Mail Call!

Boy! Go away for the weekend and people keep writing! Here’s the mail round up!

My pal Greg Krehbiel had his review of Attack of the Clones linked by Christianity Today. Way to go, Greg!

A reader sez:

Andrew Sullivan is arguing that JPII is not doing enough for the American Catholic Church. Doesn’t he usually argue for subsidiary, collegiality, and democratization? I’m confused. :-)

Andrew’s entire treatment of the Situation and the Church has been one colossal exercise in confusion. This “c’mere/go away” thing with the Pope is but the latest in the long saga of Andrew’s Life Work of Squaring the Circle. And it reflects the general “any stigma to beat a dogma” attitude of so many Catholics loyal to the Zeitgeist. Last week, the Pope is condemned for trying to micromanage the American Church and stifling “free spirits” like Rembert Weakland and Paul Shanley. This week, he’s condemned for not micromanaging the Church and keeping a short leash on loose cannons like Rembert Weakland and Paul Shanley. There are many other reasons to condemn him and all faithful Catholics. For a brief list, go here. The main thing to remember is that the Brave Critic is always right and Catholic orthodoxy and chastity are always wrong. Oh, and this Situation has nothing whatever to do with homosexuality. Andrew Sullivan says so.

I see where some nutball is suing the Church to ordain women. Only Americans are dumb enough to think a sacrament is a civil right. A classic example of trying to impose secular categories on revelation. For my take on women’s ordination, go here. For my take on the stupidity of trying to engage in “rights talk” as though rights are in opposition to the Tradition, go here.

Gerard Serafin is really good!

Media watch note: After Princess Diana, the miserable little yipdog papparazzi in Fleet Street were roundly and rightly reviled as accessories in her death by pursuing her obsessively and motivating her driver to drive like a maniac to escape them. For several days, decent people spat at the mention of these noxious creatures who had dogged her to death. Then Fleet Street got a bright idea: run huge headlines like “YOUR PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING, MA’AM” and divert all that rage to the Royals. Worked like a charm. Suddenly Fleet Street was the Voice of the People and not the carcass full of maggots it had been the day before. Why mention this? This line from Gerard’s post made me think of it: “I can even recall reading glowing accounts in The National Catholic Reporter of “the street priest” of Boston, Father Paul Shanley.” Amazing how NCR has gone from those glowing reports (and the de rigeur demand for a Church in Shanley’s image and likeness) to cries for “reform” and tut-tutting at our stupid bishops for their previous spinelessness in caving to their demands. If you think the American ecclesiocracy is clueless, you should take a look at the pages of NCR. The bishops are at least suffering from the immensity of their dereliction of duty and something may eventually penetrate their skulls with sufficient experiences of pain. But NCR is profiting by the suffering they inflicted and enabled and coming away with an even greater sense of the moral superiority than they already possessed.

This and this sound like good ideas.

A reader writes concerning Weakland’s thefts from the poor box:

What personal funds? Did he have a personal bank account with that much

money in it? If not, he took it from the archdiocesan bank account, no

matter what the origin of the sum was. Who knew about that at the time?

Who authorized such a withdrawal?

Is an archbishop authorized to draw that kind of money on his own

responsibility, without telling anybody? Don’t they have auditors out


Under ordinary circumstances, the party from whom the money was drawn

would be on its way to the DA with a serious complaint.

What the hell happened?

I feel bewildered and for some reason extremely pissed off.

The reason you feel pissed off is summed up best by Rod Dreher.

Speaking of whom, Kathryn Lopez at NRO wrote me to say:

Mark, Love your blog….

but…lost our nerve? Just because we are not piling on 24/7? Rod and others are still working, as you see from Rod’s Weakland piece today. It’s just we’re not a “Catholic scandal all the time” site. I assure you we haven’t lost our nerve on this or any other issue.

Dunno, K-Lo. With the exception of a couple of articles, NRO and the Mighty Rod Dreher have been pretty quiet about the Situation lately. In particular, the Corner (previously a major source of news and information on The Situation) has gone stone silent for nearly a month. Smells like an editorial decision to me. There’s a difference between not “piling on 24/7″ and not uttering a peep. Now, as a selfish guy, I can rejoice in the mysterious silence of the Corner since it means more people read my site if they want to know what’s going on in the Priest Follies. But I do miss Rod’s extremely fine work in this area and hope that NRO will encourage him (or, if it is an editorial call) at least not forbid him to speak out about the Situation on the Corner again. If we have to wait for his Pulitzer-worthy reportorial work on a week-by-week or (Heaven forbid) month-by-month basis we’ll starve out here in Blogland. Unleash the power of Rod.

Mark Cameron’s “Mystique et Politique” is on the air.

Cardinal Law spoke this weekend. A reader summarizes: “He didn’t say anything stupid, so that’s a plus.”

Chances are you’ve seen this, but it’s still funny.

Somebody asks:

Lately I have been thinking about Pope John Paul I’s death and whether he could have been murdered. As I’m sure you know, there was a book by David Yallop detailing his investigations into the allegedly suspicious circumstances of the Pope’s death. Do you know if Mr. Yallop is a respected journalist? In your opinion, how credible is his conspiracy theory?

I have no idea who Mr. Yallop is, and tend to take conspiracy theories with a grain of salt. Sorry I can’t help you more!

Finally, this week’s Letter from Dale:

Not a clergy abuse report this time. Nope, this one involves good, old-fashioned liturgical abuse. But the two are related, trust me.

This weekend brought the family back into the Lower Peninsula’s North Country, this time further north than my troubled home town. We spent time as a happy family at my parents’ property up north. All of the conveniences of home, with the exception of a phone. Given how hard we get hit by telemarketers, this experience is almost a foretaste of Heaven. Still, it’s a grueling 180 mile drive, and worse yet, it puts us at the northern fringe of Untener Country. Worshipping in the Diocese of Saginaw is a depressingly familiar process, with a predictable sameness everywhere you go. I have a sneaking suspicion that the unofficial motto for the Diocese is one of the following:

“Making Sure That Catholic Worship Won’t Offend Our Protestant Friends.”

“Tabernacle? What Tabernacle? That’s SOOO Pre-Vatican II.”

“Celebrating Diversity In Churches That Look Exactly the Same.”

“Crucifix? What Crucifix? That’s SOOO Pre-Vatican II.”

“Maybe The Iconoclasts Were Right.”

“Kneelers? What Kneelers? That’s SOOO Pre-Vatican II.”

The list could be multiplied ad nauseum. The point is, the worship experience is drearily predictable: The reserved Presence of the Lord is shoved off to the side, the altar has the dimensions and shape of a card table (or in one weird case, a pointy lozenge), and all of the readings have introductions Explaining Things To The Lunkheads In The Pews. Usually, the explanation takes great pains to point out or strongly imply (the “sacred writer,” not Paul, Matthew, etc.) that we enlightened moderns now know, thanks to the assured results of critical scholarship, that X was not actually written by X. No further explanation is given, leaving the unfortunate impression that Holy Scripture was written and compiled by idiots, liars, or both. Moreover, the song selections must ensure that the congregation sing as though it were God at least once during Mass. And did I mention the absence of kneelers?

The fact is, we’ve become used to it. It’s almost perversely reassuring: “Ah! We must be in Saginaw!” But just when you think you’ve had enough, Bp. Untener ups the ante. This time, the officiant, a retired priest, was conspicuously over-assisted at Mass by the Pastoral Administrator, a nun-sans-habit named Sister….well, I forget her name. We arrived for the later Sunday Mass, and apparently Fr. had gotten some comments from people at the earlier mass (the area is an increasingly-popular Michigan vacation spot, and draws a lot of metro Detroiters), so he saw fit to give the later batch of philistines a heads-up. He sonorously stated that he was a retired priest, and that Sister was “the actual Pastor for the parish,” further noting that she would be participating in the prayers and other unspecified tasks. He was strictly there as a “sacramental minister.” The tone and verbiage was that of a man who couldn’t be bothered to consider otherwise, and couldn’t care less. In short, Father preferred to switch than fight. The klaxons began to go off, and became increasingly shrill as her participation in the offered prayers became obvious. They became deafening as she gave the homily. Mercifully, it wasn’t horrible, although she missed the obvious opportunity to teach about the Trinity, favoring instead the preferred over-focus on living a trinitarian life. It could have been worse.

Now, of course, I had to worry about her role in the consecration. Fortunately, it was brief, and she said none of the prayers of consecration. What else she did, I don’t know–My wife and I were kneeling on the carpeted concrete floor in the back, and couldn’t see past the twelve rows of standing parishioners. Still, it sounded valid, so I didn’t have to restrain My Much Better Half from going up. The rest of the Mass proceeded without incident. An isolated incident? Nope–the Diocese has a program for training non-priests to give homilies at communion services, and encourages test-runs at the parishes–during Mass. However, the person giving the homily is usually identified as such a trainee. This was not done here.

What has this to do with the abuse scandals, you may ask? Simple–it’s of a piece with the same clericalist mindset that recycles abusive priests. Why? Because he can, and he knows no one–not Rome, and sure as hell not the laity–will be able to call him on it.

As you pointed out in our early discussions, bishops do not get removed. Ever. In this knowledge, the American bishops sit secure in their diocese–secure enough to pay $450,000 to protect an inflated reputation, secure enough to shuffle around priests with a history of abuse, and secure enough to allow flatly unlawful tampering with the worship of Jesus Christ. Their biggest concern is the Pope accepting their mandatory retirement proffer at age 75. Clearly, they do not fear agonized letter writing campaigns to the Papal Nuncio. For all the shrieking that Weakland, Untener, etc. do about the Curia in Rome, they are missing a delicious irony: they have managed to recreate the same thing right in their own downtown chanceries.