Sunday, January 31, 2010

Louis Auchincloss and J. D. Salinger R.I.P.

Too Much Happiness, review by Todd VanDerWerff of 'Too Much Happiness', by Alice Munro

An Evening with Justice Blackmun on the Anniversary of 'Roe', by Deal W. Hudson (via Center for the Study of The Great Ideas)

'Catcher in the Rye' author J.D. Salinger dies, and What's in Salinger's safe? by Hillel Italie

Louis Auchincloss, Chronicler of New York’s Upper Crust, Dies at 92, by Holcomb B. Noble and Charles McGrath (via Arts & Letters Daily)

'Fear the Boom and Bust': a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem, by John Papola and Russ Roberts (via Todd Zywicki at The Volokh Conspiracy)

An End to the Myth of the Tortured Soul, by Fisun Guner (via Arts & Letters Daily)

Cicero Superstar, by Mary Ann Glendon

Reading Rat: Recommended reading by these authors.

Also of interest: The Book Club With Just One Member, by Motoko Rich


Friday, January 29, 2010

Comprehensive comprehended

In the term comprehensive reform,
"Comprehensive" = unpopular. Voters wonder what you are hiding under that word. --Mickey Kaus


Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the State of the Union 2010

On shoring up the banks, the President said
It was about as popular as a root canal.
But it kept up production of cliches.

P.S.: From Mark Steyn,
look at the SOTU opening. It's eloquent, but in a cheesily generic way, as if one of his speechwriters was sent over to Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy of State of the Unions for Dummies...

It sounds like an all-purpose speech for President Anyone: We've met here in good times and bad, war and peace, prosperity and depression, Shrove Tuesday and Super Bowl Sunday, riding high in April, shot down in May. We've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing. Each time we find ourselves flat on our face, we pick ourselves up and get back in the race. That's life, pause for applause.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Occam's Butterknife

the guy with the most convoluted argument wins. --Steve Sailer
when the simplest, most straightforward explanation of some phenomenon is emotionally disturbing to you, try for something more complicated. --John Derbyshire


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Changing incentives

...if I was running things, if a bank had to go to the government for help, the CEO and his wife would forfeit all their net worth. --Warren Buffett
What about their children? And their children's children?

(via JSOnline)

Monday, January 25, 2010

In a (Darrell) Huff

In January 12th testimony at a legislative committee hearing, our Archbishop voices opposition to ‘window legislation’. Trying to make a case that the pending legislation [SB319/AB453] unfairly targets the Catholic Church, he said,
during Assembly Committee testimony this past November, supporters of this bill testified that, indeed, Catholic clergy make up only 1 to 2 percent of child abusers.
That "only" caught my eye. Unless I'm mistaken (and feel free to Comment or email if I am)...

In 1970, Catholic priests numbered 59,192 in a U.S. population of 205,052,174. Catholic clergy, I calculate, then made up .029% of the population. If so, then "only" would apply if they included significantly less than .029% of the nation's child abusers. If instead they were between 1% and 2%, that is between 35 times (3,400%) to 70 times (6,900%) more.

Update: In a comment Dad29 suggests Archbishop Listecki meant that 1 to 2 percent of priests were abusers, not that 1 to 2 percent of abusers were priests. The Wisconsin Catholic Conference posted his testimony.
We need only to look at Delaware where similar legislation resulted in more than 80 percent of the cases in litigation being brought against the Catholic Church. We know from statistics that, certainly, Catholic clergy do not make up 80 percent of the offenders is this societal atrocity. In fact, during Assembly Committee testimony this past November, supporters of this bill testified that, indeed, Catholic clergy make up only one to two percent of child abusers.
He isn't challenging that as a fact. So it still appears that the percentage of sexual abusers of children who were Catholic clergy was well above their percentage of the general population.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Extending remarks for the record

Marie Rohde reports free-lance from Milwaukee in the National Catholic Reporter, New archbishop faces tough questions.

I was asked to comment for the article and part of what I said was quoted and characterized as "pushing the archdiocese to release detailed financial accounts." As an exercise in a reporter's or editor's judgment, I have no complaint about that. And to say I can push something from this blog is rather improbable, though flattering.

But since I have a medium at hand, I'll elaborate. The entirety of my comment was,
If I could only request or suggest one thing to Archbishop Listecki, it would be to see to it that every year every Catholic household receive the parish Status Animarum report (like this example) and the aggregate of the information for the entire Archdiocese. Even better, these would include graphs of trends. At my parish, at least, we receive a steady stream of parish financial information. If we received detailed information about what that money is, or isn’t, accomplishing, perhaps we’d give more money, more time, and more attention.


Semantic Time Travel, by Caleb Crain, review of 'Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary'

Nonfiction Chronicle, by Tara McKelvey, includes review of 'The Awakener: A Memoir of Kerouac and the Fifties', by Helen Weaver

Not only connected, by Brooke Allen, review of 'Concerning E. M. Forster', by Frank Kermode

Portrait of macabre author: Edgar Allan Poe shows a younger, vigorous scholar on the rise, by Ben Nuckols

Living Constitution, Dying Faith, by Lee J. Strang, review of 'Living Constitution, Dying Faith: Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence, by Bradley C.S. Watson

Story of Newton's encounter with apple goes online, by Raphael G. Satter (via JSOnline)

Reading Rat: Recommended reading by these authors.

Also of interest: Where Baby Orwell Lived, by Charles McGrath


Friday, January 22, 2010

"Outta my way, Father Carl!"

Continuing our virtual tour of Milwaukee's renovated Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, we come to the Marian shrine which (now) symbolizes our protective Mother in 2002 calmly but quickly on her way to give an Archbishop (depicted on the plaque beneath her feet) a punch in the nose.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Swinging a poll

Regarding Tuesday's U.S. Senate special election result in Massachusetts, TS posts "For the first time in eons I watched Keith Olbermann - simply for purposes of schadenfreude. 'It's never over till the other team's cheerleaders are crying,' said a friend in the '80s."

See the comments to this election Debrief post by Margaret O'Brien Steinfels at dotCommonweal.

Used to be one could anticipate an outcome like this when the topic disappeared at Escahaton. Not such a hard and fast rule lately.

Update: Garry Wills at NYRblog on what the election result showed about President Obama. "In a sense, he swallowed his own Kool-Aid."
"During his campaign, Obama’s critics called him a hope-addict, all rosy scenarios and Let’s-get-along and Kumbaya. It is sad to realize, at last, that they were right."

Calvary Comedy Club

Instead of his own closing joke, our pastor closed Sunday Mass with a joke that, he said, Archbishop Listecki is rumored to have used to close his radio Mass. On radio, listeners have to imagine the Crucifix the presider is standing under when he tells it. The joke was not one based on the claim that Catholics leave for mega-churches to be entertained.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More than many sparrows but less than this bronze

"Is there any organization in town that is more clueless about public relations than the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese?" asked Bruce Murphy in last Tuesday's column, The Furor Over Weakland’s Bronze.
The criticism has been led by Peter Isely, the implacable director of the Midwest chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. You could argue that Isely always sees the negative about the archdiocese, but he is a smart, savvy strategist who seizes on any chance to dramatize the plight of those he represents against an archdiocese he portrays as uncaring. And time and again the actions of the archdiocese reinforce his arguments.
Consider Archbishop Listecki's use of the new talking point that objections to Archbishop Weakland are merely emotional. Or consider Cathedral rector Rev. Carl Last who said that if someone finds meanings in the Cathedral bronze other than what was originally intended, "it's his problem." Mr. Murphy continues,
I don’t know what the archdiocese could have done about the installation ceremony. Not allowing any role in the ceremony for a longtime Milwaukee archbishop like Weakland would seem a tough thing to do.
They're tough enough to tell people still angry or upset about Weakland's handling of the abuse cases to get over it, but not tough enough to tell Weakland he has to stay away for the good of our Archdiocese. Odd given that Weakland himself once apologized publicly for his "lack of courage".

Regarding the bronze pedestal plaque,
The smart thing would have been to immediately confess a goof and commission a new tribute – and with no particular haste.
Too close to the bait and switch strategy all too common in our Archdiocese. Why not instead acknowledge that subsequent events have added these connotations to the sculpture. Financing St. Peter's Basilica wasn't intended to be a factor in causing something like the Reformation. It turned out to be one, but we haven't torn it down. Both bronze and basilica serve as unintended symbols of hard lessons.
Why doesn’t the archdiocese get it?

The answer, I fear, is this: Officials are still far more concerned about the feelings of Weakland, his longtime lieutenant Bishop Richard J. Sklba, and other officials who got enmeshed in the clergy abuse scandal. That attitude, of course, is what led the church to protect abusive priests in the first place. And that attitude, if it is indeed still entrenched, will make it very difficult for the archdiocese to ever overcome this scandal.
Perhaps they think they've spent enough time on it, and it's time to move on. Like a shepherd whose schedule is more important than his sheep.

(via SNAP Network)

P.S. To the eye untrained in public relations, this is not the best context in which to find Bishop Sklba expressing concern over Where Have All the Poinsettias Gone?
I return to my question: what happens to all the poinsettias this time of the year? Does anyone at all care? I’ll ask the same question come Easter when the fragrant lilies of that season will be tossed out with equal disdain or disregard. Is there anything at all wrong with this picture?

P.P.S. Regarding the post title, it was not meant literally. As I have indicated elsewhere, I assume an aviary manager who handled abuse of many sparrows by subordinates as Archbishop Weakland did abuse of children would not be around to welcome any successors.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Participation trophy

... There won’t be a bronze plaque in the Hall of Fame for Mark McGwire anytime soon.

But there is a bronze bas-relief of Rembert Weakland in the Milwaukee cathedral right now.

Baseball has standards. ... --"Diogenes"

Labels: ,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Richard's poor almanac

Milwaukee Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba looks back on Anniversaries large and small, since his 1959 ordination, in the bishops' column in our Archdiocesan weekly.
The terrible sadness of the sexual abuse crisis and the need to claim the responsibility we each bear for that tragedy has scarred the past two decades. There have been so many victims ... including all who clumsily tried to do the right thing without truly understanding the depth of the wound.
Contrast that to Archbishop Listecki dismissing that wound as emotion. From these contrary premises they each manage to reach a conclusion excusing inaction.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Archbishop Dolan's initial (October 22, 2002) meeting at which Priest-abuse victims share their grief. Bishop Sklba was in attendance.
"Victims of sexual abuse and their families truly know the meaning of a broken heart," said Karen Cerniglia, whose son, Joe, said he was sexually abused in his early teens by Father William Effinger in a rectory in Lake Geneva. Effinger died in prison after being convicted of abusing a boy and accused of other abuse.

"I want you to know that I trusted and believed in Archbishop (Rembert G. Weakland) and in you," she said to Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba. "However, my faith was completely shattered."

Cerniglia said she was heartened when she met Sklba at a parish gathering and he promised to call her by-then adult son to talk to him. She gave Sklba his number, but no call was ever received.

"Is that a compassionate and caring way to treat my son?" she asked.

Sklba, described by others as a compassionate and good man, acknowledged the conversation. He said he tried several times to reach her son, but the calls were unanswered.

"Ever since then, I have been burdened with a sense of failure," Sklba said. "I do know I tried to do that."

The mother's retort: He could have called her.
One might be tempted to read Bishop Sklba's response to her as not claiming responsibility, nor even clumsily trying to do the right thing. If this experience, and some ongoing sense of failure, motivated him to finally complete the call, I haven't seen it reported in the seven-plus years since.

Also from the Journal Sentinel report,
During the meeting, Sklba took much of the wrath expressed by victims, particularly from those abused by the late Father George Nuedling in Twin Lakes.

One of Nuedling's victims asked why Sklba had sent a priest to another parish after learning of abuse in 1996.

"Why not report it to the police? Why did you not try to find other victims?" the man asked.

"He was not in rehabilitation. It's terrible, Bishop Sklba. Victims can't have peace until they have justice."
Sounds familiar.

I return to the bishop's column to give him the last word.
it is the Gospel of truth and justice, of compassion and healing which must continue to be proclaimed ... to ourselves as well as to the entire world.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Prince of the absurd, review of 'Albert Camus: Solitaire et Solidaire', by Catherine Camus, 'Les Derniers Jours de la Vie d'Albert Camus', by José Lenzini, 'Albert Camus, Fils d'Alger', by Alain Vircondelet, and 'Albert Camus, by Virgil Tanase

Walker Percy Documentary Preview (via Gregory Wolfe at dotCommonweal)

Only Reflect, by Edmund White, review of 'Concerning E. M. Forster', by Frank Kermode

After the masterpiece, by Alexander Nazaryan, review of 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories', by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

More Perfect, by Adam Liptak, review of 'The Citizen's Constitution: An Annotated Guide', by Seth Lipsky, and 'The Annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence', edited by Jack N. Rakove

Reading Rat: Recommended reading by these authors.

Also of interest: Cindy's Love of Books (via )


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Listecki on 'Sunday Insight"

Last week's Sunday Insight with Charlie Sykes on WTMJ-TV was devoted to an interview of new Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki.


Friday, January 15, 2010

In the striking zone

Heidi Schlumpf at the National Catholic Reporter weighs in on the Cathedral Bronze Controversy.
I've been a supporter of Weakland, one who has been disappointed by him surely. But this does seem like an odd choice.

The Mary Mother of the Church statue above the relief panel, by Chicago artists Jeffrey and Anna Koh-Varilla, is striking, though.
Reminiscent of the follow-through of a pre-conciliar nun who just launched an eraser at a student in the back row.


When did we see you hungry, thirsty, or in need for your general purposes...

At Catholic Relief Services
Donate Now

Massive Earthquake in Haiti

Please help the people of Haiti with your support of CRS as we respond in the aftermath of a massive earthquake that struck near the capital of Port-au-Prince. ...

Contributions will be used for the purpose(s), if any, specified by the donor. However, if in the judgment of CRS, such purpose(s) become unnecessary, undesirable, impractical or impossible to fill, CRS may use such contributions for its general purposes.
Wasn't there a time when the fact that Church leaders and organizations have discretion wouldn't cause one to hesitate.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Grading screwballs on a curve

Weakland Says He Did Best He Could on Sex Abuse Cases reports Jay Sorgi of WTMJ-TV.
Weakland sent an e-mail to The Associated Press responding to state Sen. Glenn Grothman's remarks at a hearing Tuesday. The West Bend Republican called Weakland a "piece of work" and church officials "screwballs" for allowing Weakland to attend new Archbishop Jerome Listecki's installation Mass last week.
In the Archbishop's response,
He says he did his best with the [sexual abuse] cases with the knowledge and experience he had.
That isn't really a refutation of Senator Grothman.

(via SNAP)


Thistling in the dark

The National Cathedral Ministry Conference which wrapped up today included some tours of Milwaukee's Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. In lieu of a physical tour, here's a virtual tour and a Catesby Leigh book review in First Things that includes a critique of the renovation completed in 2002.

One controversial feature Leigh mentions is the Corona. The first rendition of the proposed renovation reminded too many people of a Hollywood version of a pagan temple. That lead to this revised version. Subsequent to that, it was proposed that the Corona depict the crown of thorns.

That, surprisingly it turns out, did not draw any known objection from Bishop Sklba. A few years later, in this column in our Archdiocesan newspaper reviewing The Passion of the Christ, he wrote,
In my judgment that level of brutality was even erroneously imposed by the film on the biblical text at times, as for example the film’s portrayal of the crown of thorns. In fact the imposition of the crown was intended to mock, not cause pain. To prove the point, I would note that the Greek word was acanthus, a thistle, the very leafy plant which decorates the top of Corinthian columns. Our traditional Catholic piety, however, would never have noticed that reality.
On your virtual tour, you can contrast The Corona as built.

P.S. Which Archbishop Weakland has called "theologically profound".



Milwaukee's Catholic Bishops have started posting at the new Our Faith weblog on the Archdiocesan website.

The Blog Disclaimer includes:
The opinions expressed by bloggers and those providing comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied in any of the blogs on


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thin Reid

Is Harry Reid a racist? It depends on what the meaning of racist is:

If by "racist," you mean somebody who feels antagonism toward black people, then Harry Reid isn't a racist. Harry Reid thinks we are racists.

If by "racist" you mean somebody who would use other people's feelings about race in a purely instrumental way to amass political power, then Harry Reid is a racist. --Ann Althouse


That's why pencils have erasers ... and sharp points

At a legislative committee hearing yesterday, Archbishop Listecki opposes lifting limits on abuse suits. Companion bills [SB319/AB453] before the legislature would eliminate the statute of limitations for future claims of sexual abuse and do so retroactively for a one year period. (See Mammon et Magister)
new Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki told lawmakers Tuesday that the measure would bankrupt the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Some time back, I heard Archbishop Dolan decline to rule out bankruptcy in response to a question from Peter Isley. Other dioceses have gone through Chapter 11. It ought to be explained, based on those experiences, why this has to be avoided here. Otherwise one might be left with the impression that actually filing is avoided because the threat of filing gives leverage.

Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) co-sponsored the senate bill. She was uncertain if the bill had the votes to get out of commitee, or to pass if it reached the floor.
Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed skepticism about the bill but grilled Listecki about the church's handling of past abuse cases and questioned why former Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland appeared with Listecki when Listecki was installed as archbishop last week.

Weakland has admitted in a memoir and court depositions that he shielded abusive priests.

"Isn't (honoring Weakland) really a poke in the eye to all those people who suffered so horribly?" Grothman said.

Listecki said Weakland's handling of abuse cases was flawed, but the church has changed its practices since then.
Having attended an abuse "listening session" and gone through the "awareness training", I am unconvinced their hearts are in those changed practices. Minimizing Archbishop Weakland shielding abusive priests as "flawed" and accomodating his latest comeback attempt looks to me to be a symptom of that.

P.S. Archbishop: Proposed bill would bankrupt dioceses, by The Associated Press, LaCrosse Tribune (via WisPolitics)
Moments later he [Senator Grothman] called church officials "screwballs" for allowing Weakland to attend Listecki's installation Mass and not removing a plaque bearing Weakland's likeness.
[Archdiocese chief of staff Jerry] Topczewski said outside the hearing that the plaque was in place before word of the lawsuit broke.
Referring to Paul Marcoux's threatened lawsuit. Archbishop Weakland must have forgotten to mention it at the time. Mr. Topczewski went on,
Weakland remains part of the church and deserved a spot at the Mass as much as other bishops who attended, he said.
Their Hands Are Tied.

Update: Wis. senator insults former archbishop, WKOW-TV Madison (via "Diogenes" at Off the Record)

Update 2: Failing to address Weakland will cost Milwaukee diocese, by Amy Pawlak, Milwaukee Examiner

Update 3: Listecki pressed about Weakland’s status, by Bob Hague, Wisconsin Public Radio. "Listecki admitted that Weakland is 'a lightning rod' within the Archdiocese."


Religious disorders

Our Archdiocesan weekly reviewed Accomplishments, memories in La Crosse of Bishop Listecki. Among the accomplishments,
Sr. M. Stephania Newell, a Sister of St. Francis of the Martyr of St. George and director of the office of consecrated life in the La Crosse Diocese, said Archbishop Listecki influenced the men and women religious and consecrated people in the diocese.

“In general, the religious men and women and consecrated persons in our diocese have, I think, a greater respect for him as a bishop that they haven’t always had, as they haven’t always had a respect for the hierarchy of the church,” Sr. M. Stephania said.
If this is a widespread problem, sounds like something for the Vatican to investigate. For one thing, I sure haven't noticed religious orders' solicitations for money mentioning members' disrespect for the hierachy.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Here's a solution to the controversy over the Milwaukee Cathedral bronze sculpture depicting Archbishop Weakland with some children. Rather than remove it to storage, as Dad29 suggests, or destroying it (beating it into ploughshares?), how about selling numbered limited edition reproductions engraved with the title "Lambs to Slaughter"? Proceeds could be divided among the artists, Archdiocese, and SNAP. I'd give up any claim to rights in the title in exchange for Number One in the series.

Update: The Archdiocese needs to remove Weakland artwork, by Amy Pawlak, Milwaukee Catholic Examiner


The Amazing Colossal Archbishop

With the early 2000s Milwaukee Cathedral renovation back in the news, here's my nominee for most ironic Milwaukee Catholic Herald cover photo: July 19, 2001.


Monday, January 11, 2010


The biggest corrupting force isn't money, it's consensus--what respectable people believe. --Mickey Kaus


Back to the Bronze Age

Catholic News Agency reports on the Cathedral sculpture controversy. Despite two subsequent Archbishops and a lot of clergy and staff wishing otherwise, note this choice of pertinent background.
Former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, whose resignation Pope John Paul II accepted in 2002 when he reached the age of 75, was found to have had a homosexual relationship with an adult male seminarian who he paid to keep quiet about their involvement.
That sounds like "hush money" an improper use of Archdiocesan funds. If so, one would expect that there would have been, at a minimum, a public acknowledgment of this from Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba and Finance Officer Wayne Schneider, who approved the payment. On the contrary, Archbishop Dolan subsequently reorganized his staff, keeping them in the smaller circle of his closest advisers. We have to assume that our Archdiocese still regards this payment as proper, and it will pay if analogous circumstances arise again, despite efforts to convince us otherwise.

The CNA report goes on,
The former archbishop has also admitted to moving pedophile priests around to different parishes, FOX 6 TV reports.

Although his misdeeds took place years ago, a new bronze relief pedastal [sic, pedestal? pederastal?] that portrays the former archbishop alongside images of the Virgin Mary, St. John and various other figures including children is now causing a stir.
As you may have heard.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has decried the piece of art and expressed in a statement Wednesday a desire to know why the former archbishop is being “pictured in the biblical scene of Jesus protecting the little children” as Archbishop Weakland has also faced accusations in the past of covering up priestly abuse in his diocese.
Julie Wolf, our Archdiocesan Communications Director responded,
“It was commissioned to represent the archdiocese at that point in time, when Archbishop Weakland was archbishop, when Fr. Carl Last was the rector of the Cathedral and he still is,” said Wolf, who continued to tell CNA that the piece is intended “also to represent the people who make up the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, including children and adults and various ethnic groups.”
"Continued to tell" probably meaning "went on" or "reiterated" rather than "stonewalled".
A statement issued by the archdiocese on Wednesday also explained the content of the bronze relief, saying that the image of Rembert Weakland “is shown kneeling in reverence to Mother, Mary, who as Mother of the Church and Mother of us all, is depicted as protector of not only children, but all of us.”
Now with the added meaning to many of protection from Archbishop Weakland.
Wolf has also denied the claim that the former archbishop ordered the piece himself, saying that it was the initiative of an art sub-committee, which was part of the larger multi-year St. John the Evangelist Cathedral renovation effort.
While Ms. Wolf might convince a visitor today that various aspects of the Cathedral renovation were the product of mindless bureaucracy run amok, criticism around the time of the renovation, even from Rome, was met with the emphatic assertion that such details of the project were within the scope of Archbishop Weakland's prerogatives of office.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee emphasized that, “Our priority remains to work toward healing and resolution. Identifying ongoing sources of pain is important to that process. We acknowledge that much has been accomplished these past eight years and much more remains to be done."
With the caveat that if you identify the source of pain as Archbishop Weakland, etc., you'll be told it's psychosomatic. Maybe Archbishop Listecki's successor will deal with it.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

John Dewey and the Philosophical Refounding of America, by Tiffany Jones Miller

A Man of Influence, by Jeffrey Rosen, review of 'American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia', by Joan Biskupic

The Powers of Dr. Johnson by Andrew O'Hagan, review of 'Samuel Johnson: A Biography', by Peter Martin, 'Samuel Johnson: Selected Writings', edited by Peter Martin, 'Samuel Johnson: The Struggle, by Jeffrey Meyers, and Samuel Johnson: A Life' by David Nokes

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, by Adam Bertocci

In the Beginning, by Frank Kermode, review of 'A Literary Bible: An Original Translation, by David Rosenberg

Reading Rat: Recommended reading by these authors.

Also of interest: Unbound is not unbeatable: The buzz of the e-book might fade if libraries promoted more hands-on experiences, by Alex Beam (via Arts & Letters Daily)


Friday, January 8, 2010

The shepherd and the sheep's complacency

In a Wisconsin Public Radio report, Archbishop Listecki attributes declining Mass attendance to a complacent laity.

He elsewhere elaborated.
Listecki made it clear that he wants to win back followers. To do so, he hopes to "tell the story" about good things being done in the archdiocese, which represents some 640,000 Catholics.
Presumably this will be tweaked away from this works-righteousness form.
"A lot of the data coming back says they've just grown apart from (church)," Listecki said. "They've stopped going to church, stopped participating in a religious community or parish and have kind of grown into that complacency in relationship to God."

He attributes that to the grown [sic] secular nature of society, an issue he addressed during his first homily.
So it isn't entirely the laity's fault; it's also society's fault.

P.S. From the St. Al's bulletin: Mass Is Boring? Your fault.


Or is it a theme of O. Henry's

Archbishop Dolan once called Bishop Sklba A St. Joseph in our midst, except that it's a speaking role. Our archdiocesan weekly reports that at Archbishop Listecki's installation, Archbishop is ‘gift’ to archdiocese, says Bishop Sklba.
In keeping with the theme of Epiphany, Bishop Sklba assured Archbishop Listecki that “In some mysterious way, you have become this year’s ‘Gift of the Magi’ to us.”

Like shooting mackerel in a barrel

Marge Fenelon is an Author searching for lapsed Catholics Stories to be included in new book, ‘When’s God Gonna Call Me Back?’. She's asking
Why did you leave the church? What was the defining moment in which you said, “That’s it. I’m outta here!”?

What kept you away and for how long? What substituted for your relationship with the Catholic Church? With God?

What brought you back? What was the defining moment in which you said, “I’ve gotta go home!”? If you haven’t come back, why not?

to be answered, anonymously if desired, in a letter, telephone call, or email, by January 20th.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Good Czar

The Russian government may be corrupt and repressive, but Vladimir Putin has stayed popular by embracing the country's tradition of the “good czar” whose intentions are pure and will set things right despite his ministers’ failings.

President Obama appears to be following a similar strategy in the wake of the attempted Christmas bombing.
Sure he’s lambasting his administration and his policies, but Obama the “good czar” will now set things right. --Ed Carson
(via KausFiles)


Weakland ho!

Whispers in the Loggia notes the time warp at the installation Mass of Archbishop Jerome Listecki.
Lest anyone needed reminding of what (recent archbishops notwithstanding) remains the Milwaukee church's prevailing ecclesiology (read: Rembert Nation), those listening closely during the preface dialogue would've heard much (if not most) of the assembly respond as follows: "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of God's name..." and then again " is right to give God thanks and praise."


Through the Looking Last

In a report by WITI-TV on the Cathedral sculpture controversy, Cathedral Rector Father Carl Last channels the Spirit of Vatican II.
As for the statues, Father Carl says Weakland's image represents the head of the local archdiocese at the time. Father Carl says, "I don't see a need to modify it. I think I've explained the intent of it and the focus of it. If some individual wants to say he doesn't see it that way it's his problem."
P.S. No institution has done more to protect bronze images of children than the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.


Archbishops with and without conviction

Referring to SNAP, today's paper reports Victims group questions visits by 2 retired archbishops. The visits are to next weeks national Cathedral Ministry Conference in Milwaukee.

First, retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee.
"This individual is responsible for transferring and concealing dozens of priests who molested and raped children," SNAP Midwest Director Peter Isely said of Weakland in a news conference Wednesday with other victims and family members outside the Milwaukee cathedral.

"And he's immortalized himself in bronze ... in the place of Jesus shepherding children," Isely said.
While Archbishop Weakland as a Nantucket lifeguard might have been a more apt symbol for the artists' intent, SNAP might be missing an opportunity to use the lambs to slaughter meaning now actually conveyed.

Second, retired Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati. At the conference, newly-installed Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki,
is scheduled to celebrate Mass alongside Pilarczyk, a former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who in 2003 entered a plea of no contest on behalf of the Cincinnati archdiocese, which was convicted of failing to report clergy sex abuse to civil authorities during the 1970s and '80s.
Might turn out to be a conflict between meaning intended and meaning conveyed there as well.


Things were said about mistakes that were made

WISN-TV reports on Archbishop Listecki's post-installation press conference. A question was asked about the Cathedral sculpture controversy.
"Archbishop Weakland served the church for a long period of time. There's an aspect of wisdom. Were mistakes made? Obviously there were mistakes made. I think we have to analyze history and make sure we don't make the same mistakes."
Too late, he's already repeating the mistake of saying mistakes were made.


Sounding bronze and stinking symbol

Charlie Sykes in A Bronze for Weakland? relays questions from a SNAP press release including,
why, as part of that renovation [of the Cathedral], [Archbishop Rembert] Weakland commissioned charitable money to be used to create a bronze relief of himself pictured in the biblical scene of Jesus protecting the little children (the relief is on the pedestal of the Mary, Mother of the Church Shrine, which is on the east side altar of the cathedral); ... Also in the background of the relief, according to Chicago artists Jeffrey and Anna Koh-Varilla, is a portrait of the Cathedral’s current rector, Fr. Carl Last. A recent email by Anna and Jeffery Koh-Varilla, confirms that the relief was meant to bring the biblical scene into the contemporary world of the Milwaukee church by placing Weakland in it [as protector of children].
The question could have been Another Bronze for Weakland? Around 1995 our Archdiocese commissioned the Varillas to produce this life-size bronze bust.

Bronzes are small change compared to $2 million expended in 1997 by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Supporting Fund Inc. to endow two chairs in Weakland's honor at universities in Rome, see Rome endowments to honor Weakland. And we now know that the following year $450,000 in hush money was paid to Paul Marcoux.

I still wonder how money could be found for those 1990s expenditures while financial necessity was claimed as the reason most of Milwaukee's inner city parishes were being closed.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tea on the burner

The public is not only shifting from left to right. Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.
The tea party movement is a large, fractious confederation of Americans who are defined by what they are against. They are against the concentrated power of the educated class. They believe big government, big business, big media and the affluent professionals are merging to form self-serving oligarchy--with bloated government, unsustainable deficits, high taxes and intrusive regulation. --David Brooks (via JSOnline)

See Tea for two

Listecki on Sykes Thursday 9 a.m.

According to the Bishops' Calendar in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald, Archbishop Jerome Listecki will be a guest on Mid-Day with Charlie Sykes, WTMJ 620 AM on Thursday, January 7, 2009 at 9:00 a.m..

Newly installed Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki joins Charlie for a full hour and, in this segment, responds to the ongoing fallout from the clergy sex abuse scandal. Plus, Listecki comments on former Archbishop Rembert Weakland's return to St. John's Cathedral next week to address parishioners on the topic of the cathedral's renovation.

Wishes, horses, resolutions

In the New Year's Eve day edition of our diocesan weekly, Bishop Callahan urges Resolve to build God’s kingdom in the new year. Or at least start on it.
I would enjoy knowing that all of us are resolutely resolving to go to Mass every Sunday as much as we may want to shed extra pounds and quit smoking.

That is not as encouraging as he intended it. How about being as resolute on going to Sunday Mass as in watching the Packers.
Perhaps resolving to spend 15 minutes a day in quality prayer, or resolving to pray the rosary each day, or even carrying the rosary in our pockets or purses would be the kind of thing to get us started.

Though some contemporary parish Christian Formation programs probably involve more laps around a labyrinth than around a rosary.
Then again, I’m not trying to get you to think up ideas as much as I’m trying to get you to take some great action that will take you into the new year with some concrete, positive action that will benefit your soul.

One non-great action might be picking up the parish bulletin and the Bible and reading each day's Scripture selections.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Archbishop Listecki's installation homily

Homily of the Most Reverend Jerome, Edward Listecki, Eleventh Archbishop of Milwaukee, Mass of Installation, Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, 4 January 2010
(via Whispers in the Loggia)

Text at Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Reject secularism, Listecki says, by Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Sales of county parkland suggested

Steve Schultze's report in this morning's paper on a Milwaukee County audit report includes this.
Selling parkland would likely prompt strong opposition. The County Board overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by County Executive Scott Walker in 2007 to give up 176 acres of Bender Park in Oak Creek for commercial development in exchange for other property north of the park. Park advocacy groups also have objected to the idea of selling off parkland.

The paper explainded further when it reported in June 2007 that Bender Park plan fizzles.
Developers Industrial Realty Group, of Los Angeles, and International Risk Group, of Littleton, Colo., had proposed a land swap in which the county would give up 176 acres of the 300-acre Bender Park in exchange for a polluted, 132-acre former industrial site north of the park.

While there were concerns about environmental clean-up costs, the 132-acre tract was on the lake shore, as is the part of the current Bender Park that was to be retained.

Similar concerns, if I recall, kept the county from acquiring the Lakeside Power Plant site. That site was also lake shore property, and would have connected two existing lake shore parks. Somehow the environmental issues did not the subsequent prevent private development of the site.

Back in the friendly confines

I wonder, though, when a successor bishop will have the courage to demolish this cathedral to build one that will hold at least two to three thousand worshippers. --Archbishop Weakland

Some edifices are sports cathedrals that have to be preserved. Wrigley Field is one of them. --Bud Selig

Among the keynote speakers at next week's National Cathedral Ministry Conference are The Most Rev. Rembert Weakland, OSB, Archbishop Emeritus, Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and the Very Rev. Carl A. Last, Rector & Pastor, Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, who will speak on "The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist: It's History and Renovation".


Monday, January 4, 2010

The Transitive Property of Internet Idiocy

Fortunately for us, it is well established on both sides of the Blatherosphere that frankly silly or incandescently outrage-making opinions are highly useful. For instance, the Transitive Property of Internet Idiocy allows us to impute the utterances of one blogger to every other blogger of his acquaintance, to anyone who shares the same political persuasion or who dares to agree with him. This is entirely justified because, unlike Them, We are always fair and reasonable. Thinking people realize that "They" (yes, every durned one of them!) all think alike. "We" would never do anything like that, though. We think for Ourselves. You see, unlike some folks we could name (you know the type – smug, morally superior, blind to their own faults) we're just better than they are. We’re tolerant and open minded folk: above the sort of wildly exaggerated, broad brush generalizations They employ with profligate abandon in lieu of, oh, I don't know, logic, actual arguments, or other irrelevant/boring fare. --Cassandra introducing The Official 2010 Villainous Company Banned Bloggers List. (via Just One Minute)


New Archbishop punches in

When the installations of Popes John Paul I and II successively eliminated many royal and even ecclesiastical trappings, a non-Catholic colleague asked, "What next, Pope's first day on the job?" While our Archdiocesan weekly teases us with an invition to Meet the 'new guy', it goes on to report that for Archbishop Listecki, Installation will include centuries-old rituals. For example, here's an explanation of The Coat of Arms of Archbishop Listecki.

Our Archdiocese says Installation Mass Broadcast Live, and there will be live streaming at WISN-TV. Here's the Order of Worship.

Update: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel posted a series of photos from last night's Vespers. Bishop Listecki used a silver hammer to knock three times on the cathedral door. (No pop culture references were harmed in taking this photo.) The photos provide a number of views of features of our renovated Cathedral, such as the Crucifix.

Update 2: Press conference to follow the installation.

Update 3: At Whispers in the Loggia, Brewerland Word of the Day: "Witamy, Arcybiskup".

Somehow brings to mind local DJ "Mad Man" Michaels' Dragnet parody about a detective on the trail of The Czarnina Kid.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mammon et Magister

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel welcomes Archbishop Listecki, but notes that financially there are Lingering challenges for new leader.
His opposition to a bill [SB319/AB453] that would make it easier for victims to sue their abusers is standard for church leaders, but not helpful for victims.

The issue isn't victims suing individual priests, it's retroactively lifting of the statute of limitations, temporarily, for suits against the Church. While this is called a "window", it obliterates the wall. If statutes of limitations are subject to retroactive repeal, then closing a supposedly temporary window cannot prevent it being reopened later on, or being left open.

The strategy behind the current spate of fraud suits, which are not covered by insurance, is to use the financial exposure to leverage bishops to support this legislation. Lifting the statute of limitations would arguably permit recharacterizing claims as involving negligence rather than fraud in an attempt to get back within insurance coverage.

In response,
He [Bishop Listecki] argues that the church has done more on this issue than other institutions.

That might be persuasive if a group of victims said it. Bishops saying it comes across as self-serving. Quoting Dr. Paul McHugh isn't helping.
Given the scale and nature of what happened, it still hasn't been enough. And arguing that others need to do more doesn't do much for the many victims of a handful of clergy.

They ought to be the ones doing more than other institutions if for no other reason than that Catholic dioceses are the institutions going bankrupt due to abuse claims.
Listecki's challenges are formidable, but he's coming to a generous, believing community that has been led well in recent years.

As opposed to during the preceding era that dare not speak its name.


To sleep, perchance to die

Anemone Hartocollis reported on a Hard Choice for a Comfortable Death: Sedation.
Discussions between doctors and dying patients’ families can be spare, even cryptic. In half a dozen end-of-life consultations attended by a reporter over the last year, even the most forthright doctors and nurses did little more than hint at what the drugs could do. Afterward, some families said they were surprised their loved ones died so quickly, and wondered if the drugs had played a role.

Unless you're prepared to assume that being told your loved one will be made comfortable means this is the last time you'll see them alive, I suggest you press for a clear and complete explanation. You might, for example, want to know more about the attitudes of the physician you're talking to. Take Dr. Edward Halbridge, a hospice medical director, for example.
“Do I consider myself a Dr. Death who is bumping people off on a regular basis?” he asked. “I don’t think so. In my own head I’ve sort of come to the realization that these people deserve to pass comfortably.”
Poetry Chronicle, by Eric McHenry, with review of 'News of the World: Poems, by Philip Levine

Tests of Time, by William H. Gass, review by Jason Picone

Big Brother Is Watching You, Friends of Irony

Death for Fun and Profit, by John Sutherland, review of 'The Original of Laura (Dying is Fun)', by Vladimir Nabakov

Reading Rat: Recommended reading by these authors.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Listecki's list

The preview of Archbishop Listecki's Monday installation in this morning's paper also looks beyond. He's expected to continue to be relatively explicit where Church teaching touches on public policy. The article quotes him at his November 14, 2009 press conference. "'Unlike some who might denigrate politics, I uphold politics. ... If we don't challenge one another's statements, then we're relinquishing our responsibility to the common good,' he said." Beyond that,
Among Listecki's first priorities as archbishop, [Bishop William] Callahan said, will be meeting with his priests and helping parishes find new ways to collaborate and better use their limited resources. Like his predecessor, he is expected to be a strong supporter of Catholic schools and the local seminary, St. Francis de Sales.

Listecki also will assume leadership of the archdiocese's $105 million capital campaign, which has collected about $28 million so far, from $92 million in pledges, since it was launched in the fall of 2007.

It's hard to imagine him having the opposite of any of those priorities, so this doesn't tell us what to expect on these issues.
In addition, the Milwaukee archdiocese is facing a number of clergy sex abuse lawsuits that could potentially bankrupt it.

The pending cases are, or are mostly, cases alleging our Archdiocese assigned priests known to have sexually abused children to parishes without disclosing this to the members of parishes, that those priests then reoffended, and that this constituted fraud.
The local clergy victims group, which has been critical of Listecki's handling of sex abuse cases in La Crosse, last week called on the archbishop-designee to force [Bishop Richard] Sklba to resign, saying new evidence in the lawsuits suggest he played a critical role in helping then-Archbishop Weakland cover up the sex abuse scandal.

See What do you do when you're branded.... I'll leave aside the legal merits of those cases. Here in the secular world parents who fail to protect their children from sexual abuse risk losing their parental rights. The standards for bishops are conspicuously lower.
Callahan, who has served as administrator of the archdiocese, called it a "non-issue," saying Sklba is scheduled to retire in 2010.

Perhaps that's his way of saying that Bishop Sklba is A St. Joseph in our midst, as Archbishop Dolan once did.

P.S. See Poor Richard's Almanac, my October 23, 2002 post on Archbishop Dolan's initial meeting with abuse victims, which Bishop Sklba also attended. Perhaps a new archbishop means there's an opportunity to negotiate a resolution of all the pending abuse claims, but I see no preliminary indication that there will be a change of approach.


Prejudgment day

Some Milwaukee priests left comments when they signed the petition for "grassroots review" before implementation of the revised Roman Missal. The petition was the product of Rev. Michael J. Ryan of Seattle as a follow-up to his recent article in America, see What If We['d] Said, 'Wait'?

Fr. Ryan there said that "'What If We Just Said No?' was my working title for this article." That leaves the impression that the proposed market testing is acually a tactic to delay and then thwart changes about which he and others have already made up their mind.

That seems to be the case for Rev. Charles G. Zabler (Our Lady of Good Hope) who commented,
We need to test drive this change in language. It will not fly. ...
If I was sure my flying car wouldn't fly, I wouldn't be advocating a test drive.

Rev. David E. Cooper (St. Matthias) commented,
We must speak our truth honestly, respectfully, clearly and with compassion. The author succeeds on all counts and I proudly add my name in support of a worthy cause. Please let's not shoot ourselves in the foot again!
The previous litugical gunshot wound isn't specified. If he means the current liturgy, that's an argument for retroactive application of Fr. Ryan's proposal. (Maybe he's referring to his recantation after the Prayer service for women's ordination held at St. Matthias.)

Rev. George M. Rebatzki (senior priest) also advocates a fair trial before the hanging.
This is a "must." The translations are horrific and in no way enhance the celebration of Liturgy. ...
Rev. Charles H. Schramm (St. Mary, Hales Corners) says,
Thank you so much for this courageous article! It expresses exactly my thought on this! I am the pastor of a 10,000 plus members parish, and whenever I have given a preview of the new proposed translation to parishioners, the reaction is often, "You've got to be kidding!"
That was my reaction to his answer when AJ decided to Ask the Pastor on August 22, 2006 "Why do we no longer kneel during the Eucharistic prayers during Ordinary time?" or his answer to the March 28, 2007 question on general absolution.

Fr. David W. La Planate [sic] (St. Kilian) said,
Language is more than just words. When the Liturgy began to be celebrated "in the language of the people," it brought many closer to the Table. ...
If he means Mass attendance has been going up the last 40 years, I have go wonder what planate he's been on.

Rev. Kenneth Mich (Good Shepherd) stars in Father Knows Best.
One of the unintended consequences of these "clumsy" translations is that many of us who preside will feel pastorally obligated to make our own adaptions to the prayers for the benefit of the Assembly's worship. ...
No mention of subjecting his own adaptions to objective evaluation.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Per person, Franklin leads county in liquor licenses

In this case, the headline is more accurate than the story.

Tom Kertscher says in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
Where in Milwaukee County is it the easiest to find alcohol?

Believe it or not, it might be fun-lovin' Franklin.

I don't believe it, because it's based on Franklin having the most package store liquor licenses per capita, as the headline writer says. The accompanying chart ranks licensees per capita and says this measures "concentration".

Package stores licensees per square mile would probably tell more. If we compare a few municipalities on licensees per square mile we find:
Frankln 18/34.7 = .5 licensees per square mile
Wauwatosa 24/13.2 = 1.8 licensees per square mile
West Allis 27/11.4 = 2.4 licensees per square mile
Milwaukee 294/96.9 = 3 licensees per square mile

So with six times as many licensees per square mile, you'll probably find your booze easier in Milwaukee than in Franklin. Not that Franklin isn't fun-lovin'.


Reasons to Celebrate Christmas

Father Ron Rolheiser's pre-Christmas column ran in the post-Christmas edition of our diocesan weekly.

This week's paradox: Shopping, etc., to celebrate the birth of the Christ.

This week's literary reference: John Shea.

(via Milwaukee Catholic Herald)