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Driving Gay Priests Underground?

Loose Canon is fighting hard to remain squishy on the subject of ordaining homosexual men to the priesthood. It's becoming harder and harder. Mainly because those who advocate the ordination of homosexuals inevitably advance an argument that makes me move closer to the against position.

A case in point is a piece by Michael Sean Winters, a Catholic writer who seems to think that a Vatican ban on homosexual priests is imminent (and the piece seems to have been occasioned by a homosexual priest's referring to gays as "they" rather than "we"):

"The problem with such a ban is twofold. First, banning gay seminarians will only drive the issue underground, precisely the situation before the sexual revolution permitted people - even priests - to be more honest about their sexuality. The most notorious clerical child molesters were all ordained before the sexual revolution and before the changes wrought in the church by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Secrecy and silence encourage immaturity and duplicity, necessary precursors for inappropriate sexual behavior."

Drive the issue underground? Does that mean that gay priests won't come out of the closet? Well, as I said, I've been against a ban on the ordination of homosexuals, but if it will ensure that priests behave more as they did in those halcyon days before the sexual revolution, then maybe it's time to re-evaluate my opinion. I could applaud a homosexual priest "coming out" privately to a penitent if he is trying to lead to a chaste life. That would be fine. But we don't need to know our parish priest's sexual orientation. And is the implication that molesters only molested because of secrecy? Ever meet a really open child molester?

"Second," Winters continues, "many of those priests the right wing considers 'their own' are also gay, and only a willful ignorance would fail to see it." As I said, I can't imagine why I would care if a priest with a homosexual orientation is leading a chaste and holy life. So what's the problem here?

On the other hand, if they are using secrecy to engage in homosexual (read: sinful) activity, I agree with Diogenes,who writes, "I think they do more damage to the Church than the Weaklands and the Bernardins, precisely because conservatism provides better cover for gays to operate under. And Winters is right that many conservatives have indulged in willful ignorance here and given a pass to -- or at least averted their eyes from -- questionable behavior by traditional and orthodox clergy that they wouldn't countenance in liberals."

Winters continues:

"I know some gay priests who have truly wrestled with their sexuality. As with straight priests, some have fallen from their vows on occasion or on holiday, but most have been largely faithful. Some gay priests are liberal and others are conservative. Some are still conflicted by their sexuality and others are not.

"What they all share is an almost heroic sense of integrity. To try and blame them for the shiftless careerism that caused bishops to look the other way while children were being abused is beyond the pale."

All gay priests have an "almost heroic sense of integrity?" All? How does Mr. Winters know this? No good words for the bishops, though I must say that shiftlessness and careerism are an unusual combination.

And do you want to risk having a hetero meanie give you the last rites?

"When I approach my death, I want a kind priest at hand, and I frankly don't care what his sexual preference is. I suspect that most Catholics feel that way. It is a thing that the right-wingers hate to admit, but the Christian Gospels do not suggest a culture war. They suggest that we be on the lookout for hypocrisy, especially our own."

When I approach death, I hope my mind will be on my own sins. Yeah, I'd like a sweet priest, but that isn't really what will matter at that point.

The Press: Ho-Hum about the Iraqi Referendum...

After Katrina--which the media hopes will be useful in driving the country to the left--came the Iraqi referendum--a victory for the Bush administration and all people who love freedom. Do you see a pattern? The media presents information that makes conservatives believe we are at our darkest hour. And then the people, in the U.S. or Iraq, go to the polls, and we realize that reality is not so nearly as bleak as we had been led to believe.

An American Spectator correspondent observes from Baghdad:

"This is also a bitter pill for the American MSM. They were hoping the Constitution would lose, not because they felt that would be good or bad for Iraq, or that it would be good or bad for the U.S., but because it would enable them to stick a finger in President Bush's eye. That is all that matters to them. To hell with the U.S.! Let's bring down George Bush even if it hurts the country!"

The Iraqi referendum was achieved by force of arms and the courage of the Iraqi people. As Mark Steyn observes, it certainly wasn't any organization beloved of the left that freed Iraq from tyranny:

"[The Iraq of Saddam] Iraq is gone now - not because of Unicef and the other transnational institutions that confer respectability on dictatorships, but because America, Britain and a few others were prepared to go to war. As the Guardian harrumphed on Saturday: 'People who opposed the war in Iraq will find it hard to stomach attempts to present the referendum as a triumph.'

"Fair enough. For my part, I find it hard to stomach the degrees of support offered to the 'insurgency' by George Galloway, John Pilger, Tariq Ali and Michael Moore. But it's not about what I or the Guardian find hard to stomach. Peripheral though they may be to the concerns of the 'peace' crowd, it is in the end about the Iraqi people, and, as with all the previous will-they-won't-they deadlines, at the eleventh hour they managed to rouse themselves and pull it off."

Would It Be Better Had She Never Lived?

A mother of a girl with Down Syndrome writes in today's Washington Post that people ask her if she had "the test." The assumption is that if she'd had amniocentesis, she would have had an abortion. In fact, a dinner partner insisted that aborting such babies is a moral obligation. It would avert unremitting suffering on the child's part:

"Margaret does not view her life as unremitting human suffering (although she is angry that I haven't bought her an iPod). She's consumed with more important things, like the performance of the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs and the dance she's going to this weekend. Oh sure, she wishes she could learn faster and had better math skills. So do I. But it doesn't ruin our day, much less our lives. It's the negative social attitudes that cause us to suffer....

"In ancient Greece, babies with disabilities were left out in the elements to die. We in America rely on prenatal genetic testing to make our selections in private, but the effect on society is the same.

"Margaret's old pediatrician tells me that years ago he used to have a steady stream of patients with Down syndrome. Not anymore. Where did they go, I wonder. On the west side of L.A., they aren't being born anymore, he says."

There's More to Being Catholic Than Arguing about Gay Priests

Sometimes we forget what really matters. Vatican correspondent Sandro Magister, who is covering the synod in Rome, brings us back to what should be at the very center of the lives of Catholics:

"In the hall of the Vatican where the synod on the Eucharist is being held from October 2-23, above the presider's table is a large screen. It displays a famous fresco by Raphael, which illustrates for the synod fathers the theme of their meeting: the 'Disputation on the Sacrament.' At the center of the depiction, on an altar surrounded by other fathers who are reasoning and discussing - while they adore - is the consecrated host exposed in a magnificent monstrance...."

Many thanks to Amy Welborn of Open Book for spotting this wonderful piece.

Singing a New Song in Iraq

My prayers were answered. The Iraqi people, including members of the Sunni minority, risked their lives to vote in the weekend's referendum. It appears that the constitution has been accepted.

Only if you believe the biased mainstream media do you think we are losing in Iraq. Here is what Stephen Schwartz, author of "The Two Faces of Islam," writes about this most recent sign of success in Iraq:

"We won again! For a second time, the Iraqi people proved the Western mainstream media, Islamist radicals, self-righteous and nihilistic war protestors, disaffected Democrats, and neo-isolationists wrong: the referendum on the new constitution was successful. The Sunni minority participated in the polling and those among them voting 'no' were swamped by the positive outcome.

"Iraq will have its new constitution. The transforming intervention led by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair will succeed. The global sweep of bourgeois revolution will continue, centering on Iraq's neighbors: monarchical Saudi Arabia, statist Syria, and theocratic Iran.

"But how long will the Western media get the post-9/11 story wrong before they understand that they, the MSM, are a major part of the problem?

"[M]oderate Sunni Muslims who tried to tell Western media and government the facts about the probable outcome in the Iraqi constitutional election were ignored. Instead, numerous MSM reporters applied the practice they have pursued since the Sandinista era in Nicaragua: they found radicals and marginal, anonymous grumblers, and presented their clichés as the voice of all Iraqi Sunnis."

A good piece in the American Spectator commented on the obviously uncomfortable media coverage of the vote:

"Watching the vote progress in Iraq throughout the day on Saturday, one was left with the unfortunate impression that there would have been a lot less squirming in the anchor chairs if there had been mass bloodshed in the streets of Baghdad rather than a marked decrease in violence since the last election or if five percent of Sunnis had come out to vote instead of 65 percent.

"For example, during CNN's coverage of the election Christiane Amanpour got off on a riff about a Sunni she had met who was opposed to the new constitution.

"'Never before did we talk about Sunni, Shia, Kurd,' Amanpour directly quoted the man as saying without referring to a tape or any notes. 'For many, many years, despite our difficulties, despite the oppression under Saddam Hussein, Iraqis never really talked about their ethnic differences. They were Iraqis first and foremost.'

"To hear Amanpour relay it, during Operation Anfal when Iraq was bombarding Kurd villages with chemical weapons and hauling untold thousands of men, women, and children off to mass graves, the Kurds must have been thinking, 'Well, at least we are all Iraqis. At least, God forbid, our nation has not lost its unity or is fragmented.'"

From the coverage of the referendum, here is a description of the people the high-minded folks in the peace movement would like to abandon:

"A security ban on private vehicles, invoked to keep would-be bombers from reaching targets, had a blissful side effect: The boys and girls of Baghdad took back the streets for a day.

"'Do you want us to tell you something?' asked Tamara Majeed, 11, when a visitor interrupted her friends as they sketched a chalk outline for tuki -- a form of hopscotch -- in the middle of a potholed street in Sadr City, a Shiite Muslim district of 2 million.

"Barely waiting for an answer, the group of schoolgirls in pigtails, bows and scarves burst into song.

"'Let your vote revolt,' their high voices sang in a made-for-the-day anthem learned recently in school. The song continued, referring to the former ruling party of Saddam Hussein: 'Don't let us down -- don't make me return to the Baathist grave.'"

As Lucianne noted, you had to get to wade through the paper to page A 22 to read this. The media does not want us to succeed in Iraq, though from time to time a scene like this intrudes into their bleak, anti-war reporting.

One Last Question: Are You in Favor of Sin?

While getting my hair done last week, I came across an article on evaluating gay men for the priesthood that I cannot find online. There was a sidebar about a psychologist who interviewed the men. Loose Canon is not one of those right wingers who doesn't approve of shrinks, but I kept thinking that the real evaluation is a simple question: Do you regard engaging in homosexual activity as a sin? If the answer is no, then the man is not suitable for the priesthood. As for going to a gay pride march, that should be a disqualification (in my opinion) because it implies support for engaging in activity that the Church teaches is sinful. Would you ordain a man who participated in the Happy Sinning Parade?

Can't Somebody Stop This?

Some of the very things that sustain us, especially those who fight for our country, are offensive to the intellectual elites. In "Spurning America," Michael Barone points out some of the traditions that maintain military esprit de corps:

"On the eve of a difficult mission, 'more than one soldier went to sleep hoping that the next days would prove him a worthy member of that lineage.' That's one reason the military maintains old units, so that soldiers will be motivated to match the deeds of those who came before and prove worthy to those who come after.

"Similarly, one of the comforting aspects of attending religious services is the knowledge that you are doing what others have done before you and others will do after. Even nonbelievers often feel a twinge of awe when they attend Christian or Jewish weddings or funerals and witness liturgies with centuries-old roots.

"And then there's the flag. Most Americans feel a shiver when they hear "The Star-Spangled Banner" played and reflect on the triumphs and tragedies that those serving under that flag have won and suffered over more than 200 years. You're part of something larger than yourself."

But, continues Barone, "not all of us cherish ties to past traditions. 'America's business, professional, intellectual and academic elites,' writes Samuel Huntington in his 2004 book, "Who Are We?" have 'attitudes and behavior (that) contrast with the overwhelming patriotism and nationalistic identification with their country of the American public. ... They abandon commitment to their nation and their fellow citizens, and argue the moral superiority of identifying with humanity at large.'"

Clearly, there is much yet to be done by the ACLU or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Cindy, We Hardly Knew Ye

My colleague Charlotte Allen points out that a Washington Post piece on the mothers of fallen soldiers contains the first admission from a major media outlet that Cindy Sheehan flopped.

It's Not a Debacle

Let's hope that preparations by Iraqi soldiers for that country's important referendum on the constitution will bring a degree of success, that Iraqi citizens will have the high courage required to vote Saturday--and that they will be safe.

As disappointed (indeed, angry) as I am about the appointment of Harriet Miers, who should withdraw her name, I really care most of all about the war in Iraq. Winning it is essential to the safety of the people of both Iraq and the United States. That is why National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski's "American Debacle" article in the Los Angeles Times was so appalling:

"Some 60 years ago Arnold Toynbee concluded, in his monumental 'Study of History,' that the ultimate cause of imperial collapse was 'suicidal statecraft.' Sadly for George W. Bush's place in history and - much more important - ominously for America's future, that adroit phrase increasingly seems applicable to the policies pursued by the United States since the cataclysm of 9/11.

"In a very real sense, during the last four years the Bush team has dangerously undercut America's seemingly secure perch on top of the global totem pole by transforming a manageable, though serious, challenge largely of regional origin into an international debacle."

The historian Victor Davis Hanson (whose "A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War" is receiving enthusiastic reviews) answers Brzezinski:

"Aside from the unintended irony that the classical historian Arnold Toynbee himself was not always 'adroit,' but wrong in most of his determinist conclusions, and that such criticism comes from a high official of an administration that witnessed on its watch the Iranian-hostage debacle, the disastrous rescue mission, the tragicomic odyssey of the terminally ill shah, the first and last Western Olympic boycott, oil hikes even higher in real dollars than the present spikes, Communist infiltration into Central America, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Cambodian holocaust, a gloomy acceptance that perpetual parity with the Soviet Union was the hope of the day, the realism that cemented our ties with corrupt autocracies in the Middle East (Orwellian sales of F-15 warplanes to the Saudis minus their extras), and the hard-to-achieve simultaneous high unemployment, high inflation, and high interest rates, Mr. Brzezinski is at least a valuable barometer of the current pessimism over events such as September 11.

"Such gloom seems to be the fashion of the day.

"The story of the war since September 11 is that the United States military has not lost a single battle, has removed two dictatorships, and has birthed democracy in the Middle East. During Katrina, critics suggested troops in Iraq should have been in New Orleans, but that was a political, not a realistic complaint: few charged that there were too many thousands abroad in Germany, Italy, the U.K., Korea, or Japan when they should have been in Louisiana."

Should liberal opinion prevail--and it could--we will face an American debacle.

And the Envelope, Please

Loose Canon's first Courage Award to a writer who refuses to toe the multicultural line goes to Australian author Roger Sandall for these curmudgeonly words, occasioned by Jared Diamond's lament for the loss of Mayan culture in his book "Collapse:"

"I don't care if the Maya civilization did collapse. I don't think we should shed a single retrospective tear. It might be interesting to know how or why it fell-whether from war or drought or disease or soil exhaustion-but I don't much care about that either. Because quite frankly, as civilizations go, the Mayan civilization in Mexico didn't amount to much."

Artful Dodger?

Mayan civilization isn't the only thing that's declined and fallen. What about the Episcopal Church? It was once the nursery of American civilization, but now appears on the brink of a formal split.

The upcoming General Convention (June 2006), which is scheduled to elect a new Presiding Bishop, the head of the communion in the U.S., is seen by some as the occasion of the split. Therefore Christian Challenge, a small publication put out by Episcopalians who still believe the ancient teachings of Christianity, sees a dodge ("Altruism-Or Artful Dodge?") behind a suggestion that the Episcopalians just skip this confab-and give the money to charity:

"In munificent gesture, gay activist Louie Crew--a member of the Episcopal Church's (ECUSA) Executive Council--wants the church to cancel its 2006 General Convention and give the money thus saved to Hurricane Katrina victims who have no insurance.

"No General Convention? On the surface, it also seems like the best gift to orthodoxy in years.

"Of course, it's probably just a coincidence -- or is it? -- that this would be the same convention that Anglican primates expect to decisively answer whether ECUSA--now suspended over its pro-gay policies--will walk with or apart from the Anglican Communion."

Unfortunately, an Episcopal parish in Arkansas (of all places) has joined the ranks of those who refuse to give their assent to historical Christianity.

He Carried His Crow's Ear High

It's amazing how ignorant the media is about religious usages, not to mention dogma and history. A Canadian Catholic comments on this apparently invincible ignorance:

"British journalist Libby Purves got it quite right when she observed recently and humourously in her column in The Tablet: 'On 4 April an old convent school friend speechlessly thrust a copy of the International Herald Tribune into my hand and pointed to the paragraph about the catafalque: 'The 84-year-old Jean Paul was laid out in Clementine Hall, dressed in white and red vestments. Tucked under his left arm was the silver staff, called the crow's ear, that he had carried in public.'

"So the crozier has become the crow's ear. But it doesn't stop here. Purves continues: 'The BBC subtitle service was quite rich in moments of epic religious illiteracy, providing a troop of Karma Light nuns. It also gave up entirely on the 'Oremus' by subtitling it 'Chanting in a foreign language.' "

Thanks to Relapsed Catholic for spotting this.

Bad Girls, Inc.?

A new campaign by a doll company is causing controversy. A website called One Million Youth explains it this way:

"Possibly some of you have daughters who play with the American Girl dolls or read their books. You may even be thinking about buying a doll or books for Christmas. Well, it turns out American Girl (owned by Mattel) is partnering with a group called Girls Inc. to sell a bracelet, the 'I Can' band, which financially supports Girls Inc. Seventy cents of every purchase goes to Girls Inc. The band is sold on the American Girl webpage with a large ad and a link to the Girls Inc. webpage. In addition, the webpage says American Girl is giving $50,000 to Girls, Inc.

"The problem here is that Girls Inc. has on their webpage a statement saying they particularly support abortion and a girl's right to abort an unwanted baby. They were quite clear about their support for Roe, so there is no mistake or room for confusion on that count. Additionally, Girls Inc. supports contraceptives for girls.

"They also support and offer resources encouraging lesbian and bi-sexual lifestyles, actually offering resources for girls. One of their publications states, 'The emergence of a lesbian identity is an ongoing process, rather than an event.' "Of course, American Girl itself is a separate company, unrelated to Girls, Inc. except now by webpage and the seventy cents on every bracelet."

The description of the Girls, Inc. website is quite accurate. Maybe young women could be asked to think about these issues--but girls?

Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think girls who play with dolls need to be introduced to contraception or lesbianism.

Loose Canon commends the the Pro-Life Action League, which is trying to alert parents that this "seemingly innocent self-esteem campaign" is helping to "support the pro-abortion, pro-lesbian agenda of Girls Incorporated."

Maybe instead of an "I Can" campaign girls need and "I Won't" campaign? Being able to say you won't do something is often the road to real self-respect.

Priestly Abuse: More Shocking News

As you may know, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has released more information (in the absurdly-titled "Addendum to the People of God") on sexual abuse by priests. The Los Angeles Times quite rightly refers to the "vast scope" of the abuse in its report:

"Molestations have been alleged at roughly 100 parishes. But because the accused priests moved around the archdiocese on average every 4.5 years, the total number of parishes in which alleged abusers served is far larger - more than three-fourths of the 288 parishes, according to the study, which examined records back to 1950.

"The affected parishes were in neighborhoods of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties both rich and poor, suburban and urban, some predominantly white and others with African American or Latino majorities. The study does not support the contention made by some critics of the church that problem priests were dumped into poor, Latino and African American communities.

"Based on the allegations, the number of abusive priests peaked in 1983. More than 11% of the diocesan priests - those who worked directly for the archdiocese, rather than for religious orders - who were in ministry that year eventually were accused of abuse."

The Catholic blogger Diogenes has "bounced around" the file to come up with the case history of just one priest, Father Michael Baker:

"09/19/86: pursuant to Cardinal Mahony's invitation during a retreat for priests to talk with him about their problems, requests meeting with Cardinal.

"Typical file entry, right?

"12/22/86: Meets with Cardinal Mahony and Vicar for Clergy Curry to discuss his relationship with two boys from 1978 to 1985. "Well, the Cardinal sent him off to art therapy camp at Jemez Springs. The cure was miraculous, as evidenced by this roster of subsequent parish assignments." As Diogenes notes, Baker was in eight parishes in five years, with four different jobs in 1992. Baker was finally removed from the priesthood in 2000 "after it was known -- and impossible to hide -- that he had molested as many as 10 victims over the previous 20 years."

It would be interesting to know the mindset of the cardinal who allowed this to happen. We as Catholics believe in forgiveness, but that obviate temporal action. Why did nobody think to do the simplest thing possible: call the cops?

Reductio ad Absurdum

In response to my comment that the Vatican is quite right to exclude those gay candidates who attend gay pride marches from the priesthood, Beliefnet member Oversoul posts: "What if a priest went to a Gay Pride event in support of, say, his gay parishioners? Or his gay sibling(s) or parent?" If this is the kind of "support" he is giving, then he really shouldn't be ordained.

Throw Yourself Off that Precipice!

The Nobel Prize Committee becomes more absurd with every prize it grants. Brit playwright Harold Pinter has just won for literature. The Telegraph reports that the committee said it gave the prize to Pinter because his work "uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms." And also probably because he hates George Bush.

Are Suicide Bombers Killing Muslim Unity?

An encouraging article by Islamic scholar Bernard Haykel suggests that some jihadis are appalled by suicide bombers who also kill innocent Muslims:

"The simple fact is that many jihadis believe the war in Iraq is not going well. Too many Muslims are being killed. Images of that slaughter, conveyed by satellite television and the Internet throughout the Muslim world, are eroding global support for the jihadi cause. There are strong indications from jihadi Web sites and online journals, confirmed by conversations I have had while doing research among Salafis, or scriptural literalists, that the suicide attacks are turning many Muslims against the jihadis altogether."

The infamous, intercepted letter of advice from Zawahiri, al Qaeda's number two leader, to Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda's forces in Iraq apparently made a similar point about beheadings:

"Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable -also- are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages. You shouldn't be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the shaykh of the slaughterers, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance in Iraq, and of you in particular by the favor and blessing of God."

Haykel, who believes the emerging split can be exploited by the West,pointed out in his piece that leaders of jihad are sensitive to Muslim public opinion. This certainly seems to be the case for the media-conscious Zawahiri:

"However, despite all of this, I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media .... And we can kill the captives by bullet. That would achieve that which is sought after without exposing ourselves to the questions and answering to doubts. We don't need this."

Powerline, however, predicts that the advice will have little impact on the more bloodthirsty elements of the jihad:

"Reading Zawahiri's letter is almost enough to make you feel sorry for him. He is like an old Bolshevik, wringing his hands over the murderous policies of his Stalinist progeny. Zawahiri was once a doctor, and is a relatively cultured and learned man. Zarqawi was a Jordanian street thug and is now a sadistic mass murderer. One can easily imagine how little effect Zawahiri's remorse will have on the bloodthirsty leader of the Iraqi 'insurgency.'"

Hello, George, This is God...

It was absurd on the face of it: I refer to the respected Independent newspaper's moronic headline, "Bush: God Told Me to Invade Iraq." (God would probably have been smart enough to tell him not to tell anybody.) But the president's religion inspires great fear and loathing in the posh media. They find it so alien that they are ready to fall for an outlandish story of this sort. Mark Steyn points out that these same reporters and editors are remarkably tolerant of real religious fanatics:

"One suspects a few of those excitable British editors realised that, even as they stampeded to the picture desk to work up some shots of the President looking insanely beatific under the "It's Official: Bush 'Religious Nut' Says Respected Palestinian Intifada Apologist" headlines. One day, when they're sifting through the ruins of post-Christian Europe, archaeologists will marvel at the energy expended on the gleeful mockery of open religiosity.

"Well, not all religiosity, of course."

Guess what religion that might be.

Who Received Communion at Brother Roger's Funeral?

Only God sees into our souls. But Brother Roger, the Swiss Protestant monk who founded the Taize movement, appears to have been one of the great souls of the last century. That is why it is particularly horrible that the New York Times, not exactly an astute observer of matters liturgical, created a controversy by misreporting an important aspect of Brother Roger's funeral.

Here is a snippet from the Times (the article is no longer free):

"Brother Roger Schutz pursued many ecumenical dreams in his life, but in death one of them came true. At a Eucharistic service celebrated Tuesday by a Roman Catholic cardinal for Brother Roger, a Swiss Protestant, communion wafers were given to the faithful indiscriminately, regardless of denomination."

Catholic scholar George Weigel sets the record straight:

"Since the 1970s, all Eucharistic celebrations at the Church of the Reconciliation at Taize are Catholic liturgies, presided over by priests or bishops. 'For those who...cannot or do not wish to receive communion in the Catholic Church, a special arrangement enables them to receive the 'blessed bread.' After the Gospel reading...a basket of small pieces of bread is blessed by the celebrant and set on a table next to the altar. At the moment of communion, the distribution of the Eucharist and the distribution of the blessed bread are done in a way that clearly indicates the difference. In this the Orthodox and Easter-rite Catholics recognize their traditional practice of distributing the 'antirodon,' namely parts of the altar bread that have not been consecrated. At Brother Roger's funeral, in accordance with the usual practice at Taize, those present could receive either the consecrated Eucharistic species or the blessed bread.'

"The Times' story suggests that a policy decision was made to give holy communion to non-Catholics at Brother Roger's funeral. That is simply not true. The suggestion demeaned both the faith of Brother Roger in the Real Presence and the delicacy and integrity with which Taize has tried to live both the truth of the Eucharist and the quest for ecclesial reconciliation. It also set off a wholly unnecessary controversy that would have pained Brother Roger deeply. The Times owes Taize (and Cardinal Kasper [who celebrated the funeral Mass] an apology."

Gay Priests: Not Banned, but Gay Pride Marches Are...

Although the synod in Rome is focusing on the Eucharist, other topics are being debated, including, not surprisingly, sexual issues. The National Catholic Reporter's ace, John Allen, as usual, is doing a splendid job on the synod. There is also a link for his daily coverage.

Loose Canon was particularly pleased by this very sane bit on the discussion of priestly celibacy in Allen's account of the doings at the synod:

"It should be noted that to date, no one on the synod floor has directly called for a relaxation in the celibacy requirement. The only participant so far who has even mentioned the idea of ordination for the viri probati, or 'tested married men,' has been the relator, Cardinal Angelo Scola, who himself seemed opposed to the idea.

"On the other hand, several synod fathers have come out in favor of maintaining the celibacy rule, including bishops from the East, who have said that married priests in the Orthodox churches tend to create as many problems as they solve."

There is no theological reason that married men cannot be ordained, but it has been the practice not to do so for a long time. Changing the rules now, in an era when chastity is considered foolish and sterile, would be a huge mistake.

Also pleasing to Loose Canon is Allen's report that the Vatican will not insist on "absolute ban" on the ordination of homosexual men to the priesthood but will insist on certain standards.

According to Allen, a homosexual will not be ordained if...

"If candidates have not demonstrated a capacity to live celibate lives for at least three years;

"If they are part of a 'gay culture,' for example, attending gay pride rallies (a point, the official said, which applies both to professors at seminaries as well as students);

"If their homosexual orientation is sufficiently 'strong, permanent and univocal' as to make an all-male environment a risk."

(Here is another account of the expected gay document.)

It strikes me that the Church must be careful with ordaining gay men and that these are three very good criteria for refusing ordination. A man who is part of the gay subculture is proclaiming that he rejects the teachings of the Church.

Of course, I am a squish on the subject of the ordination of homosexuals. Diogenes isn't--and he sees problems ahead.

Double Standards

Would any Christian chaplain receive this kind of kid gloves treatment? I doubt it.

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

Anti-Bush forces see the Miers nomination as a golden opportunity to split the conservative movement. This hope bubbles up to the surface in this piece ("GOP Evangelicals Fight Intellectuals over Harriet Miers") by Slate's John Dickerson:

"Left-wing bloggers may see the Bush administration and its allies as a uniform mass, but like all successful political teams, it's actually a coalition. At the heart of the coalition is an uncomfortable mix between, on the one hand, right-wing intellectuals, including the neoconservatives whose backing for the Iraq invasion has been so important, and, on the other, the evangelicals who turned out in such numbers to vote for a man who boasted that he was one of them. The Bible-thumbing armies may carry the elections, but they sometimes make the elites in the Republican Party as uncomfortable as they make Maureen Dowd and Michael Moore. In return, the mega-church attendees are mistrustful of the party's often secular, often not-Christian pundits and wizards."

For your daily dose of snobbery, read the whole piece. Apparently, Mr. Dickerson doesn't think Christians ("Bible thumping armies") can be intellectuals. He also postulates a tension between believers and non-believers who share political goals as more significant than it is. Don't get your hopes up, Mr. Dickerson.

Those of us who oppose the Miers pick do so because it is (as Mona Charen terms it) "timid and tepid pick." Charen explains why it is so infuriating:

"[T]he stinging disappointment we feel is the lost opportunity. For 20 years, conservatives have been waiting to see Justice O'Connor's seat taken by an articulate, persuasive, thoughtful and energetic conservative jurist. The talents demanded by the post include, but are not limited to, a philosophical grounding in political theory, thorough familiarity with the Supreme Court's jurisprudence over the past two centuries and particularly over the past several decades, a skilled pen, and a commanding personality. Ideally, the president would have chosen someone with an established reputation for legal brilliance. Why? Because the task of a Supreme Court justice is to persuade. Even in dissent, his or her reasoning may influence the law and our society for decades. This is not the place for an affirmative action hire (though a number of splendid women judges were available), nor for a fine staffer, no matter how solid and reliable she seems to the president."

But what about the faith issue? I suppose I'd prefer a lackluster jurist who is a Christian to a lackluster jurist who is a militant atheist. But what a choice. I feel certain that Ms. Miers believes that abortion is wrong--but is she able to craft a legal opinion on a case involving abortion?

"The No. 1 hook that allows us to take a leap of faith, even those who don't share her faith, is she is an evangelical Christian," conservative activist Manuel Miranda, executive director of the Third Branch Conference, a Washington-based advocacy group, told Bloomberg News. "I respect that, but it isn't quite enough."

I jokingly referred to Ms. Miers as Harriet the Apostate--she seems to have been brought up Catholic and become an evangelical. While I certainly disagree with that course of action, I have bad news for Mr. Dickerson: This is not an issue that is going to split the conservative coalition (you'd know that if you didn't have a caricature view of Christians).

Another reason to believe that the Miers nomination isn't going to split the conservative coalition--the coalition is overwhelmingly unified in opposition to the nomination.

There's one way to stop stealth nominees--overturning Roe. That is why Supreme Court nominees must be people with a short paper trail. To return court appointments to sanity, put the issue of abortion in the hands of voters, where it has always belonged. The pro-abortion forces have a head start--we've had legalized abortion for more than three decades; it is the status quo--and it is unlikely that voters would adopt an anti-abortion stance across the board.

Harriet and Gays

I also think that liberals are hoping that Ms. Miers is a lesbian--they think that this would split the right. (It wouldn't--we like closeted lesbians who have sound judicial opinions. And there's no reason to believe that she is gay, unless you assume that all unmarried women are.) Her opinions on the gay issue--as reflected in the now-infamous questionnaire she filled out for a gay organization--are pretty much mine. That does not, however, mean she is a great jurist.

Message: I'm Not Just Gay--I'm a Victim

This is turning into a gay day: The Rev. Dr. Patrick Molloy, now rector of an Episcopal cathedral, was turned down for Catholic seminary because he was gay:

"I know the rhetoric that claims that the Church did love me but could not dignify my propensity for what it considers to be evil. The official jargon is that we gay people are 'intrinsically disordered.' The fact that we are affectively oriented toward others of our own sex is a character defect, even if we never act on it. I cannot describe the emotional and spiritual damage it does to a person, especially a young person, to be told that the most tender, most altruistic, most joyful stirrings of their hearts are evil.

"Even as the Roman Church showed me how little it actually loved me, I did not stop loving it. ..."

By the way, it's called Church teaching, not "official jargon." Mr. Molloy is exactly where he belongs--in a church that consecrates homosexual bishops. And is on the verge of splitting because of it.

Don't Give Me That God!

Loose Canon has been remiss in not following the Vatican's synod on the Eucharist. This may be an odd way to commemorate it, but there is a terrific piece on the Pontifications blog about why the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist matters. The author, a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism, relies on... Martin Luther to make the point:

Evangelicals still remain alienated from the powerful incarnational vision of Luther. They do not see the deep connection between grace and sacrament. They do not see that their arguments against sacraments are easily turned against the Incarnation itself. They do not see that to divorce the gospel from its ritual embodiments is to construct an unbiblical God, a fleshless God, a graceless God, a very ordinary spiritual God. Mir aber des Gottes nicht! (Don't give me any of that God!)"

Why We Must Never Call Retreat

My local network affiliates chose to ignore or quickly cut away from the president's major speech this morning. What I saw was OK but not great. I missed some of the highlights, though, and the transcript reveals that Bush said some of what must be said again and again:

"[T]hese extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace and stand in the way of their ambitions. ...

"Their tactic to meet this goal has been consistent for a quarter century: They hit us and expect us to run.

"They want us to repeat the sad history of Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu in 1993, only this time on a larger scale with greater consequences.

"[T]he militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments."

Of course, with me, he's preaching to the choir. It is the left that needs to see these truths, and they refuse. That is why this piece by Sasha Abramsky, whose work has appeared in such far-left journals as Mother Jones and the Nation, was so heartening. Abramsky was in his native England shortly after the terrorist bombings:

"Yet reading the voices of much of the self-proclaimed `left' in the London papers in the aftermath of the bombings, I was struck by how ossified many of them have become, how analyses crafted at the height of the Cold War have lingered as paltry interpretive frameworks for political fissures bearing little if anything in common with that `twilight conflict.' While on the one hand I agreed with their well-reasoned arguments pointing to a certain degree of western culpability for spawning groups like al-Qaeda, on the other hand I was saddened by how utterly incapable were those same arguments of generating responses to the fanaticism of our time.

"British journalists Robert Fisk, John Pilger, and Tariq Ali, along with British MP George Galloway, and, on the other side of the Atlantic, commentators such as Naomi Klein have all essentially blamed Britain and the United States for bringing the attacks upon themselves. While being careful to denounce the bombers and their agenda, these advocates uttered variations on the same theme: get out of Iraq, bring home the troops from all points east, curtail support for Israel, develop a more sensible, non-oil-based energy policy, and our troubles would dissipate in the wind."

Was Katrina Divine Retribution?

Loose Canon has a soft spot for retired New Orleans Archbishop Phillip Hannan, a former military chaplain. Hannan served in the elite 82nd Airborne and jumped with his paratroopers. He's an old-fashioned Catholic bishop, the kind you don't much see nowadays, unfortunately.

Hannan is a far cry from Rowan Williams, M'Lord of Canterbury, who jabbered on about how the Asian tsunami may have caused cause many to doubt God. Here's what Hannan said about Katrina, according to the website Spirit Daily (Spirit Daily can be sort of weird, but I like that the archbishop has the robust faith to say these things--you don't hear them very often):

"[T]he archbishop urges that the lesson of the storm not be lost--and insists that it was a clear message from God.

"`I've been speaking at local parishes, and here's what I kept telling the people,' he says. `I say, look, we are responsible not only for our individual actions to God, but in addition to that we are also citizens of a nation and in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, it says that a nation has a destiny and we are responsible whether we cause it or not for the course of morality in that nation. We are responsible as citizens for the sexual attitude, disregard of family rights, drug addiction, the killing of 45 million unborn babies, the scandalous behavior of some priests -- so we have to understand that certainly the Lord has a right to chastisement. If you ask me if the Lord knew of this, this was the greatest storm in the history of the nation. He is the creator. He certainly permitted this. It would be as silly as asking if Henry Ford knew how a car worked.'

"According to Hannan, people who experienced it `are beginning to react according to that concept of morality.' He says that when he preached on the topic last Sunday in the devastated area of Mandeville, where 1,000 attended Mass, `people loudly applauded. They want to be told the truth.'"

Did the President Misread Their Lips?

A Robert Novak column puts forward several scenarios, including one that places the blame for the inexplicable nomination of Harriet Miers on the Senate Republicans:

"Two weeks ago, Bush was seriously considering another Texas woman he likes and knows well. The nomination of Federal Circuit Judge Priscilla Owen would have been highly regarded in the conservative community. Owen was confirmed for the appellate bench only after the compromise forged by the Group of Fourteen, and Republican senators advised the White House they did not want to fight for her again so soon. But there is no rule that O'Connor must be replaced by a Texas woman who is the president's pal. Many well-qualified conservative men and women were passed over to name Miers."

Can't Wait to Read about David and Goliath!

Evangelical Christians are used to being laughed at-but Lark News, a sort of Onion for Christians, suggests that maybe you'd have more chuckles laughing with them. It has reported on a new Bible specially for homosexuals ("[I]n the standard New International Version the passage about a rich young man who asks Jesus how to gain eternal life reads, `Jesus looked at him and loved him.' In the gay New International Version, this is changed to, `Jesus looked at him and was supremely attracted to him.'"). There is also a religious album banned by Wal-Mart because of "suggestive imagery depicting the church's love affair with Christ."

According to Christianity Today, some humorless non-evangelicals have fallen for the gags:

"[A] radio program in Wisconsin last month heavily discussed the nonexistent worship album and was forced to issue a retraction. Christian Retailing reported that Big Idea Productions received phone calls from two pastors upset with the comments that Bob the Tomato, an animated character, never made. Zondervan (the Bible company) told Christian Retailing that the [gay Bible] story was `a sick joke.'

"'It gets people into embarrassing situations when they don't recognize outright that it is satire, and I'm surprised that they don't,' says Joel Kilpatrick, founder and editor of Lark News."

The current issue features Christian looters in New Orleans and a pastor who is so hip nobody can understand what he is saying.

"The Curious Case of the Unloved Spinster"

I'm told that White House minions are having a hard time selling the Miers nomination to conservatives. The online poll at the conservative Townhall is running overwhelmingly against it.

Our chagrin is stated nicely in a piece in the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal:

"Is the President sending a message that these distinguished conservatives are too controversial to be nominated for the High Court, even with a Senate containing 55 Republicans? The lesson this nomination in particular will send to younger lawyers is to keep your opinions to yourself, don't join the Federalist Society, and, heaven forbid, never write an op-ed piece. This isn't healthy in a democracy, and in this sense a Supreme Court fight over legal philosophy that ended in a conservative victory would have demonstrated to the left that Borking no longer works."

George Will is harsher:

"[I]t is not important that she be confirmed. Second, it might be very important that she not be. Third, the presumption -- perhaps rebuttable but certainly in need of rebutting -- should be that her nomination is not a defensible exercise of presidential discretion to which senatorial deference is due.

"It is not important that she be confirmed because there is no evidence that she is among the leading lights of American jurisprudence, or that she possesses talents commensurate with the Supreme Court's tasks."

My opinion may be evolving-I'm disappointed, but...

Tony Blankley is a good spokesman for us "disappointed, buts..." in an excellent piece on "the curious case of the unloved spinster just launched on the rocket docket to the Supreme Court:"

"As a card-carrying member of the conservative conclave, I would not have made Miss Miers my first choice, or my thousandth. In fact, I would associate myself with Brother-in-Christ Patrick Buchanan's searing preachment at Monday's services concerning her wane qualifications for the high bench. ...

"And I confess I was doing a fair bit of snapping and snarling myself on Monday. But after my reptilian aggression subsided, it dawned on me that I needed to distinguish between the desirable and the necessary. In politics, we are well ahead of the game if we gain 50 percent of our goals. I have spent whole decades in politics where we accomplished almost nothing except a hard-fought-for continued existence.

"Of course I would have vastly and justifiably preferred President Bush to have chosen a certain, proven, intellectually formidable legal warrior (of whom he had an abundant choice). But I have to admit on reflection that even with the dull, dutiful Dallas evangel, it is much more likely than not, that 10 years from now she will be voting quite reliably with Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and the one or two more generally conservative justices who George Bush will probably have the chance to place on the court in the remaining three and a third years of his presidency."

Abortion and the Nominee

I notice that the National Right to Life Committee has endorsed Ms. Miers for the Supreme Court. Based on vouching from Nathan Hecht, a member of the Texas Supreme Court and an elder in Ms. Miers's church, she is anti-abortion. But her personal opinion may be insufficient. The aforementioned Opinion Journal explains why:

"We aren't talking here, by the way, about Ms. Miers's personal views on abortion. GOP advocates yesterday were making much of the nominee's fight, in the early 1990s, to stop the American Bar Association from endorsing abortion on demand and public financing. For some social conservatives, this may be enough to assure them that Ms. Miers will vote correctly. But a judge is not a policymaker, and the problem with the Supreme Court's line of `privacy' cases isn't solely their policy result. It is that the Justices invented a right in the `penumbras' and `emanations' of the Constitution and then stole the decision-making power from the people and their legislators on these social issues. What matters is where Ms. Miers stands on the Constitutional question."

I don't expect Roe to be overturned anytime soon. But, it would be nice, should this happen, to have a well-reasoned opinion, not the justice's personal views. (Of course, I am glad she appears to be against abortion. Don't get me wrong. )

Harriet the Apostate: Born a Catholic, she subsequently became a born-again Christian who attends the Valley View Church in Dallas.

Black Mass in Miami?

If these allegations by the lawyer of a whistle-blowing priest in Miami are true, it sounds like something out of a black mass:

"[A canon lawyer] has asked that we present him with a report of everything [a private investigator hired by the priest] has uncovered on the sexual and financial improprieties of the local clergy: homosexual activity, stealing, drugs, parties, and an incident in which the Sacred Host was given to a homosexual priest's dog at a Mass with other homosexual priests."

Thanks to Relapsed Catholic for spotting this depraved item.

Continued on page 2: »

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