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What's that smell?

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It's... an Apostolic Visitation!

U.S. nuns join seminaries in the U.S. as well as the Legionaries of Christ for the full on review of if they are living up to the rules of their orders, their mission and their commitments to the Church.

In other words, the shepherd is watching out for the sheep.

Here's the laugh outloud line of the day:

But the investigation of American nuns surprised many because there was no obvious precipitating cause.

In his first interview since the Legion announced its apostolic visitation , Archbishop O'Brien of Baltimore speaks the truth in charity. Basically, this visitation is a chance for the Legion to gets its act together, but they need to cooperate fully with the Holy See.

Are you confident the Legionaries are ready to cooperate?

I hope so. I'll put it that way: I really do hope so. It depends on so many individuals being open, because it just takes a few to try to block it and to mislead. I hope that the Legionaries will realize that in the long run, this is going to help them.

You're recently had talks in Rome with Fr. Alvaro Corcuera, the superior of the Legionaries. Are you confident he's ready to cooperate?

I can't say. I'm quite sure he would want to see this thing cleared up, and I hope he'll realize that the best way is to encourage everyone to cooperate.

What are the issues that the visitation should consider?

In the first place, they have to look at Maciel himself. What are the facts, who knew them, when did they know them, and why did it take so long for them to become public? They should look at the financial dimension. They also need to examine who the victims are, and what's being done to meet the needs of those victims.

Then, they need to look at the structure that Maciel created. There was a good deal of secrecy in his own life, and there's secrecy in the structures he created. It would be helpful to know why there is such secrecy. For example, why is there such an effort with their seminarians to limit their exposure to the real world out there? What are their recruiting strategies for vocations to the priesthood? How above board are they? What are the numbers involved, how many priests have been ordained and how many are still active in the priesthood with the Legionaries?

The whole interview is worth reading by clicking here.

Qualifications for a Bishop

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Scranton's bishop Joseph Martino has been doing a great job lately of communicating the Catholic faith in public in spite of opposition, instructing Catholic institutions and public officials, and through them, the faithful at large. He's shown a commitment to prevent Church events from being used to honor reprehensible politicians. He's reminded a Catholic college to show its commitment to Catholic moral teaching and distance itself from any endorsement of immorality. He's taught politicians publicly about such as the injustice of government tolerance for abortion, let alone subsidy of it, and

When I read the Bishop's letter to the misguided Senator Bob Casey Jr., whose voting record is not worthy of the Casey name, I noticed that Bp. Martino is the holder of an earned doctorate in Church history. Now that's not a common accomplishment among bishops. The most prominent bishop I know of with a similar background is the estimable George Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, who made his studies at Oxford.

We certainly need more such bishops like these: able to stand against the fashions of the moment and teach Christian doctrine. Perhaps we can start looking for bishops among other priests with a background in Church history, and with reason: men with enough interest in Church history to study it in depth are likely to have particular qualities of temperament that the Church needs, such as an admiration for sacred tradition. That is an important quality in this time, when Pope Benedict wants to promote a correct understanding of the Second Vatican Council as a development in continuity with the preceding 1962 years of Church life, and not a breach from it.

Furthermore, bishops with a knowledge of past relations between society, the state, and the teaching Church can have a realistic understanding about what is possible and what is not: that pleasing everyone and leaving problems unattended is not the pathway to peace.

Ed Peters has put together another response to the Legionaries of Christ / Regnum Christi (LC/RC) crisis, which is well worth reading. You can check it out here. Since I'm likely to be asked for a response, here's a line-by-line:

I think that Fr. Alvaro Corcuera's apparent claim that he knows nothing about Maciel's behavior, except that Maciel sired a daughter, is utterly unbelievable. I have nothing else to say about this kind of stone-walling. I will simply re-endorse Dr. Germain Grisez's and Mr. George Weigel's proposals for direct intervention by the Holy See.

Out of Christian charity I will assume Fr. Alvaro is telling the truth. The Holy See should intervene anyway. Directly.

The situation is so muddled that I cannot see how the LC/RC can fix it without outside help and expertise. Of course I'm just one canonist out of thousands in the Church. But given how the LC/RC have maintained Fr. Maciel's innocence for years, the severity of the allegations against him - both proven and unproven, and other structural problems within the movement, how the initial response has been bungled, it will be difficult for the LC/RC to regain the trust of orthodox Catholics without assurances that Rome has performed a thorough housecleaning of the movement.

Apologists for the LC/RC are already stating that Fr. Alvaro and the LC/RC are following Rome's instructions. And Rome has stated it has no immediate plans to step in, but would do so if requested by the Legion. So it might be best is the Legion simply go through the official step of asking Rome to step in directly.

Moving on Peters's rebuttal of the "reform-from-within" assertion and the "carry-on-the-charism" assertion:

Assertion 1. Because the Legion and Regnum Christi have within their ranks many obviously good and faithful Catholics, they should be allowed to try a reform from within. Response: the presence of good and faithful Catholics within an organization, particularly when the organization (in terms of Church history, if nothing else) is so young, says almost nothing about whether the organization itself is sound and/or salvageable.

Here is where I think Peters needs to make a distinction. Those making the "reform from within" suggestion (like myself) are not a unified camp. Some maintain the LC/RC should be permitted to reform from within, without any direct outside intervention. Very unlikely to work, as proven by the fact Fr. Maciel got away with his misdeeds for so long. And even if it were possible, there's still the problem of restoring the RC/LC's credibility.

Like Peters, I believe the LC/RC's current structure is deeply flawed, and have for some time, according to criteria developed with Fr. Frank Morrisey - one of the Church's foremost canonical experts on religious law and structures of institutes of consecrated life - and cult expert Michael Langone. You can read a summary of the criteria here. (Please note: I am not claiming that all of these criteria apply to the LC/RC, but those that do need to be rooted out if the LC/RC is to reform.)

Having said that, given that the majority of LC/RC members are orthodox Catholics faithful to Rome, I believe a "reform from within" is possible if the Holy See intervenes directly and appoints someone credible from outside the LC/RC to do a thorough investigation of LC/RC practices, and oversee their reform. It needs to be someone known for prayer and orthodoxy, experienced in religious life, and highly respected within the Church. For example, Cardinal Francis George from Chicago or Archbishop Seán O'Malley from Boston. Of course this assumes LC/RC members cooperate - not only in letter, but in spirit - with the reform.

Such a reform must begin with a sincere apology to Fr. Maciel's victims, followed by restitution. Also, no more excuses suggesting Fr. Maciel's innocence, or trying to dampen the severity of his sins. Of course the structural weaknesses that allowed Fr. Maciel to get away with his double-life for so long must also be fixed. Good faith only gets one so far. Peters identifies the question many canonists are asking, namely whether there are structural problems to the Legion, expressing them as only he can, when he states in response to the second assertion:

There is, I think, at least as much reason to wonder whether Maciel set up an institute in order to assure himself of ample access to sexual targets and unaccountable funds, or whether he suffered from some warped psycho-emotional condition that enabled him to compartmentalize pious devotional practices and sexual predation for decades on end...

Here is where I take a somewhat harder line than Peters. I don't wonder. In fact, I'm pretty sure Fr. Maciel set up the LC/RC to, as I put it in the following interview, acquire, maintain and protect his access to victims.

I won't comment on funds, except to say well-placed sources within and outside the LC/RC told me that Fr. Maciel was frequently given thousands of dollars in cash without any questions being asked. I haven't looked into the issue deeply enough to give it much thought; it's entirely possible the financial irregularities came after, as a by-product of the sexual irregularities. Of course, none of the above excludes the possibility Fr. Maciel also had a serious psychological condition.

But I've skipped ahead a bit. Here's how Peters begins his response to the second assertion:

Assertion 2. Maciel's canonical crime spree was a grave personal failing, but it does not negate the L/RC 'charism', and they should be allowed to continue their work. Response: This argument misses the key question, namely, whether in fact Maciel ever bequeathed an authentic charism to the L/RC...

This, then, is what separates our positions at the moment. If one believes the LC/RC lack a true charism, then Peters is right in suggesting Rome may have to shut down the movement completely and reconstitute it. (Without a true charism, there is nothing to reform.)

On the other hand, if one believes the LC/RC possess a true charism from Christ, but that it has become seriously clouded by Fr. Maciel's sexual vice, then it may still be possible to rescue the charism. Of course it will still require delicate surgery on Rome's part. It's possible the movement is so far gone that the necessary reform is no longer possible. The LC/RC will have to show they are capable of true reform.

Peters then says (skipping over the part I had quoted earlier, out-of-sequence):

I do not know whether the L/RC can (following a complete leadership replacement!) reform itself from within, although I am almost certain that they cannot;

A complete leadership change may be the only thing that can save the LC/RC at this point. Certainly this is how I feel, humanly speaking, although the Holy Spirit could intervene in a way that canonists haven't imagined. But, assuming most of the current leadership was honestly in dark about Fr. Maciel's double-life, this speaks to a weakness in LC/RC formation that so many clergy suspected so little for so long. This is not to say they were bad people or terrible priests - only that they appear to lack a certain skill-set needed to exercise prudent governance over a large religious institute.

This is not uncommon among young institutes of consecrated life where one is dealing with leadership known for its holiness (let alone living a double-life). I've experienced this at least twice in my career as a canon lawyer. A young institute and its young superior come up with some grandiose ideas, or overlook the obvious. An older priest, with several years of priestly experience before joining the institute, jumps in points out what's being overlooked, or otherwise brings some common sense to the discussion. Older priests can help guide a young superior of a young institute through sensitive pastoral issues, temper and focus the zeal of younger newly-ordained priests, and put bishops as ease knowing there is someone with experience keeping an eye on the new institute.

The problem with the current LC/RC superiors is that none of them kept an eye on Fr. Maciel. This is not surprising. Abusers cannot bear close scrutiny, which would threaten their access to victims. Fr. Maciel reportedly handpicked his superiors. Not surprisingly, he often named young priests who lacked practical pastoral experience. Which is why most Catholics would feel more confident about a reform of the LC/RC if Rome stepped in directly.

and I do not know whether Maciel developed an authentic charism for clerical, religious, and lay life, but I have serious doubts that he did.

And now the question of charism. The reason orthodox Catholics have struggled so deeply with the crisis, in fact the reason there are such strong feelings of anger and betrayal, is that the LC/RC's good works have been visible to us for so long. But looking back in retrospect, so too have the institutional signs of Fr. Maciel's double-life. How does one reconcile such a stark contrast?

Normally, an institute's charism is tied to its founder and its good works. However, the two don't match in this case. Some argue that the LC/RC's founding charism was fraudulent from the start. Others argue that God used Fr. Maciel as His imperfect human instrument. In reflecting upon this dilemma, attempting to reconcile these questions in my own mind, I stumbled across the biography of Saint Rafael Guízar Valencia.

Saint Rafael was Fr. Maciel's uncle and the bishop who oversaw most of Fr. Maciel's seminary formation prior to dismissing his nephew from the seminary. Saint Rafael exemplified many of the Christian virtues LC/RC attempt to emulate as members of their movement. In fact, his life story reads like a blueprint for the LC/RC's good works, and LC/RC members in past have recognized his influence in the founding of their movement.

Perhaps - and this is highly speculative on my part - Saint Rafael is the true spiritual founder of the LC/RC movement, and the instrument used by God to transmit its charism. It's something for LC/RC members to pray about.

Sometimes there are things going on in the world that I don't want to know about, because I'd feel I should do something about them. This is one.

Orissa is a state in southeast India, and Kandhamal is a rural district there.

reuters-orissa20080903doll.jpg

TIKABALI, India (Reuters) - On a starry night last week, as Lal Mohan Digal prepared to go to bed, a mob of raging, machete-wielding Hindu zealots appeared above the hills of his mud house and swarmed over this bucolic hamlet in Orissa.

By dawn, Christian homes in the village were smoking heaps of burnt mud and concrete shells. Churches were razed, their wooden doors and windows stripped off.

"We could hear them come shouting 'Jai Shri Ram'," Digal said, referring to the rallying cry of Hindus hailing their warrior-god.

The mob poured kerosene on the thatched rooftops of the village homes, then threw matches. Church spires were hacked down.

The Hindu part of the village was untouched. For four days Digal and his stricken Christian neighbours hid in the teak forests, before being herded to a government-run relief camp.

The violence replicated itself in village after village, as the rural Kandhamal district of Orissa convulsed from some of the worst anti-Christian attacks in India.

[story continues]

The Church there is doing what it can:

Church petitions Indian Supreme Court to protect Christians in Orissa

NEW DELHI (CNS) -- The Catholic Church in India has petitioned the country's Supreme Court to protect Christian lives and property in Orissa state.

Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar told the Asian church news agency UCA News Sept. 2 that the church decided to approach the highest court "as we are not getting sufficient response" from the Orissa government.

The archbishop, whose archdiocese is in Orissa, said the church wants the court to order federal authorities to protect Christians in the eastern state.

"We want some clear help and response" from the government, added the archbishop, who has stayed in New Delhi since the violence broke out in Orissa Aug. 24.

The church petition seeks the deployment of sufficient riot police in villages where Hindu extremists continue to destroy churches and Christian buildings. It also demands that the Central Bureau of Investigation, the country's criminal investigative agency, probe the violence.

In addition to its regular judicial duties, the Supreme Court of India can take action if individuals file a petition with a question of public importance that needs the court's involvement.

Archbishop Cheenath said the attacks have now decreased, since "there are no more targets to attack." But in several villages Christians reportedly have been forced to sign documents declaring they are Hindus and have been asked to destroy their churches and other Christians' houses afterward.

The archbishop told UCA News all Christian institutions have been destroyed in the Kandhamal district, the worst-hit area of Orissa. The violence began there after suspected Maoists gunned down an 85-year-old Hindu religious leader and five associates Aug. 23. Hindu radicals targeted Christians, claiming they had masterminded the killings.

[story continues]


AFP reports on Ingrid Betancourt's return to France after her liberation from FARC captivity:

A fervent Catholic who called her release a "miracle of the Virgin Mary," Betancourt has also been invited to meet Pope Benedict XVI. "It is a meeting that one cannot pass up," she told AFP.

I'm impressed!

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Sometimes you know God is at work. It took just one sermon by a Catholic priest, and Obama's quit his Protestant church!

;-)

It figures

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Some kid started one of the big LA fires.

I shouldn't be too surprised: a few years ago, a bored kid waiting for his mom to come out of an AA meeting in a Boston suburb set fire to some leaves outside the church where it was meeting. The building went up quite quickly.

Confession is so difficult

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A Connecticut priest pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges relating to embezzlement from his parish. Yet his admission of guilt sounds strangely remote:

"It's my understanding, your honor, that I used church monies, parish monies for means and for needs other than means and needs of the parish or the parishioners of the parish," Fay, dressed in a dark suit with a bandage on his hand, said in court. "My understanding is that it's by fraud."

"It's my understanding..." -- as if he had only recently come to know the information: as if he were just barely persuaded of its truth.

Here's a tip for readers: don't try that phrase in the confessional. It's better to just come out with your sins.

Cover-up in New Orleans?

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A crime, covered up in New Orleans? euthanasia.jpg I suppose it's no surprise in that city, notorious for official corruption.


CNN reports that five medical experts judged mysterious deaths in a New Orleans hospital to be homicide, but the grand jury convened to review the case never saw their reports.

In a decision that puzzled the five experts hired by the state, New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan never called them to testify before the grand jury. What remains unclear, because of grand jury secrecy laws, is whether the grand jury even saw the experts' written reports.

"They weren't interested in presenting those facts to the grand jury," said Dr. Cyril Wecht, the former coroner of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and a past president of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists.

"The hard scientific facts are those from five leading experts, [the patients died] from massive lethal doses of morphine and Versed. As far as I know the toxicological findings were not presented to the grand jury and certainly not with quantitative analysis."

Tu Rex Poloniae, Christe

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Our Lady was crowned Queen of Poland at Czestochowa in 1717; now that Poland has been delivered from Communism, laymen have proposed naming Christ our Lord as King of Poland. The proposal probably won't go through yet, but it's a laudable thought.

(Via Catholicgauze.)

Priest stops bungling burglars

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The good news is that Fr. Bennett caught the young perpetrators in the act and scared them off before they could break into the wonderful Basilica in Boston. It's also good that they were untidy criminals: some of them came back to the church to get the drill they'd dropped, so the police were able to arrest three. The other two cared enough to bail out the three, so they came by the station to do that, and the police arrested them too.

Some of them appear to have pages on "myspace", and if these are the very same people, the pages reveal them to be a bunch of drunks barely out of high school who care only to party when they're not at their dead-end jobs: "Robby", "Alyse", "Jamie".

Some of them break into buildings for kicks, it seems: one friend posted on "Alyse's" page: "we should party and break into s--- again" (8/10); and she replied on his page: "we definetly need to break in to things and drink some more!" (8/11).

What do these people really need? What kind of life is this? They don't seem to have any connection to the Church: the two girls designate themselves as atheists.

Now, folks, don't post any comments on their pages....

Update: These whiz-kids removed their myspace.com pages from public view today, but Google has preserved snapshots of the pages from a few days ago.

It is a sad day for mainstream journalists and liberals everywhere: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is facing the judgment of God for his crimes.

Zarqawi scurried away from Afghanistan when the U.S., the U.K., and Afghan militias destroyed his protectors' government. Despite the Left's fanatical insistence that Saddam Hussein had "nothing to do with al Qaeda," Zarqawi set up shop in Baghdad two years before the war, as an honored guest of the regime. He was in bad company -- Iraq had sheltered several other major international terrorists. Saddam also had extensive contacts (not to say alliances) with terrorists, directly funded Ansar al-Islam and used terror groups as proxies in his vicious struggles with the Kurds and Iranians.

Two years ago, Zarqawi announced that his band of merry thugs and murderers would be the Iraqi franchise of al Qaeda. They have killed hundreds of Americans and thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqis. They are the avowed enemies of democracy and have promised to institute a Taliban-style theocracy in Iraq if they triumph.

Zarqawi and other terrorist leaders have depended upon the Left's footsoldiers to broadcast news of their murders and bombings, with little context or explanation, and the Left has been happy to comply in order to harm the standing of President Bush and the war in Iraq. With yet another major terrorist undergoing the anger of Allah, it will be difficult to spin this as anything other than a victory, but I'm sure journalists will do their best. Within 24 hours, you will see stories that say, "Despite the Zarqawi's death, the violence continued in Iraq...."

May the remaining terrorists repent of their crimes and turn themselves in to the civil authorities for temporal punishment. For those who do not, may God visit his wrath upon them for the innocent blood they have shed, and the discord they have sown.

Church burnings case resolved

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There have been three arrests in the case of nine church burnings in Alabama. So far it looks like it's the work of college kids who started it for thrills, burning five churches in two days; then they burned four more in another part of the state in an attempt to distract the police.

These crimes may provide a case study in how evil operates. It wasn't about race: half the churches were white. It may have been about the denomination: they were all Baptist -- but then, that's the main denomination in rural Alabama.

These were all small parishes, compared to what we're used to: congregations of a hundred or so -- in one case as few as 30 -- with aged buildings whose doors couldn't withstand a kick: probably not wealthy churches.

They were burned down by a pre-med student, son of a doctor; a theater major on scholarship, and a campus actor-rocker who had been student president at his high school.

If they're found guilty -- one has confessed already -- 90-to-135-year sentences should be adequate.

Lately it seems the news team at WHDH-TV is on some weird new-age kick.

This week they did a story about a neo-pagan ceremony a guy held in his house in Salem (it figures) in order to get rid of the bad vibes there.

Monday they're running a story about so-called "Indigo Children" -- supposedly psychic kids who heal people.

Now, the movie about this idea was apparently produced by members of an esoteric sect . The sect's website offers a course on how to bend spoons with your mind. Very interesting, but it doesn't give me confidence that this deserves to be treated seriously as news.

Curiously enough, the group's leader seems to have taken his inspiration from a visit to Medjugorje!

We've been waiting for this. On December 22, Pope Benedict spoke to the Roman Curia with a look back at the year, but it has taken a couple of weeks before the Vatican released an official translation of his message. There's even been a certain amount of fuss in the Italian press about the delay; Sandro Magister asked if somebody at the Vatican was trying to keep the speech from getting attention. But no fear: we bloggers will comb through it all.

The Pope looks back to the last days of Pope John Paul, in light of the late pontiff's teaching about the role of Jesus' suffering in the redemption of the world.

From the theme of the World Youth Day ("we have come to worship Him"), he looks to the resurgence of Eucharistic adoration, and the Synod on the Eucharist.

But the most extensive part of his address is a look at the Second Vatican Council, at its 40th anniversary:

What has been the result of the Council? Was it well received? What, in the acceptance of the Council, was good and what was inadequate or mistaken? What still remains to be done? No one can deny that in vast areas of the Church the implementation of the Council has been somewhat difficult, even without wishing to apply to what occurred in these years the description that St. Basil, the great Doctor of the Church, made of the Church's situation after the Council of Nicaea: He compares her situation to a naval battle in the darkness of the storm, saying among other things: "The raucous shouting of those who through disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter, the confused din of uninterrupted clamoring, has now filled almost the whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right doctrine of the faith ..."

In the Council, the Church responded to a modernity that had progressively denied God and attempted to marginalize religion from social life into a purely personal sphere. As St. Thomas Aquinas redeemed classical philosophy by reconciling it with Christian faith, the Second Vatican Council sought to open a new dialogue with modern societies by showing one of their fundamental principles -- the religious liberty of man in society -- can be harmonized with the Catholic faith.

The part of the address I value most is the Pope's discussion on how the Council should be interpreted: not as a "discontinuity", a revolutionary event replacing all that had gone before it; but rather as a "reform" by the Church, which strives and seeks always to turn afresh toward the Lord, in continuity with what has gone before. Here the Pope describes the result of misunderstanding the council:

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.

These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council's deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague.

In a word: It would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit. In this way, obviously, a vast margin was left open for the question on how this spirit should subsequently be defined and room was consequently made for every whim.

The nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood. In this way, it is considered as a sort of constituent that eliminates an old constitution and creates a new one.

In contrast:

The hermeneutic of discontinuity is countered by the hermeneutic of reform [...]

Here I shall cite only John XXIII's well-known words, which unequivocally express this hermeneutic when he says that the Council wishes "to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion." And he continues: "Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us …." It is necessary that "adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness ..." be presented in "faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another ...," retaining the same meaning and message.

It is clear that this commitment to expressing a specific truth in a new way demands new thinking on this truth and a new and vital relationship with it; it is also clear that new words can only develop if they come from an informed understanding of the truth expressed, and on the other hand, that a reflection on faith also requires that this faith be lived. In this regard, the program that Pope John XXIII proposed was extremely demanding, indeed, just as the synthesis of fidelity and dynamic is demanding.

However, wherever this interpretation guided the implementation of the Council, new life developed and new fruit ripened. Forty years after the Council, we can show that the positive is far greater and livelier than it appeared to be in the turbulent years around 1968. Today, we see that although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and our deep gratitude for the work done by the Council is likewise growing.

Most of the disputed issues in the Church can only be understood with a correct interpretation of the Council.

The deluge resumes

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A Federal bankruptcy judge in an Oregon case has ruled that parish property belongs to the Portland Archdiocese, adding to the possibility that some of that property will have to be liquidated to pay abuse victims.

It appears that the administrator of Holy Trinity Church improperly transferred 20% of the parish's income, over a six-year period, to pay bills of the parish where he resides. No wonder the Archbishop has been willing to put the planned closure of HTC on hold.

ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON
2121 COMMONWEALTH AVENUE
BRIGHTON, MASSACHUSETTS 02135-3193

(617) 254-0100 FAX (617) 783-4564
OFFICE OF THE CHANCELLOR
December 15, 2005

Ms. Delores Miller
[...]
Dorchester, MA 02125

Dear Ms. Miller:
I thank you for your letter of December 10, 2005 regarding our now-concluding investigation of financial matters of Holy Trinity Church in Boston.

In your letter of December 10, you indicated that you do not wish to come in for a meeting at this time. Rather, you ask to simply have me deliver the results of the investigation. The results of the investigation are that, net of bills paid on behalf of Holy Trinity Parish by St. James Parish, Holy Trinity Parish transferred $176,390 to St. James Parish over the period of the audit.

That amount was borrowed today by St. James Parish and deposited to an existing account belonging to Holy Trinity Parish.

Since you have elected not to come in at the present time, I will be sharing the full results of this audit with the Reconfiguration Oversight Committee this evening. I would have preferred to take the representatives of the Parish through it directly, but I do see the need for. an outside review of our work and will therefore cover this with our committee established by the Archbishop to report on the integrity of our process.

If you find that you or the members of your group want to go through the detail, we would be happy to schedule time to meet with you.

Sincerely,


David W. Smith Chancellor
c: Most Reverend Sean P. O'Malley, OFM Cap.
Hon. Thomas F. Reilly, Attorney General, Comm. of Mass.
Reconfiguration Oversight Committee

Before long, we'll all be getting spam in our mailboxes "from Mrs. Aristide" asking our help to get his embezzled/diverted/dope-funded loot to a safe country.

It used to puzzle me that so many naive Catholics around here, even devout people, thought that that demagogue-priest was some hero of social justice. Were they just trained Massachusetts Democrats, reflexively responding to an appeal to class envy?

I mean, when he started talking to the crowds about necklacing his enemies with burning tires, that should have been a clue he was not exactly a stickler for the observance of human rights.

Incidentally, speaking of the '419' scammers, a profile of them appeared online a few days ago; in Africa, there's even a comic pop song about them: "I Go Chop Your Dollar". (If I get the QT player working here, I'll get to hear it too.)

The nuance has arrived!

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Sandro Magister leads up to the Synod by reviewing Pope Benedict's particular emphases so far: his call for a more purified Church, as seen in the Burresi and Maciel cases; his thoughts on good and bad ecumenism; and his approach to relations with non-Christians, refraining from the dramatic gestures of his venerable predecessor; and a focus on priestly formation: Magister predicts a housecleaning of US seminary officials and a policy against candidates with "pronounced homosexual tendencies".

If that word "pronounced" is really in the text, then the nuance has arrived, and we're about to see a lot of the fuss over this document deflate.

(Via Vatican Watcher.)

Pin Prick

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This story makes me wince with embarrassment for the Church. Some boneheaded priest, aged 78, thought it would be a good idea to demonstrate pain during his homily for the kids' Mass - by calling them up and pricking their hands with a pin. He was gravely mistaken.

To start with, kids already know what pain is, Father. There's not a kid in the country who has never fallen off a bike and never tripped on a shoelace; landed hard on the ground, and bled, and experienced bodily pain. Kids don't live their lives stored in padded boxes.

The priest's conduct violated the parents' authority and gave a bad example: he intentionally imposed bodily pain on someone else's child -- directly: that is, not as an unintended side effect to some legitimate action. After the horrible cases exposed in the past few years -- about priests who used children's bodies for their own cruel purposes -- it is downright scandalous and therefore stupid for a priest to do a demonstration that comes anywhere near the category of physical abuse.

But Father says he'll apologize at Mass next week -- for not sterilizing the pin. As if the small health risk to which he exposed them were the main problem! As if sticking them with clean pins would have been just fine. Father needs to write on the board 100 times, "I will not stick pins in my parishioners."

You! Volunteer!

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OK, folks, here's something we folks at a distance can do: volunteer to help organize data on missing persons. Let's get to it.

Update: Belay that, buckoes: the people running the database have to stop data entry for a few hours while they relocate to a bigger computer.

2nd Update: The service is back up Monday.

Comfort ye my people

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gulfport-20050831-capt.sge.dny23.310805224314.photo00.photo.default-384x256.jpg

Katrina's wake : A statue of the Virgin Mary sits on the porch of home destroyed by hurricane Katrina in Gulfport, Mississippi. (AFP/Robert Sullivan)

(via Yahoo News)

 

Crime

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OK, pastors, it's time for a Homeland Security alert. Make a note of the story Kelly cites: thieves broke into a parish in Lynn, MA, skipped the sacred vessels, located the tabernacle key, and took the Holy Eucharist. Since Lynn is next door to Salem, Mass., a magnet for neo-pagan kooks, one has to wonder if there's some connection to any of the occultists.

But back to the security point: a lot of priests are pretty lax about storing the key, leaving it unsecured in a sacristy, and that's just not going to cut it anymore.

Kelly and Dom are wondering why the theft isn't being treated as a "hate crime", though it sure fits the definition. One reason is that we Catholics don't protest vigorously about bias crimes as smaller religious bodies often do. Perhaps the clergy are trained too well to avoid attracting public attention; this is a mistake. Protesting against theft and violation is an act of courage. I'd like to see our Abp. Sean speak publicly about this.

(I'll include the story here in case it should expire off the newspaper's site:)

You'd think the NYT was slamming the US Military in Iraq.

But it turns out, it's arch-terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi complaining about Al Qaeda.

I bet the food is terrible, too.

In his own words

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The Pope met with thousands of enthusiastic German pilgrims Monday for an audience; it lasted about ten minutes, but he arrived exactly half an hour late for it, coming from a meeting with non-Catholic religious leaders. He started with a greeting and an apology:

Welcome! I thank you with all my heart for the kind wishes, for the words and gestures of support and friendship that I have received from all the parts of Germany in such an overwhelming way. At the beginning of my path in an office that I had never thought of, and for which I didn't regard myself as suited, all these signs of your support are really quite a source of strength and help.

Dear German countrymen, next I must beg pardon for the delay. Germans are used to punctuality; it seems I have already become very Italianized!


With irony, he addressed the inquisitiveness of his fellow countrymen about how he had come to be elected:
Now I must tell a little story about how it all happened, naturally without breaking the secrecy of the conclave.... [laughter]. When the course of the voting slowly made me recognize that, so to speak, the lot was going to fall to me, my emotions became quite dizzy: you see, I had believed that I had accomplished the purpose of my life, and could hope to ring out my days in peace. So with deep conviction I said to the Lord, "Don't do this with me! You've got younger and better men, with altogether more vigor and more strength who could step up to this task."
But a cardinal had slipped a note to him, in which he urged him to be obedient to the Biblical words, "Follow me", and not to refuse.
So in the end there was nothing else remaining to me but to say yes. I'm trusting in the Lord, and I'm trusting in you, dear friends. A Christian is never alone, I said in the homily yesterday; that's how I expressed the wonderful experience that we have been able to have in these unusual four weeks that lie behind us. At the death of the Pope, amid all the sorrow, the living Church has appeared and has become visible, so that the Church is a force for unity and a sign for humanity.
The worldwide attention to the last days and the death of John Paul the Second has itself shown what the Church means to people of today, said Pope Benedict.
In the Pope a father had become visible to them, who gave trust and conviction, who somehow bound everyone together. It became visible that the Church is not closed in upon herself, and is not here only for herself, but is a point of light for people in all the world.

It became visible that the Church is not at all old and stiff, many say; she is young and when we look upon this youth, this youth of the late Pope, and finally, at Christ's tomb, by which angels were standing, then something no less consoling became visible. It is not at all true, as people always say, that the young are only interested in consumerism and pleasure. It is not true that they are materialistic and egoistic. The opposite is true: youth wants what is great! It wants that an end to injustice be declared; it wants inequality to be overcome, and that everyone get to have their share in the goods of the world; it wants the oppressed to gain their freedom; it wants what is great; it wants what is good. And for this reason youth is -- you are, we are -- altogether open for Christ.

On the World Youth Day:
I am looking forward to Kln, where the youth of the world will be meeting, or better: where the youth will have an encounter with Christ. Let's go together, let's keep together. I trust in your help. I ask for your patience when I make mistakes like any man or when some things remain incomprehensible, things the Pope has to say and do according to his conscience and the conscience of the Church. I ask you for your trust: let's stay together; then we'll find the right way.
And a word to his countrymen:
I've been in Rome for 23 1/2 years, but the roots remain, and I've remained a Bavarian, even as the Bishop of Rome.

[Transcribed and translated from Monday's Vatican Radio broadcasts. The narrations are paraphrased.]

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments concerning tonight's MSNBC interview, especially to Ken for sending me some still pics and to Trey for directing me to the following internet stream.

Behold your judicial masters

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We've seen the Velvet Revolution in Eastern Europe bring down Communism. The Orange Revolution deposed the Russian-backed dictator of Ukraine. How about a bloodless Black Revolution, to depose our homegrown anti-democratic tyrants? You know, these guys:

Kennedy Stevens Souter

Ginsberg Breyer

They look like harmless people, but they have decided, without asking you, that the opinion of foreigners trumps the will of your state's legislature. (Not those hick Third World foreigners, naturally, but the suave elite foreigners of Western Europe.) For once, the Washington Post gets it right:

The Supreme Court abolished capital punishment for juvenile offenders yesterday, ruling 5 to 4 that it is unconstitutional to sentence anyone to death for a crime he or she committed while younger than 18.
They didn't "rule it was unconstitutional," they committed a positive act: "abolished." As in "the abolition of slavery," which was done through Congress and the state legislatures through amending the Constitution. These five unelected judges don't have to go to such arduous lengths to impose their will. With a few hands tapping on computer keyboards, and some shufflings of papers, the laws of 20 U.S. states were erased from the books.

Justice Scalia, as always the Court's best and most eloquent critic, rips the majority's decision:

Worse still, the Court says in so many words that what our peoples laws say about the issue does not, in the last analysis, matter: "[I]n the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment"...The Court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our Nations moral standardsand in the course of discharging that awesome responsibility purports to take guidance from the views of foreign courts and legislatures. Because I do not believe that the meaning of our Eighth Amendment, any more than the meaning of other provisions of our Constitution, should be determined by the subjective views of five Members of this Court and like-minded foreigners, I dissent.
I wonder if the news reports are going to take notice of this biblical allusion from Justice Stevens:
...that our understanding of the Constitution does change from time to time has been settled since John Marshall breathed life into its text [emphasis added].
So the first Chief Justice was like God, breathing a soul into Adam? Is this man really comparing a human judge to the Almighty?

(Read the full text here. Stevens' opinion starts on page 42, and Scalia's starts on page 64.)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is calling for real presidential elections in Egypt, something he's never done in 24 years. They might end up being rigged, but symbolism is important.

Aside: it's great when AP uses native stringers to report on the Mideast.

The audience before [Mubarak] at Menoufia University broke into applause and calls of support, some shouting, "Long live Mubarak, mentor of freedom and democracy!" Others spontaneously recited verses of poetry praising the government.
The credulous tone sounds like Pravda in the bad old days.

In my estimation, the Islamofascists have made a serious strategic error by choosing to make terrorism and perverted religiousity into their sole means of gaining support. This essentially concedes all other aspects of economic and civil life to America and her allies. We can show that by accepting basic human freedoms, people can eat well, watch their children grow in safety, have better jobs, and alleviate corruption in public life, all while continuing to honor God in their own way. Their slogan is, "Support us because God wills it, or we'll blow up your house." Not the best way to gain the support of The People.

Here's a quick review of the last 15 months in the Mideast:

Afghanistan: Held free and fair elections. Currently governed by a liberal regime (by regional standards). Working to exterminate the last holdouts of armed Islamofascists.

Egypt: Making moves to allow real national elections.

Iran: The government is still one of the most oppressive in the world, but their people don't support them. Reform or regime change is practically inevitable, though it might not happen for years; any new government is almost guaranteed to be more pro-Western and pro-U.S.

Iraq: Held elections which the Islamofascists didn't enter and couldn't disrupt. Working to build a civil society in most areas of the country, and even the Sunni-dominated areas have apparently realized they're going to lose out if they don't play ball with the new government.

Israel: Withdrawing settlers from Palestinian areas. Moving toward restarting talks with the Palestinian authority.

Jordan: Continues its quiet, under-the-table alliance with America by training Iraqi security forces and providing logistical support to non-military programs in Iraq.

Libya: Dismantled its nuclear bomb program (which was alarmingly advanced) and opened itself to the West.

Saudi Arabia: Felt compelled to hold sham elections where the only candidates were the ones vetted by the religious ministry. Still, they didn't feel compelled to fake elections before.

Syria: Starts making noises about withdrawing from Lebanon, which is a good start.

We can be sure that we will suffer setbacks, but President Bush doesn't look so crazy anymore for saying Iraq was the key to eliminating despotism and oppression in the Mideast. Still skeptical? Try this: think of one large regional trend that is going against us right now, or a country that is becoming less friendly to democracy and freedom.

In sum, our Islamofascist opponents are losing men, territory, and popular support. This isn't the time for triumphalism or complacency, but let's be honest: America and her allies are willing the war on terrorism, and the Mideast as a region is moving toward liberalization.

Getting Terri's story right

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As Terri Schindler Schiavo's situation enters into danger again, keep an eye out for errors in news reporting about her. This morning the local news-radio station in Boston reported incorrectly that Terri was on life support "machines" and had been so for years. This was of course incorrect; she gets food through a tube, but it's nothing high-tech.

Fortunately, it was easy enough to call the news department and report the mistake. The staffer who took the call was familiar with Terri's story, and expressed her puzzlement that one of the news writers would get it wrong. All in all, I was glad to find somebody in the news biz acknowledging a mistake and promising to correct it.

...of the Washington Times.

Revival rescues Christmas, (Cardinal) McCarrick says

"I believe there is a real revival of religion in our country, not just of Christianity, not just of the traditional religions, but of people who really believe in God and may not be able to express it in the words of present-day religion," the Catholic cleric told "Fox News Sunday."
I'm not sure what Uncle Ted means by this, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. People are longing for the peace only Jesus can give them, they just don't know it.

A study in contrasts - about Mel Gibson and Michael Moore approaches to winning an Academy Award. Moore didn't submit his film for in the documentary category so it can only be considered for best picture. Pride goeth before a fall!

Euthanasia . . . or a 'Dutch treat' Evil in the land of tulips, windmills and clogs.

Groningen's guidelines, however, involve the actual medical homicide of individuals who can't protest or defend themselves. I have no doubt that if the Groningen Protocol becomes official, parents who don't want to contend with raising a disabled child will have their baby or young child euthanized, even if the baby has a fighting chance at a meaningful life. Likewise, family members who fear the burden of coping with a disabled or comatose loved one will seek his or her involuntary euthanasia out of their own self-interest.

Just found out via Mark Shea's blog that Gerard Serafin, writer of the Catholic Blog for Lovers and keeper of St. Blog parish roll has passed on. His warmth really shined through in his writings. He was always a ray of light among us and will be missed very much. Please pray for his soul.

Is the Mouse cleaning house?

If Disney moves to end their association with Miramax Films, it might help to restore their image as makers of family entertainment.

Of the Washington Times:

Gay bishop dismisses Anglican reportGene Robinson creates God in his own image:

"We believe God didn't stop revealing God's self when the canon of Scripture was closed," he said. "We worship a living God, not one who checked out 2,000 years ago."
The Bible has been "hijacked by the religious right," he said. "That is our Bible. It's time we take it back."
He continued, "I keep on saying to gay and lesbian people: Let's reclaim this book. It is our story."
For instance, the Old Testament book of Exodus is the "greatest coming-out story in the history of the world," he said at a Sunday school forum.
The 57-year-old bishop, who is divorced with two daughters and living with his male lover, said he does not teach celibacy to unmarried heterosexual or homosexual couples but rather "responsibility in relationships."
Acknowledging that his daughter, Jamie, had been living with her fiance before they were married, he said, "I can't remember the last couple I married who weren't living together."

Kerry, Jackson tell blacks to ignore gay 'marriage' issue - it's absolutely shocking how morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest the Reverend is.

"How many of you someone from your family married somebody of the same sex?" Mr. Jackson asked of the congregation of about 500. After nobody raised a hand, he asked, "Then how did that get in the middle of the agenda?"
Black Christians are in very bad company with the abortionists and so-called gay rights supporters.

Hawaiian seawater, going for $6 a bottle

Desalinated deep-sea water from Kona is the state's fastest-growing export, with demand soaring in Japan. Super-cold water sucked up from thousands of feet below the Pacific Ocean's surface is being marketed as healthy, pure, mineral-rich drinking water.

Next we start exporting cheese to France.

Arming Beijing? - Scary!

Uncoated electoral illusions - Mark Steyn, my hero.

Mr. Edwards, on the other hand, driveling on like a Depression-era sob-sister about the "bright light" of America now "flickering" is one of the funniest acts I've seen in years.

Eat up, they're low-cal

CWN reports about Bp. Krenn's resignation:

The Vatican's announcement on October 7 indicated that Bishop Krenn's resignation was "accepted in accordance with Canon 401, para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law ." That canon allows for the replacement of a bishop who can no longer fulfill his duties "because of illness or some other grave reason." In his own September 30 announcement, Bishop Krenn indicated his resignation was not required by reasons of health, but requested by Pope John Paul.
Now, this is contrary to earlier newspaper rumors that the Vatican was going to claim that the resignation was due to illness and not some "other grave reason". Will Diogenes who in effect called the Pope a liar now eat his words? Rod Dreher has already set the record straight on that point.

Major League Baseball announced yesterday that the Montreal Expos will move to the District, in one day turning 33 years of frustration and heartache for the Washington area into unbridled joy.
And, don't forget, huge traffic jams on game days. They are getting a new name, too. Any suggestions?

MILBloggers

FYI: An AP article on soldier bloggers in Iraq.

Austrian church crisis nearing end

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Vienna's die Presse reports that the crisis in that country's St. Pölten diocese is likely to be resolved shortly. The apostolic visitator Bp. Klaus Küng, appointed to investigate the diocesan seminary where "gay" parties and a child-porn scandal were exposed in July, is expected to report his findings to Vatican officials in Rome Thursday. According to the word in "undisputed church circles", says die Presse, diocesan bishop Kurt Krenn signed his letter of resignation on Friday in a 15-minute one-to-one meeting with Giovanni Cardinal Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Since Bp. Küng arrived in St. Pölten, he has ordered the seminary closed and has met with former students for personal interviews.

Update: Kathpress denies die Presse's story Wednesday, with a statement from someone "near to Bp. Küng" that he will not be going to Rome this weekend and that the visitation will proceed in a "peaceful and orderly" manner.

Correction: The first story in die Presse stated that Bp. Küng would be going to Rome "tomorrow", which I erroneously interpreted as Wednesday. It should have been Thursday, so I have corrected it in the text above.

Another year, another 140 abuse claims

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At some point, the Archdiocese of Boston needs to set a limit on payments for sex-abuse claims. Since last year's settlement of over 500 allegations, another 140 cases have appeared, with a potential tab of up to $20 million. Similar old claims could continue to arrive for years as the numbers trail off.

So far the archdiocese has been settling the cases with amounts much larger than they are legally obliged to pay. The archdiocese has not exercised its right under Massachusetts law, as a charitable institution, to cap the damage payments at $20,000, but at some point, I think they should consider invoking that limit. The aim of setting a deadline would be to motivate any remaining claimants to present their information sooner rather than later. Let's get this done. Let's do justice. And let's not drag out the pain and the payments for the next decade.

The primary abuse victims have a right to consideration, but the whole diocese is also hurt by these cases, bearing burdens that the perpetrators created -- burdens that in some cases were worsened and multiplied by the failure of victims and their families (and yes, the bishops too) to report the crimes when they happened. The Church is an injured party, and deserves to get the cases resolved in a reasonable time.

Well, it's a start.

A gentleman bandit returns a stolen laptop.

Cry Me A River

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Report: Saddam Writing Poetry in Prison

Maybe HBO will feature him in a special called "Humbled Tyrants: Poetry from the world's Detained Despots"

We could have a Saddam poetry contest...

"George Bush took my army, my death squads and my riches. I lived in a hole with lipton tea. Woe is me. Woe. Whoa... it sucks to be locked up like this."

Halliburton reports $663M loss

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So much for the Cahoot Theory of why we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Or perhaps you can subscribe to the theory that Bush, Cheney and the Military/Industrial complex are all in cahoots but can't seem to manage the work to a profit...

The report is via the WSJ. I believe you need to be a subscriber to read it.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) The Springfield Diocese reached a proposed settlement of more than $7 million Thursday with 46 people who accused priests of molesting them when they were children....

''I'm overwhelmed,'' said Marty Bono, a Chicopee man who says he was molested by a priest in 1971. ''I've been crying ever since I heard.''

''I respect the bishop,'' Bono said. ''He's done in four months what (his predecessor) couldn't do for a year and a half.''

The Nashville Dominicans had a serious mishap last night. High winds caused the roof to cave in at Saint Cecilia's Mother House. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the sisters need money immediately to make repairs. They have been in the process of raising money for regular repairs and expansion of the motherhouse to accomodate their growing ranks. Please pray for them and offer them some material help if you are able! Their website is http://www.nashvilledominican.org/

You can donate online here.

This is their mailing address.

Saint Cecilia Motherhouse
801 Dominican Drive
Nashville, TN 37228-1909
(615) 256-5486

MarketWatch reports that pizza mogul Tom Monaghan is taking Domino's public (DPZ) 44 years after its founding; 3 million of the shares sold will benefit his Ave Maria Foundation with an estimated $45-51M. Congratulations to all involved.

Cdl. Law in Rome

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A look at His Eminence's re-emergence in connection with his new title at St. Mary Major.

Matthew Stepanek, RIP

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I saw a retrospective of this young fella on the Today Show this morning. I've never read his poems so I can't comment on his message in detail, but he seemed like a wonderful kid who did his best to bring light to the world in the time he had.

Here's the WashPost article.

The Dallas Morning News series on molester priests transferred to other countries to protect them from the law started today. The photo with this particular story shows convicted molester Fr. Frank Klep handing out candy to kids after Mass in Samoa. The series will apparently be a big deal at the DMN: it gets its own Flash presentation.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz


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