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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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Irish Elk
Tuesday, July 30, 2002  
Catholic 'Born-Agains' – or Moonies?

Law, whose Masses in Boston this year have generally been greeted by protesters unhappy with his past failure to remove abusive priests from ministry, seemed delighted to be among a large group of young people celebrating their shared Catholic faith. He attempted, somewhat awkwardly, to join the youngsters in a rhythmic set of claps and hand gestures to a set of religious rock songs. He then taught them the verses and led them in singing a more traditional Christian praise song, ''Spirit of the Living God.'' After Mass ended, he spontaneously broke into a circle of dancers around a statue of Mary, asking the dancers, members of a global evangelical Catholic movement called the Neocatechumenal Way, to show him their steps. Boston Globe, July 27, 2002.

With all the discussion of VOTF, little attention has been paid to the influence in more conservative Catholic circles of such sects as the Neocatechumenal Way, which has a "born-again" emphasis evocative of Protestant evangelicalism, but which critics say has more in common with cults like the Moonies or Scientologists.

The NCs are big into World Youth Day, as Gerard Serafin observes in a favorable assessment of the movement. At an April meeting to prepare for WYD dozens of young members declared religious vocations en masse.

Two years ago, when the Pope celebrated a youth Mass on the Mount of the Beatitudes in the Holy Land, nearly half of the 75,000 pilgrims attending were reported to be members of the Neocatechumenal Way. The site of the Sermon of the Mount is where the NCs planned their international center, Domus Galilaeae, a grandiose project from which the Mormons and Freemasons might take pointers.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity that organizes World Youth Day also oversees the Neocatechumenal Way and recently approved its Statute, and is likewise involved with similar "ecclesial movements" like Opus Dei and Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

However, the more you read about "The Way," as it is called, the more odd and unsettling it appears. It's not every Vatican-approved faith movement that ends up listed on an Internet cult index along with Amway, Benny Hinn and the Jehovah's Witnesses. (Well, Opus Dei does, too.)

The Boston archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, which on July 19 ran a two-page spread on Holy See recognition of the Neocatechumenal way is edited by a member of the NC, as is the archdiocese's Spanish-language paper. Some at The Pilot have bemoaned what one longtime contributor of impeccably orthodox credentials has described as the "Opus Dei [expletives]" now running the paper.

There is much about the Neocatechumenal Way, founded in the 1960s by a guitar-playing Spanish artist, which would strike average Catholics as unorthodox. Their special liturgy, for one.

But the controlling and secretive – some would say cult-like – aspects of the movement are particularly troubling, say critics.

An eye-opening account of the NC is found in this excerpted chapter from The Pope's Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Church, by former Focolare member Gordon Urquhart.

Parishioners Against a Secret Church is a group that has taken a stand against the NC.

Here is the English-language version of a French site targeting the NC movement. (Warning to those of you at work: Hit the mute button on your speakers before visiting.)

And here is the text of an article that ran in the British newspaper The Guardian in 1996 and raised troubling questions about the NC. (Bold emphases mine.)

The Guardian (London)
March 2, 1996
LENGTH: 4974 words

The Pope loves them. He calls them 'our own sect' and looks to them to revitalise Catholicism. But in Britain, devout Church members are challenging the 'Neocatechumenate', which they see as an evil cult with a malign obsession with sin

BYLINE: Madeleine Bunting

Mervyn Alexander, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clifton, is a kindly, conciliatory man, but finds himself in an explosive situation. He is caught between a lobby of fiercely articulate local Catholics and the authority of the Papacy. At dispute is a secret Catholic movement with the unpronounceable name of the Neocatechumenate - understandably abbreviated to NC.

Opponents say the NC is an evil cult that psychologically damages adherents in its pursuit of power. The Pope heralds the movement as a glimmer of hope in the bleak landscape of shrinking Catholic congregations. In fact, John Paul II fondly talks of the Neocatechumenate as his beniamini, or favourite children; he sees this brand of Catholic fundamentalism as a powerful weapon in the global battle against Protestant evangelicalism. In an unfortunate turn of phrase, he christened it 'a sect of our own'.

Bishop Alexander has wriggled unhappily in the crossfire of this David and Goliath conflict. A few years off retirement, he has no inclination for a showdown with the Vatican, which, under its current incumbent, has established a reputation for dealing promptly and efficiently with wayward bishops. But, reluctantly, he has become one of the first senior members of the Church hierarchy in the UK to challenge the NC, which has its power base in Europe but has made inroads into Britain over the past 20 years. Last year, he barred the NC from proselytising any further in his diocese, and an inquiry into the sect has just started work. He has been under great pressure. Bishop Alexander's diocese includes parishes in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Bristol, where some of NC's most voluble critics are gathered. It has become an issue of excruciating embarrassment in the diocese where local papers sprinkle headlines with words like 'secret', 'cult' and 'brainwashing'.

And not, it appears, without some reason. From the descriptions of disillusioned former NC members, the movement combines 'born again' zeal with the methods of more sinister groups: secrecy, elitism, destruction of the individual, and the development of a group dependency. Miranda (an assumed name) was involved with the NC for six years. What first attracted her was the vibrant church services. There was a genuine spirituality and friendliness to the long mass said specially for the NC on Saturday evenings.

'It was very emotional but, rather than happy-clappy, it was grim. There was a huge emphasis on sin and suffering. They weren't afraid to talk about the more sordid sins such as homosexuality, adultery, sex before marriage and masturbation. They called a spade a spade. Sex and money were idols. It was like a form of group therapy.

'The idea is that you have to go down to understand your full unworthiness, in order to understand the love of God. This is standard teaching, but the NC took it upon itself to force that on you. Systematically, they began to destroy our dignity and self-worth.'

The history of the Catholic Church has been littered with secretive movements. Criticism has been levelled, for instance, at Opus Dei, the secret organisation of priests and laity that came out of Franco's Spain as a counter-balance to the leftist worker-priest tendency in the Church. Opus Dei, it is said, targets universities and seminaries in a bid to recruit an educated elite who will eventually move into positions of power.

The Neocatechumenate also originated in Spain. It was founded by a Spaniard, Kiko Arguello, in the slums of Madrid in 1964. The name comes from catechumenate, the word used by the Early Church for the period of instruction prior to baptism. Four years later, the NC moved to Rome and embarked on a worldwide expansion. Today it is still led by Arguello and a former nun, Carmen Hernandez, and is particularly strong in Italy and Spain. Its membership is put at somewhere between 500,000 and a million. Its progress in the UK has been hampered by adverse publicity in Catholic circles, but nevertheless it has established a seminary in London and bases in parishes in Ealing, Mile End, Peckham, Kensington – as well as Bristol, Cheltenham, Gloucester, St Albans and Glasgow.

The NC is a shadowy movement. Its headquarters in Rome are unmarked and, it seems, the phone is rarely answered. There is no literature available: all Arguello's teachings are transmitted orally. In England, my inquiries were passed around a bizarre circle of English, Spanish and Italian priests and eventually ran into the sand when it became clear my article might detail criticisms of the movement.

Former NC members are also nervous about talking - and cross with themselves for being so. They all insisted on anonymity. They feared that the most intimate details of their lives would be dredged up to discredit them. Many of them are deeply devout Catholics and still have difficulty teasing apart what they found wholesome and holy in the teachings of the NC and what they came gradually to perceive as manipulative and evil. For years they believed the NC was inspired by the Holy Spirit and was the work of God. They still recognise that many prominent NC members are wonderful people - warm, intelligent, devout - if terribly misguided. But slowly, painfully they became disillusioned. What they still have difficulty understanding is how the Pope can be wrong and how the Catholic hierarchy can tolerate such a movement. They demand to know, with a touchingly naive faith, why Cardinal Basil Hume hasn't done something.

What makes the NC such a fascinating case is that it lies at the point where orthodox religion and cults merge. This was the dangerous area revealed by Sheffield's Nine O'Clock Service, which showed how vulnerable a religiously illiterate generation is to spiritual abuse and how personally devastating the manipulation of faith can be.

'The Way' of the NC, as laid down by Arguello, consists of at least eight stages of induction and can take up to 20 years (reminiscent of 'The Process' for Scientologists). The idea is that you cannot properly call yourself a Christian until you have passed the first stages. Even priests and strong, cradle Catholics are described as 'pagans', with the effect that everything before, or outside, the NC is spiritually invalidated.

The NC starts by recruiting the priest of a parish; he then gives an open invitation to his congregation to attend a six-week course of two evenings a week. At the end, those still interested go away for a weekend for a 'convivence' where they are invited to form a community. 'Responsibles' are elected to help organise it, and a team of 'catechists' - longtime lay NC members - lead the community, which usually numbers about 40. There are, usually, several evenings of Bible reading a week as well as a long mass on Saturday evening. Complaints that the meetings leave little time for one's family prompt accusations that the member has 'idolised' his or her children.

The introduction is gentle, and there is a great emphasis on the voluntary nature of the commitment, which initially reassured members such as Miranda. It helped her to accept without demur that the teaching could not be questioned. 'They groomed us into passive acceptance. I can see that now.' Gradually, they introduced the idea that quiescence was a mark of holiness.

'Each community was isolated from others,' Miranda recalls. 'Those further along The Way never spoke about their experiences. We were taught to be secret - it was the disciplinum arcani, or the law of secrecy. They legitimised this with reference to the Early Christian Church. They justified a lot like that.' Miranda described how the teaching on obedience and submission (a constant theme) subtly changed over time. First it was cast in the context of obedience to God. Then, because the Church is the body of Christ, members were told to obey the Church - standard Catholic doctrine. But then, they extended the idea to claim that the NC was the Church, so members had to obey the NC.

'What they did was gradually build up a dependency culture. You must trust the NC because it has been given to you by God. You are a child in faith . . . We (the catechists) are adults in faith.' After several years in the NC, members are expected to refer every personal decision back to their catechist. One member reportedly had to have his vasectomy reversed. Marrying 'out' is disapproved of, and one member who married a non-NC was reminded of how God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Elizabeth, another former NC member, was told by a catechist: 'You must trust us completely. Even if we say that white wall is black, you must believe us and trust us.'

'The NC attracts people with low esteem who are depressed and emotionally mixed-up,' Miranda says. 'They are very clever and subtle - they know where to touch people who want to take faith seriously and manipulate that deep and sincere desire.' Each stage of The Way ends with a Scrutiny, the most controversial aspect of the NC spiritual discipline. The first one is relatively mild; it focuses on getting members to accept the suffering of their lives, just as Christ accepted the suffering of the Crucifixion. 'Turning the other cheek' is a dominant theme of the NC and can be taken to literal and horrifying lengths; one woman who was being beaten by her husband was told to submit. Miranda says: 'You're told at the First Scrutiny to sell your belongings and give them to the poor. We had to break the power of the idols to which we are all in thrall, such as money and sex.' It was not uncommon for members to give pounds 10,000 or more to charity. Members come under increasing pressure to contribute to the movement; black bin-liners are passed round and cheques written. The amount donated is announced immediately, and if it is not enough the bag goes round again. Eventually, communities agree to tithe - give a tenth of their income - to the NC.

It becomes increasingly difficult for members to leave the movement. The crunch comes at the Second Scrutiny, which is usually four to six years after the founding of the community. There is a big build-up and catechists urge members to prepare well. 'They told us that if we passed the Second Scrutiny, we wouldn't need to go through the Last Judgment. It would already have been done,' Miranda says. 'We were told it was a 'narrow door' which only opens if you are ready. They told us, 'We are Jesus Christ for you' - they were coming closer and closer to identifying themselves with God.' Mark found the Second Scrutiny shattering. Even now, years later, he struggles to stop himself crying at the memory. During the six weeks, he felt close to a nervous breakdown and suicidal. 'You're told that it is absolutely secret and you should never ever talk about it. I now know why. It is very psychologically violent. People's lives were opened up and questioned. They were after every detail of your sins. They wanted to break you down.'

Two or three times a week, the community has to meet; members sit in rows facing a panel of about seven catechists and a priest with notebooks and pencils. In front of the panel is a large cross and an empty chair. There are usually about a dozen NC members from other parishes as observers. One by one, each person in the community has to take the chair and is subjected to a scrutiny of their sins for about an hour. 'When you sat in the chair, they said, 'You are before Jesus Christ.' Eighty per cent of those scrutinised broke down and cried,' Mark recalls. 'They were very keen on sex. One man admitted he had been looking at pornography, and the catechist asked if the pornography was of men or women. There was a long pause, then he replied it was of women. Another evening we heard the gruesome details of a homosexual's confession.

'One girl had had a lot of trouble with her family; she had had a baby and they told her she was the type to kill it. Everything that had happened in your life was twisted to put the blame on you. For example, the son of an alcoholic mother was told that he had killed her . . . I felt spiritually abused and ashamed, embarrassed and guilty about it.' The panel judges whether the community as a whole has 'passed' or 'failed' the Scrutiny. Most communities fail and have to repeat the process the following year. Mark's community failed and was told there was 'a lot more to come out'.

Gordon Urquhart, author of The Pope's Armada, a book on three current fundamentalist movements in the Catholic Church, believes the NC is the most sinister. He identifies six 'cult' characteristics: elitism, secrecy, a living founder with a personality cult around him, practice of ego destruction, a strong hold over finances and a demand for blind obedience to the catechist.

Kiko Arguello's religious paintings are reproduced and distributed around NC centres, the services depend heavily on music he has written, and his sayings are frequently quoted, bizarre though they may be. For example, he once said parents hug their children because they want to murder them.

Faced with criticism, particularly in England and France, the NC has reacted defensively. Those who persecute it, Urquhart says, are referred to as 'Judases'; bishops who oppose it, as 'pharoahs'. Members draw parallels between themselves and the Franciscans - a much-loved order of monks and nuns devoted to poverty and charity - who were once persecuted by the Church. 'Where they score is that they get results. They get vocations to the priesthood and to religious orders. They get people into church,' says Urquhart.

This is part of their appeal for the Pope. They are Catholicism's answer to the rise of Protestant evangelism - indeed, the NC bears many of the characteristics of the worldwide rise of fundamentalism in all faiths.
John Paul II looks forward with increasing pessimism, and has seized upon the NC as a tool for revitalising the Church in the next century. In Rome itself, the practice of Catholicism is being virtually wiped out in a generation; the parishes with any vitality are NC. Its advocacy of huge families - it goes further than the Vatican and frowns even on natural family planning - provokes particular praise from the Pope.

At a mass in an NC parish in Rome celebrated by the Pope, he blessed their 'children who, thanks be to God, are numerous. They are also a cause for great hope because the world, secularised, dechristianised, agnostic, which no longer has faith in God, is losing faith in itself, is losing faith in man . . .' 'It seems that the faithful, those baptised years ago, are no longer strong enough to oppose secularisation and the ideologies which are contrary not only to the Church but also to religion in general,' said the Pope on the same occasion. 'You, with your Neocatechumenal Way, in different environments, try to rebuild what has broken down: you seek to rebuild it in a more authentic way, I would say, approaching the experience of the Early Church.'

Privately, few of the English Catholic hierarchy would endorse the Pope's enthusiasm for the Neocatechumenate. But none is prepared to suggest that this might be the delusion of an ageing Pontiff. When pressed, Cardinal Basil Hume issued a carefully-worded statement in which he pointed out that 'new movements have often been greeted with suspicion but have gone on to make a lasting contribution to the Church', but added the significant caveat, 'providing they have been willing to change and adapt'. His conclusion betrayed his reservations: 'The movement has its own particular ethos and way of doing things. The Cardinal is unsure how easily or how well it could be integrated in a diocese like Westminster.'

According to Urquhart, the Neocatechumenal Way is to operate a form of entryist tactics. In inner-city parishes with small residential congregations, they score remarkable success. Transforming dead, empty services, they build a thriving congregation. Guardian Angels, at Mile End in east London, was one of their first parishes nearly 20 years ago. Another centre at Ogle Street, central London, has similarly flourished. Those who don't like the new style of worship move to another church.

The conflicts come, says Urquhart, when they move into parishes that are already very active. The NC communities work like a parallel parish and systematically try to take over all the traditional activities, such as marriage preparation and children's confirmation programmes, antagonising other parishioners in the process. This is what provoked a campaign in the West Country.

Father John Hanvey was a curate in the Cheltenham parish of the Sacred Heart, an NC centre. He is still deeply confused about the NC: 'I was impressed initially, but there is more to it than meets the eye. It's a reaction to blatant secularism, but there's a feeling of exclusivity. I felt I was in the shadow of a cult, but maybe I took things too personally. On the other hand, a doctor in the parish listened to some of their catechesis and said the emphasis on sin was 'psychologically damaging'.'

Mary Whyte attends mass at the Sacred Heart every day. She began campaigning to get the NC out of the diocese years ago after hearing a catechesis that horrified her. 'The first talk lasted two and half hours. A married couple insisted on telling all the details of their stormy relationship, and an Italian priest yelled at us. When we didn't join, we were told we had immature faith.' She says the NC has bitterly divided the parish. The church used to be packed but many have drifted off to other parishes.

A fellow campaigner in the Clifton diocese is Ron Haynes, a lecturer in computer studies at Bristol University, who has studied the NC closely: 'They promulgate a view that the individual is a source of evil and sin and that salvation lies in the group. It is the elitism of the damned.' What worries Haynes is that good people get drawn into the NC because they see it as an official part of the Church backed by the Pope.

Whyte, Haynes and 10 others, all dedicated Catholics, formed a committee to put pressure on the Bishop of Clifton. Finally, last summer, they succeeded in getting the NC banned from further recruitment in the diocese as long as he was bishop.

And now, after long delays, a three-person panel in Bristol appointed by Bishop Alexander has begun the delicate task of investigating the Pope's 'favourite children'. One of the most senior priests in the Clifton diocese was sufficiently concerned to undertake his own investigation several years ago. Vicar-General Monsignor Joseph Buckley came to an unequivocal conclusion. In a Catholic magazine, he likened the methods of the NC to the totalitarianism of fascism and communism. He claimed that it used brainwashing techniques of repetitive music and phrases and made demands on members, in time and commitment, that threatened family life. He said it attracted the mentally weak and emotionally unstable with 'tragic consequences', while the commitment of adherents is 'properly named fanaticism'.

Monsignor Buckley sent a report on the NC to all the bishops in England and France. For his pains, he was described as 'meddlesome' by the Papal Nuncio to England.

The NC is never going to be a mass movement - it has no ambition to be one. Like any 20th-century revolutionary movement, it is preoccupied with the quality of its membership rather the quantity. It wants completely dedicated cadres to promote its agenda in the Church. Urquhart's greatest concern was the growing number of NC priests. At large ordination ceremonies in St Peter's, Rome, a sizeable number are now NC. With vocations steeply declining in Europe, the NC's ability to deliver priests will ensure it huge power. It has established several seminaries and it is not short of money. It is only a matter of time before these priests begin moving up the hierarchy and into positions of influence over the future direction of the Church.

In the meantime, a former NC member posed the questions Bishop Alexander and his panel must grapple with: 'Just how much does the Pope know about the NC? Are they really loyal to the Catholic Church, or to the NC? Are they using the Church for their own ends? Ultimately they want to take it over. The Catholic hierarchy needs to recognise what the NC is doing, decide whether it is acceptable, and find out exactly who is controlling the NC.'

Poor Bishop Alexander.


Monday, July 29, 2002  
Gentlemen, I am a Catholic.

As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. This is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads, every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative!" Hilaire Belloc, Liberal candidate for Parliament, in his maiden campaign speech before a largely Protestant crowd, Salford, England, 1906. He was elected.

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion. Edmund Burke, Speech to the Electors of Bristol, Nov. 3, 1774

Now compare to Leon Panetta.


Here comes the Sun

The New York Sun launches a website. Meantime, here's an article on the typography in what has been described as New York's first 19th-century newspaper of the 21st century.


Sunday, July 28, 2002  
Questions the Globe Didn't Ask

Massachusetts state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien, leading Democratic candidate for governor, with 2-year-old daughter Regan.

Shannon O'Brien, state treasurer and leading candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Massachusetts, was asked by the Boston Globe to describe "the biggest single accomplishment of her life." Her answer: "Raising my daughter has been, and continues to be, my single biggest accomplishment."

The profile of O'Brien doesn't answer a few questions that readily present themselves: How much time does she currently spend with her two-year-old daughter in between campaigning for governor and serving as state treasurer? How much time does she expect to spend with her daughter after she is elected governor?

The article states that O'Brien's husband is now caring full-time for the couple's daughter. (A big-bucks lobbyist, he put a hold on his Beacon Hill activities lest any conflict arise with his wife's gubernatorial bid. One gets the sense that political and ethics-laws concerns more than paternal instinct inspired his current hiatus in the role of Mister Mom.)

The article does not say, however, whether "caring full-time" means he actually stays home with the child all day – or puts the child in day-care while he goes about his affairs. (A noted Globe profile of current Governor Jane Swift's famously idle husband, Chuck Hunt, described him as a "stay-at-home dad" – but one who had the kids in day-care much of the time.)

We currently have a woman governor, Jane Swift, with three children ages three and under who live a three-hour drive from the state capital and whom she can rarely, if ever, see within normal waking hours. This arrangement makes Gov. Swift uniquely simpatico with the average working woman – or so she would have voters believe.

Now comes Treasurer O'Brien, the would-be Democratic successor, with much talk of education, and child-care, and progressive reform. (The Globe describes her conversion to support for abortion rights as "evolution.") Is it really progress, however, for a woman to become governor, extolling schools and early-childhood development, at the expense of being a mother who plays an active role in the care and nurturing of her very own toddler?

Mother. Or Governor? Which job is really more important?


Land o’ Mutated Puritans?

The Sacred Cod

What slogan would you pick to describe Massachusetts? The state's Office of Travel and Tourism is looking for a "concise and memorable" phrase to paint a picture of the Commonwealth, the previous one from the Dukakis era, "The Spirit of Massachusetts is the Spirit of America," having been recognized as a banality worthy of the ICEL. A contest to choose a new slogan is underway, with entries being taken through July 31 here.

Now I am a traditionalist when it comes to the totems of the home of the bean and the cod. I think the license plate should carry a picture of the fish that built New England and the nation, as it once did. And I lament that PC schoolchildren in Amherst were allowed to dictate the removal, on grounds of "sensitivity," the removal of the arrow through the Mass Pike pilgrim's hat.

Some over at Mark Shea's place might have some ideas on a fitting slogan for the Bay State. ("Come for the fumes of self-righteous liberalism, stay for the taxes"?)

But given the fortunes of the Red Sox, Cardinal Law, today's Ivy League intellectuals, various Kennedys, and governors from Michael Dukakis to Jane Swift, I'd choose the plaintive utterance of the leaf-skirted Indian on the original seal of the Massachusetts Bay Company: "Come over and help us."


Saturday, July 27, 2002  
If this cardinal’s rockin’, don’t come a-knockin.’ Captions, anyone?


Friday, July 26, 2002  
A resolve to uphold Latin

And We also, impelled by the weightiest of reasons -- the same as those which prompted Our Predecessors and provincial synods -- are fully determined to restore this language to its position of honor, and to do all We can to promote its study and use. The employment of Latin has recently been contested in many quarters, and many are asking what the mind of the Apostolic See is in this matter. We have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored.

We believe that We made Our own views on this subject sufficiently clear when We said to a number of eminent Latin scholars:

"It is a matter of regret that so many people, unaccountably dazzled by the marvelous progress of science, are taking it upon themselves to oust or restrict the study of Latin and other kindred subjects....Yet, in spite of the urgent need for science, Our own view is that the very contrary policy should be followed. The greatest impression is made on the mind by those things which correspond more closely to man's nature and dignity. And therefore the greatest zeal should be shown in the acquisition of whatever educates and ennobles the mind. Otherwise poor mortal creatures may well become like the machines they build -- cold, hard, and devoid of love."
Pope John XXIII, Veterum Sapientia, Feb. 2, 1962

A copy of Good Pope John's apostolic constitution on the promotion of the study of Latin is nice to have handy when a modern liturgist holds forth on the spirit of John XXIII. (So too a copy of Sacrosanctum Concilium, with articles 36, 54 and 116 circled, when discussion moves to the spirit of Vatican II.)


Jacobites, Renaissance glassblowing, Archduke Ferdinand &c: Other recent topics at Matthew Alexander's fine site on culture and the arts, history and religion include King Henry IV and the French Wars of Religion, the Sarum Use, Christian burial rites for 1,000-year-old Anglo Saxons and commemorations of Ypres. Most definitely one for the bookmark section.


"And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel." Gerard Serafin offers a tribute in words and pictures to smells and bells at Santiago de Compostela in Spain.


Taste for beauty – and good conversation – brought across Tiber

Shrine of Our Lady of the Atonement, San Antonio

The web site of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, an Anglican Use parish in San Antonio, hosts the St. Thomas of Canterbury Forum, billed as "an open-topic forum for those who seek the unity of all Christians." If you care about traditional liturgy and appreciate the merits of the fiddleback chasuble, you may want to pay the board a visit.


Thursday, July 25, 2002  
Thou fusty tickle-brained joithead! Appeal to your inner Elizabethan masochist with the Shakespearian insult generator.


Saving souls through painting: Kinkade does not always seem quite as humble as his hype. He claims that just as the Impressionists of the late 19th century reacted to the ‘dead art’ of the preceding era, so his own painting redeemed corrupt Modernist art in the late 20th century. He now wants to establish an Academy of Traditional Art to honour representational artists with Academy Awards. ‘I’m on a crusade to turn the tide,’ he told one interviewer. ‘History will record me as a cultural revolutionary.’ Convinced, like many God-fearing Americans, that he is living in the End Times, Kinkade also believes that by ‘blanket[ing] the world with the gospel through prints’ he will save souls in time for the Second Coming of Christ. Mary Wakefield writes on the Painter of Light for The Spectator.


The latest from the school that gave Peter Singer a chair in ethics.


Gloria, si, glossolalia, no: The Goliard weighs in brilliantly on the charismatic movement, while maintaining kitsch, however well-intentioned, is still kitsch.


On the VOTF, a challenge to St. Bloggers to do more than criticize

Artist Maureen Mullarkey writes: Your comment about the various agendas within VOTF is, sadly, too true. One workshop, "Creating a Sexually Safe Parish," was given by Debra Haffner, a former Director of Counseling, Education & Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood. Yet that significant item in her CV was omitted from her bio in the conference brochure.

Support for abortion was a
sotto voce but real presence in the literature rack. [e.g. Michele Dillon's "Catholic Identity: Balancing Reason, Faith & Power" was on sale. After speaking on the panel "Who & What Will Shape the Future Church," she made herself available for book signings. As did Leonard Swidler and others.] Dillon's book is sympathetic to Catholics for a Free Choice. And she quotes a theologian: "Abortion . . . is an area where there's a lot of biological issues that have to be sorted through about what a fetus is and all of that." Oh? Neither Prof. Dillon nor her theologian seem to have ever seen a sonogram.

James Carroll--sententious and juvenile--raised his voice like a closed fist to celebrate the fact that now, at Mass, we longer kneel. My heart fell hearing him.

At the same time, Mark, if VOTF is hijacked it will be, in part, because young, thoughtful Catholics--like the parishioners of St. Blog's—would prefer to disdain its intentions. It was formed, essentially, to confront the ugly abuse of power [the Cover-up] at the heart of the Situation. It is not enough to deplore the sins against justice and charity committed by our hierarchy. Those sins have to be recognized for what they are, checked and guarded against.

But how? Where are the ideas from the St. Blogger's? All that is offered is condescension. There were a few under-40's in attendance. Their contribution was largely of the we-want-a-liturgy-that-is-relevant-to-us stripe.

I am not one of those good women you refer to, Mark. At the same time, I am uncomfortable with the pious hauteur of younger members of the online congregation. When our Church begins to look like the Portrait of DorianGray, it just isn't enough to pose in the choir loft as superior to those recoiling--perhaps ineptly--from the sight.



The Flummery Digest: It has been said that politics is the art of the possible. It is also the art of the silly and the dangerous, Michael Sierra writes in an introduction to his enormously entertaining site chronicling PC excess. I started collecting all sorts of offbeat news items early in the '90s for my own amusement and sanity, but it soon became my primary interest to document the multifarious phenomena known as "political correctness." I'm well aware of the tendency to define this term loosely to mean "any closely held view I don't approve of," and I'm not sure I'm offering anything better here. Yet while I believe both Left and Right entertain all sorts of smelly orthodoxies (to use Orwell's term), self-styled progressives have always had particular trouble recognizing limits to the sort of progress they seek. As a result, traditional liberal expectations of government activity often slip the tethers of plausibility…

I must warn you that if you are overly sensitive or if you identify yourself closely with the fortunes of various grievance groups, reading this anthology will not be cause for great joy. Even if that's not the case and if you are as insensitive as I am, reading too much in one sitting may still give you a bad case of the shakes. Medical vaccination involves a weak dose of a disabled form of a pathogen; a political vaccination requires quite the opposite.


The Politburo: Culture, politics, history and more at this site waging a frontal assault on leftist bias. First-rate.


Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which you are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being shocked. It may be that your grandmother was an extremely lively and vital animal, and that you are a paralytic. G. K. Chesterton, As I Was Saying

Joshua Claybourn writes on what passes today for popular music, which tends to bolster Henry Adams' theory of social devolution.

The Fortunes of Permanence: Roger Kimball writes in The New Criterion.


Radical History: Harvey Klehr and John Early Haynes write in The New Criterion of the leftist orthodoxy of today's historical profession, while Ronald Radosh writes in National Review of the red-diaper pedigree of one of the nation's most acclaimed historians.

Attempting to restore needed balance is The Historical Society, a scholarly association based at Boston University that seeks to "revitalize the study and teaching of history by reorienting the historical profession toward an accessible, integrated history free from fragmentation, over-specialization, and political proscription."

For crunchy conservative readers, here is an excerpt from an article by Victor Davis Hanson for The Journal of the Historical Society, "Agricultural Equilibrium, Ancient and Modern":

Physical labor for oneself was the perfect arena in which to match word with deed, and it grounded the entire Greek notion of both physical and mental excellence the day laborer who worked for wages and the wealthy, idle, and absentee property owner alike were marginalized in cultural, military, and social terms. And because, unlike later political theory, the Greeks believed constitutions were supposed to improve the moral quality of the populace, it made perfect sense that the equilibrium found in yeomanry should be replicated on a community level: the family that produced food on its own, improved its own parcel of ground, and sought to maximize production without exploitation of its peers produced citizens ideal for the responsibilities of constitutional government, the challenges of shock warfare between phalanxes, and the independence necessary to ward off challenges from both the wealthy and poor. What followed were the social, political, ethical, and military institutions of the city-state itself that promoted progress within the careful confines of existing communitarian institutions.


In high gear: Editor Michael Kelly has put The Atlantic on the fast track, reports the Globe.



Fr. Jim Tucker puts the brakes to speculation on women cardinals: The chief problem with lady Cardinals is that the Cardinals are always clergy of the City of Rome, which is why they're given a church in the City and why they're divided into the ranks of Cardinal-Bishops, -Priests, and -Deacons. Their tie to the Pope (and the reason they get to vote for a new one) is in virtue of their being the "hinge" clerics of his diocese.

The so-called "lay Cardinals" of the past were all (to my knowledge) ordained clerics: the post-V2 mind stumbles and calls them laymen because we've forgotten about the minor orders, which (even if they weren't a sacrament) were indeed (and, in the Eastern Churches, still are) ordinations to the clergy. They were also much easier to get out of than were the major orders: so, if you're the scion of a powerful family and are a Cardinal ordained to the lectorate, and then along comes a great marriage proposal that would serve the family... you can just return to the lay state, give up the Cardinal's hat, and get hitched. Charles Borromeo was faced with precisely that dilemma.

Anyway, that clerical character is why Cardinals should always be men. To say nothing of how silly it would look to have women dressed in pontificals, which Cardinals may use even if they aren't bishops, or even birettas.

I do rather like the idea of mitred abbesses, though. And minor orders.

Be sure to visit Fr. Tucker's site. Highly recommended: His recent posts on Jacobites, priestly vestments and life at the North American College.


On that venerable Chicago watering-hole, the Billy Goat, reader Bob Kunz writes: Billy Goat Tavern was actually a haunt for Front-Page-types from a number of Chicago dailies based in the neighborhood, including the Tribune, Sun-Times (located across Michigan Avenue from the Tribune), the Daily News (Mike Royko's real newspaper home), and Chicago's American (later called Today). The last two died in 1978 and 1974, respectively. Point being Billy Goat is neck deep in newsprint from a long-gone era, the Tribune being the somewhat effete member of the crew.


Ned Martin Remembered: The longtime voice of the Red Sox, who died at 78 the day after the Ted Williams commemoration at Fenway Park, was "a principal tour guide at the time baseball interest here rekindled in 1966, then exploded across New England in 1967…When Rico Petrocelli caught the pop fly that set off that season's unforgettable pennant celebration, it was Martin who intoned, 'and there's pandemonium on the field.'"


Wednesday, July 24, 2002  
The Good Republic

Not every league has a team called the Tories. For nearly 70 years the Intertown Twilight League on Cape Ann has fostered the national pastime on a small-town scale in one of the most beautiful corners of the country. Here's an article from a few summers back:

The Boston Globe
August 1, 1999, Sunday, City Edition

HEADLINE: In twilight, they play on;
Quirky baseball parks add charm to Cape Ann league;

BYLINE: By Mark Sullivan, Globe Correspondent

ROCKPORT - To play right field at Evans Field, home of the Rockport Townies baseball team of the Intertown Twilight League, it helps to have a little mountain goat in your blood.

About 200 feet from home plate down the line in right, the field begins a sharp 45-degree ascent, climbing perhaps 25 feet before meeting the woods that form a natural outfield fence.

Imagine a fielder perched on a ledge halfway up the Wall at Fenway, with trees instead of netting behind, and you have an idea of the tableau facing a batter as he peers into right at Evans Field.

"It's our Green Monster," said Townies rightfielder Bruce Emerson, 38, who for more than 20 years has patrolled the Rockport outfield like an Alpine chamois. "You have to get used to playing it."

Quaint fields and quirky ground rules are part of the charm of the seven-team Intertown Twilight League on Cape Ann, at 66 one of the oldest amateur baseball leagues in the country.

There's a tank in the outfield at Patton Park, home of the Hamilton Generals, and pitchers rue the 300-foot short porch in center at the Manchester Mariners' field, where pop flies travel for homers when the wind is blowing out.

And then there's Rockport's cozy 70-year-old Evans Field, where the outfield hill in right field might remind old-timers of Duffy's Cliff in left at Fenway. Fly balls hit into the woods in right count for ground-rule doubles, and where the difference between a two-base hit and a homer can be a bush or a swath of high grass.

"Sometimes when you have 'invisible lines,' you have to make 'invisible calls,' " said league umpire-in-chief Cal Grimes, 53, an Essex police officer when not calling balls and strikes.

But if the occasional rhubarb is not unknown, said Grimes, a sense of sportsmanship prevails in the league, which includes teams from Ipswich, Essex, Rowley and Topsfield as well as Hamilton, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Rockport.

"What I like about this league is the town-team concept of us against you," said Grimes, a former player and coach with the Essex Shipbuilders.

"The players have a couple of beers or soft drinks after the game, but when they're on the field, they're very competitive," he said. "There's an old-town-team tradition of spirit on the field and camaraderie off it."

While Rockport may have the nickname, all in this league are "Townies." Players are current or former residents of the towns for which they play, though Rockport, Essex, and Manchester-by-the-Sea are allowed also to take players from the city of Gloucester, which doesn't have a team.

"Many families have fathers, grandfathers and uncles who have played," said league scorer Terry Poste of Gloucester, who as a girl would join her grandfather on the bench as he coached the Hamilton team. "It's nice to see that."

Local pride and a love of baseball run as deep as lobster pots along this craggy outcropping of the Massachusetts coast.

"Fishermen and lobstermen have put in a full day of work and are looking for relaxation," said merchant Dale Herdman, a Gloucester native who sells Townies hats and shirts at his Sports Fan Emporium on Bearskin Neck in Rockport.

"Baseball is their outlet," Herdman said. "You can't make it to the pros, but every man has his dream. They play for the love of the game, pure and simple."

Natural rivalries abound in the neighboring seaport towns of the Cape, observed Rockport catcher Dominic Nicastro, 21, of Gloucester. "You have the bragging rights," he said. "Who's got the best clams? Who's got the best baseball team?"

Winning the title is cause for civic rejoicing. Rockport general manager James "Jade" Donaldson played second base for the Townies when the team copped its first championship in 1980 and still counts the experience among his greatest thrills.

"They took us all around town on the fire trucks," he recalled. "It was a Saturday night, and the town was mobbed. They carried us all the way down Bearskin Neck."

Rockport has since won six championships, to nine for league powerhouse Manchester, which has gone to the playoff final for 14 years straight. But Donaldson noted: "The first is always the most exciting."

First place was on the line and thundershowers threatened as Rockport and the Ipswich Chiefs met at Evans Field last Sunday. Host Rockport won in come-from-behind fashion, 6-4.

The field's turreted granite grandstand, which resembles an Adirondack hunting lodge and is so close to play that fans wisely remain on guard for ricocheting foul balls, provided shelter when the skies opened in the first. Players took cover under the roof and in the clubhouse.

When the showers passed, the players themselves took up the protective tarpaulins from the field, and wielded rakes and long-handled squeegees to remove water from the basepaths. "This is the only town in the league where you'll see guys doing this," mused Donaldson, 57, puffing a stogie as he looked on with his rain-soaked dog, Coco.

The rain was not going to deter Rockport manager Mike "Mex" Frontierro, 38, a stocky former catcher for the Townies. "We're going to play," he declared, surveying the raindrops. "I don't care; we're going to play."

A passion for the American pastime binds these players, who include clam-diggers and computer programmers. Several work as athletic instructors in local schools.

Cape Ann is known as a haven for artists, and the Rockport nine was guided for many years by the late Aldo Hibbard, an acclaimed landscape painter. Writers, too, have found a place in the league.

Nicastro is a stringer for the sports desk of the Gloucester Times, while Townies left-fielder Jay Lindsay is a reporter in the Boston bureau of the Associated Press. Both scribes homered in the Rockport victory.

"I've always loved the game," said Lindsay, 29, who lives in Hamilton. "You play it as long as you can."

Most of the players in the league are college or former college and high school players, and the caliber of baseball is high.

Rockport in recent years has fielded team captains from Salem State, Northeastern University, Bryant College, and the University of Massachusetts at Boston, said Donaldson. One-time Ipswich star Gardner O'Flynn has been a standout pitcher with the Massachusetts Mad Dogs of the independent Northern League.

"I'll tell you - defensively, sometimes we look like major leaguers," Donaldson said. "These kids can play."

Ipswich player-coach Bob Greenleaf made a catch in left field last Sunday worthy of a highlight reel. Like Willie Mays in the old Polo Grounds, he turned his back to the plate and galloped back, making an over-the-shoulder grab of a 330-foot fly.

"It's not a fool-around thing," Donaldson said. "It's serious."

Said Nicastro as he strapped on his shin guards and chest protector: "We've got players [ in the major leagues] getting paid billions of dollars to play this game, and all the contractual disputes. We play for the fun of it."

At 5:30 tonight, the Topsfield Tories visit Rockport to take on the Townies at Evans Field.

The league's 24-game regular season, which began Memorial Day weekend, ends this Friday. The top four teams in the standings will go to the playoffs, with a best-of-three semifinal series starting next Sunday and running through Aug. 13, followed by a best-of-five championship series Aug. 15-22.

The season is too fleeting for Frontierro, whose field of dreams lies between the Rockport commuter-rail tracks and the most unusual outfield hill around.

"This absolutely is heaven," he said as he surveyed the green of Evans Field.


Art is Man's nature. Edmund Burke...More from Rod Dreher on conservatives and beauty.


Why not women cardinals? Mark Shea writes: One of the ticking time bombs left by this papacy (which no one has noticed yet) is that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, in making it clear the priestly office is all we are talking about with respect to women, is that there is now a much clearer possibility for a lay woman to be made a cardinal. We've had lay cardinals in the past. So there's no particular reason we couldn't have them again--and that some of them could be women. I'd be in favor of it, so long as they are orthodox.

And why not? My first nominee: Mary Ann Glendon.


There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn. Samuel Johnson

John Sloan, McSorley's Bar, 1912

Having followed with interest the ongoing give-and-take over crunchy conservatism, I would add my hearty endorsement of the good and true, the small and beautiful. Yet I must say I have little taste for granola. And the notion of spending time shucking peas from the natural-food aisles of Bread & Circus does not appeal to me, though it does to others, and I say, good luck to them and the Red Sox.

Good coffee, though, rates high in my book. So does fine ale (though more in theory than in practice, these days, the care of children leaving little time to idle in bars.) The Good Republic, in my view, has a used-book shop, a coffeehouse, a good newspaper, a church with high altar intact, and a pub of character.

Here, offered in the spirit of an urban Agrarian Chesterbelloc whose agricultural fancies extend largely to Sumatra beans and hops and barley, is a tribute to a few of the small local institutions that stand at the heart of organic society as repositories of regional flavor and bonhomie: The taverns.

Tune Inn, 331-1/2 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Washington, DC. Venerable corner bar, blocks from the Capitol, has National Bohemian on tap, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams on the jukebox and road-kill on the walls. I get nostalgic just thinking about the place.

Billy Goat Tavern, 430 N. Lower Michigan Ave., Chicago. Inspired the "Cheeseborger, Cheeseborger" sketch on the old Saturday Night Live. Located under Michigan Avenue, on a street below a street, reached by subway-like stairs. Haunt of reporters from the nearby Tribune. In 1945, the owner tried to get his mascot goat into Wrigley Field for a World Series game and was turned away. He pronounced a "Curse of the Billy Goat" on the Cubs that some blame for the team's lack of a championship since.

The Plough & Stars, 912 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. The literary journal Ploughshares was conceived here over pints of Guinness. Surf music on Sunday nights.

The Dugout, 718 Comm. Ave., Boston. Shared haunt of Boston University students and buildings-and-groundsmen. Subterranean bar located at what was the midpoint between Fenway Park and the old Braves Field. Let the Ivy Leaguers have their finals clubs – this was mine when I was at BU.

Further installments now and again. Nominations welcomed. – MCNS


'I AM staring,' said MacIan at last, 'at that which shall judge us both.'

'Oh yes,' said Turnbull in a tired way; 'I suppose you mean God.'

'No, I don't,' said MacIan, shaking his head, 'I mean him.' And he pointed to the half-tipsy yokel who was ploughing, down the road. 'I mean him. He goes out in the early dawn; he digs or he ploughs a field. Then he comes back and drinks ale, and then he sings a song. All your philosophies and political systems are young compared to him. All your hoary cathedrals -- yes, even the Eternal Church on earth is new compared to him. The most mouldering gods in the British Museum are new facts beside him. It is he who in the end shall judge us all. I am going to ask him which of us is right.'

'Ask that intoxicated turnip-eater?'

'Yes -- which of us is right. Oh, you have long words and I have long words; and I talk of every man being the image of God; and you talk of every man being a citizen and enlightened enough to govern. But, if every man typifies God, there is God. If every man is an enlightened citizen, there is your enlightened citizen. The first man one meets is always man. Let us catch him up.'

G. K. Chesterton, The Ball and the Cross


The difference between Israeli and Palestinian attacks in which innocent lives are lost: Civilian deaths are the purpose, not a regrettable side effect, of Hamas attacks, notes James Taranto at Best of the Web.

Meantime, John Podhoretz of the New York Post relates what the Geneva Convention has to say about combatants who use civilians as human camouflage. We can't argue about who's responsible for the 15 deaths and 100-plus injuries in the Gaza City attack on Tuesday, he writes. The responsible party is Hamas. The responsible party is Salah Shehada, who was already responsible for hundreds of deaths for which he was gleefully proud. May he rot in Hell.


Tuesday, July 23, 2002  
Bishops who Profaned Sacraments Lectured by Priest who Trashed Sanctuary

The great majority of members of Voice of the Faithful are earnest and dedicated lay Catholics who care about the Church, who do its work on the parish level and who sincerely hope to make the institution better. My mother, God love her, is one of them. Had the ecclesiocracy been doing its job and promoting the Faith rather than scandal, these good people in the pews – the people who do the readings and help give out Communion at Mass, who take the Eucharist to the sick, who support the parochial schools and who organize parish events from Bingo to bean suppers – would not have been moved to take up the campaign banners. They mean well, and are to be wished well, with the hope that good may come of their efforts.

Yet the well-meaning members of VOTF also are advised to be wary: Lay people can be as abusive of power as any clergy – ever tried negotiating with a liturgist? Trading hidebound bishops for a self-appointed "expert" class of Theology PhDs would be no improvement. And it's easy for popular movements to be highjacked by activists with definite – but not always clearly revealed – agendas. While the VOTF says its aim is to play it down the middle, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and too great an emphasis on genteel "consensus" can result in the most pushy – and most radical – seizing the day. Happens all the time in Town Meetings and Faculty Club debates.

Call to Action types are drawn to this type of thing as moths to a flame. As a 1948 Henry Wallace Progressive might note, beware who's actually pulling the strings while you're happily singing along to your Pete Seeger record of "Wabash Cannonball."

Consider, for example, the Rev. William Kremmell, who said the Mass and gave the homily at the VOTF conference in Boston this past weekend. The Boston Globe reported:

Despite concerns by some Voice of the Faithful leaders that the Archdiocese of Boston might attempt to bar them from celebrating the central ritual of Catholic Christian faith, the group closed its daylong convention with a Mass said by the Rev. William Kremmell, a diocesan priest who serves as chaplain to Regis and Framingham State colleges. Kremmell was clearly unafraid of any repercussions - he opened the Mass by noting that 25 years ago any Catholic convention of this size would have tried to persuade a bishop to celebrate Mass for them - prompting laughter from the crowd; he said that in 25 years, "hopefully," a married woman might be presiding over such a Mass; and he allowed laymen and women to join him in reading the Gospel, a task normally reserved for priests. His homily was greeted with applause when he declared: "No more abuse."

It was not the first time Fr. Kremmell had struck a maverick tone in the pulpit. Here is an excerpt from his essay "The Use of Media in the Liturgy," which was published in Reading, Preaching and Celebrating the Word, edited by J. Paul Marcoux [apparently not the Weakland one] (Sunday Publications, 1980):

I once introduced a sermon on ecology by dumping a bag of trash in the sanctuary. I noted the shock of many people in the congregation, and suggested that they should be equally shocked at the litter on the sidewalks and streets of our community, since God is likewise present there and our neighborhoods are therefore as holy as the sanctuary of the Church building. On another occasion (the Feast of Christ the King) I placed a television set on a table in the sanctuary; I put lighted candles on either side of the T.V.; and I asked the people in the congregation: "Who or what is enthroned and given the greater place of honor in our homes, Christ our King, or the television set?" On one Easter Sunday, I gave my homily while seated atop an eight foot ladder in front of the altar. I suggested that we all want to be UP, to be on top of things in our life, and that this is Christ's ultimate promise to us through his Resurrection. I have used masks on Halloween, helium-filled balloons for the Ascension, and once I used a sledge hammer to break down the walls that separate us from one another, even at Mass. I have used many visuals (some people might be tempted to call them "gimmicks") which are the stuff of our people, just as Jesus used the fig trees and vineyards were the stuff of His people. I have used drama and have involved the congregation in the action; they have enjoyed it, and through it they have grown in their appreciation of the gospel message.

Thus the VOTF spectacle: Bishops who profaned the sacraments by abetting child molesters being lectured by a priest who literally trashed the sanctuary. It is a sad commentary on the current Situation that the latter, in this case, is ceded the moral high ground.


Monday, July 22, 2002  
In Mexican churches, art for the greater glory of God

Dome and Retablo, Domestic Chapel, Temple, Tepotzotlan, Mexico. Photo by Carolyn Brown.

It sometimes seems the liturgical domos most keen on incorporating campesino guitars and other Latin American folk trappings at Mass also are the ones eager to remodel churches into modernist worship spaces deemed more suitable to the assembly and the spirit of Vatican II.

Yet just look at the glorious flourishes in these Mexican churches photographed by Carolyn Brown. Why don't the North American liturgical champions of the folk guitar also call for ornate altars such as these, which reflect the tastes – and speak to the hearts – of the faithful who pray before them?


A Pilgrimage

A handful of red clay scooped from the warning track along the Green Monster resides in my back pocket as I type this post. The Red Sox ownership opened Fenway Park to the fans today as part of a tribute to the late Ted Williams, who will be commemorated in a ceremony at the ballpark tonight. How many chances do you get to actually walk around on the field at Fenway Park? On my lunch hour I snuck off to Kenmore Square and joined the thousands, young and old, who turned out to stroll the Fenway greensward. The outfield was turned into a shrine to the late No. 9, with historic pictures and his Hall of Fame plaque hung on the green walls, and parents pushing babies in strollers posing for photos with Marine honor guards. Visitors jostled to touch the scoreboard, to take a seat in the third-base dugout, to perch for snaps atop the bullpen fence, to crane their necks and peer to the top of the Green Monster. It was like being allowed inside the sanctuary of a baseball cathedral, and it was magnificent.

Sox play to clinch the American League pennant, September 1967.


Bad Art for the People

Take a breather from the debate over Thomas Kinkade by making an online visit to the Museum of Bad Art, dedicated to "the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms and in all its glory."

The pieces in the MOBA collection range from the work of talented artists that have gone awry, to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists barely in control of the brush. What they all have in common is a special quality that sets them apart in one way or another from the merely incompetent.


Much good stuff at Goliard Blog: Thos Kinkade, granola conservatives and more. Worth a visit.


Mark Cameron is back: With an account of Rev. Raymond de Souza's ordination, and thoughts on "granola conservatives," globalization, gay marriages, Humanae Vitae &c.


Friday, July 19, 2002  
In Defense of Thos Kinkade: Joshua Claybourn, aficionado of the "Painter of Light," writes.


Green Conservatism

If painting and sculptures are made for the purpose of being viewed in the carefully studied surroundings of art galleries, they have certainly lost their intimate connection with life. What is a picture for, if not to put on one's own wall?...The proposition is as absurd as this: Should we eat our meals regularly from crude, thick dishes like those used in Greek restaurants, but go on solemn occasions to a restaurant museum where somebody's munificence would permit us to enjoy a meal on china of the most delicate design? The truly artistic life is surely that in which the aesthetic experience is not curtained off but is mixed up with all sorts of instruments and occupations pertaining to the round of daily life. Donald Davidson, "A Mirror for Artists," I'll Take My Stand

The similarities have been noted between Jeffersonian agrarianism and Chesterbelloc distributism. Indeed, some Chestertonian champions of the "small is beautiful" school would seem to find a natural home in the Green Party, had that group not been hijacked by the anarcho-woolyheads of the anti-globalist Left. Rod Dreher's much-remarked-upon recent piece on Birkenstocked Burkeans has brought new attention to the common ground uniting counterculturalists on left and right.

For more on the agrarian tradition, read excerpts from I'll Take My Stand at the site of the Agrarian Foundation, and sample some of Chesterton's writings on distributism. And here, read Green praise for Burke's "little platoons" of society.


How Conservative Are You? I scored a 32 on this quiz, putting me just to the right of Jack Kemp and just to the left of Bob Dole. Somewhere, my Democratic ancestors spin in their graves.


Protect Your Children. Here's How: Valuable tips from Gregory Popcak at Heart, Mind and Strength.


Wednesday, July 17, 2002  
Suum Cuique

The Latin phrase meaning "to each his own," brought to mind by a discussion elsewhere of the relative merit of the art of Thomas Kinkade, serves as the motto behind the bar of a venerable Boston institution, Jacob Wirth Restaurant in the Theater District.

The historian Samuel Eliot Morison used to lunch there as a boy after Mass at the Anglo-Catholic Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill. The Hall of Fame plaques on the wall honoring great Red Sox players stop somewhere around Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove. German sausage and house dark highlight the menu at Jake Wirth's, which still appears much as it did in the 19th century.

Definitely Ad O's idea of a restaurant.

John Maihos offers a review of the restaurant and its history at About.com. Here's a Tufts site offering a tribute to Jake Wirth's in German. And here's the recipe for their sauerbraten.


Where's Tammy Faye?

Were I assembling an online gallery celebrating the 20th anniversary of EWTN, I might not choose this picture.

This one's pretty good, though. Find the Pope in the pizza?


We Are the World? The latest from Up With People?

Nope, it's the World Youth Day 2002 theme song from – you guessed it! – Oregon Catholic Press.

Now, with the click of a mouse, experience the treacle of OCP without waiting for Sunday Mass at your local parish, via the wonder of OCP Publications Radio. (Warning: Proceed at own risk. May be harmful to members of the Schultz family and others with low tolerance for musical smarm. Do not attempt to operate thuribles after listening.)


Friday, July 12, 2002  

July 14 is the anniversary of the Oxford Movement. Visit Dave Armstrong's site for a Cardinal Newman cornucopia.



"Ted Williams is who John Wayne wanted to be when he grew up:" Geoffrey Norman and Michael Long on the man called "The Kid."


Terror apologist may soon head Church of England: Dr. Williams is often described here as something of a saint, Rev. Peter Mullen, chaplain to the London Stock Exchange, writes. In fact, he is an old-fashioned class warrior, a typical bien-pensant despiser of Western capitalism and the way of life that goes with it. Perhaps this would not matter much in ordinary times, but when the future of Western civilization itself is under threat, such posturing is suicidal. What havoc this man might wreak from the throne of Canterbury.


Birkenstocked Burkeans: National Review's Rod Dreher offers the confessions of a granola conservative.


Thursday, July 11, 2002  
A tribute to the Ambrosian Rite

on the occasion of the retirement of Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, SJ, and the appointment of Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi as his successor in Milan. According to Dappled Things, Cardinal Tettamanzi has been mentioned as papabile. Hope for a wider use of such ancient and beautiful forms of liturgy as the Milanese?


Marty Haugen Unplugged

Raise high the earthenware chalices as you join in these standards by Marty Haugen, the Cole Porter of the Kumbaya set.

"One Ohana" and "Creation" from Tales of Wonder: A Musical Storytelling

"All You Works of God" from How Can I Keep From Singing?

"Canticle of the Sun" and "We Walk by Faith" from Anthology, Volume I: 1980-84

It is worth noting that the Amazon customer reviews for these albums all run to five stars. To paraphrase Miss Jean Brodie: For those who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like.

Open to debate, of course, is Brother Haugen's suggestion that the Holy Spirit was somnolent in the Mass in the 400 years between the Council of Trent and the Second Vatican Council (thanks to Catholic Light for the link). Leaving aside all the saints formed in the four centuries of the Old Mass, this is like saying Palestrina and Mozart were pikers, but oh, those Cowsills!


Papist paraplui

For you liturgical umbrella-bearers loyal to the Magisterium, look no further than this official John Paul II golf umbrella, in papal colors, natch. Think of it as a mini-baldacchino.

Many thanks to Saintly Salmagundi and Widening Gyre for their kind words. When it rains it pours!


Wednesday, July 10, 2002  
Why the Atlantic Monthly is nonpareil

What other publication would devote such treatment to "The Owl and the Pussy-cat" by Edward Lear?


Tuesday, July 09, 2002  
Now I'm the Grandest Tiger in the Jungle!

Gathering and Greeting Procession, with umbrella-bearers, St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco

For a look at what happens when liturgists take over, visit the web site of San Francisco's St. Gregory of Nyssa Church, home of the Dancing Saints Icon, which appears to have drawn some inspiration from Sixties underground cartoonist R. Crumb.

By all means, experience the liturgy slideshow. Tinkling bells from Tibet! Umbrella-bearers garbed like Ottoman eunuchs! And the Tripudium! O, the Tripudium!

A deacon introduces the tripudium dance step -- Three steps forward, one back. The Presider and Deacons lead the congregation, as we each put a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us, and sing one of the hymns on the insert in the music book. We process to the Altar Table for the Eucharist.

[A] deacon with incense leads a procession of children bearing the gifts of bread and wine from the kitchen, and sets these on the table, sometimes together with their paintings or cut-outs of the day's scripture readings. The two processions join in concentric lines, circling the table to the rhythm of sistrums, thurible bells, drums, and processional cross staves striking the floor.

All this whirring about with Indian umbrellas brings to mind a particular children's classic by Helen Bannerman, a comparison unlikely to have been the boho liturgists' intent.


Ecumenism in the service of the insipid

At Catholic Light comes word that Schultz Bros. bete noire Marty Haugen, a composer of liturgical music notable for its banality and corresponding widespread popularity in Catholic parishes, is not even Catholic – he's a Congregationalist.

Now, as a native New Englander, I yield to no one in the admiration of historic white-steepled Congregational meeting-houses. But what else besides Puritans and churches on town commons comes to mind at the mention of Congregationalism?

Austerity in church design. A focus on the assembly. And today, an emphasis on dogmatic leftism.

Sound familiar? Is it any wonder his work has become a staple of Catholic liturgical planners and diocesan worship nabobs?


Monday, July 08, 2002  
Cast your vote on Milwaukee Cathedral renovation: This Milwaukee newspaper article on the Weakland cathedral renovation is dated, but the reader poll accompanying it still works. For fun, cast your vote on the project. "Thumbs-down" has pulled into the lead.


Changes in the Sanctuary: St. Joseph's, Elm Grove, Brighton, UK, before and after renovation. From the Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi site.


UN relief agency nourishes terrorism: BEACH CAMP, Gaza Strip - The tall, whitewashed wall that surrounds the food distribution center of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency here is decorated with murals of exploding Israeli boats and burning jeeps...Inside the distribution center, from which vast quantities of flour, rice, oil, and sardines are distributed to Palestinian refugees by the United Nations agency, unemployed men complain that the food aid does not go to those who need it most because the agency is corrupt - though not as corrupt, they quickly add, as the Palestinian Authority. At the UN agency's Beach Elementary Boys School nearby, custodians have just finished stripping a year's layer of posters glorifying suicide bombers from the classroom. Exploding grenades, flaming machine guns, and the slogans of Hamas and Islamic Jihad festoon the outer walls. The UN agency's teachers, a custodian says, do not dare stop children from putting up the graffiti and posters. Israelis and their American supporters cite such holy war images in and around the schools as evidence that the UN agency bears major responsibility for allowing the Palestinian camps to become strongholds of terrorism...


Petition in Support of Israel: Signers of this brief yet eloquent statement include Saul Bellow, David Mamet, Martin Peretz, Norman Podhoretz, Chaim Potok, Elie Wiesel, Leon Wieseltier and other prominent writers and academics. Click here to add your name.


Hub Bids Kid Adieu

Ted Williams, 1918-2002


Beauty Will Save the World

Stratford Caldecott, director of the Center for Faith & Culture in Oxford, makes the case in an essay featured at TCR News.

Reader Maureen Mullarkey, an artist, responds:

I followed the link from your posting to Second Spring and the article by its editor.

It left me uneasy...It makes a bit of a jumble of aesthetics and morality [for lack of a better word at the moment]. Little clarity about the distinctions between them. The muddle is owed, in part, to the fact that he is writing for the choir. Outside of that shared culture--which takes assent for granted on a host of premises and assertions---the article is something of a dog's breakfast. He mixes Beauty with beauty. It doesn't take a Platonist to recognize the lumps in that pudding.

Mary may, indeed, be the heart of creation, a shining Temple. But why is it that images of her tend to be so treacley, so insipid, repetitious and dull? The beauty of the message does not necessarily translate into beautiful imagery. [I am thinking of the weakness of Gaugin's crucifixion against the quite powerful one by Beckmann. G. was a believer; B. was not.]

Stories of Nazi commandants reading Rilke or contemplating Mozart have been told ad nauseam. A highly developed love of beauty extended to an appreciation of the design efficiency of the gas chambers and Zyklon B gas. What are the ethical connections between the perfection of the work [the thing of beauty] and the perfection of human life. Where do they reside?

The essay doesn't say...

In that same issue of Second Spring is a quite wonderful essay "There is No Such Thing as Ordinary Time" by a Fr. Randolph. I wince every time I see the term "ordinary time" in our disposable missals. So does Francis Randolph, God bless him.


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