NOTABLES: Persons of interest

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00Saturday, August 8, 2009 3:59 PM
Sooner or later, I was bound to start this thread. And I am glad the first post falls to the man whose miracle healing cleared the way for the Pope's approval of John Henry Newman's beatification.

Miracles happen -
even to hard-headed lawyers

Dwight G Duncan listens to Jack Sullivan's moving account
of his healing through Cardinal Newman's intercession

7 August 2009

John "Jack" Sullivan, 70, is acting clerk magistrate of Plymouth District Court in Massachusetts, generally not the kind of place where one expects to encounter miracles.

In any case, Jack is a happily married husband, father, and soon-to-be grandfather who lives in Marshfield, a medium-sized town in Plymouth County.

He went to Suffolk Law School in Boston in the 1960s, but since 2002 he has also been a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Boston, currently serving at St Thecla's parish in Pembroke, near Marshfield.

Describing himself as "very ordinary", though "somewhat good-looking - at least my wife thought I was", he considers himself "very lucky both professionally" and family-wise.

In 2000 and again in 2001, however, some extraordinary things happened to him which make him even more fortunate: Pope Benedict XVI decreed on July 3 that he had been cured of his crippling back pain through the intercession of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman and that the cure had no medical or scientific explanation.

The cure therefore qualifies as a miracle, which means that Cardinal Newman, the great 19th-century convert and Catholic theologian whom many consider the Father of Vatican II, will be beatified next year. Miracles happen - even to Boston lawyers.

Jack Sullivan spoke last month at Arnold Hall Conference Centre in Pembroke to a gathering of diocesan priests from around the country affiliated with Opus Dei's Priestly Society of the Holy Cross.

He was invited by Fr C John McCloskey III, a Newman scholar who in 2000 hosted a series of programmes for EWTN on Cardinal Newman.

At the end of one of his programmes, interviewing Fr Ian Ker, the renowned Newman biographer from Oxford, Fr McCloskey put a message on the television screen that read: "If you receive any favours from Cardinal Newman, please contact the Birmingham Oratory in England." This is where Newman had lived and died and where the postulator of his Cause of beatification, Fr Paul Chavasse, resides.

Jack Sullivan happened to be watching this programme. He said that if there had been no notice at the programme's end, he probably would not have prayed to Cardinal Newman, whom he previously knew very little about.

The programme came at a crucial time for Jack, who was eager to be ordained a permanent deacon even though the way forward then seemed impossible. He had just finished his second year of a four-year course of studies for the diaconate when he woke up on June 6 2000 with a tremendous pain in the back of his legs so that he could hardly walk.

At Jordan Hospital in Plymouth a CAT scan showed five vertebrae squeezing his spinal cord and creating a bulge, which meant that he could lose his lower body function at any time and be paralysed. He could only walk doubled over.

Referred to a specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital he was told it was the worst back problem the doctor had seen in 17 years.

Surgery was indicated, which would take at least six months to recuperate from. He was told to forget about resuming his studies for the diaconate.

He prayed: "Please, Cardinal Newman, intercede with God so that I might go back to classes and be ordained." He stressed that he did not pray for a miracle, just that he could resume his studies.

The following morning, he felt no pain, had full mobility and could walk without difficulty, with strength in his legs. He then met another specialist, this time at New England Baptist Hospital, who told him that it was no longer necessary to undergo surgery and that he could resume his classes.

Jack finished his third year without difficulty, but the day after his last class in 2001 the debilitating pain resumed so that he was effectively confined to a wheelchair. Surgery was performed in August of 2001.

Complications ensued, as the surgeon discovered that the protective membrane surrounding his spine had ruptured, and the fluids had leaked out. The prognosis was not good, and recovery was expected to last eight months to a year. He needed to be carried back to his bed in the hospital.

Five days after the surgery he prayed again to Cardinal Newman to be able to walk and resume his studies. He then felt great heat and a tingling sensation all over accompanied by a tremendous sense of peace.

Though he had no sensation of time, the nurse told him this lasted for about 10 minutes. He stood up straight, was able to walk without a walker or cane, without any difficulty or pain. When he was discharged from the hospital they gave him a huge jar of Percocet, a potent painkiller. He didn't take the drug because he didn't need it. Where pills couldn't reach, prayer did.

He called his doctor, Robert Banco of New England Baptist, who said he could resume his studies. It was only in October 2001, after his post-operative meeting with Dr Banco, that he contacted Fr McCloskey in order to get in touch with the Birmingham Oratory.

His doctor had told Jack that he had no medical or scientific explanation for his recovery: "If you want answers, ask God."

It was the following year, on September 14 2002, that Jack was ordained a permanent deacon along with his classmates. The rest, as they say, is history.

Jack walks a mile and a half every day and does heavy lifting in caring for his large home garden. He has not had any relapse or recurrence since the August 2001 cure.

A tribunal in Boston gathered the evidence, and took testimony from 10 witnesses, which was then approved by panels of medical experts and theologians in Rome before being approved by the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and finally by Pope Benedict XVI himself.

One might well ask: "Why Jack Sullivan?"

Fr George Rutler, a well-known Anglican convert himself, uncovered an interesting coincidence from the memoirs of Herbert Vaughan, future Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, relating to 1889, the year before Cardinal Newman died: "I slept at the Oratory and the Cardinal came in to see me for 20 minutes. I hardly knew him again: doubled up like a shrimp and walking with a stick longer than his body.

But a few days before his death the next year, the Cardinal surprised his care-giver, Fr Neville, by returning to his rooms 'unbent, erect to the full height of his best days in the 50s; he was without support of any kind'."

All of which means that Cardinal Newman had an affliction like Jack Sullivan's, and that he too had been cured of it. Maybe he heard Jack's plea for intercession because he knew from personal experience how debilitating a back injury can be.

Another possible connection, also speculative, is that Cardinal Newman, the Father of Vatican II, thought Jack's a good cause. Perhaps the venerable cardinal wanted to signal approval of Jack's studies for the permanent diaconate, a feature of Newman's beloved Church of the Fathers.

The permanent diaconate had disappeared in the West during the Middle Ages, but was restored to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church by the Second Vatican Council. It was to get back on track with his studies for the diaconate that Jack Sullivan had prayed to Cardinal Newman. And he was heard.

Jack's response? "God doesn't raise up the mighty. He lifts up the lowly." He displayed a humble recognition of God's favours worked through the saints and abiding gratitude to the soon-to-be Blessed John Henry Newman.

Dwight G Duncan is a professor at Southern New England School of Law in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

00Saturday, August 8, 2009 4:28 PM
Bush quietly saved
a million African lives

by Paul Kengor

Issue of August 9-22, 2009

What if a President, on his own initiative, under no demands from staff or from supporters or opponents, set out to spend an unprecedented amount of money on AIDS in Africa, literally billions of dollars, at a time when the nation could not afford it, citing his faith as a primary motivation and, ultimately, saved more than a million lives?

Wouldn’t the story be front-page news, especially in top, liberal newspapers? Wouldn’t it lead on CNN, MSNBC and the “CBS Evening News”? Might statues be erected to the man in the nation’s more “progressive” cities?

What if the President was George W. Bush?

I pose these uncomfortable questions for two reasons: 1) President Bush did precisely that regarding the African AIDS tragedy; and 2) a study claims that Bush’s remarkable action has indeed saved many precious lives.

And as someone who has closely followed Bush’s humanitarian gesture from the outset, I’m not surprised that the former President continues to not receive the accolades he deserves — including even from conservative supporters — for this generous act.

Bush himself realizes the lack of gratitude and media attention. I personally witnessed it very recently, on June 17, when I was in attendance for one of Bush’s first postpresidential speeches, in Erie, Pa. There, too, he mentioned the AIDS initiative — even adding that one of his daughters is in Africa today, working on the epidemic — and, there again, it received no press coverage whatsoever.

It all began in January 2003, during the State of the Union. In a completely unexpected announcement, Bush asked Congress for $15 billion for AIDS in Africa — drugs, treatment and prevention.

America soon learned this was not the typical State of the Union throwaway line: To show his seriousness, Bush followed on April 29 with a press conference in the East Room, where he exhorted Congress to “act quickly” on his “emergency plan.”

Accompanied by the secretary of state, he prodded America’s wealthy allies to join this “urgent work,” this “great effort.” He explained that AIDS was a “dignity of life” issue and “tragedy” that was the “responsibility of every nation.” This was a “moral imperative,” with time “not on our side.”

Bush then shocked the press by pointing to an unusual personal motivation, citing the parable of the Good Samaritan: “[T]his cause is rooted in the simplest of moral duties,” he told journalists. “When we see this kind of preventable suffering … we must act. When we see the wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not, America will not, pass to the other side of the road.”

With amazing quickness, just four weeks later, Bush inked a $15-billion plan and challenged Europe to match the U.S. commitment without delay.

How did the plan work? In April, a major study was released by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

According to the study, the first to evaluate the outcomes of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Bush initiative has cut the death toll from HIV/AIDS by more than 10% in targeted African countries from 2003 to 2007.

“It has averted deaths — a lot of deaths,” said Dr. Eran Bendavid, one of the researchers. “It is working. It’s reducing the death toll from HIV. People who are not dying may be able to work and support their families and their local economy.” Co-researcher, Dr. Peter Piot, says PEPFAR “is changing the course of the AIDS epidemic.”

The study — still having received virtually no press attention several months after its release — estimates that the Bush relief plan has saved more than 1 million African lives.

Those are the facts. What about opinion, particularly public opinion?

That brings me back to my initial point. If a Democratic Party President had done this, he would be feted as both a national hero and international hero on his way to a ceremony with the Nobel Committee.

George W. Bush, however, is getting very little credit — or, at least, no fanfare.

Again, I’m not surprised. I first wrote about the Bush AIDS initiative in a 2004 book, followed by several articles, including an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, plus many discussions on radio and TV talk shows.

I was struck by two reactions, from the left and the right:

From the left, I got incensed e-mails from Bush-hating elements refusing to concede that Bush did what he did. They said the craziest things, insisting not a dime had been spent and that the program effectively did not even exist. They could not find it within their power to grant that Bush could do something so kind, which they should naturally embrace.

I’ve been most disappointed by my fellow Christians in the “social justice” wing — Catholics and Protestants alike — who have been deafeningly silent on a campaign that ought to serve as a poster child for precisely what they advocate.

To be fair, some have stepped up to thank Bush, including no less than Bill Clinton, as well as musician-activist Bob Geldof. But they are the exception. (In a piece for Time, Geldof wrote about the moment he personally asked Bush about the lack of awareness of the AIDS initiative: “Why doesn’t America know about this?” Bush answered: “I tried to tell them. But the press weren’t much interested.”)

From the right, I still get angry e-mails explaining that what Bush did for Africans is not a “core function” of government, certainly not enumerated anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. Fiscal conservatives asserted that America could not afford this huge expenditure at a time of post-9/11 recession, burgeoning budget deficits, on the heels of a massive operation in Afghanistan, and as military spending was about to go through the roof as U.S. troops headed for Baghdad.

Technically, or perhaps fiscally, much of this is true.

Yet, to be sure, George W. Bush understood the financial cost — and said so explicitly. Nonetheless, he judged that only America could carry out this “act of compassion” at that critical juncture. He also judged, apparently, that only he, as a Western leader, had the will to do this.

So, he did it. He absorbed the cost to try to save lives.

Well, we now know that the policy has worked — just as, yes, we know it contributed to a record deficit. Still, it is rare when history can so directly, indisputably credit a President for a specific, undeniable policy achievement — a genuinely generous one that clearly emerged from his personal doing, from his heart. Millions of lives have been spared or bettered due to President Bush’s intervention.

But while the policy helped, it never did anything to help George W. Bush’s terrible disapproval rating — and still will not, given its lack of attention.

Well, George W. Bush, the much-ridiculed man of faith — ridiculed often because of his faith — always said he never expected rewards in this lifetime. Here’s one that apparently will need to wait.

Paul Kengor is author of God and George W. Bush (HarperCollins, 2004) and professor of political science and director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania.

00Friday, August 28, 2009 9:07 PM
Kennedy the Catholic
by Rev. Robert A. Sirico
President, Acton Institute

August 27, 2009

I only met Edward Kennedy once.

I had been invited to visit then-senator Phil Gramm, who was contemplating a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996. Having read some of my musings on the topic, Senator Gramm wanted to brainstorm about some innovative welfare-reform policies that would simultaneously make economic sense and really help the poor.

After we had chatted for some time in his office, a bell rang and Senator Gramm rose. “I need to take a vote. Walk with me and let’s continue this conversation,” he said.

As we walked down the corridor, I could spy familiar names on the various Senate office doors. We came to an elevator that would take us down to an underground subway connecting the Senate offices to the Senate chamber. It was a small elevator, no more than a large closet. Senator Gramm, an aide, and I tucked ourselves in and the door began to slide shut.

Just before closing, an arm came through to stop the door’s close. As it reopened, I found myself standing face-to-face with the Lion of the Senate, arguably the most prominent Catholic layman in the country, scion of the most prominent Catholic family, perhaps, in U.S. history.

Kennedy immediately looked me up and down, and then quizzically glanced over to Senator Gramm trying to figure out why his colleague was hanging out with a priest.

As Senator Kennedy stepped into the elevator, Senator Gramm welcomed him with his Southern tones, “Come on in, Teddy. We’ve called you here to pray for you.”

Without missing a beat, Senator Kennedy tossed a mischievous wink in my direction, nudging me with his elbow in Catholic camaraderie and replied in his Bostonian accent, “Uhh [there was that familiar pause of his], uhh, no Phil, Father and I have called you here to pray for you.”

There was laughter as the elevator door slid closed. It was my turn to speak so I decided to enter the spirit of the moment.

I stood erect, place my hand on Senator Kennedy’s broad shoulder and said, “Actually, senator, this is an exorcism.”

The laughter in that elevator, which spilled out onto the train platform, was electric, causing the by-standing senators to look in our direction and wonder what in the world would have Senators Kennedy and Gramm in such uproarious laughter with a Catholic priest.

And so, I had mixed feelings on the news of Ted Kennedy’s passing. A memory of a pleasant encounter, but knowledge that despite our common baptism, Senator Kennedy and I differed in some very radical ways on issues of public policy, economics, heath care, marriage, and, most fundamentally, on matters related to life.

James Joyce once remarked that the Catholic Church was “Here comes everybody,” and while I relish the experience of being part of a Church rather than a sect, a Church in which there are a host of matters on which faithful Catholics can disagree, I also recognize that there are some defining issues from which are derived the very sense of a shared identity.

From my own life and in my pastoral work, I understand that not everyone lives up to the demands of the faith all the time. Graham Greene’s famed “whiskey priest” in The Power and the Glory was the prototype of an essentially good, yet flawed man.

Yet there are some matters so grave that they go beyond mere flaws and work to diminish or even fracture an identity. I fear that this will be part of Ted Kennedy’s legacy, notwithstanding his other personal weaknesses.

What might the face of the Democratic party, indeed American politics, today look like if Ted Kennedy had, instead of reversing himself, maintained the unflinching stance of his late sister Eunice in her consistent defense of vulnerable human life — whether that of a mentally handicapped child or sister or an infant in the womb?

Instead, the senator took the dubious advice of certain Boston Jesuits to abandon that tradition and hence those most vulnerable.

Many will speak and write of the legacy of Ted Kennedy in the days ahead. For me, as an East Coast “ethnic” grandchild of immigrants, Kennedy’s death symbolizes several cogent moments in Catholic America.

It marks the passing of a generation that thought that being Catholic, Democratic, and pro–New Deal were synonymous. We now live in an age where many Catholic Americans are very happy to be described as pro-market and are suspicious of New Deal–like solutions — as, of course, they are entitled to be in a way that they are not on, for example, life issues. Senator Kennedy had it exactly the wrong way around.

Kennedy’s death also brings the Church face-to-face once again with the fact that there is a massive problem of basic Catholic education — catechesis — among the faithful.

So many Catholics — even some clergy — make an absolute out of prudential issues such as economic policy, while relativizing absolutes, such as abortion, euthanasia, and marriage.

This is done in the face of clear, binding teachings from John Paul the Great, who said that no other right is safe unless the right to life is protected, or, as Pope Benedict wrote recently in Caritas in Veritate, that life issues must be central to Catholic social teaching

This also marks the passing of a certain type of cultural Catholicism — Northeast, Irish and increasingly Italian, concerned with obtaining political power while maintaining an identification with the Church, yet happy to relinquish the substance of the faith if it gets in the way.

Indeed, today such cultural Catholics have dispensed even with the identity aspect and are often outright hostile to the Church of their baptism.

I would like to think that the letter, reported to have been ten pages, that Ted Kennedy wrote and asked President Obama to hand to Pope Benedict early in the summer renders an account of his life before God and the Church.

I certainly pray he died at peace, reconciled with the Church of his fathers, and in God’s merciful grace. And I shall pray for his eternal beatitude.

Head chef in the cafeteria
By Brad Miner

August 28, 2009

Miner was a literary editor of National Review, and is now senior editor of The Catholic Thing.

When I think of Edward M. Kennedy (“Teddy” early on before the more respectful “Ted”), I first think of Terry Malloy, the character played by Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront.” Kennedy’s brothers got title shots (one was champ), but, like Terry, Teddy got a “one-way ticket to Palooka-ville!” Did he think, I coulda been a contender? Oh yes.

But unlike Terry, Teddy was no bum, and, despite some astonishing missteps, he got to hang out with the punchy Palookas in the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, that Gleason’s Gym of blow-dried heavyweights, the United States Senate.

Indeed, he became the longest-serving senator in Massachusetts history, second-longest in the current Senate (after Robert Byrd, for whom nearly everything in West Virginia is named), and the third-longest since Vice President John Adams pounded the gavel at the Senate’s first session on March 4, 1789.

This is remarkable, since in the aftermath of July 18, 1969, the oddsmakers were wagering Kennedy’s political career had sunk as low as his Olds Delmont 88 (and, lest we forget, Miss Mary Jo Kopechne) into that dark Chappaquiddick tidal pool. Mr. Kennedy was thirty-seven when his career died. He announced that he would not seek re-election to the Senate in 1972.

He was reborn when he was re-elected in 1972. Polls overcame his decision to retire to private life, and he never looked back.

Questions about his character became moot, and, mirabile dictu, there being no legal consequences following the Chappaquiddick Incident, he found a certain peace in knowing that in congressional wheeler-dealing – as opposed to presidential politics – he was free to be himself without fear of rejection by the voters of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – ever.

Well, he did take a half-hearted shot at the presidency in 1980, but after that he was Senator-for-life. And the Nation’s Preeminent Catholic Politician.

Prior to Roe v. Wade, Ted Kennedy had not been a staunch advocate of abortion rights. Quite the opposite. As Anne Hendershott wrote earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal, two years before Roe Kennedy “was still championing the rights of the unborn.”

But as his thinking evolved (he earned a 100 percent pro-choice rating from NARAL), you could pretty much take the Church’s position on a given moral issue and reliably predict that Kennedy’s advocacy would be in opposition to it.

Same-sex marriage? Kennedy votes yea. Pro-life candidates for the Supreme Court (Rehnquist, Bork, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito)? Kennedy votes nay. (In fairness, he did support Antonin Scalia in 1986.) Adultery? Well, let’s not forget that Miss Kopechne (She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in stories about Teddy’s death), whom Kennedy said he was escorting to her hotel, had left the party where they’d been without either her purse or her room key. Divorce? He left his first wife in 1983. [In fairness, by all accounts, Kennedy abandoned his womanizing after he married Victoria, who appears to have provided him much-needed domestic stability, private discipline and good sense.]

All this may be entered – and surely is – in the Book of Life against his salvation, but there were things about the man that even his most vocal opponents found endearing.

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) described Kennedy as “like a brother to me,” and John McCain (R-AZ) called Kennedy a “skillful, fair, and generous partner.” He worked with George W. Bush on No Child Left Behind. Upon hearing the news of Kennedy’s death, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said: “No one could have known the man without admiring the passion and vigor he poured into a truly momentous life.” All true.

And, given the family tragedies he endured, one may admire his determination to push on. Plus (politics aside) he was probably our history's most successful Senator.

All Catholics should hope that in the end he received the Sacrament of Anointing, and God’s mercy, and that his soul is with Jesus. Still, as Elizabeth Scalia once wrote about Sen. Kennedy, “the quiet altruism of a public man is always overshadowed by the noise of his sins.”

And those were very public sins, many of which he defended as a Catholic, and the question for the faithful is this: Who other than Edward Moore Kennedy did as much to debase the public understanding of our faith? Or gave, in the technical sense of the term, grave public scandal?

Well, there were the pedophile priests and their ecclesiastical enablers, but when Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Rudy Giuliani and other dissident Catholic politicians, all of them likely excommunicated latae sententiae (and unrepentant to boot), receive Holy Communion at papal Masses during Benedict XVI’s American visit, less discerning Catholics may be forgiven for supposing that political positions which contradict the Magisterium are nonetheless canonically acceptable.

One notes in the encomia that flowed freely after Sen. Kennedy’s death how often writers have referred to his support of “Catholic values.” Even his most ardent admirers would not dare assert that he championed Catholic teaching.

And when I think of Edward M. Kennedy and his legacy, I picture him as the chef de cuisine of cafeteria Catholics everywhere. He was the man most responsible for cooking up, sometimes abetted by clerical sous chefs, the corned beef and cabbage that is served, steaming in over-seasoned political broth, as American Catholicism. His sins were scarlet, but are past. The scandal, however, lives on.

And I recall with both pleasure and pain the image of John Paul II shaking his finger at the beret-wearing, Nicaraguan leftist heretic, Ernesto Cardenal. It’s a pleasant image made painful by my inability to recall any American Catholic priest, bishop, archbishop, or cardinal ever publicly scolding Ted Kennedy.

That said, may he rest in peace.

I am relieved that this occasion has somehow broken the unwritten taboo that nothing but good must be said about a man who has just passed away - and that much of the honest expression is coming from reputable Catholics.

Benedict XVI may still issue a statement in time for Kennedy's funeral, but that he has not done so, so far, tells me that he does not want to commit public hyprocrisy for the sake of the convention that a dead man must somehow be immune from criticism.

History will eventually decide what Kennedy's actual concrete achievements were in terms of legislation that benefited all Americans, as opposed to broad-net entitlement programs that encouraged welfarism.

I do not doubt that Edward Kennedy was loving and charming and a good man to those he loved - and to others who shared his views.

And I will not even hold Chappaquiddick against him, because it sort of confirmed what the public really suspected about him at the time - that he was much inferior to his older brothers in terms of intellect, and probably, character. He was caught cheating at Harvard, after all.

Perhaps he saw his singleminded dedication to his work as a Senator as his way of making up somehow for whatever it was he fell short of at Chappaquiddick. If he eventually came to be the 'lion of the Senate', it was because of longevity, and from all accounts, honest industrious homework on the bills he sponsored. If only he had applied the same standards to his assessment of his political enemies!

But what I cannot forget about him was his relentless and consistent partisan nastiness - personal and often wrongful because false attacks, rather than merely arguing against their positions - against anyone whose views were different from his ultra-liberal reflexive mindset.

In the past 20 years that I have been in the United States, I have hardly seen or heard him on TV except excoriating Republicans and conservatives for not being the bleedingheart liberal that he was, and vilifying in the nastiest ways possible those he had reason to take down politically, from Robert Bork to Condoleezza Rice, Sam Alito, John Roberts, and George W. Bush (and most of his appointees to anything).

All I have seen of him was a man who was 100% sure that only he and his way were right, to the point of intolerant meanness for those who thought differently and were not his personal friends - the very embodiment of demagoguery and ideological bigotry! That was his public face to anyone who was not a Democrat or a liberal - because of course, they greeted his every 'lion's roar' with cheers of approbation.

He finished his memoirs before he passed away, and the book is due to come out next month. I hope that the terrible death sentence under which he had to write it helped him to reconsider that partisan sanctimony and acrimony.

And I am sincerely glad that a Catholic priest came to give him the Last Sacraments.

00Saturday, August 29, 2009 10:39 PM
Edward M. Kennedy is to be buried in Arlington this evening, an American hero by some standards, after a Catholic funeral in the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston this morning, at which Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, performed the simple funeral rites at the end of the Mass, and President Obama delivered a eulogy following those of the late senator's two sons.

In the news today is another prominent Catholic, though a recent convert, Tony Blair, who like Senator Kennedy, opposes Church teachings on abortion, contraception, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage.

Can someone name a prominent Catholic politician anywhere who is an orthodox practising Catholic?

Tony Blair at Rimini Meeting:
Society needs to give space to faith

RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 28, 2009 ( Britain's former prime minister, Tony Blair, believes that "to be harmonious, a society must leave room for faith."

Addressing some 15,000 people Thursday at the "Meeting for Friendship Between Peoples," organized by the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation in the Italian coastal city of Rimini, Blair revealed aspects of his conversion to Catholicism.

In fact, he said, when he was "preparing to enter the Catholic Church, he had the feeling he was returning home."

His conversion, he added, was made easier by his wife; moreover, he realized that the Catholic Church was his home not "only because of its doctrine and magisterium, but because of its universal nature."

In the course of his address, the founder of the Faith Foundation quoted Benedict XVI's recent encyclical "Caritas in Veritate" several times, and said that it was "worthwhile reading and re-reading it; it is a counter-attack to relativism."

He also highlighted the encyclical's message, which affirms that without God man would not know where to go, considering that it is of vital importance for a globalized world such as today's.

If a globalized world is not to be dominated by power, it must have a counter-weight that seeks the common good, he stressed.

In this connection, Blair explained that the universal Church, which is a model of a global institution, must come into play to address the problems posed by globalization.

In regard to the challenges of a multi-cultural society, Blair acknowledged that globalization makes us meet more people, but it is necessary to keep our characteristic identity.

It is necessary "to respect the Judeo-Christian roots of the countries of Europe. We must also call for respect for the identity of our countries, which has been formed in the course of millennia."

According to Blair, religion is often seen "as a source of conflict and we must demonstrate that faith is committed to building justice."

"In this way, we will show the real face of God, who is love and compassion," he added.

"Faith is not a form of superstition, but salvation for man. It is not a fleeing from life. Faith and reason are allied, never in opposition. Faith and reason support one another, reinforce each other, do not compete. That is why the voice of the Church is listened to, the voice of faith must always be listened to. That is our mission for the 21st century."

He also referred to the question of the process of peace in the Middle East and stated that "Israel must have its security guaranteed and Palestinians must be able to have an independent State."

Blair ended his addresses affirming "it would be a great sign of reconciliation and hope if the Holy Land were a place for reconciliation and peace."

Blair gets star reception
Posted by Edward Pentin

Friday, August 28, 2009 10:05 AM

Tony Blair was given star treatment at Communion and Liberation’s 30th annual Rimini Meeting yesterday evening in Italy.

Billed by the organizers as “The Day of Blair,” the speech took place in a packed auditorium of mostly Communion and Liberation members who gave the former British Prime Minister and recent convert to the Church a rousing welcome.

Several thousand people filled the huge hall and stood up to greet Blair as he walked from the back of the hall to the front amid wild cheers. His press spokesman said it was the largest single gathering the former British politician had ever addressed.

Blair made many commendable points in his speech. He began by explaining how he had just come back from China and was impressed by how, despite continued restrictions on the Church, the country is drawing heavily on its culture and civilization and beginning to realize the limitations of “seeing a society simply as a technocratic or legal bargain between individual and state.”

He spoke of his “Third Way” approach to politics, the importance of rolling back the state to ensure individual opportunity, and the vital role of a social group apart from government and business — the voluntary sector — “to do those things that neither the market nor the state can do.”

Blair praised Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, for how it “enlarges and enriches” the idea of community, and puts “God’s Truth at the center of it.” He stressed faith and reason are in alliance, not in opposition, and he lauded the role of faith communities in bringing about peace.

“Too often religion is seen as a source of conflict and division. Show instead how faith is standing up for justice, for solidarity across peoples and nations, and how it’s doing so with those of other faiths and we show the true face of God’s love, mercy and compassion,” he said to loud applause.

Asked at the end of his speech why he decided to join the Church, he said: “Frankly this began with my wife. I began to go to Mass and we worshipped together. We could have worshipped in a Catholic or Anglican Church — guess who won? But as time went on and I’d been going to Mass for a long time, it’s been difficult to put into words, but I felt there was something about the Church — not just the doctrine and teaching of the Church — but the universal nature of the Church.”

The crowd frequently applauded and he received two standing ovations. “It was one of the greatest meetings of the last thirty years,” said the event’s host, Giorgio Vittadini, one that “will go down in the Meeting’s history.”

An Italian volunteer told me the next day: “Usually I don’t expect a politician to be humble, but he was — he gave a great speech, and funny too.”

But his words, and his reply to questions afterwards, never referred to any life issue, most significantly legalized abortion, embryonic destructive research, and same-sex unions — all policies he supported as prime minister.

It’s also not clear whether he accepts the Church’s teaching on these issues as he has yet to publicly repudiate his previous support for them.

The point was put into characteristic clarity by Professor Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, also a speaker at the Rimini Meeting this year, but who did not attend Mr. Blair’s speech.

“Let me speak plainly,” George told the Register afterwards.

“The policies enacted by Tony Blair pertaining to the right of every human being to the protections of the law were reprehensible. It is shocking that Tony Blair did not renounce these policies and express regret for them before being publicly received into the Catholic Church.

"It is even more shocking that he has, since being received into the Church, given every indication that he continues to support policies that result in the destruction of innocent human beings in the embryonic and fetal stages of development in vast numbers.”

George added, “I’m a bit surprised to hear that Tony Blair received such a warm reception at this meeting. I can only infer that most of the people in the audience must have supposed that he had renounced these policies when he, in his ceremony of being received into full communion with the Catholic Church, stated that he believed that he everything that the Catholic Church taught and believed.”

A member of Communion and Liberation, a movement well known for its loyalty to the Church and its faithfulness to Church teaching, said Blair was given such a hearty welcome because its members wanted to congratulate him on his decision to join the Church.

Blair was received into the Church in 2007.

What is the Rimini Meeting?
From the Meeting website

With an average attendance of over 700,000, the Rimini Meeting – held annually since 1980 and lasting one week in the second half of August – is the world’s biggest summer festival of encounters, exhibitions, music and spectacle.

The event is unique of its kind: an association that for 29 years has sought to create points of contact between experiences and people of different faiths and cultures who share a positive desire for knowledge and reciprocal enhancement.

In recent years this human and cultural position, with is roots in the ecclesial movement of Communion and Liberation, has proved capable of an openness which has attracted testimonies from the most significant personalities on the world stage.

Those who have appeared at the Meeting range from the Holy Father John Paul II to Chaim Potok, the then Cardinal Ratzinger, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Dalai Lama, Lech Walesa, Carlo Rubbia, George Smoot, Ennio Morricone, José Carreras, Jean Guitton, Luigi Giussani, Simone Veil, Martha Graham, David Rosen, François Michelin, and many other politicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, philosophers and artists.

Quite apart from its sheer diversity, the elementary experience of humanity reveals itself as the common ground for meeting and dialogue. Not doubts about identity but the certainty of having met something true spurs people to make discoveries and recognize all that is beautiful and good, in keeping with. St. Paul’s counsel: “Test everything; hold to what is good.”

Apart from a small core of 14 people who work full time on its organization, the Rimini Meeting is organized, prepared, managed and then dismantled by the impassioned and generous efforts of volunteers, who number over 3,000 each year.

Most of them are young, they come from all over Italy and many other countries around the world. It is above all because of their contribution that the Rimini Meeting has become a major event, as the figures show: 400 exhibitions, 3000 encounters, 5000 guests and 850 journalists accredited to the last edition.

The Meeting is a great social event, a festive happening, a place where we celebrate the earthly glory of God as creator and friend. But it is above all a gratuitous gesture: thousands of people, of all ages and social backgrounds, give of their time and energy to create the event. The cultural discourse that unfolds there is just one of the fruits.

What Cardinal Ratzinger said about C&L

In September, 2004, the future Pope Benedict XVI, described his own meeting with Monsignor Luigi Giussani [founder of C&L] in the early 1970s, and found out all about Communion and Liberation:

It was an interesting discovery for me; I had never heard of this group (Communion and Liberation) until that moment, and I saw young people full of fervor for the faith, quite far from a sclerotic and weary Catholicism, and without the mentality of "protest" - which considers all that was there before the Council as totally superseded -but a faith that was fresh, profound, open and with the joy of being believers, of having found Jesus Christ and His Church. There, I understood that there was a new start, there was really a renewed faith that opens doors to the future.

Cardinal Ratzinger delivered the eulogy at Don Giussani's funeral in Milan in February 2005, an event many considered to have boosted his 'stock' as a probable successor to John Paul II.

BTW, Cardinal Ratzinger's address to the 1990 Rimini Meeting deserves to be translated - it was entitled 'An ever-reforming company' [based on a Latin phrase], referring to the Church. I have not so far seen an English translation online.

P.S. I have since posted the translation in a new thread called TEXTS BY JOSEPH RATZINGER.

00Wednesday, September 2, 2009 10:42 AM
A tale of two Kennedys
and how they differed


Published: August 30, 2009

Only 13 days separated the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics, from the death of her brother Ted last week.

But amid the wall-to-wall coverage and the stream of retrospectives for the senior senator from Massachusetts, it was easy to forget that he wasn’t the only famous Kennedy sibling to enter eternity this month.

Liberalism’s most important legislator probably merited a more extended send-off than his sister. But there’s a sense in which his life’s work and Eunice’s deserve to be remembered together — for what their legacies had in common, and for what ultimately separated them.

What the siblings shared — in addition to the grace, rare among Kennedys, of a ripe old age and a peaceful death — was a passionate liberalism and an abiding Roman Catholic faith.

These two commitments were intertwined: Ted Kennedy’s tireless efforts on issues like health care, education and immigration were explicitly rooted in Catholic social teaching, and so was his sister’s lifelong labor on behalf of the physically and mentally impaired.

What separated them was abortion.

Along with her husband, Sargent Shriver, Eunice belonged to America’s dwindling population of outspoken pro-life liberals. Like her church, she saw a continuity, rather than a contradiction, between championing the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed and protecting unborn human life.

Her brother took a different path. Not at first: In 1971, in a letter to a voter that abortion opponents would have many opportunities to quote, he declared that “wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.”

But like many other Catholic liberals, from Joseph Biden to Dennis Kucinich, he moved leftward with his party, becoming a down-the-line supporter of abortion rights, with a voting record that brooked no compromise on the issue.

For abortion opponents, cruel ironies abounded in this sibling disagreement. Because of Eunice Shriver’s work with the developmentally disabled, a group of Americans who had once been marginalized and hidden away — or lobotomized, like her sister Rosemary — was ushered closer to full participation in ordinary human life.

But because of laws that her brother unstintingly supported, that same group was ushered out again: the abortion rate for fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome, for instance, is estimated to be as high as 90 percent.

In 1992, Eunice participated in the last significant effort to push the Democratic Party away from abortion on demand, petitioning her party’s convention to consider “a new understanding” of the issue, “one that does not pit mother against child,” but instead seeks “policies that responsibly protect and advance the interest of mothers and their children, both before and after birth.”

That same summer, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court upheld a near-absolute right to terminate a pregnancy — a decision made possible by her brother’s demagogic assault on Robert Bork five years earlier, which helped doom Bork’s nomination to the court.

At times, Ted Kennedy’s fervor on abortion felt like an extended apology to his party’s feminists for the way the men of his dynasty behaved in private.

Eunice, by contrast, had nothing to apologize for. She knew what patriarchy meant: she was born into a household out of “Mad Men,” where the father paraded his mistress around his family, the sons were groomed for high office, and the daughters were expected to marry well, rear children and suffer silently.

And she transcended that stifling milieu, doing more than most men to change the world, and earning the right to disagree with her fellow liberals about what true feminism required.

It’s worth pondering how the politics of abortion might have been different had Ted shared even some of his sister’s qualms about the practice.

One could imagine a world in which America’s leading liberal Catholic had found a way to make liberalism less absolutist on the issue, and a world where a man who became famous for reaching across the aisle had reached across, even occasionally, in search of compromise on the country’s most divisive issue.

That was not to be. And it’s entirely fitting, given his record, that Kennedy’s immediate legacy is a draft of health-care legislation that pursues an eminently Catholic goal — expanding access to medical care — through a system that seems likely, in its present design, to subsidize abortion.

But his sister would have written it a different way.

00Wednesday, September 2, 2009 12:56 PM

This has to be one of the most preposterous headlines - and chosen spin line for the liberals - ever! To say that a bishop can be 'too anti-abortion' is to completely misunderstand what the Catholic faith is. You either believe something completely or you don't, and if you believe, then you act accordingly.

But then TIME has now been assigning its stories about the Church to this Amy Sullivan who has shown herself to be bigoted and uninformed, to say the least, when reporting about the Church - and that says much about TIME and the liberal media who really are not interested in reporting facts about the Church, only their negative spin.

The full article may be found on,8599,1919969,00.html?xid=rss-to...

P.S. Father Z fisks Sullivan's article on his blog today
- and also researches her ultra-liberal background, which includes having been an executive assistant to the infamous Tom Daschle, who had to withdraw his nomination as Obama's health Secretary because of major tax omissions.


In the interest of fairness to Bishop Martino, I am posting an item I had meant to post yesterday:

Thank you, Bishop Martino,
for your fidelity and courage

By Deacon Keith Fournier


SCRANTON, Pa. (Catholic Online) – I watched the Press Conference in Scranton Pennsylvania Monday morning. It broke my heart.

First, because I sensed the burden and the pain of office in Bishop Joseph Martino as he gave his formal statement concerning his request to retire early as the Bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania. We present his entire statement below this article.

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted his request and named him “Emeritus Bishop”. The Diocese is now under the temporary pastoral care of care of Justin Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia until a successor Bishop is appointed.

It also broke my heart because, as readers of Catholic Online know, he is one of my favorite Bishops. He is a man of tremendous faith, genuine evangelistic zeal, and unflagging courage in the face of fierce opposition.

As I watched him speak at that Press Conference I thought of the words from the Apostle Peter which were directed to Bishops and elders in the early Church:

So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, (overseeing) not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5).

I also thought of the painful defense St. Paul was forced to give of his own apostolic office in his second letter to the Corinthians (See, 2 Cor. Chapters 10 – 13). It has happened many times in our 2000 year history.

Good Bishops like Bishop Joseph Martino sometimes suffer the effects that can accompany “bearing the burden” of their exercise of their apostolic office and have to take a different role in caring for the flock. He is now doing just that with the kind of fidelity, dignity and extraordinary courage he has always shown. However, he is obviously tired, in fact exhausted, from the burden of his office.

It is clear, as Cardinal Rigali indicated in his warm affirmation and commendation of his service; Bishop Martino arrived at this decision only after much sincere and significant prayer. After all, Bishop Martino is a man of prayer, a deeply Eucharistic soul.

The good Cardinal mantioned in his remarks the Bishop's contributions in restoring eucharistic adoration in the Diocese. However, you could almost feel the fatigue as Bishop Martino expressed these words “For some time now, there has not been a clear consensus among the clergy and people of the Diocese of Scranton regarding my pastoral initiatives or my way of governance. This development has caused me great sorrow, resulting in bouts of insomnia and at times a crippling physical fatigue.”

The Bishop will continue to live in the Diocese of Scranton, at the Fatima Center, a retreat center dedicated to fostering genuine spiritual renewal and the “New Evangelization” which the Bishop is so deeply dedicated to advancing.

Sadly, the Press had a “field day” speculating as to the reasons for the retirement. That speculation must now end. The Bishop asked for this early retirement and the Holy Father granted his request. It is unusual to be named a retired Bishop at such a very young age.

This heroic man stood up against the “gates of hell”, doing what all Bishops are supposed to do, guarding the flock of God against the wolves. In an age which Pope Benedict rightly referred to as suffering under the effects of a “dictatorship of relativism”, this fine man insisted that Catholic Universities and institutions stay faithful to the truth.

For doing so, some even in the Catholic media sought to paint him as some kind of “zealot” using highly charged words such as ‘right” and “conservative” to paint a caricature of this man far different than what he really is.

It was false reporting, period. They should be ashamed. Bishop Joseph Martino is simply a faithful Catholic Bishop. He was appointed by the late Servant of God John Paul II and is deeply committed to the “New Evangelization” of the Church in this new missionary age, the Third Christian Millennium.

He began his Press Conference - and then ended it - with these words “May Jesus Christ Always be praised!” Those words characterize his evangelical mission, his life committment and his true character.

The Bishop was correct to challenge the poor judgment of Misericordia University, a Catholic College in his Diocese which sponsored, through its scandalous “Diversity Institute”, an advocate/activist of the movement among some practicing homosexuals to obtain a legal equivalency between homosexual paramours and those who are married.

An activist leader came to the Catholic College campus and spoke on the very matters which orginally raised the Bishop's proper concerns. The school was given explicit directions to not invite speaker and it willfully disobeyed their Bishop.

The homosexual activist intentionally used a Catholic platform to directly oppose the truth as revealed by the Natural Law, confirmed by Revelation and taught by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church concerning human love in the Divine plan, to young men and women.

That University knew better and allowed it all to happen, knowing full well the potential confusion and scandal it would cause. Of course the Bishop had to speak out! So should many other Bishops who currently have similar situations happening - right now - in Catholic Colleges and universities within their own Dioceses!

A Catholic College is not a private College with some loose church affiliation. It is a Catholic College and participates in the continuing redemptive mission of the Catholic Church. In his masterful letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul calls all Christians to a "…renewal of their minds". (Romans 12:2)

This renewal of the mind is the essence of the mission of a Catholic education. The Purpose of a Catholic College is to teach, form and prepare students in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ, the Truth Incarnate who has been raised and continues His redemptive mission through His Body, the Church. The Church is vested with His authority to teach the truth to a world desperately in need of hearing it.

In the words of the great Western Bishop Augustine:

Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man. . . . The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does "head and members" mean? Christ and the Church.

This living Christ still teaches in and through His Church, His Body, of which the Catholic College is a vital member.

Bishop Martino's heroic defense of the dignity of every human life during the last Presidential campaign was inspired and refreshing! Some, even in the Catholic press, have referred to him as a “fierce anti-abortion” Bishop.

Well, it seems to this writer that what is really fierce is the killing of our first neighbors in the womb by surgical strikes and chemical weapons - for any reason - protected by the raw police power of the State. Thank you Bishop Martino for not backing down, we need more Bishops to follow your heroic example!

He was also correct to challenge, as a good spiritual father should, the poor judgment of a son of his own Diocese, Senator Robert Casey, in the last Presidential campaign. The Senator did not act in a manner consistent with his Catholic faith and the obligations it places upon his public service.

Many believe it actually bore good fruit as the son of the last great truly, pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-poor and pro-peace Democratic politician, Governor Bob Casey, now seems to once again be pursuing the defense of unborn human life.

The people of the Diocese of Scranton need our prayers. They have been through difficult years. We need to ask Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, to send a new Bishop to continue the work of the New Evangelization which Bishop Martino began.

The now retired Bishop also needs our prayers; that the Lord would restore his vigor and vitality. He is still a young Bishop and his contributions to the New Evangelization are far from over.

Thank you, Bishop Martino, for your fidelity, sacrificial service and courage.

The level of frantic spinning by Catholic liberals eager to prove they are 'right' in their cafeteria Catholicism, if they have to use the Pope - falsely - as their witness, is truly astounding. It's the same modus operandi they have been using to justify their being in bed with Obama.

The spin on the Kennedy letter and the Vatican response is that "the Pope is far more warm and accommodating to Senator Kennedy than his conservative critics are". That is clearly begging the question.

Of course, the Pope's response, even if indirect, to a dying man's request for prayers cannot be anything less than warm and compassionate!

That does not mean he is putting his stamp of approval on the person's offenses against the faith - which, as the sins of an individual, constitute a matter between the sinner and God, but in terms of the practice of the faith, it is the duty of the Pope and all Christians to speak against.

But even the Pope - especially not the Pope - would not use the occasion of a response to a dying man to 'preachify'!

00Friday, September 4, 2009 10:41 PM
Edward Kennedy’s Catholic legacy:
America’s culture wars

By FATHER RAYMOND J. DE SOUZA Souza has written this news analysis for the Sept. 6 issue of the Register:

In death Sen. Edward M. Kennedy hardly needs his biography recalled. His life could hardly have been more chronicled. What is more interesting to ask, especially in light of the Catholic faith to which he was so devoted — a family priest was at his bedside when he died — is what life he might have led and how American politics might have been different.

For Kennedy, the judgment that counts for eternity is at hand. Here below, his many public achievements have been lavishly praised. His was the most public of lives — famous for who he was before he was known for what he did — so that his private life was part of the public record.

He experienced more than most the truth of those foreboding words of Scripture, that all that is done in secret will be brought to light, and that which is whispered will be shouted from the rooftops.

There were few Catholics in America whose successes and sins were more published, discussed and judged. Now, his fellow Catholics surely pray for his merciful judgment.

The public legacy of the Senate’s greatest liberal and the last lion of his pride is a matter for public judgment. During his 47 years in the Senate, he was the most prominent Catholic Democrat in America. Many critics considered him a better Democrat than Catholic.

Yet the tragedy of Ted Kennedy is that had he been more faithful to the public implications of his Catholicism, he may have been a more successful leader of the Democratic Party. The culture wars have not been electorally kind to the Democratic Party, and there is perhaps no person more responsible for the culture wars than Ted Kennedy himself.

“In some ways Kennedy’s career was the story of a man who might have been,” wrote Catholic commentator Russell Shaw. “Might have been president of the United States if his shortcomings hadn’t prevented that; might have been a powerful leader of the pro-life movement if he hadn’t turned pro-choice; might have been a model of the Catholic statesman in public life if he hadn’t become a symbol of American Catholicism at odds with the Church.”

A broader question is what might have become of American politics if Kennedy has chosen a different path.

By the early ’70s, Richard Nixon had won two presidential elections — the second one the greatest landslide in history — by fashioning a coalition that included cultural conservatives in large numbers. The lifestyle libertinism of the 1960s’ movements which coalesced behind George McGovern’s candidacy in 1972 proved culturally influential but a political liability.

After McGovern’s loss and, a few months later, the Roe v. Wade abortion decision, it was still an open question about which direction the Democratic Party would go. Throughout the 1970s, many of the key Democratic leaders were pro-life, as was Kennedy himself up until the Roe decision. Had Kennedy resisted the culturally liberal trends in the Democratic Party, what might have been?

Kennedy’s family legacy, his impregnable position in Massachusetts (he won more than 60% of the vote the year after Chappaquiddick) and his national prominence rendered him immune from the pressures other politicians had to face. He could always choose his own path.

Had he chosen to remain economically liberal but culturally conservative, he would have prevented the Democratic Party from embracing the orthodoxy of the unlimited abortion license. Had he remained pro-life the Democratic Party would have had to make place for other pro-life politicians. Had he remained pro-life many others — Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson — would not have abandoned their pro-life positions as the price to be paid for national ambition.

{Really? Does Fr. DeSouza really think all those other Democrat pols that he mentions would have followed Kennedy if he had sacrificed political expediency to be pro-life? Dream on! The pols are in it to win elections - and Democrats have to cater to their liberal base, where their surefire votes come from.

But Kennedy, as long as he only ran in Massachussetts, never once had to worry about winning an election. And yet he chose to be pro-abortion. That was not politically necessary, as he would have gone on winning elections in Massachussetts regardless. But he did it to pander to the rank and file of the Democratic Party.

Which proves that above everything else, he was partisan and Democrat before he was a Catholic. To violate the doctrine of your faith as a service to your party, without any personal gain accruing to you - that takes a perverse kind of heroics!

Most of the Democratic pols mentioned by Fr. DeSouza always considered themselves bigger and better than Edward Kennedy - who only became 'lionized' literally and figuratively after his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1990, losing to a fairly unknown Jimmy Carter.

His presidential ambitions dead - infamously, he couldn't tell an interviewer why he wanted to be President, or why he thought he should be President - he dedicated himself totally to his Senate work in behalf of entitlement laws. And as no Democrat considered him a presidential rival any more, they felt free to 'lionize' him, especially as he was a great demagogue breathing fire into the belly of the rank and file Democrats.]

In the 1970s, it was not clear that the Republican Party would become largely pro-life. Party leaders, including Nixon, Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, George Bush and even Ronald Reagan, favored liberalizing abortion laws. The GOP moved toward a pro-life position in response to the Democratic Party moving in the opposite direction.

It was politically advantageous, and it was Kennedy who permitted that advantage to be conceded. By the 1980s what are now called “values voters” were a critical part of Reagan’s coalition. Many of the Reagan Democrats were those who were with Kennedy on economics but could not follow him on abortion and related cultural issues.

The Supreme Court decision on abortion made judicial appointments more politically salient, but confirmations remained largely pro forma affairs — Reagan’s first two appointments were confirmed without a single dissenting vote.

But in 1987 Kennedy led the opposition to the nomination of Robert Bork, turning the confirmation process into a brutal, partisan battle. The verb “borking” entered the political lexicon to describe this ugly new version of cultural politics. Democrats would later bitterly complain about Republican tactics on “values,” but it was Kennedy’s prestige that made such politics acceptable.

It was two of Kennedy’s fellow Massachusetts politicians who would reap most directly what Kennedy had sown. Both Michael Dukakis in 1988 and John Kerry in 2004 were defeated in campaigns in which values — not economics, not competence, not even war — were the dominant issues.

Religious observance had become the most important predictor of voting behavior. Culture had become a partisan issue. Kennedy’s embrace of moral libertinism facilitated all that. Had he chosen differently he could have stopped the culture wars before they started. Few other politicians ever have the influence to make such a consequential decision.

Indeed, had Kennedy remained pro-life — along with his positions on immigration, health care, poverty, war and peace — he would have entered his senior years as the great Catholic legislator in terms of the welfare state, health care, big government, the peace agenda and the right to life.

Remember the famous pastoral letters of the U.S. bishops on defense policy and the economy in the 1980s? They were both well to the left politically, easily in Ted Kennedy territory. If only he had remained pro-life, he would have been the poster boy of the American bishops for a generation.

He didn’t, and so the final five years of his life were marked by an intense and painful debate about how the American bishops should deal with what could suitably be called their “Ted Kennedy problem” — what to do about Catholic politicians who promote abortion rights? Where Kennedy went 30 years ago, many followed.

The old lion will be laid to rest as one of the most consequential public figures of his time. Those consequences have been difficult for the Church. That is well known. They have been also difficult for his party, even if the Democrats send him off with a full-throated roar.

Catholics will likely maintain a more discreet silence.

Fr. De Souza presents a provocative hypothesis, but I don't think Edward Kennedy, single-handedly, could have prevented the 'culture wars' at all! The conflict between cultural and political conservatism and Democrat-style ueber-liberalism is inherent and inevitable. The two-party system is not so much that as it is a 'two-ideology' system. And never the twain shall meet.

00Tuesday, September 8, 2009 2:58 PM
Berlusconi speaks on government
relations with the Church -
and his media battles

An appropriate photo for the flamboyant, high-living Berlusconi.

Rome, September 7 (ANSA) - Relations between the Italian government and the Catholic Church are 'excellent', Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Monday, denying reports of tensions after a Church paper editor who criticised the premier quit alleging a smear campaign by a Berlusconi family daily.

The premier also repeated charges there was a defamatory campaign about his private and political life and claimed most Italians identified with him.

Speaking on one of his three TV networks, Berlusconi described reported tensions with the Church over last week's resignation of Dino Boffo, editor of the Italian bishops daily Avvenire, as ''a lie''.

Berlusconi also denied that he had ever planned to see Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on the day Berlusconi family daily Il Giornale reported Boffo had paid a harassment fine to a woman with whose husband Boffo allegedly had a relationship.

"I never asked for meetings with Bertone," the premier said.

Berlusconi was due to attend a traditional Catholic forgiveness ceremony on August 28, the day Il Giornale broke its story on Boffo, accusing the Avvenire editor of double standards in criticising the premier's private life.

His attendance was cancelled hours after Il Giornale hit the press, with a Vatican announcement later confirmed by the premier's office.

Several sources said he would meet Bertone, the Holy See's highest official, after the ceremony in what some observers saw as a bid to calm Catholic worries over allegations on the premier's friendship with a teenage girl and an escort who claimed to have slept with him.

But Berlusconi stressed Monday that relations with the Church had 'always been excellen't, ruling out the need to see Bertone, then or now.

These ties would be 'consolidated', he said, over the coming months with the government continuing to back pro-life moves like a restrictive living will currently going through parliament, sparked by the case of a young woman who was dubbed by some 'Italy's Terri Schiavo'.

Eluana Englaro's case split Italy for years until her death earlier this year, with some churchmen and Catholic politicians claiming she had been murdered.

Englaro, 38, died after 17 years in a permanent vegetative state since a 1992 car crash despite last-minute government efforts to save her with the new legislation.

Her feeding tube was removed according to what her father said were her wishes, a claim pro-life campaigners contested.

Berlusconi told the TV show Monday: "The defence our government made of certain basic principles...which underpin Catholic doctrine, principles like the defence of human life and the defence of the family, demonstrate the excellence of the relations between the government and the Church."

Leftwing critics have suggested the premier would step up his government's pursuit of a pro-life agenda to dampen Catholic concerns about his private life.

Critics have claimed the centre-right majority will also fight the recent approval of the so-called 'abortion pill'.

In mid-August Boffo, the Avvenire editor who resigned last week, accused the premier of an 'arrogant' departure from 'a sober lifestyle'.

A weekend poll in Italy's leading daily Corriere della Sera indicated the premier's popularity among practising Catholics had dropped only 5% from 55% to 50% since the case of aspiring showgirl Noemi Letizia, 18, erupted when the premier's wife Veronia Lario sued for divorce claiming Berlusconi 'frequented minors'.

Berlusconi on Monday said he had his own polls showing a 70% popularity rate for his government among all Italians, about 40% of whom, according to the Corriere poll, could be defined as practising Catholics.

Berlusconi critics claim many Italians are ill-informed about the allegations against the premier because of spotty TV coverage.

As well as controlling his three Mediaset commercial stations, the premier has influence over the three-channel RAI public TV corporation.

The premier claims never to have interfered with their working but two top journalists were blackballed a few years ago after criticism from the premier.

There has also been controversy after an anti-Berlusconi comedienne's show was pulled and, more recently, when both RAI and Mediaset declined to run trailers for a documentary, which premiered at Venice and opened at No.4 in the weekend box-office charts, accusing the premier of creating an alleged 'videocracy' in Italy.

Italian journalists are staging a demonstration in defence of press freedom on September 19 after Berlusconi sued two leftwing dailies, La Repubblica and L'Unita', which have led campaigns on the sex allegations and the premier's alleged promises, first cited by his wife and later attributed to Letizia, to help showgirls enter politics.

On Monday Berlusconi levelled a fresh broadside against the press, claiming there had been a 'ferocious campaign' against him and alleging that '90% of newspapers' were controlled by Communists and progressive Catholics.

"Poor Italy", he repeated, claiming the press was trying to install 'a police state' and that he had been forced to defend himself.

He described protests against his libel suits as 'a joke'.

"Most Italians would like to be like me and they support my behaviour," said the premier.

[Sure, who wouldn't want to be a billionaire and Italy's second-richest man? But 'support' his behavior? They probably tolerate it, because philandering is not exactly uncommon among Italian politicians and celebrities, but I don't think even those who support him politically necessarily see him as a role model!]

Observers have suggested many Italians identify with the 72-year-old premier's flamboyant lifestyle and his admission that he is 'no saint'.

The premier has admitted sleeping with escort Patrizia d'Addario but said he didn't know she was a prostitute.

On Monday, Berlusconi claimed most Italians weren't interested in his private life but in the performance of his government and his political integrity.

He repeated a longstanding claim that, as Italy's long-richest and now second-richest man, he was in no danger of falling victim to graft.

"(They know) Silvio Berlusconi doesn't steal," he said.

The premier, who has been accused of a conflict of interest and allegedly overseeing laws in favour of himself and his media empire, stressed that "Italians know Silvio Berlusconi is not stealing and is not using his powers for his personal advantage", unlike 'almost all' his predecessors, 'especially' on the centre-left.

He also reiterated a charge that the left-wing opposition was allegedly in league with a politically motivated judiciary which has succeeded in bringing him to trial several times but never securing a definitive sentence.

The premier has been convicted in a handful of graft trials but has either been acquitted on appeal or seen charges dropped because of the statute of limitations on fraud, shortened by one of his governments.

A remaining trial has been suspended because of a new law shielding the state's four highest officials from persecution while in office.

The Constitutional Court is set to rule this autumn on the law, which critics claim breaks the constitution's provision for equality before the law.

On Monday's show, Berlusconi accused his opponents of seeking to set up 'a judicial and police state' from which he said he was protecting his supporters.

The premier accused his rivals of waging a 'subversive campaign' to bring him down, claimed he had been forced to file libel suits to defend his reputation against newspaper reports on his private life.

"Italian aren't stupid, as the Left thinks, and they prefer my government", he said, citing in-house polls showing the government's approval rating 'sailing towards 70%'.

Despite his influence over most of Italian TV, the premier noted that most Italian newspapers - 90% in his view - were controlled by 'a Catholic and Catholic-Communist' minority, terms conservatives sometimes use to describe the main opposition Democratic Party formed by former Communists and mostly liberal Catholics.

Rejecting notions that the alleged scandal had been poorly covered by Italian TV, Berlusconi said: "I repeat with force, with this news set-up, poor old Italy".

00Thursday, September 17, 2009 3:39 PM
I am glad someone influential in the Catholic blogsphere, Carl Olson, who edits Ignatius Insight, has done an extensive fisk of John Allen's latest NCR column
in order to point out all the journalistic offenses, at the very least, that he commits.

Having the stature in the Catholic media world that Allen has does not excuse him from trying his best to be right and fair - in fact, it puts him at a greater obligation to be right and fair. But he has increasingly been advocating the ultra-liberal line that his magazine espouses, and it's very infuriating.

00Wednesday, September 30, 2009 3:12 AM
'The Mind That Is Catholic':
Father Schall on embracing
the whole of reality

By Annamarie Adkins

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 28, 2009 ( Benedict XVI has made the recovery of the mutual interdependence of faith and reason one of the signature themes of his pontificate.

And no one has been as prolific a commentator on this important question raised by the Holy Father than Jesuit Father James Schall.

Father Schall, a professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University, has penned, among many other writings, a book-length commentary on Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture.

The lecture caused an international sensation for its mention of the presence of violence in the Islamic tradition, but the lecture's key themes related to the relationship between faith and reason were left to be unpacked by writers such as Father Schall.

Now Father Schall has written a new book, The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays (CUA Press). The book explores the habits of being that allow one to use the tools of faith and reason to explore all things seen and unseen.

Father Schall shared with ZENIT why all people, not just professional philosophers and theologians, can have a mind that is truly Catholic.

ZENIT: What does it mean to have a mind that is Catholic? What are its key elements?
Father Schall: The mind that is Catholic is open to all sources of information, including what comes from Revelation.

Revelation is not opposed to reason as if it were some blind source. Revelation has its own intelligibility that can be grasped and compared or addressed to what we know in reason.

Catholicism does not define reason as if it only meant a reason that follows some methodology where the terms of the method decide what we are allowed to see or consider.

The very definition of mind is that power that is open to all that is. We human beings are not gods. But we do know and the object of our knowledge is all that is.

It is characteristic of the Catholic mind to insist that all that is knowable is available and considered by us in our reflections on reality.

Are there clear points of distinction between the Catholic mind and a "Protestant mind" or a "secular mind"?
Monsignor Robert Sokolowski says that the method of philosophy is precisely to make distinctions. Obviously, the Protestant mind and the secular mind strive to distinguish themselves on many things from the Catholic mind.

If no one thought there was any difference between them, Catholicism, Protestantism and secularism would already be one. This does not deny that it is quite possible that they agree on some things.

It is the method of Aquinas to find out what these points of agreement and difference are. I always like the way Aquinas recalls Aristotle's comment that "a small error in the beginning leads to a large error in the end."

The ecumenical movement has tried valiantly to find points of agreement. It has found many. But errors do appear and grow.

I once wrote an essay entitled "Protestantism and Atheism." ("Thought," XXXIX (Dec. 1964) pp. 531-558.) The burden of that essay had to do with the importance of reason to Catholicism. This stress on reason is found in Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture, among other places.

The reason, I thought at the time, that Protestantism led to atheism was because it evaporated the world of meaning and insisted on revelation alone. Once the world is there absent reason, it is easy, following Aristotle's dictum, to conclude that God is not in the world in any sense.

It was the mind of Aquinas, following the line of the origin of "existence," to insist that we really did find reality in existing things, but they did not cause their own existence.

It was from here we could argue to God's existence so that, if revelation happened, it would be intelligible to us as a response to our own lack of knowledge of ultimate things.

What are the necessary habits or practices for forming and maintaining a "mind that is Catholic?" Likewise, where are the primary sources from which the Catholic mind draws its inspiration?
Of course, one of the good practices will be to know Aristotle, a great mind who, if I might with some irony put it that way, was "Catholic" before there was Catholicism.

This is but another way of saying that Catholicism is more than eager to know what the human mind can know by itself. The mind that is Catholic in this sense is more than Catholic. Or, to put it another way, we cannot be Catholic if we are only Catholic.

We think, in the end, that what is peculiar in Catholicism is not opposed to reason but rather constitutes a completion of it.

It was Aristotle who warned us that the reason we do not accept the truth even when it is presented to us is because we do not really want to know it. Knowing it would force us to change our ways. If we do not want to change our ways, we will invent a "theory" whereby we can live without the truth.

The "primary" source of the Catholic mind is reality itself, including the reality of revelation.

We are not primarily students of what other people's thought, but of what is. This is why ordinary and unlearned people are not excluded from the Catholic mind.

The source of our knowledge is not a book but experience of being and living, an experience that will often include those whose lives are already touched by grace.

So I read with great profit everyone from Justin Martyr to Aquinas and Benedict. But they take me not to themselves but to the truth.

The great "habit," as it were, is that of acknowledging the truth when we see it. This implies both reason and grace which are not the same, but neither are they contradictory to each other.

Do you believe that Catholic schools do a good job of fostering a Catholic mind in young Catholics?
Briefly, no.

No one could think that the curriculum and spirit of Catholic schools today are based in the tradition of specifically Catholic intelligence. That requires discipline, study, and virtue.

In the modern world, we find no group more deprived of the glories of their own mind than young Catholics. This is why those small enclaves that do address themselves to it are in many ways remarkable.

Catholic institutions of higher learning, as they are called, simply gave up what was unique about themselves and the reasons for having Catholic universities in the first place. This lost source was the active vigor of the Catholic mind read not as an historical phenomenon or as a social activism, but as a search for and testimony of the truth, that towards which all mind is directed.

What modern persons, in your opinion, best embody ‘a mind that is Catholic'? Why?
In most of my books, beginning with Another Sort of Learning, I have provided lists of books or reminders of them -- books that I think tell the truth.

I always list Chesterton and E. F. Schumacher. I think the present pope, as well as the previous one, were marvels of the Catholic mind, a mind that comes to grips with all things, yet with the light of grace and revelation.

The philosophy department at the Catholic University of America, to which I dedicated my book The Mind That Is Catholic, is a perennial source of wisdom and rigorous intelligence. There is no place quite like it.

I am a great admirer of the work of Monsignor Sokolowski, whose latest book, The Phenomenology of the Human Person, is itself the Catholic mind at work; it is a mind that knows of reason and its limits as well as of its reaches.

Why do these and many other thinkers "embody a mind that is Catholic?" I think it is because they take everything into account.

What is peculiar to Catholicism, I have always thought, is its refusal to leave anything out. In my short book, The Regensburg Lecture, I was constantly astonished at the enormous range of the mind of the present Holy Father. There is simply no mind in any university or public office that can match his. He is a humble man, in fact.

It is embarrassing to the world, and often to Catholic "intellectuals," to find that its most intelligent mind is on the Chair of Peter. I have always considered this papal intellectual profundity to be God's little joke to the modern mind.

The modern mind has built up for itself theories and ideologies whereby it prevents itself from seeing the truth that a man like Benedict XVI spells out for it in lucid and rigorously argued terms – terms fully aware and familiar with all of modern philosophy itself.

But Benedict XVI is a messenger of the Logos.

We do not get around his mind. We only shy away from considering it.

Is having a "mind that is Catholic" limited solely to philosophers, theologians, and intellectuals, or is it something that all Catholics should pursue?
What is unique about Christian revelation is that it was intended for everyone, including the philosophers.

Aristotle himself recognized that every mind is open to reality and hence could know -- perhaps not in some sophisticated fashion -- what is the truth. But the record of philosophers and theologians is not particularly impressive on this score.

From the admonitions of Paul to the present day, we have been concerned about the damage that philosophers could do to ordinary people. This was Socrates's polemic with the Sophists.

Christianity has never canonized the learned in great numbers. I am fond of citing Cardinal Schönborn's remark that Thomas Aquinas was the only man ever canonized simply for thinking.

Great damage can and has come to the little ones through the aberrations of the philosophers. We do well to take note of it.

But Catholicism, as I have tried to spell out, needs and wants and delights in its thinkers.

I have always thought it was the function of a teacher to take students to other minds in which they can find the truth. But the truth is not in a book. It is in conversation, it is in actively thinking about what is.

Catholicism knows that all sorts and sources of knowledge flow into its mind, one of which -- the primary one that makes it unique -- is revelation. But it is a revelation, in its own terms, addressed to active reason. That too is the mind that is Catholic.

One notable writer has claimed that philosophy is consummated in the liturgy. What does this mean? How do the sacraments and spiritual life contribute to the "mind that is Catholic"?
You are referring to Catherine Pickstock's book, After Writing: The Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy. I have a chapter in my book, Roman Catholic Political Philosophy, entitled "Worship and Political Philosophy," which is on this same issue.

What the "liturgical consummation of philosophy" means is that philosophy does not end in ideas or systems but in a reality that explains everything.

This notion is right out of Plato's "Laws" in which he said -- in a phrase that I always delight in citing -- we should spend our lives "singing, sacrificing, and dancing." This is precisely "liturgy."

But what is unique about Catholicism is that within it is contained the one thing that the human race has searched for in vain, namely, what is the proper way to worship God.

Mankind has come up with many ways; some, like Plato's, are fairly close. Others, like the Aztec sacrificing of human youth, are far away.

The bottom line is that the only way we could do this worship properly is if God would teach us. This is what the Mass, with its reality of the sacrifice of the Cross present, is about - the way to worship God.

Only God, in the end, could tell us this, give us an example of how to perform the worship of the Father.

So yes, the mind that is Catholic leads naturally to worship and to the awe of the Triune Godhead into which we are invited to enter if we accept the divine invitation and live our lives in a way that we do not reject it.

The mind that is Catholic seeks the source of what is and to delight in it. This is its glory.

As I am an unabashed fan of Fr. Schall, I went to the CUA site and lifted the blurb for his book, as ff:

James V. Schall is a treasure of the Catholic intellectual tradition. A prolific author and essayist, Schall readily connects with his readers on sundry topics from war to friendship, philosophy, politics, and to ordinary everyday living.

In his newest work, The Mind That Is Catholic, he presents a retrospective collection of his academic and literary essays written in the past fifty years. In each essay, he exemplifies the Catholic mind at its best—seeing the whole, leaving nothing out.

The “Catholic mind” seeks to recognize a consistent and coherent relation between the solid things of reason and the definite facts of revelation. Its thought aims to understand how they belong together in a fruitful manner, each profiting from the other; each being what it is.

The Catholic mind is not a confusion of disparate sources. It respects and makes distinctions. It sees where things separate. It is in fact delighted by what is.

This delightful book is not polemical, but contemplative in mood. Schall shares with readers a mind that is constantly struck by how things fit together when seen in full light. He brings to his work a lifetime of study in political philosophy, a wide-ranging discipline that, in many ways, is the most immediate context in which reason and revelation meet.

The Mind That Is Catholic respects what can be known by faith alone. But it also considers what is known by faith to be itself intelligible to a mind actively thinking on political and philosophical things. The whole, at the risk of its own contradiction, does not exclude the intelligibility of what is revealed.

“Father James V. Schall is one of the few renaissance men still among us. His knowledge of various areas of reality and human endeavor is encyclopedic. Dealing with important abstract ideas, he is able to put flesh on them so that the ordinary reader can grasp easily what he is getting at. Schall is the apostle of truth and reality, since he is always reminding the reader to consult that which is.”
— Kenneth Baker, S.J., Editor, Homiletic & Pastoral Review

James V. Schall is professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University. He is the author of hundreds of essays on political, theological, literary, and philosophical issues and numerous books including Schall on Chesterton: Timely Essays on Timeless Paradoxes, At the Limits of Political Philosophy: From “Brilliant Errors” to Things of Uncommon Importance, On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs, and Another Sort of Learning.


“In each essay, he exemplifies the Catholic mind at its best—seeing the whole, leaving nothing out. . . . He brings to his work a lifetime of study in political philosophy, a wide-ranging discipline that, in many ways, is the most immediate context in which reason and revelation meet.”
- National Jesuit News

“While sudoku might keep your mind limber and fit, Fr. James V. Schall’s The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays will challenge you to a higher level. . . . Fr. Schall covers a myriad of timely topics. . . . In a world of instant messaging and immediate gratification The Mind That Is Catholic calls us to a greater understanding of what matters most.”
– Elizabeth Yank, Lay Witness

“The Mind That Is Catholic, is a learned, insightful and stimulating collection. . . . [Schall] does a fine job of showing how faith and reason, when working together, deepen and illuminate our understanding of reality, not least political reality. . . . The Mind That Is Catholic will be of interest to scholars, graduate and undergraduate students, and to the intellectually adventurous general reader.”
– William Gould, America

“For decades Fr. Schall has enlightened and entertained readers as one of America’s most prolific Catholic authors. Now an octogenarian, Schall has collected twenty-two essays that exhibit the essence of the Catholic mind: “to be open to all things, including those things revealed to us, insofar as we can grasp them.” . . . Schall’s true joy lies not in the answers but in the pursuit, which, as he often notes, ultimately points beyond this world.”
– David G. Bonagura, First Things

00Thursday, October 1, 2009 6:52 PM
From. Fr. Schall to Dan Brown is descending with a painful thud from the sublime to the ridiculous. And while I normally steer away from both Dan Brown and Maureen Dowd, I do appreciate the masterful way in which she carves up the world's by-a-long-mile most successful contemporary one-man factory of potboiler pageturners, for his latest piccolum opus.

The new Dan Brown puzzler
is the scariest one yet


This article will appear in the print edition
of The New York Times Book Review of Oct. 11, 2009.

It’s not so much the barbarous machinations of the villain, another one-dimensional, self-mortifying hulk, that sends chills down your spine. Or the plot, which is an Oedipal MacGuffin.

No, the terrifying thing about The Lost Symbol is that Brown — who did not flinch when the Vatican both condemned the The Da Vinci Code and curtailed the filming of Angels & Demons in Rome [Not in Rome! At the Vatican! And perfectly within its rights to do so]] — clearly got spooked by that other powerful, secretive ancient sect, the Masons.

His book is a desperate attempt to ingratiate himself with the Masons, rather than to interpret the bizarre Masonic rites and symbols that illuminate — as in Illuminati! — how the ultimate elite private boys’ club has conspired to shape the nation’s capital and Western civilization ever since George Washington laid the cornerstone for the Capitol building in a Masonic ritual wearing full Masonic regalia, including a darling little fringed satin apron.

If the Masons are more intimidating than the Vatican, if Brown has now become part of their semiotic smoke screen, then all I can say is, God help us all.

Or as Brown, who is more addicted to italics than that other breathless Brown, Cosmo Girl Helen Gurley, might put it: What the hell?

Of course, who can blame him? How can you not be frightened by a brotherhood that includes Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny; Buzz Aldrin; and Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s?

During the five years he researched this book, did Brown begin to believe those sensational stories about how, if you expose the secrets of the Masons, they will slit your throat? Did he discover that the Masons are not merely a bunch of old guys dressed up in funny costumes enjoying a harmless night away from the wives?

Could they really be, as a recent Discovery Channel documentary on the ancient order wondered, “Godless conspirators bound to a death pledge who infiltrate institutions and run the world”?

Did Brown decipher the cryptic documents locked in a safe at the C.I.A. — founded by another Mason, Harry Truman! — and figure out that some of those wild tales were true? That Jack the Ripper was a Mason whose identity was covered up by the Masonic police commissioner? That Salieri and others murdered Mozart after the young Masonic composer revealed some of the order’s secret symbols in “The Magic Flute”?

I was really looking forward to Brown’s excavation of Washington’s mystical power, ancient portals, secret passageways and shadow worlds. As a native, I’ve loved the monuments here since I was little. I’ve often driven past the Scottish Rite Masonic temple with its two sphinxes on 16th Street. And my first memory as a little girl was picking up my dad from work at night from the brightly lighted Capitol. I was eager to learn occult lore about our venerable marble temples and access the lost wisdom of the ages.

So I happily curled up with Robert Langdon, the author’s anodyne, tweedy doppelgänger, and suppressed my annoyance that the Harvard symbologist was still wearing his Mickey Mouse watch, hand-grinding his Sumatra coffee beans and refusing to entangle with the latest brainy babe who materializes to help untangle ancient secrets.

This book’s looker, Katherine Solomon, is a lithe, gray-eyed expert in Noetic science, the study of “the untapped potential of the human mind.” Brown must also want to explore the untapped potential of the human body, since he has made his heroine 50 years old, something that no doubt caused the Hollywood studio suits to spritz their Zico coconut water.

Katherine, a few years older than Langdon, may be a tribute to Brown’s wife and amanuensis, Blythe, who is 12 years older and helped him write 187 Men to Avoid: A Survival Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman.

Emotions are the one thing Dan Brown can’t seem to decipher. His sex scenes are encrypted. Even though Katherine seems like Langdon’s soul mate — she even knows how to weigh souls — their most torrid sex scenes consist of Robert winking at her or flashing her a lopsided grin.

Brown’s novels are obviously inspired by Indiana Jones and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” But he can only emulate the galloping narrative drive and the fascination with mythological archetypes, pyramids, Holy Grails, treasure maps and secret codes; he can’t summon the sexy, playful side of the Spielberg-Lucas legacy.

His metaphors and similes thud onto the page. ­Inoue Sato, an intelligence official investigating a disembodied hand bearing a Masonic ring and iconic tattoos that shows up in the Capitol Rotunda, “cruised the deep waters of the C.I.A. like a leviathan who surfaced only to devour its prey.”

Insights don’t simply come to characters: “Then, like an oncoming truck, it hit her,” or “The revelation crashed over Langdon like a wave.” And just when our hero thinks it’s safe to go back in the water, another bad metaphor washes over him: “His head ached now, a roiling torrent of inter­connected thoughts.”

You can practically hear the eerie organ music playing whenever Mal’akh, the clichéd villain whose eyes shine “with feral ferocity,” appears. He goes from sounding like a parody of a Bond bad guy (“You are a very small cog in a vast machine,” he tells Langdon) to a parody of Woody Allen (“The body craves what the body craves,” he thinks).

But Brown tops himself with these descriptions: “Wearing only a silken loincloth wrapped around his buttocks and neutered sex organ, Mal’akh began his preparations,” and “Hanging beneath the archway, his massive sex organ bore the tattooed symbols of his destiny. In another life, this heavy shaft of flesh had been his source of carnal pleasure. But no longer.”

Brown has always written screenplays masquerading as novels, but now he’s also casting. Warren Bellamy, the Masonic architect of the Capitol, is described as an elderly African-­American man with close-cropped, graying hair who enunciates his words with crisp precision: “Bellamy was lithe and slender, with an erect posture and piercing gaze that exuded the confidence of a man in full control of his surroundings.” Morgan Freeman, call Ron Howard.

The Bellamy character provides an­other opportunity for Brown to burnish the Masons, as when the architect tells Langdon: “The craft of Freemasonry has given me a deep respect for that which transcends human understanding. I’ve learned never to close my mind to an idea simply because it seems miraculous.”

The author has gotten rich and famous without attaining a speck of subtlety. A character never just stumbles into blackness. It must be inky blackness. A character never just listens in shock. He listens in utter shock.

And consider this fraught interior monologue by the head of the Capitol Police: “Chief Anderson wondered when this night would end. A severed hand in my Rotunda? A death shrine in my basement? Bizarre engravings on a stone pyramid? Somehow, the Redskins game no longer felt significant.”

My dad always said in his day that the Masons were not welcoming to Catholics. The Catholic Church once considered the Masons so anti-­Catholic, Catholics who joined were threatened with excommunication. Now the church hierarchy merely disapproves. (They like secret rites, blood rituals and the exclusion of women only when they do it.)

But Langdon suggests to his Harvard students that the Masons are “refreshingly open-minded” and do not “discriminate in any way.”

To a student protesting that Masonry sounds like a “freaky cult,” Langdon counters that it’s “a system of morality.” He notes, “The Masons are not a secret society . . . they are a society with secrets.”

He debunks stories of the founding fathers’ supposedly building a Satanic pentacle and the Masonic compass and square into the capital’s street design, scoffing, “If you draw enough intersecting lines on a map, you’re bound to find all kinds of shapes.”

The Masons are represented in the dazzling person of Peter Solomon, Katherine’s older brother, a handsome, wealthy historian and philanthropist who runs the Smithsonian Institution and inspired the young Langdon’s interest in symbols.

In interviews, Brown has said he was tempted to join the Masons, calling their philosophy a “beautiful blueprint for human spirituality.” In the next opus, Langdon will probably be wearing a red Shriner’s fez with his Burberry turtleneck and Harris tweed.

In this book, Langdon helps stop the villain from releasing a video to YouTube that he has surreptitiously taped during his Masonic initiation rites.

The blind­folded initiate drinks blood-red wine out of a human skull and has a dagger pressed to his bare chest; he has to take part in an enactment of his own brutal murder — “there were simulated blows to his head, including one with a Mason’s stone maul” — and hear a biblical reference to human sacrifice, “the submission of Abraham to the Supreme Being by proffering Isaac, his firstborn son.”

These are meant partly as warnings about what can befall anyone who leaks the order’s secrets — warnings Dan Brown clearly took to heart.

“Langdon could already tell that the video was an unfair piece of propaganda,” Brown writes, adding that the symbologist thought to himself, “the truth will be twisted . . . as it always is with the Masons.”

Brown skitters away from giving us the book we expected: one that might have clued us in on which present-day politicians are still Masons and what mumbo jumbo they’re up to.

That job was left to Eamon Javers of Politico, who uncovered a list of Freemasons in Congress that reads like a vast right-wing conspiracy.

Joe “You lie!” Wilson is a member of the Sinclair Lodge of West Columbia, S.C. Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House minority whip, who’s trying to suffocate President Obama’s health care plan, is a member of a Richmond lodge his dad and uncle belonged to. Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, who chimed in against “death panels,” urged Javers: “Don’t judge us by the funny hats we wear.”

Even more ominously, President Obama suddenly left the White House on a recent night and went to the Washington Monument, the obelisk that figures in Brown’s climactic scene, and stayed inside for 20 minutes. If you add the 13 minutes it probably took to walk to the limo and drive back to the White House and return to his residence, you reach the magic Masonic number of 33!

In the end, as with The Da Vinci Code, there’s no payoff. Brown should stop worrying about unfinished pyramids and worry about unfinished novels. At least Spielberg and Lucas gave us an Ark and swirling, dissolving humans.

We don’t get any ancient wisdom that “will profoundly change the world as you know it” — just a lot of New Agey piffle about how we are the gods we’ve been waiting for. (And a father-son struggle for global domination, as though we didn’t get enough of that with the Bushes.) [Can't get free of your Bush Derangement Syndrome, can you, Maureen, even in a send-off of Dan Brown!]

What the hell, Dan?!

I don't resent Dan Brown's success. He found a winning formula for an easy read and cheap thrills galore that obviously push all the right buttons with his contemporary audience, and in the process, he has become an early 21st century cultural phenomenon largely on the strength of hostile ignorance and faux erudition about the Catholic Church and much of history in general.

And this latter factor is what I resent. It is not so much Dan Brown's fault as that of the tens of millions who have taken his books as Gospel truth about the Church, never having bothered to learn history and religion from the right sources, to begin with.

It appears that schools everywhere have become 'educational emergencies' - mostly because of poorly trained teachers who were themselves poorly educated, and modern curricula which are designed to promote liberal ideology, lifestyles and political correctness rather than objective knowledge (the old-fashioned kind that equips the pupil and student to go out into the world as an adult).

But the academic emergency is aggravated in untold ways by the information explosion available unfiltered on the Internet, and by mass media phenomena like the Dan Brown books and movies. What a dire and impoverished prospect for the new generations of the Third millennium!

It's a literally mind-blowing revolution in human education that is an unprecedented challenge, because there are few effective controls that can be imposed on what is the equally unprecedented, ubiquitous and easily accessible anarchy of information (and misinformation) in the world today.

And by the way, what does it say for Dan Brown that he apparently glorifies the Masons as passionately as he vilifies the Catholic Church?

00Saturday, October 3, 2009 5:32 PM

I really try my best to avoid being 'negative' on Barack Obama in this Forum unless the issue is quite clearcut - as his ironclad position on abortion on demand as a human right, and his continual doublespeak, to use a charitable term.

But allow me to indulge this time. The following piece by a Newsweek editor is remarkable because it comes form someone who, until this column, was one of the most faithful and assiduous high priests of the Obama-walks-on-water cult, probably the decisive factor in determining that Obama was on the cover of Newsweek more than 20 times in the past two years.

And Fineman wrote this before the ego-deflating embarassment of Obama being soundly rebuffed on the very first round of voting for the 2016 Olympic site - just hours after his exceptionally mediatic breast-beating speech in Copenhagen to push his bid for Chicago. The limits of charisma indeed!

The limits of charisma:
Mr. President, please stay off TV!

by Howard Fineman

For the magazine issue dated Oct 5, 2009

If ubiquity were the measure of a presidency, Barack Obama would already be grinning at us from Mount Rushmore. But of course it is not.

Despite his many words and television appearances, our elegant and eloquent president remains more an emblem of change than an agent of it. He's a man with an endless, worthy to-do list — health care, climate change, bank reform, global capital regulation, AfPak, the Middle East, you name it—but, as yet, no boxes checked "done."

This is a problem that style will not fix. Unless Obama learns to rely less on charm, rhetoric, and good intentions and more on picking his spots and winning in political combat, he's not going to be reelected, let alone enshrined in South Dakota.

The president's problem isn't that he is too visible; it's the lack of content in what he says when he keeps showing up on the tube.

Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words "I" and "my." (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.

There is only so much political mileage that can still be had by his reminding the world that he is not George W. Bush. It was the winning theme of the 2008 campaign, but that race ended nearly a year ago. The ex-president is now more ex than ever, yet the current president, who vowed to look forward, is still reaching back to Bush as bogeyman.

He did it again in that U.N. speech. The delegates wanted to know what the president was going to do about Israel and the Palestinian territories. He answered by telling them what his predecessor had failed to do. This was effective for his first month or two. Now it is starting to sound more like an excuse than an explanation.

Members of Obama's own party know who Obama is not; they still sometimes wonder who he really is.

In Washington, the appearance of uncertainty is taken as weakness —especially on Capitol Hill, where a president is only as revered as he is feared.

Being the cool, convivial late-night-guest in chief won't cut it with Congress, an institution impervious to charm (especially the charm of a president with wavering poll numbers).

Members of both parties are taking Obama's measure with their defiant and sometimes hostile response to his desires on health care.

Never much of a legislator (and not long a senator), Obama under-estimated the complexity of enacting a major "reform" bill. Letting Congress try to write it on its own was an awful idea.

As a balkanized land of microfiefdoms, each loyal to its own lobbyists and consultants, Congress is incapable of being led by its "leadership."

It's not like Chicago, where you call a guy who calls a guy who calls Daley, who makes the call. The president himself must make his wishes clear — along with the consequences for those who fail to grant them.

The model is a man whose political effectiveness Obama repeatedly says he admires: Ronald Reagan. There was never doubt about what he wanted. The Gipper made his simple, dramatic tax cuts the centerpiece not only of his campaign but also of the entire first year of his presidency.

Obama seems to think he'll get credit for the breathtaking scope of his ambition. But unless he sees results, it will have the opposite effect — diluting his clout, exhausting his allies, and emboldening his enemies.

That may be starting to happen. Health-care legislation is still weeks, if not months, from passage, and the bill as it stands could well be a windfall for the very insurance and drug companies it was supposed to rein in.

Climate-change legislation (a.k.a. cap-and-trade) is almost certainly dead for this year, which means that American negotiators will go empty-handed to the Copenhagen summit in December — pushing the goal of limiting carbon emissions even farther into the distance [And who says this is necessarily the be-all and end-all of ecological concern???]

In the spring Obama privately told the big banks that he was going to change the way they do business. It was going to be his way or the highway. But the complex legislation he wants to submit to Congress has little chance of passage this year. Doing Letterman again won't help. It may boost the host's ratings, Mr. President, but probably not your own.

Every kind of public opinion poll in the United States today screams of buyers' remorse by most of those who voted Obama into office - mainly the independents. All of a sudden, they realize the emperor is really naked!

Well, it's only been nine months, and as much as I have always personally found him phony and untrustworthy, I do sincerely want the first black President of the United States to succeed - and not only because the country desperately needs good leadership these days.

The naked emperor - 2

But wait, there's more! What's this I read in the Times of London today? Even the overseas Obama hot-and-panting groupies are starting to have second thoughts???? If I were atheist, I would go down on my knees now and exclaim "There is a God, thank God!"

Obama’s Olympic failure will only add
to doubts about his presidency

by Tim Reid in Washington

Oct. 3, 2009

There has been a growing narrative taking hold about Barack Obama’s presidency in recent weeks: that he is loved by many, but feared by none; that he is full of lofty vision, but is actually achieving nothing with his grandiloquence.

Chicago’s dismal showing yesterday, after Mr Obama’s personal, impassioned last-minute pitch, is a stunning humiliation for this President. It cannot be emphasised enough how this will feed the perception that on the world stage he looks good — but carries no heft.

It was only the Olympic Games, the White House will argue — not a high-stakes diplomatic gamble with North Korea. It is always worthwhile when Mr Obama sells America to the rest of the world, David Axelrod, his chief political adviser, said today. But that argument will fall on deaf ears in the US. Americans want their presidents to be winners.

Mr Obama was greeted — as usual — like a rock star by the IOC delegates in Copenhagen — then humiliated by them.

Perception is reality. A narrow defeat for Chicago would have been acceptable — but the sheer scale of the defeat was a bombshell, and is a major blow for Mr Obama at a time when questions are being asked about his style of governance.

At home, it is difficult to turn on television and not see Mr Obama giving a press conference, or an interview, or at a town hall rally, in his all-out effort to sell his troubled reform the US health insurance system.

After three months of enormous exposure, Mr Obama has achieved this: the growing likelihood of ramming a Bill through Congress with — at most — just one Republican vote.

Abroad, Mr Obama promised in his Inauguration address to engage America’s enemies, and he has done just that. He has very little to show for it.

Yes, Iran took part in bilateral talks with the US this week over its nuclear weapons programme — but that is something Tehran has wanted for years. There is still a very good chance that the meetings will prove to be an exercise in futility and a time-wasting ploy by Tehran.

Mr Obama also scrapped a plan for a missile defence shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, hoping to get in return Russian co-operation behind new sanctions against Tehran.

There was optimism when President Medvedev said “sanctions are seldom productive, but they are sometimes inevitable”. Yet Vladimir Putin, and the Chinese, remain fiercely opposed to sanctions.

Meanwhile, America and its allies are being forced to witness a very public agonising by Mr Obama and his advisers over his Afghan strategy — six months after he announced that strategy.

This has all added to the perception that Mr Obama’s soaring rhetoric — which captured the imagination during last year’s election — is simply not enough when it comes to confronting the myriad challenges of the presidency. His spectacular Olympic failure will only add to that.

It's the way of the world, alas, that much of it gets taken in by what it considers 'rhetorical eloquence' - no matter how empty - by someone like Obama, while it largely ignores the eternal authentic eloquence of Truth from the soft-spoken 'unspectacular' Vicar of Christ on earth!

Great caption:

(President of the United States, First Lady of the US, and Teleprompter of the US)

Inspired headline for the Olympics putdown:

P.S. I hope I am wrong, but I have a strong hunch that perhaps Mr. Vian and his Secretariat of State bosses at L'Osservatore Romano will find a way to put a positive spin for Obama on Copenhagen. It doesn't matter the Pope was undeniably clear about his message to Obama's ambassador yesterday about the Church brooking no doubletalk on abortion and conscience rights.

Also, how could anyone have doubted that, by any measure, Rio de Janeiro was going to be the pick this year?

Japan had already hosted both the Suymmer and Winter Olympics; Spain had it in Barcelona fairly recently; the US has had it in LA and Atlanta since 1980; and the IOC was not going to continue ignoring Latin America - and its largest nation - forever!

Two, despite its problems with unequal distribution of wealth, to say the least, Brazil is an economic power in the world, with far more resources than Chicago - and its financial projectiosn were adjudged best among the four by the IOC's accounting consultants.

And finally, even the incorruptible members of the IOC would know that Rio is the most spectacularly beautiful city in the world and a better bonus for Olmypic participants than Chicago could ever be. [Besides, Pele has been a global institution and symbol of the empowered, idolized and iconic black man for almost as many decades as Obama is old!]

The naked emperor - 3

Obama’s French lesson:
Sarkozy could not conceal
his astonishment at Obama’s naïveté

By Charles Krauthammer
Syndicated Columnist

Oct. 2, 2009

“President Obama, I support the Americans’ outstretched hand. But what did the international community gain from these offers of dialogue? Nothing.”
— French President Nicolas Sarkozy, September 24

When France chides you for appeasement, you know you’re scraping bottom.

Just how low we’ve sunk was demonstrated by the Obama administration’s satisfaction when Russia’s president said of Iran, after meeting President Obama at the U.N., that “sanctions are seldom productive, but they are sometimes inevitable.”

You see? The Obama magic. Engagement works. Russia is on board. Except that, as the Washington Post inconveniently pointed out, Pres. Dmitry Medvedev said the same thing a week earlier, and the real power in Russia, Vladimir Putin, had changed not at all in his opposition to additional sanctions.

And just to make things clear, when Iran then brazenly test-fired offensive missiles, Russia reacted by declaring that this newest provocation did not warrant the imposition of tougher sanctions.

Do the tally. In return for selling out Poland and the Czech Republic by unilaterally abrogating a missile-defense security arrangement that Russia had demanded be abrogated, we get from Russia . . . what?

An oblique hint, of possible support, for unspecified sanctions, grudgingly offered and of dubious authority — and, in any case, leading nowhere because the Chinese have remained resolute against any Security Council sanctions.

Confusing ends and means, the Obama administration strives mightily for shows of allied unity, good feeling, and pious concern about Iran’s nuclear program — whereas the real objective is stopping that program.

This feel-good posturing is worse than useless, because all the time spent achieving gestures is precious time granted Iran to finish its race to acquire the bomb.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from Sarkozy, who could not conceal his astonishment at Obama’s naïveté. On September 24, Obama ostentatiously presided over the Security Council.

With 14 heads of state (or government) at the table, with an American president in the chair for the first time ever, with every news camera in the world trained on the meeting, it would garner unprecedented worldwide attention.

Unknown to the world, Obama had in his pocket explosive revelations about an illegal uranium-enrichment facility that the Iranians had been hiding near Qom. The French and the British were urging him to use this most dramatic of settings to stun the world with the revelation and to call for immediate action.

Obama refused. Not only did he say nothing about it, but, reports Le Monde, Sarkozy was forced to scrap the Qom section of his speech. Obama held the news until a day later — in Pittsburgh. I’ve got nothing against Pittsburgh (site of the G-20 summit), but a stacked-with-world-leaders Security Council chamber, it is not.

Why forgo the opportunity? Because Obama wanted the Security Council meeting to be about his own dream of a nuclear-free world. The President, reports the New York Times, citing “White House officials,” did not want to “dilute” his disarmament resolution “by diverting to Iran.”

Diversion? It’s the most serious security issue in the world. A diversion from what? From a worthless U.N. disarmament resolution?

Yes. And from Obama’s star turn as planetary visionary: “The administration told the French,” reports the Wall Street Journal, “that it didn’t want to ‘spoil the image of success’ for Mr. Obama’s debut at the U.N.”

Image? Success? Sarkozy could hardly contain himself. At the Council table, with Obama at the chair, he reminded Obama that “we live in a real world, not a virtual world.”

He explained: “President Obama has even said, ‘I dream of a world without (nuclear weapons).’ Yet before our very eyes, two countries are currently doing the exact opposite.”

Sarkozy’s unspoken words? “And yet, sacre bleu, he’s sitting on Qom!”

At the time, we had no idea what Sarkozy was fuming about. Now we do. Although he could hardly have been surprised by Obama’s fecklessness.

After all, just a day earlier in addressing the General Assembly, Obama actually said, “No one nation can . . . dominate another nation.”

That adolescent mindlessness was followed with the declaration that “alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War” in fact “make no sense in an interconnected world.”

NATO, our alliances with Japan and South Korea, our umbrella over Taiwan, are senseless? What do our allies think when they hear such nonsense?

Bismarck is said to have said: “There is a providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children, and the United States of America.” Bismarck never saw Obama at the U.N. Sarkozy did.

00Sunday, October 4, 2009 11:05 AM
Thank you, Teresa. This article and the quote by Bismarck has provided a morning filling discussion between me and my Bostonian/Democrat/Obama supporting cradle Catholic husband.

[SM=g8431] [SM=g8431]

Poor guy.


Dear Heike... I had a good laugh trying to imagine the discussion between you and your Bostonian husband! Don't worry... he, too, will see the light in time! The big eg-O shows no signs of doing better as POTUS, much less as 'leader of the free world' (vide Sarkozy)...Let us pray.


00Tuesday, October 6, 2009 3:33 PM
Pope awards highest honor
to EWTN founder Mother Angelica

So happy for her, one of the few public heroines in our time whom I truly admire and have come to love like a member of my family! Whenever the secular media sing the praises of Oprah Winfrey, I invariably think, "Why have you never looked at what Mother Angelica did with EWTN????" She is a wordlwide institution who has established EWTN as a worldwide media giant, whereas Oprah has mainly been about promoting herself (although she does have a number of charities).

God bless Mother Angelica even more and give her many more years with her community!

IRONDALE, Alabama, October 5, 2009 ( - Pope Benedict XVI has awarded EWTN foundress, Mother Mary Angelica, and Deacon Bill Steltemeier, Chairman of EWTN's Board of Governors, the Cross of Honor for distinguished service to the Church.

The medal, officially known as "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" (literally "For the Church and the Pope"), is the highest honor that the Pope can bestow upon laity and religious.

The acknowledgement of Mother Angelica's work by the Pope is highly significant in light of high profile criticism that the EWTN foundress has sustained over her unwavering fidelity to the faith. Mother Angelica had to endure crushing criticism and even attempts to take over her station by various left-leaning Catholic bishops in the United States.

As Catholic League President Bill Donohue wrote in a 2005 review of Raymond Arroyo’s nationally best-selling book on Mother Angelica, some bishops actively fought EWTN at its inception.

“Indeed, the bishops tried to outdo her by launching their own effort, the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America (CTNA). It was clear from the beginning that Mother Angelica was seen as a threat: EWTN had a traditional orientation and CTNA took a modernist stance. EWTN won. CTNA collapsed.”

Donohue added: “Mother Angelica did not take kindly to those clerics who questioned her authority to showcase some bishops, but not others. ‘I happen to own the network,’ she instructed. When told that this would not be forever, she let loose: ‘I'll blow the damn thing up before you get your hands on it.’”

From its beginning the station has placed a strong emphasis on explaining and defending Catholic moral principles related to life and family. It has extensively covered the annual Washington March for Life, featured numerous pro-life leaders and broadcasted exceptionally hard-hitting talks by EWTN regulars such as Fr. John Corapi, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Fr. Thomas Euteneuer of HLI and Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.

During elections EWTN has followed the direction of the Popes and faithful bishops and emphasized that the top priority for Catholics during elections must be the candidates' stands on abortion and marriage and the family and that candidates who are strongly pro-abortion or who support same-sex 'marriage' cannot be supported regardless of their stands on other issues.

This is one of many reasons which has caused the station to be intensely disliked by the liberal Catholic establishment that has for many years pushed a more liberal 'social justice' priority list of voting issues.

Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham conferred the awards in a brief ceremony following Sunday benediction at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama.

"The Holy Father's recognition of Mother Angelica and Deacon Bill Steltemeier is a much-deserved honor. It acknowledges the tremendous faith, hard work and incredible sacrifices that each of them have made throughout the years in founding and building up the Network," said EWTN President and CEO Michael P. Warsaw. "Their recognition is also a great honor for EWTN and is a clear sign of the importance of the Network's mission for the Church and the Pope. We are grateful to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and to Bishop Baker for this honor."

Mother Mary Angelica, 86, is a Poor Clare Nun of Perpetual Adoration. She came to Alabama in 1961 to found Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale. In 1981, she began Eternal Word Television Network in a garage on the monastery property.

In 1999, Mother Angelica relocated the Monastery to the grounds of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama. She continues to reside there with her community of Nuns.

Deacon R. William Steltemeier, 80, was a successful Nashville attorney who left his law practice to join Mother Angelica with her fledgling television network. He served as EWTN's President for many years and continues to serve as Chairman of the Network's Board of Governors.

EWTN Global Catholic Network, in its 28th year, is available in over 150 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories. With its direct broadcast satellite television and radio services, AM & FM radio networks, worldwide short-wave radio station, Internet website and publishing arm, EWTN, is the largest religious media network in the world."

Papal award validates
EWTN mission, says CEO

Irondale, Ala., Oct 5, 2009 (CNA) - After Mother Angelica and Deacon Bill Steltemeier were given an award by Pope Benedict, Mike Warsaw, the CEO of EWTN, and Raymond Arroyo told CNA that they are overjoyed and grateful that Mother's work is being recognized.

Speaking to CNA, Mike Warsaw said, "I am very happy and excited for both Mother Angelica and Deacon Bill Steltemeier. This honor from the Holy Father is a recognition of the blood, sweat and tears that each of them have shed throughout the years in starting and building up EWTN."

Although Mother Angelica has encountered opposition in launching her television network, Warsaw stated, "Mother has always been a faithful daughter of the Church, and for her to be acknowledged for her tremendous faith and perseverance in the face of so many obstacles is certainly fitting."

Raymond Arroyo shared Warsaw's assessment, telling CNA, "This long deserved papal honor is truly validation of Mother Angelica's incredible work. The media empire that she founded has changed hearts and minds all over the world.

"Those who have attempted to marginalize Mother Angelica or minimize her enormous contribution to the Church and broadcasting must pause and acknowledge what the Holy Father has: that there is no other Catholic in the last 40 years who has done more to further that cause of evangelization or reach the common man than Mother Angelica," Arroyo said.

Warsaw also had words of praise for Deacon Bill, remarking, he "has sacrificed so much for the Network throughout the past three decades. He gave up an incredibly successful law practice to stand at Mother’s side and help her build EWTN. His devotion to Mother Angelica and her mission is an inspiration. I think the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award is a wonderful expression of gratitude to both of them for their service to the Church."

Both men agreed that the award is a validation of the importance of the network's mission.

"By recognizing the service of Mother Angelica and Deacon Bill, I believe our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI is also affirming the work and the mission of EWTN on behalf of the Church. That is a tremendous support and encouragement," Warsaw said.

As Raymond Arroyo put it, "I feel privileged to be a part of that legacy and to be a part of continuing her mission of Truth in joy."

00Wednesday, October 7, 2009 8:26 AM

If I did not already admire Archbishop Chaput for his clear unflinching assertion and defense of orthodox Catholicism, this article alone would catapult him to the top of my list of culture heroes!

'Notre Shame' revisited:
Archbishop Chaput responds
to Cardinal Cottier's
'30 Giorni' article

Rome, Italy, Oct 6, 2009 (CNA).- The Italian daily Il Foglio published an article today entitled "L'ascia del vescovo pellerossa - Charles J. Chaput contro Notre Dame e l'illustre cardinale sedotto dall'abortista Obama" (The ax of the Redskin Bishop - Charles J. Chaput against Notre Dame and the illustrious cardinal seduced by pro-abortion Obama) in which the Archbishop of Denver contests some of the strongly pro-Obama assertions made by Cardinal Georges Cottier last July in the international Catholic magazine 30 Days.

Il Foglio is one of the most influential intellectual dailies in Italy, dedicated more to analyzing than covering the news. Its editor is one of the most famous contemporary Italian thinkers, Giuliano Ferrara.

Despite being an agnostic, Ferrara is a long-time admirer of the thought of Joseph Ratzinger.

In its Tuesday edition, Il Foglio published a front page interview with Cardinal Francis George, and devoted its third page to Archbishop Chaput's comments on Cottier's original essay.

The archbishop's article, originally submitted under the more modest title of "Politics, Morality and a President: an American View," focuses on what it meant to American Catholics to have President Obama speak at the University of Notre Dame and be honored with a law degree, an event which Cardinal Cottier, Theologian Emeritus of the Pontifical Household, described in 30 Days in a very positive light.

Catholic News Agency exclusively presents below the full English text of Archbishop Chaput's article published today in Il Foglio.

Politics, morality and a President:
An American view

by Mons. Charles Chaput
Archbishop of Denver

One of the strengths of the Church is her global perspective. In that light, Cardinal Georges Cottier's recent essay on President Barack Obama ("Politics, morality and original sin," 30 Days, No. 5), made a valuable contribution to Catholic discussion of the new American President.

Our faith connects us across borders. What happens in one nation may have an impact on many others. World opinion about America's leaders is not only appropriate; it should be welcomed.

And yet, the world does not live and vote in the United States. Americans do. The pastoral realities of any country are best known by the local bishops who shepherd their people. Thus, on the subject of America's leaders, the thoughts of an American bishop may have some value. They may augment the Cardinal's good views by offering a different perspective.

Note that I speak here only for myself. I do not speak for the bishops of the United States as a body, nor for any other individual bishop. Nor will I address President Obama's speech to the Islamic world, which Cardinal Cottier mentions in his own essay. That would require a separate discussion.

I will focus instead on the President's graduation appearance at the University of Notre Dame, and Cardinal Cottier's comments on the President's thinking. I have two motives in doing so.

First, men and women from my own diocese belong to the national Notre Dame community as students, graduates and parents. Every bishop has a stake in the faith of the people in his care, and Notre Dame has never merely been a local Catholic university. It is an icon of the American Catholic experience.

Second, when Notre Dame's local bishop vigorously disagrees with the appearance of any speaker, and some 80 other bishops and 300,000 laypeople around the country publicly support the local bishop, then reasonable people must infer that a real problem exists with the speaker – or at least with his appearance at the disputed event. Reasonable people might further choose to defer to the judgment of those Catholic pastors closest to the controversy.

Regrettably and unintentionally, Cardinal Cottier's articulate essay undervalues the gravity of what happened at Notre Dame. It also overvalues the consonance of President Obama's thinking with Catholic teaching.

There are several key points to remember here.

First, resistance to President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame had nothing to do with whether he is a good or bad man. He is obviously a gifted man. He has many good moral and political instincts, and an admirable devotion to his family. These things matter.

But unfortunately, so does this: The President's views on vital bioethical issues, including but not limited to abortion, differ sharply from Catholic teaching. This is why he has enjoyed the strong support of major "abortion rights" groups for many years.

Much is made, in some religious circles, of the President's sympathy for Catholic social teaching. But defense of the unborn child is a demand of social justice. There is no "social justice" if the youngest and weakest among us can be legally killed. Good programs for the poor are vital, but they can never excuse this fundamental violation of human rights.

Second, at a different moment and under different circumstances, the conflict at Notre Dame might have faded away if the university had simply asked the President to give a lecture or public address.

But at a time when the American bishops as a body had already voiced strong concern about the new administration's abortion policies, Notre Dame not only made the President the centerpiece of its graduation events, but also granted him an honorary doctorate of laws – this, despite his deeply troubling views on abortion law and related social issues.

The real source of Catholic frustration with President Obama's appearance at Notre Dame was his overt, negative public voting and speaking record on abortion and other problematic issues.

By its actions, Notre Dame ignored and violated the guidance of America's bishops in their 2004 document, "Catholics in Political Life." In that text, the bishops urged Catholic institutions to refrain from honoring public officials who disagreed with Church teaching on grave matters.

Thus, the fierce debate in American Catholic circles this spring over the Notre Dame honor for Mr. Obama was not finally about partisan politics.

It was about serious issues of Catholic belief, identity and witness – triggered by Mr. Obama's views -- which Cardinal Cottier, writing from outside the American context, may have misunderstood.

Third, the Cardinal wisely notes points of contact between President Obama's frequently stated search for political "common ground" and the Catholic emphasis on pursing the "common good."

These goals – seeking common ground and pursuing the common good – can often coincide. But they are not the same thing. They can sharply diverge in practice.

So-called "common ground" abortion policies may actually attack the common good because they imply a false unity; they create a ledge of shared public agreement too narrow and too weak to sustain the weight of a real moral consensus. The common good is never served by tolerance for killing the weak – beginning with the unborn.

Fourth, Cardinal Cottier rightly reminds his readers of the mutual respect and cooperative spirit required by citizenship in a pluralist democracy. But pluralism is never an end in itself. It is never an excuse for inaction.

As President Obama himself acknowledged at Notre Dame, democracy depends for its health on people of conviction fighting hard in the public square for what they believe – peacefully, legally but vigorously and without apologies.

Unfortunately, the President also added the curious remark that ". . . the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt . . . This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us."

In a sense, of course, this is true: On this side of eternity, doubt is part of the human predicament. But doubt is the absence of something; it is not a positive value. Insofar as it inoculates believers from acting on the demands of faith, doubt is a fatal weakness.

The habit of doubt fits much too comfortably with a kind of "baptized unbelief;" a Christianity that is little more than a vague tribal loyalty and a convenient spiritual vocabulary. Too often in recent American experience, pluralism and doubt have become alibis for Catholic moral and political lethargy. Perhaps Europe is different.

But I would suggest that our current historical moment -- which both European and American Catholics share -- is very far from the social circumstances facing the early Christian legislators mentioned by the Cardinal.

They had faith, and they also had the zeal – tempered by patience and intelligence – to incarnate the moral content of their faith explicitly in culture. In other words, they were building a civilization shaped by Christian belief. Something very different is happening now.

Cardinal Cottier's essay gives witness to his own generous spirit. I was struck in particular by his praise for President Obama's "humble realism." I hope he's right. American Catholics want him to be right.

Humility and realism are the soil where a commonsense, modest, human-scaled and moral politics can grow. Whether President Obama can provide this kind of leadership remains to be seen. We have a duty to pray for him -- so that he can, and does.

When Cardinal Cottier's article came out in 30 GIORNI last spring, I was almost crushed by the unbelievable naivete it evinced, by the ardent but oh-so-misplaced trust and faith in a man who has such a clearcut record of fierce dedication to upholding abortion on demand - even at an advanced stage - that there is no way any Catholic with common sense could possibly rationalize: and a cardinal of the Church was writing all this??? Needless to say, I did not even bother to post it, nor even comment on it.

It was said at the time that someone else wrote thw article and Cottier simply lent his name to it. Whether he wrote it or not, he would not have put his name to the article if he did not also believe it. (And publication of the article gave me one more reason to distrust 30 Giorni publisher-editor Giulio Andreotti [despite his vaunted Catholicism, I cannot dissociate him from his long and not exactly unsullied political career - he obviously is among the majority of European intellectuals who have allowed themselves to be deluded by Obama simply because he is not Bush and seems to stand for everything that is politically correct in this day and age, so who cares about his substance, about who he really is?]

But Mons. Chaput is wise. He waited a decent interval before giving his rebuttal - he would have gained nothing by rebutting it then adn there, Obama would still have been honored by Notre Dame, and his rebuttal would have been drowned in the strident polemics that characterized those days. And he makes all the necessary obeisances in the article to Cardinal Cottier's age and standing.

But his courtesy does not in any way diminish the force of his arguments against Cottier's deluded notions.

00Wednesday, October 7, 2009 7:58 PM
John Allen has been pushing Obama all along so his first article from the Synod today is not a surprise.

Already, the other day, he picked out one short sentence mentioning Obama from Cardinal Turkson's opening and truly wide-ranging intervention [a report on the implementation of the recommendations from the first special Synod for Africa after 15 years] and made a whole article out of it.

One can understand the African bishops' pride and that they would inevitably cite Obama as a precursor and harbinger for bigger things possible for any African. Not that they needed Obama for that, but POTUS is by far more powerful than UN Secretary-General as Kofi Annan was.

Indeed, in the initial speculations about the next Pope immediately after John Paul II's death, I sincerely believed that Cardinal Arinze could well be elected Pope without any reservations on the part of the cardinals if they felt he was the best man for the job.

I only hope the African bishops can separate their cultural and ethnic considerations from their doctrinal and pastoral responsibilities to the Catholic faith.

And on the practical side, Obama will have to outdo or at least match the outstanding record of George W. Bush's administration in effective US development assistance to Africa which surpassed that of all previous postwar US administrations combined.

00Thursday, October 8, 2009 4:55 PM
One of John Allen's strengths as a journalist is that he seeks out interviews - his one egregious and inexplicable failure was not getting one with Rabbi Neusner at all, although Allen lives in New York - which most reporters assigned to the religious beat rarely do. And evidently, he makes it a point to come well-prepared for these interviews.

This one with Cardinal George is one of the best interviews I can recall in the past four years of following the world of Catholicism. For the first time in such an interview, one gets a broad and solid sense of the fundamental pastoral challenge facing a bishop in the United States.

And Cardinal George is ideal for the purpose - a thinking man as well as a man of God who has his feet firmly on the ground and is in utter communion with the Church and the Successor of Peter.

I think it is significant that the title of the cardinal's new book parallels the title of the conference on God that the Italian bishops' conference is holding in November: "God today: Whether he exists or not makes a difference".

Chicago’s Cardinal George says
both liberals and conservatives
focus too much on bishops,
not enough on Christ

Oct. 7, 2009

ROME - Historically, American cardinals have rarely been preoccupied with the intellectual life. By reputation, they’re known more as pragmatists – bricks-and-mortar men, or pastors, or political powerbrokers – as opposed to the European model of the theologian-bishop.

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, however, has long been an exception, and his new book The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion and Culture (Crossroad) offers a classic illustration of the point.

George, who is also the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is in Rome this week for meetings between conference leaders and Vatican officials. While in town, he’s also presenting his book at the Lateran University.

The Difference God Makes lays out a vision for the evangelization of contemporary American culture, and it covers an awful lot of ground, from the fine points of liturgical practice to reflections on Catholic/Jewish and Catholic/Muslim dialogue.

Perhaps the most intriguing thread running through the book, however, is George’s critique of both liberal and conservative Catholicism, especially as those groups have developed in the United States since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

In essence, George argues that liberals too often function as “chaplains of the status quo,” taking their cues from the prevailing secular mindset, while conservatives often end up in a sectarian dead-end, clinging to a narrow and triumphalistic version of Catholic identity sealed off from the surrounding culture.

In fact, George argues that while liberals and conservatives may think of themselves as having little in common, in truth they’re two peas in the same intellectual pod. Both, he argues, share an implied ecclesiology that George traces to the 15th century Jesuit thinker St. Robert Bellarmine, who styled the church as a “visible society” comparable to the Republic of Venice.

Both liberals and conservatives, George says, focus far too much on the bishops – how much power they have, and the ways in which they exercise it – and not nearly enough on Christ.

Instead, George argues for what he calls “simply Catholicism,” meaning a clear sense of Catholic identity that’s nevertheless open to the world. As examples, he points to Mother Teresa, the origins of the Catholic Worker movement, and the Community of Sant’Egidio – all, he says, share a “simply Catholic” concern for prayer and serving the poor.

[Which is, of course, the hallmark of Benedict XVI's Magisterium: being Catholic and defining what this is.]

George sat down on Tuesday afternoon for an interview about his book at the North American College. The following is a transcript of that conversation.

Why this book now?
I don’t think you can tie it to a particular event. I’ve been talking around these issues for a long time, and there was a lot of material to be worked through again.

I had a lot of help from my friends, who suggested that this is the time to publish a book and bring a lot of these points together. That’s along with my long-standing conviction about the importance of relations as identity markers, and the difficulty of making that argument in a very individualistic culture.

I thought, well, let’s try it in book form, rather than just the occasional criticism here or there. That’s the sustaining element of the book – it’s all about relationships.

There are two things with which we [as Americans and as American Catholics] have a hard time: relationships, and seeing the whole thing. We’re very good at individual choices, which often separate us, and we’re very good at specializations, which also separate us.

If there are lacunae in the culture that is ours, which we all have to love, it’s a lack of appreciation for relationships that you can’t un-choose and that are constitutive of your identity, and also this ability to see the whole thing, to see it as global, to get outside the national parameters that define how we look at everything, including the Church.

{Again, another hallmark in Benedict XVI's Magisterium: a human being is not just an individual - he cannot be considered in isolation, only in relationship to his Creator and to his fellowmen, just as God himself is a relationship embodied in the Trinity.]

This isn’t your farewell message as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops?
No, it had nothing to do with that. I think I would have published it whether I’d been president of the conference or not. Anyway, I’ve still got a year and a couple months to go.

One of your central points is that faith and culture are always in tension, because they are both normative systems. In your view, what’s the defining tension between faith and culture in the United States today?
Fundamentally, I’d go back to what I just said: individualism versus a communitarian ethos, and national parochialism versus a genuinely global or universal communion. Those are cultural realities, so they’re not just events or problems on the surface.

After that, where would I think the tensions lie? Well, I think one is the tendency to capture the Church in national terms, and to see everything in terms of our political realities, [meaning] liberal and conservative.

Those become the final terms of analysis, so that the Church’s voice can’t be heard. The Church is strangled by putting its voice into a system of communication that doesn’t understand her, and doesn’t want to understand her.

Are you talking about the press?
The whole thing, with the press as a case in point. But universities, for example, are also culture-forming institutions. The political system is too, especially now, because its terms are becoming constitutive of our experience everywhere.

In other words, the courts become the place where tensions are worked out which should be settled in other forums, if there were available, but they’re not. Thus the terms of the political system become determinative for every area of human experience – marriage, the church, the family, sports, and so on.

‘Political’ in the sense that all those areas are seen as a contest among competing interests?
I mean that the forum for working out competing interests is uniquely political. It’s the only forum available, along with the media. That makes us very legalistic, as I say in the book.

Today, you need a lawyer to accompany you at every step of your life, practically. Nothing is done without a lawyer, so we have lawyers in courts, lawyers in the legislature, lawyers in private practice, in corporations, and so on. If you’re not a lawyer, you’re hardly part of public life anymore.

On that subject, you write that for modern American culture, everything is tolerated but nothing is forgiven, while for Christianity it’s exactly the reverse – many things aren’t tolerated, but everything can be forgiven. Would you see the explosion of legalism as the index of a culture that doesn’t know how to forgive?
That’s right. Punishment has to be legal, and it has to be permanent.

You wade back into a debate you set off in 1998, when you defined liberal Catholicism as an “exhausted project.” Among other things, you write that while liberals and conservatives often see themselves as opposites, both share an implied ecclesiology that comes from St. Robert Bellarmine, defining the church as a visible society. Can you explain that?
For both of them, bishops take on an importance that’s disproportionate. Liberals and conservatives both define themselves vis-à-vis authority.

Broadly speaking, liberals want you to have less of it, and conservatives want you to use it more.
Liberals are critical of [authority], although they’ll use it when they’re in power. Conservatives would tend to be less critical, but equally dependent upon it.

Consequently, when you get into the Church, you get the conservatives unhappy because bishops aren’t using power the way they’re supposed to, the way they want them to. You get liberals who are unhappy because [the bishops] have any power at all. Both of them are defining themselves vis-à-vis the bishops rather than vis-à-vis Christ, who uses the bishops to govern the Church.

It’s not a Christ-centered Church, as it’s supposed to be, it’s a bishop-centered Church.

Do the bishops bear part of the responsibility for that?
Sure, yes! That’s what we’re trying to work through now in the conference, I think. What is the bishop’s role, particularly in governance?

Of course, to some extent the bishops are central to Catholic communion, in the sense that Ignatius of Antioch says – that nothing is done apart from the bishop. But, they don’t control the whole thing. They don’t, in the Code of Canon Law, they don’t, in Ignatius of Antioch. [Oh please, remind each of the selfish dissident bishops about that - they should go back even and read what Vaticna-II actually says about bishops and how their episcopate postulates communion with the Successor of Peter as a fundament!]

How can [the bishops] be related without controlling everything? This is what Americans don’t see, that you can be related even if you don’t control.

Liberals say you have to be independent, because to be related is to be controlled. Conservatives say that because you are related, you must be in control, and if you’re not in control there’s something wrong. No, it’s a relationship, and not every relationship is a controlling one. The relationship is a real one, and there are different ways of influencing it without controlling it.

Is there an example of what a relational model of leadership would look like?
It shifts as you go through different eras. Bishops take on the aura of leadership that is proper to the societies of their time.

As the Roman empire was collapsing, they stepped into the role of diocesan leaders, since the empire was organized into dioceses.

They later stepped into the feudal lords’ roles, since those were the roles that were visible at that point in time.

They stepped into business roles when business leaders became the paradigm for leaders in civil society.

We take on the trappings of the era. Paul VI trimmed away a lot of those trappings to bring bishops back to their role as successors of the apostles, and he did it in a very visible way, changing the insignia and all the rest. The Church periodically has done that. It takes a while for bishops sometime to rethink their role.

You asked if bishops are responsible for the kind of disdain, or contempt, in which bishops are sometimes held by both left and right, for different reasons. The Second Vatican Council said we have to present the Church to the world, and the truth of the gospel, and it said that you don’t have to worry about people who don’t believe.

[The idea was that] this is so beautiful that they will come along and accept it, but that’s not true. You have people who weren’t catechized – not because they weren’t told the truth, but because they weren’t told ‘this is not the truth, and here’s why.’ That’s why I write about putting apologetics back into catechesis.

The bishops did that same thing for a while. They explained the documents of the council, they talked about the beautiful vision of a united world coming out of the council.

They didn’t pay attention to the fact that a lot of people, in order to understand, have to know not only the truth, but they have to know what’s false. Now, the catechetical problem has been attended to, at least in theory, at our level … whether or not it’s the same at the level of teaching, I don’t know.

There’s something comparable that’s happened on the governmental level. The council was the time for mercy, not justice, the time for persuasion and not coercion.

When they redid the Code of Canon Law, it was assumed that if you just show the good, it will be so beautiful that everybody will follow. They didn’t worry very much about what happens with people who don’t, who are still caught in original sin.

You not only have to say ‘this is good,’ you also have to say, ‘this is bad, and if you do it here are the consequences.’ Well, the consequences are minimal in the new Code. That’s why it’s a difficult document to use to govern, which became clear in the sex abuse crisis. We had to change the Code.

Now they’re looking at that, looking precisely at the penal sections of the Code, to see if they’re adequate instruments of government.

We have to do the same thing: We have to say that here’s the good and here’s the bad, and Catholics don’t do the bad. When they do, of course, they’re forgiven, but nonetheless they’re told it’s bad.

To play the Devil’s advocate, if your diagnosis is that we have a culture that’s overly legalistic, is tinkering with the Code the best response?
That’s a good question in itself, except that we have to govern by the Code. You need an adequate instrument of governing, and you need law as part of governing.

The Church is a sort of civil society, even if it’s not primarily that. You have to do it, or else we’re struck again without the means to govern.

We have to govern by the Code, which is itself a contrarian sense of what the Church is supposed to be in a Protestant culture. Luther burned the Code.

Once you do away with Holy Orders, well then the visible government goes over to the Prince, and the church becomes a spiritual club. The teaching part of it goes over to the professor.

The bishops are pastors but they’re not teachers and they don’t govern. Worship goes over to the laity. That’s the unraveling of the cChurch, once you do away with the sacrament of Holy Orders.

That was the primary challenge of the Reformation – it wasn’t the nature of faith, it was the nature of Church governance, and therefore Holy Orders. All the Protestant churches did away with Holy Orders.

We are a Protestant culture, and even Catholics are influenced by that sense of what the church should be. ‘Why do you need a Code of Canon Law?’ I get that question very often. When I make reference to the Code, they say, ‘You shouldn’t have a Code.’

It’s the same thing that the victims’ associations were saying, just hand it over to the civil authorities. Of course, we do, but in the meantime we also have to take care of it internally, and that remains a contested area.

Now, for other reasons sometimes they’re saying that after we hand it over to the civil authority we’re still responsible. But, we have to wait for the civil authority to act in every case.

In general terms, you sketch three options for living as a Catholic in contemporary American culture: liberal Catholicism, conservative Catholicism, and “simply Catholicism.”
Yes, and the thing I meant to say was that I don’t have in mind ‘liberal Catholicism’ politically. That’s a misunderstanding. Everything today is understood in terms of politics, but that isn’t what [Cardinal John Henry] Newman was talking about.

It’s ‘liberalism’ in the sense of what the Pope means by ‘relativism.’

Your notion of “simple Catholicism” is different from a meeting in the middle between liberals and conservatives?
It’s completely different. It doesn’t worry about that. In a certain sense, the Church was that, at least the Church in which I grew up in Chicago, before the Council. It was very sure of its own identity, it formed us in that, and then it prepared us to go out and transform the world.

{That, I think, is an excellent formulation of the major practical effect of the 'spirit of Vatican-II' ideology: a confusion about the Catholic identity, even perhaps, a deliberate ambiguity, in order to accommodate those views that are outside orthodox Catholic teaching and practice.]

Yet you’re not nostalgic for the pre-conciliar Church?
Well, no! Not at all. I think the liturgical renewal, for example, is a wonderful thing. I think also the sense of governance in the Church, how pastors govern united to their people through councils at all levels … all of those things are absolutely necessary.

I think the theology of ordained priesthood was clarified in the council. It isn’t just vis-à-vis power to celebrate the Mass and to transubstantiate. Rather, you have that power over the sacramental body because you have the authority to govern the mystical body. So, you put the two together in ways they weren’t together before.

Pastoring was practical, and power was given for sacraments. Now they’re held together in the headship of Christ, in our relationship to the Church.

There are all kinds of theological insights, such as the ecclesiology of communion … my whole book is about that, at least the way I read the ecclesiology of the council. There were some tremendously good breakthroughs in theology itself, not just in practice.

If I’m nostalgic for something that happened before, it’s not because it was marked by what people call the ‘pre-conciliar Church.’ It’s because in some ways the Chicago church I grew up in anticipated the council.

The sociological reality [after the council] was good in some ways, despite the almost internal dissolution that conservatives decry, and rightly so. That was not anticipated from the council, and maybe that’s where we can say that the pastoral implementation of the council was inadequate. It wasn’t meant to dissolve the Church.

So you’re not dreaming of a Church that has passed us by?
Even if I were, it wouldn’t make any difference. Life goes on.

You describe being “simply Catholic” as “a way of life bound up with being a disciple of Christ in his Church.” Where do you see that way of life most clearly today?
I think family life is always the paradigm for sanctification and the school of love that’s inspired by the gospel. It’s where we learn to put other people first, for the first time.

John Paul II was convinced that it [discipleship] was in Mother Teresa. Not just her sisters, but people inspired by her … that this was how the church was to bind up the wounds of a divided world.

It’s a good question, because bishops are always looking for signs of life. Sometimes it’s an individual, people who are paradigmatic for understanding what the council was about. You see people struggling … doctors, lawyers, business people. They’re good people, and they’re shaped by the faith.

Politicians, too, although I’m not sure I would point to any one person, because that’s always dangerous. Politicians change, as they have to change in order to stay elected. Actors, lawyers … there are some really exemplary judges and lawyers I’ve come across. They take it seriously, and they recognize the importance of the profession.

You referred earlier to the Catholic Worker movement. Would that be an example?
I’m not sure about it today, but in the 1950s when I first came upon it, it was clear that they were struggling to be simply Catholic … maybe in a way that led them into a sectarian perspective. But if you go back, you see them struggling with the gospel reduced to its essence ... too much, maybe, to take proper account of all the history of the church, which is also providential, but nonetheless it called us back to something.

If you look at the lay leaders and even the clerical leaders, people who were children or in high school in the 1950s, that movement has had enormous influence, more than most people think. They don’t recognize it, but it has. There’s also a lot of coincidence between the Catholic Worker movement and Mother Teresa.

Looking at the American landscape, what do you think the sociological footprint is of liberal Catholicism versus conservative Catholicism?
I think it [liberal Catholicism] has the larger footprint, because we’re a popularly liberal culture. Catholics are part of that. Even our conservatives are liberal, by European standards. We don’t have any group that looks like Tradition, Family and Property. They don’t exist. We go back to a liberal age, we were founded as a liberal country, and both today’s liberals and conservatives take their meaning from that. The Church does too. Catholicism in the United States is liberal in its basic way of seeing things.

What about the “simply Catholic” group? What percentage at the grassroots would that describe?
That’s a good question that I can’t answer, because I don’t know numbers. If you go back and think about the different movements that have defined the church, I would say that something like the Catholic Worker Movement was “simply Catholic” at its inception. It very carefully removed itself from the whole liberal/conservative argument, and tried to go back to simple Catholicism and its basis in the gospel itself.

What about ‘simple Catholicism’ in an unarticulated, unreflective form? As you move about in parishes, do you get the sense that this is where most people are at? As you know, the hypothesis is sometimes advanced that the left/right polarization is mostly a phenomenon of the chattering classes in the Church.
There’s an element of truth to that. You see it in the lives of ordinary Catholics who just take for granted that we go to Mass, we say the rosary, without thinking very much about it. We contribute to Catholic charities and we take care of our neighbor in very spontaneous ways. You see it in family life a lot.

Sometimes it’s very intentional, trying to take out the televisions and so on, but sometimes they’re just living as Americans like everybody else, but there’s something underneath it that keeps them centered and keeps them related. They’re aware of that, they don’t want to break relationship with their pastor or with their bishop – or with their cousin who doesn’t like them. There’s a sense of forgiveness and peace that pervades their life.

It’s bolstered by Catholic practices, which are fewer now after the council. That’s unfortunate, and I think I’m going to write something about that at some point, about restoring a Catholic way of life that would be marked by certain practices that would instill attitudes.

They would not keep us above the fray, because we’re still in it, but it would be a center within [the fray] that would permit people to keep their balance and be neither liberal nor conservative. I think you see it with people who don’t just want to use the Church to advance this issue or that issue.

You see people struggle, for example, with the fact that there’s no political party that really does express who we are, so they’ll go one way in one election and one way in another. They will choose to participate in one thing and not in another. If you ask them why they’re making that choice, more than likely they’ll say, ‘Because we’re Catholic.’ You can see it. I see it going around.

Another hypothesis is that the left/right polarization is the product of a particular generation’s experience (meaning the post-Vatican II generation), and that there’s a new generation coming on the scene which doesn’t carry that baggage.
I think that’s true. The problem is, what do they carry? I’m not sure they carry ‘simply Catholicism.’ They carry the culture strongly. A lot of them carry it in a way that leaves them unsatisfied, but we often haven’t been very successful in reaching that generation. Sometimes when they do get it, and they grasp for the symbols of identity, for the prior generation that looks conservative.

Conservatives will often point to that hunger for identity among younger Catholics and say, ‘Look, we’re winning!’

But I don’t think that’s the right way to see it. When [younger Catholics] use those symbols, they don’t bring the history in the same way, they just use the symbols as markers. They don’t know how those symbols were occasionally used to suppress in the past. You have to ask them, ‘What does it mean to you?’ Usually you’ll get something that’s quite personal, something that falls outside of the liberal/conservative framework.

You said that you’d like to write more about the conservative Catholic position. What would you like to say?
What I’d say is that there are people who use the symbols [of the faith] to be so restrictive that we become a sect. If the liberals disappear into the world and become chaplains of the status quo, taking their agenda from the world, the conservatives risk isolating themselves.

The council says you can’t do that. The Church says you can’t do that, Christ says you can’t do that. They become trapped in a kind of sectarian mindset that isn’t Catholic.

You write a good deal about secularization, and you seem to suggest that if Europe has an overt secularization of hostility, the United States has a more subtle form, sort of a secularization of domestication. In other words, we don’t reject religion, we tame it.
It’s becoming a little more rejection now. The new atheism has its followers.

You’re talking about Samuel Harris, Richard Dawkins, and so on?
Yes. In Chicago, we now have atheist clubs in high schools. We didn’t have those five years ago. Kids I would have confirmed in the eighth grade, by the time they’re sophomores in high school say they’re atheists. They don’t just stop going to Church, they make a statement. I think that’s new. That’s perhaps a bit more like Europe.

Do you have a theory about where that’s coming from?
I think it’s something of a fad, because of the aggressiveness of this new atheism. It captures people.

It is highly evangelical, isn’t it?
Yes it is, sure. Everybody has said that, and it’s true. It’s the mirror image of a kind of fundamentalism, because it’s very restrictive in its use of reason. It’s also very triumphalistic and self-righteous.

Your initial question was whether what we have for the most part is domestication rather than rejection, and I think that’s a nice way of saying it. As you said, I didn’t say it that way, but I think it’s a good way of putting it. It’s co-opted into a state that is a church, very often. That’s American civil religion.

In a way, is a secularization of taming almost more pernicious – kind of secularization that doesn’t want to show its face?
I think so. At the same time, there is a kind of openness that isn’t there in Europe.

Paradoxically, there are more Catholic elements in the cultures of Europe. The civil holidays are still holy days in Europe. Officially, we’re far more secular, but culturally there’s still an openness that often isn’t there in Europe. That’s what the Holy Father notes all the time [about the United States]. He says that’s a wonderful thing, and you should try to keep it as open as possible.

I wouldn’t disagree with what you asked, that it’s more insidious [in the United States] because it can happen without your realizing it.

I want to press you to reply to a rhetorical question that you raise in the book but never directly answer. You write: “Schools and hospitals and works of charity, mercy and justice … have exhausted many of the resources of the Catholic church in the United States … Have our institutions … demanded too high a price? Have we formed very fine professionals, but not formed disciples?” What’s the answer?
I think we have done a better job of forming professionals than disciples in many institutions, there’s no question about that. If you look at the careers of our graduates, they’re wealthy, they’ve contributed to the society, they’re good people, but their ethos is professional. When you push them on matters of faith, however, it’s problematic.

For example, in medical ethics, when you move beyond the fundamental principle of patient autonomy – which is a core principle of secular ethics, as it is in ours, although we wouldn’t use that term – and try to get them to see the communitarian dimension, as we do in the bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives, there’s a lot of resistance sometimes. They’re more influenced by the profession that we’ve trained them to take on than by the faith that was the reason for starting the place to begin with.

Do you see this as something you can tackle in the here-and-now, or is it a question of a whole generation of leadership that has to change?
That’s always been said, that you have to wait for certain people to die before a change takes place! But then, you also have to see to it that there’s some formation for the new generation coming in. That’s where I’m encouraged when I look at what hospitals run by religious are doing, trying to form people in the ethos of the congregation that started them.

Now, they won’t be the same, because they haven’t made the same commitments … vows and the rest. But they’ll have a sense that this is the spirit, in a large sense, of these places, and then they’ll work it out. You have to trust that the Holy Spirit is helping them to work it out on their own terms. They may not look like what I’ll live to see … you might. What you can do is try to create the formative experiences, and then trust them to work it out in their own circumstances and their own generation.

Are you confident things are moving in the right direction with regard to our schools, hospitals, and other institutions?

I think you have to look at it institution by institution. I wouldn’t be prepared to say ‘yes’ across the board. I think some institutions will make it and some won’t, and it will depend on leadership. I can look at places where I think it’s so thin on the ground, that probably the secularization is irreversible. On the other hand, there are places where it could go either way, and there are places that are pretty secure.

The question for that last group is, what are they secure in? Is it a conservative Catholic identity, a liberal Catholic identity, or it simply Catholicism? It is a kind of Catholicism that can do what Catholicism always has … be sure of its own identity, but be open to everything.

You write that the greatest post-Vatican II failure was the failure to form laity engaged with the world but on faith’s terms. How do we do that today?
I think that’s behind the bishops’ concern about the universities, about education, about the reform of catechesis, all these formative influences. We don’t have the sodalities anymore. Today there are the lay movements, but they’re pretty restricted in their influence in the United States. They’re more influential outside the United States, especially in Europe. There, it isn’t the parishes that carry the identity anymore, it’s the movements. With us, it still is the parishes. We do parishes well.

Is part of the problem, with the lay role in the world, that so much of the energy of our best and brightest laity over the last fifty years has been consumed by internal Catholic battles?
Yes, absolutely. The Pope in his 2005 address to the Roman Curia, about the reform, was somewhat wistful about how we’ve wasted fifty years, forty years, so let’s get on with it. I would tend to think that’s true. We’ve wasted a lot of time.

Instead of hearing what the council was really saying … and of course these were unusual conciliar documents, as everybody has said, because usually conciliar documents are simply declarative. Here they put the exhortation directly into the documents for the first time.

That’s pastoral, it was a pastoral council. Of course, you can take those pastoral elements in different directions, but I certainly think we went in the wrong direction when from the beginning we interpreted the council in liberal and conservative terms.

We forgot that it was supposed to be Church/world, that those were the terms that were supposed to be used, not liberal and conservative inside the church. That was terribly destructive. People got caught up in that. Of course, their intentions were good, but they got caught up in it … religious orders got caught up in it, thinking they were being faithful to the council, but they weren’t. They were being faithful to a particular interpretation of the council.

Left, right or center, the primary optic for reading the council has been ad intra, meaning its implications for the internal life of the church.
That’s right. You asked a moment ago where are things working, and the answer is, look at those organizations and groups that don’t worry about the internal dynamics, but who worry about the mission.

Something like Sant’Egidio?
I was just going to say that. You’ve got the Community of Sant’Egidio, which I really admire. That’s why I’ve got the church I have. [George’s titular church in Rome is St. Bartholomew’s on Tiber Island, where Sant’Egidio often gathers.]

I’ve admired them ever since I saw them at work in Namibia, when the Oblates were fairly strong on the ground there and were very concerned about the situation. Sant’Egidio carried it off, they made the peace in Namibia. Today Namibia has one of the best constitutions in Africa, and it’s worked. They’ve been less successful in a few other places, but they’ve still been helpful.

That’s the perspective of starting with the poor. That’s the evangelical touchstone. You take a group that starts with the poor, and then you know that there’s evangelical motivation. There’s no power or anything else, because these people don’t have power. They identify with the poor, and then they say, things have to change for the poor. We have to see that the poor are better served in the name of Christ. The Church will follow along, if they know that you’re changing the way that the world looks at the poor.

Also, Sant’Egidio from the beginning prayed together, in ways that the Church recognizes as prayer. You’ve heard the way they pray … it’s unbelievable. It’s the way the poor in the mountains pray. It grinds on you, but it’s the prayer of the Church. It really is remarkable.

Could you make the argument that Sant’Egidio is what liberal Catholicism might look like, freed of its ad intra preoccupations?
That’s right … had it not gotten into politics and into power, but stayed with the poor. Of course, there are conservatives who are concerned about the poor too!

You spend a fair bit of space responding to the critique offered by Peter Steinfels in his book A People Adrift, but there’s one point you mention and then let drop. He suggests, as many others have, that the American bishops are spineless when it comes to Rome – that is, constantly looking over your shoulder at how people in Rome will react. Is there any merit to that?
I don’t think so. People say that again and again. We have a very adult discussion with the Holy See, while at the same time acknowledging that the Pope is our father too, and that the primacy of Peter is a datum of revelation that constitutes the Church internally as well as externally. [A datum the dissidents choose to ignore!]

There’s great respect, but bishops will go back to the Holy See again and again if they think there’s been a mistake on the governmental level. It goes on all the time. We’re doing it now, this week. This idea that we’re all sitting around waiting to see what somebody over here in the Curia will do, whether to pat us on the back or to give us a slap on the hand … I don’t find that attitude at all, I really don’t.

I think the bishops know that, by Christ’s will, they are responsible for their churches. They’re in Catholic communion, they’re not franchises of General Motors. I think the Holy See knows that too … it’s a bureaucracy, of course, and like any bureaucracy, it’s mixed, but on the whole they know it.

They expect us to come back and say, ‘This works, this doesn’t work.’ Why are they revising the Code of Canon Law? Because a bunch of bishops came back and said, ‘This doesn’t work.’ Again and again, they’ll do that.

Of course, they’ll do that slowly. Rome has its own rhythms, and sometimes it feels like we’ll all be dead before something happens. Often they can be too willing to say, ‘time will take care of this,’ when something really is urgent. That’s a cultural problem.

You don’t wake up in a cold sweat worrying about how Rome will react to whatever you say or do?
I don’t know any bishop who fits that description. There may be, but it’s certainly not the description of the conference and certainly not the description of the bishops I know.

If people mean that we’re concerned to be orthodox in our teaching, then sure, yeah. But if you’re saying that the teaching is just defined by whatever the Pope thinks of in the morning, no.

The Pope is also subservient to the gospel, as Benedict says very clearly, and to the tradition. He is a marker for it, and we look to see what he says, but because we want to be faithful to Christ, not because he says it.

There’s a concern that we are faithful to the apostolic tradition, and the Pope is a marker for that to which we pay attention, obviously carefully. But mostly it’s our faith that makes us of one mind with the Pope, it’s not his commands. [COLORE]#1216FF=COLORE][And that is as it should be. But once again, tell that to the dissident bishops!]

The same thing is true for governance generally, although it’s a little different, because there’s a little more independence, also in the Code itself.

Still, you want to govern in communion … the whole book is about that. There’s a concern that we govern not just in communion with the Pope, but with the bishops of Brazil, for example. Not in the same way, but we’re a universal communion.

The concern for communion doesn’t mean we’re afraid of being reprimanded. The concern for truth doesn’t mean that we’re afraid of being scolded. Instead, it means that we’re Catholic.
00Thursday, October 8, 2009 6:00 PM

Anyone who has watched Fr. Groeschel on EWTN surely appreciates this engaging man with an extraordinary gift for communicating the Word of God - one of the many gifts we can thank EWTN for!

P..S. I found out today that Father's full religious name is 'Benedict Joseph'! How felicitous is that? I must see if I can find anywhere what made him decide to choose that particular combination back in the 1950s. Did it have anything to with St. Benedict Joseph Labre, the mendicant priest called the Beggar of Perpetual Adoration, whose liturgical feast happens to be on April 17(he was canonized in 1859)? I've always wondered if this came to Jospeh Ratzinger's mind when he heard himself elected Pope.

Golden jubilee for a popular priest:
Fr. Groeschel grudgingly celebrates

By Tom Hoopes
From the 10/18/09 issue of

How are you doing? I asked cheerily when Father Benedict Groeschel came on the phone.

"Awful," came the familiar Jersey City accent, "just awful." The voice was wispy and thin, giving the message credibility.

Father Groeschel is an honest man, and after 50 years of being a priest, he's also an old man. But our conversation was lively, lengthy and peppered with the wit and wisdom that has made him what he is.

"He's part Mother Teresa, part Fulton Sheen," New York Times columnist Ross Douthat told me. "He's the kind of figure who would have landed on the cover of Time Magazine in a different era in American history. But we're lucky to have had him in ours instead."

On Oct. 18, a special celebration is set to mark Father Groeschel's 50th anniversary as a priest. The celebration will be held at the Holy Family Church in Nutley, N.J.

Celebrants are to include Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's nuncio to the United Nations, and Newark, N.J., Archbishop John J. Myers. His actual anniversary date was June 20, but it was overshadowed by the opening of the Year for Priests the day before.

Or, maybe, "overshadowed" isn't the right word. To many, he is a priest par excellence.

He is a preacher. "Tens of thousands of people have benefited from his writing and through his media communication," Archbishop Myers said.

Many know him through his 30 books. Many through his more than 100 audio and video series. Many more through his weekly EWTN television program, "Sunday Night Live."

He is a teacher. He has taught at New York's St. Joseph Seminary, Fordham University, Iona College and Maryknoll Seminary. And he still teaches a yearly course at the Institute of Psychological Sciences.

He is a counselor. He founded the St. Francis Home in Brooklyn for runaways and young people. His approach impressed Cardinal Terence Cooke so much that he put Father Groeschel in charge of a spiritual-formation program for New York priests, work he has carried out for 35 years since.

His Good Counsel Homes for pregnant women started in a spiritual direction session with Christopher Bell, who would become its executive director.

He is also a walking miracle.

"I've been hit by a car and had a stroke, but I'm still going," he said. "I am very grateful for every day."

Organizers of the event are glad he's "still going."

"Here's how important Father Groeschel is," said Austin Ruse of C-FAM, a pro-life U.N. lobby. "I remember him getting hit by a car and nearly dying with nearly the same sense of impact that I remember 9/11. Of course, he would scoff at this. But he is so important to the Church and to the pro-life movement, that the thought of losing him instills in me and others a kind of panic. We owe him so much."

Father Groeschel does scoff at the acclaim.

"I totally dislike the whole thing. I never wanted to have any celebration of my 50th. I don't believe in these things," he said. "Ordained priests should celebrate their anniversary by putting a rope around their neck and ashes on their heads and asking God forgiveness for their sins."

The organizers were able to get his approval, however, by using the event to raise money for Good Counsel Homes for homeless pregnant women and children, which was praised last year in the Wall Street Journal as a model for the country.

But ask him about his many accomplishments and Father Groeschel will likely change the subject to one of his new favorite topics: the trip he expects to take soon, to purgatory.

"I'm very aware of my shortcomings," said Father Groeschel, whose book on purgatory, After This Life, will be released next month. "I'm getting ready to go to purgatory. I know what I'm going to be doing in purgatory. I will be reading The New York Times and drinking bubblegum soda and eating Twinkies."

He points to a beautiful passage about purgatory in Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Spe Salvi ("Saved by Hope"), but adds, "I'm looking forward to purgatory. I'm from Jersey City and it's just like purgatory. I'll be right at home."

His parents were Peter and Marjule Groeschel. Father Groeschel takes immense pride in them, and though he won't tout his own accomplishments, he touts theirs.

"My mother used to buy vegetables from Frank Sinatra," he said. "My dad was the chief field engineer at Turner Construction. He built Madison Square Garden and the United Nations building."

Little Peter Groeschel -- he took the religious name Benedict in the novitiate -- knew his calling from a young age.

"I knew I was going to be a priest when I was 7 years old," Father Groeschel said. "I know the day and the hour" of the call. "I didn't want to be a priest. I wanted to be a fireman. I was praying in church and I was told, 'You are going to be a priest.'"

His family was utterly supportive of his decision.

"I'm looking at a snapshot on my desk of my first Mass," Father Groeschel told me. "They were very happy."

What would they say to him 50 years later? "They would say, 'Take it easy. You're working too hard.'" Not that they followed their own advice. "We were a whole family of obsessive compulsive neurotics," he said.

For Father Groeschel, the men who most exemplify the priesthood are Venerable Solanus Casey and Cardinal Cooke.

He called Father Casey "a man who moved among the angels."

"He worked miracles," said Father Groeschel. "He could talk to wild animals. I watched him put a big swarm of bees back in the hive. Everyone was getting bit and running, and Solanus, with his bare hands, took handfuls of bees and put them back. I was watching this!"

Cardinal Cooke was "a holy, humble, dedicated, good man."

In 1984, New York's Cardinal John O'Connor appointed Father Groeschel promoter of the cause of canonization of Cardinal Cooke.

Ordained the year Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council, Father Groeschel has seen the Church in its most tumultuous periods in centuries. I asked him about the changes he has seen -- and what he expects the future will bring.

"I think it's St. Francis de Sales who said you should not hate your own times, so I desired not to hate my own times," he said. But "I detested the '70s and '80s with a profound detestation," particularly "the collapse of religious life."

That's changing.

"Now, very interesting, and observable in older teenagers and young adults, say up to about 35 -- there is a stronger religious conviction, a greater sense of moral responsibility," he said.

"The ones who go to some of the Catholic colleges are better Catholics than the ones who run the place," he said. "There is a movement toward a more serious commitment of faith and morality than there was in the '70s and '80s."

What of his own future? That prompted more talk on purgatory.

"I didn't really lead a holy life. I don't have any sense of self-congratulation," he told me.

"On Judgment Day, they're going to ask us why we didn't do better with all the graces of the priesthood we were given. Just think -- all those graces, and we don't do it any better. When I finally get there, I'm going to say to St. Peter, 'Well, I tried.'"

After visiting the Facebook page for Father Groeschel's 50th anniversary and reading the testimonials to his witness and work, I read that encyclical passage he recommended.

"As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them, too, the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well" (No. 48). [The most memorable line that struck me, too, on my first reading of Spe salvi!]

Maybe Father Groeschel doesn't need to worry after all.

They are often known as "Father Benedict Groeschel's order," but the priest himself always insists that he wasn't a founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

Furthermore, he hopes the congregation won't last -- that is to say, he always intended the friars to become Capuchins.

Father Groeschel began his priesthood as a Capuchin -- and even served as a delegate to the general chapter of the Capuchins in 1974. Then, in 1987, he was among the earliest members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

Father Groeschel clearly loves his community. Their youth work is impressive. They are a constant presence at youth rallies, Eucharistic revivals and World Youth Day.

But he also clearly longs for his Capuchin roots.

"We started out as Capuchins and things kind of changed in the '80s and '90s, and we thought it was necessary to start a renewal," he said. "The Vatican and the general agreed with us, but some of the American provincials kept us from doing that, so we went out on our own."

Eventually, he hopes the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal become Capuchins, but he is proud of what they have accomplished.

"Surprisingly, we have grown very quickly in 20 years," he said. "We started with seven men, and we are 135 now with about 30 sisters. We're in the missions, we're in Europe, and this country. The community does very well. It's very young. The principle focus is to care for the homeless and very poor."

As of 2008, the community serves in New York City, Albuquerque, N.M., Fort Worth, Texas, London, Limerick, Ireland, and Comayagua, Honduras. The friars opened a new friary in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, last year.

Father Groeschel asks that any 50th anniversary gifts be made to Good Counsel Homes, an agency he co-founded in 1985 that helps homeless pregnant women and single mothers. To contact Good Counsel Homes, visit or call (201) 795-0637.

In addition, Our Sunday Visitor is honoring Father Groeschel's many contributions to the faith by doubling the net royalty on all of his OSV titles through Nov. 30. The proceeds will go to Good Counsel Homes. Visit and click on the Books link for more information.

00Friday, October 9, 2009 2:31 PM
I woke up early this morning to hear a Fox News anchor announcing that Barack Obama had won the Nobel peace Prize for 2009. I thought it was a bad joke until it switched to the Nobel spokesman in Oslo making the announcement.

I will refrain from posting any of my personal reactions to this outrage except to proclaim with all the vehemence I am capable of, even if the Popes do not need my puny voice to speak for them:



00Friday, October 9, 2009 2:53 PM
I think the last stages of the fabrication of the self porclaimed Messiah have been completed by this wonderful decision.

Isn't it great! He'll come to save us from those evil conservatives!!

Whatever you want/whatever you need/ whatever you choose. Take it!!!
00Friday, October 9, 2009 3:20 PM
I was not expecting the first commentary on today's seismic shocker from a major newspaper anywhere to come from the Times of London, least of all to take this form, but it says it for all persons of common sense:

Absurd decision on Obama
makes a mockery of the Nobel peace prize

by Michael Binyon

October 9, 2009

The award of this year’s Nobel peace prize to President Obama will be met with widespread incredulity, consternation in many capitals and probably deep embarrassment by the President himself.

Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration, approval for the election of America’s first black president and hope that Washington will honour its promise to re-engage with the world.

Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.

The pretext for the prize was Mr Obama’s decision to “strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples”. Many people will point out that, while the President has indeed promised to “reset” relations with Russia and offer a fresh start to relations with the Muslim world, there is little so far to show for his fine words.

East-West relations are little better than they were six months ago, and any change is probably due largely to the global economic downturn; and America’s vaunted determination to re-engage with the Muslim world has failed to make any concrete progress towards ending the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

There is a further irony in offering a peace prize to a president whose principal preoccupation at the moment is when and how to expand the war in Afghanistan.

The spectacle of Mr Obama mounting the podium in Oslo to accept a prize that once went to Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Mother Theresa would be all the more absurd if it follows a White House decision to send up to 40,000 more US troops to Afghanistan.

However just such a war may be deemed in Western eyes, Muslims would not be the only group to complain that peace is hardly compatible with an escalation in hostilities.

The Nobel committee has made controversial awards before. Some have appeared to reward hope rather than achievement: the 1976 prize for the two peace campaigners in Northern Ireland, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, was clearly intended to send a signal to the two battling communities in Ulster. But the political influence of the two winners turned out, sadly, to be negligible.

In the Middle East, the award to Menachem Begin of Israel and Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1978 also looks, in retrospect, as naive as the later award to Yassir Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin — although it could be argued that both the Camp David and Oslo accords, while not bringing peace, were at least attempts to break the deadlock.

Mr Obama’s prize is more likely, however, to be compared with the most contentious prize of all: the 1973 prize to Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho for their negotiations to end the Vietnam war.

Dr Kissinger was branded a warmonger for his support for the bombing campaign in Cambodia; and the Vietnamese negotiator was subsequently seen as a liar whose government never intended to honour a peace deal but was waiting for the moment to attack South Vietnam.

Mr Obama becomes the third sitting US President to receive the prize. The committee said today that he had “captured the world’s attention”. It is certainly true that his energy and aspirations have dazzled many of his supporters.

Sadly, it seems they have so bedazzled the Norwegians that they can no longer separate hopes from achievement. The achievements of all previous [deserving] winners have been diminished.

NB: I first posted the 'news' on the preceding page, to which Cowgirl had an immediate reaction.

The AP's initial commentary from its chief White House correspondent is equally skeptical - yet another surprise, as heretofore, MSM have been unhesitating and even cheerleading participants in the chorus of Hallelujahs to their hero-idol-icon.

Analysis: He won, but for what?

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 (AP) – The awarding of the Nobel Peace Price to President Barack Obama landed with a shock on darkened, still-asleep Washington. He won! For what?

For one of America's youngest presidents, in office less than nine months — and only for 12 days before the Nobel nomination deadline last February — it was an enormous honor.

The prize seems to be more for Obama's promise than for his performance. Work on the president's ambitious agenda, both at home and abroad, is barely underway, much less finished. He has no standout moment of victory that would seem to warrant a verdict as sweeping as that issued by the Nobel committee.

And what about peace? Obama is running two wars in the Muslim world — in Iraq and Afghanistan — and can't get a climate change bill through his own Congress.

His scorecard for the year is largely an "incomplete," if he's being graded.

He banned torture and other extreme interrogation techniques for terrorists. But he also promised to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a source of much distaste for the U.S. around the world, a difficult task that now seems headed to miss his own January 2010 deadline.

He said he would end the Iraq war. But he has been slow to bring the troops home and the real end of the U.S. military presence there won't come until at least 2012, and that's only if both the U.S. and Iraq stick to their current agreement about American troop withdrawals.

He has pushed for new efforts to make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. But he's received little cooperation from the two sides.

He said he wants a nuclear-free world. But it's one thing to telegraph the desire, in a speech in Prague in April, and quite another to unite other nations and U.S. lawmakers behind the web of treaties and agreements needed to make that reality.

He has said that battling climate change is a priority. But the U.S. seems likely to head into crucial international negotiations set for Copenhagen in December with legislation still stalled in Congress.

And what about Obama's global prestige? It seemed to take a big hit last week when he jetted across the Atlantic to lobby for Chicago to get the 2016 Olympics — and was rejected with a last-place finish.

Perhaps for the Nobel committee, merely altering the tone out of Washington toward the rest of the world is enough. Obama got much attention for his speech from Cairo reaching out a U.S. hand to the world's Muslims. His remarks at the U.N. General Assembly last month set down new markers for the way the U.S. works with the world.

But still ... ?

Obama aides seemed as surprised at the news as everyone else, not even aware he had been nominated along with a record 204 others. Awoken by press secretary Robert Gibbs about an hour after the vote was announced, the White House says the president responded that he was humbled to be only the third sitting U.S. president to win.

The award could be as much about issuing a slap at Obama's predecessor, former President George W. Bush, as about lauding Obama.

[A Fox commentator said Obama becomes the third American honored by the Nobel jury 'simply for not being Bush' - Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and now, Obama.]

Bush was reviled by the world for his cowboy diplomacy, Iraq war and snubbing of European priorities like global warming. Remember that the Nobel peace prize has a long history of being awarded more for the committee's aspirations than for others' accomplishments — for Mideast peace or a better South Africa, for instance.

In those cases, the prize is awarded to encourage those who receive it to see the effort through, sometimes at critical moments.

Obama likely understands that his challenges are too steep to resolve — much less honor — after just a few months. "It's not going to be easy," the president often says of the tasks ahead for the United States and the world.

The Nobel committee, it seems, had the audacity to hope that he'll eventually produce a record worthy of its prize.

One must note, as the AP writer does, that the deadline for submission of nominations for the 2009 prizes was February 1, 2009, a bare 12 days after Obama was sworn in as President - when he had not yet even made those speeches that the awards committee cited him for!

And why do you think those faceless Nobel jurors in Oslo completely ignored John Paul II and Ronald Reagan in their consideration of Peace prizes in the crucial years that preceded the fall of the Berlin Wall? Because one was Catholic - tut-tut! that would never do! The Dalai Lama was OK, Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, as well, but certainly not the Pope, any Pope!- and the other was avowedly conservative, never mind how obviously successful his domestic and foreign policies were! And never mind that John Paul II actually was one of the major architects of the fall of Communism, as opposed to other winners who simply represented potential good and even fought notable battles in doing so.

And here's one from a Obama-rah-rah boy:

What did Obama do
to win the Nobel Peace Prize?

by Gideon Rahman

October 9, 2009

In an earlier version of this article, posted late last night, I expressed some scepticism about the Nobel Peace Prize, even suggesting that it might be pointless.

Now that Barack Obama has been awarded the peace prize, I would like to withdraw this criticism. The prize is clearly an award of huge significance, awarded after only the deepest reflection, and won only by demi-Gods!

I am a genuine admirer of Obama. And I am very pleased that George W Bush is no longer president. But I doubt that I am alone in wondering whether this award is slightly premature. ['Slightly'?]

It is hard to point to a single place where Obama’s efforts have actually brought about peace - Gaza, Iran, Sri Lanka? The peace prize committee say that he is being rewarded for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy”.

But while it is OK to give school children prizes for “effort” - my kids get them all the time - I think international statesmen should probably be held to a higher standard.

[And if it comes to that, dozens, if not hundreds, of world leaders in the past 100-plus years of the Nobel Prizes deserved the prize just as well for years, if not decades, of making speeches about their noble intentions for world peace. Heck, the faceless Oslo jurors should award themselves the Peace Prize, for who could possibly have 'nobler' aspirations for world peace than they ???]

It is also very odd timing. In the next couple of weeks, Obama is likely to yield to the wishes of his generals and to send many thousands more troops to Afghanistan. That will mean he is a wartime president, just as much as Bush or Lyndon Johnson. If Afghanistan ends up being Obama’s Vietnam, giving him the Nobel Peace Prize will look even sillier in a few years time.

[Perhaps the Oslo Five actively intended to 'control' and almost compel Obama to strategic inaction henceforth, i.e., let's see him dare send more troops to Afghanistan now, or even consider strong sanctions against Iran, with the onus of the Peace Prize holding him down! Or for that matter, let's see him dare do anything remotely 'warlike' if he must to protect and defend the country and Constitution as he swore to do?]

The Vatican appreciates
the award to Obama

Fair and balanced, here's the statement made by Vatican press director Fr. Federico Lombardi, translated from

The awarding of the Nobel peace prize to President Obama is greeted with appreication in the Vatican in the light of the commitment demonstrated by the President to promote peace in the international field, nad specially, recently in favor of nuclear disarmament.

It is to be hoped that this important recognition will encourage this difficult but fundamental commitment for the future of mankind, so that it may bring the expected results

Not that the Vatican could officially say anything else! My fear is that Cardinal Bertone will see fit to send a congratulatory telegram to Obama in the name of the Holy Father, or God forbid!, that Benedict XVI himself would go out of his way to write a personal letter of congratulations.

But back to the statement by Fr. Lombardi, obviously from the Vatican Secretariat of State: Adding the bit about nuclear disarmament was rather unnecessary, gratuitous and disingenuous, not to say outrageous, considering that Obama wants the US to disarm even as it has been unable to stop North Korea and Iran from developing their own nuclear arsenal! Leaving the world to the mercy of relentless terrorists is a contribution to world peace????

P.S. I have calmed down now, and on second thought, I must apologize to have been taken in by the 'award' mentality that prevails in worldly affairs. None of it should mean anything, as the only reward that does is favor with God.

Reuters weighs in:

Obama Peace Prize win
has Americans asking why?

Fri Oct 9, 2009 10:00am EDT
By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, Oct. 9 (Reuters) - The award of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday to U.S. President Barack Obama had many puzzled Americans scratching their heads.

"It would be wonderful if I could think why he won," said Claire Sprague, 82, a retired English professor as she walked her dog in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. "They wanted to give him an honor I guess but I can't think what for."

Itya Silverio, 33, of Brooklyn, was also surprised. "My first opinion is that he got it because he's black," she said. "What did he do that was so great? He hasn't even finished office yet."

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who won the peace prize himself in 2002, said Obama's win showed the hope he had inspired worldwide.

"It is a bold statement of international support for his vision and commitment to peace and harmony in international relations," Carter said in a statement.

When told of Obama's win Robert Schultz, 62, a retired civil servant and Vietnam veteran, asked: "For doing what?

"The guy hasn't solved any conflict anywhere so how can he win the peace prize? But if we don't reelect him the next go around we will all look like idiots because the world has anointed him," said Schultz, who lives in a suburb of Dallas.

Some said the choice could damage the Nobel committee's credibility and that of the award.

"It looks less like an objective award than it does a political endorsement," said William Jelani Cobb, a history professor at Spelman College in Atlanta and author of a forthcoming book on Obama.

"Guantanamo is not closed yet and it makes it difficult for him to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan," he said, referring to the U.S. prison in Cuba where some detainees have been held for years without trial.

Haag Sherman, director of Houston-based investment firm Salient Partners, said it politicizes the award.

"Largely left leaning U.S. leaders have been recent recipients of that award. It will clearly be viewed as political by the right," he said. "It illustrates that the U.S. is still the prevalent power in the world and that the world really is seeking engagement with the United States."

Opera singer Carissa March, 30, said she was surprised but the win might help Obama achieve some of what he had started.

"Although he's trying to open up talks with nations we haven't spoken with we haven't had enough time to see if it's worked," she said.

"Sometimes when things like this happen it forces people to view things more positively so hopefully other leaders around the world will take (the talks) a little more seriously and open up more."

In Chicago, retiree June Latrobe, 68, was also nonplused. "In all candor he hasn't done anything yet," he said.
Many seemed happy even if they weren't sure why Obama won.

"How wonderful, I think that's fantastic," said David Spierer, 48, from New York who works in medical sales. "I know what he's doing but what has he done? Change is coming but you don't win a Nobel Peace Prize for the future."

"Obama won? Really? Wow," said David Hassan, 43, of Pine Brook, New Jersey. "He deserves it I guess, he's the president. He's a smart guy and I guess he's into peace."

And a second broadside from the Times of London:

Pointless Nobel prize reveals
how Obama is lost in his own mystique

by Bronwen Maddox

Scrap the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s an embarrassment and even an impediment to peace. President Obama, in letting the committee award it to him, has made himself look vain, a fool and dangerously lost in his own mystique.

Where do you start, in the daftness of it? Anointing a leader whose character the panel admires, but who is only a fifth of the way through his term of office and has not yet clinched any peace? The fey, fanciful lack of criteria, which does no favours to the rigorous awards in science that, unfortunately, share the same brand name?

No, start with two hard-edged points. The Peace Prize has begun to distort and damage crucial negotiations. And Obama’s acceptance of the supposed honour is a misjudgment that will give power to his critics.

Of course, there are plenty of cases — Northern Ireland, endlessly — where the advances that the prize celebrated then dissolved. Peace is not an eternal state, unshakeable once achieved. I’d put this at the heart of my queasiness about the notion of any peace prize.

But others disagree, saying that effort should be rewarded as much as solid triumph. Even so, given how muddy such efforts always are, what a jumble of motives and ugly arm-twisting before the final, tidy handshake, the Nobel committee seems naive in lauding a purity that is never there.

The real damage is done, however, by making the award to a player actively engaged in conflict resolution, which can tip the balance of power in those talks.

The worst of recent cases was the 2005 award to Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The award was odd, many thought: he had presided over a record of failure by the United Nations nuclear watchdog to detect or stop proliferation.

But British and US officials working to combat Iran’s nuclear ambitions, who had long accused him of being protective of Iran, felt that the Nobel award then reinforced him in his belief that he should resist Western pressure.

In Obama’s case, two huge decisions loom: whether to put more troops into Afghanistan, and whether to mount (or even to threaten) airstrikes against Iran, if it won’t drop its nuclear work. He would surely not (we must hope) be swayed in such deliberations by the thought of jeopardy to his Swedish garland.

Yet if the Nobel Peace Prize were worth anything, then it could influence, if not constrain, people trying to broker deals.

But it isn’t worth anything. What on earth was Obama thinking when the call came through? Really, that it was an honour, not a highly partisan tribute? That it would waft him above the rancour of US politics, in which he is a hero to half the country and a communist to the rest?

Hardly: his critics will just accuse him of having communist Swedes on his side. And they will rightly ram home the point he has missed — that the US President’s stature dwarfs that of this committee.

In the election last November, Obama won the world’s most impressive and valuable prize. The Nobel, in contrast, is as effusive and misplaced a compliment as the “my son” that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi bestowed on him last month. The only blessing of Obama’s acceptance is that he may have killed off the prize for good.

00Friday, October 9, 2009 4:06 PM
Sorry.. me once more.

I'm still furious. My poor colleagues at work were scared to death of me today, after the decision was announced on the radio - with big excitement and joy!! I couldn't spare them of a furious rant!

[SM=g8126] [SM=g8126]

I had told them earlier, that, in case Obama was chosen, I'd take the next flight to Oslo (only 1:15 hrs. from Munich) and shoot the committee members, and everybody else in Norway, while I'm at it.

But then… one of my best friends lives near Oslo. So, I'll be merciful.

I wrote an email to the committee, instead:

Please let them have a piece of your mind. Mine was not very pretty!!


Thanks for the suggestion, Heike! I have sent out mine now. Not that it will change their preposterous attitudes at all, but I hope Osol is stormed by e-mail and all sorts of other mail for this!


00Friday, October 9, 2009 7:22 PM
Herta Müller wins
Nobel Prize in Literature


October 8, 2009

The other generally subjective - i.e., ideological and political - prize awarded by the Oslo jurors is the Nobel prize for Literature, at least for the past two decades. This year's winner was anounced earlier yesterday, and appears to be unexceptionable. I must admit I never heard of her before yesterday. Her life story is remarkable, and her writing may well be, and I can sincerely say Congratulations in this case, and looking forward to reading her.

Herta Müller, the Romanian-born German novelist and essayist who writes of the oppression of dictatorship in her native country and the unmoored existence of the political exile, won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday.

Ms. Müller is a relative unknown outside of literary circles in Germany.

Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy described Ms. Müller as a writer “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.” Her award coincides with the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism in Europe.

Ms. Müller, 56, emigrated to Germany in 1987 after years of persecution and censorship in Romania. She is the first German writer to win the Nobel in literature since Günter Grass in 1999 and the 13th winner writing in German since the prize was first given in 1901.

She is the 12th woman to capture the literature prize. But unlike previous winners like Doris Lessing and V. S. Naipaul, Ms. Müller is a relative unknown outside of literary circles in Germany.

She has written some 20 books, but just 5 have been translated into English, including the novels “The Land of Green Plums” and “The Appointment.”

At a packed news conference on Thursday at the German Publishers & Booksellers Association in Berlin, where she lives, Ms. Müller, petite, wearing all black and sitting on a leopard-print chair, appeared overwhelmed by all the cameras in her face.

She spoke of the 30 years she spent under a dictatorship and of friends who did not survive, describing living “every day with the fear in the morning that in the evening one would no longer exist.”

When asked what it meant that her name would now be mentioned in the same breath as German greats like Thomas Mann and Heinrich Böll, Ms. Müller remained philosophical.

“I am now nothing better and I’m nothing worse,” she said, adding: “My inner thing is writing. That I can hold on to.”

Earlier in the day, at a news conference in Stockholm, Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said Ms. Müller was honored for her “very, very distinct special language” and because “she has really a story to tell about growing up in a dictatorship ... and growing up as a stranger in your own family.”

Just two days before the announcement, Mr. Englund criticized the jury panel as being too “Eurocentric.” Europeans have won 9 of the past 10 literature prizes.

On Thursday Mr. Englund told The Associated Press that it was easier for Europeans to relate to European literature. “It’s the result of psychological bias that we really try to be aware of,” he said.

Ms. Müller was born and raised in the German-speaking town of Nitzkydorf, Romania. Her father served in the Waffen-SS in World War II, and her mother was deported to a work camp in the Soviet Union in 1945. At university, Ms. Müller opposed the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu and joined Aktionsgruppe Banat, a group of dissident writers who sought freedom of speech.

She wrote her first collection of short stories in 1982 while working as a translator for a factory. The stories were censored by the Romanian authorities, and Ms. Müller was fired from the factory after refusing to work with the Securitate secret police. The uncensored manuscript of “Niederungen” — or “Nadirs” — was published in Germany two years later to critical acclaim.

“Niederungen” and other early works depicted life in a village and the repression its residents faced. Her later novels, including “The Land of Green Plums” and “The Appointment,” approach allegory in their graphic portrayals of the brutality suffered by modest people living under totalitarianism. Her most recent novel, “Atemschaukel,” is a finalist for the German Book Prize.

Even in Germany, Ms. Müller is not well known. “She’s not one of these public trumpeters — or drum-beaters, like Grass,” said Volker Weidermann, a book critic for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper. “She’s more reserved.”

Ms. Müller also has a low profile in the English-speaking world, although “The Land of Green Plums” won the International Dublin Impac Literary Award in 1998.

Writing in The New York Times Book Review in 2001, Peter Filkins described “The Appointment” as using the thuggery of the government as “a backdrop to the brutality and betrayal with which people treat one another in their everyday lives.”

Lyn Marven, a lecturer in German studies at the University of Liverpool who has written about Ms. Müller, said: “It’s an odd disjunction to write about traumatic experiences living under a dictatorship in a very poetic style. It’s not what we expect, certainly.”

Michael Naumann, Germany’s former culture minister and the former head of Metropolitan Books, one of Ms. Müller’s publishers in the United States, praised her work but said she was “not a public intellectual.”

She has, however, spoken out against oppression and collaboration. In Germany, for example, she has criticized those East German writers who worked with the secret police.

A spokeswoman for Metropolitan, a unit of Macmillan that released English translations of “The Land of Green Plums” and “The Appointment” in the United States, said the publisher would reissue hardcover editions of those books. Northwestern University Press, which published the paperback version of “The Land of Green Plums,” said it was reprinting 20,000 copies.

In Germany, Ms. Müller’s publisher, Carl Hanser Verlag, was also scrambling to reprint more copies of “Atemschaukel,” as well as other titles from her backlist.

Asked whether winning the prize while relatively young could hurt her work, Ms. Müller said: “I thought after every book, never again, it’s my last. Then two years pass, and I start writing again. It doesn’t feel any different after I’ve won this prize.”

The awards ceremony is planned for Dec. 10 in Stockholm. As the winner, Ms. Müller will receive 10 million Swedish kronor, or about $1.4 million.

Meanwhile, one of my favorite authors of all time, Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru - versatile, end;ess;y inventive, thoroughly entertaining, highly literate novelist, as well as prolific essayist on literary criticism and contemporary affairs (and failed presidential candidate in peru against Alberto Fujimori who ended up being conviced for corruption after two terms) - continues to be snubbed by the Nobel people.

His Guerra del Fin del Mundo alone (about a failed religious populist revolt in Colombia - it is can't-put-down-compelling as literature and as fiction, from the first word to the last) would have won anybody else the Nobel Prize. Not to menti0on that he has written two of the most hilarious, absolutely entertaining works of literature ever in Tia Julia y el escribidorand Pantaleon y las visitadoras. Sheer genius! His novels constitute the history of post-Columbian Latin America told in a variety of ways in luminous, powerful literature.

It was his misfortune to have risen to literary fame alongside Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the Nobel jurors, it seems (like critics of Benedict XVI), do not believe that greatness can strike twice in succession or contemporaneously in the same territory!

00Friday, October 9, 2009 7:50 PM
A Fitting Prize, in a Way
By the Editors

Oct. 7, 2009

I am posting this not so much because I share its point of view but because it is able to give factual perspective, at a glance, to the issue.

Well, that didn’t take long. But it was almost inevitable: the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama. As “the world” hated Pres. George W. Bush, “the world” loves President Obama.

What do we mean by “the world”? We mean the editors of Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and the Guardian. The faculty at Brown University. The secretariat of the United Nations. We mean Lord Malloch-Brown, not Václav Klaus.

When President Bush visited Iraq for the last time, a foe of his threw a shoe at him. The shoe-thrower was taken to be “the world.” Hugo Chávez even made laughing reference to him recently at the U.N. Many Iraqis admire and appreciate President Bush. They do not count as “the world.”

Very much counting as “the world” is the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. They practically define it. Every year since 1901, the peace prize has been given by a committee of five Norwegians. They are appointed by the Norwegian parliament, the Storting.

The Nobel Peace Prize always reflects the consensus of Norwegian politics. And that consensus is, in a word — a word the Norwegians might well choose — “progressive.” Others might call it left-wing.

In any case, the Nobel Peace Prize almost never disappoints the editors of Le Monde, the faculty at Brown, etc.

The committee has said, “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. In the past year Obama has been a key person for important initiatives in the U.N. for nuclear disarmament and to set a completely new agenda for the Muslim world and East-West relations.”

That is true (at least in part). The Nobel Committee appreciates Obama for his repudiation of all things Bush.

The new president has frozen out America’s allies in Eastern Europe, causing great consternation among them. He has put “daylight” between America and its No. 1 Middle Eastern ally, Israel.

He kept almost mum when Iranian democrats massed in the streets to demand a more decent life — the American focus is on negotiating with the regime.

He gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, the U.N. official who presided over Durban, that hate-Israel jamboree.

He yukked it up with Chávez, giving him a soul-brother handshake and calling him “mi amigo.” He went along with an invitation to Cuba to rejoin the Organization of American States — this despite that fact that the OAS is supposed to be for democracies, not police states.

He had America rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Council, which, under Bush, we bowed out of: because it was dominated by such lovely regimes as the ones in Cuba, Zimbabwe, China, Syria, and Sudan; because it existed almost solely to defame Israel.

All these moves of Obama, the Nobel Committee appreciates immensely. This is an American president in their own image, the kind of president they will cheer and honor.

For them, Obama is a dream president, just as Bush was a nightmare president. He is the first “post-American president,” as John Bolton and others have said. For “the world,” that is a dream president.

Our Declaration of Independence speaks of “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” A decent respect is not a need for approval. Besides, who is mankind? Merely the Nobel Committee and the shoe-thrower, or Bush-loving Iraqis, too?

We might ask another question: Whose approval would President Obama rather have: that of the Nobel Committee or that of the Rotary Club in Butte?

In recent years, the Nobel Committee has done everything possible to express its abhorrence of Bush and his ways.

In 2001, they gave the peace prize to Kofi Annan and the U.N. The message, in part, was: “America, you’d better not respond to 9/11 by yourselves, or too aggressively.”

The next year, they gave the prize to Jimmy Carter, and, here, the chairman of the committee was refreshingly candid: saying that they were honoring Carter in order to give Bush “a kick in the leg,” or, in our own parlance, a black eye. A more honorable president might have refused that award, if given for the purpose of bashing the current president.

Another black eye came in 2005, when the committee gave the award to Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

ElBaradei has said explicitly that his goal — his only “brief,” as he has put it — is to prevent military action against Iran. Accordingly, he has repeatedly downplayed that country’s nuclear progress. And the IAEA has repeatedly looked foolish, and blind. In Beijing the other day, ElBaradei said that the number-one threat to peace in the Middle East is . . . Israel, and its nukes.

In 2007, the Nobel Committee went with Al Gore and the U.N.’s global-warming people. And now, in 2009, Obama.

This award will cause people — will cause “the world” — to say that America is back in the fold, back in the good graces of “the world.” After a season apart, under the cowboy Bush, America is a citizen of “the world” once again. In the Nobel Committee sense of “the world,” we are. [Whereby Israel, Poland and Czechoslovakia do not count as part of 'the world'. What happened to 'Obamnultilaterralism' in their cases???? ]

The committee would never have given the award to Ronald Reagan, much as he did for peace, and much as Mrs. Reagan may have wanted it for him. (The committee did award Gorbachev, however.) Years ago, National Review made the editorial quip that the Nobel Peace Prize, every year, should be given to the Defense Department: because the American military was the world’s foremost guarantor of peace.

A few days ago, there was a rumor that Harry Wu, the anti-Communist dissident from China, would win the peace prize. That was terribly unlikely. Would the committee ever honor Oscar Biscet, the Afro-Cuban political prisoner who is a symbol of hope, defiance, and decency in that country? A virtual impossibility.

President Bush gave a Medal of Freedom to Biscet (in absentia, of course); Obama gave one to Mary Robinson. That neatly illustrates the difference between those two presidents, and between types who win the Nobel prize and those who don’t.

Alfred Nobel, a great man, wanted his prize to go to “champions of peace,” men and women who genuinely contributed to peace in the world. He deplored the “absurd and futile efforts of windbags who are capable of thwarting the best of aims.”

Can Barack Obama really make a contribution to peace, the way the Reagans of the world genuinely do? Reagan got no peace prize, but he made a huge positive difference, and the world, along with “the world,” should know that Oslo doesn’t always know best.

[In fact, that Oslo is nothing more than a huge echo chamber echo of relativistic bluster and hot air!]

Sooner or later, someone was bound to do the obvious, as Spengler does now, to lay his claim to the next Nobel Prize for Physics!

Peace’d Off
by David P. Goldman

Friday, October 9, 2009, 12:58 PM

A friend notes the following gem in Gregory Mankiw’s blog:

From the Associated Press (with some light editing):

Pfuffnick’s Nobel Economics Prize triumph hailed by many

LONDON — The surprise choice of first-year grad student Quintus Pfuffnick for the Nobel Prize in Economics drew praise from much of the world Friday even as many pointed out the youthful economist has not yet published anything in scholarly journals.

The new PhD candidate was hailed for his willingness to tackle difficult problems, his commitment to improving the economic system, and his goal of bringing efficiency and equality into harmony.

Professor Paul Krugman of Princeton, who won the prize in 2008, said Pfuffnick’s award shows great things are expected from him in the coming years.

“In a way, it’s an award coming near the beginning of the first year in grad school of a relatively young economist that anticipates an even greater contribution towards making our economy a better place for all,” he said. “It is an award that speaks to the promise of Mr Pfuffnick’s message of hope.”

He said the prize is a “wonderful recognition of Pfuffnick’s essay in his grad school application.”

I don’t see why folks are upset about Obama getting the Peace Prize. That means there’s hope for the rest of us.

I hereby promise to reconcile waves, particles, electromagnetic and gravitational forces, as well as General Relativity and Quantum Theory.

There. I’ve said it. Can I have my Nobel Prize for Physics now, please?

And if you have not yet 'discovered' The Anchoress (Elizabeth Scalia) at First Things,
turn to her for an amazing instant round-up of 'conservative' reaction on this news-du-jour, but more especially, for her essay last Wednesday, Oct. 7, on the now Nobel-anointed Messiah of hope.

(More properly the Messiah of hype, to take off from someone who used the term 'audacity of hype' mocking Obama's campaign biography Audacity of Hope.

Betcha no one among the Oslo Five who unanimously conferred the prize on Obama for being the 'symbol of hope' never even heard of Spe salvi! Since they so easily mistake hype-hope (or hip-hope) for the real thing. We should really evangelize them with Pope-hope, Christian hope.

00Monday, October 12, 2009 3:42 PM
Catholic Spain has a new herald:
Juan Manuel de Prada

From acclaimed author to staunch apologist for the Church and the pope, including in L'Osservatore Romano.
His is one of the many stories of conversion from unbelief to the Christian faith, in Europe, speaking out
against the tyranny of the 'progressives'

ROME, October 12, 2009 – A new book out in Italy is a collection of interviews with converts to the Catholic faith, some of whom are prominent: from Jean-Claude Guillebaud of France to Janne Haaland Matlary of Norway, former deputy foreign minister of her country and an author of books that have been translated into various languages, one of which has a preface written by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The collection of interviews, published by Lindau, was written by Lorenzo Fazzini and is entitled: Nuovi cristiani d'Europa. Dieci storie di conversione tra fede e ragione [New Christians of Europe. Ten stories of conversion, between faith and reason]".

And one of these converts is a contributor to L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

He is the Spanish writer Juan Manuel de Prada, photographed here with the promotional cover of the 2003 novel that definitively sealed his success: "La vida invisible."

In his latest book, de Prada, 39, has collected the combative articles that he has written in defense of Catholicism, not only for the Spanish newspapers ABC and XL Semanal, but also for L'Osservatore Romano, where he has been a contributor since 2007.

In just five months, five editions of the book have been issued in Spain. For one month, de Prada has also been one of the main voices of COPE, the most important Spanish Catholic radio broadcaster.

Last October 2, L'Osservatore Romano translated and reprinted the preface to his book. In it, de Prada recalls how and when his "life changed direction."

It was the spring of 2005, and John Paul II had just died. De Prada found himself in Rome, and he "suddenly" wanted to adhere definitively to that "ancient freedom" which is the religious and cultural treasure of the Catholic Church: a freedom that is "the antidote to all the tyrannies of the world."

The book, in fact, is entitled: La nueva tiranía. El sentido común frente al Mátrix progre (The new tyranny: Common sense against the 'progressive' Matrix).

The "progressive Matrix" is de Prada's name for the grand deception that he sees at work in the dominant culture in Europe: "The dictatorships of the past stifled personal freedom. The modern ones induce man to worship himself, and thus deny his own nature."

And again, he writes:

"The battle that is joined today tends to restore to men their authentic nature. If it succeeds – if the Matrix is dismantled – men will discover that they do not need to build towers in order to reach heaven, for the simple reason that heaven is already within them, even if the new tyranny seeks to strip it from them."

De Prada dedicated his book to his friend Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of OR.

The following is a translation of de Prada's preface to La nueva tiranía.

The original text is included on the Spanish edition of this page of www.chiesa.

In fact, I cannot forget the first bylined article by De Prada in OR that I noticed because it was the one in which, for the first time, the Vatican, through the pages of the OR, debunks the widespread media-fed myth that Benedict XVI's red shoes are made by the designer house Prada - and the fact that the man who wrote the article was surnamed De Prada. Here is my translation posted in the PRF of that June 2008 article entitled 'Liturgical vestments according to Ratzinger'.

00Monday, October 12, 2009 5:02 PM
Another Sort of Learning
By James V. Schall, S.J.

Oct. 9, 2009

Twenty years ago, Ignatius Press published my Another Sort of Learning. My initial “short” subtitle to this book was: “How to Get an Education Even If Still in College.” The actual subtitle turned out to be much longer. In fact, it was the wittiest subtitle I have ever written, and I am pretty good at subtitles. I shan’t repeat it here.

This book is designed to bypass the colleges without denying their existence. I have always thought that anyone can get an education if he can read, something I learned from both Samuel Johnson and my friend Anne Burleigh.

Reading has the great advantage of making an end run around academic correctness, wherein little theoretic order is to be found. Reading can take us to things that no one in the schools tells us about. The problem is, as always, “What to read?”

My book does not argue for a “great books” approach. I just read Alex Beam’s A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books. Beam does not think highly of this famous tradition.

Frederick Wilhelmsen acidly commented that the “great books” usually produce skepticism in the minds of their readers. The “great books” programs, Wilhelmsen thought, were poor substitutes for philosophy proper. But I am a fan of Thomas Aquinas College where they do great books right, as Ralph McInerny frequently points out.

When I wrote Another Sort of Learning, I myself suspected this skeptical bent of great books programs, however designated. I have no doubt that what are called the “great books” should be read. I read Plato and Aristotle every semester with increasing awe.

But the reading of great books does not do the trick, if I might call it that. What does the trick are books that tell the truth. And usually these books are very difficult for a student to come by. They are “notes from the underground,” to steal a phrase from Dostoyevsky.

Thus, Another Sort of Learning contains many book lists. Most of the works recommended are relatively short. It is not all that difficult to get at the truth, once you know where to begin. Universities are not a total waste of time, but most graduates earn degrees while reamining confused about the ultimate things. About these latter things, little is to be found in most universities. Still, graduates have their whole lives ahead of them, if they can read.

The second chapter of my book is called “Why Read?” It is a good question to answer for oneself. The third chapter, probably the most important one, is called: “What a Student Owes His Teacher.” Many students have told me over the years that they had never thought of that question before.

Briefly, the student owes the teacher his willingness to be taught, provided we recall that teaching does not mean telling a student what the professor thinks. As Aquinas says, teaching brings both professor and student to see the same truth.

The next chapter is on “Grades,” followed by one called “On Teaching the Important Things.” Later on there is a chapter called “What Is a Lecture?” and one that always surprises students because it treats of another thing they have never thought much about, “On the Seriousness of Sports.”

In the middle of the book stands “Schall’s Unlikely List of Books to Keep Sane By.” Of course, that word “sane” or “sanity” is a word that recalls Chesterton. I include a chapter about him: “On Doctrine and Dignity: From Heretics to Orthodoxy.” No students are more surprised than those who come across Chesterton for the first time.

No one ever told them before that the very purpose of the mind is to make dogmas, to state the truth. Generally, they have been told that the mind exists because there is no truth, that truth is “dangerous.” And I suppose it is in a way.

But the spirit of Another Sort of Learning is one of adventure, of discovering the incredible riches of used book stores, of Belloc’s walks, of Samuel Johnson’s conversations, of the content of the Old and New Testaments, all of which are almost a complete mystery to today’s university students.

Far be it for me to call it an iconoclastic book. But that is what it is. In every academic institution in the land, we find students who suspect that they need “another sort of learning” if they are to find what Josef Pieper called “the truth of all things.”

It is a worthy, indeed at times a lonely, pursuit. Yet it is also a delight and a joy, as I hope those who have found this book over these twenty years will attest.

James V. Schall, S.J., a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. His most recent book is The Mind That Is Catholic.

00Monday, October 12, 2009 5:56 PM
I had a good laugh at this wonderfully tongue-in-cheek report!

Flash! Obama fails to win
Nobel prize in economics

LONDON, Oct. 12 (MarketWatch) -- In a decision as shocking as Friday's surprise peace prize win, President Obama failed to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Monday.

While few observers think Obama has done anything for world peace in the nearly nine months he's been in office, the same clearly can't be said for economics.

The president has worked tirelessly since even before his inauguration to wrest control of the U.S. economy from failed free markets, and the evil CEOs who profit from them, and to turn it over to wise, fair and benevolent bureaucrats.

From his $787 billion stimulus package, to the cap-and-trade bill, to the seizures of General Motors and Chrysler, to the undead health-care "reform" act, Obama has dominated the U.S., and therefore the global, economy as few figures have in recent years.

Yet the Nobel panel chose instead to award the prize to two obscure academics -- Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson -- one noted for her work on managing collective resources, and the other for his work on transaction costs.

Other surprise losers include celebrity non-economist and filmmaker Michael Moore; U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; and Larry Summers, head of the U.S. national economic council.

It is unclear whether the president will now refuse his peace prize in protest against the obvious slight to his real achievements this year.

But, of course, the overall effects (and design) of Obama's economic policies are no laughing matter. This is a man who is on record as saying that the United States Constitution does not provide for 'distributive justice' [socialist code for 'redistribution of wealth'], that the civil rights movement neglected this aspect and therefore failed to work for this, and that he is out to 'fundamentally transform America' - not by amending the Constitution, of course, but by passing laws and regulations that would effectively transform a capitalist society to a socialist one.

Equally clever as the WJS item:

00Tuesday, October 13, 2009 8:17 PM
Two great articles in the FIRST THINGS blogs today:

The one by Spengler (David Goldman, associate editor), he informs us, was something he wrote for his Spengler column in Asia Times, which refused to publish it! That has to be a first in media Obamania, to refuse to publish a longtime columnist's piece - especially since Spengler had started criticizing Obama back when he was still a candidate, and that his critiques are always supported by objective fact, as this one is.
(Scroll down - it comes after the Mideast interview)
It is entitled 'Obama in Nightmare Alley' and examines the US President's narcissistic personality (and also incidentally confirms the widespread rumor earlier that Obama's first campaign autobiography, Dreams of My Father, was, in fact, ghost-written by unrepentant Weather Underground bomber and Chicago crony Bill Ayers).

The one by the redoubtable Anchoress (Elizabeth Scalia)
is a look at the reasons Bush-haters cite for why they hate Bush, and shows how Obama is doing virtually the same things, but they don't 'hate him' for it.

In scrolling down to that Oct. 12 entry, you will not miss her two later entries about the spiritual pleasures of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and what she cites from nuns telling their experience of genocide and other horrors at the current Synodal assembly.

And it would be worth your while to check out the daily English summaries of the Synodal interventions on

00Thursday, October 15, 2009 4:46 PM
Pope names NIH director
to Vatican think tank

By Francis X. Rocca
Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY, Oct. 14 — Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, to the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Collins, 59, is the geneticist who led the Human Genome Project, the international research project that mapped out the body's complete genetic code in 2003. Among his other accomplishments, he was part of the team that in 1989 identified the gene causing cystic fibrosis.

An evangelical Christian, Collins is also prominent for his efforts to reconcile scientific knowledge with religious faith.

His best-selling book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (2006), argued for the compatibility of Darwin's theory of natural selection with the existence of a creator God.

Rejecting both creationism and intelligent design, Collins espoused "theistic evolution" as an explanation for the existence of the universe and life.

Collins' well-known religious views reportedly aroused criticism from some fellow scientists after President Obama chose him to head the NIH in July.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences was founded in 1603 and claims to have been the "first exclusively scientific academy in the world." Its 80 members, who include many Nobel laureates and other luminaries including the physicist Stephen Hawking, meet for a plenary session at the Vatican every two years.

I am glad someone came out with this. I had every good intention of putting something together about Francis Collins - there's lots of great stuff about him on the Web - when I read his appointment two days ago (along with another US scientist, by the way) but have not gotten round to it.

The following story comes out of Cardinal Kasper's news conference at the Vatican today to present his new book Harvesting the Fruits. Basic Aspects of Christian Faith in Ecumenical Dialogue. As usual, the headline writer attributes Kasper's personal statement to the 'Vatican'.

I have not checked it out, but I don't think that in modern times, the Vatican - i.e., the Holy See as a state, which, in the secular view, is idnetical to the Roman Catholic Church - has ever publicly commented on the private actions of anyone (outside of priests and prelates who are being investigated for questionable actions or outright offenses). Personal sins are a matter for the confessional not for the media.

Vatican renews appeal
for ‘sobriety’ in Berlusconi’s Italy

By Flavia Krause-Jackson and Flavia Rotondi

ROME, Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Italy needs a return to “sobriety” in its political life, a top Vatican official said, renewing his criticism of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the sex scandals surrounding him.

The official, Cardinal Walter Kasper, in May was the first Vatican official to speak up when Berlusconi became embroiled in a scandal that prompted his wife to seek a divorce. Kasper told daily La Stampa on May 6 that the premier’s behavior was “strange.”

In an interview with Bloomberg today, Kasper said, “there needs to be greater sobriety in politics.”

Berlusconi courted controversy by attending the birthday party of a teenage girl in April. In June a self-proclaimed escort said she had sex with the premier on the night of Barack Obama’s election. Berlusconi said June 23 he’s “never paid a woman” for sex.

The Vatican has avoided making direct statements about Italian politics since the scandals involving Berlusconi surfaced, preferring to express its views through its media outlets including Church newspaper Avvenire.

Dino Boffo, Avvenire’s editor-in-chief, stepped down last month after Berlusconi family-owned daily Il Giornale accused him of homosexual harassment and of being “hypocritical” in demanding explanations about the premier’s ties to women.

00Friday, October 16, 2009 8:44 PM

Forgive me for 'indulging' myself, but for the benefit of those who do not live in the USA and may still be getting the European media's starry-eyed view of Barack Obama, here is an account of what Obama's nine months of appeasement and apology and even occasional grovelling have 'earned him so far'....

And this, without even mentioning the domestic debacle that has seen his popularity dip to 49% today compared to 78% when he took office in January. By a great majority, Americans are asking why the administration is so obsessed with a super-expensice healthcare reform that the nation clearly cannot afford now, when they are not doing anything about creating jobs - which the polls identify as the public's #1 concern.

Debacle in Moscow:
Obama’s foreign policy
is amateurish and wrapped in naïveté

By Charles Krauthammer

Oct. 16, 2009

About the only thing more comical than Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was the reaction of those who deemed the award “premature,” as if the brilliance of Obama’s foreign policy is so self-evident and its success so assured that if only the Norway Five had waited a few years, his Nobel worthiness would have been universally acknowledged.

To believe this, you have to be a dreamy adolescent (preferably Scandinavian and a member of the Socialist International) or an indiscriminate imbiber of White House talking points.

After all, this was precisely the spin on the president’s various apology tours through Europe and the Middle East: National self-denigration — excuse me, outreach and understanding — is not meant to yield immediate results; it simply plants the seeds of good feeling from which foreign-policy successes shall come.

Chauncey Gardiner [the 'hero' of Jerzy Kozinski's brilliant 1971 satirical novel Being There about, among other, things, how emptiness triumphs so easily in today's media-manufactured world - he was a simple unlettered man whom everyone took to be a genius and became a worldwide celebrity whose advice was sought by the US President even, simply because he answered every question put to him in terms of gardening, which is the only thing he really knew] could not have said it better. Well, at nine months, let’s review.

What’s come from Obama holding his tongue while Iranian demonstrators were being shot and from his recognizing the legitimacy of a thug regime illegitimately returned to power in a fraudulent election? Iran cracks down even more mercilessly on the opposition and races ahead with its nuclear program.

What’s come from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking human rights off the table on a visit to China and from Obama’s shameful refusal to see the Dalai Lama (a postponement, we are told). China hasn’t moved an inch on North Korea, Iran, or human rights. Indeed, it’s pushing with Russia to dethrone the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

What’s come from the new-respect-for-Muslims Cairo speech and the unprecedented pressure on Israel for a total settlement freeze? “The settlement push backfired,” reports the Washington Post, and Arab-Israeli peace prospects have “arguably regressed.”

And what’s come from Obama’s single most dramatic foreign-policy stroke — the sudden abrogation of missile-defense arrangements with Poland and the Czech Republic that Russia had virulently opposed? For the Eastern Europeans it was a crushing blow, a gratuitous restoration of Russian influence over a region that thought it had regained independence under American protection.

But maybe not gratuitous. Surely we got something in return for selling out our friends. Some brilliant secret trade-off to get strong Russian support for stopping Iran from going nuclear before it’s too late?

Just wait and see, said administration officials, who then gleefully played up an oblique statement by Pres. Dmitry Medvedev a week later as vindication of the missile-defense betrayal.

The Russian statement was so equivocal that such a claim seemed a ridiculous stretch at the time. Well, Clinton went to Moscow this week to nail down the deal. What did she get?

“Russia Not Budging on Iran Sanctions: Clinton Unable to Sway Counterpart.” Such was the Washington Post headline’s succinct summary of the debacle.

Note how thoroughly Clinton was rebuffed. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declared that “threats, sanctions, and threats of pressure” are “counterproductive.” Note: It’s not just sanctions that are worse than useless, but even the threat of mere pressure.

It gets worse. Having failed to get any movement from the Russians, Clinton herself moved — to accommodate the Russian position!

Sanctions? What sanctions? “We are not at that point yet,” she averred. “That is not a conclusion we have reached. . . . It is our preference that Iran work with the international community.”

But wait a minute. Didn’t Obama say in July that Iran had to show compliance by the G-20 summit in late September? And when that deadline passed, did he not then warn Iran that it would face “sanctions that have bite” and that it would have to take “a new course or face consequences”?

Gone with the wind. It’s the U.S. that’s now retreating from its already flimsy position of just three weeks ago. We’re not doing sanctions now, you see. We’re back to engagement. Just as the Russians suggest.

Henry Kissinger once said that the main job of Anatoly Dobrynin, the perennial Soviet ambassador to Washington, was to tell the Kremlin leadership that whenever they received a proposal from the United States that appeared disadvantageous to the United States, not to assume it was a trick.

No need for a Dobrynin today. The Russian leadership, hardly believing its luck, needs no interpreter to understand that when the Obama team clownishly rushes in bearing gifts and “reset” buttons, there is nothing ulterior, diabolical, clever, or even serious behind it.

It is amateurishness, wrapped in naïveté, inside credulity. In short, the very stuff of Nobels.

Something Mr. Krauthammer failed to cite was Obama's deliberate decision not to meet the Dalai Lama. David Hart summarizes the mostly-ignored story in this post


For those who missed it, when the Dalai Lama arrived in Washington this past Monday for, among other things, a scheduled audience with the president, it was disclosed that his visit to the White House had been cancelled.

And this decision had been taken — there was no attempt to hide this fact — in order to please the Chinese government, which has of late been making a concerted effort to see that the Dalai Lama is made a persona non grata in the halls of power in countries around the world.

The damage the president’s decision does the cause of Tibetan independence — which is scarcely even a pipe dream in any event — is entirely unquantifiable, admittedly.

But this is the first time since 1991 that an American administration has declined such a meeting, and by waiting till the arrival of the Tibetan delegation in Washington to make the announcement, the White House succeeded in making the rebuff as public as it could possibly be.

Other governments around the world, enduring similar pressure from the Chinese government to refuse the Dalai Lama access to their heads of state, have now been given considerable cover by Obama, the world’s most popular political figure and (so we are always told) “leader of the free world.”

And no doubt it has given the superintendants of Chinese prisons a pleasantly dispiriting tale to relate to the Buddhist monks and nuns in their custody.


And yet, the American media - along with the European media, to whom the Dalai Lama has been a revered icon two decades longer than Obama - have virtually ignored all this.

If George W. Bush had done what Obama did, he would have been damned to hell a million times over by all his critics. And yet, last year, Bush not only met with the Dalai Lama but went to Congress to witness them grant the Dalai Lama the Congressional Medal of Honor. Of course, no one gave him any credit for it.

Americans have started to take off their Obama-blinkers. When will the Obamanic media do so? When will honesty, fairness and objectivity come back to journalism, if at all?

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