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

Friday, April 29, 2005
Biblical illiteracy makes you stupid

Augustine (I think it was) told us: ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. Now, it appears, ignorance of Scripture is just plain-long ignorance. According to a report funded by the Templeton Foundation and published by the Bible Literacy Project:
“Leading English teachers reported students without Bible knowledge take more time to teach, appearing ‘confused,’ ‘stumped,’ ‘clueless,’” said report author and principal investigator Marie Wachlin, Ph.D. “Teachers told us that Bible knowledge gives a distinct educational advantage to students.”

Interesting that some Protestant websites have recently felt a need to post articles like this, lest, in all the pan-Christian rejoicing over Pope Benedict, their flocks should think we're all Catholics now.

Archdiocese removes college's Catholic designation

New York, Apr. 29 ( - The Archdiocese of New York has formally removed the designation of a local college as being a Catholic institution after a Catholic higher education group protested plans by Marymount Manhattan College to have New York Sen. Hillary Clinton as commencement speaker.

New daily vitamin supplement by The Curt Jester: Ut Unum Sintrum, now with B-16!

It doesn't make any good p.r. points for the Bush policy (which is succeeding in other ways), but terrorist incidents were actually up, substantially, last year. Notes the Christian Science Monitor:
Terror attacks around the world tripled in 2004, rising from 175 in 2003 to 655 last year, according to statistics released by the US government's National Counterterrorism Center (NCC) Wednesday. The figure includes the children killed in the Beslan massacre in Russia, and the victims of the Madrid train bombings.
...which, of course, were carried out by Quakers and Unitarians....

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
The Pope's older brother....

....Fr. Georg Ratzinger, is the retired director of the Regensburger Domspatzen, a choir founded in the 10th (that's tenth, t-e-n-t-h) century.

As both a priest and a conductor, Fr. Georg has no doubt been infallible far longer than little Joseph.

First Pope of the blog era

Papabile has morphed into Romanitas.

The Pope Blog has adjusted most of the way; still needs a papal rather than cardinal picture.

Michael Rose has started Papa Ratzi Post. Check out "Benedict Received Well By Traditional Mass Devotees."

See also The New Pope Blog: Catholic News & Discussion Forum Focusing on The Pope and his Travels.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
I knew the Ratzinger Fan Club wouldn't take very long: get your Benedict buttons now!

Another linguistic issue

"Bumf": bureaucratic twaddle; toilet paper. used last week by British Tory Party leader, facing general election on May 5, to mean the sort of tosh that teachers in UK schools get 12 pages of every day (scroll down to 9th graf; "graf": paragraph; journalese slang). Also used by Woosteresque Tory pundit and candidate Boris Johnson ("Would you like some bumf?").


Your Linguistic Profile:

50% General American English

30% Yankee

20% Dixie

0% Midwestern

0% Upper Midwestern

Well, I'm glad I'm more Dixie than Midwestern, but these results nonetheless show that you can put the New-York-Yalie in Virginia but you can't make him talk like it. So I wonder, if northern boys don't talk southern even when they move south, and southern girls try not to talk southern (you know who you are), then who will talk southern?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI with Cardinal Sodano

Pope has e-mail address:

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI

It's not a dream, is it?

Orest! Orest! Orest!
Es rührt sich niemand. O lass deine Augen mich sehn!
Traumbild, mir geschenktes Traumbild,
schöner als alle Träume.
Hehres, unbegreifliches, erhabenes Gesicht,
o bleib bei mir! Lös nicht
in Luft dich auf, vergeh mir nicht, vergeh mir nicht,
es sei denn, das ich jetzt gleich
sterben muss und du dich anzeigst
und mich hollen kommst: dann sterb ich
seliger als ich gelebt. Orest! Orest! Orest!


That homily, the one before the Conclave -- the phrase "dictatorship of relativism" is rattling around the world.

Meanwhile, in this cage, we have a McBrien -- an endangered species, despite its commitment to sacerdotal reproduction. We house them in their natural habitat, the Notre Dame theology faculty. After the pre-Conclave Mass, McBrien said (according to James Taranto's blog): "I think this homily shows he realizes he's not going to be elected. He's too much of a polarizing figure."

In all fairness, I didn't rate his chances very high either. (The "rule" that "he who goes in a pope comes out a cardinal" just took a body blow -- its third in the last six Conclaves. When will people stop saying it?) But at least I said Ratzinger would continue to matter. I just had no idea how much.

Already the world is turning upside down. Ratzinger puts on the white yarmulke, Eve takes up "invisible pom-poms."

Of course, a few people (see comment boxes here) are wondering whether this means that sweet, gentle progressives like themselves will be excommunicated. Hmm. If they were important, it probably would. Even so, keep checking your mail, and be patient if it takes a while, especially if you're near the end of the alphabet.

Another commenter at Ragemonkey wonders "how he [Ratzinger] overcame the moderate bloc led by Kasper and Danneels." Gosh, I dunno -- maybe Kasper and Daneels and the five or six other Cardinals who would vote with them don't even remotely add up to one-third of the 115 Cardinal-Electors? Just a wild guess. (Sarc 2.)

Zorak should have been drafted to write Benedict's first remarks: she has a superb trope based on JPII's famous first words.

Significance of the name Benedict

Fr. Lorenzo Albacete, interviewed on CNN, pointed out that St. Benedict did more than just organize monasticism in the West, important as that was. He also modelled a new type of humanity in the facing of a dying world.

That remark sent me back to After Virtue, by Alasdair MacIntyre (a Catholic now, though not when he wrote AV; "Scotland the Brave" will be played in the lobby following this post). That book famously ended with a comparison of our condition to that of the twilight of the Western Roman Empire, and with these words:
What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; that have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another -- doubtless very different -- St. Benedict.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

This is Elinor, standing in for the absent Cacciaguida. He's thrilled, ecstatic delighted, just as all i Cacciaguidi are.


Monday, April 18, 2005
The Conclave is under way. (Actually, the phrase is "under weigh," a naval expression, but that one's a losing battle even among the best guardians of the language.)

I'm facing a busy week, but I'll blog about our new Holy Father as soon as I can.

Sunday, April 17, 2005
Conversation chez Cacciaguida

CACCIAGUIDA returns from travel, puts down suit-bag.

ELINOR: Give me your dirty laundry.

CACCIAGUIDA: *Sigh.* OK. Back in '77....

ELINOR: Not that dirty laundry!

Good Book

This will be my last post of this type before the Conclave.

While at one level the topmost question would appear to be whether Ratzinger has enough votes to take it on the first ballot, it may be that his detractors, many of whom are in the German hierarchy, having been leaking such stories to the Italian press precisely to discredit him. London's Daily Telegraph thinks so. The clever idea, you see, would be embarrass Ratzinger into permanent insignificance by pumping up expectations that he has 60 solid votes (77 needed to win), and then leaking (in violation of heavy-duty oaths, btw) that in fact he had gotten twelve.

Nothing could ever make Ratzinger insignificant, whether he's Pope or not.

The Australian (the newspaper by that name, I mean -- not Cardinal Pell!) contributes to one's reservations about Tettamanzi: "Many liberals are rallying behind the diminutive and rotund Cardinal Tettamanzi." But if so, I think it's because he's not an aggressive type, rather than because there's anything doubtful about his commitment to the Church's teachings.

Today's Washington Post featured Arinze on the front page, with details of his awesome leadership in Nigeria.

You know, there's nothing wrong with a Ratzinger disciple who has (what some would consider) the advantage of not actually being Ratzinger. That would be Genoa's Cardinal Bertone.

Oh well. My preferences (not predictions): 1. Arinze; 2. Ratzinger; 3. Castrillon; 4. Bertone; 5. Schoenborn; 6. Scola. Plus, there are dozens of never-mentioneds who'd be great. And finally, the Holy Spirit will help whoever it is. As Cardinal Antonelli said, God has already chosen him. Let's get ready to greet him.

Friday, April 15, 2005
Lest I forget to mention the reasonable long-listers before the conclave begins:

Marc Cardinal Ouellet (usually pronounced "Wellet," I believe), of Quebec City. Frequent contributor to Communio, a quarterly founded by Ratzinger, currently under strong Balthasarian influence.

Giovanni Battisa Card. Re: pronounced "Ray," means "king." Curial cardinal. Liked by the folks at Cruxnews who distrust Tettamanzi.

Angelo Card. Scola: Patriarch of Venice (like Pius X and John Paul I); academic theologican before appointment to Venice; Balthasarian.

Jose Card. da Cruz Policarpo: Patriarch of Lisbon. Not an earth-shaking candidate. (Sorry about that.)

Tarcisio Card. Bertone: Archb. of Genoa, where he succeeded Tettamanzi, who was promoted to Milan. Bertone was for many years a close aide to Ratzinger.

That said, it bears repeating that neither Roncalli (1958), nor Luciani or Wojtyla (1978), were on even the longest of long lists. That said, everyone was sure in advance about the outcomes of the conclaves of 1939 (Pacelli -> Pius XII) and 1963 (Montini -> Paul VI) -- and everyone was right.

This friend of mine --

-- he's an ex-Catholic atheist, arch-libertarian; he's done more drugs than the government can classify; he also admires and, I daresay, loves Pope John Paul II (as a Lithuanian-American, he feels close to all Poles). Now that I've introduced him, watch him put the smackdown on a Church-basher:
The Catholic Church was too tolerant of the sexually inverted in the latter years of the last century, because it partially imbibed the toxins of liberalism, and because it was infiltrated by inverts in large numbers. I'm not a believing Catholic, so I don't really consider most of this any more my business than it is yours or the Times'. A certain type of homosexual seeks out positions in the conventional community from which he can pursue the sexual activities he prefers. Obviously, I don't approve of this sort of individual's activities, but I am rational enough to recognize that these activities are voluntary on both parts, and essentially meaningless however depraved. These days, oral gratification of teenage boys by adult poofters is legal in Britain, after all.

This great and mighty American scandal was really promoted as a means for shyster lawyers and lowlife scum to extract money from the American Catholic Church, and for the (stacked with poofters to the rafters) American left to gloat over a scandal damaging the Roman Church, to which they are hostile not because of its excessive tolerance of perversity, but for precisely the opposite reason.

Thursday, April 14, 2005
According to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1871:
The Goths of ancient Germany, it is said, were accustomed to debate every important measure twice in their councils; once while drunk, that their debates might not lack vigor, and again, while sober, that they might not lack discretion.

-- Doc. Lonas v. State, 50 Tenn. 287 (1871)

Democratic strategists issue memo on loss of Catholics
Washington, DC, Apr. 13 (Culture of Life Foundation/ - A memo authored by a prominent Democratic strategy organization calls the decline in support of white Catholics for Democrats "striking" and "a big part of the 2004 election story." One of the analysis' key findings is that Catholic voters are becoming more pro-life, which the authors called "a factor in the recent losses and one of the blockages for Democrats, at least in the Midwest." The data also reveals that young Catholics are more pro-life than their parents and that bishops who speak out against pro-abortion politicians help bolster the pro-life vote. [Emphasis added]

Corriere della Sera: E i Ratzinger boys invadono il web: Fioriscono i siti che vogliono papa il cardinale bavarese. Blog, fan club, forum: ecco il primo conclave dell'era Internet. (And the Ratzinger boys invade the Web: Sites that want the Bavarian cardinal for Pope flourish. Blog, fan club, form: here's the first conclave of the Internet era.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
People of the Bookie

The New York Daily News says Cardinal Tettamanzi is the favorite of the oddsmakers. But a bookie in Scotland, where they're "a wee bit canny with a bob," is giving 9-4 on Arinze, 7-2 on Tettamanzi, 6-1 on Maradiaga, and 9-1 on Ratzinger.

However, the Italian press today was abuzz with stories that Ratzinger is way out in front.

Meanwhile, Tettamanzi, who looks exactly like Rodney Dangerfield, don't get no respect from the folks over at Cruxnews. (Hat-tip: Papabile.) But their case against him seems pretty thin to me. It amounts to the fact that in an essay published in a book called Antropologia Cristiana e Omosessualita, he called for an effort "to 'understand' the homosexual ethos, from a 'new' Christian perspective." Well, depending on what that means, he could be very right. What about all his highly orthodox and conservative pronouncements? All just deceptive window-dressing, the Cruxxers say. Sounds thin to me. Yet the Rome tabloid La Repubblica (not a friend of the Church) says Cardinals Ruini (very sound) and Sodano (foreign policy wonk, so who knows if he's sound or not) are backing Ratzinger as a stop-Tettamanzi maneuver. (Another hat-tip to Papabile.)

Fr. Neuhaus is in Rome and writes:
A noteworthy fact is that the party that styles itself "progressive" has no serious candidate in this process. They are out of gas. They viewed Paul VI and, especially, John Paul II as aberrations to be endured until the election of "the next pope" who would agree with them and therefore be deserving of their obedience. For years their dream candidate was Carlo Maria Martini, a Jesuit who has retired as Archbishop of Milan and has decisively taken himself out of the running. In the absence of a plausible candidate, a few [lay] diehards are reduced to handing out campaign flyers for Godfried Daneels....

If, for whatever reason, Ratzinger is not elected or declines election, the great question is who, if anyone, he will name as his preference. Here the speculation turns chiefly to Camillo Ruini, John Paul's vicar for Rome. Another possibility prominently mentioned is Ivan Dias, archbishop of Bombay, whose robust campaign for orthodoxy in the face of an Asian drift toward syncretism has earned him great respect.
Who knows, who knows. Rumors, rumors, rumors. Veni, Sancte Spiritus.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Archbishop Iakovos, R.I.P.

Catholic League alert: someone just sold a consecrated host on E-Bay -- a "souvenir" of a papal Mass, kept as such by the seller. Got 2G for it. The buyer must have wanted it bad: 2G was the reserve amount, and the buyer used the "Buy Now" option.

Vatican postage stamps issued between the death of the Pope and the election of his successor bear the imprint "Sede Vacante." I wonder if they get bulk orders from nutter-trad groups. Well, at least the money would be flowing the right way.

Monday, April 11, 2005
Stop the presses: Pandas at San Diego Zoo Mate Successfully.

Paper in Bangalore suffers lapse of taste with headline: "Nigerian Emerges Dark Horse in Papal Race." Not only is Cardinal Arinze not a horse, he's a frontrunner, whereas "dark horse" as a political term means an unknown candidate who takes the victory by surprise (as the actual selection of the Conclave probably will). And he's of the Ibo race, not the Papal.

Saturday, April 09, 2005
"Santo subito!" Literally, "A saint, quickly!" More loosely, "Canonize him before I count to three. One... two..." Cries of "Santo subito" rang out in St. Peter's Square after the funeral yesterday.

It will take longer than these folks would like, of course, but even so, this is good to hear.

Master of Eulogies

One of the best papal tributes I've seen in the blogosphere comes from a young Greek Orthodox chap: here. In fact you should become a regular at his blog, The Gordian Knot: Alexander can praise Pope John Paul, defend Eastern positions on controverted theological issues, and explain Metallica in detail. Nothing else quite like it!

Friday, April 08, 2005
All the names that have surfaced have been invented by journalists because, in general, what happens is that most of the time, those who get it are completely unexpected. We'll know when the next pope is elected.

-- Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, retired Archbishop of Paris (himself a long-lister, a convert who if elected would be the "first Jewish Pope" -- in modern times, that is; mustn't forget St. Peter.)
Meanwhile, for all your rumor-hockey needs over the next two weeks, try the new blog Papabile.

"One of Us" watch

I know little about Bill Press. Is he considered a "conservative"? Certainly WorldNetDaily, which carried Press's observations that --
Republicans should have known better. They should have realized that the vast majority of Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, did not identify with the extreme religious wackos camped out in front of Terri Schiavo's hospice....Yes, we believe in compassion, but at the same time we believe that politicians have no business sticking their noses into our personal lives, especially into that most painful of all decisions: whether to continue life support for a loved one.
-- is considered "conservative."

Press's piece is not worth fisking. To write it off as libertarian would be unfair to most libertarians I know. He seems to consider Griswold v. Connecticut the greatest judicial restatement of the Founders' philosophy, and to believe that before that august pronouncement, police raids on bedrooms were routine.

So Mr. Press has chosen his side, but the jury is still out on WorldNetDaily itself. Today it calls attention to another Schiavoesque situation; to make people aware of these cases is to support the culture of life.

You scored as Verbal/Linguistic. You have highly developed auditory skills, enjoy reading and writing and telling stories, and are good at getting your point across. You learn best by saying and hearing words. People like you include poets, authors, speakers, attorneys, politicians, lecturers and teachers.















The Rogers Indicator of Multiple Intelligences
created with

Thursday, April 07, 2005
This article from the English website of Germany's Der Spiegel is silly -- e.g., listing Arinze and Tettamanzi as "liberals," which is inaccurate under either the American or the European sense of that term -- but it includes a handy set of 15 click-here photos of papabili, including short-listers like the two aforementioned, and also long-listers such as Lima's Cipriani, Castrillon (great for Tridheads!), Bombay's Ivan Dias, Ghana's Turkson, and curial Cardinal Re (formerly of Florence).

The Holy Spirit will decide, of course. But it's fun to watch Him do it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Corriere della Sera: Tettamanzi and Arinze in the Frame.

East Africa Standard: Arinze a Frontrunner. (Not just home-town scoring, as Arinze is a west African.)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Straussian news: Tom Pangle is now at the University of Texas. Among his reasons: he's feeling fine, thank you, and would therefore like to continue teaching and writing past age 65 -- but apparently in Canada, where he had been teaching, this is not allowed.

On a related note, one of Canada's Socrateses, Bishop Fred Henry, is in trouble for questioning the gods of the state and misleading the city's youth.

Monday, April 04, 2005
Got a live one for ya -- in the Daily Telegraph, of all places (which in its coverage and "leader" have been great about the Holy Father, btw). Columnist Vicki Woods writes:
Nil nisi bonum and all that but, since Blair's multi-cultural Britain was not a Roman Catholic country last time I looked, I was bemused to find the Pope's death cover-to-cover in my Sunday papers, tabloids and all: His Life in Pictures pp 16-24/ Special 12-page supplement/ Exclusive from Cherie Blair etc.

I worked off lunch, speedwalking with my neighbour the headhunter's wife. Since she's a cradle Catholic, I was prepared to be ecumenically tactful about the papal passing, but she was as bemused as I was. "Extraordinary," she said. "The BBC drove me mad popping over to Rome every 10 minutes." I know, I know. "The Telegraph was all Pope to page 29!" I know, I know.
Deal with it, sugar cake. The RC Church matters. It even, I hear, has more practitioners in Britain than does the Established Church. Your editors know what they're doing.

Oh but it gets better:
Call me a heathen, but I'm with Elizabeth I and her wise disinclination to make windows into men's souls. I like Anglicanism. I like its muddle-headedness. I like its indecision in the face of moral decisions (stem cell research, royal weddings). I like the fact that you have to make up your own mind in the end, without benefit of bishops. Or popes.
Elizabeth I? The one who made the Mass a capital offense and sent all those Catholics to be disembowelled at Tyburn? She must not have gotten the memo on how the essence of her church was "the fact that you have to make up your own mind in the end."

Please feel free not to leave comments about the Inquisition. It's Vicki, not Cacci, who's arguing that her/his church is dedicated to making you "make up your own mind" on all "moral decisions."

Say, is this what it looks like to be able to "live with ambiguity"? Bloody bore. I'm off to sing "Scotland the Brave."

EDITED TO ADD: Finished "Scotland the Brave"? Then go read Mark Steyn's predictably great column on the Pope, also in the Telegraph.

It strikes me that the brief time in which the sede is in fact vacante (Dude! A stopped clock is right twice a day!) (Once if it's military!) would be a good time to introduce The Pope Blog. Its banner is "unofficial news about His Holiness Pope John Paul II," but one hopes that it will keep on following the "shoes of the fishermen," whoever fills them.

Todays's Inappropriate Speculation roundup

New Zealand's TVNS OneNews has a reasonable list of papabili. And btw, that's pronounced "pa-PAH-bee-lee," and it's plural. The single is papabile, pronounced "pa-PAH-bee-leh."'

The Australian has sort of the same, with more of an emphasis on Cardinal Tettamanzi and Cardinal Arinze.

In an eminently fiskable screed, Britain's leftist Guardian is baffled by the lack of coterminacy between the categories "non-white" and the category "progressive":
Electing a pope from the poorer south would not guarantee a progressive. Most churches in the developing world are conservative on the issues that concern progressive intellectuals in the north.
Shocking. Don't they read The Guardian down there? Who do they think they are, having priorities other than those of "progressive intellectuals in the north"?

The Washington Post ran brief profiles yesterday of six papabili, noticeably not including current media darling Cardinal Danneels. The six were: Arinze, Hummes, Tettamanzi, Maradiaga, Ratzinger, and Schönborn.

Meanwhile, on the first Sunday without John Paul, tens of thousands attended an open-air Mass in St. Peter's Square, followed by Italian and Polish songs. The Washington Post gives us video coverage here. Note the card that says "Ciao, Padre...."

Sunday, April 03, 2005
Schism makes you stupid: Summa Contra Mundum reports that the SSPX website was taken in by an Onion spoof about an imaginary radical papabile.

EDITED TO ADD: A commenter at Summa Contra Mundum points out that the website in question is affiliated not with the SPPX but with something called Traditio. Honk if you care. Schism begets schism (as well as stupidity) (again, not you, Alexander!), and the "it wasn't my schismatic group, it was that guy's schismatic group" defense wears thin after a while.

The Pope's last few minutes. Via De Fidei Obedientia.

Apparently they no longer do the bit with the silver mallet (tap head three times, each time calling the Pope by his pre-papal name and asking "Are you dead?"). However, once medical certainty on the point is fixed by more modern methods, a cardinal still announces "Vere Papa mortuus est." Even for a traditionalist like me, the silver mallet ritual may be a bit too Monty Python for present times.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Not that it matters that much with everything else that's going on, but this blog has just passed the 100,000 hit mark. Many thanks to my readers!



I'm late to the cyberfuneral, because I've been away sans computer, but here are my reflections, in descending order of importance.

1. In 1982 I announced my decision to enter the Catholic Church to a close friend who had converted from Anglicanism to Eastern Orthodoxy and who would have been glad to get me into that church (or, I should say, into one of those churches, tee hee). "Ah," he said. "Part of the JPII renewal!"

2. My E.O. friend was right. John Paul showed many of us, who had been so foolish as to entertain doubts on the point, that the Catholic Church still had the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In retrospect, the turning point for me was in late 1979 when the Pope gave Hans Kung the long-overdue heave-ho as an officially Catholic theologian. A Catholic friend of mine, who was doing a patient apostolate with me to pry me loose from Anglicanism, saw that I welcomed this news as much as he did and that I was in the mood for a toast. He raised his glass and said, "Habemus Papam!" ("We have a Pope!" -- the very words the Camerlengo will use as he begins to announce the Conclave's choice shortly after the white smoke goes up), and I joined in with gusto.

3. Why am I always at Yale when a Pope pops his clogs? In August of 1978, when Paul VI died, I was in between sophomore and junior years and spending the summer in New York -- but I was in New Haven that weekend, visiting friends who were spending the summer there, as most students are foolish enough to do at least once. Of course, when John Paul I was discovered at room temperature, I was on campus in the midst of first semester, junior year. And just this weekend, I was hangin' with my homeys 'neath the elms when the news came that John Paul the Great had entered his last hours.

Needless to say, I've visited Yale many, many times with no adverse result for the papal incumbent. Still, I'm sure the late Johnny Cochran would say: "If the Pope is frail, don't be at Yale!"

One more thing: I have a lot of convert friends who came in many years after I did: off the top of my head I can think of three who now have seven years in, two with five, one with one, and three with just a week. In one crucial respect, they and I are all in the same boat: we've never been through this before as Catholics!