Wednesday, May 29, 2002

ATTACK OF THE CLONES AND CLONING
Everyone's racing to point out how Attack of the Clones doesn't say anything about the theraputic cloning debate, but I think it does.

I couldn't help but think that it was no major loss if one of the cloned soldiers got killed. Somehow, his origin diminishes my perception of the dignity and sanctity of the clone's life. Maybe the problem's with my perception, but I can't help but think that advancements that lead me to regard life as cheap are a good thing.

I know, I know, this has more to do with reproductive cloning than theraputic cloning. (In theraputic cloning, the cloned ambryo is neccesarily destroyed). But it's still something to think about.
THE LAST ATTACK OF THE CLONES REVIEW ON THE WEB
Went to see Attack fo Clones Monday night. I had seen the re-eleases of the orginal trilogy and The Phantom Menace in the first week fo their release, so this was a new time record for me (I guess marriage can do that to a person).

I thoroughly enjoyed it. The action was great, the story was engaging, and there were lots of "rewards" there for loyal fans who were familiar with the original trlogy. I didn't think it got bogged down in talk -- there was plenty of action.

Self-awareness

Still, there's some magic there that's missing from this trilogy. I think it has to do with my own self-awareness.

I know that Anakin Skywalker is going to fall to the Dark Side. I know that he and Amidala will get together. I know that Skywalker, Yoda, and Kenobi will all survive. I know most of the other charcters ultimately won't.

I'm also aware that this is the second movie fo a trilogy, so I know that the movie won't end with final resolution.

I wish I could suspend this and enjoy the ride, but I can't. Indeed, as I mentioned above, the movie invites me to engage my knowledge about the original trilogy.

Watching the first trilogy, you thought that anything could happen. Now, I know roughly what's going to happen.

It's like watching a football game when I've already heard the final score. You'll notice that when someone tapes such a game to watch later, he will usually go to great lengths to avoid hearing the score before he has a chance to watch the game. Why? Because the suspense is part of the drama. Sure, the individual plays can be appreciated on their own. But outside the context of a game whose outcome is in doubt, it loses some drama.

The Yoda Scene
I enjoyed the Yoda lightsaber scene, but was disappointed that it played as a bit of comedy in the theater I watched the movie in. This was where it was really hard to suspend disbelief. Yoda's been walking wiht his walking stick, and all of a sudden he straightens up, discards the stick, and grabs his saber.

How does he do that? Is it the Force? If so, why does he need the stick when he's not fighting? Does he only use the Force when neccesary? These aren't questions I should be asking.

Conclusion
I had a great time at the movie, but not like I did at the first three. That may have more to do with me than the movie.

Saturday, May 25, 2002

SORRY FOR THE LACK OF POSTS
My father-in-law was in town and was staying in the room with the computer in it, so my computer time was limited this weekend.

Friday, May 24, 2002

TRADE TALK
The commentery's starting to come in on the tade where the A's sent Jeremy Giambi to my personal favorite team, the Phillies, for .260-hitting sinlges hitter John Mabry, who doesn't play any defensive position well. I briefly discussed this below.

Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus says there's probably more to this story, but doesn't want to engage in speculation. Rob Neyer says A's GM Billy Beane rarely makes bad moves.

Of course, Beane is a darling of the sabremetrics community, since he's built his team around power hitters who draw walks, so you wouldn't expect him to draw much criticism from this crowd. Still, the struggles this year of bothe the A's and the Blue Jays (whose GM, J.P. Ricciardi, is a Beane disciple) are making me wonder if Beane's way is really the best way. (as I duck the stampede of sabremetricians yelling at me about the small "sample size" of 50 games). It wouldn't bug me if it wasn't, since this style of baseball is quite boring. Actually I think it's just that the other GM's have caught up, and Beane's OBP-savvy isn't the edge it was two years ago.

Anyway, this is still a puzzling move, but as long as it results in Jeremy Giambi hitting some dingers at the Vet, I'll be happy.

UPDATE: Chris Karl says the Phillies scores a "coup" in his weekly Transaction Analysis Column (a great weekly read), so long as they use Giambi effectively.
LOSING MEANING
Jill Nelson writes about the sentencing of chruch arsoninst and murderer Bobby Frank Cherry, and says that there are many like him, in fact:

Today’s racists are those who willfully ignore the existence of both discrimination against African Americans and their own white privilege. They are those who insist that all they have is due to hard work, while all that other, less fortunate members of society lack is a result of their own ineptitude. Like Cherry, today’s racists take lives and livelihoods, crush spirits, and then blame the victim

Passages like this rob the words "racism" and "racist" of any meaning whatsoever. My dictionary defines racism as "a belief that race is the primary dterminant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inhererent superiority of a partcilar race." To be honest, Nelson's thoughts about "white privilege" sound a lot closer to this definition than those who say that they accomplish what they have through hard work.

I'm not saying racism doesn't exist and that whites don't genrerally have an easier time from society than blacks. But I have to object to defining racism as "anybody who disagrees with me" and comparing them with a church arsonist and murderer. Doing so makes the word "racism" meaningless, and harms the credibility of anyone who is truly the victim of racism.

UPDATE: I'm imagining how Neslon would react if Ari Fleishchler or Dick Cheney or especially John Ashcroft said something like "But terrorism is not dead. Today's terrorists are those who willfully ignore the existence of terrorist groups. They are those who think that measures to curb terrorism like the Patriot Act are unnecessary." Nelson would be up in arms about the "chilling effect" such words have, and that labeling one's political opponenets like that is ridiculous.

But I guess it's OK when she does it.
ZERO TOLERANCE=ZERO FAITH?
Another reason I'm not a fan of "zero tolerance" policies is that they permanently remove the Holy Spirit from these descisions, and instead make our idea of what's the right thing to do in 2002 as the permanent and only correct treatment.

Some would say that they have turst in the Spirit, just not in bishops' ability to obet the Spirit. I suppose that's true, but then shouldn't our response be to pray for our bishops and call them to work in the Holy Spirit rather than cutting God out of the deicsion-making altogether?

Again, I think the laity, who also have access to the Spirit should be involved in deciding what to do with priests who have disobeyed their vows. But I don't think that looks like "zero tolerance" policies that leave no room for divine guidance in our decision making.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

GOOD TAKE-DOWN
Emily Stimpson takes down Andrew Sullivan's ridiculous rant about the pope's priorities. I would have written something similar, but Stimpson outdoes anything I could have done.

I know Sullivan doesn't like the Pope's stance on gays, but is that any reason to continue to distort his words and actions to make him look bad. Sullivan is capable of some great writing and well-deserved ribbing, but he's also capable of some unfair fighting.
WHAT ABOUT THIS?
From the evidence, it looks like Milwaukee Archbishop Weakland engaged in a consensual homosexual affair with a student at Marquette, and than paid him $450,000 to keep quiet about it. He was on Good Morning America referring to it as "sexual abuse" or "date rape", but that doesn't square with the evidence right now.

It seems we have two sins here:
  • Weakland's affair
  • The payoff

Call me "soft on affairs" if you will, but the second sin concerns me monuementally more than the first. But of course, they're interconnected. Without the affair, there would be no need for a payoff. That's the conservative argument against having gays in the priesthood, and I suppose there's some merit to that.

The liberal argument is that if we weren't so darn hung up about sex, then there would be no need for a payoff, and I suppose that has some merit as well. I suspect Andrew Sullivan will be making this argument in the next day or so. Try as we might to screen priests, it's inevitable that some of them will fail, since they're human just like all of us, and then what?

That's the big question. And that's one reason why I'm not so excited about "zero tolerance" policies. Because like it or not, most of us would like to preserve our positions. If the consequence of failing is removal from the priesthood, then priests who fail will be desperate to cover their tracks, and thus we'll have more "under the table" settlements.

So what do we do with a priest who has failed? Demanding some form of public penance would probably be a good place to start.

I think a real problem that many of the Catholic Bloggers have hit on the head is clericalism -- the priesthood is seen as a place of power rather than service, and priests jockey for more political power. An affair could derail those ambitions, so it must be covered up. If all our priests simply wanted to serve, then it wouldn't matter to them if they were defrocked; they could continue to serve God and the Church is some other way.

To conclude a bit of a rambling post, the first sin (the affair) will probably always be with us so long as we have frail humans in the priesthood, though it probably can be reduced significantly. But the second sin (the payoff) is avoidable, and points to a real problem in the Church. As we continue to search with the Holy Spirit's guidance for sensible policies, I think we ought to focus on how we can keep the first sin from leading to the second.
SPORTS THOUGHTS
For the first time in several years I have no teams from my current home (St. Louis) or my original town (Philadelphia) to root for in the NBA or NHL Playoffs. Still, it's an enjoyable time for me to be a sports fans.

The NBA playoffs have been quite entertaining, with the infusion of some much-needed new blood. Players like Mike Bibby, Jason Kidd, and Paul Pierce are a joy to watch, along with the continued excellence of Shaquille O'Neal and especially Kobe Bryant. It's hard to know exactly how good Bryant can and will be.

The NHL playoffs features what may go down as the greatest match-up ever, in terms of Hall-of-Fame caliber players, with Detroit angainst Colorado. First, you've got the goaltenders -- Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy, probably the two most celebrated netkeepers of their era, both looking to add one more accomplishment to their careers. Then there's the captains, both #19's -- Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic, two of the longest tenured captains in the NHL, and probably the most respected. Add in other probable and possible Hall of Famers like Brett Hull, Peter Forsberg, Nik Lidstrom, Rob Blake, Luc Robatille, Chris Drury, Chris Chelios, Adam Foote, and Sergei Fedorov, plus some great youngsters. The games have been great so far, and I look forward to more.

In baseball, both the Cardinals and Phillies seem to be rebounding from rough starts. The Cards have finally gotten some of their starting pitching back, and they've had a great home stand. (Plus, they didn't get their stadium deal approved, which is fine by me). My Phillies have also rebounded, and are only 4 games out of their division lead, though that has more to do with the mediocrity of their division than their own play. Plus, it looks like they just fleeced the A's for Jeremy Giambi. Billy Beane seems like a smart guy, but I can't imagine why he'd give up anybody for John Mabry, a singles hitter without a position. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

A TRULY "CATHOLIC" BLOG?
Jack at Integrity captures why I'm a bit ambivalent on the "Catholic blog" trend in this post.

Reading some of the Catholic blogs, I can't help but wonder what a non-Catholic would think of the Church if the blogs were his only exposure to Catholics. Somehow, "See how those Christians love one another" doesn't exactly spring to mind.

We need to ask ourselves if our actions are helping to bring about a Paschal Resurection from the current crisis, or if we're just dragging us down.

This is a powerful new medium which can be used for great good in the world, and an exciting way to spread the Good News. It's my prayer that we'll do something better with it than whine about clapping at Mass, bully "dissenters" who honestly want to help the Church, and feed the hysteria over the current scandal with rumors and innuendo.
ATTENTION ALL BLOGSPOTTERS!
Be sure to republish both your archives and something else today (Edit a post and click "Post & Publish"). Otherwise, your post won't show up.

This tip courtesy of InstaPundit, who is no longer among the BlogsSpotters.

Monday, May 20, 2002

WHAT'S DIFFERENT NOW?
The fact that there were some warnings about the 9/11 attacks is not completely surprising, and neither has the reaction from the Bush White House -- the watrnings were vague, there wasn't much new information, etc.

What I'm not seeing is any demonstration that a similar warning would be handled differently now. I thought Tom Ridge's job was to coordinate the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, and local law enforcement so that the information gets to the right people. Why isn't he on the Sunday morning talks shows instead of Dick Cheney and Condi Rice? Tell us how the flow of information works now.

I'm a lot more interested in how such tips are being handled now than how they were handled nine months ago.
COME, HOLY SPIRIT
This Sunday Catholics and most other Christians celebrated Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and by extension, us.

On Pentecost, the Apostles boldly porclaimed the Gospels, ande veryone there understood them despite coming from different lands and speaking different languages.

I think it's important for us to remember that. It's easy to give up on people, dismiss them saying "they don't get it." We do this to Islamic fundamentalists, domestic criminals, and even our own Church leaders.

Pentecost teaches us that when we speak the truth with courage and compassion, we will be understood through the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

"-GATE" WATCH JOINED
Early readers will recall the occasional feature caled "-gate watch", beginning with my first ever post, dedicated to pointing out the tendency of folks in the media to tack the suffix "-gate" to indicate scandal.

Now InstaPundit has joined, lamenting the use of "PhotoGate" to describe the ridiculous controversey about the RNC selling photographs of Bush, including one from 9/11.
MORONS
You'd think that Major League Ballplayers have a pretty good hand. They have a number of superstars who also happen to project a "good guy" image (Sammy Sosa, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, etc.) The public perception of Bud Selig continues to decline, and most think he's a liar and a puppet for the owners, which include some wildly unpopular folks like George Steinbrenner, Jerry Reinsdorf, and Jerry Colengelo. Plus, most Americans tend to side with labor rather than management, all other things being equal.

So what do the players do? Start talking about striking before the playoffs, of course.

This would be another public relations disaster for the players' union. Even talking about it now is a bad idea. Why should I invest any interest in this baseball season if there aren't going to be any playoffs?

Talk about self-desturctive ideas! It's hard to recall another time when both loabor and management have acted so much against their own interests.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

CATHOLIC BLOGS, CONTINUED
Reading more of the Catholic blogs, I observe that they sound a lot like some of the conversations I have with my wife on the way home from Mass on Sunday -- Why did they sing that song? Why did Father talk about that? Home come we couldn't hear the readings? Why did the choir use that arrangement; it was impossible to sing along with?

That's healthy, even if it would be nice to be more charitable. But I think it's a bit uncharitable to broadcast my liturgical complaints on the Internet when most of the people working on the liturgies are volunteers or people working for little pay.

Yes, most weblogs exist on "taking down" columns by writers, but it seems to me that there's a difference between taking apart the work of professional writers and taking apart the work of volunteer liturgical coordinators who are trying to serve God and their fellow parishoners.

I don't know if all of us in the blog world always understand how powerful the megaphone is that we've handed ourselves. A comment made in the car to my wife is mostly harmless. A note on my weblog read by a few hundred people a week is another thing altogether.

I understand the desire to improve the litrugy, but let's be charitable, and acknowledge that people are doing their best, and try to be constructive with our criticisms. I seem to see a lot of "Can you believe they did that?" but not much of "Why not try this?" especially where this is something specific.
IS THIS A "CATHOLIC BLOG"?
I notice I never get listed among the "Catholic" blogs, even though I have written quite a bit about Catholicism (Neither is Tony Adragna, a former seminarian who has been kind enough to send some traffic my way.)

Why is this? I guess it's because I don't spend much time complaining about horrible music, lousy preaching, stewardship appeals, and other things. Yes, I've experienced my share of cringe-worthy liturgical abominations, but I recognize that there are different people in the Church with different tastes. What's distracting to me may be meaningful to the person sitting next to me.

And some of the commentary seems to me to smack of snobbishness. If all these people who don't know what they're talking about would just get out of the way, we could have a nice "pure" liturgy.

A favorite target of the Catholic bloggers is hymns that are about ourselves rather than God. I'm not a fan of the hymn "Anthem" either, but don't we need to remember that we need each other? Isn't one of the Church's challenges convincing people that belonging to the Church and worshipping together is better than some indivudualized "spirituality?" I always hear these hymns as a challenge for what we should be rather than a celebration of what we are. Sometimes I wonder if the critics' real problem with these hymns is that they're not willing to meet that challenge.

Another recent target has been the moving of the Ascension to Sunday in some dioceses. I don't have a problem with this because I've been to many a Holy Day of Obligation Mass and have found them uniformly unispiring. The pews are half full, there's little or no music, little or no homily, and a general "let's get this over with" feel from all involved. Is this the best way to celebrate this great feast? Isn't it better to celebrate it on Sunday with a more robust liturgy, the pews full, and music of praise? Holy Days of Obligations work where the whole day is a celebration. Here in the US, it's a half hour squeezed into a lunch hour, early morning or dinner hour. It's a shame, and far short of what we should be celebrating.

Some of these Catholic bloggers are very quick to criticize the bishops for failing to take responsibility. But I find it a tad hypocritcal to be calling for liturgical purity while at the same time complaining about specific actions not being mentioned in a novena prayer. Hmmm (or Hymn), why would such "taking of responsibilty" be appropriate to include in such a prayer, if stewardship appeals and hymns about the Church community at Sunday Mass are such an abomination?

So, I guess I'm not much of a "Catholic blogger," since I don't mind community-centerd hyms, stewarship appeals, and moving holy days to Sunday. But if that's the measurement, I'm not sure I want to be, either.

Friday, May 10, 2002

GETTING DESPERATE
Virginia Postrel links to her petition against a cloning ban four times(!) in her latest plea. Apparently she now thinks the problem is that folks are suspicious of online petitions.

Maybe, as I suggest below, not as many people share Postel's views as she thinks. Maybe lots of smart people are concerned about cloning, and think a ban might be a good idea.

Nah -- it must just be skepticism about onlien petitions.
THE BLUES ARE TOAST
Chris Pronger is our for the playoffs. Well, at least my wife will be ahppy, since she's not much of a fan, and I won't need to watch any more games. Still, it's a shame to see it end with an injury like this.

There's always next year...

Thursday, May 09, 2002

SUPPORT AND GRACE
Critics of celibacy often bring up that today's culture makes celibacy difficult. John Derbyshire made a good case for this last week.

Proponents of celibacy (of which I consider myself one) respond that with grace, and with God's help, celibacy is not an impossible burden, and can be a great gift to the Church. Furthermore, we Catholics are called to help change the culture, and support our priests so they can faithfully answer their vocation.

The problem is that some of these same critics say that we shouldn't ordain gay men because they face "special temptations" that are too difficult to resist. This sentiment is the second part of Cardinal Bevliacqua's statement, the first part of which I examined earlier.

But if that's true, then aren't we called to help support these men even more? Shouldn't we pray for them, and honestly discuss these temptations rather than simply saying we don't want them as priests? I'm seeing no discussion of what we can do to help gay priests overcome these "special temptations," only discussion about why we should exclude them.

This sentiment could be taken too far -- not everyone is meant to be a priest. But it seems uncharitable to me to block a man from his vocation because of "special temptations" he might face. Every day, we face more temptations than if we just stayed in bed, but that doesn't mean we should just stay in bed.

"Nothing will be impossible with God."

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

THE PASCHAL MYSTERY
Amy Wellborn, (who has many other great things to say, and probably knows a lot more about Catholicism than I do) says that Catholics shouldn't get too excited or optimistic about how the Church will emerge from the scandal, because it would be wrong to celebrate change that comes at the expense of children.

I agree that we shouldn't get so caught up in how great things are going to be that we forget about the victims, but I don't see that happening here. It seems to me the story's been a whole lot more about Fr. Shanley's perversions and how unresponsive the bishops have been than it is about how wonnferful the Church is going to be after this.

What Wellborn forgets is that our redemption and salvation comes from the torture and execution of Jesus, who was completely and utterly innocent, even more innocent than the children who were abused. But that doesn't stop us from celebrating it, even though we are mindful of Christ's suffering.

This the central story of Christianity -- that suffering and pain can lead to goodness in God's hands. This doesn't make the suffering any less real, but it shouldn't stop us from working for, and indeed celebrating, the Paschal Resurrection on the other side of that suffering.

Monday, May 06, 2002

GOOD ANNA QUINDLEN COLUMN
Since I've been a critic of Anna Quindlen's columns, I should note that I strongly agree with her latest column, about how over-scheduled kids' time is nowadays. I honestly couldn't find any part of it I disagreed with.
500 SIGNATURES?
I've got to think that Virginia Postrel(scroll down to "PETITION NEWS:") and others have got to be disappointed in that low a number of singatures, considering that InstaPundit gets several thousand hits a day, so Postrel must get somewhere near that, and she's been plugging the petition non-stop. Maybe they're wrong, and there a lots of smart people who don't think a cloning ban is such a terrible idea, tantamount to "outlawing science."

I also have to admit that I'm taking a bit of ironic pleasure in the fact that they've had so many technological glitches with the petition. These people can't even master an online petition, but think we should just toss them the keys to embryonic life. I'm not convinced...

SULLIVAN STILL DOESN'T GET IT
Sorry, couldn't resist using everyone's favorite headline when criticizing the bishops on one of their critics.

Last night, after admitting the point I raise below, Sullivan writes:


And I dare say that most serious moral theologians (not to mention simple human beings) would regard the rape of a minor as a somewhat worse offense that a sincere attempt to re-marry after a failed first attempt. Not, apparently the Pope, in whom there is plenty else to admire.


No, the Pope never said that the sins in question are worse than the rape of a minor. He only said that it doesn't make sense to give absolution when the "penitent" plans to continue sinning. It has nothing to do with the relative severity of the sins.

It really bugs me that Sullivan, a man who professes to love the Church, twists the Pope's words around to make him look bad. Sullivan knows his criticism is unfair, yet he persists in making it anyway. A non-Catholic or ill-informed Catholic reader would leave Sullivan's page thinking that the Pope regards remarriage or consensual gay sex in a committed relationship as worse sins that molestation. And this just isn't the case, and I don't see how leaving people with this false impression helps anybody.

I also take issue with Sullivan's assignment of this doctrine to the Pope. John Paul II didn't invent this teaching -- it's been part of the Church tradition for centuries. To read Sullivan, you'd think the Pope created this new teaching in a special effort to punish gays and divorcees.

There's plenty to criticize about the Church's leadership, but let's play fair. JP II didn't even mention gay sex or remarriage in his letter, and Sullivan's efforts to use it to make him look bad don't help anyone.

Friday, May 03, 2002

FROM ANDREW SULLIVAN:

THE POPE DRAWS A LINE: He won't say categorically that priests who are child molesters cannot be forgiven. He can forgive the man who attempted to murder him. But remarried divorcees and gays and lesbians in committed relationships are barred from absolution. What a perfect example of what the Catholic Church now stands for, and what this Pope has wrought.

First of all, Sullivan isn't playing fair with the statement. As the linked WP article outlines, This was part of a routine call of the Pope for Catholics to repent, but with a warning that absolution should not be given to "habitual" sinners who do not plan to change. Other theological experts speculated that the pope was referring to sexually active gays and remarried divorcees.

With that in mind, of course it shows what the Church stands for -- forgiveness of penitents who have repented from sin and do not plan to repeat the sin. According to Church law, those engaging in sex outside of Catholic marriage and planning to continue do not fall into that category.

Does Sullivan want the Church to start forgiving those who plan to repeat the sin? That's not Christian forgiveness. And the Church still considers sex outside of marriage to be sinful, and considers marriage to be a lifetime commitment. If Sullivan (or anyone else) finds those positions untenable, he should make the case directly, rather than comparing repentant sinners to those who plan to continue sinning.

For example, I think the Church needs to reconsider its stance toward gays. But in the meantime, someone who is having homosexual sex is putting him or herself apart from the Church. It would be wrong for the Church to pretend that such a person is reconciled with the Church when he or she truly is not.

I feel like we've reached the "piling on" portion of the scandal, which is why you may have seen my tone change recently. I am still outraged by how pedophile priests have been protected, but a lot of people are now using it as an excuse to take cheap shots at the Church like Sullivan above (even though he is Catholic). And I'm probably going to use a fair amount of blog ink debunking them.

We're going to see a lot of "How can you have a problem with this, if you don't have a problem with pedophile priests?" arguments in the next few months whenever the Church takes any kind of moral stand. (InstaPundit has already started -- I'm sure he'll continue with cloning). Perhaps dealing with these arguments will be part of our atonement for these sins, but we have to remember that that this isn't a logical argument for abortion, premarital sex, the death penalty, embryonic research, or economic injustice. It's important to remember that, and not shrink from our duty to confront injustice, and continue to proclaim the Gospel.

So, when I defend the Church's moral stands, this does not mean that I condone the actions of the bishops who covered up sexual abuse. I am saying that this does not change the moral truth and 2000 years of tradition and our call to live the Gospel.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF WITHHOLDING FROM THE APPEAL
Let's think throught the consequences of witholding an offering from the appeal. Here in St. Louis a large chunk of the money goes to Catholic high schools. Let's say that thanks to all of us "sending a message" the appeal has less money to give to these high schools. What will be the consequences?

One might be that these high schools would raise tuition. This may price several students out of the high schools. Some cynics may think this is a good thing since they don't care for diocesan high schools, but we're talking here about parents who want to send their children to Catholic schools but are not because of price, not because of corruption, lack of theological discipline, or anoy other reason. Other Catholic families may afford to pay the higher tuitions, but at the expense of their budget.

Other schools may cut staff, salaries or budget. The pay of Catholic school teachers is already a sad joke. Why make it worse?

So, the people harmed by this "message" would be Catholic high school students, Catholic families, and Catholic school teachers. Sounds like a winning strategy to me!

Again, I encourage any Catholic readers to join me in pledging more than they have before to cover any shortfall that may result.

COURAGE
Some are saying that failing to withold funds shows a lack of courage. I wonder how many of these folks withheld some of their taxes because Congress failed to discipline Gary Condit, or any other massive cover-up. Seems to me this would take more courage, since the consequences are real and personal -- going to jail. The consequences of not giving to one's parish are spread out to, as I said above, Catholic families and teachers. The worst consequence you can face for not giving is a phone call from your pastor asking why.

Let's see how courageous these folks are when it's their own hide on the line.

Again, our Church is in crisis. I don't see how giving less to it is a Christian, loving response.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

A BAD IDEA
There's been lots of grumblings from people about witholding money from collections until the Church "shapes up" on abusing priests, whatever that means. Amy Wellborn has been beating the drum on this.

This is a terrible idea. If we really love the Church, why would we respond to its cirsis by witholding from it?

This is especially true for the diocesan appeals, which people are talking about boycotting. The Catholic Church continues to do important work in education and care for the poor through these donations. It would be wrong to hurt this work because of the actions of a few in the hierarchy. I plan to pledge more than I ever have before this year, and I hope any other Catholics reading this will do the same.

Yes, most of these people say that will joyfully double their contributions if the Church does what it should, but is this the way we want to relate to our Church? Through blackmail? I'm sorry, but I don't see this as consistent with Christ's message. I'm also not convinced that all these doublings of contributions would come to fruition.

I also don't buy the argument that all diocesan ministries are tainted by the clergy's sins. They continue to do important work, and continue to need our support.

The Church needs us. Do you think the problem is bad Catholic education? Get involved -- become a catechist! Liturgies bland and not-engaging? Join the choir, volunteer! Is witholding money from the Church really the best way to help it in this scandal? Is that the only thing you can think of to do?

I find these calls to refrain form giving to be petty and childish ("Yeah -- we'll hit 'em where it hurts!"). It's seems to me to be a far cry from how Jesus would respond to such a situation.

If you really think the Church needs to make some changes, then how exactly will cutting off its funds help? I hope we in the laity can find better ways to help our Church reform itself than witholding funds from it.

People are angry, and that anger is justified. But let's channel that anger into a paschal Resurrection on the other side of this, rather than revenge and hurting people who have done nothing wrong.

If you're still concerend, Fr. Shawn O'Neal has some suggestions for how you can make sure your contributions are used as you want them without punishing your local parish for the sins of the hieratchy.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

WHERE IS GOD?
Andrew Sullivan think celibacy is an unreasonable burden, and supplies as evidence his own struggles when he was chaste.

I also remained chaste until I married in my mid-twenties, and I have to say I never experienced the nerosies and other symptoms Sullivan describes because of it. I'll allow that perhaps Sullivan's struggles had another dimension since he believed that his orientation was somehow wrong.

What I found interesting is that Sullivan never mentions praying to God to help him in his struggle. If chastity is seen as a burden that one must shoulder alone, Sullivan is right, it is unreasonable. But if it is seen as part of an expression of one's love for God (and for me, love of my wife before I even knew her) that God can help us with, then it's not unreasonable.

My favorite line of scripture is the angel's line to Mary after telling her that her cousin Elizabeth is pregnant -- "Nothing will be impossible with God." Difficult, yes, but not impossible.

CELIBACY VS. CHASTITY

Hate to get pendantic on you, but I am a catechist, and these terms get thrown around a lot, and often used incorrectly.
  • Celibacy means not marrying. So a vow of celibacy, in and of itself, does not preclude sex.
  • Chastity is a positive virtue that all Catholics are called to that entails a healthy integration between one's sexual life and the rest of one's life.

For those who aren't married, chastity includes refraining from sexual intercourse. So when a priest takes a vow of celibacy, that combined with his commitment to chastity make this tantamount to committing to a lifetime of sexual abstinence.

But chastity encompasses more than just not having sex. For married Catholics, not having any sex with one's spouse would be unchaste. As I said above, it's a positive virtue that speaks to what we do as well as what we don't do.
NOVAK, AGAIN
Michael Novak is one Catholic writer who has impressed me during this scandal. He has resisted the urge to pile on, scapegoating neither gays nor celibacy, but looking deeper to see what's going on.

Yes, he has his agenda, which is for a return to orthodoxy in Catholic sexual teaching. But I find his case significantly more convincing than the cases for getting rid of celibacy or banning gays from the priesthood.

Novak also includes some background on Cardinal Law, whom the press has managed to turn into a demon in many people's eyes. His good works do not excuse his mistakes, but this background may help us to approach him with more compassion. In our zeal to show compassion for victims of sexual abuse, I think that many of us have forgotten to show compassion for anyone else.