Monday, March 31, 2003

For the umpteenth year in a year, my NCAA hoops bracket is shot! I hate Marquette, Syracuse and Michigan State!!!

Rumsfeld certainly made the rounds of the TV talk shows yesterday, a very defensive Defense Secretary. Unfortunately for Rumsfeld, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the ostensible war plan executed at the start of the war was not the finest indication of the brilliance of the strategist we have in the Pentagon and in the military.

The most salient fact is the absence of a northern front. After Turkey's initial refusal to give us basing rights, that was a definite strategic signal that even if we did get rights after a second vote, placing the 4th infantry division in Turkey was a bad political idea. However, the planners kept the ship with the division off Turkey's coast for three weeks!!!

The northern front is only now beginning to form and slowly at that. Now, Rumsfeld argues that the plan called for a rolling start to the war and the plan was to deploy troops as the conflict went on. So for instance, there've been quite a few deployments since the war began. However, they correctly argue that these deployments were previously scheduled. But where they've messed up was that it is clear that they did not envision any urgent significant combat need for these troops, rather, the thought was to use them to either finish things up or as a peace keeping force. From the pattern of deployments we can see that they certainly had an extremely optimistic view of the looming conflict at the time. Of course, all we hear now is that they never conveyed that sense of optimism and it is all the media's fault.

On the media front, Foxnews needs to get a better advocate for the liberal position than Juan Williams. It is clear that he is no match for the dreadful but formidable Brit Hume and the likeable but still extreme Tony Snow. Whenever they have debates on Foxnews with their analysts, Brit Hume hits hard with his stuff which is often well researched and articulate, Juan just seems to get angry and speak in generalities and doesn't seem to be able to match wits with Brit Hume.

Friday, March 28, 2003 Double Standard on Geneva Convention complaint

Remember John Walker Lindh, the young American who was caught fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan? Back in December 2001, television stations throughout this country aired a videotape of him being interviewed by a CIA agent who was later killed during an uprising among Taliban prisoners.

At one point in that video Lindh - who was being held by the Northern Alliance, a CIA-backed paramilitary group - was kicked in the stomach and threatened with death. Instead of condemning the videotaping of this prisoner and his mistreatment, ABC and CBS teamed up to buy the rights to show it. And then later after Lindh was wounded during the prison uprising, a freelance CNN reporter videotaped an interview with him as he was being carried away on a stretcher.

A couple of months later the freelance reporter was invited onto the Fox News Network to discuss his interview of the wounded prisoner. No mention was made of the Geneva Convention or Lindh's rights under that treaty.

I feel like I'm turning slightly regarding the war. I support it, I think Bush screwed policy and thrust us in this position but we are here and so move ahead. However, I think they have gravely misjudged the longterm foreign policy implications.

Commentators often point to Iran as an example of containment. Iran was an arch enemy at one time but now we know for a fact that internally there is a fierce struggle for control between the hardliners who support terrorism and the reformers, of whom most are young. We can be fairly certain that in 10-20 years a democratic situation may begin to emerge based on its internal dynamics and a stable democracy could ensue. This same sitatuation is possible with Iraq. These things take time.

Libya is another example. The US and Libya were arch enemies at one time, now Quaddafi is a footnote and not considered as much of a threat as he once was. He did not even make the axis of evil. The situation is certainly now better for low level diplomatic talks between the US and Libya. This is another good example how containment may work.

With our current intervention, I think we may have poisoned the waters in that area of the world. Democracy in the Arab world has taken a hit and even if it arises, we'll get instances like Turkey that have moved to an anti-American slant. - Concern as N. Korea quits talks

Here's another brewing situation, North Korea. I think N. Korea is going to do soemthing quite provocative, especially since it is clear that we are going to be embroiled in Iraw for a while.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Rumor Cheney daughter - human shield in Baghdad???

The London based Arabic daily Al Quds Al Arabi reported on Tuesday, March 25 that the American vice president, Dick Cheney, would soon head to the Jordanian capital, Amman.

The newspaper claimed that the visit would be an attempt by Cheney to convince his daughter, who was in the Jordanian capital, to back down her decision to go to Baghdad within a group of volunteers who want to form human shields against the US led attacks on Iraq.

Al Quds Al Arabi cited news reports it claimed circulating in Amman as saying that Cheney would arrive in the Jordanian capital soon on a special visit it described as having a "social mission." “News agencies cited sources as saying that Cheney will arrive in Amman next Friday. He will try to convince his daughter who is currently staying at a hotel in Amman not to go to Baghdad along with a group of volunteers who want to go to Iraq and form human shields against the Anglo American attacks,” said the report.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman in the Jordanian capital, denied that Cheney was on his way to Jordan: "The embassy has no information that the U.S. vice president will arrive in Jordan to convince one of his daughters not to travel to Iraq to join human shields opposed to war," he said.

173D Airborne Brigade Home Page This are the guys who dropped into Northern Iraq.

CNS-Confidence Building Meesage for Teenage Girls: "God thinks you're a BABE!"Scroll down to find story.

Seminar promotes healthy self-image for young women

OSCEOLA, Wis. (CNS) -- During a seminar at St. Joseph Church in Osceola, a former New York City model and author told a group of teen-age girls: "God thinks you're a BABE!" The seminar showed teens that all people are BABES, meaning "Beautiful, Accepted, Blessed and Eternally Significant." The keynote speaker, Andrea Stephens, grew up in Wisconsin and now lives in California, where she is beauty editor of Brio magazine, Focus on the Family's publication for teen-age girls. Brio is an Italian word meaning "full of energy, life and enthusiasm," a phrase that easily describes the energy Stephens brought to St. Joseph Church. In her speech, Stephens warned her audience not to be fooled by society's unrealistic standard of beauty. Instead, she encouraged members to focus on inner beauty and turn to God for a healthy self-image.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

You would think that after all these years, the gov't would have learned the art of wartime propaganda. I'm surprised how the Bush adminstration has bungled the communications, almost to the point that they might lose credibility.

They should have down played our abilities and overstated the Iraqi strengths. They also should have floated out whisper casualty numbers that far exceeded their estimates so that during the war we all wouldn't be counting casualties by the person. This way when the numbers come in far below the whisper number, they'd look good.

I also see how it is possible that they could have so grossly underestimated the Iraqi capabilities. I'm not one who thinks that the fights in Southern Iraq were unexpected, but it is clear that the persistance has blown the Bush administration away.

In watching war coverage it is interesting to the same the instances of convergence and divergence in the US and British war message. The UK forces were quick to note that there was a shi'ite uprising in Basra and that they were supporting it. However, Rumsfeld, in no uncertain terms back away from such a stand. he said that he was old enough to remember the uprisings in Eastern Europe in the 50s against the USSR adn how they were brutally crushed. For this reason he said the he did not encourage any uprisings which would result in wasted deaths unless the people were absolutely sure that forces were committed to supporting them. However, Tony Blair did allude the the uprisings in Basra in 1991 and that the British this time would not abandon them. This is significant because I don't think that the US has even acknowledged abandoning the anti-Sadam uprisings even though Bush 41 encouraged them. This of course has been the Elephant in the living room. So with Blair openly acknowledging this and promising support, I think we can begin to sweep this Elephant out of the room.

It has been reported that a division of the Republican Guard is heading south to confront the Marines. This I think is the height of stupidity for Iraqi war planners. Their strength has been their dispersal. Now they are proceeding, 5000-7000 strong down south and make a perfect target. I will remember to pray for their souls. Update: Brig. Gen Vincent Brooks has denied such reports of Republican Guard movement. That would make more sense.

On NPR I listenend to some stories about the psychological horrors for regular civilians in regard to the bombing. It is horrid especially for the kids. I can't even imagine. Many parents say they try to distract the kids with games and songs and prayer when they hear the bombs and jets whistling by. One can only imagine the long term psychological effect of this horrifying event on all these families. It is also heart breaking to hear the stories of Iraqi Americans who call daily to find out if their families are still alive. It is all so morbid. This is the horror of this kind of war. Sadam Hussein does not care about these people and has put us in a position that we have to cause such horror. Hopefully we can make it up to these people someday.

It is notable that President Bush, even though he is enjoying high wartime ratings, is not able to muscle the Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans into submission. I do think he is vulnerable in next year's election if and only if the Democrats put forward a good candidate.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

I stand pleasantly corrected, the Senate will slash President Bush's budget/tax cut by half. Hallelujah! Thank God for a Senate with some common sense. President Bush's supplemental asking for $75 billion for the war is disingenuous because the war budget is for a month of fighting. I think this will take a little more than one month, we all know that.

Unfortunately, President Bush's tax cut went through in the Senate after a few uncertain moments. I think it is sad that in excess of $300 million is going to squandered on the wealthy when inroads could be made on the uninsurance problem, education, poverty, health, small businesses, etc

I went to bed last nite at 2 am and had to get up for work at 6 am. I've been doingt his for days now, couple with the fact that the little one's been under the weather and sleeping fitfully. When I woke up I was miserable and upset but then I remembered that there are thousands of yuong men and women in the line of fire and death who have gotten but a few hours of sleep in the past few days and I remembered to offer thanks for my life.

I really wish I was there with them in the battle. Most men, I imagine, wished they could be out there on the frontlines but such is life. I always hate to see others make sacrifices for me when I am perfectly capable of making them myself.

I guess we are seeing the Powell doctrine vs. the Rumsfeld doctrine. Powell's doctrine of war that guided the US in the 90s called for the use of overwhelming force. Rumsfeld, on the other hand, wants to reform things by using more special forces and overwhelming air power and far less ground forces.

The reason we are having a slightly more difficult time in Iraq is that we did not go in with overwhelming force. Air power can do a lot but it only goes so far. The third infantry division is in the outskirts of Bahgdad and is frequently described as a blunt force in constrast to the 101 airborne which is more of a swift strike force, in and out types. However, with Urban warfare looming, having only one infantry division seems like a miscalculation. Their flanks are unprotected and the Marines are bogged down. Another 40,000 or more strong infantry division would have been very helpful. We'll still prevail but someone noted that the reason the US is feared is because it is a super power. But in this war we have gone with the smallest possible number of ground forces needed and have not used our super power status

Monday, March 24, 2003

Some Afro-Latino stats:

People of Afro descent constitute the following percentage of the following countries:

Belize 31%

Cuba 62%

Costa Rica 2%

Panama 14%

Honduras 2%

Nicaragua 9%

Venezuela 10%

Guyana 45%

Suriname 41%

French Guiana 66%

Colombia 26%

Peru 5%

Uruguay 4%

Bolivia 0.04%

Brazil 45%

Sunday, March 23, 2003

My office March Madness pool is shot. I really needed to win to restore my confidence in these things. I just wasted $6 again. I am glad that Maryland squeezed through, but Butler???

In significant NBA news, the Spurs beat the Lakers. That is huge. Many, including myself, think this could be a Spurs year. I hope so.

Approximately 7 dead and 5 pows on Sunday morning of a maintenance division that was carrying supply stuff.

I was miserable when I heard that and remained that way through out Mass. My question was quite simply, how? It simply did not make sense that 12 coalition forces would be captured and treated so inhumanely. What irritated me the most was that it seemed that the Pentagon did not know about this, in fact, it is safe to say the administration was ignorant for the most part. What kills me is that isn't accountability at the heart of the military fraternity? At some point someone has to know that someone is missing.

Of course, during the day the situation was clarified. It is was inexcusable. What happened was that some of the supply convoy took a wrong turn and were ambushed buy Iraqis. This is unacceptable. On my way to the store, I can take a wrong turn, in war you cannot take a wrong turn you do not have that luxury, perfection or darn close to it is expected or this is what happens. I am very angry about the pow situation, because it was a mistake that could have been avoided and because they have been treated in the worst way. However, we cannot take it out on the Iraqi people, nor can our men and women lose sight of the objective. We can only pray for lost lives and those live pows, for their safe return.

Apparently the Russians have been supplying technology to Iraq in violation of UN security regulations. I will not say anything in regard to the Russians because my remarks will be overly intemperate.

I've seen a few war protests on TX and it has been stomach churning. I am no fan of the Bush administration and I think their foreign policy has been bungled and flawed from the get go. However, we have thousands of men and women out there fighting and dying, this is no time to be burning flags and staging mass protests. The question is not if they have the right to protest, no one questions that, the issue is what the effect of that will be on our men and women out there, especially the young impressionable, 19 and 20 year olds..

One reason why Russia and China are so opposed to this war, besides economic interests, is the amount of live experience the US military has gotten.

In the past 15 years, our military has engaged in 2 major wars and atleast 2 targetted ones, Gulf Wars I & II and Kosovo & Afghanistan. There is no substitute for actual battle experience and testing. It is one thing to develop patriot missiles and they work perfectly in tests, but it is another thing to actually see how they operate in real live conditions. The US has had the opportunity to deploy its military and move massive divisions and coordinate air, land, and sea attacks. All this experience is indispensible in developing military capabilities.

While it is clear that Russia and China are no match for the US militarily, they consider themselves the most formidable foes. But since we are getting much more battle tested and as a result identify problems and can address them tactically, strategically and technologically, it really places them at a further distance in our rear view mirror.

The other point is that much of our experience has been against soviet made technology and we have thus amassed sufficient competence in countering it and anticipated advances. This cannot sit well with the Russians and Chinese, who I think have a lot of Soviet based technology. The truth is that Russia and especially China, scare the heck out of me, especially since China walks about with the hugest chip on its shoulder that we have ever seen in modern history. China, it seems, would not hesitate to got to war with us even if they know we would kick their butts eventually. However, with the current experiences, hopefully our military is growing in capabilities and experience by leaps and bounds.

I guess I am something of a war hawk, I believe that human beings respond primarily to force and one must not hesitate to use it when called for. Lives lost in war are precious but often far more lives are lost if wars are not fought.

I was watching coverage of the War on either Fox, CNN or MSNBC and they showed one of their correspondents showing Iraqi POWs and it was disgaceful. This guy was talking about them and filming them as tough they weren't there, like they were not humans but animals. It was a disgrace. POWs or not, do not treat them like they do not exist or that they are non-human. Especially since these were not hostile forces in a specific sense.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

I was teaching a clas on Catholic morality recently and we were speaking about divorce, annulments and remarriage. The Catholic position is that marriage is sacramental and cannot be dissolved sacramentally. However, my focus was that divorce is not a bad thing necessarily, in fact there are times when divorce is necessary and encouraged, for instance, if there is a real threat of foreseeable harm. We then began to talk about the issue of divorcing and re-marrying.

Divorce is a civil state recognized by the Church, but it is not sacramental. What that means is that there can be a civil dissolution of the marriage, however, in the eyes of the Church, there is still a sacramental marriage. Divorce only affects the civil status and not the sacramental status of a marriage. The Church's position is that post-divorce remarriage is adultery unless a marriage is annulled, basically saying that the marriage did not "take" in the first place because of unseen prior impediments, for example, the man had threatend the woman with death if she did not marry him, or one of them had absolutely no intention of having ever having children but lied about that intent, or one was still previously married, etc. Unless a marriage is annulled one cannot remary.

However, this creates horrendous pastoral situations. Very often people who care deeply about the sacramental life of the Church have this divorce situation thrust on them by no fault or choice of theirs: an unfaithful spouse eventually leaves and marries someone else, intiating and executing a divorce, examples like these could be multiplied. In these cases there is no basis for annullments because there were no impediments to marriage prior to the marriage and so you have situations were people are left holding the bag. Often the one who leaves and initiates the divorce does not care to deeply about the sacramental life of the Church. This then is a pastoral nightmare because many of these divorcee victims who love the Church and who, over time, want to get married have to do so outside of the Catholic church. In the past this often meant and end to their relationship with the Catholic Church because they could not participate in the sacramental life of the Church, no communion or confession.

In the past decade the Vatican and the Bishops have mounted a major campaign to bring back these people into the Church community because it is the pastoral thing to do. Further, there is an emphasis now on the fact that pastors should encourage such people who remarry to remain in the Church and raise their children as Catholics. A great move in my opinion. However, there is such resistance to this by many Catholics because these people are considered as lepers of sorts. They are adulterers and have no place in the community. But I ask, if the Church community is not open to these people, then to whom should they turn? This is precisely what the Church is here for. It is the sick who need a doctor not the healthy.

Part of the problem here is an ill-defined understanding of Church, for most of us it is still a membership organization. You are part of it as long as you maintain the rules, but if you break them then you are out. The other defficiency in understanding, this is my extremely personal opinion, is that there is a mistaken notion that the point of the Church community is the sacraments. So we tend to see ourselves as existing for the sacraments, thus if we can't or don't participate in communion then we are not fully participating in the Church. I think this turns the Church's mission on its head.

The sacraments are not the mission of the Church but are there to help Christians attain their mission. Besides, they are not the sole, even though they are the primary, paths of attaining grace to fulfill the mission, which is to build a holy community to be friends with God (and holiness is not defined in reference to Church standing or laws but in reference to one's love, faith and hope in God). I've had people ask, "if we can't partake of holy communion, then what is the point of coming to Church?" The point of the Church is to take care of the poor and oppressed and keep one's self holy and pure from sin, James 1:26,27. The Eucharist is for that purpose, to give you grace to do precisely that. The sacraments are intend as vehicles of grace and grace is for the purpose of attaining holiness and holiness has little to do with you standing with the Church.

Parishes have to become welcoming places for people who don't necessarily fit in, because these are the people Christ wants. One of the messages of the Gospels is that those who were in right standing with the religious establishment missed the boat but the outcasts got the treasures. This is a message that is too important to ignore. We need to bring divorcess back into the communities and also be open to those who are not neceesarily like "us."

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Blogger's been acting crazy lately.

Well, we are on our way to war many people think that it would end up like the invasion of Panama years ago. Sporadic fighting but lightning quick overall. I hope so.

Bush et al would do well to begin to mend some diplomatic fences post war, we certainly cannot bear the post-war burden alone. I think it is telling when not even Canada and Mexico support us. it speaks to a failure in this administration's foreign policy.

Looking into the crystal ball, do I see an economic recovery? I don't know, we certainly need things to go better on this front. I think there is potential for economic growth but this potential rests on shaky legs. The circumstances post war could easily tip things in the craziest of directions.

I think the Catholic hierarchy needs to rethink its war stance. They seem to be coming close to putting war in the same boat with the death penalty. If the Vatican was threatened with invasion and destruction by a sadistic, irrational dictator type, I don't imagine there would be much of this anti-war rhetoric. I think they can validly express their views, but they are putting millions of American catholics in a difficult position, including thousands of Catholic troops and chaplains, by somewhat intimating that the US is doing the wrong thing.

There are many of us who think that the Bush people bungled this one, but that the object/concern for disarmament is valid and since we are in this position here and now, we cannot not act.

One cannot emphasize enough the horrible precedent Bush has set. Both China and Russia now have a precedent for trumping international concensus and pre-emptively striking at other nations they regard as harmful to their interests. Not that they cared much for international convention prior to this, but by us maintaining a certain gold-standard protocol, when the Russias and Chinas of the world acted illegally, it was understood that their actions were such. Now, they can argue otherwise base on the US precedent.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Via Oblique House

Democrat - You believe that there should be a free
market which is reigned in by a modest state
beaurocracy. You think that capitalism has
some good things, but that those it helps
should be obliged to help out their fellow man
a little. Your historical role model is
Franklin Rosevelt.

Which political sterotype are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thursday, March 13, 2003

I was at a meeting earlier today in which there was discussion on faith based intiatives to strengthen marriage and family. It seems that US dept. of Health and Human services is going to be providing loads of money for marriage strengthening programs among refugee populations and also in ethnic minority communities.

I love the idea.

However, I am in disagreement with the Bush people who see family strengthening as a way to alleviate poverty, it actually seems to be the other way around. Financial hardships put a lot of strain on marriages and do cause far more break ups that we give it credit for. So I think anti-poverty programs are primary. That said, if millions are going to go to marriage strengthening, regardless of motive or intent of such a law, it is hard to see how there can be anything negative said about that.

I get the feeling that President Bush would crinkle his nose if he sat next to an Arab. People who know him personally or have met him make it clear that he is not a right wing prejuidiced type, but in the past year, he has come off looking like someone who reeks of xenophobia. Either that's true or he needs to dump some of his advisors.

I am reading Leaps of Faith from Kat Lively's FIE press. It is an anthology of Catholic sci-fi. On my way to my meeting in downtown DC I read a couple of stories on the train and I was excited. I had gone through the first half of the book, about 6-8 stories, and of them, I only liked 2 and so I had put the whole book down for a few a weeks (besides, I've been extremely busy past few months). Well I was determined to finish the book so I resumed reading today. I read three stories actually and they were very good. Anthologies can be hit or miss and I think this one is a very good start. I think the story arrangement (i.e., which story is placed first and so on) and editing in some of the first stories could be better, but once you hit your stride, especially in the second half of the book, it really is quite interesting. I actually can't wait to resume reading tonite.

My thoughts on the Iraq thing. I am one of those who is not opposed to war in principle. I think the US has no choice but to go to war now, so they should. However, I think that this war was not necessary and they could have waited at the very least, one more year. Iraq and given inspections one last legitimate shot. For a nation that underwent an event like 9-11, for us to have squandered so much good will takes a lot of skill. Bush has not distinguished himself as president and his foreign policy has to mark him as one of the least effective presidents of the last few decades. Of course he may turn things around soon, but for now he is batting below average on so many fronts, foreign policy, economy, etc.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

I am now on page 89 of a short story re-write and now I'm stuck in that akward, not-yet-a-full-length-story but not-quite-a-short-story. I am enjoying writing this one. Hopefully, I can get it done by the year's end.

Breaking news!

The Buffalo Bills are all set to win the Super Bowl!!

The Bills have quietly put together a top five defense. That coupled with a top ten offense, this team is an immediate contender. The loss of Peerless Price, Wide Receiver is the x factor. We do have a solid second year man, Josh Reed who could step right up, but until it is crunch time, you never know. However, he did show duringt he regular season in crunch time situations, so things look good.

The Bills are the truth.

CNS STORY: Confessional seal under attack in several states

I guess I am a fulll service X Files conspiracy type. I tend to think that it is all spin and confession is not really under attack. It is so interesting in all these articles that the bills "attacking the confessional seal" are quoted for some states like Kentucky and Florida where there is some merit to the concern and then in other cases, no quotes are produced, probably because there are none.

Why would the Catholic Church not want to strengthen laws to protect kids and bring perpetrators of sex abuse crimes to justice? I am scandalized because I was idealistically under the impression that as a Church we really were concerned for the common good and that selfish mistakes of the past were behind us. Now, I am not so sure.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Ash wednesday is always interesting for me as is Good Friday and other mandatory fasting days. I find that the food calculus is too overwhelming for me: one full meal and two small meals which add up to a full meal, is what is asked of us.

But what about snacks?

Are two snacks equivalent to a small meal? My more immediate question was, would 9 cookies count as an augmented snack or a small meal? What is the threshold for a full meal? Is it satisfaction or is it the knowledge that I could have comfortably chowed down two more chesse burgers and another small fry and still have space for two apple pies for a buck?

My wife says that I am missing the point, the point is to fast as a spiritual exercise and not to obsess about food. I guess there's a lesson there.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

What to do about noisy children at mass. (CNS story)

Fussing youngsters at worship services draw differing responses

By Ed Langlois
Catholic News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Msgr. Philip Murnion of the New York-based National Pastoral Life Center tells this joke: "A baby starts crying loudly in Mass during the sermon. The mother stands up to take him out. 'Don't worry, he can stay,' the priest says from the pulpit. 'He's not bothering me.' The woman says, 'Thanks, Father, but it's you who are bothering him.'"

Other than that, Msgr. Murnion is not sure what to say about the topic of noisy or restless children in church. "I'd just be making it up," the expert on parish life says of the highly sensitive and universal issue.

He is not the only Catholic who is ambivalent and confused. In most U.S. parishes there seem to be three main beliefs about fussing youngsters and worship.

Some pastors and parents welcome the sounds as signs of parish vibrancy. Others think parents are shirking their duty to teach children how to behave at Mass. The third -- and largest -- group of priests and parishioners tend to accept that children make noise, but favor nurseries and cry rooms as a way to keep the peace.

"It is a very interesting dance that goes on in parishes about this," said Jesuit Father Thomas Sweetser, director of the Milwaukee-based Parish Evaluation Project. "If the pastor copes, the parish can. The pastor sets the tone."

At Sacred Heart Parish in the small eastern Oregon town of Union, Father Hank Albrecht makes an effort to include children in Mass, asking them if they have prayer intentions or announcements.

Toddlers sometimes wander near the altar and stand by watching him. When it is time for the recessional, the lanky priest invites children to emerge from the pews and walk out with him.

"We see kids in church as a sign of hope that we will continue," said Sacred Heart parishioner Kathy Goodman.

The pastor at St. Irene Byzantine Church in Portland, Father Kurt Burnette, said he has told parishioners to "pin me down and tickle me until I change my attitude" if he ever becomes irritated with children at church. "Of course, the small children don't like the sermon, but I just have to get over that."

The priest said the continual singing, icons and incense swinging of the Byzantine liturgy seem especially interesting to children. He urges families to sit up front and has heard good reports about that arrangement.

At St. Philip Neri Parish in Portland, some parents take noisy children to the foyer. There is even a parent-initiated nursery at one Mass. But the pastor would prefer to have them all stay.

"I sometimes suggest they move to the side aisles and walk them around, but stay in the church where they are part of the assembly," said Paulist Father Steve Bossi. "It seems a contradiction to me to baptize these children during Mass, celebrate the membership of these newest members in our faith community, and then reject their presence when they do the things children do."

But other priests and parish leaders think parents could be doing better.

"I am dumbfounded that people don't know how to behave in church and that parents don't want to correct their children and adults won't correct other parents," said one Portland-area priest who spoke on condition of anonymity.

At St. Mary Parish in Vernonia, some people with hearing loss have raised the issue of noisy children. That has led parish leaders to seek out literature for parents on responsibility in worship.

"We generally have agreed that we want kids in church," said Juanita Dennis, pastoral associate of St. Mary's. "How are they going to learn if they have to stay away?"

Father John McGrann, pastor of St. Jude Parish in Eugene, said priests do not want to offend parents, but have the broader worship life of the parish to keep in mind.

"I just hope that parents take their children out when they disturb others, but sometimes they seem to move a bit slowly," Father McGrann said. "When they are noisy, I do not say anything about it, except I put a notice about child care in the bulletin often, so parishioners know we encourage that."

New construction at St. Jude will include what the priest is calling a "family room." He hopes to encourage it as a place where parents and cranky children can stay for short breaks, not the entire Mass.

Perhaps the most popular solution for children age 5 and older is the children's Liturgy of the Word. But most of the disruption in Mass seems to come from infants or children younger than 5.

So, in Charlotte, S.C., one parish decided to have a complete parallel Mass for parents and children of all ages. On Sunday mornings at St. Gabriel Parish, two Masses start at 9 a.m. The one in the church has mostly adults. The other, in the school cafeteria, is for families with children.

"It will be a little disruptive and very wild, but people know that, and they feel comfortable there," said the pastor of St. Gabriel's, Msgr. Richard Bellow.

For parents, unruly children can be a source of angst. Parents say they want to be with their children, but do not want to disturb other worshippers and want to be able to pay heed themselves. In any case, smiles from fellow worshippers put parents at ease.

"A few weeks ago, I had two foster kids along with my crew, for a total of five kids in our pew," said Cindy Brown, a member of small St. Mary Parish in Wasco. "The little boy, age 2, was noisy and wiggly the whole time. My 8-year-old took him out during the Liturgy of the Eucharist to give the adults some peace and quiet. After Mass, I apologized to the retired couple behind us. They were all smiles and joyful to see youth in our little church. ...

"Without our youth, our future is grim," she added. "I think our parishioners would welcome any young families with open arms."

As a parent I say children are not the enemy, welcome them at Mass. This was precisely Jesus' issue when the disciples saw Jesus exhausted and did not want him bothered by children. Jesus forbade them from chasing the kids away because "of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." If children become a burden to us in our worship and ministry, then we need to review what exactly it is that we are all about. The Church that welcomes and reaches out specially to its children is the Church that will grow and prosper.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

I guess I'm unable to leave this issue alone just yet, the issue of the Maryland bill that would have mandated reporting pf sexual abuse. Here is Cardinal McCarrick on Civil Disobedience
instructing his priest to disobey a law that would break the confessional seal. It would be quite admirable, only that there was no such law proposed from what I can tell.

Some Things One Cannot Do

Thinking of You

By Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

I don't know anyone - parent, priest or passer-by - who hasn't had his or her heart broken over the pain that victims of the sexual abuse of minors have suffered at the hands of an unworthy minister of religion. The news reports of the past year have so often reminded us of this tragedy and even though probably 90 percent of the cases are decades old, it still hurts us all. Here in Washington we have thanked God that for many years we have had a comprehensive policy to protect children and to cooperate with the civil authorities when a priest is involved. For us Catholics when this crime is committed by a priest, it is so much worse because of the trust we have placed in our priests.

One of the reasons for our trust has always been the confidence we have in a priest's total and sacramental silence about anything we may say in the confessional. History is filled with stories of priests who suffered even death rather than break that solemn seal which guarantees the penitent that the knowledge of what is said in the sacrament of penance belong only to the priest and to God.

Unfortunately I must tell you that bills have been introduced in the legislature of the State of Maryland that would make it a crime for a priest to be faithful to that solemn sacramental obligation. These bills would require a priest by law to report what he heard in Confession if any kind of abuse of a child is mentioned. I am not condemning the legislators who are promoting this bill. I am presuming that they are only interested in helping children and not in attacking the Catholic Church and any other religious body which would have such protection for spiritual conversations. However what they are proposing is a grave violation of our Church's Canon Law, and I must oppose it with whatever authority I have, and you, dear friends, need to know this.

If this bill were to pass, I shall instruct all the priests in the Archdiocese of Washington who serve in Maryland to ignore it and to indicate they are acting on direct orders from me as their archbishop and religious superior. On this issue, I will gladly plead civil disobedience and willingly - if not gladly - go to jail. Please understand that I write this to you as your servant and your friend and as one, who however unworthy, in the mystery of God's providence, is called to be your bishop. I cannot allow three state senators and eight members of the House of Delegates who are the proposers of this legislation to force our priests to violate the sacramental seal of Confession. If there is a gauntlet involved in this process, then I throw it down now.

While there is still time to prevent this attack on the sacramental seal of Confession, I ask you to write or phone your own state legislators in Annapolis and tell them how you feel about the proposed law and how it affects your rights as a Catholic American and a citizen of this state of Maryland. If in spite of all you do, it gets into law, I'm happy to assure you that, even behind bars, I'll be thinking of you.

I happened to run into a friend of mine from Iowa yesterday who is in town temporarily. She is on her diocesan sexual abuse board. She said that Iowa recently passed a similar law mandating reporting of sexual abuse of minors and the dioceses supported the law especially as it explicitly exempted confession.

I also spoke with a Dallas lawyer who has been involved in their diocesan sex abuse cases for years and he felt that the proposed and now defeated MD bill was very well written to protect the confessional seal. He noted that the Texas law in this matter is very severe. In the local diocesan paper there was an article on this issue and what I found interesting was that, not once did they quote from the proposed bill, however they mentioned a Kentucky bill presently under consideration that proposes to break the confessional seal and they actually quoted the offending passage. I thought that was revealing that they quote the Kentucky bill but not the easily accesible MD bill.

So what is the motivation? Because even outside of the implications for the Catholic Church, don't we want madated reporting required for Boys Scouts, Schools, Youth organizations, etc? We do, don't we?

Monday, March 03, 2003

The Maryland senate bill that proposed mandate reporting of sexual abuse was killed in the Judiciary committee. The local dioceses here Washington and Baltimore scored a major victory. What it does show is the political muscle of the Catholic church in the area. The bill wanted to mandate reporting of sexual abuse to authorities without breaking the privilege of confession but the Catholic authorities spun it to say that Maryland senators were trying to break the confessional seal. By presenting it this way, they were able to get Catholics to light up their reps' switch boards and kill the bill. I guess it is fair politics, it's just dissappointing to see the Church kind'a stoop so low (BTW, the people involved on the Catholic side are generally honorable and good people, but this is the nature of the political beast).

There is another bill that wants to increase the statute of limitations on sexual abuse. Of course the archdioceses around here want to kill that bill but it will be much harder because I doubt they'd get much sympathy from Catholics on that one. The Archdiocese of Washington's position is that addressing the sexual abuse issue is a good thing but a state law increasing the statute of limitations is not the way to do it. They, like the rest of the Church, want to be left alone to police themselves. We've already seen that it doesn't work. It is almost like the wolves guarding the hen house, The only redeeming issue here is that Cardinal McCarrick and, to a small extent, Keeler, have been propoents of very tough internal standards, so there isn't a sense of necessarily skirting the issue. However, this brings back the question of what our relationship to the common good as Church is and when there is a conflict between the Church's interest and public good, which should be a priority in the just eyes of the Church?