Right now, someone -- frequently more than just one as these web dwellers gather like flash mobs at the farthest end of long chains of tenuous connections -- is planning to “friend” you on Facebook.
Bulletins from the Human Side
Gossipy rumors have been mixed with more than a pinch of midsummer madness and served, stirred but not chilled, as a James Bond-like intrigue cocktail for Vatican conspiracy theorists who like to keep a glow on their paranoia.
The main ingredients are the leaked confidential papers of Pope Benedict XVI in an incident that has led to interpretations of such battles for influence inside the Curia that Der Spiegel claims that the "mood at the Vatican is apocalyptic."
Famed baseball manager Casey Stengel was so stunned by the studied ineptitude of the New York Mets in their first season of play that, after his first baseman was hit on the head by the foul ball he was trying to catch, he asked plaintively, "Doesn't anybody around here know how to play this game?"
On the basis of reports over the last few weeks, that might be a question that can be raised of the officials for whom administering the church seems more like a mystery they cannot solve rather than a Mystery they are called to safeguard and celebrate.
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" the psalmist sang plaintively long centuries ago, raising a question that becomes our question, too, when a friend like famed Chicago lawyer Philip Corboy dies. The Old Testament bard answers his own question, and ours, before its echo dies away: "He that hath clean hands, and is pure of heart: who hath not lifted up his soul in vanity, nor sworn deceitfully."
Could words better than these be found to give us a feeling for Phil Corboy, who cleared the hill of the Lord this week after breaking time's hold on him? Finally free of its constraints, he entered the eternal field with which he was already so familiar that what seemed a leave-taking to us was a homecoming for him.
Indeed, those guarding this border waved Phil through, for he had nothing to declare and had made passage into the realm of the eternal often during his years in time. It was an easy transit for Phil because in his calling to serve the law and to love his family -- and the extended family that stretched out around him like the needy and sick at a shrine -- he forgot himself, because he was fully given to thinking of others.
I have pleasant enough memories of Cardinal William Levada who, as a young worker bee in the hive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, helped me find my way through the dim warrens of the old Holy Office when I was questioned there more moons ago than I can now count. I cannot erase my gratitude despite his persistent efforts, now that he runs the whole waxworks of the congregation, to make me, along with millions of others, wonder if he lets his right hand know what his left hand is doing. Or perhaps that is exactly what bright young clerics must learn to do if they are to reach their career goals.
Cardinal Levada -- I would call him Darth, but NCR's editor won't let me -- has, of course, also had to master a straight face when issuing, as he did this week, updated norms originally drafted when Paul VI was pope "regarding the manner of proceeding in the discernment of presumed apparitions or revelations."
The death of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s estranged wife, Mary, makes us wonder if a demonic terrorist beyond anyone's cunning to capture has the freedom of the Kennedy compound and will not let the wounds inflicted on one generation heal before inflicting deeper ones on the next. The bell of sorrows groans in the No Man's Land fog stretching from then to now, from the changeless past that possesses us into a present that turns away from us before we can grasp its hand.
The death of Mary Richardson Kennedy seems a flag of distress raised uncertainly by someone who does not believe anyone will see it. There is something almost unutterably sad in the news reports, as if they came from a stark and distant desert, windless except for the long sigh of human loneliness that rolls across it.
Our age is marked by the search for a place deep and remote enough to store the radioactive waste whose deadliness is reflected in a hallway, endless and mirrored, of half-lives. This news reminds us that humanity's real problem is to find a place remote and deep enough to hold its sorrows, the sadness that has no half-life and that is stored, only half-hidden, within the human heart.
America’s bishops have plenty to worry about but not, as some of them claim, that gay marriage threatens to “undermine the institution of marriage.” That, as Jimmy Breslin once wrote, is like “blaming the Johnstown (Pa.) flood on a leaky toilet in Altoona.”
Madison Wisconsin's Bishop Robert Morlino, displays, among other items on his coat of arms, a golden turret that, according to the designers of his heraldry, symbolizes a place "in which to take refuge on the journey, to reset ..."
It may be time for the good bishop, after months of contentious interactions with his people, to move, if not to a golden turret of refuge -- the kind many bishops are said to prefer -- then at least to a neutral corner in which to reset his relationships with his people.
The gods of irony wince at the news that in the very week of celebrating the Good Shepherd Morlino has threatened to deny communion, confession, and Christian burial to those of his flock who have objected to their treatment by the self-styled conservative priests of the Spanish Society of Jesus Christ the Priest whom he assigned to parish and other pastoral work in the diocese. (See the NCR news report here.)
The sound you hear all across Catholic America today is that of Rachel's weeping again over the unnecessary and undeserved suffering that has been heaped by a righteous-sounding Cardinal William Levada, the pope's man at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the women religious of this country.
We gaze together at the seas long smoothed over at the place where the RMS Titanic went down a century ago. Like the psalmist who sang “Out of the depths I have cried unto you, O Lord,” so the Titanic still cries out to us from the depths of the iceberg-crowned waters, a thousand and more voices speaking to us of the wounds of loss that a hundred years of solitude on the sandy floor of the Atlantic have not healed.
Water is the medium of true Mystery, carrying to us the voices of the lost passengers from the wreckage strewn like the pearls spilled out of a dowager’s purse across what the marine investigators term the “debris field” of the great vessel.
Even as collectors try to scoop them up, these objects testify that this is not debris but rather a human field. These little fittings of ordinary life – razors and combs, pens and buckles and brooches – whisper of their owners, bringing them to life so that we stand on the deck next to them, knowing what they do not of the destiny that will suddenly engulf them along with plans and dreams not far different from our own.