Thursday, June 30, 2005

Email Apparitions

Email has been a great source of amazing connections for me. Just yesterday I was contacted by 2 people I haven't been in touch with for a long time. This happens regularly and is a great gift. Sometimes people find my address on some web site that they are surfing; sometimes they find it by searching. I am making a really effort to find the address of anyone who crosses my mind from years gone by. I think they really exemplifies Teilhard de Chardin's concept of a noosphere, a great web of connectivity that surrounds the earth. But Teilhard could not imagined Google.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Google Earth

If you haven't already seen this, be sure and check out the amazing site of Google Earth.

NY Visit

My friend, Sahana Callahan, and myself, along with her parents, new little brother, Ryan, and her grandparents from India, spent a great few days in NY. Sahana is starting the first grade near Baltimore and enjoyed her first visit to the big city. Her father, Sean Callahan, is the VP of Catholic Relief Services. As Sahana likes to tell people, she was born in India, like her mother and visiting grandparents. On Saturday I have the great honor of baptizing her new little brother, just as I baptized her about 4 years ago (she claims she can even remember).

Saturday, June 25, 2005

China and the Vatican

Diverse newsreports indicate that a major thaw in relations between China and the Vatican is in the offing soon. The church will probably be able to appoint bishops (perhaps with some government approval) and the Vatican will cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but not pastoral ties. All this is indeed very good news and finally promises some reconciliation between two of the most formative influences in the modern world. China is very rapidly emerging as a supreme cultural, economic and global reality, with growing influence among all the other Asian peoples. I pray that this renewal will bring new life to the church in Asia and abundant blessing to China.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

When Life Begins

Some letters from the Times responding to Mario Cuomo's call for embryonic stem cell research and development. Most interesting is the statement of Peter Singer from Princeton. Singer, more honest than some, says that the embryo is obviously life not just a potential. He points out that the crucial question is: when do protect that life legally? Singer, of course, would even allow parents to kill a fully born baby that had serious defects and he favors euthanasia for the unproductive elderly. Yet he is refreshing honest about life and when it begins. Check out these letters at this link

Monday, June 20, 2005

Moderates

Former Senator and UN Ambassador Danforth had an op-ed in the TIMES a few days ago in which he called for moderate religious positions in American cultural and political debates. (Danforth is also an Episcopalian priest.) The sense I get is that, for him and many others, being moderate is having enough faith to nourish yourself privately but never doing anything public or consequential. Thus, Danforth represented George Bush's administration at the UN during the Iraq debacle and when he resigned, it was rumored that he was very disappointed in US policy. But - a big but - he did not raise the issue. He just resigned quietly. That is the perfect moderate. I assume he used some of his theological background to analyze the war but he never told us what his Christian conscience said to him. On the contrary, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have also analyzed the Iraq war in light of Christian teaching, conluded that the war was immoral and then spoke out to their own church and the world. On this issue and so many others, sacredness of all life, the poor and economic injustice, these 2 popes clearly urge us all to think differently and take action. So I guess they are the extremists.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Polling Numbers on War

Last night I heard Andrew Kohut of Pew Polling suggest that a marked down turn is becoming discernible in the US public support for the war in Iraq. He also suggested that much greater doubt exists now in the public mind about the justifications of the the war, like WMD. This could offer some hope that, as happened in Viet Nam, the deaths and killings will cause the general public to raise political and civil objections to government policies. When LBJ pulled out of the presidential election in 1968, he was simply counting the fall off of support. Bush is not up for re-election, of course, but perhaps the change in US thinking can begin to shift the blind endorsements that have been given to this administration. So much - including so many human beings - at stake!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Does Celebrity Trump?

After the not guilty verdicts were read out in the Michael Jackson trial yesterday, many commentators opined that, in these sorts of trials, the fame and status of the accused wins the non guilty verdicts. Maybe? Is it a California thing? I do not think so. The case against Jackson was a bit murky and the testimony was very suspicious. I also believe that, while most consider any form of child molestation as a huge crime, many have become dubious of all the claims, recovered memories and strange chronologies of alleged acts and much later accusations. Strong suspicious about the finanacial motives abound. The massive media coverage create its own very determinative reality. There is no doubt that, as Maureen Orth wisely said yesterday, we really do have to understand that our culture is simply besotted with celebrity, their changing partners, their feuds, their new looks and now a telephone attack by Russell Crowe on an hotel clerk which apparently increased the initial box office take on his new film. For all the analysis of the trial and the culture that loves a Michael Jackson or a Madonna, we also need to regain our own personal focus and direction. But that is surely a very difficult task in our culture. Is it all entertainment?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Debt Cancellation/Reduction and Italy Referendum

The good news of some debt reduction by the major financial powers comes as a good start in restructuring the unjust relations between the north and south of this planet. The Catholic Church welcomes this move with blessings from Rome today and also urges further alleviation of the structures of inequality and injustice that are so central to the violence and despair of much of the world. Much more ambiguously, I claim no pretensions to fully understand the Italian vote, or lack of it. I do know that the effort to repeal democratically voted safeguards is evidently going down to a dramatic defeat with a reported low turnout of about 18 percent which will nullify the repeal effort. I am also very aware that Benedict XVI, and all the Italian bishops, along with many civil leaders, urged voters to boycott the vote. Perhaps we are witnessing yet another manifestation of the wise caution and legitimate fears that the new tools of reproduction though artificial tools need to be very carefully handled and that radical interference with nature can be tragic. Obviously not all such interference, for example my own adult stem cell transplant and many other procedures. But how do we decide policy? Clones? Embryo farming? Surrogacy? Some prayer and reflective silence and then some very skilled, smart analysis is my favored approach to a whole new world.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Boston Horror

When Catholic politicians (Irish and Italian) in Boston start using words like "reprehensible" to criticize the Archdiocese of Boston in the public arena, the Archbishop needs to wake up. Archbp. Sean O'Malley may be obtuse, oblivious, or very, very badly advised. The debacle of the sudden closing of the parish school as described by McGrory at the link is awful. Closing or consolidating a Catholic school is not at issue here. The issue is the unbelievably incompetent manner of the Archdiocese's sense of people and the public at large. Operating like some CIA or CSI fueled amateurs, they hear that people are going to seize the school and occupy it. Don't they know that every reporter will go after the money quote, in this case, a early grade student wanting just to back into the closed school to retrieve his crayons? Coming after the duplicity of diverting funds collected at Easter and Christmas for the retired priests' fund, and coming after the years of coverup and deceit about clergy sex abuse, this latest is unfathomable. If their purpose was to edge the other deceits off the front page, maybe they have some success. I love Boston, served there for many years in campus ministries and cannot believe what I am hearing and reading.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Gitmo Image

The administration in DC is holding fast to its line of justification for holding Moslem suspects in detention. Rumsfeld and others admit some abuses but insist the system is workable and fully justified. Even if there have been only a few random instances of abusive treatment, it is huge loss for the perception of the US. A smart government would immediately deal with the reality that millions of people are ready to believe the moral worst about US behavior. We sound grossly hypocritical when we sound off on human rights and our national innocence. It is very disheartening to realize that most Americans are falling right in line.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Miracles

Fortunately I have never been called on to affirm or deny a miracle. I have certainly heard many, many accounts in which people deeply belive that a miracle happened to them. Recently I witnessed a profound change in attitude in someone I've know for years. Is it a miracle? Many other people that I've known have undergone a similar change or conversion. Does that disqualify it as a miracle? I consider my own cancer journey a miracle of sorts but my non-believing oncologist, while not at all hostile to the spiritual, would see no need to invoke any supernatural power. He says its a case of treatment and drugs working very well and my being able to tolerate it all quite well. So even though my outcome so far may be rare and even unexpected, does it merit the label of miracle. I just don't know and a large part of me says that I don't need to know.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Koran Abuse

There is something bracing and exhilarating about the outrage expressed by many Moslems world's over the US treatment of both Moslem detainees and of the Holy Book of Koran. Much of the initial outcry about Koran abuse came from prisoners themselves at Gitmo who, despite the isolation and fear, have not lessened their religious faith or their outrage at its treatment. The US administration is making a complete fool of itself and is making enemies everywhere by debating the use of the word, Gulag, by Amnesty International, while most of the world, including our allies, are stunned by the revelations of prisoner abuse that mount each day. We have, in effect, declared a war on Islam in the crudest and most incendiary fashion, holding men with Moslem names without charges, deporting people with no place to go and torturing prisoners. I am convinced that torture and humiliation are in the arsenal of the US policy, even if hidden under a wink and nod. However much Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld put down the reports (many of them from our own military), obviously much of the world views the US under this administration as the modern, 21st century keeper of the Gulag. Can we recover?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Watergate: Fond memories

On Saturday with friends who are younger, I went past the famous Watergate Complex on the Potomac. Since they were too young to burn all the details in their not yet flourishing memories, I usually bore them (and others) with my own memories of a tumultuous and exciting era. Little could I have guessed that the news would become dominated by Watergate memories over the next week as the identity of Deep Throat was finally revealed. I love the recording (only now so meaningful) in which Nixon and Haldemann are discussing the indentity of the source. Incredibly, Nixon suspected Mark Felt and asks Haldemann if Felt is Catholic. The response: No, he has some Irish but he is Jewish. And Nixon ruminates, "Maybe its the Jewish thing." Even the most conspiratorial among us must admit that Watergate was the result of a conspiracy of only ONE: Nixon himself. I don't know whether Nixon could ever acknowledge that even in his most private solitude, but he showed us a magnificent panorama of human pride and self-deception. Even when we credit him for the opening to China and for the Food Stamp program, I am enthralled at how absolutely incapable we all are of seeing ourselves as we really are, and often as seen by others. Perhaps some gratitude is in order for all that, but that surely doesn't preclude the fun and incessant revelations that still mark the 'third rate burglary."