Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Almighty Parent

By Mitchell

As we prepare for tomorrow's first anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo, we would be wise to ponder the continuing ways in which we read of God's love for us.

Yesterday's readings presented images of God as loving parent. Jesus talks of His relationship to the Father:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel." (John 5:19-20)

However, the most striking image from yesterday comes in Isaiah: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you." (Isaiah 49:15)

As Fr. Pavlik said in his homily yesterday, the love of a mother for her child is one of the strongest bonds known to man. It is universally accepted as the greatest definition of earthly love. It is inconceivable that a mother could forget this love. And yet, even if she should forget you, God will not. Even if a mother's love turns away from her child, unimaginable as that might be, God's love will stay firm and steady.

It is hard to imagine receiving any stronger words of assurance than these. And these readings from yesterday show us everything that is wrong with today's culture of death. The mother's love for her child is a given, unquestioned. And yet we have mothers today attempting to murder their unborn. Pro-abortion groups don't even seem to bother debating whether or not the unborn child is actually alive. It's all a matter of how you define a productive life, a worthwhile life, a convenient life. Life is what you make it. Not what God makes it, but what you make it.

"Whatever [the Father] does, that the Son does likewise." And so our children grow up observing our callous attention to life, the ease with which we seem to disregard it. Perhaps the child is even aware of another brother or sister who wasn't born, who was prevented from achieving life outside the womb. Is it any wonder that these same children turn a cold eye to their parents as they age? They debate the usefulness of life, the wisdom of medical treatment, the "mercy" of "assisted suicide." Some see the handwriting on the wall and give up, lobbying for their own death as a "quality of life" issue; and you wonder if in some collective, subconscious sense they realize the role they are consigned to play in the play they helped create, and decide to stop fighting.

In these ways and many others, we have truly made a hash of God's love for us. And so we live in the culture we live in. But we take consolation in the fact that God does not make a hash of His love. To Him it remains pure, unchanging, ever devoted. And we turn to Him for consolation, and are received like a loving mother, like a loyal and devoted father, in the glorious honesty of His love.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Passing of an Era

By Mitchell

Two giants from the days of my political youth died this week.

Caspar Weinberger - Cap the Knife - was Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, and presided over the largest peacetime military buildup in history. It was much-needed after the detente of the Nixon administration, the paralysis of Ford, and the ineptitude of Carter. We tend to forget nowadays what things were like back then - the Cold War (in many ways a more real war than what we're experiencing today) burning hot, the Russian Bear a true theat to peace, and the United States in no way equipped to deal with the future.

To do what was necessary, Weinberger had to fight the Democratic House (and for two years the Democratic Senate) every step of the way. He had to fight those within his own party who feared rising budget deficits (David Stockman, anyone?) Ronald Reagan needed a fighter in the Pentagon, a man who represented Reagan's own beliefs, and the nation's best interests. Caspar Weinberger was that man.

By all accounts, Cap Weinberger was a true patriot, a true gentleman, a elegant presence in the Administration. I liked him, I'm sorry to hear of his passing, and I hope he's headed for a better place.


Lyn Nofziger was the kind of man who made politics fun. If there were more like him out there today, I might still be involved in the game. He took politics seriously, make no mistake about that; it's just that he didn't take himself that seriously, or his role in the whole thing. In other words, he didn't feel the need to inflate his importance, and that's a hard thing to find in politics today, whether it be Washington or anywhere else.

Many describe Nofziger as a true Reaganite, and it brings back the memories of the days when conservatives would say, "Let Reagan be Reagan." It does seem as we've always worried about the people our presidents surround themselves with, doesn't it? In truth, very few of them seem to have the knack of understanding both the president's best interests and the nation's. They're either "yes" men-lackeys who put the presidential cult of personality above all else, or they're total slaves to their departments, treating the president with distain. Nofziger was neither of those.

There's a series of excellent quotes from Nofziger himself, written over the last few months and put up today by Peter Robinson at NRO. There are two that are my favorites, ones that say what I often want to say, only much better. The first one could describe my own political state right now (with the exception that I'm not registered with any party):

I am a Republican because I believe that freedom is more important than government-provided security. Sometimes I wish I were a Democrat because Democrats seem to have more fun. At other times I wish I were a Libertarian because Republicans are too much like Democrats. What I actually am is a right-wing independent who is registered Republican because there isn't any place else to go.

And here is the one I'd like to leave you with, to ponder at your leisure:

One of the things I do to fill the waning hours of my life is write book reviews, mainly for the Washington Times. Recently I read and reviewed a book by National Review magazine’s white house reporter, Byron York, titled “The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy.

I quote: “...many of the founders (of this nation) believed that the constitution does not grant us rights but rather safeguards those rights given us by a higher power.” Well, yes, and generally speaking, that “higher power” can be identified as God. York seems a little tentative about this, about the idea that our rights are God-given and that the constitution cannot give us our rights, but can only safeguard them. The important thing here, however, is that the Founding Fathers were not alone. Patriots through the years have shared that belief. One who did was a recent president named Ronald Reagan.

In many of his speeches and elsewhere Reagan made that point—that our rights are God-given. That, he insisted, is one of the great differences between the United States and other nations. In most other nations, he noted, rights are granted by government and therefore are at the mercy of government. In the United States, rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom to keep and bear arms, and many others enunciated in the first ten amendments, cannot be taken away by government…because they are not granted by government; they are the individual’s as a matter of God-given right…. [MH - this was a point often raised as well by Bishop Sheen.]

Interesting, isn’t it, that the rights of atheists, America-haters and rabble rousers are all protected because the Founding Fathers turned to God for guidance as they sought to give themselves and those who would follow after them a more perfect union?

Words that George Mason might agree with as well!

America is richer for having had these men, and poorer for not having them now. Requiescant in pace.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust

By Judith

Recently the penultimate diocese in the United States to ban girls from serving at Mass threw in the towel. This leaves the diocese of Lincoln, NE as the sole hold out. (Check out the post by Regular Guy).

So what, you say? I say it matters a great deal.

Here’s where I look behind me for the folks with the barrels of tar and feathers for suggesting this, but girls naturally take to serving at Mass, because we still naturally serve in most aspects of the rest of our lives. We serve our husbands and children, we serve guests at dinner, we serve cake at the kids’ birthday parties. We serve on the PTA, we serve in caring for elderly parents, we serve in making a house a home. We’re Marthas more often than we’re Marys.

So why isn’t it a good thing that we’re serving at Mass if we’re so naturally inclined? Because we’re shoving out one of the greatest sources of vocations and in doing so we risk losing the very Mass at which we want to serve. No priests, no Mass. Let’s face it, many young boys have to be coaxed into becoming altar servers in the first place and if they think that someone else will do the job, they’ll gladly pass. And, many boys of that age don’t want to be around “yucky” girls and will refuse to be a part of something that includes them.

Time and again we’ve heard that many priests have initially heard the call to vocation when they were serving at the altar. (The number of vocations coming out of Lincoln gives this credence.) If boys never get the chance to serve at Mass, how many will delay or ignore a call to the priesthood?

Can’t the Mass be the one place where we put down our “Martha” and take up our “Mary.” Let’s give ourselves a chance to pray and meditate, to reflect and listen. Let’s let the men do the serving, just this once.

Monday, March 27, 2006

George Who?

By Mitchell

By now even the most casual college basketball fan, his bracket in a shambles, must be asking the question, "Just who the *$@#&% is George Mason, anyway?" Even in the world of obscure small-college teams, George Mason is an obscure college, with an equally obscure namesake. (George Washington University may struggle for respect in college athletics, but at least they've got a big-time namesake - the biggest, in fact.)

I figured that George Mason must have been a signer of either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. As it turns out, he was neither. He was a big player in Virginia politics at the time; friend of both Jefferson and Washington, and a delegate to the Virginia Convention in 1776. His primary, and greatest, claim to fame is his authorship of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which turned out to be the model for the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights.

He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, but he refused to sign the Constitution. He had many reasons, chief among them the original Constitution's lack of a declaration of rights similar to that of Virginia's, and his fear of a strong central federal government. It was this opposition to the Constitution that probably ended his long friendship with Washington. Just because he refused to sign the Constitution, however, one should not consign him to the historical dustbin; it was his relentless campaigning which helped lead to the introduction of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. To the extent that Mason is known today, it is as the "Father of the Bill of Rights."

I think one of the most telling things about Mason is this section from Catherine Drinker Bowen's marvelous book on the writing of the Constitution, Miracle in Philadelphia:

Nobody in Virginia or out of it questioned George Mason's devotion to his ideals. Washington's senior by seven years, Mason had long cherished a romantic view of liberty and republicanism. Back in '78 when Mason's own creation, the Virginia constitution, had been adopted, he wrote a friend that "we seem to have been treading upon enchanted ground." But in September of 1787, George Mason no longer walked as if enchanted. He had always distrusted a strong central government; now he saw one in the making. [...] Mason foresaw the new government eventually "vibrating," he wrote, "between a monarchy and a corrupt oppressive aristocracy." [Emphasis added]

Hey, this sounds like a team conservatives can root for!

Seriously, this gives us something to ponder indeed. We may have forgotten about George Mason, but his words validate the nickname of the college's athletic teams - the Patriots. Mason may have been right or wrong in opposing the Constitution, but I have to ask myself what he would think of our country and our government today. Have his worst fears come true? Would all the Founders, for that matter, despair at what their creation has become? Do we have any respect for the work these brave men risked their lives for?

All questions for another time, I suppose. For now let's wish George Mason's basketball team well in the Final Four, and thank them for bringing their namesake to light, even if for only a brief time. For this Cinderella team, the clock has yet to strike midnight. For our nation - well, that may be another matter.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Just Say Yes

By Mitchell

You remember the "Just Say No" campaign. Simple message - whenever you're confronted with something you shouldn't be doing, just say no.

Simple in concept maybe, but not so simple in practice.

We talk less about just saying "yes." And often when we do say yes, it's to the wrong things - the things we ought to be saying no to. And yet our salvation rests on the simple act of saying yes. It is the yes we say when Jesus asks us to give our lives to Him.

And it all started with the yes of Mary, and the simple faith behind her answer. She couldn't have known everything God had in store for her because of that answer, and the foreshadowing she did have, as in the case of the words of Simeon, often wasn't encouraging.

And yet her yes was firm and decisive, and we see no evidence that she ever wavered in the faith she had in her answer, and in her God.

We've lately focused our attention on the negative, on the bad things that are going on both here and throughout the world. And, I'm afraid, we'll probably continue to be confronted with them. But for a moment let's consider the positive - the positive answer of Mary.

Let us answer her "yes" with our own. Just say yes to Mary when she extends her invitation to bring us closer to her Son. Just say yes to Jesus, and his offer of foregiveness and salvation. Just say yes to God, and let that yes speak for you throughout your life. Say yes to the Holy Spirit, and the wisdom to guide you in God's grace.

Just say yes as Mary did, which we commemorate on this Feast of the Annunciation, March 25.

Wish I'd Written That...

By Judith

This from G. K. Chesterton:

"...I am one of those people who believe that you've got to be dominated by your moral slant. I'm no 'art-for-art's-sake' man. I am quite incapable of talking or writing about Dutch gardens or the game of chess, but if I did, I have no doubt that what I say or write about them would be colored by my view of the cosmos."

Boy, isn't that what all of us Catholic bloggers are trying to do? Let us hope that we might have even a fraction of the success that Chesterton had in doing so.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Here We Go Again

By Judith

Archbishop Harry Flynn has come under fire again (still?) for a reported incident at the Mass held on World Marriage Day. This Mass was held to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, defined by the Church as being between one man and one woman. Of course, same-sex couples showed up to celebrate their own "marriages."

Here's where it always gets fun in the archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. The archbishop is again accused of giving Holy Communion to people wearing the arm bands signifying their support of the right of homosexual couples to enjoy the same privileges of married life as truly-married couples. While some Eucharistic ministers refused Holy Communion to the arm band wearers, others did not. The archbishop was among them.

Did this really happen? Yes, according to Dennis McGrath, spokesman for the archdiocese. Here's his explanation: "The fact of the matter is it is true the archbishop gave them Communion. But the archbishop didn't see the armbands. When the archbishop gives someone Communion, he looks into their eyes, not at their arms. He never saw the darn things."

We'd like to believe that the archbishop was so caught up in the Holy Spirit and the gravity of his duty that the oversight can be excused. However, as Mitchell has put forth in his great post, What The Archbishop Knew, knowing that these things happen on a regular basis in this archdiocese, perhaps the archbishop should be just a little more aware of who is approaching him to receive Holy Communion. The archbishop also has a duty to the faithful and the public at large to make sure that his public displays do not bring on him and the Church any scandal.

It is said that the archbishop believes that just because someone wears an arm band in support of family or friends who are homosexuals, they might not be homosexuals themselves and they are not necessarily defying Church teaching on the practice of homosexuality. This is disingenuous. How can one support a group that openly defies Church teaching and not be defying it oneself? Isn't that rather like a politician who supports the right to abortion, but is personally opposed?

If the archbishop is not amenable to engage in battle himself, the least he can do is support us while we fight. Otherwise, it looks like he's on the side of the enemy. And who are we going to believe, him or our lyin' eyes.

The City That Laid An Egg (Again)

By Mitchell

Hmm. There’s some kind of Christian holiday coming up, isn’t there? (At least I think I read about it somewhere.) That means there must be controversy right around the corner as well, right? Ah yes, here it is. An article in this morning’s Star Tribune. “A cloth bunny and pastel-colored eggs with the words "Happy Easter" were taken down from the lobby of the St. Paul City Council offices Wednesday after someone questioned whether it was appropriate to note the Christian holiday.”

"It's not about being politically correct or anything else. Someone complained, everyone stopped and said, 'We ought not to do this,' " said Council President Kathy Lantry. "As government, we have a different responsibility about advancing the cause of religion, which we are not going to do."

Human Rights Director Tyrone Terrill (and yes, I’m mentioning his name because I think he should get a little publicity out of this) “sent Lantry an e-mail asking that the Easter decorations come down because they ‘could be offensive to non-Christians.’ “

Now, whether or not you agree with the opinion of the Director, you can at least see what his agenda is. (Is a bunny really a symbol of Easter? Let’s leave that aside for the moment.) And it raises what I think is a very intriguing question: can the absence of something, whether it be a symbol, a sign, or even a word – can its absence, as well as its presence, be construed as offensive?

Well, I suppose the answer has to be yes. After all, when Arizona refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day back in the early 90s, a lot of people were offended by its absence (the NFL refused to stage the Super Bowl there until the state changed its mind.) A lot of civil rights activists consider the absence of “diversity” to be offensive. For that matter, the diversity crowd considers the absense of multicultural recognition of events to be offensive. Let’s face it, there are plenty of examples that suggest the absence of recognition can be offensive to those for whom that recognition is meaningful.

We should ask for a moment why the word “Easter” is offensive in the first place. It’s just a word. It’s a Christian commemoration of an event. If you don’t happen to be a Christian, there’s nothing in the word that forces you to observe behavior that compromises your beliefs. It doesn’t require you to worship Christ. It doesn’t even require that you recognize the event. If there’s any group that might be offended by the concept of Easter, it’s the Jews – and yet I don’t see any mass evidence that most of them are bothered by it. Christians – real ones, that is – don’t hold the Jewish people responsible for the Crucifixion anymore. I really would have thought we’d gotten far beyond this point.

And in fact, I think we have. Kathy Lantry’s ridiculous statement notwithstanding, what we’re really seeing is PC gone amok once again, of another attempt to mandate secularism in public. (The article reminds us that St. Paul is the city that tried to remove red poinsettias from the courthouse a few years ago, replacing them with white ones on the grounds that the red had too much of a traditional religious significance. You’d think these people might, for a moment, stop to consider the very name of their city. Wait, maybe I shouldn’t bring that up.) The idea that a rabbit and plastic eggs advances a particular religious belief is absurd. You show me a proselytizing rabbit, and I’ll show you an advocate for larger families – that’s all.

Which brings us back to the original point of this essay: apparently the Human Rights Commissioner believes it’s permissible to offend Christians. What other conclusion can you draw? If a symbol can be offensive, the lack of the same symbol – due to an actual prohibition of its display – can be equally offensive. In fact, I’m offended by it, and so are some members of the City Council (Councilman Dave Thune calls the decision “a shame.”) Do any of us count? Apparently not as far as the Human Rights Director of the city of St. Paul is concerned.

And that, too, is offensive.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Archbishop Speaks (or Writes)

By Mitchell

(We report, you decide: continued.)

Our friend (and now fellow blogger) Hadleyblogger Ray has shared with us his correspondence with Archbishop Flynn regarding Fr. Altier. First, the Archbishop's email:

To interested party

Thank you for your recent note. I appreciate that you have benefited spiritually from Fr. Altier’s homilies. He has done much good work and is not being “silenced.”

Fr. Robert Altier is a priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in good standing. He wrote to ask me for permission to extend his radio ministry. I reviewed the situation and discerned that a break from his multi-media apostolates might be beneficial to him and to the parish of Saint Agnes. His primary responsibility has been and continues to be as assistant to the pastor there in ministering to the parishioners. The specific reasons for this decision are within the context of a bishop’s relationship with his priests. It would be most inappropriate to discuss them with others.

Many people have leaped to inaccurate and unkind conclusions. They do a disservice to Fr. Altier and to me. I pray that Lent will be a time for them to examine their consciences and grow in charity. They would be well-advised to listen to or read some homilies about the perils of rashly judging others and about the respect owed to the successors of the apostles.

Some people have mentioned concerns with regard to the “safe environment” programs for children. Let me assure you that pastors in this Archdiocese have a number of options from which to choose and that parents always retain the right
to withhold their children from any program to which they object.

I hope that you may avail yourself of some of the other good spiritual resources on the radio, Internet or in good, old-fashioned books. I personally enjoy the insights of the periodical missal Magnificat. You are also free to visit Saint Agnes where Fr. Altier continues to actively minister.

With every good wish, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Harry J. Flynn, D. D.
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Ray's reply: As an aside, “To Interested Party” is a strange salutation for a letter coming from my Archbishop. I’m sure that there must be a more “pastoral” salutation that could be used.

It might make some sense also to set up an special email account for the Archbishop for such emails.

My comment: This response is pure Archbishop Flynn: at once pastoral and condesending, thoughtful and tactless, intriguing and infuriating. In many ways it reads like a letter of recommendation written by an HR department for an employee that has been fired: cautious in the extreme, stressing the obvious, providing nothing that could be used against them, adding nothing to the base of knowledge.

To the archbishop's suggestion that his critics "would be well-advised to listen to or read some homilies about the perils of rashly judging others and about the respect owed to the successors of the apostles," his point is correct, and well-taken. One could only add that the archbishop himself might be well-advised to consult scripture, particularly Matthew 18:6.

UPDATE: Regular Guy Paul received the exact same response (form email, anyone?) from the archdiocese (scroll down to the end of the post to read), and has some pointed comments of his own.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

That's Entertainment

By Judith

Sunday’s (3/19/06) review of the new Guthrie Theater season by Rohan Preston in the Star Tribune is just one more example of the snobbish elitist attitude of the arts and croissants crowd. The new season isn’t bold enough. It isn’t new enough. It isn’t politically correct.

By Mr. Rohan’s admission, and the Guthrie’s own mission statement, the purpose of the Guthrie is to be “devoted to the traditional classical repertoire that has sustained us since our foundation and to the exploration of new works from diverse cultures and traditions.” This they have done over the years, performing works by Shakespeare, Aeschylus, Shaw, Williams, Stoppard and Fugard.

Mr. Rohan says that the Guthrie “has retreated into the safety of the familiar at exactly the moment when it needs to assert a grand vision and bold leadership through its play selection.” Well, perhaps another view is that the theater has stayed true to its vision of performing a “traditional classical repertoire.” The 2006 – 2007 season includes Shaw’s “Major Barbara”, Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”, and Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.” It also includes a new play, “The Great Gatsby” and a piece called “Boats on a River” by Julie Marie Myatt. There’s room for all genres. The Guthrie is already that big and they’ve been doing experimental work for years. As a matter of fact, I’d love to see a Shakespeare play that wasn’t so experimental.

What’s wrong with including some crowd pleasers such as Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” or the musical “1776” along with lesser known works. The bills have to be paid, after all, and it’s no shame to want to spend an evening at the theater that provides pure enjoyment. In 1971 audiences enjoyed “Cyrano de Bergerac and The Taming of the Shrew, both of which were artistic and box office successes.” The current director, Joe Dowling brought us “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, described as “the Guthrie's most attended play ever.” (Again quoting from the Guthrie’s website.)

Mr. Rohan gives his agenda away when he says, “ Myatt and …Barbara Field are the only women playwrights on the bill. Only one female director was named. And there are no playwrights or directors of color in the announced line-up.” Are we looking for good theater or an affirmative action utopia? Who cares what gender the playwrights and directors are or what color they are? Is it more important to fulfill some artificial political agenda or bring the ticket-buying public the entertainment they want? I’d think that the Guthrie, or any theater, would be more interested in filling seats.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Not Your Average Joe

By Mitchell

He's one of the more enigmatic figures in the New Testament, Joseph the carpenter. He only appears in a few passages in the Gospels. We never hear him saying anything; he is never directly quoted by any of the writers. And once the Child Jesus is found preaching in the Temple, he disappears entirely, never to be mentioned again. We don’t know when he died, how long he lived, even how old he was when he married Mary (tradition usually depicts him as an old man; but Bishop Sheen, among others, hypothesized that God would only have entrusted to a young man the kinds of physical activities necessary to protect the Child and His Mother.) Some speculate that he was a widower with children, while others believe he may, like Mary, have been a consecrated virgin.

And yet, for a man about whom we know very little, he accomplished a great deal. God did entrust to this man the care and protection of Jesus and Mary. He didn’t exactly make it easy for Joseph, either – no suburban home with a white picket fence for this young family. Despite it all, the challenges and the hardships and the things that just didn’t make sense, Joseph’s answer was always yes. What makes him all the more appealing is that, like Abraham, he had to overcome his own doubts and uncertainties. Like Abraham, he chose to overcome them with faith.

An angel appears to him in a dream. Not once, but several times. As if this was a common occurrence, happening to everyone all the time. We might be willing to pass it off, as Scrooge did, to a piece of undercooked food (or something else we’d done the night before). We might wonder if we were feeling an expression of our subconscious desires. We might simply imagine we’d made it all up.

Joseph listened, and he acted. God indeed knew His man.

Over the centuries many have been touched by St. Joseph, by his wisdom, guidance and leadership, given freely to the brothers and sisters of Jesus. As patron of home sellers, we are twice witnesses to his intervention on our behalf. AdoroTeDevote provides an excellent, much more personal commentary on the impact of Joseph in her life – an account well worth reading.

St. Joseph’s feast day almost always falls during Lent, and as is the case with all such feasts we’re released from any penitential Lenten practices we might have been observing. (Likewise this Saturday, the Feast of the Annunciation – although St. Patrick’s Day is a little bit iffier.)

So if you have that piece of chocolate today, or that drink, or whatever else it is that you might have given up for Lent, take a moment to remember the man whose feast we celebrate today; this humble man, the carpenter who became Patron of the Church, Spouse of the Blessed Mother, Guardian of the Redeemer, bearer of the lineage of Christ, father of the Son of God, and friend and helper of us all. May his prayers help this wicked generation say yes to God as he did.

Friday, March 17, 2006

That Slippery Slope

By Judith

In the January/February 2006 issue of Gilbert Magazine, the publication of the American Chesterton Society, there comes this news item. It's short, so I'll just print the two paragraphs here.

"Did you hear the one about the Jewish woman who married a dolphin?

"Sharon Tendler of England married Cindy, a bottle-nosed dolphin at Dolphin Reef in the sourthern Israeli port of Eilat. 'It's not a perverted thing. I do love this dolphin. He's the love of my life...It's not a bad thing. It's just something that we did because I love him...' She wore a white dress and flowers in her hair and..."

First it was divorce, then re-marriage, then men wanting to marry men and women, women. Why not marry a dolphin, or a dog, or a cat, or a block of Swiss cheese? Why not marry an under-age child? Just how far can we slide till we reach the bottom of that slope?

And how far does it have to go before some priests in this archdiocese will support a firm law (and their Archbishop) that strengthens the definition of Holy Matrimony between one man and one woman?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Don's Early Light

By Mitchell

Far be it from me to suggest that a musical genius like Mozart might have got it all wrong, but I’ve often thought it might have been more appropriate to end Don Giovanni with the Don being dragged to the Netherworld by the statue of the man he murdered, the Commendatore, rather than with the scene that followed – his various victims taking delight in his final comeuppance. Take, for example, Puccini’s ending to La Traviata, with Alfredo looking down on the lifeless form of his love Violetta, and his final anguished cry as the music swells to its thunderous conclusion. It seems to me as if this was the way to bring Don Giovanni to an end.

It probably would not have been Mozart’s style, though, and it certainly wouldn’t have fit with the tone set in the Minnesota Opera’s just-concluded production of the classic. This was a Giovanni somewhat different from what we usually see, and it wasn’t only with the updating of the setting to an early 20th century, faintly Art Deco-stylized era.

No, this version chose to put the accent on the humorous elements that have always been present in what Mozart called his “dramma giocoso (opera buffa)" - in other words, a comedy with dramatic overtones. Rather than the evil sadist we’ve come to know and love (or rather, hate), this Don Giovanni (literally, Don Juan) comes across as a charming rogue; a bit of a cad perhaps (there is, after all, that murder you have to explain away, not to mention an attempted rape), but in the end he's not much different from other rakes we’ve known and loved through the years – Bill Clinton, for instance. Sure, he’s still a manipulator who sees in women nothing more than a chance for pleasure. Sure, he’s perfectly content to break up a marriage just for a night or two of passion. But, as he tells his servant Leporello, to be loyal to one woman would mean denying the other thousand. The man is nothing if not self-assured.

And in the hands of this Giovanni, Kyle Ketelsen (a winner of the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Audition), such a claim would not be out of line. Ketelsen played the comic potential of Giovanni to the hilt, without ever quite letting the character lapse into caricature. His Giovanni could turn on a dime - charming one moment, menacing the next, capable of making love and war in the same paragraph. He was smooth, suave, convincing, and totally amoral; and Ketelsen was in total control of the stage whenever he was on.

The same goes for Giovanni’s hapless servant Leporello, played by Patrick Carfizzi. Leporello is all too aware of his master’s faults – indeed, give him a moment and he’ll catalog them for you – but, although one gets the impression he really does feel bad about the Don's misdeeds and his own role in them, he lacks the moral strength to pull away. It is only when the Don is safely dead that he feels he can finally express his true feelings. Carfizzi was a true showman while on stage - at once both the efficient agent of his master and the helpless victim of his own success. For as long as he's useful to Giovanni, he makes himself indespensible - and thus is trapped in a lifestyle from which he yearns to escape (if the price is right, that is). He is, in a sense, the comic relief that advances the dramatic story, and one thinks that this was what was missing from Papageno in last year's The Magic Flute.

The biggest cheers at the end of the evening were reserved for these two, and rightly so; for the rest of the cast, while good to varying degrees, couldn't really keep up with Ketelsen and Carfizzi. Patricia Risley, as Giovanni's abandoned lover Donna Elvira (who's also pregnant, an interesting touch not in the original), was charming and vulnerable - and, truth be told, a little foolish to modern sensabilities; Erin Wall, playing the revenge-driven Donna Anna (it was her father Giovanni killed in the opening scene) was a capable singer but a static actress; Jamie-Rose Guarrine, as Giovanni's current conquest Zerlina, was - well, she was there; and Raymond Ayers, as Zerlina's left-out newlywed husband Masetto, was victim of a weak voice and a strong orchestra - not a good combination.

The production itself featured some interesting touches - the modern dress, for example (and one must admit that Giovanni was much more charming in his top hat, cape, and spats than he might have been in more traditional garb), and the playing-up of the comedy without changing the essence of the story. One thinks, for example, of the Act 1 conclusion in which Donna Anna, her would-be champion Don Ottavio (an adequate Theodore Chletsos), and Donna Elvira try to crash Giovanni's party, disguising themselves in masks and frock coats. The idea that the very pregnant Donna Elvira, her stomach protruding far beyond the cutaway coat, could possibly fool anyone simply by wearing a mask, was a moment of absurdity not lost on the amused audience. And yet the scene itself was played straight, and lost none of its impact for the comic touches.

There was also the scene in Act 2 where a shotgun-wielding Masetto, part of a posse out to get Giovanni, is separated from the group by Giovanni himself (disguised as Leporello), whereupon the two reenact a scene that could have come straight out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon ("Be vewy vewy qwiet; I'm hunting Giowannis"). This, too, could have easily turned slapstick without Ketelsen's steady hand.

I have to admit, though, that the climax was something of a letdown. Whereas many productions feature the Commendatore's Statue actually coming to life and dragging Giovanni to hell, this one did it all with smoke and mirrors - or lights and shadows, as it were. Not that it was ineffective; but when one goes to a western and is told that a band of Indians is about to attack, you don't want to see the tribe represented by a few feathers sticking out from behind a hill. That's a trick reserved for old-time TV dramas with small budgets; an operal company with national pretentions should be able to do better.

Xian Zhang, making her Minnesota Opera debut (as, indeed, were most of the leads) led the Opera's house orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, in a performance that was generally rock steady (although there were a couple of instances in which the singers and musicians seemed to get slightly out of synch). During the overture to Act 1, the thought crossed my mind - having heard this piece many, many times on the radio - that this orchestra was too small to be playing this music. But, given the cast and the size of the house, it proved to be just right.

And, of course, the gorgeous melodies of Mozart are almost impossible to contain within an orchestra pit; they want to burst out of the walls and envelope everything and everyone in their path. The sublime genius strikes yet again. Which leads, as it usually does, to a satisfying evening.

Fr. Altier Redux

By Judith

We've been waiting for the St. Paul weekly newspaper, The Wanderer, to weigh in on the Fr. Altier matter. In matters theological they are usually not afraid of a fight if they see a lie, an injustice or just plain misinformation. And they didn't disappoint.

The article in the March 16, 2006, issue didn't have a lot new to say - because there really isn't anything new. What the author Paul Likoudis did do was go over some of the examples of the Archbishop turning a blind eye to the abuses going on in the archdiocese while cracking down on Fr. Altier. This is the same ground covered by this blog and the many, many others here in the archdiocese and around the country, but it's always good to see that print journalists are willing to put it in black and white.

Here's the link to the article at The Wanderer website.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Blog!

Yes, another new one out there! After more good contributions to this blog than I can count, Hadleyblogger Ray has started Northland Catholic Roundtable. Ray has graciously invited us, along with our friend AdoroTeDevote, to be members of the roundtable.

Ray describes Northland Catholic Roundtable as follows:

I am gong to try to be a clearing house for news and activities, good and not so good, of Catholic Church activities that are going on in Minnesota and surround states. At the same time I want to give publicity to a lot of the smaller blogs working hard in the wilderness and maybe if we all work together, we all will get our messages out to more people.

Let me second Adoro and thank you, Ray, for all your work setting this up!

Now, if we're all going to be knights of this round table, which ones are we? Forget about Arthur, Lancelot and Gallahad - we're more in the range of Sir Loin of Beef, Sir Osis of Liver, Sir Prize of Party,...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Now What?

By Mitchell

You know, covering the comings and goings in the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is getting to be a full-time job, and it's not at all what I bargained for when we started this blog back in November of 2004. But what are we to do? It is, after all, happening right here in our back yard - we kinda have to say something about it, don't we? At least if we look like we know what we're doing.

Case in point is news of the formation of a new group in the area, the Dan O'Connell Society. (HTs: Cvstos Fidei in Houston and Bettnet, as forwarded to me by Hadleyblogger Ray.) The group describes themselves as follows:

The Dan O'Connell society is a brotherhood of Catholic men who seek to restore the fraternity and fatherhood of the Catholic priesthood. We do our work in the memory of Dan O'Connell a Catholic layman from Hudson, Wisconsin who confronted and was then killed February 5, 2002, by Ryan Erickson a homosexual predator who had been ordained a Catholic priest in 2000.

Acting as spokesman for the group is Dr. David Pence, and in the interests of full disclosure I should point out that when I was a candidate for the state legislature in 1998, Dr. David Pence was a contributor to my campaign. I only met with him one time and liked him very much. I've seen him speak a couple of times since then, and didn't get a chance to introduce myself either time; so I don't know if he remembers me or not, but I do remember him. More recently, Dr. Pence was involved in a group called Ushers of the Eucharist, which took an active role in protesting the giving of the Eucharist to wearers of the Rainbow Sash.

At any rate, here's where the Dan O'Connell Society fits in to our current drama. As Domenico puts it, the Society "says it has the goods on certain high-ranking priests in the archdiocese and if they don’t come clean and resign, the group will release damning evidence about them."

Now, then. What does this mean? Well, it could mean anything, and perhaps that's the message the group intended to communicate. I think Domenico's analysis of the situation is spot-on:

The group sounds a lot like Roman Catholic Faithful. I hope they really have the goods because if they don’t they’ve opened themselves up not only to civil penalties, but also canonical penalties. On the other hand, as I’ve documented over the past couple of weeks, there is a sickness in the heart of the archdiocese that really needs to be cleaned up.

I've got two hands as well, and I think I'm looking at them the same way Domenico is. On the one hand, this kind of thing, complete with innuendo, makes me more than a little uncomfortable. On the other, something really does need to be done here, and one gets the feeling that this whole thing is coming to a head.

Granted, this feeling could exist because a very few of us are overly exposed to it - I wouldn't be surprised if the great majority of parishoners in this archdiocese had no idea what was going on. After all, the MSM isn't going to cover this in the same way they would if it the accusations were flying against the orthodox, conservative element in the Church.

However, I could be wrong about that. And I don't think I'm wrong in my suspicion that a great many people here sense something is not right. They might not be able to put their fingers on what it is, but they know it's out there. And, if the Dan O'Connell Society really does "have the goods," then we're going to find out what it is sooner or later.

Pray sooner rather than later, because the sooner this comes out in the open, the sooner - we hope - it can be taken care of, and the sooner this archdiocese can begin the process of pulling itself back together.

It looks like we're going to be covering this beat a little while longer; as Hadleyblogger Ray said, "When it rains, it pours!" Get your bumbershoots out, everyone - it's going to be a wet ride.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Statement by Fr. Welzbacher

By Mitchell

Fr. George Welzbacher is pastor of St. Agnes, the church where Fr. Altier is associate pastor. The following appeared in yesterday's bulletin - it is a transcript of the comments Fr. Welzbacher made last Sunday, March 5, regarding the situation with Fr. Altier. The emphasis in this transcript appears in the original statement in the bulletin. Following the statement is a brief additional comment by Fr. Welzbacher.

Deluged as the rectory was, beginning Thursday, March the second, with telephone calls land e-mail transmissions with respect to the current status of Father Altier, I felt constrained as pastor of St. Agnes Parish, to compose a brief statement assuring one and all that Father Altier still serves in good standing as the associate pastor of St. Agnes Parish. At all of the Masses offered here at St. Agnes on the weekend of March 4th and 5th my statement was read from the pulpit without further comment. Since many have asked for a copy of that statement, I am printing a transcript here.

* * * * *

Let me state at the outset that neither was I consulted about the command issued recently by the Archbishop to Father Altier nor was I informed about it prior to its announcement in the media. And for very good reason: the Archbishop is under no obligation to explain to his priests the reasons for his commands. During the ceremony of ordination priests take a vow of life-long obedience to their Bishop
and to his successors. Fr. Altier accordingly (and quite predictably) honored that vow, submitting at once to the Archbishop’s command by withdrawing from hosting his weekly call-in show on Relevant Radio and by removing the content of his website The Voice in the Desert.

It is important to make clear that Father Altier’s faculties for maintaining his sacramental and teaching ministry here at St. Agnes Parish remain essentially intact; he will continue to say Mass, to hear confessions, to preach and teach and to give spiritual direction exactly as he has done in the past. I can offer no further comment because what I have just told you constitutes the entire sum and substance of my knowledge of the whole affair.

Should anyone question the Archbishop’s authority to restrict or even to terminate an apostolate conducted by any of his priests via the electronic media, the code of Canon Law, canon 831, section 2 clearly states: “It is for the conference of bishops to establish norms concerning the requirements for clerics and members of religious institutes to take part on radio or television in dealing with questions of Catholic doctrine or morals.”

The National Council of Catholic Bishops accordingly adapted canon 831 to the conditions prevailing in the United States by adding the following complementary norm for canon 831, section 2: “The National Conference of Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 831, article 2, hereby decrees that, provided no harm to the Church could result from their presence, clerics and members of religious institutes may participate in radio and television programs which treat of Catholic doctrine and morals. A cleric or religious who regularly takes part in such programs must be qualified by his or her knowledge of the subject and the teaching of the Magisterium, and must obtain the permission of either his or her proper diocesan bishop or the diocesan bishop of the place where the radio or television program is originally broadcast. In the case of members of religious institutes, permission of the competent superior is also required.”

This complementary norm was submitted to the Roman Congregation of Bishops and was officially approved as having regulatory force by the Cardinal Prefect and by the Secretary of that Congregation. “This norm was granted recognitio by the Congregation for Bishops in accord with article 82 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus and issued by decree of the Congregation for Bishops signed by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect, and His Excellency Most Reverend Francisco Monterisi, Secretary, dated November 27, 2001.”

All of us are edified by Father Altier’s instantaneous and unquestioning submission to the Archbishop’s command, surely proof, were proof needed, of his humility. And as Psalm 149 assures us: “The Lord adorns the humble with

I have no further comment to make. I commend the Archbishop and Father Altier to your prayers.

* * * * *

A final word to parishioners who are parents of children and teenagers: the St. Agnes Schools will NOT — repeat NOT — be using the “Talking About Touching” material as part of our participation in the mandated
national program to protect children from sexual exploitation. We will be using the vastly more appropriate Arlington-Harrisburg program which incorporates the essential delicacy and discretion that teaching about chastity requires
. This is the program that I am told on good authority Archbishop Flynn himself prefers. As long as I am pastor of St. Agnes parish our school at its various levels will give appropriate instruction on the virtue of chastity, a virtue without which the Kingdom of Heaven cannot be attained, but secular sex education will have no place in our curriculum.

Fr. George Welzbacher, pastor.

I have only this to add: Fr. Welzbacher is a remarkable man, a scholar and a true gentleman, a man for whom I have the highest respect; and his comments reflect this accordingly.

I, on the other hand, am not always a gentleman, and my comments will continue to reflect this accordingly as well. For example, if Archbishop Flynn himself prefers the Arlington-Harrisburg program, then why on earth isn't that the program authorized by the archdiocese?

Ah, one chalks it up to the mysteries of life...

The Other Foxes

By Judith

Building upon Mitchell's post below, I want to show another example of the dangers from within.

In 1992, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. published a book entitled Catholics and the New Age. The subtitle is: How Good People Are Being Drawn into Jungian Psychology, the Enneagram, and the Age of Aquarius. And he ought to know. The book is about how he was drawn into New Age teachings while he was studying to be a priest and after he was ordained. He finally saw through the mumbo jumbo and came to understand how dangerous these teachings are. The scariest part was that Catholic priests, religious, convents and liturgists were giving their assent, even encouragement, and in some cases, forcing the faithful to accept these teachings and practices.

There has always been danger and false teaching from within the Church; what better place for the Enemy to launch a campaign in the war against goodness, against God. However, we must stand firm and fight and shout out loud when we see abuses taking place. We must be vigilant in trying to see how the Enemy uses seemingly logical thinking to lead us astray. But it can be dangerous unless we are firmly grounded in our faith; unless we spend time in prayer, read the Bible (especially the Gospels) and become familiar with Church teaching such as the Catechism and papal encyclicals, we can be drawn away and perish.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Fox in the Henhouse

By Mitchell

My fried AdoroTeDevote has a post up with some very disturbing information about a woman by the name of Gabriel Ashley Ross, who is currently teaching the sacraments at several parishes in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Says Adoro,

I submit to you the fact that more than one person in this Archdiocese has approached me with their concerns that Gabriel Ashley Ross is teaching First Reconciliation and First Communion to their children, and leads women's "Bible Studies" which currently revolves not around the Bible, but rather, scriptures of other world religions.

A point in question is Ross' involvement in a group called The Circle of the Sacred Earth. Adoro provides the links; read them and see what you think.

What makes this particularly disturbing in a local sense is that Gabriel Ashley Ross is "listed in the current Resource Directory of the Mpls.-St. Paul Archdiocese!!!!!"

Sigh. Why does this not surprise me?

If you find something wrong with this, spread the word, and kindly inform the Archdiocese of your concern. It's entirely possible that neither the archbishop nor his advisors are fully aware of Ross' record of involvement. If that's the case, you're doing a great work by helping to bring it to their attention.

And, well - if they do know, then you're doing others in the area a favor by spreading the word. The archdiocese will have to answer to a higher authority.

Great job bringing this to our attention, Adoro.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Latest Updates on the Recent Unpleasantness

By Mitchell

Catholic Parents OnLine is the group most closely associated with Fr. Altier regarding the controversy over the VIRTUS sex-ed program. On their website they have the following information about the current situation:

  • A recap of information regarding Fr. Altier's status. Some of this includes speculation for which there is apparently no documented basis at the present time other than rumor. In other words, I can't direct you to any other links; it's just the rumor mill.
  • CPO's statement regarding the "Talking about Touching" program as implemented by the Archdiocese. As the archbishop as stated, individual pastors will be allowed to opt out of the program as long as they substitute a program that fits within the guidelines of the USCCB. CPO recommends a program currently in use in the diocese of Harrisburg, PA.
  • Important talking points about the VIRTUS program.

The Seventh Age links to the Primary Educators League and their take on the "safe environment program" in the archdiocese. They don't seem to be too crazy about the approved plan either, and second CPO's statement urging pastors to seek alternate programs. This site has more good links illustrating concerns about VIRTUS and the Talking About Touching program.

One of the best Catholic bloggers out there, Domenico Bettinelli, has more on the increasing appearance of a double-standard when it comes to "dissent" in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I'll tell you friends, it's starting to become just a little embarrassing to admit you're from this Archdiocese...

And, just for Kevin, here are some links to the relationship between Catholicism and Freemasonry:

I don't see any more hard-and-fast news coming any time soon, so we'll continue to provide you with updates such as they as they become available and are of interest.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

So What Else Is Going On?

By Judith

Now that Fr. Altier has spoken all he's going to speak on the matter with Archbishop Flynn, it's perhaps time to look at what else is going on in the archdiocese.

We received a notice the other evening of an opportunity to speak with Steve Swiggum, the speaker of the Minnesota House on the matter of hearings on tax-payer funded abortions. Here's the info as it was given to us.

You can make a difference! Help to stop tax-funding of abortion in Minnesota.

What: Meeting with Minnesota Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum

When: Wednesday, March 15 10:30 AM

Where: Room 400N, State Office Bldg. 100 Martin Luther King Dr., Saint Paul

How: Voice your opposition to public funding of 3,000 abortions/year. Call for hearings on tax-funding of abortion. Support the Neighbors for Life constitutional amendment to end tax-funding of abortion.

RSVP to Bob Hindel 651-487-3393 or

Statement From Fr. Altier

From Spirit Daily:

"Praised be Jesus Christ! The people who take care of the Desert Voice website informed me of your interest in the case in which I am involved with Archbishop Flynn. It is certainly fine with me if you want to write something about it, but there really does not seem to be much of a story, on the surface, to write. The fact that this thing has taken on a life of its own with no help from anyone in particular should tell you that it is really not about me at all. Rather, it is about something much larger than me. "

Beyond that, I really do not have much to say other than what was said of the Apostles 2000 years ago, i.e., that they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [Acts 5:41]. All of this is part of God’s loving providence and He will bring about a greater good from this than any of us can ask or imagine. Can you think of a better way to live out the Lenten observance?

"Regarding the letter from the Archbishop, I will not release it to anyone. This is done solely out of respect for the Archbishop. He did not request that I not release the letter; it is my decision to act in this manner out of respect for his Excellency."

The Archbishop acted within the bounds of his jurisdictional rights (canon 831 §2) and I simply have to obey. The rest is up to our Lord and Our Lady. It is so wonderful because I am at peace and filled with joy knowing that through obedience I am doing the will of God.

"Who could ask for anything more in this world than to know with certainty the will of God for you at any given moment and to be able to live it out in peace and joy? The whole thing is a pure gift from God. This is my take on the whole situation, but as I mentioned above, this cannot possibly be about me. I am merely an instrument that God is using for a much larger purpose. So, if you want to write an article, you really do need to look at what God is doing here."

"We'll let the Holy Spirit do that; we'll urge obedience (above sacrifice); and we'll leave it to your own discernment."

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Kirby Puckett, R.I.P.

By Mitchell

Off the field he was a mere mortal, as we all are, given to the weaknesses and flaws that mortality entails. But when he was on the field - boy, what a ballplayer.

Kirby Puckett was the star of the second golden age of the Minnesota Twins (the first being the 1965-70 edition that featured Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Tony Oliva and so many others). One writer called him the greatest Twin ever; another the most popular athlete ever in Minnesota. I don't know if either statement is true; but if not, it demeans not Puckett's legacy to say that he was one of the greatest, one of the most popular.

My enduring memory of Kirby Puckett comes from a late September game in 1987, when the Twins were driving for their first division title in 17 years. The team was lightly regarded when the season started, but had somehow (for they were plucky, but not great) clung to first place for most of the year. Now was the time of the season when every game mattered, and every seat was sold out.

The Twins were playing the Milwaukee Brewers, and were losing until Puckett came up late in the game and homered to tie the score. Amidst the sea of cheering fans, we could hardly see Puckett cross the plate, could barely catch a glimpse of him stepping out of the dugout to acknowledge the cheers with a curtain call.

The Twins won that game, and eventually the World Series - their first since the 20s, when they were the Washington Senators. They won another Series five years later. (And how many people know that the Twins have won twice as many Series as the storied Atlanta Braves?) Both times the key man on the field was Kirby Puckett. Other players might have contributed stellar moments at key points in time, but they all would have been useless without Puckett.

I spoke last night with someone who had been with the Twins organization during those championship years, and he said the same thing that so many others have said - Puckett was the same with everyone. Nobody treated his fans better than Puckett. Nobody was a better presence in the clubhouse than Puckett. "If I saw him today, he'd treat me the same way, as if I were his best friend," my friend told me.

Glaucoma cost him his eyesight, and his career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001, and things seemed to go downhill from there: a nasty divorce, rumors of threats, a trial for sexual misconduct (in which he was acquitted). It was hard to look at Kirby Puckett in quite the same way after that, and one of the saddest parts of his death is in not knowing whether he had truly gotten his life back in order. He had issues, as we all do; his sudden and premature passing indicates the wisdom of Christ's warning to keep the lamps lit at all times, in preparation for the appearance of the Bridegroom.

Detraction - speaking ill of the dead - is a Catholic sin, as is Presumption - assuming the dead to be in Heaven. We don't know what the final judgement is on Kirby Puckett, and that's as it should be. But we know that we can hope, and we also know that we can rest assured that Our Lord's judgement is always fair, always just, always right.

Unlike our mortal umpires, there are never any bad calls from Jesus. Let's just hope that Kirby Puckett got a good pitch to hit, and made the most of it. Requiescat in pace.

A Dissenting Opinion

By Mitchell

I'm copying this comment from today's "Catholic Carnival" combox, as it has to do with the recent unpleasantness here in the archdiocese, and I thought many of you might miss the comment buried there.

It's from Kevin Miller at HMS Blog, who has a different opinion on this entire matter. Here's his comment in full:

As one of the contributors to the Carnival - I would like to say that I'm not buying the criticism of Flynn over Altier, for the reasons I've given.

In case you're wondering, here's the money quote from Kevin:

And in the second place, it's obvious to me that Altier has been saying some truly kooky things. See, for instance, this late 2003 homily, with its claim that "Satan ... is working ... through his dupes, the Freemasons, who are the lowest form of human life on the earth. These unfortunate souls think that they are going to be able to set up their kingdom and have their one world government, their one world religion, and that they can play god." Or there's this, quoted in an article sympathetic to Altier: "There are three groups that have infiltrated the Church, the Masons, the Communists, and the homosexuals, who came in 1924."

We need good priests who'll contribute to true reform in the Church. I don't care how many fans Altier has; I don't think he's one of them.

Now, aside from the disrespect I think Kevin shows both Archbishop Flynn and Fr. Altier by simply referring to them as "Flynn" and "Altier," I think he makes some comments that deserve to be considered and discussed, and that's why I wanted to bring it up to the blog where people could read it.

Anyone care to comment?

A Question of Conscience

By Judith

A news report this morning informed us that some Congressional Democrats issued a statement saying that they were tired of being labeled Good Catholics and Bad Catholics. Most all of them agreed on issues such as helping the poor, social policy, being good stewards of the environment, etc. The labels were applied because of - of course - abortion. And even if some of them were pro-life and others were pro-choice, they were all pulling together because, after all, they were all proceeding in "good conscience."

"Good conscience" is one of those phrases that is often bandied about (rather like "in the spirit of Vatican II") as though it were automatically a good thing. You can't take someone to task for his opinion or action if he is doing something in "good conscience."

But just what is "good conscience?" Is it personal opinion? Is it a deep feeling? Is it a state one arrives at after much thought and scientific study?

Let's see what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say on the matter:

Article 6 Moral Conscience

1778 Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed.

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice.

1786 Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.

1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

1794 ...The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct.

As with so many other things, conscience can either be used for good or for ill. But to use the word glibly, from a stance of moral superiority, - "I oppose abortion in my private life, but in good conscience I must support it in public life" - is always wrong. A Catholic person - in public or private life - must have his conscience formed according to the "true good," and this means that the will of God, not the will of the individual, must take precedence. Any Catholic knows what the position of the Church is on abortion. How can he, therefore, decide that it is acceptable to declare himself in opposition to the teaching of the Church and claim to be doing it in "good conscience?"

Perhaps if a pro-choice politician is labeled a Bad Catholic his accuser is just doing it in "good conscience."

The Archbishop, The Caesars, and Love

By Mitchell

Well. For a man who proclaimed he wouldn’t have much to say, I do seem to have allowed the words to flow like happy hour at a political convention, haven’t I?

But I meant what I said at the time, and I’ll restate it now. We’ll provide regular updates with any new information we think you’d find interesting, and rest assured that we’ll continue to provide proper coverage of breaking developments when they happen. But until then, we’ll attempt to ease back to our regular programming.

After this word from our sponsors.


It’s important to recognize that often, how you do something is as important as what you do. That’s why, throughout the lifespan of this blog, we’ve tried to comport ourselves in a professional manner, as well as a Catholic one. Namecalling and mudslinging don’t often advance the cause you’re trying to promote, unless the names are accurate ones and the mudslinging consists of proven facts. Even then you have to be careful; the purpose of public debate is frequently to educate, illuminate, and ultimately convince the public on the position you’re taking.

In the case of Archbishop Flynn, at the risk of sounding like a broken record I’ll repeat that at no time during this debate have we attempted to impugn the character or beliefs of the archbishop. I would like to think that were I in desperate trouble, at the point of death, or in dire need of counseling, I would welcome the archbishop’s assistance.

I would like to think that. The fact that I can’t make it an absolute statement is in part due to my own weakness, and in part because of the lack of confidence I have in the archbishop based on his track record here in the archdiocese. As Bearing Blog put it in one of her comments below, there's too much of "Just trust me" in the archbishop's manner.

And yet I recognize his legitimate authority as archbishop, and do not dispute it. Those of us who have opposed his actions, not only it the case of Fr. Altier but many, many times over the years, have had in mind always the good of the Church, and have had as a desire the true teaching of the Magisterium of the Church. To the extent that this is not being done, we will continue to raise questions. Charitably, respectfully (at least from this blog), but persistently. If we here at Our Word have ever fallen short of that goal, either by perception or fact, we apologize.

Unquestionably some part of the problem consists of the liberal attitude on the part of those in the diocesan administration, including the diocesan newspaper. Just as is the case in business or politics, the chief executive is not always responsible for the sins of his subordinates. However, as Harry Truman said, the buck stops here. To me, it would appear that the archbishop has one of three choices:

  1. Clean house and bring in permanent lay staff dedicated to reflecting the attitudes and views of the archbishop and the Magisterium of the Church.
  2. Admit that he has delegated responsibility for key decisions to lay administrators who may be influenced by an ideological – not theological – agenda.
  3. Announce that he is in complete and total agreement with the actions being taken in his name, and provide full disclosure on the reasons for his decisions.

Having read what has happened in other dioceses, both here and around the world, I am convinced that we are far from being in the worst shape. And yet there is something terribly, terribly wrong here; and the frustrating thing is that we do not know the entire story, and cannot do anything about it.


Whenever something happens that causes the faithful to despair of their leadership, there is a tendency to ask “Why doesn’t the pope do something?”

Well, this pope has. He has given us a great gift, and a great reminder. Deus Caritas Est. God is Love. For it is clear that speeches will not correct the problems we face, nor will protests, nor dictates from on high. Even prayer is not the answer unless it takes into consideration that which we need most – love.

Only the love of God will give us what we need to overcome whatever obstacles come in our way. We must humbly pray, as St. Francis did, to be made instruments of God’s peace. Then, fallible creatures though we may be, we might – just might – have a chance.

In conclusion, I’d like to reflect on one of Jesus’ more mysterious statements, Render unto Caesar that which is Casear’s, and to God that which is God’s.

In Robert Graves’ magnificent novels of Roman life during the time of the future emperor Claudius, he summarizes the difference between the emperors Augustus and Tiberius as follows: It didn’t matter if Augustus was loved as long as he was respected; it didn’t matter to Tiberius if he was respected as long as he was feared. As far as we can tell, both men accomplished their goals; Augustus was respected, Tiberius was feared.

Perhaps this is the enduring legacy of the Caesars, and this is what separates their due from that due God and His servants. We should not fear our archbishop; it would be nice if we could respect him. But above all we must love him, in Christian charity, and act out of those pure motives. And that includes providing fraternal correction when it appears to be needed.

There is much to hope for in the legacy of Archbishop Flynn – the abundance of Eucharistic Adoration, the increase in vocations, to name a few. However, there is also so much more – rainbow sashers, liturgical abusers, disobedient priests, the appearance of arrogance in administration, and VIRTUS - which at its best is deeply offensive to many parents and at worst represents an insidious evil which must be combated.

What a shame if all this – and not the positives – is the legacy for which he will be remembered.

He still has it in his power to do something about it, to change the direction in which he is taking the archdiocese. But the clock is ticking, and his flock is waiting.



UPDATE: In the original version of this post, there was a typo that changed the word "personnel" to "personal". Since the typo changed completely the meaning of the paragraph in which it was contained, that entire section was deleted. The remainder of the post stands as originally written, as to the sentiments.

The 69th Catholic Carnival - Lenten Edition

Yes, as if we didn't face a real carnival living here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, it's now time for this week's Catholic Carnival. One thing's for sure: this carnival is a heck of a lot more fun! So let's see what came in the mailbag this week.

It's the beginning of Lent, and I sense a more reflective mood in many of our submissions. Dunvocation kicks things off with Ash Wednesday, featuring a 17th century poem about keeping a true Lent, and a reflection on how the blogger plans on keeping a true Lent. Pondering the Word is considering the season as well; his Ash Wednesday Reflection talks about the similarities between Epiphany and Good Friday. And the distinguished Professor Bainbridge has Ash Wednesday and Lent, in which the good Prof discusses his intentions for Lent.

Our Carnival guru Jay at Living Catholicism offers Back to the Desert, on how we can let Christ’s example in the desert help lead us toward holiness this Lent. A Penitent Blogger posts Reproving Myself, a reflection on a few of the challenges of Lent: challenges for us and for others. Notes for the beginning of Lent are also the topic of Lenten Beginnings by Crusader of Justice, who in this post is also looking for some input on a theology paper - please help him out if you can.

Ramblings of a GOP Soccer Mom gives us Stations of the Cross, with links to several different places that have meditations on the Stations, including one that is really great to use with young children. HMS Blog offers us Through the Flood, Through the Desert - a commentary on what the readings for the first Sunday of Lent this year tell us about the role of penance in the Christian life. And for a change of pace, Kicking Over My Traces offers us a work of art in March on the Church Calendar. It's the lovely Agony in the Garden by Andrea Mantegna.

I have to interject at this point that it has truly been fascinating reading these Lenten posts, and how different people approach this season. Fascinating, enlightening, and humbling.

Ah, but we have other excellent topics as well. Herb Ely explores The Connections Between Stress, the Temptations in the Desert and their Remedies, reflecting on a modern psychologist's insight that stress results from having our inner and outer lives out of balance. He attributes this lack of balance to the temptations Jesus faced in the desert and suggests some prayerful remedies.

A hearty welcome aboard to the brand new blog MissKelly, who in Today's Christian Martyrs writes about a Polish campaign to bring awareness to the persecution of Christians in other parts of the world. MissKelly wonders why our Church has so little to say about it? [Editor's note: perhaps it's because our own bishops are too busy trying to stifle orthodox priests to notice?] And staying in Eastern Europe, Deep Furrows examines One From Aleksandr Blok, in which the Russian poet raises the question: does the promise of happiness stem from self-deception or does it come from another source?

[Editor's note - I am now taking a brief pause to put in an eBay bid for a friend of mine who can't be at her computer to do it herself. As any of you eBay'rs know, timing is everything.]

[I'm back. I submitted the bid for her, and she won. You can all relax now. Back to our regular programming.]

Ales Rarus looks at Natural Family Planning in Investigating NFP. Surprised by the controversy around NFP, he decided to find out what the learned teachers and evangelizers of NFP had to say in defense of the practice.

Deo Omnis Gloria features Pope Benedict’s Views on Protestantism, taken from Without Roots by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) and Marcello Pera. In it, Pope Benedict explains his views on Protestantism today. It’s a fascinating look at what the Pope is thinking.

A Song Not Scored For Breathing, which surely must be the most lyrically-named blog of the week, scores with Hide and Seek, wherein she talks about losing her writing voice because she froze out her inner feelings and in the process froze out God, too.

The Jesus Test is the subject of Diary of a City Parishioner. It's a Java applet based on the Sermon on the Mount, and it's one test you won't mind taking.

"I am none too keen on facing my demons anytime, or anywhere," says The MaryHunter of TMH's Bacon Bits in Demons in the Desert. But, "At least I know I've got someone watching over me and walking with me when I do."

And now a little provincialism - a quartet of Minnesota bloggers. First it's our blogging partner-in-crime AdoroTeDevote, who gives us Those Who Fight Monsters, her account of battling the monsters that Christians fight on a daily basis.

Next, Bearing Blog, gives us Fish and Fridays - Outside Lent, in which she becomes an armchair Bishop and criticizes the US Bishops' 1966 document lifting the meatless-Friday obligation. I always did think there was something fishy about that decision.

Another neighbor of ours, The Church Online, offers a post we've viewed more than once ourselves this week - Faithful Priest Silenced, the account of how our Archbishop has silenced Fr. Altier, an outspoken critic of the VIRTUS sex education program. This post contains links to several resources which explain the problems with the VIRTUS program.

Check out all three of these blogs for additional coverage of the Fr. Altier situation as well.

And finally, yours truly presents our own two cents' worth on the responsibilities of the archbishop, in What the Archbishop Knew and What He Should Have Known. You might think us four Minnesotans are putting too much on a local situation, but trust me - if you have children, you want to know about the VIRTUS sex-education program. And you want to ask your bishop what he thinks of it.

This was a massive turnout - I daresay it's the biggest Carnival we've hosted here, and the best! Our thanks to each and every one of you, and as always any errors, omissions or bad links are our responsiblity alone.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Harry and Tonto

By Mitchell

In Luckiest Man, the magnificant biography of baseball legend Lou Gehrig, author Jonathan Eig relates a story about Gehrig that leads us to another aspect of the current unpleasantness in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Gehrig's leadership was unquestioned among the Yankees, Eig tells us:

"Lou was the perfect team man," [teammate] Tommy Henrich once wrote. "He did what he was told, and in so doing, he set an example for the rest of us. If this towering star was willing to obey his manager and approach the sport with the same deadly seriousness that [manager Joe] McCarthy did, then who were we to do any less?"

In submitting himself to the authority of Archbishop Flynn, Fr. Altier plays the role of Gehrig, setting the model for the rest of the congregation. But how does the archbishop fare in the role of Joe McCarthy, manager of the team?

One of the reasons Gehrig so admired McCarthy was that they shared the same passion for winning. Both Gehrig and McCarthy were there for a purpose: to capture the World Series. Anything less was to fall short.

And I think here we have come to the crux of the problem with the archbishop. He has a flock here that is ready, willing and eager to follow him - loyal members of the Church, faithful to the magisterium, believers in the eternal truths of Catholicism. And yet we hold back, because we can't be sure what he believes, or where he wants to take us. We just can't be entirely sure that we all share the same goals; and because we don't know what direction he wants to lead us, we hold back. We don't know if he shares our passion for winning.

How can that be, you might ask. Granting that the archbishop is a good and holy man himself, how could one possibly entertain any doubts about the direction in which he wants to go? Well, when you look at the archbishop's history of leadership in this archdiocese, the answer becomes apparent.

As Judie put it in her post yesterday, the archbishop often appears to be led around by Lay Liturgy Loonies, remnants from the groovy post-Vatican II days. And let's face it: these are not the people who will be boldly leading the Church into the depth of the 21st Century. They represent the past, not the future. They are not staying in the Church, they are not following her teachings, they are not having children. They are, literally, dying off.

Hopes for the revival of the Church lie in the bold leadership of young orthodox men and women who believe in the centuries of tradition associated with the Church, who subscribe to the teachings of the ancient Church Fathers, who aren't afraid to carry the message of Christ's saving touch into every corner of the world. These are the people on whom the future of the Church rests, and these are the very people the archbishop and his staff seem most determined to alienate.

And when the archbishop seems so determined to cast his lot with a group to whom history will issue a decisive judgement, then the rest of us have reason to call into question his own judgement. When we lack confidence in our leader, we lack the confidence to follow him.

There are things which Archbishop Flynn can do to aleviate this mistrust. One of the first acts he can take is to stop playing this ridiculous cat-and-mouse game with his flock, and publicly come clean as to the reasons for his actions regarding Fr. Altier. Granted, he is under no legal requirement to do so; I would submit that the requirement is a moral one. An effective leader does not keep his followers in the dark, nor does he treat them with distain and contempt. So far, the archbishop fails on both counts.

Should it be that the VIRTUS sex-education plan is the reason for Fr. Altier's silencing, then Archbishop Flynn owes it to us to tell us this. Furthermore, if this program, the source of such controversy around the country, has been misrepresented and misunderstood (as the archbishop would seem to claim), then it is up to him to take a page from President Bush's gameplan and sell this unpopular program to the archdiocese.

Archbishop Flynn should take it upon himself to campaign for this program personally, appearing in each and every school in the archdiocese, openly and without rancor speaking to the merits of the program, and demonstrating to parents and parishioners that there is nothing to fear, that the widely-held concerns are groundless. He must realize that the era of the Divine Right of Kings is over, at least when it comes to bishops - he must become a politician, a salesman, a persuader. This cannot be left to the liberal lackeys in the archdiocesan staff - it must be done by the archbishop personally.

And if he cannot, or chooses not, to do this - then we are left with only one alternative. It is that the archbishop himself lacks conviction on the matter. We can only surmise that he intends to implement the program simply because he can, and that anyone who dares to speak out against it, or to even offer concerns, becomes the enemy.

It is a sad state of affairs when we come to this point with our bishops. As Judie said to me last night, the time was that in a case of this sort, most people would immediately side with their bishop and assume that the priest was guilty of some wrongdoing. Not any more. The bishops, collectively if not individually, have lied, deceived, misled, and otherwise mismanaged their precious trust for too many years. They too often have misrepresented the authentic teachings of the Church, and have failed to follow instructions from Rome. They have allowed subversive or misguided groups (Rainbow Sashers? Voice of the Faithful?) to gain a foothold, defining for the public at large what the Catholic Church stands for. They have assisted in driving who knows how many good and decent people away from the Church, and in keeping many more from approaching.

Archbishop Flynn must realize that times have changed, and the leadership of the Church must change as well. He must communicate with his flock in a way which he might find distasteful, but necessary. He has to come clean on what's going on here, and why.

Speak to us, Archbishop Flynn. Like the Yankess of old, we're ready to listen. We want to win, and we want a leader who can help take us to the Promised Land, the one that outweighs any World Series championship. The question is, do you share that goal? Do you want to lead us in the same direction?

Only you can prove it to us. What are you afraid of?

Sunday, March 5, 2006

The Envelope, Please

By Mitchell

Let us take time out from the recent unpleasantness to offer a moment of silence for the Academy Awards. Yes, the Oscars are being handed out tonight, in show that has gone from being must-see TV to few-may-see TV. The fact that very few have even seen any of the nominated pictures (most of which are well outside the mainstream of middle American thought) only adds to the lack of importance the Oscars have achieved.

For what it's worth, speculation is that the Best Picture award will go to either Crash, the optimistic portrayl of a facist America, or Brokeback Mountain, which is either (a) a sensitive love story, (b) a cautionary drama, or (c) a piece of homosexual propaganda.

And that brings us to the topic of this post. I don't know how many are aware of this, but one of the producers of Brokeback Mountain is Bill Pohlad, son of Minnesota Twins owner Smilin' Carl. Bill has been quoted in several articles as saying that although they knew it was a special film, he and his partners had no idea it would be such a success. For them, the artistic merit of this special project was paramount.

What's interesting about this is the difference in philosophy between Bill and his father, Smiling' Carl. Carl has had great success in his time as owner of the Twins - two World Series championships, three additional division titles. However, for Carl, the bottom line has always been the bottom line. Never mind that he is one of the wealthiest owners in professional sports - it all pales besides the need to show a profit. If the payroll gets too far out of hand, threatening to disturb the bottom line, then it's time to cut costs and trade players. Despite the fact he could finance a new ballpark with some of his pocket change, he works resolutely to force the taxpayers of Hennepin County (Minneapolis) to pay the bulk of the cost with a small percentage increase in the sales tax, under threat of moving or contracting the team.

Bill, on the other hand, seems to be from the traditional school of thought for artists, who believe that art is its own reward. To listen to him, one would think that any profit for Brokeback Mountain (sensitive love story, cautionary tale, homosexual propaganda) would have been beside the point. One article, discussing various film projects on which Pohlad had passed, said "Although they and other projects offered to him became successful, he [Pohlad] said, they didn't deliver 'the kind of stamp we want to put on the industry.' "

Ironic, isn't it? Carl, the ultimate businessman, looks not at the artistic success of his team, but at the only thing that matters - making a profit. His legacy lies not with championships, but dollar signs. Bill, the son, cares only about the artistic merit of his movies, with everything else being "icing on the cake."

Carl has been trying for several years, without success, to sell the Twins. The Pohlad sons are said to be in favor of keeping the team in the family, so they can continue to operate it as a family business after Carl leaves the mortal coils of this world.

And this begs the question: what happens then? Will Bill remain consistent with his philosophy, looking at the artistic success of the Twins (read: winning) as the only important thing and the bottom line being of secondary importance? Or will he assume Smilin' Carl's guise and demand a public subsidy for any movies he produces, claiming, as his father has insisted for so many years, that he should be guaranteed a profit on his investment? Will he bring in Jack Valente, the movie industry's version of baseball commissioner Bud Selig, to back him up, threatening to move his movie producing operation to another city if he doesn't get his way? Will he contract the whole operation, selling it to Paramount or one of the other big studios?

For years, we've been lamenting the lack of consistency in American political thought. Now, it turns out there isn't even any consistency in the way two members of the same family run their businesses. Who can keep up with it all? The legislature may wind up passing financial aid for the wrong Pohlad. And then what happens? One can only imagine how this story will end. As a matter of fact, maybe someone should make a movie about it.

Nah, it'd never sell...

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