal script and the second part in a more informal cursive script. "You wouldn't expect a forger to use two different, authentic first century handwriting styles," said Silberman. "That was always a puzzle," especially since the physical examination showed it had been carved at the same time.

The scientists suggest that each word in the inscription, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," exists on other ossuaries that have been catalogued. It would have been simple for someone using image software to put them together and carve them into the ossuary.

It's not looking good for the owner of the ossuary, either:

...Duke University archaeologist Eric Meyers, a past president of the American Schools of Oriental Research, notes that Golan is under police investigation. "They found labeled boxes of dirt from every region of the country that was used to make and forge patina. I think he's a central figure here."
David Mills on the Pope's administrative ability.

In a fair-minded, respectful piece which cites to the New Oxford Review and Rod Dreher's comparison of the Pope's handling of the Iraq war and the laissez faire handling of rotten bishops, Mills submits that governance isn't JPII's forte':

Discipline can harm as well as correct, and souls may be lost that might be saved if given more time or approached differently. I know that a pastor will not want to lose any of his flock, no matter how far they have strayed, and that he will know how many of his flock are (to switch metaphors) hanging on to the Faith by their fingertips. (Pawtips. Whatever.)

But I also know that the sheep who have strayed too far will be eaten by wolves — not may be eaten if they are unlucky, but will be eaten simply because they are defenseless outside the fold. They will do things no wise sheep would ever do, because doing these things will not separate them from the flock. Though these things will, eventually, unite them with the wolves in the most intimate way possible.

For their own good, and especially for the good of the so-far obedient sheep who tempted to follow them into the wilds, the shepherd must often bid them goodbye. The shepherd may well alert the straying sheep to their danger by telling them clearly that they are no longer sheep of his flock, and this may well be the only way they will listen to him at all. (And if they don’t listen, are they really any the worse off?) As long as he does not tell them in ways they can understand — and remember that sheep are stupid — they will assume they are safe because they are, they foolishly think, still under his protection, no matter where they go.

The [New Oxford Review] Note concludes that the Pope’s

contribution to Church teaching has been prodigious. But an administrator he is not. He simply does not “mind the store,” does not attend to the chores of Church governance. We have been blessed by this Pope, and his teachings have laid the foundations for the restoration of orthodoxy.

But it will fall to another people to carry out his vision, to insist, over his dead body, that the teachings of the Church are taught by the bishops with conviction, follow-through, and dire consequences for saboteurs in chancery offices, seminaries, Catholic colleges and universities, and elsewhere.

....I love Pope John Paul II, and his picture looks down at me both in my study at home and in my office at the Protestant seminary at which I serve. (Before I moved my office I had his picture on my door, in fact, in the same place as a colleague had his picture of John Calvin.) I pray for him daily, and I not only ask for his healing and his continued reign but thank God for him and his work.

But he is clearly not an administrator and he has let men continue in office who should have been sent to a monastery near the South Pole. An unheated monastery. It is not a sleight to a great man to say that he is not a perfect man, and in acting as if it were Rod [Dreher]’s critics have done him wrong.

And harmed their own thinking to boot, by treating the Church more idealistically than a Catholic should, and forgetting the extent to which it is a living body moving, sometimes with compelling beauty, sometimes staggering as if drunk or dying, through history. No Catholic should expect perfection in a pope. Remember St. Peter.

If I differ from Rod, it is in thinking that we could not reasonably ask for more in a pope than we have gotten in John Paul II. I think Rod may have expected too much. All men, even the greatest, are strong in some things and weak in others. Teachers and prophets almost never run things well, and the men who run things well almost never think and speak as profoundly as John Paul II.

Feel free to hyperventilate, but I think Mills hits all the right notes with this one. Fear of open schism is an important template for understanding the hands-off approach of the Vatican to the multiple problems in the American church. Confront the dissenters where the stakes are too low to provoke a secession (say, inclusive language and similar issues), but plan to wait them out on more hot-button issues that could cause an open rupture and take millions out with them.

Neither strategy (iron fist or velvet glove) is without risk.

But I know which one is more confusing and demoralizing for the faithful, and which is more damaging to the Church's witness.
Make my wife feel better.

Our precocious daughter recognizes the most minor of characters on Nickelodeon's SpongeBob cartoon (we have five DVDs).
This morning, she identified the Flying Dutchman, and recognizes Mermaidman and Barnacleboy by just hearing the theme music for the episode.

She also recognizes most of the characters from Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer, too.

But not the Teletubbies. I won't let her watch, as I'm convinced it's run by a cult, and one day they'll send the master signal for the uprising to the subliminally programmed zomboids. Easily the most unnervingly weird thing I've ever seen, and that includes David Lynch films.

Anyway, Heather would like to be reassured that there are worse things from popular culture she could recognize. Please use comments for examples.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

In the kingdom of the blind...

...I'm the leader of our parish's bible study.


Stop shaking your head. Now. I've been begging for this for years, and now we have one. "How about you do it, Dale?"

Ooookay. But I'm actually pretty enthused about it.

We are using the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, and we're starting with Matthew. It was either that or the Little Rock study, and I was persuasive in advocating for the Ignatius. People want some honest, full-bore Catholicism. It can be done!

Plus, they were willing to pony up the cash, which was gratifying. It also meant a road trip to Domino's Farms in Ann Arbor to pick up enough volumes to equip the group (currently 10 and counting--we might have 15). Thanks to the Michigan Department of Transportation (Motto: "We're In Charge Of The Roads In Hell, Too!"), a 45 minute excursion turned into a 2.5 hour trip to Gehenna in the PriceMobile, complete with interstate closures and one-lane bottlenecks out the yin-yang. But we got there 20 minutes before closing time. Memo to Tom Monaghan: Put up a sign that tells people where Domino's Farms is. I swear, there's one sign and it rests on the ground, all of a foot high.

Don't be shy, Tom. Nobody's seen the Noid for years.

Monday we have our first actual meeting, covering Matthew 1-2. We're pretty much starting from scratch, knowledge-wise. With one exception, everybody is a biblical blank page. And, with three exceptions, it's all women. This follows two straight months advertising for persons interested in participating. Hey, guys: why not get off your dead a***s and do something other than warm a pew on Sunday?

But it was a lively, heartening organizational session, and it looks like a good group. I'll keep you updated.
Jim Cork has seen the trailer for The Passion.

Just go read his report [first entry for 6/22].

Friday, June 20, 2003

Harry Potter, D&D and me.

I haven't read the books. I'm curious, but Heather looks at me with a cocked eyebrow every time I mention a serious book purchase. As she has accurately noted, Stately Price Manor 'tis a tiny and shrinking place, an abode for two adults and two adorable short demanding people who are growing by leaps and bounds. SPM is currently best suited to purchases of paperbacks or the occasional "I can't live without it!" purchase, which is currently pending. It's a reference work related to our parish's fledgling bible study, but that's neither here nor there.

The point is, there's plenty of chatter about the books (check here, here, here and here for a taste of the debate).

All I can say is that some of the criticism sounds pretty familiar to the stuff I heard about Dungeons and Dragons back in the 1980s. "It's a doorway to the occult/Satanism/black magic/paganism!"

How do I know? I used to play D&D. A lot. It was a prime outlet for socially-inept-but-otherwise-brainy boy nerds. It was that, and listening to lots and lots of Rush.

Modern day warrior/
Mean mean stride/
Today's Tom Sawyer/
Mean mean pride...

[Anyone who can explain to me what that song was about gets $5. Or my gratitude.
Make it gratitude. It's easier to email.]

But I digress again.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, D&D is a (Dr. Evil voice) "role-playing game" that is awash in magic. In fact, the "role-playing game" is premised upon it: spells, swords, staves, potions, artifacts, armor, scrolls--the works. The goal of the characters in this "role-playing game" is to get experience, become more powerful and acquire increasingly potent magical abilities, weapons and equipment. Of course, to do that, you had to battle your way through or around increasingly deadly foes who were similarly equipped. But the goal was worth it, especially when you could brag.

"Dude, I got a +5 Vorpal sword, two-handed! Add that to my Plate Mail +3, Shield +4 and my Girdle [no, really] of Frost Giant Strength, and I'm ready to go smite something! I'm one bad Fighter Lord!" boldly declared the Shaft-Quoting Pasty Guy Still Scared By Girls In Real Life.

Your equally-albinoid companions indicated their approval, ticked off their own fictional bona fides, and off you went to pretend that you were intrepid glory-hunting adventurers exploring the Tomb of Horrors for the next 3-5 hours.

Actually, my first character was a "magic-user" (read: wizard). The character became pretty powerful, tossing fireballs, lightning bolts, even disintegration spells. Next to that, Harry's broomstick seems a little, well, fey.

I still have most of my books. eBay has ensured that the out of print stuff continues to appreciate like mad.

Anyway, people were making the same accusations about Dungeons and Dragons that they do now about HP. There was a veritable hysteria that arose, frequently driven by evangelicals: claims of suicides, devil worship, and even a bad Tom Hanks TV movie about a college kid (played by Hanks) who went nuts because he became obsessed with a thinly-fictionalized version of the game. I even remember one claim that a mother who burned her son's books claimed to hear them scream. [Of that, I have no doubt. It was very likely the identical scream a mother hears when she tosses her son's baseball card collection out.]

That there were weirdos who were associated with the game is undisputed. That they were regarded as weirdos and mocked accordingly by the Pasty Regulars is also undisputed. Obsessive types gravitate to these things like moths to halogen lights. They even become obsessed by sports. Rotisserie leagues, anyone?

Of my regular gaming buddies, to my knowledge, none have become high priests of Wicca or otherwise thralls of the occult. One's a city manager, another has an astronomy doctorate, one's a medical doctor in family practice, and the others are college-educated regular Joes with non-cat sacrificing jobs. Many of them are now married.

Yes, to girls. No lie!

However, there is one exception to this litany of normalness: me. After years of D&D playing, I became a Catholic. So, I guess those evangelicals warning about paganism were right after all. Heaven only knows what will happen to all those Harry fans.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

"It's like watching a bird die after eating poisoned pigeon food."

So goes the lament of a Tigers fan in a local sports radio spot.

Hard to argue with that assessment. The Mud Hens' major league affiliate fell to 17-52, and are somehow worse than the atrocious '96 team.

A team full of guys who can't hit their weight will do that.
"Roman Polanski wasn't available?"

France again. As always, the good with the bad. [Gallic shrug]

Irrefutable proof that other countries don't understand America, either. James Lileks weighs in on the French ad campaign to get Yankee tourists back, along with the bizarre choice for a spokesman.

Then there's his analysis of the rift:

France's opposition to the Iraq war isn't the reason Americans are turning away from the glories of Gaul. No, it was the manner in which France conducted its opposition -- high-handed, cheerfully duplicitous, brazenly self-serving, with a generous ladle of contempt for this boorish nation of unsophisticated cowboys.

One got the impression they were peeved that America did not realize what it meant to be graced by a stream of French spittle. Why, it was an honor. Most nations France ignores. To be spit on by France is a mark of some distinction. Here is a cloth. Wipe it off. Not with that hand! What are you, a Pole? The other hand! Left to right! Now fold the napkin into the shape of a dying swan!

Then again, there's also some evidence that the average Frenchman is worried about the rift. In a story chronicling the decline of American tourism to Normandy battlefields, there are heartening reports of a corresponding uptick in French tourism to those very sites:

Curiously, while the number of American visitors to the Airborne Museum has gone down over the last three years the number of French visitors has increased, particularly in the last 12 months. Official gate receipts show 16,682 visitors in April, for instance, nearly 3,000 more than in April, 2002, or in the corresponding previous two years. Eighty-five percent are French, according to Roger Delarocque, official of the local visitors office.

"My view is that a lot more French are bringing their children, and many of them are older children," he said. "I think it is a reaction to all this negative talk about Americans. You know the newspapers and television show it all the time, and young people say Americans are bad, they are always fighting and killing.

"So the parents bring them here to show them what the Americans sacrificed."

[Second link via the Old Oligarch]
Hate thy neighbor.

What a world: jackass sics cops on 6 year old girl's lemonade stand.

Little Abagail didn't have a permit, you see. So the police had to very reluctantly shut the "unlicensed business" down.

Fortunately, there's something of a happy ending: the hugely embarrassed city gave her a free permit to run the "business," and she's back at work.

And hopefully, the neighbor with a coal-black cinder in the center of her chest is being advised to consult realtors.

[Update: Broken link fixed.]

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

If you'd like something visual/That's not too abysmal/...

...We could take in this Mark Sullivan post.

Fine, it doesn't rhyme. Neither did that part of the original song.

It involves some decidedly...unique...religious art by a Jesuit priest in St. Louis, Missouri. Don't miss the machete-wielding newspaper review, either.

If there's ever an award for Most Frequent Depiction of the Ol' Speedbag in Devotional Art, I think we have our winner. [Yep, nudity alert. Duh.]

I'll dissent slightly from the general condemnation and say I found a couple of the pieces to be not bad, and one was actually affecting. Trust me--it's really not worth the effort to find.

Update: Upon further review...
The piece I liked suffers from the same, um, focus (if you will) as the rest of Fr. McNally's, er, opus. It was just less obvious as the latter.

The call is reversed. It's officially all crap.
The Hitler Diaries of Archeology?

The Israeli Antiquities Authority pronounces the James ossuary to be a fake. Not so incidentally, the Joash temple inscription is also dismissed as a fraud.

For two interesting essays on the dubious apologetic (read: Catholics are wrong!) significance of the find, look here: Bad Aramaic Made Easy and Burial Box of St. James Found?

[News link via Catholic Light]
"Or for some other grave reason making him unsuited for the fulfillment of his office ...."

The Pope has accepted the resignation of Thomas O'Brien, Bishop of Phoenix and accused hit and run driver.

For the sake of his immortal soul, I hope he was blind, stinking drunk the night of the accident. Because the alternative is that he knowingly left a badly injured man behind without at least trying to get help--and the man died.

Of course, his behavior since has had the hallmarks of a guilty man--knowing the police were trying to contact him about the accident but ignoring the request, calling to have the windshield replaced, staying with his sister.

Lastly, the "I think I might have hit a cat" excuse has made him as credible as a three dollar bill. If I fired both of our cats out of a cannon I couldn't do this much damage to a windshield.

Perhaps someone could translate "I think I might have hit a cat" into Latin, and emblazon that on the logo of the USCCB. It works on many different levels.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

I've edited my first Haloscan comment.

I prefer to avoid speculative discussion of the sexual proclivities and accoutrements of individuals, no matter how famous and/or curial, thank you.

Consider that a throat-clearing from your host.

Monday, June 16, 2003


They only gave her one ticket. Looks like I'll be waiting in line this weekend.
I am not worthy.

Right now, my wife and son are waiting in line to see if they can get free tickets to see sports talk show host Jim Rome (he of Jim Rome's Jungle and ESPN's Rome Is Burning, and the infamous Jim "Chris" Everett interview). It's Tour Stop 31, don't you know? Er, apparently not.

She's been waiting for the better part of two hours now. Fortunately there's shade, and a tolerable, if not comfortable, place to sit. The boy is apparently cool with the whole thing, and Heather had books she is reading.

The bad news is that she may only be able to get one ticket (I need two), if they don't count D3 as an eligible customer. Come on.

The good (nay, miraculous!) news is that I have a wife willing to do such things for her dork of a husband.

Thanks, hon.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Happy Father's Day!

To my father, Dale Price, Sr. Thanks for everything, Dad!

And to all you fathers out there, I hope you had a good day as well.
The American episcopate can breathe a little easier now.

The most dogged critic on the "National Review Board", former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, is stepping down. You can now start hurling derisive laughter at the NRB, whose transition from semi-alert watchdog to narcoleptic lapdog will occur shortly after Keating resigns.

Keating roiled the waters this week after bluntly noting the obvious: that many bishops, namely Roger Cardinal Mahony of L.A., are dissembling backpedalers on the abuse issue, and have "clay feet." The L.A. Times (and, ominously, the L.A. District Attorney) agreed with the "clay feet" assessment of His Eminence in Malibu.

But then Governor Keating went so far as to compare them to the Mafia. OK, a little crude. Perhaps.

But just how wrong was it, anyway? Let's see, we had/have a scenario involving a byzantine, secretive institution. Protection of the institution and its "made men" were Jobs 1 through Infinity. Add to this a code of silence, punishment of those who "ratted out" fellow made men...ah, there are certainly valid grounds for comparison, aren't there? Methinks the episcopal squawking indicated that the barb hit pretty close to home.

The squawking also demonstrated that the Governor was not behaving like the good lay window dressing he was appointed to be. But the good news (well, for them) is that they won't have to worry about barbs from angry laymen like Keating anymore. The compromised likes of Bob Bennett, Leon Panetta, et al, have shown no indication that they will offer the bishops anything other than prominent nameplates and cover. In other words, the ability to say that They Are Concerned And Doing Something About It.

Back to business as usual.

Still, Keating probably should have used a less-controversial, but equally-valid description pulled directly from the Church's history.

"A bunch of Borgia popes without the tiaras" fits even better.

Friday, June 13, 2003

What part of "HELL, NO!" is unclear?

I hate to start sounding like a "South Park"-quoting 12-year old, but what starts running through my head whenever I hear the phrase "liturgical dance" is: "Gay. Super gay. Liberace gay." Not that there's anything wrong with that....

That, and "Time to join the Melkites!"

Now, after clear bans issued by both the Vatican and the American bishops, it looks like the bad performance-art idiocy that is "liturgical dance" will be getting a second look from Our Shepherds™.

Why? Well, why not? Who doesn't want to see chubby dissidents flouncing about in leotards and leg warmers? Nothing says "holy sacrifice of the Mass" quite like dis-habited Sophia-worshipping nuns pirouetting with streamers. No, sir.

When I think "re-presentation of Calvary", I picture this.

And the above is what Our Shepherds™ are going to be considering shortly.

No, the flouncers aren't going to let anything like a clear "No Frickin' Way!" from Rome (or most Catholics) stop them. Not when Our Shepherds™ are so willing to give them a respectful hearing.

Apparently, there's some ambiguity in "No Frickin' Way!" that I, a trained dissembler in the legal arts, have not been able to discern.

But then again, I'm not one of Our Shepherds™. Therein, apparently, lies all the difference.
"Virgil Briggs is back on the air!"

The strep bug is winding its way out of our collective systems. Not too bad, considering.

Now, thanks are in order for those who blogged about recent posts here:

1. To Peppermint Patty and Jim Cork for the piece on the St. Jerome gun raffle flap.

2. To Mark Sullivan and Thomas Fitzpatrick (scroll down to 6/11) for their notices of the piece comparing baseball's rediscovery of tradition with the American church's abandonment of same. Both offer their own thoughts, and are definitely worth your time.

If I've missed anyone, let me know.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

You've got strep!

At least three of the four Prices do, baby Her-ka-lees excepted. The great thing about strep throat is that by the time you have symptoms, you've been contagious for a day or two.

Fun day at the ranch to follow.
"With ice sculptures."

A good WaPo article about the perils of "fantasy" weddings. Comparing my wedding costs to those of the heroine of the piece alone made it worthwhile.

Consider this little stat from the story: "the average wedding these days costs $22,360."

With all due respect to those of you who spent in that range on your wedding--but that's just nuts. Ours took about 18 months to plan, but only cost us $7000. As my wife repeatedly said, "Emily Post is not invited to our wedding." Yes, my parents picked up the open bar tab (which, given our friends and family, was hardly a pittance), as well as the rehearsal dinner bill. But we got the rest, from the invitations to the reception room. If we'd had another $15,000, it would have gone toward the house, not doves, believe me.

I wonder if there's a correlation between ornate weddings and short marriages.

I mean, after the fantasy, there's "only" the routine beat of married life. It makes the wedding seem hard to top.

[Link via Domenico Bettinelli]

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Bet on the shotgun.

Yet another skirmish in the culture wars.

A Canon from the Church of NPR weighs in on a dispute over a Catholic fundraiser that raffles off--eek--a shotgun, in a misleadingly-titled piece called Pitting "Gospel" Against 12-Gauge In Hyattsville. [Quotation marks added by your host for accuracy]

A case study in oily condescension, WaPo columnist Marc Fisher clearly informs the reader, via "BOO" and "APPLAUSE" signs, who is on the side of the angels, and who should be cast into the outer darkness. As is the case in 99% of such columns, he manages to be both smug and invincibly ignorant. I think there's an "autopilot" button for that these days.

Full disclosure: I own a Mossberg Model 500A. Mine ran upwards of $450 by the time I walked out the door of the Depraved Paranoid Death Arsenal For Maladjusted Theocrats (more commonly called a "gun store") in 1993. Anyway, here's the annotated column:

Each year on the Saturday before Father's Day, members of St. Jerome's Catholic Church in Hyattsville join with others from around town for lunch, fellowship, shooting contests and a gun raffle.

The idea is to raise money for kids in Hyattsville who need good sports activities to keep them off the streets and out of gangs.

The nerve of those bastards.

The raffle has drawn bigger crowds and collected more money -- $30,000 in three years -- than your average church fundraiser.

Why can't you have bingo like St. Elvis de Vegas over in Sharpsburg?

But some Catholics in Hyattsville believe that guns and God do not belong in the same building, nor in the same collection basket.

Some Catholics will believe anything. Years of "glitter and construction paper" catechism have that effect.

That's why the people of St. Jerome's parish have been divided for four years. It's why Peggy and Pat Alexander and several others have left the church.

You left the Faith over...a gun raffle. Way to pick up that cross. Care for more brie with that whine? But don't worry, there's more about the inspiring Alexanders.

It's why the Alexanders are not on speaking terms with their neighbor across the street, John Aquilino, who came up with the gun raffle. And it's why even the cardinal has sought to draw lines between the need for money and the demands of faith.

"It's pretty painful," says Peggy Alexander, who now worships over at the Episcopal church. "To be 52 and a lifelong Catholic and to feel so betrayed by the church that you've grown up in -- it's hard."

Our mustache-twisting villain enters, stage right.

Unlike our remarkably uncurious columnist, I have a question for the models of heroic sanctity that go by the name of Pat-n-Peg Alexander: I could be wrong, being unfamiliar with the layout of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, but I was under the impression--perhaps mistaken, mind you--that it had more than one parish. Please excuse the following blog hiatus: I'll be going away now to do some difficult and arcane research.

OK, I'm back.

I am pleased to report that there appear to be upwards of three or four parishes in the Archdiocese. Whew. I have to take a nap after that. "Moo goo gai pan. I'm beat."


It's even more "painful" suffering through the half-assed rationalizations of spiritual nimrods, let me tell you. Something does not compute.

Aquilino sees no spiritual issue here. He knows that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, favors gun control, but Aquilino sees that as the position of a member of the church hierarchy, not of the faith itself.

Which, "sadly," makes our dastardly villain 100% correct. On both counts.

Aquilino set out to do something about the tattered uniforms of Catholic Youth Organization sports teams. An ordinary raffle might raise $100.


But Hyattsville is not far from the Prince George's County Trap and Skeet Center, where gun enthusiasts practice and take lessons.

Read: Maryland Militia & Domestic Terrorist Training Centre.

A fundraiser there, with a gun giveaway, might get the kids the support they need.

Aquilino is also a gun activist, prominent in groups that campaign for gun rights. But he says he sought only to help the neighborhood children.

"We just want to raise money and have fun," he says. "My 77-year-old mother shot a shotgun at our event last year for the first time in her life, and she loved it. This is for people who enjoy firearms. I get a kick out of them. They're very calming."

Sure you do. Fascist. You're just waiting for the right moment for you and all your right-wing Christian Nazi gun buddies to rise up, slaughter Congress, and impose a theocracy where uppity womyn get turned into fetus incubators. But you're not fooling me: I've read The Handmaid's Tale.

BTW, Mr. Aquilino, way to rat out your mom. Next time she flies, the TSA will have her on the Mandatory Body Cavity Search list.

Aquilino knew that some parishioners were appalled by the use of guns to raise money for church activities. In 2001, 14 members of St. Jerome's asked the cardinal to intercede because the church accepted money raised at the skeet shoot, which their pastor, the Rev. James Stack, had said "was neither illegal nor immoral."

Of course, the Cardinal was rather nonplussed because the protesters were already Episcopalians, but hey...

Wonder of Wonders note: the pastor was 100% correct.

Stack had told Aquilino's group that it couldn't use St. Jerome's name in connection with the gun raffle. So Aquilino and friends created the independent Catholic Sportsmen's Organization, which donated money from the gun event to parish activities.

"In this urban area, it is not appropriate for church-sponsored groups to be giving away guns," the letter to the cardinal said.

The cardinal decided that the sportsmen's group could raise money for St. Jerome's only if the events are not "related in any way to the use or sale of guns."

"Urban area"--well, you know how "those people" are with guns...

The priest's compromise--refusing name association with the parish--was probably correct under these circumstances, and a reasonable compromise. But the cardinal's cave was ridiculous. Something tells me that this kind of flyspecking doesn't happen with other sources of funds. Like, say, Catholic Bob the Party Store owner, who sells more copies of Juggs per annum than anyone else in the entire state. They're on the rack right next to the icon of the Sacred Heart.

But, guns and The Enthusiasts Who Own Them are way way ickier than that.

But that didn't settle the issue. Even if formal ties between the sportsmen's group and St. Jerome's were cut, gun opponents say the link remains strong. Sportsmen's group members wear T-shirts with gun images to church events.

Much worse than the Mudvayne shirt and flipflops the critics' kids wore to Mass last week.

And St. Jerome's activities still accept money from the sportsmen, who say they only give the church funds raised from non-gun events.

Can't take 'em at their word, though. They killed Bambi's mom!

How the church separates itself from the gun group hardly matters. What divides St. Jerome's is the larger issue -- whether those who believe in the church's rejection of the gun culture can coexist with those who say they can be good Catholics and still enjoy guns.

The Church hasn't "rejected" your caricature of the "gun culture," Canon Fisher. It doesn't deny the right to legitimate ownership. Sorry to inform you, but good Catholics can indeed enjoy gun ownership. They can even enjoy the Washington Post. Granted, they'll have to skip some columns, but it's doable.

"We're not looking for a fight with the church," Aquilino says. "But this smacks of the same sort of intolerance and prejudice that racism is built from."

OK, John, don't whine. America has enough people queued up for designation as an Official Victim. Bear up, shrug, be a man about it, and ignore the slings and arrows.

No, says Alexander, "it's a moral issue. It's about putting more guns out on the street. It's against the life-affirming doctrine that the Catholic Church preaches."

But you're an Episcopalian now....

And so now, in Hyattsville, because some people cannot get beyond their fascination with guns and some people actually believe the words of their faith's commandments, Sunday is a day for staring across a deep divide.

"Anathema sit!" shouts Canon Fisher. Of course, the "fascination" with guns cuts both ways. It's just not acknowledged by the likes of Fisher and the newly-minted Episcopalians. Their fascination is one that regards guns as unstoppable death totems that turn Normal People Like Them into hootin' 'n' hollerin' knuckle-draggers a half-step removed from wearing shrunken heads on a necklace.

People like me.

Memo to columnists: Next time you want to know what the Church teaches, try to avoid consulting with embittered ex-Catholics. I mean, if they actually "believed the words of their faith's commandments," wouldn't they still be Catholic? These little omissions tend to skew the story a tad. Unless that's the idea.

[Thanks to Greg Krehbiel for the link]

Monday, June 09, 2003

Methinks Haloscan is dead.

No links, and this grim message at Haloscan:

This Account Has Been Suspended.
Please contact the billing/support department as soon as possible.

That can't be a good sign. Looks like I'll have to go elsewhere. Leave your suggestions in the....

Update: OK, not dead yet. But currently in a lengthy "updating" coma. Should you be able, please post suggestions for alternative comment services. The problems with Haloscan are becoming too frequent.
Jesuits at work.

I have a little secret. Please sit down. You may not have noticed, but I don't like the Jesuits much.

No, really. Here's more:

I like the rotted-out California Jesuits even less. Shocking, I know. But...

There are a lot of good men left in the order, doing a lot of difficult work. Even in California. When they do, they deserve to get noticed. With that in mind, I bring you the story of Fr. Gregory Boyle, S.J., who has spent the last two decades trying to reclaim the lives of L.A. gang members. Now, he's been diagnosed with leukemia, which he describes as "inching towards remission." Here's an excerpt that describes his background and a typical day at the office:

The Los Angeles native of Irish descent first met suspicion from gang members but eventually won their respect and trust after he persistently sought them out, riding his bike through the Boyle Heights housing projects. He learned not only fluent Spanish but their slang, mastered the intricacies of gang life and showed them what he calls his principle of "no matter whatness" -- "No matter how bad it gets, you never withdraw love."

When the public schools kicked the gangbangers out, Boyle started a school for them. When they told him that jobs would help keep them from gangs, he sent 100 parish ladies into the streets to solicit jobs from local businesses. When they began to call him "G-dog" -- these days shortened to "G" -- he knew he'd won their trust.

Angel Juarez, 23, said news about Boyle made some homies question God's fairness. "God knows who's good and bad -- Why him?" asked Juarez, who credits Boyle with turning him from drugs, booze and crime to a stable life of faith, family and honest work.

"I just trust in God to keep him safe and heal him," said Juarez, who was shot in the head in 1996 and now works from a wheelchair in Boyle's office. "I just keep on praying for him."

Despite two difficult rounds of chemotherapy, Boyle looked fit and surprisingly energetic during a visit this week to his busy office on 1st Street. A steady stream of young men, parents and friends stopped by to remove tattoos, apply for jobs, seek advice about wayward sons and plan tonight's event. As Boyle spoke, his eyes darted constantly, ever watchful for any sign of skirmishes among visitors and the former enemies now working side by side.

"Cesar, you have to work immediately the minute you get here," he told one youth. Another walked into his office, fuming that his bike had just been ripped off, then returned shortly later to announce that it had been found. Boyle stopped him:

"As long as you got the bike, you don't get the kid, OK? It's settled, right?" The youth nodded his head in assent.

RTWT. Plus, look for the interesting nugget that gives some insight into Martin Sheen, often pegged as a "spirit of V2"-type.

[Link via Envoy Encore]
Creeping Restorationism?

Maybe, but it's all-but imperceptible in most places.

Amy Welborn links to this cheering article about a Connecticut parish going the extra mile(s) to preserve Catholic tradition. The parishioners had a 16.5 ton marble high altar moved and installed at their church, to the delight of those in their 20s and their 60s.

Thank God for anonymous donors, one of whom essentially footed the bill for the project. Another local priest is quoted as saying this is part of a trend:

Renovations like those at St. Mary's are part of a wider movement in the Catholic Church, according to the Rev. Gregoire Fluet, pastor of St. Bridget of Kildare in Moodus. A return to classical styles of architecture and decoration in the churches coincides with a renewed emphasis on the “otherworldliness and mystery” of faith, Fluet said.

“There is an effort to bring a certain sense of mysticism back to Catholic worship,” Fluet said. “I think in the '60s the emphasis was more on the here and now. But people look to religion to point them to truths beyond the here and now.”

The work at St. Mary is more than superficial, Fluet said. “It's a rediscovery of our roots.”

It looks magnificent. Unfortunately, I don't agree that there's any real restoration momentum yet. Perhaps among some parishes. Ours, for example, has seen something along these lines: the commissioning and placing of an icon of the martyred saint for whom our church is named, the purchase of a statute of St. Joseph, and institution of the Divine Mercy chaplet (by a guy in his mid-30s). There's also a growing clamor for kneelers, which is increasingly likely to be successful, now that kneeling is being enforced.

But I certainly don't think such is the case at the diocesan level. To use a sports analogy (me?), the bishops are too enamored with the spartan Pontiac Silverdome/Busch Stadium/New Comiskey multipurpose style to let it go.

This week, centering prayer. Next week, a gathering of municipal officials for a conference. The week following: car-crushing monster truck action. (ACTIONACTIOnACTIonACTionACtion.....)

All right, fine. Maybe not number 3. At least not yet.

Meanwhile, much of secular architecture is trying to reclaim a treasured past, which can be seen both in sports (e.g., Camden Yards, Comerica Park) and in urban design (the movement to recreate "downtowns" in suburbia). There's a recognition that identity has been lost, and with it, our moorings. Which is partially the reason why the generic Silverdome (like the Kingdome and Astrodome before it) has a date with a wrecking ball. They were bloated convention centers first, and sports venues second. And the people could tell the difference. Contrast the unlamented 'Dome with Ford Field, which deliberately incorporates Detroit's industrial tradition, going so far as to close off a street and use the warehouse wall across that street as part of the structure.

But first and foremost, Ford Field is a great place to watch football. As is Comerica Park a great place to watch baseball. Why? In large measure, because tradition was remembered, reclaimed, and applied to new settings. Comerica Park is a ball park, and one that remembers and honors the past, complete with statues of Tiger heroes. It's not flawless, but there is an obvious recognition that fans have a living connection to the past, even if they never saw the games "their" heroes played. I never saw Hal Newhouser throw a pitch, but I can vigorously defend his induction into the Hall of Fame. The Park says: "You, like millions before you, are part of the living tradition of Tiger baseball." [No matter how wretched it's been lately.]

This should be the idea in every non-expansion sports venue, but it's odd how often that simple premise got lost.

Which is too often the case in church architecture. Ultimately, what is the church building for? Lord knows the Archdiocese of Detroit didn't get a restoration memo when Blessed Pipe Organ--er, Sacrament--Cathedral got the by-now obligatory renovation. The overall effect is as though someone put a spoiler, blower and Firebird decal from a '78 Trans-Am on a Bentley. IOW, you immediately notice the additions, right down to the easily-moved seating. Moreover, the Archdiocese is positively giddy about the Cathedral's multipurpose possibilities as a hospitality center. Which is odd, given the fact Detroit has a superb de facto convention center.

And you thought it was a domus dei. Silly layman....Not that it's all bad, of course--some real, welcome and necessary improvements have been made. But much of the connection with the past was severed in the "forward" movement's changes. The stained glass (beautifully restored) is the only obvious connection left.

And don't get me started on L'Edifice Mahony, where the most-overtly traditional touches are placed with the entombed. Subtle. Not to mention Milwaukee's homage to Abp. Weakland (and perhaps Space Ghost), itself another multiuse venue.

In a way, it figures: when the Church mistakenly tries to stay with the times, it ambles along about 30 years behind. Architecturally speaking, it's wearing a bauhaus leisure suit--Proudly. In a country where people are seeking identity, the Church decided to downplay its own. Here's hoping that the tentative moves towards the reawakening of the Catholic identity here in the States start percolating upwards before the moment passes.
Another #$^%! Quiz.

But this is a good one. Not to mention dead-on accurate:

You are 35% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.

Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.

You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You'll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!

Geek [to You]: I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!

You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at

Friday, June 06, 2003

This one's pretty obvious.

American Flag
United States Of America -
The most well-renowned country in modern day times.
The militaristic superpower, the United States
of America are also known as the bossiest


Known Worldwide.

A Beacon to Others.


Fast Food.



Despised by Most Others.


Which Country of the World are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Notice that the quiz was generated by a limey/Aussie/kiwi? The clue is found in the phrasing "the United States are...."

Americans (and more often than not Canadians) refer to the United States in the singular, not the plural. Such has been the case since the first generation after the Civil War.
Geek quiz time.

I used to collect X-Men comic books. Sue me.

professor x
You are Professor X!

You are a very effective teacher, and you are very
committed to those who learn from you. You put
your all into everything you do, to some extent
because you fear failure more than anything
else. You are always seeking self-improvement,
even in areas where there is nothing you can do
to improve.

Which X-Men character are you most like?
brought to you by Quizilla

"Where are the men?"

asks Juliana Bogle. She has some interesting thoughts:

You will see some young dads with families. You will see some small boys. But once a lad gets to about 12 or 13, and is of an age to protest and to exert his own ability to refuse to cooperate in some family activity, then Sunday Mass is definitely off his agenda.

Why is this? Take a look at your parish liturgy. Often it is very female-oriented. Most of the readers at Mass are women. Most of the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are women. Probably most of the altar servers are girls. This used to be the one area that boys could claim, but now many — maybe most — parishes have girls, which naturally means that boys think that serving Mass is girlie and so they swiftly disappear.

Most of the hymns are pitched for female voices and often are led by a woman at a microphone. If there is a folk group with recorders, guitars and flutes, it will consist mostly of girls. A boy who offered to play the recorder for Mass would be regarded, in teenage parlance, as sad.

Ms. Bogle also offers some interesting solutions, which would no doubt get pitched into the circular file at most parishes. It's worth a read.

And it's nice to know that it's not just me, either.
Better Late Than Never Dep't.

The Catholic bishops of Illinois finally get around to criticizing the insanely-popular "Left Behind" series for the drivel it is.

Co-author Tim LaHaye responds: "Some of my best friends are Catholic!"

Although the critique appears to be slightly whiny (playing the victim), it seems pretty solid, to the extent it is described in the article.

The series also chalked up another black mark in my eyes: the anti-christ character's middle name is "Jetty." Good Lord. What--was "Bucky" already taken? On that note, this would be a good time to refer you to Rod Dreher's hilarious review of the first "Left Behind" film, "Do Fake Boobs Go To Heaven?" While I'm at it, here's Rod's article pointing out the fact the pre-trib rapture folks follow a decided minority view in Christendom.

The key to understanding that LaHaye is indeed an anti-Catholic is his nonfiction work, which is Hislopian in its paranoia and halfwit "scholarship."

Still, there are certainly plenty of anti-Catholic jibes in the work, done sotto voce. Full disclosure: I occasionally take a gander at them in the bookstore, in all their wide-margined, triple-spaced glory. [The series was originally only supposed to be seven volumes in length, but the sales volume persuaded the publisher to persuade LaHaye to stretch it out a bit--to 12 books. At this point, you can raise marlin in this "milk."]

The first is the reference to Il Papa being raptured. But this only happened because the Pope had become a "faith alone" spouting evangelical. Note the deft subtlety with which the authors brain the reader on that point.

"See? See? Get it?--even the Pope--Understand, this is the Pope!--can get raptured--Get it?--if he's not really Catholic!--See? Now we move on to another "As you know, Bob..." expository scene where one of our heroes explains how we see the Book of Daniel being played out in the pages of the Washington Post...."

Another masterpiece of understated allusion that leapt out was a scene depicting a crowd of the anti-faithful, waiting in line to see the sorta-resurrected A-C. The wait is lengthy, and there's a statue of Jetty Whiplash in the square. Instead of continuing to wait in the interminable line, one of the anti-faithful suggests worshipping the statue as a substitute, which is regarded as a capital idea by sidekick Evil Bert (or whoever). The narrative (I'm being generous here) carefully notes that the suggester is Mexican.

"You know those Catholic Mexicans and their statues--they're just a half-step from restarting human sacrifice without The Gospel™, and they'll fall like ten pins for the Beast." Don't you be one of 'em, my little brown brother!"

The beat goes on. The only good news about the series is that there's only one book left to go. In any event, it's nice to see the Bishops worry about truly problematic popular religious culture. As opposed to, say, kvetching about unseen movies intended to faithfully depict the Gospels.

[Link via Amy Welborn]

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Thank you, gentlemen!

To Dom Bettinelli at Off the Record for highlighting my post about the weird goings-on at the German religious conference back on June 3rd.

Also, to Thomas Fitzpatrick for noting fun had at Barry Manilow's expense [scroll down to "LOL" for the June 5 posts].
Saints: Holy. Virtuous. Violent.

Fr. Sibley's asking for examples of saints who opened cans of whup-ass. [Scroll down to "Behind-Kicking Saints" in the June 5 postings--permalinks on the fritz]

Sts. Gabriel Possenti and Louis de Montfort come immediately to mind. St. Gabriel for his handgun artistry and St. Louis for his cleaning out of a saloon full of hecklers who were disturbing his outdoor mass (check Fr. Sibley's archives for 4/28/03).

Feel free to join the fray.
For seriously mas****stic fans only.

I bring you the Detroit Tigers weblog! If you aren't a Tigers fan, there are plenty of links to other baseball weblogs at the site.

Mirable dictu: The CoPa Kitties aren't dead last in MLB anymore, passing that honor on to the somehow more hapless Padres, whom they beat on Wednesday night.

We're No. 29! We're No. 29! We're No. 29!

[****--"What's up with that?" you may ask. Think "Google" and you'll understand. There's just some folks I don't want hanging around.]
It ain't necessarily Sosa.

The rest of Sammy's bats came up cork-free. Given the fact the 76 bats in question were actually confiscated from the Wrigley locker room "several innings" after the bat broke, it isn't exactly the clear exoneration I'd hoped for, but I'll take it.

George Will has weighed in, and he thinks the x-ray findings are significant. He also recounts an anecdote about the late Bart Giamatti that's worth reading.

Update: Two more Sosa bats pass the test, although one didn't survive the process.

Why do I care? No, I'm not a Cubs fan, and I'm even less enamored with Cubs fandom, over-represented by atmosphere-hungry yuppies content with mediocrity.

But I do like Sosa, who has been a fine ambassador for a game that desperately needs Good Guys. He's been a 21st Century Ernie Banks, and I don't want him turning into a 21st Century Black Sock. So far, so good.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

"Say it ain't Sosa."

ESPN's rather clever title for its coverage of the corked bat fiasco involving the Cubs' first baseman.

Here's a story describing the previous offenders, including Royals all-star Amos Otis, who admitted to doctoring his bat with superballs.

Ironic Fun Fact: The crew chief who ejected Sosa, Tim McClelland, was also the umpire who disallowed George Brett's home run in the infamous "pine tar" incident in 1983.
A real "man bites dog" story.

Progressive Catholics are on the receiving end of a church renovation fight in the Diocese of Arlington. And, wonder of wonders, I feel a twinge of sympathy for them. Usually, the shoe's on the other foot: Traditional Catholics are presented with the fait accompli of a dessicated, antiseptic "worship space" disconnected from the past, where the now-embittered parishoners can gather to try to celebrate themselves.

Fair's fair, and it can't be fun to be the progressives in this case.

But it's just a twinge of sympathy. In this case, nothing is being hauled off to a dumpster, whitewashed over, or tossed into a closet--at least nothing that's the subject of protest. In fact, it sounds magnificent:

Two years ago, Cregan appointed a design committee to explore ways it could be remodeled to conform with new directives from Rome on church architecture. He held meetings with parishioners to discuss changes and got, he says, "loads of input."

In the end, he decided to move the tiny room that houses the tabernacle -- the container that holds the Eucharist wafers -- to a new chapel behind the altar. That chapel will be decorated with carved wood and etched glass depicting biblical scenes. An Italian artisan will carve the tabernacle and apply 24-karat gold leaf to it. The floor around the altar will be paved in 800 square feet of rose marble and topped with a new stone-and-wood altar, pulpit and priest's chair. A new Blessed Mother statue will join the hand-carved Stations of the Cross in the sanctuary.

Cregan says he hopes to impart a sense of holiness to the church.

"When you come into the church, you should feel that you're stepping outside of the world and into a sacred space where you are drawn into a connection with God," Cregan said.

The article is a reasonably fair overview, correctly putting the story in a larger context, and is worth a read.

[Link via Catholic Light]

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Updated Links.

Are over a little yonder to the left. I'm still working on them as time permits. Do not take omission as a sign of disfavor.

"The Drink of Democracy."

This one's on me.

Finally, an historical essay that resonates with our times: Beer and America.

It's long, but worth it. Here's a couple of glasses from the hospitality room:

In the history of American beer, the modern period begins on the spring day in 1882 when the short-lived American Association of baseball teams opened for business. The establishment-leaning National League, aiming for a tonier clientele, had recently doubled ticket prices and banned gambling, Sunday playing, and—most important—beer. Franchise owners in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and other brewing centers refused to accept the new rules and seceded from the league. Several of them were brewers themselves, and they had learned to count on a sizable increase in collective thirst on home-game days. So, banding together, they formed the American Association. Dubbed the Beer and Whiskey League by the competition, it scorned the toffs and made its pitch directly to the average workingman, keeping the ticket price an affordable 25 cents, playing on the Sabbath, his only day off, and serving what had already become his signature drink.

Though there were strange days ahead for the mostly German-born beer barons, here, in this heady mix of beer, baseball, and fun, were most of the elements that would come to define beer’s role in the American living room and the American imagination: its connection to sports and other places men go to escape and to bond; its connection to leisure, especially of the American working class; and its implicitly rebellious, nose-thumbing attitude toward the tastes and rules of social “betters” and other authority figures.

There's also an interesting note on how beer was promoted as an alternative to hard liquor by some of the Founding Fathers:

The second reason for the promotion of beer was a desire to wean Americans away from their taste for the hard stuff —“temperance” in its original sense, before it was redefined by evangelical reformers several decades later as a synonym for abstinence. Both reasons were cited by the newly arrived Joseph Coppinger, who in 1810 petitioned President Madison to establish a national brewery in Washington, D.C.: “As a National object it has in my view the greatest importance as it would unquestionably tend to improve the quality of our Malt liquors in every point of the Union. And serve to counter act the baneful influence of ardent spirits on the health and Morals of our fellow Citizens.” Madison passed the letter on to Jefferson, who had recently begun experimenting with home brewing for the needs of Monticello (a job he assigned to Peter Hemings, the brother of Sally). Jefferson replied: “I have no doubt, either in a moral or economical view, of the desirableness to introduce a taste for malt liquors instead of that for ardent spirits… .


Preferably with a tall cold one.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Speaking of Anti-Semitism...

Here's an example of the real thing--in a large circulation, previously respectable American newspaper, no less.

The Chicago Trib's cartoon would not have been even slightly out of place in a Julius Streicher production.

Where the hell were the editors? Wasn't there anyone who walked up to the cartoonist and said, "Uh, Dick, I think there might be a problem with your premise here. You know: the idea that Jews are just hook-nosed opportunists motivated only by money. Yeah. It's been done before. A lot. By people we don't really want the Trib to be associated with. No, no--not Republicans. Even worse than that..."

Instead it goes straight to publication. Amazing.

That we live in times where this sort of thing is becoming respectable again is unnerving.
"Now is ze time on Schprockets ven ve cringe."

Or, "Weirdness in Germany."

Fine--so the second one's redundant. Witness this shot, taken at an ostensibly religious gathering in Deutschland.

Ooookaaay. Couldn't find an actual real live habited nun to go walking about? Dieteresque, indeed. [Thanks to Amy Welborn for the link and Dieter reference--scroll way down to May 30]

"'Sister Barbara', your presence intimidates me to the point of humiliation. Would you care to strike me?"

Ironically enough, the song "Weird Nun" was featured during one of the "Sprockets" sketches.
Got badly sunburnt yesterday.

But it was worth it. Me and one of my best homies (nothin' but love for ya--you know who you are, dog!) watched Rocket Roger Clemens blow his second opportunity to win 300 games Sunday at the CoPa. Clemens had a 7-1 lead against the Toledo MudHens' major league affiliate, which seemed like a pretty sure bet for history. Homes is a diehard BoSox fan, and consequently was of mixed feelings regarding the possibility of seeing history.

[What follows is a paraphrase of our conversation, colored by sunstroke and a Budweiser whose cost put a dent in the kids' college fund, shortly after the Motor City Kitties went down 7-1]

Me: "Looks like Roger's got 300."

Homes: "Roger's mental. If the Tigers put a couple over the plate, he could easily blow it."

Me: "Ahhh. OK. [Slurps beer]"

Sure enough, Detroit put a couple over the plate, which turned into five, and an inning later the possibility of witnessing history was history.

I was still a part of the largest crowd in CoPa history, though.

Did the Tigers win? Oh, come on. They won Saturday. Detroit doesn't do winning streaks.

And it's November.

  I look forward to making some kind of effigy of 2022 and setting it on fire on December 31.  Things have steadified, to coin a term. My so...