Monday, February 27, 2006

Mother Dagmar re-emerges

This story originated from a post at Seminarian Patrick Gallagher's blog, Veritas nunquam perit.

He describes the latest doings of Ohio's former first lady, Dagmar Braun Celeste, more recently "ordained" by a renegade, ex-Catholic bishop.

His post is hilarious; no comment is necessary on that.

Back already? Okay, so Mr. Gallagher's post gets me curious; what else has been going on with "Mother" Dagmar?

So I google her; and I find an interview with the priestess at the Ohio Free Times

"Are you still a practicing Roman Catholic?

I abide not being able to take communion, but what has happened is that ordinary lay people bring me communion. I have not felt deprived of the sacrament particularly, even though that is the intent of the excommunication. My priesthood is more important in terms of presence than in terms of presiding. What's really important is to empower people to nurture each other."

Umm . . . if she's a valid, Catholic priest, why would she need anyone to bring her communion?

Really, this is just too funny; alas, I am not good enough to satirize this. Perhaps those lovable smart alecs at the Shrine of the Holy Whapping can do it justice?

More progress on state abortion laws

Below, I posted about my disappointment with National Review and what I consider it's muddle-headed thinking on South Dakota's new law prohibiting abortion.

Online, today, I read about Kentucky considering such a law; and in an email, I got a note from Rep. Tom Brinkman, sponsoring similar legislation here in Ohio.

He shared with me, and I share with you, a web site about his legislation, House Bill 228.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Why I badger you for comments on my homilies

I confess I enjoy preparing and offering homilies.

If I can't prepare one -- if I end up offering extemporaneous thoughts at a daily Mass -- I enjoy it much less. But when I have time and inclination fully to prepare a homily: to pray over the readings, to consult various commentaries and resources, and to be able, in relative quiet and peace, with coffee at hand, to craft the text, drawing on all the blessings of my life that can enrich it -- and then, to be able to edit, edit, edit, making it tight and polished . . .

And then, to be with my parishioners, and to share it . . . and, to have another chance at it, because inevitably, feedback or sudden insights will improve it . . .

Yes, I enjoy that.

There are many other things a priest does that matter more. A man collapsed at Mass today, and someone helpfully waved me down, right during the Lamb of God, to him; and so I went. I brought him holy communion before the paramedics took him to the hospital (I offered to anoint him, but he said no). I would make a big bet that the family will remember my attention to him far more than my homily.

As much as I enjoy homilies, the rest of the Mass matters far more in my estimation; as much as I want folks to get a helpful homily -- I pray that whatever I offer is enriching to their faith -- I also want folks to look past the homily; the better it is, the more I want that. Too often, I fear, we are dazzled by externals and impressive packaging. A good homily can -- in the words of St. Augustine, teach, delight and persuade. But the Mass is an infinite treasure; and it grieves when someone says, "the main thing for me is the homily." Oh God, no!

Yet I read what folks say about the homilies they experience; and I wonder, can it be that bad?

I think folks who tend to complain and overstate things are over-represented on blogs; I think there are folks, young and old, who when they complain, ought to be challenged: "Don't tell me there was nothing for you; it was there. Instead of focusing on the problems of others, focus on the problem of yourself." The "I get nothing out of Mass" attitude, in my judgment, is itself utterly without merit; that it gets any sympathy from me is not because it's valid, but because I think I will do more good in getting the person out of that narcissism with softness than with the eight-letter response it strictly merits: bull----!" Occasionally, the latter, blunt answer is appropriate."

But I can't dismiss the comments folks far and wide offer about their experiences of the Mass, and of homilies, simply as "complaining." And then it hit me, as I thought about this, that it has been some time now since I was in that situation.

After all, for some 4 years now, most of the homilies I've heard at Mass were my own. As I like to say, I haven't gone to Mass in years; I offer it -- and that's a very different experience. I forget what it's like to "go to" Mass.

For six years, I was in the seminary. And yes, I heard some inane homilies in those years; but I had the advantage of being nourished in my faith many other ways. It's been some time since I was just a "regular Joe" Catholic attending Sunday Mass.

So I have to defer to you, dear reader, and to my dear parishioners: it's been too long since I walked in their shoes, and I really no longer have the ability to do so, in this regard.

So: if you tell me you aren't getting nourished in homilies, then that makes me say to myself, it does matter that I get it right. And that is why I solicit your feedback.

When you say you like a homily, thank you; but if you want to help me, tell me why. This may sound very odd, but it's true: just what makes a homily effective is pretty much a mystery! Oh, I don't deny all the insights, all the valid observations about technique (and I know some of them, and when I have time, I try to use them).

I mean, rather, that after all that, one can give a homily that flunks all the tests, and yet it elicits the same, "good homily Father!" Too often, I have prepared a homily I didn't like very much; but many folks at Mass, did. Too many times, folks have said I said such-and-such, and I thought, "when did I say that?" -- that's what they heard. How did that happen? A mystery to me.

I write all my Sunday homilies; I know what I said. But only you can tell me what you heard; and what it meant. Only you can tell me why you liked it; what was good about it (for you).

Also, I figure if you get into the habit of giving me specific feedback on my homilies, it can only help you be able to offer that to your own parish priest. I realize how daunting offering that to him could be; but he needs to know.

You are obliged to be charitable, and constructive, but your feedback is vital, whether he's doing well or -- even more -- badly. If you find your bishop, priest or deacon's homilies wanting, how do you expect him to change, if no one will step up and in true charity, offer some pointed feedback? (I assure you, everyone from mediocrity and up has more than enough "good homilies" bolstering their present habits.)

So, don't hold back, please. I want your feedback, and I need it.

'Moving Past' as an Archdiocese (Sunday homily)

That first reading comes from
the Prophet Hosea.
It is a very passionate book.
God is speaking to his people
as if he is a husband,
and his people are his wife.
So it starts out negatively,
Talking about unfaithfulness and adultery—
And God says, "you are not my people."

But then comes today’s reading.
"I will allure her"—God woos his people!
"I will espouse you to me forever."
God always wants to move past our sins.
We may hold on to them,
but God is always ready to forget.

Every year, we have an annual appeal
for a number of needs of the Archdiocese.
Today I’m making that annual appeal.

There’s a painful reality here
I might as well acknowledge.
Because of unfaithfulness
on the part of some who wear this collar—
because of how the Archbishop handled things—
There’s a lot pain and hurt
and it affects this fund drive.

Unfortunately, a lot of good causes
suffer as a result.
Let me tell you about some of them.

Retired priests. Last December,
you were very generous
in supporting the fund
for retired sisters and brothers.
That fund is for those in religious orders—
such as Franciscans, Sisters of Charity, and so forth.

Retired, diocesan priests—such as Father Ang—
are provided for by this fund.

Catholic Social Services. Last year,
when the hurricane hit,
hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans
were refugees; Catholic Social Services helped.

Every year, couples seek adoption and need help;
folks get in trouble, and need counseling;
someone is faced with an unexpected pregnancy,
and needs guidance;
Catholic Social Services
meets these and many other needs.

Our seminary. From time to time,
you will say to me,
"Father, we like your homilies!" or,
"Father, we like how you offer Mass,"
or other words of encouragement—
for which I thank you.

Well, I give my parents a lot of credit,
But as far as being trained as a priest,
Knowing Scripture, liturgy,
the teachings of the Church—
I learned them through our seminary.
The Athanaeum of Ohio provides everything
our future priests need—free!

It also trains folks for lay ministry
and as permanent deacons.

The St. Rita School for the Deaf
provides for children
from kindergarten through high school
who have hearing disabilities—
especially those with profound hearing loss.

As you might imagine, it’s expensive;
It requires teachers with special gifts and training.
I don’t have to say much more, except:
Aren’t you proud to support such a school?

One more good cause, especially now:
Our vocation programs
to attract more sisters, brothers, priests and deacons.

When I first called the vocation office,
Father Mark Watkins did a lot to help me.

I think you agree, these are all good causes.
But I know many wonder:
will the money go where I want it to go?

So here’s my suggestion.
You have a choice.
If you want, write your check
to the Archdiocesan Fund—
or just tuck cash into the envelope in your pew.
And that’s where it will go.

But you might prefer to designate a cause.
You’ll find a yellow slip of paper in your pews,
just like this.

It mentions some, not all,
of the causes being supported.
If you write your check,
payable as listed on that slip,
your donation will go directly to them.

We’ll separate them out,
And when we turn what is given for this appeal,
I’ll tell the Archdiocese
how you want the money spent.

If they don’t agree—I’ll give you your check back.
Our parish goal is $15,200.
If every family gives $25,
we will make that goal.
Of course, some have more, some have less.
Please do whatever the Lord leads you to do.

I invite you to put your contribution
in today’s collection,
or drop it off another week, or send it by mail.
Only what is in these envelopes
will go to this fund.

I began with Hosea, let me return there.
Despite infidelity, despite the hurt of that,
God cannot abandon his People.
You have shown that quality!

Despite the hurts and wrongs we all know about,
Here you are:
Faithful to your parish,
faithful to our Catholic Church.
Lent begins this Wednesday.

For all of us,
may God give us the grace "to move past":
Just as God moves past our sins,
may we be able to do the same for each other,
and to move forward as a parish and his Church.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

National Review is wrong on S.D. abortion law

The venerable National Review has this comment, about the forthcoming South Dakota law banning virtually all abortions, in it's "Window on the Week" column:

"Federal courts will almost certainly strike down the law before it takes effect, and South Dakota will have to pay the fees of the abortion clinics’ attorneys. Subsidizing the ACLU and Planned Parenthood may not be the legislators’ intent, but it is the effect of their actions. There may be some value in putting the state’s opposition to abortion on record. But the legislators could have accomplished that by passing a resolution committing themselves to the goal of protecting unborn human life from unjust killing as soon as it becomes possible — and committing themselves to participating in a practical strategy, combining legislation and litigation, to make it possible. The current bill, though idealistic, is a distraction from that task."

I am very sorry the National Review has taken this tack. The legislators in South Dakota have done exactly the correct thing here, and all over the country, stouthearted legislators are eager to do the same. Now this National Review comment will be thrown up to them, and have the (surely unintended) consequence of aiding and abetting the promise-everything-but-do-nothing-meaningful phony prolifers who already have too much power in our political system.

Yes, it's true the the litigation will likely come out as NR predicts, and that means paying the pro-aborts' legal fees. But by that argument, you never do anything that isn't a sure thing when it gets litigated, and that's a ridiculous standard to set. And it is not certain how the resulting litigation will result. To the extent that pursuing litigation is worthwhile, it is necessary to make cases happen. Imagine, back in the 50s, if folks had given similar advice to the NAACP: "don't go there--all you'll do is lose this case, just like before, segregation will be ratified again!, and you'll put money in the segregationists' pockets!"

The relatively small amount of money that unsuccessful litigation would actually put into the pro-aborts' pockets is far outweighed by the tax money that flows to these folks -- and that's deliberate and voluntary, where -- according to the principle of double effect -- this transfer of funds is an unavoidable evil consequence of an otherwise good and worthwhile action.

Now, as to NR's charge that this is a "distraction" -- well, it depends on what your goal really is. If the NR's goal is more litigation, well that's foolish and they should know better. Litigation of such cases has some value, but it's not the main pursuit. Even if we could win every case we could present in every courtroom -- a highly dubious notion! -- we won't curb abortions there, but through legislation.

And it's rather stupid to argue that the way to pass legislation is not to try! But believe it or not, this is precisely what politicians, addle-brained activists, misguided lobbyists, and now the NR, advocates.

This is standard fare: you bring a controversial bill to the legislature (and everything that will make a significant difference will be controversial), and finding a politician to introduce it, sponsor it, say nice things about it, is one thing; start insisting that it come to a vote, and you will here advice remarkably similar to the NR's: not now, not expedient, wrong move, a distraction, etc.

The argument so-called insiders offer is, oh, you don't want to push for a vote till you have the votes! Ah, how do will you know you have them--till you have a vote? And how do you change the vote count -- until you (1) have a vote and (2) hold the politicians accountable for that vote at the next election?

Now, the NR said, oh, you can have the same effect by having a "resolution." Sorry, NR, but a non-binding, changes-nothing resolution ain't the same as a law that does change things. Know how I know? Because meaningless resolutions pass all the time when effective legislation on the same subject doesn't. Guess why? Because the other side gets a lot less upset about change-nothing resolutions. If you can guess why, you win the prize... Sorry the NR can't figure that out.

Year after year, an awful lot of good legislation is stymied when supposed allies say, "oh, that'll never pass" -- and it never gets a vote.

Thanks to the doughty Legislature of South Dakota, they can't say that there, anymore.

Being human is extrinsic to who you are...

Domenico Bettenelli has a post about a Vatican conference on the issues raised by research involving stem cells derived from embryonic human beings (linked above).

The article he cites, at Catholic World News, observes that the Catholic Church's opposition to such research "is now under attack, the Italian bishop noted, with advocates of embryonic research and of the “morning-after” pill advancing the argument that human life does not begin until the fetus is implanted in the uterus" (emphasis added).

Now, let's think about this -- not theo-logically, but merely logically.

Shall we say that "being human" depends on this exterior interaction -- i.e., the fetus being implanted in the uterus?"

Consider: what if a human embryo could mature fully without ever being implanted in a woman's uterus? Not too many years ago, that would have sounded rather fantastic, but is it any longer? Let's not kid ourselves -- someone has to be working on this -- an artificial womb.

So, shall we really say, "this? This is human, because she or he was implanted in a uterus; but here? No; because it never was."

No theology here; just basic reason. Is that reasonable? Someone defend this, please.

Because what that means is that being human is not an intrinsic quality -- but an extrinsic quality. And if that's true -- if it's something "added from outside," then others -- not the putative human subject we're talking about -- decides.

And, of course, that's where we've been with legal abortion thus far. The actual legal reasoning at work in our present law on the subject is that location makes one a person -- specifically, the location of your head: if the fetus' head is located inside the womb, he or she is not a person. Hence partial-birth abortion.

Those of us who live in societies with the expectation of safeguarding that gift of Christian civilization -- universal human rights -- live every day in the expectation that our humanity is not in question; we don't have to prove it; we don't consider that anything exterior to ourselves would make, or unmake, our humanity.

Try thinking about life without that...go ahead: imagine living in a world in which whether you are human depends on what someone else says about you; or what someone did -- or didn't do -- to you at some stage of your development. Two "beings" are in all ways essentially the same; one is human because of where he gestated; the other is not.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sunny & about 60 in Charleston

It's a lovely day in Charleston, South Carolina, near the College of Charleston. My friend, with whom I traveled down here, had a friend to visit, so we came up to Charleston. Very pleasant city in which to walk, but not so nice in which to drive.

Heard its cold up north...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Gay Cowboys or talking animals--who wins?

Probably glad he missed the "gay cowboy" movie...

With all the hoop-de-do about the gay-cowboy movie (if you don't know, can you tell me what sort of rock you've been under the last two months?), you might have thought it was a big money-maker. If you have a "my yahoo" web page, you might see the movie ranked #8. Meanwhile, a movie that came out the very same day has faded from view, marginalized as either a children's movie or as something "those Christians liked": The Chronicles of Narnia. Guess it didn't do so well?

Turns out...

Brokeback Mountain: $66 million nationwide, cumulative (over $100 mil. worldwide)

Chronicles of Narnia: $284 million nationwide (over $500 mil. worldwide)

How about that?

Off South in a few hours...

Tomorrow (barely) I'm heading for South Carolina for some vacation. I just checked the weather report: 73 degrees today! (Yay!) High tomorrow? 59 -- hmmm . . .

I haven't blogged much, lately -- lots doing in the parish. It may be I'll blog more next week, on vacation. If you see me here, you know the weather is unpleasant . . .

Saturday, February 11, 2006

How convinced--and convincing--are you? (Sunday homily)

Father Tim Schehr,
who teaches at our seminary,
often has a column in the Catholic Telegraph
about the Sunday readings—
and it’s always good.

About our first reading, he says,
It’s a little distasteful,
talking about "scabs and pustules"!
We might wonder,
what this has to do
with our relationship with God?

Leprosy was a threat
to the community’s physical health.
Shift our focus to the spiritual level:
What if we were just as careful about
hazards to the spiritual
well-being of the community?

He points out,
"the Bible includes plenty of examples,"
not of physical epidemics,
but "of spiritual epidemics
threatening their lives."

A "spiritual epidemic"—
isn’t that what sin is?

We all have an influence,
either bad, or good:
If I cheat on my homework or an exam,
will that infection
spread to others at school?

On the other hand…
What happens if a friend says to another,
"Let’s go help at the Bethany Center"?

We really aren’t loners,
even if we think we are.
We influence each other;
and if we pull back,
we’re being selfish
about sharing our good influence.

St. Paul reminds us that the most important way
you and I use that influence
is to bring others to salvation!

Our first task is get to heaven;
Second: bring as many others with us as we can!

And heaven helped—Heaven came to us!
Jesus Christ: He alone makes us clean.

When that leper came to Jesus,
he was being very bold.
The first reading said, stay away.

There are a lot of folks who stay away.
They don’t come to church,
they don’t practice faith:
maybe they were hurt;
maybe they just got out of the habit;
maybe they don’t know how to come back.
Or, maybe no one showed them how
in the first place?

That leper was bold: he came to Jesus.
Can you and I be bold—
and go find those lepers,
and bring them to Jesus?

We often talk about the future,
for the Church, our school, our parish.
We see the empty pews
and we get fatalistic.

Well, what about filling those pews?
Here we are: you and I have "caught" the bug:
We’ve been influenced!
And we’re supposed to spread it!

Every weekend, 1400 people
come to Mass in Piqua.
What if 1400 people in this area
had the Bird Flu?

You and I can do this!
We can spread our Faith!
We have all the tools we need!

What holds us back? Two things…
First: do we really believe it?
Or, are we lukewarm?
Second: do we live it?
Do we "walk the walk"?

And that leads to an obvious insight.
If leprosy is a symbol of sin,
then every one of us
needs to say what the leper said:
"Jesus, if you will, you can make me clean."
That’s what we do when we go to confession.

What did the Lord say?
"Go, show yourself to the priest."
It’s not just about "me and God";
It’s about me, God,
and his Church of which I am part.

Receiving the sacrament of reconciliation—
requires me to admit…
that I did wrong;
and that my sins affect not just me,
but the whole Body of Christ.
When my sins weaken me, they weaken us.

The first reading identifies the problem.
The Gospel shows the remedy:
Jesus! He’s the remedy.
The leper said, if you will it…
And Jesus responds,

Those are awesome words!!

Don’t ever doubt
that Jesus wills to make you clean!
Never doubt that! Never doubt it!

When you go to confession,
it is Jesus who meets you.
And I am as serious as a heart attack here:

That’s what "absolve" means!
There’s no detergent on earth
that can do what Jesus can do!

He said: "I do will it—be made clean"…
And what did we hear?
"the leprosy left him…IMMEDIATELY!"
That’s how fast—that’s how completely—
Jesus washes away our sins
in the sacrament of reconciliation.

And it’s as simple as this:
The more powerfully you experience that,
the more deeply you believe it,
and the more convincingly
you bear witness to it!

That leper—was he convinced?
Was he convincing?
He couldn’t shut up! He had to tell!

I said a moment ago that 1400 people
go to Mass every Sunday in Piqua.
What if there were 1400 lepers
in this town, who said,
"Look! He made me clean!"?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Jesus is our Word of healing (Sunday homily)

In our first reading, poor Job calls
"man’s life on earth a drudgery"—
"I shall not see happiness again," he mourns.

Job needed a word of healing.
And, like Job, so do we.

For many, life is a drudgery;
Many struggle from paycheck to paycheck;
Others would just be happy to have a paycheck.

Many are afflicted

with by the "demon" of addiction.
On radio this week, I heard about a man
who gave up everything for gambling:
his savings, his job, even his family.
The same happens with alcohol,
drugs, pornography, you name it.

Some get into relationships
that are destructive.
Haven’t we all seen it?
Someone we know gets out
of one awful relationship,
only to do it all over again!

We can’t heal ourselves;
we stay in the same cycle.
The answer has to come from outside:
We need a Savior.

The Gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus,
The Son of God who indeed came from "outside"—
And who quickly starts making things happen.

Last week we heard

how astonished everyone was,
because he "spoke with authority"—
they couldn’t explain it,
but they knew they had experienced
some awesome power:
he spoke—and it was so;
he spoke—and people were healed;
he spoke—and demons fled!

Jesus, the Son of God,

from outside, from heaven,
came inside—he became human;
Jesus is our Savior.

He speaks with authority,
To bring healing and cast out evil.

What can he speak to your situation?

Perhaps we want the physical healing
Peter’s mother-in-law received.
But she still died, you know!

I often visit folks facing a terminal illness,
and we pray for physical healing,
and miracles do happen.

But what strikes me is how often

I hear words like these:
"I can accept this—

I’m not afraid to die.
My only concern is for my family,
for how this will affect them."

I’ve seen people lit up from within,
with a peace no one can explain:
that’s the healing!

A lot of us would love a financial healing:
How often do we think,
"If only I had X-number of dollars

more a week…"

The other day, I read about a man

who’d won the lottery—
he’d never much of anything before.
He ended up losing everything:
he went through the money; he got in debt;
friends and family turned on him;
he’s in jail today!

Whatever that man needs—

it’s not more money!

The healing we need
is to know the authority

of Jesus in our lives!

Think about this:

all those folks who came to Jesus,
whom he fed, or cast demons out of,

or he healed.
Why didn’t that fix everything?

You’d think that would be enough.

Yet, where were they

when Jesus got arrested?

What was missing?
They needed one more thing:
they needed Jesus at the center of their lives!

That’s the Word of healing!

No, it doesn’t change our bodies,

so we never get sick;
It doesn’t change our minds,

so we never make bad decisions;
It doesn’t change our checkbook,

so we never get in the hole.

But, when Jesus is at the center,
He changes us—so we’re not afraid;
He changes us—so we need not be

slaves to the world,
slaves to the past, slaves to sin;

He fills us—so we are no longer empty inside;
He fills us—so we have a center of gravity,
a Rock, that cannot be moved even in the worst of storms!
Jesus fills us with Himself: He is the Word of healing,
He is the Life that can never be taken away;
that’s healing that never fades;
that’s power that cannot be conquered;
that’s confidence; that’s peace.

Thomas Aquinas, the great, scholarly saint,
had just completed

one of his great works on the Eucharist.
He was praying one day,
and he heard the Lord

speak to him from the crucifix.
"Thomas," the Lord said,
"you have written well concerning me—
what reward would you have?"

What might Thomas have asked for?
With money, he could do so many good works;
With more wisdom, or just time,
he could have written even more.
He could have asked for
any number of good and needful things.
Instead he responded:
"Nothing, Lord—only You."

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Those Mohammed Cartoons

Who knew that some satirical cartoons, penned in Denmark, would make such a splash?

By now, I'm sure you've read, or seen, stories about these cartoons, and how enraged demonstrations have followed.

Many note, as a double-standard, that politicians and others are quick to commiserate with aggrieved Muslims, but the commonplace sacrileges and blasphemies against Christians merit hardly a shrug.

That the headquarters of Rolling Stone magazine have not been surrounded by cross-bearing mobs, and torched; and the publishers, employees, and anyone in any way sympathetic, not marked down, Lafarge-like, for "annihilation," is no doubt merely coincidental.

Of course that is a credit to the Christians, although after we congratulate ourselves for not being bloodthirsty, honesty demands we ask: is it that, or have we simply stopped caring all that much?

But one remains highly suspicious of just what motivated all the handwringing.

Yes, of course, one should deplore mockery of what others deem sacred; although we draw the line somewhere -- was St. Boniface, for example, wrong to destroy the pagans' sacred tree-idol? Should the pagan goddess Victory have remained in the Senate?

Even so, there are two issues here. One is the question of courtesy -- and I agree, let us show courtesy to Muslim beliefs, as for anyone else.

But the other is freedom. One may deplore a misuse of it -- as I deplore Rolling Stones narcissistic mockery of our Incarnate Savior -- yet the fact remains, Rolling Stone has a right to publish such images, and so do the publishers of these cartoons.

And on that matter, I take a pretty hard line. The First Amendment isn't perfect, and it isn't Divine Writ; but it strikes me as awfully wise and awfully good.

Here, then, is a very telling point: these mobs, who would pause before a proffered copy of the First Amendment, only so long as to decide which to burn first -- it, or you -- are the ones our intrepid President assures us are ready for democracy.

Hmmm. Now we know what he meant when he said their democracy wouldn't look "exactly" like ours.

You will note I am not putting the cartoons on my web page. I shall be candid with you about my process of reasoning on that subject.

I don't wish to offend Muslims unnecessarily. I can't help offending them, if proclaiming the Christian Faith does so; but I could see no necessity to publishing those cartoons here. (They are certainly available.)

And yet, it does dismay me that so many secular publications are shying away -- again, how did they so suddenly become so solicitous of religious sensibilities?

Candidly, I do not wish to attract the ire of the sorts who threaten "massacre" in reaction to these cartoons. That may seem silly, except that there are millions of Muslims in this country; and I don't presume to know how they feel. I give them the benefit of the doubt; but I use my head, too.

(It's similar, by the way, to why advocates of Right to Work, of which I am one, do not use bumper stickers. They found out why this was unwise the hard way, in years past: cars with such bumper stickers invited the sort of retaliation that union bullyboys take pride in.)

You may think what you like about that. I see no merit in needlessly annoying Muslims -- I emphasize "needlessly" -- but I can't stop you from doing it, if its a point of honor for you.

The risk likely is small, and yet the sort of evil that these "protesters" are threatening, it is not my place to bring down on my parish or others associated with me.

But such is the calculation that a responsible person feels the need to make, in such an environment, even as I am safely (?) ensconced in mid-Ohio, mid-America . . . it bears some reflecting, does it not? What might it be like to be in Britain, today? In France, and other places in Europe. And what lies ahead?

"Islam is a religion of peace," President Bush assures us. Yes -- don't I feel better now?

Friday, February 03, 2006

I got tagged four ways

The Lady in the Pew "tagged" me to participate in this . . . thing -- what do you call it? A game? Anyway, I'm supposed to answer a series of questions, post it, and then subject four other unfortunates...

Four jobs I've had (in chronological order):

1. Paperboy
2. Journalist
3. Men's clothing salesman
4. Political operative

Four movies I watch over and over again (in order of quality):

1. The Godfather
2. "It's a Wonderful Life"
3. The Big Sleep
4. Dude, Where's My Car?

Four places I've lived (in chronological order):

1. Cincinnati, Ohio
2. Greater Washington, D.C. (Northern Virginia)
3. Fort Wayne, Indiana (for a summer)
4. Suwon, (South) Korea (for a month)
5. Dayton, Ohio
6. Piqua, Ohio

(Yeah, I know, I gave too many; report me!)

Four shows I watch (in order of frequency):

1. "Special Report" with Brit Hume
2. The Situation with Tucker Carlson
3. The West Wing
4. Mythbusters

Four places I've vacationed (in order of frequency):

1. Outer Banks, North Carolina
2. New York City
3. Rome, Italy
4. Gyeongju, Korea

Four web sites I visit daily (besides my own):

Dappled Things
Ten Reasons

Four of my favorite foods:

Skyline Chili
(A complete meal!)

Four places I'd like to be right now:

Someplace I've never been (only briefly, if it's awful)
Someplace sunny, warm and exotic
Eating Oysters at the Union Street Public House in Alexandria Virginia
Soaking in a jacuzzi with music playing, and several favorite foods and beers with easy reach.

Four people I'm tagging:

The first four people who read this and want to participate.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Time for some politics

I haven't offered any (overtly) political comments, on this blog, for awhile; perhaps you thought I wasn't feeling well. Rather, I've been busy, which is nice.

Several topics merit some comment: the confirmation of Alito, the President's "State of the Union" address Tuesday night, and Rep. John Boehner's elevation to Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Justice Alito. I agree with my classmate and brother priest, Father Larry Gearhart, (read him at his blog, Eyes of Faith) who noted in his ascerbic fashion, "this chicken has not yet hatched," but "hope is not yet ill-founded. "

Even so, I endorsed Alito; I would have preferred Edith Jones, but Alito was a very good choice; far better than Harriet Miers, and better than Roberts, precisely because we knew more about Alito's fundamental philosophy.

I can't help recalling the dire predictions many made, back last summer; that someone like Alito would result in a terrible battle, that unless the White House had to engage in a lot of deal-making and arm-twisting, they'd have a devil of a time getting him through; meanwhile, the Left could fire at will, and who knows what mischief they could bring about?

I wrote in this space on September 7: ". . . the sort of political fight--such as a Supreme Court pick (or a tax bill)--that Bush is supposedly "too weak" to pursue right now, is exactly what he needs--what will strengthen him..."

On September 19, I opined,

I think we need to insist, rather loudly, that President Bush's next nominee be someone whose position on "privacy" is clear-cut. Oh, of course the opposition will howl and threaten; they did so when Rehnquist, on record against Roe, was nominated as Chief Justice, yet he was confirmed. Yes, it'll be a battle; but unless the President nominates someone on record pro-Roe, it'll be a battle anyway; why not have someone worth fighting for; someone who will energize prolifers, too?
(emphasis added)

Well, now we can look back and see how things played out...

Alito veritably sailed through; politically, the opposition took some serious hits; Sen. Ted Kennedy continues to prove himself the most valuable Senator to both sides -- he's extremely effective for his side, but he does worlds of good for the Children of Light as well, as a bogeyman. His hounding of Mrs. Alito from the room, in tears, followed by his bellowing, purple-faced, on the floor of the Senate last week, could not have been better scripted by, well, me.

The filibuster was not ruined, as the muddle-headed GOP seemed willing to consider doing last year. (I have a feeling they may have thought better of their enthusiasm for wrecking this great bulwark of liberty. And while I'm on the subject, if there's one monument that really ought to be erected in Washington, it is a monument to the Filibuster. I'll donate $100.)

Indeed, the filibuster was a filifizzle, for precisely the reasons I've said in the past, and why we shouldn't tamper with it: a filibuster cannot be sustained in the face of something the people demand. So either a filibuster pursues an end that the public wants, or it may be something not enough care about.

Which means that the collapse of the filibuster against Alito can mean but one thing: the politicians knew which way the wind was blowing on this nomination. Which explains why Senator Kennedy looked like he was going to explode (a sight I enjoyed thoroughly, although I would have felt guilty if he had, really).

So what do we learn?

The argument that we need stealthy nominees falls. Roberts was stealthy; Alito not. Difference? One got confirmed by a wider margin. Oh well. Alito is just as confirmed.

And you know what? Think he feels good about what the Left tried to do to him? Did he look like a man who would care what they might say about him in the future? Unlike that esteemed jurist, Justice Anthony "What did the Post say about me today?" Kennedy, who is probably luxuriating in the prospect of being the "swing vote" for awhile. Reminds me of St. Thomas More's line from "A Man for All Seasons": "Richard, but for Wales?

The whole "political capital" theory is worthless. Note bene: with Bush's poll numbers in the 30s, you have to say his so-called "political capital" (as usually measured) was pretty thin. So, if the "he can't spend his capital" theory folks were right, Alito should have been toast -- finito!

The truth is, Alito and what he stood for, was Bush's "political capital" -- i.e., by picking a fight with the Left, around which Bush's allies could mobilize, wouldn't "cost" him capital -- it gained it for him!

In short, this was the play that should be run the next time -- if Bush gets another pick as many hope.

The State of the Union. Did Bush learn the lesson? After listening to his speech the other night, I wonder. It was mostly mush, moderated by the fact that it was less-ambitious mush. Ethanol has been a scandal of vast proportions beyond Jack Abrahamoff, but no one will go to jail for it, although in my opinion, hundreds of Senators and Congressmen deserve the pokey for that boondoggle. You might think that cabal in D.C., the greedy and the shameless, have milked the Ethanol thing for all they could, ah but here comes the Prez, riding to their rescue: we can make ethanol from wood chips! That'll save the day!

One of the talking heads on TV the other night said it best: it looks like Alito will be Bush's greatest domestic accomplishment.

John Boehner. I am disappointed, although I haven't touched base with my sources in the VRWC* to see what they think. I liked what I heard from Shadegg.

Rep. Boehner does not look, to me, as anything really new or different; just a fresh version of the same old, same old.

I have to tell you, I got disillusioned about the feckless Congressional GOP during the Clinton Administration, so I've gotten used to this mess. Back then, our hero was Rep. Dick Armey, who really was a hero to the Right. Then he went all native once he came under the spell -- or thumb -- of that human Trojan Horse, Newt Gingrich. It wasn't long before Dick Armey was muscling through pork-barrel spending, and squashing votes on conservative issues -- the exact opposite of what he stood for, and practiced, when he was our hero.

So Boehner looks to be another (bad) Dick Armey, without the consolation of thinking, perhaps the old, good Dick Armey is still there, somewhere.

One bit of evidence: when Boehner was merely a Congressman, he said he'd vote for a National Right to Work Act. Guess what he did, once he became chairman of the committee with jurisdiction? Squashed the bill! Won't let it out of committee; won't hold a vote; won't hold hearings, on the bill he once vowed to help pass.

Will conservative voters turn out this fall to help the GOP? The Senators gave them reason to; has the House?

Stay tuned . . .

*Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy