I want to reflect on the death of a good friend, extraordinary human being, and outstanding scholar, Professor Luis Leal, my colleague here at the University of California, Santa Barbara who died on Jan. 25 of this new year. Prof. Leal, or Don Luis, as we affectionately called him, was 102 years old and his age finally caught up to him.
tTwo new documents concerning Pius XII and the Holocaust unearthed in an English archive seem destined to add fuel to the fire of an already polarized debate about the World War II-era pope’s alleged “silence.”
tItalian news agencies are reporting today that the first document is a brief account of an Oct. 19, 1943, meeting between Pius XII and the American Ambassador to the Holy See, Harold Tittmann. Although that session came just three days after the deportation of Roman Jews by the Nazis, the subject apparently did not arise.
Instead, Tittmann reported that Pius XII urged the Allies to ensure that the city of Rome did not become a battleground.
tPius XII also expressed concern, according to the document, about “small bands of Communists” operating around the city which might commit acts of violence between the departure of German occupying forces and the arrival of the Allies. Reportedly, he also stated that up to that point, the German occupiers had demonstrated respect for the Holy See.
This morning I was reading this enlightening piece on the BBC Web site when I heard from a friend who told me of a small business owner who was puzzled that most people in his firm's work force oppose health care reform. He was puzzled about why his employes could be opposed to something that would so clearly be to their benefit.
The BBC story asks much the same question and reports some very interesting answers.
"Brigit was remade in Christian form and occupies a space between myth and history, pagan and Christian, oral and written, vernacular and Latin, folkloric and ecclesiastical. She may be contextualised either way, to be purely a Celtic goddess or purely a Christian saint. Yet both these versions of her are incomplete, mutilations of the complex and multifaceted reality. Thus, Ó Catháin's suggestion she be designated the 'Holy Woman' is an excellent one since, whether pagan or Christian, Brigit is always distinguished by her holiness and her femaleness."
--"Brigit: Goddess, Saint, 'Holy Woman', and Bone of Contention", by Carole Cusack, Associate Professor of Studies in Religion at The University of Sydney
tBob Dole once quipped that being Vice President of the United States is a great gig: “It’s indoor work, and there’s no heavy lifting.” For journalists, predicting the future is much the same – it sounds terribly smart, yet it requires no real effort because there’s no way to be wrong, at least at the time the prediction is made.
tLater on, however, the bills come due if your forecasts turn out to be off the mark. The only way to save face is to get ahead of the curve, before someone else calls attention to your mistakes. Hence one function of this blog is to acknowledge when things don’t seem to be developing in quite the way I suggested in The Future Church, and recent events in Italy suggest just such a case with regard to the Catholic Church and immigration.
tIn a nutshell, I opined that the future might see a growing divide between European and American bishops on immigration, with the Americans becoming staunchly pro-immigrant and the Europeans more cautious. The basic reason is that a disproportionate share of new immigrants to the United States are Hispanic, thus Catholic, while in Europe they tend to be from the Middle East and North Africa, hence Muslim.
News of the death of Sister Mary Daniel Turner stirred in me sadness and gratitude.
She had given generously of her time to help me understand the joys and trials of American sisters in responding to the challenges from Vatican II.
The book she wrote with Sister Lara Quinonez, "The Transformation of American Sisters," was a staple in documenting that era. Failures on my part to grasp that period therefore couldn't be attributed to her. She had been a careful guide.
The most poignant memory, however, is the time I spent with her at the home for men off the streets of Washington, D.C., who were dying of AIDS. She had helped found the shelter.
Her work in that center epitomized what it meant to be an apostolic religious. She had forsaken comforts and entered into the suffering of human beings at the very fringe of society.
Her account of her ministry was no fairy tale of an angelic Florence Nightingale gliding unscathed among the sick and dying. To the contrary, she said she had struggled to cope with the pain and agony of poor men ravaged by disease in order to avert total emotional devastation.
At the risk of making this blog a obituary column, I'll share the death of Ralph McInerny, best known as the author of the Father Dowling mysteries that were made into a television series in the late 1980s and early '90s.
McInerny died Jan. 29 at the age of 80, reported the Zenit news agency.
Those familiar with his popular books (he also wrote under several pen names, including "Monica Quill") might not have known he was the co-founder with Michael Novak of the conservative Catholic journal Crisis magazine (now online as Inside Catholic).
He had retired last year as a professor of philosophy and Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame, where he had been director of the Jacques Maritain Center from 1979 to 2006. He also was outspoken in opposing President Barack Obama's appearance at last year's Notre Dame commencement.
In The Future Church I identify “evangelical Catholicism” as a key trend, defined as a strong reassertion of traditional Catholic identity coupled with an impulse to express that identity in the public realm. At a purely descriptive level that claim is a no-brainer, because the evidence is crystal clear – from revival of the old Latin Mass, to new demands that pro-choice Catholic politicians be brought to heel.
tThe $64,000 question isn’t whether the trend exists, but what to make of it.
For those who did not watch the President’s meeting with the House Republican Caucus in Baltimore yesterday, try and catch it on C-Span this weekend. Unlike the State of the Union, which even when it is good, is a set piece with little dramatic impact, yesterday’s back and forth with the opposition was fascinating, both good politics and good theater. It has been compared to “Question Time,” when a British Prime Minister weekly (and sometimes weakly) submits to questions from members of the House of Commons. Of course, American politics, in formal settings, lacks the rough-and-tumble of the Commons, but the event in Baltimore came as close to anything I have seen in a long time in forcing the participants past the their own sound-bites.