Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Winter is dreadful when other drivers around do not know how to drive in it. We are getting killed with winter weather in the DC area and it just won't stop.

There was a hearing in the Maryland State Senate on a proposed bill to extend the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases and strengthen mandated reporting laws. Here is the webpage for the bill, SB 412.

On Sunday a legislative alert was announced in all the churches asking Catholics to call their reps because this law would break the confessional seal. It just didn't make sense to me, no rational lawmaker would ever attack the confessional seal or any protected speech such as Doctor-patient, lawyer-client, etc. So I went to the Maryland General Assembly page and checked out the bill and it does not appear to me even come close to challenging the confessional seal. In fact, it specifically exempts anything revealed in confession as an item for mandated reporting.

It seems that the local hierarchy may be trying to defeat the bill because of the financial repercussions for the Archdiocese of Washington (which contains half of Maryland) and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. If they are trying to crush this bill which protects children by spinning with the confession spiel, that is sad. I cannot see any reason why they would present it that way when the proposed bill specifically exempts confession. Who said that the Catholic hierarchy is not politcally astute?

24 was good last nite. Have no fear, Jack Bauer can't die because he is presently shooting the 24 for next season, so somehow he will survive a megaton nuclear explosion. I think the acting on that show is pretty good. The Kate and especially Marie Warner have put in some strong performances. The president is getting better. Cheryl is pretty good. The president's chief of staff has always been quite good. K. Sutherland? Truth is that I can't stand him , but he is actually quite good.

Alias, has taken a definite turn for the better. However, the problem with them is that they are still moving way to fast. I thought the show was in the toilet when the Alliance, the multi-trillion dollar renegade arch-enemy of the US was destroyed, but it appears that Sloan is attempting to reconstitute an alliance, which now makes sense. The relationship between Sidney and Vaugh is stupid and nothing good can come of it. She show has pretty much fallen of its pedestal but at least it is no longer in free fall.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Yesterday's 24 for okay. They just do some stupid things, I guess for TV, that don't make sense. Kim Bauer who is on the run from the cops got caught in an animal trap. Finally the trap owner, some survivalist dude, comes and frees her. He offers that she stay in his place because it is too dangerous at night to get back to the highway. She agrees and I can kind'a see that happening. But here's the stupid part. She gets in his house, he offers her his bathroom so that she can clean up and stuff, she goes in cleans up and puts on a sexy tank top with no bra and comes out. Now, isn't that crazy? The situation is crazy enough with some reclusive guy in the middle of no where at night and she is baring it all? That whole story line with her has been a horrible diversion from an otherwise very good story. The other annoying aspect is Jack Bauer who always leads every raid with his pistol and no helmet while everyone else is in full body armour. I realize that he is the star and people want to see his face, but it does get to be a bit much. Yesterday's episode was somewhat unsatisfying but it is still a good show and the only show now that I am really interested in. I have since lost interest in Alias and ER and the Practice. ER may be redeemable, the Practice is the Practice, and Alias, it is hard to see have they can recapture the magic of the maiden voyage, they destroyed the Alliance, which was the primary villain.

I am teaching a class on Christian morality and the question of torture has come of frequently because the President in 24 has resorted to torture in order to break a traitor. Torture is considered to be an instrinsic evil, i.e., no amount of good intention or circusmstances can make it morally acceptable. I agree with that, but I also think that the evil of this world causes us to do evil things sometimes, perhaps the lesser of two evils. We are often fortunate that we personally do not have to be involved in the decisions that affect millions of lives and we don't often deal with people so evil that extreme actions have to be taken. I think there is a line that simply cannot be crossed such as invasive torture. But in the case of 24, they use electric shocks . . . I don't know. Actions that are intrinsically evil are never acceptable such as rape, I guess the question is more about the definition of torture and when does it become intrinsically evil. There are a broad range of actions that could be deemed torture, from the very benign "tortures" of basic relationships to pure cruelty. Anyway, this is the same problem with war. It is a necessary evil, justified under certain circumstances. The issue of torture is one that needs to be given more thought.

I made it in to work today. In Southern Maryland we "only" got 15 inches of snow unlike, DC, Baltimore and Western Maryland which got smacked down. On Monday the plows came through the neighborhood and cleared the driveways but in the process the piled the snow on our cars so we all spent hours digging ourselves out. On Tuesday the Federal Government was shut down. I don't work for the Federal Government but the organization I work for uses the Fed weather schedule so we were closed also. And today, the Fed Govt. policy is unscheduled leave which means you can take a sick day or vacation or personal time without permission from a supervisor.

The past few days were like a mini-vacation and it was great spending snowed in time with wife and kid. Ms. Queen hates it when I go to work and so it was great that I was able to be home for a couple of days.

I finally got to do some updates on St. Martin Catholic Books & Gifts website. I didn't do as much as I need to do but at least I was able to do something especially with a toddler running around demanding attention.

We saw the movie Signs over the weekend. The next paragraph or two will talk about the movie so skip over them if you do not wish to hear about the movie. I thought it was an excellent movie, certainly worth the hype. I had no idea that it was an alien movie. It was also a very, very funny movie, I certainly think that M. Knight has a special talent (and acting is not it). Mel Gibson and JoAquin Phoenix were excellent. My wife was creeped out by Phoenix in Gladiator and did not like him, but he won her over in this movie. He was very convincing expecially the scene in which he is watching TV and there is the report of the a visual on the alien and then they show the dark figure at the birthday party. That was a freaky scene. I like the alien, it was simple and evil looking.

The only weakness in the movie was that they did not explain why aliens with uber technologie could not get out of locked pantry. Also, via the TV report they said that the battle with the aliens turned in the middle east when people there used a primitiv remedy. That was poorly done. They could have researched and named an actual remedy and come up with some explanation why winning the battle in one spot had repercussion on the alien battle the world over. Anyway, it was a great movie, highly recommended, good God content, etc. Another point is that it was alien movie from the perspetive of a small family, no president, no national security, no air force, etc. It was simply, how one particular family dealt with the issue.

I just bought a bunch of photography equipment. I pray it works out, I got table top photography kit with flood lights, screen and all so that I can take pictures of small items like Jewelry. To sell things on St. Martin's website, we have to scan pictures off the catalogs, which is difficult and time consuming. I have a pretty good digital camera but the lighting is a problem. So this should solve the problem. Now we should be able to get on the website a better representation of rosaries and jewelry that we have in the store.

I watched the Michael Jackson documentary on Monday on ABC. The man does freak me out. One part that I found very amusing was the shopping spree in Las Vegas. I felt that the manager of the store did not give Michael Jackson the attention he should have gotten. Michael had to call for assistance on more than one occassion. Now, if that was my store, I'd be tripping over myself to make sure that this dude who is going to spend $6 million does not have to wait for answers. Of course, everyone who comes to our store gets star treatment, especially being a Catholic store, I just thought that for a store like that they needed to give Mr Mega Patron more attention.

And what is with the blonde haired kids? This guy really does not want to be black anymore. My wife noted that the blonde kid did have dark roots which makes it worse, i.e., Michael is making him blonde. And was anyone else freaked out by the fact that Michael grabbed his daughter right after she was born, even before the doctors looked her over and cleaned and he took her home and washed her!!? This guy is cause for concern. Oh well.

So there that was my weekend.

I have some rudimentary thoughts On Freedom so I put them down in this piece. A quick and dirty look on the general way Catholic theology deals with the notion of freedom.

Friday, February 14, 2003

On A Catholic Blog for Lovers I saw the following entry.

A Fruitful Vine

The Catholic Bishops of the USA each year publish statistics about the Church in America in the 2003 Source Book. While statistics do not tell the whole story (and may not be totally reliable even!), this survey can give us some glimpses and maybe a shot of hope as well. Just think of the humble beginnings of the Catholic Church in the United States. God has prospered the vine He has planted! May it be pruned and bear even more fruit!

65,270,444 Catholics (23% of the U.S. population);

45,713 priests;

4,719 seminarians;

13,764 permanent deacons;

75,500 religious sisters;

5,690 religious brothers;

1,007,716 infant baptisms;

79,892 adult baptisms;

81,240 persons received into full communion through conversion from a Christian denomination;

3,391,581 students educated in Catholic schools and colleges;

82,395,935 patients treated in Catholic hospitals;

5,811,381 patients treated in other Catholic health care institutions;

7,017,845 individuals in need of help who were assisted by Catholic Charities.

Needless to say, as the resident critic, these are not good numbers. The first point is that trends are generally more important than absolute numbers. Secondly, potential numbers, i.e., what the numbers ought to be is more important than the present numbers.

In what direction are these numbers trending?

As far as 65 mill Catholics and the 82, 000 converts from other faiths, those aren't spectacular numbers considering that we could have had a far greater number of Catholics. One statistic I don't see is how many Catholics have left the Church and how many are inactive. That's important. We can't be happy that there are 65 million Catholics in the US when that number could easily have been in excess of 80 million.

82, 000 for conversions is a paltry number and pathetic if you consider that a significant number of those are from marriage, which does produce great Catholics BTW (nothing against marriage converts). We only have to look at the Pentecostals who are raking people in by the millions. Now, their beginnings were very, very humble, but they now number in the hundreds of millions. Talk about Jabez-like, "Lord bless me and enlarge my territory."

I like the Catholic charities number of 7 million, but for a Church 65 million strong, whose essential mission is social justice, this is not great. The 82 million treated by Catholic hospitals is a good number, that's what we should see for the Catholic charities number.

As far as Catholic education goes, the 3.5 million number is not good and it seems that this is for all education from beginnings up to College. I can understand small college numbers, but the grade, middle and high school numbers would need to go up significantly if we are going to boast about them. This also impacts our lobbying efforts for vouchers because . . . I'm not getting into this one today, but I am suspect of the voucher program, I think there should be a stronger commitment to public schools.

1 million infant baptisms, this seems to be the primary way we grow as a Church, which is indicative of the death of the missionary and evangelical spirit which should permeate Christianity.

Anyway, there you have it. You can say half full or half empty, either way, there is half of the glass that needs filling.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

I have a few moments to breathe and so I'll take the opportunity to blog.

The Catholic Social Ministries Gathering was this week in Washington, D.C. It is a gathering sponsored by a bunch of organizations but primarily the USCCB. The point is to bring together people who work in social ministries at all levels, parish, diocesan, national and international and give the support and have everyone on the same page as far as resources, what's going on legislatively and so on. It is an excellent and relevant gathering and is gathering steam.

24 on Fox last nite was pretty good. The show gets better with time unlike Alias which, like ER is drifting. It is interesting that they eliminated Nina Meyers from the story and now the tension is between Jack and Marie's sister (I forget her name). I had thought that through some crazy twist Jack and Nina would end up as buddies. The deal with the circle of traitors around the President is also interesting but slowly getting too complicated for simple minds like mine.

I finally got all the pieces for my digital camera, but the purchases don't seem to stop. I now have to get a light so that I can take good pictures in poor lighting. First it was a card reader, then usb cable, then battery recharger, deluxe carrying case, extra battery, another picture card, now I have to get lights or atleast a major duty flash. I have to do all this because we have a so much stuff in our brick and mortar store that is not online and scanning is a pain in the neck. But I can take pictures and that should be less labor intensive and produce good results.

I finally figured out how to transfer a database from Quickbooks to Microsoft Excel and from there to Microsoft Access. I did have to fiddle with hundreds of individual entries but at least, I have our biz databases in Access. I am slowly and reluctantly warming up to my Dell computer which I discovered to much chagrin doesn't have a floppy drive (another purchase I need to make). At least the computer is not as bad as I thought, but I am still very dissappointed in Dell support. I still prefer Gateway's customer support.

The NFL hiring season is over and the minority hiring score card is not good. What does Ted Cotrell of the Jests have to do to get a NFL head coaching job? Apparently all he has to do is be a head coach in the NFL and have four loosing seasons and get rewarded by San Francisco.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Blogging's been impossible the past few days, but my schedule should ease up soon.

St. Bakhita's memorial tommorrow. If you don't know who she is, do a google search, the links are good.

Finally completed the first re-read and write of my Cath. sci-fi and now I am doing a re-read and write of another story. it should get me to about 120 pages. I'll have to see if I have enough for a small collection of stories. I stretched the sci-fi one from 25 pages to 80 pages, so I am happy about that.

I haven't been able to check blogs in almost two weeks and I just found out today that Mrs. Welborn shut down her blog. More power to her, it can get time consuming especially the way she was going at it, but it did increase her visibility, I think.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Where on earth has all this talk about abandonning the space program come from? The media is hyping a fringe point of view for the sake of ratings. Of course, space exploration is inherently dangerous but that is why we call it exploration and not routine.

The Pope will be releasing shortly an encyclical on the Eucharist . . . I'm not sure what to think. He is the Pope and certainly should teach, but I am wary because I think the point here is to reign things in. Oh well, this is the way it is.

I am officially of the Alias bandwagon. They have turned a very classy, tight, and well written show into a silly, contrived, sex sells, piece of junk. I am very dissappointed with the writing. It is amazing how quickly things have changed from the first season to the second. The first season was great, excellent, but the problem was that they moved way too fast and what could have comfortably been three seasons was crammed into one. But we figured they had a bunch up their sleeves which was why they had to move that pace. Well it turns out there was nothing. Next time, they need to take a page out of the X-flies book. That's a show that knew how to keep a plot going for years.

I guess 24 is the only show that I have any remote interest in. It does seem to be getting better so, at least, i can look forward to something weekly.


VATICAN CITY, FEB 3, 2003 (VIS) - Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, today is being awarded an "honoris causa" doctorate in theology by the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.

According to a communique published by the pontifical council, "the motivation of the doctorate - according to the university rector - refers to several aspects of the theological research and writings by Cardinal Kasper" and praises "a theological development that faces questions of truth on the basis of a genuine opening to the spirit of the times."

Cardinal Kasper will deliver a homily during a liturgical celebration in St. Peter's Church, which will be presided over by Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop of Malines-Brussels and grand chancellor of the university

Cardinal Kasper wrote an important theology book called "Jesus the Christ." I personally liken it to water, it has no taste of its own until you think carefully about and then you realize that it does have its own taste. His books tend to show his erudition and understanding of other positions but you can actually read his books and think all he intended to do was a survey and you may not be sure what he actually thinks. However, with help, I found out that his Christology is summed up in one word, "underiveable." What he means is that the person of Christ, including his history, from incarnation to ascension, is underiveable from the preceeding secular history of the world or the nature of things.

Rahner would be a good counter-example. For Rahner, XT is, in a sense, the high point of a system set in motion at the beginning, which presents Christ as though he were a necessary outcome of the world's history and nature or its system. Rahner's thought, I think, has to do with the fact that everything is anthropology and secondly, or perhaps firstly, the eternal Trinity does not differ from the Trinity revealed and experienced in human history. Blah, blah, blah, blah, I bore myself . . .