Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Am I the only person sick and tired of people who commit symbolic acts, devoid of substance, and then get in my face about it, as though they are really, really super people for their highmindedness and right thinking? Maybe THAT is the reason acts of penance and abstinence are in decline. The latter are far from symbolic and devoid of substance, but they share certain common appearances that can make them seem to be unappealing to a person who is accustomed only to the symbolic. I'm particularly thinking of the Patriarch from the Church of the Nativity, who has "excommunicated" Bush, Rummy, Blair and Straw. (You have to be a communicant before you can be excommunicated, fella!) But there are all kind of such things that go on every day among people who have no fundamental guiding principles--and, sadly, among those who do.

Monday, March 31, 2003

Uh oh

Greg had to go and agree with me, which clearly means I need to rethink what I wrote. (Just kidding, Pop Daddy!)

But, actually, since he and I *do* disagree about some things related to this, let me say what they are by amending my "what I want" post about Bishops with a few words about the rest of us.

Just because I want my bishops to be one way, does not give me permission to speak loudly and negatively about them personally for their perceived failings. Nor should I (or you) start down the path of "squandered moral authority," or at least get too far down it. The problem is, I want certain things in a bishop, but I am not entitled to wait until I get all, or even most, of those things before I start heeding my bishop. I may have reason to do other than what the Church (and my local bishop) teach, but the reasons need to be more substantive than "because he's a twit, a fact about which I remind you every week." He may be a twit indeed, but he is still the twit the Holy Spirit has seen fit to give me, for reasons that may not have anything to do with my particular desires, however just or fair those desires may be.

In fairness to "la Popcak," I think he would agree with what I just wrote, except that he would see public invection against the twit in question as a permissible corrective, where I am a great deal more cautious. Please check the comments box later for what I expect will be comments/disagreements/corrections/swear words from Greg.
I keep trying to get away from blogging on war

[pacino]...But every time I try to get out, they PULL me back in! [/pacino]

Mark at Minute Particulars quotes (via some intermediaries) from JP II's Centesimus Annus, along with commentary. I have not yet read the original document, so please understand how provisional my comments here are. (I make them at all without having read it only because I am not quite sure when I will find the time to read it over the next few weeks.)

Finally, Centesimus Annus, with echoes of earlier 20th-century popes, presents John Paul II's negative judgment about war as an instrument of policy:

No, never again war, which destroys lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war.

This passage has become almost a leitmotiv in the Vatican's response to the use of force, repeated again and again in papal statements and other Vatican declarations.

As a rule of thumb, I would suggest that here as elsewhere the Pope should be taken at his word. While the form is rhetorical, the substance is serious. The point is that the consequences of war are beyond calculation. We should consider soberly whether the use of force does, in fact, do what the Pope says. Above all, does it take the life of innocent people? Does it leave behind a trail of resentment and hatred? Does it make finding a just solution more difficult? These objections do not rule out resorting to force, especially in case of humanitarian intervention. They do imply that every effort must be taken to avoid the vastly unpredictable consequences of taking up arms.


This is the undertone that has been troubling to me. If, as the author Mark quotes (none of what is here is his work) suggests, we are meant to take the Pope at the plain meaning of his words, he does not "imply that every effort must be taken to avoid...taking up arms." War is now prohibited: "No, never again war."

I can accept that war is undersirable. I can even admit (sort of) that "war is always a disaster" (albeit with major provisos to the precise meaning of that sentence). But--and I have said this over and over and over again--if war is ever just, then peace is sometimes sinful. "No, never again war" denies that essential truth, that has guided Catholic teaching since Augustine. But, instead of saying "our just war teaching has been wrong all these years" (for you know, we never make that sort of error) we say that the consequences of war are so terrible that we will no longer acknowledge any particular war as just.

Now, the Holy Father has not, in fact, quite gone so far as this. He seemed more or less to admit the justice of "Operation: Enduring Freedom" in Afghanistan after September 11 (though he was decidedly more vague about approving of that than he has been about disapproving of war in/with Iraq). But this undertone of "No, never again war" that rules out a priori the use of force is present, if not quite enforced as yet. Some of us who have been having a hard time with the Church's teaching at the present moment have sometimes been chastised for suggesting that the Pope and the bishops were inching towards exactly that. It is now on them to show that the Church is not slouching away from just war doctrine.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Honestly, what possesses newspaper and TV editors? "Hey, some US soldier has been taken prisoner in Iraq! Joe, check the story file! We got any ex-POWs in town? We do? GREAT! Get on out to the dude's trailer and ask him how he feels seeing other people taken prisoner!"

(I'm not linking to the story that prompted this, for fear of encouraging the idiocy.)

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Solipsis sliding away

A horrible fear possesses me that one day I will forget to say my perpetual novena to Mary and Patrick for a disruption of terrorists, and that that will be the day that terrorists achieve their next major attack.

In spite of the flippant title to this entry, I'm very serious about this. We're all possessed of a certain amount of solipsism (ask anyone why it rained on the day they forgot their umbrella, and you know the umbrella-forgetting will be blamed) but honestly....
the Pope

I really haven't jumped onto the "The Pope is an idiot for not seeing things my way" bandwagon, in spite of the fact, perfectly clear to all even casual readers of this blog, that the Holy Father and I are not in total sync on the whole "Kill that evil mofo Saddam and set his people free by force of arms if necessary" thing.

Frankly, I find the Rod Dreher cycle of JPII worship/ridicule/repeat thing distasteful--even without getting to the question of whether it is Catholic. (And, for those of you who are tired of the "but it isn't binding!" stuff: if you don't want to hear it, then stop bludgeoning those of us who think the war just with "But the Pope and bishops say...!" It may be possible that at least a few of us are saying "It isn't binding" after a careful and prolonged period of discernment that you weren't privy too, seeing as you aren't usually present when we pray for wisdom and discernment.) And honestly, the fact that the Pope and I disagree about this is something that gives me great pause, and keeps me revisiting my opinions and judgements frequently right now.

At the same time, I have this horribly nagging, uncomfortable feeling that most American Bishops and even possibly JPII himself would be speaking different words if France had not made up its mind months ago to veto anything and everything the US seeks (including an EU resolution merely because it referred to UN SCR 1441, which the French themselves voted in favor of!!). More than any other issue, that particular suspicion (fear? concern? speculation?) upsets me.
Isn't it interesting, the way characters on TV shows routinely sleep with each other, without batting an eyelash (or even creating a subplot) but declaring "I love you!" can be the cause of am outrageous amount of freaked out screen time? Forget the whole question of whether TV shows revel in extramarital sex. Wouldn't it be really cool to see a show where the "I love you" was, first, plausible, and, second, preceded the first act of intercourse? I don't mean to be a prude, and I don't expect everyone to subscribe to my particular mores. I just want the most intimate thing two people can do to be grounded in something for once.
Attention parents of Middle Schoolers

See the post waaaay down on Wednesday's blog about Holes.com.
Somewhere (in a homily or on a blog, I can't remember which) a month or three ago I heard a comment from a Jesuit: You know you've cast God in your own image when He starts hating all the same people you do.
Thursday is Winesday….

Yes, this week I am writing about a French wine. Blah, blah liberty toast. Yadda freedom Fries. French wine producers got their money months or even years ago, and the only people who will lose money if I boycot French wines is my local wine guy. Meanwhile, I am going to do diddly squaddoosh to the French economy by not drinking their wine. Want to do something meaningful and tangible to France? Convince whatever airlines survive the next year or two to buy Boeing aircraft, instead of Airbus. Heck, no less a person than Admiral Nelson didn’t let outright war with France interfere with his enjoyment of a nice glass of claret. Who am I to quibble with the Lion of Trafalgar?

This week, the Kairos Guy recommends without reservation…Domaine de l’Aumonier Touraine Sauvignon Blanc ($8-10) Where some Sauvignon Blanc tends to have a strong “herb” or “grass” bouquet, this one offers light smells of the countryside or a farm stand in autumn, but doesn’t overwhelm—or especially impress. But the first mouthful more than makes up for its understated nose. Its crisp acidity and fairly dry flavor are surprisingly buttery: that’s the only word for it. The sharpness and light body give it a hint of granny smith apples, and the fermentation process left just the tiniest bit of effervescence in the wine, that gives it a bit more complex a finish than a lot of Sauvignon. It also lacks the Chardonnay-style oaking that many American producers have been using. I don’t have any numbers on total production or cases imported, but I have found this wine at several large and small Boston-area wine merchants, and so conclude it is pretty widely available. The Touraine region (in the Loire Valley) has produced another winner: an excellent value that is drinkable now, and will be extremely enjoyable in the July and August heat.
What I want from my bishops

Tom at Disputations and I have been having a small back-and-forth in the comments box here and on his blog about what I want. I thought I would try to sum up my answers more broadly. You can infer from these things what I think many bishops are not doing, but do understand that I am aware there are good bishops and bad bishops, and that most of them do at least some part of what I have listed here.

What I want from my bishops, in something like the order of priority I would like to see:

1) I want them to be pastors first and foremost, who speak the Truth.
2) I would like them to teach the authentic faith, not just the comfortable parts, or the social justice parts, but the whole, one, true, apostolic faith.
3) I would like them to do this in plain, everyday language, suitable for even the meanest understanding. For the life of me I cannot understand why the magnificently beautiful faith and religion we practice is so often deliberately hidden under the bushel basket of obscurantist language. The most complex idea ever expressed in all of human history can be stated in five words, none of them more than two syllables long: Jesus died for our sins. There is no good reason that simpler ideas can’t use words as simple as those.
4) I would like those statements to be as limiting and binding as necessary. Not more binding, and not less. I want blacks black, whites white, and grays gray. Yes, we are all human, and yes, life is hard, and sometimes things we want to be gray are actually black and white. No duh, Einstein. That’s why we need Christ in the first place. Stop writing epigrams and start teaching us how to do moral reasoning.
5) I would like Bishops to show that they are willing to hold public figures to account. I don’t want to be invited to the Cathedral to hear Jennifer Granholm speak: I want to be invited to her last chance to recant before her excommunication. At that point, I might begin to have the ability to discern the difference between what the Bishops really mean, and what is just the fluff they feel obliged now and again to say.
6) I would like Bishops to live their own lives as though they, too, will be judged on the Last Day.

Without most bishops doing the first four most of the time, the constant temptation to suspect that their statements are caused by something other than the Holy Spirit becomes almost impossible to resist. It must be resisted, of course, for the Holy Spirit has often made beautiful garments with much shabbier cloth than Bernard Cardinal Law. But the fact that a temptation must be resisted does not relieve the tempter of the obligation to cease being an occasion of sin.

As I re-read this, it sounds a more negative, more pessimistic assessment of the Bishops than I had intended, or than is truly fair. One infers from such a listing that most people being addressed must not be doing the items presented (just as one infers from the Holy Father reminding both sides in a conflict to protect civilians that both sides must be abusing them). I only have meaningful first hand knowledge of a small number of archdioceses, and the bishops I knew of are now serving the Church in other ways. My own is presently administered by a caretaker whom I knew when I was an altar boy, and of whom charity demands I ought not speak too specifically. (And who, in any case, has served for so short a time that any opinion of mine on his service would have no value.)

Nevertheless, the things listed above are, provisionally, the things that would seem to define a bishop as something more than a politician by other means.
Eternal Father, strong to save

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Though the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In darkening storms or sunlight fair;
Oh, hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air!

Aloft in solitudes of space,
Uphold them with Thy saving grace.
Thou Who supports with tender might
The balanced birds in all their flight.
Lord, if the tempered winds be near,
That, having Thee, they know no fear.

God, Who dost still the restless foam,
Protect the ones we love at home.
Provide that they should always be
By Thine own grace both safe and free.
O Father, hear us when we pray
For those we love so far away.
Intentions

For Maj. Chris H, USAF, and LT (jg) David C, USN, who are both “in the Persian Gulf region.” For all the members of the Armed Forces, and for the people of Iraq. For a true, just and lasting peace there, and across the Middle East. For the people of Afghanistan. For POWs, MIAs and those killed in military conflict, whatever their nationality. For the repose of the soul of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. For Dylan and for Karen Marie Knapp. For Robina's son, who is in urgent need of a job. For Mark, who has just lost his job, and for his coworkers. For the Kairos Guy family. For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time, and for his son. For Victor Lams and his family. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Attention parents of Middle Schoolers

The company I have been working with is producing a big-screen adaptation of Louis Sachar's Newbery Award-winning novel Holes. Check it out at Holes.com. It is a good, age-appropriate (roughly 10+, depending on your kid and if you've already read the book) family movie, with a great tale of sin and redemption going on. And since it is just about the only family movie opening Easter Weekend, why not spread the word?
I know, I know. I've been very lame the last few weeks. I'll blog more tomorrow, I promise. More wine, and maybe a bit of war, but mostly just thoughts.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Parenting

There is a paradox in good parenting. Children are born and grow for the first couple of years doing what I have spent my entire lifetime trying and failing to achieve: living in the present. Indeed, as a parent, I spend a great deal of my time training that habit out of my son, trying constantly to get him to think far enough ahead to foresee perfectly obvious consequences to his actions. I wish there were a way to do that that didn't also wind up teaching him to live in the future or the past.

Of course, thinking of the consequences of an act is a good thing, a thing required in much moral thinking. But the unintended result is often to teach him not to borrow, as it were, consequences and duties from the future in order to welcome the next moment of the present, but to get him to worry about and even try to live in the future.

There ought to be a compromise, whereby his acceptance of and even revelling in the beauty of what is in front of him diminishes not at all--indeed, where it infects me, too--while his brain can still form expectations about the outcome and moral value of his present actions sufficient to guide him into ever better present-moments, without becoming phantasms that keep him out of the now. But having never achieved anything like such an abandonment to Providence myself, I am saddened to realize that I am much more likely to teach him anxiety and worry than joy and forethought.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Tom and Mark are wondering about how "this tendency to be so dismissive of statements from bishops and the pope has arisen in faithful, good-willed, intelligent Catholics." I will save for another day the question of the proximate cause of the question (a substantive disagreement over the prudence of the present war), and stipulate the observation for the moment.

Mightn't the fact that many bishops appear to have stopped teaching the Faith account for some portion? Warmed-over left-wing social programs may have some coincidence with the Faith--heck, I'll even grant a subtantial grounding in it for the sake of argument--but they are not the Faith itself. Possibly, our autodidactic efforts are a result of the Bishop's failings, not a cause of them.

After all: how many "faithful Catholics" even understand they are supposed to listen to their Bishops? I'm certainly struggling with their statements these days, but the only reason it's even a struggle, rather than a complete victory on my part is, I *want* to be able to follow what they offer, even when I disagree. But I can't honestly say I know that many Catholics who even struggle that much. And when the regular guy in the pews knows that little about his Faith, it may be his own fault, but there is probably quite a bit of blame to go to his teachers in the Faith too.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

This is very true. Orthodoxy in the country is often little more than an excuse for Phariseeism.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Jello

It is March 20 in Bagdhad already, but March 19th still here on the East Coast. I did three things, more or less simulatenously, in the last half hour. I listened to my president speak, I prayed, and I made Jello, because that is one of the few things Mrs. Kairos Guy can keep down in the mornings. Making Jello is perhaps the only disinterested thing I have done all day, and may be the most significant. This is the third war directly involving the United States to begin in my lifetime, and the first one in which I actually understand that my primary duty is not to watch CNN but to care for the people around me. In a few minutes I will go cover up my little boy, and probably climb in bed with him for a few minutes, and feel his steady, untroubled breath on my cheek. It seems that it is not only he who comes to me when the nightmares happen. Tomorrow will see one of those spikes in Church attendance, and we will be blessedly spared the inanity of this year's run-up to the Oscars. No doubt the kindergarteners will be playing war at recess, with some choosing to be Iraqis without even knowing what that means. And still, one of the most important things I will do will be to make Jello. Don't you find that odd?
Do not suppose that, by bolding the verse below, I have confused the cause of Christ with the cause of the United States. But having undertaken the cause of the United States, we all must--and I certainly shall--hope that that cause does indeed serve Christ. One requirement of a just war is that victory be sought, and a true victory in Iraq will lead to making at least some men free.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.


He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For peace. For Dylan and for Karen Marie Knapp. For Robina's son, who is in urgent need of a job. For Mark, who has just lost his job, and for his coworkers. For Chris and David and Eric, all in the Persian Gulf. For the Kairos Guy family. For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time, and for his son. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Blog-rolling

Fr. Jim took something I wrote back in November and turned it into a homily on Sunday. He, however, said it much better and more fully and clearly than I did, for which I am grateful. (I am also grateful for his plugging of my wine section.)
I think if my child came to me with a list of "good things he has done" equivalent to my attempts at justifying my own life to God, I would send him back to his room with a comment like, "Well, that's not a bad start, but you really need to try harder and do more." I find this realization very, very depressing.
There is something not unlike grief that one feels at the end of a really good book. I recently finished re-reading (for about the 4th time) the entire Patrick O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin novels, and I always feel a profound sadness, this time in particular because O'Brian died since I last read them, before he could finish the 21st book, which might have brought the series to an intended conclusion. I am trying to read something similar that got favorable reviews (Captain Killburnie by William Mack) but it is a very poor simulacra.
The Funniest Irish Joke of All Time

(Various versions of this circulate: this one is the shortest, though others, with more detail, can be even funnier if told by the right sort of narrator)

An Irish man walks into a pub. The bartender asks him, "what'll you have?"
The man says, "Give me three pints of Guinness please."
So the bartender brings him three pints and the man proceeds to alternately sip one, then the other, then the third until they're gone. He then orders three more.
The bartender says, "Sir, I know you like them cold. You don't have to order three at a time. I can keep an eye on it and when you get low I'll bring you a fresh cold one."
The man says, "You don't understand. I have two brothers, one in Australia and one in the States. We made a vow to each other that every Saturday night we'd still drink together. So right now, my brothers have three Guinness Stouts too, and we're drinking together.
The bartender thought that was a wonderful tradition.
Every week the man came in and ordered three beers. Then one week he came in and ordered only two. He drank them and then ordered two more.
The bartender said to him, "I know what your tradition is, and I'd just like to say that I'm sorry that one of your brothers died."
The man said, "Oh, me brothers are fine----I just quit drinking."
Apparently, some of things that changed after 9/11 haven't changed back yet. Famous people who speak snidely and take cheap shots are still held in a certain amount of contempt by the great mass of the citizenry.
A Blessed Feast of St. Patrick to you

Instead of drinking green beer until you vomit, or dressing up in costumes that resemble the cartoons of 19th Century anti-Hibernian bigots and parading around like an idiot, why not honor Patrick today by joining in my perpetual novena to him and the Blessed Mother?

Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain the storm which threatens. If more fighting is to come, graciously hearken to our soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, they may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.

Mary and Patrick, I pray you will ask God to stay the hands of the terrorists, and cause their plans to be interfered with or revealed or frustrated. At all events, I pray that the innocent who are the target of this evil will be protected, and that a just and lasting peace will soon come upon us.

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

And speaking of Mass, the Lenten services at my Parish have been terrific. A sprinkle of latin and Greek in the Kyrie and Agnus Dei have been delightful. The reconciliation schedule has been expanded somewhat, and will really crank up during Holy Week. And the homilies, with one exception, have been challenging. Today, Fr. Duggan, somewhat giving to rambling but a basically good preacher, said the best thing he has ever said: "God told us to listen to His Son, and WE ARE NOT LISTENING ENOUGH!!"
A lot of St. Blog's types hate what many people do to the modern liturgy (I won't go as far as to say they ahte the modern liturgy, however much they strive to give that impression.) But it occurred to me today in Mass that the real problem is different from one of catechesis, though that plays in to it. The real problem is twofold: most moderns have no sense of the sacred; and we worship emotion.

Wise people understand that emotion is transient even when real, and that our brains and hearts can trick us into thinking we are feeling an emotion when in fact we are merely experiencing a chemical reaction. It's not that emotion is false, simply unreliable. But an entire generation raised itself on the notion that the emotional aspect of love was "all you need," and then they sought to transform the liturgy to reflect it. At the same time, they rejected piety and sacredness as hypocrisy, or at least less authentic than "love." (I am not interested here, by the way, in blaming anyone for this. Many people too young to have been a part of the Summer of Love have played a significant role, and our culture was heading this way long before Woodstock.)

It therefore occurs to me that rather than wagging fingers at people about what is appropriate or inappropriate, we could most readily solve the problem by helping people gain a sense of sacredness, so that they might begin to police themselves. Hijacking the parish retreat program to create authentically sacred experiences, rather than emotionally manipulative ones, might be one way to do this. Another would be to create "Theology on Tap" nights that offer an understanding of sacredness. At the end of the day, people can hardly be expected to do their duty who do not understand it, and education, rather than scolding, will pay better long term dividends.
It turns out that leaving the bag of Oreos in the kitchen and allowing yourself only one per trip does slow the rate of consumption, but doesn't decrease net intake. Just thought you would like to know.
Let's not call them "Freedom Fries." Why not going back to the English "Chips"? It has the benefit of snubbing France and honoring a valued ally.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

I used to think I liked kids. Now I realize it's just my kid I like. Bummer.
"Diplomacy is the art of saying 'nice doggy' until you can find a rock."
--Will Rogers

If this quote needs any updating, it might only be to say "until you can find Iraq."

Friday, March 14, 2003

I'm not happy with the new computer, so it's going back to the store. That could slow blogging again. Sorry 'bout that.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

The Kairos Guy Recommends...

I confess to having spent rather less time than perhaps I ought to have on Italian wines. Partly, this owes to the fact that until the last 4 or 5 years, there were few Italian wines available in this country that were worth paying attention to, and those were rather expensive. But by all accounts, the past decade has brought about a revolution in the technology and technique of wine-making in that country.

Certainly, the 2000 Montupoli Montepulciano D'Abruzzo ($8) demonstrates that even at the low end of the price scale, Italy has caught up to other major wine regions. The Montepulciano grape is a robust one, and will not be for you if you find pinot noir a real adventure. This particular wine has a nice dark ruby color and a pleasant taste, with fairly mild tannins and a chewy, earthy mouth feel. It is a little weak in the "finish" (the lingering taste right after you swallow), but it really shines in the bouquet, or "in the nose." If you open a bottle, sit and just inhale over your glass for a minute, and notice the strong tomato-sauce sensation your olfactory sense detects. I absolutely promise you that the next pizza-and-wine night in our house is going to involve a bottle (or two) of this.

Another robust grape is Syrah (known in Australia as Shiraz). There are really three distinct styles of Syrah wines: the French style in the wines of the Rhone Valley; Australian Shiraz, which is a much rougher, less-refined but in some ways more interesting style; and California Syrah, which has historically been not especially well done, owing to the particular climate of most of the places it is grown. Marietta Cellars Syrah 1999 ($21), however, shows that what I've been reading may be true: California Syrah may be ready for serious reexamination. This wine's dark, tawny color immediately tells you this is not the insipid drink that many wineries have been offering. It's tannins are bold but not overwhelming, though another year or two in the bottle before the drinking would mellow them nicely. There's a lot of pepper in the bouquet and in the finish as well. The flavors are nicely fruity, with a little bit of vanilla (really) and a couple of other distinctively Syrah tastes. This is a big, bold, but very tasty wine that will age well for 2-4 more years, that really should be paired with an aged angus beef filet mignon, cooked rare over an open flame, served with peppery sauteed mushrooms and asparagus.
If it's Thursday, it must be Winesday!

Kathy the Caremlite asked me to recommend some good "supermarket" wines, since she is blessed to live in a state where such a phrase is possible. (Technically, it's possible in my state, too, but the license for it is so expensive and so restricted few besides gourmet shops bother with it. Only one Trader Joe's in the whole state sells booze, forsooth!) Before I answer her request, let me lay out a couple of things.

I tend to drink wine that costs between $8 and $12/bottle. Once in a while I really go nuts and spend $16 or even $17, but usually only when I'm getting a deal on it, like when my friends go with me to the wine store so we can buy a mixed case and get a 10% discount. So much of what you find here will in fact, pricewise at least, be the sort of thing that grocery stores carry. I do however attend tastings sometimes that sell more expensive wines, and will (as today) occasionally offer a higher-priced wine review. I will list prices when I know them.

But, philosophically, I am opposed to the existence of wine that costs more than about $25/bottle. After that price, it is almost always the label or perceived exclusivity, rather than any real increased value in quality, for which you are paying. (I am talking release prices, by the way, not the prices to which the last 3 known bottles of a particular vintage are driven by scarcity of supply. All you Adam Smith fans can go suck eggs, because I am telling you that almost any bottle you find released at $125, I can find a similar wine, just as good, for $25. Not absolutely, but nearly all the time.) One of the really great joys of enophilia is finding a really outstanding bottle of something for $13.99 at the local packy, and it is equally fun to find something pretty darn good for $8.

Okay, on to Kathy's question. First, I'm no longer a big beaujolais fan, and I like Duboeuf's beaujolais least of all. He buys his grapes in bulk, instead of growing them himself, and mass produces the stuff, and while it's quaffable, many other brands are better. Beaujolais is nice and fruity, and not too acidic or tannic when done nicely, but it is very simple, and when you have finished a sip of it, you may forget before it finishes passing your pallet what it is you are drinking.

In that same price range, however, are are many much more interesting wines. The Chilean winery Santa Rita (with their distinctive "120" on the label) produces a very pleasant Merlot that can usually be had for $7-8/bottle, and their Cabernet/Merlot blend (the grapes usually represented in Bordeaux, though in different proportions) is also quite tasty for about the same price. I happen to know Total Beverage stocks it, too, since I served it at my wedding and bought it there. For $5-6/bottle, you can also try any of Australian producer Banrock Station's reds. The Shiraz is actually surprisingly good, though it benefits from decanting into a carafe an hour or so before you serve it.

[Jargon Alert: Decanting red wine aerates it, which helps the tannins unfold and be less astringent. When people talk about wine "breathing" what they mean is, aerating it. When someone pops the cork and then leave it in the bottle with all of 1/2 a square inch in contact with the air, he usually saw that particular maneuver on TV. Unless you are planning on letting it "breathe" like that for a day or so, it's going to do very little good.]

As for whites, I have to confess that I loathe Chardonnay as most wineries conceive of it. They take a light, fruity but not expecially vibrant grape, and in the hopes of making it a little more sexy, they age it in new oak casks. The problem with new oak is, it leeches flavor into the wine. Now, with a really robust grape, that can make for an interesting flavor complement. But with such a subtle grape as Chardonnay, what happens is the grape gets completely lost. In fact, what the typical Chardonnay drinker (mass produced, cheap American Chardonnay) thinks of as the particular flavor of that wine is actually just plain oak. (Don't believe me? Visit your local homebrew supply store, and ask if they have any oak chips for their home wine makers. Stick one in your mouth and suck on it for a few minutes, and you will see what I mean.)

But Chardonnay is the principle grape in White Burgundy, and in that style of wine, it is a noble grape indeed. Sadly, that nobility comes at a price, as very few come for less than $12-15/bottle. (For all you eaters of Freedom Fries, never fear, however. There are a number of American producers of White Burgundy style Chardonnay. Ask the wine buyer at your local beverage store which ones they carry.)

So what do I recommend? Well, first, there is always the jug wine route. I find Gallo French Colombard to be tolerably drinkable--especially on a hot summer day, when it is actually quite pleasant. It is cheap, and cooks very well, too, in many sauces.

For something a little less likely to cause snickering among your snobbier friends, an underappreciated grape is Muscadet, which can often be had for $6-8/bottle. Look for it in the "Loire/Alsace" section of the wines. (I drink a lot of La Barillere Muscadet Sevre et Maine, but it is hard to find. "Sevre et Maine," by the way, is an appellation, not a brand, and many vintners use it.) Muscadet is light, pleasant, nicely acidic, with vague hints of citrus fruits in it, when it is even moderately well done. It's not necessarily something you would serve with dinner for your wine-collecting boss, but you might offer him a glass during the canape.

And, of course, there is Sauvignon Blanc. If you are looking for French, look for some with the "Touraine" appellation. New Zealand is the world leader in Sauvignon Blanc at this point, but I don't know a particular $8 bottle to recommend. Jug Sauvignon isn't worth it: it's too acidic, and often over-oaked like Chardonnay.

This has gotten long, so I will put my recent tasting results in a different post.
One of the great problems I have always had is the mental rehearsing of fights that haven't occurred yet. If you hooked me up to those radio vital sign monitors astronauts wear, you would be surprised at my heart rate sometimes when I'm sitting still and not speaking. Sometimes, what I write here is more of less the transcription of those rehearsals, as you no doubt noticed the other day, and as you will no doubt note today.

I am having an increasingly difficult time conforming my conscience to what I believe to be false ideas, such as the Church's gradual creeping towards Just War as having none but a theoretical meaning. The USCCB largely abandoned Just War ideas in the 1980s, and that infection seems to be spreading to Rome.

I also have difficulty, however, with other teachings. Last summer, one of the pregnancy issues before us was the possibility that Mrs. Kairos Guy had a tubal pregnancy (which turned out not in fact to be the case). Now, I have no essential qualms with the Church's ban on abortion: it is fundamentally sound, and I support it. In fact, "support" is much too weak a verb to describe my attitude. I believe it to be True.

[You're waiting for me to say "but," aren't you?]

But. I learned, after the fact, and after consulting a couple of people on my cell phone standing outside the Emergency Room but getting only partially correct information, that even though a fetus implanted in a tube cannot live, and a mother who allows that fetus to continue gestating will certainly die, it is not licit for that woman to have an abortion. What IS licit is the removal of the entire fallopian tube in which the fetus is implanted, even though that too means the death of the fetus. At that point, we all get to pretend that the unburst tube is the problem, rather than the fetus, and we maintain the fiction that we did not seek nor receive an abortion, but that the death was the result of a "double effect." (I hasten to remind you again: there was not in fact a tubal pregnancy in our case). But it requires a great deal of fooling oneself to pretend that the only thing going on with the tubectomy was the treatment of the tube, and not the removal of the fetus before the fetus kills the mother.

(As it happens, recent studies have suggested that there are medical benefits to a tubectomy not present in the "Dilation and Evacuation" procedure that is common for most women. The scarring of the tube that a D&E can cause greatly increases the chances of further ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages. With a single tube, unscarred, pregnancy remains eminently possible, with little increased risk. If we ever should undergo an ectopic pregnancy, I will certainly recommend that path to Mrs. K-G. But these benefits could have played no part in the formulation of the guidance around tubal pregnancies, because they are the result of very recent work, and are only tentative conclusions "pending more study," as the scientists say. So please don't tell me that the Church was only thinking of a woman's fertility, because that played no part.)

So, I am asked to accept that what is plainly an abortion is not an abortion, in order to maintain the pretense that the Church's absolute ban on abortion is infallible, even though we had to make up a really clever dodge to deal with the fact that the old way of looking at things merely wound up with two dead people instead of one. We have to be careful of these slippery slopes, don't ya know.

It reminds me of the Church's explanation for the so-called "Galileo Controversy." Galileo was imprisoned for many reasons, but the proximate cause were some things he had written about the non-geocentric nature of the Solar System, that were said to contradict the Bible, and so, the Church. He was eventually forced to say that black was white and what was true was false in a recantation forced by imprisonment and perhaps torture, to the great embarassment of the modern Church, which has since acknowledged that black is, indeed, black.

But, in order to maintain that Doctrine is always Permanent and Infallible (which seems to be the position of some but not all bishops and cardinals--itself an intersting point) the Church has advanced a clever argument. "Well, you see, the problem is, the Church has no authority really to speak doctrinally on matters that are purely Scientific," goes the argument, "and so it was a misunderstanding of the nature of doctrine on the part of the leaders of that time that led to Galileo's imprisonment." That sounds nice, but it ignores the very important fact that it was Church Doctrine that the Church in fact DID possess the authority, based on the revealed truth of scripture, to speak on scientific matters. In other words, a doctrine of the Church has in fact changed. Only by a rapid sleight-of-hand are we kept from noticing that the Church "a misunderstanding" can only mean "error."

I have hesitated to write this post many times in the past, because you might leap to some conclusions that I have not arrived at, and I might thereby contribute to leading you in to error. So please keep reading.

I do not reject, nor even particularly doubt, the Magisterial teaching authority of the Church. The Protestant idea that "we are all Peter" seems, not to put too fine a point on it, stupid. If we all have the power to bind and loose, then Christ came not to free us from sin, but to free us TO sin. Christ gave authority to Peter, and if the Church was meant to last, Peter was able to pass it on. End of story.

Heck, I don't even doubt the idea that "the Holy Spirit would not allow an error to persist," at least if you take it on a macro level. Where I'm struggling is in the plainly silly notion of an unbroken string of never making an error. I actually agree ENTIRELY with the Church's explanation of the Galileo thing. And I think the Holy Spirit was at work quashing that error. But it is not a binary choice between having the teaching authority or not having the teaching authority. For one thing, the power to BIND has its complement, to LOOSE. For another, I could completely accept an authority that said "You are bound to follow the teachings, even if you disagree with them. You are also free (if you are a moral theologian) to advance new understanding by putting forth new ideas. But you must follow the old ones until and unless the new become Church teaching." This is, in fact, the situation we are in now, except that we don't admit it. And the one thing I can't stand about it is the tacit dishonesty, because in the end that dishonesty does more harm to the Church than admitting that in fact sometimes we have been weak enough that the Holy Spirit has had to intervene after the fact to help us clean up our mess.

I don't doubt the Real Presence, even if I'm still not sure why we felt compelled to say "Consubstantiation, no! Transubstantiation, si!"

I accept the Sacraments, the Trinity, the Divine and Human natures of Christ. I think there is no Salvation outside the Church, but I'm not concerned about the ability of a loving God to create a Church that can save more or less whomever he desires to save. In fact, maybe some time I will write my own version of one of those "What I believe" posts that bloggers love. (I wrote one a year ago on my first blog, but I don't know if that blog still even exists.)

But remember: I said at the beginning, I am having trouble conforming MY conscience. I did not say, the Church hasn't conformed to me. That may be my conscience's particular difficulty with the whole thing, but I'm still struggling, and you should be too. I agree with whichever Kathy said the other day that she gets pretty confused any time she tries to advance beyond "Christ died for our sins" in moral theology.

See, I have these fights inside my head, and eventually they get hot enough, and exasperated enough, that they spill out onto the page, with arms and legs all akimbo.
Updates coming shortly. Blogger has been quirky this am, so I am writing off line and will post soon.
Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain the storm which threatens. If more fighting is to come, graciously hearken to our soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, they may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.

Mary and Patrick, I pray you will ask God to stay the hands of the terrorists, and cause their plans to be interfered with or revealed or frustrated. At all events, I pray that the innocent who are the target of this evil will be protected, and that a just and lasting peace will soon come upon us.

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Peter Nixon's godfather, and for Karen Marie Knapp. For Robina's son, who is in urgent need of a job. For Mark, who has just lost his job, and for his coworkers. For Chris and David and Eric, all in the Persian Gulf. For the Kairos Guy family. For SFB. For the new online ministry "e5men." For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time, and for his son. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For the victims of fire in Australia and of a bus mining in Afghanistan. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Mark of Minute Particulars and I appear to hold one another in similar esteem--we don't always agree, but usually find one another thought-provoking and even useful. But this time, Mark, I disagree with you as much as you do with me. We fail the King of Peace when we worry more about whether or not "war is always a disaster" than whether it is right.

And what is so terrible about war, as opposed to all the other fundamentals of the fallen human condition, anyway? We all die sometime, but in war, those who die are more prepared for the possibility than most of us. Heroism is rarely possible on my morning commute, but in war, sometimes "uncommon valor is a common virtue." The disruptions to our complacency that war brings are nowhere to be found in most corporate boardrooms, judging by the financial news of the last couple of years. Truth and justice are often casualties in war, but they are also glorified sometimes, too. A just war must of necessity be a glorious thing: I cannot conceive of anything being simultaneously just, necessary, and disastrous if that final word means what most understand by it. I can certainly conceive of a just and necessary thing being difficult (in fact, the contrary is an almost meaningless idea). However, I will amend my remarks slightly, inasmuch as the denotative meaning of disaster ("a sudden event bringing great damage" in one book) is certainly true of war, not to mention most versions of peace we have tried in the past few centuries. But I did not understand the cardinal to be omitting the connotative meanings to which I have vaguely alluded, and which I continue to reject as an absolute statement.

I sincerely, with all my heart, hope continued and escalated war with Iraq can be averted. I hope it on broad principles (in spite of my remarks above, the potential of war is strongly negative) and in particular, inasmuch as I have several friends, including the godfather-to-be of my child-to-be, who are very much in harm's way. I pray every day that a peaceful and just way out of war can be found. I don't believe it can be, but Lord (and every regular reader of this blog, for that matter) knows I have been wrong before, and anyway it's "THY will be done" in the prayer. But I don't think statements that decry war merely to decry it answer the problems posed by the failure to act. "War is always a disaster" is not a presumption against war (that can be overcome) but a banning of it; for how can it ever be just to choose what is always a disaster against what might merely possibly turn out to be one?

Monday, March 10, 2003

It's been a while since I reminded you that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is run by thugs, morons, and the sort of corrupt people who would turn to whatever political ideology promised them a fat pension in return for surly attitudes and little real work. I can order wine from another state and have it shipped to me, but only after I obtain a $100 "license." And it's a crime for me to buy my beer in New Hampshire, where it is often cheaper, and then drive it home in my own car, because I lack an "alcoholic beverage transportation permit." Seriously: if there is a way for this state to squeeze a fraction of a penny out of you--all in the interests of "the children"--it will find it, and make you pay it. Jerks.
I'm still an Advent person

Back in December, someone (probaby Kathy the Carmelite) asked if we are Advent or Easter people. It is Lent, and I still feel like an Advent person, but it wasn't until I was trying in vain to get to sleep tonight that I realized why. This is all rather inchoate, so please try to get the gist of what I am saying, rather than parsing the wording too closely. (Back in December, I quoted extensively from an essay by a German Jesuit, written in prison a few months before the Nazis executed him. Go back and read it again.)

This will sound horribly ungrateful, and I don't mean it ungratefully, but I already have Easter: the reason our Lenten penances are suspended on Sundays is, Sundays are during but not of Lent. Each is a kind of mini Easter. Every Sunday when we stand witness at Calvary, we receive the Resurrection in ourselves. But Advent is different, and we only get a symbolic birth of the Savior--at least so far.

I am very aware of all the scholarship that suggests Christ's birth took place in the Spring, based on the activity of the shepherds among other things. (Perhaps the proximity between the fact of Easter and the probability of Christmas is connected to my attitude, as well.) But the placement for many centuries of Christmas in December seems to me a good thing, and one of the reasons I favor Advent. The world slips further and further into darkness in the Northern Hemisphere, where Christmas was first celebrated, during Advent. But the light is renewed more or less simultaneously with the renewal of Light. The metaphor works.

But it still comes back to this much: we have the Resurrection already. We are waiting for the return. Of course, of course: be careful what you wish for. As CS Lewis puts it: when the author walks onto the stage, the play is over.

I had a very close friend from high school die of a very rare bone cancer in the summer before senior year of college. He was a Notre Dame student, and his funeral was in Michigan, so many of the priests and brothers made the trip from South Bend. I remember sitting in the airport lounge with one, who had been head of Jay's dorm, and even though he was the clergy and I was the 21 year old pallbearer, I very much remember comforting him, and being at peace even as sad as I was. "Jay doesn't have to deal with all the nonsense anymore: he's above it all now." I don't want you getting the idea I am anywhere near a death wish. But I am still, in a manner of speaking, envious of my friend.

Advent, even though it is a celebration of the first coming, prefigures in a way the promised Second one. And there are all kinds of creepy, make-your-skin-crawl-because-your-Irish-paganism-never-really-went-away-it-just-hibernated-for-a-while, reasons to think the Second one might come sooner rather than later. The Mayan Calendar ends abruptly, just before Christmas, in the year 2012, and whatever else one wants to say about ancient Pagans, they seemed to be more in touch with the mystical nature of the world for at least a while, before reverting to something very like Satanism. I read recently that no less a person than Isaac Newton had worked his way through every hint of prophesy in the Bible, and calculated that the world will end in 2060. The Irish mystic Malachi, who creepily foresaw the names of Popes for the past several centuries, gives us only I think 3 more before the end of the show. The Fatima prophesies supposedly foretell an end in the not too distant future, though I'll leave it to the SSPX folks to debate whether the consecration of Russia was real or not.

Now, I'm not betting on an Apocalypse in my life time--that's not my point. (I just want your skin to crawl like my pagan heart does). The point is, this stuff feels creepy because it is. Prophets of doom thrive because we are all hardwired to expect the ultimate doom. Asteroid impacts freak us out because deep down inside we have always known it was coming. "So that's how it will happen," is often the first thought when some yutz down at the local observatory announces that we are all going to die on March 23, 2017, and no matter how fast the thought fades into "I wonder if the nuclear missiles will succeed in steering it off course," the first thought did appear.

Advent is an opportunity to remember a hope that came once before and will come again, but hasn't yet. Easter is in many ways the greater miracle by far, but is with us once a week, even in the Archdiocese of Boston. It's not complacency and it isn't ingratitude. Perhaps it is the same thing that trips me up in every other part of my life: the inability to focus on what is in favor of what may yet be.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

One amendment to yesterday's angry rant

I don't think everyone who opposes war a coward or wimp. Nor do I think this particular war is unassailably just. But I do think "War is always a disaster" a hideous copout from serious moral judgment, and I think any opposition to war in Iraq must plainly answer the issue that the war has been going on without interuption for a dozen years, and I have yet to hear it addressed seriously anywhere.
This has been rattling around inside my head for a while now:

We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.
--George Orwell
Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain the storm which threatens. If more fighting is to come, graciously hearken to our soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, they may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.

Mary and Patrick, I pray you will ask God to stay the hands of the terrorists, and cause their plans to be interfered with or revealed or frustrated. At all events, I pray that the innocent who are the target of this evil will be protected, and that a just and lasting peace will soon come upon us.

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.
Sunday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Robina's son, who is in urgent need of a job. For Mark, who has just lost his job, and for his coworkers. For Chris and David and Eric, all in the Persian Gulf. For the Kairos Guy family. For SFB. For the new online ministry "e5men." For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time, and for his son. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For the victims of fire in Australia and of a bus mining in Afghanistan. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

There is something that I really, truly, don't understand about people who are opposed to war with Iraq. To say we should not start a war requires one to accept the palpably false pretense that we have not been engaged in a war for the past 12 years. In March of 1991 we signed an armistice--not, mind you a peace treaty, which as a matter of law is an entirely different thing--that has been violated more or less every day since by the Iraqi armed forces. Not a week has gone by, but that we have been forced by aggressive Iraqi action to drop bombs or shoot missiles or even occassionally use cannons at some target. No one, not one single person that I have heard or read who opposes the war has acknowledged the fact that we have never in fact stopped being at war with Iraq, owing entirely to that nation's actions.

Tom quoted from the DC cardinal the other day, talking about the Cardinal's metaphor of a man with a knife in his pocket. Now, forgetting the dramatic oversimplification of this metaphor (since we cannot know even if the knife is in his pocket, let alone aimed at our throats, until we are in fact bleeding from a severed carotid artery), it denies absolutely the very critical fact that, as both a legal and a moral matter, WE HAVE BEEN AT WAR FOR 12 YEARS, and it was not a war of our starting or our choosing. But we have certainly, if we continue at the status quo pace, been at an unjust war, for we have manifestly not been fighting to win, which is a requirement of just war teachings. The paradox is, now that we are prepared to fight to a just victory, the naysayers have come out to decry that action, where they have largely been silent until very recently.

The other major problem I have with Cardinal McCarrick's comments is that he uttered another statement that is untrue on its face. "War is always a disaster." History does not support that statement, and every sinew in my body rejects it. In the 1930s, when the Germans were considering the remilitarization of the Rhineland, there was much discussion of what to do if the French opposed this by military force. The Germans in command actually had orders to turn around and go home if so much as a single armed Frenchman blocked the road. But the French supposed that war is always a disaster, and allowed the Germans to violate international law and their express obligations under the Versailles treaty. The history of Europe would be very different had someone stood up to the Germans. But war is always a disaster.

The Kurds in 1991 heeded our call to rid Iraq of its dictator, but we decided that war is always a disaster. The Rwandans needed American and European help a few years after that, but war is always a disaster. In October of 2001, the people of Afghanistan stood in need of our help, and we of theirs. For once, we fought, and war did not indeed prove to be a disaster. There are innocent people in Afghanistan dead today who might be alive but for that war, but many more would be so without it.

Pardon me (for this violates my Lenten attempt to reform my language) but it is manifest BULLSHIT that war is always a disaster. That is the sort of thing that only cowards and wimps can believe, and it is precisely the sort of thing that Satan wants us in our comfortable suburbs and our nice cars and our 401k plans to believe. FAILING TO FIGHT has been every bit as disastrous as fighting at many identifiable points in history. "War is always a disaster" is exactly the sort of thing Orwell had in mind when he lumped the pacifists in with the fascists in 1940. War is sometimes a disaster; but cowardice: always.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

The other day, I did something very strange. I actually spoke--with my VOICE--to another blogger. It was really weird. Steven's voice was supposed to be a baritone!
It's snowing here in the Northeast. How unusual.
Seriously: why would anyone search for the term "faking NFP"? I mean, really, what on earth is the point of THAT?
But I did promise a wine review...

The Kairos Guy Recommends....

Actually, in the case of this week's wine, I only partially recommend. Louis Latour 2000 Pinot Noir is pleasant but uninspiring. The ruby color is pleasing, but a shade or two lighter than one expects, and positively inhaling over the glass results in only a vaguely "red wine" smell--not at all the bouquet one looks for. It's best attribute is its ripe fruitiness: it tastes like Pinot Noir grapes, and it has a little bit of earthiness, and that flavor wine people call "blackberry undertones," which really does taste a little like blackberries once you discover it. Its tannins (the thing in cheap Cabernet that makes your mouth pucker like Sylvester the Cat eating a box of alum) are not overwhelming, but they also are weak enough that this wine wouldn't hold up in the bottle for more than another year or so. If I were using the Wine Spectator 100 point scale, I don't think I would give this more than an 83.
So, where have I been?

Well, first I was on vacation, then I kind of accidentally took a new job. Well, it's not really a job, in the sense that I am technically a contractor, and made it clear that my first priority was the family, and now that I have the new computer, I can work from home 2-3 days/week, and I kind of go when I want, and come home when I want. And the money is pretty good, especially considering the flexibility. What am I doing? I'm editing content for a book and website that is intended to help teachers use film in the classroom. On the whole, I'm pretty excited, but it has kind of killed my short term plan of cooking classes and housework while I polish some pieces for publication. But in another month the pace should slow down again and I should be able to get back to blogging more frequently, and get caught up on lying around.
From Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Has anyone told you "Hey, you've got something on your forehead" yet today? Why not?
Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain the storm which threatens. If more fighting is to come, graciously hearken to our soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, they may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.

Mary and Patrick, I pray you will ask God to stay the hands of the terrorists, and cause their plans to be interfered with or revealed or frustrated. At all events, I pray that the innocent who are the target of this evil will be protected, and that a just and lasting peace will soon come upon us.

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Robina's son, who is in urgent need of a job. For Jesica Santillan. For the people of Pawtucket, those hurt in roof collapses, and the families of the men killed at the Staten Island explosion. For the Kairos Guy family. For SFB. For the new online ministry "e5men." For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time, and for his son. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For the victims of fire in Australia and of a bus mining in Afghanistan. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
Salve Regina

Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae,
Vita dulcedo et spes nostra salve.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae.
Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes,
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eja ergo advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Jesum benedictum fructum ventris tui
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.


Hail holy queen, mother of mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To you do we cry poor banished children of Eve,
To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping
in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate
your eyes of mercy toward us.
And after this, our exile,
Show us the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
This has been rattling around inside my head for a while now:

We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.
--George Orwell