Tuesday, July 31, 2012

From Lynn to Finn: learning from our prayers

Dr. Pence writes:

"I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life."
(concluding words of the Act of Contrition)

Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia, convicted of child endangerment by a dutiful and fair-minded jury, argued for probation. His lawyer said prison would be cruel and unusual punishment for his crimes. Shouldn’t his spiritual friends tell him that churchmen should be kneeling in the snows of Canossa in penance before civil authorities for their crimes against both church and civil law?

Monsignor Lynn should accept his sentence of three to six years as a small payment for his failure to live up to the honorific title the Church assigned him. The judge was absolutely correct that Lynn turned over the souls of children to monsters. The silence from churchmen, the Catholic press, and blogosphere is deafening. We all know that to encourage this act of justice would indict priests and bishops across the orthodox/progressive divide. It will take a true metanoia for Catholic clerical and intellectual leadership to humbly learn from this implacable hand of civic justice.  

The first fruit of the Philly sentencing could be an act of leadership which would cost a lot less than three years imprisonment.  What if Bishop Robert Finn in Kansas City pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge against him and volunteered for jail time “in reparation for my wrongdoing”?

Bishop Finn could say: “Take me, and leave the diocese alone. The good parishioners have done no wrong and owe no fine, but I did not do my duty. Our Mother Church is pure; it is I who have sinned. Take me and leave the Lady.” He should not resign. He should repent, and do penance.

Bishop Finn and Monsignor Lynn are the first of many Catholic clerics who will be faced with civic punishment – not for what they have done, but for what they have failed to do. At every Mass, we confess such sins are real. Shouldn’t our shepherds – who have shown us how to sin – now show us how to repent and do penance?

This is not Martin Luther King in a Birmingham jail.  The convicted priests and bishops are much more like the thieves at Calvary being justly punished for their crimes. Which thief will they imitate?

Monday, July 30, 2012

MondayMap: Geographic and Historical markers for India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh

Doc Pence writes:

The Mughal Empire consolidated Muslim rule in the Indian subcontinent [see this map]. The oldest parts of the empire were the backbone of West and East Pakistan, which were the Muslim sections partitioned from the British Raj (Hindu for "Rule") granting India national independence in 1947.  The Mughals carried the Genghis Khan legacy and Persian culture, as well as Islam.

The Taj Mahal (Urdu for “crown of palaces”) was built from 1632-53 by a Mughar sultan and dedicated to his wife. 

One of the greatest heroes of Hindu nationalism broke the Mughal rule and laid the foundation for the Maratha empire.  C. Shivaji Maharaj (1630-80) had a spiritual devotion to India taught to him by his religious mother. From a young age he developed a walking knowledge of his land, and by his twenties had a loyal band of officers (including Muslims) who would help perfect his commando/guerilla approach to war.


Shivaji and his mother – she taught him to love India by loving the great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharta.  
[Map of Maratha realm here].

The British Rule (Raj) lasted until 1947 when India and Pakistan were granted independence. East and West Pakistan were under one rule as the Muslim state. In March 1971, the Bangladesh liberation war was begun, ending with intervention by India and the defeat of Pakistan in December of that year. Though both Muslims, the Bengali-speaking coastal people separated themselves from the landlocked Urdu-speaking westerners.


The western border of Pakistan separates it from another Muslim country, Afghanistan. The “red line” drawn to separate them is called the Durand line (after the British foreign secretary Henry Durand who drew it in 1893). Afghan president Hamid Karzai (2004- ) called it "a line of hatred that raised a wall between the two brothers."

One important ethnic group separated by the porous barrier is the Pashtun. Most Taliban members are of the Pashtun tribes.

At the northwest border of India and eastern Pakistan [see this map] is another important tribe cut by national borders -- the Punjabi.  (Comprising 40 percent of Pakistan's population, their language ranks as the most widely spoken in that nation).

The Punjabi tribal loyalties formed the soil of one of the most interesting religions of the world: the Sikhs.  Formed in the 15th century at a bloody border with incoming Islam, the Sikhs are monotheistic, educated, elegant and accomplished soldiers.  Most men have Singh (‘lion’) as part of their names, and are required to be armed as a tribute to liberty. Most women take as part of their names Kaur (meaning ‘princess’).

One of the recent leaders of the Sikhs made this comment:

"A human is a blend of saint and soldier; this is a complete person. If you are not a soldier your sainthood will be kicked around. If you are only a soldier and not a saint, you will start kicking others around."

The present prime minister of India is a Sikh: Dr. Manmohan Singh. He is the first non-Hindu prime minister and an accomplished economist. He won reelection for a second five-year term in 2009.

There are 30 million Sikhs worldwide (which is more than the combined number of Jews and Mormons).  Most of them live in the Punjab region of India.


I. Physical Geography (including a purely biological assessment of human demographics, and food and shelter strategies)
II. Religious loyalties (including intersections of ethnic and language groups)
III. Military history (including present and past allies and enemies)

These are the three categories that our AOA blog tries to employ in laying out a realistic depiction of the historical landscape in which the Church and nation act in the Divine drama. Part of the miniaturization of life (and infantilization of American males) in the last 50 years has replaced adult statesmen – and their concerns of basic geographic literacy and a working knowledge of the nations – with the narcissism and identity-preening of adolescent males and careerist feminists.     

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Keep swatting that pesky canard about the “3/5th Clause”

"Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."     
     (from Article 1, Section 2, of U.S. Constitution)

The clause is not a statement about personhood: it was the slaveholders who were pushing for 4/5 or 5/5th!  Here’s why:
"The Northern states did not want to count slaves. The Southern states hoped to include slaves in the population statistics in order to acquire additional representation in Congress to advance their political position."

Yet, many folks in our day – such as Lanny Davis, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, and even Professor Garry Wills – wildly misrepresent what the Constitutional debate was all about.  Sometimes it’s silly ignorance, sometimes willful distortion…

Sunday, July 15, 2012

City of the Big Shoulders – in denial of sundry things

**  Our nation’s third largest city has almost 3 million people.  Recently George Will described one aspect of it:
"In Chicago, 84 percent of African American children... are born to unmarried women."

Many, many boys running wild – with no fathers… That was the environment Barack Obama worked in as a community organizer on the South Side from 1984-88 (before heading off to law school in Boston).

The best writer on today’s urban problems – and the patriarchy needed to restore things – is Heather MacDonald.
[With an educational resume to match President Obama’s, the only thing that dampens her message is her proud atheism].
In a fascinating 2010 essay on the fatherless boys terrorizing Chicago, MacDonald makes this comment on Dreams from My Father:
"Most tellingly, Obama’s narrative is almost devoid of men. With the exception of the local ministers and the occasional semi-crazed black nationalist, Obama inhabits a female world. His organizing targets are almost all single mothers. He never wonders where and who the fathers of their children are. When Obama sees a group of boys vandalizing a building, he asks rhetorically: ‘Who will take care of them: the alderman, the social workers? The gangs?’ The most appropriate candidate—‘their fathers’—never occurs to him."
Later in the article, MacDonald states that blacks, “at least 35 percent of the [Chicago] population, commit 76 percent of all homicides; whites, about 28 percent of the population, commit 4 percent; and Hispanics, 30 percent of the population, commit 19 percent.”

**  Back in 1995, the city suffered through a July heat wave that took the lives of more than 700 residents.

[Here is an interview with the author of a book detailing the tragedy, including why the greatest percentage of victims were older black men.]

To get some perspective on the extent of the heat wave casualties:
In the great Chicago Fire (October 1871), almost a third of all residents were left homeless; but fatalities were probably less than 300.

For a high-side marker, consider Hurricane Katrina – which, seven years ago, killed 1500 people in Louisiana.
Notwithstanding the partial culpability of the city’s political leaders, Richie Daley would stick around as mayor for another decade and a half!


There were more than 40 unclaimed victims of the heat disaster [here's a photo of a father and young son praying after tossing flowers on the coffins; click on "full-size"].

**  From an essay discussing urban trends of 2000-10:
"That was a tough decade all over the United States, of course, but the Chicago region lost 7.1 percent of its jobs—the worst performance of any of the country’s ten largest metro areas. Chicago’s vaunted Loop, the second-largest central business district in the nation, did even worse, losing 18.6 percent of its private-sector jobs…"
In addition, Chicago has long had a reputation for being one of the most racist and segregated cities in America… and this article touches on the lasting effects of that sorry legacy [see Table 1].

Friday, July 13, 2012

"And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away"

Those are the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Saint Matthew (11th chapter)... and they are referenced in Pope Paul VI’s challenge to the Church to never stop evangelizing in ‘Evangelii Nuntiandi’ ('Proclaiming the Gospel,' 1975):
"This kingdom and this salvation, which are the key words of Jesus Christ's evangelization, are available to every human being as grace and mercy, and yet at the same time each individual must gain them by force – they belong to the violent, says the Lord, through toil and suffering, through a life lived according to the Gospel, through abnegation and the cross, through the spirit of the beatitudes. But above all each individual gains them through a total interior renewal which the Gospel calls metanoia; it is a radical conversion, a profound change of mind and heart."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Five most recent popes

In January 1959, a few months after being elected, John XXIII declared that he was convening an ecumenical council.  When Cardinal Montini of Milan [the eventual Paul VI] heard the stunning news, he phoned a friend:

“This holy old boy doesn’t know what a hornet’s nest he’s stirred up.”

John Paul I, the "September Pope" of 1978 who suddenly died one month into his tenure, was the first ever to use the pronoun “I” instead of the royal “we” – his motto was “Humilitas.”  This is how he began his remarks on his first full day in office:

“Yesterday morning I went to the Sistine Chapel to vote tranquilly.  Never could I have imagined what was about to happen…”

George Weigel, the biographer of John Paul II, interviewed Joseph Ratzinger in 1996 [the German cardinal became Benedict XVI a decade later] on his impressions of his boss:

“The principal theme of the Holy Father, when he was professor and also when he was pope, has been anthropology…
“His study of philosophy was always centered on and guided by this anthropological interest
“For me, his first encyclical, ‘Redemptor Hominis,’ is really a synthesis of his thinking.  Here we can meet this passion for anthropology as not merely intellectual, but as a total passion for man… This is a key text for understanding the Holy Father as a spiritual and intellectual figure.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"Blood-thirsty butchers, one and all"

Click on this picture (no, it’s not W.C. Fields with the Three Stooges and a couple Marx Brothers)…

The six Soviets, left to right: Mikoyan, Khrushchev, Stalin, Malenkov, Beria, Molotov.

Joseph Stalin died of a stroke in March 1953.  His longtime head of the secret police, Lavrenty Beria, was arrested several months later and executed in December (he was 54 years old).

During the war years, Beria would often glide down the midnight streets of Moscow in his regal Packard [the luxury car company founded in Warren, Ohio, by two brothers in 1899]… and have his bodyguards grab random young women for a night of feasting and rape.

[At the Yalta conference, Stalin introduced Beria to President Roosevelt as "our Himmler" (the Nazi organizer of the death camps)].


Monday, July 9, 2012

MondayMap: Syria

Here at AOA, we believe that the triad of physical geography, religious loyalties, and military history goes a long way in explaining most dilemmas of current affairs.

One of the most astute blogs that considers these factors seriously is by a Catholic geographer at GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELS.

Our MondayMap this week is a reference to his map and explanation of Syria, and the divisions which shaped the original French Mandate after the First World War.

For those of us who advocate a military enclave or state for Christians in the Mideast while we winter out the Arab Spring – this map has a lot of lessons.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pence on Monsieur Renan's "What is a Nation?"

The Frenchman, Ernest Renan (1823-1892), wrote an essay refuting  Germanic theories of the nation as a racial group, Enlightenment theories of geographic determinism, and Machiavellian notions of the state as the last sword standing. [It was first delivered as a lecture at the Sorbonne].

On this Fourth of July in gratitude to the French nation and Lafayette for helping us win our Independence, in appreciation of Tocqueville for helping us understand our national character, let us learn from another Frenchman:
"A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth are but one, constitute this soul or spiritual principle. One lies in the past, one in the present. One is the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories; the other is present-day consent, the desire to live together, and the will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has received in an undivided form. Man, Gentlemen, does not improvise. The nation, like the individual, is the culmination of a long past of endeavours, sacrifice, and devotion. Of all cults, that of the ancestors is the most legitimate, for the ancestors have made us what we are. A heroic past, great men, glory (by which I understand genuine glory), this is the social capital upon which one bases a national idea. To have common glories in the past and to have a common will in the present; to have performed great deeds together, to wish to perform still more -- these are the essential conditions for being a people. One loves in proportion to the sacrifices to which one has consented, and in proportion to the ills that one has suffered. One loves the house that one has built and that one has handed down. The Spartan song -- 'We are what you were; we will be what you are' -- is, in its simplicity, the abridged hymn of every patrie."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Continental Army’s best regiment

The historian John Ferling writes:
"...[B]eginning in 1778, the New England states, and eventually all Northern states, enlisted African-Americans, a practice that Congress had initially forbidden. Ultimately, some 5,000 blacks bore arms for the United States, approximately 5 percent of the total number of men who served in the Continental Army. The African-American soldiers made an important contribution to America’s ultimate victory.

"In 1781, Baron Ludwig von Closen, a veteran officer in the French Army, remarked that the 'best [regiment] under arms' in the Continental Army was one in which 75 percent of the soldiers were African-Americans."
In his essay, Ferling also gives the revolutionary militiamen their due (General Washington was no fan): “The militia had its shortcomings, to be sure, but America could not have won the war without it.”

Monday, July 2, 2012

As Brazil population approaches 200 million, percentage of Catholics on steep decline

In 1970, more than ninety percent of Brazilians were Roman Catholic – but the figure has dropped below two-thirds.
Evangelicals are almost a quarter of the population now.

In other words, in Brazil, Catholics are less than 8/12 and falling.  Evangelicals are nearly 3/12 and rising.

[There are about 1.2 billion Catholics in the world; half of them live in Latin America.

The five countries with the greatest number of Catholics: Brazil, Mexico, Philippines, USA, and Italy.

The five U.S. states with the greatest percentage of Catholics: Rhode Island (63 percent), Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York].

One of the churchmen mentioned as a leading contender to become the next pope: Cardinal Odilo Scherer.
He is the archbishop of Sao Paulo – the largest archdiocese in the country.  His mother’s family was originally from Germany.

[Cardinal Scherer looks like he could be a blood brother to the man who, in recent decades, has exhibited more common sense and trust in the people than anyone else in our nation's capital: Brian Lamb, C-Span's best interviewer].