Thursday, July 1, 2004

July 2004

This is a placeholder post linking to the page with this month's entries in the pre-Blogger format.

Topics: Appeals court rejects lawsuits against church. Ravinia Centennial Gala. Deaths of 6 nuns in 20 days reflect struggle to carry on. Demoralization in the Church - I. Church is not only good mother, but good teacher. Vacation at Wautoma, Wisconsin (Long Lake). 'Restricted' priest starts new ministry. Franklin limits size of retail buildings. List of 43 abusive priests released. Limit on store size wins backing. Commission to study ministerial formation. Supreme Court rejects appeal by Milwaukee Archdiocese. Br. Bob Smith to direct archdiocesan education, formation. The church's sorry record. Sewerage district denies blame.



A reader notes this from today's Los Angeles Times:
A New Breed of Priest

How are more conservative younger priests getting along with their older colleagues?

The 66-year-old [Pastor Frank] Colborn, also ordained in 1963, says many of the younger priests like [Father Marcos] Gonzalez do not seem to share his passion for ecumenism and social justice causes such as worker rights. But after three decades of witnessing too many unwed pregnancies and broken homes, Colborn says he has come to share the conservative concern over the lack of adherence to church teachings.

It helps if recent history is turning the liberal pastor neoconservative.


Appeals court rejects lawsuits against church

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the ten cases brought by Jeffrey Anderson representing plaintiffs alleging the the late Fr. George Nuedling sexually abused them when they were children. The plaintiffs sought to have the statute of limitations extended because they were prevented from realizing the abuse constituted a claim because of their awe for the Church or psychological inability to deal with what happened. They also brought claims that our Archdiocese was negligent in how it supervised Fr. Nuedling

But the ruling Friday by appeals court ... quoted a 1997 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that minors who are sexually assaulted are presumed to have discovered the injury at the moment of the assault regardless of factors such as repressed memories.

The ruling also noted a 1995 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that negligent supervision claims against a religious body are barred in Wisconsin ...

Earlier in the article, the plaintiffs' lawyer sounded upset.

"I am dismayed and ashamed that the laws are such in Wisconsin they so favor the predators and those that protect them, and let both the institutions and the predators hide behind statutes of limitation," [Jeffrey] Anderson said. "There has been a trend in this country that clearly recognizes the need to give these survivors more time. Wisconsin remains the only state, if not the most backward state, in going against that trend."

Given he's from Minnesota, he lacks standing to be ashamed of Wisconsin law. Presumably, there's more to his argument than the existence of a trend. Still, I fail to see how fairness demands creating the potential for plaintiffs to bring so many claims based on the alleged acts of dead priests. One of the policy reasons for statutes of limitations is so claims are brought when testimony will be available to both sides.

Here is the Court of Appeals decision.

Update: A different panel of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reached a different conclusion on the statute of limitations issue in this case (see paragraphs 16-18).


Ravinia Centennial Gala

Ravinia Park is 100 years old this year, and tonight was its biggest celebration. As usual, we picnicked on the lawn just north of the pavilion. Not as usual, people-watching included folks in formal ware.

The program included the world premiere of Loco, a Train Commission work by Jennifer Higdon. Ravinia was built to be a railroad destination, and even today patrons cross what are now the Union Pacific tracks between the parking lot and the concert grounds. Higdon shortened locomotive to loco, and the result was manic but with a railroad atmsophere. If Hitchcock had made with a thriller with the climax at Ravinia [North by Northwestern?], this would have been the perfect sound track.



This morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel runs an AP article on the recently concluded D&C, oops, DNC in Boston ["Cultural and social issues take back seat: Delegates accept need to focus on security and Kerry's war record," by Ron Fournier, p. 21A]. Here's a succinct explanation of what you heard and didn't hear.

"The special interests that favor Democrats understand that they will be vastly better off under a Kerry administration than they have been under Bush," said Matt Bennett, spokesman for Americans for Gun Safety, which supports gun control. "They also understand the way to get Kerry elected is to focus on the issue that is most important to voters--that is security both at home and abroad."

Almost everyone quietly went along with this strategy.

Albert Waganfeald, an Ohio delegate, raised a rare voice of dissent, saying the convention script was heavy on expediency. "I wish we would put our cards on the table and talk about affirmative action and our other issues," he said. "I guess they fear that Kerry can't win with them."

As it happens, today's mail brings a fund appeal letter from Sen. Kerry. What does he say to Democrats about security at home and abroad? Nothing.




Deaths of 6 nuns in 20 days reflect struggle to carry on

This morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on the dying off of the School Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, whose national motherhouse is in the Milwaukee suburb of St. Francis.

"I'm a big believer that in religious life we should be the leaven in society," Lunz [Sister Marcia Lunz, director of the order] said. "When someone makes a batch of bread, they use about a tablespoon of yeast compared to six or 10 cups of flour. And so, as leaven, we only need to be the tablespoon. And that's a whole new way of thinking about religious life, and not to play the numbers game, or to think it's better because there are more."

The problem is there's less than a teaspoon of leaven left, and it's past its freshness date.

From a peak of more than 900 sisters in the early 1960s, the community now has 324 sisters, about 65 of whom are fully retired. The median age is 76, with the youngest member in her upper 30s.

Religious sisters in the United States have declined from 179,954 in 1965 to 70,194 as of this year, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. In 1999, the latest year a figure was available, the national median age of nuns in non-contemplative communities was 69.

There might be a lesson for all of us in the financial strains on the order's retirement fund caused by the decline in numbers.

"In many cases, it was sort of a pay-as-you-go system, kind of like the Society Security system," Bader [Sister Janice Bader, the National Religious Retirement Office's project director for retirement services] added. "Nobody really expected the demographics to change, with so few new members and the greater numbers of older members."

So you might think that our bishops draw on the experience of the religious orders in reaching their opinions on Social Security. As far as I can tell, they don't.


We started hosting birthday parties for my Dad when he turned 65. On his seventy-fifth, he decided, for the first time, to say a few words to the assembled family. He recalled joining the Navy after graduating from high school in 1944. His ship was the U.S.S. Herbert C. Jones, a destroyer escort named for a young naval officer killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In August 1945 the ship was at Pearl Harbor after a refitting to add anti-aircraft guns. As my Dad tells it, they were expecting to ship out to do battle with the Kamikaze, then they heard the news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and they knew the war would be over before they arrived in the western Pacific. As many others have said, perhaps he and I owe our lives to
this man.




Demoralization in the Church - I

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The July 8, 2004 Catholic Herald ran this column by Fr. McBrien. After indicating he does not remember what "begging the question" means, Fr. McBrien gets to his point.

The problem is that many lay persons reject the teachings and do not abide by them in their daily lives because they believe those teachings to be wrong, in whole or in part. And many priests agree with that judgment. And so do many of the Church’s theologians, religious, and pastoral ministers.


If not, then we must be open to the possibility that the gap exists between certain official teachings and the thinking and behavior of many lay persons (and priests) because the teachings themselves are defective in whole or in part and need to be changed, just as two-thirds of the Papal Birth Control Commission once famously urged the late Pope Paul VI to change the Church’s official teaching on contraception.

Church is not only good mother, but good teacher

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Archbishop Dolan responds in the July 22, 2004 Catholic Herald, citing the views of two students in a Christian Formation class he visited back when he was a parish priest.

Fr. McBrien’s solution seems to be that of Amy: the only answer is to change the teaching! Must be something wrong with the doctrine, with the moral expectations, the reasoning goes, so we had better tailor our teaching to fit this new era of enlightened disciples.

Sorry, but I’m sticking with Laura. When I read the Bible, I ask how I can change my life to conform to the teaching of God’s Word, not how I can revise the message to make me more comfortable. When I read the Catechism, I try to refine my beliefs to make sure they are in obedience to the timeless truths of the church, not critique the doctrine to see how it fails to soothe my modern ears. When I examine my conscience at night, I attempt to assess my conduct in light of the commandments, the beatitudes, and the moral tradition of the church, not to alter those expectations to justify my own behavior.

I'll go further than our Archbishop. Fr. McBrien is not making an argument for reform of Church doctrine, although he might think so. If lay individuals, as such, have in so many areas been reaching conclusions contrary to Church teaching, and if their conclusions are right and the Church's teaching wrong, then this would show not that the Church needs reform, but that the Church is superfluous.

2004-07-21 to 2004-07-25

Hampton Beach and Manchester, New Hampshire


In our absence, a reader asked my thoughts on an article by Douglass Daniel.

The Republican National Committee has asked Bush-backing Roman Catholics to provide copies of their parish directories to help register Catholics to vote in the November election ...

My first thought is this is the first I've heard of laity using a parish directory for any purpose.

My second thought is that at our parish, the directory was published in connection with we parisioners sitting for some pricey portrait photos, and they can tell me what I can't do with my copy when they pry it out of my cold dead hand.

Sunday, the beach umbrella goes as a checked item.

Take the 6:30 a.m. flight from Manchester via Pittsburgh, and you can unpack in Milwaukee and still make 10:30 Mass.

Saturday, breakfast at the Red Arrow Diner. Not only did it have corned beef hash on the menu, the waitress asked how I wanted it done: "You want that crispy, darlin'?" Now that's fine dinering! The Fodor's guidebook said Manchester native Adam Sandler often eats here. (I've seen the ads for all his movies.)

Friday, dinner with my brother-in-law and his wife at Baldwin's on Elm, a very good restaurant.

I gave up on Rawls' A Theory of Justice as vacation reading.

Bought a beach umbrella, SPF 15. I brought spray sunscreen, thinking it would be less of a mess than lotion. Unfortunately, it's also harder to tell where it's been applied, and I wound up with stripes of sunburn down my sides. We just threw our beach towels down on the sand, but as we were leaving we saw that some folks instead dug a beach chair in the sand. If we remember to pack a little fold-up cooler, we'll be ready for our next beach vacation.

Wednesday, arrived mid-afternoon at Hampton Beach, with its boardwalk along over a mile of sand beach. At dinner, finally ordered a lobster roll, basically a lobster salad served on a split roll open-faced. That night, watched the weekly fireworks display, launched from the beach just south of our hotel.

Changed planes in Philadelphia. Had a Philly Cheese Steak for brunch.




In this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, new editorial page editor Ricardo Pimentel announced that Patrick McIlheran has started a weekly column for the Sunday op-ed page.

You may bill him as conservative but, as you will read in his column, he has some pointed observations about that designation. As McIlheran would say, "Whatever."

An indication that whatever Mr. McIlheran is, he isn't a cheesehead Russell Kirk.

His debut column is titled
Political labels often fail to capture who we really are.

I don't like NASCAR. I don't like most country music. I take the bus. I have eaten tofu voluntarily. I don't wear bow ties. What's wrong with the designated hitter? I don't hunt; I rarely watch Fox News; I've never smoked a cigar; and I have an unnatural fondness for Canada, for reasons unclear even to me.

It's a rehash of Rod Dreher's
Birkenstocked Burkeans.

2004-07-16 to 2004-07-18

Wautoma, Wisconsin (Long Lake)

My youngest brother, Bob, rented a lake cottage on (big) Long Lake in Waushara County. We took a room for two nights at the The Silvercryst.

Long Lake is deep and clean, but Bob's rental was on a bay with about two feet of water. Worse, the bottom was a muck in which you could sink up to your neck. I got my sailboat away from and back to the dock without much difficulty. The bay was somewhat sheltered from the wind, which was a blessing; out in the lake itself, fairly strong shifting and variable winds were a challenge.

Much fun tubing, towed by Bob's power boat.The lake association maintains a swimming and diving raft, with both a low dive and high dive.

Friday we dined at the Milty-Wilty Drive-In Restaurant, which retains some Fifties charm. My test is the malted milk shake. Milty-Wilty's is okay.

Saturday we dined at The Silvercryst. It's not quite the stereotypical Wisconsin supper club; no lazy susan relish tray, for example. My test here is the Brandy Old Fashioned, and The Silvercryst's is pretty good. Not surprising at a hotel where the front desk is the bar in the cocktail lounge. But instead of the classic maraschino cherry and orange slice, it came with a maraschino cherry and pineapple chunk. Nouvelle cuisine, I suppose. We recommend the French Roquefort dressing with your salad.




'Restricted' priest starts new ministry

Our Archdiocese recently released the names of 43 priests who have been removed or restricted because of substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse. One of those priests is Fr. S. Joseph Collova. He recently founded Wisconsin's first congregation of the Independent Evangelical Catholic Church in Sullivan, Wisconsin. The IECCA

... claims to borrow from Catholic traditions while relaxing some of the Vatican's rules on homosexuality, birth control, divorce and women in the clergy, among other things.

The Bishop of its Northwest Diocese, the Rev. James Alan Wilkowski, says he reviewed Fr. Collova's comprehensive documentation of the charges against him and was not convinced of his guilt.

The civil case against Fr. Collova was not decided on the merits.

Collova was sued in 1993 by a man in his mid-20s who said Collova sexually assaulted him hundreds of times between 1980 and 1987 when the man, referred to as "T.C." in court documents, was between 14 and 21 years old.

The courts dismissed the case without ever reviewing the merits of the allegations, citing expiration of the statute of limitations. The Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1997 upheld the ruling.

The abuse allededly occurred while Fr. Collova served at St. James Church here in Franklin.

Bishop Wilkoski said he requested information from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee which it would not provide to him.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Kathleen Hohl said the Archdiocese of Milwaukee did respond to Wilkowski's request for information about Collova. In a letter dated June 21, she said the archdiocese told Wilkowski that Collova's case had been dismissed by the courts not for lack of merit but because the statute of limitations had expired.

She said the letter talked about Collova's status with the church but did not say that Collova had been restricted - meaning he had been removed from serving as a priest, and is prohibited from celebrating the sacraments publicly and presenting himself as a priest.

Why didn't the letter tell Bishop Wilkoski of Fr. Collova's restrictions? The article doesn't say. There are a few other holes, or Hohls, in the account.

Hohl would not provide a copy of the letter to the Journal Sentinel.

Hohl would not say how the church handled Collova's case ...

Our Archdiocese has started proceedings against Fr. Collova for becoming a member of another denomination's clergy.




Franklin limits size of retail buildings

Our city council voted 5-0 (Alderman James Bergman absent) to amend the Unified Development Ordinance to limit individual retail buildings to 125,000 square feet in most of Franklin. The amendment resulted from Wal-Mart's proposed 184,000 square foot SuperCenter.

Some supporters of the measure insisted it was not an anti-Wal-Mart initiative ...

... many people at the meeting carried signs that depicted the Wal-Mart name with a frowning face and the words, "Not in my neighborhood."

Thus was catastrophe averted.

Opponents of big-box developments have cited numerous reasons for their opposition, such as increased traffic, air and noise pollution, public safety concerns, loss of green space and the protection of smaller, community-based retailers.




List of 43 abusive priests released

After mulling it over for two years, our Archbishop released the names of diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse.

Anne Burke, interim chairwoman of the bishops' National Review Board on sexual abuse, commented favorably.

"He's [Archbishop Dolan] considered a leader, and I think that it does help ...," Burke said. "I think that it's important for the community to know that the diocese is transparent with this and that they are not trying to hide anything."

Burke, an Illinois appellate judge, was pleased that Milwaukee had not released names of priests who had faced unsubstantiated allegations or ones that were not investigated.

Peter Isely, local spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and David Clohessy, SNAP's national director, criticized our Archdiocese for not disclosing the names of religious order priests with similar allegations while working for our Archdiocese.

Archdiocesan spokesman Jerry Topczewski said that Dolan, who meets twice a year with the heads of religious orders that have ministries here, sent a letter to them Friday urging them to follow his example and release the names.

"As the archbishop of Milwaukee, he does not have the authority (under church law) to interfere with the normal business of a religious order," Topczewski said.

That begs the question of whose business it is when the orders' members are in the service of our Archdiocese. Could Archbishop Dolan have sent them a letter saying he would release either the names of an order's members or the order's written objection to disclosure? In our Archbishop's email to staff announcing the disclosure, he says

Protecting children is our primary concern and obligation.

By releasing this information, the Church of southeastern Wisconsin reaffirms its commitment to seeking, reaching out to, and encouraging any victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse of minors who have yet to come forward to do so, knowing that they will be believed.

That does not seem consistent with saying "We sent the religious orders a letter, what more could we do?"




Limit on store size wins backing

The Environmental Commission recommended the city council adopt an ordinance limiting individual retail buildings to 125,000 square feet except along S. 27th St.. This was prompted by opposition to Wal-Marts' announced plan to build a 184,000 square foot Super Center.

Unlike a 300' by 400' building, a 300' by 600' building threatened civilization as we know it, or at least as we know it here in Franklin.

Those opposed to Wal-Mart's so-called big box development have cited numerous reasons for their opposition, such as increased traffic, air and noise pollution, public safety concerns, loss of green space and the protection of smaller, community-based retailers.


[Commission member and former alderman Dan] Dorsan, who said he was attending the hearing as a resident and was not representing the Environmental Commission, said big box developments exceeding the proposed limits could increase traffic by anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 motor vehicles daily in addition to delivery vehicles. That, he added, would increase air and noise pollution.

The rap on the Environmental Commission is that it actually tries to thwart development, though without admitting that is what is trying to do. If the proposed ordinance results in a development with as many square feet under more than one roof, it's hard to see how the environmental impact would be significantly less. So the complaints about the commission might have merit.




The June 24, 2004 Catholic Herald is now on-line with its permanent links.

Commission to study ministerial formation

Our Archbishop appointed a commission to review training of priests, deacons, and lay ministers at St. Francis Seminary. The study was prompted by the report of the archdiocesan strategic planning task force.

[Kathleen] Hohl [communications director for the archdiocese] said that as part of the task force’s overall recommendations, "they felt that it was probably an appropriate time, in light of all of the planning that was going on, for a broader study to look at how men and women are trained" for ministry.

The commission plans to report to our Archbishop January 1, 2005. I suppose they figure he'll be working anyway since its a holy day of obligation.

Supreme Court rejects appeal by Milwaukee Archdiocese

Our Archdiocese sought U.S. Supreme Court review of jurisdictional decisions by California courts.

They [attorneys for our Archdiocese] argued that a California court should not handle cases involving religious institutions in other states and the priest accused of the abuse was no longer connected to the Milwaukee Archdiocese when the abuse allegedly occurred.

The plaintiffs allege that our Archdiocese failed to adequately warn the Diocese of Orange about Fr. Siefried F. Widera when he moved to California.

Last September, a California appeals court ruled that the lawsuit against the archdiocese could proceed since Milwaukee church officials had failed to notify the bishop of Orange that the priest had a criminal record for child molestation.

In other words, this was sufficient contact with California to give its courts jurisdiction of these claims against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. (The U.S. Supreme Court has substantial discretion over what cases it chooses to hear, and rejects all but a very small percentage of them.)

"The question for the court was one of jurisdiction, and the merits of the lawsuit have not yet been addressed," he [Jerry Topczewski, administrative assistant to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan] said in a statement. "Now we’ll get to work on resolving the issue at hand, on the merits of the case in the best interests of everyone involved."

It sounds like he's saying our Archdiocese works to resolve issues of child sexual abuse by clergy in the best interests of everyone involved if it cannot avoid doing so by getting cases dismissed on other legal grounds.

Br. Bob Smith to direct archdiocesan education, formation

Capuchin Brother Bob Smith, long associated with Milwaukee's Messmer High School, will become our Archdiocese's director of education and formation.

His new archdiocesan position will cover not only Catholic schools but religious education programs, adult and family ministries, ministerial formation, and the Catholic Press Apostolate, publisher of the Milwaukee, Madison, and Superior Catholic Heralds.

In an interview, Br. Smith said Catholic school board president John Stollenwerk pushed his appointment to the position. Br. Smith sees two big challenges, attracting more students and financing operations and facilities.




The church's sorry record

In particular, this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial discusses one aspect of the sorry record of Richard Sklba, our Auxiliary Bishop, his handling of allegations against Fr. Dennis Pecore.

A parishioner at Mother of Good Counsel Church in Milwaukee said he warned Sklba that one or more boys were seen coming and going from the residence of Dennis Pecore, a priest who had been convicted of second-degree sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy. The visits could have been a violation of Pecore's parole. In a 1989 letter to the parishioner, Sklba wrote that the matter had been discussed with Pecore and that the priest had denied the charges.

"If you have additional information, I suggest that you deal with civil authorities directly," Sklba added.

The bishop did not indicate whether there would be any further investigation or that there had been any investigation beyond asking Pecore whether he'd broken the law. The fact that contracts were not renewed for three teachers who also complained about Pecore only reinforces the charge made by victims' groups that the archdiocese's first thought was protection of church authority rather than children.

Bishop Sklba's letter [PDF]. If you had the impression that, if he did nothing else, Bishop Sklba at least questioned Fr. Pecore directly about this, you'll see he didn't even do that.


Bishop Sklba sent an email [PDF] to Archdiocesan clergy and central staff responding to the editorial.

... Keep in mind that religious communities are separate from a diocese and that a diocesan bishop is forbidden by Church law to interfere in the internal life of a religious community except in very specific cases.

Keep in mind that Bishop Sklba and Archbishop Dolan keep raising this point in general terms and never quote a specific provision of canon law that shows that they or Archbishop Weakland, in fact, went to the limits of their authority in dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of children by members of religious orders.

... the religious order priest in question had been restricted by the courts from all contact with minors. However, another court order, requested by the family, allowed for such contact with his nephew. ...

Here's that modifying order [PDF]. If the request was by the family, it isn't stated explicitly.

More significantly, Bishop Sklba makes no response on the point that three teachers at the parish school lost their jobs because they raised the issue. Overall, Bishop Sklba provides no reason to think that protection of children from sexual abuse has the priority the Archdiocese claims.




In connection with the continuing Kerry communion conundrum, a reader notes
a post by Kevin at Lean Left.

Kevin is inspired to post by these words of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) at the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis Missouri.

"The scriptures say, 'What does it profit my brethren if some say he has faith but does not have works?'" Kerry said, roughly quoting James 2:14. "When we look at what's happening in America today, where are the works of compassion? ..."

Does he mean that the moral tenets of his religious faith should be the basis for the policies he advocates? Kevin seems to think so.

The teachings of Jesus Christ are at the core of how millions define their support for liberal causes, myself included.

It happens that Sen. Kerry has been campaigning for president in a stretch of rural areas that includes western Wisconsin, and this has been front page news in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In his talk on the campaign bus with the Journal Sentinel, Kerry said, "I have always believed" that life begins at conception.

There's faith, which invites a follow-up question on works and compassion.

Asked twice whether that meant he believed abortion involved the taking of life, he [Kerry] did not answer directly.

Just before in the article, Sen. Kerry gave a variation of his and Kevin's "faith without works" critique of the Bush Administration.

"They talk about Midwest values - that's all they do is talk," said Kerry ...

Presumably meaning that if a public official espouses values, he should be advocating public policy to effect those values.
So what was his indirect answer to the question whether his belief that life begins at conception means he believes abortion involved the taking of life?

"I think that it depends on - I would argue to somebody against abortion personally, so I think my views are consistent. But what their choice is, is between them and their doctor and their God. You don't have the right to make that choice for somebody else," said Kerry, who is Catholic.

Even if abortion involves taking somebody's life, all he'd do is talk.

Kerry listed issues in which he said the Bush administration was all talk, which the reporter summed up,

In other words, Kerry argued that the "values" debate was more about economic and social issues than cultural ones.

Apparently grounded on a version of the teachings of Jesus Christ in which man lives by bread alone.

My correspondent also notes a Daily Kos post which cites the U.S. Bishops' interim statement on the denial of communion issue. Kos calls it a vote

... to reject calls to impose a policy of denying communion to either Catholic politicians who support abortion rights or to Catholics who vote for such politicians.

and Kos agrees with those who say that

... the focus on abortion to the near exclusion had prompted a neglect of the Church's other policy priorities ...

Actually, the USCCB vote was on whether the bishops would enact such a policy nation-wide. They decided no. So, for example, the pastor of Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) in his home town of Springfield apparently denies him communion because of his positions on life issues, and Sen. Durbin attends Mass in Chicago and receives communion there.

My correspondent further notes this Washington Times article from last month.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois released a report compiled by his office staff that found when issues other than the church's pro-life stance are taken into account, Catholic Democratic senators voted more in line with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) positions than their Catholic Republican counterparts did.


On pro-life issues, Catholic Republicans matched the bishops' positions 72 percent of the time, compared with the Democrats' 12 percent. However, Democrats did better on domestic issues, such as favoring gun control and increasing the minimum wage, scoring 79 percent, while Republicans scored 34 percent.

If pro-life issues as a group are no less important than all other issues, then Catholic Republicans overall vote more in line with USCCB positions than Catholic Democrats. How did Sen. Durbin's staff manage a contrary result?

Mr. Durbin's aides began by examining 101 issues laid out by the USCCB in its legislative report for the first session of the 108th Congress. They also combed the conference Web site to find other alerts and letters in which the conference staked out a position on an issue before Congress. The aides boiled that down to 24 issues, which most of the report was based on.

But on some topics, such as immigration and the death penalty, the report gave credit when senators' sponsored bills the conference had endorsed, even if those bills have not yet received a Senate vote.

Still, Mr. Durbin chose not to count senators' support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex "marriage," which the conference endorsed last fall, but has not yet received a vote, or senators' support for school vouchers.

Here's the Durbin report. As you might have heard, a vote on mercury exposure reduction appears to count as much as a vote on partial birth abortion.

This raises a point beyond the methodology of Sen. Durbin's staff.
Contrary to Kos's claim of the bishops' excessive focus on abortion, the report indicates the opposite. If the USCCB has any focus at all, it's not evident in this report. As the report says "... the USCCB is deeply involved in a wide range of issues," which is impossible. You can either set priorities and be deeply involved in a few issues or you can be involved, but not deeply, in a wide range of issues. The USCCB's failure to set priorities renders it ineffective.

Update: Noam Schreiber wades in.

I'm all for this latest Kerry-Edwards push on values.

Not values, exactly. More like "values."

I think it's an especially good idea to use the language of values, a la Edwards, when talking about the administration's weaknesses...

Weaknesses in economic issues, but not... well, you know what's coming.

But I'm a little worried Kerry has become needlessly ambitious on the values front, wading into the weeds on divisive social issues like abortion when vague statements of principle would do.

Maybe "vague statements of principle" is one of the "values." Given what Schreiber's just said, it seems odd that he faults Kerry for candor.

... Kerry recently said he believes life begins at conception even though he supports a woman's right to an abortion. ... once you've made it explicit, [this] invites the charge that you condone something you think is murder.

That invitation was already accepted by Eileen McNamara.

So, Kerry's conscience is not at odds with church teaching, just with his voting record? By any measure, that is an odd definition of conscience. Forget church teaching for a moment. Conscience is a moral concept, as well as a religious one, after all. If you believe that life begins at conception, doesn't your conscience compel you to vote in concert with that belief? ...

I, and I suspect many others who support legal abortion, had mistakenly assumed that, on this very personal issue, Kerry's conscience was at odds with the teaching of his church. His consistent record in favor of abortion rights, family planning, and reproductive freedom was, I thought, a courageous reflection of an independent mind.

Turns out what Kerry meant was not freedom of conscience, but freedom from conscience.




Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel runs this Washington Post interview with Mel Brooks. For Independence Day, here's America as the promised land.

He smiles. "Broadway -- living Jews sitting in a big audience, screaming with laughter. It blows the dust off your soul."




Sewerage district denies blame

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources alleges that the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District violated its state permit by dumping 4.6 billion gallons of untreated sewage in May. The dumping is largely overflow from the "deep tunnel" underground storage built as an alternative to separating the combined sanitary and storm sewers in older parts of Milwaukee and Shorewood.

"There were no feasible alternatives to the overflows," MMSD Executive Director Kevin Shafer wrote in a letter responding to state dumping accusations.

With the system currently in place - one that was approved by the state Department of Natural Resources - it was either dump or risk widespread basement sewage backups, said Michael McCabe, MMSD's chief lawyer.

Despite MMSD's dumping rationale, at least 400 homeowners in Milwaukee reported sewer backups during the heavy May rains. MMSD has not acknowledged responsibility for them.



In a June 11, 2004 post, Justin Slaughter at Filibuster noted the poor showing of the Labour Party in Britain's local elections.

Although all results won't be available until the weekend, I can no longer see a scenario that lets Blair stay in office even to the end of the month. ...

PM Gordon Brown by July 1.

Mr. Blair remains as Prime Minister, while I could not see a scenario that let Filibuster stay on my blogroll beyond the end of last month.


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