Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

"Very fun." -- J. Bottum, Editor, FIRST THINGS

"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

"Perhaps the wisest man on the Web" -- Henry Dieterich

"Hat tip: me (but really Cacciaguida)" -- Diana Feygin, Editor, THE YALE FREE PRESS

"You are my sire. You give me confidence to speak. You raise my heart so high that I am no more I." -- Dante

"Fabulous!"-- Warlock D.J. Prod of Didsbury

Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

E-mail me

Saturday, December 28, 2002
Blog-break until January 3 at the earliest. Happy New Year! (If any of you will be at Dialogues of the Carmelites at the Met on Tuesday 12/30, meet me at the Millo Pole.)

You do know, don't you, that Christmas is a season, not a day (and also not "a feeling," in case anyone in your parish is singing otherwise, as they did in mine)? I don't mean just those "twelve days," though that's part of it. John Saward writes:

The calendar of the older Roman rite provides a whole season of "Sundays after Epiphany". During this "Epiphanytide", other revelations of our Lord's divinity are remembered: the changing of water into wine (cf. Jn 2:1-11), the healing of the leper and the centurion's servant (cf. Mt 8:1-13), and the calming of the waves (Mt 8:23-37). On these Sundays, says a medieval commentator on the liturgy, "the Church wants to show us the appearing of the Lord, so that a star may arise within us to lead us to the Bethlehem above." In both editions of the Roman Missal, the Christmas cycle of feasts comes to a climax of light on the fortieth day with the feast of Candlemas (called the "Purification of Our Lady" in the 1962 ["Tridentine"] Missal and the "Presentation of our Lord in 1970 [Novus Ordo]). During the Middle Ages the festivities of Christmas continued without interruption till Candlemas. Throughout January, holly and ivy decked the halls, wassail was quaffed and carols rang out in praise of the successive mysteries of the infant God. "Make we myrth/ For Crystes byrth,/ And syng we Yole tyd Candelmas." Only on the second of February, with an eye on the approaching rigors of Lent, did medieval mandown the dowse the Yuletide log.

-- Cradle of Redeeming Love (Ignatius, 2002), pp. 29-30. (Internal citations omitted, but for you pros, one of them is Abbot Gueranger, L'Annee Liturgique: Temps de Noel, vol 1, p. 2)

Also, though it will be displaced by Sunday and is often overlooked anyway, note that tomorrow is the feast of Becket.

Friday, December 27, 2002
New arrival

I now have a "new" (to me, that is) 1999 Toyota Corolla. It's a handsome royal blue, very good-looking. In fact, it's already drawing chick-cars to the neighborhood. Today -- its first full day parked in front of our house -- Mrs. C. and I came home from an errand in the other car, and found a red Honda Prelude parked seductively near our driveway.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002
Now burn, new born to the world,
Double-natured name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne!

-- Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, The Wreck of the Deutschland, 34

Eve continues the Santa debate here. Eve on Santa being a "fake": he's not! he's a SAINT! But can a kid adequately appreciate that a saint is cool enough when he's just been disillusioned?

A clarification: When we tell our kids the Santa Claus story with the understanding that it's just a story, we also caution them that some children take it literally and that the little Cacciaguidi are not to disillusion them. As believers in parents' rights, the Cacciaguidas' views on the Old Elf are intended as a recommendation to Catholic parents, not as a crusade to overturn other parents' decisions on whether to do Santa or not.

Conversation chez Cacciaguida, last night

MRS. C. (Elinor Dashwood): You know, I never thought of the Yule log as having any connection with the Old Elf [Santa Claus].
CACCIAGUIDA: Well, he probably wears asbestos drawers.
MRS. C.: Yeah. It's not like this has never happened before.

"Veinte-cinco di diciembre, fum, fum, fum"

I've sometimes wondered what the "fums" are in that song, since they sound like blasts from Gandalf's staff. Well, this morning, as Mrs. Cacciaguida (Elinor Dashwood) was driving the family to Mass (she digs the minivan, so she's usually the one to drive it, except on long trips), the traffic lights all turned green in sequence and on cue as we approached the church. Fum, fum, fum.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002
Here is a list of "holiday" things that need to "get stuffed."

I have one to add: the carol "Joseph Was an Old Man." It portrays St. Joseph as old, petty, and wrathful. He was certainly not petty or wrathful, and was probably not old either (at least not when he married Mary). As if this weren't enough, the song goes on to have the infant Jesus speaking in utero. Crap-piety that wants to shoehorn miracles into the ordinary family life of the Holy Family makes me want to, er, "throw up the sash." There were many miracles in Our Lord's life; they're in the Gospels. The medieval tendency to add new ones is of a piece with modern efforts to make the Mass "more meaningful."

All right, enough complaining. It's Christmas Eve. Our Yule log (or Yule clog, as Washington Irving would have it) is burning brightly, and thus carrying forward our Santa agenda. Mass early tomorrow -- with no music!! -- with the whole family; before that, a Tridentine Mass at Midnight. My recent posts notwithstanding, I'm a happy camper tonight.

Saint Francis and Saint Benedight
Blesse this house from wicked wight;
From the night-mare and the goblin,
That is hight good fellow Robin;
Keep it from all evil spirits,
Fairies, weazles, rats, and ferrets:
From curfew time
To the next prime.

-- Cartwright, quoted in Irving's Christmas at Bracebridge Hall

From one of my Criminal Law students, answering an exam question about different theories of punishment:

"Suffering is cathartic and necessary in a Romans 13 sort of way."

From the Zenit News Agency:

Nazis' Anti-Catholicism Ran Deep
Konrad Löw's "The Guilt" Documents Racial and Religious Hatreds

ROME, DEC. 23, 2002 ( Nazi hatred for the Catholic Church has been documented in Konrad Löw's new book, "Die Schuld" (The Guilt), with the subtitle "Jews and Christians in the Opinion of Nazis and in Present Times."

The book, published by Resch Press, is promoted as "a response to 'Amen' and 'The Vicar,'" referring to film and theater works that accuse Pope Pius XII of having been too conciliatory to Nazism....

The book's greatest contribution is the documentation presented in its 355 pages, including 1,063 footnotes and a 331-item bibliography. Löw uses specific historical documents to address aspects of Nazi policy up to now little known, in particular the continuous and systematic persecution of Catholics.

The Bavarian author demonstrates, in a critical spirit, how Zentrum, the Catholic party, was supported and voted for precisely by Jews, a phenomenon that can be explained by the fact that the Catholic Church condemned the nascent racism and nationalism with great clarity. The author also points out that Protestant groups, on the contrary, were to a large extent fascinated by the racial theories.

Löw recalls that Hitler's appointment as chancellor was applauded by Protestant denominations, while the Catholic bishops condemned Nazi theories. This was why the Nazis persecuted Catholics as well as, if not as much as, Communists and Jews.

According to the Nazi theory, Christianity's roots in the Old Testament meant that whoever was against the Jews should also be against the Catholic Church. And ample documentation, gathered by Löw, records Catholics' assistance to Jews, which angered the Nazis.

The author cites how the Nazis invoked "the unconquerable arm of the spirit of blood and earth against the Hebrew plague and Christianity."

Löw recounts in detail what Adolf Hitler, Alfred Rosenberg, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler and Martin Bormann said and wrote about Jews and Catholics. In particular, Hitler wished to trample the Catholic Church "as one does a frog."

In a sketch published by the Nazis in 1938, a Jew, a Catholic priest and a capitalist entrepreneur try to stop the Nazi swastika that turns like the hands of the clock of history.

In another sketch, published by Der Stürmer in 1934, a Jew, standing before a picture of Christ on the cross, says: "We have killed him, we have ridiculed him, but we are still defended by his Church." Another sketch in the same newspaper, published in 1939, shows a Catholic priest stretching out two large hands: one with the Star of David, and the other with the hammer and sickle.

To give an idea of what the Nazis thought of Catholics, Löw presents an SS report, which states: "It is indisputable that the Catholic Church in Germany is decisively opposed to the governmental policy of opposition to Hebrew power. As a consequence, it carries out work in support of Jews, helps them flee, uses all means to support them in daily life, and facilitates their illegitimate stay in the Reich. The people in charge of this task enjoy the full support of the episcopate and do not hesitate to take away from Germans, including German children, the little food they have, to give it to Jews."

Monday, December 23, 2002
The news you' ve been waiting for...


Her blog is called Mommentary. Her Blogistani name is Elinor Dashwood, from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Even though she's still working on her first post (as of this writing), she already explains why she's taking to the Web, so -- over the river and through the woods, to Elinor's house we go!

Links to books recommended below:

John Saward, Cradle of Redeeming Love

Washington Irving, Bracebridge Hall, etc.

Sunday, December 22, 2002
The Santa Claus thing

I mentioned the other day that Eve is sound on Santa Claus. Here's what we do in my family.

To begin with, when I was little, I was taught a literal belief in Santa Claus -- by my Reform Jewish family. When my grandparents had to move away from their Christmas-card-perfect colonial-style house in suburban Philadelphia, and our Christmases therefore had to be held in our apartment in New York, I naturally asked how Santa Claus could "come down the chimney" in an apartment building. "He comes down the incinerator, dear." Way to think fast, Mom!

Anyway, I had fun with Santa while he lasted, and I never thought, and don't think now, that the whole thing did me any harm. Nonetheless, when our kids came along, my wife and I somehow felt that it was prudent to soft-pedal the Santa thing. Soon this hardened into a conviction, which I'll now describe.

As Catholic parents, we have a lot of supernatural information to impart to our children. To accomplish this, our credibility is essential. Therefore, we don't ever want to be in the position of saying that a piece of supernatural information that we had given them as fact is actually not fact. If we ever have to say to them "No, dear, your friend is right: there really isn't a Santa Claus who comes down the chimney etc. etc.," then the next questions any child with two neurons to rub together is going to ask are, "And the Eucharist thing? What's up with that? When are you going to tell me that it isn't really Jesus Christ? Or that Jesus Christ wasn't really God who died for our sins? Or maybe that He wasn't even a real man?" etc. etc.

Now I'll take questions. Heck, I'll write them myself.

1. "Ah, but your parents told you about Santa Claus, and you ended up Catholic anyway, even though your parents were Jewish!"

Well, maybe that's part of the point. Maybe the incident caused me to downgrade my parents as sources of religious information, even though I never downgraded them in any other way. Besides, unlike Catholic parents, Reform Jewish parents don't have a whole lot of supernatural information to impart. I mean, there's God, and he's just kind of straightforward and Unitarian; and Moses led us out of Egypt; be humanitarian; pass the gefilte-fisch. I understand Reform Judaism today is undergoing a partial return to tradition and orthodoxy, and I congratulate it, but it wasn't that way in the '60s. (BTW, around the time I believed in Santa Claus, I also believed you could go out in a fishing boat and catch gefiltes.)

2. "But doesn't the no-Santa rule take away some of the spirit of Christmas?"

A. No. If Christ's birth, and all it means, perhaps backed up whatever religiously grounded Christmas traditions appeal to you (I tend to find pre-Reformation England a great source of inspiration, though we haven't yet chosen, formally, a "Lord of Misrule") doesn't provide you all the Christmas spirit you can handle, then you need to grab your Ignatius catalogue, the phone, and a credit card.

B. We have no objection to the Santa story as fiction. Our 7-year-old daughter has spontaneously memorized chunks of The Night Before Christmas, and we're cool with that, though if she weren't interested in it at all, we'd be cool with that too.

C. We believe in the historical St. Nicholas and at least some of the stories about him. We celebrate St. Nicholas's feast day, Dec. 6.

This brings me to:

Recommended Christmas reading:

Theological: John Saward's Cradle of Redeeming Love (Ignatius)

Wholesome "olde Englishe" Christmas traditions: the Christmas chapters from Washington Irving's Sketchbook, sometimes printed separately as Christmas at Bracebridge Hall.

Saturday, December 21, 2002
ELEKTRA: review of today's Met broadcast

A good performance of Strauss's ELEKTRA leaves one in need of being WD40ed out of one's seat. (Fortunately, the need to join the crowd in standing ovations usually does just as well). A great performance of ELEKTRA can have the same effect even if you're just listening on the radio. And today's was great.

Gabriele Schnaut has been heard in at least one previous Met broadcast ELEKTRA, but today she was better than ever. Her voice has never been in better shape, and she had tension and passion in every phrase. Debbie Voigt owns Chrysothemis the way Rysanek used to. Hanna Schwarz's Klytemnestra has matured, and she now projects the Queen's decadence while still showing a mezzo voice in its prime.

Rene Pape's Orest was fraternal, fatherly, and fiery. Though basses vary in their success when they take on this baritone role, Pape brought the house down. (The Met, not the House of Atreus.) His palpable anguish over his sister's state, once he realizes who she is, was to cry for. Siegfried Jerusalem is now at the Aegisth stage of his career, but no one does a better Aegisth. Unlike tenors who make this cameo role either too heroic or too much of a caricature-villain, Jerusalem sounded just like a gone-to-seed hero.

But talk about heros, the real one of the afternoon was conductor James Levine. He gave us the slow reading that I hoped for but didn't find when I bought the Sinopoli recording. The result is, one hears dozens of gorgeous effects that Strauss put there, but that usually go by too fast. That, and of course, the climaxes are all the more effective.

To me, this opera is a heartening catharsis. The Washington Post once reviewed a local performance with the line "putting the 'fun' in dysfunctional." There's that, of course, but for me it's an opera of deliverance. The original ORESTEIA story, of course, contains many more ambiguities. But within the four corners of Hofmansthal's treatment of the central section of that story, I've always felt that Klytemnestra and Aegisth are pure pondscum, and Elektra and Orest are pure heroes, and that there's nothing ironic about the major chords that end this one-acter. Certainly the long-oppressed domestics of the House of Atreus who carry the blood-spattered Orest on their shoulder (Chrysothemis describes the scene for us) see nothing ironic about it.

Do I not hear?
Do I not hear the music?
But it comes from me....!

Be silent, and dance.
I bear the burden of joy,
And I must lead you in the dance.
For those as happy as we, the only thing fitting
Is to be silent and dance.

-- Strauss/Hofmansthal's Elektra, after the killing of Klytemnestra and Aegisth

Last word on Lott's gaffe

Washington Post cartoon. Scene: Night, White House South Lawn, Christmas time, snow all around.

LONE CAROLER (singing): "I'm dreaming of a multi-hued, ethnically diverse Christmas..."


To keep me entertained while I grade exams this afternoon, the Met is broadcasting Richard Strauss's Elektra. Things could get ugly....

"...and resolv'd to sit on the following day, commonly called Christmas Day"

My Christmas card list includes a staunchly Calvinist friend. This year, in addition to the usualy greeetings, I wrote: "Do Puritans do Christmas?" He writes back:

Thanks, friend, for the nice card. And, yes, THIS Puritan celebrates Christmas. Though, to be consistent, I have requested from my Elders that I be stoned to death. God bless you, your family, your work.

LOL, and God bless you and yours too, sir! (And BTW, the expression "sit on," in the heading, means "hold session on," as in, you know, Parliament in 1652....)

Friday, December 20, 2002
If you haven't visited Eve's Blog recently...

Well, if you haven't, then you're probably not visiting mine either, but just in case, let me catch you up on some of the gems currently on Planet Tushnet.

Eve says that these days she's just "a vaguely Eve-shaped blur," but in fact, as usual, she's a mine of good writing and good insights. For example, here she is on feminism and fatherhood.

An excerpt, just to whet your appetite:

When I was a feminist, or when I called myself a feminist, I didn't reject gender--I just viewed it as a costume box. You could combine a boa, a pirate eyepatch, a muumuu and a Stetson hat, and as long as you didn't create a unified picture that could be somehow identified as "womanly" or "manly" you were performing a feminist act.

Not to mention a Kodak moment!

Or, go here for Eve answering questions on faith, rationalism, and art.

And finally, she's even sound on the Santa Claus question. I may blog about that soon myself. (If you've read down this far, you already know whether I have or not!)

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Fun post here on the Trent Lott situation.

Here's my solution: let him stay on as Leader until after Ash Wednesday, then resign. That way, his departure could be known as the Lent Trott!

Vindicating the word "orthodoxy"

Small "o," of course. Drop in on Summa Contra Mundum for Karl's take on the conformity/orthodoxy distinction, based on Gabriel Marcel.

Big day

Almost forgot -- today (12/18/02) is my 20th anniversary as a Catholic.

It's too late to organize a party, so congratulations, flames, etc. may be sent via the e-mail link on this page, or to my regular e-mail address for those who know it.

One way I'll celebrate is by studying the debate on Fr. Jim's blog about the importance or unimportance of personal examples of Christian holiness (in the hierarchy or elsewhere) as motivators of faith. (The other way I'll celebrate is by going to see The Two Towers with my crew of Tolkien-mad teenage sons!)

My own $0.02: I was helped along by numerous Catholics (and other Christians) who gave good example. But ultimately I could not have converted if I had not become satisfied that the sanctity of the Church is ulimately in her mystical identity as Christ's Bride, and not in her members, however good some of these may be; and that even if one's first "enounter with Christ" comes via good Catholics, the real encounter with Christ that He graciously offers us in and through His Church is His sacramental presence on our altars.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002
Just so you know

In the Dec. 23 print edition of National Review, Joel Mowbray gives details of an interview given by one Bin al-Shibh, the "fifth hijacker" who never made it into the U.S., only because his four visa applications were filed in places other than Saudi Arabia (where the recent U.S. consul's motto was "People gotta get their visas.") Bin al-Shibh gave this interview to the Al Jazeera network.

The interview contains Bin al-Shibh's careful narration of details every hijacker should know, such as, put the guys who are going to fly the plane in first class, so they will have as little resistance as possible as they break into the cockpit, cut the pilot's and co-pilot's throats, and take over. Other "brothers" will of course be in business and economy class to cut the throats of any inconvenient security guards. (Let airline personnel carry guns? Ewwwww!)

From Mowbray's article:

In the interview, Bin al-Shibh chastises non-violent Muslims, saying that violence is the "tax" that all Muslims "must pay." "This is the tax for gaining authority on earth. It is imperative to pay a price for Heaven, for the commodity of Allah is dear, very dear. It is not acquired through rest, but [rather] blood and torn-off limbs must be the price." Underscoring his contempt for non-violent Muslims, he states, "He who does not grasp this understanding, he does not perceive the nature of this religion."

If you're not a subscriber (and why not, might I ask?), get the 12/23 NR at your favorite upscale newstand now and read Mowbray's article.

Whatever happened to the "de mortuis" rule?

Subject-line recently spotted on a listserv for constitutional law professors: Re: Rawls (was: Sodomy)

O Antiphons

Dec. 17-23 is the period in which the Church prays the "O Antiphons." Here they are, courtesy of Women for Faith and Family. These prayers form the basis of "O Come O Come Emanuel," which is one of the few true Advent carols in the standard Christmas carol repertory. Here is more about them from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

FYI, the following are not O Antiphons:

O #$%&*!
O Really
O Reilly
O Say Can You See
O Tannenbaum

Monday, December 16, 2002
Charles Williams on Dante

Williams, free-lance scholar, novelist who scarily blends fantasy and reality (e.g. War in Heaven), and member of the Oxford-based Inklings (other members: Tolkien, C.S. Lewis), writes this:

There were, in [Dante's] mind, many other shapes -- of people and places, of philosophies and poems. All these had their own identities and were each autonomous. But in his poetry Dante determined to relate them all to the Beatrician figure, and he brought that figure as near as he could to the final image, so far as he could express it, of Almighty God. It is, we all agree, one of the marks of his poetic genius. But it is something else also. It is the greatest expression in European literature of the way of approach of the soul to its ordained end through the affimration of the valdidity of all those images, beginning with the image of a girl.

-- Charles Williams, The Figure of Beatrice, p. 8 (Octagon Books reprint, 1980)

Saturday, December 14, 2002
Loverde v. Haley
-- or --
Just wait one cotton-pickin' minute: there's two sides to a story even when the target is a bishop!

Fr. Jim gives us a long-needed reminder here about calumny, to which Bishop Loverde has been much subjected of late.

Heeding Fr. Jim's admonition, I will not blog all that I could blog about the personalities involved. I will say, however, that I am disappointed that The Wanderer -- which I greatly respect and which has done me much spiritual good over the years -- has leaped to judgment on the Loverde v. Haley business. Regrettably, the case seems to fit a template that is all too familiar to Wanderer editors -- whistle-blower priest versus accused bishop -- so Paul Likoudis's reporting assumes that that's what's going on, without discernible investigation of alternative theories of the case.

When you get right down to it, on what rests the accusation that Bp. Loverde is covering up for a diocese-wide homosexual ring (of all dioceses! Where next -- Lincoln, Nebraska?)? It rests on Fr. Haley's assessment of Bp. Loverde's demeanor when confronted with this accusation by Fr. Haley.

Hey, well, that's enough for me! NOT.

Also, did The Wanderer parse closely the official statements coming from the Diocese? (See e.g. this, courtesy of Catholic Light) I don't think the Diocese will say this outright -- because it understands the moral principles of detraction and calumny better than Fr. Haley or The Wanderer do -- but it looks to me as though the Diocese is, let us say, extremely and rightly concerned about how Fr. Haley obtained some of the information he is "whistle-blowing" on. Enough said.

This post is turning into a Wanderer bash-fest, and I certainly didn't mean it to be that. Nine weeks out of ten, The Wanderer rocks. It rocked thirty-odd years ago when it refused to go schismatic over the Novus Ordo (and lost a lot subscribers to a nasty new competitor, The Remnant); and it rocked just a few months ago when it defended Humanae Vitae against an attack "from the right" that was published in Latin Mass magazine. Plus, I love Sobran (even when he's out of his gourd) and Farley Clinton (even when he rambles -- no, especially when he rambles: it's like a true Roman lunch!); Likoudis rocks too most of the time. But guys, on this Arlington thing, dig a little deeper if you're going to dig at all, OK?

And by the way, what on God's green earth does "Roman Catholic Faithful" know about Arlington? This group (to give credit where it's due) has one great service to the Church to its credit: it blew the whistle on South African Bishop Reginald Cawcutt and his "St. Sebastian's Angels" website, an extremely salacious global bulletin board for gay priests and bishops (such bitches, my dear!). This site and this bishop had to be exposed and extirpated. Take a bow, RCF.

Unfortunately, one scalp well taken does not signify the charism of infallibility. RCF is rolling into northern Virginia from Illinois with scarcely a clue. The result was well described by Fr. Jim here.

For more on this issue, visit The Contrarian here.

Friday, December 13, 2002
Apropos of elites imposing their childrearing preferences on the poor (see Kelly post infra), this article from Slate shows that the anti-spanking movement discriminates against the poor and against blacks.

Cardinal Law resigns

Next: B.O.W. NOW!

At one level, this shouldn't have happened to a bishop who was in many ways a beacon of JPII's campaign to fill the hierarchy with men who believe the Church is a messenger of permanent truth, rather than a sort of spiritual Walmart. But, from what appears (and I haven't sifted through all the evidence, nor will I have time to), Cardinal Law not only relied on "therapists" to guarantee that a spiritual problem had been cured -- which is quite bad enough -- but he even in some cases reassigned priests who had not been given the green light by their therapists.

Let's hope the moral that gets drawn here is not that as long as you go with what the therapists say, you may take a media bath but at least you won't have to resign, whereas if you ignore the therapists, out you go. That would be the wrong lesson.

The right lesson would be that bishops must be willing to kick some clerical tushie when appropriate. This goes against the familial structure of the clergy (normally a good thing) and against clerical clubbiness (normally a bad thing), but sometimes it has to be done, and a bishop who does it sooner rather than later, though he may catch flak in the short run, will avoid a whole lot of it in the long run.

What kind of bishop can/should Rome appoint as the next Archbishop of Boston? Maybe the Boston See should be left under a temporary administrator indefinitely, so that Rome can use it as a threat: "Shape up or we'll appoint you to Boston!"

But seriously folks, this is a great opportunity to try out a new model of bishop. I shall, of course, explain.

The bishops of the Pius XII-Spellman era were builders and fundraisers. That model had its uses, and its limitations. The bishops of the Paul VI era were "pastoral," which sounded great, but in practice meant "major shanks." JPII has tried out the model of bishop as theological intellectual (perfect example: Schoenborn in Vienna). This has worked better than the Paul VI model, but not always as well as hoped.

Time now for something new: the bishop as bastard-on-wheels. That's not my expression: it comes to me from a convert-monsignor who has served as secretary to his bishop. It's a model he recommends for certain very messed-up dioceses. He wasn't thinking of Boston when he said it, but it may be what Boston needs.

It would be a fine thing if the nation's first b.o.w. bishop were to have a favorable media wind at his back, as he probably would in Boston. Then again, a true b.o.w. bishop doesn't give a fig for the media anyway!

Wednesday, December 11, 2002
The Papabile-mobile continues to go round

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, "right-hand man" to Cardinal Ratzinger, will be the new archbishop of Genoa, replacing new Milan archbishop Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi, who, BTW, recently received an honorary degree from the Roman University of the Holy Cross.

Ratzinger himself is not really papabile, because close collaborators of strong popes generally aren't (see e.g. Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, loyal sidekick to Pope St. Pius X). But Bertone could be, and Tettamanzi certainly is, along with Cardinal Arinze (whom I blogged about here) and many other good men.

Here, hold this: a Catholic-Jewish cooperation tale

(Courtesy of Catholic News Service)

Torah rescued during Holocaust gets new home at Boston College

BOSTON (CNS) -- A Torah, rescued by a Catholic priest from a synagogue in Poland that was being burned by the Nazis during the Holocaust, has a new home at Boston College. The scroll has been permanently installed at the school's Multi-Faith Worship Space, allowing the area to function fully as a synagogue when Jewish students gather for prayer and marking a historic first in Jewish worship at the Jesuit university. Inscribed 83 years ago in Krakow, Poland, the Torah was rescued in 1939 by a priest who, 20 years later, walked into the U.S. Embassy and asked to speak with an American Jew. Upon meeting Yale Richmond, a 1943 graduate of Boston College who was cultural attache at the embassy in Poland, the priest presented him with the Torah and instructed him to find an appropriate home for it. The diplomat, who spent three decades in the U.S. Foreign Service, held the Torah in safekeeping for the past 42 years until he read about the creation of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at his alma mater. He then offered the Torah to the school, which immediately agreed to accept it.

- - -

Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Dave Barry on "The Little Drummer Boy"

Turns out there are many problems with this carol. For instance, is a drummer really what you want to have around when you're trying to take care of an infant? Dave Barry observes:

I'll tell you this: If I were taking care of a newborn baby, and somebody came around whacking on a drum, that person would find himself at the emergency room have his drumsticks surgically removed from his rum-pum-pum-pum, if you know what I mean.

(Washington Post Magazine, 12/8/02)

Conversation chez Cacciaguida

CACCIAGUIDA (arising after sleeping off a long trip in a rented car): Dear, could you drive over with me to the, er, the, that is, the what-you-call-it -- the car-rental agency?

MRS. CACCIAGUIDA: I thought you were going to say "undertaker."

Clue Deficiency Syndrome (first of what will undoubtedly be a long, long series)

"Reefer" headline (i.e. headline on front page that refers the reader to a story inside) on front page of today's Washingto Post:

INFANT MURDERS: A new study says the homicide rate for infants has steadily climbed in the past 30 years and nearly equals that of teens.

All right, now -- think. We're almost in January of 2003. Count backwards 30 years exactly from January, 2003.


Zeffirelli as opera director

I happen to like Franco Zeffirelli's recent large-scale productions at the Met, especially Turandot. So do a lot of denizens of the opera vortex. But one anti-Zeff friend recently got off a line that deserves quoting:

I very much enjoyed Zeffirelli's Aida. Unfortunately the opera being performed was Traviata.


Wednesday, December 04, 2002
Kelly case revisited

Kevin Kelly, pious father of 13, has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and child neglect in the death of his youngest child, Frances. The jury, which could have recommended a sentence of up to 15 years, has recommended one year. I've blogged on this story before, but I can't find it in my archives. Here's the Washington Post story from today.

This was the kind of case that prosecutorial discretion is made for. Kevin's actions probably did "touch" all the "elements" of the crime of involuntary manslaughter. But it does not follow that the case should have been prosecuted as such.

Of course, parental rights and parental duties are inextricable. Furthermore, I'll grant that it's generally a good thing that parental duties are backed up by the criminal justice system, because some parents won't take their responsibilities seriously any other way. But the Kellys are not such a family. Adding the anguish of a felony conviction and possible jail time to the anguish of losing Frances was, to put it as kindly as possible, gratuitous.

Yes, we've heard all about the Kelly kid who got left behind at the video store, and the stories told by the teenage neighbors at the trial. OK, OK -- that's why I concede that a criminal neglect charge may have been appropriate. But not a manslaughter charge (even involuntary): in my view, that's for the sort of parents to whom it comes as news that they are expected to look after their kids at all.

This may be just my own subjective view, but I don't think I'm the only one: even The Washington Post reported, in covering the case, that manslaughter charges are extremely rare in cases of this sort. (See their coverage Frances's death and the bringing of charges last May.)

The larger problem that cases like this point to is that "neglect" is a concept tailor-made to bring families under state supervision. It's a highly relative concept, and in practice it inevitably reflects elite notions of the parental role. Parents who "stop at two," give those two kids every conceivable toy and tutor, but never see them because they're too involved in their jobs, can rest assured that neither the criminal justice system nor the social service system will ever point the finger of "neglect" at them. But parents who sacrifice the high-earning lifestyle in order to give life to more children, and to spend time with them, will be closely scrutinized for such perfectly ordinary and wholesome tactics as delegating child-supervision tasks to older children.

I was at Frances's funeral. Sharing the grief of that family gathered around the baby-sized coffin, and knowing that for them the pain of loss was compounded immeasurably by well-founded fears of criminal charges and possible prison time, was, for me, as close to "unbearable" as I've ever gotten.

Much has been said about the issue of discrimination against large families in this case. I have no "smoking gun" evidence that Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert brought this case *because* the Kellys are a large family. One person who wrote in to this blog said I was unfair in imputing such an agenda to him, and this correspondent may be right. It reflects well on Ebert that he took a personal role in the case, instead of delegating it entirely to underlings.

Nonetheless, Ebert's published comments suggest that he believes (1) that parents of a family of ten or twelve should devote *exactly* the same amount and type of attention to each child as they would if they had only two, and (2) that the criminal justice system should enforce this duty. In practice, this leads to privileging the two-child family as setting the standard of care, which in turn results in the imposition of superhuman requirements on parents of large families. If that isn't discrimination, it'll do until discrimination comes along.

Total eclipse in southern Africa yesterday

Is this cool or what?