Friday, April 29, 2005

"I am not a slave to a God I don't believe in"

I saw this boldly emblazoned on the rear window of a van. I take it to mean, "I am not a slave to God, because I actually do not believe in him."

But it raised a question about double negatives. Does the phrase work as a double negative? so could it be saying, "I am a slave to God because I believe in him"?

MD Senate Race: Mfume Denies Allegations

Senate Hopeful to Persevere in Campaign

Former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume vowed last night to press ahead with his campaign for the U.S. Senate and battle accusations that he gave raises and promotions to women he was dating while heading the nation's oldest civil rights organization.

"How does one defend against a rumor, a whisper or innuendo?" he said to thundering applause from supporters in Prince George's County. "You do that by standing up, standing tall, standing for what you believe in and, most of all, not quitting."


A few minutes into his speech, Mfume said he was going to refute the allegations "once and for all" and then not speak of them again. [...]

Where . . is that . . . Chris Van Hollen for Senate page???

I am so ticked. I held this guy in such high esteem which is why I am very dissappointed. I know stuff happens so I'm not getting all self righteous and all. It's just that the NAACP brought him in precisely to clean up its image after a bunch of scandals and all this while, we thought things were looking good and then this. It's more about my expectations than him.

When you are a black man in the public eye, there is little room for error (fair or not). We've got Obama in the U.S. Senate with a great image, who makes us all proud. Carol Mosely Braun, one-time Senator from Illinois was an embarassment. Right now, we need squezky clean--can't afford any shenanigans. Oh, and we don't want the Black Republican candidate, Michael Steele.

Labor's not doing to well

AFL-CIO Has Money Problems

I feel bad for the labor unions. They are taking a real beating these days. In fact, the past two decades beginning with Reagan have been horrendous. I think the Unions have to rework their image big time. People say that affinity with Democrats hurts them. I don't think so. There is a reason why they are joined at the hip with Democrats. If they weren't the Republicans would stamp them out to oblivion and workers every where would be screwed.

Oh well, I wish them well.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Extinct Woodpecker Found Alive


The spectacular ivory-billed woodpecker, which was declared extinct in 1920, has been found alive in North America, Science magazine reports.
The news has stunned ornithologists worldwide, with some comparing the discovery to finding the dodo.

Researchers began an intense year-long search after a tip-off before finally capturing the bird on video.

The find has ignited hope that other "extinct" birds may be clinging on to survival in isolated places.

'Finding Elvis'

"This find is so significant that it is really difficult to describe," Alistair Gammell, of the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), told BBC News. "We sadly won't rediscover the dodo, but it is almost on that level."

Frank Gill, of the US National Audubon Society, added: "This is huge, just huge. It is kind of like finding Elvis."

The "stunning" red, white and black woodpecker was formerly distributed across the south-eastern United States and Cuba.

It's like a funeral shroud has been pulled back

Tim Gallagher, editor of Living Bird magazine
The bird carves out a narrow niche for itself by drilling in mature trees, and logging and forest clearance for agriculture began to impinge on its environment.

By 1920, it was assumed extinct, although there was one more confirmed sighting in North America of a lonely unpaired female, above the remnants of an over-cut forest.

Since then, decades of searches yielded nothing and hope gradually faded away.

Now, finally, the bird has been seen again in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas.

The discovery was first made on 11 February 2004, by Gene Sparling, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, who was kayaking in a reserve in Big Woods. He saw an unusually large red-crested woodpecker fly towards him and land on a nearby tree.

He said the creature did not look quite like anything he had seen before, so he contacted Cornell University's Living Bird magazine.

After a team of experts interviewed him, they felt they might be onto something special.


Does anyone buy this? A bird missing in North America for 85 years and then some guy just happens to see this by chance in a "remote" location? Nope, I don't buy it. something funny is going on.

South African White Farmers Feed Black Man to the Lions

Lion case highlights farm tensions

The conviction of two South Africans for throwing a black man into a lion enclosure is a reminder of the deep-rooted racial antagonisms that remain in South Africa's rural areas, BBC News's Justin Pearce reports from Johannesburg.
South Africa has just celebrated the 11th anniversary of democratic rule under a human rights-based constitution.

Yet on Thursday, a white man and his black employee were convicted for feeding a former black employee to lions.

Outsiders could be forgiven for wondering what happened to the "rainbow people" vision expressed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the end of the apartheid era.

In fact, what limited racial integration has happened in South Africa has been confined to the cities.

If anything, racial tensions in the countryside have increased since the end of white minority rule.


Popemobile for Sale on Ebay: Bids top $1 Million

German seller says 'it drives like heaven'

ROME - A second hand car once said to be registered in the name of Joseph Kardinal Ratzinger -- the new Pope Benedict - is up for sale on eBay and the sky seems to be the limit when it comes to bidding.

The vehicle, a metallic grey 1999 Volkswagen Golf, went up for auction on the German site ( at a minimum price of 9,900 euros ($12,790) on Wednesday and, just over 24 hours and more than 300 bids later, the price had hit one million euros ($1.3 million).

German Web site identified the seller as Benjamin Halbe, 21, from the town of Olpe in Germany’s Sauerland region, who said he bought the car from a local dealer in January.

“It drives like heaven,” the site quoted Halbe as saying.

The Web site of the German newspaper Bild quoted an eBay spokeswoman in Germany as saying the online auctioneer had checked with the vehicle licensing office which had confirmed the name of the original owner was genuine.

Ratzinger, who is from Bavaria in southern Germany, has been at the Vatican for more than two decades and is not known to drive. The Vatican was not available for comment on the auction, which closes on May 5 at 7.30 p.m..

The auction site describes the vehicle as a two liter gas-powered manual, with 75,000 km (47,000 miles) on the odometer since it was first registered in March 1999.

“Does black smoke or white smoke come out of the exhaust pipe?” one posting on the site asked - a reference to the signal used at the Vatican to show whether a new pope has been elected by the secret conclave of cardinals.

“Very funny,” was the reply.

Maryland Senate Race: Allegations Against Mfume-I'm Switching to Van Hollen

When Kweisi Mfume announced his candidacy for the Senate race in Maryland, I was all over that like white on rice. I threw my support behind him until I saw this:

Mfume Accused of Favoritism at NAACP

Allegations detailed in a confidential NAACP report claim that Kweisi Mfume gave raises and promotions to women with whom he had close personal relationships while he was president of the nation's oldest civil rights organization.

The 22-page memorandum, prepared last summer by an outside lawyer, did not accept as true the claims lodged against Mfume by a female employee but determined that they could be "very difficult to defend persuasively" if she filed a lawsuit.

Mfume, 56, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, has denied the allegations. In an interview yesterday, he said the allegations in no way influenced his Nov. 30 announcement that he would leave the NAACP after nine years.

"I don't engage in inappropriate behavior," he said in the interview. "And if I did, I'm sure after nine years there, 10 years in the Congress and seven years on the [Baltimore] City Council, it would have been an issue long before your telephone call to me."

Disclosure of the report could prove sensitive for Mfume, who has ascended the political ranks in part on the basis of his compelling personal narrative. He overcame teenage years spent running in street gangs to become a five-term congressman and head the prominent civil rights organization.

The matter also could be delicate for the NAACP. Mfume took over the group from interim head Earl T. Shinhoster in 1996 when it was still reeling from the turbulent 16-month tenure of Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. Chavis was removed in 1994 after he agreed to secretly pay $332,400 in NAACP funds to settle claims of sexual discrimination by a female aide.

Members of the NAACP executive committee first saw the report detailing the allegations against Mfume at an October meeting in Washington, about a month before Mfume announced his decision to step down. The document has been a closely guarded secret -- one board member said the copies that were distributed were numbered and collected after the meeting. Most members reached this week declined to discuss it.

The document was intended as an assessment of the allegations as the organization's leaders evaluated how to handle the claims of the mid-level employee, Michele Speaks.

Speaks hired an attorney and asked for $140,000, two years' salary, in exchange for agreeing not to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or pursuing a lawsuit, according to the report. Speaks could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, Kathleen Cahill, declined to comment.

The NAACP hired Marcia E. Goodman, a Chicago employment lawyer, to analyze Speaks's allegations. In the memo, Goodman concluded that some of Speaks's claims -- including an assertion that Mfume "touched her on the hip" -- largely amounted to a "he said-she said" dispute. But Goodman wrote that others were more problematic.

Speaks could mount a credible claim of workplace harassment because of "the impression [that was] created that a woman must provide sexual favors to Mr. Mfume or his associates in order to receive favorable treatment in the workplace," the lawyer wrote in the memo.

There's more in the article. If this is true, and I suspect it is, then he is bona fide jerk. Either way, I'm not supporting him. I suppose that second Black U.S. Senator is going to have to wait.

In the meantime, Chris Van Hollen for Senate!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"The Moor" on Pope Benedict's Coat of Arms

Via the third comment at this Open Book post.

Here's a website discussing the black face on Pope Benedict's coat of arms. It appears to be a traditional Bavarian symbol dated to the fourteenth century. It doesn't appear that anyone knows for certain why. (It is supposed to be St. Corbinianus, but he wasn't black)

Another site that talks about instances of the moor's head on coats of arms in Germany. (Here's the image-html page, quick load)

If you read German or Slovenian, here is a website that traces some of its occurences, i.e, Black face on Bavarian flags.

Attention Men!

Four signs that she's into you

Clue #1: She’s all decked out
What you can tell: According to Patti Wood, body language expert and professional speaker, a woman’s appearance can translate into how much attention she needs, and is willing to give. “When a woman takes care of herself, men assume she’ll be able to take care of them,” she says. That’s the upside. “But if her appearance is perfectly flawless, that is the standard she’ll measure you by,” explains Kevin Hogan, Ph.D., and author of Irresistible Attraction: Secrets of Personal Magnetism. Are you up for the challenge? Because she may well be one high-maintenance woman.

A man who needs a mother not a wife is typical and not high maintenance. A woman who likes to look good is high maintenance. Glad I got that straight.

Clue #2: She licks her lips
What you can tell: “There is a certain kind of lip-licking that means she’s interested,” says Wood. “Look for a slow movement of just the upper part of the tongue across the lips. A woman has to make an effort to do that, so it’s very come-hither.” John South, from Charleston, WV, has used the lip-licking theory to his advantage. “There was a woman at a bar who looked at me and then licked her lips,” he explains. “So, I went over to her and asked her if she needed some ChapStick. She knew I caught her, and she was a little embarrassed, but she told me she was glad I came over.”

Can this possibly be true? Women lick their to communicate being into a guy??

Clue #3: She tosses her hair
What you can tell: “Any kind of preening is a woman’s attempt to get noticed,” Wood explains. One particularly good sign: “If she flips her hair back with her wrist exposed, she’s opening herself up to you.” In fact, any exaggerated hair toss (as opposed to a quick sweep of the bangs to get them out of the way), is a positive thing. Chase Massingill, of Queens, NY, says the hair toss has been a good indicator that a woman is interested in him. “One night at a party, I noticed this beautiful woman looking at me, then she looked away and flipped her hair back,” he explains. “I went to talk to her and later found out from one of her friends that she’d been eyeing me all night.”

(no comment-I am laughing)

Clue #4: Her feet face you
What you can tell: “Where the feet go, the heart follows,” explains Wood. “If a woman is into you, the bottom portion of her body will face you. If her lower body is turned away, chances are it’s not shyness, it’s a lack of interest.” Most women have been taught to be polite, so they may turn to face you with their upper bodies, observes Wood. “But the lower body is what separates attraction from civility. Even when she’s talking to other guys, if her feet are pointed toward you, she’s interested. It’s a very good indicator.”

I swear, I never read these things but curiousity got the better of me this time and it was good for laugh or two. Now, I am not making fun of the human courtship dance. I'm just saying.

Neanderthal Jawbone

Jaw bone hints at early Britons

A piece of jawbone that has lain in Torquay Museum, Devon, for nearly 80 years could be the oldest example of a modern human yet found in Europe.

The Kent's Cavern specimen was thought to be about 31,000 years old, but re-dating shows it is actually between 37,000 and 40,000 years old.

However, the early dates lead the team behind the research to wonder if the jawbone is actually from a Neanderthal.

A new examination of the fragment along with DNA analysis could sort this out.

If the jawbone is Neanderthal, it will be the first "classic" Neanderthal confirmed in mainland Britain. Early Neanderthal teeth dating to about 200,000 years ago have been found at Pontnewydd, Wales.

But if Kent's Cavern 4 is found to come from an early modern human, or Cro-Magnon, the implications would be even more astounding.

"People have been arguing that [modern humans] may have been in eastern Europe early but they certainly weren't in western Europe," Professor Stringer told the BBC News website.

"If Kent's Cavern does turn out to be a modern human, it would mean some of them at least had come across very early.

"That would mean that in Britain and in western Europe, there was at least 10,000 years of overlap between Neanderthals and modern humans."

American Idol Analysis Week 6

Here's my original order of picks

This week's theme was songs since 2000. The problem is that I can count on my fingers the number of good songs written since 2000. I don't know any of the songs so I'll skip mentioning them.

Scott Savol--The judges didn't like it much. I thought it was okay.

Vonzell Solomon--I thought she did good. She is the sleeper and could very well win this thing.

Bo Bice--Great performance. I do think he is going to hit a wall. I just don't know how well his fan base is going to hold up.

Anthony Federov--Good performance. Nice touch showing his immigrant Ukranian father who recorded his first song as a child and played it while weeping.Very touching, good for a couple million votes. This guy could win. Older ladies love him. Teenie boppers and little girls love him.

Constantine Maroulis--His act is wearing on me. But I found myself drawn into his performance.

Carrie Underwood--What the heck was that song???

The judges were more on the critical side. I think they realize that with this Paula Abdul sleeping with the contestants scandal brewing, they need to shore up the show's credibility. So there was a noticeable dearth of syrupy comments from Paula. Simon Cowell is the only one who makes any sense anyway.

Who's out? Scott "the body" Savol. On the other hand Bo Bice may get the axe. Scott, in his little piece, made a shrew move. He said, "I represent all those people in Cleveland who get up every morning and work 8 hours." Guess who's going to be voting for him in huge numbers? That's right, regular people.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Joseph Ratzinger vs John Ratzenberger

Check it out, here

Via Reformissionary

You go, Mark!

Mark Poloncarz is running for Eire County Comptroller. Mark is one of the good guys, so pray or support him if you can.

Pope Benedict's/Ratzinger's Mariology

In an earlier post, I noted some aspects of Benedicts Mariology so far, as evident in his public acts as Pope. It seems that there is something secondary about Mary in his scheme, which is fine, if that is his style.

I bring this up because I stumbled across this blog that has a quote from Ratzinger on Mary:

In Mary’s Yes to the birth of God’s Son from her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary places her body, her whole self, at God’s disposal to do with as he pleases. Her Yes puts her will in perfect conformity with the will of the Son. Her Yes makes possible the Incarnation of Jesus. If God is to have entry into our world and be borne there, Mary’s Yes, this conformity of our will with God’s will, must be repeated again and again. On the Cross, this conformity of wills finds its definitive expression... On the Cross, this readiness is put to the proof and precisely the darkness in which Mary stands engulfed reflects the fullness of the identity of her will with that of Jesus. Faith is a community formed by the Cross, and it is only on the Cross that it achieves its full perfection.

This is the passive and conforming Mary. Again, nothing wrong. But for someone like me, the incarnation is a different animal. There are two ways to see Mary's role. One is as a passive receptor. So God says, you are to have this child. She says, okay. And God places child in her womb. I'm not a fan of that strand.

Then there is the active and aggressive Mary. When God says, you are to have my child. She says yes. Now, God can only go so far, believe it or not. So as God leaps out to her she leaps towards divinty and it is her faith that actually creates Christ in her. So she is not shoot, a tube, through which Christ entered the world. She created Jesus in her womb that is what makes her his Mother.

Think about it as a translation. God spoke the word and she translated it with nothing lost in translation. Think about that. Mary translated the divine word, the uncreated, into a created human being. That's the active Mary.

There are vital lessons in the passive Mary, so I'm not knocking that, but after years of JP2, it is interesting getting a different Mariology from the top.

The "But-he's-a-great-guy" Syndrome

Just about everyone is gushing at what a great guy in person Pope Benedict is. They say he is humble, self-effacing, witty, etc, etc, and so on. So what! I've always said that everyone is a great guy to some else. In fact he may be a wonderful person all the time, it has little to do with how he'll carry out his office as Pope.

He was the same great guy when he was the inflexible chief inquisitor.

Anyway, I saw a Richard Cohen column today which struck me along the same lines.

The extraordinary film "Downfall" is about the last days of Adolf Hitler in his underground Berlin bunker. The German dictator killed himself 60 years ago this month (April 30, 1945), ending World War II in Europe and, of course, the mass murder of civilians we now call the Holocaust. "Downfall" is a powerful, engrossing film, much praised for showing the often-caricatured Hitler as -- and I am quoting innumerable reviews here -- "a human being." It makes you wonder what, up until now, people thought he was.

In the movie, as in real life, Hitler is nice, considerate, thoughtful and incredibly cruel. He is a mass of contradictions, devoid of conscience -- a mass murderer who, as the Soviet army closes in and his situation gets more and more hopeless, becomes increasingly irrational.


It was the stated intention of the movie's director, Oliver Hirschbiegel, to humanize Hitler and the others in the bunker with him, including his vapid mistress, Eva Braun. "What I hope I've done is complete the picture of what happened -- to make these characters whole in the mind of my generation, so we can really see them as human beings -- granted, horrendous, evil, ignorant and empty -- but still human, because we can't learn from monsters," he said in one recent interview.

And so we learn that Hitler really was good to his dog, Blondi, and kind to his secretaries, and solicitous toward the little Goebbels kids, all of whom were murdered in their sleep by their mother, Magda, so they would be spared life without Nazism.


Pope Benedict is not in the same stratosphere with Hitler. I'm not comparing them. But the point is that pointing to personal charactistics such affability and the like are not grounds for proclaiming Pope Benedict the Second Coming. By all accounts, George W. Bush is a great guy in person, but he'll still go down as one of the worst five presidents in history. He is still an inverterate liar and grossly dishonest person.

Maryland Governor's Race: Duncan vs O'Malley

Duncan goes after rival on stemcells

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan lashed out yesterday at Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, suggesting that his likely rival for the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial nomination was partly to blame for the recent demise of state legislation on stem cell research.

Appearing at a conference in North Bethesda examining the business potential for the research, Duncan accused O'Malley of showing "only tepid support" for bills considered this year by the Maryland General Assembly. The legislation, which died on the final day of the session, would have provided state funding for embryonic stem cell research and bolstered Maryland's biotechnology sector and research universities, Duncan said.

"Even though Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University has done ground-breaking stem cell research already, the Democratic mayor of that city remained silent on this issue until the very last day of the session," Duncan said, referring to an Annapolis news conference at which both Democrats appeared. "Getting the mayor actually involved in the substance of this issue could have made a difference."

Doug Duncan for Governor!

I think O'Malley is trying to play to the Catholic vote. He figures he has the Blatimore Black voting block and now needs to get the Catholic vote. I think Duncan would make a far more effective governor. He has run one of the nation's most progressive counties for 8 years and done a very good job.

Dave Grohl (ex Nirvana, now Foo Fighter) Honors John Kerry with New Album

Foo Fighters' Grohl Proves He Can Kerry a Torch

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl pays tribute to defeated presidential candidate John Kerry with the title of the band's new two-disc album, "In Your Honor," due in June. The title was inspired by campaigning for Kerry, the singer-guitarist says in the new issue of Rolling Stone, but adds, "It's not a political record."

"We'd pull into small towns, and thousands of people would come to be rescued by this man," Grohl, 36, tells the magazine. The Kerry camp returned the compliment in a statement yesterday describing Grohl, the former District punk band drummer who was a member of Nirvana, as a "hero" on the campaign trail who "inspired a record number of young voters" to support the Democratic senator.

Furthermore, spokeswoman Katharine Lister tells us that Kerry, a one-time high school bass player, "is ready to return the favor and go on tour with Dave Grohl and open for the Foo Fighters anytime."

The Buzz on Electronic Toothbrushes

Rotating power toothbrushes remove plaque and reduce risk of gum disease better than ordinary toothbrushes. That's the finding of a review of 42 studies involving 3,855 patients, by researchers at England's University of Sheffield School of Dentistry. Reviewers found that people who used powered brushes with oscillating bristle heads -- ones that rotate in alternating directions -- had 11 percent less plaque and 6 percent less gum disease than those who used manual brushes. In studies longer than three months, oscillating brush users had 17 percent less gum disease.

Circle game Oscillating brushes also worked better than back-and-forth power brushes. Researchers found the back-and-forthers, including newer ionic brushes, which are supposed to give a tiny electric charge to the tooth surface, are no better than manual brushes for reducing plaque and gum disease.


Time and motion Researchers theorized that power brush users may invest more time in tooth care. "If you put in the minutes, there's no reason why you couldn't have your mouth completely clean with a manual toothbrush," said dentistry professor Peter Robinson, who conducted the study for the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research.

Cliff Whall, a dentist with the American Dental Association, agreed. "There's nothing magic about the power brushes," he said. "The problem is that most people brush for 15 to 20 seconds, and that's not enough."

Alexandria dentist Bernard Carr said he can see the difference in patients who use electric versus manual toothbrushes. Carr encourages bad brushers to buy a power model with a two-minute timer that lets them know when they're done.

The loss of an institution, the Bills go for talent first

The Buffalo Bills stand out because of their four straight trips to the Super Bowl. At first we used to get a lot of grief about being such losers until everyone found out just how tough it is to repeat conference championships, much less repeat three times in a row.

One mainstay of the Marv Levy Bills teams was that they were grade A, smart, character guys. You had to score well on intelligence tests and be a stand up guy to be drafted or acquired. This is a similar model that we see with New England. They go for average talent, with grade A work ethic, intelligence, good character, etc.

So it was with no small amount of distress that I read this from the Buffalo News:

The Bills expect their first two picks, Roscoe Parrish and Kevin Everett, to be immediate contributors on offense. Let's hope the new guys do a better job figuring out the offense than they did the NFL's standardized intelligence test.

Parrish scored 10 out of 50 on the Wonderlic test, given every year to draft prospects. That was the second-lowest score among drafted wide receivers. Everett scored 12, last among tight ends. Of course, the Miami program did not become famous by turning out prospective senators and neurosurgeons. Frank Gore, a Miami running back, had a 6.

The typical NFL prospect scores a 21 on the Wonderlic, roughly the same as the general population. A couple of sample questions: What is the ninth month of the year? If a pad of paper sells for 21 cents, how much will four pads cost?

Four pads will cost . . . six dollars? "I can catch the ball, though."

Am I holding out for a Super Bowl this year? Well, . . . of course! The Bills had the second best defense in the league and only lost one player. The special teams were the best in the league, and our offense can't get much worse. In fact, it figures to get better once this Losman kid begins to get the hang of it. All we need is for Losman, the kid quarterback, to put it all together in the last four games and go into the playoffs hot.

Experts Date Rock Art in Britain

Experts have dated the UK's oldest rock art, at Creswell Crags in the midlands, to more than 12,800 years ago.
A team from Bristol, Sheffield and Open Universities got the date by measuring traces of radioactive uranium in limestone crusts over the engravings.

More than 80 pictures have now been discovered in the caves on the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border. The research is to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.


The complex of caves at Creswell Crags has preserved evidence of human activity during the last Ice Age.

Archaeologists announced the discovery of the engravings, on the walls and ceilings of the caves, in 2003. The pictures depict animals such as the European bison, which is now extinct from Britain, and other figures.

Artefacts left by Ice Age hunter-gatherers excavated from Creswell's caves have been dated to 13,000-15,000 years old. The new results indicate the art may have been left by the people who made these artefacts.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Pope Benedict and the Blessed Virgin Mary

*This is not a criticism, just an observation*

Pope Benedict's Marian emphasis has been tepid to date. So far it doesn't seem like he will continue the robust Mariology of his predecessor. (Remind me of this when he declares Mary, Co-Redemptrix).

Here are the Marian refences so far. First, from the JP2 Funeral homily:

Divine Mercy: the Holy Father found the purest reflection of God’s mercy in the Mother of God. He, who at an early age had lost his own mother, loved his divine mother all the more. He heard the words of the crucified Lord as addressed personally to him: "Behold your Mother." And so he did as the beloved disciple did: he took her into his own home" (eis ta idia: Jn 19:27) – Totus tuus. And from the mother he learned to conform himself to Christ.

None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi. We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Since this is a tribute to JPII, the Marian references are very strong, being that JP2 dedicated his pontificate to her. The reference to Mary as "divine mother" is less dogmatic and more a grammatical contrast: JP2 lost his earthly mother, but found his non-earthly mother, or heavenly mother, or divine mother. But this is the type of language shift that precedes the dogmatic language. So, not bad.

I note that there were zero Marian references in the pre-conclave homily. That is astounding, given that this was the most important act they will perform as Cardinals on behalf of the Church. This, from the perspective that Catholic theology does not put a lot of distance at all between Mary and the Church.

Next reference is in his Apostolic Blessing, Ubi et Orbi:

Let us move forward in the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help. The Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.

Mary gets a mention . . . at a fairly important moment, so she is not all together forgotten. The next mention is at the post-election homily to the Cardinals:

Like Peter, I too renew to Him my unconditional promise of faithfulness. He alone I intend to serve as I dedicate myself totally to the service of His Church.

"In support of this promise, I invoke the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, in whose hands I place the present and the future of my person and of the Church.

It is with sadness that I note no mention of the Blessed Mother in the Inaugural Homily.

So, so far, the crux of Benedict's Mariology is her assistance: "maternal intercession", "Mary will be on our side." It is different from JP2, for whom Mary was a "divine mother" and the one who assumed the helm of his pontificate. Nothing wrong here with Benedict, it just a different direction.

PA First Cousins Marry in Maryland

Pa. Cousins Try to Overcome Taboo of 'I Do'

He also knew, even as a mere lad of 14, that this never would be just any romance, because the object of that rapturous gaze happened to be his cousin Eleanor. And not a distant cousin, located somewhere in the far branches of the family tree. Their mothers were sisters. They knew their attraction -- she had felt it, too -- was taboo, and they kept it more or less a secret. That is, until last month, when they decided it was time to marry.

The whole thing gives me the hibby jibbies, but that's that. I don't think I have strong feelings either way. One thing, for sure, is that it is not against nature. I think the concerns are more public health type stuff, which is a real concern.

Anyway, I was blown away by the rationale given in defense of these types of marriages:

But their marriage also cast a light on conflicting state laws surrounding the practice, and on such groups as Cousins United to Defeat Discriminating Laws Through Education (C.U.D.D.L.E.) and , which cite new research to encourage acceptance of such unions.

"In God's eyes, we're all brothers and sisters.

U. S. Catholics Approve of the Pope

Poll Shows Support for New Pope Despite Views of Church as Out of Touch

An overwhelming majority of American Catholics approves of the selection of Pope Benedict XVI and predicts that he will defend the traditional policies and beliefs of the church, even though many members say that church is out of touch with their views, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found that more than eight in 10 Catholics broadly supported the selection of former German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to replace Pope John Paul II.

Wow! This was not supposed to happen!!!! Just kidding. I have a grammar question here, should the verb in the first line be plural, "approves"? I would have said "approve." Same with "predicts," I think I would have said, "predict."

Nearly as many, 73 percent, said they were "enthusiastic" about the new pontiff, although only one in four said they were strongly enthusiastic about the choice.

Thank God for the liberal media. Damn it, if we can't get them to disapprove, at least we can show that "only one in four" is wildly enthused. You can be sure that's the stat I'll be quoting.

If you loved that jab, you'll love the next line:

Those Catholics in favor of modernizing the church were less enthusiastic than traditionalists about the new pontiff, but still gave Benedict XVI majority support.

This confirms that supports of Benedict are regressive. I love the liberal media. (Hey, Fox does it too!)

Will U.S. Catholics Keep Giving?

This MSNBC article explores that. They make the obvious points about the sex abuse scandal and also negative liberal reaction to a conservative pope, hurting giving. But what I found very interesting was that they also raise the issue of declining priests and sisters.

Here's how it works:

The demographic squeeze has been building for decades -- each year, there are fewer and fewer nuns and priests available to provide low-wage labor to run church institutions. In 1965, there were 180,000 Catholic nuns in the United States. Today there are less than 80,000, with an average age of about 69. The number of parishes without priests has increased five-fold in the same period.

Now those workers must be replaced with lay workers, at more expensive lay salaries, putting the squeeze on church finances.

Quite interesting.


Interesting series on Salvation at The Parish

Benedict-Free Monday

I will not say anything negative about Pope Benedict today. But this is from Jeanne at Body and Soul and it was written yesterday, so I am not violating the criticism-free Benedict zone today.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Installation Homily of Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict's Homily at Installation Mass

I did not watch the installation but I just read the homily and a few things struck me.

First, he writes nice tight inspiring and symbol-rich homilies. But for the cynic like me, that means nothing. I'm more interested in true intent and seeking clues for his mindset and where he is taking things.

One thing that strikes profoundly at the onset of this Papacy is that it is very hiera-centric. There is great emphasis on the top-down approach in which the roles of everyone determined by their status in the hierarchy. Contrast this view with Lumen Gentium, the Vatican II document on the Church. LG was quite revolutionary in that the Bishops sought to establish a new model for the Church. As a result they began the document by speaking of the Church as a mystery and then proceeded to talk about the People of God and the universal call to holiness. This was seen as extremely significant because they were making the point that the mystery of the Church and our status as people of God and our call to live holy lives, preceded the breakdown into hierarchical slots.

Benedict, right out of the gate, has begun with the emphasis on his role as Peter and rock, and then moves to that of the Bishops and priests, and then mentions the laity.

He crossed the threshold of the next life, entering into the mystery of God. But he did not take this step alone. Those who believe are never alone – neither in life nor in death. At that moment, we could call upon the Saints from every age – his friends, his brothers and sisters in the faith – knowing that they would form a living procession to accompany him into the next world, into the glory of God.

The "Mystery of God" is present at the beginning of the homily but not as the Church as mystery but as the beatific vision attained in the after-life. The saints are introduced as companions, which invokes a sense of Church, but still a deficient sense of the the mystery that is the Church and the totality of the mysterious community of the Church. (He does say, a few lines down, that all baptized are saints, which is hair-ripping truth. That's what needs to be pushed and we need to drop this nonsense about saints and canonizations, etc)

He goes on the repeat the phrase "The Church is alive," making that a theme that may emerge for this papacy. Now, think about this. If you are in Africa were the Catholic numbers are rising rapidly, that the Church is "alive" is a no brainer. Also, in Latin America, with the pervasiveness of Catholicism, "the Church is alive," wouldn't strike anyone as a significant statement. In the North Americas, especially the US and Canada, where parish life and activity is the envy of the world, "the Church is alive" is not a significant statement, we know that already. Then for whom is the phrase significant? Europe. The Church is dying in Europe and so "the Church is alive" is being offered as a resurrection hope for Europe and a call for European Catholics to continue to believe in the re-Christianization (Catholicization) of Europe.

Pope Benedict then greets everyone. I raised an eyebrow at the greetings to "believers and non-believers alike." In my relativistic mindset, I would have prefered to use the phrase "all people of good will." Here again, is where I have this problem of "reaching out." You can't reach out to people if you want to assume the self righteous pedestal of superiority. To describe people of other religions as "non-believers" is insulting. They are believers, just not in what we believe. We may not believe what they believe, but we can respect the fact that they have their own longstanding religious beliefs, many of which pre-date Christianity.

Benedict then talks about the symbols of the papacy he received, the Pallium and the fisherman's ring. Here's a line that struck me:

The symbolism of the Pallium is even more concrete: the lamb’s wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life.

"Lost, sick, or weak sheep." This phrase he later clarifies to mean the whole of humanity, but the correlation between sheep and the lay faithful is hard to miss: boy, we lay folks are not coming out on top in this homily. Earlier he mentioned that we are also saints since we are all baptized, then we get mentioned as those "immersed in the great task of building up the Kingdom of God which spreads throughout the world, in every area of life." Imbedded in this is the idea that we lay people are at least suceptible to failing at our task and are "sick" or "lost". But I am stretching this. Over the next few days we'll see how lay people stack up. Either way, there are a lot of other ways you can speak of the sheep, and to refer to them as primarily "lost, sick or weak" is problematic at best.

The other issue with this "lost, sick or weak sheep" is the clear meaning Benedict gives the phrase. He says plainly that he is speaking of humanity. I think here we see the optimistic Thomism of John Paul contrasted with the pessimism of the Augustinian Benedict. There is no grace builds on nature here. Nature is bad and grace is need to burn it down and redo it. (Shorter Augustine, babies are walking bags of unbridled original sin). This is definitely Christ against culture. The problem is that, as a Church, we've always regretted "Christ against culture" moves and been most proud of grace in/with/on nature.

Then there's this:

And yet, we need his patience. God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him.

The whole idea behind what the general point is is fine. But in the context of a billion dollar grossing Passion movie that evoked concerns among our Jewish brethren, in the context of his membership in the Hitler Youth, surely he could have found a better phrase than "those who crucified him." That phrase, or similar derivative phrases, are often used for anti-Semitic purposes. Benedict's intention here has nothing to do with such uses, but it is still an unfortunate phrase.

“Feed my sheep”, says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, he says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence, which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament.

Now, this is one of the clearest statements of where the Pope is going in this reign. He emphasizes his role to "feed," and to feed is to "love," and to love is to "suffer." Odd. Why is love equated with suffering? And who is going to suffer? Benedict. He is going to show his love in a way that may trigger suffering on his part. This is a sign that there will be some tough pruning on the way. The next sentence confirms this. "Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good." Again, the specter of destroying the tyranny of relativism. Loving is not giving the sheep what the sheep thinks is good, but what the shepherd knows to be good. The sheep are presented as incapable of knowing what is good for them. Thus, the shepherd out of love and concern for his sheep will force feed the sheep with what's good for them. This "good" is "the nourishment of God's truth" given to us in the "Blessed Sacrament," code for "I'm going to clean up the liturgy."

Those sentences highlight two things, one that the Pope is going to engage in a liturgical purge and he is willing to cross swords with anyone who resists. Secondly, truth and spiritual sustenance is in the hands of the hierarchy and the faithful are dependent on the hierarchy for truth. This will thus curb the excesses of lay theologians and others who act contrary to Church directives.

Then there's this line:

Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.

This is so "Christ against culture" and back to the pre-Vatican II, "the world and the liberals hate us" entrenchment mode.

Here's more "Christ against culture":

But in the mission of a fisher of men, the reverse is true. We are living in alienation, in the salt waters of suffering and death; in a sea of darkness without light.

Then there's this interesting statement:

Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.

Where did this come from? Now, not only has he set the Church against the world, he has set us against science. How? He paints a charicature of science as stating that we are the "casual and meaningless product of evolution." That is nuts. If there are people, few, who say that, why use them to charicature the entire scientific enterprise? Can we be both the product of evolution and be each thought and willed by God, as more and more Catholics believe? Weird.

The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of men, can often seem wearisome. But it is beautiful and wonderful, because it is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy which longs to break into the world.

Again, this is dour and bleak view of the world. Contrast this with Vatican II's "Gaudium et spes" which means "joy and hope" which begins with unbridled optimism. For Benedict, the world is without joy. That is certainly not true and to say that maybe more a reflection of the man than the facts of the situation.

He then ends the homily with a nice exposition of JPII's "be not afraid," but I think he adds a twist that it is directed at the powerful, asking them to not be afraid of giving up power. And so the homily ends.

This is clearly over analysis. It's just one sermon, but I'm thowing out hypotheses that can be tested later. Clearly, he has set the Church up against he world. Clearly his view of church is dominated by the hierarchy. Clearly he intends a program of pruning that will hurt and may cause a backlash. If this is what he believes he is called to do, more power to him. I'll pray for him.

Tightly Controlled "Press Conference" by Pope Benedict

I had read on a few blogs about Benedict's press conference, a surprise one, in which he thanked the media for their coverage. Anyway, it was said that afterwards the media gave him sustained applause.

I mention this because I came across a slightly different account in this BBC story. It looks like their are fixing for tightly controlled media access and the effective use of propaganda to control the news.

Pope Benedict Woos Media

At the end of the audience, which lasted about 15 minutes, Benedict XVI rose to give us his blessing.
The pope came in and the camera phones came out

Then with a friendly wave and the words "Grazie, arrivederci!" he left the stage.

This was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a press conference. There was no opportunity for the media to ask any questions, polite or otherwise.

Some journalists were disappointed that the Pope's remarks contained nothing of substance to give us a clue about the direction his papacy will take.

Controlled papacy

The style was also a little different from the audience for the press given by John Paul II, back in 1978.

Then, in a media melee, the new pope shook hands with reporters, and responded to their shouted questions.

Today's proceedings were more dignified and everything was firmly under control. In fact, some people believe control may be the watchword for this papacy

I see our Pope's taking a page from the Bush administration, spin the media, don't answer questions, and make the media report or rather, convey, your words delivered in friendly confines. That's how you control the news.

Of course, of course, it is too early to tell if it is a pattern, but so far we have this single point of reference. What the Pope and his people fail to realize is the journalists are human and the adjectives they use come from their impressions of you. If the Pope choses to remain distant from them, or tries to overtly spin them, their descriptions of him would not be flattering.

A better way to have done this, since he thought it was worth the effort in the first place, was not to invite 4,000 journalists (you heard that right) but meet with smaller groups in a more intimate setting, throw in some tea and crumpets, a celery or two, and voila, he'll have them gushing over him: "Though stern in appearance, this charming man believes . . .," "In a warm and intimate setting, Pope Benedict met with international journalists . . ." 4,000 journalists in a large cold impersonal auditorium with no questions allowed and nothing of substance offered is not going to cut it.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Mel Gibson

I just watched The Patriot. I am in awe of Mel Gibson. He is 100%, absolutely awesome.
  • He saved Scotland
  • He saved the United States
  • He is the only man who understands women
  • And he suffered and died for our sins

You gotta respect a man like that

More on Anti-Catholicism

Dobson cannot decided whether anti-Catholic bogotry is okay

Via Chuck Currie

Deep Seated Christian Anti-Catholicism Remains

A couple of weeks ago, as we Catholics basked in the glow of fawning media coverage, I worried about the emergence of latent anti-Catholicism. Steve Bogner has seen some websites with such nasty reactions.

I don't think many Catholics are aware of just how deep seated anti-Catholicism is. By anti-Catholicism, I mean the train of thought that sees Catholicism as evil and "the great whore of Babylon."

Many of these Pentecostals and Evangelicals put up with Catholicism for political and financial considerations. On the political front, the Catholic Right has jumped into bed with the Christian Right much to the detriment of Catholicism. The fundamentalist fervor is now rubbing off on the Catholic Right and shows no sign of abating. Financially, Pentecostals have seen that ignoring Catholics is ignoring a potent revenue stream. There was a time a Catholic would just about get spit on for showing up at a Christian bookstore, now our idols and graven images of Mary proudly displayed for sale. (Although, I do have to say that our local Family Christian Bookstore has been very good to me. They refer Catholics my way and we've worked together quite well.) But I always chuckle when Catholics come to our store and note that they don't feel too welcome at the Christian store.

I think the events of the past month have stirred the latent anti-Catholicism out there, add to this, Our Lady of the Underpass, and you get something anti-Catholic brewing. It doesn't help that Pope Benedict is not a warm image. I remember in my virulently anti-Catholic days, I could not bring myself to call JPII the anti-Christ or call him evil. I knew little about him, but he projected warmth. Pope Benedect does not project that warmth and charisma which might play well into the anti-Catholic brew out there.

I do think the financial and politcal considerations will settle things down and the political alliance will continue, after all, it was Ratzinger who tipped the scales in Bush's favor.

Maybe MJ wasn't such a failure after all

As a DC area person I am forced to followed the Washington Wizards, who have given us all reason to cheer this season. They are in the playoffs as the fifth seed, after years of bottom-dwelling. They play Chicago and have a good chance of mopping the floor with the Bulls.

The interesting subtext for the series is Michael Jordan. Jordan, of course, is Mr. Chicago Bulls, because he won 6 useless championships there. Jordan also came out of retirement to run and then play for the Wizards in what has generally been acknowledged to have been a disaster. He finally left after two years and left a team that had no where to go. His greatest flop is the can't miss highschool phenom, Kwame Brown, who in four years has shown that it is possible to make millions and millions of dollars doing nothing.

Well, this was the view I held of MJ until I read this article in today's Washington Post.

M. Jordan's Legacy Is a Vastly Different Tale of Two Cities

But while Jordan built a championship model for the Bulls to follow, he also helped build the foundation for the Wizards. He is responsible for bringing in half of the players on the Wizards' playoff roster: three starters in center Brendan Haywood, guard Larry Hughes and forward Jared Jeffries; and three valued reserves in Dixon, forward Kwame Brown and center Etan Thomas.


When Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld took over in the summer of 2003, he signed point guard Gilbert Arenas to a six-year, $65 million contract but he didn't bother tinkering too much with the talent Jordan left in place.


Maybe it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe he does have a management acumen, if so, he has lousy, grade F personality skills.

Racist Letters Target Minority Students at Christian School

Christian University Moves Black and Hispanic Students to Hotel

Christian University Moves Blacks and Hispanics to Hotel
By Carla K. Johnson, Associated Press, Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page A03

DEERFIELD, Ill., April 22 -- Authorities at a Christian university near Chicago moved dozens of black and Hispanic students to a hotel for their safety, and police stepped up patrols on campus Friday after three people received threatening, racist letters.

One parent said the letters were sent to white women dating black athletes at 3,300-student Trinity International University, but school officials said there is no connection to interracial dating.

Police and school officials would not discuss the threats in detail. They did say that two letters were sent on notebook paper through the campus internal mail system, and that professors are being asked to try to identify the handwriting.

"This is a diverse campus," university spokesman Gary Cantwell said. "We condemn any kind of intolerance. We assume this is an isolated incident and not representative of the college."

The letters were addressed to specific students and arrived over the past two weeks, Cantwell said. The most recent letter, shown to campus administrators and police on Thursday, threatened violence with a weapon, Bannockburn Police Chief Kevin Tracz said.

Because the threats came within days of the anniversaries of the Columbine High School shootings, the Oklahoma City bombing and Adolf Hitler's birthday, the school suggested that minority students be given the option of staying in a hotel if they do not feel safe in the dorms, the police chief said.

"They just didn't want to take any chances, and I agree with them," he said.

Dean of Students William Washington said he and 43 students spent the night at a hotel, and others from the area stayed with family or friends. Cantwell said it was not clear how long the students would be put up at a hotel.

Classes went on as scheduled, with police cars patrolling the streets and campus security guards keeping reporters from talking to students. About 20 students stood outside in the rain during their lunch break, holding hands and praying.

"Most of what I see is good Christian character," said Peter Hilden, 23, a senior in pastoral studies. "My only fear is we'll be characterized by one bad apple."

Darby Love said her son, a sophomore football player, told her the letters were sent to white women dating black athletes. "My understanding is that they're supposed to start shooting the black kids" on Friday, Love told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Officials who examined the letters believe they were written by one person, Cantwell said. Nothing similar happened before at Trinity, and university administrators met FBI agents and other investigators on how to respond, he said.

The threats were aimed at students in the university's undergraduate Trinity College, in which more than 20 percent of the 1,000 enrolled are minorities.

The school is in an isolated, forested area of suburban Chicago, where Canada geese wander along a stream through campus and the nearest neighbors are corporate campuses.

Late last year, authorities said black professional football players and high school athletes in Cleveland had received threatening letters. Those letters, postmarked from cities in Ohio and Pennsylvania, directed recipients to break off their interracial relationships "or they're going to be castrated, shot or set on fire." Most were signed "angry white woman" or "angry Caucasian woman."

Friday, April 22, 2005

Who will lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?

Otherwise known by the Holy Office of the Inquisition? Now that Ratzinger is now Benedict, who will become Ratzinger?

I saw a article in the Post today speculating that it might be Cardinal Schoenborn of Austria, who wrote the Catechism, or Cardinal Francis George. He is saying that he is staying put in Chicago and is trying to quell speculation. I just don't see the Vatican putting an American in that position. On the other hand, Fr. DiNoia, the Dominican who was the Doctrine chief at the USCCB and is now the number two guy at the CDF may be a prime candidate, but I think he'd have to be a Bishop first.

I think that pick may be more revealing than anything in reading what this papacy is going to be about.

I noticed some gushing about Pope Benedict's first sermon and how he is softening up his image. I may do a more detailed analysis, but that homily was not conciliatory. It begins with a multiple paragraph segment basically saying "I am Peter, the Rock." then he goes on to talk about "concrete" Ecumenical gestures.

Well, the first people that we as Catholics have to talk to are the Eastern Churchs. And he knows fully well that nothing ticks them off like this Pope thing. Even in JPII's Ut Unum Sint, he was very carefull when referring to his office, knowing that it is perhaps the most sensitive aspect of dialog with the East. By thus blasting their ears through with a megaphone about how he is Peter, he pretty much knocked them upside the head with his office. Not the usual type concrete Ecumenical gesture that brings wonderful results.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pope Benedict Blog

There's a lot of talk about Pope Benedict's email. That's really no biggie. Now, I would be impressed if Pope Benedict XVI, busted out with a blog . . . with comments. Now, that would be impressive.

Economic Worries Aren't Resonating on Capitol Hill

WaPo reports

By Jonathan Weisman and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page A01

Inflation and interest rates are rising, stock values have plunged, a tank of gas induces sticker shock, and for nearly a year, wages have failed to keep up with the cost of living.

Yet in Washington, the political class has been consumed with the death of a brain-damaged woman in Florida, the ethics of the House majority leader, and the fate of the Senate filibuster.

The disconnect between pocketbook concerns of ordinary Americans and the preoccupations of their politicians has helped send President Bush's approval ratings on the economy down, while breeding discontent with Congress. The problem has yet to grow into a political wave that could sweep significant numbers of lawmakers from power next year, but both parties face risks if they fail to pivot their attention to economic issues.

"There is a lot of frustration," said Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R) on Tuesday, as he was returning from his district in western Michigan. Republican leaders "need some seats from the Midwest and Northeast to maintain a majority, and if we continue at the rate we're going, we may well lose a few seats."

Pope Benedict, the Opus Dei Factor, and the primacy of Europe

Yesterday, I speculated about Opus Dei's fingerprints all over this election. It was just a hunch. So it was with no small amount of satisfaction that I saw this in the Washington Post:

According to aides to two non-American cardinals, Ratzinger entered the conclave with firm backing from three influential cardinals with ties to the conservative renewal movement Opus Dei: Julian Herranz of Spain, head of the Vatican's department for interpreting legislative texts; Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia, head of the department in charge of the clergy; and Alfonso Lopez Trujillo of Colombia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Also, it seems that Ratzinger did campaign for this office:

The buzz around Ratzinger began long before the conclave, said Cardinal Rosalio Jose Castillo Lara, a nonvoting prelate from Venezuela. "I begged him, 'If they elect you, don't refuse,' " Castillo Lara said. He added that Ratzinger had an advantage in presiding over the funeral rites. "He did them well, and very serenely and with much humility," Castillo Lara said. "He showed himself to be very prepared."


On the morning of the second day of the conclave, Ratzinger had breakfast with cardinals from Asia and Africa, according to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles. Egan, the archbishop of New York, recalled another occasion when Ratzinger spoke in four languages to keep everyone around the table in the conversation.

Again, I am completely floored by this focus on Europe thing. To tell me that of all the problems facing the Church in all the different regions, Europe was numero uno, is nothing short of mystifying:

In the run-up to the conclave, the cardinals met daily in a modern hall inside the Vatican's medieval walls to discuss issues facing the church, including the spread of Islam, economic globalization and the ethical dilemmas raised by biotechnology.

These sessions were also covered by an oath of secrecy. But several cardinals made clear on Wednesday that the march of secularization across Western Europe was the number one problem on their minds, and that Ratzinger seemed to be part of the solution.

The new pope, said George, the Chicago archbishop, "understands Western society" and "is very well prepared" for the task of revitalizing Christianity in affluent, secular cultures.

Like, wow!

Ancient Necropolis Found in Egypt

BBC reports

Archaeologists say they have found the largest funerary complex yet dating from the earliest era of ancient Egypt, more than 5,000 years ago.
The necropolis was discovered by a joint US and Egyptian team in the Kom al-Ahmar region, around 600 km (370 miles) south of the capital, Cairo.

Inside the tombs, the archaeologists found a cow's head carved from flint and the remains of seven people.

They believe four of them were buried alive as human sacrifices.

The remains survived despite the fact that the tombs were plundered in ancient times.

Egypt's chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, said the discovery would add greatly to knowledge of the elusive pre-dynastic period, when Egypt was first becoming a nation.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

In case you weren't sure what pure bred racism in the 21st century looks like

I give you Sodakmonk:

I don't care what an Oreo cookie like Ekeh thinks,

"Oreo cookie?" Black outside, white inside? Pray tell, why an oreo cookie? Because Blacks are brute ignorant beasts, who are uneducated, cannot talk, write or think. And when you meet one who can, he's an Oreo cookie, a white wannabe. Black people cannot possibly be articulate, after all. Any young black man who isn't pimping, stealing hubcaps, listening to gangsta rap, and in prison or on his way there is only Black on the outside.

That, my friends, is racism and Fr Matthew, aka Sodakmonk, is a bona fide racist. Now, we just need him to get his other friends on the Right to come out and say what they think on the inside.

More on Marla Ruzicka (who should be a saint)

Here's the link to the non-profit organization she founded:

The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict

The privilege of "maleness" in grad school

Hugo has a very interesting post on male privilege in grad school and the difficulties women face.

Is Stagflation Here?

Steve Soto of The Left Coaster thinks so. He makes as good a case as any. We have rising inflation and economic weakness. If the Fed increases interest rates to stem inflation, they will kill economic growth, but if they keep rates low to encourage growth, inflation gets out of control.

At least, gay people can't marry.

So, what is stagflation?

Stagflation=inflation increase + stagnant economy

Normally, inflation is a problem for overheating economies, i.e, an economy that is doing very well.

Investopedia on Stagflation

Here's Wikipedia on stagflation

Here's Prof Brad DeLong of Berkeley on Stagflation (cool flash supply/demand graphic)

Ratzinger/Pope Benedict and Opus Dei . . . and, oh! The New Pope Loves Cats

I'm not a conspiracy theorist but doesn't this whole thing, with Pope Benedict and all in just three ballots, smell of Opus Dei? "The Work's" finger prints are all over this, but that's just my ignorant uninformed opinion.

Anyway, Opus Dei approves of Pope Benedict

LA Times: Opus Dei has stake in Papal Vote

Now with its papal benefactor gone, Opus Dei's influence under the next pope — and its role in choosing the new pontiff — have become hot topics in a city awash in speculation as the world's cardinals meet behind the closed doors of the Sistine Chapel to elect John Paul's successor.


Others note that for the first time, two of the 115 voting cardinals — Julian Herranz of Spain and Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Peru — are members of Opus Dei, giving the group the ability to work inside the conclave.

"They have a chance to lobby the other cardinals from an inside position," said an official with a lay organization that has close ties to the Vatican. "Opus Dei has international connections, they know many cardinals, are appreciated by some. They are entitled to talk to cardinals, to invite them to dinner, all with authority."

Several European cardinals are sympathetic to Opus Dei, among them Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Italian prelate who runs the Diocese of Rome on behalf of the pope, and a contender to succeed John Paul. Ruini last year opened proceedings to declare Opus Dei's Del Portillo a saint.

But recently, several Italian newspapers breathlessly reported that the two Opus Dei cardinals were throwing their support behind the candidacy of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a German-born traditionalist who has served as chief enforcer of church doctrine for two decades.

It is interesting to note that on March 22, 2002, John Allen listed Ratzinger along two other Cardinals as most unpapabile. Anyway, Mr Allen reports on Ratzinger's love for Opus Dei:

I saw Ratzinger recently at the presentation of a new book by author Giuseppe Romano, entitled Opus Dei: Il Messaggio, le Opere, le Persone (Opus Dei: The Message, The Works, The People, San Paolo, 2002). Ratzinger is a fan of the founder of Opus Dei, Spanish priest Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, set to be canonized Oct. 6. The book launch took place at the Augustinianum, just down the Via Paolo VI from the Holy Office, where Ratzinger works.

Ratzinger, who turns 75 on April 16, is weaker than when he took up his post 20 years ago. He has spoken wistfully about retiring to his home in Regensburg in Bavaria. In recent months he has turned over major chunks of responsibility to his lieutenant, Italian Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone. Yet he was in good form at the Opus Dei event, speaking without a prepared text in polished Italian.

The cardinal devoted the gist of his talk to his admiration for the implied significance of the phrase “Opus Dei,” which means “Work of God.” Escrivá, Ratzinger suggested, realized that he was not doing his own work, but God’s. His task was to be an instrument.

Ratzinger contrasted this attitude with what he called a “temptation of our time, also among Christians,” to believe that after the “Big Bang” God withdrew from the world and left things to function on their own. But God is not withdrawn, Ratzinger insisted. We simply have to learn to put ourselves at God’s disposition, and that is the “message of very great importance” which Ratzinger attributed to Escrivá.

Ratzinger also praised Escrivá for his “absolute fidelity to the great tradition of the church,” while at the same time being open to the “great challenges of the world” in universities and various professional environments.

Ratzinger closed with an uncharacteristic personal touch. He confessed, as friends and students already knew, that he is a cat lover. Noting that the book on Opus Dei has a small chapter entitled the “invisible cat,” he joked that he was especially pleased with that section. (The reference, by the way, is to a phrase of C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves about the danger of assuming the existence of something despite the absence of proof, like an invisible cat on the sofa. The author, Romano, uses Lewis’ concept to refute the idea that Opus has a political agenda).

Afterwards I said a quick hello to Ratzinger, who has always been gracious despite my somewhat critical 2000 biography, Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith (Continuum). I watched him walk back to the Holy Office in the company of his ever-present personal secretary, Msgr. Josef Clemens. I found myself thinking, once again, that few church leaders have helped shape their times the way Ratzinger has.


Mining Later Rounds in the NFL Draft

From the Rochester R&D

"There's a lot more talent out there than people think," Beebe said. "And it isn't all restricted to the big schools."

Finds such as Beebe and Reed — a fourth-rounder out of Kutztown (Pa.) State — are reminders that big-play players can come from small schools.

They also are reminders that it doesn't always matter in which round you're chosen. Multi-million dollar scouting departments make errors in judgment. Witness Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick of the New England Patriots, and Joe Montana, a third-round selection of the San Francisco 49ers. Between the two, they have seven Super Bowl rings.

"There's a funny story regarding the drafting of Montana," Levy said. "San Francisco coach Bill Walsh really wanted to pick quarterback Steve Fuller that year (1979), but I was with the Kansas City Chiefs at the time, and we wanted him, too. So we took Fuller and Walsh called and cussed me out. He had to settle for this skinny kid out of Notre Dame in the third round of that draft."

A skinny kid by the name of Montana.

"Now, when I see Bill," Levy joked, "he thanks me for taking Fuller."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Catholic Priest believes that blacks, lesbians are equivalent to animals

Sodakmonk says:

If only the new pope could have been a black, vegetarian, lesbian etc. etc. etc. Personally, I think farm animals should be admitted to the College of Cardinals. End speciesism now!

This is high-noon for the conservatives. Emboldened by Pope Benedict, they can say what they truly feel.

Afro-Brazilian Priest Expresses Concern

On CNN's page with Catholic reactions, I found this:

Jurandir Arauj, of the National Conference of Bishops Afro-Brazilian Section told Reuters: "It seems that he is too conservative. Hopefully the Holy Spirit can help him change. We expected a person like John Paul. Somebody who could give the Church alternatives ... open the Church to the world, look more at reality."

Interesting quote, but more importantly, I've met his guy! At the most recent National Black Catholic Congress in Chicago, a couple of years ago, we hosted an Afro-latino delegation from south and central America. They were from Brazil, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, Columbia, etc. Now, that was an experience. Try coordinating three days of meetings with 10 adults who speak no English and you speak no Spanish, it was interesting.

I was very happy to meet them. It's always great to meet people of African descent around the world, brings back the shared memory of the homeland and is a reminder, never to be forgotten of the stain of slavery on this world. Anyway, Fr Jurandir, was part of that delegation. Unfortunately, I couldn't talk to him because he spoke Portuguese (or portunhol?) and spanish and I spoke neither. He did give me a very cool cross from Brazil.

The Afro-Brazilian Catholic situation is a situation in need of much attention. Afro-Brazillian have retain so much of their African ancestory and so their Catholicism is a unique blend of both influences. I think that's great, on the other hand, it is a sign of extreme neglect by the Church. I imagine Fr Jurandir's not too excited about Pope Benedict's fight against the "dictatorship of relativism." Take heart bro, you are not alone.

We are One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and damn it . . . European!

The election of Pope Benedict XVI affirms one thing. The Church is primarily about one region and "race." The Catholic church is about Europe.

The cardinals of the Catholic Church unanimously gave one big "F__ you" to all of Africa, all of Latin America and all of Asia.

They've decided that the problems of poverty, HIV/AIDS, malaria, political corruption, devastating wars, prostitution and child slavery, and the challenges of fragile democracies on the rise in Africa and the rapid spread of Islam, are of little concern to the Church. "F___ you, Africa!"

They've also decided that the problems of poverty, corruption, the challenges of fragile democracies, drugs, and the challenges of Pentecostalism which threatens to supplant Catholicism in Latin America, are of little concern to the Church. "F___ you, South and Central America."

They've also decided that the challenges of human rights, the perilous state of Catholic minorities, the challenges of Islam, the problems of workers rights, child rape, slavery and prostitution in Asian countries are of little concern to the Church. "F___ you, Asia."

The Cardinals have affirmed in one voice that the true concern for the church is the secularism of Europe and the impact of academic relativist trends. Who cares if a little girl is sold into prostitution, at least we'll fight the darn post modernists in Belgium and keep those filthy muslim Turks out of the pure bred European Union.

I'm not bitter, angry or anything (My shaking fingers on my keypad indicate unfilter blissfulness and joy). I decided to give all this more time to sink in but the more time passes, the more unpleasant the whole experience is. There really isn't much of a bright spot. He is going to be pope for the next 15 years and that's enough time to do his thing. Maybe a good part of all this is that he'll push things to a breaking point which is always good. Breaking points lead to Martin Luthers.

I think Pope Benzinger (ha, had to say it) definitely has his eye on Vatican III. This way they can seal the deal on liberals in the Church. That would be interesting. Benedict is certainly not interested in the Church being loved. He wants a smaller, leaner, meaner Church, void of liberals and more manageable. He is the theological correlate of the smaller government Republicans.

Boy, it is going to be a long Catholic winter.

Marla Ruzicka: A True Saint for our Times--Santo Subito!

A Dismarming Presence in a Dangerous World

By Pamela Constable
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 19, 2005; Page C01

It was an especially bleak moment on a frozen night in Afghanistan, just before Thanksgiving in 2001. An assortment of grizzled correspondents was crammed into a filthy hotel. That week four of our colleagues had been ambushed and killed by gunmen on the highway to Kabul, and we were all in shock. One evening several of us were lingering over coffee in the dining room, too depressed to head back to our rooms to work.

Out of nowhere, a perky blond apparition materialized at the table. She looked about 16, and she was wearing pajamas with cartoon animals under an Afghan robe. She introduced herself as Marla and started chirping about how she had just come from California to work on human rights issues.

We all stared at each other in disbelief. She seemed so young and vulnerable that we were seized with the identical, protective thought: Marla, go home.

But Marla Ruzicka stayed on, working to bring public awareness and official help to the plight of war victims in Afghanistan. Later she moved her one-woman human rights crusade to Iraq, where she was killed Saturday in a suicide bombing at age 28.

In Kabul, she flitted like a cheerful sprite through our hard-bitten war correspondents' world, alighting on our couches for the night and floating off with a backpack in the morning. She never had any money, but she had an amazing knack for organizing parties, procuring hidden vodka and making foreigners in a war-ruined Muslim capital feel at home.

Everyone stationed in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban knew her. The men fell in love with her and the women were reminded of themselves, a decade or two younger. At first, Ruzicka seemed too much of a flower child to be taken seriously. Ivan Watson of National Public Radio recalled her kick-boxing with the Afghan cook in the back yard of his house; another correspondent described her giving everyone back rubs after long days.

I remember her scribbling little thank-you notes and invitations with smiley faces on them, and yet another correspondent recalled that when she was leaving Kabul, Ruzicka came to her house early that morning with a gift and a long goodbye note. Over each letter "i" was a heart instead of a dot.

Ruzicka was far from a simpering sandalista. There was a determined agenda behind her ditsy persona, an earnest sense of purpose that enabled her to charm her way through military checkpoints and wring pledges of aid for war victims from congressional offices. While no one was paying much attention, she began systematically compiling data on casualties and damages that resulted from the U.S.-led attack on Kabul. In the spring of 2002, she led a group of Afghan families to the gates of the heavily guarded American embassy to demand compensation for the victims.

After that, we all viewed her with new respect.

"Marla had no guile. There was a complete lack of cynicism, a total selflessness in what she did," said Catherine Philp, a foreign correspondent for the Times of London and one of Ruzicka's closest friends, speaking from New Delhi. "We live in such a jaded community, and she alone seemed untouched. She was like an angel of life, but an angel with a broken wing. It made her seem so fragile that everyone wanted to help her."

After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Ruzicka shifted her efforts to Iraq. By then she had founded a Washington-based organization called the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict. She shifted from handwritten notes to a barrage of e-mails to friends, journalists and congressional offices. She was still broke, but by the time she arrived in Iraq, many Kabul correspondents had also shifted to Baghdad, so she found a plethora of couches to crash on.


Your Linguistic Profile:

60% General American English

30% Yankee

5% Dixie

5% Midwestern

0% Upper Midwestern

Via Den Mother

We have a Pope! Cardinal Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI

Congratulations to Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI.

Here's some links on Cardinal Josef Ratzinger

Catholic-hierarchy entry on Cardinal Ratzinger

BBC profile on Ratzinger

Wikipedia on Ratzinger

Cardinal Rating on Ratzinger

I am very surprised. I did say in an earlier post that Ratzinger would not be a good choice but he would be a prudent choice. So I'm not sure why I am so shocked.

First, why Benedict XVI? Well Benedict XV followed on the heels of another saint pope, Pius X. Pius X, among other things, was deeply involved in crushing modernism and he inspired a witch hunt across the world in dioceses as mini-inquisitions were set up.

Benedict XV was widely seen as a good man, who actually fell under the suspicion of modernism and even though he continued with his predecessor's crack down, he softened things up a bit. It was under his watch though, that the Papacy fell from its status as an influential world power. Through no fault of his own, as a great General once noted, the Papacy has no guns and in the midst of World War I, as Captain Janeway of Voyager would say, "unless you have something larger in those firing tubes, I think you'd better excuse me."

Here's stuff on Pope Benedict XV

Wikipedia on Benedict XV

The Holy See on Pope Benedict XV

First world's entry on Pope Benedict XV

Another short summary here of Pope Benedict XV

And this from the Papal Library

I think Ratzinger's choice of Benedict is that he will continue JPII's legacy without trying to duplicate him, thus no John Paul III. Also, just as Benedict followed on the heels of another saint Pope, Ratzinger is probably making two points, one that JPIIis a saint in his eyes and will be recongnized as such, if he has anything to do with it, and that he wants a low profile, a papacy more about his predecessor than himself.

I also feel that the Cardinals have decided to take on and finally destroy the liberal wing of the Church and just as Pope John Paul II dealt many blows to it, Ratzinger, at the end of the day, may be known as Pope Benedict the Iron Fist. This was a George Bush divisive type selection, so I guess we know what to expect. The good thing for His Holiness is that he already enjoys infallibility so that wouldn't be much of an adjustment for him.

But, I'm happy for him. He did his time. He served JPII faithfully. We'll just have to see. One immediate effect is that it'll have a positive effect on World Youth Day coming up in Cologne.

Anyway, I'm afraid to say it, but, long live Pope Benedict XVI!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Proving God's Existence and the issue of theology and philosophy

This post at Prosblogion got me thinking about the subject. As a theologian, I particularly dislike the enterprise of proving God's existence. But as a philosophically inclined theologian, I am drawn to these discussion.

Speaking about the Christian God and proving God's existence are two different animals. Speaking about the Christian God is theology (including mysticism) and proving God's existence in philosophy and the fact is that there is not continuum between the two. Aquinas seems to have missed that vital fact.

A significant benefit of proofs for God's existence is that they offer philosophically acceptable arguments to defend belief in God. At least, that's what I think. And I say "belief in God" and not, "defend the fact of God's existence." These proofs argue that it is rational to maintain belief in God. But they do not prove that God does in fact exist. For instance, proofs for God's existence can argue for the unthinkability of a world without God or a world without the idea of God. But ultimately, none of these proofs can lead to faith. Rather, they touch boundaries of where our experience and concepts breakdown and they create philosophical space for the type of God-talk that is an extension of our human experience. On the other hand, they can be actually harmful to faith because even if they conclude the presence of divinty they restrict it to boundaries incompatible with the Christian faith.

Theology starts and ends within faith. An unfortunate fact of history is that theology has been hamstrung by philosophy. We've tended to adopt philosophical categories and baptize them, add a few twists and voila, pass it of as theological argumentation. As a result, we often find that the God of philosophy becomes the God of faith. In fact, in a flawed strain pervasive in traditional Catholic theology, the basic difference between the philosophical God and the Christian God is that as a matter of infallible doctrine, the Trinity is not the pervue of philosophy. Otherwise, philosophy is thought to have gotten it right.

Basically put, philosophy does not give us categories in which God is manifest, rather it gives us more refined language tools to understand and express our experience of God. The benefit of philosophy is on the subjective side and not on the "objective" side. The categories of God's manifestion come from the history of God's encounters and engagement with his people.

This creates a unique tension, because we have to use philosophical language (subjectively) to describe religious, historical, and experiential categories that defy philosophical categorization (because of their specificity and lack of universality). What that means is that we basically cannot get it right, theologically. The best we can do is try.

All philosophical talk of God necessarily falls short of its intended goal. Theological talk of God falls short to the extent or degree that it is dependent on philosophy. That leaves us with the purer forms of God-talk, "theo-logos" such as poetry, mysticism, and prayer, which touch the heart of the manifestation of God and rise to realms of purity that philosophical language never could.

The problem this creates though, is that for those who do not resonate with the mysticism or poetry that captures the manifestation of God, or those chronologically or spatially removed from the experience of the mystics, theological language, dependent on philosophical categories, is the fail-safe vehicle for delivering these truths. It means that so much then is lost in translation when we move from the pure forms of theology, i.e, prayer, mysticism, etc, to the less pure forms of theology, i.e, philosophical theology.

This makes our goal then to strive to attain the experience of the mystics or those behind holy texs and expressions, so that we can individually elevate, within each one of us, the dead theological language we find ourselves saddled with.

Vatican Insider Agrees With Moi, Do Not Rush Canonization

Fr. John Neuhaus has a rome diary thing going and today's entry included an on air discussion with a Fr Peter Gumpel:

Gumpel is from an aristocratic Austrian family and has had personal encounters with popes going back to Pius XI. A "relator" (an independent judge) in the office dealing with the causes of saints, the Jesuit Gumpel has been working in Rome for more than 50 years.

Ah, the perspective and patience of time:

While he believes that John Paul II will be and should be declared a saint, he is strongly opposed to rushing the process. The procedures established in the 16th century--including the rigorous examination of alleged miracles by the best medical science of the times--is essential, he insists, to avoid the awkwardness of the subsequent discovery of possibly embarrassing facts. He is also cool to the idea of declaring the late pope "John Paul the Great," although there is no official procedure for applying that title. "Does it mean that other popes were not so great?" he asks. To which I counter, "Does declaring him a saint mean that other popes were not so saintly?" We agree to disagree on the appellation "John Paul the Great."

I have mentioned here my opposition to rushing the canonization process. It serves absolutely no useful purpose, in my opinion. And like the esteemed gentleman, I don't have much use for "the Great."

"The Great" is archaic. It means abslutely nothing to us in this day and age. I think this is a cheap attempt at hagiography. In fact, I think a lot of what's been done including the "santo subito(?)" is an attempt at "I-was-there-hagiography." No one is denying the greatness of JPII, but one can't help but feel that so much is being forced so that it would look great in the history books, hagiographies and biographies.

In the mid 90s I had a website in which I put up a picture of JPII and titled him "John Paul II the Great." I got the idea from someone on EWTN who said that this Pope would be called "the Great." So there was a time I was with it. But the real motivation was more a conservative thing. It was largely a conservative statement as it is now.

If the process is rushed for JPII and this "the Great" thing sticks, then his conservative legacy will beat up his liberal legacy and that's what would dominate the history. On the other hand, if more time is taken for a more careful analysis of his papacy and legacy, his candidacy for canonization is no less at risk, but the divine luster will rightly come of the rose. There will then be time to acknowledge the good fruit and the few bad seeds of his tenure. Truth will trump hagiography and history and we all would be the better for it.