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Bulletins from the Human Side

Frock coats and fiddle back vestments


John Allen reports that in a forthcoming papal equivalent of an executive order, Pope Benedict XVI will initiate a "liturgical movement" that, with unintentional irony, he terms "new" even though it is old enough to be appraised on "Antiques Road Show." Allen concludes that the pontiff, invoking the mantra of "continuity," wants to "restore what (he)… and like-minded observers believe was lost in the post-Vatican II period." In short, this is the latest move to "reform the Reform" of Vatican II.

The devil is back


Not since the early 1970s, and the novel and movie "The Exorcsist," in which the main signal of satanic possession of a pubescent girl was her accuracy at picking off ministering priests with projectile vomiting, has the devil enjoyed so much attention. This time, however, the wily one's card is placed on our tray not by moviemakers admittedly out to make a buck but by church officials apparently out to make us pay attention to them.

If celibacy is such a jewel why won't the pope let us look at it?


Determined to put down any threat to his already tottering autocracy, Tsar Nicholas allowed his troops to shoot into the crowds who were gathering before his palace seeking to tell him of his people’s widespread grievances. Is this the precedent for deploying Vatican sharpshooters on the roof of St. Peter’s to pick off anybody, from low level Catholics to high ranking Cardinals, who tells the Pope that celibacy may not be the “brilliant jewel” he thinks it is.

The Sacrament in the Gulf


The rig rests in the depths of the Gulf bleeding oil from its ruins, bleeding symbolically for the fishermen and workers it has visited with loss. A Tower of media Babel has risen above it, from which pundits analyze the wreck as an economic problem to be calculated, a political crisis not to be wasted, or an engineering puzzle to be solved. But even religious leaders have not yet spoken of this event as a spiritual Mystery that tracks our daily pilgrimage as a biblical pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night did that of the Israelites in Exodus.

If the church ordained women, there would be no sex abuse crisis


Some years ago I asked in a column, "If the church ordained women would there be fewer abortions?" I suggested that recognizing women as fully equal with men would have obviated centuries of the repression, injustice, and pain inflicted on women and cleared the air of the edgy suspicion and anxiety with which many men, including church leaders, have regarded women throughout the centuries.

It's too easy to say that it's sin


The beleaguered Pope Benedict XVI has dealt with the sex abuse crisis like a shy bachelor who holds back from stepping onto the dance floor at the parish social. A lifetime of dealing abstractly with men and women from the safe perch of a classroom podium did not exactly prepare him for the immersion in the human rhythms of intimacy that define the dance even on church property.

Sermon on the mount: the first gathering of cafeteria Catholics


You can tell them, as the Gospel puts it, a long way off. They are so puffed up with the hot air of self righteousness they resemble a covey of balloons jouncing against each other as they wait for take-off.

These are not just Catholics who want to preserve the Catholic values they cherish; they are rather those who, as careless of the truth as political consultants, sling mud at followers of Vatican II. If they took any more pleasure in denouncing the latter as "cafeteria Catholics" they would almost certainly commit a mortal sin.


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