Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Birds of a feather

So it turns out that Al Franken is going to the Senate, after all:
Republican Norm Coleman conceded to Democrat Al Franken in Minnesota's contested Senate race on Tuesday, hours after a unanimous state Supreme Court ruled the former "Saturday Night Live" comedian should be certified the winner.

Coleman announced his decision at a news conference in St. Paul, bringing an end to a nearly eight-month recount and court fight over an election decided by only a few hundred votes. [...]

Franken's victory will give Democrats control over 60 Senate seats, the number needed to overcome any Republican filibusters to health care, energy, or other legislation they or the Obama administration is seeking.
I'm sure Franken has learned his lesson: the next time he steals an election, he'll pay for a landslide.

Al Franken is, to my mind, the very definition of a kakistocrat: someone who is elected despite being an example of the least qualified and/or most unprincipled citizen. But these days, you could almost define "kakistocrat" with the entry: see "Senator." So Franken will be among his fellow liars, cheats, thieves and knaves, with a couple of possible exceptions; he'll feel right at home, just one pompous arrogant crooked windbag in a company of a hundred. Birds of a feather, you know.

Being waited on, hand and foot...

So yesterday the doctor, a Christian man, was most enthusiastic about my stay-at-home mom status (he kept saying how much he "honored" that, which I admit is truly nice to hear from a medical professional); he also, upon hearing that my children were girls and how old they are, agreed with me that they would be most helpful during the brief time I would be moving a bit slowly.

And he was right. I've had everything from offers of tea and toast to offers to take over this blog for the time being; the girls today completely cleaned out and organized the family room, hung up the new shower curtain in their bathroom, and have promised to do a few more chores this afternoon, as well as reheat the leftovers for dinner when it's time.

Lest you think all this spoiling is being produced only by a slightly painful toe and my limping gait, though, I have to tell the rest of the story.

Right before I broke my toe, Thad and I started talking seriously about letting the girls have a cat. They've wanted a pet for ages, but I wanted them to be old enough to do the lion's share of the caretaking; I never had a pet as a child due to the many allergies my family members have. I myself have definite allergies to dogs, but cats honestly don't seem to bother me as much, especially as I've gotten older. And like I said to Thad when we were discussing it, I highly doubt that a cat will make me sneeze or cough much more than the air here in the summer already does.

So, we were discussing it, and I was doing a bit of research. And a cat turned up on a local shelter's website that might just be a really good fit for our family; Thad went to look at her Monday on his lunch break.

I told the girls we might go see the cats at this shelter, and I mentioned casually that we were interested in one particular cat, but it would depend on a lot of things... So when I came back from the doctor with the broken-toe verdict, I had a little chat with them about how this was their chance to show me that they really were ready to take on this kind of responsibility.

I think they might have dismissed that as awfully convenient of me, except that Thad confirmed it. He's had cats, and grew up with both cats and dogs at home, so when he told them they'd have to do a much better job of not leaving bits and pieces of toys, jewelry kits, yarn, sewing materials, etc. scattered around the house if they wanted to bring a cat home sometime, they took it seriously. They informed me solemnly this morning that they weren't just cleaning the family room--they were "cat-proofing" it, and that they had plans to tackle the other rooms in the house as well. The one room took them much longer than they thought, though, and I told them it wasn't necessary to do the whole house in a day to show me they were serious about being responsible for a pet.

Time will tell if this shelter cat is the right one for us, or if we'll have to keep looking. But the girls are so excited that we're even talking this seriously about letting them realize their long-time dream of having a pet that's slightly more exciting than the fish in the aquarium in the living room that they're going all out to show me they can handle the job. Which, right now, means that I'm being waited on hand and foot--all the way to my broken toe. A win-win situation, if you ask me.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Yep, I broke it.

So I was actually wimpy enough to go to the doctor for a broken toe, unlike those of you who deal with this trifling ailment in the proud tradition of our frontier ancestors: drench the toe in honey, wrap it in salmon fillet, and whistle for a bear.

No, of course not; the real method is to tape the toes together with a little cotton between the broken one and its nearest non-broken neighbor, pop a couple of OTC pain-relievers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen, preferably) and put on sturdy shoes. Or flip-flops, if you're a wimp of the caliber I am and can't actually stand to shove the heavily wrapped broken toe into a pair of thick socks and snugly-fitting running shoes in Texas in late June.

My toe is actually broken; the doctor showed me the fracture on the x-ray, but assured me that the tape-the-toe method would work fine in allowing it to heal. He also told me it would be sore for about four weeks and that I should tape it for two. I nodded and smiled a lot, apparently quite happy with this news. Truth was, I was just happy to see the doctor after a waiting time of nearly three hours (it took over 3.5, altogether, before we actually got out of the clinic). He could have told me he was going to try an ancient alternative treatment involving honey, salmon, and a bear and I would have nodded and smiled just as much.

I know most of you have experienced that maddening way that time seems to come to a screeching halt, and then proceed with all the speed of an elderly Ent in a footrace, inside any medical facility whatsoever. I had time to think about it. Plenty of time. Enough time to realize that, in a way reminiscent of the five stages of grief, there are six stages (for Catholics, anyway) of waiting in a doctor's office. They are as follows:

1. Denial
This is the stage that starts when a nurse calls your name and you follow her to a little room. Wow, you think. That was really fast. This isn't going to be so bad, after all. Alas, she's just taking your vitals in a room that looks like it was cleaned sometime during the Eisenhower administration. You know what's coming next; she finishes and tells you to have a seat back in the waiting room. Still, you're hopeful; she said you'll be called soon. And you are, and you get taken back to an empty patient room in a different section of the office or clinic. You see the doctor pass by the door on his way to another patient's room; he's really bustling along, so you smile; he'll be in to see you in a minute.

2. Anger
When the minutes have added up to an hour since you were first called, and nearly two since you entered the place, you start to fume. Good grief, there aren't even that many patients in here right now! you think, glaring furiously into the empty hallway beyond your increasingly cold little room. What on earth is the doctor doing all this time? He seems to leave each patient, and then go off for a while before he sees another. Maybe he's playing an international chess game with an online partner in Taipei or something, and he's taking his turn between patients. Maybe he promised somebody he'd finish "War and Peace" this afternoon. Maybe he's not really a doctor, and is frantically studying medicine in between patients so he can fool people. Maybe I should just leave--do I really need a doctor to read those x-rays to know this stupid toe is broken?

3. Bargaining
This is the point where you start thinking that the minute you are busy the doctor will walk in. So you ask a passing nurse if you have time to use the restroom (but alas, you do). Then you make a phone call on your cell phone--people always interrupt those, right? Nope--didn't work. You even think of picking up a magazine--there are a few scattered on the table beside you--and getting absorbed in some story or other, on the grounds that all it takes is one interesting magazine story you'll never finish to make the doctor magically appear; but you're only bargaining, not insane, and the magazines are of the "People" variety.

4. Depression
At this point your thoughts start getting dark. Why am I in a hurry anyway? you think glumly. I broke my stupid toe. What, am I planning to rush home and vacuum or something? I'm going to be hobbling around for weeks after this, so I might as well just sit here. It's not like I had anything better to do today, not on a busy Monday when the house looks like Hurricane Weekend just struck and there are leftovers that need to be cleaned out of the fridge. Sit here, sit at home--what's the difference?

5. Acceptance
This is when the darkness of the pity-party going on in your head wakes you up to the selfishness and silliness going on in there. It's just a toe, you think. A broken leg would be a catastrophe; a broken toe is only an annoyance. A minor, temporary one. Right now there are people being born or people dying, people getting really terrific news or really horrible, terrifying news, and having to deal with it. There are people who have been in serious pain for years who are being more cheerful than you are. You've been sitting here for over two hours, now--did you think about what was going on in the world, in the lives of so many other souls, once in these last two hours? How often do you get two hours to think of that and offer something up for your brothers and sisters in the human family, especially the ones who would trade places with you in a minute--who would love to be only dealing with a broken toe?

6. Rosary
Whether you have a rosary with you and use it, or whether you just mark the prayers on your fingers, you're finally doing something you should have done a couple of hours ago. You might finish the rosary and still be waiting, but you'll feel better about waiting; and if you don't finish before the doctor comes in, you can finish it up in the car on the way home. It won't heal your broken toe, but it just might help you mend your attitude and atone for your selfishness--and that may not do anything for the body, but it's really good for the soul.

Thwack, ouch...

Guess what I did this morning? Whacked my foot into the bathroom door frame. I figured I'd bruised it or jammed my little toe, because it hurt quite a bit.

But hours later it still hurts; by now I'm pretty sure it's broken, so in a few minutes I'm heading down to a little emergency clinic nearby for an x-ray. Not that anything can be done for a broken toe, of course, but I've managed to make it forty years without a single broken bone, so I want to make sure that this one really is. I'm clinging stubbornly to the hope that it's just really, really bruised or something.

Sigh. Probably not. But in any case, I probably won't be able to blog till much later, or maybe tomorrow.

Till then!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

An award, passed along

Larry D has given this blog this award:

Now, I don't generally do these things, especially when they come with strings attached; it's not that I don't appreciate the sentiment, but that I don't usually have the time right away, and think I'll do it later, and then forget for months, and then it's all awkward, like a thank-you note you forgot to mail and found a year after the gift was received, or something. So if I ever haven't responded to an award--I'm not a snobby snubber; I'm just forgetful.

So here are the conditions and my replies:

1) Say "Thanks!" to the presenter of the award and provide a link to their blog.

Thanks, Larry! I enjoy your blog tremendously and am glad you read mine.

2) Share 10 honest things about myself.

This is an interesting challenge. Unlike other awards or memes that want you to list "unknown" things or "unusual" things or even "hard-to-believe" things about yourself, this one just asks for "honest" things. So, in that spirit:
  1. I am seriously afraid of wasps. Seriously afraid. Go-in-the-house-till-they-go-away afraid.
  2. I am a night owl. If I had my way people would get up at 11 a.m. and go to bed at 3 a.m. Morning sunlight is way too bright.
  3. Number 2, combined with the fact that I used to call my migraines "vampire headaches" since they would often come on before dawn and slowly dissipate after sunset, makes my husband and children tease me that I am probably part vampire. However, the only way I could be a vampire would be if there were a race of creatures that had carbonated beverages in their circulatory system instead of blood.
  4. I read Crime and Punishment for the first time in college. I read it in six hours one gloomy, rainy Saturday, seated in the dreary college library, when I probably had other things to do. I highly recommend this as a way of reading Crime and Punishment. College library optional--any dimly-lit bookish place will do.
  5. I sold out to liberals once, and wrote a poem and created a bookmark decrying nuclear weapons. It was in the eighth grade, and was an optional assignment/contest being held by a third party, who planned to produce a book of the various "winning" creations. My bookmark got an honorable mention. My poem won a second place award, which meant it went in the book. It also meant I got $15--the second place prize. In the eighth grade I'd have written a hymn praising both Marty Haugen and felt banners for fifteen whole dollars to spend. I don't remember where I spent it, but it probably got squandered on books.
  6. I actually have two red cardigans. The one my pseudonym came from is one I've had a long time and love--but it was showing signs of all that love, so I bought a new one on clearance at the end of winter this year. Can't bring myself to get rid of the first one.
  7. If you met me in person, you'd say I talk too much. No, that's not a surprise--but it's honest!
  8. The highest note I can ever hit while practicing my singing is the F sharp above high C. The highest note I would ever actually inflict on poor defenseless listeners is probably the C itself.
  9. I dislike sitting down at a table to eat, especially if due to my odd schedule I'm the only one actually eating at the time. I am notorious for eating elsewhere.
  10. I am a magpie when it comes to jewellry. I love bright glittery things, especially rings, and always wear a ring on my right hand (in addition to my wedding rings on the left hand) when I go anywhere. Because I wear mostly silver jewellry this is not the crushing budget-buster you might expect; a vintage ring I picked up recently at an antique store cost me all of four dollars.
3) Present this award to 7 others whose blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me.

Here we go:

Charlotte/Matilda, Deirdre Mundy, Dawn, Magister Christianus, Lindsay (who is a brand new blogger and already has a lovely blog!), MommaLlama, and Mrs. O at "A Fine Mess."

4) Inform those 7 that they've been awarded the 'Honest Scrap' Award.

Shall do directly!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Laundry: Reloaded

Sorry I haven't posted earlier today; in addition to spending way too much time posting comments to this thread under a great post of Rod's over at Crunchy Cons I've also been cleaning my house.

We fell into a "Friday cleaning routine" this past school year, and have mostly maintained it during these early summer weeks. I used to spread the cleaning chores out over the whole week, but started finding that so much of it needed to be done again before the weekend that it just made sense to consolidate the heavier elements of routine cleaning to one day, and do spot-cleaning the rest of the week.

There are good and bad points to a system like this one. The good is that we all know that Friday afternoon will be set aside for chores, everybody pitches in, things move along smoothly most of the time. The bad is that if there end up being plans for a Friday, or some such thing, it takes me some time to catch up again (thinking that things will get done on Saturday is usually foolish optimism since Saturdays have chores of their own to deal with).

Still, for the most part this system works for the regular chores. I'm still looking for ways to get to the "weird chores you only do once in a while" on a regular basis, and tried signing up for the Flylady daily emails; but the whole first week I was getting the emails, if I recall correctly, her "concentration" was on the guest bedroom and hall bath, two rooms we don't actually have in our house (okay, so there's a bath in the hall, but it's a full bath that the children use, not the kind of bath where you keep the guest soaps and little dainty finger-towels--assuming you actually have any of those, and don't run out to buy them right before guests show up). So I stopped paying attention, and haven't actually checked that particular email account in a while, which isn't helping me figure out a better cleaning routine.

In all honesty I have to admit that the occasional chores aren't the ones that are really giving me a problem these days. That dubious honor has to go to the laundry.

I used to enjoy doing laundry. In a house full of toddlers a basket full of folded, clean laundry represented a triumph of the human spirit, and a finished chore, both extremely rare things. I would throw a load of laundry in every morning, and wash at least one load every day. I kept up with all of it: grownup laundry, baby laundry washed in baby detergent, soft clean towels and sheets, occasional extras like blankets and stuffed toys--it all got done.

The one thing I hated, back in those days, was an overflowing laundry hamper. My first day home from the hospital with my first baby, I did laundry. I wish I could say that I did it with a spirit of gratitude for our recently-purchased washer and dryer that kept me from having to wait to take it to a laundromat, but alas: I did it with that new-mother crankiness that wonders where on earth the army of magical pixies or sprites who will Take Care of Things while you recover and snuggle the baby are, and just why nobody warned me how much heavier a wet towel was going to seem right after childbirth.

But I used to be quite proud of my ability to keep up with the laundry. And then something happened.

My girls got bigger, and started doing their own laundry.

You would think that this would have helped, not hindered, the "keeping up with the laundry" process. But you would be wrong, because what happened is that I no longer have the ability to throw Thad's and my laundry in at a moment's notice in my slapdash and ramshackle way, because it's all too likely that one of the girls is in the midst of finishing up her two main loads of clothing but wants to wash, on a delicate cycle, one of those Darned Clothing Items for Women which either Shrinks or Bleeds and thus must be washed in complete solitude, on the lowest water level, and the gentlest of cycles, before being hung up to drip dry.

To be fair, I have my share of those things, too. I laugh out loud at tags that say "Hand Wash." Hand wash where, exactly? In my nonexistent laundry sink (why, oh why, don't they put those in new houses?) In the kitchen sink, with the drapey skirt folds trailing into the disposal? In the children's bathtub, assuming Hatchick isn't playing a game of "Viking Ship versus Polly Pocket" to beat the heat? In the master bathtub that needs a new handle and often doesn't plug properly?

So the "Hand Wash" things get sorted by color and grouped together whenever possible, but then they have to be washed. And by the time the items are out of the washer and hanging up to dry (occasionally revealing, in the gentle drips, what color they would have turned everything else if you could wash them with other things) I forget that I was planning to start laundry, usually for the excellent reason that it's now time to start something else, like, say, dinner.

I'm working on new ways of keeping up with the laundry; specifically, I've taken to nagging the person whose clothes are still in the washer or dryer (or both) to hurry up and get them done, and I've also taken to doing laundry extremely late at night when no one else wants to wash anything. My next step is probably going to be to get one basket for those items which are supposed to be washed with great care, so we can combine them more easily by color and do more of them at once.

But I'm thinking about the future, and realizing that there's a reason so many homeschooling moms and daughters wear denim jumpers. Denim doesn't have to be washed separately. A denim jumper can be worn more than once.

And it can go in the dryer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Into the future

Today marks the final installment of Paul Likoudis's A History of the Wanderer which it has been my privilege to post here for the last eleven weeks. Many thanks again to Mr. Likoudis for this opportunity to share with those who read here the fascinating history of the early days of The Wanderer.

As I read today's article, I was struck again by the similarities between the past and the present. In 1931, Catholics were reading, writing, and thinking about two great problems: the economic collapse of the Great Depression and its implied indictment of out-of-control capitalism that became profiteering; and the rise of an unstable, charismatic demagogue to lead the nation of Germany--who would ultimately lead her into war.

The economic parallel is relatively easy to see. The other--not as easy. Will we one day wonder how we missed the danger signs in regard to Mahoumad Ahmadinejad? Will we shake our heads at our failure to take the North Korean threat more seriously? Among the wars and rumors of war, is there a conflict toward which we are heading with what will one day seem like the only possible outcome of what, today, is still barely a threat?

One thing seems very likely: The Wanderer will be reporting about it, and in some cases showing the same prescience it showed in identifying Hitler as a threat.

A History of the Wanderer, 1867-1931: Article Eleven, by Paul Likoudis

The Wanderer at 140....

In Early 1930s, The Wanderer
Focused on Politics & Economics

by Paul Likoudis

eleventh in a series

“Those who would seem to hold in little esteem this Papal Encyclical (Rerum Novarum) and its commemoration either blaspheme what they know not, or understand nothing of what they are only superficially acquainted with, or if they do understand convict themselves formally of injustice and ingratitude.” – Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno.

+ + +

The key event in the life of the Church in 1931, the year The Wanderer debuted its English edition, was Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, commemorating Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, which boldly pushed the Church into the new realm of organized social action.

The importance of this document in the life of the Church and the world, Pope Pius explained in No. 25:
“With regard to civil authority, Leo XIII, boldly breaking through the confines imposed by Liberalism, fearlessly taught that government must not be thought a mere guardian of law and of good order, but rather must put forth every effort so that ‘through the entire scheme of laws and institutions . . . both public and individual well-being may develop spontaneously out of the very structure and administration of the State’....

“The function of the rulers of the State, moreover, is to watch over the community and its parts; but in protecting private individuals in their rights, chief consideration ought to be given to the weak and the poor. ‘For the nation, [wrote Leo] as it were, of the rich is guarded by its own defenses and is in less need of governmental protection, whereas the suffering multitude, without the means to protect itself relies especially on the protection of the State. Wherefore, since wage workers are numbered among the great mass of the needy, the State must include them under its special care and foresight.’”

Struggling through the first years of the Great Depression, Wanderer editor Joseph Matt, who had for 40 years been promoting the principles of Rerum Novarum – especially that last sentence quoted above – regularly devoted his front page editorials and “review of the news” to economic and political affairs, both nationally and internationally, and a review of the first three years of the English language Wanderer shows two dominant concerns: the lack of enthusiasm among American Catholics for papal social teaching, and the growing economic and political crises in both the United States and Germany – crises which have a striking resemblance to current circumstances!

The moniker that appeared on the front page of the first edition of the English edition of The Wanderer declared: “A progressive Catholic newspaper with a Program,” and Joseph Matt observed under “Current Events”:

“In the present depression with its high unemployment it is more important to foster a return to the principles of justice and charity which tend to prevent a recurrence of the intolerable conditions of the last 14 to 16 months.”

On page 4 of that same first edition, The Wanderer published an article by Monsignor Ludwig Kaas, preeminent leader of the Catholic Center Party, in which he warned that a rising Adolph Hitler was a demagogue, and informing his followers that the Center Party would not join in a coalition with the growing National Socialist Party.

In a January 22, 1931 editorial, “Immoral Profiteering,” Matt asserted that “profiteering [is] one of the causes of the depression. This no longer troubles the consciences of those who direct State and high finance. Communism may be the result....

“Unemployment is a great evil,” he continued. “It is time to adopt the ways of wisdom and social justice.”


On May 21, 1931, The Wanderer published a summary of Pius XI’s new encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno, and Matt wrote: “Economics should be centered on fundamental principles leading to a new social policy more favorable to justice.

“b. right of property. There must be a just distribution of the commodities of labor between capital and labor. Pope insists on a just wage.

“c. Pope appeals for structural changes in economic system leading to establishment of a reign of justice. Nonetheless, there is still room for the exercise of charity.”

On page 6 of that same issue, Matt asked, “Can Capitalism Make a Switch-over [to a Structure of Justice]?”

Over the next several weeks, Matt serialized Quadragesimo Anno, while offering a running commentary on the sections appearing in those issues. On May 28, he wrote: “The Encyclical upholds the right of private property but insists on the obligations of ownership. Wages should be at a level to enable worker’s family to live decently with a certain moderate ownership. Unemployment is a dreadful scourge. There needs to be a certain distribution of wealth for the common good of all.”

In an editorial the following week, June 4, 1931, under the headingm, “Reconstruction of the Whole Economic System Demanded by Pius XI in his Latest Encyclical,” Matt wrote:
“A living wage is demanded by the principle of distributive justice. … Yet, this principle is not understood in this society….We don’t even recognize the fact that a proletariat exists in this country.”

In The Wanderer of June 11, 1931, in an editorial headlined, “New Burdens for the German People,” Matt wrote:

“Throughout these months the German State has had to impose ever higher taxes to raise the revenue to allow it to meet its treaty obligations on reparations payments. Germany and its supporters tried to secure release from these ‘unbearable reparations burdens.’”

In the June 25, 1931 edition, Matt published the full text of a speech delivered to the Social Workers Conference at the Catholic University of America by Monsignor John A. Ryan, calling for a radical revision of the reparations Germany was forced to pay by the victorious allies at Versailles, and Matt darkly warned:

“Germany has reached a point beyond which lie destruction and chaos.”

Under another editorial, “Germany’s Distress,” Matt wrote:

“The National Socialists of Adolf Hitler promise revision, vengeance and several other things including ‘rollende Köpfe’ [rolling heads]… A few more months of need, another winter of distress – and things may happen which will be even more fateful to the nations than the World War.”

In a page 4 editorial on “Pope Pius XI and the Heresy of State Absolutism,” Matt wrote of the struggle between the Vatican and the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini:

“‘It is never lawful to go against our conscience,’” Matt declared, “is the unequivocal teaching of Catholic morality… .It is to be deplored when a state brings its citizens into conflict with their consciences …. The principle that the State is the rule of morality cannot be accepted. Nor can the State be substituted for the individual conscience.… If, however, the state abuses and violates the dictates of morality and demands of its citizens conduct at variance with right and the law of God, conscience must refuse obedience.”

On July 2, 1931, Matt editorialized on “Germany’s Call for Help,” observing:

“One actually forgets that Germany, being in this tragic situation for the past ten years, is threatened by the Hitler revolution on the one hand and by the Bolshevistic revolution on the other. ‘What difference does it make to us,’ one of my readers writes in blind rage. ‘May they all perish’.... The only remedy is the revision of the treaty of Versailles.”

In The Wanderer for July 9,1931, Matt explained to his readers that Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno as a “reformation in fuller detail of the doctrine of Leo.” Pius is skeptical about the possibility of collaboration between Christianity and Socialism, and Matt observes: “Christian Socialism, Religious Socialism are expressions implying a contradiction in terms. Socialism must give up its last vestige of Marxian materialism.”


One month after Pope Pius issued his commemoration of Leo’s encyclical, he followed up with another encyclical “Concerning Catholic Action,” or Non abbiamo bisogno, which focused on the struggle between the Church and Fascist Italy.

On July 23, 1931, Matt wrote under the heading “Catholic Action”:

“[Catholic Action] wishes to build up an external social environment which is in accord with the demands of justice and decent living....Politics has to do with persons, Catholic Action with principles. It matters very little to Catholic Action whether these principles are brought to practical realization by one party or another....

“We deem it advisable to submit to our readers the main sections of the encyclical so that they may have a clear understanding of the questions at issue,” wrote Matt. “ This document is a defense of the precious liberties of religion and conscience.

In a July 30 editorial, Matt asked: “What is Going to Happen in Germany?”

Commenting on an editorial and news reports on the situation in Germany, published by the Economist in London, Matt asks what the Germans fear most.

“They fear revolution. Which do Germans fear the most: National Socialists or Communists? It makes little difference. The correspondent sees a growing religious movement in Germany. The editor confirms this by pointing to such magazines as Die schönere Zukunft, Das neue Reich, and Orate Fratres....

“Revolution may break out at any time – so threatening are the conditions as we write. That a revolution is coming to Europe is certain – it may not be a bloody upheaval, but it will nevertheless consist in an overthrow of the last remnants of an individualism, represented by religious indifference in the individual, by neo-paganism in society. More than likely, however, human blood will be shed, and for the time being such revolutionary forms as communism, fascism, or what not, will prevail; but what is clearer than all this is that a new and permanent order of society is arising out of the decaying remnants of the so-called Reformation – an order that, let us hope, will be Christian and Catholic.”

On August 6, Matt lamented: “Rerum Novarum has not seeped into Catholic consciousness as ought to have been the case… No doubt this deplorable fact was one of he reasons that prompted the Holy Father to restate its original doctrine with such fullness…. In their new form the social doctrines of Leo must become part and parcel of Catholic thought....Piety is good, but it must not render us indifferent to social abuses and crying wrongs….

“With regard to the position of the Holy Father there can be no doubt. Unmistakably he has spoken and it is evident that he will have no truck with those who violate the dictates of justice and exploit society for selfish ends. There is a whole-heartedness in his espousal of the cause of labor that must sweep aside every vestige of suspicion as to the sincerity of his love for the working man. He has severe condemnation for those who profess the Christian faith but do not practice it in their relation with their fellow man.

On November 5, 1931, Matt published an editorial, “A Snap-shot of Adolf Hitler,” in which he wrote:

“Thousands and tens of thousands in Germany think that Hitler is destined to be the savior of the country from its innumerable present evils. Will they be disillusioned? Hitler is a born leader of men, but the incongruous mixture of Fascism and Socialism which he advocates does not appeal to the majority of the German nation, and it is not likely that he and his party will come into power unless indeed the coalition now in control of the government fails utterly and egregiously, and the people become desperate under the pressure of adversity.”


Heading into the 1932 presidential election, Joseph Matt was clearly tired of the “ineffectual Republicans,” and was ready to place his hopes for an economic recovery in the Democrats and their candidate Franklin Roosevelt, who promised to help “the forgotten man.”

“All in all the Chicago convention was one of the most notable in the recent history of the Democratic Party,” wrote Matt in the July 11, 1932 edition of The Wanderer. “It would be tragic if the Party would again spoil its chances through internal factions or a poorly conducted campaign of replacing the ineffectual Republicans by a Government of real leadership designed to rescue the country from an economic catastrophe and to lead the people to new spiritual and material heights!”

In The Wanderer of October 27, 1932, in a page one editorial “The Forgotten Man,” Matt wrote:

“In all our economic arrangements and calculations we have left out man. Hence, the phrase ‘forgotten man.’ Accordingly, a gigantic mechanism has arisen but it works without a prevision of any definite end. The needs of man are the regulatory factor of economic activity. Industry is not a sovereign department but rather a department that is directly subordinated to a higher order, the service of man… Forgotten Man! …”

Over the next several months, Matt continued his reporting on the deteriorating economic conditions in the United States and Germany, as well as the fluctuating fortunes of Hitler and his Nazi Party in Germany.

In a January 5 report, “The Keynote of the Pope’s Christmas Message,” Matt observed:

“[Economic reform] must not be approached from the technical side, but from, the moral and spiritual side… To the entire world the Holy Father offers this one and only remedy: a remedy at once for external capitalism and for its more insidious counterpoint, crypto-capitalism....

“Fundamentally Socialism and Capitalism are inspired by identically the same sentiments. Enjoyment and possession of the material things and goals of this world is the root from which both Socialism and Capitalism grow. Therefore, eventually Socialism will result in the same social phenomena which we are now deploring and ascribing to the unrestrained greed of Capitalism.…

“[Christianity] wishes to render accessible to all the things necessary for decent human living.”

Der Wanderer continued to provide a few more details of the situation in Germany than does the English version. For example, there is in this issue an article entitled “Hitler als Retter” (Hitler as Savior) in which Hitler speaks to his party. In both versions a cool and apprehensive attitude toward Hitler is evident.]

In a February 2, 1933 editorial, Matt asked, “After Capitalism, What?”:

“Thus also is foreshadowed in general outline the economic system that takes the place of present day capitalism. It must be a system that destroys and jeopardizes no social and human values and that effaces the distinction between capital and labor, that is, propertyless labor. In the papal encyclical an essential demand is that wages should be high enough to make possible the accumulation of property by the worker. This is a vital point, for taken by itself it would quickly transform an industrial system and eventually do away with the pure proletariat. We can go further; this new system in which human brotherhood and the love of the neighbor can be realized and put into practice must bring man together in closer union and go over the guilt which now divide the members of society one from the other: it must knit industry on a corporate basis….”

On page 5 of that same issue, under the headline, “Chancellor Hitler,” Matt wrote:

“Hitler, after having at last attained his long coveted goal, must now show whether the hopes of thirteen million Germans in his statesmanship are justified. It is not altogether clear whether he has captured the government or the government has captured hm. As the head of a cabinet composed largely of his former opponents and continuously in office through the tolerance of the political enemies in the Reichstag, the Nazi chieftain is hardly in a position to put into effect his swashbuckling policies. On the surface, his elevation to power seems more likely to contribute to stability than it is to result in disorder. Hitler will have a taste of the power. Such an experience has tempered the radicalism of men far more fixed in their principles and opinions than the Nazi leader. He is, further, so surrounded with checks within the Cabinet and in the Reichstag that any extreme move would certainly upset his Cabinet and terminate his chancellorship.”

Of course, what Matt could not imagine was that, within a few weeks, on February 27, 1933, the Reichstag woud burn, and Hitler, claiming that the Homeland security was threatened, suspended most civil liberties.

# # # #

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Moral law and hypocrisy

Of course, Andrew Sullivan is whining about how Sanford's peccadilloes require him to change his tune on gay marriage, and start supporting it instead of opposing it. That's pretty illogical, says Rod Dreher, and I concur. But it's a phenomenon I've noticed before, particularly from people who are to the left on social issues.

The argument always goes like this: If a prominent conservative (or someone near him) violates a moral law, his hypocrisy should be taken as proof that the moral law is bunkum, and ought to be dismantled; and if the prominent conservative doesn't agree than he's just showing the depth of his hypocrisy. Thus, if a Republican commits adultery he should support gay marriage; if Rush Limbaugh abuses prescription drugs he should have to support drug legalization, if Sarah Palin's daughter has a child out of wedlock then Sarah should have to support government-funded birth control, etc.

The problem with this argument is that it fails to understand what conservatives, particularly Christian ones, believe about sin--and it illustrates what social liberals and people who like to add a hissing "ists" to the end of the word Christian completely fail to grasp.

In a way, these social liberals (that is, those who are liberal on social issues) are all, no matter what religion they may practice, spiritually a bunch of frustrated Calvinists (or at least, the popular conception of a Calvinist). People are either good, or bad. If Christian, they are either saved, or damned. If saved, then they commit no sin and live lives of shining purity and virtue; if damned, they end up in Argentina with a mistress and a flimsy excuse. Since most people's behavior shows that they're clearly not saved, then there's no reason to expect any sort of morality, and certainly no reason to have any public standards of morality, such as might reasonably be expected by marriage laws or the like.

But most Christians don't view things this way. As a Catholic, for instance, I can say that the possibility of sin occurring at a regular basis even in the life of someone sincerely trying to follow Christ is one reason why the Sacrament of Reconciliation makes so much sense. Even when we're doing our best to live according to Christian principles of morality and virtue, we can and do fall. If we smugly think that there's some sin or other we would never commit--well, I think of my former pastor, who would say things like "How do you know you'd never commit adultery? Has anybody ever asked you to?"

Believing that we're somehow above sin is a kind of presumption, one that can be managed with frequent sacramental Confession, sincere examinations of conscience, and a close relationship with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. It's not true that good Christians don't sin--the difference for a Christian is that he's supposed to try to avoid sin, and to sincerely repent of it should he fall into it.

The moral laws are not less important because Christians sin--if anything, they're more important because we do. And our civil laws become tyrannical and oppressive when they are set up in opposition to the moral law--we have only to look at abortion laws, and the way these laws have led to less freedom of speech and assembly (bubble zones around clinics) for just one example.

So, no, Sanford's hypocrisy proves only that he personally failed to live up to the moral law, not that the moral law ought to go. The fact that despite years of people failing to live up to their marriage vows we've never had some strong "pro-adultery" lobby demanding changes to marriage laws ought to illustrate that, even to Sullivan.

Sanford and political cynicism

Did anyone out there hear about Gov. Sanford's disappearance earlier this week and not think immediately, "Great. Another politician who is having an extramarital affair."

If you did not think that, you're a better person than I am. I freely admit to hearing about the Governor's unprecedented vanishing act and wondering vaguely how long he'd been cheating on his wife, and how long it would be before we learned the identity of the Other Woman.

But if my political cynicism is high, I wonder about Governor Sanford's:
After going AWOL for seven days, Gov. Mark Sanford admitted Wednesday that he had secretly flown to Argentina to visit a woman with whom he was having an affair. Wiping away tears, he apologized to his wife and four sons and said he will resign as head of the Republican Governors Association.

"I've been unfaithful to my wife," he said in a bombshell news conference in which the 49-year-old governor ruminated aloud with remarkable frankness on God's law, moral absolutes and following one's heart. [Emphasis added--EM.] He said he spent the last five days "crying in Argentina."

Sanford, who in recent months had been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2012, ignored questions about whether he would step down as governor.

I'm not going to try to judge Gov. Sanford's heart. But I can judge the propriety of appearing at a press conference and stressing one's Christianity instead of making a humble apology and leaving it at that:

Sanford also said he's been working with a Washington group called C Street, which he describes as "a Christian Bible study of folks that asked members of Congress hard questions."

He apologized specifically to "people of faith across South Carolina" and the nation, calling such situations "big disappointments."

"If somebody falls within the fellowship of believers," he said, "It makes it that much harder for believers to say 'where was that person coming from?'"
Now, I know this gets complicated. Should a person of faith be silent about his faith when he's been caught in a particularly ugly situation of his own making, like Sanford's? Ultimately, I think the answer has to do with the perception, however unfair, that the person is using his faith, and his fellow believers, to diffuse the situation. Let's put it this way: Sanford may be sincere, but it's also rather convenient to claim that one is praying hard and working through the aftermath of adultery (if, indeed, he is at an "aftermath" stage, something not yet known) when one has only just been caught.

To put it another way--the child who, after being punished for sneaking cookies out of the cookie jar, creeps out of bed and tearfully apologizes because he's remorseful for the act, not for being caught or punished, is in a different position from the child who, upon being caught, loudly proclaims himself to be the worst of sinners and theatrically begs his parents to remember God's mercy and their own transgressions in meting out his punishment to him. The first child is wrestling with the throes of conscience; the second is being a little stinker.

Maybe it's cynical to see Sanford as being a little stinker for thumping the Bible and raising philosophical talk about moral absolutes before he's really had to endure any consequences of his adultery. But then again, maybe it's just realistic.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The stain

Tapes which recorded President Nixon's comments on abortion are causing a stir:
WASHINGTON — On Jan. 23, 1973, when the Supreme Court struck down state criminal abortion laws in Roe v. Wade, President Richard M. Nixon made no public statement. But privately, newly released tapes reveal, he expressed ambivalence.

Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases, such as interracial pregnancies.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding: “Or a rape.”
I'm sure that this comment of Nixon's will be greatly discussed, as it should be. But what won't be discussed is that this racism or eugenicism, this notion that a child of mixed race ought to be aborted just for existing, has been part of abortion's legacy from the very beginning.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was known for her racist and eugenicist views. A few quotes from her writings can illustrate this reality:

1. "We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don't want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population. and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."

2. Equality of political power has thus been bestowed upon the lowest elements of our population. We must not be surprised, therefore, at the spectacle of political scandal and graft, of the notorious and universally ridiculed low level of intelligence and flagrant stupidity exhibited by our legislative bodies. The Congressional Record mirrors our political imbecility.

All of these dangers and menaces are acutely realized by the Eugenists; it is to them that we are most indebted for the proof that reckless spawning carries with it the seeds of destruction. But whereas the Galtonians reveal themselves as unflinching in their investigation and in their exhibition of fact and diagnoses of symptoms, they do not on the other hand show much power in suggesting practical and feasible remedies.

On its scientific side, Eugenics suggests the reestabilishment of the balance between the fertility of the "fit" and the "unfit." The birth-rate among the normal and healthier and finer stocks of humanity, is to be increased by awakening among the "fit" the realization of the dangers of a lessened birth-rate in proportion to the reckless breeding among the "unfit." By education, by persuasion, by appeals to racial ethics and religious motives, the ardent Eugenist hopes to increase the fertility of the "fit." Professor Pearson thinks that it is especially necessary to awaken the hardiest stocks to this duty. These stocks, he says, are to be found chiefly among the skilled artisan class, the intelligent working class. Here is a fine combination of health and hardy vigor, of sound body and sound mind. (The Pivot of Civilization, by Margaret Sanger).

3. Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives. So, in compliance with nature’s working plan, we must permit womanhood its full development before we can expect of it efficient motherhood. If we are to make racial progress, this development of womanhood must precede motherhood in every individual woman. Then and then only can the mother cease to be an incubator and be a mother indeed. Then only can she transmit to her sons and daughters the qualities which make strong individuals and, collectively, a strong race. (Woman and the New Race, by Margaret Sanger)
From Margaret Sanger's push for birth control came the demand for unlimited abortion, as sex outside of marriage and the false "security" birth control creates led to more and more out-of-wedlock pregnancies. And abortion still disproportionately affects minorities; the Black Genocide website (Warning: graphic abortion photos at site and on main page) is an excellent resource for learning about how African-American communities are still targeted by the modern-day eugenicists who seem to believe, as Sanger apparently did, that the best way to "control" the African-American people is to adopt a strategy of elimination.

So when President Nixon said that abortion would be necessary in the case of a mixed-race baby, he wasn't really saying anything that the founder of Planned Parenthood would have disagreed with. Of course, Sanger tried to sell the notion that birth control would eliminate the demand for abortion, an idea that still gets kicked around today despite the reality that the demand for abortion rose exponentially when birth control was made widely available.

The stain of racism and eugenics has always been present behind the scenes of those organizations which promote birth control and sell abortions. This shouldn't surprise anyone who realizes that abortion, the ultimate shattering of the image of God in an innocent unborn child, is motivated by the Enemy's hatred toward all humanity.

A story of courage

A Catholic chaplain, seriously wounded five years ago in Iraq, has now died:

A Catholic priest who was critically injured while deployed with his Fort Lewis unit died Saturday, more than five years after his Humvee struck a roadside bomb in Iraq.

The Rev. Tim Vakoc becomes the first chaplain to die of wounds sustained during the war in Iraq. The former major from Minnesota – known to most as Father Tim – suffered brain damage and lost an eye from the May 30, 2004, attack. He had most recently lived at a nursing home in New Hope, Minn.

“He was a great man of God,” said Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek, who served with Vakoc on the fateful deployment to northern Iraq. “He was universally known and universally loved by the soldiers.” [...]

“A man of peace, he chose to endure the horror of war in order to bring the peace of Christ to America’s fighting men and women,” Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said in a statement. “He has been an inspiration to us all, and we will miss him.”

Vakoc had been deployed to Mosul with the 44th Corps Support Battalion. The unit, a mix of active-duty and reserve soldiers, provided support to Fort Lewis units working in northern Iraq, including the first wave of Stryker soldiers with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

The priest had celebrated Mass with soldiers in the field and was returning to the American base near Mosul when his convoy was attacked. The two passengers in Vakoc’s Humvee weren’t seriously hurt.

He underwent surgery at a field hospital in Iraq and was treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. He transferred later that year to a veterans hospital in Minnesota that specialized in traumatic brain injuries.

His recovery was slow, but there were signs of progress lately. Vakoc celebrated the 17th anniversary of his ordination into the Catholic priesthood earlier this month, according to the CaringBridge.org journal. He remained on a respirator, was in stable condition and could answer questions by mouthing “yes” or “no.”

He also had full use of his right arm, which he used to give blessings.

Catholic priests have been military chaplains in every war or conflict to which America's soldiers have been sent. The impressions they leave of their quiet heroism, selfless sacrifices, and dedicated service are strong even among men and women who themselves are living lives of heroism, sacrifice and service.

With our prayers for the repose of the soul of Fr. Tim, I'd also like to offer a prayer of thanks that so many of our servicemen and women can count on the presence of Catholic priests and the closeness of the sacraments, in particular the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Eucharist, to them when they are enduring the hardship, fear, violence, pain, and even--sometimes--the boredom of war. As greatly as we are blessed by the men and women in the military, and by the sacrifices they and their families make on our behalf, so are we blessed by the presence of priests willing to go amidst the fighting to be a witness to the power of the peace that passes all understanding.

Episcopal spine alert

I blogged a bit ago about Thomas Suozzi, the Catholic politician who recently came out in support of gay marriage. Now Bishop William Murphy has something to say about the matter:
The about-face on homosexual “marriage” accomplished by Thomas Suozzi, a Catholic who serves as the executive of Nassau County, New York, has drawn a strong rebuke from Bishop William Murphy. In his statement, the bishop spoke of the real meaning and a purpose of marriage “that homosexual relationships cannot fulfill.”

Bishop William Murphy's response came in reaction to Suozzi’s announcement in The New York Times that he “now supports gay marriage.” The Rockville Centre bishop reiterated Church teaching on the subject and called on all Catholics to adhere to this teaching.

“The logic of Mr. Suozzi’s argument is difficult to discern,” Bishop Murphy said.

“It seems that he has become convinced that because he has met homosexual persons who have suffered discrimination, they now have a 'right' to insist that the state re-define their private sexual relationships and give such the term of marriage.”

Bishop Murphy then addressed the issues of “employment benefits, life and health insurance and inheritance laws,” observing that “none of these require that homosexual relationships between consenting adults need to receive the state’s blessing declaring them marriage.”

Noting Suozzi’s claim that civil unions are not sufficient because they do not provide “equality” for gay couples, Murphy explained that marriage has “a meaning and a purpose that homosexual relationships cannot fulfill.”

“Whatever may be the intensity of a relationship between two persons,” Bishop Murphy reminded, “it cannot become what it is not.”

“Some may find all kinds of positive qualities to such relationships but it cannot be re-defined into marriage. To use an absurd example, no matter how much a man might like so to do, he cannot give birth to a child and if he is blessed to be the father of his child, he cannot claim he is really the mother.”

Bishop Murphy goes on, and calls Suozzi and all Catholics to remain faithful to the Church's teachings; read the whole thing.

One of the most positive signs for Catholics in America today is that the long winter of episcopal silence on moral issues seems to be coming to an end. Whether the Scandal made it clear just how far the rot of infidelity to the Church had crept, or whether our current bishops are more willing than the previous generation to stand up for what the Church believes. I find it very heartening that Bishop Murphy has taken this opportunity to call Suozzi to return to the Church's understanding of gay marriage and to remind all Catholics that these teachings are not disposable.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A person, not a symbol

She is famous today, for her death.

It seemed like a perfect symbol of the turmoil and unrest in Iran following the "landslide" victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--a suspicious victory, a mistrusted regime, in a nation whose young people had expected, if not a change, at least a closer election. A young woman with a meaningful name, shot in the street, and dying for anyone with access to YouTube to watch--how could her death not have been seized upon as something significant, representative, larger than the young woman herself?

But every human life has its own story, and hers is here:
TEHRAN, June 22 — It was hot in the car, so the young woman and her singing instructor got out for a breath of fresh air on a quiet side street not far from the anti-government protests they had ventured out to attend. A gunshot rang out, and the woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, fell to the ground. “It burnt me,” she said before she died. [...]

Only scraps of information are known about Ms. Ahga-Soltan — her friends and relatives were mostly afraid to speak and the government broke up public attempts to mourn her. She studied philosophy and took underground singing lessons — women are banned from singing publicly in Iran. Her name means “voice” in Persian, and many are now calling her the voice of Iran.

Her fiance, Caspian Makan, contributed to a Persian Wikipedia entry. He said she never supported any particular presidential candidate. “She wanted freedom, freedom for everybody, ” the entry said.

Her singing instructor, Hamid Panahi, offered a glimpseof her last moments. He said the two of them decided to head home after being caught in a clash with club-wielding forces in central Tehran. They stepped out of the car. “We heard one gunshot and the bullet came and hit Neda right in the chest,” he said. He said the bullet came from the rooftop of a private house across the street, perhaps a sniper. On a YouTube posting along with the video, an anonymous doctor said he tried to save her but failed because the bullet hit her heart.

“She was so full of life,” said a relative who spoke on condition of anonymity. “She sang pop music.” He said the government ordered the family to bury her immediately and banned them from holding a memorial service.
It is perhaps an inevitable progression in the annals of modern conflicts: first our ancestors read press dispatches from the front which seemed, to them, to pour out at lightening speed; then war was broadcast on the radio and featured on newsreels; then a generation witnessed a conflict unfold on television; then almost two decades ago college students huddled in common lounges and saw a war, live, on CNN--and now, a violent conflict that may yet lead to a bloody civil war is streaming its anguish on Twitter and YouTube. With each step technology takes the world seems smaller, and wars seem closer; we can watch weapons firing in the morning, read the Twittered names of the deceased in the afternoon, and see the shaky web-cam images of the funerals at night, illuminated by a thousand candles in the hands of protesters who gather at the funeral not only to mourn, but to summon resolve to continue the fight.

Yet the very things that bring us closer to the fury and mayhem of conflicts and wars may end up distancing us from their reality, when all is said and done. We see protesters forever caught in the act of preparing to throw a handful of stones; we recall a silent figure standing alone in front of a line of tanks; and now we see a girl collapse and die, covered with blood, as an iconic image of struggle and violence, of the clash between power and the powerless.

But Neda Agha-Soltan was a person, not a symbol. She had a family, a fiance, a voice instructor willing to teach her to sing in a country where women aren't supposed to want to do such a thing. She was, as her anonymous relative said, full of life. And we have to take the relative's word--we know so little about her, we who watched in horror as she died.

And because she died the way she did, and because her death was filmed by someone who was watching, the voices arise, arguing about the meaning of the death of this girl whose name meant "voice." It is, perhaps, inevitable that we, the onlookers, should do this. Like every conflict or war, the situation in Iran is in the process of framing its narrative: is it a courageous struggle for freedom against a powerful and dangerous regime, or is it a foolish and self-serving attempt at a power-grab by someone capable of being an almost indistinguishable--to Western eyes--tyrant himself, or is it one of dozens of other possibilities put out for our consideration by the talking heads that digest the news for our convenience, to save us the heartburn? To each of these narratives the story of Neda is an invaluable "human-interest" focal point: here we see, perhaps, the courage and the longing, or here we see the tragedy and the cost, or here we see...and the pools of her blood become a Rorschach test of our own ideology superimposed upon a conflict taking place a world away.

Instead of doing this, though, we can remember that Neda, and the others who have died in Iran, were people--children of God, fashioned in His image and likeness, and in need of our fervent prayers for the repose of their souls. We can also ask Him to help those whose lives are torn apart by violence and conflict in Iran and everywhere in the world where we, the fallen, enter again into the sin of Cain. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't form ideas about the political realities of these conflicts; but it does mean that we should remember that the victims of the violence had lives and realities which far transcended the moment of their deaths--that they also have an eternal destiny, and that even now they are not beyond the help of our sincere and sorrowful prayers.

Today's must read

If you read nothing else today, you must read this, by the incomparable Larry D:

"Call-To-Action Makes Me Think of 'Shaun of the Dead'"

I am mesmerized by the Call-to-Action members, most of them old and graying, who are shuffling with their walkers and canes. They show dissent, a spirit of Vatican II and a disproportionate desire for out-of-whack social justice. I’m especially intrigued by the women, many of whom are wearing albs and cassocks irreverently. A good number, I am sure, believe that the “all-male priesthood” is not essential for Catholicism. In this highly heretical group, this crowd clearly wants a church that reflects the "best of Catholicism", the best of what their religion has to offer.

Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

I'd like to take a moment to wish all the dads out there a very happy and blessed Father's Day! We've been enjoying the day here, honoring Thad for the tremendous gift and blessing he is in our lives. I hope all the fathers are being told this by their families, too!

At Mass this morning, our choir sang a song in honor of St. Joseph. As the foster-father of Jesus he is the model of Christian fatherhood, and fathers who look to him for examples and who pray for his intercession will never be left unaided.

The song is titled "O Blessed St. Joseph," and the tune can be heard here.

The lyrics are:

O blessed Saint Joseph, how great was thy worth,
The one chosen shadow of God upon earth,
The father of Jesus! Ah, then, wilt thou be,
Sweet spouse of our Lady! a father to me?

For thou to the pilgrim art father and guide,
And Jesus and Mary felt safe by thy side;
Ah, blessed Saint Joseph, how safe I should be,
Sweet spouse of our Lady! if thou wert with me!

When the treasures of God were unsheltered on earth,
Safekeeping was found for them both in thy worth:
O father of Jesus, be father to me,
Sweet spouse of our Lady! and I will love thee.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Homeschool survey--just for fun

Just for fun, here's a brief, totally low-tech non-interactive homeschooling survey I made up. Enjoy!

1. It is June 19. Your curriculum plans for next year feature:
a) lots of good ideas, but no actual purchases yet.
b) a sturdy "spine" of core materials, but you're still looking to fill in the edges.
c) a thorough, well-planned course of study which has all been purchased or ordered.
d) a thorough, well-planned course of study which you purchased in December, unpacked and organized in March, and which includes your own copious notes on the materials since you've already read through them twice.

2. The math course you bought last year didn't work out well for your family. You are:
a) going to muddle through it again. Everyone else you know loves it, so the problem must be you.
b) considering different textbook options; there must be something that will work for your family.
c) planning to use a new book you bought and also discussing hiring a math tutor.
d) reviewing the new textbook you purchased; you also hired a math major from the local college to conduct interviews with the tutors you selected as possibilities.

3. Several homeschooling friends have mentioned books or materials they liked. You:
a) listened to them, thought the books sounded interesting, but have forgotten the titles.
b) jotted down book titles and researched them on the Internet.
c) called each friend individually to discuss their experiences with the books.
d) invited the friends over to your home to give a presentation on each book or material to your local homeschool group; you not only provided homemade appetizers and your award-winning punch, but also pre-printed index cards with the books' names, publishers, and website addresses for each guest.

4. An interesting homeschool conference and book fair is being held less than fifty miles from your home. You:
a) think about going, forget when it's going to be, and remember it when you hear the other homeschoolers in your homeschool group raving about how terrific it was.
b) make plans to go, but curtail your plans when you realize that toddlers aren't permitted to attend the talks. If you go at all, you just skim the book sale area.
c) make plans, hire a sitter, and go for one full day of talks and shopping.
d) have your parents babysit the children for the entire weekend, rent a hotel room a mile from the venue, and enjoy a romantic weekend/efficient homeschool shopping and learning experience with your husband, who is as excited as you are about attending the talks and getting bargains on excellent curricula.

5. Someone gives your name and phone number to a woman in your area who is considering homeschooling her own children; she calls you to talk. She asks you to tell her honestly what your biggest homeschooling frustration is, and how you solve it. You answer:
a) the chaos and lack of organization; but you admit that you struggled with that before you ever started teaching at home.
b) the occasional feeling that you've ended up in a "rut" somehow; you solve it with a change of pace or a creative activity or unit study.
c) math. Definitely. And you're considering a tutor...
d) you're so torn about whether to let your oldest daughter add Mandarin Chinese to her coursework; you're afraid she'll fall behind in German, French, Japanese or Swahili if she takes it on. But she's so stubborn--you keep telling her there will be plenty of time for Chinese when she's in junior high...


Mostly A: You are a "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" homeschooler. Sure, it all works out, but nobody, including you, quite knows how.

Mostly B: You are a "flying coach" homeschooler. You're doing a good job, but sometimes you wish you were doing a great job...

Mostly C: You are a "flying first class" homeschooler. You have this whole thing figured out--and you're ready to help those who are still A or B!

Mostly D: You own Homeschool Airlines.


Year for Priests begins today

Today is the beginning of the special "Year for Priests" coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney.

Information from the Vatican website here, and from the USCCB here.

The priesthood has suffered in the recent past, by the horrible actions of some priests who by their scandalous behavior brought unjust suspicion and contempt on all their brothers. This year gives us an opportunity to give our good priests the one thing they most greatly need from us: prayer.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we commend to Your most loving care all of our priests. Strengthen, we beg You, the good priests in their efforts to serve You faithfully; call those who have failed You to true repentance and a new commitment to the vocation which it has pleased You to give them. Remind us, the laity, O gracious Lord, of our duty to support with prayer and sacrifice the men You have called to serve You at Your holy altar. Through the intercession of St. John Vianny we ask You to keep Your priests always close to Your loving Heart. Amen.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Homegrown jihad and the MSM

After the shooting of George Tiller, the media was full of dire warnings about right-wing terrorists committing acts of terror directed against abortion clinics. Granted, there haven't been all that many such acts in the recent past, but that didn't stop the talking heads from wringing their hands over the possibility.

Few would-be providers of public opinion said any such thing about the shooting of the Army recruiter by an Islamic convert, though. That guy, the pundits declared, was clearly an isolated nut. There were a few "lone wolf" references scattered throughout the handful of restrained pieces on the topic.

But not everybody, apparently, thinks we should be more worried about the Tiller shooting than about the killing of Private Long:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Carlos Bledsoe's transformation from Tennessee youth to an American-born Islamic extremist charged in a bloody rampage outside an Arkansas military recruiting station may signal an ominous new wave of violent homegrown jihadists, counterterror officials say.

National security officials have long feared the emergence of a new breed of American militants who would raise little suspicion as they move in and out of the country carrying out the aims of terrorist groups like al-Qaida.

''It's the manifestation of a problem that the counterterrorism community has been worried about all along,'' said Juan Zarate, a top counterterrorism official in the Bush administration. Their worries center on ''a radicalized individual who decides to take matters into his own hands.''

Abdulhakim Muhammad, who grew up in Memphis, Tenn., converted to the Islamic faith, changed his name from Bledsoe, and traveled to Yemen in 2007. He was later arrested for overstaying his visa and deported back to the U.S., where he slid quietly into life in Little Rock, Ark., apparently unnoticed by U.S. law enforcement.

Muhammad was charged with killing Pvt. William Andrew Long, 23, of Conway, Ark., who had just completed basic training and was volunteering at the west Little Rock recruiting office before starting an assignment in South Korea. He was shot dead on June 1 while smoking a cigarette outside the building. A fellow soldier, Pvt. Quinton I. Ezeagwula, 18, of Jacksonville, Ark., was wounded. And an FBI-Homeland Security intelligence assessment document suggested Muhammad may have considered targeting other locations, including Jewish and Christian sites in several eastern U.S. cities.
You would think that after this Associated Press article came out (and was carried in the New York Times, among other places) that some of the mainstream media's opinion voices would have said something along the lines of, "Oh, yes, there's a chance that homegrown Islamic terrorism might be a problem in the near future," before going back to warning people that the elderly couple with the rosaries in front of the abortion clinic could snap into violent action any second. But you would be wrong. Oh, sure, the MSM voices linked the Holocaust Museum shooting to the Tiller murder, because it gave them the opportunity to talk about "right-wing hate," as if the average pro-life American is also a neo-Nazi white supremacist just slavering at the thought of killing anybody they disagree with. No caricature of pro-life Americans is ever too absurd for the mainstream press to promote.

But counterterrorism experts appear to be more concerned about the possible advent of homegrown Islamic terrorism than they are about the lone-nut variety resposnible for both the Tiller shooting and the Holocaust Museum attack. Both perpetrators of those two events were clearly on the fringes of fringes, and had all sorts of missing marbles which in retrospect might have been clues to their ultimate intentions.

And it may be that Private Long's killer belongs in the same category, that there's not going to be a surge in violence among members of America's Islamic community--but the fact that counterterrorism experts raise the possibility makes it seem like the mainstream media might discuss it for a second or two.

It may not be bias that's responsible for their failure to do so, though. Those shootings happened, in media time, a looooong time ago. Meanwhile, they've had other things occupy their...oh, look, a fly!

The end of the zero-size model?

The editor of Vogue has said it: enough with zero size fashion models:

Alexandra Shulman, one of the most important figures in the multi-billion-pound fashion industry, has taken on all the largest fashion houses in a strongly worded letter sent to scores of designers in Europe and America. In a letter not intended for publication but seen by The Times, Shulman accuses designers of making magazines hire models with “jutting bones and no breasts or hips” by supplying them with “minuscule” garments for their photoshoots. Vogue is now frequently “retouching” photographs to make models look larger, she said.

Her intervention was hailed last night as a turning point in the debate over model size that has raged after the deaths of three models from complications relating to malnutrition, and the decision of leading fashion shows to ban size-zero models.

Wait...Vogue has to retouch photos of emaciated, anorexic-looking models to make them look less gaunt and ghastly? How sick is that?

There's more:

Shulman claims that the clothes created by designers for catwalk shows and subsequently sent to magazines for use in their photoshoots have become “substantially smaller”.

The garments are typically sent to magazines six months before they appear in the shops and editors have no choice but to hire models that fit the clothes or fail to cover the latest collections from the leading designers.

Perhaps, if fashion designers won't quit designing clothes incapable of being worn by human females, the industry ought to strike back by draping the clothes over a broom and photographing that instead. The broom may have to be sanded down a bit, though, before fashion designers will be able to look at it without calling it "fat."

I think women have been aware for a long time how drastically the fashion industry's ideal of the attractive female differs from anything even remotely achievable by the average women. What makes this story heartening is that it's someone very much inside the industry who is calling for a change. It's about time, too; we all know how serious body-image problems can be for young girls and young women, and how many of them fall into the trap of anorexia or bulimia, not to mention the ones who develop lifelong unhealthy eating habits including serial dieting, yo-yo dieting, and the like.

The truth is, real women have real figures. It's not that hard for fashion designers to create clothing that can be showcased hanging gently off the bony shoulders of an emaciated stick-girl whose bright lipsticked smile hides a host of health problems brought on by chronic under-eating. It would be much more difficult for them to have to create their artistic triumphs with real flesh-and blood women in mind. But perhaps with a few more nudges from inside the fashion industry, a few really good designers will prove that they're up to the challenge--and that's something all women can benefit from.

Reflections on Article Ten of the Wanderer Series

This week's Wanderer series article has two very interesting sections that I want to point out to readers.

The first is the account of Nazi attacks against the Church, particularly Joseph Goebbels' diatribe accusing Catholic clergy of sexual immorality. People have often wondered how the late Pope John Paul II could have seemingly avoided the topic of the priest sex abuse scandals; I've heard it said that the pope was so very aware how often the Communists used the tactic of accusing Catholic leaders or other opponents of these sorts of crimes as an excuse to ruin them and incarcerate them with no hope of release. Now we can see that even before the Communists rose to power, the charge that the Church, especially its priests and monks, were a source of criminal sexual corruption was one that was often made by the enemies of the Church.

Does that mean there was never any truth in those charges? Sadly, as we have learned, there have always been people willing to commit terrible sins of sexual immorality and even crimes involving children within the Church herself, as there are in the world as well. But if it is the case that the fact that enemies of the Church have so often made this charge baselessly kept it from being prudently investigated when the charge had merit, what a terrible thought that is.

The other thing I found interesting is the mention of the Wanderer's coverage of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference’s 1939 Manifesto on Rural Life, and how the elements of the manifesto are still relevant today. Many people aren't aware that the National Catholic Rural Life Conference still exists, and promotes a kind of stewardship of the earth that doesn't view human beings as a pestilence on the planet.

A History of the Wanderer, 1867-1931: Article Ten, by Paul Likoudis

The Wanderer at 140....


by Paul Likoudis

tenth in a series

In the inaugural edition of the English-language The Wanderer, January 8, 1931, Joseph Matt, then mid-way through his 65 year tenure as publisher and editor of this newspaper, wrote: “One would needs have to write the history of the past sixty years of the Catholic Church in the Northwest to do full justice to the important part The Wanderer has played.”

As one of his successors, I would say that Joseph Matt is a worthy subject for any doctoral student studying the history of the Church in the United States in the first two thirds of the 20th century, for he was at the hub of every worthy development and a fearless journalist in the service of the Church.

Indeed, as Fr. John Kulas observed in his history, Der Wanderer of St. Paul: The First Decade, 1867-1877 (Peter Lang, 1996), one of Der Wanderer’s greatest achievements through its promotion of the German cultural heritage, especially art, music, literature, poetry, its celebration of family life, its promotion of solidarity, Catholic social action and social charity, was that German Catholics never developed a “ghetto mentality.”

Joseph Matt (1877-1966), who stepped into the editorship of the German-language Der Wanderer in June 1899, was a man of prodigious energy and talent. Having emigrated from Kirrweiler, Germany at the age of 17, and settling in Buffalo, N.Y., then a booming city with a thriving German-Catholic population, he attended the Jesuits’ Canisius College on a scholarship, and set out on his journalistic career, working at German-Catholic dailies in Buffalo and Pittsburgh, where he was noticed by Der Wanderer’s editor Hugo Klapproth.

In a tribute to his grandfather, Michael Matt, editor of The Remnant wrote:

“His hard-hitting style drew the attention of Hugo Klapproth, the editor of Der Wanderer in St. Paul, Minnesota. When invited by Mr. Klapproth in 1897 to join his staff, he gladly accepted, journeyed to St. Paul and began his long career as a Catholic journalist and editor. After 65 years in harness as editor of the weekly magazine (one of the longest in U.S. history), he was honored by the Catholic Press Association as the Catholic Editor Emeritus in America.

“During these 65 years Joseph Matt dealt with many issues of import, not only in the Church but also in politics and the world at large. Because he spoke six languages fluently, his coverage of world news was an exceptionally well-informed and sought after feature of Der Wanderer. During the Great Depression and then on through the years of World War II and on into the Vietnam era, no Catholic journalists provided readers and historians alike with a more complete
historical record than Joseph Matt and his team of writers....

“He continued Der Wanderer’s strong stand against the Americanism heresy, and, very early on, saw the dangers of Hitler and National Socialism in Germany. So outspoken was he against Nazism and what he called ‘its reckless “Fuehrer”,’ that by the late 1930s Der Wanderer became one of the first publications outside Germany to be forbidden in the Hitler Reich and in countries occupied later on – an action which, due to the large number of subscribers in Germany at
that time, almost brought about the demise of the paper....

“Joseph Matt’s denunciation of both Nazism and Communism from the perspective of a Catholic historian and American editor was so powerful, in fact, that Der Wanderer brought down the wrath of both the Nazis and the Soviets at the same time. In the January 16,1964 issue of The Wanderer, Joseph Matt explained how it had been during the war. He wrote:

“‘Then, too, the rise of Hitlerism in Germany and the responsibility of keeping our readers in Germany and Austria as well as in America informed of the dangers inherent in this radical movement and its reckless ‘Fuehrer’ was a further reason to keep our German publications intact for the time being. Hitler and his cohorts were only too well aware of the unyielding opposition of The Wanderer, and, in point of fact, ours was one of the first publications outside Germany to be forbidden in the Hitler Reich and in countries occupied later on. We had at that time about three thousand readers of our annual Wanderer-Kalender [almanac which Joseph Matt had
founded in 1902].

“‘This loss was, of course, a severe blow to a small business. Nevertheless, even to this day the lie is occasionally circulated that The Wanderer is a ‘Nazi paper.’ Several years ago a big radio
advertiser [the actor, Orson Welles] had to pay damages for circulating the same lie when we took our case to court. Shortly afterwards, the official Communist Russian organ, Pravda, tried to prevail on our Government to suppress The Wanderer because of its intransigent anti-Communist position, and this, in fact, seems to indicate the chief source of the continuing propaganda against our paper.’”

In 1926, Pope Pius XI recognized Matt’s service to the Church by naming him a Knight of St. Gregory. In 1956, the German government honored him with its Bundesverdienstkreuz, the Federal Meritorious Cross, for his opposition to the Third Reich. He was active in numerous organizations, apostolates and movements.

He was a leader of the Central Verein and the Catholic Aide Society. He was not only a leading actor and fund-raiser for building St. Agnes Church in St. Paul, but was a very close collaborator with Fr. Virgil Michel, OSB, at St. John’s Abbey, in promoting the Liturgical Movement and Catholic social action. His stature in the Catholic community was such that he was asked by North Dakota’s Bishop Aloisius J. Muench to serve on the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and the commission that produced the Manifesto on Rural Life, published August 15, 1939.


With 3,000 readers in Nazi Germany, Joseph Matt was constantly kept informed of the Nazi Party’s attacks on the Catholic Church, and his newspaper could reliably inform its American readers of Hitler’s campaign against the Church, which intensified in early 1937 after Hitler closed all the Catholic schools in Bavaria (Pope Benedict XVI would have been 10 at the time), and Pope Pius XI responded to the militant paganism of the Third Reich with the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (With Burning Heart, March 21, 1937).

As Hitler’s anti-Jewish decrees increasingly barred Jews from public life, his Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, ratchet-upped his campaign vilifying the Catholic Church, portraying it as a menace to society, a propaganda pitch used with some frequency, it now appears.

The Nazis war on the Catholic Church in Germany reached white hot intensity in April 1937, after Chicago’s George William Cardinal Mundelein delivered a well-covered speech denouncing Hitler and his Third Reich for its ongoing “monk trials,” designed to portray Catholic priests and brothers as homosexual pederasts to justify the closing of all Catholic schools and forcing Catholic school children into “non-confessional” schools.

Before 500 Catholic prelates and priests assembled for the quarterly diocesan conference at Quigley Preparatory Seminary on May 18, 1937, Cardinal Mundelein excoriated the Nazi Government:

“The fight is to take the [2,000,000 German] children away from us. ... Perhaps you will ask how it is that a nation of 60,000,000 people, intelligent people, will submit in fear and servitude to an alien, an Austrian paperhanger, and a poor one at that, I am told. . . . During and after the World War the German Government complained bitterly of the propaganda aimed at it by the Allies concerning atrocities perpetrated by German troops. Now the present German Government is making use of this same kind of propaganda against the Catholic Church and is giving out
through its crooked Minister of Propaganda stories of wholesale immorality in religious institutions in comparison to which the War time propaganda is almost like bedtime stories for children.”

That speech threw Goebbels into a fit of anger, and he responded with a public address to 20,000 National Socialists at a public rally at Berlin’s Deutschland Hall. The New York Times reported, under the headline, “Goebbels Lashes Catholic Church on Morals Issues,” May 29, 1937:

“Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, replied tonight before 20,000 shouting National Socialists in Deutschland Hall to the recent anti-Nazi speech by Cardinal Mundelein, Archbishop of Chicago, in the most scathing public attack on the Christian confessions delivered to date by any member of the government.

“Most of the attack was directed against the Catholic Church. Dealing with its responsibility for the immorality trials of monks and lay brothers, Dr. Goebbels issued a challenge to Catholicism and Protestantism that neither can overlook or misunderstand....

“He trembled with rage as he spoke of reports of religious persecution in Germany appearing in the foreign press, while the crowd drowned his voice in shouts of ‘Traitors!’ ‘Out with them!’ and ‘Hang them!’....”

Goebbels spoke for two hours, ranting that clerical immorality was causing “hair-raising moral chaos” in the country.

At one point he said, “When, therefore, it is declared in Church circles that the publication of what goes on at these trials endangers the morals of youth, I must point out that it is not the newspapers but the criminal sexual trespasses of the Catholic clergy which is threatening the physical and moral well-being of German youth.

“And I can declare,” he continued, “in the fullest measure to the German people now listening to me that this sex plague must and will be ruthlessly extirpated. And if the Church has proved itself to be too weak for this task, then the State will carry it out!...

“I speak here as a German National Socialist, as the father of a family whose most valuable personal earthly possessions are his four children, whose education he must entrust to public instruction when they reach the proper age.

“As such, I can understand the feelings of those parents who have seen their children – their most precious possession – delivered to bestial and unscrupulous defilers of youth. I believe, too, that I speak in the name of thousands of German parents who think with fear and disgust that their own innocent children might some time be morally and physically corrupted in this way by consciousless seducers.

“For years,” he continued, “the Catholic Church has attacked the Nationalist Socialist State and the National Socialist movement with pastoral letters in which it complains emotionally of the alleged morals of our times.

“Although the attack on the National Socialist regime by Cardinal Mundelein comes from abroad, its instigators, as we well know, are in Germany, and they belong to those circles that are directly involved in the prosecutions.

“What are the plain facts in the case? Germany, like every other civilized State, has inscribed on its penal code laws against sex immorality and juvenile defilement. These laws apply to everyone, including the clergy....

“The situation in Germany is not a case of individual acts,” he continued, “but of a general decadence of morals more shocking than anything in the entire history of humanity....”

On the same page as this report appeared, the New York Times also carried an Associated Press report datelined St. Paul, Minn., headlined, “Seven more U.S. Catholic Prelates Condemn Nazi Regime.”

The report began: “Statements by Catholic Bishops of seven states condemning the Nazi regime in Germany were published here today in The Wanderer, German Catholic newspaper...”


It is not possible for this reporter to determine precisely what the contribution was that Joseph Matt made to the National Catholic Rural Life Conference’s 1939 Manifesto on Rural Life, but one can speculate he gave his full energy to the tasks assigned him to gather information and to work on the editorial committee that produced the final document, under the direction of Bishop Muench.

Every aspect of this document, its 16 chapters in 66 pages, on such topics as, “The Rural Catholic Family,” “Farm Ownership and Land Tenancy,” “Catholic Rural Education,” “Rural Catholic Youth,” “Rural Church Expansion,” “Rural Health,” “Rural Social Charity,” “Rural Credit,” “Rural Taxation,” etc., would have been issues he was intimately familiar with as editor of a national Catholic weekly with a predominantly rural readership.

The 1939 Manifesto remains as timely today as it was when it was published, even if it is not much more needed today, since most of the problems it addressed and solutions it proposed for improving rural life were shunted aside as the nation prepared for and then fought World War II, and never subsequently addressed: such as the flight from the countryside to the cities, rural poverty, industrial-scale farming, land tenancy, the inadequacy of rural health services, etc.

Though nothing in this Manifesto can be directly attributed to Joseph Matt, one can certainly believe he would stand with his close friend Fr. Virgil Michel, OSB, who endorsed the Manifesto’s call for rural cooperatives:

“....[This] movement aims at common cooperative work for all for the sake of a decent livelihood for all; it aims at the maximum distribution of goods among all men. Its attitude towards material goods is the true Christian attitude based on the principles that the goods of this earth are there to serve as instruments for the decent living of men as moral and intellectual personalities, and for the decent living of all men without exception....

“Christian life is the life of a supernatural fellowship in which all the members pray and live in mutual spiritual cooperation. For a right living of the supernatural life, all the members of the fellowship need a sufficiency of material goods as instrumental means; and they need to obtain these with relative ease in order to give time and effort to their moral and spiritual development. For the acquiring of the necessary material goods by all with relative mutual ease, the mutual cooperation of the members of the fellowship is necessary. Hence the members of the Christian fellowship must give one another mutual or cooperative aid also in the economic field,” wrote Fr. Michel in The Cooperative Movement and the Liturgical Movement, 1936.