Should Presbies Be More Like Baptists?

Okay, now Loose Canon is going to risk making you angry. I'd like to say a few kind words about something that is out of character with our religious life in this day and age--Presbyterians evangelizing members of the Jewish faith.

Yes, you read that right.

The Presbyterian Church USA has engaged in that highly controversial venture, pumping money into establishing congregations like Avodat Yisrael, "a fledgling Presbyterian congregation that looks and feels like a Jewish synagogue," and which "has come under fire from Jewish groups as a deceptive attempt to convert Jews to Christianity," according to Religion News Service.

The report continues:

"Some Jewish leaders have said, 'We expect this from the Southern Baptists or the Assemblies of God, but we don't expect this from mainline churches, certainly not the Presbyterian Church," said the Rev. Jay Rock, the denomination's director of interfaith relations.

But if you think something is true, don't you want to share it? What if scientists didn't want to spread knowledge of the truths their work unfolds?

What if scientists thought like Christians: Oh, that DNA stuff is nice, but we don't want to offend the scientific community with knowledge that runs counter to what some believe...

Loose Canon thinks it is perfectly right for Presbyies to try to convert Jews--by the same token, it's also perfectly okay for Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Methodists, or animists to try to convert people, as long as they don't take up arms or behave in a rude fashion.

That said, Loose Canon admits that it can be annoying to be an evangelization target. She still harbors bitter memories of the twice-born couple who once lived in her building. Loose Canon always felt they were itching to lure her away from the One True Church. Even worse, they were unfailingly cheerful.

Wonder whatever happened to them...

I swear they aren't still tied up in my basement.

Speaking of Prots: Why Don't They Blog More?

Loose Canon has been getting in touch with the profusion of Catholic blogs out there in cyberspace. There seem to be hundreds of papist blogs.

They range in tone from the highly political Catholic (?) Kerry Watch to the whimsically named Dappled Things (you gotta love a blog whose name honors a line from a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem), my favorite so far.

Dappled Things, written by a priest of the Arlington. Va. Archdiocese, is witty and wise with thoughts about "Fahrenheit 9/11" or prisoners held without recourse to lawyers.

There's not much in the way of bishop-bashing. But I must admit that I found some wistfulness in a quote on bishops as martyrs. It came from Patrick Rothwell's book, "Glorious Battles," about the struggles of high church Anglicans in Victorian England:

I cannot conceive of anything more splendid than that your Grace should be executed on Tower Hill," Lord Halifax told his friend and sometime adversary, the archbishop of York. "Nothing but the martyrdom of an Archbishop can save the Church of England. I crave the honour of it for you and that I should live to be there, so that I might plunge my handkerchief in your blood, and pass it on...as the most precious of heirlooms.
Loose Canon, who could suggest some Episcopal candidates for martyrdom, laughed and laughed.

But I did notice something missing in the blogosphere: There seem to be almost no Prot blogs.

You'd think that the blogosphere would be the perfect vehicle for our Protestant brothers and sisters, fond as they are of tacking up 95 theses, 39 articles, or what have you here there and yonder. But no. What gives, Prots? Where are your blogs?

Raving Mad for "Fahrenheit"

Liberal reviewers who hated Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" have gone all out to praise Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."

A blog called Beautiful Atrocities has culled through the press to hilariously document this:

From A.O.Scott, of the New York Times:

F9/11: Mr. Moore's populist instincts have never been sharper...he is a credit to the republic.

Passion: Gibson has exploited the popular appetite for terror and gore for what he and his allies see as a higher end.

From Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune:

F9/11: Received both the first prize and the longest continuous standing ovation in the history of the Cannes Film Festival and it wasn't because of some cliched French antipathy to America.

Passion: Lacks artistic and even spiritual balance.

There are quite a few more of these delicious comparisons on Beautiful Atrocities.

(Thanks to James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal for noticing this.)

Religion: Let's Get Organized

Loose Canon, who prefers her religion organized and hierarchical (as opposed to disorganized and do-it-yourself), takes heart from news of a Gallup poll released earlier this month.

A report on the findings notes that the "public's confidence in organized religion has inched back up after reaching a historic low in 2002."

Hi, Hitler

"Comparing Bush to Hitler No Longer Confined to Loonies," declares the Townhall.com headline on a new column by John Leo of US News & World Report. Leo did an earlier column on Bush=Hitler rhetoric, which originated on the far-left, several months ago, but was criticized by readers who thought he had cited "weird and marginal Internet lefties."

Since then it's been springtime for Hitler references. Al Gore referred to Republican "Brownshirts" (Nazi street thugs) in a recent speech, while Bush-bashing billionaire George Soros remarked that the president's speech reminds him of the Third Reich. Senator Robert Byrd has allowed as how the president reminds him of Nazi Hermann Goering. More guardedly, "He is not another Hitler. Yet there is a certain parallelism," the Rev. Andrew Greeley said of the president.

It's interesting that a report on the Hitler rhetoric leads off talking not about the Hitler rhetoric widely used by Democrats but with a Bush campaign video that features a Hitler clip. The clip came from an anti-Bush spot that appeared on MoveOn.org and was being used by the Bush campaign to characterize what the ad calls a "coalition of the wild-eyed" that opposes Bush.

MoveOn argues that their Hitler pics, part of a "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest, was up only ten days--the organization removed it after learning that it was "offensive" to some viewers.

The Hitler references are incredibly nasty, but, sadly, indicative of what the Democratic party has become.

We used to hear a lot about the "ugly right" but now it's the ugly left that's consumed with hatred.

Three Cheers for Celibacy

Filmmaker Anthony Thomas, whose HBO flick about priestly celibacy was slammed by U.S. bishops, linked celibacy to the sexual abuse scandals.

Thomas said in an interview posted on Beliefnet that "like a lot of people, I was seeing the reports of priest abuse...But no one was asking the 'why' questions. It seemed to me there was a connection between celibacy and the reports we were seeing, and yet no one was asking 'Why celibacy?' 'Why practice it?' 'Who benefits from it?'"

Everybody was asking the why question, and many people, like Thomas, linked the scandals to celibacy. From Thomas' quote, it seems almost certain that he started not from why but from the proposition that the abuse scandals were related to celibacy.

I hope I won't lose my right-wing Catholic credentials when I say that, while celibacy is a requirement for those who belong to monastic orders, I don't regard it as essential for the priesthood.

But were the Church ever to change the celibacy requirement, I hope it won't be any time soon. Celibacy is a sign of holiness that is in stark contradiction to the values of our world right now. We need celibacy now more than ever before, and that's why it is such a rebuke to those who drink deeply of the zeitgeist.

The Supremes: Not a Defeat for Bush

Although the media has been quick to portray yesterday's Supreme Court decision as a slap in the face for the Bush administration, the administration actually won on a key point.

The ruling ensures every detainee the right to a day in court, but it also upholds the authority of the commander-in-chief to detain enemy combatants, including U.S. citizens, as asserted by Bush.

"The Court's three rulings will surely complicate U.S. detention policy, at least at the margins," argues an editorial in the Wall Street Journal. "But at the same time they uphold the longstanding and proper deference that the Supreme Court has shown throughout its history to the executive branch on national security, especially in wartime. That includes decisions on how to define and handle a dangerous enemy. For a change, this particular Court actually restrained itself."

Botox for the Brain

With the polls shifting just a smidgen in favor of Loose Canon's preferred candidate, Andrew Sullivan's hilarious "Kerry Bores Up" piece on how the most boring man in the world can become president by staying out of sight is a bit less scary.

Sullivan notes that Kerry was "essentially absent" when he triumphed in the Iowa primary that changed everything for him--and then, in a trice, Kerry had won it all and was the presumptive nominee.

He had bored up:

"The minute Kerry starts to speak, you can hear the life drain out of a room," writes Sullivan. "When he appears on television, the right hand gravitates almost instinctively toward the remote. The word 'pomposity' doesn't quite capture the condescension of the man. Think Clinton's ambition matched with Gore's endlessly self-calibrating mind. Now remove all charm whatsoever. There's a reason he went un-noticed in the primary campaign. No sane human being would ever want to notice him. He's a human anti-histamine. He's Botox for the brain."

We Were Expecting Much Worse...

As a hawk, who has not for a moment doubted the rectitude of America's actions in Iraq, I am hopeful that the transfer of powers last night as we slept will eventually bring a new day to that beleaguered nation.

Dexter Filkins, one of the New York Times reporters on the ground in Iraq, had a terrific piece on the future of the country in yesterday's "Week in Review" section.

Filkins found signs of hope and dread. The article ended with the words of optimism from Adel Abdul Mahdi, a man who had survived torture under the regime of Saddam Hussein regime and who is now Iraq's new finance minister:

"We were expecting much worse than this," said Mr. Mahdi, who does not discount the possibility that Iraq could slide into civil war. "Much worse."

"We never imagined this would be easy," he said. "We were telling the Americans, you will have a mess. It is mostly the psychological situation. The suffering."

We have not seen the end of violence in Iraq, but let us hope that those who want an end to it will prevail.

Oh, So Now the Bishops Hate the Bible

The odious Garry Wills, a prolific author who mostly gets it wrong, is one of those liberal Catholics who delight in showing how the Church has veered from her "real" teachings.

His latest attack along this well-trod path was "The Bishops vs. the Bible," which appeared in the New York Times Sunday. In the piece, Wills claims that abortion "is not a Church issue" and that the matter can't be settled by theology or religious authority.

Wills claims that "right to life" issues aren't in Scripture, and further tries to bolster his point by noting some of ideas of St. Augustine that now seem silly and out of date (but were never part of the church's teaching magisterium).

The simple fact is that we don't know when the soul enters the picture. There is no Geiger counter to tell us this, but the Church has always had a prohibition against abortion.

Loose Canon, not being a Biblical scholar, can't tell you what, if anything, the Bible says about abortion. But I can tell you this is both a moral and theological question that grows out of Biblical teachings about the value of every human life.

Another Catholic Cop-Out
Garry Wills wasn't the only liberal Catholic taking to the op-ed pages over the weekend to argue against the bishops' annoying Catholics by exercising their teaching authority.

In "The Bishops and Me," Joseph Califano Jr., who was secretary of health, education, and welfare from 1977 to 1977, wrote in the Washington Post that he was "not about to retire to some Walden Pond or Vatican Hill" when confronted with Congress's law to permit Medicaid funding of abortions in case of rape or incest.

There was also an account of his negotiating with a representative of the U.S. bishops over LBJ's "aggressive posture" over birth control as part of his anti-poverty program.

In this negotiation, Califano persuaded the hierarchy not to oppose Johnson if the administration would use the term "population problem" rather than "birth control."

As queasy as LC is over denial of communion, she is horrified by this semantic cop-out.

Get Your "Don't Believe the Liberal Media" T-Shirt!

You had only to glance at the arts coverage in the New York times yesterday to be amazed once again by the astounding degree to which the elite artistic culture hates George Bush.

A caption of a photograph accompanying a piece ("A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Punch Line") on the revival of an Aristophanes play describes "Nathan Lane as Dionysos in his all-singing, all-dancing, Bush-bashing, bungee-jumping revision of the ancient Greek comedy 'The Frogs.'"

On the same page, inveterate Bush-hating cultural columnist Frank Rich writes approvingly of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and of "The Day After Tomorrow," the global warming flick with a Cheney look-alike as vice president.

For those who're sick and tired of this, there's some great news. Washington Post's media reporter Howard Kurtz writes that media watchdog Brent Bozell of the conservative Media Research Center "has raised $2.8 million for newspaper ads in 15 markets, billboards in 40 cities and a talk-radio blitz aimed at countering what he sees as a 'liberal jihad' that is unfair to President Bush. The slogan (also on T-shirts and mugs) is not exactly subtle. A finger-pointing Uncle Sam declares: "Don't believe the liberal media!"

Michael Moore: Bad for Democrats

As New York Times columnist David Brooks pointed out Saturday, there's a reason why Europeans have embraced Michael Moore--Mr. Moore doesn't think much of his fellow Americans:

"That's why we're smiling all the time," he told a rapturous throng in Munich. "You can see us coming down the street. You know, 'Hey! Hi! How's it going?' We've got that big [expletive] grin on our face all the time because our brains aren't loaded down....

"They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet...in thrall to conniving, thieving smug [pieces of the human anatomy]," Moore intoned. "We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don't know about anything that's happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing."

Loose Canon predicts that Michael Moore will turn out to be the best thing to happen to Republicans since Abbie Hoffman went to the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" Is "The Passion of the Christ" for Liberals

An interesting comparison of the movie liberals are flocking to see as if it were the Second Coming with one they avoided like a biblical plague: "Not since 'The Passion of the Christ,'" writes Washington Post reviewer Ann Hornaday, "has a movie from outside the Hollywood mainstream made a review so superfluous."

"By orchestrating a hype campaign every bit as finely tuned as Mel Gibson's," Ms. Hornaday goes on, "filmmaker Michael Moore has made 'Fahrenheit 9/11' required viewing, not just for the thousands of like-minded activists who have vowed to make the documentary a box office hit this weekend, but for anyone who wants to be culturally literate."

Forget that Gibson wasn't entirely responsible for the "hype campaign" that surrounded "The Passion of the Christ"--quite possibly, he wasn't the author of vicious rumors that he and his movie were anti-Semitic--the comparison of the two movies seems to have popped up in several articles.

It's an apt comparison. "Fahrenheit" is, like "The Passion," a rallying point for a certain segment of the population. In fact, I'd argue that "Fahrenheit 9/11" is "The Passion of the Christ" for liberals. But actually swallowing what "Fahrenheit" is peddling actually requires more faith than believing Mel's movie.

"To describe ['Farenheit 9/11'] as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability," Christopher Hitchens wrote in a justly-celebrated evisceration of the movie in Slate.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" struck USA Today political columnist Walter Shapiro (who also compared the hoopla to surrounding it to "The Passion") as "a profoundly disturbing movie that struck me as far closer to heavy-handed propaganda than art. Does anybody seriously believe, as Moore suggests, that the United States invaded Afghanistan primarily to pave the way for a natural gas pipeline?"

The answer to that question is yes. "Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe says he believes radical filmmaker Michael Moore's assertion that the United States went to war in Afghanistan not to avenge the terrorist attacks of September 11 but instead to assure that the Unocal Corporation could build a natural gas pipeline across Afghanistan for the financial benefit of Vice President Dick Cheney and former Enron chief Kenneth Lay," writes National Review columnist Byron York, reporting on Wednesday night's screening in Washington. D.C.

I agree with York that the movie could prove an albatross for Democrats: "Since 'Fahrenheit 9/11' is so heavily identified with Democratic causes," he writes, "it seems likely that a number of Democratic leaders, possibly including presidential candidate John Kerry, will be asked whether they endorse the conclusions of the movie. That could present a dilemma. To do so would mean associating with some of the least credible theories of the radical Left, while declining to do so would tend to undermine Moore's status as an anti-Bush hero."

By the way, I think that the movie with the more improbable of the two plots, the one about Christ, turns out to be the true story.

The Memos: "Torture" Charges Rebutted

A Beliefnet member chastised me yesterday for not addressing something "relevant" such as the memos on the treatment of detainees released by the Bush administration. Truth to tell, it took LC until last night to read and digest the two reports (here and here) in yesterday's Washington Post.

First of all, I came away pleased that the government had conducted a sober and necessary discussion, one that post-9/11, it would have been madness not to have (and one that, by the way, remains ongoing, I hope).

I wholeheartedly concur with an editorial about the memos in today's Wall Street Journal:

The good, if under-reported, news is that the pile of documents released by the Bush Administration this week effectively rebuts the charges of 'torture' that have been flying around. While White House and Justice Department lawyers did explore the legal limits of permissible interrogation techniques--something it would have been irresponsible not to do after 9/11--it turns out that none of the practices actually authorized even comes close to the abuses depicted in the photos from Abu Ghraib prison.
But was there a Slippery Slope? Did the authorization of harsher techniques for detainees in Guantanamo lead to the disaster of Abu Ghraib?

"It was always unlikely of course," continues the Wall Street Journal, "that the likes of alleged abuse ringleader Charles Graner and Private Lynndie England were even aware of the Guantanamo detainees' legal status. And the idea that a classified legal debate to which only a handful were privy could have 'set the tone' or 'created the climate' for anything at all defies logic. True, Major-General Geoffrey Miller visited Iraq from Guantanamo last summer to advise on interrogations. But if he's the missing link in the alleged 'culture of permissiveness,' why didn't abuses happen in his own jail too?"

What Do the "Insurgents" Know that Liberal Pundits Don't Know?

The reason that the fighting in Iraq is so fierce right now is that those who oppose us know that, if the American experiment succeeds, the ideology of terrorism suffers a defeat in the Middle East.

You'd never know it from most of what you read in the press, but we might pull it off yet. "In liberal circles in Europe and North America," writes Amir Taheri, an expert on the Middle East, in the Weekly Standard, "the idea that George W. Bush could inspire any democratic revolution may provoke derision, but in the Middle East, U.S. action in Afghanistan and Iraq is seen as marking the end of an era--the era in which the region's politics was dominated by pan-Arabism and Islamism."

Because of the end of the Taliban as a regime in Afghanistan and the defeat of the Baathists in Iraq, Iraqi scholar Faleh Abdul-Jabbar says: "The genie will not return to the bottle. There is a growing feeling in the region that the days of despotic regimes are numbered."

Forgive Them, Apologize, Whatever

Former President Bill Clinton loved to apologize for things he hadn't done--like owning slaves. Whew! That's easy, just say you are sorry.

But now a "never-before-published" letter written by Bill Clinton in 1998 on the subject of forgiveness is being made available to a wider audience.

The letter was to Johann Christophe Arnold, elder of the Bruderhof--"a Christian communal movement with communities in the Northeastern United States, England, Germany and Australia" according to their press release yesterday.

In the letter, the embattled president thanks Arnold (and his missus) for their counsel and praises his book, "Seventy Times Seventy," which deals with the subject of forgiveness.

"I am also learning," the former president wrote, "that I have wasted much time and energy in anger at and judgment of those who have leveled so many false charges at Hillary and me over the years. If I am to be forgiven, I must forgive. If I am to have mercy in judgment, I must show mercy in return."

But is the former president trying to forgive those who have leveled true charges?

The Swinging Bible: "Thou Shalt Not Be Frustrated"

Lest anybody think that today's swinging Christians are sticklers for scripture, tradition, or any guilt-inducing hang-ups, here's a link from aptly-named conservative Anglican David Virtue's excellent web site to a story about a sexy new translation of the Bible as reported in the London Times:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury has given his personal backing to a new translation of the New Testament in which Christians are told to go out and have more sex.

"St. Paul's condemnations of homosexual sodomy are deleted. Instead of censuring fornicators, adulterers and 'abusers of themselves with mankind,' the new version of his first letter to Corinthians has St. Paul advising Christians not to go without sex for too long in case they get frustrated."

I Hate It When He Does That

Loose Canon can't put down today's New York Times with the front-page photo of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in his royal regalia. Seems that the pudgy founder of the Unification Church "donned a crown and declared himself the Messiah" the other day in an office building on Capitol Hill, as several startled members of Congress looked on in horror.

I hate it when he does that. I spent several of the happiest years of my life as an employee, more or less, of the Rev's. I refer to those halcyon days in the late eighties and early nineties when I was a feature writer and then gossip columnist for The Washington Times.

I wrote my memoirs, subtitled "I Was a Moonie Gossip Columnist," for the New Republic after I left the Times, a piece that made enemies that I daresay still fail to appreciate me today. The piece dwelt on amusing idiosyncrasies of the place--I should probably be lashed for referring to some of the members of the Church as "goofy"--but alleged no sinister "Moonie influence" in the newsroom. (If it was in the newsroom, I completely missed it.)

But I know how my former colleagues must be feeling today. "The Rev, as we called him," I wrote in the New Republic, in 1992, "was always doing embarrassing things like going to prison for tax evasion, embracing a Zimbabwean who claimed to be the reincarnation of his deceased son, or, the very worse, proclaiming himself the Messiah."

I guess when it comes to proclaiming oneself the Messiah, some folks just can't stop. But these doings do detract from a paper that, with a fraction of the resources of the Washington Post or the New York Times, provides a respectable alternative with a conservative commentary section, without which LC would fine life immeasurably duller.

A recent piece in the Washington Post by David Ignatius does indicate that, with the end of the Cold War, there is a power struggle at the newspaper between representatives of the Church and the journalists. Moonies are reported to be eager to cozy up to organizations such as the United Nations and to want the paper to change its "hard-line" directions. It would be a shame.

On the other hand, LC has always wondered if the Rev would be more popular with the establishment if he were a liberal Messiah.

Show Us the Pictures

Ordinarily I'd probably be against showing the gruesome pictures of beheadings. The TV footage of Kim Sun Ill--the South Korean contractor who yesterday became the latest foreigner to be beheaded in Iraq--pleading for his life was horrifying. But we do need to be reminded of what the enemy is like.

I agree with Andrew Sullivan, whose blog has been, for the most part, a real light shining in darkness on Iraqi war-related matters, and who says he is "in favor of showing as widely as possible the horrors of the enemy. We have to look these monsters squarely in the face and see them for what they are if we are to sustain the morale to fight them."

The Washington Post's front-page picture of Kim's devastated parents as they "react to news of their son's fate" doesn't begin to capture the horror of what the monsters did.

It seems unfair that the image now associated with American soldiers--who for the most part are heroes--is the hooded figure of Abu Ghraib, while the more blood-curdling aspects of the handiwork of the real fiends is withheld from the public. As Lucianne sagely points out today, "panties on head mean you still have one."

An Honorable Debate

It seems clear from two reports today in the Washington Post (here and here) on the Bush administration's recently released memos that an honorable debate took place in the administration on how to treat captured enemies.

Here's the most relevant nugget:

A Feb. 7, 2002, memo signed by Bush saying that he believed he had "the authority under the Constitution" to deny protections of the Geneva Conventions to combatants picked up during the war in Afghanistan but that he would "decline to exercise that authority at this time."

"Our nation recognizes that this new paradigm--ushered in not by us, but by terrorists--requires new thinking in the law of war," Bush wrote." In 2002, when interrogators wanted more information from captured Al Qaeda members, other techniques such as "stripping prisoners to humiliate them, using dogs to scare them and employing stress positions to wear them down" were debated. Also under consideration were sound and light assaults, forced shaving of beards, and deprivation of religious items. Apparently, most of the techniques ultimately were rejected.

One of the memos included this important line:

"When assessing exceptional interrogation techniques, consideration should be given to the possible adverse affects on U.S. Armed Forces culture and self-image, which at times in the past may have suffered due to perceived law of war violations."

I'm sure Al Qaeda is having the same debate.

Stay Quiet and You'll Be OK

From a must-read piece in Frontpagemag.com, the online 'zine published by David Horowitz, a former lefty who has seen the bright right light:

"Here's a new slogan for the zeitgeist: stay quiet and you'll be OK. This was the message, according to the tapes released last week, that Muhammad Atta gave to the passengers on the ill-fated airplane that he and his fellow terrorists had commandeered."

One of the things we are urged to stay quiet about, according to the piece, is the nature of a certain strain of Islam. "Stay quiet," the article warns, "and the jihad will continue to advance: in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Israel, and Indonesia, and Nigeria, and the Philippines, and Western Europe, and elsewhere-- and if you think we will not feel its impact here, just remember where Atta was when he said those words, and what happened next."

On a Lighter Note: Episcopalians!

Former Senator John Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest (last seen doing a bang-up job in the pulpit at Ronald Reagan's state funeral), is now a hot property for Manhattan Episcopalians.

President Bush's appointment of Danforth, who used to celebrate the Eucharist at Washington's St. Albans church, to replace John Negroponte as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has stirred competition among the isles Anglican outlets.

The New York Observer, that delightful peach-colored chronicler of all things chi-chi on the isle of Manhattan, reports on the situation:

"I'm sure that a number of us, especially in midtown, would offer him a place," the Rev. Andrew C. Mead, the rector of St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue, a Gothic structure whose well-financed parish has a conservative reputation and a famous boys' choir. "I'd be glad to have him hang his hat here and take a regular Eucharist here if he wants to, and we'll probably extend an invitation," he said.
The story is good clean fun, but the headline sent LC into orbit: "Senator Danforth Is Hot Commodity Among Episcopals." For the millionth time: Episcopal is an adjective; and Episcopalian is a noun.

LC realizes that, doctrinally, the Episcopal Church collapsed long ago, but that's no reason for us to confuse nouns and adjectives. May those who do suffer in the afterlife.

P.S. If you're ever in Manhattan of an early evening, the aforementioned St. Thomas still does one of the most beautiful evensongs in Christendom. It's magnificat!

An Issue On Which They Aren't Pro-Choice?

Loose Canon has heard hair-raising tales of threats received by an ex-gay clergyman who decided to go straight. This is considered an impossible proposition promoted by nutty Christians. Even "Law and Order," to which with all its satellite shows LC is hopelessly addicted, did a show around evil Christians trying to turn a homosexual. The clergyman of whom LC speaks never felt himself safe from temptation, but he made a choice and stuck to it.

Those who choose this difficult path deserve our support. "An activist group is accusing senators of discrimination for passing a 'hate crimes' amendment on sexual orientation but refusing to consider a resolution supporting tolerance for ex-homosexuals," WorldNetDaily is reporting.

9/11 Commission: "Beltway Soap Opera"

Loose Canon has been mystified by the misguided ire of some 9/11 families who blame President Bush rather than Osama Bin Laden. A long but worthwhile piece in today's Wall Street Journal by Debra Burlingame is an antidote to the misplaced anger.

She is the sister of Charles "Chic" Burlingame, pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

"When a group of dedicated New Jersey women whom I'd never met organized a rally in a park near the Capitol," she writes. "I was there under the hot summer sun, carrying a poster that said, 'The men who murdered my brother were listed in the San Diego phone book.'"

Burlingame is disillusioned with the commission, which she thinks has deteriorated into a "Beltway soap opera." She is appalled at having watched the camera-loving commissioners lambaste civil servants who struggled to save lives and did their best that day.

Like LC, Ms. Burlingame, who is "no longer angry at the Bush administration, or at any Americans for that matter," is puzzled by the oddly directed anger of some of other 9/11 survivors. "It was a strange and unsettling experience," she writes, "last week to hear Commission members, witnesses, and even some 9/11 families nonchalantly describing the inability to shoot down four airliners carrying a total of 261 passengers and crew as a regrettable 'failure.'"

A Little Lott Goes a Long Way

The senior senator from my home state has made me gag again. LC was going to let it pass, but Swami quoted Mississippi Senator Trent Lott's unfortunate remarks in a New York Times Magazine interview about Abu Ghraib.

Here's the relevant quote:

Most of the people in Mississippi came up to me and said: "Thank Goodness. America comes first." Interrogation is not a Sunday-school class. You don't get information that will save American lives by withholding pancakes.
What can I say? The guy's an idiot. I'd try to tell you he got his head banged too many times playing football at Ole Miss, except that he was a cheerleader.

Yes, Mississippians are glad America comes first, but none of the ones I know are any less upset over abuses of power by Americans than blue state America.

Thanks, Senator Lott, for further convincing Swami and others who rarely leave the Upper East Side that Mississippians are Neanderthals.

Rule Americana!

Speaking of America the Beautiful, the blurb on a provocative article by Niall Ferguson, the Scottish historian and author of the well-received "Colossus: The Price of America's Empire," should be sobering to critics of American power:

"Without American hegemony the world would likely return to a new Dark Age of religious fanaticism, economic stagnation and waning civilization," it notes.

"The prospect of an apolar world should frighten us a great deal more than it frightened the heirs of Charlemagne," argues Ferguson.

"If the U.S. is to retreat from the role of global hegemon--its fragile self-belief dented by minor reversals--its critics must not pretend that they are ushering in a new era of multipolar harmony. The alternative to unpolarity may not be multipolarity at all. It may be a global vacuum of power. Be careful what you wish for."

Do the Democrats Have a Prayer?

Did you notice how much Bill Clinton talked about praying in good times and bad on the "60 Minutes" interview with Dan Rather? Apparently, it was more than, "Lord, get me out of this mess, and I promise I'll never do it again."

"More than any other Democrat," writes New York Times columnist David Brooks, "Bill Clinton understands the role religion plays in modern politics. He knows that Americans want to be able to see their leaders' faith. A recent Pew survey showed that for every American who thinks politicians should talk less about religion, there are two who believe politicians should talk more."

While the faith of twice-born President Bush upsets some secularists, Brooks says that presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry "doesn't seem to get" the role of religious faith. "Many of the people running the Democratic Party don't get it either," Brooks added.

A recent Time magazine survey reported that only 7 per cent of Americans believe that Kerry is "a man of strong religious faith."

However, Brooks reports, another poll finds that the number of Americans with no religious affiliation has more than doubled since 1990. There is a secular power block within the Democratic Party.

Still, the religiously non-aligned don't have a prayer of carrying the election. "If you want to know why Kerry is still roughly even with Bush in the polls," writes Brooks, "even though Bush has had the worst year of any president since Nixon in 1973 or L.B.J. in 1968, this is one big reason."

Shame: Priests Who Belong Behind Bars

The Dallas Morning News yesterday began a horrifying series on Catholic priests accused of molesting children who've run from the law and "started new lives in unsuspecting communities, often with the help of Church officials."

The series, which will be running over the next several months, deals with priests on six continents; it claims that, in half the 200 cases reviewed by the newspaper, the priests had actually fled legal authorities.

Today's installment is about Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez, head of the Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, who, according to the article, sent a priest called Enrique Vásquez to work in two remote parishes after accusations of molestation surfaced.

A chilling tidbit:

"Bishop San Casimiro [his ordinary at the time] acknowledged that in the mid-1990s, he freed Father Vásquez to work abroad after the priest admitted to him that he had abused a 10-year-old altar boy. 'When I found out he had this problem,' the bishop said, 'I confronted him, and he said, 'Yes, monsignor, I have this problem.'"

The Church is right to emphasize that even priests who commit the most heinous acts can be redeemed. But Church authorities should not help them escape justice in this world. These men, if convicted, belong behind bars.

If the Dallas Morning News stories are correct, the Church continues to act as if she won the battle for separate courts for "criminous clerks" back when Thomas à Becket tangled with Henry II over the issue.

His Life: Mr. Sleaze Still Doesn't Get It

For me, the most revealing thing in last night's "60 Minutes" interview with Bill Clinton was the former president's admission of something we'd known all along--that he had saved his flagging presidential campaign by going on national TV and lying.

That was the famous "60 Minutes" segment when he and the missus looked into the cameras and flatly denied an affair with Gennifer Flowers. Clinton was unapologetic and matter of fact about the deception last night, even having the nerve to admit he was angered by correspondent Steve Kroft's softball questioning.

Bill Clinton will always be the captive of Bill Clinton.

Don't miss book Michiko Kakutani's devastating review of his book in the New York Times: "This book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull--the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history."

Fred Barnes, whose piece was written before the "60 Minutes" promo in which the former president failed to shine, is still good on The Legacy:

"A book cannot elevate a president," writes Barnes. "That's true even for a book marketed by Dan Rather for an hour on 60 Minutes, its publication treated like a show-stopping event by the media, its author's tour seen as the equivalent of a high-octane political campaign, and its importance signified by the expectation of an entire summer in which the author will never be far from the spotlight."

Meanwhile, my dear friend Lucianne "Don't Send that Dress to the Cleaners, Dear" Goldberg, celebrates the day with an apt quote from Ronald Reagan:

"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book."

A Sinister Plot to Aid John Kerry?

Mark Steyn is a hoot on the impact of Bill Clinton's publicity whirlwind on the Kerry campaign.

Steyn is funny, but I regret to say that he may be wrong on this. I think that Clinton is good for Kerry--he keeps the spotlight off Mr. Unlikable.

Kausfiles shrewdly remarked when Kerry ceased campaigning for the Reagan obsequies: "Shrewd move. Alert kf reader A.L. emails that Kerry'd be doing better in the polls if he'd also taken a week off when Tony Randall died."

Dunleavy: "Bury Beasts in Pig Fat"

The New York Post's Steve Dunleavy is demanding that American Muslim leaders condemn the beheading of Paul Johnson:

"Every single mosque in this United States must make a simple statement."

Sick Economy, Sick Society

James K. Glassman on Euro-envy:

"Food aside, there's irony here. While many Americans, including the putative Democratic presidential candidate, admire European ways, Europeans themselves aren't so cheery."

And They Said He'd Never Break Bread in This Town Again.

Glad tidings: Mel Gibson, who took the hellish heat for bringing "The Passion of the Christ" to the big screen, has been named the world's most powerful celebrity by Forbes magazine.

"Who says you can't achieve fame and fortune with an independent movie, filmed entirely in Aramaic and Latin?" asks CNN.

The movie grossed $210 million in 12 months. Its total domestic earnings so far are $370 million, while internationally it's brought in about $600 million.

Hollywood has belatedly realized that there's gold in them thar Christians.

A report on movie executives trying to market "Saved!"--a satire on Christian high schools!--to the lucrative Christian audience in the New York Times was unintentionally hilarious--and revealing of how alien Christianity is to Hollywood.

News Flash: Osama Bin Laden Didn't Sign the Geneva Conventions

Senator Joe Biden (Democrat, DE), speaking through strangely clenched teeth that have etched the moment indelibly into LC's memory bank, recently said that the reason we sign such treaties as the Geneva Conventions is "to protect my son in the military."

"That's why we have these treaties," Biden continued, "so when Americans are captured they are not tortured. That's the reason in case anybody forgets it."

Forget for a moment--as the senator apparently did--that Biden fils is a stateside military lawyer and not likely to be captured by jihadists. Senator Biden raises an interesting question.

"The relevant reason we sign treaties like the Geneva Convention is so that other signatory nations do unto us as we would do unto them," writes Jonah Goldberg in National Review.

Goldberg adds: "And guess what? Osama bin Laden has as much use for the Geneva Convention as he does for the new Lady Remington electric shaver."

So we should not forget that we're dealing with two kinds of captives, prisoners from nation states and stateless terrorists.

What Constitutes Torture?

Loose Canon, who's seen far too many World War II movies about mean Japanese who mistreat U.S. soldiers to want her nation to be in the same boat, is still wrestling with the question of how far we can go with captured evildoers.

A recent Washington Post report headlined "A Look Behind the 'Wire' at Guantanomo" seems to show that some allegations of the horrors of Guantanamo may fall significantly short of torture:

"The previously undisclosed memos provide one of the most complete pictures to date of life behind the 'wire' at Guantanamo," writes Scott Higham.

"The detainees wanted an extra pair of shorts to wear in the shower, for privacy. They asked that the call to prayer be broadcast in camp, but a CD player could not be found. They asked for tea with 'lots of sugar.' The response: 'Not now. However, we will reconsider in the future.' Of the 600 detainees, 200 cooperated with their keepers."

LC sympathizes over the shower shorts but can't get worked up over the tea service.

The Ron Reagan We Don't Love

One can only hang one's head in sorrow that Ron Prescott Reagan is trading on his name to break his father's 13th Commandment: "Never speak ill of a Republican."

Ron P. was wisely relegated to being the last speaker at his father's otherwise flawless funeral, but he still managed to work in an extremely unseemly potshot at President Bush's religious views.

His later remarks on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" were even more offensive--he said President Bush has "dementia."

Even more disgraceful is the movement that seeks to posthumously enlist Ronald Reagan, one of the most pro-life politicians of his day, as an opponent of Bush's stem cell policy.

A fawning piece in the Washington Post health section ("Nancy Reagan's Second Act") captures this move.

Meanwhile, in "Kidnapping Ronald Reagan," Robert Novak sets the record straight and casts a cold eye on the intellectually dishonest attempt to use our fortieth president this way.

It's understandable for the grieving widow, but not for the rest of them.

And the Rockets' Red Glare...

Swami has finally done it. Swami is pleased to note that the New York Times is reporting that "for the millionth time" there is a move afoot to change the national anthem. The switch would be from "The Star-Spangled Banner," which, according to Swami, "no one really likes to sing," to "America the Beautiful."

This made me see red...and white and blue.

I love to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner," Swami. I also love it that the anthem is rooted in a specific event in our nation's history. As the Smithsonian's flag page describes the genesis of the anthem:

On Sept. 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key peered through clearing smoke to see an enormous flag flying proudly after a 25-hour British bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry...
It's a grand old song with moving lyrics.

Swami has mustered the sophisticate support to his dastardly and un-spangled banner. Newsweek's Christopher Dickey, who wholeheartedly--and not a bit surprisingly--favors changing the Anthem "from the militaristic 'we're all victims standing strong in the face of adversity during a punitive action we failed to repel'" to "an ecologically inspired paean to patriotism by an anti-war, and especially anti-imperialist, activist."

Swami's affinity for "America the Beautiful"--another admirable hymn LC loves to sing--stems partly from its having been composed by Katharine Lee Bates, a lesbian Wellesley professor. Swami fondly believes that this would shock red America (as if we reds would try to paint over the Sistine Chapel if we weren't too stupid to know that Michelangelo was gay).

"The Star-Spangled Banner" is a battle song; it reminds us of the sacrifices required if it's to continue waving o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Preening Poseurs Promulgate Paper

Finally, the 9/11 commission has issued two long-awaited reports.

Read the Washington Post's accounts of the document (here and here) carefully and see if you can find anything to refute my belief that all the inside information on Bin Laden came not from testimony before the never-met-a-camera-they-didn't-like commission but from interrogations conducted at Guatanamo (and other secret spots).

How Many Attacks Has the Administration Prevented?

An intriguing sentence was buried in one of the Post reports on the commission's findings:

"FBI counterterrorism chief John S. Pistole said that counterterrorism officials have 'probably prevented a few aviation attacks' in the United States but that some of the operatives in those plots remain at large."

This is an important point, but the press has focused solely on things that will help defeat the Bush administration. "To hear much of the news reporting yesterday, you'd think a national 9/11 Commission report had blown a giant hole in the Bush administration's rationale for toppling Saddam Hussein," says an editorial in the New York Post. "The commission did no such thing."

Ya Gotta Have Soul.

The always delightful Joseph Epstein, in a review of the late Roy Porter's book, "Flesh in the Age of Reason," about notes that reports of "the demise of the soul" appear to be "greatly exaggerated."

On the fleshly side, Epstein notes that nothing in Lord Byron's life ever gave him as much pleasure as dropping 45 pounds. Loose Canon understands completely.

How to Treat Evildoers: Further Thoughts

The question of how our government deals with stateless terrorists in U.S. custody is one of the most dreadful moral problems we've ever faced.

I can't help thinking that the New York Times profile Sunday of a puffed up military lawyer ("Commander Swift Objects") defending a captive at Guantanamo is Not Helpful.

"The military lawyers assigned to defend the detainees at Guantánamo Bay were not expected to put up much of a fight. But then Charles Swift always had an anti-authoritarian streak," the blurb for the puff piece states. Do they have any indication that the trials are rigged other than from Swift, the JAG lawyer assigned to defend a prisoner at Guantánamo--or from the depths of Bush hatred?

Swift is a jerk. "Generally speaking," Swift tells the Times, "if the United States is paying your salary, you're not supposed to sue them." Yeah, yeah, we know you're great.

Swift has filed a suit against the U.S., which compares George W. Bush to George III. Actually, though the New York Times doesn't present it that way, this raises an interesting point: Are the rights of Englishmen in the colonies insufficient for those believed to be terrorists?

By the way, the fella Swift is defending was Osama Bin Laden's driver. You can see why we'd be interested in him, can't you?

Is Europe Christian?

Like it or not, Europe's roots are in Christianity. An argument can be advanced that European prosperity is the result of peculiarly Judeo-Christian values.

For the authors of the European Union's new constitution, this is proving a difficulty. Should the forthcoming document acknowledge Europe's Christian heritage?

A report for Beliefnet from Tom Heneghan in Paris describes the challenge:

Some countries wanted constitutional references describing Europe's heritage of 'universal Christian values,' 'currents of Christianity,' or 'conscience and belief in God' (see proposals). Other countries--especially France--would have none of it
Heneghan reports that those who desire some recognition of Europe's Christian origins in the EU constitution "haven't been able to get more than a vague statement describing Europe as being inspired by its 'cultural, religious and humanist inheritance.'"

It is obvious that there is no longer such a territory as Christendom. This doesn't necessarily bode well for Europe.

Happy Bloomsday!

A hundred years ago today, Leopold Bloom began his odyssey through the city of Dublin. This is the centenary of the action in one of the world's greatest novels, James Joyce's "Ulysses."

Yes, yes, Joyce turned on his Catholic roots. But Catholicism was as much the foundation of his work as Homer. He could run but he couldn't hide from it.

"[Y]ou have the cursed jesuit strain in you, only injected the wrong way," stately plump Buck Mulligan tells Stephen Dedalus (Joyce). Mulligan has just turned around with his shaving gear in the shape of a cross and words of the Mass (Introibo altare dei) on his lips.

Even Molly Bloom's very profane "yes" is supposed to be borrowed from Mary's "yes" in the gospel: "I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Win one for the Gipper and hoist one for James Joyce.

Kerry's Religious Outreach: Priceless

Will Mara Vanderslice, John Kerry's new religious outreach director, be able to pry stodgy, church-going Christians away from twice born president George W. Bush?

Hey, that's what a religious outreach director is supposed to do, isn't it?

Loose Canon can't get too excited about reports in her own circle that Ms. Vanderslice was "raised without any faith" and didn't become an evangelical Christian until she attended Earlham College, a Quaker school.

So what?

What does amuse Loose Canon is the notion that Ms. Vanderslice--who is probably a lovely person--is bringing (new) Christians to Kerry. Ms. Vanderslice reportedly has spoken out on behalf of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and participated in rallies sponsored by ACT-UP, a rabidly anti-Catholic gay group.

She may well remind the Christian left that Kerry represents their values (debt relief for third world nations, opposition to the Iraq war), but she is not going to make members of the Christian right forget that Kerry doesn't share their values.

Ms. Vanderslice is a veteran of the Howard Dean campaign where she was known as "the church lady." She thought Dean was "a prophetic voice" but admitted he heeded to brush up on how to talk to Christians.

"When Dean abruptly started talking about religion, his comments came across as insensitive and out of touch: He said he would only talk about religion when campaigning in the South; he called Job his favorite 'New Testament' book," she wrote in Sojourners magazine.

"I was amazed by the ignorance about religious people that I found among campaign workers, who seemed unable to comprehend Christians being Democrats," she added.

Ms. Vanderslice, you've got your work cut out for you.

"Feeding the Minotaur"

"As long as the mythical Athenians were willing to send, every nine years, seven maidens and seven young men down to King Minos's monster in the labyrinth, Athens was left alone by the Cretan fleet," writes Victor Davis Hanson in the National Review. "The king rightly figured that harvesting just enough Athenians would remind them of their subservience without leading to open rebellion--as long as somebody impetuous like a Theseus didn't show up to wreck the arrangement."

Okay, you can see where we're going with this. But it's still a brilliant read.

But why is it that we in the West are more willing to pay the Dane geld than to speak up for our society?

Writes Hanson:

While all Westerners prefer the bounty of capitalism, the delights of personal freedom, and the security of modern technological progress, saying so and not apologizing for it--let alone defending it--is, well, asking a little too much from the hyper sophisticated and cynical. Such retrograde clarity could cost you, after all, a university deanship, a correspondent billet in Paris or London, a good book review, or an invitation to a Georgetown or Malibu A-list party.
The Swami Challenge

Swami seems to have been rendered delusional by President Bush's visit to the Vatican. LC to Swami: Relax, there's no popish plot to take over America.

I am going to take Swami's quiz, even though the questions are in a foreign language and smack of the 1920s when Herbert Hoover insisted that a vote for Al Smith was a vote for the pope. When Smith, who had a sense of humor, lost the election, he sent a one-word telegram to the pope: "Unpack."

But before I address his questions, a few general remarks on Swami's comments on the Bush-Pope meet:

I was not a fly on the wall when Bush and the Pope met, and I don't necessarily buy the National Catholic Reporter take that Bush lobbied the Pope for support in the upcoming election.

But if he did, so what? You can't blame a guy for trying. But the pope will not inject himself into U.S. politics: It's not part of his job description. As for Bush's reported remark that most U.S. bishops are against him, he'd be right--the documents that come from the national bishops' conference tilt politically towards Democratic programs.

Swami's first quiz question: Do you see the Vatican telling American bishops to lay down the law on issues they have thus far successfully ducked?

"Successfully ducked" is a nice locution, Swami. Do you think that the Church is afraid to teach her doctrines? Sadly, you may have a point in regard to all too many trendy clerics (see my Homily Cop report on last Sunday's odious sermon). I do see that the Vatican could begin to more strongly promulgate the Catholic position on certain matters--the sanctity of life and vocation of marriage, for example--which are especially under attack. This will happen whether Bush or (God forbid) Kerry is in the White House. Teaching these doctrines is part of the job description of the pope.

Swami's second question: If the Bishops "do as Bush hopes," do I see Catholics "falling into lockstep and voting, like automatons, for Bush" or will they head for the exit?

The Vatican is not going to take orders from Bush, Swami.

The Church will not ask us to do anything "like automatons." One either gives one's assent to the Church's teaching or one doesn't. It is, alas, quite possible that some will chose not to be in communion with the Church rather than giving their assent to dogmas that are especially unpopular in today's intellectual climate.

Swami's third question deserves to be quoted in full: "And what about all those 'liberal' parishes that spend more energy helping the poor than thinking about the President--how might they react to the imposition of an agenda that's all about 'againsts': against same-sex marriage, against stem-cell research, against abortion?"

Swami, George Bush is very appealing to LC, but he is not a Catholic saint, and you will not find any parishes "thinking about the President." You may be trying to say that 'liberal' parishes help the poor and 'conservative' ones don't. That, dear Swami, is liberal pomposity.

What you see only as "againsts," the Church sees as being in favor of life, even the most innocent form of life. I would agree that the Church needs to teach these things better so that they are seen as being for something rather than against.

One other thing, and I have to quote the Swamster in full: "You'd think that every American who's 'pro-family' and `pro-life'--meaningless terms used to reduce complex issues to a level that even The Stupids can grasp--is poised to vote for George Bush in November," the Swamster says.

Swami, Swami, I know that you are a very Uptown Swami, but should you really refer to your fellow citizens as "The Stupids?"

Is that spiritual, Swami?

Our Bodies, Our Selves

There was a terrific AP report bearing the headline "Nancy Reagan Showed Us How to Touch Casket." Too often (in Loose Canon's opinion), the "memorial" doesn't include the body or even an urn of ashes. I'd meant to say something about the presence of Reagan's body at his weeklong state funeral. It carried us back to a time when Christian burial was the norm, and we believed in resurrection of the body. (Note: This is merely an observation--I'm not against cremation, though I, personally, already have a spot in Mississippi large enough for my entire corpus.)

Out of Africa: A Controversial AIDS Program

As millions of dollars are being spent (justifiably) helping those who are afflicted with AIDS in Africa, a New York Times magazine article explores a revolutionary new idea: fidelity.

"The Fidelity Fix," as the article is headlined, reports that, despite testing programs and the promotion of the use of condoms, almost a third of the adults in Botswana and South Africa carry H.I.V., a rate ten times higher than anywhere else. Nothing tried so far seems improve the situation.

"There is another way to reduce the spread of H.I.V.;--one that is increasingly recognized by public-health experts that has been relegated, thus far, to an afterthought: fidelity-either in marriage or in a committed relationship."

The article goes on to report that in Uganda, where the AIDS prevention program promotes fidelity with slogans like "Love Faithfully" or "Zero Grazing" (slang for sleeping around), there has been an amazing reduction in the AIDS rate.

God Fearing Until Further Notice

We're still one nation under God. The Supreme Court has ducked the issue of whether or not "under God" belongs in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Court decided that Michael Newdow, the atheist who brought the suit on behalf of his ten-year-old daughter, did not have the standing to sue.

Loose Canon knows the "under God" is a Johnny-come-lately phrase that made it into the pledge in the Eisenhower years but finds it rather pleasing as long as children who don't want to say under God aren't hogtied and forced to do so.

Mr. Newdow, by the way, apparently has no scruples about deference to his own child's beliefs-her mother says she's a Christian.

Loose Canon confesses to being almost as pleased Newdow's comeuppance as being able to say "under God."

Homily Cop

As you know, Loose Canon sometimes gives a Monday report if she has been subjected to a particularly odious Sunday sermon. This Sunday's was a doozie.

Catholics last Sunday celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi, a celebration of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It's a distinctively Catholic doctrine, and it's also the most mysterious. So what did we get at the 5:30 afternoon Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, D.C.?

The priest said that there were five things he wanted to tell us about God's use of bread. One is just that God wants us to enjoy eating. "With the Gay Pride parades this weekend," he added, "I couldn't help noticing all the blessing and breaking of bread."

I don't know his other four points, because I left.

Look, I don't like gay-bashing and I sometimes almost wish the Church's dogma were something more socially comfortable for all of us. But it's not. And the Feast of the Body of Christ was no time for such a remark.

The priest who, at my later Mass, preached on the Eucharist may not be as with-it as Father Trendy at St. Matt's but he is courageous enough to stick to the gospel.

"The Impolitic Name"

Loose Canon has been glued to the TV to watch Ronald Reagan's perfect funeral at Washington's National Cathedral. This has been a sad but wonderful week for America.

I dread the return to "normalcy."

I do not care for emotion in religion, but I couldn't help but be amused at the Washington Post's pre-funeral report this morning on John Danforth, the Episcopal priest and former senator who conducted the service at the cathedral.

The fear both of religion and, more justifiably, religion expressed with too much emotion, was almost hilarious. There was a quaking of the quill at the thought that the C-word might be used.

"Official Washington," the Post intoned, "likes its religion beige, interfaith, tastefully alluded to rather than shouted from a mountaintop. Danforth will oblige. 'He won't step on any toes,' says Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center."

The piece, by Hanna Rosin, approvingly described Danforth as "not too overtly religious." "If he sticks to his usual form today," the Post continued, "Danforth will mention God once or twice near the end of his homily. But he can be counted on not to cause a stir by freelancing an impolitic mention of Jesus."

The "impolitic mention of Jesus"...at a funeral in a great cathedral of Christendom? Actually, Danforth, who was a superb presence, was rather careful, but he did read quite effectively from the Good Friday and Easter gospels.

Pace the Washington Post, it is rather difficult to keep Christ out of a Christian funeral; the Reagan funeral didn't try to do so. The solemn procession up the aisle of the cathedral featured a reading of the line that, the first time I went to a funeral as a child, struck me as so gloriously beautiful that I almost wanted the rest of my uncles and aunts to die so we could do it again:

"I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not as a stranger."

Loose Canon--who hopes she hasn't frightened any of you with this loose talk about a redeemer--is using the text from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer--but only because she can't seem to find her 1662 version.

The Pain in Spain

A piece by Michael Carlin in the New Criterion suggests that the terrorists who attacked Madrid on the eve of an election "did not err in selecting the weakest wildebeest of the herd. In decrying the attacks, not a few commentators have argued that the Spanish electorate allowed terrorists to become actors in Spain's political life. This is to miss the forest for the trees: the terrorists saw in Spanish society the volatility and fractiousness that is the precondition for terror's effectiveness, and they took advantage of it with the foreseeable political consequences."

Carlin attended a demonstration in Madrid after the attacks:

There was a consistency to the protest rhetoric of all assembled, which is summed up in the name of a Spanish organization of terror victims, Basta ya! ("Enough already!"). It was a rhetoric of weary disgust, whether with ETA, terrorism, or Aznar. However comprehensible from a psychological point of view, the upraised palms and other gestures of surrender employed at this gathering were a barren form of communication, for the mutual salving of wounds. The prospective rhetoric of vengeance and justice, each of which places further future demands upon the victim, was nowhere in evidence.
Mr. Gorbachev, We Won that War...

Loose Canon chuckled at a headline on the front page of the Washington Post this morning. It was: "Gorbachev: 'We All Lost the Cold War'."

"But if he [Gorbachev] had warm, appreciative words for Reagan, Gorbachev brusquely dismissed the suggestion that Reagan had intimidated either him or the Soviet Union or forced them to make concessions."

Neener, neener, neener...

Ronaldus Magnus

A friend of mine and I had almost the same thought as the horse-drawn caisson bearing our fortieth president passed: Who said a democracy can't put on a great ceremony?

Loose Canon stood on Constitution Avenue, beside the Commerce building, and had a magnificent view of the serried row on row of military units coming from somewhere beyond the Washington Monument to form the escort.

The marching lineup, a soldier in civvies standing next to me said, is "in order of sacrifice"--that means that the U.S. Army, which has shed more blood for our country than any other branch of the military, goes first.

It's been wonderful to see the response to Reagan's death, but Peggy Noonan predicted in an interview with Matt Drudge (posted on Newsmax) that it's just a matter of time...

"'[Journalists] are willing, over the next few days, to concede what is so obvious that they have to concede it--his personal goodness, etc.,' Noonan told Matt Drudge on his radio show.

"But with a solid week of commemorations for the conservative icon still ahead, liberal reporters will barely be able to contain themselves, she predicted.

"'I'll bet they start pulling a few political [stunts]--kind of letting their biases out a little bit more. And I'll tell you, there's going to be an explosion next weekend [after Reagan is buried].

"'That will mean that the elite journalistic media will have gone through seven days of talking kindly about Reagan,' said Noonan. 'I would say that by next Friday night, they're going to blow.'"

By the way, it was Rush (Mr. Limbaugh to you, Swami) who came up with Ronaldus Magnus. He has quite a lot of Reagan memories and tributes on his web site.

How Should We Treat Evildoers?

If a "secret memo" falls in the forest, and there are no reporters to hear it... It was a relief that the outrage over the Justice Department memorandum to the Bush administration on the legal aspects of the treatment of captured terrorists was muted by the Reagan obsequies.

I don't want to defend torture or the aberrational activity at Abu Ghraib. But the question of how to treat stateless terrorists who do not fall under the rubrics of the Geneva Conventions and who may have life-saving information is a hard one.

"In the war on terror, we confront an enemy that seeks to inflict large-scale civilian casualties by surprise attack," writes White House counsel Alberto Gonzales in USA Today. "Gathering intelligence about the plans of these mass murderers is critical to defending America. To confer the special privileges of POW status upon terrorists would reward those who, by hiding among civilian populations, undermine the convention's basic objective of protecting innocent citizens, and it would only encourage terrorists to continue to violate the laws of war."

As a scribbler with a faith that truth conquers all, I have mixed feelings about reporting on the memo. I am honestly struggling--for the first time--with the barely palatable notion that we're better not knowing if the U.S. must resort to ill-treatment of terrorists to save innocent lives. Hell of a world, isn't it?

There are, by the way, many who are eager to view what happened at Abu Ghraib as representative of Amerika.

I feel certain my use of the word aberrational to characterize the bad stuff will get their goat.

Caution on Communion

The AP reports: "A top Vatican cardinal told visiting U.S. bishops they should be cautious about denying Communion to Roman Catholic politicians who support policies at odds with church teaching, according to a news report."

Loose Canon wonders why people who abstain from the Church's beliefs aren't willing to abstain from Communion. But refusing the Eucharist is serious, and I'm glad that Rome is not allowing bishops to free lance on the matter. Caution is a good idea.

Apres Saddam

Courageous artists in Iraq are speaking out against the abuses by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib.

A new show, which includes the work of 25 Iraqi artists, has been mounted at Sabti's Dialogue Gallery, in a middle-class neighborhood in Baghdad. One of the works on display is a life-sized figure swathed in white with a red pelvic stain. It is said to portray the rape of an Iraqi woman by a U.S. soldier, an atrocity that, if true, has somehow been thus far overlooked in the western media.

Not willing to confine themselves to an Abu Ghraib theme, the artists have also depicted their ideas about Israel and the United States.

For example, the show includes "a nightmarish canvas of mayhem and violence, with curling lines slashing off at wild angles across a black background. Atop the turmoil were written three names: 'Englend, Israel, U.S.A.'"

Yet another Iraqi artist used a menorah motif for "driving home his view that Israel is part of the ideological current that led the United States and England to invade Iraq and, in his view, take it over for their own interests."

And what were these courageous artists doing during the regime of Saddam Hussein? Have they just emerged from dungeons dark? Well, not really.

"The artists have not made careers of art with a political theme," the Washington Post coos.

"Under Hussein some painters and sculptors spent their time creating heroic depictions of the Iraqi leader, but most stuck to nonpolitical or abstract forms, Sabti said. Critical artistic comment could have landed them in jail or worse. Times have changed, however, and so has the willingness of Baghdad artists to vent strong feelings against the prevailing power--the United States--in their canvases and sculptures."

Hmmmm. Maybe not so courageous after all.

Crossing out History

Speaking of art, Loose Canon's attention was caught this morning by a painting in the Capitol Rotunda, now being readied to receive the body of Ronald Reagan, called "The Baptism of Pocahontas." It was included in a Washington Post Style section story on funeral preparations for Reagan's lying in state.

Loose Canon is alarmed that the ACLU might take offense at this nice painting, depicting a character from history, who has always been a particular delight for children. The ACLU has just been successful in forcing Los Angeles to remove a tiny cross from its seal, over an impassioned public outcry:

Here's a report on the debacle:

The standing-room-only audience estimated at 2,000--the largest crowd to attend a county supervisors' meeting in recent decades--included people of many faiths and some who espoused no faith. They were united in opposing removal of the cross. Some held signs that read 'Jews for the L.A. County Seal,' 'Buddhists for the Seal' and 'Stop the ACLU Nazis.'
Loose Canon isn't particularly hot on the subject of prayer in public schools, and she's frankly nonplussed when somebody like the Judge Roy Moore unilaterally erects a 2-ton plus monument of the Ten Commandments. But when the ACLU tries to eradicate every sign of religious heritage in the public, it's a different matter. But, of course, the ACLU doesn't give a damn what the rest of us think.

The Natives Are Getting Restless

Why can't we just get back to destroying George Bush?

Loose Canon can't help being amused at how the some in the media elite are getting restless with all the tributes to Ronald Reagan. It's just about to kill them.

The New York Post notes that Dan and Tom in particular aren't unhappy with the current state of affairs. "Even though everybody is respectful and wants to pay homage to the president, life does go on," CBS's Rather told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A few columnists and outlets haven't waited until the body was cold in the ground. Slate in particular went all out, featuring Christopher "Hellbound" (as we called him in my salad days as a gossip at "Page Six") Hitchens on "The Stupidity of Ronald Reagan."

Like Hitchens' attack on Mother Theresa, it is funny but over-the-top: "Ronald Reagan used to alarm his Soviet counterparts by saying they'd both unite against an invasion from Mars."

"An avalanche of hostility," says Andrew Sullivan about Slate. "Could they have found a single person to say a single good thing about him? Nah. Just don't call them a liberal magazine."

Happy Reagan Thought for the Day

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed his admiration for the man who once held his job in a piece headlined: "Ronald Reagan, My Hero and an Eternal Light for the World."

He used to talk about the letter he received from a man who said, "You can go and live in Turkey, but you can't become Turkish. You can go and live in Japan, but you can't become Japanese. You can go to live in Germany or France, but you can't become German or French." But the man said that anyone from any corner of the world could come to America and become an American.

"When I heard President Reagan tell that story, I said to myself, 'Arnold, you Austrian immigrant, he is talking to you. He is saying that you will fit in here. You will be a real American, able to follow your dreams." Two Heroes

O, Great Swami, Loose Canon suspected all along that you would not be able to restrict your comments on Ronald Reagan to a paltry quote from a Bertolt Brecht play in which the Galileo character pities the nation that needs heroes.

Reagan, of course, is one of Loose Canon's heroes. In your blog today, you ask me some pointed questions about my contention that the current occupant of the White House is--like Reagan--a man who states awkward truths.

"What were these awkward truths, Ms. Hays?" the Swami asks. "That for all our talk of freedom and fairness, we are a thug nation, incapable of telling the truth to ourselves about the ways we prey on the weak but cringe from the strong? That every chance a Republican President gets, he rigs the game so the rich--particularly his cronies--get richer? That our government doesn't give a fig about us, and that, in the worst possible sense of that phrase, we're "on our own"?

The primary awkward truth that both Reagan and Bush were willing to state, to the jeers of the chattering classes, is that the United States has enemies, and some of them are evil. In the Chicago Sun-Times today John O'Sullivan describes a conversation in England shortly after the evil empire speech:

"The Soviet empire, I was told, was stable and increasingly prosperous," writes John O. "Reagan's 'confrontational' approach was doomed to fail while risking a nuclear war. His arms buildup, including 'Star Wars,' would bankrupt America before it even inconvenienced the Soviets.

"Only one other person seemed unsure of these verities," writes O'Sullivan. "He sat looking more and more uncomfortable as the other guests hooted at the claim that Reagan's economic, military and ideological competition with the Soviets was undermining their power in Europe. Eventually, he intervened with obvious reluctance: 'Well, I don't think much of Reagan either. But I have just come back from a tour of Eastern Europe. And everyone there says exactly what our Downing Street friend is saying. They all think Reagan is a hero and a great statesman. And they predict he will bring down the Soviet Union.'"

He did, of course. Remember the howls about the axis of evil? I hope we have as much good fortune with the axis as with the empire.

A thug nation? O, Swami, ask the people who suffered under Saddam if we're a thug nation. We've made some horrible mistakes--the sickness at Abu Ghraib comes quickly to mind--but we went to Iraq both to protect ourselves and to free the people of Iraq.

From today's Wall Street Journal: "A myth has developed that Iraqis aren't grateful for their liberation from Saddam. So it's worth noting that the leaders of Iraq's new interim government have been explicit and gracious in their thanks, not that you've heard this from the U.S. media."

Yes, Reagan rigged the game so that the rich got richer--along with everybody else in the country willing to work. We had an unprecedented economic expansion under Reagan.

One last point: I don't want the government to "care" about me. Caring and sharing (i.e., sharing my earnings with others I don't even know) are not the right properties for government.

Lest We Forget

Now that he is dead we can remember him as he really was.

Ronald Reagan has been freed from the ailing body of an old man who didn't even know that he had once been president of the United States.

It's been heartening to listen to the outpouring of affectionate and respectful reminiscences from the media. Still, lest we forget...it was not ever thus.

The living Reagan--especially when living in the big house on Pennsylvania Avenue--did not evoke such warm and fuzzy feelings from the media and others who regard themselves as guardians of enlightenment.

"My first twenty years were spent in England," writes Andrew Sullivan, "and so he will always take second place to me in my understanding of what political courage means, but I was proud to wear a Reagan '80 button in my English high-school that, at that time, was akin to being a mass-murderer."

Writing in the Washington Post, media reporter Howard Kurtz recalled, "Reagan was, quite simply, a far more controversial figure in his time than the largely gushing obits on television would suggest.

"He took a pounding in the press after his first tax cut when a deep recession pushed unemployment to 10 percent and drowned the budget in red ink. He was widely portrayed as uninformed and uninterested in details, the man who said trees cause pollution and once failed to recognize his own housing secretary.

"He was often described as lazy, 'just an actor,' a man who'd rather be clearing brush at his California ranch and loved a good midday nap."

I cannot mourn Reagan without thinking of the man who today shows the same courage and attracts the same animus.

George Bush cannot call upon Reagan's rhetorical gifts--he is such an awkward speaker that you can almost see the basis for the allegation by some of his loonier detractors that he is a puppet. But, gracefully or not, he speaks the same awkward truths that Reagan spoke so eloquently.

The End of His Journey

"I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead." That was the courageous way Reagan told the nation, in 1994, that he was suffering from Alzheimer's.

Former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson has a moving account of that portion of Reagan's life that began with the Alzheimer's announcement in today's New York Post. He seems to have been a sweet man until the very end.

Smarty Jones

The combination of Reagan's death and Smarty Jones's loss Saturday has put Loose Canon into a mellow mood.

Were you as broken-hearted as I was when Smarty Jones lost the Triple Crown at the very last moment? What a wonderful horse. Smarty has humble origins. He nearly died of a head injury, and he was going to lift our spirits by winning the Triple Crown. He was going to do for us what Seabiscuit did for another difficult era.

The pain occasioned by Smarty's loss was somewhat mitigated for me by the extreme graciousness with which Marylou Whitney, whose horse Birdstone won, received the trophy.

Mrs. Whitney, flanked by the adoring husband (who's more than 30 years her junior--there's another great love story which Loose Canon profiled years ago in a magazine article), had tears in her eyes and was downright apologetic.

And, besides, we can still love Smarty, whose latest loss, if it doesn't exactly humanize him, makes him even more like the rest of us. Let's wish Smarty a wonderful future, whether he continues to race or decides to spend more time with his family.

If You Seek a Monument

We were not surprised but we are sad that Ronald Reagan, one of the great presidents, has at last ended his long goodbye. George Will so perfectly summed up Ronald Reagan's achievements yesterday morning, playing on the famous epitaph of Sir Christopher Wren, "Si monumentum requiris, circumspice--If you seek a monument, look around you."

"So if you seek Ronald Reagan's monument," Will wrote, "look around and consider what you do not see."

As Wren was the architect of cathedrals, Reagan was the architect of a newer, better world. "The Iron Curtain that scarred a continent is gone, as is the Evil Empire responsible for it," Will wrote. "The feeling of foreboding--the sense of shrunken possibilities--that afflicted Americans 20 years ago has been banished by a new birth of the American belief in perpetually expanding horizons."

In my lefty youth, I hated him, and then I came to love him. "It was said," wrote George Will, "of Dwight Eisenhower--another much-loved son of the prairie--that his smile was his philosophy. That was true of Reagan, in this sense: He understood that when Americans have a happy stance toward life, confidence flows and good things happen. They raise families, crops, living standards and cultural values; they settle the land, make deserts bloom, destroy tyrannies."

For me, the most telling reminiscence this morning came from Juan Williams, a former Washington Post reporter and a liberal commentator on FOX. Williams recalled Reagan's evil empire speech about the Soviet Union. Williams said his editors repeatedly asked him, Are you sure he said this? Did he really say evil empire? He did, of course, and that is one of the reasons it is now the former Soviet Union.

I lived in Washington when Reagan was president, and remember how hated Reagan's philosophy, if not Reagan himself, was by the intellectual leaders in our nation's capital. I am still in Washington and we have another president who is willing to use the word evil. It drives them as crazy today as it did when that other cowboy was in the White House. As I say a prayer for Ronald Reagan, I'll add a plea that this time around, things turn out as well.

One other thing: I remember how the Reagans seemed to hate to leave town the day George H.W. Bush was sworn in. They had had a good time in the White House, and they brought style and glamour to Washington. His final address then is also a fitting epitaph: "And as I walk into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan Revolution, the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made a city stronger. We made a city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all."

Bush Hatred Goes Boutique

Looks like George Bush has already lost the shallow vote. A story in today's New York Times reports that the window of the Marc by Marc Jacobs store in the city's trendy West Village has been transformed into an anti-Bush display. "Instead of a tableau of flirty spring dresses and chic round-toed pumps," the Times reports, "it displayed a 2-foot-by-3-foot cardboard ace of spades with the image of President Bush. Beneath that was a caption with the words, 'I'm the commander--see, I don't need to explain--I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president.'"

The entire window at the Bleeker Street emporium has been given over to anti-Bush displays, including a card mocking Colin Powel and bumper stickers with slogans like: "G.O.P.: Greed, Oil, and Plunder."

"We're fashion people, but we have a voice," said Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs International.

Oh, shut up.

Saddam: Our "Peer Competitor"
Thanks to his selection of Senator Clinton's favorite general, John Kerry is beginning to look not good on national defense to Loose Canon.

Writes George Neumayr of The American Spectator,

Kerry is turning for advice to, among others, Claudia Kennedy, the first female three-star general--a feminist famous during the Clinton years for charging a fellow general (whose advancement she hoped to stop) with "inappropriate touching."

Kerry's selection of Claudia Kennedy to his board of military advisers is illuminating: he is now taking advice on how to strengthen the military from feminists intent on weakening it. Claudia Kennedy once bragged to West Point cadets that "this is not your father's Army anymore!" As the press reported in the 1990s, Kennedy didn't like the word "enemy"; she relied instead on the term "peer competitor." Politics in the Pew

Swami is fretting over the tax-exempt status of churches that "dabble in politics." He's referring to the Bush-Cheney team's plan to use "friendly congregations" in Pennsylvania to get out the word about a candidate who, presumably, shares their values.

Swami probably didn't worry quite as much about the role of the churches that helped transform America during the civil rights movement.

As long as the church or clergy doesn't actually endorse a candidate, I honestly can't see anything wrong with the laity using their church to help a sympathetic candidate. Still, I realize this is getting awfully close to the line, and that's one reason I hesitated to respond to the Swamster's concerns, overwrought though they might be.

Always on the Quote Circuit for these issues is the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "By enrolling churches in an election scheme like this," Lynn said. "I think the Bush-Cheney campaign is actually endangering those churches' tax exemptions without even the courtesy of telling them that they run a risk."

In LC's opinion, the Rev. Mr. Lynn stands not so much for the separation of church and state as for the eradication of church influence in the public square--or at least of the influence of churches with traditional views.

I'd like to quote from a February 2001 Crisis magazine profile of Mr. Lynn (which unfortunately isn't available on line):

Lynn gets great mileage out of portraying liberal cultural elites as persecuted underdogs and religious conservatives as their persecutors. His own agenda, however, rarely receives extensive scrutiny, although he does little to hide it. If we are to take his Lynn's words seriously, he desires an America where the sensitive ears of nonbelievers are not assaulted by prayer in many public places, where tax dollars subsidize art that many religious people find offensive, where churches and synagogues face tight restrictions in order to keep their tax exemptions, where religious arguments against abortion are taboo, where politicians hesitate to mention God, where gays can marry each other and stigmatize opponents of same-sex marriage as bigots, and where people can do virtually everything they want to do, as long as they abide by restrictions on their ability to bring their traditional religious beliefs to the public square.
The real threat of the Bush plan is not to the body politic but to the churches which risk becoming secular.

A Fool and His Money...Are Soon Invited Everywhere (Especially If He Owns the Party)

National Review's Byron York reported that the Democratic crowd cheered yesterday when George Soros outrageously compared the Abu Ghraib scandal to Sept. 11. "I think that those pictures hit us the same way as the terrorist attack itself," Soros said, "not quite with the same force, because in the terrorist attack, we were the victims. In the pictures, we were the perpetrators and others were the victims."

Rome: Will the President's Knees Be Knocking?

Swami isn't the only commentator licking his chops in hopes that Pope John Paul II will excoriate President Bush tomorrow when they meet in Rome. John Allen, Vatican correspondent of the liberal National Catholic Reporter, recalls in a piece in today's New York Times that General Wojciech Jaruzelski, then prime minister of Poland, was so scared of the Pope when they met in 1983 that his knees were knocking. "Will George Bush's knees be knocking when he meets with the pope?" asks Allen. (Note the implied comparison of the president to the Polish strongman--nice, isn't it?)

I don't think that the pope will lambaste Bush, but given the Vatican's statements about the Iraq war, you never know. I can say that I'm dismayed by the Vatican's cozying up to the U.N., not a hotbed of Catholic-friendly values. "The Vatican insists on international law as the only way to ensure 'the force of law rather than the law of force,'" coos Allen.

Question for the day: Who makes international law? Hint: The answer is not democratically-elected legislative bodies.

What If He Does Admonish the President, Though?

Well, then Catholic hawks (like me) would be obligated to give the pope's words a serious listen-to. But the pope's reflections on the Iraq war would not be binding.

Somebody on the chat board recently, joking, I think, called LC a heretic (nice old fashioned word--I heartily commend it but hope it doesn't apply to moi) for disagreeing with the pope on some matter.

I'm not up to defining infallibility, but the comment put me in mind of a hilarious passage in Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited." In it, a frustrated Jesuit bemoans the ordeal of trying to explain dogma to a compliant Rex Mottram, who hopes to become a Catholic and marry into the aristocratic Marchmain family:

"Yesterday [the Jesuit is speaking] I asked him whether Our Lord had more than one nature. He said: 'Just as many as you say, Father.'

"Then [the distraught Jesuit continues speaking to Lady Marchmain] again I asked him: 'Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said, 'It's going to rain,' would that be bound to happen?' 'Oh, yes, Father.' 'But suppose it didn't?' He thought a moment and said, 'I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we'd be too sinful to see it.'

"Lady Marchmain, he doesn't correspond to any degree of paganism known to missionaries."

To find out what is binding, I can only recommend the Catholic Encyclopaedia on infallibility. Have fun! But I don't think you can make a case for having to accept the Vatican's misguided policy on the Iraq war.

A Pundit Admits He's Fallible

Writing in a Houston paper, Joshua Muravchik admits that he refused to vote for Bush in the year 2000 but that his admiration for the man "grows ever higher."

"A president's chief duty is to keep the nation safe in the dangerous tides of international politics," Muravchik writes. "In 2000, I found candidate Bush too little engaged with this challenge. But since 9/11, he has offered the kind of leadership that ranks him with the greatest presidents of my lifetime, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan."

"In my house, we call it slutwear"

Loose Canon is well aware that Susan Estrich is a feminist and a Democrat, but you still might enjoy her provocative musings on the provocative duds Wet Seal manufactures for teenagers. "Do 13-year-olds really need sexy clothes?" asks Estrich. "In my house, where the former preteen just turned 14, we call it slutwear. Girls wear wifebeater T-shirts with Pornstar logos that my daughter tells me cost a fortune. Their mothers let them out of the house dressed that way? I ask in shock. Presumably, someone buys them these clothes."

The Right Reverend is Wrong about Charles and Camilla

Loose Canon nurses secret royalist tendencies and wants only the best for Prince Charles. Nevertheless LC is appalled that the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt. Rev. George Carey, who held the highest office in the Church of England from 1992-2001, has said that it would be permissible for Charles to marry Camilla Parker Bowles, his divorced companion. "He is the heir to the throne and he loves her," Carey told The Times newspaper. "The natural thing is that they should get married."

The Right Reverend's pronouncement goes against the ancient and erstwhile teachings of the Church of England on Christian marriage: In the past, the C of E--of which Charles will likely one day be supreme governor--forbade anybody with a living ex-spouse from being married in the church. Camilla Parker-Bowles and Charles seem like a good match. Can't they just have a sub rosa relationship without further eroding the sanctity of marriage? Loose Canon suggests that a modicum of hypocrisy is in order here.

Shocking Rhetoric

A Washington Times article ("Bush Foes Extend Bounds of Rhetoric") reports on the unprecedented invective being heaped on President Bush. The Times says that many feel it's reached "a new and dangerous level" when a former vice president says that the current president is guilty of "war crimes" and has set up an "American gulag."

"Never before in time of war, when soldiers are dying, has this kind of vocal criticism by party leaders been directed at ad administration," maverick Democrat Zell Miller, the senator from Georgia, is quoted saying.

What makes this doubly frustrating is that Bush can't just come out and toot his own horn on his major success. As Noemie Emery has noted in the Weekly Standard: "Bush dare not dwell on his biggest success--the fact that there have been no new attacks on American soil--for fear that a big one may hit us tomorrow."

Kerry: Not One of Us?

A provocative piece in USA Today suggests that John Kerry shouldn't call himself a Catholic. "John Kennedy didn't face this dilemma," writes retired journalist James Gannon, a Catholic. "He lived and died before Roe vs. Wade, before the idea of gay marriage, before the Democratic Party became a hostile environment for devout Catholics who won't check their beliefs at the door. John Kerry has made his choice on these matters. He is not one of us. I wish he would stop pretending that he is."

The McCarthy Card

While denying liberal bias, members of the news media customarily lash out at any organization that doesn't share that very bias. Fox News' Roger Ailes hits back at L.A. Times editor John Carroll's snotty speech that implied Fox is gaining in the ratings "because the American people are stupid."

"In an effort to use guilt by association, he [Carroll] compared me to Sen. Joseph McCarthy without evidence, sourcing or analysis. An old, cheap trick used by weak writers and thinkers," charges Ailes in today's Wall Street Journal.

Quit Reading "The Signs of the Times"

When I was in college, a professor once referred to John the Baptist as "a real hippie." This was supposed to make John the Baptist "relevant" to us young folks. Pope John Paul II's notion that we can combat the "soulless vision of life" he sees in American society by "reading the signs of the times" in order to develop a "persuasive presentation of the Catholic faith" strikes me as just a tiny bit like the college professor's attempt to reach us.

Even though I regard John Paul II as one of the greats in the history of the Church, I'd like to ask him to refocus his prescription for us just a bit. Sometimes I think that there is a bit too much desperate reading of the "signs of the times" and that this leads to condescension or highly unpersuasive attempts to reach us by using the idiom of contemporary music and culture. It inevitably sounds false.

It seems to me that, if the Church wants to woo young people away from a secular vision of life, she has two ancient tools: truth and beauty. With regard to truth, we sang a mawkish hymn last Sunday at church about missionary work. It said that we don't want to spread our "creeds and customs." Apparently, missionaries are supposed to spread a fuzzy feeling. But the creeds enshrine the truth.

On the matter of beauty, the Church can only compete with the proliferation of "spiritual" movements by bringing back quiet, good music and good art. I recently heard a sermon that treated the Ascension as a "Hello/goodbye" moment! If the Church is going to spend more time reading "the signs of the times," I'll be hearing more of this sort of thing. If anybody knows this, it's the Holy Father. I don't know why he's talking about the signs of the times when he knows we must go for the eternal.

Homily Cop

One of the funniest skits in the old "Beyond the Fringe" revue was the vacuous sermon preached by Alan Bennett on the text, "But my brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man." Because sermons that are almost this banal are so common in church, Homily Cop will be a regular feature of Loose Canon.

Loose Canon has sat through so many bad sermons that she's counting on time off in Purgatory. Christmas Eve at the National Cathedral, there was the homily on the Holy Family as an early alternative family. (Mary was a pregnant teenager, you see.) Then there was the sermon on the miracle of the feeding of the multitudes that chose to dwell on a single word: "Recline."

"Recline" was basically a food service directive--people were supposed to be reclining before being served the loaves and fishes. If the homilist had an idea, beyond urging us to turn our cell phones off at the beach, he didn't let on. Alan Bennett himself could not have improved upon the homily.

This past Sunday was Pentecost, the feast that celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. I attended mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, D.C. The readings for Pentecost are quite lovely, with the wind like sounds, the tongues of fire, and the apostles speaking in foreign tongues. So what did we get?

The priest who preached at the church I attended in Washington dwelt at length on Katherine Switzer, who in 1967 was the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon. He referred to her repeatedly as "Katherine." "She was a prophet," the priest said. "You are all prophets," he added. Where was he going? Beats me.

Catholics are sustained by the sacraments more than by preaching. But isn't it amazing that priests who've committed their lives to the Church offer such banalities? Like Swami, I welcome sermon reports from Beliefnet readers. Why are so many so banal? This is a perplexing question.

Gee Whiz, How Could You Be Offended?

An art curator in Moscow is in hot water because he has mounted a show that sounds as if it's inspired by "Sensation," the Catholic-bashing Brooklyn Museum of Art exhibit that featured a painting of the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung.

The Moscow show includes human figures nailed to crosses and a swastikas, a church made of vodka bottles, and Christ on a Coca Cola bottle with the words, "Coca-Cola: This is my blood." The show's title: "Caution! Religion."

Curator Yuri Samodurov, director of the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center, who assembled the show, has been charged with the crime of inciting religious hatred. Orthodox Christians were so offended by the show that some of them vandalized it.

Meanwhile, Walter Reich, in a Washington Post op-ed defending the show, seems mystified that the show has offended people. Reich reports the "look of mournful disbelief" on Mr. Samodurov's face when he learned of the charges.

Of course, Mr. Samodurov doesn't deserve to go to jail. Of course, he should not be charged with anything (other than the informal charge of odious taste). But the tone of injured innocence ("mournful disbelief") is unwarranted. The show was calculated to offend, and offend it did.

The History Boys (and Girls)

Speaking of Alan Bennett, the military historian John Keegan uses Bennett's latest play to launch a discussion on the Iraq situation in the Daily Telegraph. "History is useful," writes Keegan. "That, at any rate, is the theme of Alan Bennett's new play, 'The History Boys.' History gets you into a good university. History gets you a good job. History is a key to cracking the secret of life."

Or is it? Keegan continues, "Britain and the United States have got into a difficult situation in Iraq and the entire Western media are reacting as if an unprecedented disaster is about to overwhelm their armed forces and governments." Read Keegan's essay for this historian's perspective on the situation in Iraq.

The World War II Memorial

I went to see the World War II memorial yesterday, and it's as ghastly and graceless as they say. It was still moving to see the elderly vets who are obviously pleased to have their sacrifices commemorated at last. The aesthetic failure of the memorial is, I submit, the result of confusion: We're in a period when we don't know what to make of death in battle. In yesterday's Washington Post, Thomas Ricks compares the numbers of casualties in the Iraq war to other conflicts. We've lost more soldiers than in the Spanish-American War but fewer than in the Mexican and 1812 conflicts.

But our way of thinking has changed. "[T]here is a general agreement," writes Ricks,

"that small numbers of casualties have more political impact now than they did in 1813 or 1857. 'Up through World War I, high casualties were looked at with pride, and bluntly, a lot of people were a lot tougher then--mentally more than physically,' said Robert L.
Goldich, a defense expert at the Congressional Research Service. 'Death was everywhere, and lots of people died early from disease or complications from childbirth.' In addition, he said, in the dominant political ideology of the time, combat deaths were mourned but were also held to be 'glorious and necessary and to be celebrated.'"
Sex, Sin, Satire, and Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan's glowing assessment of Spinal Tap's Tony Hendra's new book, "Father Joe," is probably affected by Andrew's current travails with the Church. (The Church is against same-sex marriage.) But it's a worthy review, especially his stuff on satire and Christianity.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad