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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
Wednesday, April 30, 2003  
Hurrah for tribal Catholics

Mayor Curley and son, St. Patrick's Day, 1917

The Boston Public Library's print department has a Curley Collection as well as the photo morgue of the old Boston Herald-Traveler. If only the Herald-Traveler had survived: Broadsheet competition for the Globe would be a truly welcome thing. (File under: If wishes were horses.)

For more of the flavor of literary and political Boston, see this outstanding piece by Shaun O'Connell, "Irish America's Red Brick City: Edwin O'Connor's Boston."


All SARS, All the Time: Spot the trend in this week's news magazine covers: Time * Newsweek * US News


"Journalism is life reflected in ink." Herbert Bayard Swope, managing editor, New York World

The American Newspaper Repository, founded to save original newspapers that would otherwise have been destroyed, has about 5,000 newspaper volumes, most of which came, directly or indirectly, from the British Library. Visit the repository's website to see eye-catching illustrations from the old papers and to support this worthy cause.


A perk of being a newspaperman: The pay may not be great, but you get a wonderful obit, like this tribute by Bud Collins to the late Clif Keane, a sportswriter of the old school.


To mark the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, the New Orleans Museum of Art has mounted an ambitious exhibit paying tribute to US-French friendship. The organizing committee's honorary chairwoman: Laura Bush. She didn't show for the recent opening gala.


The International Herald Tribune has a classic-looking front page. (If only the old New York Herald Tribune it evokes had survived to rival the NYT.)


Of the four newspapers named "World's Best Designed" in recent judging by the Society for News Design, I believe I like Die Zeit of Hamburg best.

Closer to home, the Wiscasset Newspaper of Maine tied for first place in this year's New England Press Association General Excellence competition:

"In its anachronistic seven-column glory," the judge wrote of the Wiscasset paper, "this coastal paper has sassiness, grit, great writing, and super editorial/op-ed pages ... Excellent design elements, plenty of white space, nice and appropriate photos in news, sports and features. A newspaper's newspaper."

Wiscasset is home to Red's Eats, which features Maine's best lobster roll and a hot dog called a "Sturdly."


Tuesday, April 29, 2003  
Baseball in DC

Walter Johnson, c. 1909-11

Returning the national pastime to the nation's capital ranks right up there with dumping the DH in the baseball restorationist's manifesto.

Now may be Washington's last, best chance, reports the Washington Post.

Post baseball writer Thomas Boswell asks whether Washington can beat out San Juan for the Montreal Expos, playing home games this spring in 100-plus degree heat in Puerto Rico. (Les Expos' home field in Montreal, Olympic Stadium, is a contender for Worst Park Ever.)

The chances of the Expos moving for good in 2004 are reportedly 50-50.

The Post has an outstanding Washington baseball section that features a gallery of historic Senators photos.

Another particularly Natty site is maintained by a group of well-connected Washingtonians trying to lure a team inside the Beltway.

Mark Gauvreau Judge has written a book, Damn Senators, that chronicles the Nats' championship season of 1924 and honors the memory of his grandfather, Joe Judge, the team's hard-hitting first-baseman, who went on to coach baseball for many years at Georgetown.

The author writes in the New York Press that he would welcome big-league baseball's return to Washington on the condition the team play in a real park -- a great big one, evocative of the Dead Ball Era, that favors basehits over homeruns:

[A] modest proposal: if the Senators do return, build the biggest ballpark in history. Maybe 500 feet to every fence. Virtually every ball in play. That means doubles, triples, close plays at the plate. Fans would be on their feet instead of reading the paper.

The Sporting News writes on the significance of the 1924 World Series title to Senators history:

Generations of Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox fans have not seen their favorite franchise jump for joy after winning the World Series championship. It's been a long drought -- the Cubs haven't won one since 1908, the Red Sox since 1918.

But, had it not been for their miraculous 1924 season, the Senators would have had the worst drought of them all - 0-for-the-franchise. The Senators' seven-game World Series triumph over the New York Giants marked the only time in the 72-year history of Washington Senator baseball that they were able to bring home the coveted prize.

Read more on the '24 Nats from the late Shirley Povich and from Elysian Fields Quarterly, a literary baseball journal worth noting.

And while Washington did have a well-established Cuban pipeline, it turns out the legend of a young Fidel Castro trying out for the Senators is just that. So an ensuing half-century of political turbulence in the Caribbean cannot necessarily be blamed on the shortsightedness of Calvin Griffith's pitching scouts.


Send an e-card from the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.


Ghost out of work: A poem by Glyn Maxwell in The New Criterion.


A hundred years of Muggery: Christopher Hitchens on the life and times of Malcolm Muggeridge.


Monday, April 28, 2003  
The Latin Mass Society has updated its gallery of handsome images, and also offers this useful resource: Simplicissimus, a Teach Yourself Liturgical Latin course designed for the absolute beginner.


Save the Minutemen!

The University of Massachusetts has brought in a design firm with a view to increasing merchandise sales and recognition. Among the proposals being weighed: Dropping the Minuteman logo in favor of something more marketable -- like the Wolves.

What has Massachusetts to do with wolves? It was bad enough when the sensitivity mavens called for doing away with the Minuteman -- one of the more interesting and historically evocative state college nicknames, IMHO -- on the grounds he was a bellicose white male with a gun. Now it's a matter of Madison Avenue marketing. The Mighty Ducksification of athletics continues apace.


"You mean the people who like to kill people and break things. That's me!" Lucianne Goldberg, on being termed a Neoconservative

Joe Hagan at the New York Observer offers a guide to New York as the Fertile Crescent of the Neoconservative movement.


Pope condemns Cuban executions: John Paul II adds his voice to international condemnations of Cuba's crackdown on dissidents.

Criticism from leftists surprises Cuba: Via Common Dreams.

Thanks to Neil Dhingra


St. Pius X
You are Pope St. Pius X. You'd rather be right than

Which Twentieth Century Pope Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Via Dylan)


Saturday, April 26, 2003  
A notable essay by Fr. Neuhaus at First Things

Excerpts from The Sounds of Religion in a Time of War":

The day after military action began, the evening news headlined, "Vatican condemns both sides for war." Spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Pope received news of the war with "deep pain." The official statement explained: "On the one hand, it is to be regretted that the Iraqi government did not accept the resolutions of the United Nations and the appeal of the Pope himself, as both asked that the country disarm. On the other hand, it is to be deplored that the path of negotiations, according to international law, for a peaceful solution of the Iraqi drama has been interrupted." On the one hand, on the other hand. What Saddam did was regretted; what Bush did was deplored. Some pounced on this as an instance of precisely that false evenhandedness of "moral equivalence" that John Paul so sharply opposed during the Cold War. Others deplored that in none of the statements issuing from the Holy See was there any reference to the totalitarian oppression and massive violation of human rights by the Saddam regime. The suggestion seemed to be that there were two heads of state, Saddam and Bush, who disagreed about how to implement UN resolutions, and the latter was guilty of abandoning the search for a peaceful solution by resorting to war. Moreover, there was no mention of the fact that in the 1991 Gulf War the U.S. had the backing of the Security Council and therefore had presumably satisfied the requirements of "international law," and yet in 1991 the Pope condemned military action against Iraq in what George Weigel, author of the monumental biography of John Paul II, Witness to Hope, calls "apocalyptic" terms.

It is not easy to counter the complaint of those who say that the Holy See seriously confused the question of moral legitimacy in international affairs, sometimes leaving the impression that questions of war and peace, right and wrong, come down to how the Pope feels about things. I do not accept that complaint, but it is most particularly puzzling that, with respect to moral credibilty and authority, some in the Curia seem bent upon hitching the wagon of the Catholic Church to the dubiously constructed institution that is the UN. The life and mission of the Catholic Church will continue long after the UN is a historical footnote along with, say, the Congress of Vienna. The experience of the last quarter century seems to have been forgotten by some. When, for instance, the Pope was playing a crucial role in bringing about the end of the evil empire of the Soviet Union, the UN was more than simply useless. Why now is it the bearer of moral authority in international authorities? If indeed that is, as some contend, the position of the Catholic Church…

And now war has come. By the time you read this, a great deal more will likely be known about consequences. At present, I'm afraid it must be said that the public witness of the Catholic Church, severely battered by the sex abuse scandals of the past year, has been further confused and weakened. Compared to, for instance, the leadership of oldline Protestantism, the Catholic bishops in the U.S. have been generally careful in their public statements, mainly confining themselves to raising questions. When military action commenced, Bishop Wilton Gregory of the U.S. episcopal conference issued a carefully crafted statement, noting that faithful Catholics and people of good will can disagree about the wisdom of the policy, and that the Church spiritually supports both those who conscientiously support and those who conscientiously oppose the war. The same carefulness did not characterize the statements by officials of the Holy See, some of whom have come unconscionably close to suggesting that Catholic Americans must choose between loyalty to their country and fidelity to the Church. If, as one curial archbishop has declared, the coalition led by the U.S. is engaged in a "crime against peace," it would seem to follow that our soldiers are engaged in a criminal activity.

As you might imagine, I have received many messages taking issue with what I have said. A surprising number attribute to the Pope things he has not said. Don't I know that the Pope has declared the war to be "illegal," "immoral," "in violation of the Church's teaching," and "a crime against humanity"? No, I don't, and I don't know that because he has never said what many are claiming he said. The "crime against humanity" line was cited even by the Wall Street Journal, which, to its credit, promptly retracted when the error was pointed out. There are times when Catholics, and all Christians, must choose between complicity in great injustice and fidelity to moral truth. That choice has over the centuries produced martyrs beyond numbering. For a curial official even to imply that coalition soldiers and others are facing such a choice is a reckless abuse of ecclesiastical office. Unless, of course, he really thinks that his view of the war is binding upon consciences. Were that the position of the Church, one would expect the Pope to say so, and the Pope has not said anything even remotely like that. It is to be feared that some churchmen are more enamored of being players in world politics than devoted to being shepherds of souls.

At the same time, and somewhat contradictorily, curial officials have said that they are not arguing moral theology but are making prudential judgments, drawing on "the Church's vast experience in international affairs." People may be forgiven if, faced with the choice between the geopolitical expertise of the Curia and that of the people surrounding George W. Bush and Tony Blair, they choose the latter. A crucial question is this: In the past three months, has the Holy See elevated the level of moral discourse or added to the discussion considerations that would otherwise have been neglected? It is not easy to answer that question in the affirmative.

His most devoted admirers acknowledge that the Pope bears a measure of responsibility for this unhappy circumstance. And it is a mildly amusing nuisance to hear chronic dissenters from firm magisterial teaching on faith and morals proclaim that, on war and peace, they are loyal to the Pope, while the champions of magisterial teaching are, in fact, dissenters. Well, let them have their little fun while they can. With respect to providing moral clarity about war and peace, it must candidly be admitted that this has not been this pontificate's finest hour. But nobody should be shaken too severely. Flannery O'Connor said that we sometimes suffer more from the Church than for the Church. And it is really not suffering so much as it is a matter of disappointment, and more than a little embarrassment….

As they say, go read the whole thing.

(Via Verdad!)


Worth a visit: The weblog of Jess and Jim Cork, brother of Bill.


Welcome back: Fr. Rob Johansen


A belated Happy St Mark's Day

Travel journalist Mike Reed, in his cathedral ratings, gives St. Mark's in Venice an "excellent" grade, noting: The ugliest church in the world is still extremely fascinating. Mark Twain called it "a warty bug taking a walk."

See also his Famous Dead People section, chronicling visits to more than 800 gravesites.


Havana Jim

My congressman, Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat aligned with the Socialist International, has been a prominent critic on the left of US policy in Central America, and one of the leading spokesmen for lifting sanctions against Cuba.

He was among Bay State congressmen recently renewing their call for an end to the embargo despite the Cuban crackdown on dissidents.

Here's Granma's report, translated by Google of his request that Cuba be removed from the US list of terror-supporting regimes.

In these remarks from 2001, he argued against providing US funding to internal dissidents in Cuba, and called for the normalization of relations between the countries. In 2000, he urged Clinton to visit Cuba.

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote last year on McGovern and colleagues in the congressional Cuba Working Group:

[W]hy is it that so many critics of the administration's position expend far more energy denouncing the US embargo than calling for an end to Castro's repression? The abuse of Cuban dissenters doesn't seem to anger them nearly as much as the loss of business opportunities caused by the US ban. What is it that really motivates the anti-embargo lobby? A yen for liberty -- or for profits?

A few days before Bush's speech, 14 members of the congressional Cuba Working Group held a press conference to discuss their views of US policy toward Cuba. My transcript of the event runs to 12 pages of single-spaced type. It is a revealing document.

All 14 congressmen spoke, yet not one expressed outrage over the way Castro suffocates the Cuban people. Not one denounced the lack of free speech, or the elaborate network of government informers, or the misery that drives countless Cubans each year to risk death in an effort to escape Fidelismo. Oh, there was a passing reference now and then to democracy or human rights, but on the whole the Cuba Working Group seemed to get passionate only when the topic turned to the quantities of dried beans and chicken legs that Cuba is supposedly keen to import. Would 14 members of a South Africa Working Group in the 1980s have called a press conference and neglected to express their revulsion for apartheid?

At one point Representative James McGovern of Massachusetts saluted former President Jimmy Carter for "having the guts to go to Cuba, for standing before the Cuban government and speaking the truth about human rights." But when I asked McGovern the other day whether he was equally proud of Bush for speaking the truth about human rights, he pronounced himself "very disappointed with the president's speech. It was precisely the opposite of what the dissidents have asked for."

It is true that some Cuban dissidents call for an immediate end to the US embargo. But others call for it to remain in force until Castro leaves. And still others want what Bush wants -- an end to economic sanctions, but only in exchange for irrevocable democratic reform.

McGovern says that promotion of democracy and human rights is the very raison d'etre of the Cuba Working Group. Perhaps so. But while he and his colleagues persist in talking about the embargo, Bush is reminding the world that the real issue is freedom. The polestar of his Cuba policy is liberty, not chicken legs. When the Cuban people are free at last, they will not forget his steadfastness.

So now, as Castro imprisons democracy advocates, what has Jim McGovern got to say at his congressional website?

Well, nothing about Cuba. But there is an irate rant against renaming the French fries in the congressional mess "freedom fries."

The headline: "This House should not be a punchline!" One hopes the congressman hasn't become one for the Cuban dictator.


Friday, April 25, 2003  
Group calling for end to the Cuba embargo disbands to protest Cuba's crackdown on political opponents.

The Cuba Policy Foundation issued a statement Wednesday, saying the chairman, executive director and its board members resigned from the group.

The statement said the members were "appalled" at the "wholesale repression of human rights" on the communist-run island. The Cuban government earlier this month jailed more than 75 political dissidents and executed three men who tried to hijack a ferry to the United States.


Where is the Catholic Left on Cuba?

This item was in the news this week:

Havana seeks death penalty for Catholic human-rights activist

In a step which has drawn widespread condemnation, Cuban officials have requested the death penalty for Catholic human rights activist Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia.

Mr Garcia, one of the leaders of the Christian Liberation Movement on the island, is accused of "acts against the independence and territorial entirety of the state."

And according to experts, the move comes as the Castro regime has taken more suppressive measures in the past few weeks during which there have been at least 80 arrests.

Fellow human rights activist Dr Oscar Elias Biscet has also become a victim of the crackdown and faces 25 years in prison after being recently rearrested and charged with "disorderly conduct".

Dr Biscet has recently been involved in promoting a grassroots project called the Friends of Human Rights, a forum through which small groups could meet in homes to learn about human rights and ways to defend and demand them peacefully.

The Christian Liberation Movement through its Varela Project has sought a national referendum on freedom of the press, on organizing democratic elections, on freeing political prisoners and on economic reforms.

So when will we be hearing from the Catholic Left on the Cuban crackdown?

At the Common Dreams progressive newswire, a search of the headline archive for this month and last turned up no references to Cuba or to Fidel.

Neither the School of Americas Watch nor its New England branch had mentions of the Cuban repression on their websites.

Catholic Worker? Nothing.

Fr. John Dear, SJ? Nothing.

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns? Nothing.

The chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' international policy committee has called on Cuba to release dissidents. The USCCB still advocates lifting the embargo, which, it should be noted, has not prevented Castro from living in luxury.

Matthew Hoy runs a list of democracy advocates who have been imprisoned in Cuba. (Via MCJ)

More articles of interest:

From the Christian Science Monitor: "Harsh spotlight falls on Cuba"

From the Miami Herald: "Cuba: Dissidents were eroding socialist system"

From the Washington Times: CNN and Cuba

From Opinion Journal: "Mum's the Word: Hollywood celebs may not quite be pro-Saddam, but there's one tyrant they love."

And in Cuba's defense: Rigoberta Menchu, in Granma.


The liturgist as human shield: According to this dispatch, the liturgist Gabe Huck has been on a Christian Peacemaking Team running around Baghdad. Probably can do less harm there.


North Korea, Iran and Nigeria seen likely to win membership in the UN Commission on Human Rights in an upcoming vote.

The chair of the commission, which is holding its annual meeting in Geneva, is held at present by Libya, another member with a list of deplorable violations. (The Guardian, via Instapundit)


Wednesday, April 23, 2003  
Ad Orientalism

Sacred Heart Church, Baghdad, Easter 2003

Reader Sherwood Jones writes: "Seeing the photo of the Chaldean Catholic church in Baghdad, it looks like the altar is at the wall, so the priest must celebrate ad orientem. It might make one think..."

More images: Altar boys * Altar boys * Altar seating * Mantillas

UPDATE: The Baltimore Sun carries this account of Easter Mass at Sacred Heart, which is described as a Chaldean Catholic church. Plus: More altar boys.


Anniversary Waugh of Words: English novelist Evelyn Waugh remains as controversial now -- 100 years after his birth -- as he ever did, the BBC reports.


Worth a visit: Ex Parte, weblog of the Federalist Society at Harvard Law.


Monarchists &c

The Royalist Party of America polled its members as to the European noble they'd most like to invite to serve as American monarch. Their choice: the fetching Princess Madeleine of Sweden. (Via El Camino Real)

A previous European royal imported to the Americas, Emperor Maximilian, seen here in a portrait by the Matthew Brady studio, came to a tragic end.

The story of Maximilian and Carlota has been made into a grand opera.

If it's ever on the cable movie channel, do watch Juarez, Warner Bros.' 1939 saga of the doomed monarchs of Mexico. True, Paul Muni in the title role is positively embalmed, but the real star is Bette Davis as the imperial consort who goes mad with panache.

Meantime, the movement for a constitutional monarchy in Iraq has a web page.

What we now know as Iraq was a creation of the British, who installed the former royal family.

David Pryce-Jones argues in NRO for Hashemite restoration in Iraq. UPI's Claude Salhani responds. Pryce-Jones replies.


Icon of Wonder: Quite so.

CNS writes of the Belgian priest artist in South Africa: His characters bear his trademarks: big hands, big faces and big feet. "The large hands and feet represent my Flemish, expressionistic heritage," he said.


Latin-rite archbishop of Baghdad: It's wrong to try to impose democracy through force

The war in Iraq was like a "punch" to the country's people and could lead to greater influence by extremist groups, says Latin-rite Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad.

Archbishop Sleiman said it is wrong to try to impose democracy through force on a people who do not yet fully understand democratic concepts, including the proper relationship between religion and government.

"This war was like giving a punch to these people," he told the Italian newspaper Avvenire. "It was an earthquake, after which reigns an anguished emptiness, not only for Christians, but for everyone."

"War is simply evil and ugly. If there is truly a need to build a peaceful world, our values cannot be imposed with force," he said.

He added that the way to inspire change is through education, use of the mass media and good example, not by war.


Vatican official cautions against U.S. 'moral isolationism.' Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, who advises the Vatican on international affairs, said Pope John Paul II's opposition to the war in Iraq proved to be prophetic and brought Christians together like never before on a global issue. He said there was a growing conviction among religious leaders and among the people of the world that war must be rejected as a means of resolving conflicts. Exceptions may be made for wars in self-defense, but "certainly not for preventive war," he said. (CNS)


Lileks writes: As for the war itself, I hit a wall Sunday morning - I was reading the editorial page, and came across a Stern & Determined Essay on the need to continue the peace protests. The first reason given: the war violated international law.

You know, if you paw through the reams of resolutions put forth by the UN, I'm sure you'll find one that outlaws special jails for children, too. I'm no longer interested in reading the arguments of people who regard a war that empties the children's jails as a greater evil than the jails themselves. And I don't share their horror for the word "illegal," particularly in the context of international law. Is the worst thing about modern-day slavery its illegality? Or the fact that it's slavery?
(Via MCJ)


Check out the latest Nation cover. (Via MCJ et al)

Then read Mark Goldblatt at NRO on the people who really believe Bush = Saddam.


Tuesday, April 22, 2003  

Alexandra Baldwin's reference to liturgist Sister Mary Nouveau playing a nose flute recalls the Edward Lear classic The Dong with the Luminous Nose. Do read her tale of Good Friday liturgical horror, complete with thunderclaps.

Meantime, Dennis Schenkel at Spiritual Pyromania discerns the Marty Haugen agenda. (Via comment at De Fidei Oboedientia)

Hey, what's on OCP Radio this week? Click and listen. "River of Life," with bullring overture and boom-box beat, is made for a block party, while "Secuencia Pasqual" features the unplugged sound of campesino fiddle and guitar. Remember: Latin: detached and unintelligible. Spanish: Arriba!


What are the Palestinians after? Israeli historian Benny Morris, in a review for TNR, writes:

I have come away from my examination of the history of the conflict with a sense of the instinctive rejectionism that runs like a dark thread through Palestinian history -- a rejection, to the point of absurdity, of the history of the Jewish link to the land of Israel; a rejection of the legitimacy of Jewish claims to Palestine; a rejection of the right of the Jewish state to exist. And, worse, this rejectionism has over the decades been leavened by a healthy dose of anti-Semitism, a perception of the Jew as God's and humanity's unchosen.


Report: Britain's foremost far-left anti-war MP was on Saddam's payroll: More from Andrew Sullivan, here and here, and the provocatively-named Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics.


On Journalism: Alasdair Palmer writes in The Telegraph:

Ever since Dr Johnson insisted that the only two qualities "absolutely necessary" to journalism are "contempt of shame and indifference to truth", retired journalists - of whom Dr Johnson was one - have delighted in excoriating their trade the moment they have stopped practising it. H. L. Mencken said that journalism was "a craft to be mastered in four days and abandoned at the first sight of a better job", while G. K. Chesterton insisted that it consisted "largely in saying 'Lord Jones is dead' to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive".



Mass in a time of SARS, Hong Kong, 4.20.03

Here & There: Great name: Not so great message * Easter voodoo in Haiti * Mantillas still worn in Basra * Easter in Baghdad * Newly baptized in Kirkuk


MECC General Secretary's Message for Easter: Rev. Dr. Riad Jarjour, general secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches, writes from Beirut a letter for the season:

Our family members in Iraq are still burying their dead and dressing the wounds their children sustained during the war launched against their country by the western alliance. They worry about their future in the midst of the violent chaos this oppressive war has left behind.

While the war against Iraq claims the world’s attention, the Israeli military machine continues to brutalize our Palestinian brothers and sisters. Is it possible for us to celebrate and exclaim, "Christ is risen! He has brought light to those in darkness and life to the dead," while some of our people are still carrying their cross, still climbing their Golgotha, with still no sign of a Resurrection Sunday dawn?

In spite of everything that drives us to sorrow, depression and despair, we nonetheless draw strength and hope from the One who is our strength and hope. He is the Lord of truth, of justice and of peace. In our worship we turn to Him so that he may be the defender of those ground down under the boot of hardship. He will transform their weakness into strength, their suffering into resurrection hope.

We pledge that we will continue to stand by them in their trials. They are the trials of us all. We will stand with them, a hand to help rebuild what has been broken down, a voice to rebuke the oppressor ... any oppressor. We stand in solidarity together and that gives us strength to bring peace. In the power of right, that peace will prevail.

One wonders: If the Church is persecuted in the Middle East, why do so many church leaders, from the ECUSA to the MECC, seek to undermine the one liberal democracy in the region? The Church is hardly persecuted in Israel -- unless you regard the Church as one with the Palestine liberation movement. (The MECC apparently does, to judge from the comments of its general secretary above and from the position papers at its website. For more in this vein, see Al-Bushra, which adds a disclaimer of non-violence to its Intifada call to resist Israeli occupation. They're more polished at Churches for Middle East Peace, but the thrust is the same.)

It is hard to understand why Christians would undercut Israel's cause in the Holy Land, given the treatment of dhimmis in Arab society, and the shoddy treatment of Christians and their sacred sites during Jordanian control of the West Bank.

How Arab gunmen coming off a wave of suicide bombings could seize and defile the Church of the Nativity -- yet be supported by Christian leaders -- remains unfathomable.

As for Iraq, the MECC general secretary makes clear his sentiments. He would have preferred the peace of the status quo to the "oppressive war" the Western Alliance "launched against" the country and its people.


Did fewer Iraqi civilians die during the recent war than during an average three weeks of peace under Saddam? H. D. Miller at Travelling Shoes makes the case: One million Iraqis killed over the past 23 years comes out to something around 3600 deaths per month, or 50% more per month than were killed during the most intensive bombing campaign conducted since World War II. And the result is that the Iraqi people are less oppressed, less terrorized than they've been in decades.


Monday, April 21, 2003  
Happy Patriots Day

The British not only are coming – they have their own website.

A stone at the grave of British soldiers at Old North Bridge in Concord reads:

"They came three thousand miles and died
To keep the past upon the throne
Unheard beyond the ocean tide
Their English mother made her groan."

See the schedule of events for Patriots Day Weekend in Concord. Visit the Lexington Minutemen site. And learn to play the fife.


Pope woos conservatives expelled for rebellion

THE Pope is to heal a breach with rebel arch-conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church by reinstating excommunicated followers of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who broke with Rome in 1988 to protest against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, including the abolition of the Latin Mass.

More from The Times of London.


Hitchens on Waugh

"The tweedy, fogy types who make an affectation of Waugh are generally fondest of his almost camp social conservatism: his commitment to stuffy clubs, 'home' rather than 'abroad,' old clothes, traditional manners, ear trumpets, rural hierarchy, ancient liturgy, and the rest of it. Their master ministered very exactly to this taste in the undoubted self-parody that adorns The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold and is titled 'Portrait of the Artist in Middle Age.'

His strongest tastes were negative. He abhorred plastics, Picasso, sunbathing, and jazz—everything in fact that had happened in his own lifetime. The tiny kindling of charity which came to him through his religion sufficed only to temper his disgust and change it to boredom. There was a phrase in the thirties: "It is later than you think", which was designed to cause uneasiness. It was never later than Mr Pinfold thought.

"His face eventually grew to fit this mask, but Waugh had been very much 'of' the Jazz Age, and brought it hectically to life, most notably in Vile Bodies and Brideshead. Sexual experiments, fast cars, modern steamships and aeroplanes —these, plus a touch of experience with modern warfare, gave him an edge that the simple, fusty reactionaries did not possess."


'Iraqis always knew the Saddam family lived well, even as it claimed U.N. sanctions were starving its people and denying its children lifesaving medicine. But few realized just how well they lived.'


Hundreds of millions found in Iraq: "Two Army sergeants searching for saws to clear away branches blocking their Humvee stumbled onto an amazing discovery—more than half a billion US dollars, hidden in sealed-up cottages in an upper class Baghdad neighborhood."

Writes Charles Johnson: Tell me again how horrible the sanctions were.



'Tell the world what happened here.'

One former prisoner he talked to, Anwar Abdul Razak, remembers when a surgeon kissed him on each cheek, said he was sorry and cut his ears off. Razak, then 21 years old, had been swept up during one of Saddam Hussein’s periodic crackdowns on deserters from the Army. Razak says he was innocently on leave at the time, but no matter; he had been seized by some Baath Party members who earned bounties for catching Army deserters. At Basra Hospital, Razak’s ears were sliced off without painkillers. He said he was thrown into jail with 750 men, all with bloody stumps where their ears had been. “They called us Abu [Arabic for father] Earless,” recalls Razak, whose fiancee left him because of his disfigurement.

No one is sure how many men were mutilated during that particular spasm of terror, but from May 17 to 19, 1994, all the available surgeons worked shifts at all of Basra’s major hospitals, lopping off ears. (One doctor who refused was shot.) Today, Dr. Jinan al-Sabagh, an administrator at Basra Teaching Hospital, insists that the victims numbered only “70 or 80,” but he’d prefer not to talk about it. He says the ear-chopping stopped before his own surgery rotation came up. “I want to forget about all this. I vowed I would never do it. I said I am a surgeon, not a butcher,” he told NEWSWEEK. He may be forced to remember. At Baath Party headquarters in Basra, once secret documents are floating around the trashed courtyard. They include receipts of sums paid to party thugs who rounded up Army deserters for a fee.

America wants to bring liberty and democracy to Iraq. But first the Iraqis will have to come to terms with the legacy of fear Saddam created, and regain the humanity that was frightened and beaten out of them by three decades of grotesque misrule.


Here & There: PBR lives * A dream of restoring Iraqi marshes * Irish pub kickstarts Kabul nightlife


Sunday, April 20, 2003  
'He is not here'

Bartolomeo Rigossi, 1465

On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed.

He said to them, "Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.



Friday, April 18, 2003  
St. Hubert of Liege

While hunting a stag on a Good Friday morning, he received a vision of a crucifix between its antlers. A voice warned him, "Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, you shall quickly go down to hell." It was a conversion experience for Hubert.

Thanks to reader Tony C., who sent along a link to information the Apostle of Ardennes and putative patron saint of Irish Elks, Hubert of Liege.


The Boston Boy Choir now has its own website. Those in the Boston area who have not had the pleasure of hearing the choir sing at St. Paul's Church in Harvard Square may wish to visit this weekend for the glorious Easter Vigil at 7:30 Saturday night or Easter Mass at 11 Sunday morning. Here is the choir's schedule.



One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong."

And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

Luke 23:39-43


Thursday, April 17, 2003  

PANGE lingua gloriosi
Lauream certaminis,
Et super crucis trophaeo
Dic triumphum nobilem:
Qualiter Redemptor orbis
Immolatus vicerit.

More on the hymn by St. Venantius Fortunatus may be found at the Catholic Encyclopedia.

And this picture of the Procession to the Altar of Repose is among the Maundy Thursday images at the website of S. Clement's Anglo-Catholic parish in Philadelphia.


On the other end of the Anglican scale is St. Paul's, in Bremerton, Wash., where the motto is: "Reconnecting the Spirit Without Disconnecting the Mind." It's not every parish that has a Good Friday Labyrinth.



Josephine and tank, Baghdad, 4.16


Babylon Bidawid

John Paul is well aware that the leading Catholic in Baghdad, the Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid, holds that Iraq has an equally "just cause." We may think Iraq's historical claim to Kuwait is nonsense, but that is not self-evident. Raphael may appear as a terrified buffoon ("Saddam is a gentleman") but the Pope has to respect his concern for the pastoral situation in the post-war period. Peter Hebblethwaite, Manchester Guardian Weekly, Feb. 17, 1991

The criticism has been lodged that I have been too harsh in suggesting Middle Eastern Christian bishops like Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid have been overly accommodating vis a vis Saddam Hussein.

Certainly churches are in a difficult position in a police state. Christians enjoyed a degree of tolerance under the Baath Party (itself founded by a Christian), with the quid pro quo that church leaders toe the party line. For church leadership to carry water for a brutal government to avoid currying disfavor and resulting reprisals is perhaps understandable. But to reject action to end the abuse of many, in the interest of protecting the continuing safety of a few, does not lend itself to sermonizing.

It is clear Patriarch Raphael I, in particular, has gone to significant lengths to present a line congenial to the Saddamites, not only at home but on tours abroad. What is unclear is how much of this has stemmed from authoritarian pressure or fear for "the Church Persecuted," from a go-along-get-along pliancy toward tyranny, or from an immersion in the Gumbletonian peace-and-justice Left.

Shill? Dupe? Or terrified buffoon? There certainly have been instances in which Baghdad Bob was given a run for his money by Babylon Bidawid. A search on the Web turns up this Patriarch Raphael I sampler:

The Patriarch saluted the "courage" of Palestinian suicide bombers while likening Israelis to Nazis, according to this 2001 report.

Sandro Magister at Espresso Online wrote this past November on the "deafening silence from the heads of the Catholic Church regarding religious persecution underway in Iraq."

In recent days, Fides, news agency of the Vatican’s De Propaganda Fide office, published online a weighty dossier on the Chaldean Church.

In large part it’s a dossier on Iraq, home to a good number of Chaldean Catholics, with their patriarch, Raphael I Bidawid…

The dossier gives a positive image of Christians in this country. Yes, there is the threat of war, the lack of food and medicine, the plague of emigration. In addition, "from time to time, incidents take place, especially since the gradual spread of a fundamentalist current in the Arab world."

But on the other hand, Catholics in Iraq "don’t undergo discrimination" and enjoy "religious freedom," even if it’s "within the limits set by the state."

And what about Saddam Hussein? Says Msgr. Antonios Mina, representative of the Chaldean church to the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches:

"Relations with the government are good. In the government, there is vice premier Tareq Aziz, who is a Chaldean Catholic; his wife is a strong believer. Patriarch Raphael Bidawid is highly esteemed, respected by the civil authorities."

Nothing new to this point. On the contrary. On repeated occasions, Patriarch Bidawid has praised Saddam Hussein in an even stronger manner. Most recently, in an October interview with "Panorama," he said:

"Christians here are privileged. Saddam gives us what we want, listens to us and protects us." Regarding Islamic extremists: "They have infiltrated the veins of religious power and are trying to steer it in their direction. But the government keeps them in check. Saddam is capable; he fools them into being more open in order to uncover them. He will get them."

Previously, on Sept. 18, Bidawid told the missionary news agency Misna that he feared war especially for one reason:

"A new conflict would trigger an awful clash within the Muslim world between Sunnis and Shiites."

Implication: If Saddam goes, anarchy will break loose in Iraq, and without him as a shield, it will be the end for Christians.

The Patriarch was outspoken against UN sanctions on Iraq. St. Anthony Messenger interviewed him in 2000 as he was making the rounds with Bishop Gumbleton:

"The embargo is inhuman and immoral," Patriarch Raphael continues. "It makes no sense. It is a matter of politics. After nine years, what has been the result?" He answers his own question with a melancholy phrase, “Disaster for the Iraqi people!"

He continues, "The government of the United States accuses the government of Iraq of creating this situation in which we are deprived of all necessities, including water and food. Now, [since 1997] under U.N. supervision, we have been able to trade oil for food, but people are still starving. We are giving millions of dollars of oil, but we are
still starving."

See Hussein, Uday: Zoos, harems and hoarded aid shipments.

The Iraqis were going to suffer under Saddam, sanctions or no. It served Saddam's purposes to decry the embargo which his own bellicosity had brought upon the country. In trumpeting the anti-sanctions line, in blaming Iraqi hardship not on Saddam but on the embargo, churchmen opposed a UN attempt to bring to heel the dictator who was the real cause of the nation's suffering. (Many of those same churchmen now uphold the UN as an international policy arbiter, while continuing to oppose military action in Iraq at the very moment it has driven Saddam from power.)

In March 2001, again voicing opposition to action to control Saddam, the Patriarch warned US and British air strikes to enforce the "no-fly" zone would spark anti-Western anger in the region.

FIDES: Your Beatitude, what is your reaction to the recent bombings in
northern Iraq?

PATRIARCH RAPHAEL I BIDAWID: I have no words with which to condemn this use of force against the weak.

During the Second World War the allies accused the Nazis of using the right of force. Now the US and Britain are using force against the people of Iraq. They proclaim principles of humanity and human rights, but where do they apply them? They must realize that we Iraqis too have the right to life and dignity.

The Vatican, France, Italy and Russia have condemned the use of force and we -- the Church of Baghdad -- do the same.

FIDES: The American Secretary of State is visiting Israel; Bush and Blair will meet at Camp David. What is your forecast for the Middle East?

PATRIARCH: I am afraid that if the USA and Britain continue this way, the whole of the Middle East will be set on fire. This escalation of violence on the part of USA and Britain can push Iraq to retaliate out of desperation.

The whole of the Arab world is now against the Americans and the British, and ready to commit violence against the USA and Britain in their own countries.

It is time to start sincere dialogue to reach a solution. Blood and violence lead only to more blood and violence. Our people are ever more distressed and are ever more against the Americans and the British. The more Saddam is maltreated, the more he is applauded.

I appeal to the wisdom and prudence of the governors of these countries: think of the common good which peace can give to all, us and you. If we do not resume dialogue the ghost of a war is not improbable and we risk new chaos.

FIDES: What have the sanctions obtained?

PATRIARCH: Nothing-- and even the Americans admit this. The Iraqi government distributes rice, sugar, oil, tea: the harsher the embargo, the more generous the government in donations and rations. Certainly widespread poverty remains: a chicken costs about half a month's pay; people rely on help from relations abroad, but the situation is better than some years back. The government also distributes basic medicines. The sanctions are useless. You Westerners do not realize that an Arab can do without everything except his dignity. If you touch his dignity he will be as ferocious as a lion.

In 2000, the Patriarch offered kudos to Hans Blix in 2000 while decrying the "massacre of innocents" by the embargo.

The patriarch also commented on the proposal to appoint Hans Blix to head the new UN commission to monitor Iraq's disarmament: "I have never met Blix but France's opposition to the appointment of Rolf Ekeus and the support of Paris, Moscow, and Beijing for Blix, would make me think that he is a reliable person."

Again with Paris, Moscow and Beijing. On a related note: If you haven't yet seen it, do note this graph on Iraqi arms imports that sheds a revealing light on the relative morality of the UN Security Council.

Here's the Patriarch in a 1998 interview:

Fides: American sources claim that Saddam has hidden his arms in Algeria, Sudan, and Libya.

Raphael I: That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. My country is under blockade, almost nothing can come in or go out. How could the government transfer arms? With a special tunnel built to smuggle arms that would reach to Algeria, Khartoum, or Tripoli? Do you really believe that Saddam has arms in his palaces? Even if he had, by now he would have already relocated them. Saddam's biggest worry right now, since he knows he cannot bear another conflict, is to avoid provoking a confrontation. The truth is that he wants the blockade removed and he's willing to risk everything in order to achieve it. And the people, unfortunately, are behind him all the way on this point. No people should be humiliated to this extreme. The people of Iraq believe it is better to die fighting than to continue suffering misery and humiliation.

A staple of press coverage of Chaldean Christians over the past decade or so has been the annual Christmas story.

A particularly choice example was the Christmas Eve story run by Agence France Press in 1994 that features high dudgeon from Saddam, with Amens from Christian clerics:

US acting like enemies of Jesus, Saddam says

BAGHDAD, Dec 24: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Saturday condemned the United States and its allies for maintaining sanctions, accusing them of acting like the enemies of Jesus, in a televised Christmas message.

"The US government and other Western leaders, through their aggression and unjust blockade (..) are deliberately killing Iraqi children and elderly people," Saddam said in a speech addressed to the Iraqi people, the Arab nation, Christians and "all men of goodwill."

Referring to the crippling UN trade and oil embargo imposed on Iraq after its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Saddam said Washington and its allies "are no different from those who persecuted Christ and his early disciples, and they falsely claim to follow Christ." Christians make up around one million of Iraq's population of 16 million. Many of them have emigrated under the pressure of UN sanctions.

Saddam pledged that Iraq "will not bow to the arrogant ones' injustice" and "will keep up the Jihad (holy war) for freedom.

"We are profoundly confident that the blockade imposed by the US administration will be shattered (..) thanks to the steadfastness of the Iraqi people and with the help of the just countries, organisations and individuals."

Meanwhile Iraqi Christian leaders urged the United Nations to lift the sanctions in a special Christmas appeal published here.

"Celebrations are taking place, but instead of smiles, people's faces are covered in tears because of the unjust embargo imposed on our people," said Archbishop Avak Assadourian, leader of the Armenian Orthodox community, in a Christmas article published in Al-Iraq newspaper.

Father Thomas Marco of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Iraq's biggest Christian community, urged those behind the embargo to "be inspired by the meaning of this great festival and shed their blindness" by ordering a lifting of sanctions.

Russia, China and France have been calling for an easing of the sanctions since Baghdad recognised Kuwait's sovereignty last month, but the United States and Britain insist on full compliance with all UN resolutions.

They include demands for the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the return of Kuwaiti prisoners, war reparations and respect for human rights.

Iraqi troops were ousted from Kuwait by US-led coalition forces in February 1991.

Sound familiar? Meantime, here's a piece by Richard Tomkins that ran on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1990, in the Financial Times:

Fear and festivity as Christmas comes to Iraq

ODDLY, perhaps, for a predominantly Moslem country on the brink of war with the west, Iraq is celebrating Christmas.

Many Baghdad streets are strung with festive lights. Shops and restaurants extend the season's greetings to customers, and the souks have enjoyed a lively trade in fir trees.

One reason the Christmas festival thrives in Iraq is that it has become blurred with the new year celebrations which take place here, as in the west, on January 1.

The distinctive Yuletide dimension to the festivities, however, results from the influence of a 500,000 strong Christian community - at 3.5 per cent of the population, it is one of the biggest in the Middle East.

Easily the most numerous of the several Christian groups are the Chaldeans, an eastern offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church led by His Beatitude Raphael I Bidawid, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.

Larger-than-life and enrobed in crimson, Patriarch Bidawid says the secular policies of the ruling Ba'ath Party - itself founded by a Syrian Christian, Michel Aflaq - have been good for Iraqi Christians.

'In former times, we have been badly treated, but under the lay regime of President Saddam Hussein, there is no discrimination against us,' he says.

Apparently backing up his assertion is the prominent role of Christians in society - the best known example being Mr Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi foreign minister. Privately, some Christians say they still face disadvantages. Intermarriage with the Moslem community, for example, is forbidden unless they forsake their religion for Islam.

A more immediate fear, however, is that religious tolerance could be one of the first casualties if conflict breaks out with the west.

In the early stages of the stand-off, President Saddam's rhetoric was peppered with historical references to the crusades and threats of a jihad, or holy war, to defend the Arab nation.

Patriarch Bidawid moved to defuse the threat of religious divide by urging western leaders to leave Arab soil and interceding with President Saddam to tone down the anti-Christian propaganda. Christians, however, remain nervous. During the eight-year war with Iran they were at one with their compatriots in the battle against Islamic fundamentalism: but today's crisis has made their position ambivalent.

Traditionally well-educated and heavily represented in the middle class, many Iraqi Christians have friends, relatives or other contacts in the west. Some say they would feel a good deal more comfortable if they could join them.

For the moment, the near-total ban on foreign travel rules that out. But according to one apprehensive Christian: 'The day they let us leave, there is going to be an exodus.'

Michael Tinkler comments:

For depressing reading the history of the Church in the East can't be beat. The patriarchy of Constantinople was always under the heel of political power -- Christian emperors and then Sultans -- and their constant compromising with power shows in their continuing habits.

Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid appears to stand within that long tradition.


Palestinian Authority Demands U.S. Free Abu Abbas

Tom Fitzpatrick at Recta Ratio observes: Sort of shows you where the Palestinian Authority stands in the war on terror, doesn't it? Foursquare beside the terrorists.

And it renders all the more discordant the chorus of support from Christian churches for Arafat & Co.

A Catholic news site proudly displays a photo of the PLO leader observing Christmas with the Anglicans, whose shilling for the Palestinians has been extensively covered by Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal.

The Middle East Council of Churches blog reports in an April 15 post a meeting between the Armenian Orthodox primate of Lebanon and Hezbollah in the interest of building dialogue and mutual respect. Hezbollah is an Islamist terrorist group which has been linked to a series of attacks against American and Israeli targets, and which called in December for a global suicide-bombing campaign.

And against the backdrop of a wave of suicide attacks, the Passover Bombing, and the seizure by Palestinian gunmen of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem wrote President Bush last year to decry the "inhuman tragedy." They blamed the Israelis.

It is left to others to frame a charitable construction for the Rachel Corrie-style rhetoric that emanates from the Christian leaders of the Holy Land. But to the extent they presume to issue appeals to humanity via the press and the Web, this corner of humanity, albeit tucked behind a keyboard in American suburbia, has the right to respond.


Meantime, from Jeff Jacoby: A look at how the press coddles the PLO for access. What's the churches' excuse?


Emperor on way to sainthood: The Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood proclaimed the 'heroic virtues' of Charles I, the emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, the last monarch of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on Saturday. For beatification, a miracle attributed to Charles' intercession is now necessary. Somewhere there are smiles in the Widening Gyre. Partake of a goulash of Ruritanian monarch photos here.


In the new papal encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Tom Fitzpatrick perceives a distinct sympathy for high altars and central tabernacles (April 17 post).


You’d think this would be an example of Coals to Newcastle. Remarkable – and telling – that it is not.

The Vatican is allowing a Tridentine Mass to be offered in Rome, at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, Sat. May 24th, reports Whys Guys.

And the Tridentine Mass also is to be allowed at St. Peter's, according to this report

The Novus Ordo Mass is celebrated in Latin daily at 7:30 a.m. (Central European Time) by the priests at Vatican Radio, which offers streaming broadcasts at its website.


An ancient ritual inspires worshipers: The Kansas City Star reports on teens who attended their first Latin Mass – and liked it. (Via Domenico Bettinelli)


The High (Speed) Mass

Domenico Bettinelli and Bill Cork have been jousting on the relative merits of the quickie Mass.

One who favored, nay required, his Masses fast was Hilaire Belloc:

It followed that his piety was matter-of-fact. To him, the church was home. Thus, although he attended Mass daily, he believed (it is theologically sound) that a Low Mass should last no more than 10 minutes. If I attended Mass daily and were as hungover as he often was at that hour (Belloc was occasionally known to almost stagger to church, murmuring, "Oh, what we must endure for our holy religion"), I suspect I, too, might prefer similar brevity. I would not imitate H.B.’s criticism of a slow priest by standing up after 10 minutes, taking out a pocket watch, opening it and staring at its face.

Catholic writer Brian Doyle, in a 1997 essay in American Scholar, described the clockwork skill of serving the Old Mass with the speed required by worshipers with a morning train to catch. Someday I will post the entire essay, which is magnificent, but here is an excerpt:

Altar boy
Brian Doyle
1 April 1997
American Scholar

I will go up to the altar of God/ The giver of youth and happiness. - Psalm 43


I missed one Mass as an altar boy - the Tuesday dawn patrol, 6:00 A.M., Father Dennis Whelan presiding. He was a good-natured fellow, a cigar smoker, although he was a little young for it, that kind of guy, but he was furious when I trudged back to the sacristy after sitting through the second half of Mass in the very last pew.

Where were you?

I was late, Father.

You miss another and you're out of the corps.

I'm very sorry, Father.

It's no joke to be all alone out there.

Yes, Father.

I knew why he was peeved; I was the key to his famous twenty- two minute Mass. He pulled off this miracle week after week, without ever looking at his watch. His Mass drew the faithful by the dozens, especially businessmen trying to catch the weekday 6:30 train into New York City. One time Whelan had the 6:00 on St. Patrick's Day, and we had nearly fifty people in the church-still a record for our parish, I bet.

Working with Whelan was a pleasure; he was a real artist, someone who would have made his mark in any field. He had all the tools - good hands, nimble feet, a sense of drama, a healthy ego, the unnerving itch to be loved that all great performers have. He did not rush his movements, mumble, or edit his work. He was efficient, yes-he'd send his right hand out for the chalice as his left was carving a blessing in the air, that sort of thing-but every motion was cleanly executed and held in the air for the proper instant, and he had astounding footwork for such a slab of meat. He was one or two inches over six feet tall, 250 pounds maybe, big belly sliding around in his shirt, but he was deft at the altar and could turn on a dime in the thick red carpet. He cut a memorable double pivot around the corners of the altar table on his way to his spot, and he cut that sucker as cleanly as a professional skater before a Russian judge.

My job was simple: I was the wizard's boy, and the whole essence of being a great altar boy was to be where you needed to be without seeming to get there. Great altar boys flowed to their spots, osmosed from place to place. They just appeared suddenly at the priest's elbow and then vanished like Cheshire cats. There were other arts- quick work with the hands, proper bell ringing, a firm hand with matches and candles, the ability to project a sort of blue-collar holiness on the stage, that sort of thing-but the flowing around like a five-foot-tall column of water was the main thing, and it was damned hard to learn. Rookies spent their whole first year, and often two, lurching around the altar like zombies, a tick behind Father's moves, which led to, horror of horrors, an irritated Father gesturing distractedly for what he needed. Extra gestures from the wizard were the greatest sins, and we recoiled in horror when we saw them when we were at Mass with our families and out of uniform. At such moments, when the clod at the altar forgot to ring the bells, or brought the wrong cruet, or knelt there like a stone when he should have been liquiding around the altar in a flutter of surplice sleeves, I closed my eyes in shame and in memory, for my rookie year was a litany of errors too long to list, and my graduation from rookie to veteran was a source of great pride to me.


Whelan was all business out there from the moment he strode purposefully through the little doorway from the sacristy. He had to duck a bit to get under the lintel easily, but even this little dip was done smoothly and powerfully, as if he had trained for it. This quick duck-and-rise move made it appear that he was leaping onto the stage, and he always startled the rail birds getting in a last ask before the lights went up; by the time Whelan was front and center, the old birds were back in their pews doing the rosary ramble.

Whelan ran his Mass like clockwork, and God help the boy who was still sleepy, because the man knew our marks like they were chalked on the floor, and he expected us to be quick with the equipment of the Mass - glassware, towels, smoke. Cruets were to be filled to the neck, incense respectfully removed from the boat and properly lit in the thurible, hand towel clean and folded over the left arm, Mass book open to the right page, bells rung sharply at exactly the instant he paused for the sharp ringing of the bells. He also liked his wine cut with water in advance, half and half. Most priests liked to mix it themselves during Mass. Some drank mostly water with only a touch of wine for color and legitimacy; some drank the wine straight, with barely a drop of water. Few priests drank a full load of wine; even the heavy hitters found cheap burgundy distasteful at dawn. We did, too, although there were more than a few boys who drank wine in the musty stockroom, and every altar boy at some point gobbled a handful of Communion wafers to see how they tasted fresh from the box. They tasted like typing paper. After I discovered that the hosts came wholesale from a convent in New Jersey, the consecrated Host never tasted quite as savory again…


Tuesday, April 15, 2003  

Seville, April 13

Images: Penitents.


'Thirteen Moons.' The Portland Press-Herald reviews a book-length poem on the life and death of 18th-century Jesuit Fr. Sebastien Rasles, martyred missionary to the Abenakis of Maine.


Police arrested 90 people and twice fired pepper gas to disperse a bottle-throwing crowd of about 4,000 that spilled into downtown streets. Police met the crowd in riot gear - masks, helmets, clubs and shields.


No, the University of New Hampshire.

Shop owners were sweeping up broken glass and repairing storefronts Sunday, after a celebration turned into a window-smashing, rock-throwing melee.

A crowd estimated at 2,000 torched Dumpsters and overturned cars. Vandals set five vehicles on fire, and pelted emergency workers with bottles, rocks and chunks of concrete.

Firefighters trying to enter the area needed an escort from police clad in riot gear. Thrown debris smashed one fire truck windshield.


No, the University of Minnesota.

Humanitarian outcry is awaited over the devastating effects of college hockey.


Mass rocks were stones used as open-air altars by the Irish when the English penal laws restricted the practice of Catholicism. And that's not all you can learn at Fr. Jim Tucker's site.


The Red roots of the 'spontaneous' anti-war rallies: See this eye-opening piece at NRO by the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to defect from the former Soviet bloc.


Noted literary critic Harold Bloom leaves his books to St. Michael's College in Vermont: A remarkable story, via All But Dissertation.


The Garden of Eden is now a wasteland, according to this report.


Islam Online gets good copy from the Archbishop of Paris and the Pope.


A quote posted at Saintly Salmagundi:

I know that most men, including those at ease with the problems of greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives. - Leo Tolstoy


Moral suasion?

The president of Pax Christi International, Patriarch Michel Sabbah, of Jerusalem, who recently held forth on the 40th anniversary of Pacem in Terris (13th item), is himself in thrall to the PLO. You do the math.

The Middle East Council of Churches was groping a bit for a response to the fall of Baghdad, which didn't fit the house playlist: The turn of events yesterday in Iraq, and especially in Baghdad, has prompted different reactions around the region and globally, the MECC commented April 10. Not many people are quite sure about what is happening with the sudden collapse of the Iraqi government structure and the ensuing images of jubilation by the people of Iraq.

Previously the MECC had been quite sure about what was happening. "Today we have witnessed the start of a military campaign against the people and the land of Iraq," the heads of member churches declared in a March 21 communique. The statement, said the MECC general secretary, "condemns the war against Iraq, and brands it as immoral. The war contradicts to the very core the most fundamental human values."

Catholic members of the MECC are the Armenian Catholic Church of Cilicia, the Chaldean Catholic Church of Babylon, the Coptic Catholic Church of Alexandria, the Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, Alexandria & Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Maronite Church of Antioch, and the Syrian Catholic Church of Antioch.

The MECC has a weblog that includes among its bookmarks this site, Middle East Christians Against the War on Iraq and the Occupation of Palestine, which is a place to go if you want to read Eve Ensler's and Michael Moore's protests on Iraq, or pay online tribute to Rachel Corrie.

Chaldean Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad was outspoken in calling for a cease to the bombing that drove Saddam from power. "The war itself is a violation of human rights", he added. "With what right do they do this? The UN Security Council must make decisions, not single states. I say to you that our children cry out to heaven; our women, youth and old people ask God for peace: Peace, not war! Stop the war!"

Previously Bishop Warduni had urged "no blood for oil."

We do not understand this war. It is a threat to our children, our elderly, our sick, our young people, who for 12 years have known nothing about their future. Where is freedom? Where is Christian charity?"

"We ask to live like men, we do not ask for anything extraordinary," he added. "Why do they have to come here? Because we have oil? Let them take the oil but leave us in peace.

It should be noted that "peace" in Iraq before last week meant this.

Meantime, this from Catholic World News (ninth item): The Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Basra, Iraq, is showing journalists "the gift I have received from Bush." Archbishop Djibrail Kassab has put a label -- "April 3, 2:30 a.m." -- on his piece of U.S. shrapnel. "I was in my bed with the windows opened out in case the glass shattered," he told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. U.S.-led forces "bombed offices of the Foreign Ministry about 30 yards away," he said. "This is the fragment of an American missile that landed at the foot of my bed." The archbishop said he was not hurt. He said Basra, with its tiny Christian minority, always has been a city marked by religious tolerance. "In these days of terror, Christians and Muslims have drawn even closer to each other. We were under the same bombs," he said in the interview published April 9.

Archbishop Kassab told the Washington Post things had been quiet in Basra before: "We need security. There is no security in the city," said Archbishop Gabriel Kassab, 64, leader of southern Iraq's small Catholic Chaldean community. "I think that is the responsibility of the Americans and British. Before they came, the city was very quiet. . . . Then there was trouble."

The walls at the White Lion must have been thick enough to keep the screams from disturbing the quiet.

This article from The Telegraph last year describes the bargain the Syrian Catholic archbishop of Baghdad and other Catholics had struck with Saddam to ensure his tolerance.

The Catholic clerics of the region were among the loudest echoing the Iraqi government line on the hardship caused the Iraqi people by sanctions -- at the same time Saddam was stocking palaces with gold bathroom-fittings and Uday was maintaining a private harem and zoo while hoarding UNICEF shipments.

Perhaps the Christian churches in the Middle East have felt it necessary to reach CNN-style accommodations with despotism.

But to the extent the Vatican's views on Iraq and the Middle East are informed by such sources, the Holy See has been getting advice from an appeasement lobby, at the least, and from collaborationists with fascism, at the worst.


The Catholic Church and Vichy France: This site describing the relationship between prominent French bishops and the Petain government in France during the Second World War is interesting to note in light of the Vichy provenance of the Baath Party.



How churches played into Iraq's hands: From an opinion piece by Gerard Henderson in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Church leaders would be well advised to step down from the pulpit and assess their own responsibility for the conflict. For there is considerable evidence that Saddam and his advisers, including Aziz, took comfort from the give-peace-a-chance line that found expression in the governments of France, Germany and Russia and the so-called peace movement.

In January Saddam was reported as having hailed the anti-war protests as a sign that Bush's "evil and destructive policies" did not have support at home (Britain's Weekly Telegraph, January 23). The following month Mohammed Mehdi Saleh, a senior Iraqi official, said that the fact that "demonstrations took place" against Bush and Blair indicated the coalition of the willing would not take military action (The International Herald Tribune, February 24).

No group in the West protested more actively than the Christian churches. An unintended consequence of Aziz's audience with the Pope was to send a false message to Saddam in Baghdad. He came to believe that the West was too soft to stand up to Iraq. Sure, as Stalin is reported to have commented, the Pope has no military divisions. But other Christian believers - in particular, Bush and Blair - do, thus demonstrating that not all Christian soldiers are cut from the same cloth.


Sixty-six-story skyscraper proposed for London: Is this progress?


'Oldest religious icon in Americas.' The fanged god or goddess appears to have been a savage ancestor of Bucky Badger or Felix the Cat.


Sunday, April 13, 2003  

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

- G.K. Chesterton


Friday, April 11, 2003  

The Red Sox, whose home opener today, rain-out or no, was occasion for an unofficial holiday in New England, were dubbed by sportswriters the Pilgrims when they won the first World Series 100 years ago.

The case has been made the "Pilgrims" nickname better suits the eternal striving and Calvinist fatalism of the Boston nine, which takes to the Fens in pursuit of the world championship that has eluded it for 85 years.

John Holway argues convincingly the Sox' title drought stems not from any Curse of the Bambino, but from not playing "Tessie," the hit song from 1903 that was the Tin Pan Alley precursor to the Thunder Stick and the Rally Monkey, inspiring the team to five world championships.

They stopped singing in 1918, and the Red Sox have never won since, Holway says. If I were the Red Sox, I would order the organist at the stadium to play Tessie at every game.

You can listen to a contemporary recording of the song, via the National Library of Canada's Virtual Gramophone.

Boston's fanatical Royal Rooters, led by saloon-keeper Nuf Ced McGreevey, sang "Tessie" with such rabid intensity they drove the Pirates to distraction in the 1903 Series.

A review in the Sacramento Bee of three new books on the 1903 World Series notes the contribution the Royal Rooters' singing made to Boston's success.

In Game 5, with Boston down three games to one, around 125 Boston fans began to loudly sing a popular song of the day, "Tessie." It had nothing to do with baseball, but the Boston players liked it, and the Pittsburgh players and Pittsburgh fans didn't.

With the strains of "Tessie" floating through Pittsburgh's Exposition Park, Boston won 11-2. The next day, during Game 6, the Royal Rooters reprised "Tessie," this time adding some new lyrics: "Honus why do you hit so badly/Take a back seat and sit down/Honus, at bat you look so sadly/Hey, why don't you get out of town." Boston won 6-3 to even the series and went on to win Games 7 and 8 back in Boston to finish off the Pirates.

Could a song have made such a difference? Decades later, Pittsburgh third baseman Tommy Leach was interviewed for "The Glory of Their Times," Lawrence Ritter's pathbreaking oral history of baseball. Leach said: "I think those Boston fans actually won that series for the (sic) Red Sox. ... They started singing that damn 'Tessie' song for no particular reason at all, and the Red Sox won. They must have figured it was a good-luck charm, because from then on you could hardly play ball they were singing 'Tessie' so damn loud. ... Sort of got on your nerves after a while. And before we knew what happened, we'd lost the World Series."

Wagner, ailing from arm and leg injuries as well as from the sounds of "Tessie," ended up batting a woeful .222 for the series.

Our three World Series chroniclers agree with Leach's assessment. "It was the fans who made the difference (for Boston)," said Abrams. "I am convinced the Royal Rooters won the series by singing 'Tessie' to Wagner."

Masur writes that Pirate fans were so convinced that the song was their team's death knell that they hired a 40-piece band for Game 7 to drown the strains of 'Tessie.' It didn't work.

And Ryan quotes the Globe's Murnane after the series had been won: "('Tessie') will go tunefully tripping down the ages as the famous mascot that helped the Boston Americans win three out of four in Pittsburg (sic), capture the final game in Boston and with it the title -- champions of the world."

A statue of ace Cy Young now stands on what used to be the pitcher's mound of the old Huntington Avenue Grounds, today the campus of Northeastern University.

On that note:

Tom Fitzpatrick contemplates Opening Day, among other topics, in his April 11 dispatches at Verus Ratio.

T. S. O'Rama, in an April 5 entry at his blog, offers an ode to the national pastime as observed in that other city of Red Stockings:

Opening Day, Cincinnati Style

Pageantry tossed from the skies passed
Down from Abner to present she holds
the ancient lineage long the strands
of confetti that reign down on this
her feast and followers of the world's eldest
know that Tradition is darned in our socks
Inbred in our ground balls.

Herring Design Quarterly takes a look at the tradition of the Presidential First Ball.

And the Library of Congress offers a sterling gallery of historic baseball images.


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