Wednesday, June 26, 2002

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


"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

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.

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.
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

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.
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

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.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

I'm sure the orthodox crowd would love to take my statements about "gay Catholics who struggle to be true to [their] sexuality" and use them to show that I'm celebrating sodomy, so I feel like I should clarify myself.

I don't think that a gay person's being true to his sexaulity entails partaking in gay sex, any more than a hetorsexual's integrity must entail intercourse. I am saying that at least to gay people, their orientation is an intrinsic charcteristic of them, like their height or hair color. It must be terribly painful to see an intrinsic charteristic of oneself be thrown around as a"risk factor" for terrible acts like child abuse, and have this used as a basis for excluding people like oneself from ministries.

So, I have an admiration for those who struggle to remain both gay and Catholic. Especially when there are people in the gay community that are virulently anti-Catholic, and people in the Church who are anti-gay.

This doesn't mean I'll be marching in the next Pride parade, or urging for Catholic gay marriages. It just means that I have compassion for gay Catholics.
Why do I so strenuously oppose banning homosexuals from the priesthood? My critics would say it's because I've been brainwashed by the PC culture and think gays have "rights" that they really don't have. But I have other reasons.

First, I want the Church to have the best priests it can have. I believe that almost all of those who make it to ordained were indeed called to their ministry by God, wheter they are gay or straight. So, I think it is wrong of us to place conditions on the gifts God has provided us, and the Church will be poorer if we do so. Again, Jesus didn't disqualify Matthew from being an Apostle because he was a tax collector; if we really are followers of Jesus, we should follow His example.

Second, I think that assigning all culpability for the current crisis to homosexuals is dishonest and unholy. I think that there's a lot of old grudges out there against gays that have been under the surface, and people are using the current crisis as an excuse to dig them out. I do think that there is an element of anti-gay bigotry that's behind this notion, and it must be confronted. I have immense compassion for gay Catholics who courageously struggle to be true to the sexuality they believe they were born with and the Faith that they believe to be true, but whose many members say and do things to make them feel unwelcome. I feel compelled through my solidarity with them to confront those who don't seem to care about their feelings.

Thirdly, I'm aware that these blogs may be the face of Catholicism for some people. And I am horrified that when others look into this face, they will see us not loving each other, but pointing fingers at each other. I know that I would think less of a religion if I visited one of its prominent blogs in the midst of a crisis and read about how they want to assign all blame to a certain group of them, and ban them from leadership postions. We evangelize by the way we live our lives every day.

Again, I'm not here to call people names or accuse people of "hate." What I want us to do is act from love and compassion rather than fear. And I want us to benefit from the many good men God has called to the priesthood, both gay and straight. And I want the "Catholic blogs" to be a sign of God's love in the world.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Mark Shea says Anthony Marquis was wrong to say his policy recommendations reflected a "God hated gays" attitude.

I'll agree that "hate" is probably too strong a word (even though Marquis never accuses him of such). But I will say that Shea has helped create an environment people feel free to express and state the worst stereotypes about gays. Check out a typical comments section to see what I mean. This is spreading to other Catholic blogs, as many of Amy Wellborn's readers expressed relief that Bishop McCarthy's affairs were with women, as if that somewhow makes it better. To her credit, Wellborn expressed outrage at this reaction.

Shea would say he's not about building hate for gays. He just wants us to face up to the undeniable truth that the abuse of boys (boys, boys, and boys) is connected to homosexuality. And that those who focus on other issues are influenced by the PC culture and are afraid of the ugly truth.

Fine, but what now? So, homosexuality has something to do with this abuse. Where does that take us? How does having someone or something to blame help us to overcome this? It doesn't. It's just finger-pointing, and an attempt to pin the current crisis on political enemies. An it gets us nowhere. That's not just PC politics; it's the truth.

Well, Shea and others argue that since homosexuals are more likely to abuse, they must be barred from the priesthood (Shea himself makes exceptions for existing priests). Even if you accept this (and Mike Hardy offers some good reasons why we shouldn't), this isn't how we run a Church that we believe is guided by the Spirit.

Just this last Sunday, we heard in the Gospel about how Jesus called Matthew, a tax collector to be an Apostle. Now, at the time of Jesus, most would agree that tax collectors would statistically be more likely to lie, cheat, and steal than would others. But did the stop Jesus from calling him? Did Jesus say, "Matthew, you can't be my Apostle, since as a tax collector, you are likely to steal, and I can't take that chance?" No!

Do we really think that the Jesus who called Matthew the tax collector to be an Apostle would be here today urging us not to ordain gays, and defrock the existing gay priests? No. Barring gays from the preisthood is an act of fear, not love.

Which brings me back to one of my basic questions -- what are we "Catholic bloggers" doing here? Are we spreading the Gospel, spreading Jesus's message of justice and compassion? Or are we using this as a megaphone to take swipes at our political enemies, and bring others down and make them look bad? Are we creating a space where hatred is welcome, and love and compassion are not?

I would suggest that all of us "Catholic bloggers" commit to saying a brief prayer before we blog. The Prayer of St. Francis strikes me as a good choice:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Many bloggers lament that everything we do in Mass should be a prayer. Let's set an example by making everything we blog a reflection of God's love. If we ask ourselves, is this post an example of being "an instrument of God's peace" before we type, maybe we can tone down the vitriol a bit, and make a real contribution to the public conversation instead of taking potshots at each other.

And maybe we can show non-Catholics and those who are disconnected from the Church what we're about. It's an easier step to click on a link than it is to walk into a Church. What would someone curious about the Church think of her after visiting your blog? Would she be inclined to come to Mass on Sunday? Or would she be turned off by the negativity and backbiting?

This is especially true this week as the bishops meet. It's true that this will be an important test for the bishops, to see how they act. But it will be an equally important test for us bloggers. The world is watching.
A coworker of mine has passed away from cancer at the age of 42, leaving behind two small children. Please pray for his soul and his family.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

This is a terrible time to do this, since I've gotten a lot of referrals in the last week, but this blog will probably continue to be quiet for another week or so while I deal with some personal problems. If you are a faithful person, I would appreciate your prayers. I'll be back in a while, and I may or may not provide more details.

I appreciate your patience with me.

Friday, June 07, 2002

ZERO TOLERANCE = ZERO FAITH? (latest in a series)
William F. Buckley Jr. weighs in on the need for bishops to allow for the possibility of spiritual growth.
I can't get excited about he fight, despite the levele of hype. It seems strange to me that SportsCenter seems to spend half of its time covering this fight in the middel of the baseball season with the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals going on. But anyway....

I'm torn about how I feel about Tyson getting this fight. I don't think his preior convictions should preclude him from his porfession, especially since that profession is trying to beat people unconscious. Still, there's something unsavory about the way Tyson is being trotted out. He's a freak show, most people wathcing him will be doing so out of morbid curiosity, to see if he again snaps and does something outrageous. One gets the feeling Tyson is being exploited, even more so than all boxers are.

Lennox Lewis has always been a bit of an enigma. He's still never had a definitive victory, and he's getting up there in age.

I think the fight itself will be pretty dull. Tyson will come out with an early flurry, which Lewis will avoid. Then, a deperate Tyson will leave himself open for a knockout around the sixth round, if not earlier.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

There's been a lot of chatter in the blogs today on the difference between Anglo-Saxon law and Roman law. Mark Shea has a great discussion of the differences. I know I've learned a lot.

I have to say that I like Anglo-Saxon law for governemnt, but Roman law for the Church. Why? Because, as I've said before, unlike the government, we believe that the Spirit is present in all our decision making. By enacting "zero tolerance" laws, we are essentailly cutting the Holy Spirit out of all future discernments. We are saying that revelation ends now, and we know what's best, now and forever. I just don't think that's right.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Amy Wellborn notes that those ads for the GE 4-D ultrasound may be jostling some consciences. I sure hope so.

This reminds me -- the pro-life movement likes real science. The more we learn about early human development, the clearer it becomes that life really begins at conception.

Opposing research that creates and destroys embryos isn't "opposing science;" it's opposing the destruction of embryos, and the creation of them for that purpose.

We welcome the quest for knowledge; we just think the price for this particular knowledge is more than we're willing to pay.
This peice by Jennifer Rosato shows what passes for a pro-cloning argument.

There's absolutely nothing new here. Cloning research promises great advancement, banning cloning would be banning "science." Veterans of this debate have heard all this before.

She also uses the pro-cloner calling card -- trying to draw a distinction between "theraputic" and "reproductive" cloning. The first is good, the second is bad, and the pro-cloners would never dream of pushing for the second. That is, until research using embryos falls short, and they think they can achieve the cures if they let the embryos develop just a little more. We'll be asked, "Is this distinction worth a young girl's life?"

Of course left unanswered is the pro-life position, articluated in the opposing piece by Patricia Coll -- that thereaputic cloning neccesarily creates embryos that are destined for destruction. This adds a dimension to the already troublesome practice of IVF, where at least one embryo is slated for developement, and embryonic stem cell research, which uses existing embryos.

I also couldn't help but notice the bias in MSNBC's placement of the stories. Rosato's story is titled "The promise of research," and she is listed with several crednetials: "Jennifer L. Rosato is a professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and co-director of the Center for Health Law and Policy. She specializes in issues related to the intersection of family law and bioethics." Coll's piece is billed "Counting clones" and the only credential listed for her is that "Patricia Coll is congressional liaison for the National Right to Life Committee."

The subtext? "Normal" ethicists favor cloning. But only those "Right To Life" whackos oppose it. This depite the fact that Coll's pieceis much longer and more substansive that Rosato's piece.
Warning, this is a bit "reflectiony."

We are angry at the priests who abused children. Now what?
We are outraged at bishops who failed to protect children from these priests. Now what?
We are shocked at priests and bishops who paid large sumd of hush money from diocesan funds. Now what?
We are irked at those looking to use this crisis to further their own agendas and scapegoat their political enemies. Now what?
We are confused by a lack of clear leadership and accountability. Now what?

Our anger, sadness and outrage are very real. And they must be dealt with honestly.

But as Christians, we know that's not the end of the story. Jesus is our Lord not because he died, but because he is risen. Humiliation, anguish, suffering and death is never the end of the story for us.

Maybe it's too early to move from the suffering and darkness Good Friday to the glory of Easter Sunday. After all, we spend a good amount of our Easter Vigil in the darkness of the tomb. But move there we must and move there we will.

And that's the interesting part of the story. That's what makes us different. We believe in the Holy Spirit who will not leave us orphans, and will not let us fall into ruin.

Now what?

Monday, June 03, 2002

Ralph Wiley expands on some of the themes I touched on earlier about last night's baketball game, particularly about how even though they lost, the Kings were anything but losers.
Orthodox Catholic liturgical police are fond of reminding us that the Mass is "Chirst's prayer to the Father." Therefore, any "innovations" such as modern music or inclusive language reveal stunning arrogance on the part of the innovator, since the innovator must think he or she can improve on what Jesus has given us. Putting oursleves ahead of Jesus is blasphemy, so all liturgical innovations must be stridently opposed.

Looking at the liturgy, it occurred to me that this is somewhat bogus. Lots of what we do at even the most orthodox liturgy was not done by Christ. Some examples:

  • The Penitential Rite: A sinless Christ would have nothing to be penitent for, so this is an invention of the Church, not Jesus.
  • The Liturgy of the Word: Obviously, the New Testament did not exist at the time of Christ, so at most half of our modern Liturgy of the Word does not echo the prayer of Jesus.
  • The Profession of Faith: Also given to us by the Church, not by Christ.
  • Memorial Acclamation Most versions refer to Christ in the third person, other pray directly to the second person of the Trinity ("Jesus, come in glory!") This would also not be part of Chirst's prayers.

My point isn't that it's OK to go all willy nilly in playing around with the liturgy. But the idea that saying "for us and our salvation" instead of "for us men and our salvation" driectly contradicts Jesus is not borne out by the facts.

Our liturgy has developed from the Church in council, where Catholics believe the Spirit is specially present, and thus it must be taken very seriously. And it's true that much of what we do in the liturgy echoes the acts of Jesus in prayer.

My objection is using this in an attempt to shut people up and end discussions. There are very good reasons why parts of ther liturgy are the way they are. Let's hear them, instead of shutting people up by falsely accusing them of blasphemy.
A few thoughts on a wonderful Game 7 between the Lakers and Kings:

  • The game had a "big game" feel even before it started, kind of like a Super Bowl. I always had the feeling I was watching a game that would become a classic.
  • There was something very poetic about the 100-100 score at the end of regulation A perfect score for not a perfect game, but the best I've seen in may years.
  • Mike Bibby is one gutsy little guy. Het hit pretty much all of Sacramento's big shots, and was fearless in doing so.
  • Channeling Bill Walton -- "Who's gonna hit a free throw?" I can shoot 50% from the free throw line (but probably not under pressure). It amazes me that professional players can't shoot above 70%. I know they work harder than players of any other era, which makes me wonder if modern players condition their bodies for other tasks incompatible with free throw shooting. It's baffling. The Kings left 10 points on the floor.
  • I've got to wonder if Peja Stojacavic would have had more confidence in his shot if he was healthy. Maybe if the team gets back next year, more guys will have more confidence to handle the ball and take shots in crunch time.
  • Interesting that all my comments are about the losing team, even though the Lakers also played admirably. This is an example of a team's reputation being elevated in a loss. Only other example I can think of is the 1993 Kentucky team that lost the overtime game to Duke on Christian Laetnner's shot. That loss did more for that program than all their wins that year combined.
  • Finally, this game speaks against the notion of "swaring off" sports. Two or three years ago, I wasn't sure I'd ever watch another NBA game. The play was boring and tedious, and the players all had attitudes. This was when it seemed every NBA team's offense revolved around a two-man game where one player would pass the ball to a big man in the post, who would hold the ball in hopes of drawing an illegal defense on the opposing team.

    Tonight's game made me glad I didn't swear off the game. The rule changes have guaranteed that you need five players who can contribute on offense, and the game is much more exciting. Creative point guards like Bibby and Jason Kidd thrive. Plodding teams like the New York Knicks and Miami Heat miss the playoffs.

    It will be helpful for me to remember this if baseball players decide to go on strike before the playoffs this year.