Every commentator describes the rescue of the Chilean miners as a miracle, a concept that is typically used to describe, as the Oxford English Dictionary expresses it, “a marvelous event not ascribable to human power ... and therefore attributable to supernatural ... agency.”
Bulletins from the Human Side
After his 19th century visit to America, Charles Dickens expressed great sympathy for anybody who was elected president. No sooner did a man get elected, he noted ruefully, than the people not only began to criticize him but to work toward getting him out of office. Ask any president, in or out of office; they can tell you all about it. But so can Pope Benedict XVI whose resignation is demanded almost daily by one group or another because of his dealing with the clergy sex abuse crisis that has gripped the church for a decade.
Yes, in church and state
Chicago has become the media’s favorite shooting gallery.
“Chicago-style” is like buckshot for snide commentators who feel they can’t miss if they use it to blast away at anything they don’t like in current national politics. Most of these itchy fingered observers do not live in Chicago, many have never even been there, and, from studying them, they don’t seem to know much beyond what they learn from their own papers -- which, of course, they write that themselves.
The most striking part of the papal visit to Britain was not its regal splendor but its human poignancy. It was more touching than overwhelming to watch these still spry eighty-somethings, Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Benedict XVI, greet each other with the kind of affectionate wariness on display when, after extensive family discussions about if and when and who will sit where, prospective in-laws finally meet -- shielding their doubts about what will come of it with the practiced grace of good manners.
The real problem may be that archbishops don’t have enough to do. That probably explains why Archbishop Denis Hart of the Melbourne, Australia archdiocese recently banned “romantic ballads, pop or rock music, political ... and football club songs” at funerals -- explaining that the ceremonies should be devoted to prayer for the soul of the deceased.
We talk about the quick end of summer but it actually dies slowly. We root for it as it fights, as doomed and gallantly as the defenders of the Alamo, to preserve its sunlit freedom against the assault of autumn that takes us prisoner and repatriates us to the routine days in which we live most of our lives. The sure sacramental sense of the church is nowhere more evident than in its designation of this period as ordinary time.
"The bishops," Catholics concluded of their supposed shepherds’ reactions to the explosion of the sex abuse scandal a long desert of a decade ago, "they just don’t get it." Laypeople were expressing their frustration that church leaders did not, or could not, see this tragedy -- even after it had been dragged kicking and screaming out of the darkness and into the light of day as a hypocritical betrayal of everything the church was supposed to stand for.
First, the bishops didn’t get that it was a scandal -- that is, as the Oxford English Dictionary describes the specific religious use of the term, a "discredit to religion occasioned by the conduct of a religious person." Like the astronauts who signaled "Houston, we have a problem," they sighed "Dallas, we have a problem" as they nervously assembled in that city to see what they could do about it.
Even their advocates make the new liturgical translations sound like medicine for -- instead of the symptoms of -- a disorder that demeans the sacramental nature of Catholicism. Swallow this they urge -- like mothers forcing a spoon aquiver with spring tonic on their young -- it will be good for you. Thus Our Sunday Visitor reassures readers that responding "and with your spirit" is superior to "and also with you" because it literally mimics the original Latin, which, of course, is exactly what is wrong with it.
The theology of the body or how to keep catholics feeling guilty
Paralleling Groucho Marx’s famous line, "either this man is dead or my watch has stopped," Cardinal Rigali either doesn’t know that Pope John Paul II is dead or his watch has stopped and he doesn’t know that he can stop running for a red hat. The old clerical gag during his time in Rome was that his cassock was always rain spotted from standing in St. Peter’s Square during the ambition storms that are to the Vatican what tsunamis are to the South Seas, waiting for the lightning strike that would transform him into a cardinal archbishop.
Clerical culture's constituents resemble golf club members afraid that women, if accepted, would storm the locker room and see the emperors without their clothes on or the raw truth about monsignors. But also like many golfers they are mostly nice guys with good taste and good manners. And that, of course, is where they get those Catholics who, in the Wagnerian weather of the Ratzinger regime, search for a break in the massive thunderheads that trail back to the lightning filled storm that broke over Vatican I after it voted for papal infallibility and hurried to a close.