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Saturday, May 3

BENNETT'S NEWS:

News published in "The Bookie of Virtue"in the latest issue of The Washington Monthly: Bill Bennett is a serious gambler who has lost a reported $8 million at high stakes gambling, though he says that over the years he has almost broke even (he says).

Predictably, some liberals see this as hypocrisy and some conservatives do not, but Bennett should not be let off the hook. He has presented himself as a prophet, and made a vast amount of money thereby, but the standards for behavior in the Prophet's Manual are very high. More when I've thought more about this.


7:47 PM


CREDIT TO CBHD:

I should have credited the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity for the link featured in "Eugenic Labour" below. The Center sends out weekly a very useful list of relevant news stories from the English-speaking world, with summaries. For list of the latest news, visit CBHD News.


7:40 PM


THE ECUMENICALLY DIM:

I will have something to say about this later, but those interested in ecumenism should read Editorial: Mortalium Animos - Back to 1928, the editorial from the May 3rd issue of The Church of England Newspaper. I have read it through three times now and have a hard time finding an intelligent thought in it. It's just a hissy fit in print.

The newspaper is the voice of "centrist" (some would say "compromised") Evangelicalism, which wants to be buddies with everyone, including (or especially) the liberals, which may explain why its editors take principled exclusion so badly. To understand the ecumenical task today, one must recognize differences as differences and understand how the differences appear to others. This the pope does - and the Southern Baptists and the Orthodox and a few others do - but the editors of CEN don't, or can't, or won't, or something.

I think, in contrast, of Touchstone's editorial meetings, when people who are divided on quite fundamental matters sit around a table for three days in almost perfect accord, and concord too. The Catholic editors know what the Orthodox and Protestant editors think of the papacy, the Protestant editors know what the Catholic and Orthodox editors think about Mary, the Orthodox know what the Catholic and Protestant editors think about their polity. And yet we are able to respect the differences and work together in great friendship, with only the occasional flare-up.

It's not hard to do this. It really isn't. The editors of CEN could learn the trick, if they stopped standing on their Anglican pride and expecting the Catholic Church to change its teaching to suit the Church of England - though the Church of England, with their encouragement, could not be bothered to avoid ordaining women just to suit the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches.


8:48 AM


EUGENIC LABOUR:

In a provocative article in a Scottish newspaper, The Sunday Herald, the professor of sociology from the University of Kent, declared that "Teen mums 'are targets of eugenics". Prof. Frank Furedi said that the "obsession" of "New Labour" and the Conservative party before them with reducing teenage pregnancy "is really about preventing working-class girls from having children."

"To some extent this is eugenics because it is social engineering. If you look at the statistics, middle-class girls from nice families do not have kids when they are teenagers. Teenage pregnancy can be seen as working-class girls having kids and depending on the welfare state. . . .

"There is a class element and this is the basis of eugenics - different fertility policies for different classes. They think the wrong type of people are breeding. I am strongly opposed to eugenics because, as in this case, it interferes with the most private aspect of our lives."


On the other hand, in a recent address, Prof. Furedi

claimed the term "eugenics" was unjustifiably associated with screening for genetic defects by critics who are concerned about our attitudes towards disability.

I have some sympathy with his objection to manipulative social policies - for the economistic mind, it's easier and cheaper to sterilize the poor than to help them - but I wonder how he justifies what is obviously the first step of a eugenic act? People (with rare exceptions, I'm told) screen for birth defects so that they can abort the child who has one, which is to say, so that they can improve the stock.


8:39 AM


A VOICE OF MODERATION:

The Pope is afraid that George Bush is the Antichrist.

Such is the burden of an article posted on Catholic Nexus: Vatican Concerned By Bush's "Christian" Blood Cult

Bush's blood lust, his repeated commitment to Christian beliefs, and his constant references to "evil doers," in the eyes of many devout Catholic leaders, bear all the hallmarks of the one warned about in the Book of Revelations - the anti-Christ. People close to the Pope claim that amid these concerns, the Pontiff wishes he was younger and in better health to confront the possibility that Bush may represent the person prophesized in Revelations. John Paul II has always believed the world was on the precipice of the final confrontation between Good and Evil as foretold in the New Testament.

Before he became Pope, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla said, "We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel."


It is nice to know that Catholics are quite as capable of idiocy as any ranting street corner preacher.

I am also looking forward to Catholic Nexus posting an article (there are plenty out there) about how Jews use Christian blood to make matzoh at Passover. No doubt some source at the Vatican could be found to confirm it.


6:08 AM


Friday, May 2

ARE THE ITALIANS CHRISTIAN?

No. According to a survey done by Cardinal Ruini (aptly named) and summarized in L'Espresso.

The survey confirms my analysis of male female differences:

In general, the young women feel much closer to the church than the young men. Even 80 percent of women who are not part of Catholic groups express this feeling of closeness. While only men who belong to church groups and not all of them go to Mass on Sunday, many more women go to church weekly, even those who are not in groups.

"But the young women are not only more religious than young men," observes Pollo. "They are also richer and deeper than their male peers in describing and interpreting their own religiosity, independently of whether they belong or not to church groups."


But very, very few Italians are Catholic in even the remotest sense. Even among the few who belong to Church groups:

a solid 12 percent doubt even the existence of God. And even among those who believe in his existence, nearly one in four doubt that he is the creator of heaven and earth.

There is still some faith in the afterlife, but universalism is universal:

the great majority who believe in an afterlife imagine it in a way that is distant from Catholic tradition. Of heaven, hell and purgatory, only the first continues to receive a little credit. Hell is abolished by nearly all of them, including those who belong to church groups. Purgatory is practically extinct. And the life of paradise in a future world is described by nearly all without reference to God's presence there.

The double standard remains firmly entrenched:

With regard to sexual morality, the most significant difference is between men and women. Among the men it doesn't even register. There's no difference among those who belong to church groups or not, and nearly all espouse emancipation from the precepts of the church and the pope. Sexual activity is practiced without any sense of guilt and in tranquil disagreement with the prohibitions of John Paul II, even among those who rush to praise him.

But young Italian women have not lost all their common sense:

There is a large minority among them that purposely disassociates itself from the dominant trend. Half of those who are members of Catholic groups and a third of non-members say they agree with the church's prohibitions on premarital sex and contraception. And they are keen to point out that they don't live their own choice of chastity as an imposition but as an expression of respect for persons and love toward God and his law.

The Church of Rome is supposed to set the standard for the Catholic world; I am afraid it does.


4:23 PM


WHERE ARE THE BOYS?

As was predicted:

Girls displace boys in Catholic service.

All churches are primary for women; unless a role is reserved for males, it will be occupied mostly by females.


11:20 AM


HAVING IT BOTH WAYS:

A very interesting blog on abortionists and their rhetoric: A HREF="http://www.williamluse.blogspot.com/2002_10_01_williamluse_archive.html#83288269">Less than Meets the Eye. by William Luse. He responds to an article by a Kathleen Parker that appeared in the conservative website Townhall.com, in which she says that after she and a friend saw the remains of several unborn babies:

"He and I both belong to that soft-spoken cadre of journalists and others who oppose abortion but support choice. We are the bane of both sides of the debate, whose members view us as equivocal and unprincipled. You can't have it both ways, they say; pick a side. Yes, you can have it both ways, and we should."

Luse then goes on to analyze Parker's argument - do read the blog - which only reveals her moral ineptitude mixed with the pathetic pride of thinking herself "the bane of both sides." That is the common refuge of the unprincipled and thoughtless, who cannot see, or will not see, that the debate divides neatly into two sides because only two positions are rationally possible.

As a rule, people who claim to have risen above the debate and give as evidence the fact that neither side likes them, are nitwits or fools. Of course people can find themselves holding a third position, different from the two poles of a polarized public debate, and Christians often do. But they do so because they have a principle that brings them to that position, which they can state. It's the "bane of both sides" lines that reveals the unprincipled and thoughtless.

I have often thought, and I think have written, that the political and economic conservatives - the libertarian strand of American conservatism - will prove to be unreliable allies for the moral conservatives, because they will allow some "diversity" on the matters of abortion and homosexuality if such diversity is politically useful and economically beneficial. They will prove more eager to promote tax cuts than protect the life of the unborn or the nature of marriage.

Those who want only to conserve an economic system with no care for conserving the moral order may well find, and some have found, that legal abortion and publicly-approved sodomy serve that system. See, for example, "Gay-tolerant societies prosper economically" from today's USA Today. That an article like Parker's could appear on Townhall.com tells us much. They wouldn't offer an article promoting Al Gore for president, higher taxes, or the foreign policy of France.

The link to Parker's article, "Abortion is more than meets the eye," is given in Luse's blog Apologia. My thanks to John Adam's blogsite The Master's Pen for the link to Luse.


9:29 AM


PUBLIC UNSCHOOLING:

In Education in Disorder, a story subtitled "Americans are almost unanimous: Public schools are awful," Daniel Henninger describes a report on the state of the public schools by the polling group Public Agenda. His summary of the report is helpful and includes such findings as:

83% of teachers say parents who fail to set limits and create structure at home are a serious problem, and 81% think parents who refuse to hold their kids accountable for behavior or academic performance are a serious problem. Of teachers, 43% say they spend more time keeping order than teaching. Instead of more pay (12%), 86% of teachers said they'd rather have a school where student behavior and parental support were better.

I have no doubt that this is true, and have myself been shocked at how little some parents - including conservative Christians - discipline and form their children. And how many assume that little Percy's problem must be the school's fault, even though little Percy is both a moron and a thug. Though they've left the child to be raised by the schools, television, and his friends, they will not see that they have failed as parents. If Percy screws up, someone must have helped him. I would not want to deal with a lot of parents.

But as the parent of a child (a junior) in a public school that keeps telling the world how good it is, I would also want to note that principals and teachers let a great deal of disorder go unrebuked. They could do a lot more than they do, but principals are in general bureaucrats and many teachers are as well, and they would much rather manage a problem than solve it. And they manage problems by ignoring them - and thereby passing on the cost to the good students, whose educations are disrupted.

The school forbids smoking, say, and yet there is a girls' room that is always filled with smoke, which leaks into the hall, and the wise girls do not go in there and all the teachers walk by as if they smelled nothing. Or students threaten each other or abuse it each other as teachers walk by and do not say anything. In the classroom, disruptive students are "helped" and "related to" rather than tossed out.

The schools manage problems in other ways as well. In language classes, say, which the school does not seem to value much, it puts the slackers in with the talented, serious students rather than go to the trouble of having two classes, and the course then proceeds at the slow pace the slackers require. The truly gifted and serious students are always finding themselves dealing with incompetent student teachers, to whom are handed over weeks of classes - weeks the child will never get back - or finding themselves forced to endure mickey mouse classes like "Health" and "physical education" (in which our eldest spent a few weeks learning to tie fishing flies, of all stupid uses of her time) for weeks on end - weeks, again, the child will never get back.

A few years ago someone in a major magazine suggested that the answer to the problem of the public schools was to assume that a good portion of adolescents did not want to be and would not be educated - which is pretty obvious, by the way - and simply put them into the workforce. The writer suggested lowering the age at which children could leave school to (I think he said) twelve.

I'm afraid this makes a great deal of sense, though a lot of children who did want to learn about Shakespeare and Newton would find themselves forced to leave school. I wonder if the schools would be improved if at the age of twelve or fourteen students were divided into the academically-minded and the technically- or business-minded and put in different schools, as I think the Germans do. And in both schools held to strict and high standards.

No previous culture thought that every single child was educable in the humanities, beyond a certain minimal level. Most are not. Most would do better given some technical training in work they want to do and given basic competence in English, math, and other subjects. They are not ever going to read Shakespeare for fun, but they can learn to write a clear business letter or manage a company, even a very big company.

Now, the difference between the two groups is not intelligence. Slow people can be far more educable than very clever people. I know a lot of very intelligent people whose entire educations did not leave them with any interest in truth or beauty. To be educated in the humanities - which is, more or less, what the modern public schools are trying to do - a child must be disposed to learn, have control of his emotions and behavior, and be willing to work.

Not all children are. Perhaps few are. But if the public schools are going to lump the serious with the uninterested, they must be far more rigorous in forcing the uninterested to act as if they were serious. Until the public schools are willing to require students at least to attempt to learn, to control themselves, and work hard, which means until they are willing to expel bad students right and left, they will continue to be awful.


8:10 AM


Thursday, May 1

A WEAKNESS?:

According to a Catholic World News story, "Anglican Clergy Told to Support Same-Sex Couples", a report commissioned by the Anglican bishop of Guildford, John Gladwin,

says that while clergy should include more support to newly-married couples, they should also be helping those "non-married adult relationships" such as lone parents and cohabiting heterosexual and homosexual couples.

The report . . . claims the churches should address their "weakness in attracting and involving those whose adult relationships are not lived as a married couple."


Commenting on the report - titled "Church Support of Marriage and Adult Relationships in Southern England" - the one-time Evangelical Gladwin said

Considering that Jesus was single and among his most intimate friends were people in all kinds of relationships, some quite dubious, it is clear we are failing to pattern our ministry on this."

. . . "Being pro-marriage does not mean being anti-gay or anti other choices people have made today."


Just which of Jesus' "most intimate friends" were in "quite dubious relationships"? Not the Apostles, certainly, and not Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. And what of His famous "go and sin no more" spoken to a woman caught in "quite dubious relationships"? That would seem to have been the pattern of his ministry.

Where did the bishop get his information? What are we to think of a bishop who does not seem to have actually read the Bible? And worse, makes up Bible stories to support his noticeably unbiblical proposals?


7:58 PM


NORTH KOREAN FAMILY PLANNING:

A media advisory from the Population Research Institute:

PRI President Steven Mosher will appear on EWTN TV this Friday evening, May 2, 2003 at 8:00 p.m. EST to discuss the North Korean threat to international security.

The country's record on human rights is "abysmal," PRI says. Besides the well-known abuses,

Forced abortion in prisons is rampant. In the words of one victim:

"Women in their 8th or 9th month of pregnancy had salt solutions injected into their wombs to induce abortion. In spite of these brutal efforts, some babies were born alive, in which case the prison guards mercilessly killed the infants by squeezing their necks in front of their mothers. The dead babies were taken away for biological tests. If a mother pleaded for the life of her baby, she was publicly executed under the charge of 'impure ideology.'"


And wouldn't you know it:

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has provided millions of dollars to the government of North Korea to support its population program since 1985.

PRI describes itself as

committed to ending human rights abuses committed in the name of "family planning," and to ending counter-productive social and economic paradigms premised on the myth of "overpopulation."


1:19 PM


KEEP THE WOLF FROM THE DOOR:

In Motherhood's trials blown out of proportion, an Australian writer awaits the arrival in her country of "pop feminist" (a great phrase) Naomi Wolf. "Stand by," writes Miranda Devine,

for an overdose of "yuppie kvetching" as US pop feminist Naomi Wolf arrives in town next week to complain about the traumas of childbirth and motherhood. Most famous for her 1991 book The Beauty Myth (about how lipstick crushes women's self-worth, but don't we love it.) . . .

Wolf is 40, married to a New York Times editor, and mother of two children, a girl aged eight and a boy, 3. She has found a whole new arena for her insights into the female condition.

And it's enough to make any mother or prospective mother slit her wrists. Wolf's beef is that mothers are held in contempt by society and that pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are terrible travails which can only be eased by society "showering women" with "affirmation" and, of course, taxpayers' money.


After a revealing and grimly amusing description of Wolf's view of motherhood - do click on the link and read the article - she concludes, and quite rightly too:

Wolf and the mothers she interviews to bolster her views seem simply to be afflicted by what American stress researchers last year called "yuppie kvetching" - over-pampered people in affluent countries whingeing about relatively trivial troubles.

Their energy and the middle-class welfare money they crave would be better spent protecting the increasing numbers of children from dysfunctional households who will otherwise be neglected or abused or killed. The "affirmation" they want for themselves should be showered instead on the teachers and child-care workers who toil thanklessly for little pay and minimal respect for the brats of the self-indulgent classes.


Looking at the Sun Herald's website, I see that Devine - a writer I'm glad to have discovered - has written several interesting-looking articles, including most recently:

- Lessons from life;

- Iraq's future pictured as a dismal negative; and

- The joke is on the pacifists.


10:11 AM


CELEBRITIES ARE NOT HEROS:

A moving article: Dorothy Rabinowtiz's "A Marine Comes Home: Fallen warriors remind us why whiny celebs are irrelevant" from today's Wall Street Journal. Most of the article describes the funerals of two American soldiers killed in Iraq - this is the moving part - but it begins with a few stories of famous people being self-absorbed, including

Tina Brown, whose main concern about the war seems to be that it caused the postponement of her new TV show, [who] announced last week that it would soon air and that she planned to decorate the set with an American flag bigger than anyone else's. She had to scrape up as many core American values as she could, declared Ms. Brown, "to have any hope of being allowed on TV at all in the current climate of punitive patriotism."

Now, apparently this large flag and these "core American values" are things she would not have on the show otherwise, which is to say, by including them she is lying. If she is right, people do not want to watch a unpatriotic leftist (who is English to boot) and therefore the network she wants to be on is unwilling to run her show, but she is willing to pretend to be patriotic to get on TV. This unwillingness to watch her is suddenly "punitive patriotism."

Doesn't it occur to such people that their assumption that they have a right to be on TV no matter what they think is the most extraordinary egotism? Vanity? Self-absoption? And don't they have any shame about lying just to get their shows aired?


10:04 AM


NEW FAITHFUL:

Worth glancing through: an interview with Colleen Carroll, author of a highly praised new book, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Loyola Press, 2002). It is not the most penetrating of interviews, but it will give you an idea what she found in her study of the "Gen Xers" - "a fairly modest segment of the population" but an influential one - who have discovered the Faith. A sample question and answer:

Q: What factors within the culture and the larger society do you think gave rise to the new faithful?

Carroll: The rise of the new faithful is partly the result of a pendulum swing. Many of these young adults are the sons and daughters of the hippies, children of the flower children. These young adults think that authority and tradition make more sense than free love and no-fault divorce.

Many suffered ill consequences from baby boomer experimentation in morality and religion, and they want their own children to experience a more stable life. They crave stability for themselves, as well. But sociology only gets us so far in this analysis. In the end, each of these young adults tells a story far richer, and far more complex, than the story of the pendulum swing.

I met doctors, lawyers, Hollywood writers, and cloistered nuns who told me amazing conversion stories, stories of faith and hope and a love that reached out and grabbed them when they least expected to find God.

For a Christian, the only way to understand those stories is to take these young adults at their word, and judge God by his works, and see this as the amazing grace of the Holy Spirit being poured out on a generation once considered lost.


8:04 AM


Wednesday, April 30

SOLIDARITY WITH OUR BROTHERS:

A very useful site for learning about the persecuted Church: Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The homepage includes a map on the world and by clicking on the part you are interested in you can get the latest news on the life of Christians there. It also includes a drop down menu by which you can select an individual country. CSW's president is Baroness Caroline Cox, who has written for Touchstone.


12:56 PM


DEVIL'S DICTIONARY:

A reference in an article I was reading to Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary led me to track it down on the web. Sometimes he hits and sometimes he misses, the latter often when he crosses the line from a reasonable cynicism to simple bitterness. But some of them of them are very funny and true enough. A sample:

CONSERVATIVE, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

LAWYER, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.

OCCIDENT, n. The part of the world lying west (or east) of the Orient. It is largely inhabited by Christians, a powerful subtribe of the Hypocrites, whose principal industries are murder and cheating, which they are pleased to call "war" and "commerce." These, also, are the principal industries of the Orient.

REVELATION, n. A famous book in which St. John the Divine concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by the commentators, who know nothing.


The article that made me think of Bierce was John Derbyshire's April Diary , in which he offered some of his own definitions, including "mean-spirited":

"Nursing irreverent or disrespectful feelings towards some Designated Victim Group (blacks, homosexuals, illegal immigrants, etc.) Failing to acknowledge the superior moral status of such a group. See also: hurtful, insensitive, -bashing, . . ."


8:14 AM


BIBLICAL THEOLOGY:

A conference I recommend: the Biblical Theology Conference to be held September 19th and 20th at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, just outside Pittsburgh (or Pixburgh, as the natives call it). The main speaker is Prof. Paul House, an Old Testament scholar from Wheaton College. (I would have thought they could have thought up a sexier name for the conference, though.)


7:52 AM


Tuesday, April 29

MODERN PAINTING:

I know very little about the subject, the painter Gerhard Richter, but for an entertaining example of sustained invective and a critical view of the modern art world see "Saint Gerhard of the Sorrows of Painting", by Jed Perl in the latest issue of The New Republic.


10:03 PM


DAMARIS SALONS:

An interesting article from The Washington Times: "Spiritual feminists", a profile of the Damaris salon built on

a seven-session study that juxtaposes texts written by authors like Gloria Steinem and Alice Walker with the New Testament teachings of Jesus.

As opposed to the Old Testament teachings of Jesus? Anyway, this is one of those enterprises of which the proof is in the pudding. It may use feminist insights to bring busy secular-minded career women to meet the Lord or it may be rework Christianity to fit what these women want in a religion, or it may do a mixture of both.


8:12 AM


LATE NOTICE:

If it's not too egotistical, or actually even if it is, I want to pass on the announcement of a talk I am giving tonight, for any of you in the Pittsburgh area who might want to come:

Aquinas Academy's
Family Matters Lecture Series

Tuesday, April 29th, 7:30
St. Richard's Church, Dickey Road, Gibsonia

"Fantasy and Horror: A Parent's Guide to a Healthy Child's Imagination"

The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, video games filled with action and fantasy characters . . . Many are the distractions that consume our children's idle time and fill their imaginations with scense of splendor . . . and horror. As a parent, how does one resolve the controversies that are part and parcel of this pop culture being sold to our children by the media?: Are J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter stories truly demonic? Are video games harmful to the imaginations of children and a source of increasing
violence in our society? Mr. Mills will share his insights on the role of kid's culture in the formation of imagination.


St. Richard's Church is just off (north of) Rt. 910, east of I-79 and west of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.


8:03 AM


Monday, April 28

IMITATING VIOLENCE IS BAD FOR CHILDREN:

Which strikes me as blazingly obvious but lots of people disagree. This is a useful article for parents concerned about the video games children play: "Violent Video Games Increase Aggression and Violence", the testimony of Dr. Craig A. Anderson, professor of psychology at Iowa State University, before the Senate's Commerce Committee.


12:26 PM


THE SACROSANCT ACCUSATION:

Writing in today's The Wall Street Journal, Dorothy Rabinowitz describes "The Sacrosanct Accusation" of sexual abuse, which even reporters refused to question, no matter how absurd the case. (For a link to a previous WSJ article of hers on the subject and my comments on it, go to the archives for March 27th. I would post the link, but Blogger seems to have screwed up the links again.)

Her curiosity about this began - she is now the author of a new book on the subject, No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times - came when as a television reporter she wanted to question the verdict convicting Kelly Michaels, who was accused and convicted of a self-evidently absurd abuse charges in New Jersey in the mid-1980s. (I remember reading about the case in the newspapers and having the same reaction as she did.)

She asked the station's news director if she could comment on the case.

I was not the only journalist who found the charges against Kelly Michaels strange. I suggested a media story on the case; I was, after all, the media commentator. The reaction was explosive: I was never to mention this issue again, I was informed, in a bellow. "This is the most hated woman in the state and you're not going to talk about her or ask questions like that. Period."

It was a cue. Anything that provoked such volatile response--and it wasn't the news director alone who expressed such feelings; more than a few people on the station's news staff made clear their distress that I would cast doubts on this prosecution - was clearly worth looking into. It became more and more interesting as I encountered the "no questions" attitude - first from a band of people working as journalists, and then, far more insistently, from the prosecutor, Glenn Goldberg, whose question to me, and the answer, was simple: "What is there left to know? The jury has spoken. She's convicted."


It would be interesting to know what happened to this prosecutor, after what he helped do to an innocent woman. A continued career or even promotion followed by a quiet, happy retirement at full pension, I am sure. The Psalms have something to say about this. (And lawyers wonder why so many people hate them.) Rabinowtitz continues:

There was, as I soon found, everything left to know - not least the ways the children had been bribed, bullied, begged and betrayed so that they would, after endless hours of insistent questioning, finally say that Kelly Michaels had done this or that to them. This would become evident from the transcripts of the interrogations - none of which jury members ever saw - and also from the trial testimony.

She got to read the trial transcripts, which "The prosecutors had taken care to seal . . . arguing that the victim children's privacy must be protected," and found herself

unable to come to terms with the facts: a trumped-up prosecution, a woman imprisoned for long years on the basis of some of the most preposterous charges ever heard in an American courtroom.

It does make your blood boil. (The charges were dropped after Michaels had spent five years - think about that - in prison, with the prosecution continuing to try to cast doubts on her. This article seems to be a good summary of the case. Rabinowtiz herself wrote on it in the May 1990 issue of Harpers Magazine, which does not seem to be available on the web.)

The most interesting part of the article is her observation that the pattern of charges Michaels faced became the standard pattern in other abuse cases, including the secret room to which the children were taken, the "bad clown" who abused them, and the threats to kill the children if they told. This does suggest hysteria, because hysterical people fall into cliches.


8:12 AM


O WHAT A TANGLED WEB

In a previous blog I speculated that Hussein thought he had chemical and biological weapons, and therefore did not cooperate with UN inspectors, and thereby provoked war - because his subordinates were afraid to tell him they couldn't develop the weapons.

The Washington Post reports of the failure of Iraqi defenses:

"There has been practically no air defense since 1991," when Iraq was defeated in the Persian Gulf War and forced to withdraw from Kuwait, said Gen. Ghanem Abdullah Azawi, an engineer in the Iraqi army's air defense command. "Nobody rebuilt it. We didn't receive any new weapons." TV broadcasts boasting of scientists' modifications to Iraqi air defense missiles were "lies, all lies," he said. "People were lying to Saddam, and Saddam was believing them or deceiving himself."
Whenever anyone would ask about the state of their equipment, "we would always say, 'very good,' " Khalidi said. "It was all lies, because if you told the truth . . . you'd be in trouble. . . . One lied to the other from the first lieutenant up until it reached Saddam. Even Saddam Hussein was lying to himself."


The Iraqi government is not the only institution to suffer from this syndrome.

There is an adage among priests, that the day a man becomes a bishop, two things happen: He never again has a bad meal, and he never hears the truth.

Like the Iraqi government, the Catholic bishops hierarchy did not want to hear the truth about the condition of their clergy. Everyone pretended everything was perfect.

In Baltimore, the archbishop used to greet people at the back of the church on the few occasions he actually says mass in his cathedral. Then he discovered people were using this opportunity to tell him things he didn't want to hear so he flees to the vestry (he can move remarkably fast for his age) while the congregation is still singing lest someone buttonhole him.

When the Pope came to Baltimore I met some seminarians who had to go out to buy clerical clothes (they never wore them) and to learn a Latin chant before the Pope came to the seminary they had never studied a word of Latin and didn't know a note of chant. The Pope saw a group of seminarians, all in clerical clothes, singing a Latin chant. Potemkin would have been proud. The deception extends to the top.


5:01 AM


Sunday, April 27

GRANNY IS NO BETTER THAN SHE SHOULD BE

In the "Fashion and Style" section of today's New York Times is a sad article, made all the sadder by the eager, cheerful, geewhiz style it is written in and its smiling, eager, cheerful, geewhiz subject: Sex and the Single Senior. It is about a Jane Juska, who at the age of 66 placed a personal ad in The New York Review of Books (a source of nearly endless amusement, by the way) asking for a man to have sex with her.

Over the course of a month, she received 63 responses and spent the better part of a year following them up, an experience she recounts in her first book, "A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance" (Villard). It turns out that Ms. Juska did indeed have a lot of sex with a lot of men she liked, and still does, having seen one of them as recently as that morning. He's 35. Which might explain the lower-back problem.

Ms. Juska lived, according to the article, a rather sad life, in which she does not seem to have done well with men. There is a hint that when she began soliciting sex she was not quite so free or hopeful as she claims:

"I had no hope of it turning out to be anything like this," she said. "I expected to be murdered, or made sad at the very least.

The article also includes the embarassingly cliched reference to "the lingering effects of a Puritanical small-town Ohio childhood." The caption on her picture -- she is shown leaning back in her chair and smiling merrily, white hair tucked behind her ears - says "Jane Juska undid a small-town upbringing and has discovered the joys of sex." She was volunteering at Planned Parenthood when she began her exploits.

She offers, as one rather knew she would, the standard line of sexual liberationists who have traded family and the domestic virtues for sex and more sex, and more sex:

"When women in particular hear about what I've done, the question which unbidden comes to them is, `What have I done with my life?' " she continued. "And lots of people at my age don't want to go back and look at it. That's why they're so nuts about their grandchildren. It keeps the focus off them."

The liberationists always, always assume - or say, anyway - that everyone else has wasted his life by not living as they have lived, and in Ms. Juska's case are living. Whatever joys and pleasures everyone else claims to have, like grandchildren, must be a cover or a compensation for a life they really know they did not live as they should have done - would have done, had they not been inhibited by morals or fears or the needs of others. I would take their own claims more seriously if they did not seem to need this mythology. It sounds too much like self-justification.

As do the sort of arch look-at-me-being-daring jokes they tell so often. At the end of the article, Ms. Juska says that through all her contacts,

"I guess I found out that men are people."

She leaned over then to pick up her napkin and said something that was muffled. What was that? She sat up straight and spoke quite clearly. "They're just the kind of people I like better naked," she said.


I know people laugh at this, but it's an old line. I suppose it's the self-display that's so embarassing. One can't help but feel that someone so eager to tell you that she's having a wonderful time probably isn't. Or maybe she is having a wonderful time, but that is just as sad.


8:02 PM


BUDDHIST BENEFITS:

The Dalai Llama writes in The New York Times that scientists are discovering the benefits of Buddhist spiritual practices:

Using imaging devices that show what occurs in the brain during meditation, Dr. Davidson [Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin] has been able to study the effects of Buddhist practices for cultivating compassion, equanimity or mindfulness. For centuries Buddhists have believed that pursuing such practices seems to make people calmer, happier and more loving. At the same time they are less and less prone to destructive emotions.

According to Dr. Davidson, there is now science to underscore this belief. Dr. Davidson tells me that the emergence of positive emotions may be due to this: Mindfulness meditation strengthens the neurological circuits that calm a part of the brain that acts as a trigger for fear and anger. This raises the possibility that we have a way to create a kind of buffer between the brain's violent impulses and our actions.


He notes that one does not have to have any religion to practice this, which I suppose is true. I do wonder, though, if when he says "destructive emotions," as a Buddhist he means any emotion. And what he says is a bit vague and hard to evaluate (perhaps because he is writing in a second or third language).

I try to put these methods into effect in my own life. When I hear bad news, especially the tragic stories I often hear from my fellow Tibetans, naturally my own response is sadness. However, by placing it in context, I find I can cope reasonably well. And feelings of helpless anger, which simply poison the mind and embitter the heart, seldom arise, even following the worst news.

What does he mean by "in context" and by "coping reasonably well"? And what if the anger he feels is not "helpless" (I assume he means "anger about something I cannot affect")? It is hard to read this and know what to think. I am not at all sure I think someone should "cope" with tragic stories in the way he means or that I think "the context" what he thinks it is. Jesus got angry, and wept, too.

I was also interested to see that TheTimes lets a Buddhist holy man give an implicit testimony in its pages. Would they let a Christian write the same article, I wonder?


7:27 PM


SAVE THE FISH

One of Cardinal Ratzinger's headaches is his responsibility for reviewing claims about apparitions, and these days that means Marian apparitions.

Maryland has had several visionaries. One is Gianna Talone-Sullivan who divorced her first husband, remarried, set up a medical ministry, and began having visions.

Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore was not impressed; nor was Cardinal Ratzinger, according to the Washington Post.

These visionaries have much to say about the coming of the Great Tribulation ( a safe prediction); and Gianna predicted the death of all the fish in the world.

For Marylanders this is a troubling prediction. No shad, no shad roe. Are oysters and crabs included? They are not technically fish, but by extension?

Western Maryland, especially the area around Frederick and Emmitsburg, has a distinctive spiritual atmosphere, and its piety attracts con artists and pious frauds.

The Touchstone October conference will cover this Marian apocalyptic movement in the Catholic Church. Protestants will be happy to learn (Schadenfreude) that Catholics have their equivalent of the Left Behind series.


1:31 PM




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