Friday, April 29, 2005

Mind the gap

Well, it's hard enough sometimes, it seems, to find conservatives in law school at all, much less conservative women. (There's no non-cliche way to say this, but most of my best friends in law school have been liberals :). Still, even knowing that we Republican women are a very small group on campus here, I'm looking at our student group photos here to see about three women in the Republican one, vs. about three dozen in the Democrats' one. How's that for a gender gap? I'm pretty sure the rest of the country isn't that imbalanced. Good grief!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Finals, and the hispanización of Columbus

Sorry not many posts this week -- there are a few I want to respond to, and a few stories I want to blog, but like all the other blawgers, I've been studying for finals. I don't think it's sunk in yet that this will be the last round of finals ever, since I've been in school straight through since kindergarten, basically. But I'm front-loaded this week, with Employment tomorrow, a seminar paper due Sunday, and Nonprofits on Tuesday, so things are a little busy now. I'm so grateful to my study partner for helping me figure stuff out in these classes -- we're becoming excellent patrons of the nearby Borders :)

For today's random observation, I think I had to invent that Spanish word but it works. On one of my trips today I noticed a stand on the side of the street advertising tortas and tacos, and the stand came complete with a Mexican guy in a cowboy hat sitting out in front. (This isn't usual in Midwest suburbia.) This was next to a couple of new Mexican grocery stores which have popped up on the same street (I've patronized a few of them, particularly when my grandmother comes up to visit from Texas and needs her particular frijoles). I used to volunteer with a local ESL program, so I know we have immigrants from all over the world in Columbus, but there really are an impressive number of Mexican immigrants here, and the number keeps growing steadily on both the southwest and northwest sides of the city. One summer I came home from college to work at Olive Garden, and found I was about the only person that could translate to the kitchen and busing staff -- they were all Spanish-speaking. And though I wasn't that active this year, HLSA (our Hispanic Law Student group) did a lot of volunteer work this year in some of the primarily Spanish schools on the southwest side, where whole neighborhoods have shifted demographics in recent years. I guess all of that is just to make the observation that this population is growing at an observably fast rate around here.

And for all that, we still don't have the Spanish cable channels except on satellite, and no Spanish radio stations either except one AM tejano one. I wonder when Spanish Broadcasting will start noticing the market here?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Women in the Church

Thanks to the Post for printing this thoughtful op-ed Sunday by Pia de Solenni, on the roles women have to play in the Church. (Disclosure: I worked for Pia at the Family Research Council a few summers ago.) The article touches on the author's original skepticism towards women's place in the Church, the difference and equality between men and women, ordination, and Benedict XVI's views on women:

[F]or Catholics, life isn't about being conservative or liberal. It's about being Catholic . . . . The challenge is to determine what's truly Catholic. In the case of women, the Catholic Church has clearly set forth that women have a role in every aspect of society, including the church.

Catholic teaching holds that the differences between men and women are constructive; they contribute to what we do and who we are. In essence, we will do many of the same things, whether it's building skyscrapers or changing diapers; but the fact that a person is either a man or a woman should contribute something positive to whatever he or she does. In other words, we should see a person affirmatively as a man or a woman, not a genderless automaton, in everything that person does. The idea that the sexes also complement each other is based on a radical equality that the church posits: Man and woman are created equally in the image and likeness of God.

. . . Benedict XVI won't change the church's positions on women's ordination, birth control or abortion. He can't change what flows from the core teachings of the Catholic faith. But under his leadership we can expect to have an extensive continuation of the conversations necessary for understanding these teachings.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Papers, please

Last year, after I had to correct my record to reflect the fact that I was not, in fact, a crack dealer, I took my social security number off my driver's license, figuring that would help prevent any future identity theft. So far it's worked, but it turns out I don't have any other official documents with that number on it, and such official documents are required to renew my license (mandatory when I turn 25 this summer). So, I got to spend a fun 45 minutes (and I realize that's pretty good, considering) in the Social Security office this morning to get an official card, so I can get a license, so I can do things like fly on planes, get into the bar exam in July, and so forth. All of this should be good right up until the time (i.e., August) when I have to go sit in more government offices and pay to switch my license and registration and other documents over to the state of Maryland. I love the bureaucratic state. (Although I do appreciate that these things have become much easier to figure out with the internet -- it's good to know what you need to have before you wait in line at the offices, and the employees are more helpful.)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Accidental truth-telling

In discussing how Pope Benedict's election could have some impact on American politics, considering the debates over a Catholic politician's obligations to vote in accordance with his faith in certain key matters (such as, most notably, abortion), the Times lets slip something I'm sure it didn't mean to:

This standoff has pitted church leaders against some of the leading Democrats in the country, and came to a boil last year around the presidential candidacy of Senator John Kerry. He is a Catholic who supports abortion rights, and argued that he could not impose 'my article of faith' on others who did not share it.

Wait! I thought John Kerry was a Catholic who was personally opposed to abortion, and couldn't impose that article of faith on others. Well, that's what he said anyway, but it was always clear to anyone (including the New York Times, apparently) watching his speeches to NARAL or checking his vote tallies that Kerry was not, in fact, opposed to abortion at all. The "standoff" with regard to politicians like Kerry has been less over any disconnect between their 'personal beliefs' and their actions, than over the fact that their actions actually do coincide with their beliefs -- and both actions and beliefs are flatly in opposition to fundamental Church teachings on the sanctity of human life (teachings which, it bears noting, don't depend on inaccessible or unique matters of theology to adhere to, just as slavery was wrong in a Christian understanding but also as a secular principle).

But thanks to the Times for pointing that out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Yes, the pope's Catholic

It's been very interesting to watch the coverage since I got home this evening. We've certainly had an impressive number of Catholic people on television in the last few weeks, from George Weigel to (unfortunately) Fr. McBrien, from Fr. Neuhaus to disaffected nuns. A lot of the coverage and commentary has been informative and interesting, but of course the line on Benedict XVI, who's long been familiar to and unpopular with American Catholics, has quickly solidified into his being "hard-line" (NYT, Post), "strictly conservative" (AP), "controversial" (Reuters), etc., etc. Everyone get it yet? (Oh yes, and he's German.)

There were a few good ripostes and/or gentle corrections I caught on the cable networks this evening. Paula Zahn, prodding (with concerned smile): "But don't you think many American Catholics will be disappointed with this choice?" Since he's so divisive, and all. Msgr. Albacete, a rather jovial-seeming priest: "Sure. Christ disappointed a lot of people, too." He could be pretty divisive.

Keith Olbermann, on MSNBC, made some comparisons between John Paul II and Benedict XVI and wanted to know about the apparent disconnect between the fact that Americans really loved John Paul as a person and really disliked his policies (follow up question, I think, was how will Benedict possibly fare well since he probably isn't even as charismatic as his predecessor?). Deal Hudson (former editor of Crisis) started his response by pointing out there really wasn't that much of a disconnect for many Americans: many of us loved the pope personally and, relatedly, also appreciated the strong stances he took in his own teachings and the conviction he brought to the faith.

As Professor Bainbridge observes of CNN in particular, "They seem astonished that the conclave would have picked somebody who actually believes Catholic teaching rather than embracing the cafeteria Catholicism of so many American Catholics." Quite so. Many reporters keep talking about how the pope won't be likely to change Church doctrine, to "modernize" or be more "progressive" or more "open". What they rarely seem to ask is whether the changes they'd all prefer are actually, you know, compatible with Catholicism. Which, one might reasonably think, ought to be a relevant consideration. Oh well. Fortunately, Pope Benedict isn't likely to pay much mind to American and other Western media critics when it comes to the stock issues; he knows "truth is not determined by majority vote."

Habemus papam

And it's Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. I think this is very good news for the Church -- our new pope is a strong theologian and a humble man. Viva il papa!

It was pretty neat to see his first address 'urbi et orbi' live on television -- the first time I've ever been able to witness it, but the first time for most other people as well since this is the first papal election we've had since the advent of 24-hour news cycles. The TV I was watching (here in the law school) was turned to CNN, and they did a decent job covering the news by not talking over the announcement and staying focused throughout the address. On a totally irrelevant note, I have to say that I always get a kick out of statements like this one: "Ratzinger, the first German pope since the 11th century . . ." (Or the other recent example, "Wojtyla, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years . . .") This is one of the (if not the single) oldest continuing institutions in the world, after all.

For a great insight into the challenges that the new pope will face, try this article at Notre Dame Magazine by John Paul II biographer George Weigel. The article was written shortly before John Paul's death but remains entirely relevant and thought-provoking.

Conclave Central

. . . is over at Amy Welborn's. With Amy's great posts like this one looking at Cardinal Ratzinger's homily yesterday (and challenging EJ Dionne's failure to grasp its meaning), and with the many reliably interesting commenters on pretty much every post, this site is the place to be for good Catholic commentary.

The Force isn't with them

Star Wars news, as we're now exactly a month away from the release of Episode III: Here are a few new TV spots that seem appropriately cheesy but are full of new bits, if you can get it into your own Quicktime player and go frame-by-frame (not that I've done that . . . right . . . ). One spot has a dramatic tagline, "The Jedi fight . . . the ultimate battle" -- but neglects to add, "They lose." Except for Obi-Wan, of course :) The AP is also reporting that online ticket sales are already going strong. Finally, I think neurosis will be among those heading to Celebration III over in Indianapolis this weekend. Have fun!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Eastern rites

Thoughtful article on today about the possibility of eventual reunion between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. The author considers John Paul II's efforts at bringing the traditions closer together (though the Russians never let him come to their country) and also considers the implications of a priesthood where more men are married (as they frequently are, though with some restrictions, in the East).

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Freedom to contract your health

The story today in the Post is that of a surrogate mother who's discovered she's carrying quints. In two paragraphs we get most of the details that suggest why the story causes (for me, at least) no little unease.

The unexpected development has two families contending with emotional quandaries. Anderson originally agreed to be a surrogate to earn extra money for her husband and their two young daughters. But now she says she does not feel she can accept compensation from Gonzalez and her husband, Enrique Moreno, whom she notes will be burdened enough trying to raise five children -- all boys.

Although both women say they have no regrets about the outcome, they also say they do not remember being warned that fertility treatments could trigger multiple births and serious health concerns. And one of the babies is struggling with a heart defect that will require many surgeries -- the first just minutes after his birth. Feeling the movement inside her, Anderson finds herself grappling with the same mixture of worry and hope as his parents.

Everyone involved here seems like a nice, well-intentioned person -- Anderson had given up two children for adoption in the past and thought she could share with this pregnancy for a couple who tried for years but couldn't conceive -- but at base is this reality that the Morenos didn't try to adopt a child already out there who needed a home, but instead formed this strange agreement: $15,000 for carrying someone else's child(ren). Are they free to make such a contract? As far as I'm aware, few laws regulate it, and you've got (four) consenting adults so there shouldn't be any problems, right?

But how informed was the consent, really, and are we comfortable with the implications of all of this? Here, the surrogacy agreement appears to be voluntary though motivated by money. But we also have situations where college coeds agree for similar amounts of money to become egg donors through onerous fertility treatments. What are the long-term effects on health given the strong hormones and invasive procedures necessary for this? They're at least questionable, and using money as an incentive for young women to jeopardize their health should strike people as dubious. In this case, it was an egregious omission by the doctors if they really did fail to warn Anderson of the higher probabilities of multiple births and all the complications that almost inevitably result -- premature delivery and accompanying challenges to the mother's health, lower birth weights, disabilities almost as a matter of course. People aren't generally meant to have litters -- that's why they occur so rarely in the absence of artificial reproductive technologies.

I'm glad these families are supportive of each other and of course the lives of these children should be celebrated just for who they are. But I can't help but wonder if these types of arrangements, not to mention IVF in general, should really be allowed in the first place.

Rumors, mourning, and the Vaticanisti

Fr. Neuhaus is blogging from Rome. His writing is, as always, quite engaging, as he passes on his reflections on John Paul II, the media's coverage over the past weeks, and who might be elected as the next pope.

It would, I think, be a very good thing to have a pope from Africa, Latin America, or Asia, but the odds at this point favor an Italian. The real alternative is Ratzinger. His election would spark a firestorm of negative reaction from "progressives" in western Europe and the United States. There is little love for Germans, and his long and thankless work as the chief doctrinal officer under John Paul has earned him a reputation as the "enforcer" of orthodoxy. Ratzinger is, in fact, a man of great personal charm and profound holiness. Some years ago he gave our annual Erasmus Lecture, and at the ecumenical conference following the lecture he most impressively won the respect and affection of the participating theologians. His homily at John Paul's funeral winsomely displayed a pastoral dimension of the man that many had not suspected. While guaranteed to be labeled "controversial," the election of Joseph Ratzinger would, I believe, be reassuring to many and would provide the Church with leadership in secure continuity with John Paul II.

But again, this is all speculation. . . . [I]n the immediate aftermath of the funeral, we are keenly aware that he will not be, nobody could be, another John Paul II. That would be too much to expect. As we had no right to expect the inestimable gift of the man to whom and for whom we now, in grief and gratitude, offer our thanks.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bad Catholics = good TV?

Television loves religion only -- like anything else -- if it'll sell: and NBC is betting a lot on its new show 'Revelations' starting tonight. It appears to be getting mixed but overall decent reviews. I noted that of the two principal characters (who are doing a reversal of the credulous Mulder and skeptical Scully, since Bill Pullman's character is a scientist and Natascha McElhone's a nun) the Christian character is a Catholic sister who has "angered the pope and the Vatican" for her beliefs -- hers is a "rogue order" of nuns. Well, I suppose if the Church agreed with her in this storyline, there'd be no need for her to go off dramatically on her own. Still, gotta love that imagery of the courageous dissenter against (no doubt) the inflexible, hardline Vatican.

Another article gave this news about a possible forthcoming show: "Fox has a possible fall drama in Briar & Graves, an adventure that brings together an excommunicated priest (Charles Mesure) and a neurologist (Elisabeth Rohm) for what sounds like a spiritual X-Files." Why not a regular priest? Well, then he'd probably have to agree with the Church on that laundry list of issues (all together now: women priests, abortion, contraception, divorce, and homosexuality) and that would probably be anathema to Hollywood producers looking for a nice lead actor for their show. More interesting if he dissented so strongly as to result in excommunication. Oh, well. I'll reserve judgment: maybe the show will deal honestly with whatever action resulted in the excommunication, and not be dismissive of faithful Catholics or Catholic beliefs.

There have always been a few examples of respectful treatment of more seriously religious Catholics in TV characters -- Scully's lapsed-but-not-hostile Catholicism on the X-Files, Benjamin Bratt's Rey Curtis on L&O, or Martin Sheen's president (not only Catholic, but also a Domer :) on West Wing are ones I think of among the shows I've liked (though of those three, only Bratt's character was openly pro-life; Bartlet was established as pro-choice early on I think). I just noticed these other examples today. Still, I will probably give 'Revelations' a shot.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A need to shine light

The Post argues that we must do better by Darfur, where the terrible violence continues. Nicholas Kristof of the Times also makes that point by saying that one of the best ways to honor John Paul II's memory would be to stand against the genocide in Sudan. It sounds like the Bush administration is pledging aid (today in Norway) and continuing to try to pressure the government in Sudan, but I think the efforts need to be higher profile in order to have real effect.

From the St. Joe's to the Tiber (a meandering post)

This weekend I was able to drive up to South Bend to visit my little brother, and it was a nice trip. Maybe everyone feels this way going back to college, but somehow I suspect it's always a little different with Notre Dame -- it just instantly takes you back. Especially a trip to the dining hall, as funny as that sounds; you look to one side and think, there would be the Scholastic crew grabbing lunch before heading downstairs to the magazine office, there the girls from Lyons, here we would try to sneak extra food past the notorious dining hall ladies, and isn't that one of my friends getting her favorite ice cream? But all the students are different, even though you feel the same. I did get to catch up in LaFortune with one of my old friends who's in law school up there, and we chatted about British politics and conservative legal theories. It was ever thus! Saturday evening my brother and I went over to a women's dorm that was having its formal that night -- a group of three couples had invited us for the homemade dessert they were serving. Seeing everyone dressed up was fun. How many dances do you go to when you're at Notre Dame? You lose count, but you can remember fun details from all of them -- the winter formal where my date's RA dressed up as Santa Claus, the first one freshman year where my date cooked spaghetti and I couldn't get my hair to stay fixed, the dance where my roommate got a giant inflatable punching bag of The Rock as her gag gift, the luau where we'd just picked out our dresses at the oh-so-chic (ahem) South Bend Mall earlier that day, and the one where a plastic penguin was ever-present at all the festivities.

All right, so I've been in a bit of a nostalgic mood lately anyway, since this summer will mark significant changes for my family as my parents, my last two siblings here, and I all move out of state (to all different states). Who knew I might miss Ohio after all this time of being ready to leave? I reflected as I was driving home on Sunday that in 15 years (eight or so of driving) I've been to most every corner of this state many times -- all the way out both directions on 70 and on 71, up through the northwest on 23/75, down to Parkersburg WV in the southeast, and across the whole northern part on 80/90. You know what? It all looks pretty much the same. Except for a few hills in isolated places, it's mostly flat farmland. Plus cows. It's a nice place to have grown up. I suppose it's also about time to take off.

My best friend from college told me last night that after years of being "culturally Mormon" (as she was raised), now having attended Mass for years and read and studied things like Augustine and Anselm and Aquinas and Ratzinger, she's going to be baptized and received into the Church next month. It's a pretty amazing thing. She's already impressively devotional. I can't help thinking I've still got so much to learn. Well, maybe she can teach me. Welcome to the faith :)

Friday, April 08, 2005

In the Father's house

C-SPAN should be re-showing the pope's funeral now. I watched it this afternoon and it was impressive, pulling together as it did people from all over the world to celebrate a life. (CNN's coverage was actually very good today, I thought.) Cardinal Ratzinger's homily was a powerful tribute, especially his last few words.

None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi. We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father's house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

All of this pope's tenure has been a call to action in the world, to stand up for what is right, to love, to come closer to Christ. I couldn't help but feel today that he continues even in death to exhort us to do all these things still. I hope we are able to listen.

Someone who gets it

The President talked to the press pool on Air Force One on his way back from Rome, and the transcript is up here. I really enjoyed reading his thoughts and reflections on the funeral and the legacy of John Paul II -- presented in a very W kind of way, I thought. Take this exchange:

THE PRESIDENT: I think Pope John Paul II will have a clear legacy of peace, compassion, and a strong legacy of setting a clear moral tone . . . .

[] Let me make sure I go back to the first answer on His Holiness. I said -- I think my answer was, is that -- what did I say?

Q I asked if you thought it was a mixed message, and you said, "I think John Paul II will have a clear legacy of peace" --

THE PRESIDENT: A clear and excellent legacy, if you don't mind adding the word "excellent."

Q Clear and excellent.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. In other words, a strong legacy. I wanted to make sure there was a proper adjective to the legacy I thought he left behind. It was more than just "clear."

Yes, that's a very W way to phrase things :) Here is one more excerpt I particularly appreciated:

THE PRESIDENT: . . . I would define Pope John Paul II as a clear thinker who was like a rock. And tides of moral relativism kind of washed around him, but he stood strong as a rock. And that's why millions -- one of the reasons why millions came to admire and love him.

I was asked by some of the leadership of the Church, was I surprised at the turnout? I said, not at all -- because millions, from all religions -- millions of Catholics and millions of others admired his strength and his purpose and his moral clarity.

Q How did the Pope struggle with his health at the end of his life and his example throughout his life strengthen your own faith?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, it is as clear example of Christ's influence in a person's life that he maintained such a kind of hopeful, optimistic, clear point of view amidst struggles -- in his case, physical struggles. And that's -- a lot of Christians gain great strength and confidence from seeing His Holiness in the last stages of life.

Q Do you think that will help you in the months and years ahead, in your own life?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think all of us get touched in different ways if you're on a faith journey -- we're all affected differently. But, yes, I think my relationship with -- and Pope John Paul II's example will serve -- will be a moment in my life that will strengthen my faith and my belief. Not just me, more significantly, millions of people whose life he touched. I think we might have witnessed -- I don't know -- perhaps the largest funeral in the history of mankind. I'm not sure if that's true or not, somebody said that might be true.

But there's a reason why the largest crowd ever to come and pay homage to a human happened, and it's because of the man's character, his views, his positions, his leadership capacity, his ability to relate to all people; his deep compassion, his love of peace. There's a reason why. Again, I repeat, I was honored to be one of many there, and I know you all were, as well.

Like Jay Nordlinger, I like the President's way of speaking, because it's genuine and unforced. His genuineness comes through here, too, and it makes me glad we have a President who is comfortable with his own faith and who understands what moral clarity and humility are about, especially as he was able to see that in the life of this pope.

EDIT: Here's the Post write-up.

"We want God!"

That was the cry of the Polish crowds on Karol Wojtyla's first trip home as Pope John Paul II, as he encouraged them to seek and have faith in Christ even as the communist rulers had tried to stamp Christ out of public life. Peggy Noonan has a (typically) moving account of that first trip to Poland, and the way it helped change the world.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Fun with cartography

As an excellent time-waster, particularly for bored 3L's counting down the days -- well, at least for bored 3L's who admit to some geeky interest in maps -- might I suggest: Google Maps, complete with Google Satellite (click on the link top right). I've been using the maps for a little while now but just discovered, via links beginning at In the Agora, the views from space. With click-and-drag maps that don't require reloading a page every time you want to move around, that load really fast for zooms, and that let you seach for stores and hotels, etc., by name and type, this site is highly cool. Definitely better than Yahoo overall (although not yet better in directions). Plus, with the satellite view, you can pretty much see the car in your driveway.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A good shepherd

David Morrison has a very nice post on his own prayers for the next pope and what kind of man he hopes he'll be:

First, that he be a man after Christ's own heart. One of things that stymie the media and the Chattering Classes about John Paul II is that the failed to get that when he took a stand on some social, political, moral or economic issue he did because he sought to reflect as best he could the teachings of Christ as presented in the Roman Catholic faith. Thus when he stood up for freedom of religion on his first visit to Poland he stood up for the principle that human beings must be free to choose the right course of action. When he opposed abortion, he did so because the Church understands that human life is not something left for us to define but is, with every human person, a gift from God to cherished and treated with dignity. When he lectured the first world about how much money we are willing to spend on ourselves while our brothers and sisters starve and go hungry, he did so because Christ's parable echoed in his ears and he understood that Lazarus's sin, like ours often is, is the sin of indifference to the sufferings all around us.

None of the little boxes into which the media want to cram John Paul II will hold him precisely because he sought always to reflect Christ, and Christ is simply too big for any one human understanding, theory, ideology, template or ideal. I want The Next Pope to be likewise a man after Christ's own heart.

Pope Lando II?

Mark Shea helpfully advises Catholics to "ignore everything the media says about the succession" since, as he puts it, "When it comes to papal elections, the media are idiots who think they are covering (and influencing) the New Hampshire primaries. They. Don't. Have. A. Clue." Indeed.

For us Catholic laypeople, speculation on the outcome of the conclave might be better informed, but of course equally pointless. As many have pointed out, about all we know is that the new pope will almost certainly not be American, which is just as well. I'm familiar with a few of the American cardinals -- I've heard Cardinal McCarrick say Mass once or twice at the parish I go to in D.C., and I enjoy writings like this one by Cardinal Dulles in First Things -- and I still think even the ones that are well-respected and erudite would be highly unlikely to be elected. As for the frequently-mentioned Francis Cardinal Arinze, I once got to hear him speak at Notre Dame and came away very impressed by his words and his manner, an impression only confirmed by what I've read of him since. Personally, I think he'd be a great pope, but that's entirely irrelevant. Ultimately, (also as many have pointed out), the next pope will probably be someone we never predicted, and who never wanted the job. We should have faith he'll work out.

For some idle (and idly amusing) speculation on which name the next pope might take for himself, I enjoyed one commenter's remarks on the above-linked Mark Shea post evaluating the relative likelihood of various choices:

Maybe he will be more daring and pick one only used by one pope before, such as:

Evaristus II
Telesphorus II
Zephyrinus II
Zozimus II
Hilarius II
Deusdedit II
Lando II

Didn't know there had been a Lando? Well, he's not a saint, but he's still there on the list. I guess we will just have to wait and see. I'm at peace with that.

Incomprehension abounds

Of course, not everyone appreciates the pope's legacy -- it positively confounds some people, particularly sophisticated Westerners. They view John Paul II through the lens of their enlightened secularism, and proceed to analyze accordingly. It makes the media coverage of this pope's life and death a headache in many respects. It's been done very well by some, and most are quite willing to acknowledge the pope's accomplishments in helping bring down communism in the Soviet bloc and in reaching out to the poor and people of other religions around the world. Several of the major networks have also been good about inviting informed Catholics to comment on their newscasts. Still, there is quite a bit of cluelessness by some in the MSM.

The AP went with a (not atypical) poll-driven story telling us that polls say the next pope should change policies. "Most Americans, 64 percent, said women should be allowed to become priests, and 60 percent of the surveyed American Catholics agreed in the poll." Priestly celibacy isn't a Biblical mandate (and it's not universal in the Roman church since already-married clergy who convert to Catholicism as priests stay married), so it's possible that could change at some point in the future, though unlikely given the strong tradition and prudential reasons for vows of chastity. Women priests won't happen in the Church because the Church has no authority to ordain them, and that's been authoritatively taught. Either way, though, who cares what polls of Americans say? Church doctrine isn't determined that way. If priestly celibacy ever changes, it won't be because Americans think it should. And at this time it's pointless to ask whether people feel like women should be priests as a matter of equality -- it can't happen. So why bother asking? As one blogger writes, you could probably find a poll saying "68.3 'Approve Or Strongly Approve' Release of Barabbas."

Tony Rickey critiques certain liberal cliches evident in the Times and Post obituaries, while Professor Bainbridge does the same with the LA Times.

The worst so far that I've seen in an MSM paper is from Monday's Financial Times (UK) (I think the article's accessible sans subscription):

The gulf between Church doctrine and the habits of ordinary Catholics remained as wide as ever under John Paul, who - together with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's guardian of theological orthodoxy since 1981 - refused to moderate the hard official line against contraception, abortion, divorce, modern feminism and priestly celibacy.

This stance blew up in the Church's face when revelations of sexual abuse of children by some clergymen, especially in the US, caused an uproar whose consequences are still unfolding.

The challenge that will face John Paul's successor is that it will be extremely difficult, in the short term, to do anything about the late Pope's doctrinal legacy.

This was not in an editorial. Set aside for a moment the suggestion that opposition to abortion, easy divorce, contraception, radical feminism somehow caused the abuse scandal, when priests can't get pregnant, can't marry, aren't supposed to have sex, and aren't women (and if abuse were only caused by chastity, why would there be higher rates of sexual abuse of minors and teenagers among people who've never taken any vows?). How could this author assert that it was the "refus[al] to moderate the hard official line" on sexual morality and modern cultural trends that "blew up in the Church's face"? It was absolutely the opposite. While much of the abuse crisis was only more recently revealed, the vast majority of cases had occurred in the 60's and 70's, involving priests ordained during those decades. The crisis was largely caused by an egregiously sinful lack of fidelity -- precisely a lack of adhering to that "hard official line" -- because it was a time in the Church when many Americans in particular were swept up in the sexual revolution and expected that the Church would be changing attitudes soon; and terribly lax moral climates ruled in some seminaries. A few culpable bishops who were sometimes themselves compromised were complicit in covering things up. John Paul II's renewed call to moral and spiritual fidelity, in contrast to the FT's assertions, has led to cleaning up of the American seminaries and more faithful men pursuing vocations, and has energized the Church in many ways.

Finally, take that last sentence: "The challenge that will face John Paul's successor is that it will be extremely difficult, in the short term, to do anything about the late Pope's doctrinal legacy." Wherefore the assumption that John Paul's successor either would or should want to "do anything" about his doctrinal legacy? Of course the author at the FT probably takes as a given that the Church should be reversing course after this papacy, seeing as how all the positions taken are backwards. But the author might do better to consider that whether or not it conforms with his own opinions, John Paul's "doctrinal legacy" is one that is fully in conformance with what is Catholic. The next pope's challenge will be to continue proclaiming, with equal courage, that message to the world.

Tend my sheep

It's been said that John Paul II was seen in person by more people than any other man in history, over the course of his hundreds of trips and thousands of public addresses. Maybe that's partly why, even as this amazing man played his own significant part in world history, so many of our memories of him are personal. Being a few years younger than his papacy was long, I've never yet known any other pope than John Paul II, and he's had a strong influence on my life. Thanks to my parents and my education at Notre Dame, I had grown up in a Catholic culture, studied early church history, and read earlier and various theological writings. But as I grew up it was more on my own that I discovered the writings of John Paul and was able to see his impact in the world, particularly with his great affection for young people, on display at every World Youth Day. He was such a courageous, unyielding champion for the faith that we could always feel encouraged in our own desires to be more faithful. As I have read Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae, I've learned more about the way in which the exercise of authentic freedom is rightly directed toward seeking the Good, and only if we respect the dignity of individual human lives can we hope to attain that authentic freedom. Fides et Ratio has helped shape my convictions about how to be a witness to the faith through the honest pursuit and exercise of reason and education. Love and Responsibility (though the philosophy is on a pretty high level, and so harder for me at least to fully grasp) has given me a greater understanding of the cohesive and true nature of the human person and how we should strive to relate to others. This "philosopher-pope" had such profound insights into the human person and the human condition -- and all of it derived from, and pointed to, commitment to Christ. The Lord told Peter that if he loved him, he would tend his flock. John Paul II always held that mission in trust.

I was in Mexico City for the first time over the weekend, and there was something moving about being in such a Catholic country during the pope's final hours. My friends told me about waiting in line for hours, during the last papal visit to Mexico in 1999, just to catch a glimpse of the pope or hear him say Mass. "Juan Pablo, hermano, tú eres mexicano!" was their chant, for they knew he had both a love for their poor and a special devotion to their patron saint, the Virgen de Guadalupe. The news was on in every store, it seemed, and people gathered around to pass on information or just stand in respectful silence. At Mass on Saturday night, the priest encouraged us not to be sad that John Paul was no longer with us in the flesh, for he would always be with us in our hearts and he was certainly with Christ. He said not to be sad -- and he was crying.

Fr. Neuhaus thinks Karol Wojtyla will soon enough be known as "John Paul the Great," with an honorific assigned to just two or three other popes in history. I feel blessed to have been here during his pontificate, and join the billions uniting in appreciation for his life, his works, and his faith.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Catching up

I've been out of the country for the last few days ... just catching up on everything. Will be back soon.