Friday, August 30, 2002

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


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.
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

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

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.
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.
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

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

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.
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.
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

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

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!
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

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

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

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?