Thursday, June 30, 2005

Top Gun is Being No Fun

Brooke Shields, whom Tom Cruise publicly criticized several times for taking Paxil to help treat her postpartum depression, sticks it to him in this NYTimes Op-Ed piece.

Also, does anyone else ever wonder if all this weird stuff Cruise is doing will lead him to be a Michael Jackson-type figure in a decade or so - a guy who used to be the definition of cool who's now gone off the deep end?

The Chronicles of Narnia

My mom is coordinator of religious education for our parish elementary school and yesterday she brought home a packet she had received from Disney and Walden Media's Narnia Faith Educators outfit touting lesson plans and a small curriculum to accompany the release of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in December. The cover letter was addressed to "Catholic Educator" and one part said:
Once in a generation, there comes a motion picture that combines all the elements that attract young audiences - a wonderful tale, adventure and excitement, great cinematography, state-of-the-art special effects - with positive moral values and allegories that relate perfectly to our Christian faith. This is a movie that we can not only approve, but also whole-heartedly embrace and endorse - a family movie with timeless Christian themes.

Notably, nothing of what I read of the curriculum packet had anything directly related to Christianity in it. There were 10 suggested activities all together, one of which was about shields and talked briefly about shield elements and their symbolism (truth, hope, joy, courage, peace, fidelity, etc). Another was listed under the heading of "Character education" and had to do with discussing the theme of bravery in the book. Those are good things, but there was nothing about Aslan as the Lion of Judah, Jadis as Satan, Narnia under her spell as the world after the Fall and before Christ's Incarnation, Aslan's slaying as the passion and death of Christ and his resurrection as Christ's Resurrection and victory over death. Seriously, C.S. Lewis made the allegories so simple and evident that you have to go out of your way not to talk about them. But taking a second look at the packet, it seems the curriculum itself was not produced by the so-called Narnia Faith Educators - but instead by Disney and Walden Media's regular education outreach people - and that the "Catholic Educator" cover letter and a nod in it to "allegories that relate perfectly to our Christian faith" is the only actual religious outreach involved.

Nevertheless, I thought it was pretty interesting (though not at all surprising) that Disney et al are targeting Catholic and Christian schools for publicity. When I asked, my mom said she used to get guides for historical films and period pieces when she was a history teacher, but she's never really gotten anything on movies since she (about 5 years ago) moved to religious ed exclusively (The Passion's R rating, of course, being unsuitable for elementary kids).

But the best part of the curriculum deal? The packet included a full-sized official movie poster that my mom said I could have.

I Love...

How my posts that get the most comments are the ones about non-Catholic related stuff, like dreams of a musical life and levels of being good looking and attractive. That makes me conclude that either: A) My Catholicism-related stuff is dumb and I should stick to stuff not directly related to the Church. or B) My Catholicism-related stuff is so brilliant and complete that people are left speechless.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Does Anyone Else Agree With Me

That the world would be a much better place if we had a practice of randomly breaking out into song and dance routines, a la movie musicals (or any musicals, for that matter)? We watched The Music Man tonight and I must say that the song about the Wells Fargo wagon is pure genius.

Say a Little Prayer

For Pope Benedict XVI as he celebrates the 54th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood today. And on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, no less.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

M&I: The Missionary Church

Throughout the latter part of Memory and Identity, Pope John Paul II discusses the idea of the Church as missionary. He tells us that the Church's missionary identity is not limited to a particular time or a particular place, but that we are always called to reach out, to teach, to evangelize, to reinvigorate.As he says on pages 115 and 116 of the book:

It is absolutely essential to develop a strong sense of mission. The Church in Europe and in every continent has to recognize that it is always and everywhere a missionary Church (in statu missionis). The mission belongs so much to its nature that at no time and in no place, not even in countries of long-established Christian tradition, can the Church be other than missionary...

In this mission, received from Christ, the Church must work tirelessly. She must be humble and courageous, like Christ himself and his Apostles. If she encounters obstacles, if she is criticized in various ways - maybe accused of so-called proselytism or trying to clericalize social life - she should not be discouraged. Most of all, she should not cease to proclaim the Gospel.
A few chapters later, JPII describes Europe as a "continent of devastation" and also notes that the Church's approach in the countries of the first, second and third worlds is slightly different. In the "first world," the
Church must "promote just progress among the peoples of the capitalist world, yet without yielding to the processes of dechristianization rooted in the old Enlightenment traditions." In the "second world" (Communist
countries), the Church had the responsibility of "aligning herself, above all, with the defense of human rights and the rights of nations." In the "third world," the Church's duty is to "introduce Christianity to the people, (as well as) draw attention to the unjust distribution of goods, not only between different social groupings but between different regions of the world."

The key here, of course, is that the Gospel must be proclaimed in a way that shows its relevance and relation to the particular circumstances in which people are living. I think it was Ghandi who said that if people have no bread to eat or water to drink, we must show them God through bread and water. That whole dynamic of relevance and relation to our lives is, I think, an important part of the Church's missionary identity and why that identity is a permanent one. The Gospel always holds keys to show us how to live, but we need to find the ways to unlock them. By this I don't mean, of course, to dismiss Tradition. Just the opposite, in fact. In his homily at his installation Mass, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that the "Church is young." And she is young in many ways because of her Tradition - one which is living.

JPII News

The Diocese of Rome officially opened the cause for the beatification of Pope John Paul II today. Get the story.

I've been thinking of putting this blog under the protection of Pope John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta for a while and now I think I definitely will. I also looked for an official prayer for the beatification of Pope John Paul to post here, but haven't found one yet (I know Catholic Ragemonkey composed one, but I couldn't find it in their archives), so if you know of one, post a link in the combox.

Also, I was just wondering the other day whether, in the investigation of the pope's life and particularly his unpublished writings, we'd find evidence that he experienced either previously or at his death the Dark Night of the Soul that his favorite saint, John of the Cross, described. St. Therese was experiencing it in the years leading up to her death, as was, apparently, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and I'm sure other saints and holy people.

Also, Amy Welborn has an interesting discussion about JPII's discipliniary actions and whether he should have done all he should in that area. I believe the original story was about his discipline in general but the combox wars have focused on how he dealt with the American sex abuse scandal. As some point out, there can be legitimate discussion over whether he should have dealt with it differently, but some people are being down right uncharitable. Take this quote from a commentor, for example: "We should not, however, necessarily assume the best because of our own reverence for the man."

Actually, that is exactly what one should do. It's called charity, and we're Christians, so why don't we try it? And not just for JPII, but for people in general. I, for one, know so little of the details of how the late pontiff handled the American scandal in comparison to the ones in Europe and what the usual Vatican relations with individual dioceses on matters such as this are that I wouldn't presume to blame Pope John Paul for a) causing the abuse or b) causing the pain that followed because of episcopal handling of it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Irresponsibility

Maryland students, do you want to know why people treat you like babies when you decide to riot and destroy public and private property? Because you don't take responsibility for yourselves.

Here's the most stunning example: Michael Scrocca, a Catholic Terp, was killed about 2 months ago in a house fire in the rental house he shared with several others. Fire investigators have found a can of gasoline on the front porch and determined that the fire must have started when an arsonist poured gasoline on the front porch and then set it on fire.

There had been a party at the house earlier that night at which 100 people were present. Though fire investigators, police, the university and the student newspaper have repeatedly called on everyone who was at the party to contact investigators to give statements (however irrelevant to the fire they might seem), only 20 people have come forward so far. I don't think these people are simply out of town for the summer. There were 4 weeks left to the school year when this fire occured. They had plenty of time to contact investigators. The family is obviously still in great pain, and with good reason. Not only was their son taken from them so early in life, but people who were supposed to be his friends and the friends of his housemates are such wimps that they're willing to let a homicide go unsolved so they don't have to be put in the uncomfortable position of making statements to investigators. Ridiculous.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

M&I: Divine Mercy

One of the chapters in John Paul's book Memory and Identity is entitled "The Mystery of Mercy." Mercy, one of the attributes of God, is indeed a mystery and JPII reminds us that it is not to be ignored that Our Lord chose early 20th century Poland, the place where soon some of the greatest horrors in history would be played out, as the place to reveal this mystery to the nun Faustina.

What is interesting is that this revelation was not made in Nazi Germany or in the Soviet Union, the states which perpertrated crimes on the Polish people and to others on their land. If I were God, I'd think that be the right place to deliver that message. But, thankfully, I'm not God. Rather, the late Holy Father says that the gift of Mercy is revealed by God to the people who would prove the limit to hate. He says this of St. Faustina (whom he canonized):
The patrimony of her spirituality was of great importance, as we know from experience, for the resistance against the evil and unhuman systems of the time. The lesson to be drawn from all this is important not only for the Poles, but also in every part of the world where the Church is present. This became clear during the batification and canonization of Sister Faustina. It was as if Christ had wanted to say through her: "Evil does not have the last word!" The Paschal Mystery confirms that good is ultimately victorious, that life conquers death and that love triumphs over hate.

I blogged about a month or so ago about the miracles Our Lord sends us today and how I thought forgiveness was one of the great signs of His Power in our times. Mercy, obviously, fits in with this perfectly. Mercy is a gift that we as humans need inherently - it's not something that is only available to the great sinners or the great saints - it is an invitation to us all. Not only does mercy cleanse and purify us, but it also enpowers us to be more Christ-like.

Of course, John Paul died on the eve of the Feast of Divine Mercy. His successor is German. As Pope Benedict himself said recently, it is certainly no accident that Our Lord chose men from these two countries to lead His Church. It says a lot about the role of Our Lord in history (another major theme of Memory and Identity). Nazism may have fallen 60 years ago and Communism 16 years ago, but the marks they left on Europe are in many ways still fresh; that's why Christ is still healing them. And if we're smart, and respond to Divine Mercy, we will abandon ourselves to it now to heal those wounds, as well as those of the disregard and destruction of life and the family ,and also to prevent other wounds from happening. After all, the message of Divine Mercy was given before WWII.

Bite Update

Several people seem to have taken an interest in the fact that I was bitten (I think by a spider, but I don't know) and that my left foot is now swollen (and growing larger by the hour). I went to the doctor's office, where they drew blood (ugh) to count my white blood cells - if the count was high, I had an infection; if it was normal, it was an allergic reaction. Either way, they gave me a steroid injection in my backside to reduce the swelling (though, thankfully, the burning the nurse warned me about hasn't happened). Apparently, my white blood count was "borderline" so they forgoed a second shot of antibiotics and instead gave me a prescription for antibiotics. They also gave me a script for an antihistamine to also help reduce the swelling and told me to tie a brace around my foot while I sleep to help it go down even more. So everything should be good soon!

Journalists and Javert

As I spent several months last year (with breaks) reading Victor Hugo’s epic Les Miserables, the character who left me most puzzled was the infamous Inspector Javert. His decades-long pursuit of Jean Valjean is so well known that his name is used by writers today to illustrate someone who will ruthlessly do whatever it takes to close a case and nab a suspect or anything that might parallel that.

But as I read the end of Les Mis, my heart softened toward the stony inspector. He is definitely an antagonist in the tale. Jean Valjean is a goodhearted peasant who only stole a single loaf of bread so he could feed his widowed sister and her children. He did escape from prison, but only after he had been there for years for a punishment that was not appropriate for the crime. But as Valjean tries to build a new life for himself, lay low, protect the innocent Cosette and give freely to the poor and otherwise disenfranchised, Javert is somehow always there and his singular goal of capturing Valjean is almost frightening.

SPOILER ALERT: But then, when Javert finally has Valjean, he lets him go. Not only that, but Javert’s inner battle between what he thinks must be his allegiance to the state and the police force and his own years of searching for Valjean on the one hand and the understanding that Valjean is a good man who made a rather minor mistake in life and has paid unceasingly for it on the other drives him mad. So mad that he commits suicide.

You have to feel compassion for Javert in a way. After all, Valjean was a criminal and Javert a police officer. In the beginning – in fact through most of the tale – he was simply doing his job. Valjean did escape from prison (several times) and if it hadn’t been for the good bishop, could have committed more heinous crimes. Javert must have thought he was just doing his duty and, in many ways, he was. But he had no compassion for Valjean, no recognition that he had repented of his sins and was spending the rest of his life trying to repay God and society for them. That lack of compassion, lack of recognition of other people’s humanity was Javert’s downfall. Once he realized the possible injustice of his long hunt for Valjean, he had invested so much of himself in it that the only response he felt he could make was suicide.

In many ways, I believe some of today’s journalists are like this. When big stories or scandals come out, they are at the most basic level just doing their job in reporting and writing them. No one can blame them for that. Most journalists I know and read have a strong dedication to their publication, to the public and to the nation in general. They believe (and the Constitution supports them in this) that a free press is essential to a healthy democracy. They value the role they play in that free press. But sometimes they get carried away. They lose focus. They invest so much of themselves in their jobs that they forget to put things in perspective and look at the big picture. They lose compassion for the subjects about whom they are reporting and writing and, in turn, lose compassion for the readers who trust them.

I don’t believe this is the cause of some of the more explosive journalism scandals of late – like Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley. Those two men in particular had a lot of personal problems that contributed to their professional and personal demise. But I do think this plays a part in misdirection of reporting, writing and editing and an unhealthy focus on certain aspects of the news. And not all journalists do this. But the few respected and experienced ones who do can create a culture in the newsroom that supports it. How do we eliminate it? I’m not sure. I think a lot of the blame lies with the pressure journalists feel to marry themselves to the newsroom and to lose themselves in their jobs. To stop that requires a whole rethinking of American journalism’s collective thought. But the answer that will not solve the problem is to dismiss journalism and journalists entirely. Most of them do a great job. It is only by recognizing both their faults AND their talents and accomplishments that things will change for the better.

Who You Calling a Papist?

There's a rather interesting discussion over at Amy Welborn's blog about use of the terms "papist" or "Roman" and if they're still considered derogatory slurs or can legitimately be used by non-Catholics (especially the British) when referring to Catholics.

Though I certainly don't mind someone I know using those terms in a joking, loving manner, I still think they have a good bit of sting coming from non-Catholics. They aren't terms you hear often and I can't believe that non-Catholics who do know them don't also know the venom with which they were once used. Hence I think that a disregard for that history is venomous in itself. The fact that literally "papist" and "Roman"(ish) are accurate terms for describing Catholics I think has little bearing on whether they are appropriate to use. Sure, there might come one day when they could be used as terms of endearment, but that day has not yet come.

Thoughts?

More on the Wedding

We had the bachelorette party Monday night for my sister-in-law to-be, Amanda. One of her 5 sisters, Adrienne, organized it. A good time was had by all. The 17 of us at the party took a trip down the Mississippi River on the steamboat Natchez, then went to the world famous Cafe du Monde for beignets and cafe au lait before getting back to the parking lot via the historic New Orleans streetcars. The only bad thing about the evening was that I seemed to have gotten bitten by something - a spider, I believe - and had an allergic reaction to it because now my left ankle has swelled so much it looks like a golf ball is in there. If it doesn't go down tonight, I'll probably have to go to the doctor tomorrow so I can actually fit into my shoes for the rehearsal dinner and wedding.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I Love the Brits

If you've never watched CSPAN's telecast of the Prime Minister's Questions, you're missing out. The show, which airs on CSPAN Sunday nights at 9e/8c, is recorded every Wednesday when Parliament is in session and the British Prime Minister (currently Tony Blair, in case you didn't know) appears before the House of Commons and members can ask him any questions they want. It's a hoot.

I discovered them actually through a Saturday Night Live parody. SNL did a skit highlighting the just plain funny stuff that happens during the weekly Q&A sessions. In America, we have no equivalent of this tradition since I'm sure it'd be a violation of the separation of powers for the president to appear before Congress every week to answer questions. But basically House of Commons members can ask the PM any question on any topic and he has to answer it - however he likes, of course, but he must respond. And he doesn't choose the members of parliament called upon - the speaker of the house does. Very often, members of parliament ask pointed, insulting and often hilarious and even more often inflammatory questions. It's really an amazing exchange. We really don't have an equivalent of that style of debate and Q&A in the U.S. Congress (at least that I've seen).

Tonight's broadcast of the PM's Questions (here's a transcript) mostly focused on Britain's role in Europe as France and Holland have recently rejected the EU Constitution. There was also a lot of questioning by members of the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrat Party (multiparty system over there, remember?) about Blair's (the Labour Party leader) flip-flopping on issues.

Iain Duncan Smith, the former head of the Conservative Party, pointed this flip flopping out to the PM and said, "The Prime Minister has taken more positions than the Kama Sutra." Zing!

Could you imagine if anyone ever said anything like that on the floor of Congress? Americans would flip out. Everyone in the House of Commons at that time, however (including Blair), cracked up.

One of my favorite questions from PM's Questions past from a member of the Conservative Party: "Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating my constituent Susan Brown (I forget her real name) in her successful hip replacement surgery? She is recovering well after what she said was a most comfortable stay at the hospital with very attentive doctors and nurses." (Here Blair nods as if to wish the woman well...the Conservative Party questioner continues...) "But will the Prime Minister tell me why Mrs. Brown had to travel across the English Channel to France to get this surgery at an afforable price?" Zing again.

And tonight there was this exchange:

Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, South-West) (Lab/Co-op): Bonjour. What steps does the Prime Minister propose to take to measure the results that his Ministers achieve on a regular basis? Will he consider introducing a "Minister of the month" award? Will he accept from me a nomination for Douglas Alexander, the Minister for Europe, who has achieved so much in such a short time? I had not fully appreciated that putting Britain at the centre of Europe meant renegotiating the common agricultural policy, renegotiating the European budget and picking a row with France. He has my complete support.

The Prime Minister: Merci beaucoup.

The Book Worm

I think I was the youngest person ever to be issued a library card from the St. Tammany Parish (La.) Library System. The minimum age requirement for a card was 5, but I got my first at 4. My dad was president of the Friends of the Library group at that time. The Parish Library System was opening a new Slidell branch at that time, moving out of its cramped Old Towne location to a beautiful new building just three blocks from my house.

Because my dad was helping shelve books and otherwise prepare for the new site’s opening, my friend Caitlin Haynes and I got to go one afternoon to the new library before it officially opened. There my dad twisted a librarian’s arm a bit and got her to issue me a library card at the age of 4.

That legacy of a love of books and stories is, I think, one of the greatest lesson I’ve learned from my dad. It started with him telling and reading me stories before I could read myself. My favorites were his renditions of The Three Billy Goats Gruff and some of the stories he told about his family: the time his grandfather took him on a cruise to Brazil; the time his two aunts took him and some of his brothers and sisters on a train trip to Washington to attend President Kennedy’s inauguration; the time his brother Philip wore his shoes and ruined them after jumping off a friend’s back porch and landing on a nail; the time his brother Bill was playing in the street, was accidentally hit by a car and had to wear a full-length leg cast that required him to go to the bathroom in a bedpan for several weeks.

My dad is a prolific reader. He reads about 7 books a month, can read 400 words a minute without speed reading and though he’s no longer president of the Friends of the Library, he visits it about 3 times a week. He’s the kind of person who will watch reruns of The West Wing on Bravo but bring a book with him to the couch so he can read during commercials.

There’s even a good family story that illustrates my dad’s love for books. My dad is the oldest of 11 children. When he was about 13 or 14 years old, his parents left him in charge of watching a few of his younger brothers and sisters when they went out. Instead of keeping an eye on them, he just sat in the living room and read. He was so enthralled in the book, in fact, that he didn’t notice some of his siblings had clogged the kitchen sink, turned on the water and flooded my grandmother’s kitchen floor. Needless to say, my grandparents were none too happy with him when they returned.

My dad also has what I would consider a photographic memory (though he insists he doesn’t have one). My dad’s favorite genre of literature is sci-fi and fantasy. When I was a senior in high school and reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time, my dad would periodically ask me where I was in the book and then talk about it with me. I remember one night I had reached an end of a chapter in The Return of the King and told him. He asked what happened in that chapter. I told him. He said, “Oh, yes!” then began summing up the end of the chapter for me again. When I looked at the end of the chapter again in the book, I realized that he had recited the paragraph’s last chapter nearly verbatim. I asked him when the last time he read LOTR was. He said about 25 years ago.

Or last fall, when I was reading The Odyssey for my literature class, he asked me what book I was on. I responded with the book number (I think it was 19). He then proceeded, with only that information, to tell me exactly what happened in that book, no more and no less. I asked him when the last time he read The Odyssey was. I think he said it hadn’t been since college.

But the verbatim recitations of parts of books isn’t the important thing here. It’s that he’s taught me to be a “lifelong learner.” And for that, I thank you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day. I love you.

Wedding!

So things are getting a bit hectic around here as we prepare for my brother Thomas' wedding next Saturday. As the groom's family, my parents are hosting the rehearsal dinner and it's hard to believe how much work is caught up in that one event. I'm helping my mom and dad create the PowerPoint show for the evening and my sister and I are working with my mom on the seating arrangement and centerpieces. I can only imagine all the stuff the bride's family must be scrambling to finish right now. Regardless, the wedding I know will be wonderful. I love my sister-in-law to-be. Plus, CGT's own Sierra will be flying down from Maryland to be my guest and to stomp around New Orleans for a few days, so I'm excited. It's kind of hard to believe, though, that I'm old enough to have a brother who is getting married. Weird. Please keep Thomas and his bride, Amanda, in your prayers as they prepare for their marriage.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Beautiful Piece

On the NYTimes Op-Ed Page today for Father's Day by a Dutch writer whose baby girl died at only about 6 weeks old. Here are some excerpts:
Isa, dearest, you swam like a little fish in your mother, you sprawled on your changing mat like the emperor of China. You demoted your parents to servants in a life over which they had formerly ruled. Just look at your father making a fool of himself, good thing no one can see him trying to close the snaps on your rompers with his fumbling fingers, while you, discerning as you are, scream at the top of your lungs.

If my little girl had not died, I would probably never have written about her, about the snaps on her rompers. Then I had to, there was nothing else I could do. You come home from the hospital and the cradle is still standing there, as though nothing has happened. The things have no idea, they lie
innocently in wait.

And later, talking about his new son...

Meanwhile, someone else is lying in her crib, her playpen, her bed, someone else wears her clothes, gums at her teddy bear, flips through her picture book. His name is Frederik and he is someone else, he is so different, so new to us, every day we can hardly believe he really exists. We're so happy with him, and that, too, we can hardly believe.

Because happiness reminds us so much of her, that's why you miss it most precisely when it's
around.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Ouch

John Danforth, a Republican former senator from Missouri, an Episcopal priest (he presided at President Reagan's funeral) and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. (appointed by President Bush), had this rather pointed op-ed piece in the NYTimes today praising religious moderates. One of my professor's last year, Susan Schwab (the former dean of Maryland's public policy school and onetime nominee for deputy treasury secretary) was an assistant to the then Sen. Danforth for about a decade and talked about him a lot, with lots of praise for him. He's pretty well-respected in all circles, from what I understand - a kind of John McCain from a couple of decades ago. It's no surprise that this was the NYTimes Online's most e-mailed story today and, I'm sure, will be for the next few days (Always check out a news website's most read or e-mailed articles. It tells you a lot about the news source and about its readers. Usually the Times' most e-mailed pieces are Maureen Dowd columns, but she's on book leave right now and, thankfully, not writing columns - or should I say whining, as that's what her pieces always are. But unfortuately we have a new book of hers to get back at us for the reprieve of her twice-weekly columns) Here's some excerpts from Sen. Danforth:
For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith. Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.

In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.

By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Mother and Child

You've probably read about this on other Catholic blogs, but here's a story from Friday's Washington Post about Susan Torres, a brain dead pregnant woman in Virginia whose family is hoping and praying to keep her alive long enough for her baby to survive outside the womb.

Please keep the family in your prayers.

Also, tax-deductible donations can be sent to:

The Susan M. Torres Fund
P.O. Box 34105
Washington, D.C. 20043-0105

M&I: Echoes of JPII in B16

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's homily delivered to the College of Cardinals the day the conclave began that would soon elect him pope is now famous, with this excerpt being the most quoted:

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. . . . The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves--thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based
on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching," looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

I've read that the most referenced source for Pope Benedict has been his predecessor, Pope John Paul. Compared Pope Benedict's excerpt above with the one below from PJP in Memory and Identity (page 47-8):
At the same time, however, we cannot ignore the insistent return of
the denial of Christ. Again and again we encounter the signs of an alternative civilization to that built on Christ as "cornerstone" - a civilization which, even if not explicitly atheist, is at least psoitivistic and agnostic, since it is built upon the principle of thinking and acting as if God did not exist. This approach can easily be recognized in the modern so-called scientific, or rather scientistic, mentality, and it can be recognized in literature, especially in the mass media. To live as if God did not exist means to live outside the parameters of good and evil, outside the context of values derived from God. It is claimed that man himself can decide what is good or bad. And this program is widely promoted in all sorts of ways.

If, one the one hand, the West continues to provide evidence of zealous evangelization, on the other hand anti-evangelical currents are equally strong. They strike at the very foundations of human morality, influencing the family and promoting a morally permissive outlook: divorce, free love, abortion, contraception, the fight against life in its initial phases and in its final phase, the manipulation of life. This program is supported by enormous financial resources, not only in individual countries, but also on a worldwide scale. It has great centers of economic power at its disposal, through which it attempts to impose its own conditions on developing countries. Faced with all this, one may legitimately ask whether this is not another form of totalitarianism, subtly concealed
under the appearances of democracy.


Today's Musings from 4 to 6 year olds

At lunch:
Kid A: I would like to see God.
Kid B: You mean you're ready to die?

On the playground:
Me (approaching a group of 10 kids by the fence all covered in dirt): What are y'all doing?
Kid A: Digging to China.
Me (seeing as we're learning about continents and oceans this summer and thinking this is a teachable moment): Do you know what continent China is on?
Kid B: The one 25 years worth of digging away.
Me (thinking that was a pretty good answer): It's in Asia.
Kid B: Oh (not seeming to care).
Me: Have you reached China yet?
Kid A: No. Just bugs; no China.

Yay!

Finally another CGT contributor posted. Check out Anne's entry below.

Also Just in Time for Father's Day...

Catholicexchange.com has an interesting article titled Fatherhood: A Glorious State and Society's Need. I know that as catholic women we sometimes get caught up in how wonderful motherhood is, but we can't forget the irreplaceable value of holy and dedicated fathers. Here are some excerpts:

"The correlation between a weakening, spiritually passive fatherhood and the functional obsolescence of the family is far from superficial. When trust is eroded by absenteeism, wisdom by worldliness, and sacrifice by selfishness, the very roots of the family become exposed and are soon washed away. The shifting foundation of the family is in desperate need of spiritual reinforcement. Fatherhood is the footing on which to build; faith, the cornerstone; and God, Himself, the builder. "

"If fathers would invest as much time and effort in their children’s spiritual welfare as in their physical, material and intellectual development, they would then unlock the real treasures of fatherhood. There is no greater earthly joy for a father than witnessing his child’s discovery of God’s love; than joining with his child in experiencing the only lifestyle that leads to true peace and happiness; than knowing deep in his heart that he has done everything in his power to protect his child’s soul from the ways of the world and prepare his child’s soul for the endless promises of heaven."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Just in Time for Father's Day

Someone call Hallmark; we've got great Father's Day card material here. I'm glad to see that my $17,000 a year in out-of-state tuition is going to groundbreaking research such as this:
Fathers are increasingly being put under the microscope to see just what they're made of. University of Maryland researchers have been looking at dads for a long time, and have some pretty good ideas about what makes a father tick.

"Fathers matter," says Assistant Professor of Education Natasha Cabrera, who heads up Maryland's Center for Family Involvement (Dept. of Human Development). "Fathers are recognized as important contributors, beyond economic providers, to their children's development. They're not just a 'second pair of hands' in a family," she says.

Smart Kid

I was at work yesterday serving lunch to the 3 to 6 year olds in my class (they eat on nice dishes and are served a different hot meal everyday to learn manners and appreciate different types of food) when one girl said, "Hey, did you know you and Jesus' mom have the same name? You're Miss Mary (pointing to me) and Jesus' mom (pointing up) is Mary Mary."

M&I: Fudging Freedom

The first paragraph that really struck me in Memory and Identity was this, on page 11 (for a little context, PJP had been talking about the ideologies of evil in the 20th century - namely nazism and communism):
At this point, we cannot remain silent regarding a tragic question that is more pressing today than ever. The fall of the regimes built on ideologies of evil put an end to the forms of extermination just mentioned in the countries concerned. However, there remains the legal extermination of human beings conceived but unborn. And in this case, that extermination is decreed by democratically elected parliaments, which invoke the notion of civil progress for society and for all humanity. Nor are other grave violations of God's law lacking. I am thinking, for example, of the strong pressure from the European Parliament to recognize homosexual unions as an alternative type of family, with
the right to adopt children. It is legitimate and even necessary to ask whether this is not the work of another ideology of evil, more subtle and hidden, perhaps, intent upon exploiting human rights themselves against man and against the family.

This passage certainly isn't the first to compare the atrocity of abortion with the atrocities of the killing centers or gulag - government supported extermination and oppression. Of course, John Paul states the connection more eloquently, intelligently and cohesively than many others have. But what struck me was that last sentence (emphasis mine), particularly the last clause: "Intent upon explointing human rights themselves against man and against the family." The use of so-called "rights" or "freedoms" to justify and encourage inherently sinful and destructive acts certainly is (at least) as powerful a euphemism as "resettlement to the East." The thing about the Nazis, however, is that they knew their euphemism was a euphemism. I don't think those who support abortion do.

The pro-life movement has made great strides in its human and public relations, becoming more charitable and hopeful (as it should be) in the last couple of years. But I still think there is work to be done to make the world - and individuals - recognize that a "right to abortion" simply does not exist and is, in fact, a contradiction in terms, as rights are conferred by God alone and abortion is the greatest example of the denial of the right to life. Who can argue against rights? No one, and rightfully so, as they are given us by God. But we need to expose the "right to abortion" as the lie which it is.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

M&I: Initial Reactions

Heck, let's just start now. What were your initial reactions to the John Paul II's Memory and Identity (general ideas only, please; we'll get into detail in other posts).

Peter of Catholicae Testudines has this to say:
Essentially, it's a crash course in Twentieth-Century philosophy and Polish history. I don't know that the book itself will equip you to offer well-read retorts to learned people with whom you disagree, but it definitely serves as a useful annotated bibliography for finding more scholarly retorts to them. Though the prose is always clear and key concepts are always followed by handy explanations, it seems to have suffered something in translation. This is perhaps most noticeable in the selections of the Pope's own poetry which comes off as rather stilted. By far, the best part of the book is actually its epilogue, which is a transcript of a conversation about the failed assassination of the pope. It is in this brief section that JPII's personality really shines through the text; it is in his response to his own fragility (a word in which the text revels) when he becomes a man and not just a teacher.

I agree that the language and writing itself is (as in all of John Paul's books that I've read) one of the most interesting parts of the work. His writing has a complex simplicity, if such a thing exists. He can pack a lot of punch into a relatively small space. I do think the translation is always an issue, however, and would always be a huge one in regards to poetry.

As a journalist myself, I was personally intrigued by the questions (as I was in Crossing the Threshhold of Hope). Some seemed a bit repetitious (maybe they thought he didn't answer exactly what they asked the first time); others seemed amazingly broad considering the issues we're dealing with in the book. It's important to note when considering the questions, however, that they were asked by Polish philosopher friends of his. I wonder how our late Holy Father would have responded to similar questions asked by different people.

We all know the affinity John Paul had for his homeland, but I was struck by how much Polish history is in this book. I'm proud to be an American, but I couldn't see how I'd be able to weave any amount of American history analogous to the Polish history John Paul includes in such a slim book. It really does show and explain the central role Poland played in the the history of the 20th century.

M&I Discussion Starts Wednesday!

Well, the first night of the Musical Movie Summer was a failure. The VHS of My Fair Lady from the public library up the street was all screwed up. We're moving the showing this week to Thursday night.

Aside from that, this is a reminder that on Wednesday (June 15) we'll start discussing Pope John Paul II's last book, Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium. For this to work, as many people as possible need to participate, so I encourage everyone to jump into the discussion. I'll post my first thoughts on the book Wednesday late afternoon sometime and I encourage anyone with possible discussion threads to e-mail me at catholicgirltalk@gmail.com and I'll post them. Also remember that our book for July is The Dark Knight Returns and our book for August is In the Beginning, by then Cardinal Ratzinger.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Cool

From the Independent:

Archaeologists have discovered Europe's oldest civilisation, a network of dozens of temples, 2,000 years older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids.

More than 150 gigantic monuments have been located beneath the fields and cities of modern-day Germany, Austria and Slovakia. They were built 7,000 years ago, between 4800BC and 4600BC. Their discovery, revealed today by The Independent, will revolutionise the study of prehistoric Europe, where an appetite for monumental architecture was thought to have developed later than in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

In all, more than 150 temples have been identified. Constructed of earth and wood, they had ramparts and palisades that stretched for up to half a mile. They were built by a religious people who lived in communal longhouses up to 50 metres long, grouped around substantial villages. Evidence suggests their economy was based on cattle, sheep, goat and pig farming. Their civilisation seems to have died out after about 200 years and the recent archaeological discoveries are so new that the temple building culture does not even have a name yet.

Bono Will Be Happy

And I bet John Paul the Great would be too. From the WashPo:
The world's wealthiest nations agreed today to cancel more than $40 billion in debts that some of the world's poorest nations owe to international lenders -- a move inspired by the belief that full debt forgiveness is necessary to give those countries a chance to escape the trap of hunger, disease and economic stagnation.

The agreement, struck at a meeting in London of finance ministers from the Group of Eight major industrial nations, is the most significant debt-relief scheme yet for poor countries because it cancels the debts that the eligible countries owe to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other
multilateral lenders such as the African Development Bank.

The Dark Knight Returns

Readers, Peter of Catholicae Testudines (check out his great Jack Chick parody here) has made the following decision on the Book Club's July piece of fiction (discussion on our June book, John Paul's Memory and Identity, will begin this Wednesday, June 15):

I've decided to go with Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns for our "fiction." I've actually never read it before, but it's one of those graphic novels that people who read graphic novels are supposed to have read. I apologize in advance if there is any objectionable material--It's a pretty dark and grim portrayal of Batman, written at a time when popular culture still had the taste of Adam West's portrayal in its mouth. Essentially, the story is about an aging Bruce Wayne who decides to don the cowl in his twilight yearsafter he has retired from the superhero business. Joey (of Beneath Wayne Manor), I'm sure, will have much to say on this topic. The new film, focusing on the beginning of Batman's career, will pose an interesting comparison, and the ladies of CGT will be interested to know that, in the future, the role of Robin is adopted by a woman.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Hasten to Help Us!

You may have heard of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the patroness of the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, whose protection we Louisianians invoke every hurricane season (which began last week) with the following prayer:

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, patroness of New Orleans,
Through your intercession may we be spared
All loss of life and property
This hurricane season. Amen.

Of course, we ask her protection this weekend as Tropical Storm Arlene makes its way to the Gulf Coast.

In January 1815, the British were getting ready to attack New Orleans during the War of 1812. The night before the battle, the city's Ursuline nuns led the city in prayer to Our Lady of Prompt Succor to protect the city and help the Americans (led by General Andrew Jackson) win the battle. The mother superior promised Our Lady that if the city was spared, every year the Ursulines would host a Mass of Thanksgiving in her honor. Our Lady came through, as usual, and the Americans handily defeated the British. Every year since, the Ursulines have fulfilled their promise and their annual January 8 Thanksgiving Mass is one of the great feasts in Louisiana.

And just to poke fun at our favorite Welsh priest, Fr. Gareth, Our Lady of Prompt Succor is another piece of evidence that Our Lord favors Americans over the British.

Hail Mary Queen of Heaven!
Hail Mary Mother dear:
In thee I find my Jesus, near thee I hold no fear.
Hail Mother of Prompt Succor, make haste, help me, thy child.
Hail Mother of Prompt Succor, make haste, help me, thy child.
Make haste, help me, thy child.

Musical Movie Summer

In addition to our Summer Blog Book Club, I've started another summer activity, this one for the family: The Musical Movie Summer. Once a week (on Tuesdays; Mondays would've worked better for the alliteration, but oh well) every week through August 9 we Schneidaus will be watching a movie musical. Here's the line-up:
June 14: My Fair Lady
June 21: The Music Man
June 28: Fiddler on the Roof
July 5: The Phantom of the Opera
July 12: Gigi
July 19: Oklahoma!
July 26: Guys and Dolls
August 2: West Side Story
August 9: The Sound of Music

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Tragedy

Here's some stories from Maryland's campus newspaper, The Diamondback, about the life, death and funeral of Matthew Weaver, a 21-year-old Catholic Terp found shot to death in his Pennsylvania home last week in an apparent murder-suicide carried out by his father.

Please pray for the repose of his soul and those of his brother, mom and dad.

Lacy and Jess Meet Ahnold?

Apparently it's true. Our very own Lacy and a fellow Catholic Terp, Jess, are on the California leg of American Life League's annual pro-life march. According to this release from ALL, the California walkers had a meeting this morning with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is a pro-choice Catholic. This is the only news source I have for it now, but I'll try to post more once I find stories on the meeting.

In the meantime, check out the California walkers' video journal.

Via Amy.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Lactivism

That is, of course, the name of the support movement for public breastfeeding, explained in this NYTimes article. Amy Welborn has lots of comments on it (including one by me), the ladies of Feminine Genius posted some thoughts (though I don't actually agree with most of their's...telling someone to put up with public breastfeeding and telling someone to put up with abortion are two very different things) and some thoughts from Domenico of Bettnet. The following paragraph of his hit the nail on the head:

This exposes the lie of the sexual-revolution-as-women’s-liberation claim because what all the skin is about is not making women the object of desire, but in denigrating what true womanhood is. Which is more feminine: Pamela Anderson in a bikini or your average mom nurturing her child from her own body?

His fiancee, Melanie, adds:
I would add that this is yet another indication that ours is a sex-obsessed culture. I bet the same people who object to breastfeeding have no problems with breasts in Victoria’s secret cataloges and the like. Breasts are acceptable as sex-objects but not in their primary function as nourishment for children. It should be no surprise that when contraception has divorced sex from its nuptial meaning even breastfeeding becomes stained with the taint of sex. This is just another symptom of our desperate need for our late Holy Father’s Theology of the Body.
I think some more conservative commentators feel this is an issue of modesty. But since when does a woman breastfeeding make her immodest? Yes, women should cover up when they do it in public, but it's not like they're using nourishing their children as an excuse to show some skin.

And on a more practical note: People say women who want to breastfeed while they're out should go to a bathroom to do it. There are a few problems with this. First, public restrooms very often smell of urine, which does not exactly make for a nice atmosphere in which to feed your child (would you want to eat your dinner in a public restroom?). Second, public restrooms can be very dangerous places for women.

Hat Tip

To the great priests over at Catholic Ragemonkey for their shout out to us and a welcome to all the readers they've sent our way.

Also thanks to the other bloggers who've added links to us from their sites and a welcome to their readers!

Monday, June 06, 2005

There Are Some Good Posts

Over at Disputations about the Marian dogmas and Protestants' difficulties in accepting them. They're well worth a read, especially the questions Protestant commentators have raised, as they give great insight into Protestant mentality about Our Lady.

You know, I mean no disrespect to Protestants when I say this, but of every difference between Catholics and Protestants, their cold shoulder to Our Lord's Mother is the one that leaves me most baffled (the "Woodpeck" post alludes to this at Disputations). I just cannot logically understand any reason why Our Lady does not deserve great honor and that we rightfully acknowledge her as Theotokos.

Remember about 6 weeks back when I asked if anyone knew some good books about Our Lady of Fatima because an agnostic friend of mine was interested in her? Well, that night I talked to him about her, I also gave him a Rosary and a "How to Pray the Rosary" sheet, explaining it very basically. He just graduated from the University of Maryland last month, and is going to China for the summer. I had also loaned him PJP's Crossing the Threshhold of Hope to read, and so he sent me a package this weekend returning the book. He enclosed a very nice note, the last sentence of which read: "I'll never lose the Rosary, even with my goofy religious beliefs."

I almost cried. Our Lady melts even the hardest of hearts.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Query

Amy Welborn has an interesting post about a column Cherie Blair, British PM Tony Blair's wife, has in the Telegraph about her Catholicism.

What struck me was one of the comments, an excerpt of which is this: "It's also interesting because Catholic conservatives often get knocked for supporting the death penalty, lower taxes, less government spending, the War in Iraq.......but the point is, that on all these issues, Catholics are free to disagree with Church policy."

Now, before we get started let me make clear that the issue I am NOT raising here is whether the death penalty and the Iraq war are morally equivalent to abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem research. All three of the latter are inherently evil, whereas the two former are not.

That said, the Church is pretty clear in her teaching that certain conditions must be met for the death penalty and war to be justified. Obviously, Catholics are free to disagree about taxes, government spending, etc. But I'm wondering to what extent exactly we can disagree on the death penalty and war. These two issues are different from taxes and spending as they deal directly with human life. There's simply no denying that.

Now, Catholics can disagree as to whether the conditions for the just application of the death penalty and war have been met. But it seems sometimes that some Catholics feel free to change the conditions or dismiss some of them. What I'm wondering is whether that is legitimate disagreement.

For example, if tomorrow the United States invaded Canada and intentionally killed civilians in the process, that would definitely and very clearly not meet the conditions of a just war and would in fact be severely unjust. I find it difficult to accept, therefore, that Catholics can in cases like that be in legitimate disagreement with Church teaching.

Or, in the case of the death penalty, how much room is there for disagreement that the old law in Florida (previous to last year's Supreme Court ruling overturning the death penalty for minors) allowing the death penalty for people who committed their crimes as young as 15 and who would otherwise be in maximum security prisons for years with an almost non-existent possibility of being a threat to society was unjust?

The Holy Father made clear in Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism also makes clear that it is today rare for conditions to exist in which the death penalty is applied justly. Obviously, we can legitimately argue that there are conditions which allow for its just application, but can we legitimately argue that it can be applied without those just applications being met?

Can Catholics in good conscience, for example, accept that the dropping of the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki - which intentionally targeted millions of civilians - was just? (Here I'm not meaning to suggest that WWII was unjust - it was very just, in fact, but I'm talking about this specific act of war.)

It is my understanding that for a war to be justified, all just conditions must be met, not just some of them. Am I correct in that assessment? And if they obviously aren't all met, can Catholics legitimately support the war?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Secretary Didn't Burn Pope's Notes

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Pope John Paul II's longtime private secretary said Saturday he did not burn the late pontiff's notes as his will demanded, arguing that the papers contain ''great riches'' and should instead be preserved.

Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, who worked with the pope from 1966 until his death earlier this year, told Polish state radio there are ''quite a lot of manuscripts on various issues,'' but he offered no details.''Nothing has been burned,'' Dziwisz said. ''Nothing is fit for burning, everything should
be preserved and kept for history, for the future generations -- every single sentence.'' ''These are great riches that should gradually be made available to the public.'' Dziwisz did not say when or how that might happen.

In a March 1979 entry to his testament, John Paul said he left no material property and asked that Dziwisz burn all his personal notes. In Saturday's radio interview, Dziwisz suggested that some of the notes could prove useful in the late pontiff's beatification process. Dziwisz said he took his own daily notes throughout John Paul's papacy, which he said also could prove useful to that process but contain no opinions about individuals.



I find this quite interesting and don't know what to think about it. On the one hand, you want to see Pope John Paul's wishes fulfilled and have these notes burned, just as you would want anyone's will requests respected and carried out. The archbishop (who was just appointed archbishop of Krakow, PJP's job before becoming pope), however, was very close to our late Holy Father and loved him dearly, so I do have faith in him when he says that he thinks it is not right to burn them. There's no doubt, I'm sure, that great wealth is contained in them. He has a great point specifically about the use they could play in John Paul's beatification process. Additionally, there have been many people in history whose personal notes and writings have been preserved when they wanted them destroyed and have proven to be of great benefit.

This isn't quite a parallel case, but St. Therese's Story of a Soul, which was written in three parts for her sisters and never intented for public distribution, was heavily edited by her (biological) sister, Mother Agnes, before it was originally released because Mother Agnes didn't want some of the more sensitive family issues (especially their father's mental collaspse) in the notebooks to be read by others. Thankfully, later editors got copies of the orginal manuscripts and have published them in their entirety (though TAN, for instance, still publishes Story of a Soul using Mother Agnes' edits).

I'm sure the archbishop prayed and thought deeply about this before deciding not to burn them, so I trust him. The AP story quoted above, however, does not say if Pope Benedict was consulted about this decision and if there are any canonical or legal issues involved in not executing the will as it was written.

Assignment 1 of Summer Reading: Memory and Identity

We are moving forward with our plan to do a summer book club via blogs, and we need as much reader input as necessary for the discussions to be fruitful, so this is a reminder that our first book will be the last book Pope John Paul wrote before he died, Memory and Identity. This is a great book in question-and-answer format about the late pontiff's views on Nazism, Communism, freedom and homeland, made all the more powerful because of his intimate experience of them.

On about June 15, we will start posting reflections/thoughts on this and I encourage anyone who has possible discussion topics that popped up for them in reading the book to e-mail us at catholicgirltalk@gmail.com and I'll post them. I've read about 60 pages of the book and already a few themes and ideas have come up that I'd like to discuss.

In July, we will read a piece of fiction (TBD - we'll let you know ASAP) and in August we'll read In the Beginning...A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall by then Cardinal Ratzinger.

And if all readers who are bloggers themselves could post something about this on their sites, it would be much appreciated!

Deep Throat Revealed

That's the title of the series The Washington Post has had about W. Mark Felt, the former number 2 man at the FBI who revealed this week that he was the infamous Watergate source, Deep Throat (in case you hadn't heard).

The Watergate story did a lot of good things for journalism. It also did a few bad things.

The good: It made people recognize the power of journalism and its ability to hold government and its officials accountable, thus providing one of the most striking examples of what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they exclusively protected the press in the Bill of Rights. It also got people interested in journalism as a profession, flooding journalism schools and newsrooms with eager young journalists.

The bad: Many journalists are now searching for their Watergate, thus leading to sloppy and misguided reporting and writing and a disservice to the public in not always covering the stories they should to the proper extent they should. Additionally, it left the door wide open to the abuse of using anonymous sources. The problem with anonymous sources is twofold: First, readers on the whole distrust anonymous sources. Second, it can protect certain people while damning others. It's important for nonjournalism folks to understand that many anonymous government sources now are not Deep Throat-like people, but those tapped by the administration (and this is all administrations, not just the Bush administration) to leak news to the press. The problem with this is that it allows the press to become a tool (in a sense) of the government. If anonymous sources are providing information more clandestinely (in a Deep Throat-like way), that raises serious concerns about just who the press is holding accountable (like the Newsweek Koran fiasco).

Watergate was American journalism's finest hour. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (who attended the University of Maryland, BTW, and who worked for our great student newspaper, The Diamondback) spent a couple of years doing basic, on-the-ground reporting before the story ended as it did in President Nixon's resignation. But it's important that American journalism continue to reflect on this episode and be sure to throw out the bad before accepting the good from it.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

When I was little, everyone on our street was good friends and we kids used to always play at each others' houses and in the street (yes, in the street). One particular game of note was volleysoccer (our own creation). The parents were all good friends too. Since about 7 or 8 years ago, basically all of those old neighbors have moved away and we don't really know any of the newer ones well. The people next door on the one side seem nice, but I must say that it doesn't exactly make the neighborhood look classy when you have enough cars parked on your front lawn to make it look like a small parking lot and a statue of the Virgin Mary in the garden flanked by two Confederate flags in the windows.

Sorry

That I haven't posted in several days. After working with 4 and 5 year olds for 8.5 hours a day, I'm kind of tired when I get home, so that's what stopped me from blogging for a bit. I promise, however, that I'll be back in full force soon!