Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Pastor's Forced Retirement

The Catholic Herald ran a version of this June 13, 2005 column by Richard P. McBrien [described as "Fr. Richard McBrien" in the Herald]. As he tells it, someone attends Sunday Mass at the parish of a controversial priest in order to document the schlock liturgy for a letter to the bishop.
He objected to the homily, to the form of the Eucharistic Prayer that was used, to the absence of kneelers in the church, to the pastor's invitation to the whole congregation to join in the proclaiming of the doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, and to the fact that the pastor left the altar at the "Our Father" to join hands in prayer with those in the first row.

Fr. McBrien apparently cannot refute the substance of these complaints, so goes on to criticize their form.
Not surprisingly, the letter's language was redolent of another era in U.S. Catholic history.

So what, you might think.
Its sanctimonious and self-righteous tone was exceeded only by its obvious determination to "do in" the pastor.

Here Fr. McBrien tries to make it sound like the letter writer has some ulterior motive.
The writer assured the bishop, whom he always addressed as "Your Excellency," that he was a member "in good standing" of his home parish. How many Catholics nowadays would have felt the need to add that superfluous phrase?

How many Catholic priests would feel the need to go to these lengths to avoid the real liturgical issues?
He also insisted that he was writing only "after deep prayer and reflection." He made this point again toward the end of the letter, adding the phrase, "for several weeks."

What next, he failed to start each paragraph with a new thought?
I would guess that more than half the priests in the diocese would roll their eyes over those lines.

No doubt reserving their charity and tolerance for worthier challenges. But back to Strunk and White and McBrien.
The writer consistently referred to the Eucharist as the "sacred" Mass, as if the Mass were anything but sacred. The Church was not simply "the Church" but "our universal Mother Church."


He assured the bishop that he would "continue to pray" for the pastor and his parishioners (more rolling of eyes from the pastor's brother priests)...


Just in case there was anyone left who wondered why people would much rather a son went to law school than the seminary.
This letter would ordinarily not merit even a mention here.

Going into the Beneath Contempt file, perhaps.
However, only two weeks later a diocesan official wrote to the pastor, at the bishops's request, seeking a formal response to the accusations.


The pastor answered each item in the complaint. Five days later, he met with the bishop, and three days after that was informed that he was being removed as pastor-only a month after this whole process had begun.


The lay person's vocabulary errors didn't offset the priest's liturgical abuses?
Needless to say, his many hundreds of parishioners have been shocked and upset by the bishop's decision.

Many may have been shocked by a bishop making a decision at all.
For all of his unconventional behavior, this pastor is genuinely loved by the great majority of his people.

You can love the pastor but hate the mispastoring.
It is an unusually active and vibrant parish, where every member is expected to engage in a ministry of one kind or another. No Sunday-only Catholics there.

Now my eyes are rolling. They not only had one hundred percent Mass attendance but every parishioner was also involved in some other parish ministry? Strange as that fiction is, the truth is stranger.
Seven years ago, on the 40th anniversary of the pastor's ordination, the previous bishop composed an Ode to him, referring to the pastor as "the Blue Angel."

Was the Ode the the tune of "You're the cream in my coffee"?
In that Ode, the bishop remarked on the priest's "tireless care of the poor, the sick, the old, and the lame."


For 40 years, he said, the pastor "had preached and labored...to make Jesus, the Gospel, and our faith take on new life for us."


He even compared him to St. Peter, who was praised, but also mocked. "But just like Simon Peter, [his] love for all God's people is solid as a rock."


The bishop called him a "faithful, ageless, and glorious priest."


Sort of like St. John Vianney, only better?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Is the Church Likely to Shrink--and Should It?

In his June 21, 2005 e-letter, prominent Catholic apologist Karl Keating has his own shortest way with dissenters.
But what if Pope Benedict issued a decree, couched in the plain and traditional language of infallible teachings, saying that it is now and always will be impossible to ordain women, take it or leave it?

The problem with this perfect squelch approach to apologetics is that nobody's perfect.
In fact the proclamation of a dogma as a single principle by the Pope "ex cathedra" is the latest and lowest way of forming dogma.
--Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (1970) p. 212, n. 52

As to the main questions, is the Church likely to shrink? Where it is shrinking, I'll guess it's likely to continue for the immediate future. Should shrinking be policy? No.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Welcome Fr. Dave

At Mass last Sunday, the entrance hymn was "All Are Welcome."
Let us simulate that love's around,
That we live and let live,
Where only one thing leads to Hell,
that's to not be progressive.


We pretend there's no division
among people in God's grace.
As we narrow down our field of vision
Fewer will come, fewer will come, fewer will come to this place.


I might be a bit off on that lyric, since I wasn't taking notes.


Our new pastor had decided against concelebrating, but came in to give the homily. He pulled out a Bible, and told us the number of Post-It notes on it will be a good basis to estimate how long he will be speaking.


I suspect he doesn't realize how apparently innocuous things he says will connect to issues in his new parish. For example, one of the things he suggested we take home from this Sunday's gospel was the need to be countercultural. And to give a small example of how we fail in this, he gave his own "road rage" even on his short commute from his apartment to the church. Which recalls the controversy, I assume unknown to him, over closing our parish's rectory. Our former pastor pushed for this, and the preliminary plans for our building project of a couple years ago called for its demolition. Apparently due to parishioner resistance, it was allowed to remain, though converted to offices.


If we want an example of how hard it is even for our priests to be countercultural, we need only look at how obsessed some of them are to have a house or condo and a daily commute to work. Our former pastor might have realized this conflict. Perhaps that's why he tried to convince us he was compelled by archdiocesan policy to close the rectory. That avoided the question of why he felt compelled to move across town. The saddest part was his evicting another priest who lived in our rectory and that our current associate would have lived in the rectory if it had still been a residence. For all we know, our new pastor would have moved in, too.


Maybe when we're looking for something to name for our former pastor, we should consider the former rectory.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Priest warns California scandal hardly over


This morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Father Thomas Doyle spoke Sunday at St. Matthias Church to the local chapter of Voice of the Faithful. He indicated the worst of the clergy sex scandal is still to come.
"The epicenter is California," Doyle said. "One diocese just paid out $36 million, and the Diocese of Orange paid out $110 million. When Los Angeles bursts, it will make Boston look like an altar boys' picnic."

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is involved in several pending California cases.
After the first sex scandal hit in Louisiana in 1984, Doyle was one of the authors of a report that urged America's bishops to minister to abuse victims, form a national crisis intervention team and research the impact of the abuse on the victims. He labeled the report as confidential, sure that the bishops would deal with it promptly.


"It was scuttled," said Doyle, who was an aide to the pope's top diplomat in Washington, D.C., at the time. "I was never contacted by any of the bishops after that." ...


Doyle described himself as an accidental whistle-blower. The reaction of the bishops stunned him.


Did he quietly go away, believing there was no point ever bringing another problem to their attention? He gives the impression he concluded that's just what the bishops wanted.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

2005 Grassroots Survey of Democratic Leaders

I received a letter from Howard Dean (or Governor Howard Dean M.D., as he signs it) inviting me to join the Democratic National Committee (or D&C). All I need to do is fill out a survey and send a contribution.


Question 8 asks "Thinking about the issue of education, which of the following is your number one priority? Please select only one answer." Each of the three possible answers start with the words "Funding for..."


Question 11 asks "What is your opinion about a woman's right to a safe and legal abortion?" At least the question doesn't euphemistically say "the right to choose" though all three answers do. The third answer is "I oppose a woman right to choose." but I'd choose that answer only because she's killing her kid thereby.


Question 14 asks "What is your opinion about our environmental laws in America?" I wonder how much impact there'd be from selecting the question's third possible answer, "Our enviromental laws burden businesses and hurt our economy." since in his cover letter, Governor Howard Dean M.D. refers to "a senseless drive to drill for oil in the Arctic Refuge."


Wrapping up his letter, he says

I'm reaching out to local leaders like you, who are the strength and soul of the Democratic Party.

While a method of compiling its mailing list that puts me on it isn't a strength, it's good to know it believes in the soul and its importance in at least some context.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

St. Martin of Tours Faith Community

Some time back, the Catholic Herald replied to my inquiry about an apparent conflict between two of its articles.


A March 17, 2005 article, Laying a foundation for future generations, reported on newly dedicated church buildings, including that of St. Martin of Tours parish here in Franklin.

As director of administration Mark Mitchell tells it, the 1998 consolidation of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Franklin and Holy Assumption in St. Martin "created a community too large" for either of those parish churches. The archdiocese "mandated a planning process with the eventual goal of building a larger worship space."

I noted that in an October 2, 2003 article, Adapting to change is driving force behind mergers, reported there were 1,300 families at Sacred Hearts before the merger, and after absorbing Holy Assumption, there ultimately were still 1,300 families in the merged parish.


Mark Mitchell, the parish's director of administration, who is quoted in the later article, says the 1997 status animarium report for Sacred Hearts showed 3,455 parishioners, and the 1998 report for the merged St. Martin's parish showed 3,931. Further, the old church building frequently required people to stand, even in the narthex, during Mass. That was the situation in which the decision was made to build the new church building.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Good news for them raises embarrassing questions for us

Joan Chittister, OSB, in her June 23, 2005 National Catholic Reporter column gives a lesson from history, as she remembers it.
Just one month after the adoption of women's suffrage in Kuwait, the government appointed its first woman minister. In 1990 only 15 percent of the population -- naturalized Muslim males -- were eligible to vote. Now in one show of hands the country went from 139,000 registered voters to 339,000 registered voters and a woman cabinet minister to boot.


That's good news. For them. But it raises some rather embarrassing questions for us.


You see, the problem is that they did it themselves. Before we were anywhere on the horizon they began to wrestle with the issue.


I, on the other hand, remember the U.S. coming over the Kuwaiti horizon to stay at just about that time. So perhaps the embarrassing question is Has Sister forgotten the Gulf War?

Niccolo Machiavelli

In Machiavelli's view there was one great obstacle to achieving the goals of "modern prudence"—i.e., power and plenty—and that obstacle was the political power of the Church, along with the influence of revealed, dogmatic religion more generally. The Church used its political power to undermine loyalty to the state; its cultural power to weaken military virtue, imperialistic expansion, and to make men place their good in the next life. --James Hankins, Republic of Devils, Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2008/09, review of Against Throne and Altar: Machiavelli and Political Theory Under the English Republic, by Paul A. Rahe

The Florentine Enigma, by Matthew Simpson, First Things, Monday, September 17, 2007, 6:50 AM

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

The wise skeptic is a bad citizen; no conservative; he sees the selfishness of property, and the drowsiness of institutions. But neither is he fit to work with any democratic party that ever was constituted; for parties wish every one committed, and he penetrates the popular patriotism. --Ralph Waldo Emerson, Montaigne; or, the Skeptic, Representative Men (1850), Chapter 4

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Religious leaders seek better relations with police


So they're on a first name basis when they're arrested? No. According to this article in today's Catholic Herald
The March killing of Wilber Javier Prado by Milwaukee Police Officer Alonso Glover has south side communities concerned.

Among the speakers at a community meeting to discuss these concerns was Matt Nelson, from Education for the People.
"We want a trial and charges for (Glover) ..."

Though presumably not in that order.
... and we want a civilian review board," he shouted over applause, "and the only reason we don't have these is because we haven't put pressure on (Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael) McCann to get them."


Nelson targeted McCann and Chief Deputy District Attorney Robert Donohoo during his speech, suggesting that the former be fired.


Difficult, given that D.A. is an elected office.
Michelle Mendoza, leader for Citizen Action of Milwaukee, spoke like a prosecutor, detailing what might have happened the night Prado was killed.

Like a TV prosecutor, perhaps. In the real world, prosecutors have to detail their case based on the evidence they expect to present, not on what might have happened.
One woman, who chose to remain anonymous, replied, "We don't need to worry about firing McCann," she said, "What we need is to find someone who will represent us better than McCann has."


According to Rev. [Joseph] Jackson, that type of thinking is exactly how MICAH [Milwaukee Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope] plans to make Milwaukee a better place to live.


"Exactly"? Sounds like MICAH is going to recruit a candidate to run against McCann, doesn't it? Well, you need to apply those forty years of post-Vatican II experience to distinguishing the letter from the spirit of that sentence. Here's what he meant.
By working with political leaders rather than against them, offering negotiable solutions rather than rash demands, and by treating each situation as is appropriate, Rev. Jackson said, maintaining that MICAH has made its point clear, but has done so in a respectful manner.

I could see him discussing these issues with our district attorney over lunch at a nice restaurant.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Another Body-Blow to Priests?

Fr. Richard McBrien reviews problems with diocesan priests' pension plans, then opines on some essential reforms.
... the trend that the late Pope John Paul II put into high gear, namely, of appointing religious priests as diocesan bishops, needs to be reversed. Religious priests have a different vocation and different charisms from diocesan priests. Bishops need to be drawn once again almost exclusively from the diocesan clergy.

This trend accords with the practice in the Orthodox Church. You might wonder why their diocesan priests can live with it but Fr. McBrien thinks ours can't. It's because our diocesan priests are, in his judgment, tiny-minded men who cannot abide the opinions of anyone except other diocesan priests, or at least who dress like one.
And when bishops are appointed, by exception, from the ranks of religious communities, they need to see themselves thereafter as diocesan priests and should dress and act accordingly. Otherwise, diocesan priests will reject their proposed reforms as unreasonable and impractical.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Six Kenneth Rexroth essays on Western artists ...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dying And Rising: John Paul II To Benedict XVI


Archbishop Dolan writes in the Spring 2005 issue of To Live Is Christ
As recorded in Matthew 16, Jesus appointed Peter "the rock" not because he was adept at giving the then current popular "opinions" circulating about "who Jesus was," but because he gave the correct answer, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

You might be wondering what jobs you get for the incorrect answer.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

How far can schools stretch their dollars?

If the increase in state school spending passed by the legislature is less than the increase the governor proposed, is that a cut?


The story in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel starts to explain with this analogy.

Let's say your parents base your budget for gasoline for the year on $1.75 a gallon.


The next year, Mom and Dad say, we're increasing your allowance to cover $2 a gallon.


But gas now costs $2.30.


Some of us old-timers remember when parents set the allowance so that the child budgets.


Here's a nostalgic quiz. Teen-age boy told his Dad he needed a bigger increase in his allowance because the price of gasoline has gone up. Dad responded:
a. Sorry, I'm paying more, too.
b. You mean gas for that car we gave you? Boo-hoo.
c. Which one of your siblings should we put up for adoption to cover it?
d. Sure, I'll just go out back to the money tree.
e. Why don't you get a job?
f. *&^%$#@!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Prediction: Bishops will eliminate "Zero-Tolerance" for child sex abuse within 3 to 5 years

Peter Isely sends a press release as Midwest Director, of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. He predicts "Charter 'revisions,' million dollar study on abuse, will eventually allow the return of some child sex abusers to ministry."
American Catholic Bishops this week have made a number of so-called "revisions" to the Dallas Charter that are part of an effort by many bishops and probably the Vatican to eventually remove zero-tolerance for child sex abuse in the Catholic Church.


Most alarmingly, a new study is being commissioned at the urging of Dr. Paul McHugh of the National Review Board [citing the Baltimore Sunarticle in the post below]


McHugh, once head of the department of psychiatry at John Hopkins, has a long and controversial history of taking anti-law enforcement positions on the treatment of child sex offenders. McHugh was appointed three years ago by the bishops to the lay National Review Board.


While the chair of psychiatry at John Hopkin's university, McHugh's subordinate, sex disorder clinic head Dr. Fred Berlin admitted that he covered up for sex criminals and violated state law.


Dr. McHugh said that the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic was correct to conceal multiple incidents of child rape and fondling to police. This, despite a state law that required that staffers report these crimes against children.


The Sexual Disorders Clinic was founded by Dr. John Money, who openly defends pedophilia and once gave an interview to Paidika, the Dutch journal of pedophilia. In his interview, Money said that a relationship between a boy and a man would not be pathological in any way-as long as it was by mutual consent.


McHugh, along with priest psychologists from St. Luke's Institute in Maryland, Frs. Steven Rossetti and Canice Conners, have long advocated the return of "some" child abusers to ministry. Both Conners and Rossetti are members of the bishop's ad hoc committee on sexual abuse.


Rossetti, the current president of St. Luke's, has been cited by Maryland authorities for never reporting a child sex offender cleric while head of he St. Luke's institute.


Indeed, against the majority of clinicians and scientists working with sex offenders, McHugh, Conners and Rossetti have all championed to bishops the idea that most child priest sex offenders are not "real" pedophiles.


In an alarming development last year, the Vatican hosted a symposium on pedophilia, which, of course, included Frs. Conners and Rossetti. Both men continued to urge the Vatican to drop zero-tolerance for all acts of criminal child sexual abuse (see story).


Other developments at the bishop's conference this week point in the same general direction, including, altering canon law to make it easier for individual bishops to one day return abusive priests to at least "limited ministry."


Three years after the Dallas Charter the American Bishops should be announcing this week that they are urging the Vatican to extend the Dallas Charter to the world wide church. Child abuse in countries without human and civil rights protections for children make youngsters especially vulnerable to clerical offenders. There is estimated to be some 450,000 clerics in the world wide Catholic church. Even at conservative estimates, some 20,000 sex offenders are likely abusing children around the globe.


Instead, this week the bishops are turning to the same small "usual expert suspects" who recommended for years that priests can be secretly and successfully put back into ministry if they had assaulted a child.


Each bishop in the United States owes it to the children under their pastoral care to announce clearly and unequivocally that he will endorse and maintain zero-tolerance for the rest of his life and beg the new pope to do the same for the rest of the catholic world.

Sex abuse scandal dominates meeting of U.S. Catholic bishops


Diogenes reviewed the above article.

Paul McHugh, a member of the National Review Board, hopes that the US bishops' conference will approve a $1 million investment in a new study of the causes of the sex-abuse scandal.

"If we don't do this study," he said, "some one else will, and they might bring different biases to it."

Different biases? And what biases do you want to have included in the study?

I can answer that rhetorical question, Diogenes!


As I've noted before, as a teacher in our parish's Christian Formation program, I attended the "Protecting God's Children" session of the Virtus program prepared by The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc., the captive excess insurer owned primarily by dioceses. The materials included the following.


Myth: Most sexual abusers are homosexual.


--Protecting God's Children: Participant's Manual, p. 2


Since the bishops' conclusion is already in, and their "child protection" and "risk management" programs are built on it, why spend millions on another study to justify it?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Archbishop hits out at web-based media 'nonsense'


(via Drudge Report)


Speaking to a gathering of journalist, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, criticised the new on-line media.

He described the atmosphere on the world wide web as a free-for-all that was "close to that of unpoliced conversation".

Here in Milwaukee, we have some experience with an Archbishop favoring policed conversation. As Karen Marie Knapp commented about our former Archbishop Rembert Weakland's dealings with Catholic Family Radio
... he was also correct about that now-defunct radio network which claimed to be Catholic but specialized in a talk format completely unaccountable to anybody about calumny, detraction, and other offenses against truth.

That is, people could call in with a comment, without having to provide a name and address for a threatening letter from the Archdiocese's lawyers. Comments on Catholic Family Radio turned out to be motes, while the beam was elsewhere.


I would think archbishops have someone working for them with the job of keeping them from saying stupid things, but experience shows not.

What's In A Name?

In this article in the Spring 2005 issue of To Live Is Christ, Bishop Sklba writes,
The Church needs some healing of theological polemics today.

Physician, heal thyself.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Fr. Fessio's Next Educational Disaster?

This March 2005 New Oxford Review article is the only one available without charge from an exchange by participants in the controversy over moving Ave Maria University from Michigan to Florida.


Isn't what Fr. Fessio has been doing rather like what seemed so unjust when done to him at The Late, Great St. Ignatius Institute?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Lessons of [that] Blog's Beginnings


My virtual neighbor Karen Marie Knapp's lessons from May 2002 include,
4) The Accuser of the Brethren can have no foothold among us if we refuse to play his foul game. We must not accuse others, only ourselves. We cannot defend ourselves, even justly, by accusing anybody else of anything; not if we seek to live truly submitted lives.

In the post below I alluded to the policy of recent decades of not creating monsignors in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In light of her stated principle, her comment,
What's the big advantage of monsignorhood, besides the large cash "gifts" that reportedly must be paid to assure the proper paperwork is issued?


In my childhood parish, the only noticable difference between Father Pastor and Monsignor the weekend help-out was the purple pompom on Monsignor's biretta, while Father Pastor's pompom was black .....


seems an odd way to defend that policy.


Or at least it would seem odd unless you consider that the policy was in effect under Archbishop Weakland, who she seems to have difficulty defending without slinging accusations of corruption or superficiality. Of course, he might have been something of a mentor for that approach.


Too bad, since he often had a real defense. For example, in a comment to an earlier post of mine on a Catholic school closing, "Dad to Nine" said

About 15 years ago, it was well-known that Abp. Weakland had no use whatsoever for Catholic parochial schools.

Perhaps true as far as it goes, but a few moments on the internet disclose this February 7, 2002 Catholic Herald article, Weakland recalls his 'conversion' to supporting Catholic schools.


So, who knows, there might have been non-petty reasons for a policy against making monsignors.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Trouble at America

The Catholic Herald recently ran this May 30, 2005 column by Richard P. McBrien [Fr. Richard McBrien in the Catholic Herald]. He includes this speculation on a factor in the recent forced resignation of the editor of America magazine.
Some years ago, one of the best-read columnists in the Catholic press, a prominent priest-sociologist, used to complain about clerical envy. If memory serves, the columnist was referring to the sentiments that many parish priests might have felt toward highly visible priests like himself -- author of many books, popular on the lecture circuit, frequent guest on television, and oft-quoted in the press.

He might be on to something here. For example, many of Milwaukee's priests can't bear the thought that someone else of their number might be made a monsignor.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The American Church

This report on Christianity in America says the percentage of Catholics who attend Mass every Sunday declined as follows: 1990 32%; 2000 28%; 2003 25%. Extrapolating the latest trend gets us to 0% in 2028.


Metro Milwaukee is leading the way with a 1990-2000 31.3% decline in the percentage of the population attending a Catholic church on any given weekend. (Only metropolitan Flint, Michigan, had a bigger percentage decline.)


(via Mirror of Justice via Open Book)

Thursday, June 9, 2005

After 149 years, St. Louis School, Caledonia closing

So reports the May 26, 2005 Catholic Herald.
"People have expected this for years," [the pastor] Fr. [Mark] Danczyk told the Catholic Herald. "It was just a matter of when it was going to happen."


Over the last 25 years, he noted, enrollment had been dropping by about 10 students per year. He added that parishioners had told him "even 20 years ago they were talking about this (closing)."


No wonder it closed; the parish has spent 20 years convincing itself this was inevitable. (We're been working on this "We told us so" approach at my parish, too.) The other important component to closing your parish school (and eventually your parish) is to only ask rhetorical questions.
Asked why an area that is becoming dotted with subdivisions didn't have enough students to sustain a school, Fr. Danczyk replied, "We wish we knew the answer to that."

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

The Outcome of the Papal Election

The Catholic Herald ran this Richard McBrien column a few weeks back in which he quoted William Donahue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

"The malcontents really have to make up their minds now," he said. "Are they going to accept the official teachings of the church, or continue their whining, or are they going to walk? Why stay where you're not wanted?" ("For U.S. Catholics, new pope could be polarizing," USA Today, 4/21/05) ...


Most of the distress one heard about in the aftermath of Cardinal Ratzinger's election as pope tended to be privately expressed. As such, it is more difficult to verify than a newspaper interview. But I know of no one on the Catholic left who made public statements about the new pope that would even begin to approach the level of mean-spiritedness cited above.


How about this comment on Cardinal Ratzinger's pre-conclave homily, quoted by Tom Bethell at BeliefNet?
"If Cardinal Ratzinger were really campaigning for pope, he would have given a far more conciliatory homily designed to appeal to the moderates as well as to the hardliners among the cardinals."


McBrien added: "I think this homily shows he realizes he is not going to be elected. He's too much of a polarizing figure. If he were elected, thousands upon thousands of Catholics in Europe and the United States would roll their eyes and retreat to the margins of the Church."

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Priest abuse lawsuits tossed


Cases against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee arising out of incidents of sexual abuse of children by Fr. Siegfried Widera were dismissed because they were filed too late.
The attorney for the three plaintiffs contended the clock began running only when news reports on Widera's suicide discussed the priest's 1973 felony conviction.


"The plaintiffs had a duty to act on their claims when they were discovered," [Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Michael] Guolee said, "and they were discovered no later than the last act (of sexual abuse)."


Peter Isely of SNAP [Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests] is quoted advocating temporarily removing any statute of limitations for such claims. Governor Doyle's spokeswoman, Melanie Fonder, says the governor supports this idea.
"The governor thinks that people who are victimized as children should be able to come forward at any time," Fonder said.

It's hard to see the logic of that, compared to the law as it was, under which the statute of limitations did not begin to run until the victim became an adult. Of course, our Archdiocese cannot manage to say this. Instead of explaining the justice of the statute of limitations defense its lawyers assert on its behalf,
In a written statement, Archdiocese spokeswoman Kathleen Hohl described Monday's decision as "an issue of a court applying case law" and said the Archdiocese labors to help victims of clergy abuse, including through a full-time victims' assistance coordinator.

This makes even Marquette University's public relations look good.

Congolese woman receives reprieve

The Board of Immigration Appeals has reopened Regina Bakala's asylum case. She may reapply for asylum, this time based on her husband's circumstances.
A key reason the board decided there were grounds to reopen her case was that David Bakala's immigration case was somewhat similar.


In 2004, David Bakala was granted a "withholding of removal" - though not asylum, which he is still seeking - by an immigration judge who determined that he could be persecuted if he returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo. (David Bakala, 52, had been involved in a group called the National Council of Resistance for Democracy, according to court documents.)


According to the board, Regina Bakala had shown enough evidence that she might be persecuted because of her husband's political affiliation that another look at her case was warranted.


The Board did not appear to have been persuaded that the adverse result in her own prior asylum case was unjust.
The board's decision, however, expressed misgivings about some of her previous testimony because it appeared inconsistent and out of order.

Monday, June 6, 2005

Parish Council Meeting with Discernment of Officers

Our parish council with its newly discerned members met in the chapel to discern its officers for the upcoming fiscal year. Actually, discernment of officers involved nominating and voting, which raises the question why we don't nominate and elect the members of the parish council. I suppose that would create the possibility that parishioners might regard council members as, in some sense, representing them. Further, elections might require clear statements of position, and lead to a bit of the dreaded accountability. There is no sign that these dangers threaten business as usual.


On the business as usual front, voting to each office was preceded by soliciting council members' thoughts on what the office entailed. You might thing that this would be in the job description by now. The purpose appeared to be to add specific needs for the parish's particular circumstances, but the qualities described were ideal and general. The Chair should see immediate and ultimate priorities, keep the council on task and moving forward, build consensus, etc. These are the same things being said at Council meetings when I was on it in the 90s. Since then, the parish's condition has deteriorated by almost any measure, but there's no sign of any consideration that this might have any connection to how things are done by the Council or staff. The ongoing financial crisis came up, but apparently the "solution" will be another round of exhortations to the parishioners.


Fr. David Meinholz, our pastor-to-be arrived. To give him an idea what our parish was like, he got to hear our current pastor mention that we neglected to make the required contributions to the pension of the one member of a religious order on the staff...since she arrived ten years ago. To me, this looks like another example of how our parish has lots of structure and control, but not much real organization and direction. The discernment concluded with a round of hugging, a nice contrast to how people are treated who raise an issue of parish policy or practice.


It's rumored Fr. Meinholz is used to Parish Council meetings that end by around 9:00 PM. Apparently, our Council's meetings still run much longer. Perhaps he'll suggest they try to end earlier. I'd suggest the Council not meet at all for a couple years. I see no reason to think that would make any difference.


Sunday, June 5, 2005

St. Alphonsus Parish: Who We Are

Despite our pastor's saying it is impossible, our parish web site has been updated.


You might have noted from the photo of the parish main building on the Who We Are page that if you walk up to where you'd expect the main entrance to be, you'll find a solid wall. That represents the wall that belonging to our parish often leaves you feeling like you're beating your head against.


Our current pastor's predecessor had also presided over a building project. (This was before we joined the parish.) That project produced a building with a main entrance so inconspicuous that perhaps 90% of people coming to Sunday Mass used a different one. The story is told that the pastor would sometimes lock that other entrance in the face of approaching parishioners to force them to use the "right" one. This idea that the plan is sound and the problem is with the people I call The Church Of The Wrong Door.

Parish helps woman fight deportation to the Congo

The May 5, 2005 Catholic Herald reports on Regina Bakala's efforts to remain in the United States. She is a member of the neighboring parish of St. Mary's in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. At our parish this morning there were petitions to support her cause.


Here is the version of her attempt to gain asylum given by School Sister of Notre Dame Josephe Marie Flynn, St. Mary director of adult and family ministry at St. Mary's.

"Her first lawyer said he was not an immigration attorney, but he took her $4,000 -- all the money she had -- prepared a flawed affidavit and told her he was not authorized to represent her in an immigration court," said Sr. Flynn. When the translator read back to Regina her small, four-page affidavit, she objected that he had left out the paragraph about being jailed and raped. "She told him you can't leave that out," said Sr. Flynn. "The translator assured her that the affidavit would be changed, so she signed it, trusting it would be."

Affidavit means a document not only signed, but signed under oath. The words above the notarization, "Subscribed and sworn to before me..." mean what they say, as any Notary Public, let alone lawyer, ought to know. So you can't just sign the document without first taking an oath, nor sign it and then have someone insert some essential information afterward.


In this case, the essential information for Mrs. Bakala's case is her claim to have been jailed and raped, and after her release from jail being gang-raped by soldiers of the Sese Seko Mobutu government, all due to her membership in the P.A.L.U. political party, named after Patrice Lumumba, who Mobutu had overthrown. (The article notes that Mobutu was later overthrown by Laurent Kabila, making it somewhat unclear what the current basis of Bakala's claim for asylum is.) Her case was eventually heard. As Sr. Flynn describes it,

"The transcript of Regina's hearing is painful to read. She tries to tell her story, the translator keeps interrupting, and an irritated judge tells her to just answer the questions. In the end, he says her written testimony does not mention the time in jail and rapes so he concludes that she is making this up on the stand. He rules against her, calling her case 'frivolous,'" said Sr. Flynn.

The case is now on appeal.


In his Herald of Hope column in that issue, titled Church speaks up for refugees, immigrants, Archbishop Dolan says

While we recognize there are necessary laws that must be respected, we also defend the human rights of a woman who now wonders if the words on the Statue of Liberty are a sham.

If the laws are to be respected, then the issue is Bakala's legal status as established by the procedures set forth by law, not her status under Emma Lazarus's poem. (As to the words on the statue, those are "July 4, 1776" [in Roman numerals].)

Priest sentenced to 10 years


Fr. Francis Engels entered an Alford plea, a kind of no contest plea, and was convicted of two counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child. His victim, after testifying at the sentencing, consented to interviews by television reporters.
"If somebody watches and it helps them, great," Koenigs said quietly after consenting to be recorded.

Saturday, June 4, 2005

The Inconvenient Conscience

George Cardinal Pell in First Things May 2005.
Why do people strain to accommodate absolute sexual freedom as a matter of conscience? Why does no one plead for the right to racism or sexism as a matter of conscience? Could it be because the liberal concept of conscience has been specially formulated in order to facilitate the sexual indiscipline that our culture upholds?


Much of the debate over conscience in Catholic circles focuses on the possibility of a conscience set against the Church's teaching. This seems to me a peculiar notion. For a start, it seems to mean that dissenters believe that following the Church on, say, contraception or same-sex relationships, would actually give them a guilty conscience. Yet it seems clear that most dissenters do not fear guilt if they obey the Church. What they fear is precisely the frustration of their unsatisfied desires.

Friday, June 3, 2005

Frijole days of obligation 2005

(I hope to add some photos from the trip later)


Monday, May 23rd


This year our mission group goes to Guatemala on Delta Air Lines, former employer of the Queen of the Sky. We take off from Milwaukee before dawn, change planes in Atlanta, and land in Guatemala City at mid-day. Our bus is waiting for us, along with the Sister in charge of the orphanage, and two of the three young Germans who came there as their alternative to military service. We stop for supplies at the Hiper Paiz, a giant supermarket. For a quick bite, I go to the little McDonald's restaurant in the store and have a McFiesta burger, a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and mayo.


Two hours up the Pan-American Highway is the turn-off to Santa Apolonia. As usual, a crowd of the kids is out front to greet us. This year the men in the group will sleep in a downstairs room, the women upstairs. We each get two small thin mattresses stacked on the concrete tile floor. The kids made welcome signs of letter cut from construction paper and taped high on the walls. They also made construction paper signs with our names and hung them on the wall above each mattress. Having the benefit of experience, I get to the room first, and rearrage the signs so I bunk on the far end of the room where no one has to walk past to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night.


The main street divides the orphanage grounds, the main building and boys' houses and dining hall on the southerly side, the girls' houses and dining hall on the northerly. We're in the half of our group that will eat with the girls the first half of our stay.


Dinner includes the staples, beans and tortillas, and a thin corn mush to drink. Some of the girls are studying English in school. I help by teaching one to say "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain." My wife gives me a mujerencia that I stop. Gregg, a member of our group, coined mujerencia from sugerencia (suggestion) and mujer (woman), to describe that particular kind of suggestion that a wife gives a husband.


Since last year, the orphanage had constructed and improved water system. Municipal, well, and rain water if pumped to a storage tank on a parcel of farmland up the hill from the girls' side. This is used for drinking and washing. Gray water from shower drains is pumped to a separate storage tank and used for flushing toilets. The recycling saves water and the new storage promises improved pressure and a supply when the municipal system is off, which it is all but about an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.


Tuesday, May 24th


I'm in the part of our group which will be working with some of the kids in the carpentry shop, making replacement bunk beds for the houses. We brought some stylish safety goggles to encourage the kids to wear eye protection. It seems to work.


At a late morning break, we are provided some Coca-Cola and Guatemala's own Super Cola. We gringos wait for the kids and staff to pick first, so we wind up with the Super Cola. It's not bad, it's ... just cola.


Our first year on this mission trip was 2001, and there were frequent power outages. That problem seemed to have largely gone away, but was back this year.


I hoped to blog a tiny bit from the orphanage. It does have internet access, but the connection speed turns out to be around 2.5k/sec., okay for email but impractical for the web.


After supper, our leader declares a party in the women's dorm. They tell us there appears to be a bird nesting in the shower that they use. (There are no screens on the windows.) The largest part of our group runs a medical clinic for the kids and local people. From past years' experience, I thought emergency room people had the best jokes and stories, but this year we have someone who works in a constipation clinic. For the first time in my life, I think, I experienced side-splitting laughter. Too bad those jokes won't be posted here, eh?


Wednesday, May 25th


Today's late morning snack was watermelon, followed by an international seed spitting contest in the courtyard.


Thursday, May 26th


Some of us take the chicken bus, Guatemala's ubiquitous converted American school buses, to market day in nearby Tecpan. The local produce and weavings are there in large quantity and low prices. This year there was also a lot of seafood, including mounds of little shrimp. It looks and smells okay, but we wonder just how it got from the ocean to Tecpan; we haven't seen any refrigerated trucks on the highway.


My wife is in the part of our group leading various supplementary classes for some of the younger kids. She made some looms from popsicle sticks, and some of the kids learn the basics of weaving.


Our group meets in the orphanage chapel for prayer every morning an evening. To our surprise, after evening prayer we are invited to Casa Ocho, where the oldest third of the boys live. It's Luis's 17th birthday, and his housemates are giving him his first real birthday party. One has a part-time restaurant job, and the boys serve pizza they made from scratch in the case, and baked in the sisters' oven, the only one on the grounds.


We get a lesson in stereotyping. The boys plays CDs of country music for us; Americans like country music (true), we're Americans (true), therefore we like Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits ...


Friday, May 27th


Our group's prayers have always been on our own. The readings are selected for a connection to the idea of mission. I've thought it would be better to work on including the kids, and using the universal readings for the day. The mission readings might be better suited for our group's preparatory meetings in the months leading up to the trip.


It happens that some of our group giving classes have been asked to include some religious instruction, so the kids don't get the impression that religion is mostly for the sisters who run the place, and the priest of the local Catholic church.


This morning a few of the younger boys scooted in as we were about to start prayer, and they sat quietly fascinated. Maybe we can build something on this next year. As I understand it, the Second Vatican Council proposed more participation on the Liturgy of the Hours; better forty years late than never. But now that I think on it, why didn't and don't religious and priests who pray a daily office just invite people to join them?


Someone gave us an old Polaroid camera and a few film cartridges, and I'm assigned a photo shoot at the girl's dining hall over lunch. They're happy to pose; some want to hold a small planter for the picture, and it does wind up looking a bit like they were photographed in the garden. They put the developing photos on the mantle of the corner fireplace, but later take them all to their rooms.


Saturday, May 28th


With our longer than usual stay, we scheduled a longer than usual visit to the old colonial capital of Antigua. I had plans to use the time to visit all the major sites, using a map we got last year courtesy of Jades Imperio Maya, and blog from an internet cafe. Unfortunately, I picked up a case of that illness common to visitors to these parts, and I spend the morning sipping a Seven-Up and dozing in the courtyard of Cafe Micho while my wife shops.


That afternoon, while she shops at Nim Po't, I negotiate with a shoeshine boy. I've seen kids in the central square charge two quetzales (about 25 cents). This kid starts at 20, settles for 5, wants five more for shoeshine cream, and then asks for a tip. One of his little competitors stops by to watch, and I tip them each one quetzal.


We then track down a local supermarket. Last year we came up with the idea of a marshmallow roast for the kids, and we need more marshmallows. Back at the Hiper Paiz, we had also bought chocolate and the closest local equivalent of graham crackers for s'mores.


Not feeling well, I also miss the marshmallow roast, but I heard the kids had a great time.


Sunday, May 29th


For the Feast of Corpus Christi, there was more incense at Mass than I've ever seen, or smelled. Since last year, the choir moved from the loft to the front, there was a girl altar server (from the orphanage), and there were a couple of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. All more like Mass at home, along with some disagreement on when to stand, sit, and kneel. I could, at least, follow along from an order of worship I printed from the internet years ago. And I can manage communion on the tongue, despite lack of practice.


For the feast, fireworks were periodically set off from a mortar outside the church door.


After Mass, there was a Eucharistic procession around town. Townspeople created a path about two feet wide down the middle of the main streets. Part was of various colors of sawdust, and part of pine needles and flowers.


The priest, under a canopy and holding the monstrance, processed to small shrines set up at the orphanage and various businesses around town. At each, we would kneel on the cobblestones and he would lead prayers. He then would then lead the procession, walking on the sawdust and pine path to the next shrine, accompanied by firecrackers.


Back at the orphanage, our group had two guest speakers, this year from GAM [Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo], on the history of the current Guatemalan political situation. As usual in these presentations, Guatemalan political history begins with the period 1944-1954. To save time, United Fruit, CIA, liberation theology, Rios Montt, Peace accords, Bishop Gerardi. It's the progressive Catholic equivalent of the Rescue Mission sermon before dinner.


Back at one of our preparatory meetings, we watched the Precarious Peace video. It struck me afterwards that the breakthrough to the peace accords was the voluntary confessions by leaders of the opposing sides that that their ends were the good of Guatemala but now they saw that this did not justify the means. By contrast, the Church's later official approach was accusatory. Not surprisingly, Church leaders prominent in compiling the accusations were regarded as having taken sides, and screwed up the peace process. While our group didn't download it, you might test my thesis against a close reading of the video's accompanying Discussion Guide [PDF]


As usual, our guest speakers treated Guatemala's various large and fast-growing evangelical and pentecostal groups as a marginal phenomenon, as does anyone else in our group who addresses it. In the meantime, the numbers I see indicate that Guatemala might now be a minority Catholic country. I might have the geographical equivalent wrong, but it's like the local and visiting lefties are reading What's Wrong with Quiche. Meanwhile, a few seconds on the internet produce this.

Many in Latin America and in North America have praised liberation theology for its ability to give the poor a sense of empowerment as they try to change society. But liberation theology's encouragement and motivation cannot compete with the feeling of empowerment that comes from the belief that one has had a personal encounter with God Almighty. It is no wonder that services at the pentecostal churches are loud and joyous affairs, or that members attend church five to seven nights a week for two hours each night.

No surprise to me, but then I've actually read some Gutierrez.


One of the early members of our group had an uncle who was a priest who's ministry included prison inmates. An inmate carved a large wooden crucifix to thank him. When the priest died, the niece received the crucifix and donated it to the orphanage. This afternoon we have a brief prayer ceremony and procession to the chapel with it.


Later some of our group join an excursion to the Mayan ruin at Iximche. Transportation is provided by putting 24 people in the orphanage's crew cab pickup truck. If you had a child, spouse, or parent on this mission, I'm just kidding.


Monday, May 30th


It's pancake day. Mmm, pancakes.


That afternoon, we're called out of the carpentry shop for what I'm reminded I've called Mission Creep, the added project they didn't tell you about before you got here. There is about a twenty foot water tower on the girls' side which is now obsolete. We assemble a crew of about twenty people, raise the tower off it's concrete base, and pull it over and lower it to its side with ropes. Then we carry it down about ten steps and around a basketball hoop to the chain link fence on top of the retaining wall next to the road. Did I mention this is all being done in the rain?


When a flatbed truck pulls up, we raise the tower over the fence, but not too high because of the power lines along the road, and lower it onto the truck bed.


Then we go for a drive out of town. The base of the tower just clears the various power lines crossing the road. We simulate being shocked and Edgar, head of the carpentry shops, laughs saying Accident de Guatemala, apparently meaning "where else would they try this."


The truck turns into the gravel road to another farm field owned by the orphanage. Here the power lines parallel the road, and sometimes sag down to within few inches of the truck.


At the field, we see that the truck can't leave the road, so we carry the tower about a thousand feet to the new site and pull it upright.


Back at the orphanage, gracias a Dios, there's hot water with pressure for a shower.


As everyone else finishes work, a few of us go for a Gallo [pronounced "guy'-oh"] beer at the cantina that's still open. While the brewery's point of sale posters on the walls show prices, the retailer doesn't regard them as binding. But for such good customers, she cooks up some sausages. Tasty.


Tuesday, May 31st


The local public school is at the far end of the village, but I notice there's a little school nearer the center of town. I learn it's an evangelical school, very good, but expensive.


Because the orphanage kids are having exams in the public school, the staff split the farewell dinner from the fiesta, the former held tonight, the latter tomorrow.


Wednesday, June 1st


At the farewell fiesta, the kids acts are mostly lip syncing pop songs or acting out comedy songs, along with one traditional Mayan dance. My personal assignment for our group is writing our act's script. This year it's La Nueva Gorra de Winnie Pooh, Winnie the Pooh's New Hat. Under our time constraints, it's more of an improvisational outline, but it's well-received. Then there's dancing to CDs; poor Kenny Rogers is removed from the playlist.


Thursday, June 2nd


We say our farewells and board the bus for the two hour ride to the Guatemala City airport. While waiting, I finally get a meal at Pollo Camparo, Guatemala's fried chicken restaurant chain. It's good, perhaps the Super Cola of fried chicken.


On the flight to Atlanta, the safety briefing says federal regulations prohibit "conjugating" in the aisles.


We arrive in Milwaukee, pick up a gallon of milk, and arrive home around 11 p.m. A cold glass of fresh milk; it's good to be home.