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17 May 2002  

Who's catering the wrap party? Week five of The Goliard Blog is now officially a wrap. Thanks to InstaPundit for another numbers-spiking link, and thanks to all of you who have taken the time to stop by. Have a good weekend, everybody.

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It's PEOPLE!!! Today looks like a good day to go to the movies. What shall I see? Spider-Man? Fat chance. I have a personal rule against seeing any movie with excessive promotional tie-ins (such as the Spidey-themed ads for Cingular and Hardees that both appeared during Survivor last night). This rule spared me much Jursassic Park-related misery.

The latest Star Wars installment? Please. I avoided Episode I according to my excessive-hype rule, and am staying away from Episode II, Episode III, and however many more there are in future because this franchise has simply jumped the shark. I think it happened right when the closing credits for Return of the Jedi finished scrolling.

Okay, those are reasons for not seeing these two specific movies, but there are more general principles at work too. I was never interested in movies about super-heroes (I hated, hated, hated Batman), and am no longer interested in movies about space-beings. I am not interested in movies about car chases or things blowing up or teenagers in heat or any of the other mind-numbing Hollywood genres. I am interested in movies about people. About grown-up people. (And the occasional well-sketched kid.) About grown-up, complex people who are interesting to get acquainted with, and who go through experiences that resonate with and make me think about real life.

Many of these movies are fairly serious, like the wonderfully rich Last Orders I saw just a few weeks ago. Many of them are French. (I'm with Jonah Goldberg most of the time when it comes to the French; but darn it, they've always made lots of really good films.) But some of them are funny and in English too. About a Boy, which opens here today, looks like one of those. Witty and with fully-realized human beings for characters. I'll go see it now, and save the rest of my opinionated commentary about movies for some other time.

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Sure, on St. Patrick's Day everybody's Irish… Today I received in the mail my third invitation from a particular credit-card issuer to apply for an Irish Heritage MasterCard. How on Earth did I get on this mailing list? I'm seven-eighths German, and one-eighth mystery mix. Don't get me wrong, I love Ireland and the other Celtic lands dearly—for largely unfathomable reasons—but I really wouldn't feel right brandishing an Irish Heritage MasterCard.

Whether Irish-related or not, I get three or four credit card offers in the mail every single week. I hear from Capital One more regularly than from the readers of this blog (and of course, none of my readers has ever offered me up to $5,000 in credit either). Maybe this makes some sort of sense either to the banks or to their victims…er, customers…but it's sheer madness in my book.

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Steyn, as usual. Mark Steyn once again displays his mordant wit in the pages of the National Post. This time, he has his guns trained on his own native country, to hilarious effect. He riffs off a recent round of Canadian disappointment at being ignored by the American media, and makes an excellent point:

No, on balance, I'd say the total American -- and, indeed, international -- news blackout on Canada works to the country's advantage. No news is good news. Any news other than Celine's baby tends to be bad.

And hockey. Hockey news is good too.

UPDATE: Once you're done reading the Canada piece, check out Steyn's latest column on Europe for The Spectator, where he explains why Americans are truly free while Europeans really aren't. Oh beautiful, for spacious skies…

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Never too many Catholic blogs. Gerard Serafin, whose "A Catholic Page For Lovers" has been a longtime fixture in my browser's bookmarks list, has now launched his own blog, titled (I could have predicted this) "A Catholic Blog For Lovers". He bills it as: "A celebration of beauty, truth, and goodness, and, of course, love...and a little nastiness." The snarkier bloggers among us will hold him to his promise of "a little nastiness" to leaven all the warm and fuzzy stuff.

For those whose eyes grow tired from acres and acres of blogtext, I should note that Serafin's blog is already leavened by some purdy picshures.

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The Friday Feature is still in limbo. Sorry about that. Also, there may or may not be much posted later today. Sorry about that too. But hey, I've put in my 6000 words for the week already, that's nothing to be ashamed of, right? And remember, there's lots of groovy stuff to be found in the archives if you happened to miss any of The Goliard Blog the first time around.

I've tacked on an update to the end of Wednesday's magnum opus on the Dutch elections. My loyal readers (both of you) will doubtless want to check it out.

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16 May 2002  


From Church Poems by John Betjeman.


I like the way these old brick garden walls
Unevenly run down to Letcombe Brook.
I like the mist of green about the elms
In earliest leaf-time. More intensely green
The duck-weed undulates; a mud-grey trout
Hovers and darts away at my approach.
   From rumpled beds on far-off new estates,
From houses over shops along the square,
From red-brick villas somewhat further out,
Ringers arrive, converging on the tower.
   Third Sunday after Easter. Public ways
Reek faintly yet of last night's fish and chips.
The plumes of smoke from upright chimney-pots
Denote the death of last week's Sunday press,
While this week's waits on many a step and sill
Unopened, folded, supplements and all.
   Suddenly on the unsuspecting air
The bells clash out. It seems a miracle
That leaf and flower should never even stir
In such great waves of medieval sound:
They ripple over roofs to fields and farms
So that "the fellowship of Christ's religion"
Is roused to breakfast, church or sleep again.
   From this wide vale, where all our married lives
We two have lived, we now are whirled away
Momently clinging to the things we knew—
Friends, footpaths, hedges, house and animals—
Till, borne along like twigs and bits of straw,
We sink below the sliding stream of time.

John Betjeman

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15 May 2002  


Now the real fun begins. Election results are coming in from the Netherlands, and since current news reports tend to leave out some of the significant numbers, I will start by providing them here.

The Christian Democrats have won 43 out of the 150 seats in the Tweede Kamer (that's the lower house of parliament…I like the Dutch name because it's awfully fun to say), up from 29 at the last election. This will give their leader, former economics professor Jan Peter Balkenende, first crack at forming the next government as prime minister. (Pim Fortuyn, you may recall, was also a former professor. Is it wise for our Dutch friends to rely so heavily on academics to lead their parties?) American readers will perhaps be surprised to learn that winning fewer than one in three seats could be considered a "landslide", but within the Dutch system of proportional representation and coalition politics it might well be, taken together with the battering the ruling parties received.

Lijst Pim Fortuyn (remove the "j" for the English translation) is to become the second-largest party with 26 seats. This is up from zero at the last election, since the party did not even exist until a few months ago. An amazing performance, even factoring in considerations of sympathy for the party's murdered leader—especially when one notes that Livable Netherlands, Fortuyn's former party which had sacked him as leader, only claimed two seats today.

(A side note: Shame on the BBC's Angus Roxburgh, whose television report on the Dutch elections, made available on the BBC website, introduced the number-two man on Lijst Pim Fortuyn, João Varela, as the party's "token black MP".)

The three parties of the current governing coalition got clobbered. Prime Minister Wim Kok's Labor Party has dropped from 45 seats to 23, prompting Kok's successor as party leader, Ad Melkert, to pull a Jospin and resign before the ballot-counting was even finished. Clearly the sickness that caused the Italian and French branches of the Euro-Socialist establishment to lose recent elections is also affecting the Dutch subsidiary. If Kok's and Melkert's successor prefers to simply blame the Fortuyn situation for this defeat, rather than make an honest examination of the sickness, the Labor Party will not be likely to get well anytime soon either. Look for Germany's Gerhard Schröder to get the next wake-up call from European voters.

The Labor Party's partner, the somewhat-classically-liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) fell from 38 seats to 23. The VVD's policies are sufficiently compatible with the Christian Democrats to make it a very likely partner in the new governing coalition. Not so for the third coalition partner, the socially-very-liberal Democraten 66, which dropped from 14 to 8 seats and should become just another minor party in the next parliament, alongside the Greens (10 seats, a loss of one), the hard-left Socialists (9 seats, a surprising gain of 4), and an assortment of 2-3 seat minnows.

So the votes are in, but now the true fun begins. In a place like the Netherlands, which inevitably produces coalition governments, the voting itself is just the first phase of the election business. Next comes the horse-trading that will produce a cabinet and an agenda that can earn the endorsement of a majority in the Tweede Kamer—or so prospective PM Balkenende hopes. This process can take days, or even weeks. I have my own prediction as to how it will unfold.

The Christian Democrats will quite obviously be in the driver's seat. Not only did they take by far the most seats today, but they have a long tradition of dominance on the Dutch political scene, having been a part of every single government from 1918 to 1994. Their most natural partners will be the VVD, not just because of the already-noted policy compatibilities, but also due to the VVD's establishment status. I say this because I presume that, despite their fresh-faced leader, the Christian Democrats retain many old habits, especially the preference for dealing with familiar governing partners.

With the VVD on board, Balkenende will have 66 of the 76 votes necessary to form his coalition. He may or may not try to pick up a few more votes from tiny conservative Christian parties, but at the end of the day, the only two groups which are at least minimally compatible with his program and have enough seats to put him over the top are going to be Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF) and the Labor Party.

The Christian Democrats' consensus-politics instincts might make a pact with Labor seem more attractive than dealing with the mavericks, but I believe this would prove politically catastrophic. The voters sent a powerful signal in making LPF the second-largest party, and to now exclude the party from the coalition would be to dangerously amplify the public's discontent with the political establishment. An even broader segment of voters chose to give Labor a big slap in the face at the polls, and it would gall them to see the party invited back to the cabinet table. What is more, it will be hard within Balkenende's party to resist the simple desire for payback. Many within the Christian Democratic party were around in 1994 when Wim Kok's Labor-led coalition froze them out of power for the first time in eons, and they will be quite eager to repay Kok's party in kind.

Accepting LPF into the coalition in its present form, however, would carry with it its own set of dangers. Even after the change in perspective caused by the assassination, too close an association with the demonized Fortuyn's followers could cause the Christian Democrats to be ostracized in the corridors of Brussels. Also, it is an unnerving proposition to bring into government a party whose appeal was largely based on the promise of upsetting all sorts of apple-carts in The Hague. Most worrisome is the fact that the LPF was never the most stable or intellectually coherent party; it is composed of an eclectic assortment of amateurs, true-believers, malcontents, and wing-nuts who were brought together by a charismatic and daring leader. A Lijst Pim Fortuyn without Pim Fortuyn is a train wreck waiting to happen. Indeed, the party's candidates were already generating plenty of embarrassment in the run-up to the vote. (The Daily Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard tagged them with the familiar Britishism "the awkward squad".)

It would be much better for Balkenende if this train wreck happens before, rather than after, he winds up sharing the cabinet table with LPF ministers; and so if he is wise, he will do everything he can to ensure it turns out that way. First he should realize is that time is on his side. The longer he can drag out the process of forming his new government—without dragging it out so long that a rival potential prime minister and cabinet start to emerge—the better. Second, he does not need all of LPF's 26 seats. Half that number will do; so in the event of a party split, Balkenende would be free to tell the other half to go jump in a canal. Third, loyalty to a brand-new party with a dead leader is likely to grow weaker as each day passes. It shouldn't be too difficult to find, amongst this crowd of brand-new MPs, several persons who would be willing to help break up the LPF (a building that was looking shaky anyhow) if there is a cabinet post in it for them. Before deciding which individuals to approach, of course, Balkenende's camp will have to do some quick research so that they can avoid those figures who have the strongest followings among the wing-nuts.

Keep your eyes on The Hague in the coming days. It should be an interesting ride.

UPDATE: A Dutch friend points out what is likely to happen in the medium term, whether or not Balkenende can pull off the political feat I sketched above: "My prediction is that we'll have new elections within 18 months since the new parliament does not really seem too stable." Indeed. The remnants of a broken-up LPF are hardly likely to be any more stable than the original party. What is more, as time passes the Christian Democrats and the VVD are not going to be all that eager to hold the coalition together, as they will fancy their chances of letting the air out of the mavericks' balloon and restoring the political establishment's control over parliament with another trip to the polls. They will not want to wait too long, however, lest the Labor Party start to show signs of recovery from the present defeat. My instincts tell me that new elections are most likely between six and twelve months from now. I do not yet have any prediction as to whether the establishment will be able to put the populist genie back in its bottle at that time.

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About that Religion of Peace. Mark Shea's fearlessness, which at times has given rise to criticism, pays off big-time today. His piece "Time to Draw Down the Wrath of the Thin-Skinned Whiners at CAIR" certainly represents truth in advertising. He recalls Salman Rushdie's post-September 11th words to the effect that "it's kind of Pres. Bush to say that the problem is not Islam but a few fringe nuts. But…the problem is, in fact, Islam." Rushdie would know. Shea then opens up both barrels:

Islam doesn't have to go this route, but the fact is, right now it is. It is a religion which possesses no theology of the fall, no experience of persecution for centuries after its start, a festering sense of entitlement to rule the world, coupled with a corrupt, ignorant, medieval conception of despotic theocratic rule that assures it of never achieving that goal. Like a spoiled child who was pampered in youth and then found itself destitute in adulthood, it blames everybody but itself for its troubles; remembering everything and learning nothing. And so, it embraces the most grotesque losers (like [David] Duke) as its champions while failing to ask a single hard question of itself. It is a textbook example of how false ideas about God can lead to human misery on a massive scale. And it is, at present, a planetary scourge that threatens the lives of millions of people while whining about persecution every time somebody points that out.

Some excellent insights into the specific contours of Islamist pathology. And if the reader blanches at some of Shea's words, I suggest a trip to the invaluable MEMRI website to say what they, even our so-called "friends" and "allies", have to say about us. You will quickly see that no apologies are necessary.

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Chock full of Nicholsy goodness. (Okay, my inner Jonah Goldberg got the best of me there for a minute.) A reader has kindly directed me to a website, Christendom Awake, which contains lots of great reading material from Aidan Nichols, O.P. and others. The sub-home page dedicated to Father Nichols, which links to many extracts from his work, can be found here.

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Looking at the Liturgy by Aidan Nichols, O.P. Those readers of The Goliard Blog who do not have a strong interest in Catholic affairs will, I hope, forgive me for capping off this week's liturgical discussions with a most appropriate Wednesday Book. This slender volume, which according to its subtitle seeks to provide "a critical view of [the liturgy's] contemporary form", is packed with scholarly and balanced observations on the Pauline Missal. Father Nichols does not engage in jeremiads, but neither does he shrink from pointing out the Novus Ordo's warts, and exploring the question of where they came from. This is an all-too-rare accomplishment.

As a general rule I do not underline passages, make annotations, or otherwise mark up my books, but Looking at the Liturgy caused me to make an exception, especially where Father Nichols explores the Enlightenment roots of the post-Vatican II liturgical reforms. The following quotes are taken from a section discussing a 1940 book by German scholar Waldemar Trapp (I am in awe of Father Nichols for being able to unearth, much less read, such a title) which contrasted Enlightenment-based ideas of reform with alternatives that had flowered in the inter-war years. The passages are not short, and are written with a philosophical vocabulary, but they will repay the reader's attention.

[The Enlightenment's] keynotes were: a utilitarian or pragmatist philosophical infrastructure for which happiness or usefulness is the key to truth; anthropocentrism; a predominance of ethical values over strictly religious ones; a downplaying of the notion of special revelation in favor wherever possible of religion within the limits of reason; and in aesthetics an ideal of noble simplicity, edle Einfalt.…The result of the extrapolation of the wider Enlightenment motifs into the liturgical domain was threefold: a demand for the simplification of the Liturgy, an emphasis on its socially useful or community-building character, and the insistence that through as complete an intelligibility or reasonableness as possible it should edify morally those who worshipped by means of it.

I believe that much post-conciliar mischief has resulted from the effort to implement just this program.

…the eighteenth-century movement was distinguished by rampant didacticism. Franz Oberthur, for instance, who defined divine worship as a "solemn means of teaching, nourishing, and promoting religion in the Christian Church", regarded teaching as the Liturgy's main goal: hence his rejection of, for example, the Litany of Loreto as purposeless. Something that teaches no clear lesson but gathers up ancient images in lyrical exuberance around a devotional focus could hardly be anything other than useless to such a mind. Trapp also points to the takeover of Liturgy by moralism. Winter (again) treated the "religio-moral illumination of the intellect" as the primary aim of the Liturgy, the improvement of the heart coming a good second.

Father Nichols points out that much of this looks familiar in our day:

What we, over half a century after Trapp, may note in our turn, however, is that the approach to Liturgy that apparently predominates today is much more reminiscent of the Enlightenment as he describes it than of the interwar liturgical movement that he presents as its foil. Anthropocentric, moralizing, voluntaristic, didactic, subjectivist—these seem a better characterization, at least in the Anglo-Saxon sphere, of liturgical attitudes today than what Trapp would have us be: theocentric, redemption-conscious, and aware of seinsmässige Verbundenheit, "ontological bonding", with God through the divine Logos incarnate, our great High Priest, found as he is in all his glorious objectivity in the given cultic pattern of the community of faith."

The above may make the book seem like tough slogging to those unaccustomed to encountering phrases such as "ontological bonding" (whether in English or in German), but compared to some other worthy tomes in this field—such as Catherine Pickstock's incredible book—it is actually a pretty smooth read. Looking at the Liturgy is available directly from the publisher, Ignatius Press, and also can usually be found in stock at

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14 May 2002  

Ebbing and flowing. New postings may be a little thin on the ground today and tomorrow, as I blogged my lil' pea-pickin' heart out on Monday, and even the most prolific of writers (which I am not) needs to reload every now and then.

On the politics front, I trust that others will bang away on the Carter-in-Cuba topic, and I anticipate bringing you excerpts tomorrow when they do. The Wednesday Book will, of course, be appearing as usual.

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Choosing words carefully. A fellow Catholic lawyer who produces the blog Integrity served up a warning to his fellow bloggers last week, in a post which I had not noticed until today. The piece, "The Dangers of Blogging", makes some decent points, but I think that overall the criticism is overdrawn. The writer also seems to have issues with the blogging medium itself:

...what I don't understand is why so many bloggers feel the need (or that they have the right) to share every rant or frustration with everyone else on the globe.

But that's the whole point of the medium, my friend. (Well, sort of.)

If the blogger produces worthless rants and frustrations, no one will visit regularly, and so in reality such writings will not be shared "with everyone else on the globe", no matter how many computers in the world could theoretically find their way there. This is the first prong (we American lawyers are fond of "prongs") of the medium's self-correcting mechanism. Whereas those who generally produce interesting and fresh material, and are thus frequently visited, will be subject to immediate criticism, both by e-mail and on other blogsites, when they do occasionally step over the line. This is the second prong of the medium's self-correcting mechanism…and it worked well in the case of Mark Shea, who recently drew friendly correction from Sean Gallagher's Nota Bene as well as from Integrity when his choice of words grew a little too heated.

(I think that Integrity should also take note of the clear warning label prominently displayed on Shea's blog, Catholic and Loving It!: "Mark Shea's Blog: So That No Thought of Mine, No Matter How Stupid, Should Ever Go Unpublished Again!")

I hope that, for my part, I have not been intemperate or trafficked in rumors here on The Goliard Blog; but if I should transgress, I will welcome feedback from readers and other bloggers, and I will be happy to fix anything that needs fixing, no matter how far back in the Archives it resides. (This ability to excise regrettable errors from back issues is another useful characteristic of the weblog medium.)

On the other hand, I have no intention of walking on eggshells here—nor, I believe, should any other blogger. Our society has grown increasingly less tolerant of open, spirited debate, which I think is one reason for the weblog revolution. The blogsphere is, and I hope shall remain, one venue where most people feel free to call 'em like they see 'em. Viva el Blog!

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Today's Tuesday Quotation is from the first chapter of a new novel, Leaving Katya, which I started leafing through at the bookstore the other day. It was when I reached this paragraph that I knew I'd wind up reading the whole novel, so look for this title again as a future Wednesday Book.

And if Katya and I were both a little on the sad side, "tending toward depression" as my dad might say, well that was okay with me too. I liked Katya's melancholy abruptness. I liked the whole direct-but-gentle sadness of the Soviet Union. I liked how nobody here went to a shrink and how people stayed away from shrink words like "depressed," "depressive," and "depression." Russians somehow seemed to understand that depression was just sadness and that sadness was just a mood. One of many lenses through which you can take in life's light. Moods colored life, sometimes darkly, but they also gave life immediacy and freshness, allowing you to react sincerely to every new thing that came your way.

 — from Leaving Katya by Paul Greenberg

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13 May 2002  


Stupid church! Be more relevant! Last Thursday's issue of The Scotsman reported: "Kirk must adapt to the needs of today’s youth". Oh, so that's the problem with mainline churches. Some excerpts:

CHURCH services need to be updated if bored youngsters are to be stopped from deciding that worship is not for them, a Kirk report published today claims.

Can't you just see the desperate vicar running down the street after the young folk, shouting "Stop! Stop! Don't decide that worship isn't for you!"

The Church of Scotland is concerned that worship seem "limited and monochrome" in an age of modern technology and communications.

"Hello, McTaggart Paints? This is Reverend Dewar. I'm worried that worship in my church is a bit too monochrome. Could you send round fifty gallons of bright orange paint, and another fifty gallons of purple? Might want to throw in some lime green as well. Thank you."

The Kirk panel of worship believes the traditional concept of Sunday school may have also led to a sense that children are seen and not heard. It adds that removing children from the service to attend Sunday school may have resulted in at least two generations that have never learned to worship.

A cautionary thought for those who promote children's liturgies, youth Masses, and the like.

The Rev Douglas Galbraith, the secretary of the panel, said: "Many young people can find worship boring, as it is not geared for them in today’s modern world, and the fact remains that the older people in the Church are not being replaced at the same rate.

"We need to respond to the fact that it is not that young people should be doing things differently, but that the Church should be doing things differently…

But of course. Jesus never dared tell young people that they should do things differently, did he? But it's a pity He never got round to gearing the Last Supper for youths in today's modern world.

Finally, we are presented with the Grand Unified Theory of Liturgical Pandering:

"Children will relate best when they feel personally involved, when there is activity; teenagers with their predilection for testing conventions may respond best to that aspect of worship which challenges social norms; young adults look for acknowledgement of the pressures they experience in career and in family life; the middle-aged look for refreshment, in ideas and in their spiritual lives; the older age group seek hope and reassurance."

Sounds like the Scots could be in for some l-o-n-g, jumbled services.

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Now this is a good allegory. Emily Stimpson's Fool's Folly is always a good read, but today's "A Supposal" is especially fine. You see, Stimpson had apparently drawn criticism for her suggestion that clergy who openly reject Magisterial teachings should be removed from their positions. (I obviously agree with her wholeheartedly, since not long ago I proposed a means for accomplishing this very thing.) So she defends her idea by conjuring up a hypothetical NARAL state president who begins to secretly agitate against abortion. Here is where she made me laugh out loud:

Thinking her position secure, our closet pro-lifer becomes bolder. She’s heard making remarks against embryonic cloning, she’s seen in the company of known orthodox Catholics, and new hires in the Ohio State NARAL office mysteriously wear lipstick and buy clothes at Ann Taylor.

While you're over at Fool's Folly, be sure not to miss Stimpson's highly-informative posts on the history of celibacy. There are three parts, which can be found here (part one), here (part two), and here (part three).

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Everybody's to blame…and nobody. Father Bob Carr, Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral in Boston, has just started his own blog, and thanks to a mention from Amy Welborn he should have plenty of visitors. Fr. Carr has started out by explaining why he believes Cardinal Law should stay in office. I respectfully disagree with him.

Fr. Carr tells an allegorical story about a principal who has allowed pedophilia to take place in his school, and has mis-educated the children to boot. He writes:

You realize that the only solution is for the principal, the teachers, the students and the parents all to come to understand the real problem. The only way that will happen is for the principal to remain and address the issue until the whole system is on its way to being fixed. This is because he did try to fix all the problems before hand, but no one supported him..."

Well, good for that principal. But that was not the case in Boston. The Geoghan and Shanley files amply show that the Cardinal did not try to fix the problem beforehand. That was the "real problem" in this case, and it is why Bernard Law must not be permitted to continue as Archbishop.

Yet there are with you a few of the faithful saying, We have to maintain this position because people have to realize that the whole school system has failed nationwide.

Yes, the whole system of Catholicism in America has failed nationwide, but that does not mean that Cardinal Law should not go. To the contrary, it means that not only must he go, but also a couple dozen of his brother bishops. And forgive me, Lord, for saying this, but when they go, they ought to count themselves lucky for not being tarred and feathered as well.

...if we are going to educate our children then we must be good educators, the parents must also be good educators in their home and even those in the nation who do not have children must be good educators....So you keep the same track. You call for support of the principal and his re-education as a better principal. Yet, you call yourself and others to be better educators.

Here is the way grown-up Christians should behave: Mister X is responsible for a large organization. Mister X screws up horribly and lots of people get hurt. Mister X is ashamed of this failure. He takes responsibility by stepping down from his position in disgrace, and by finding ways to make recompense to those who have been hurt. In recognition of his sincere repentance, people forgive Mister X in time…but do not for a second consider giving him his old job back.

Here is the way an American bishop behaves: Bishop X is responsible for a large organization. Bishop X screws up horribly and lots of people get hurt. Bishop X, apparently immune to shame, "takes responsibility" by calling on all of us to be better Catholics, and by asking us all to participate in a day of reparation, because We are Church, and so we are all at fault. (Which, of course, also means that none of us is at fault.) Bishop X's supporters call on the organization to stay the course and support Bishop X, and help him to learn to become a less-negligent shepherd…and their argument carries the day. The Bishop is absolved of his sins without even having to make an act of contrition (has everyone forgotten how the Sacrament of Penance is supposed to go?), and all the outrage is squeezed away with one big group hug.

Father Carr seems comfortable with this latter scenario. I am not. I believe that people who make horrific errors in this world must face the consequences of their actions. I believe that one such consequence, for people in positions of high authority, must be immediate removal from said positions. Otherwise such offices are demeaned, and others in similar places of authority are sent a clear signal that they are free to go and do likewise.

And one more thing. How are these men able to live with themselves? Where is all that vaunted Catholic guilt when you really need it?

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Noli me tangere. Loyal reader Ellen Micheletti makes an excellent point about the unease I describe below:

I think the source of your discomfort (and mine as well) is that in these Church of What's Happening Now liturgies, we feel forced. Not only do we have to sing, we had better be loud, cheerful and enthusiastic. We can't simply listen, we have to participate. We can't just pray for our fellow man, we have to reach out and hug someone. And if we aren't smiling and happy, happy, joy, joy - then obviously we are not filled with the Holy Spirit!

You know, there are some of us who are introverted. We are not unfriendly, but we do like a little peace and quiet sometimes. My cousin Father Pat once said that the modern liturgy is not very friendly to introverted people.

I think a lot of contemporary life, not just the liturgy, is unfriendly to those of us with a reserved nature. And the ironic thing is that so much of it is done in the name of making people feel more at ease, more at home, more relaxed. I happen to believe that a certain degree of formality benefits everyone, and can help even the incorrigibly gregarious better manage their social interactions…but I'll save that argument for another day and leave the happy-clappy folks with just this to keep in mind: The very best way of reaching out to us reserved folks is not to "drag us out of our shells", but to respect our personal space, and greet us with cordial good manners. You do remember good manners, don't you?

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Fr. Strangemass, Or: How I Can't Learn To Stop Worrying And Love The Guitar. I had trouble sleeping Saturday night; and once I did get to sleep, I did not wake up until after the morning Masses had passed. It is for this reason that I found myself at the 5:30 Mass at the Cathedral yesterday evening. I arrived feeling happy and at peace. This state of mind did not last—not even to the end of the "Gathering Song".

Now this is the point in the story where one normally details and denounces the various offenses against good taste and prayerfulness which took place. Gratifying as that can be, I intend to take a different tack today. For one thing, it would not be fair to the Cathedral parish, which is superior to most American parishes in its atmosphere (especially if you avoid the evening Masses), and does a good job staying away from actual liturgical abuses. More importantly, I would like to open up a discussion about the proper state of mind to have in such situations, a discussion which I hope other Catholic bloggers (and non-blogging readers) will contribute to.

The first question which came to my mind was, "is the problem more with them or with me?" I am typically a mild-mannered, easygoing fellow. Anyone who knows me will vouch for this. But throw me into a church where a "folk Mass" or suchlike is taking place and I do a Jekyll-and-Hyde routine. My deep reserves of calm, patience, and toleration vanish. I am changed from a man who quietly puts up with just about anything to a man who is constantly evaluating, minute by minute, whether he should stay or walk out. "I came in here a calm and well-adjusted person," I find myself thinking, "and now I am awash in bad stuff such as pride and disdain and fault-finding…this must be the rotten fruit that proves Bugnini was working for the Other Side." But then, as I catch myself thinking this, the whole situation seems preposterous, I feel ashamed for being so churlish, and I think, "well of course I am the one to blame. I must be either bad or weird."

Certainly I seemed like the oddball yesterday evening. The Cathedral was full of people, most of whom seemed quite comfortable. When the priest would say "Get it?" during his homily, the others gamely replied "Got it!" as he had asked them to do. (He would then say "Good!", and they were expected to reply "Great!") I, for my part, visibly cringed. When the "contemporary ensemble" did its thing, the others (having obviously never been exposed to Why Catholics Can't Sing) either sang along or sat contentedly. Meanwhile I struggled to prevent myself from plotting revenge against Michael Joncas. The others were more comfortable in another sense too: they seemed perfectly at ease walking up to take Communion in shorts and blue jeans, whereas I felt sheepish having neglected to put on a tie.

As I see it, a person in a position such as mine has several options. First, he can embrace his own sense of outrage and disgust, and remain convinced that those who are not outraged are either sheep or idiots. This does not sound like a spiritually healthy response to me, no matter how much outrage Our Lord Himself showed that time with the money-changers. Second, he can maintain a sort of ironic detachment as Mass goes by, and later lampoon the most colorful examples of bad taste and foolishness over coffee with some friends. This option seems way too Seinfeld to me. Third, he can try to relax, reply "Got it!" to the priest like a good sport, and be a nice non-judgemental "with-it" person of today. If this last one is the most healthy route to take, then I am in trouble, because I keep failing dismally at it.

What do you think, fellow Catholics? Which of these options is the correct approach to take…or is there another, better one that I have failed to mention? And what should one make of the couple of hundred people at the Cathedral yesterday who seemed perfectly at ease? Should more complicated and exacting souls like myself try to be more like them? Or is being comfortable in church, at Mass, in the presence of the Lord of the Universe, a bad sign? Does it suggest a community which is too complacent, and too at ease with its own worldliness? Are the troubled and uneasy Catholics the ones who should be emulated instead, because it is they who are truly really tapping into the soul of the sacred mysteries? (Or are they simply cantankerous and conflicted people who need a higher dose of Prozac?)

I am eager to learn what others think.

posted by The Goliard |  Link  | 


An Englishman, a Frenchman and a Russian are viewing a painting of Adam and Eve frolicking in the Garden of Eden.

"Look at their reserve, their calm," muses the Englishman. "They must be English."

"Nonsense," replies the Frenchman. "They're naked, and so beautiful. Clearly, they are French."

"No clothes, no shelter," says the Russian, "they have only an apple to eat, and they're being told this is paradise.

"They could only be Russian."

posted by The Goliard |  Link  |