Tuesday, December 31, 2002

MORE ON CLONING
Matt Ridley writes that the Raellian clone could be reproductive techonlogy's Chernobyl:

Against these benefits, the disaster of one sick child produced by the premature use of reproductive cloning might seem to be a small setback. But public debate does not work that way. It takes benefits for granted and makes a massive fuss of costs. The principal victim of the backlash to Eve will be stem-cell research.

Of course this cuts both ways. Cloning's advocates rarely admit that cloning might not produce great benefits, or that other less troubling avenues of research could produce the same benefits.
REPRODUCTIVE vs. THERAPUTIC
With the latest cloning news, lots of folks are once again coming out saying that they would never favor reproductive cloning like the Raelians claim to have accomplished, but they support theraputic cloning. This is an easy position to take when the face of reproductive cloning is the Raelians, and the face of theraputic cloning is cuddly celebrities and kids with horrible diseases.

But as Will Saletan points out, this is a logically ridiculous position:

The first cloned baby—Eve or whoever comes after her—won't be fertilized. If fertilization is a prerequisite to humanity, as Hatch and Feinstein suggest, that baby will never be human. You can press the pillow over her face and walk away.

If Hatch and Feinstein don't want to live in that world, they'd better find another way to explain why it's OK to clone a human embryo to give it death but not to give it life.

I responded on the Fray. My prediction is that this "theraputic but not reproductive" argument will continue to be discredited, especially if there are any successful cases of thereaputic cloning.

It's an interesting irony. Thereaputic cloning and reporductive cloning come from the same technology, yet their futures are diametrically opposed. The success of one will likely mean the failure of the other. Given the choice, I'll root for reproductive cloning, which would likely be used less, and at least doesn't doom the embryos.

I'm not excited about either one, though.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Merry Christmas, everyone! As a special gift, I think I've finally repaired my archives!

Friday, December 20, 2002

PRO-LIFE OR PRO SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS?
Amy Welborn applauds a monsignor's decision to keep Governor Davis from playing Santa at a Catholic children's home since he is pro-choice.

You know, this is the type of thing that gives us pro-lifers such a bad name. Is it good that Gray Davis is pro-choice? No. Does that mean we can't work with him on other things? Absolutely not! This isn't a case of having Anna Quindlen or some other pro-choice advocate doing a commencement speech at college graduation. This is a chance for kids to meet the governor and get some gifts. But no! We must stand in our self-righteousness and pat ourselves on the back about how we told Gov. Davis what he can do with his pro-choice views! We'll show him!

And that's really all they're doing. It's not like this little stunt has any chance of changing Gov. Davis's views on abortion. This is an exercise in cheerleading that will not save one unborn child from abortion.

There's something really distasteful about using children as the battleground for adult discussions. I can't help but think there would be better ways to let Gov. Davis know that we think he's wrong on abortion. Maybe ask him some tough questions about his position while he was there. Maybe organize protestors at the home.

I also have to ask we're truly following the example of Jesus, who dined with taxpayers and prostitutes. Did Jesus make these people sign a letter promising to amend their ways before He would let them into His life? I don't think so.

Instead, we look like a bunch of self-righteous prigs willing to ruin poor children's Christmas in order to grab a few headlines for our cause. I hope and pray that we're better than that.

UPDATE: Amy has written me that she did not mean to "applaud" the monsignor's action, just point it out to her readers. I apologize for the mischaracterization.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

WHO NEEDS A CROSS?
For a while now, Mark Shea's been writing that the Holy Father has kept Law and others in their positions in part so that they are forced to endure the suffering and shame of the scandals, and that that is their cross to bear. Some have replied that the rest of the American Church has had to suffer because of this as well, and that's not fair. Mark answers that the blame for the scandals is not wholly on the bishops, so it's appropriate for us to shoulder our share as well.

I agree with the sentiment, but I think it misses an important point. Even if only the hierarchy were to blame, it would still be appropriate for the rest of the American Church to take up its cross for redemption. Our salvation was earned through the suffering and death of one who was utterly and completely blameless -- Jesus! What makes us think we should somehow be immune from suffering?

In a way, these arguments prove Mark's point -- our culture never sees suffering as a redemptive act, only as punishment for those who did wrong. How quickly we forget who we are, and how our salvation was earned!

Friday, December 06, 2002

THE TIMES, IT IS A CHANGIN'
Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, and Jack Shafer, among others, have been documenting the New York Times's transformation from the "paper of record" to a publication out to pursue whatever crusades Howell Raines wants them to.

First of all, Howell Raines can run the paper anyway he and the other folks in charge of NYT want to. If they want to devote the paper to pressuring folks to do their bidding, that's their perogative. The market will decide if that's a viable direction.

Of course if that's what they want to do, it's important that we know what's going on, which is why it's appropriate for Kaus and Sullivan to point it out loudly and often. What I think bugs Kaus and Sullivan so much is that Raines is borrowing from NYT's repuation as the "paper of record" to advance an agenda. The price for doing this is damage to the reputation, which is what's happening now.

It occurs to me that this opens up the possibility for another publication to fill the void NYT is leaving. Who is positioned to do that? Of the top of my head, I can think of the Washington Post and the USA Today. One way these papers could differentiate themselves would be to eliminate unsigned editorials.

Or maybe not. Maybe changes in the news marketplace have made the concept of a "paper of record" obsolete. Maybe NYT's shift isn't a result of Raines getting out of control, but a savvy business decision, and there's a bigger market for people wanting to look down their noses at Hootie Johnson than reading balanced news coverage.

It seems unlikely that when future generations study early 21st Century history, they will be poring over microfilms of editions of the New York Times. They might look at them, but they'll also look at TV news, magazines, and maybe even web logs. So maybe the days of the New York Times, or any other publication being the "paper of record" are long gone.
A LETTER WRITER GETS IT!
A writer to Andrew Sullivan's webiste hilights one of my pet peeves about bloggers in general and Sullivan in particular -- using "gets it" as a synonym for "agrees with me." The writer is correct -- this device betrays an unseemly arrogance. This was used a lot in regards to the Catholic Church scandals, and I'd be happy to see it not used again.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

POSITIVE FEEDBACK
I actually corrected my spelling in reponse to an a Nihil Obstat post. While I could think of better uses of time than pointing out my many typos, that feeling is tempered with the flattery that someone is bothering to see if I've written anything, despite my sparse posting lately. Or maybe I'm just a rich source of material for him or her. I'm not going back to fix the archives, though...

I do have to figure out why my links aren't working...

Monday, December 02, 2002

GO HOME, OSBOURNES (AND DON'T TAKE THE CAMERAS WITH YOU)!
Am I the only one who is ready for the Osbournes to go away? I watched the show a few times last year, and it was amusing to see how they (dys)function. But now it seems every awards ceremony is punctuated by an Osbourne sighting, and they're all over everything. I'm tired of them, and wasn't aware that yelling at the other people in your family was such a marketable talent.

I'm predicting that the Osbournes themselves will be much more self-conscious this season now that they're all celebrities, and the show's ratings will plummet, and there won't be a third season.

Or maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Thursday, November 07, 2002

SMOKE THIS!
Missouri voters rejected a huge tax on ciggarettes on Tuesday. I'm glad.

To dispense with one of the arguments against, I don't buy the whole "persecuted smoker" thing. Smokers engage in a disgusting activity, routinely litter everyplace they go, and at the least make it unpleasant to breathe and at worst cause helath problems for others. So my sympathy for smokers is limited at best.

Still, there was a mean-spiritedness to the campaign for this amendment. There was an ad running that flatly said that those who oppose the amendment "don't care" about the illnesses smoking causes.. They made it seem that opposing this bill was tnatamount to doing nothing while your teenage child started smoking. That didn't impress me.

Second, and this was not something they advertised, these funds could be a back door around the ban against using state funds for organizations that perform abortions. Since these wouldn't be regular apporpriations, they aren't subject to the ban.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch doesn't mention this concern in its write-up, but of course it assumes that everyone's pro-choice anyway. It makes excuses about the lack of time and a vague "voter mistrust." Never mind that supporters spent about 40 times as much as opposers. The Post-Dispatch makes it seem like those in favor of the proposition were the plucky underdogs fighting impossible odds.

Here's a question -- wouldn't the $4 million spent supporting this campaign been better spent on supporting the health care issues these supporters claim to care so much about?
BLOG INFATUATION
I think the readers' relationship to a blog goes through phases similar to what we go through in our personal social interactions.

When we first meet a person, we usually do so under more flattering circumstances. People are putting their best foot forward, and trying to make a good impression.

When you think about it, our first interaction with a blog is similar. We see a link from MegaPundit that says, "Great takedown of Marty McBlowhard here." We think, hey, it's about time someone told McBlowhard where to get off and follow the link. We start reading, and think that the writer must be some sort of undiscovered genius for all this time. Of course, this is likely one of this blogger's better pieces, since it was chosen to be linked by MegaPundit, and we followed the link mostly because we agreed with the summary.

So we start visiting the site daily, and eventually the writer will say something we disagee with. That's fine. But then she'll use the same rhetorical tactics against some cause we believe in that she used in her takedown of Marty McBlowhard, and we won't think it's so clever anymore. In the meantime, we'll see a link to a takedown of Wendy Windbag, who we dislike even more than Marty McBlowhard, and read him for a few days.

I think this pattern applies even to our own writing sometimes, which is why some blogs (including this one) flicker out after a while. Sometime we get tired of sound of our own voices, and stop thinking our perspective is all that unique.



Thursday, October 24, 2002

WALK? I'LL DECLINE
Rob Neyer and Hugo Lindgren both lament the many intentional walks issued to Barry Bonds, and the lack of any way outlaw them.

Maybe baseball can borrow an idea from football -- allow the batter to decline a walk. I suppose is a pitcher was really determined not to deail with a hitter it would get boring, but the pitcher would wear himself out throwing that many pitches.

Maybe that's when Neyer's idea could come into play -- if a pticher throws 8 balls, the batter could be awarded 2 bases, 3 bases for 12, and all the way around for 16. Sure, it would be strange to hear of a 7-1 count, but in practice it would rarely happen.
SORRY FOR THE LACK OF POSTS
Been a stressful time at work, and have been resting in the few spare momets I've had.

Anyway, I'm not quitting, just haven't had time to post anything. Hopefully, that will get better.

Interesting that my hit counts don't seem to have trailed off. Maybe that should tell me something...

Thursday, October 03, 2002

GOSPEL OF LIFE
Kevin Miller demonstrates how capital punishment, especially as practiced in the US, is incompatible with both The Gospel of Life and the catechism.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

LOVELY DAY FOR A COMMENT WAR
I'm involved in a discussion in response to this Amy Welborn post about the bishops' appeal to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to cancel an execution for this morning.

It continues to amaze me how many Catholics want to hold impromptu excommunication sessions for anyone who expresses the slightest distance from the Church's teachings in sexual morality, and say that their "dissent" is the reson why we have secaula abuse scandals, but at the same time talk themselves in knots about how they need not join in with the pope's unambuiguous opposition to capital punishment. (I should not that I'm not aware of any of my adversaries in the debate calling for anyone's excommunication, so this criticism may not apply to them).

It also continues to amaze me how any Catholic could defend capital punshment as implmented here in the US. It's pretty much a lottery -- if you kill someone in an identified group (police officers, racial minorites), or your case is significantly high profile, you might get the death penalty. But you might not. If you kill someone with no advocate, you probably won't. The argument that capital punshment somehow affirms our respect for life is absurd. If we executed all murderers, there might be some merit to this argument. But executing only selected murderers sends the message that some lives are more valuable than others, which is the direct antithesis of any "respect for life" argument.

Because if we say that some lives are more valuable than others, then how do we answer the mother who says that the life of her six-year old daughter with cystic fibrosis is more valuable than tiny embryos that may have to be destroyed to find a cure for her? We can't very well say, "all human life is sacred," because we just said that some are more valuable than others. So, having established that, how do we then tell a mother that her daughter is not more valuable than an embryo that may never be born?

The pope and the Church's arguments against the death penalty and all assaults against human life are quite simple: All people are God's creation, made in His own image and likeness. Destroying human life is thus offensive to God, and violates Jesus's command to love our neighbor. Nobody has directly confronted John Paul II's words, but try to find justification for their views in centuries-old documents. Have these folks considered that JPII has probably also read those documnets, and through prayerful reflection and the work of the Holy Spirit, reached a different conclusion?

It's easy to back Church teaching when they only apply to other people. When we're challenged to change it's harder. It's easy to oppose abortion when you will never have an unwanted pregnancy. But it's difficult to oppose the death penalty when it means you may have to reconsider your values, and let go of a desire for vengeance.

As I said in the comment board, I am saddened by every execution, and am ashamed I haven't done more to prevent them. While I look forward to meeting God after death, I do not imagine that I will enjoy the discussion of executions I did not do enough to prevent.
OCTOBER BASEBALL
Andy Petitte ptiches for the Yankees tonight, which means we'll be treated to one of my favorite camera shots in baseball -- from behind home plate we see have a close-up shot of Petttte's face, except all you can see is the brim of his hat. Then he slowly looks up for the sign, and you can see his eyes bearing in on the catcher. Then he starts his delivery.
It's a cool visual, and seems even moreso when the Yanks are in their road grey uniforms. You'll notice that the networks don't use this shot nearly as much for other pitchers.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

ON WEDDINGS AND CELEBRATIONS
I was in Las Vegas this weekend for a wedding in my wife's family (who are not Catholic). This was a high-class affair, and everything was very nice and well done. But it left me thinking some things...

We work so hard and spend so much money to make weddings, baptisms, confirmations, "special." We try so hard to impress others with our great taste. But we forget that these events are special themselves, without any input from us. The only thing we can do is screw it up.

When one of my friends was getting married recently, the advice I gave him is to make things nice enough so that they're not so bad that they're a distraction. If people have to pull out cash to pay for drinks, or the food is cold, or the champagne is flat, or the photographer is rude, that would be distracting.

But when we devote all our time and energy to make things "perfect," we ironically make it more likely that any mistakes or oversights will be magnified. If we keep things simple, and allow the grace and beauty of the sacraments to take center stage, people probably won't notice if the color scheme's a little off or if something's not quite straight. But when we instead make our own decorations or food or whatever the focus, then it's more likely that people will notice what we got wrong.

So my advice to those planning a wedding or a confirmation, or even just a Sunday Mass is to trust the grace of the sacrament. Do enough to eliminate distractions, and then get out of the way so the Holy Spirit can work.

Friday, September 27, 2002

SO MUCH FOR MY PREDICTIONS
Three weeks into the seaon, and already two of my NFL predictions have already proven incorrect. I predicted the Rams would go 14-2, and they've already lost 3 games. I perdicted the Panthers would go 2-14, and they're already 3-0.

Oh well, hope nobody comes here for accurate predictions.
ON COMPASSION
As Christians, our first response to someone's suffereing must be compassion. But what does that mean? It seems a lot of people think that compassion must lead to policy conclusions. For example, if I have compassion for X, I must favor policy Y, designed to favor X. The converse is also sometimes adavanced. If party Z is causing X's suffering, and policy A is designed to punsh party Z, then if I don't favor policy A, then I must lack compassion for X.

I reject both premises.

  • One can have compassion for victims of crime without favoring the death penalty.
  • One can have compassion for prisoners, and still think that prison is the right place for them.
  • One can have compassion for the poor, and not support the expansion of government welfare.
  • One can have compassion for Iraqi civilians hurt by the sanctions, and still believe the sanctions are neccesary.
  • One can have compassion for pregnant teenagers, and not favor abortion on demand.
  • One can have compassion for victims of priestly sexual abuse, and not favor Zero Tolerance policies.
  • One can have compassion for priests who are having their names dragged through the mud, and still think that publicizing those names is neccesary.
  • One can have compassion for gay Catholics, and not favor same sex marriage in the Church.

Some of these cases are harder than others. For example, it is difficult for me to imagin how one could have compassion for the unborn and favor abortion on demand. Or have compassion for condemned prisoners and still favor the death penalty. It seems like there's a bright line where it's hard to have compassion for people and be in favor of policies that kill them (actually, my Iraqi example may fit that bill -- I'm still discerning).

In any case, it seems like our rhetoric these days is filled with accusations of lack of compassion. Either, that, or expressions of compassion are taken to mean that one favors one policy or another.

Neither need be the case. Compassion is simply "suffering with" those who are suffering. Sometimes through this suffering with, we realize that some policies are unfair and need to change, but not always.

But our first response can just be that simple compassion. The cries for polcy changes can come from that, but not before.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

LOSING AND THE MEDIA
Bill Simmons writes about how today's local sports media can make a disappointing season for a high-profile team, in his case this year's Boston Red Sox, almost unbearable:

With everyone competing for air time and attention, there's an inherent pressure to "up the ante," to come up with "something good," to produce an "angle" that nobody thought of before

There's similar thing going on with this year's St. Louis Rams, I think. I've been avoiding sports talk radio and the sports page for that reason. The Rams of course, are currently 0-3. It's obvious they are not performing up to expectations. But that's boring. We've got to go deeper than that!

So, let's look at this morning's sports page...

And on and on. Does this help a sports fan's enjoyment of the game? Not really, but it does help these columnists get hired when sports talk radio and ESPN and all the pre-game shows do their, "What's wrong with the Rams?" stories.

Everyone's got a theory. Mike Martz's ego is too big. It's Kurt Warner's thumb. They miss Az-Zahir Hakim. Isaac Bruce has lost a step. They need to run the ball more. They need to get back to the free-wheeling stlye they used to have. And on and on..

(Side note: I have my own theory -- it's encapsulated in the fact that Rams' offensive lineman Orlando Pace has his own weekly talk show, and fellow OL Adam Timmermann is often the most quotable Ram. This is a stark contrast to a team like the late 90's Denver Broncos, whose OL's famously refused to talk to the media until the Super Bowl. (They also cheated and tried to injure their opponents, but that's another matter.) Here, the linemen think they're individual stars, but they need to think of themselves as a unit. Football offensive line play, more than any other task in team sports, is something that demands cohesion, the entire squad playing as a unit. The Rams's OL seem to want some of the publicity that gets showered on Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner. But they've forgotten what got them here. Anyway, that, coupled with the quick learning curve of NFL defensive coordinators, is my theory).

Last night, they did not play well, but being realistic, some of that had to do with Marshall Faulk, the best player in the NFL, getting hurt. Two of Warner's interceptions last night were a direct consequence of Faulk's young replacements running different routes than Kurt Warner was expecting. If those interceptions are taken away, we have a different ballgame, one which the Rams probably would have won.

Yes, of course the Bucs dropped some other possible INT's, and you can question Martz for not having someone better to put into that situation.

But my point is that NFL teams are so close to each other that when a team loses the league's best player while on the road against a tough opponent, it should not be surprising that that would be enough to cost them the game.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

STAYING ANGRY
There's been a lot of talk about how whether or not it's appropriate to to show graphic representations of the horror of 9/11 in the media. This has picked up again with the "woman hitting pavement" statue in Rockefeller Center.

On the one side, people say graphic depictions are exploitive of the victims.

The other side is represented by a writer to the Corner, who writes , "Let the statue stay- I want to remain angry." This has been a theme for James Lileks lately. Bring on the graphic images, lest we forget the horror of that day, and let go of our anger.

But you know what? I don't want to "remain angry." Yes, the anger I and others felt and still feel is real and should not be discounted. But it's not pleasant, and it's not what I want to live with for the rest of my life, and I don't think my desire to let go of my anger is some sort of affront to the victims. Our natural anger must run its course, but we don't need artificial reminders to keep our anger at a fever pitch.

Anger is not a destination -- it must lead us somewhere. People like to cite Jesus overturning the tables in the Temple as an example as righteous anger, and it was, because it led Him to act against injustice. But He wasn't griping about it months later, the incident ended there.

That's why I was so moved by the Holy Father's words of prayer for the terrorists. We don't have to forgive the terrorist for them; we have to forgive them for us. Hanging on to anger puts us in a place, like the servant in last week's parable, where we are unable to recieve grace. It's not a good place to be, and not a place where we shouild want to be. It's neccesary for us to acknowledge our anger, and move through it, not trying to find short cuts, but we don't need to do things to stay there.

Another writer to the Corner made this point well, in responding to comments about grace and forgiveness -- "Refusing to forgive is like taking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”

Maybe forgiving the unrepentant is "cheap grace" (even though all grace is intrinsically unearned) for those who have harmed us, but opens us up to real grace, grace which we have worked to dispose ourselves to receive. I'd rather see a million people get "cheap grace" because I forgave them too quickly, then deny myself the grace that I cut myself off from by refusing to forgive.

Monday, September 16, 2002

HATS OFF
I've been watching a lot of foot ball through the years, but it seems like I've seen more helmets fly off during football games in the first 2-3 weeks of this year than I've seen in all previous years combined. Seeing a helmet on the ground used to be a genuinely scary experience -- I'd be afraid there'd be a head in the helmet. Now it happens every other play.

I know that players today hit harder than they used to, but I'm not sure that completely explains the sudden jump. Has there been a change in helmet design that makes them easier to come off? I guess it would make sense from a physics perspective, since the enrygy that goes toward projecting the helmet doesn't go to the (now lidless) player's head. Is the risk of injury from that hit greater than the risk that the player will be hit again without protection? I don't know.

Friday, September 13, 2002

CAN SPORTS HEAL?
David Halberstam says they don't, or at least shouldn't. While I agree that a city's fortune shouldn't be tied to a team's performance, I disagree.

As I've mentioned before, I was at the first Cardinals' game after the terrorist attacks last yearm when Jack Buck read his poem. I think a lot of healing happened that night, both in a lot of cities. We were 40,000 folks gathered together in a stadium, defying those who would harm us. (Yes, I know, going to a ballgame shouldn't qualify anyone for a Profiles in Courage award, but it felt like a big deal at the time). Buck's poem, and spirit in the place helped me believe that we were going to get through this.

The Cardinals won that night, but that didn't really matter.

Now, did the Yankees' improibable run last year help NYC heal? Probably. Would it have happened anyway? Probably as well. Sports can be a shortcut away from frim reality, and it might have happened faster. But I thik things would be quite similar if Jeremy Giombi slid, or Derek Jeter didn't make That Play, and the Yankees were bounced in the first round in the playoffs.

And the Yankees' losing the World Series didn't undo the healing, either.

Hlaberstam's right -- there's a lot of fans who lack perspective. Right now, a jury is deciding who will own a baseball. But most of us see sports as a pleasant diversion. Heck, last year in consecutive weeks, my favorite football team (the Eagles) and my second favorite team (the Rams) lost close playoff games. I would have been a bit happier had they won, but it didn't send me to the depths ther terrorists attacks did.

Hey, it's neat that the Yankees had such a great year, and that a team named the "Patriots" won the Super Bowl. But, like the NY Lottery coming up with a number of "911," (how I was dreading the reaction to that little event) these things were little more than coincidences and distractions. It would be a mistake to think of them as anything more.

Would it heal the Catholic Church if the New Orleans "Saints" or Arizona "Cardinals" win the Super Bowl this year? Probably not.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

TODAY'S THOUGHTS
I'm not sure how I feel today.

I haven't posted, not because of some memorial, but for lack of anything to say. I don't think 9/11 should be a holiday, and I think refraining from our normal activities is exactly the wrong response.

I have been actively avoiding the network coverage of events, because I generally can't stand the way the networks handle anniversaries like this with their mawkish soft-focus interviews. I feel compassion for the victims, but I just don't feel like watching a story about babies who were born after their fathers died on 9/11, or couples that met while digging through the rubble, or group interviews with families of victims.

I also don't think it's a time to beat our chests and proclaim how great we are as a country. The flag-waving was appropriate to show unity in the immediate aftermath -- I don't see much purpose in it now.

So, what to do? I honestly don't know. I'll say some extra prayers for the world leaders and those who lost loved ones that day, and avoid network TV. That's probably not right for everyone.

Friday, September 06, 2002

MORE FOOTBALL PREVIEWS!
As promised, I'm actually getting around to AFC Previews. Enjoy!



AFC East

  1. Miami Dolphins (10-6): Smart team that could be in the last year of its window. I've always liked Ricky Williams, and always thought he got a bit of a bum rap.
  2. New England Patriots (10-6): Don't see any reason why they shouldn't be just as good this year.
  3. New York Jets (8-8): I'm not buying the pre-season undefeated record.
  4. Buffalo Bills (5-11): Not yet

AFC North
  1. Pitssburgh Steelers (11-5): Probably a repeat of last year's strong regular seaon and post-season meltdown.
  2. Cleveland Browns (9-7): Could make a jump this year on weak schedule.
  3. Baltimore Ravens (6-10): Not many are lamenting the Ravens' quick slide back to mediocrity
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (3-13): Pulling ahed of the LA Clippers, and nearing the Tamp Bay Devil Rays for Worst Franchise in Sports.

AFC South
  1. Tennessee Titans(11-5): They should put it back together this year, now that Eddie George has a fullback again.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (8-8): It'll probably take a year or so for Dungy to turn this team around.
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10): Still in Cap Hell.
  4. Houston Texans (2-14): We'll see...

AFC West
  1. Oakland Raiders(10-6): Still better than the rest of this division
  2. Denver Broncos (10-6): I'm still not sold on Brian Griese.
  3. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8): Tough schedule does them in.
  4. San Diego Chargers (6-10): Not just yet.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

FOOTBALL PREVIEWS!
After the smashing success of my baseball previews, we have NFL Previews. We'll do the NFC today, and the AFC tomorrow. (And I really will get to the AFC this time, I promise).

One more note: I will predict records for each team, but I am making no effort to ensure they "balance." out to .500 overall. If this bugs you, I'm sure there are plenty of "balanced" NFL Previews out ther.

NFC East
  1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4): Concerning that they didn't do anything to make the team better in the off-season, despite plenty of cap space, but Andy Reid is a great coach, the defense is solid, and Donovan McNabb can win some games on his own. Deuce Staley must stay healthy and carry the load on the rushing offense.
  2. Washington Redskins (9-7): I think Spurrier will be successful, if only because he'll bring some fun to a team that's been toliling under intense pressure for the past couple years. Could be a surprise
  3. New York Giants (6-10): Team could self-destruct this year.
  4. Dallas Cowboys (4-12): I love Emmitt Smith, but there's not much there.

NFC North
  1. Green Bay Packers (11-5): Not sure about Terry Glenn, but the Pack should win this somewhat weak conference
  2. Chicago Bears (8-8): 16 road game won't help.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (5-11): Randy Moss still seems to be running this team, and that's not good.
  4. Detroit Lions (3-13): On the long road back

NFC South
  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers(11-5): I like what I'm seeing from this team. Michael Pittman looks good in the backfield, but they may have missed their window with the defense
  2. New Orleans Saints (8-8): Will we see the tough, surprising team of 2001 or the team that had already given up in 2002.
  3. Atlanta Falcons (7-9): Michael Vick should provide some excitement.
  4. Carolina Panthers (2-14): Not much to like here.


NFC West
  1. St. Louis Rams(14-2): They're ticked off after the Super Bowl loss
  2. San Francisco 49ers (13-3): They put it all together this year.
  3. Seattle Seahawks (6-10): Another disappointing season for Holmgren & co.
  4. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Pass

Monday, September 02, 2002

HYPOCRISY ON AUGUSTA NATIONAL
I don't like it that August National doesn't allow women to be members. But I think it's interesting to note that a lot of the same people and groups that beleive that the destruction of a preborn child is a private choice that is nobody else's business are the same folks who think it's their business whom a private club will admit as members.

Friday, August 30, 2002

"MSNBC: BASEBALL DEAL REACHED!!!!"!
Hoorah!
MORE ON HANDSHAKES -- "BUT I'M INTROVERTED!"
I thought one of the central things we believed as Catholics is that our psychological make-up is not our destiny. We have the ability, with the help of God, to rise above our perceived limitations, and do things we didn't think we could do.

You know what I'm introverted, too. I'm about a 90 on the scale for "I." I hate small talk, and am uncomfortable at parties. But I can still somehow manage to make herculean effort to stick my hand out and say my name to the folks sitting next to me.

Come on -- being introverted is a tendency, not destiny. There's a time when extroverts need to be quiet, and there's a time when introverts need to speak up.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

CONVERSATIONS IN HEAVEN

Saint 1: I lived under an oppressive governement and had to worship in secret. I watched my parents an borthers and sisters get killed for being Christians. Whenever we celebrated Mass, we were constantly afraid the authorities would come marching in.

Saint 2: Yes, I was born in poverty and had to walk four miles on bare feet each way to get to our Catholic gathering place. Once a month, a priest would ride into town and celebrate Mass with us. I wish it was more often, but I was glad for what we had.

Saint 3: That's nothing! Whenever I went to Mass, the cantor would invite us to shake hands with our neighbors. Can you imagine? She acually wanted us to touch other people!!! Ick! And if you dared to abstain from this practice, people gave you dirty looks! Can you imagine the humiliation? With that immense distraction hanging over my head at every Sunday Mass I went to, it's a wonder I'm here! Not to mention the backwards theology. Ugh!


I'm not a fan of these parody-conversation blogs, but those who are making these arguments seem to like to use them on their critics, so I thought I'd follow suit.
THE "SHAKNG HANDS" DEBATE
Seems most of the arguments against greeting neighbors bfore Mass boils down to "I don't feel like it."

How sad. After all the stories of the sacrifices Jesus and the saints have made, it's too much to ask people to say "hello" to the person next to them before Mass. Oh, that's too much of a "distraction." Because that's what Jeus was always doing, pushing people away so he could concentrate on praying. How sad.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

MORE ON GRANHOLM
I know this is getting boring, but I think it's worth exploring. My commets an Amy's site led me to this site which catalogues Granholm's pro-choice statements.

It's apparent to even the most biased observer that this site is taking Granholm's views to extremes she doesn't share. In fact, in examining her views, it strikes me that Granholm is likely privately opposed to abortion, but had adopted a pro-choice position out of political expediency. She thinks it unlikely she could advance far in the Democratic Party as a pro-lifer (and Bob Casey's experience at the 1992 Democratic convention would confirm those thoughts). She seems to talk as little about the subject as possible, and her opponents seem to be trying to paint here as a "closet pro-lifer." She may have struck a bargain to abandon her beliefs about abortion to accomplish "all the good she could do" as governor.

So, this points to the conclusion that her position is cowardly, rather than contemptuous of the Church. Nevertheless, she has welcomed the endorsements of abortion lobbyist groups, and the roots of her position don't make it any less wrong.

I am satisfied that such a position is inconsistent with faithful Catholicism. But what should our response be?

I'm concerned that many people' first response is to lobby for her excommunication. What will this accomplish? She will be cut off from the grace of the sacraments, and it seems unlikely she would ever reconsider her position. Indeed, I think it's likely that it would only serve to strengthen her position, and those who share it.

Wouldn't it be better to publicly say why this belief is inconsistent, and try to bring her and those who share her views back into the fold for Reconciliation? I know it's hard, and I know it's tiresome to keep saying the same things, but it's what Jesus calls us to. We have the Holy Spirit on our side, we should at least be giving it a try.

Imagine the good it would do to the Church and the pro-life movement if a public figure like Granholm were to publicly renounce her pro-choice position to embrace the pro-life view, and become an ardent defender of the unborn. Wouldn't this be a preferable outcome to driving her away, both for her and for the Church?

I understand why excommunication is attractive. Publicly visible pro-choice Catholics feed the notion that the Church's teachings are "out of touch" with the Catholic faithful, and it undermines all the Church's teachings. So, excommunication is a tool we should reserve the right to use. But it shouldn't be our first option.

Reconcilitation (and by this I don't mean the Church changing its views to suit the dissenters) must be our goal, and we should be very slow to settle for the less desirable outcomes of excommunication. If we're really in the business of savinf soles, I don't see how it can be otherwise.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

MORE ON PRO-LIFE
I took another look at Rev. Ortman's letter ( which you can find here with Amy Welborn's comments), and it was so poorly written that it defies a point-bypoint rebuttal. So I understand why none exists.

Ortman seems to be advancing the posiction that nothing could be more Christian than to be pro-choice because God gave us the gift of free will. Threfore, to move against the right to choose would be to take this gift away.

First of all, Ortman buys into the abortion movement's narrow definition of "choice," limiting it to abortion. If one were to broadly apply Ortman's principles, Granholm would also have to pledge to pull up all speed limit signs and traffic lights, since they also take away a driver's "choice" of how fast to go and whether or not to stop.

The fact is that society and government have the responsibility to make laws that affirm the rights of all people. To leave it as a matter of "choice" is moral cowardice of the highest order.

We are responsible for each other, and must do what we can to prevent each other from commiting evil. Part of the responsiblilty is in forming government that reflects positive values.
WHAT IS PRO-LIFE?
I posted this comment to this post from Amy Weborn's site about the Catholic pro-choice candidate for governor of Michigan:

I've read a lot about this, and so far I have not read a compelling argument for why it is incosistent to be pro-choice and Catholic. All I've seen from pro-life Catholics (and I include myself in that) is sarcasm and "will you look at that!" type posts. Indeed, I would say that archdiocese's statement is a much more proper response than all this cackling.

It would be nice if someone could take a break from throwing rocks at Ortman and Granholm to explain why Granholm is wrong, and all faithful Catholics must support a ban on abortions.

I am not saying no such arguments exist. I probably should make them myself. For example, we Catholics see abortion as killing, and the state's approval of killing is a tacit societal approval of the process. Furthermore, legalized abortion supports a culture of death that sees human life as disposable.

But it strikes me that if one were an extreme libertarian (which I don't think is incomatible with Catholicism), believing that the state should have very little involvement in people's lives, then it's possible that this person could consistently be both pro-choice and a failthful Catholic.

Granted, most pro-choice Catholics are liberals who believe the state's power should be used to accomplish social justice goals, so we're not usually talking about principled libertarians. But I'd still like to see a convincing argument.

Let me be clear -- I am utterly aginst abortion, and I think Roe vs. Wade is about the worst decision in history. I believe all Catholics are called to prevent abortions, and work to end it.

What I'm struggling with is seeing why that must include favoring making abortion illegal. In fact, sometimes I think that if abortion were banned tomorrow, there would be a tremendous backlash that would lead to more abortions in the long run.

I'm not seeing many answers to my struggle, just sarcasm and name-calling. I'm not trolling for flames; I'm sincerely looking for answers. I hope someone can help me out.

For example, if someone could point me to a rebuttal of Rev. Ortman's letter, I'd like to see it. If I don't; I may attempt one myself.

This brings me back to one of the themes of my blog. We need to answer dissent with more assent, not by directing scorn and sarcasm at the dissenters. I really would love to see an detailed rebuttal of Ortman's letter -- it would help me and better equip me to argue the pro-life point of view.

But pointing fingers doesn't accomplish this. All it does is further separate us. There's the "good" Catholics who agree with me, and the "bad" Catholics who don't. But if we really think the "bad" Catholics are straying from the path, wouldn't it be better to try to instruct them on how they're going wrong rather than point at them and laugh at them as they continue to get lost?

We're all connected here. Let's help each other out and point us in the right direction when one of us is going wrong. I know I'll appreciate it when I inevitably start moving away from God.
IF IT WEREN'T FOR ALL THOSE PEOPLE...
Sometimes when I tour through the Catholic blogs, I get the feeling that a lot of them think the Catholic Church would be wonderful if it weren't for all these darn people we have to share our Church with. You know -- those who sing lousy songs, those who ask pesky questions, those who want to greet us on our way to Mass, those with backward theology. If we could just get rid of them, we'd be great!

Of course reflection on this reveals how wrong it is. Each of us is a sinner, and each of us brings the Church down by our sins. But each of us also makes the Church better by the good things we do, even by our mere presence at Mass.

In fact the people around us, the communion of saints, both in the past and here today, is the great thing the Church has to offer over some sort of private "spirituality." I need the people around me to trouble my conscience, and call me to be better, and to make me aware of suffering and situations I can do something about.

And for this the Church must be growing, not shrinking. We need to be welcoming more in, not kicking others out.

And we are. I challenge anyone who says something like, "the Church is dying" to hang around a cathedral on the first Sunday in Lent, and see how many people want to join thus Church, despite our sins.

Monday, August 26, 2002

MORE ON VICTIMS
I think my thoughts below on what the Church owes to victims require some amplification.

Our first response to the news of abuse must be compassion for the victims. I don't think anyone disputes that, and that's the call made to all of us, and one we cannot refuse. The problem comes when this call to compassion is interpreted to mean that nothing is more important than making things right for the victims.

That sounds really good, and many bishops have communicated statements like those above. It's the type of thing we want to hear. But it's simply wrong. For a couple reasons.

First, we cannot "make it right" through our own actions. We can pray for the Holy Spirit to bring about a Paschal Resurrection from this, and try to be agents of that Resurrection. But it is impossible for us to undo the damage that has been done.

Second, our mission, as Jesus has passed on to us, is to make disciples of all the nations. Clearly, if we are committing child abuse, that is going to hurt our ability to proclaim the Gospel. But we must never forget that proclaiming the Gospel is our primary goal.

For example, imagine if a victims' group suggested that the Church do away with all youth ministry in order to prevent future abuse. Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion and Reconciliation would be pushed back to young adulthood (I'll leave alone theological arguments for movig them, and assume they're being moved simply to avoid abuse). Children would not be expected to participate in Mass, and indeed be discouraged from doing so.

Implementing something like this would be a terrible idea, even if it would likely prevent future abuse. It would be a betrayal of everything we know about proclaiming the Gospel, and we would lose countless souls by failing to minister to them.

I know, nobody's proposing a solution like the one above. My point is that we have to remember who we are, and what our mission is.

The problem is that when people's role is to preserve the goodness of the Church, there is often a strong temptation to interpret preservation of the Church to preservation of one's own position in the Church. This is why we ought to be constantly praying for our Church's leaders.

I understand it sounds crass to say that the victims of abuse are not our first priority as a Church. But to say otherwise would be a lie, and lead us to forget the mission the Church has been called to.

Friday, August 23, 2002

A REACH TO FAR?
Derek Zumsteg says 9/11 shouldn't stop the players from stricking, and I'm inclined to agree, but he concludes with this line:
We should not cower before a date on our calendars, until we are unable to think rationally, make decisions on their own merits, or get on with our nation's business. And that includes the rights of free men to protect their livelihood.

"protect their own livelihood"??? Oh, give me a break. The owners may be trying to do some not-so-nice thngs to the players, but their right to play a game for seven figure salaries is not being threaened. From what I'm reading, the major contention is the luxury tax, which if the owners got their way, would mean that Lacke Berkman might make $15 million a year instead of $20 million when he becomes a free agent.

That may be unfair, but it's not a threat to the players' livelihood, and rhetoric like that insults people who have had to strike to make a decent living.
ONE MORE THOUGHT
There's been some discussion of whether or not it's appropriate for Dreher to have published his article, and for us to be discussing the pope's judegement. Eve Tushnet makes the case that it is, and I'm inclined to agree.

But let's remember this the next time someone statrs dicussing women's ordination or some other Church policy that runs aginst "orthodox" lines. If it's acceptable to publicly discuss the pope's judgement, isn't it also acceptable to publicly discuss the Church's teachings?

Again I say it is. Not because the teachings need to change, but because these discussions strengthen the teaching, and lead us to explore the sources of them, and reveal them in their truth and beauty.

Unfortunately, I think many of those currently standing up for Dreher's right to ask questions will be the first ones to shout people down and call them "heterodox" or "heretics" when they start "asking questions" about Church teachings.

I hope I'm wrong, and I hope the Holy Spirit is present right now showing these folks that honest discussion is the ally, not enemy, of Church teaching.
GOOD THOUGHTS
Jack at Integrity and Mark Shea have some interesting perspective on the discussion around surrounding Rod Dreher's "The Pope Let Us Down." aticle (which will eventually be found here.)

I've been sitting this particular dance out, since it often takes me a while to get my thoughts developed, and by then, things have gotten into the "comment wars" phase.

My main position is this -- Remember who we are. Mark's post does a great job of reminding us of the great good that is present in the Church.

Preserving this goodness, and staying true to who we are must be our first priority, even before taking care of the victims. I know this is a dangerous thing to say in this culture, but it is nevertheless true. As bad as things are already, overcompensating for it will make things worse.

We are on a mighty ship that is facing a terrible storm. Does this mean we can continue cruising as we were in calm seas? No. But we're better off on this ship than in the lifeboats, and it's probably not a good idea to throw the captain overboard, even if he's reponsible for steering us into this storm.

This does not mean that we lack compassion for victims. This theme is something that's been really ticking me off about Amy Welborn's comments as of late. This is the same type of trick pro-choicers play on pro-lifers -- "Well, I'm not seeing much compassion from pro-lifers for rape victims and poor single women who find themselves pregnant." Well, that's because that compassion is always there. It never occurs to us that we would be uncompassionate, so we don't find it necessary to state it.

Victims of sexual abuse from preists are entitled to our compassion, to some monetary compensation, and to know that the Church is acting to prevent future incidences. They are not entitled to dictating what the Church's response will be, or to change what the Church is about so that they can feel "closure."

This is the secular media's influence, and I don't believe it's a good influence.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

NOT ON STRIKE
Bill Simmons says fans should boycott baseball. I disagree.

Look, I'm the first one to admit that bother the owners and the players' union are being silly. To me, the owners all seem healous of the Yankees' success and are looking to punish them for it. And the players' union seems more interested in protecting superstars' right to ridiculous contracts than in fair terms for the lower 75% of players.

But I enjoy going to the ballpark. And I'm not going to stop going just because I think the folks running the business are foolish. I'm not going to give them that power over me. So, if it's a warm summer evening, and the Cardinals are in town, and I've got a few spare bills in my pocket, you might find me at the ballpark.

I'm not going to miss a no-hitter, or a great postseason because I'm holding a grudge. It doesn't really matter, and it's a little childish.

Monday, August 19, 2002

LINKS NOT WORKING
There's some links below that point right back here. I meant them to point to places in my archive where I exmained the writers is question, and how their arguments use the devices below. But Archives don't seem to be working.

I have a policy here about not complaining about Blogger or Blogspot. Both are free services, and both have allowed me and many others to have a powerful voice in the public debate. It strikes me as the height of ingratitude when I read a freeloading blogger lament, "I am really ticked off at Blogger!. I could pay for more reliable hosting or posting mechanisms. I choose not to, since this is a low volume site, and Blogger and Blogspot suit my needs 99% of the time.

But, I thought I'd explain why the links below don't go anywhere. I'll try to fix them by the end of today.

UPDATE: All fixed!
ABUSE SCANDAL ABUSE
what may become a regular feature

I've noticed several people with an agenda in the Catholic Church are using the abuse scandals as a talisman to promote their points of view. I've noticed this usually comes in one of these two easily discernible flavors.
  • Declare that the status quo (without your agenda in place) is the "root cause" of the abuse scandals, so to oppose this agenda is to be complicit in the raping of boys. Examples:Rod Dreher, Anna Quindlen
  • Compare the treatment of abused priests to the treatment of others you sympathize with, while conveniently ignoring significant differences in circumstances. Example:Andrew Sullivan


I got the idea for this feature after reading Amy Welborn's post (an example of the second category) where she compares the Church's treatment of men who leave the priesthood to marry to that of an abusing priest in New Orleans, who attended Tulane law school on the diocese's nickel. Now, a study into the sacrament of Holy Orders shows that there's a a strong difference here -- there's a convenant in place between the priest and the Church, that includes the Church taking care of the priest.. One who leaves the priesthood to marry is breaking that covenant (even if for a very good reason), while the abusing priest has not voluntarily done such a thing. There also is the matter that the marrying priest is aware of the consequences of his actions, and can prepare for them, while the abusing priest cannot.

It's a dirty cheap shot, and I hope we in the Church would be better than this. It's the type of argument I'd expect to see from someone with contempt for the Church's teachings who is writing from ignorance. Not from someone who writes books and is regularly critical of others' catechesis. And it makes me sad to see the faithful turning on the Church in this way.

As you can see, these abuses can come from "reformers" or the "orthodox." If you see an example you'd like me to include, you can e-mail it to me at the address on the left.

If the Church is going to emerge from this scandal with strength, we will do so because we have held on to our faith, not because we used this time when the Church is in trouble to kick it when it's down, and advance our agenda on the backs of abused children. It's fine to want to advance an agenda, but it's another thing to try to form a tenuous link between this agenda and the sexual abuse scandals. Expecially when this agenda has nothing to do with sexual abuse or cover-ups!

I expected the secular media and the Church's critics to resort to these, "How can the Church say abortion/the death penalty/embryonic research/social injustice is so bad when they can't even keep their own priests from touching children?" type arguments. To my pleasant surprise, I haven't seen all that much of that , yet. But they may not have to if we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.

Friday, August 16, 2002

THINGS I DON'T KNOW
Bob Halloran has a list of things he doesn't know. Among them:

I noticed recently that Scott Draper is ranked 230th on the ATP tour. So, how far down do they go with the rankings anyway?


Here's mine -- I don't know why the seeds in tennis never match up the way they do in other tournaments. For example, if Venus Williams in the #1 seed in the US Open, assuming all the favorites win, you would expect her to have to face the #32, #16, #8, #4, and #2 seeds in order to win. But that doesn't happen. You'll frequently see a semifinal match betwwen a #1 and a #3 seed, and Williams's first seeded opponent will be something like #27. How can that be? Shouldn't the #3 seed be on the other side of the bracket? If they're not going to bracket the tournament based on the seeds, why bother seeding at all?

Not terribly important, I know, but just something that bugs me.

Monday, August 12, 2002

NOW I'M ANGRY!
One of my least favorite things the press does is to respond to voting or polling data that they don't like by attrributing it to some negative emotion. This article in yesterday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch is a great example. Missouri voters declined a massive tax increase on themselves to fund a transportation department that has failed to demonstrate an ability to set priorites? Why, the voters must be "angry." Surely, they didn't thoughtfully decide that this tax wasn't in their best interests. No, they must be voting out of "anger," because obviously if they were thinking clearly, they would agree with us.

Why are voters angry? Well, because of the economy, and the accounting scandals. But they're so blinded by their anger that they'll take their anger out on anyone, even if there's no conceivable connection between accounting scandals and transportation funding. It doesn't matter, voters are angry, and they'll get their pound of flesh from someone!

It's amazing that the Post-Dispatch thinks it can get away with showing such open contempt for its readership. It's also notable that this article is not labelled as an op-ed or "News Analysis." It's just news, carried on the front page of the Sunday newspaper.

At least we were spared the "angry white male" profile we were treated to in the mid 90's when Republicans were winning elections. The subtext there was that not only were people voting out of anger, but that anger was unjustified because white males had all the power and money. Perhaps the demographic data isn't in yet.

Monday, August 05, 2002

SHARES AND FISHES
Yesterday's Gospel was Matthew's version of the miracle of the loaves and fishes miracle. Predictably, some priests proposed a "miracle of sharing" explanation for it, and just as predictably, this brought about shouts of heresy and other ills in orthodox blog land.

I've never had such a big problem with this interpretation, perhaps because when I heard this, it was suggested as a possibility, and the priest made it clear that of course Jesus could have miraculously produced boxcars full of loaves and fishes; this was just another way of thinking about it.

I found this quote from Rod Dreher on Amy Welborn's site especially telling:

. .....we are in the middle of a war for the survival of the Church. The lack of fidelity is the root cause for all our woes. Souls are at stake. So when I sit in the pew after all that's happened this year, desperate for some sign of faith and moral courage in the priest, and all I hear is some jolly fellow denying Biblical miracles, I feel like I'm listening to a commanding officer commit treason. It's disgusting, and I cannot abide it.


Oh, for crying out loud, can we do away with the hyperbole, please?

First of all, the root cause for all our woes is priests who sexually abused children. Period. I am sick and tired of people pointing to things they don't like about the Church and declaring them the "root cause" of the current scandals. Until we hear an abusing priest say, "Well, I heard a homily that the miracle of the loaves and fishes was really a 'miracle of sharing,' so I figured all bets were off," let's lay off this "root cause" BS. The current scandals were not caused by Marty Haugen music, processional banners, gender-inclusive language, celibacy, the all-male priesthood, standing during the Eucharistic prayer, nuns not wearing full habits, incense, Latin masses, light penances, or denying the Eucharist to re-married divorcees. I find it interesting that this "root cause" BS is embraced by many of the same people who laugh off "root cause" explanations for Arab violence against the US. The current scandals were caused by abusing priests, and bishops' failure to effectively deal with them, not by those who oppose you on your pet issue.

Secondly, is our faith so weak that this is such a damaging possibility? Exactly who's soul will not be saved for believing in a miracle of sharing than a miracle of sudden appearance? Why is this so threatening?

Sometimes I think "orthodoxy" (when used in this self-congratulatory tone to bully others, not as simple faithfulness to the Church) is a cover for a weak faith. I don't really trust in God as the Author of History, and the Holy Spirit's presence among us, so I'll just commit to what the Church says right now, and cling to that for dear life.

I've got news for you -- I think it's a pretty safe bet that we're going to realize that the Church is significantly wrong about something within the next 50 years, if history is a guide. I have no idea what that will be. Maybe it's homosexual marriage; maybe it's Mass in the vernacular. I don't know. But I'm pretty sure that something we're doing today is going to look foolish to our grandchildren.

What will we do then? Will we bury our heads and deny this Truth that has been revealed to us, because it's not what we've committed ourselves to? Will we conclude that because the Church was wrong about this, then the Church cannot be trusted about anything? Or will we embrace what we've learned, and accept it as a gift of the Holy Spirit that remains with us, as Jesus had promised.

Back to the loaves and fishes -- If anything, this possibility speaks to me about an even greater power of God. It requires simple force to create boxcars full of food. It requires greater power to turn thousands of hearts. Sometimes I wonder if another reason that people dislike this interpretation so much is that we resist this call to greater generosity. Remember, Jesus said the first think we will be confronted with when we are judged is whether or not we fed the hungry.

Anyway, historical information casts severe doubts on this interpretation, and I'm not here to defend it as historical truth. What I do think is worth examining is why this interpretation is so threatening to people. What would it mean if someone could factually verify that it was in fact a miracle of sharing? Would that change what we believe in?

Monday, July 29, 2002

20 OUT OF 20!!!
I took the ESPN.com Sports IQ test and got 20 out of 20 questions right!

If only the 2 Minute Drill was still on the air, I could make some money!

UPDATE: I am well aware that my 20/20 above probably has more to do with luck than an accurate reflection of my knowledge.
READ THIS NOW
I'm not a fan of imperative bloggings, but I had to indulge in this case. If there's a part of your mind that thinks that the Catholic Church is dying, or that the Pope is out of touch, read Gerard Serafin's account of World Youth Day, and see what's really going on. Thank you, Gerard, for your words of hope.

I was lucky enough to be here in St. Louis when the Pope visited in 1999, and it is something that will be with me forever. Whenever I see the Pope I think of different types of power. Other worls leaders might have the power to raise armies and commit acts of war, but the Pope has the power to gather one million people together to pray for peace. The Pope has the power to ask for and receive mercy for a condemned criminal. And the Pope has the power to turn our depair and anger at the Church into hope.

Of course, the Pope doesn't have this on his own; it comes from God in the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit all of us have access to. There's been a lot of discussion about who should have administrative power in the Church. Have we considered how we can best use the power we have access to through the Holy Spirit? John Paul II shows us a wonderful example.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

APOLOGY
Another read through these comments reveals that Dreher is holding back on the story for the sake of sources who wish to remain anonymous, rather than just to hold onto his job. That makes some of my comments below inappropriate.

That still doesn't excuse the rumor-mongering, however.
STOP THE GOSSIP
Over at Amy Wellborn's comments, readers are taking Rod Dreher and others to task for propagating the "gay cardinal" rumor.

I'm glad. If there's something there, expose it. If not, shut up. And I don't care "how journalism works." If the presence of a gay cardinal is the disaster Dreher says it is, then that shouldn't prevent him from going public. In case he hasn't noticed, there's these things called "web logs" and other media that allow one to make writings public without having to go through an editor.

Well, that might cost him his job. So what? If exposing the gay cardinal is the moral imperative Dreher is saying it is, then why should that stop him. Is that too great a sacrifice to make?

But Dreher wants to have it both ways. He wants to get the "benefit" of exposing the gay cardinal while not sacrificing anything himself. But when someone is saying something is really important, but is not willing to put his own neck on the line to expose it, I get suspicous.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

BETTER "EMOTIONAL MEMORY"?
I can't help but wonder if, had the results been reversed, the headline of this story would be "Study: Men Slower to Forgive."

Monday, July 22, 2002

PEDESTRIAN MUSIB
Steve Schultz at Catholic Light thinks that "pedestrian" music at Mass is a problem, and bishops ought to do something about it.

I disagree. At Mass, we celebrate the miracle of the ordinary or pedestrian becoming sacred. The ordinary bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is not we who make the offering perfect, but God. We do not insist that wine be of the finest vintage, and that the bread from the best bakery. We use the blandest, most "pedestrian" bread imaginable, and we rightly complain when some parishes find it neccesary to sweeten it up.

So to say that certain songs aren't fit for Mass because they are "pedestrian" is to forget what it is we're doing. If a song is promoting a backwards theology, then perhaps it shouldn't be used. But I found it telling that that the best example they could come up with for this was in the rarely sung fourth verse of Haugen's "Gather Us In."

Schultz goes on to write, "It is not about "fellowshipping" or singing about how great we are. It is the perpetual sacrifice of Christ re-presented to the Father. It is the prayer of God the Son to God the Father."

Yes and no. The Mass isn't just fellowship, and any efforts to make it such are wrong. But Christ comes to us in sharing a meal, which is a cultural sign of fellowship, so it's appropriate that it be part of what we do at Mass. When one reads the Acts of the Apostles, you can see how important fellowship was to the early Church, and how that intermingled into their prayer life, and the "breaking of the bread."

Monday, July 15, 2002

MICKEY KAUS ASKS:
And why do we think that encouraging the Islamic schools to "modernize" -- by offering "computer classes" and making "the Internet available" to students -- will produce fewer potential Islamic terrrorists as opposed to potentially more effective, modernized Islamic terrorists, at least in the short run?

Warning -- This is one subject on which I am an unrepentant naive idealogue.

Because if these students are exposed to the Internet, and from there can see pictures of Americans and Westerners, and interact with us, maybe they'll be less likely to believe crazed leaders who want to recruit them to kill themselves while blowing us up.

I think the emergence of global technology is one reason why it's somewhat difficult to get Americans behind any foreign war. Whenever we attack another country, we see pictures of the the people who were just bombed, and get vivid images of their suffering. It brings the reality of war home, and for me at least, it makes it hard for me to approve of doing it again to someone else. I think this is a good thing.

Yes, familiarity doesn't always breed peace. Jonah Glodberg is fond of pointing out that Palestinians and Isrealies are quite familiar with each other, as are Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireleand, and that hasn't stopped them from waging bloody street wars against each other. But these are age-old conflicts. Muslims may have an ancient grievance against "the West" in general, but not the US in particular. Leaders are trying to scapegoat the US as to blame for all of its problems, and that's going to be hard to do if "the Arab street" is a little more familiar with us.

Kaus is right about one thing in his last sentence -- "at least in the short run" this may give some terrorists a leg up. But Muslims are not going to be without computers forever, and it seems to me that it would be good if when they do get them, they come with some directions written by the US.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

THE PROBLEM
Anthony Marquis points his finger at the root cause of the "dissent" problem (though he doesn't say so) when he says the following about Catholic high school students:
Yes, the students are taught what we believe as Catholics, but they do not get the historical foundations nor the theological/philosophical rational.

Then, when they students reach adulthood, and are confronted with the culture and peers who don't share Catholic views, they are poorly equipped to defend them, either to others, or themselves. Is it any wonder so many of us then end up riding with the winds of popular opinion, rather than our rich tradition and history?

Some of this is laziness, but some of this comes from a "we don't need to say why" attitude. That works in the short term with kids, but doesn't work with adults. Yes, we should accept the Church's teachings, but I think it would be easier for us to do it if we were presented with the beauty and foundations for those teachings.
NO WINNERS HERE
I know it wasn't anybody's fault, but I couldn't help but think that Bud Selig got the All-Star game he deserved -- no winner. That's probably how the labor dispute will play out as well.

I was watching the end of the game mostly out of morbid curiosity about what would happen. It's always fun to see the last guy in the bullpen pitch 6 innings of relief in an extra inning game. I was wondering how it would end.

One solution that nobody mentioned -- what if Freddy Garcia just threw batting practice fastballs in the bottom of the 11th (or 10th) and let the NL score a run? Yes, that would have negated the "competitive" nature of the game, but "commissioner declares the game a tie" already had a WWF (now WWE) feel to it. I guess it's a pride thing -- Garcia would rather not just throw the game, but I think even a bogus NL win would have been more satisfying than a time-limit draw (oops, "tie", I keep forgetting this isn't the WWF).

I also think the montages in the beginning of the game have gotten a bit tiresome (even if this year's was sponsored by my employer). It was special to review the Century's best players in 1999 and 2000. Now, it seems that we're going to be treated to these pre-produced packages every year. Sure, there were some great moments, and it was nice to see Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, but play ball! The game didn't even start until 8:00 Central Time. When I was a kid growing up on the East Coast, my bed time was 9:00. Maybe my folks would have let me stay up for the first inning, maybe not.

I have to admit I teared up when I saw Matt Morris flash "DK" and "57" when he was introduced. I could tell Benito Santiago was moved as well. It's strange -- I don't personally know Darryl Kile or any of the Cardinals, but his death still hit me hard. You watch a baseball team almost every day through the summer, and you start to feel like you know these guys (especially in St. Louis). All of us are grieving with the Cardinals over their lost teammate.

UPDATE: I wrote my "Freddy Garcia should throw batting practice fastballs" stuff before I read Rob Neyer's column which voiced a similar idea, though this tiime recommending that Garcia do it to save his arm, not to prevent a tie.

Monday, July 08, 2002

MY LITURGICAL BEEF
I know I've come down against whining on blogs about liturgical practices, but this is one that needs to end -- the reading of a one sentence "explanation" of the readings before they are proclaimed.

Sometimes these come from the Lectionary, other times from other sources. Yesterday, each explanation tied the readings to a theme of gratitude for our country's good fortune. Seems like that should have been in the homily (except the homily was from a visting missionary giving his usual spiel that touched on Sunday's readings for about 10 seconds in the 10+ minute homily).

Why don't we simply trust the Word, and trust the Church to hear it correctly? I don't need to know that "Today, Paul instructs the Church of Corinth about the importance of love" in order to hear what Paul has to say about love. It seems to me that these "explanations" are a compensation for poor proclamation and poor homilies. It seems to me that if the readings are being proclaimed effectively, and explored adequately in the homily, no explanation should be neccesary.

And if there's on thing I don't need, it's to have some "theme" pounded into my head, and to have the readings shoehorned into that theme, whether they fit or not.

When will we simply trust the Word? When will we trust each other? Why must I prejudice your hearing of God's Word with my interpretation of it?

WHERE'S THE STARS?
Starting pitchers Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Matt Morris have withdrawn from the All-Star Game with "injuries" that will not cause them to miss a start for their regular teams.

On the one hand, this is somewhat noble. Throwing an inning or two in the Midsummer Classic could disrupt the rhythm these pitchers are accustomed to, and end up hurting their teams. These guys are sacrificing the individual glory that could come from an All-Star appearance for the good of their teams. It seems like we should be cheering.

On the other hand, it stinks. Not to take anything away from the replacements, but they are not Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson. If this trend continues, we could see All-Star pitching staffs consisting of one or two starters (first time All-Stars will probably continue to accept the honor) and a bunch of closers and middle relief guys. Even starting pitchers who want to play in the All Star Game could face pressure from their teammates and coaches to no-show.

The result will be the continued detrerioration of the All-Star Game, which has already suffered with broadcast cable and interleague play. It may not be a unique event now to see Randy Johnson take on Jason Giambi, but at least it's more special than seeing Mike Remlinger take him on.

It seems like the Commissioner's office needs to step in and prevent this trend from continuing.

Or do away with the game altogether, if it's such a bother.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

MAN BITES VACATION
I will be on vacation through the July 4 weekend, so my interent access will be spotty. Thus, the posting frequency here will go from "light" to "non-existant." Enjoy the holiday, and cherish your freedoms.

Monday, June 24, 2002

PROCLAIM FROM THE BLOG TOPS

"Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna."
Jesus from yesterday's Gospel

What does this say to use about what we should do about "dissent?" Obviously I'm biased, but Jesus seems to be saying something similar to what I wrote last week. Rather than trying to drive people out of the Church, we need to boldy proclaim the Truth.

Many times, we Catholics complain that today's culture, particularly here in the US, is not receptive to these values we know to be true. That may be the case, but we cannot let it stop us. Jesus and the martyrs of the Church faced death for speaking the Truth -- it doesn't seem too much to ask for us to withstand a few sideways glances for saying that maybe killing isn't the best solution to crime or an unplanned pregnancy.

Again, I say that procaliming the Truth this looks more like portraying the beauty and reason of this Truth, than calling people who don't believe in it names, and trying to shut them up. I found yesterday's first reading from Jeremiah especially relevant -- we need to trust God, not ourselves. It seems to me that things like "zero tolerance" policies and banning gays from the priesthood are examples of us trusting ourselves more than trusting God. It takes a different level of faith to trust that God will take care of our enemies.

Disputations has an interesting discussion about how what is good and true is also beautiful. I pray that we Catholics will trust that beauty, and proclaim from the house (and blog) tops what we have heard whispered.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

ON DISSENT
Michael Novak has a thoughtful article on "dissent" in the Catholic Church today. (BTW, I've noticed that the headlines and teasers for Novak's NRO articles on the Chuch make them seem much more conservative than they are. Just an observation...)

One important distinction Novak makes is between "dissent-as-rebellion" and honest questioning like he engaged in about contraception. After all there's a big difference between saying, "There's a lot of women who I think would make great priests. Why doesn't the Church allow them to?" and "The sexist, patriarchal Church must release the stranglehold that prevents women from becoming priests if they want me or anyone else to listen to them!" The former comes from an honest (though some might say misguided) love of the Church. The latter comes from contempt.

Honest dissent must be part of the Church, otherwise it cannot improve. The problem isn't the presence of dissent, it's the absence of assent. Too often, those questioning a doctine of the Church are called names rather than patiently taught the reasons for the teachings. I think Andrew Sullivan has a point, here. When questions are met with name calling and confusion, people get more frustrated, lose respect for the teaching, and devolve into a "dissent-as-rebellion" mindset.

Where I disagree with Sullivan is that I believe there a good and beautiful reasons behind the Church's teachings; we just don't hear them enough. We back away from arguments, or resort to name calling. We need to trust in the beauty of the teaching, and we need to trust in the openness of our audience. We need not be afraid of an honest debate, since the beauty and value of the Church's teaching will shine through.

For example, both my wife and I have abstained from intercourse until we got married last year, and we are both so glad we did. We are free to pursue our lives with each other without having to worry about STD's or children from previous relationships. We have given ourselves completely to each other, and it's a beautiful thing. I never saw it as a terrible cross to bear, but an action consistent with the person I wanted to become.

We also do not use contraception, and we plan on never doing so. We have learned the ovulation method of NFP, and we believe in it. Yes, the charting is a pain sometimes, but we are happy to give to each other completely, including our fertility.

Now, if more Catholics who follow the Church's teaching could come forward and tell their stories, and relate the freedom and joy that comes from living it, maybe we could win the debate. But we don't. Why? Maybe because we feel like we shouldn't talk about our sex lives. Maybe because we don't want to seem like we're bragging. Maybe we're afraid to be perceived as "judging" others who have made different choices. Whatever it is, we need to get over it. Because the public perception is that most Catholics don't follow the Church's teachings, and those that do are martyrs who are either sexually frustrated or stuck at home with 12 kids. And that needs to change, now!

Dissenting form the Church should not be comfortable place for any Catholic to be, and it isn't for most of us. Yes, those who find themselves at odds with the Church have a responsibility to properly inform their consciences, but what's wrong with us helping them do that? I can think of few better examples of doing God's work.

Let's teach and instruct with patience and courage, and proclaim the Good News. Let's not take short-cuts by calling people names, but do our duty, despite its difficulty.

REVERSE SCHADENFREUDE?
Emily Stimpson expresses dismay at Andrew Sullivan's pleasure at the results of ths bishop's conference.

I think Sullivan's off-base on a lot of things Catholic as well, but has it come so far that we must see our interests as diametrically opposed with fellow members of the Church? Must it be a zero-sum game where what makes you happy must make me unhappy?

There may be a lot of valid criticisms of the conference and the charter that emerged from it, but pointing to another member of the faithful's approval of it isn't one of them.
MORE GOOD STUFF
Tony Adragna has some good thoughts about the Bishops' conference. I share his relief that the bishops resisted the pressure to adopt a buzzword compliant policy, and are not leaving the Holy Spirit out of the loop.

Monday, June 17, 2002

THE BUCK FAMILY
Bernie Miklasz has a touching column on Joe and Jack Buck today (a vast improvement ocer his "kick 'em when they're down" column about the Kansas City Royals yesterday).

I'll always remember when I went to the first Cardinals game after 9/11 last year. We were all a bit apprehensive. Jack Buck approached the microphone and home plate and said "Anyone here wonder if we should be here?" He then read a beautiful poem about how we would persevere through this "unwanted" war.

There's something special about St. Louis in the intimacy people here feel with local celebrities, that's just different from other places. It's hard to explain why. Maybe bigger cities make people larger than life. There's just a very tender bond between St. Louisans and old-time athletes like Stan Musial and Bob Gibson to modern players like Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Chris Pronger, Fernando Vina, Willie McGee, and many others.

Sure, many other baseball anouncers like Mel Allen, Harry Caray, and Vin Scully have been and will be revered in their home cities. But it seems to me that there's an extra level of intimacy between St. Louisans and Jack Buck, and we're all suffering a bit with his illness.

There's something unique and special about that.
DOWN WITH DAN HICKS!
Dan Hicks's hosting of the US Open golf tournament was downright grating. Not just uninsigtfu, not just boring, but actively annoying.

I was espicially annoyed by Hicks's efforts to breed conflict between the gallery and Sergio Garcia. As Johnny Miller noted (you could tell he was also annoyed at Hicks's comments), 99% of the fans love Garcia, and cheered him politely. So what did Hicks do? He turned the spotlight on the 1% of morons who jeered Garcia and chanted "USA, USA" around him, giving these hooligans the attention they were seeking but did not deserve.

I guess this is supposed to be "reality" and this conflict between the gallery and Garcia was supposed to hold our interest. But what's wrong with focussing on the competition? We've got a man in Tiger Woods who is in the middle of a string of excellence that is unparalleled in any other sport. He was being trailed by his two most repected challengers, Phil Mickleson and Sergio Garcia, who each have their own charisma. Why not make the story about, you kno, the actual golf tournament.

This further bugs me because my making the gallery the story, Hicks is encouraging similar behavior at future tournaments. Fans will feel like they're "part of the show" and continue to start jingoistic chants, and yell as soon as the players strike the ball.

This weekend we saw another excellent performance by probably the greatest athlete of our time. Too bad Dan Hicks decide to make a few unruly fans the story.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

THE BLAMING GAYS SHELL GAME
There's been a bit of shell game afoot played by those who want to blame the current crisis in the Catholic Church on gays. When they want to draw outrage, they call it pedophilia; when they want to focus it on gays, it's ephebophilia, or a natural consequence of homosexuality.

If we remember when this story broke, it was all about priests abusing children (or boys, I'll admit). Priests were molesting children, then moved to another parish after a little counseling where they would molest again. We were filled with righteous anger. The "blame gays" crowd wanted us to focus that anger on gay priests.

Then, we were told that most of the victims are teenagers past puberty, not little children. So this wasn't really a case of pedophilia, it was more like "ephebophilia," which we were told was a big part of the gay culture. And since the victims are mostly boys, that suggests it must be connected to homosexuality. Rod Dreher on several occasions scolded the press for calling it a "pedohpilia scandal" even though he used the word pedophilia to drum up outrage.

But something else happened on the way to driving gays out of the priesthood. People's sense of outrage softened a bit. Yes, it's still evil and wrong for a grown man to seduce a minor, especially when the grown man is sworn celibate who is supposed to have some religious authority. But this seduction is not as disturbing to us as the forced molestaion of eight year olds. And I think most of us would consider it a lesser offense. So, we weren't as willing to adopt draconian measures like defrocking all gay priests, or barring them from admission to seminaries.

But then the blame gays crowd shifts back to "pedophilia" position to stoke our outrage up again. How can we be so casual when boys are being raped every day?

William Saletan captured this conflict well when he wrote:

The gay-blamers can't figure out which way to go. If they say homosexuality is distinct from pedophilia, they can't blame the latter on the former. On the other hand, if they say homosexuality is just one manifestation of waywardness, they can't assure the public that getting rid of the former will get rid of the latter

We need to decide what's going on. If it's "pedophilia," it's clear we need to take drastic action, but it's also clear that gay priests aren't the problem. If it "ephebophilia," then less drastic measure are called for, including training our children that priests cannot let them do anything.

Why the incosnistency? Because post-pubescent teenagers have the ability to say "no" and to defend themselves if we help them do it. This isn't an effort to "blame the victims" -- the clerics are clearly the ones responsible for the abuse, and it must be absoultely clear that sexaul relationships by clerics with anyone, especially minors, are entirely unacceptable, but I don't think that removing and preventing the ordination of many good gay priests is the best way to do this. I just think we all have to accept the responsibilty to help train kids that they don't have to something they don't feel right about just because Father says so.

Of couse, this is a lot more difficult than just hanging a "No Gays" sign outside all rectories, monasteries, and seminaries. But it's the work we must do, the Cross we must bear. Banning gays is a shortcut, and an unjust one at that.

P.S.: I don't think that this was some coordinated effort to "get" gays; there's just some dishonesty in the effort to pin all the blame for this one them.