Thursday, June 30, 2005

Oh, Mama!

This is old news, I know. But, I still can't get it out of my mind.
Last week, a woman in Milwaukee gave birth to a baby that weighed almost 14 pounds.


Now, that's a miracle!

To put this into context, let's take a look at some common items that also weigh 14 pounds:
  • A Bissell 3545 Power Glide lightweight upright vacuum
  • The amount of turkey consumed by the average American each year
  • The world's largest pearl
  • The world's lightest accordian
  • The average human head
  • The average full grown domestic household cat
  • A 1-inch by 1-inch rectangle of water that is 33 inches high
  • The average 8-month old baby. (This not-so-little one definitely has a head start.)
God bless mom and the big enchilada.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

To Tell The Truth

Take the MIT Weblog Survey
If you're ready to tell the truth about how much time you spend blogging and e-mailing, then you're ready to take this survey. (Consider it a blogging confessional!)

It's all in the name of science. How often do I get to help out the folks at MIT Media Labs? (Not often!)

By the looks of things, participation must be high. I tried to link to the results page, but what came up was a "temporarily offline" page with an apology from survey creator Cameron Marlow.

So, while I wait to see the results, I guess I'll just have to log more blogging time. Thanks to Talmida at Lesser of Two Weevils for bringing it to my attention.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Only In America

I saw a headline that caught my eye, made me think I was dreaming and then piqued my curiosity:
Anytime I see the words "woman", "ordained" and "priest" in the same line, I'm interested.

Add the word "Catholic" to that collection, and I know it's only a dream.

American Catholic Church? I'd never heard of it. Have you?

The AP story that followed the headline in the Northwest Alabama Times Daily explained that Maureen T. Sullivan, who heads the American Catholic Church of the United States' Holy Spirit Pastoral Center in Jacksonville, Alabama, will be ordained as the church's first female priest this Saturday.

The article also chronicles Sullivan's journey from the Roman Catholic Church to the ACCUS, and explains how the new church is distinctively more open.
"We allow everyone to come to the table - married priests, women priests, gays, lesbians, those who have been divorced," she says. "We don't tell people how to mold their conscience.

"Unfortunately, the Roman Church has silenced people for how they live. We will not."
I checked the ACCUS web site. Founded in 1999 in Maryland. 18 locations. (I never thought of a church having locations. Parishes and communities, yes. But, locations?) A short list of saints, seven sacraments and an order of the mass that looks similar yet different. The fundamental values are inclusive, proactive and compassionate.

That's all I know. I'm just curious.
How about you?

And, congratulations Rev. Sullivan!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Please Drive Carefully

So said Pope Benedict XVI, in his address yesterday in his address to the traveling faithful in St. Peter's Square. Global Catholic News offered this report of the pontiff's timely reminder as the summer vacation season gets into full swing.
"Every day, unfortunately, especially on weekends, incidents occur on the roads with so many human lives tragically cut short, and more than half of the victims are young people," Benedict XVI said.

Although in "recent years much has been done to prevent such tragic events, … there can be and must be more done with the contribution and commitment of all," added the Pontiff. "Distraction and superficiality must be combated, which in an instant can ruin one's own future and that of others.

"Life is precious and unique: It must always be respected and protected, including with correct and prudent conduct on the roads."
Before concluding, the Holy Father entrusted "those who are traveling" to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and implored divine mercy "for road victims." The Holy Father started his remarks by sharing his hopes that everyone "will be able to live serenely a few days of merited rest and relaxation."

I think it's time to ask my boss for some vacation.

Pope's orders, I'll say.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Many Ways to Pray

More from the "I Like Being Catholic" book. There's a chapter called "Favorite Prayers, Traditions and Rituals" that, just like the site in my recent Power of Prayer post, grabbed my attention. Some prayers are long, other are simple. (Like a student putting JMJ at the top of a piece of paper....I had forgotten about that!) What really spoke to me was an essay by the book's authors, Micheal Leach and Therese J. Borchard, called "The Varieties of Catholic Prayer."
A Sioux woman fingers the beads of her rosary at the back of a church in South Dakota.

A Wall Street banker sits on a bench in Battery Park, watching the parade of people, and contemplating the Christ who lives in each and all of them.

Fifteen Trappist monks chant as one in a chapel in Kentucky while outside the roosters still sleep.

A single mother in Chicago nurses her baby and asks God to help her forgive the man who abandoned them.

A teenager in Sacramento puts down his homework to realize again the love he has for his grandmother, who died of Alzheimer's disease.

A priest in Puerto Rico holds out a wafer and whispers, "Maria, el Cuerpo de Cristo." His parishioner says "Amen," and receives the bred of life on the pillow of her tongue.

A mother in Colorado Springs cooks dinner for her family of five, thinks of St. Therese's saying that "God is found among the pots and pans," and offers her work to God for those who are lonely.

Ten million people from every part of the earth, all at the same time, say "Thank you, God!" without hearing the harmony with their brothers and sisters, but knowing the joy that comes from the prayer of gratitude.

Twenty million people tell God they're sorry and promist to change their lives. Many of them hear God speak in their souls, "Your sins are as white as snow!" and they know peace, assurance, and love such as they've never known before.

One hundred million people tell someone, "Thank you," or "I'm sorry," or "I love you..." all at the same time. Right now. Here and now.

What are some of your favorite ways to pray?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

God Without Religion

For me, God is a definite. This whole religion thing can get really questionable. Well, apparently, I'm not alone. According to this post on PR Web this week, many Americans are seeking "connection to God without religion."

At least that's what author Sankara Saranam wants us to think. He's publishing a book "about establishing a personal relationship with God, unhindered by dogma, creed, or ritual."
Is religion gaining ground in America, or are people simply looking harder for answers? Religion and spirituality books are selling strongly, while the number of Americans not identified with a religion is rising. It appears that more and more people are seeking God on their own rather than through established belief systems.
Good questions. The book is "God Without Religion: Questioning Centuries of Accepted Truths." This one might have to go on my summer reading list.

More interesting stuff from the press release:
At last week’s BookExpo America in New York City, religion titles dominated, continuing the growth trend that showed a 17 percent gain in religious book sales in 2004 to reach a staggering $3.8 billion. On the other hand, according to a survey by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco, the number of Americans with no organized religious affiliation has doubled over the last decade. In fact, 16 percent of the population—more than 47,000,000 Americans—has no religious affiliation at all. What lies behind the seeming dichotomy that religion titles are booming while increasing numbers of people renounce organized religion?
Are Americans turning their backs on churches and heading to the bookstores for their spiritual growth?

Friday, June 24, 2005

I'm Slow And Steady

One of the surprise benefits of blogging is the many “self discoveries” I’ve made thanks to countless “What Are You?” quizzes. (Think of all the money I'm saving on therapy!)

The latest contribution is the “How Do People See You?” quiz I found at Green Knight (who is also seen as slow and steady).

Slow and Steady

Your friends see you as painstaking and fussy.
They see you as very cautious, extremely careful, a slow and steady plodder.
It'd really surprise them if you ever did something impulsively or on the spur of the moment.
They expect you to examine everything carefully from every angle and then usually decide against it.

That doesn’t really sound like me, but how do I know how people see me?

How Do People See You? Please share!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Catholic Sex Ed

According to news at, Catholic church officials in Scotland are on a campaign to ensure that Catholic students at non-demoninational schools receive separate and distinct sex education.
Under the new sexual health strategy being devised by the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES), the Church wants parent of Catholic pupils to get greater access to the literature used in Roman Catholic schools.

Michael McGrath, director of SCES, pointed out that Catholic children in the Western Isles already receive separate sex education classes and this could happen elsewhere in Scotland after the new sexual health strategy is published.
As a recipient of the American Catholic grade school sex education circa the Nixon administration, I am convinced that sex ed in the public schools was far more informative, and at least more entertaining, than in Catholic schools. My guess is the same probably holds true today.

With the Catholic church's "hang ups" about sex, I'm hard pressed to see the benefit of a Catholic sexual health strategy in public schools. How about you?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Catholic Bloggers On The Cutting Edge

I saw this a while back at From The Back Pew. In the shadow of one priest being sent home for misusing the internet, now it appears that Vatican officials are encouraging the use of the internet to evangelize.

The thought of bloggers being depended on by the Vatican still has me smiling. I just didn't want you to miss it. The best part is Lee Strong's illuminating comments:
(Hey, if God's on the internet, I can tell my wife I'm nurturing my spiritual life and not just fooling around on the computer. )

(Hmm. Maybe we could try some God Spam.)

(Areopagus??? If you're going to communicate, you've got to use words I don't have to look up in a dictionary.) (By the way, it's a supreme tribunal in ancient Athens, and now means any final court or tribunal.)

(I guess this means we should keep on blogging.)
Check out the entire piece. It's a good read. Meanwhile, this Catholic will just keep on bloggin'.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Power of Prayer

Steve at Catholicism, Holiness & Spirituality has a link on his blog that attracted my attention. Prayer Requests takes you to a page on where visitors can submit special requests for the prayers of five monks of the Benedictine Congregation of St. Mary of Monte-Oliveto.

The image of five monks sitting in silent prayer and meditation in County Down taking on the intentions of visitors to the World Wide Web is somehow quite comforting.

The monks make a simple request that visitors remember them in their prayers, too. The image of hundreds, thousands or millions of people around the world remembering five Irish monks in their prayers is wonderful.

The prayer intentions of all are listed on the page. As I perused the list, I was struck by the variety of needs of these people from across the planet. I said a silent prayer for all, and realized how easy it was to join into this worldwide circle of prayer.

The image of that prayerful circle is powerful.

Thanks, Steve. I'll visit often, and encourage others to do the same.

P.S. Get your requests in early. It takes a day or two for the monks to receive them!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Because It's Fun!

My mom recently sent me a book called "I Like Being Catholic: Treasured Traditions, Rituals and Stories." She sent it before my "slump", and since then I have found some inspiration as I flip through the pages.

Today, Father Andrew Greeley reminded me that it's actually fun to be Catholic. In his chapter of the book, he points to the joy, happiness, festivity, celebration, affirmation, imagination, charm and community that comes with the territory of Catholicism. He makes a pretty good case:
It is fun to belong to something, it is fun to believe that God is close to us, loving us like a spouse, a parent, a friend. That's why Catholics stick to their church, come what may. That's why the confusion and the chaos in the church in the years since the end of the Second Vatican Council has not driven Catholics out of the church despite all the attempts of us priests and bishops to drive them out! Despite the creeps and party-poopers, the puritans and the spoil-sports, the kill-joys and parade ruiners, Catholicism is too much fun to leave.

It always has been.

It is not likely to change.

Deo gratias!
Amen to that.

What do you find fun about Catholicism?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

On Religion and Politics

A recent AP/Ipsos poll surveyed 1000 people in 10 nations about their beliefs about religion and politics.

One crystal clear finding is that while religion plays an important part in the lives of some, the majority believe that religious leaders should not try to influence government decisions. Three cheers for separation of church and state!

However, the country that proclaims the separation of church and state had the highest percentage (37%) of respondents who said religious leaders should try to influence the government. And, religion seems to be quite popular here in the land of stars and stripes. 84% of US respondents said religion is important in their lives.

Of note were the responses of the two “most Catholic” countries. 92% of Italian respondents indicated they were Catholic. 80% of Italian respondents said religion was important, and 30% said religious leaders should influence the government. In the results from Mexico, where 83% indicated they were Catholic, 86% of Mexican respondents think religion is important, and just 20% think religious leaders should influence the government.

The survey asked 4 questions:

1. Do you think religious leaders should or should not try to influence government decisions?
2. How important would you say religion is in your own life?
3. Which of the following statements comes closest to expressing what you believe about God:
  • I don’t believe in God
  • I don’t know whether there is a God and I don’t believe there is any way to find out
  • I don’t believe in a personal God, but I do believe in a higher power of some kind.
  • I find myself believing in God some of the time but not at others.
  • While I have doubts, I feel that I do believe in God.
  • I know God really exists, and I have no doubts about it.
  • Not sure
4. What is your religion, if any
  • Catholic
  • Protestant
  • Jewish
  • Muslim
  • Buddhist
  • Other Religion
  • No Religion
  • Not Sure
    What do you think about the results? How would you answer these questions? Chime in!

    Saturday, June 18, 2005

    Meanwhile, Across The Border...

    Yesterday, it was creationism in Kansas. Today, we hear from its neighbor to the east -- the great state of Missouri. In an op-ed piece in the NY Times, former Missouri senator and current Episcopal minister John Danforth (shown here - in the center - presiding over President Reagan's funeral procession) makes the point that "people of faith are not of one mind" and calls on Moderate Christians to be heard.
    It is important for those of us who are sometimes called moderates to make the case that we, too, have strongly held Christian convictions, that we speak from the depths of our beliefs, and that our approach to politics is at least as faithful as that of those who are more conservative. Our difference concerns the extent to which government should, or even can, translate religious beliefs into the laws of the state.

    People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God's truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action. So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God's kingdom, one that includes efforts to "put God back" into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality.

    Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.
    Danforth concludes by making some powerful observations and summarizing the moderate voice quite succinctly.
    In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.

    By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.
    Well said.

    Friday, June 17, 2005

    A Fairy Tale?

    As a moderate who believes in evolution -- thanks, in part, to my fine Catholic education -- I found this story simply laughable. Found it at
    As the Kansas Board of Education readies for a final debate on the teaching of evolution, one member is leveling the harshest criticism yet, calling the theory an impossibility.

    In a recent newsletter to constituents in western Kansas, board member Connie Morris calls evolution a "fairy tale" that has "anti-God contempt and arrogance." The four-page letter then criticizes mainstream scientists, the media and moderate members of the school board who opposed recent hearings on evolution."In short, Darwin's theory of evolution is biologically, genetically, mathematically, chemically, metaphysically and etc. wildly and utterly impossible," Morris wrote constituents.

    Morris, it seems, is a creationist. She says she takes the accounts from Genesis literally. And, she wants the standard science curriculum in her state to reflect that. Suddenly, this story isn't so funny. It's frightening!

    This is the 21st century, right?

    In my early Catholic education, I was taught that the 7 days as reported in the bible were a metaphor. After all, one day to our creator could well be thousands of years. In that context, Genesis and Darwin both made sense to me.

    The report concludes by noting that educators and scientists are protesting the proposed curriculum changes, including a Kansas Catholic school teacher.
    Harry Gregory teaches biology at a Wichita Catholic school. Even though his private school has a theological bent, he said, he teaches strict evolution in his classroom.
    Thank you, Mr. Gregory!

    Thursday, June 16, 2005

    Middle Ground

    As a moderate, I love stories like this one, reported in yesterday's Washington Post. (Registration might be required, but it's free.) It seems two religious leaders from either extreme are pledging to preach a more moderate word -- for a moment.

    From the religious right is Rev. Rob Schenck. From the religious left is Rabbi David Saperstein.

    Schenck said he plans to tell young evangelicals at a Christian music festival on July 1 that homosexuality is not a choice but a "predisposition," something "deeply rooted" in many people. "That may not sound shocking to you, but it will be shocking to my audience," he said.

    Saperstein said he is circulating a paper urging political moderates and liberals to "demonstrate their commitment to reduce abortions" by starting a campaign to reduce the number by half within two years.

    Schenck and Saperstein disclosed their plans in separate interviews. They are not working together. The minister remains a die-hard opponent of same-sex marriage; the rabbi staunchly supports a woman's constitutional right to choose an abortion. But both are trying to find common ground between liberals and conservatives on moral issues -- and they are not alone.

    There's much more to the story. Definitely worth a read. And, this alone is enough to make me smile.

    How about you?

    Wednesday, June 15, 2005

    Another One Bites The Dust

    Catholics are falling away right and left. A much publicized conversion has been that of actress Katie Holmes, who left the Church for Scientology...and Tom Cruise.

    Katie, you're forgiven.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2005

    Zero Tolerance?

    More talk of the Bishop's Conference, which starts Thursday. The Chicago Tribune reports that the Church's sexual abuse policy is expected to be a topic of discussion. The story, as picked up by the Macon Telegraph (couldn't find it on the Tribune site), say that the "one strike and you're out" policy adopted in 2002 is expected to be a topic of discussion.

    The nation's Roman Catholic bishops are expected to retain the church's zero tolerance policy requiring that all priests who have committed even one act of sexual abuse be removed permanently from ministry.

    Yet only three years after the church's abuse scandal erupted, some leaders are discussing whether the policy should eventually be modified - especially in cases of limited offenses committed years ago followed by an unblemished record.

    The article goes on to say that while the bishop's are expected to retain the one strike policy -- for now -- there agenda also includes taking a broader view of the problem.

    The bishops are expected to approve a broader definition of sexual abuse that will cover priests who buy or disseminate child pornography. They will be asked to approve spending $1 million in reserve funds toward an in-depth study on the "causes and contexts" of the abuse crisis. The study is expected to focus on whether abuse might be related to homosexuality, celibacy and other issues.

    Victims' advocates take a different view:

    "We believe the zero tolerance policy is only enforced sporadically, at best," said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

    Rules are one thing. Enforcement is quite another.

    Let's see how things go in Chicago. Shall we?

    Monday, June 13, 2005

    Hello Chicago

    The US Bishops are meeting in Chicago this week. Today, the Rainbow Sash Movement issued a statement in support of a protest and press conference planned for this Thursday to coincide with the conference:
    The Rainbow Sash Movement supports and calls others of good will both Catholic and Non Catholic, straight and GLBT to join the Gay Liberation Network Protest on June 16, 2005, 8 to 9Am at the Fairmont Hotel located at 200 N. Columbus Drive. A joint Press Conference will follow at 9AM in front of the Fairmont Hotel.
    On Pentecost Sunday, Rainbow Sash Movement members were denied communion in Chicago. I hope they receive a much warmer welcome this week.

    The statement echoes some of my thoughts of the week:
    The Catholic hierarchy should look in the mirror, they offended God as greatly as any priest by seeking first to ignore the clergy sexual abuse problem, then to shuffle pedophiles around, finally to buy the silence of their victims with payouts contingent on not discussing their cases. This is unworthy of the soldiers of Christ, who Himself expelled money-lenders from His place of worship. The Bishops only bring more shame to the church with their campaign of hate against the GLBT community. Compassion curdles into self-righteous zealotry. The Bishops are in no place to judge others; they lack any credible moral authority to do so. We continue to call for dialogue.
    If you're in Chicago on Thursday and want to lend your support, I hope you'll stop by. Me? I'll be there in spirit.

    Sunday, June 12, 2005

    Day 55...And Counting

    I'm feeling so good about the Church these days, I thought I'd check in and see what our new Pope is up to. Not much, according to, which has outlined a hopeful agenda for the Pontiff's first 100 days:
    One of the most critical challenges Benedict XVI faces is to foster an environment that welcomes home Catholics who were estranged from the church under the last papacy. Pope John Paul II left an inheritance of division in the church; this new pope must now span the divide widened during the last papacy between clergy and laity, men and women, north and south, right and left, gay and straight.

    The First 100 Days represents a starting point for the critical work that must be done to ensure that the Roman Catholic church symbolizes justice and compassion throughout the world. While not every issue can be addressed -- nor every problem solved -- in this time, there are specific steps Benedict XVI can take to set a tone for the future of his papacy, to heal fractures within the church and to redress wrongs done under the name of the Vatican.

    The recommendations of the First 100 Days campaign are easy. They do not require theological change. Each of these actions can and should be done immediately. These things remain undone not because of doctrinal restriction, but because the Vatican has chosen not to act.
    At the top of the papal "can and should do" list is "Meet with survivors of clergy sex abuse, listen and apologize."

    Well, it's Day 55, and that hasn't happened. I know I'd feel a little better if it did. is a project of Catholics for a Free Choice. I plan to check in often.

    Saturday, June 11, 2005


    In Covington, KY, it was $120 million. In San Francisco, it was $21.2 million. In Seattle, $1.7 million. And, that was just this week!

    We're not talking lottery winnings. These are settlements in the latest round of clergy sex abuse cases.

    Today's headlines add it up: $1 billion to date.

    That's One Billion Dollars!

    My heart goes out to the victims. They are innocent people who were violated by religious men they trusted, and should have been able to trust. They should be compensated. They deserve every penny. This rant is not aimed at them.

    This pisses me off. The behavior of these priests, and the priests and bishops and cardinals and popes who covered for them is god-awful.

    As a Cafeteria Catholic, I wrestle with a lot about the Church. This is one of the things that's at the top of list for me.

    Would I work for an organization that had employees that behaved in such a manner?
    Certainly not.

    Would I buy products or services from a company that repeatedly broke the law, denied it, berated the victims and their families and protected its criminal employees?
    Absolutely not.

    Would I invest in a company that had $1 billion in sex abuse settlement claims on the books in the last three years and more waiting in the wings?

    Would I give money to a charity that pulled this shit?
    No. And, I don't.

    Then, WHY -- I'm asking myself today -- do I remain in a religious community of these people?

    I don't know. But, today it feels like the wrong thing to do.

    How about you?

    Friday, June 10, 2005

    Beat this!

    TGIF! Here's something completely different -- a meaty quiz that will test how much you watched MTV in its infancy. I received an email yesterday with the link to this fill-in-the-blank '80s song lyrics quiz, and I got so involved I was (very) late for work. (FYI, that's not a good excuse.)

    There are 100 questions (and three bonus Q's), so give yourself some time for this one. It's fun and worth the time. Go to Yet Another Dot. Then, let's compare scores, shall we?

    Here's a hint: The first video played on MTV was "Video killed the radio star". (I actually remember that!) That'll give you three points that most people won't get.

    Now that I've skewed the curve, my score was 57.5. (And, I'm hanging my head in shame.)

    So, Beat that! (Remember, I was running late to work. I had to hurry. And, if I don't watch it, I'll be late again today.)

    Happy weekend!

    Thursday, June 09, 2005

    Boston Update

    Many thanks to MA01432 who relayed this link to the Boston Globe's coverage of today's developments in Boston.

    Yes, it got worse.

    Looking at the Globe's powerful photo of the two young girls in tears, I wonder what impact this day will have on their lives. Don't you?

    Who Owns The Church?

    In the midst of sexual abuse cases and church closings, Catholics in Boston are raising this question. It's a good one.

    Here's the story, from yesterday's Boston Herald:
    A group of local Catholics plans to ask the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops how the Archdiocese of Boston can close more than a quarter of its parishes by claiming it owns the properties while the conference's own president is trying to fend off lawsuits by clergy-abuse victims by claiming church assets belong to parishioners.
    "To us, this is just a glaring inconsistency,'' said Peter Borre of the Council of Parishes. "We're going to . . . demand that this issue be resolved.''
    The Bishops' Conference is scheduled to meet next week in Chicago. The council wants it to clarify how church law defines ownership of parish assets.
    Last May, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley announced plans to close more than 80 of the archdiocese's 357 parishes. Parishioners at a half-dozen churches continue to hold sit-ins to try to keep them open, with some arguing church assets belong to parishioners.
    Last month, meanwhile, the conference's president, Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., filed documents in U.S. Bankruptcy Court claiming his diocese cannot sell churches and other buildings to settle sexual-abuse claims because it does not own the property; it merely holds them in trust. The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December.
    Yesterday, Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said, "The circumstances of a diocese in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings differ from those of a diocese that needs to reconfigure.''
    Under civil law, the vast majority of the churches in the archdiocese are owned by a corporation controlled exclusively by the archbishop.
    I'll admit I've never thought about this before. But, it is an interesting question. And, whatever the answer, the inconsistency in Boston is even more interesting.

    Who do you think owns the Church?

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    Why Does This Happen?

    Yesterday it was the AP, today it's Agence France-Presse. The Catholic Church goes Bollywood, according to this FP piece reported by INQ7 News in the Phillipines.
    NEW DELHI -- India's Roman Catholic Church, worried about traditional values breaking down in the country, has joined hands with Bollywood to make a movie highlighting dangers of risky sex.

    The Hindi-language film, made in trademark Bollywood style with songs, dance and melodrama, includes an HIV-positive character and is titled "Aisa Kyon Hota Hain" (Why does this happen?").

    The film, set for release in July or August, is the brain-child of Dominic Emmanuel, a Catholic priest and spokesman for the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese.

    He says it "the first ever instance" of India's Roman Catholic church producing a commercial film.

    "There are people who have made video films more along the documentary style but this is purely Bollywood formula with songs and dances," he says.

    Bollywood heroine Rati Agnihotri -- who made her debut in the 1981 romantic hit "Ek Duje Ke Liye" (For Each Other) -- plays the lead role of a woman who singlehandedly raises her son after finding her husband cheating on her.

    That's the star, Rati Agnihotri, pictured above. Now, on with the story.

    She is proud of her son, who excels in academics and sports, but the boy played by newcomer Aryan Vaid -- better known as the winner of the "Mr International 2000" title -- does not believe in love and commitment.

    "The film deals with the consequences of this," says Emmanuel, who plays the role of a college principal in the film.

    "The boy tests HIV positive (because of his relationships). But this is not a bleak film, it offers hope with the heroine professing her love for the hero even after the disclosure that he is HIV positive," says Emmanuel.

    The film is low-budget, costing just 13 million rupees (288,000 dollars). But the film-makers have been helped by maverick Bollywood producer-director Mahesh Bhatt, whose company, Vishesh Films, is known for its steamy suspense hits, and who will be responsible for the launch and publicity.

    Bhatt's involvement was aimed at ensuring the film "does not become preachy ... but retains its place in the genre of entertainment," says Emmanuel.

    Convincing the church hierarchy about the viability of the project was not difficult. But he did encounter skeptics who wondered what he and the church were doing in commercial film production.

    He had a ready answer: "Films are the most popular medium in India ... You find more people in the cinema than in the church. So why should the church not reach where you get the masses?

    "Profit certainly is not the motive of making this film. It is just using the vehicle of entertainment to put across a message."

    The film, shot in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, will be dubbed into Tamil and possibly Telugu, the languages respectively of the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, home to many of India's 5.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

    India has the second largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world after South Africa with 5.3 million cases.

    The film which also has as a theme the need for religious harmony in the country of more than one billion people, was funded by voluntary groups promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and communal harmony.

    "The villain who is a college boy brings up the issue of Hindu-Muslim or religious differences everywhere -- in the college canteen, on the basketball court, everywhere," says Emmanuel.

    "Ultimately he is expelled" for trying to inflame sectarian passions, he says.

    The introduction of this element was necessary after riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002, Emmanuel says. The clashes claimed around 2,000 lives.

    "Father Dominic came to us and said he was deeply concerned about the breakdown of familial ties and communal issues that are vitiating the atmosphere (of secular India) ... how communities are getting polarized," says director Ajay Kanchan.

    Lack of a big-name cast, he adds, is compensated by a strong story line and catchy numbers that should attract young filmgoers.

    "The story idea is original. It's a very youthful film with a strong emotional resonance," Kanchan says.

    "The film communicates hope without preaching," he says. "People should know the HIV virus has moved from high-risk groups to the common population. The film is one families as a whole can watch without any feeling of awkwardness."

    Still, the film has to overcome Indian audience resistance to films with HIV/AIDS as a theme. Other movies on the topic by top Bollywood producers such as Subhash Ghai or Yash Chopra have been box office flops.

    "There's no sure formula for success," says Emmanuel, who is also hoping the movie can win an international release.

    What do you think about a cinematic Catholic Church?

    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    To Burn or Not To Burn?

    AP is reporting that someone close to Pope John Paul II isn't following the instructions of the papal will and testament. Here's how the story appeared in the London Herald.
    The late Pope's private secretary said he did not burn the former pontiff's notes, as his will demanded, arguing that the papers contain "great riches" and should be preserved. Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, who worked with John Paul II from 1966 until his death earlier this year, told Polish radio there were a lot of manuscripts, but offered no details.

    "Nothing has been burned," he said. "Nothing is fit for burning, everything should be preserved and kept for history, for the future generations – every single sentence.

    "These are great riches that should gradually be made available to the public," Dziwisz added.

    In a March 1979 entry to his testament, John Paul said he left no material property and asked that Dziwisz burn all his personal notes.

    In his radio interview, Dziwisz suggested some of the notes could prove useful in the late pontiff's beatification process.
    Dziwisz added that he took daily notes throughout John Paul's papacy, which he said also could prove useful to that process.
    We've all been taught to obey our father and mother. What's the consequence for disobeying specific, personal instructions of the Holy Father?

    What do you think? To burn or not to burn. That is the question.

    Monday, June 06, 2005

    I'm a Party Animal?

    Besides being hurricane season, this period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is travel season. Check out your travel profile at

    Me? I’m a Party Animal.

    The Party Animal always wears sunglasses during his vacation. He likes a good hotel, with a swimming pool and room service. A couple of drinks at night, maybe see a show, maybe roll the dice, that’s the way to spend the evening.

    Culture? A museum? The others can go while the Party Animal stays in bed. You’ll find him by the side of the pool when you get back with a martini to rid of the hangover.

    Well, I do love my martinis! And, room service is a must.

    According to the quiz, my “top destinations” are: Las Vegas, Tahiti and New York. My places to “stay away from” are: North Korea, Cuidad Perdida and Darien Gap.

    I hear Tahiti is nice this time of year…and, they have some lovely hotels…

    How about you? What’s your travel type?

    Sunday, June 05, 2005

    Preventative Prayers

    The month of June marks the start of hurricane season. In Central Florida, Catholics and non-Catholics joined together for some special storm preparations. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Bishop Thomas Wenski offered a mass for the intention of keeping hurricanes at bay this season.
    Weather, natural disasters and faith were threads woven through the service, sometimes lightheartedly. Rain was falling, and Wenski suggested than an appropriate hymn might be "Singin' in the Rain."

    As he began the service, Wenski prayed: "Today, as we begin a new hurricane season, we unite in prayer asking God to avert any storms from inflicting harm on us or our loved ones...We ask the Lord to keep those hurricanes as far away from us as possible, and that he keep us as close as possible to him."
    Should disaster strike, the Bishop reminds us that hurricanes are not "the wrath of God", and to look for the silver lining.
    One of the good things that came out of last year's hurricanes, Wenski said, was a greater sense of community and generosity to others, including tsunami victims.
    "Wenski was unwilling to predict the exact outcome of the hurricane Mass," the report concludes.

    May the prayers of Central Florida be answered. Amen.

    Saturday, June 04, 2005

    Likrat Yerushalayim

    I know neither Hebrew nor Italian, but I know this is a nice story, from Haaretz Israel News. Verso Gerusalemme ("Towards Jerusalem") is Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini's book about his retirement pilgrimage to Jerusalem, at the age of 75. Written in 2002 in Martini's native Italian, the book was recently published in Hebrew. Apparently, that's a first.
    It's not every day that a cardinal publishes a book in Hebrew...Furthermore, the author is not just any cardinal. Martini is one of the most respected figures in the Catholic Church today. In recent years, he has been the leader of the so-called "progressive" faction, as opposed to the "conservative" wing headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, today Pope Benedict XVI.

    For many years, Martini was at the top of the "papabili" - potential pope - list. At the last papal conclave, a little more than a month ago, Martini did not consider himself a likely candidate on account of his age (78) and poor health. But opponents of Cardinal Ratzinger and those on the lookout for a more "open-minded" pope rallied around him and hailed him as their leader. Martini favors delegating more power to Catholic communities around the world rather than concentrating it all in Rome. He would like to see bishops involved in decision-making in the Church and the pope consulting with them. He believes the time has come to reexamine the role of women in the Church and the dwindling number of men joining the priesthood. In the end, however, Martini supported Ratzinger and gave him his blessing.
    Though I can't read either edition of the book, I got a great sense of it (and the author) from the Haaretz review. A few highlights about Likrat Yerushalayim:
    A pilgrimage to Jerusalem is meant to bring us closer to celestial Jerusalem, to move us toward a new spiritual and moral order. The peace of Jerusalem "radiates to other cities," bringing peace to the human soul. It is a journey, says Martini, not a miraculous shortcut, but it helps us discover the wholeness of our lives and understand what we need to do to triumph over evil and extract the good from the bad. It is here in earthly Jerusalem that Martini is able to get a sense of heavenly Jerusalem and come closer to it, but without forgetting that there are two Jerusalems - physical and metaphysical.

    This love for Jerusalem has endeared the Jewish people to him - and perhaps it goes both ways. His Jewish friends call him a "philosemite." Rabbi David Rosen, for example, writes in the introduction to this book that Cardinal Martini played an important role in the revolutionary changes in the policy of the Catholic Church toward Jews and Judaism since the early 1960s.

    Martini does not divide the world into believers and non-believers, but into those who think and those who don't. In general, he advises us to preserve a sense of humor, seeing that "we're all in God's hands, which is to say, good hands."

    Oh, how I wish I had studied Italian. The review calls it a "fascinating and important read." I imagine so. (Talmida is studying Hebrew. Perhaps she'll check in with a review!)

    Meanwhile, cheers to Cardinal Martini!

    Friday, June 03, 2005

    Church Attacks Pope

    Charlotte Church, that is. (I just couldn't pass this up!)

    The Welsh soprano reportedly has an issue Pope Benedict's take on the Harry Potter series. Church, a self-proclaimed good Catholic girl, said she doesn't like the new pope. She's quoted in The Sun:
    "He even wants to ban Harry Potter. He says it’s because it’s full of witchcraft and other bad stuff.”
    Church reportedly read and loved all six books. And, Pope John Paul II praised J.K. Rowling's work. But, The Sun says Pope Benedict takes a different stand:
    Benedict has insisted boy wizard Harry is a sinister influence. He proclaimed: “This is a subtle seduction, which has deeply unnoticed and direct effects in undermining the soul of Christianity before it can really grow properly.”
    Of course, the Pope is certainly entitled to his opinion. (Is a papal book review infallible?) And, an aspiring young singer (who, by coincidence I'm sure, happens to have a new album coming out this month) is certainly entitled to get all of the press she can.

    What ever happened to Sinead O'Connor?

    Thursday, June 02, 2005

    A Busted Blogger?

    Parishioners in one Seattle Catholic Church learned this week that their parish priest was relieved of his duties. According to a letter written by the Archdiocese and shared with the community of St. Nicholas Catholic Church, Rev. Reynaldo Bocateja has not been accused of sexual abuse, child abuse or "anything illegal".

    Then, what's the matter? This, reported by the Tacoma News Tribune:
    "A recent assessment of his use of the Internet calls into question his ability to minister in the Archdiocese with trust and authority," according to a letter written by Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunett.
    The article reports that the displaced priest has been returned to his native Philippiness. (Like they don't have internet access there?)

    Innocent until proven guilty, I know. But, this one has me a bit curious. Yeah, maybe he had a problem with porn or online gambling. Or, do you suppose the reverend is an obsessed blogger? I understand blogging can become quite addictive...

    Wednesday, June 01, 2005

    Nine Fish

    I have a painting similar to this one hanging in my office. Yesterday, a client came in and her attention was immediately focused on the painting. “Nine fish,” she said enthusiastically. “You will be very prosperous.”

    A quick bit of research revealed that according to the ancient art of Feng Shui, nine fish is indeed a very good thing. Here’s a recap from

    A picture of nine fish is very positive image of place near the entrance to your home. Three times three! Three is the most potent male yang number. It represents growth and movements, and also some jealousy, aggression, and tension (all of which are often necessary in business). The number nine signifies the culmination or the highest pinnacle. Ideally, one of the nine fish should be black to protect your health and become too dominant. The color of the black fish also distinguishes it from the eight other fish. Eight is the most auspicious number-it signifies eternal wealth both physically and spiritually. Best used for bringing more activity into your life and increasing your earnings.

    Today I studied those nine fish so closely. There isn’t one black fish, but there is one that is different from the others. So, I’m going with the “eight” story, too. Good stuff.

    The whole exercise got me thinking about ancient arts and Catholicism, and wondering if the two can co-exist. I don’t know, but I certainly hope so. I have been intrigued by feng shui over the years. I have a couple of books on the subject, plus a crystal hanging above the computer in my home office and a wind chime out back. All pleasant enough accessories that I enjoy. And, I have a brand new appreciation for my nine fish! Anything that affirms that I am going to be very prosperous can’t be all bad. Can it?

    I did a quick search on Feng Shui and Catholicism, which didn’t reveal much. Except this recent piece in the LA Times that had me rolling on the floor laughing. The headline was Grappling with Catholic Feng Shui. I thought I was on to something:

    Forget about whether Pope Benedict XVI will soften his attitude toward the role of women in the church or discover a more pastoral approach to homosexuals or heed the pleas of manpower-poor bishops for an experiment with married priests. For many Catholics, there is only one question about the new pope's intentions: Will he turn the altars around?

    The blogosphere was briefly alive with people who actually think turning the altar around is a good idea. Now, I’m no Feng Shui practioner, just a Cafeteria Catholic, but I just don’t get a good feeling about that. How about you?