"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Arsebishop: The latest from Canterbury, as appraised by Mark Steyn.
IN OTHER NEWS FROM THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION: Midwest Conservative Journal administers a vigorous fisking to a dispatch from Israel by the director of the Episcopal News Service that might as well be a rip-and-read from the Arafat compound.
Added on the left: To the Pantheon have been added links to pages on Louis Armstrong and on H.L. Mencken. Also see the new Bostonia section featuring local journalist bloggers. Nominations welcome.
Monday, December 30, 2002 The Great New Year's Eve Movie
By the time he made ''The Apartment,'' Wilder had become a master at a kind of sardonic, satiric comedy that had sadness at its center, Roger Ebert writes in a review of the film that won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1960. Visit this page for a synopsis and selected audio-clips, such as this one:
C.C.Baxter: Please, Miss Kubelik, you got to promise me you won't do anything foolish.
Fran Kubelik: Who'd care?
C.C.Baxter:I would! Fran Kubelik: Why can't I ever fall in love with somebody nice like you?
C.C.Baxter: Yeah, well - that's just the way it crumbles ... cookie-wise.
Wonder Magazine calls on Disney to re-release the shelved classic Song of the South and cites Chesterton in the cause:
The ordinary northern idealist preached generosity to the blacks, saying, 'We will give the Negro liberty; we will give the Negro light; we will give the Negro education.' Chandler Harris, in Uncle Remus gave an indirect, unexpected, and yet strangely forcible answer. He did not say, 'I will give the Negro whips and chains if he is mutinous,' or 'I will give him a better light and liberty if he is good.' He said, "This is what the Negro has given me. You talk of educating the slave; this is how he educated me. He taught me the primal culture of humanity, the ancient and elvish wisdom without which all other learning is priggishness, the tales which from the beginning our Mother Earth has told to all her children at night. The Negro has given something to the South...and I will give it to the North.
An entire web site, SongoftheSouth.net, is devoted to the return of the Disney film. Go there for a link to a petition, to listen to song clips, or to buy a video of the movie (expensive!). There is also a section on the Disneyland Splash Mountain ride that is a monument to the banned film.
If today's PC realities make Disney unwilling to tout what had been one of its most celebrated films, how about a remake? Why not Eddie Murphy, say, as the new voice of Brer Rabbit? The film would make a mint – and return a treasury of African-American folktales to the fore.
The Choir Invisible: In its farewell to Cardinal Law, the Dec. 20 edition of the Boston archdiocesan paper, The Pilot, offers a feature headlined: "Friends recall the cardinal's service." Four of those quoted are deceased.
Hartford Courant columnist and former altar boy Jeff Jacobs pens a fine tribute to a priest who was a kind mentor.
Reynolds was in charge of the altar boys. He'd counsel us. He'd encourage us. At a time and place when Catholic school discipline was harsh and too many clergymen were one-way thinkers - their way - a young priest's only rebuttal was to demonstrate spiritual leadership and camaraderie were not mutually exclusive gifts.
Father Reynolds took us to Reds games. He took us to Red Sox games. Two of us here, four of us there. We'd be gone all day. A night game in Boston meant we'd be home late that night. He'd come over to my family's house. We'd play pingpong. We'd play cribbage. He didn't let you win just because you were a kid. In return, you felt good about doing your best in church. I loved being the thurifer. It didn't necessarily bring you closer to God, but it did bring you closer to a pack of matches. You lit the incense, got that sweet smoke coming out of the ornate gold device. My Latin may have been sketchy, but man, I could clang the thurible against the chain in such hypnotic cadence you would have thought St. Peter was coming.
There is a library search built into our computer and, with a couple of keystrokes, every word that has appeared in The Courant in the past dozen years is at our disposal. The instant archive is a miracle. The number of stories it retrieves is indicative of the grasp an individual subject holds on the public.
The year is 2002. The request is for stories including "Catholic" and "abuse."
A total of 436 articles in The Courant appear.
The second request is for "Catholic" and "goodness."
Three articles appear.
And, finally, "Catholic" and "godliness."
This has not been a good year for the Catholic Church.
There have been so many stories of gross sexual misconduct involving priests, so many stories of hierarchical coverups, that the church's most powerful figure in New England was toppled. You tell people you were an altar boy these days and the first thing out of their mouth is a question about whether you were fondled.
Father Reynolds never laid a hand on me. Never laid a hand on any of us. Didn't make inappropriate remarks. Didn't ply us with alcohol and drugs. Didn't hand us pornography.
Maybe this is why I was compelled to call him this Christmas week, to somehow differentiate what we all know from what I lived. But, wow, what do you say to a priest who you haven't talked to in three decades? How do you ask the tough question to a guy who remembers you as a kid?
The answer comes quickly.
"How wonderful to hear from you," he bellows into the phone.More
What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way. As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good--far from it. And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. Of course, most people who talk about these things get into a state of some mental confusion by attaching tremendous importance to the name of the entity. We called him Santa Claus, because everyone called him Santa Claus; but the name of a god is a mere human label. His real name may have been Williams. It may have been the Archangel Uriel. What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea. Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void. Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now, I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.*
Until we are grateful, we will not find the world miraculous; until we find the world miraculous, we will not find it important; until we find the world important, we will not be happy here. The difference between ourselves and Chesterton is that we don’t think our world important because it seems ordinary, while he thinks his world is important because he is ordinary. "I am ordinary in the correct sense of the term; which means the acceptance of an order; a Creator and the Creation, the common sense of gratitude for Creation, life and love as gifts permanently good, marriage and chivalry as laws rightly controlling them, and the rest of the normal traditions of our race and religion."
This ordinary happiness makes up the essence of Chesterton, and, woven into all his writings, perspicuous on whatever page one opens, it is his gift to those who suffer boredom. A happy saint is just the antidote we need.
Here's Spicoli in a paid newspaper ad appealing to the president: I beg you, help save America before yours is a legacy of shame and horror…[S]acrificing American soldiers or innocent civilians in an unprecedented preemptive attack on a separate sovereign nation ... may well prove itself a most temporary medicine.
And here's the Vatican's former envoy to the United Nations: Archbishop Renato Martino told reports only last week that a war against Iraq as threatened by the United States and Britain could not be "just"… Archbishop Martino, who is also the prefect of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, said that a preventive war against Saddam Hussein was a "war of aggression" and therefore not a "just war".
There is little doubt what Saddam might do with an atomic bomb or with his stocks of biological and chemical weapons. When I talked about Saddam's past with the medical geneticist Christine Gosden, she said, "Please understand, the Kurds were for practice."
A British government dossier on Saddam's weapons program reports on the notorious chemical-weapon attack on Halabja in 1988. "In places," the dossier says, "streets were piled with corpses."
Meantime, an op-ed piece ran this past weekend by Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who knows the face of evil. His message: War on Saddam is the only option.
It was a year ago in November that the liberation of Kabul was brought about by the exercise of American military power.
The children were flying kites in Kabul yesterday, little squares of homemade paper, one of them dancing in the thin breeze over the derelict hulk of the headquarters of the Taliban's religious police. When the children had gone to bed the night before, kites were a forbidden joy. When they got up, the kite-haters had vanished.
Yesterday a city of one million souls woke from a bad dream that had lasted five years. In Kabul the Taliban were not a screaming nightmare like 20th century dictators but a nagging, vicious, nonsensical head fever, where men were to despise women, daughters were to be illiterate, and drums and kites were evil.
Recall it was in the name of these very Afghan citizens that arguments were made against the military action that freed them. It was in the purported cause of civilian safety that arguments were made against a realistic effort to end the oppression of those same civilians. Had the peace lobby been heeded, the day-to-day suffering of millions at the hands of the Taliban would have continued unabated.
Perhaps to mark today's Feast of the Holy Innocents, the Vatican, in keeping with its theme of Christmas week past, will issue another clarion call for inaction in the face of brutality.
Perhaps the Holy See will explain why it is better for tyranny's victims that their oppressors not be compelled to stop. Perhaps more will be forthcoming on the injustice of aggression against evil, and the blessings of peace through appeasement.
On the War on Terror, ubi Petrus, ibi idiotarianism.
Matthew Paris comments at Catholic Light: It has ever been the way for Christians to fight evil. Unfortunately, this has often meant taking up arms in the defense of good. It is a fact that those who do nothing to oppose evil are helping it.
We are living in time where we are being called to defend all that is good against all that is evil and those that wish to do us harm. It is one thing to doubt our goodness, for we know that we are at times blinded to our own faults, and another thing to let our doubts paralyze is into inaction. Yes, we must remove the plank from our own eyes before calling evil for what it is, but nonetheless, evil must be pointed out and appropriately dispensed with. Jesus did not say that we could not remove the plank, but we are to call out those that are doing wrong with a sense of humility and an understanding of our own failings. Similar to the action in "The Two Towers", there are dark forces that wish to eliminate our way of life. They are not interested in our natural, economic or human resources. They are only interested in the destruction of our culture. At least the barbarians that swept through the Roman Empire wanted the civil life of Rome. The terrorist and rogue states of today have no such desire for civilization. The question posed at the end of the "The Two Towers" asks us if we are ready to fight for and to defend all that we hold as good or do we capitulate and let evil to destroy the peace, freedom, and love that has been given unto us?
IN THE BEGINNING was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was made nothing that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men: and the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not the Light, but was to bear witness of the Light.
That was the true Light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become the sons of God; to them that believe in His name: who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH,
and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
-- The beginning of the Holy Gospel according to St. John
is Amy Welborn in an eloquent post defending sacred art in churches:
The liturgists tell us, of course, that we don’t need representational art because it distracts from the truth that we are the Church.
Posh. We are the Church, but we’re not the entire Church, thank God. Look. I live in a house. In a few days, I’m pleased to say, all my children are going to be here. We are a family.
Does putting pictures on the wall distract us from that reality? Does having old photographs of my mother and her brother when they were children, or my grandparents portrait, or a photograph of my dad with my two older sons render us all stupid and forgetful of the fact that we are a family?
Uh, no. In fact, most of us would say that it strengthens our sense of family because it reminds us of the fullness of who we are, roots us in the past and gives us hope for the future.
Thursday, December 19, 2002 Vestes Claras Induamus
The Ghost of Christmas Present, from an 1843 edition of Dickens' Christmas Carol, in the Special Collections of the University of Glasgow. Scroll all the way down to the plate from p. 164 for the potable of choice at Lake Street this holiday season.
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Tempus hoc hilaritatis
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Vestes claras induamus;
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Cantilenas nunc promamus
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
And Jingle Bells:
Tinniat, tinniat, tintinnabulum!
Labimur in glacie post equum curtum!
Tinniat, tinniat, tintinnabulum!
Labimur in glacie post equum curtum!
Knowledgeable colleagues say this editorial by Ed Forry in the Dorchester Reporter captures Cardinal Law to a T.
As press cameras rolled, Bishop Law toured the fire-gutted church, consoled grieving parishioners, and held an impromptu press conference on the steps of church.
Take heart, he told the parishioners: if it can be done, St. Ambrose church will be rebuilt. The Bishop had seen scores of churches burned in the Deep South, and the community always came back stronger, he said. The press lights shone bright, the TV cameras recorded the new church leader's words, and scores of parishioners wept with joy.
It was an electrifying moment. The visit lasted no more than 30 minutes, and there was a sense that this dynamic new Bishop would soon chart a promising new course for his flock in the Boston Archdiocese.
Later, an anecdote spread among priests that their new boss had called the then-pastor of St. Ambrose over to his car for a final word. The priest looked a bit disheveled, as he had been struggling to come to terms with the fire and urgently tried to find some way to console his people. When Bishop Law beckoned him to the car, the priest was expecting more words of support.
"Do you have anything planned this afternoon," Law is said to have asked. "No, I am free, Bishop," was the reply. "Then go get a haircut," the new Archbishop said. Then he closed the door and drove away.
You and your team will be responsible for organizing the youth who will take part in the Entrance and Recessional Processions. They will process with the Lectionary, the Cross and a variety of Kites "flown" from poles.
It will be your task to assist the youth in learning to properly fly the kites and to choreograph their movement.
1. Encourage the youth to walk at least 10 feet apart. This distance should lessen the chances for entangling the kites.
2. The easiest way to fly the kites is in a wide "figure eight". Some youth prefer to fly them two or three circles in one direction and then reverse directions. Let the youth experiment - just watch so that the kites do not tangle on the poles.
3. If the youth are traveling in pairs in the some direction, one kite should lean to the right and the other to the left.
4. When two kites are traveling sown the same aisle in opposite direction, all youth should walk to the right, and tilt the kite to the right to avoid tangling with an oncoming kite.
5. When two kites become tangled, the youth should immediately lower their kites but continue walking until they get to the back side of the hall, allowing the procession to continue. Only then should they attempt to entangle the kites. (Note: if the students pull on the kites that are tangled they will rip.)
6. The kites should be held high over head since the assembly will be standing.
7. Please stress this safety factor with the youth: avoid the possibility of hitting anyone with the kites or the kite poles (especially in the face or head).
8. Tell the youth to watch for overhead obstacles as well, e.g. low ceilings, lights, etc.
9. Encourage youth to relax, smile and enjoy what they are doing during the practice. Their role is to gather the community and set a tone of festivity and celebration.
The kite procession should encircle and help gather the community. Therefore, I suggest that the youth begin in the back of the assembly hall, process to the front and then the youth should have enough time to repeat this same procession. The presider/celebrants should process at the end.
REGARDING THE RECESSIONAL
When the Presider/Celebrants begins the closing prayer, the youth should quietly walk to their kites. Once the closing song begins, let them recess! Simply reverse the pattern of the Entrance Procession allowing the procession to go down the aisles, up the aisles and out.
AFTER THE LITURGY
Please dismantle the kites after the Liturgy.
And finally, these instructions for a "creative" offertory:
Immediately after the Prayers of the Faithful, the music begins, and the presider will invite the gifts to be brought up to the altar. The youth should be instructed to move slowly and prayerfully, about ten feet apart, with the elements held high above their heads. If some of the youth have movement ability, encourage them to be creative as they process.
Those who appreciate beauty in liturgy have another reason to welcome Bishop Lennon: He's a friend of the Anglican Use.
"He was our Anglican Use Chaplain in Boston during the interval between the reception of the Congregation of St. Athanasius and the ordination of Father Bradford," writes C. David Burt. "Bishop Lennon has celebrated Mass according to the Anglican Use many times."
He'd make a good successor to Cardinal Law as Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision for Anglicans in the United States should Cardinal Law relinquish the role, Burt writes.
I wanna go back to Dixie,
Take me back to dear ol' Dixie,
That's the only li'l ol' place for li'l ol' me.
Old times there are not forgotten,
Whuppin' slaves and sellin' cotton,
And waitin' for the Robert E. Lee.
(It was never there on time.)
The resting place of Senator Claghorn. Does a similar political epitaph await Trent Lott?
If Trent Lott remains as Majority Leader, he does so as a hostage of the Congressional Black Caucus and at the cost of his party's legislative agenda, not to mention its name. But if a move is made to replace him as leader, he reportedly threatens to quit the Senate entirely, leaving his seat to be filled by a Democrat and disrupting the balance of power held by his party.
This is the Voice of the Old South? Whatever happened to the chivalric code of honor?
If anything has been gained from the Lott fiasco, it's an appreciation of how far the nation has come since 1948.
The Smoking Gun has a copy of the segregationist Dixiecrat platform from 1948 as well as newsreel footage of the convention that nominated Thurmond for president.
At NPR, hear a clip of Thurmond in 1948 offering a rousing defense of segregation as a bulwark against "Nigra" infiltration of churches, homes, theaters and swimming pools.
By far the largest portion of the Dixiecrat platform is an extensive endorsement of states' rights, writes Dave Kopel at NRO. This defense was couched in strongly stated appeals to constitutional values, such as "the constitutional right to choose one's associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to earn one's living in any lawful way." Yet state segregation laws interfered with all these rights, and with the Constitution.
Here's a site on the history of Jim Crow that suggests old times in the Land of Cotton ought not be forgotten – or repeated.
And here's a pip of a column by the inimitable Mark Steyn on the senior tomcat from South Carolina:
But not for the first time Strom had the last laugh. This week he became the only 100-year-old senator in the Republic's history. He's also the only American to have been elected to national office by a write-in campaign. And the only senator to have spoken for 24 hours and 18 minutes continuously, back in 1957 when he filibustered the civil rights bill and had an aide standing with a bucket in the adjoining cloakroom so he could relieve himself while keeping one foot on the Senate floor and still speaking. And he's the only circuit court judge in South Carolina history to have made love to a condemned murderess as she was being transferred from the women's prison to Death Row.
This was Sue Logue, the only woman in the state ever to be sent to the chair, but not before she'd been sent to the back seat of Strom's car for a lively final ride. (It was a particularly bloody murder case that had begun when Mr. Logue's calf had been kicked to death by some other feller's mule.) I mention this not merely to be salacious and gossipy, but as an example of the extraordinary pageant that is Strom's life. If this were an appreciation of John Kerry, we'd have exhausted all the interesting stuff a couple of paragraphs up and you'd already have flipped to the sports section.
Steyn manages just fine in a subsequent column on Senator Kerry: The news that the Massachusetts senator, Democratic presidential candidate, Vietnam veteran, Big Ketchup spouse, Vietnam veteran, amateur guitarist, Vietnam veteran and Vietnam veteran gets a $75 coiffure from Cristophe has riveted the Beltway and distracted from his message. ("As a Vietnam veteran, I know what it's like to wake up in a jungle full of terrifying bangs.")
An internecine dustup between Mottramists and Lidless Eyes in a St. Blog's comment box? No, a Punch magazine cartoon from 1853 that is among the images in an online study of 19th-century anti-Irish stereotyping. Ignore the race-class-and-gender pomobabble and check out the "Simian Paddy" gallery.
Note the beautiful renovation work done at several Midwestern churches by the Ohio firm of Knapp Restoration. The site is tricky to navigate, but its news page highlights a mural restoration at St. Joseph Church, in aptly-named Fort Recovery, Ohio, a project also detailed here. Other projects listed at the Religious Buildings page include these:
In connection with this story on the restoration of a Catholic college chapel in Baltimore, Amy Welborn remarks: If you compare old and new Catholic churches, you'll find that to be one of the greatest differences: color. Even little country churches around here, built in the 19th and early 20th centuries, no matter how simple, all feature color - borders, murals, tromp d'oeil...modern churches are so....bland, yes?
For an illustration of the modern trend, see the web site of St. Barbara's Church in Woburn, Mass. Scroll down to the section on the reordering of the sanctuary, in which a backdrop of blue with silver stars was painted over. Sad to say, not an improvement.
Saturday, December 14, 2002 Catholicism's Herbert Hoover
That's how Cardinal Law will be remembered, Boston College's theology chairman said yesterday. Cardinal Law has done fine things, particularly in the area of Christian-Jewish relations, said Prof. Stephen Pope, and yet: "What do you remember about Herbert Hoover? The Great Depression."
When you think about Law and Hoover – once revered, then reviled; doggedly holding to old forms that ill-equipped them to respond to the great storms that engulfed them –the comparison is apt.
And with the closing of this chapter, a plea to the TV news shows: Enough of the incense shot, already – the stock footage of Cardinal Law winging the thurible around the altar as if he's practicing for Santiago de Compostela. (Check out any of the coverage at New England Cable News and you're bound to see it.) It has occurred to me that the Novus Ordo doesn't lend itself to priestly action shots, lots of sitting around in the presider's chair not making for good TV, so a little censing has been made to go a long way.
One of my favorite passages in Brideshead Revisited is when Cordelia describes leading credulous catechumen Rex Mottram astray about sacred monkeys in the Vatican.
Now Mark Cameron, in a brilliant post, evokes the Waugh classic in coining a highly useful new term.
I would like to propose a name for this phenomenon of inveterate support for any and all Papal actions, imputing to him wisdom and spiritual insight beyond all the Saints and Popes of past ages: Mottramism.
This takes its name, of course, from Rex Mottram, Julia Flyte's husband in Brideshead Revisited. At one point, Rex decides to convert to Catholicism in order to have a proper Church wedding with Julia. But the sincerity of his conversion becomes suspect when he is willing to agree with any absurdity proposed in the name of Catholic authority, and shows no intellectual curiosity into its truth or falsehood. As his Jesuit instructor, Father Mowbray describes his catechetical progress:
"Yesterday I asked him whether Our Lord had more than one nature. He said: 'Just as many as you say, Father.' Then again I asked him: 'Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said 'It's going to rain', would that be bound to happen?' 'Oh, yes, Father.' 'But supposing it didn't?' He thought a moment and said, "I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.'"
Boston journalist Jay Fitzgerald of Hub Blog writes of his dismay over revelations about his friend Fr. Foley.
In the past year, my faith in the church (actually, it’s more like an ingrained allegiance) has been sorely tested, as it has for so many Boston Catholics. Still ... I always thought of Father Foley. He was my rock. My only true link to the Church. A dear friend. “Well, if I ever go back to the Church as a practicing Catholic, it’s going to be because of people like Father Foley. ... ”
And now this. When I first learned last night of the trouble he was in and then read this morning’s papers, I wanted to burst out crying.
Fr. Jim Tucker offers an illuminating essay on the need for a server at Mass. Very well done and informative.
One saint who preferred saying Mass in private was Philip Neri.
Towards the end of his life, Philip's habit was to say mass in a private chapel, alone but for the server. Just before the Communion, the server would withdraw, leaving Philip alone with our Lord for two hours or more, until the saint was ready to finish the mass.
Msgr. Michael Groden, archdiocesan development mogul and lead campaigner on subsidized housing, was among the priests signing a letter asking the cardinal to resign. The cardinal's real-estate wheeler-dealer, whose name jumped out from the letter this week, was profiled in the Globe four years ago. Here's that article:
The Boston Globe
December 19, 1998,
SECTION: METRO/REGION; Pg. B1
HEADLINE: Cleric seeks to balance secular avocation;
Is praised, criticized for real estate work;
BYLINE: By John Ellement and Richard S. Kindleberger, Globe Staff
Michael F. Groden has all the trappings of a successful real estate developer: a home in the city, a summer home in Scituate, and an office in downtown Boston where he wrestles with complex projects that require his political acumen, hard-nosed business sense, and engineering skills.
But Groden has another calling beyond his real estate profession: He is a Roman Catholic priest, a monsignor. And for 30 years he has led the Boston Archdiocese's effort to build subsidized housing in the state, making him a hero to many needy people. Over the years, however, he has gained another reputation in some real estate circles: as a man who accumulates enemies. Earlier this week a court ruling questioned the monsignor's integrity in a resounding fashion, giving new voice to his critics.
On Thursday, Judge Martha B. Sosman ruled that Groden cheated a Brookline developer in a real estate deal. The judge ordered the Archdiocese of Boston to pay the developer $3.4 million as compensation for Groden's deceit.
It was not the first time Groden's dealings have caused controversy.
"He's a wolf in priest's clothing," James Campano said yesterday. Campano is a leader of former residents of Boston's West End who blame Groden for their failure to get space for a museum and an office in a new building co-developed by the archdiocese in Lowell Square.
Other critics say Groden sometimes takes advantage of his clerical collar and operates by his own rules. He is considered something of a loner who relies on his contacts in powerful places to smooth out the rough spots instead of building coalitions with others.
Still, Groden, who is the archdiocese's urban planning director, has staunch defenders who view him as a relentless, forceful, advocate for affordable housing, who passionately believes he is doing the right thing.
"What stands out about Mike Groden is he has the community at heart," said Stephen Coyle, who ran the Boston Redevelopment Authority in the 1980s and had myriad dealings with the 58-year-old Groden. "That's in the man."
"He's a very skilled developer. He's an effective developer. He's an honest developer," added Coyle, who is now chief executive officer of the AFL-CIO Housing Trust in Washington.
Coyle's assessment is at odds with Sosman's findings, however. The Suffolk Superior Court judge ordered two corporations affiliated with the archdiocese to pay developer Norman A. Levenson at least $3.4 million in damages, citing Groden and former archdiocesan employee Gerald Pucillo for "unfair, immoral, unethical and unscrupulous acts" in their dealings with Levenson in a Fenway real estate deal in the early 1990s.
The judge ruled that Groden and Pucillo misled Levenson into thinking that they had agreed to jointly develop the property, while Groden and Pucillo went behind Levenson's back, bought the land for $500,000, and built a 123-unit elderly housing apartment building on Kilmarnock Street with federal grant money.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Groden said he will appeal the ruling but declined to discuss the specifics of the case. He defended his life's work of finding living space for those who can least afford it, even though, he said, it has not always made him popular.
"When you are building low-income housing in the suburbs, nobody wants to bring 'those people' to their community," Groden said. "It's not a popular field to be in, in most cases."
Yet Levenson's suit and another filed against Groden over the Kilmarnock Street property were about his business practices, not his good intentions.
In the second suit, developer Michael Capizzi, who had planned in the late 1980s to buy the Fenway parcel and build condominiums on it, said Groden used his influence at the BRA to kill city approval of the plan. Groden denied influencing the BRA and, after Capizzi acknowledged that he based his belief about Groden solely on a conversation with a man at a political fund-raiser, a judge in 1996 threw out the lawsuit.
A native of Belmont and the son of a doctor, Groden entered the priesthood in 1965 after attending St. John's Seminary and Boston College. While assigned to St. Joseph's parish in Roxbury in the 1960s, he worked to help restore the housing stock in that neighborhood.
"It was on-the-job training," he said.
Following a stint at the MIT-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies, Groden was put in charge of the archdiocese's planning office, where he has been since 1968. He also helps with pastoral duties at St. Cecilia's Church, near his Boston residence.
Throughout his career, Groden has overseen projects that have produced 3,000 units of low-cost housing. His efforts have not always borne fruit. Two years ago he tried to build 700 units of new and rehabilitated housing in East Boston. The project, which would have involved moving some tenants of the Maverick Square housing development into choice waterfront locations, stalled after the community raised objections and the Menino administration withdrew support.
Groden's critics said they do not question the need for subsidized housing, nor do they disapprove of the archdiocese's involvement in development plans. They object to what they say is the way Groden bends the rules while espousing noble goals.
"You can do housing. Housing is being done all the time," said Boston lawyer Edward J. Lonergan, who had a falling out with Groden in 1995 over not getting paid for a case he handled for the planning office after he had done two major cases for free. "That doesn't mean that anything you do is justified because you say you are trying to help the needy."
Groden said he would not get into a point-counterpoint discussion with his critics. But he was clear that Sosman's ruling will not change the way he conducts his business affairs. "I have always treasured my word, and I think it's quite good," he said. He said only that "time will tell" whether others react to him differently following the judge's ruling.
He said he sees no conflict between his vocation as a priest and his avocation as a nonprofit developer.
"In the present, contemporary church, you can point to a number of people who were priests and who had credibility, competence, and had made contributions in the secular field," he said. "In my judgment, there is no contradiction."
GRAPHIC: PHOTO, 'He's a wolf in priest's clothing.' JAMES CAMPANO Leader of former West End residents' group, on Monsignor Michael F. Groden (above).
Christmas Midnight Mass, the German Church, less than a mile from the Cathedral, Boston
Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker recently wondered how anyone could continue to go to Mass at Cardinal Law's cathedral.
How can any sane person worship at an altar presided over by a cleric who provided the support - I refuse to call it moral support - to sick, depraved priests that Cardinal Bernard F. Law did?
Why would anyone walk into the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sunday and worship at his direction?
A good question.
Why, outside of a diehard, Rabbi Korff-like affinity for Cardinal Law, would anyone keep going to the Cathedral, given the pick of churches in the vicinity?
Here are some nearby alternatives, along with the distance of each from Holy Cross Cathedral, and driving directions:
Holy Trinity German Church, 140 Shawmut Ave. Distance: 0.7 miles. Drive time: 1 minute. Directions. Historic South End church, home to the indult Latin Mass Community, less than a mile from the Cathedral.
The Mission Church, 1545 Tremont St. Distance: 1.9 miles. Drive time: 4 minutes. Directions. "A Lourdes in the Land of the Puritans," the Basilica on Mission Hill is perhaps the grandest church in the city.
It really doesn’t matter who the presider is. If he’s an ordained priest, he will replicate the Holy Sacrifice made by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. It could be Bernard Cardinal Law, Father (“call me Walter”) Cuenin, or, were he still in ministry, Paul Shanley.
So why go to the Cathedral when there are so many other fine churches – beautiful and orthodox – in hailing distance?
Getting a seat at Christmas Mass at Holy Cross Cathedral traditionally has been difficult. One suspects it will not be this year.
Not attending Mass at the Cathedral – like not donating to Lake Street – sends a useful and necessary message, that the cardinal must go if a broken archdiocese is to begin to heal.
The assembly-centered worship style at Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton is not to my taste. But the parish is large and vibrant and reflective of its community, which if you know Newton, is heavy on academics, psychoanalysts and like white-collar progressives. The church recently underwent an impressive renovation that respected its historic beauty, and the parish supports a high school that draws many urban minority kids. The pastor is a self-promoter, but much of the PR he has drawn, especially on Jewish-Christian relations, has been favorable.
If Our Lady's and its pastor, Fr. Cuenin, were so objectionable, why did Cardinal Law launch his World Youth Day pilgrimage this past summer from the parish?
And significantly: Why was Mother Teresa brought to this, of all parishes, on her visit to Boston? (See photo on upper left of the parish home page.) And why was the parish portrait (bottom right) featured on the cover of this past year's archdiocesan directory – making Our Lady's the cover parish of the Boston Archdiocese?
The headline of a September editorial in the Pilot criticizing the Newton parish's ties with VOTF observed, "You are known by the company you keep." Well, the Archdiocese has been keeping company very nicely with Our Lady's for years. Why is the Archdiocese now attacking liturgical and pastoral approaches it has had no little hand in advancing?
Wednesday, December 04, 2002 Sack cloth & ashes? They'll be lucky not to be fitted for handcuffs.
Just the statue for the front of the Boston chancery
Reassigning and enabling predators and perverts, Lake Street has made Typhoid Mary the patroness of the Boston Archdiocese. The Prisoner of Love? The Blow-King of Malden? Today's stomach-turning accounts represent only the tip of the iceberg.
Desperate to contain the burgeoning scandal in the priesthood, the Archdiocese of Boston for years dealt in secret with allegations that a priest had terrorized and beaten his housekeeper, another had traded cocaine for sex, and a third had enticed young girls by claiming to be ''the second coming of Christ,'' newly released church records show.
In some cases, church officials - including Cardinal Bernard F. Law - reacted to the explosive charges by quietly transferring rogue priests to other parishes and treating them with a gentleness and sensitivity apparently unshaken by the heinous allegations against them.
The other priest, Robert V. Meffan, was removed in 1996 after numerous credible allegations arose that he sexually molested several teenage girls whom he had encouraged to become nuns.
Meffan, who at one point in his career, according to the files, said he was ``going to be the Christ of the Second Coming,'' and wrote a rambling farewell to Law calling himself a ``Prisoner of Love.''
Law wrote back him: ``Your written reflection (is) a beautiful testament to the depth of your faith. . . . It is important that all of us be reminded of the pain endured by those who have been accused.''
More from the Globe on the priestly "Prisoner of Love" who "initiated sexual acts with teenagers preparing to become nuns by encouraging them to believe they were making love to Jesus Christ himself":
Last night, the Rev. Robert V. Meffan admitted it was true, and said he still believes his sexual relationships with teenage girls were ''beautiful, spiritual'' experiences intended to bring young people closer to God.
''What I was trying to show them is that Christ is human and you should love him as a human being,'' said Meffan, 73, reached by phone at his Carver home. ''Don't think he's up there and he's spiritual and he's not human and physical. He's human, he's physical. That's what I was trying to point out to them. I felt that by having this little bit of intimacy with them that this is what it would be like with Christ.''
But Meffan said he put limits on the physical nature of the relationships. He touched the girls' breasts, for example, but stopped short of intercourse to protect his celibacy vow. ''I don't think that was destroyed,'' Meffan said, ''because I always felt that to destroy celibacy you really had to have intercourse.''
In a Dec. 7, 1984, letter, Bishop Daniel A. Hart informed Cardinal Bernard F. Law that Meffan had said he ''has a `mission' confided to him by God which he is bound to keep secret ... This `mission' makes it impossible for him to accept any regular assignment from you.''
Hart's letter prompted Bishop John M. D'Arcy to write to Law on Jan. 24, 1985, declaring that Meffan, who was unassigned at the time, was not ''balanced'' and ''could really harm us.''
Still, Law reassigned Meffan to St. Thecla Parish in Pembroke in December 1985, where he remained until Law placed him on leave in July 1993.
In June 1996, Meffan was granted ''senior priest/retirement status'' but with restrictions on his role as a priest. The following month, Meffan sent Law an essay in which he lamented his removal from public ministry, calling himself ''a prisoner of love in a cell of allegations.''
In a reply letter, Law called Meffan's essay ''a beautiful testament to the depth of your faith and the courage of your heart .... You have touched me deeply, Bob.''
From The Spectator, a report on the opening of the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum:
Among the objects to catch my eye were a 19th-century boar-tusk bracelet worn by a hula dancer, an opium display — pipes and a ball of the stuff, with a special scale to weigh it — and the different objects used as currency, whether it’s the Katanga copper crosses used in the Congo or the twisted iron rods (‘Kissie Penny’) favoured in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
It is not just to the 19th century, when the Empire was the largest the world has ever known, that the mind returns again and again, but also to its waning in the early 20th century. Why is it that the most emotive adverts seem to be for Fry’s Pure Soluble Breakfast Cocoa and Wincarnis tonic wine, for Camp coffee, Horniman’s tea and Player’s Empire Navy Cut cigarettes? Does your reviewer need a sola topi and the echo of Noël Coward to engage with this vanished world? No, the imagination is brisk enough. It must be something to do with period humour or the historical appreciation of decline and fall. And it must be for similar reasons that I find the boast of one 1930s missionary propaganda film so poignant: ‘Mill Hill sheds light on the dark places of the earth.’ I wish it still did, so buoyantly. In part it is the definiteness of our forebears, their extraordinary certainty, which makes for such intoxicating viewing. Oh, for things to be so simple! (Another myth, of course, but a cherished one.)
Coloured Prejudice: Also from The Spectator, this noteworthy report from Zambia on how mixed-race tribes in Africa look down on their black cousins.
The coloureds are a rigidly self-controlled and cohesive community. To qualify as a coloured you must have a portion, a drop, a soupçon of white blood in your veins. It’s not how much that matters; it’s whether it’s there at all. If it is, you’re coloured. Not black. Your actual complexion matters not at all.
This can lead to confusion. Early in my years here I fell into conversation with an elderly coloured lady. I knew that she was classed as ‘coloured’ because I’d been told so, but in truth she had the complexion of a pickled walnut. ‘Mr Russell,’ she asked me gravely, ‘are you British people not concerned about all the crimes committed by these awful black people?’
Once-respected Amnesty International has lost all credibility, writes Glenn Reynolds in conveying this column detailing the organization's "wilful stupidity" on Saddam.
Dartmouth Does Diversity: From the Weekly Standard, a report on the indoctrination in identity politics given students in Hanover, an early PC beachhead, where the storied college of Eleazer Wheelock and Daniel Webster has been reformed good and hard by multiculturalist Roundheads.
As for women and gays, Dartmouth's women's and gender studies department offers them a cornucopia of ego-massaging fluff, courses such as "Here and Queer," "Writing, Eating and the Construction of Gender," "Gender, Space and the Environment," "Constructing Black Womanhood," and "Television and Histories of Gender."
It would undoubtedly be possible to find black and female students who will tell you that they feel "damaged" by Dartmouth. The chance that this feeling represents objective injury rather than the eager consumption of academic victimology is almost nil. As Shelby Steele has forcefully observed, the burden of civil rights discourse today is to convince blacks that they are perennially weak, not strong. The same goes for feminist ideology.
Leftward Christian Soldiers:The mainstream media never tire of warning us against the dangerous machinations of the Christian right, typically caricatured as a wild-eyed cabal of homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic creationists itching to destroy our civil liberties and institute a theocratic rule. Yet we seldom hear about the Christian left, whose positions on public issues have little to do with Christian doctrine or values and everything to do with the stale, anti-American fundamentalism of the sort that used to festoon the pages of Pravda and these days can be found in The Nation or the loony fantasies of Noam Chomsky. More from FrontPageMagazine.com #
If by chance you have not yet seen it, this column by North Shore novelist Frank Schaeffer that ran recently in the Washington Post is a must-read:
Before my son became a Marine, I never thought much about who was defending me. Now when I read of the war on terrorism or the coming conflict in Iraq, it cuts to my heart. When I see a picture of a member of our military who has been killed, I read his or her name very carefully. Sometimes I cry.
In 1999, when the barrel-chested Marine recruiter showed up in dress blues and bedazzled my son John, I did not stand in the way. John was headstrong, and he seemed to understand these stern, clean men with straight backs and flawless uniforms. I did not. I live on the Volvo-driving, higher education-worshiping North Shore of Boston. I write novels for a living. I have never served in the military.
It had been hard enough sending my two older children off to Georgetown and New York University. John's enlisting was unexpected, so deeply unsettling. I did not relish the prospect of answering the question "So where is John going to college?" from the parents who were itching to tell me all about how their son or daughter was going to Harvard. At the private high school John attended, no other students were going into the military.
"But aren't the Marines terribly Southern?" asked one perplexed mother while standing next to me at the brunch following graduation. "What a waste, he was such a good student," said another parent. One parent (a professor at a nearby and rather famous university) spoke up at a school meeting and suggested that the school should "carefully evaluate what went wrong."
When John graduated from three months of boot camp on Parris Island, 3,000 parents and friends were on the parade deck stands. We parents and our Marines not only were of many races but also were representative of many economic classes. Many were poor. Some arrived crammed in the backs of pickups, others by bus. John told me that a lot of parents could not afford the trip.
My son has connected me to my country in a way that I was too selfish and insular to experience before. I feel closer to the waitress at our local diner than to some of my oldest friends. She has two sons in the Corps. They are facing the same dangers as my boy. When the guy who fixes my car asks me how John is doing, I know he means it. His younger brother is in the Navy.
Elvis is cold. Pat looked like the sort of guy Patriots fans would want to have a beer with. In fact, Pat looked like he'd already had a couple of beers. Pat had character. That was fitting, because he was from an era when the league had more characters. He looked tough -- not in a thuggish way, but in the same way as a rollicking sailor, coming down the gangplank of a whaler just returned to Nantucket.