Friday, December 22, 2006

How Rudy the Social Liberal Can Sell Himself to Conservatives

As we all know Rudy Guiliani’s chances of being elected in Republican primaries appear to be slim because he’s a social liberal. And as we also all know, Republican primary voters are overwhelmingly socially conservative. Yet, as Jonah Goldberg states in a Thursday LA Times’ piece, and as I’ve read elsewhere, Rudy promises that he would appoint judges in the mold of Scalia and Thomas. This opens a door to the heart of conservatives in a way that an apparent flip-flop, a la Mitt Romney, cannot.

Let's say I’ve just been hired as a consultant to the Rudy for President Campaign, and here’s what I’m going to tell them.

Ever since Jimmy Carter Democrats have played the “I’m personally opposed to abortion” game. How is this game played? A Democrat politician with syrupy sincerity says, “I’m really pro-life, but I can’t impose my ‘personal’ moral values on society. Thus because of Roe v. Wade I cannot do anything to hinder women in America from being able to terminate the lives of their babies in vitro for all nine months of pregnancy.” Or something like that.

So, Rudy, let’s turn that around. You are “personally” pro-choice, but you choose not to “impose” your view of the issue on the American people. You feel that is exactly what Roe v. Wade did when it took the decision away from the American people by overreaching judicial fiat. You can state that you believe this is an issue too important for judges to decide, that the American people through their elected representatives are wise enough to work this out in a way most American’s can live with.

If the court in 1973 had allowed this common sense approach to continue the issue of abortion would not have become the contentious one it’s been these last 30 plus years. Personally if I were the all-powerful benign dictator of America I would completely outlaw abortion in every case. Unfortunately on this issue we have to deal with the representative republic we’ve inherited, and bringing the issue back to the people to decide is the best we can hope for in the foreseeable future.

I am convinced social conservatives would buy this version of Rudy. No flip-flop, no opportunistic waffles at just the right time. And of course Democrats would howl and hate Rudy even more, which would only endear him to conservatives of all stripes even more. Add to that the arguments Goldberg makes about tough guy Rudy, the defender of American culture, and I can believe that he would have a shot at the nomination. Maybe I should get my resume updated and give Rudy a call. You never know when they might be looking for another political genius to help with the cause.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Idolatry of Christmas

Not quite the theological screed the provocative headline seems to portend, but I kid thee not:

Actually, from what I heard on Hugh Hewitt's show, not too bad. Sort of like the guy at the party who sings a little better than everybody else.

Idol plays it straight with the material, his solid-enough yet unnuanced baritone no threat to the masterful velvet croon of Der Bingle, although a few of Billy's trademark growls spice things up a bit. (For those who came in too early like Hewitt himself, Billy Idol sang punky-glossy 80s hits like "White Wedding," and for those coming in late, well, you're young enough to know how to google "Bingle.")

The adventurous or the merely morbidly curious will check out samples of it here on Billy's MySpace page, accompanied by some properly foul-mouthed street cred CYA commentary by the erstwhile rocker himself: I did it, I hated it, it's bogus, but it's still kinda cool. Above all, buy it.

It's a nice day for a
White Christmas---
Nice day to
Make a buuuuuuuuuck...

The Donald Versus The Rosie

I notice in the news blabbery that the ineffable Rosie O'Donnell is unhappy with the tolerance shown by the ineffable Donald Trump toward the extracurricular activities of the fair Mizz USA, a young lady who knows how to have fun, and so the ineffable Donald in turn is unhappy with the deep musings of the ineffable Rosie, and is threatening to sue her. For something. Or something like that. Anyway, this tempest in a p***pot reminds me of The Great Harry Truman's reaction in June 1941 at the outset of Barbarossa (the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union): "If the Germans are winning we should help the Russians, and if the Russians are winning we should help the Germans." Truer words were never spoken.

Trump Thumped

I previously wrote approvingly of Donald ("The Donald") Trump's Jesusian wisdom in the matter of the fallen woman, Miss USA Tara Conner.

This photo for informational purposes only.

I recounted a favorite story, where a crowd of Pharisees and the like had gathered around a similarly fallen woman, but Jesus said, "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."

All of a sudden, a woman elbows her way through the crowd hefting a huge boulder, which she promptly crashes down on the poor girl's head. Jesus turns and says, "Mother! You're always spoiling my fun!"

Oh, man, we Catholics love that one. Anyway, today the vivacious Rosie O'Donnell cast herself in the role of our deranged Virgin Mary and pelted The Donald over his various adulteries and divorces, expressing her grave reservations about his suitability as any sort of national moral compass. She'd make for one fine Pharisee, I think, except for being Irish.

His noggin no doubt smarting over such a brutal beaning, Trump retorted, "Rosie O'Donnell is disgusting, both inside and out. You take a look at her, she looks like a slob, she talks like a truck driver. She'll say anything that comes to her mind and you know her show failed when it was a talk show---the ratings went very low and very bad, and she got essentially thrown off television, and I mean, she's basically a disaster." Trump went on to say that he might send some presumably male friends over to steal O'Donnell's girlfriend.

Decidedly unJesusian, Donald. America's moral compass spins wildly out of control, like its hair.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Ugly Side of the Omniculture

Candace de Russy has provided a nicely informative article about the uglier side of the Omniculture, in today's edition of National Review Online. The American public square, de Russy notes,

has been blitzed with what, a gossip website, calls “revulse-amusement” and misused for what columnist Andrea Peyser terms a “raunch-fest” — revelry calculated, according to the New York Times, to churn up waves of “ethical nausea.”

After recounting some of the recent seamy media events, such as the O. J. Simpson book and Britney Spears' unfathomable exploits in public exhibitionism, de Russy notes that many of these occurrences are manifestations of publicity schemes pandering to the American public's "apparently boundless public appetite for debased and scabrous material." But they are also more, she observes.

De Russy aptly cites Temple University humanities professor Noel Carroll's observation of a "tolerance of boundary breaking," or as de Russy puts it, "the increasingly nonchalant acceptance of the violation of what were once accepted as the common standards of decency," which de Russy describes as ever-increasing.

Seeking the social meaning behind the trend, de Russy writes:
Janice Irvine, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, interprets this tolerance as a kind of perverse holier-than-thou hedonism. She maintains that the public’s reaction to “socially sensitive issues,” such as O. J. Simpson’s book, “looks like rage, but there’s a lot of pleasure bound up in it. There’s incredible excitement in being publicly outraged. It’s what makes it so powerful.”

Other critics, myself included, view the gross-out phenomenon as a particularly conspicuous sign, among other related cultural dysfunction, of serious rifts in the aesthetic and moral foundations of American civilization (“Hollywood’s Gross-Out Comedies: Cultural Crisis or Festive Freedom?,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 22, 1999).
De Russy notes that fasionable leftist academics praise public assaults on refined sensibilities, calling these attacks "transgressive." (Interestingly, transgressive means not only boundary-breaking but also sinful, and the left seems not to see the irony in their use of this term.)

De Russy concludes that the trend is not just an outpouring of weirdness on the fringes of society but has at least begun to suffuse the culture and inculcate an increasing, progressive rot:
If civilization is to be salvaged, we must transcend transgression — “regress,” as it were, to an understanding of culture as famously defined by Matthew Arnold, culture as the repository of humanity’s highest spiritual, intellectual and aesthetic aspirations, or “the best that has been thought and said in the world.”

There is no denying that it will be a long climb up from the current day depredation of gross-out culture and its like. But climb we must or sink in grossness, and thus be infantilized and ultimately rendered powerless in face of barbarism.
I have argued to the contrary, that phenomena such as these are not a new rot but a public manifestation of the wide variety of human activities and interests that always exist but have not been able to reach wide audiences in the past. De Russy suggests that a powerful cultural response to counter these phenomena is in order, and I would certainly welcome that. However, I rather doubt that it will do much to suppress the impulses that bring on such behavior, and given that the technology that brings it easily to one and all onlookers is not going to go away unless the Muslims take over, this sort of open vulgarity is never going to recede in the rearview mirror.

I would suggest, as I have done in the past, that supporting what we think to be good and salutary is the best response we can make, for now at least. And I'm sure Candace de Russy would agree that it's worth a try.

From Karnick on Culture.

Mike & Val, SJ, RIP

Jesuits die almost every day, Chi Province alone. Today’s listing has three. One was a nice fellow, personable, who headed St. Ignatius High in Chicago for a time. The other two had color to burn.

Mike English died in 1973, seven years to the month after he offered me a job at Loyola Academy, Wilmette, where he was rector. I was loose, having done a turn at U. of Ill. at Chi intending to become a sociologist but giving up after a quarter, still living at Ignatius on the West Side. He had a hole to fill, of a Jesuit who he told me was “nervous from the service” and was checking out. I would take over this man’s religion classes and help people forget him. I would need summers free to continue heading up a summer enrichment program for neighborhood boys, I told him when we ran into each other at Loyola in the week after Xmas. He agreed to that, I said I’d get back.

I did, on time to wish him a happy new year and to decline the offer. Instead, I hung on at Ignatius and did a semester of giving retreats around the Midwest.

Mike’s color lay in his being quick on his feet, for one thing. He was a born administrator and leader. Spotting me earlier, he had put the offer to me face to face. When I said no, he returned my happy new year wish, and we closed the conversation.

Some seven years before that, I had gone to him to check on what I had heard, that the sole black kid taking the entrance exam was doomed to fail it. Not yet, said Mike when I, a teaching scholastic, put it to him, probably in the very parlor where he asked me to join his faculty. It would hurt us, he said, meaning that desperately needed funds would dry up if the school took a black kid. Tell that to the Jordan brothers these days, as they play and star while their father Michael watches from bleachers.

Things were different then. Mike English was saving the school from dissolution, having relieved its founding rector (in its new location after moving from Rogers Park) after only two years, as creditors were closing in. He did save it, for the Jordans among others. But what I was amazed at was his candor with me and his not getting nervous when I asked. I was a big race man in those days, bringing students out to the South Side to meet blacks in Friendship House programs. He never once slowed me down on that.

The third Jesuit is Brother Val, a short pudgy guy who would have done Damon Runyan proud for volubility and willingness to stop in the middle of his none too productive work day to jabber with a philosopher or theologian. He died in ‘90. His ideas would get ahead of his ability to spit words out. You wanted time to burn if he headed your way. He also didn’t let data interfere with the flow.

Theologian (theology student) George, a stocky ex-footballer from John Carroll U., would engage Brother Val now and then. Val was going on about major league baseballers, when George asked him if he knew of or had seen Joe Gosman play. Oh yes, Val told him, his eyes widening. George had made Joe Gosman up, but he listened eagerly as Val recounted his exploits. George, still a Jesuit, became a psychiatrist.

Deflating the PPI Inflation Report

You're all having way too much fun. Time for some truly boring economics.

On Larry Kudlow's radio show last Saturday, he reminded me that in August I wrote a couple of columns explaining how and why some economists and journalists were greatly exaggerating the reality or threat of inflation.

It should be reasonably clear by now that I was probably right about that. Yet here comes today's Associated Press report: "Wholesale prices surged in November by the largest amount in more than three decades, led by huge increases in the cost of gasoline and new cars and trucks." The comparison is made with "November 1974, back during a decade when repeated oil shocks sent inflation spiraling." That isn't history, but hysteria. In December 1974, the core PPI was up 17.4% from a year earlier, without any help from energy or food. The CPI was up 11.7% with energy excluded.

Before making such ridiculous historical comparisons, we have to at least leave out recent gyrations in energy prices, which caused the PPI to fall for 3 of the past 4 months. Aside from energy, the PPI in November was up 1.7% from the previous November which, in turn was up 1.5% from a year before. The November before that (2004), the non-energy PPI was up 2.3%.

None of these year-to-year increases is statistically much different from zero, because (1) the PPI cannot fully distinguish between changes in prices and improvements in quality and because (2) the PPI cannot fully distinguish between list prices and discounted prices. Dealer discounts are particularly important with cars and trucks, so any apparent spike in the dealer cost or consumer sticker price when new models come out is often ephemeral. It may also mean dealers are meeting demand for more luxurious vehicles with more options, which is not a true price increase.

In any case, the PPI has a terrible record for predicting consumer prices, partly because (1) the PPI is mostly goods while the CPI is half services, and because (2) global competition makes it difficult for producers or dealers to pass on higher domestic costs to consumers. A monthly change in the PPI obviously tells us nothing, or the press would have been fretting about "deflation" when the September and October PPIs came out.

Just as it was misleading to include energy in the PPI and CPI through June, when oil prices were rising, it can also be misleading to include energy prices when they fall. Aside from energy, U.S. inflation this year was and still is about as low as it has ever been in the postwar era. And surges in energy prices are typically followed by lower overall inflation in the following year, contrary to what Fed officials (who must not have looked at the data) have sometimes implied.

Don't say I didn't warn you that this would be dull. Reality often is.

Donald Trump, Jesus, Etc.

As you might know by now, Donald ("The Donald") Trump, in his role as co-owner (with NBC) of the Miss Universe pageant, found himself obliged to render judgment on Miss USA Tara Conner, a now-21-year-old who partied heartily after her coronation, her hardy partying even including the nasal ingestion of a very popular powder.

If you know what I mean, and you do. There was other stuff, too. In short, she was a very, very bad girl.

Very bad.

And so, it was put to His Donaldness to decide her fate, whether she should be made to pay for her crimes against propriety (as a talk show host I happened on today thymotically urged) and lose her standing as the representative of all that is good and holy about these here United States, or not.

Perhaps my favorite story in the gospels:
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.

They said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.

Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?"

They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.

And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.

Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more."

"I‘ve always been a believer in second chances," said Trump. "Tara is going to be given a second chance. She left a small town in Kentucky, and she was telling me that she got caught up in the whirlwind of New York," Trump said at a news conference with Conner at his side. "It‘s a story that has happened many times before to many women and to many men who came to the Big Apple. They wanted their slice of the Big Apple, and they found out it wasn‘t so easy."

Miss Conner will enter rehab, etc., and be put on a very short leash. She wasn't given a pass.

Beautifully done, Mr. Trump. WWJD?

You must have read The Book or heard the story, or perhaps you simply opened your heart to the Right Thing. I don't care. You did very, very, very good, and I'm sure He's proud of you. In your way, you get it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Noddy vs. Roy on Christmas: The BIG Question

Caitlin Moran of the Times of London asks several important questions about Christmas in the paper's December 18 issue, the most important of which is, who wrote and performed the better Christmas song, Roy Wood of Wizzard or Noddy Holder of Slade?

Slade is one of the most underrated rock bands of all time, at least in the United States. The great pub rockers brought a delightful Scottish, working-class flair to hard rock in the early to mid 1970s (and some of the worst clothing fashions of all time), and made great, fun music well into the 1980s. You've probably heard Quiet Riot's cover versions of Slade's classic songs "Cum on Feel the Noize" and "Mama Weer All Crazee Now," but Slade's originals are far superior. Slade is simply one of the fun-est rock bands ever.

Yes, it's Slade on Top of the Pops

Then of course there's Wizzard, led by mad musical prodigy Roy Wood, about whom I've written earlier on this site. (Hit the search box for more.)

Roy Wood in 2004And the two wrote a pair of great Christmas rock songs. Roy wrote, performed, and produced "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" (see video here), and Noddy and his band put out "Merry Christmas Everybody," which Ms. Moran describes as Noddy's attempt at "the great working-class Christmas song." Well, they're both perfectly delightful, but the point of Christmas arguments is that you have to decide. Here's what Moran has to say:

Slade v Wizzard: in the thrilling Merry Christmas Everybody, Noddy Holder intended to write the great working-class Christmas song. With its euphoric debauchery undercut with melancholy, and its Royle Family-like lyrics (“Does your granny always tell ya that the old songs are the best?/ Then she’s up and rock’n’rolling with the rest”), Merry Christmas Everybody does, to its endless credit, accurately simulate wandering round your home-town Woolie’s, drunk and whimsical on Christmas Eve, wondering whether to buy your mum a pink Ladyshave for £9.99. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, meanwhile, is so great that one simply goes along with Roy Wood’s assertion that it would be great if every day were Christmas Day. Rather than pausing for a minute and saying “Actually, Roy, if it were Christmas every day, the UK’s productivity rates would ensure that we were a Third World country by March, and we’d all have scoliosis from sleeping on an inflatable mattress in the spare room. And, indeed, would have noticed that the person most set to benefit from it being ‘Christmas every day’ would be someone famous mainly for having written a very big song about it being Christmas every day (ie, you).”

Winner: Slade. However much of a genius Wood is, there’s only one song that has Holder shouting “IT’S CHRIIIIIIISMUSSSSS!” Though honourable mention must be made of John and Yoko’s hilarious Happy Christmas (War Is Over), and the bit at the end where Lennon clearly can’t be bothered to write another verse of slightly pious yuletide doggerel, and he and Yoko go “ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH” instead.

I love her description of John Lennon's song as pious and the lyrics as doggerel, though I would delete the word "slightly" and substitute something like "horrendously." But we're in basic agreement on that one, I'd say.

Getting back to happier things, however, why not compare the two contenders yourself? Here's the video for Roy's and Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday," and here's a nice independent video of a couple of lads and their friends and rels larking about to Noddy's and Slade's "Merry Christmas Everybody!" Enjoy.

From Karnick on Culture.

Blame apportioned

The lay woman who heads the West Side parish school where Rev. Daniel McCormack apparently molested students is up in arms about getting blamed.  Barbara Westrick went on TV last night to complain about Chicago archdiocesan authorities who are making her, she said, a “scapegoat.” 

If she had known what Cardinal Francis George knew when the mother of an apparently abused child came to her, she would have gone to police with the information, she said.  Now one of George’s minions is putting it to her in a letter that she was delinquent in her duty.

She had "either assigned Father McCormack or did not question his teaching math and coaching boys' basketball," the minion, superintendent of schools Nicholas M. Wolsonovich, said in a letter, adding, "These are matters which involve serious omissions in the prudent administration of a school in the protection of students."

But when the mother came to her, the archdiocese already had assigned a monitor to Fr. McCormack, a fellow priest with many duties who was ineffective in the role, perhaps not fully understanding what it required.  Apparently Westrick was not informed of this.  She seems not to have been in the loop and now she is accused of ignoring intelligence to the detriment of her pupils.

Some legal hardball is in progress, it appears.  In addition, the letter and her response expose the archdiocesan bureaucracy, around which Cardinal George has never got his arms, it also appears.  This is the benign interpretation, that he is busy with other things and is not in charge.

At issue also is the openness to contributions from lay people (priests too, probably), who are not in the habit of rattling higher-ups’ cages.  Priests have told me they do their best to have nothing to do with The People Downtown.  Thus be it ever in badly run organizations.  It’s endemic in this case.  The priestly class are lords of the manor — they have their chamberlains and proctors such as Wolsonovich — who hold tightly to their demesne.  So it has been described to me.  In any case, the letter on TV bespeaks distance and formality which lends itself strongly to this interpretation.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hell Just Froze Over: MSM Reveals Positive News from Iraq

And Newsweek Magazine of all places. I’m telling you that I was flabbergasted as I read this. One could expect such a report from NRO, The Washington Times, the Weekly Standard, you know, the conservative underground. But right out in the open at Newsweek’s international edition website? I wonder if the editor and writer might be looking for work in the next day or two.

Ok, enough of the sarcasm. I’ll let the title do the introduction: “Blood and Money: In what might be called the mother of all surprises, Iraq's economy is growing strong, even booming in places.” Of course it wouldn’t be quite so surprising if anybody in the MSM would have been paying attention these last few years. Think about it (I know, liberal journalists don’t really think), on any given day let’s say there are a dozen bombings and dozens die. Very sad, of course, and frustrating to no end, but this in a country of 25 plus million people roughly the size of California. The impression our friends in the media leave us with is that every square inch of the country is a bloody mess. It ain’t!

Check out some of the startling statistics:

Civil war or not, Iraq has an economy, and—mother of all surprises—it's doing remarkably well. Real estate is booming. Construction, retail and wholesale trade sectors are healthy, too, according to a report by Global Insight in London. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports 34,000 registered companies in Iraq, up from 8,000 three years ago. Sales of secondhand cars, televisions and mobile phones have all risen sharply. Estimates vary, but one from Global Insight puts GDP growth at 17 percent last year and projects 13 percent for 2006. The World Bank has it lower: at 4 percent this year. But, given all the attention paid to deteriorating security, the startling fact is that Iraq is growing at all.

Just think if for every 10 blood and misery stories there were just a few in our mainstream media like this, that actually explored more about Iraq than death and mayhem. Bush’s poll numbers would be up by at least 10%, the Republicans would still control Congress, and Democrats would be revealed for the cowards and political opportunists they are.

Is it so surprising that Iraq’s economy is so robust? As much negativity as is spread about the Iraqi people very little is said about the resilience and determination they obviously possess. The bad guys in the country are a small minority, but fear and example carry a lot of leverage. So many Iraqis keep quite and try to survive, to get by hoping that one day this madness will all be over. You can equate that hope with a growing GDP.

The human spirit has proven again and again throughout history that it is ultimately indomitable. Even in the darkest times of the unimaginable evil that comes from the other side of human nature, mankind has refused to give up, to retreat, to say it can never be better. I have an idea. Let’s all call Time Magazine and tell them to change their choice for “person of the year.” I really don’t feel worthy anyway. Let’s set up a draft movement to make the Iraqi people Time Magazine’s “People of the Year.” They are indeed worthy.

I could quote and comment more on the article, but it would be a waste of your time. Just go and READ IT, and then tell others about it. Maybe, just maybe, one day the secret will get out that all is not lost in Iraq.

From his parents do we know him?

Clarence Page asks if we know Obama’s middle name, gives it, says now we know.  OK, but do we know he’s the son of two Ph.D.’s?  Now we do.  The Hussein middle name is easily dismissed.  So what?  Lots of people have it.  But two Ph.D.’s for parents?  Not only rare but instantly controversial.  Do we really want so academically infected a person to rule us? 

Besides, his hot-seller book is brainless, to go by Dick Morris’s account of it:

In reading Senator Barack Obama’s #1 bestseller, The Audacity of Hope, one begins to wonder whether he is another cynical politician or just a helplessly na├»ve neophyte.

Morris, a Clinton specialist from a ‘way back, excerpts with alarming aim:

Sometimes he sounds downright juvenile. Consider this missive, which opens chapter five: “One thing about being a U.S. Senator - you fly a lot.” Brilliant! It gets worse: “Most of the time I fly … in coach, hoping for an aisle or window seat” (But not always.) “ … there are times when … I fly on a private jet.” Then, “the flying experience is a good deal different.” Wow.

Obama’s first book got a rave from the Time Mag cover-story writer-cum-sycophant — it “may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.”  Give him credit for the “may be.”  Otherwise, just gasp.

Or accept it.  In the Time writer’s account, Obama does come to life.  Ditto in lawyer-novelist Scott Turow’s Salon story.  The more recent book is the one that made him the big money, however.  And helped his candidacy.  Bad books do that.  He has all that education to live down.  The American people get suspicious.  Ever since Woodie Wilson the Princeton president. 

Can we imagine ourselves electing another in his image?  Dems give us Gore and Kerry, Repubs give us GW, whom I vastly prefer.  But the son of two Ph.D.’s?  That’s the thing to learn about the Big O.  See how that flies once he’s on the hustings full-time.

Slight omission

Fr. Jn L. can’t call God his father. So he changes wording of a standard prayer during mass, subbing “almighty God” for “almighty Father.”  Or he won’t, maybe because he considers it unfair to women. In either case, he should (a) get over it, maybe seeing God as his father will help him lose or crowd out bad memories of his father if that’s the problem, or (b) accept the idea that as mass-celebrant he is not a free agent but operates in service of something considerably bigger than himself, namely the church.

Later, from Reader M:

It's a trend. At my parish, the pastor says the "Our Father" correctly, but just about any other reference to "Father" he changes to "God." It's for the two feminists in the congregation. He also substitutes "friends" for "disciples" at the opening words of consecration — "gave it to his friends" rather than "gave it to his disciples." This rewriting by a local nudnick priest irks me.

Our one-year ordained, 40-something priest must never have had a lick of Latin. He called it "Gow-dee-tee" Sunday today. A year ago he wanted to give a Latin touch to the Mass and said, "ecce PECK-atta mundi." [It’s “ecce” (behold) “agnus Dei” (lamb of God), who takes away the sins (“peccata”) of the world, or “the sin,” say some]  Oy vey. I recommend Lutheran Hour’s Rev. Ken Klaus on WGN-AM Sunday mornings 6-6:30 a.m. central. Good homily, usually on our Sunday Gospel.

Same as RC gospel, by the way.  Homilies are a longstanding RC problem.  Weak or even bad preaching is a specter haunting the RC church.  It’s not clear what RC bishops can do about this problem of the Uneducated Priest beyond holding a second Council of Trent — not an option at this point.  Commonweal Mag has been grappling with this problem. 

The Catholic priesthood in the United States stands at a crossroads. An increasingly sophisticated Catholic laity fills the church’s pews and staffs its ever-growing parishes, and yet the church has failed to produce a corps of new priests to match it-in either quantity or quality.

Longtime church researcher Dean Hoge “paints a worrying portrait”:

[T]oday’s new clergy are not only fewer in number but also older, less educated, less thoroughly schooled in theology, and less likely to see its relevance to ministry.

There was bad news already:

[T]he Keystone Conferences, which convened Catholic seminary faculties annually from 1995 to 2001, assessed merely 10 percent of their priesthood candidates as highly qualified, and estimated that roughly 40 percent exhibited educational shortcomings ranging from insufficient preparation to learning disabilities.

Now Hoge has discovered “a striking drop in theological preparedness”:

In 1990, only 17 percent of diocesan priests in his sample required remedial pre-theology courses after entering the seminary. Today, that figure has leapt to 47 percent. In focus groups, some priests even voiced serious doubts about the relevance of their theology courses to their ministry. How then can they hope to relate doctrine to experience when parishioners come knocking for counsel?

Or when they pew-sit and would rather not hear pet notions proclaimed during the canon.  How dare they?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Trouble, I got trouble

It troubles me that a certain sentiment “troubles” Dawn Turner Trice in today’s Chi Trib. Her issue is Bill Cosby talking up hard work and perseverance to school parents when he recently settled a sexual harrassment suit. She is troubled by people’s paying it no attention because they like Cosby’s message.

She’s come a long way since January, 2001, when she gave considerable ink to a similar view about Rev. Jesse Jackson, exposed as a philanderer and father of an illegitimate child. Rev. J. had “taken a jump [actually several, over many months] and left a package,” realizing concerns voiced by an A.M.E. pastor in Iowa City about a handsome visitor who was giving his pretty daughters some attention in the summer of ‘63.

Not a problem, according to one of Trice’s sources in a Tribune piece.

"You deal with this the same way you deal with Bill Clinton," [Lorn Foster, an American politics professor at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.] said. "You teach fallibility."

In that respect, Foster said, almost every newsmaker in the 20th Century has had indiscretions and public failings.

"Really, if you use that criteria for not teaching Jackson . . . how do you teach Franklin Delano Roosevelt? How do you teach JFK?" Foster said.

Trice was not troubled by this, but she is by Cosby-excusing. Almost six years have elapsed, and that may be why. Who knows? In any case, my being troubled at her being troubled has less to do with Cosby vs. Jackson — middle-class values vs. victimhood in rebellion — than with a writer trying to disguise her feelings.

You can condemn someone faintly but tellingly. That is, you can be troubled when you’re actually pissed off, or should be, based on the data you present. In which case as a writer, you’re in trouble.

A Christmas Film to Remember

Tonight at 8 p.m. EST, Turner Classic Movies is showing an excellent Christmas film, one which I recommend highly. Remember the Night (1940) stars Barbara Stanwyck as Lee Leander, a beautiful shoplifter in a big city (New York City, I think), whose court case is continued until after Christmas by clever assistant district attorney John Sargent (Fred MacMurray, who would costar with Stanwyck in Billy Wilder's 1944 venture into film noir, Double Indemnity), who realizes that no jury will convict her right before Christmas.

When Lee is led away to jail, however, Sargent's conscience convicts him, and he posts bail for her. Lee, however, has no money and nowhere to go, so when he discovers that she is from Indiana, where he is about to go to visit his family for Christmas, he offers to drive her to her mother's house.

Lee's mother, however, despises her because Lee never could live up to the puritanical woman's perfectionist standards of behavior, and the mother coldly turns Lee away at the door. Jack begins to understand how Lee ended up as a thief and so tough herself (to steel herself against the hurts she is sure are always on the way), and he brings her home to have Christmas with his family.

Barbara StanwyckNaturally Jack and Lee fall in love with each other, and a less suitable match could hardly be imagined. Further complications ensue, of course, and a pair of difficult moral choices arise, one for each half of the couple. They both ultimately do the right thing, with Jack the prosecutor showing impressive sympathy and mercy, and Lee the thief showing powerful moral strength.

As this description should make clear, Remember the Night goes to the heart of the Christmas story: redemption. And what is most wonderful about the film, helmed by steady Paramount studios house director Mitchell Leisen from a superb screenplay by Preston Sturges, is that it doesn't limit the theme to its obvious subject, the thief Lee, but also shows it in play in Jack and all the other characters.

This is a film that not only keeps the surface aspects of Advent and Christmas in the foreground but also, and more importantly, stresses the real meaning behind it, our human condition and overwhelming need for a a Savior.

This is one you really should not miss. As far as I can determine, the film is not avaiable in any official release on DVD, but a VHS version is available.

Highly recommended.

From Karnick on Culture.