Monday, December 26, 2011

Odds and Ends

First, a new policy on comments. If you post as "Anonymous", you must sign the comment with your name. You know my name, our readers should know your name. Since lately "Anonymous" comments have been more or less this ...


"Kevin, you are utterly pathetic and not to be trusted. Reading your stuff I realize what a coward and a cad you are. You are a very low form of life. I am amazed at how judgmental, hateful and closed-minded you are. You are a few notches below morally reprehensible. I don't believe a word you say about Bishop Finn, Father Corapi, Father Pavone, or Michael Voris. You are not even as good of a person as Judas."


... I feel that such commenters should at least have the gumption to embarrass themselves by name.


Second, here's my review of Midnight in Paris, the most recent Woody Allen movie.



So the trailer of "Midnight in Paris" made it look like an interesting romantic comedy - character comedy. Then about 15 minutes in it becomes a narcissistic fantasy. Woody Allen at his lamest.


I looked up "self-indulgent" in the dictionary. There was a picture of Woody Allen.


‎20 minutes before the end of the film, it's all "let's add stupid onto stupid" and see what we get. It's either 2stupid or stupid squared. Not sure which.


I looked on the side of the box and this is what it said: Take a pseudo-intellectual worldview, moronic and predictable plot elements, mix in some interesting directing and a few scenes of good dialogue and you get this waste of 90 minutes.


The photography was interesting, but Owen Wilson's acting choices consisted of "be a blonde Woody Allen". An insultingly bad movie.


- Anonymous

Monday, December 12, 2011

What if "Life is Good" Sued "Life Sucks"?




I hate people, and it turns out that might be a registered trademark.


Let me explain.


My daughter Kerry talked us into driving down to Lafayette Square last Sunday to get brunch. Lafayette Square is a trendy St. Louis neighborhood where rehabbers live, surrounded by the ghetto on four sides. But once a year all the Yuppies from West St. Louis County come down to Lafayette Square for the Lafayette Square House Tour, and for an hour or two it's safe to walk the streets - unless you fear white collar crime: for example, getting a fraudulent stock tip from a middle aged guy in trendy sweater at brunch before the house tour starts.


So there they were, hundreds of them milling about, and our little brunch place so crowded you couldn’t get in the front door.


“I hate people,” I observed to my wife Karen, who was driving.


“Should we go to Uncle Bill’s?” Karen asked, Uncle Bill’s being the only restaurant left in St. Louis that still serves buckwheat pancakes.


“It’s 1:00 on a Sunday afternoon,” I replied. “It’s impossible to get into Uncle Bills at 1:00 on a Sunday afternoon. This is the busiest time for Sunday brunch – the hour when all the churches are done, and the hour when all the pagan fornicators in their twenties are just getting out of bed and taking their sleepover partners to get more bacon, sitting there with their bleary-eyed stare, wearing last night’s outfit and trying to wake up over coffee and buckwheat pancakes, a bit too embarrassed to look each other in the eye.”


“Dad, you are so crabby,” said Kerry.


“I hate people,” I added as a rejoinder, sinking back into the passenger seat, and ready to sink into a foul temper that would last the rest of the Christian Sabbath.


And then I saw it.


A sticker in the back window of one of the cars parked along the street. It was a picture of a cloud, light blue and inside the cloud was the phrase LIFE IS GOOD.


Well, heck, even an old curmudgeon like me can be swayed by a cliché in a car window two weeks before Christmas. LIFE IS GOOD, I thought. God is simply talking to me. LIFE IS GOOD, stop complaining, stop hating people. Why am I so crabby?


And then I saw it – a little tiny “R” in a circle.


LIFE IS GOOD – REGISTERED TRADEMARK.


“This is a marketing slogan!” I exclaimed. “LIFE IS GOOD has become a marketing slogan!”



Years ago, I received a letter from a guy in Texas who told me that if I ever again produced my comedy murder mystery entitled Murder on the Disoriented Express, he would sue me, as he had a registered trademark on that phrase. And then – in the same letter – he told me that he was a playwright, too, and would I consider producing some of his plays? I am not making this up. (Did I mention I hate people?)


I wrote back and noted that it would be pretty difficult to defend a trademark that’s based on a copyrighted work by another author – in this case Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. In addition to that, copyright law does not protect titles of works, as I understand it, while it does protect parody – but after several angry emails back and forth between me and this guy’s lawyer, the whole thing reminded me of the time that Warner Brothers threatened to sue the Marx Brothers for making A Night in Casablanca, claiming it was an infringement on the Warner Brothers movie Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.


Groucho wrote


***


Dear Warner Brothers,


Apparently there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own. For example, up to the time that we contemplated making this picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers. However, it was only a few days after our announcement appeared that we received your long, ominous legal document warning us not to use the name Casablanca. …


I just don’t understand your attitude. Even if you plan on releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.


***


The whole correspondence is quite funny and it can be found here.



But even though Groucho and I don’t take these trademark issues seriously, corporate folks do, even when they’re trying to trademark something that is not only a cliché (LIFE IS GOOD) but a tenet of the Catholic Church, taught for over 2,000 years. I mean, heck, right before God rested on His very first Sabbath Day, way back in Genesis Chapter One, He looked at life and said IT IS GOOD. Seems God the Father might have a claim on this phrase Himself, having coined it a few billion years ago, just a few God-Days after the Big Bang.


But a registered trademark the phrase indeed is.



A quick Google search indicates that LIFE IS GOOD is some sort of clothing line, some trendy feel-good fornicate-and-sleep-til-noon-save-the-planet clothing line. Oh, and they train children on how to play.


That’s right, they train children on how to play.


It’s a clothing line. And they make bumper stickers. And they train child care workers to help children release their psychological issues caused by trauma by playing.


But not just playing the way kids play. Playing the way the adults say is best for your bruised and battered psyches for you to play, dammit! Now shut up and let me teach you the only thing a kid never needs to be taught – HOW TO PLAY!


Now, seriously, I’m sure there are benefits to “play therapy”, and I’m sure the owners of LIFE IS GOOD REGISTERED TRADEMARK have the best intentions when it comes to helping traumatized children. (Actually I’m not so sure they have the best intentions; this is all corporate branding, in a way). But why they’re doing NOTHING to combat GLOBAL WARMING is beyond me. And I certainly hope they sponsor the Lafayette Square Gay Pride Parade next summer – but at least they’re doing something until then. At least they’re in the Oprah spirit, after all, if not the Christmas spirit. Still – “Child Care Worker, teach me to play …” I just can’t quite picture it.


At any rate, be warned that if you are a young Distributist selling genuine dark buckwheat pancake mix (discontinued by Aunt Jemimah and becoming almost impossible to find) at a kiosk you’ve built with your own hands on a street corner in Lafayette Square just south of downtown St. Louis, be sure to tell your customers to HAVE A NICE DAY and be sure you do not utter the phrase LIFE IS GOOD, because that observation – hell, that basic fact – is now a REGISTERED TRADEMARK protected by the Federal Court System of the United States of America, the same government that is now owned and operated by Goldman Sachs and BOA. So WATCH IT.



Well, if there’s any consolation, at least LIFE SUCKS is not registered.


Oh, wait a minute – it IS! See http://www.lifesucksinc.com/files/info.pdf - where it clearly says, “LIFE SUCKS is a registered trademark of LIFE SUCKS INC.”


Now what can I say when I’m really really crabby? “REGISTERED TRADEMARK and then you die!” Come on, that just won’t do.


Wait.


Maybe if I register as a trademark the phrase HAPPY HOLIDAYS I can get people to start saying MERRY CHRISTMAS instead, for fear of being sued.


Now that’s the Christmas spirit!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Seed of Grace


We know that at the moment of the Immaculate Conception, the New Testament silently begins. It begins in a hidden way, without any fiat from Mary or her mother. It begins entirely with grace, as everything begins.


The Kingdom of Heaven at Mary's Immaculate Conception was smaller than a mustard seed, less noticeable than a pinch of yeast, surrounded by the darkness of a womb - a darkness that did not overcome it. And yet from this small and seemingly insignificant beginning, the Kingdom has come among us in power and clarity.


Fourteen or so years later, the Kingdom has another small and hidden beginning. John the Baptist is conceived before Our Lord begins to live in the Virgin's womb. And while we know that Mary says yes to God when the angel appears to her, we know that Zechariah breathed out a kind of no. He responds to Gabriel with a doubt.


In that doubt is the antithesis of Faith; in that doubt is the kind of No that can undo the Kingdom. And in that doubt is the last word Zechariah speaks until his lips are free to affirm God's plan at the birth of Zechariah's son. "His name is John" is Zechariah's Yes to the absurdity (in human terms) of the Providence of the Lord. His first words in nine months, his first utterance after his penance of being unable to speak are a surprising and even shocking "Yes". It is his way of saying, "I renounce my selfish and personal claim to the identity of my only son; I offer him up to this new order which is breaking through, to the glory we are beginning to glimpse behind a torn veil."


And then when Our Lady says Yes - when she gives her fiat - her action is less active than it is passive. It is an action that allows, that suffers, that permits God as the active source of grace to work his wonders through her, through His Son, and through us.


If we don't have the courage to say Yes, may we at least have the grace to stop saying No.

The Price We're Paying




Above: Fr. Shawn Ratigan, with children.


I have learned, both from private correspondence and from Donohue's rants at the Catholic League, that the defenders of Bishop Finn have come up with a game plan and talking points.


Their case amounts to this:


THERE WAS NO SEXUAL ABUSE. Bishop Finn can not be guilty of failure to report sexual abuse. When Fr. Ratigan took pictures of the crotches of little girls at his parish and at least one set of photos of a naked two-year old, he was NOT ABUSING CHILDREN.


So, my fellow conservative Catholics, we can indeed spare ourselves embarrassment and our hero, Bishop Finn, from a tarnished reputation, but to do so we have to pay a very hefty price.


The price is our own kids.


Just be prepared, if you make this sacrifice, for what it entails. It entails the normilization of perverse behavior, and it also means that if one of your children is victimized in this way, you can say nothing, for your naked two-year old, fodder for the fantasies of a warped soul, may be used in this way without you being able to become as indignant as every fiber of common sense, every instict, and every ounce of the Law of Love indicates you should.


And if you've got an eight-year-old whose crotch appears dozens of times in jpg's on Fr. Ratigan's computer?


Tough.


We've got a reputation to save.


For more info, see The Full Story on Bishop Finn and The Spin Shall Set You Free

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reuters on Bishop Finn

Reuters publishes a thorough summary of the Bishop Finn / Fr. Ratigan case here. My own summary of the case is here.


The destruction of evidence, abetted by Bishop Finn, is acknowledged by the police in this article to have been "a significant blow" to the criminal investigation.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Programming from Theater of the Word




Pictured: Theater of the Word programming director, Sid the Christmas Elf, planning Theater of the Word's televised Christmas schedule


My actress Maria Romine, who knows these things, tells me that some of the Christmas-themed programming from Theater of the Word Incorporated will air on EWTN this Advent and Christmas season.


Our episode A MORNING STAR CHRISTMAS will air on EWTN on the following dates and times ...


Tuesday, December 20 at 5:30 pm Eastern / 4:30 Central
Wednesday, December 21 at 11:00 pm Eastern / 10:00 pm Central
Saturday, December 24 at 4:00 am Eastern / 3:00 am Central
Tuesday, December 27 at 5:00 am Eastern / 4:00 am Central


Here's a clip from that episode starring me and Frank Zito




And then Chesterton's THE SURPRISE, in which I play the romantic lead (what else?), and which is a delightful play that's kind of a Christmas story (it's a fairy tale inspired by the Incarnation), airs on the following dates and times ...


Sunday, December 18 at 8:00 pm Eastern / 7:00 pm Central
Friday, December 23 at 1:00 pm Eastern / Noon Central
Monday, December 26 at 2:00 am Eastern / 1:00 am Central




And may we all have a blessed Advent and Christmas season!

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Can't Get Free of Free-Father-Frank


As I've mentioned before, as soon as I got tired of receiving beg emails every other day from Priests for Life and cancelled my email subscription, I began receiving spam emails from some shady outfit called freefrfrank.com. I won't link to their site, as the site tries to run scripts on me when I visit it and locks up Internet Explorer. There are no opportunities to unsubscribe from this spam, and it's coming to an address that only Priests for Life knew. In their latest spam, they carry a statement by Fr. Pavone about his priesthood. Clearly, Fr. Pavone is aware of this website (which, if you do manage to visit it you'll find contains what almost amounts to hate speech against Bishop Zurek). Clearly, Fr. Pavone's organization provided this site with my email address without my permission so that they might illegally spam me. Clearly, Fr. Pavone tacitly endorses these venomous attacks on his bishop. Clearly, when Fr. Pavone publicly supports doing bad so that good may come, we should take him at his word.


Anyone who gives a dime to Priests for Life at this point is a fool.

Shakespeare the Papist




The UK Telegraph reports today that the Vatican newspaper says there are "few doubts" that Shakespeare was a Catholic.


That's obviously the case, as anyone who has read Joseph Pearce's two books on the subject (The Quest for Shakespeare and Through Shakespeare's Eyes ) can tell you. Indeed, the documentary evidence alone (which Joseph covers in The Quest for Shakespeare) is what any unbiased observer would call conclusive, without even looking at the Catholic spirit and Catholic themes of the plays themselves (which Joseph covers in Through Shakespeare's Eyes).


But what a hornet's nest of comments appear on the UK Telegraph site! I haven't the patience to read them all, myself, but I encourage you to take a glance at them at least. If you doubt that anti-Catholicism is alive and well, the fervor and indignation of the commenters on this issue will satisfy you on that score. If there is any logic to be found in the commenters, the logic seems to be kind-of sort-of syllogistic ...


1. The Catholic Church is narrow and shadowy and judgmental


2. Shakespeare's plays are broad and lively and fun


3. Therefore, Shakespeare was not a Catholic.


But this bigotry takes many forms.


One commenter, for example, more or less says, "How dare the Vatican tell us what to believe about Shakespeare!" That comment is so wrong-headed it's hard to know where to begin. Behind it is nothing but confusion. First, it never occurs to the commenter that the Vatican is not exactly speaking with the authority of the Church, far less is one reporter working for L'Osservatore Romano; next, it never occurs to him that the Church is not in the business of issuing fatwas and snuffing out reasoned discussion on any subject, much less literary criticism or historical fact; and most importantly, that the question of Shakespeare's religion is just such a question of Historical Fact, a question that is independent of one's empathy toward or antipathy against the Church.


And there's the great irony that the anti-Catholic bigots in the UK Telegraph comboxes are all worked up that the Church is the enemy of reason, art and (as one Protestant commenter implies) Christ Himself - and they make these points in the most unreasonable, inartistic and antichristian way possible.


Well, Willie Shakespeare (God rest his soul) keeps learning after death what Catholics have known from the beginning - that Our Lord and Savior is a Sign of Contradiction, and that He will be spoken against, or sometimes simply ranted and raved against.


I would suggest that the Earl of Oxford wrote all of the comments in the UK Telegraph comboxes - but they're not the work of one man. They are the hallmark of chaos and contradiction - they are Legion.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Holy Spirit Doesn't Mind Tacky



Anglicans share a "deep seated belief that God always and everywhere is the arbiter of good taste," a friend of mine observed in an email to me.


"But the Holy Spirit doesn't mind tacky," I shot back.


My correspondent thought that in saying this I was, perhaps, advocating bad art, or even tacky liturgical music (Marty Haugen / David Haas), which I wasn't. So I elaborated as follows ...


Not long after my conversion I was reading our local non-conformist alternate weekly newspaper (which is exactly like all the other non-conformist alternate weekly newspapers in America and probably owned by the same company). It featured an article on a Pentecostal weekly gathering in rural Missouri, a holy roller church that was causing quite a stir and attracting large numbers of visitors. Since tired liberals in sweaters (the kind who write for and read the non-conformist alternate weeklies) are the snobbiest of snobs, the article was condescending and sneering. It made fun of fat ladies from Wal-Mart speaking in tongues; red neck teen-agers rolling on the floor; hick young men with mullets dancing in the aisles. And I thought, "Well, you folks might look down on these simpletons - but I doubt the Holy Spirit would." That is to say, Protestant heresies aside, the Third Person of the Trinity would no more mind the bad breath and gun-racks of Show Me State hill-billies than the Second Person of the Trinity minded the smell of animal dung in that stable so long ago.



In other words, the Holy Spirit doesn't mind working through tacky. He'll even work through the snobs who hate tacky. Sloppy "hoosiers" (as we call them) and immaculate "metro-sexuals", both. God embraces the butts of the jokes of cynical yuppies as well as the cynical yuppies making the jokes. We might be squeamish about either kind of neighbor (snobs and red necks), but the Holy Spirit isn't.


This is not to say we should aspire for tackiness - especially in the things we offer overtly to God. For instance, there's no reason the music at the typical Catholic parish should be an affront to all that is human, while the music at the nearly empty Episcopal parish down the block is reverent and beautiful.


But if bad taste alone kept God from redeeming us, there's not a suburban music minister I know of who would make it to heaven.


Yes, we must offer our best to God. But He offers His best to us even when we're at our worst.


That's my point.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

From Faith to Faith


There is an odd phrase in St. Paul that has long been debated by scholars. Romans 1:17 -


For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.


Paul seems to be saying that there is a kind of preliminary faith through which we are led to a deeper faith, in which the righteousness of God is revealed.


What, then, is this original faith? What is the first faith in "from faith to faith"?


Paul tells us right away, as he describes, by contrast, those non-Christians who have no original faith - that is to say who have no "good faith" and who approach the world in "bad faith". These are the unbelievers whose hearts are closed to belief, who see the evidence of God in the world around them, and who therefore know God at least in some inchoate way, but who neither glorify nor thank this not-yet-fully-known God. And though they have at least an inkling of Him, they become "vain in their imaginations", becoming fools with dark hearts who trade the source of creation for some petty part of creation that they worship in His stead. And, as Paul points out, with great psychological and spiritual insight, such folk of "bad faith" descend into a kind of ridiculousness and perversion.


Having been an atheist myself at a young age, I can attest to this. My atheism was not really an intellectual position - it was an exercise of ill will. It was crankiness. It was anger and disappointment. It was not a "good faith" philosophy, for it refused to acknowledge the truth and asserted instead the bile of my own dark heart.


We see this all the time, especially on the internet. Rarely will you find people arguing any subject in "good faith". Instead, you find people doing somersaults to justify their sins, and the venom that springs forth is called "argumentation". But it is not that. It is simply communication in "bad faith".


When (through drama) I began to see the mystery beyond my own petty tyranny, I began to approach the world in "good faith", which by the grace of God led, eventually, to the True Faith, the Catholic Faith.


At least in my case this was the meaning of "From Faith to Faith".

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bishop Finn is not Finn-ished




The headline in the Kansas City Star is a bit misleading. BISHOP FINN AVOIDS INDICTMENT BY ENTERING INTO DIVERSION PROGRAM. This is true, but only for Clay County, Missouri. Bishop Finn has already been indicted in Jackson County, Missouri and has pled not guilty in that case. Unless a deal is struck there, he will face a trial.


In the Clay County case, the prosecutor has agreed not to seek an indictment if Bishop Finn participates in a monthly program that in effect allows the county government to have a certain degree of hands-on involvement in running or monitoring the sexual abuse response programs of the diocese.


Reaction to this deal, as reported by the Star, runs from satisfaction to outrage. I think the most telling quote is this:


***


" ... For the church to put itself in a position where the only way out of its legal difficulties is to submit to the oversight of governmental authorities, just that is really a tragic day for the church," said Nicholas Cafardi, a law professor at Duquesne University and former chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth.


***


I, for one, am pleased that Bishop Finn agreed to use “all reasonable resources” to identify any child whose photograph or video emerges during a child abuse investigation, which is precisely what they did not do in the Fr. Ratigan case, which I explain in detail here and here.


But I still say, all legal questions aside, that the way to deal with this thing is with the use of one of the most powerful spiritual weapons at our disposal as Catholics - public penance by Bishop Finn.


Bishop Finn, we know you are not a monster. We know you are a follower of Christ; we know you are a shepherd in the Church, one of our leaders. Please do not lead by example when your example is merely worldly. Show us the power of the sacraments and of the grace of God for which you have dedicated your life. Cutting a deal for worldly reasons is one thing; doing public penance in sackcloth and ashes is quite another - not only would that act carry tremendous supernatural weight and set the devil scurrying, it would be the most powerful witness to Christians and agnostics alike - the witness to how we all should acknowledge and repent of our sins.


It may be the very act God has ordained you to; it may be the great good He looks for out of this sorry shambles of evil and cowardice He has allowed. Do not let this opportunity pass you by.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Madman and the Sane Man





Here I am as philosopher, madman, atheist, and syphilitic poet Frederich Nietzsche. Chuck Chalberg provides the balance.


From Season Six of The Apostle of Common Sense on EWTN.


The moustache was even more frightening in real life, as you can see from the contemporary drawing of the real Nietzsche by Hans Olde (right).

Sex and Success


"God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful," Bl. Teresa of Calcutta.


What do the following have in common:


  • Liberal Catholic support for contraception, abortion, divorce and perversion

  • Conservative Catholic support for Torture and Lying

  • Liberal Catholic support for socialism and Liberation Theology

  • Conservative Catholic support for folk heroes such as Maciel, Euteneuer, Corapi and Pavone

  • Liberal Catholic support for political candidates who advocate policies that help the poor and immigrants but who are otherwise vehemently anti-Catholic

  • Conservative Catholic vilification of anyone who is less than a "super disciple" or of anyone who dares criticize Conservative Catholic heroes


  • Answer: What they all have in common is Sex and Success.


    Let me explain.


    Over at Mark Shea's blog, Mark links to a National Catholic Register article in which he discusses voting and Catholics. "Scott W." of the blog Romish Internet Graffiti comments thus ...


    Actually, it’s not that difficult to find such candidates [candidates who don't support abortion or torture]. It is just difficult to find one with a chance of winning which really isn’t the point as we are called to be faithful, not effective.


    Scott is echoing Blessed Teresa's quote above, and in doing so he gets to the root of things - the root beneath the dissidence and turmoil we see in the Church in America.


    If an American Catholic is confused or dissenting, he is either a proponent of lust without limit or of success-over-sacrifice.


    What I mean by "success-over-sacrifice" is that, for Catholics on both the left and the right, results trump methods and ends justify means.


    This is what I would call the heresy of Activism, the belief that this world matters more than the next and that anything we do to compromise our effectiveness (our success) in this world is to be shunned. Therefore, the leftists will tell you that helping the poor is more important than obeying the Church on matters of faith and morals - for results trump methods and ends justify means. Rigthies will tell you that defeating abortion justifies lying, defeating Islam justifies torture, and being an effective (successful) super-disciple is more important than being an ineffective (unsuccessful) moral and faithful disciple - for results trump methods and ends justify means.


    And what we worship is not the God of Sacrifice and Suffering, but the false idol of Success.


    What they all forget is that this is the only faith where Failure is glorious, where by suffering and dying we heal and live, where the greatest worldly defeat may actually be the greatest worldly (and other-worldly) victory. What they all forget is that nasty item unique to the Catholic Church, not found in any other religion and not embraced by any other philosophy of the world, the cross.


    What they forget is we are called to be faithful, not successful.

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    Liar, Thou Pants on Fire


    The Church tells us that Lying is intrinsically evil and may never be done under any circumstances. The catechisms of John Paul II and Trent are both quite clear on this, as are bishops and popes all the way back to St. Augustine at least.


    There are those who respond by saying, "This is not Church teaching. This is one of a number of teachings on Lying, all of which contradict each other. The Church is not teaching with any authority on this matter. It is mere theological opinion and may safely be ignored."


    Well, it seems to me that all Christians would respect the authority of Holy Scripture, even if they argue about the authority of the Magisterium.


    What then are the Apologists for Lying to make of this, from Revelations 21:8, where God Himself tells St. John what types of people will be barred from entering into the Heavenly Kingdom of the New Jerusalem ...


    ***


    But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (King James Version)


    [In other words, all liars go to hell].


    ***


    See also Rev. 21:27 where this is reiterated - he that "maketh a lie" will be kept out of Heaven. In the New American translation, "But nothing unclear will enter it, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies."


    It seems to me that when liars are sent to hell along with murderers and idolaters, we had best take Church teaching on Lying seriously - and repent of our own lies, for it is simply the Truth that will set us free.


    And that's more than theological opinion.


    ***


    ADDENDUM - I added this to the combox, but it's worth adding here: it's not clear if it's God the Father telling St. John this stuff about liars going to hell or Jesus Christ, the Son. At any rate, there is a third reiteration of it, in Rev. 22:15, which is either Jesus speaking or John himself recapping the situation under the inspiration of the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit - "For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."


    Now, dear readers, a hallmark of this debate has been that the Lying Apologists do not address points my side makes. They side-step them and throw other objections at us. When we address those other objections, the things we say in reply are ignored and new objections are thrown at us. And so on.


    I'm tired of that technique. So if you wish to comment, please address what this post is about - GOD HIMSELF TELLING US THREE TIMES AT THE VERY END OF SCRIPTURE THAT ALL LIARS ARE SENT TO HELL. Please address that point - as it really can not be safely ignored.

    Obama Follows in the Footsteps of Conservative Catholics


    When President Obama yesterday thumbed his nose at the due process of law by refusing to answer a congressional subpoena (in the stirring tradition of Richard M. Nixon), he put a wonderful spin on it. Obama is above the law because ...


    "I can only conclude that your decision to issue a subpoena, authorized by a party-line vote, was driven more by partisan politics than a legitimate effort to conduct a responsible investigation."


    Now this is really a masterful way of winning while whining. The argument, you see, is not "executive privilege" but something more personal and more petty.


    And this is exactly the way some self-styled Conservative Catholics think.


    The argument is simply a twist on the end justifies the means. It's an argument that not only allows you to do whatever you want if your heart is in the right place, it also allows you to ignore and ridicule your neighbor because his heart isn't.


    Does Congress have the right to subpoena the President? Of course it does, but you may ignore the rule of law if Congress is, in your estimation, poorly motivated.


    Has Bishop Finn behaved abysmally in the Fr. Ratigan case in Kansas City? Of course he has, but you may ignore that if his critics, in your estimation, are out to get him.


    Is the Church clear that Lying and Torture are Intrinsically evil? Of course it is, but you may lie and torture anyway if, in your estimation, you're a good guy doing these things for the right reasons.


    Mark Shea quotes G. K. Chesterton at length here, the most telling quote being ...


    "When Religion would have maddened men, Theology kept them sane."


    Our theology teaches us that we must obey the moral precepts of the Church even when we don't feel like it and even if it hurts to do so. For what is right is more important than our self-sufficiency, our mistaken notion that good people always do good if they mean well - and our inane conviction that we are always good people.


    Take a look at the arrogance of President Obama, flouting law for personal reasons. And then take a look in the mirror.


    ***


    ADDENDUM - I just read the full letter written by a White House attorney rejecting the subpoena. The argument the White House makes is actually more rational than the sentence above quoted, which is the one sentence being reported in the media. The argument is not simply that congress is behaving politically (which it always does) but that the subpoena is too broad in scope. The first argument is utterly beside the point; the second argument at least addresses a legal issue and is a valid argument to make.


    But my point stands. Smearing your opponents' intentions (which you can never know for sure anyway unless you can read minds and hearts) is as much beside the point as lauding your own intentions. But we have fallen into such tortuous paths of subjectivism that we really think if one means well from his own point of view, one may do simply anything and be justified in doing it. The contrary to that is the notion that anyone who gives us grief must perforce have bad intentions. And that's the only sin left under the Dictatorship of Relativism - bad intentions.


    The end justifies the means - as long as one "means well".

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Death of the Party




    A skit on death and small talk from The Apostle of Common Sense on EWTN. In this scene I appear as myself - the real me.

    An Interview with Kevin O'Brien


    This is an interview David Higbee of St. Irenaeus Ministries conducted with me. Please click on the link and check out the good work David is doing in his apostolate. I'm told his podcasts are especially good. In fact, you'll find one of me performing my one-man Hilarie Belloc show, as recorded last month in Rochester, New York.


    This will be published in the newsletter / magazine of St. Irenaeus Ministries. Thanks to them for allowing me to mirror it here.





    Arts and Entertainment for Christ
    An Interview with Kevin O’Brien


    Q: Kevin, you are known for your one-man shows, like the one you recently put on at the Rochester Chesterton Conference in October, where you portrayed Hilaire Belloc, and, of course, from your theatrical performances on Catholic television. In 2007 you organized a theatrical endeavor with the potential to touch many souls. Please tell us about the origin and concept of Theater of the Word, Inc.

    The Theater of the Word Incorporated is named after the “Theater of the Word”, Karol Wojtyla’s drama troupe, the clandestine theater company of Nazi-occupied Poland. We add the title “incorporated” to our company to emphasize that we are the Theater of the Word-Incorporated, or the Word-become-flesh. For as “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, we, as actors, flesh out words on the printed page by bringing them to life in performance. And so we travel the country evangelizing through drama, and we also produce material for television, the internet and audio books.



    As to how we came about – well, that’s a long story of the Providence of God acting through a number of seemingly incredible coincidences. But our main benefactors in the beginning were Father Joseph Fessio and Ignatius Press as well as then-Archbishop Raymond Burke of my home archdiocese, St. Louis. They provided the resources and encouragement for us to go forward and to answer God’s call in this creative and challenging way.

    Q: You mention Archbishop Burke (now Cardinal Burke). What have you found or what do you sense of the hierarchy’s attitude toward using the theatrical arts and media to reach souls?

    I am sorry to say that we’ve discovered a kind of institutionalism widespread in the Church, and even in many lay apostolates. A typical diocese or parish settles into the attitude of maintaining the status quo, and, above all, of not taking risks. If you approach a pastor with the opportunity to allow their parishioners to see a live performance that would stir their souls, engage their emotions, and perhaps encourage them to grow closer to Christ, the typical response is, “Well, we don’t do that”, or “There’s no committee for that,” or “That might work as a fund raiser, but BINGO and fish fries do much better.”

    On the diocesan level, it is all too often a question of how much insurance do you carry and what can we do to make sure we don’t get any complaints about this.

    On the other hand, there are enough priests and bishops out there who like what we do and who see the value in it, that we are, in fact, able to spread the Word through comedy and drama – though not without a good deal of resistance along the way.

    Q: You come from a theatrical background. How did the faith come to figure in your life?

    At age nine I considered myself an atheist. It wasn’t until I began to appear in plays as a teenager that I discovered tangible evidence of the realm beyond, of something outside of my control that was best termed “spiritual”. Things would happen to me and to my fellow actors on stage that we could not force, that we could merely prepare for and invite – a kind of spontaneity and authenticity of performance that was in fact a “spiritual” thing. It was an experience you could kill by trying to be in total control of what you were doing; it was an experience you could not make happen, but you could prevent from happening – which is precisely how we stand in relation to God’s grace. Once you were totally rehearsed and prepared, if you lost yourself in performance, you might gain yourself in performance, so to speak. And this is what led me, over a long and adventurous path, into the Catholic Church.



    As to my background in theater, I have been making a living as an actor, playwright or director for thirty years, doing everything from stand-up comedy, magic, and singing telegrams to movies and TV – and that storehouse of experience in “show biz” taught me that you can’t evangelize though drama without at the very least being entertaining.

    Q: I can see that evangelizing and transforming our culture are at the heart of what you do with the performing arts, but could you elaborate on how the idea of entertainment fits into this?

    I think the great challenge facing Christians today is how easy it is for our faith to become “unreal”. A sanctimonious faith, a faith divorced from real life, a faith that is squeamish and diffident, is bound to be a sterile and fruitless faith.

    Thus the gateway to a transformative drama is to make sure that drama or comedy is first of all entertaining. And how is something entertaining? Drama is entertaining by being real at some level; it’s entertaining by engaging the whole person, and not by presenting propaganda, or by presenting a false image of a false humanity. Drama and comedy must deal with the human heart in its fullness, its sinfulness, and its relation to the demanding love and awesome presence of God. A drama that attempts to grapple with real men who themselves are grappling at some level with a real God is bound to be entertaining.

    Q: You’ve done intense, dramatic portrayals, but you’ve also done comic satires, like your portrayal of Standford Nutting, seen by thousands of people on YouTube. Would you explain the creation of this memorable character – and what you hope to get across to your viewers?



    We have two choices in dealing with the Standord Nuttings of the world: to laugh at them or to kill them. It’s more effective to laugh at them.

    Stanford Nutting, who “Stands-for Nothing”, is an amalgam of many real people. For example, two ex-seminarians came to a meeting at which we were discussing Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy, and kept interrupting the discussion by saying really foolish and insipid things. “It sounds to me as if you haven’t even read the book,” I said to one of them. “I haven’t!” he replied, “But I object to the title!”

    Then there was the tired old liberal in a sweater, who worked at St. Louis University High School, and who proudly told me that he teaches his students that “there is no difference between fiction and non-fiction.” At that moment I decided I would not be sending my son to St. Louis University High School, thus saving myself $40,000, and adding another element to the mix that became Stanford Nutting.

    Q: I can see where certain so-called liberal or “progressive” elements might react negatively to your message, but you have also gotten negative reactions from certain so-called conservative quarters. How do you find people reacting, positively or negatively to your message and approach?

    The liberals at least are comfortable with drama and with the idea of people having fun. The more Puritanical conservatives are seriously uncomfortable with the whole concept of drama because it involves fun. The more radical-right elements in the Catholic Church are indistinguishable from Puritans, both the modern and the historical variety. And it was the Puritans who shut down the theaters in England, putting an end to the most rich and beautiful period of dramatic art in the history of the world.

    But the push back comes from both right and left.



    Take, for instance, reactions to our show The Journey of St. Paul. The liberals would complain to me that I included Paul’s admonition to practicing homosexuals that they will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9 and elsewhere). Conservatives would complain to me that we showed Paul confronting Peter, our first Pope, opposing him “to his face because he stood condemned” in his timidity in teaching how Christ fulfilled the Law (see Gal. 2:11). Both scenes in my show come directly from sacred Scripture. And in both cases, the truth of Scripture was being objected to by folks with a certain agenda. And so the fullness of Christ’s message continues to act as a sign of contradiction, even within the Church.

    Q: Kevin, I know that you’re concerned about capturing the moral and spiritual imagination of a new generation and have a unique vantage point in gauging the response of your audiences around the country. You’ve worked closely with Dale Ahlquist, who has been so effective in his work with the American Chesterton Society and a host of projects everywhere. Do you see a revival of interest in the Catholic arts? What do you make of the current climate, its receptivity, and the prospects?



    I have been honored to have Dale Ahlquist as a good friend and to play an important role in the American Chesterton Society for many years now. And I have seen the growth of interest in Chesterton – it’s been a kind of resurrection from the dead of one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century. Chesterton is alive again – and popular.

    As to the receptivity – young people are hungry for intellectual and cultural stimulation, but they don’t know how to think; they don’t know the vocabulary of culture. This is why drama is so important. A high school or college student may not pick up Peter Kreeft’s book Socrates Meets Jesus, which would take several hours to read through – but this same student might come to a 90 minute presentation of our stage adaptation of the book, especially if it’s funny and thought-provoking and if it hits him where he’s at.

    One of my most memorable experiences in this regard happened not on stage but in the men’s room. I was attending a performance of Chesterton’s play Magic produced by the Blackbird Theater Company of Nashville, and during intermission I overheard young college students discussing the theology of the play at the urinals! Now that’s a good sign – a sign that a dramatic work is making an impact.

    But it is almost impossible to explain the reactions we get from our audiences and from the people who book our shows. When people come up to you with tears in their eyes and tell you something you just did was the most moving performance they’ve ever seen, it really strikes you and you realize that it’s not you accomplishing this, but the Spirit working through you. Actors and other artists, in this sense, are like priests – bridges connecting people with something beyond themselves. And our vocation is therefore somewhat sacred.

    And yet I have a better answer to this question. I have a quote from a sixteen-year-old girl who saw our play The Call, our show on vocations, at the Institute on Religious Life Conference in Chicago. She sent me this email:



    I am so glad I got to come and experience seeing “The Call” this last weekend! You guys showing up in my life has got to be one of the best things that has ever happened! You and your crew have been an inspiration! I saw God shine in every single one of your faces! ... Last night when I got home after 11 pm, my grandma and I had a little chat about the conference and of course, about you! I told her how wonderful you guys were and how being with you guys has helped my discernment a lot! I was telling her that whenever I heard a talk on evangelization and missionary work ... my heart felt pulled, and also when I watched the show you put on ... I also felt pulled. So to sum it all up, I feel God might be calling me to go out and evangelize. I don’t know, though, whether it could be through talking, acting, singing ... Not sure on that part ... But I know your prayers will most definitely help!

    An email like this tells you why we do what we do.

    Q: This is all very exciting, very promising. What are your hopes and dreams for the Theater of the Word, Inc? Do you hope to encourage other Christian writers and performing artists?

    I think the future for us will involve much more presence on internet TV. And, yes, I very much want to encourage others in the performing arts. I blog regularly about the relation between acting and the faith and this seems to be encouraging many in the industry. So I encourage people to follow our blog and also our YouTube page, both of which can be reached from our website www.thewordinc.org. I hope all who are interested will follow us, help us, and thereby become a part of the renewal of the theatrical and cinematic arts for the greater glory of God.

    Q: You put on well-received performances at local conferences and in parishes or other venues across the country. How can interested persons contact you to check out the possibility of getting you into their area?

    Through our website (www.thewordinc.org) or by phone at 1-888-840-WORD. We price our shows below what it costs us to produce them, in the hopes that as many parishes, schools and conferences as possible can afford to book us, enabling us to “bring light to the world by bringing words to life”.

    Kevin, I can only wish and pray you God’s good success in reaching our society through the theatrical arts. This is what people are watching and listening to today. I applaud your efforts to use various media and technologies. You have a vision and passion, and this is a vital endeavor. Thank you for sharing your vision with us.

    God in a Box



    One of the most startling things about the Christian Faith is that it is always greater than we are.


    We can't get it under our belts because we can't get Him under our belts.


    One of the problems I keep running into in others is a problem I keep running into in myself. When God becomes a tool for us, either by being an excuse for improving our self-esteem, or a hammer we knock other people around with, we're abusing the greatest of gifts. For instance, there's the Puritan who is convinced that his Faith has given him membership in a special club, and that the rest of humanity, excluded from this club, is doomed to hell - and nothing could make our Puritan happier than the dreadful and eternal damnation of others.


    "I'd like to join a club and beat you over the head with it," in the immortal words of theologian Groucho Marx.


    And then there are those of us who emasculate God, turning (in Peter Kreeft's phrase) Christ the King into Christ the Kitten. Or, as my friend Tom Leith put it, Jesus was Nice, You be Nice, Too. At least the Puritans have a God with a shape.



    Such Indifferentists have a God that is an amoeba. The Puritans at least have a weapon to wield - a club they can beat you over the head with; the Indifferentists have a fluffy pillow.


    And then one might make the mistake of thinking that the true Christians are the ones who make the biggest show of it. But an unlimited number of Hail Marys, daily Masses and pro-life bumper stickers won't stop even a self-styled Devout Catholic from revealing that it's often not a question of the Humility of Christ or the Grace of God, but a question of I Want What I Want When I Want It. Challenge their tribal allegiance, their political affiliation, or their vested interest, and they'll turn on you in a minute.


    And while we can understand the Liberals for Dissenting for the sake of Unlimited Sexual Indulgence, we can only stare in amazement at "Conservatives" standing proud for Torture, Lying, Usury and Criminal Negligence. I can understand selling your birthright for hookers and parties, but for a bowl of pottage?


    But the galling thing is the fault is not just theirs.


    How fun it would be for those of us with a satirical bent to spend all day mocking the Christian Church - a holy Church comprised of sinful men - this disparity of what we aspire to be and what we manage to be is the perfect material for satire. The problem is we're making fun of ourselves when we make fun of all the other misfits and moralists around us.


    For we simply do what they do. We put God in a box. And then when He emerges from it Living and Moving, as He did from the tomb and as He always will, we stare in amazement, certain that the Church can't be what He is making it; it must be what we want it to be in our own little narrow hearts.


    C. S. Lewis somewhere says that once one becomes a Christian, things go pretty smoothly for a while and you begin to think, "This ain't so tough. I've got this Christianity thing in the bag." And then you realize God doesn't fit in a bag. And woe to you if you make the mistake of praying, "God, make me a better Christian," because He'll answer that prayer.


    As Lewis describes it ...


    Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    If Peter Kreeft were a Priest or a Deacon ...



    If Peter Kreeft were a priest or a deacon, this would be the best homily I ever heard. As it is, it's simply the best speech Peter Kreeft has written.


    Some highlights to entice you to click through to the link above and read the whole thing:


    ***


    Yuppie-love, like puppy-love, may be merely “compassion” (the fashionable word today), but father-love and mother-love are war.


    ***


    The theme of spiritual warfare is never absent in scripture, and never absent in the life and writings of a single saint. But it is never present in the religious education of any of my “Catholic” students at Boston College. Whenever I speak of it, they are stunned and silent, as if they have suddenly entered another world. They have. They have gone past the warm fuzzies, the fur coats of psychology-disguised-as-religion, into a world where they meet Christ the King, not Christ the Kitten. Welcome back from the moon, kids.


    ***


    And if God still loves his Church in America, he will soon make it small and poor and persecuted, as he did to ancient Israel, so that he can keep it alive. If he loves us, he will prune us, and we will bleed, and the blood of the martyrs will be the seed of the Church again, and a second spring will come—but not without blood. It never happens without blood, sacrifice, and suffering.


    ***


    Can you imagine what twelve more Mother Teresas would do for the world? Can you imagine what would happen if just twelve readers of this article offered Christ 100% of their hearts and held back nothing, absolutely nothing?


    ***


    The article can be read by clicking here.

    The Humor of Shaw and Chesterton




    Here I am reading from a letter written in 1908 by George Bernard Shaw to G. K. Chesterton - and from another letter from Shaw to Chesterton's wife, Frances. Shaw is quite funny here. It's worth watching.


    My friend Mark Shea follows up with a few observations about Drama and the Faith.


    This is taken from an unaired episode of The Apostle of Common Sense on EWTN.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    The Spin Shall Set You Free




    How did the question move from "Why are we going to war?" to "Who is that man's wife". I asked the first question. Someone else asked the second. It worked. It's still working. - Sean Penn as Joe Wilson in Fair Game.


    ***


    I am not so much bothered by Catholic readers vowing to assault me physically. I am not so much bothered by Catholic readers saying that I'm a pervert. I am not so much bothered by Catholic readers (clergy even) telling me that my writing amounts to "bullying" and "uniformed public rants" (see my post on Bishop Finn and some of the more recent of the 100 comments).


    But I am bothered by the Lie. I am bothered by the Spin. And I am bothered by innocent people being blamed and not protected.


    I wrote last week's piece because Bishop Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, in his defence of Bishop Finn, played right into the hands of the Tribalism that is fast seeking to become the sixth wound in the Body of Christ. The meme goes like this: If you criticize my guy, you are in league with the forces of darkness.


    And now Bill Donohue has stepped into the fray, playing exactly the same game.


    But this isn't about us vs. them, it's about sin and repenting of sin - through the grace of Christ.


    So let's play Father Z. here and ask not "what does the prayer really say" but "what is the reality behind the spin"?


    Below are Donohue's assertions with my comments in red.


    ***


    Last December, crotch-shot pictures of young girls, fully clothed, were found on Fr. Ratigan’s computer; there was one photo of a naked girl. The very next day, the Diocese contacted a police officer and described the naked picture - No, the picture described was a theoretical picture that had not yet been seen, and this theoretical picture was described to an off-duty police officer informally by the Vicar General. The theoretical picture described bore no resemblance to any of the the actual pictures on the laptop.;

    a Diocesan attorney was shown it. There was more than an "it", there were hundreds, and more than a diocesan attorney was shown these pictures.

    Because the photo was not sexual in nature, it was determined that it did not constitute child pornography. Absolutely untrue. The photographs were all sexual in nature. They may or may not have met the legal standard for child pornography, but the police were not given the chance to determine that for six months. In any event, the failure of the diocese here is a moral one, even if not a legal one.

    This explains why the Independent Review Board was not contacted—there was no specific allegation of child abuse. Tell the parents that these photos were not forms of child abuse, Mr. Donohue.

    Think about that for a minute. Bill Donohue is saying that a U.S. diocese that had hundreds of pictures of little girl's crotches and many picutres of a naked sleeping two-year-old on a priest's laptop were right in failing to contact the Independent Review Board because "there was no specific allegation of child abuse". This is a despicable statement, Mr. Donohue. Despicable.

    When Fr. Ratigan discovered that the Diocese had learned of his fetish, he attempted suicide. When he recovered, he was immediately sent for psychiatric evaluation. It is important to note that Bishop Finn, who never saw any of the photos, did this precisely because he was considering the possibility of removing Fr. Ratigan from ministry. After evaluation (the priest was diagnosed as suffering from depression, but was not judged to be a pedophile) - note that this diagnosis was so obviously wrong that many in the Chancery office advised Bishop Finn to seek a second opinion. He did not.,

    Fr. Ratigan was placed in a spot away from children and subjected to various restrictions. No, he was placed at a retreat center where school children were sent on a regular basis and was allowed unsupervised access to them and to the families of his former parish, the families whose girls he was lusting after.

    After he violated them, the Diocese called the cops. Actually, the off-duty police officer called the cops only after it became apparent that the Vicar General was dragging his feet - and by the time the police were brought in, Bishop Finn had allowed the laptop containing the original evidence and containing any other undiscovered caches of evidence to be destroyed.

    That’s when more disturbing photos were found.


    ***


    Donohue then goes on not to write more about this case, but to slam David Clohessy and SNAP.


    But the question, you see, is not (as Bill Donohoe claims) "Is David Clohessy a liberal?" but "Why were the parents not contacted and the children not helped?" The question is not (as Bishop Naumann claims) "Is the Kansas City press pro-abortion?" but "Why was the minimum of decency and Christian charity not exercised here?" The question is not, "Who is this man's wife?" but "Why did we go to war?"


    And let me be clear: I am not calling for Bishop Finn to resign, nor am I making any comment upon the prosecution of Bishop Finn.


    In fact, I believe people when they tell me he's a good man, a sweet man, a kind man, and a serious follower of Christ.


    And that is why I am calling on him merely to do the one thing that would do more than anything else to fix the damage to the Body of Christ - public penance.

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    "Is this Heaven?" It's Baseball


    I mostly write about religious subjects on this blog, so it's only fitting I should write about baseball.


    There's the old joke that baseball was first mentioned in the Bible - Genesis 1:1 - "In the big inning". But there really is a theology to our national passtime. It is the most transcendent of games. We don't know everything about the after-life, but we do know this: baseball will be played in heaven.




    My friend Deacon John (Scotty) Wainscott tells me, "It's because it's the only game where there's no clock." Deacon Scotty knows what he's talking about. He's given communion to Stan Musial, for crying out loud. "Baseball's perfect warrior; baseball's perfect knight". (Stan is pictured above at age 90 winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier this year)


    In St. Louis, my home town, we have perhaps the greatest love of baseball of any city on earth.




    And of course there's the fact that the cardinal bird was named after the Cardinals in the Catholic Church - thus, the St. Louis Cardinals, the greatest team in the National League, was too. Sort of like the San Diego Padres, a team named after priests.



    And then there's that movie Field of Dreams. In that movie, the character played by Burt Lancaster, the character who sacrifices his life to save a child, the character who had one major league appearance but no at bat, this same character finally gets a chance to face a pitcher - and he hits a sacrifice fly. And the climax of the film is his own personal sacrifice to save the life of the little girl.




    Pictured: Son Colin batting where Field of Dreams was filmed, near Dyersburg, Iowa.


    Baseball is about sacrifice. It's about the patient poetry of slow motion and the headline prose of speed. It's about dexterity, stamina, force of will and dumb luck. It's the hardest of all games to play. It's a game of grit; it's a game of grace. It's a game of inches and a game of 450 foot home runs. It's a game of microseconds ("bang-bang plays") and a game of marathons that last all night. It's a game where we demand super-human objectivity and observation from umpires we'd like to kill. It's a game of tobacco spitting geniuses, back street hoodlums, city boys, country boys, free-wheeling managers dancing in the dugout and scheming vegetarian lawyer managers smoldering beside the bench.


    And it's the perfect game for radio. No other sport was made for radio, and radio was made for no other sport. The Theater of the Mind and the Theater of the Word-Only. Here in St. Louis we have been blessed with the best radio play-by-play and color guys ever, Harry Caray, Jack Buck, Joe Buck and Mike Shannon. And many other radio guys along the way who have gone very far - including Joe Garagiola and Bob Costas (and Tim McCarver if you throw in TV). Some of my best memories include rain delays in the old days, when instead of switching to a call-in show or a pre-recorded program, Buck and Shannon would fill time talking - talking for hours on end, telling stories about baseball, until the rain cleared up and the play went on - filling air time with no preparation, just chatting about this amazing game and their love for it, this love which filled their lives.


    Then there's my old friend Jim Sala, who told me that he would never marry any woman who didn't know the Infield Fly Rule.


    And then there was last night.


    Actress Maria Romine and I were performing at Summit Lake Winery in Holt's Summit, Missouri. We kept hearing updates about World Series Game Six throughout the evening. If the Cardinals lost this game to the Texas Rangers, everything was over. If somehow we managed to win, we'd get one more chance - Game Seven, the final and deciding game of the 2011 season.


    We finished the show and began driving to our next destination, Kansas City, sometime mid-game. For a long while we picked up ESPN Radio on FM. When it faded away we were able to get the clear channel 50,000 watt AM signal of KMOX, The Voice of St. Louis, and between the two we drove in horror, astonishment and glee, our car trip a kind of roller coaster ride of bone-head plays and sparkling feats of athletics and magic as the score see-sawed into extra-innings, the Cardinals tying the Rangers in the sixth, the ninth and the tenth.


    As we got closer to the Super Eight in Bonner Springs, Kansas (our luxurious destination), the static was overwhelming, the signal fading every time we passed beneath a bridge. It was the bottom of the 11th, 11:45 pm as we pulled up to the lobby, the game fading in and out like our hopes.


    "They've got a TV on in the lobby!" Maria observed.


    Local St. Louis boy and World Series phenom David Freese was at bat with no outs in the bottom of the 11th. I left Maria in the car and dashed in to plop my credit card down at the front desk, hoping to get to my room in time to watch the rest of the game - however long the rest of the game might take.


    I turned to where the TV was in the lobby. It was facing the other direction, and I couldn't see the screen. Three Chinese or Japanese men were gathered around it, jumping up and down in astonishment.


    I ran to the them. "What happened?" I asked. They could speak no English.


    "Jow jee pong niti tong!" one of them exclaimed.



    I turned to the TV screen. The Cardinals were pouring onto the field. They were mobbing David Freese, literally tearing his jersey off of him.


    "Nee Pow Jing Pow orloo!" my Asian friend shouted.


    "Did he hit a home run?" I asked.


    "Home-unn," he confirmed.


    I was at a Comfort Inn in Kansas City to catch the final out of the 2006 World Series, the 10th World Series victory for the Cardinals, and I was here at a Kansas Super Eight to catch - almost - the final play of the most incredible World Series Game ever in 2011. And the memories flowed.




    For baseball is the glue that binds our lives together. We remember, with a kind of fondness and nostalgia that rises above time, we Cardinals fans, the come-from-behind finish of 1964, Gibson's 17 strikeouts in 1968, his pitching with a broken leg, Brock's speed, Ozzie's talent, Glen Brummer stealing home, seat cushion night, Pond Scum, the tarnished-in-hindsight but thrilling-at-the-time home run race between McGwire and Sosa, and now, forever, regardless of what happens tonight in Game Seven, the unbelievable come-from-behind run that began on St. Genesius Day in August when the Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out and that included the greatest performance by a hitter in the World Series since Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson on a warm night in Texas last weekend.


    Enough.


    I have written about many things, mysterious and mundane, but alas! I can not write about baseball. At least not in a way that gives it the honor it deserves.


    My friend and fellow writer Rod Bennett observes, "Baseball is sacred the way war is sacred, Kevin -- because of all the suffering and anxiety involved. Honest to Pete, watching Game 7 of the '91 series (the Smoltz/Morris ordeal that ended 1-0 in the 10th and turned on a lowly baserunning error) I had a real spiritual insight on some small scale. I felt as Lee must have felt watching the battle of Gettysburg. Ridiculous, I know -- it's only a game. Still, there it is. Anyhow, go Cards." - and this cheer for my team from a Braves fan, Atlanta's collapse in September enabling the Redbirds to do what they've been doing ever since.


    Frank Weathers, who admonished me that writing about baseball is offering up "straw" (this is what St. Thomas Aquinas said of his body of work, a lifetime of magnificent meditations upon God) - and he's right, it is that - still himself manages to catch a hint of the glory of the game in his post about amateur sports and families.


    Frank's observations include ...


    So why do we even bother [with baseball] in our household? Joy in living is the only real reason that I can think of. That and the realization that though our children’s gifts and abilities are out of our hands, they should still be developed. Besides, everything we spend time doing matters.


    ... And there is the riddle of our son’s gift, for example. Though endowed with excellent hand-eye coordination, and having an arm that can accurately throw thunderbolts, the most important characteristic of all isn’t even a physical one. It is that my son simply loves this game. And this love for it drives him to do things that only love can make him do ... [because] now that he has made the high school team, the love for the game has been tested by the fires of hard work and sweat. There is a spiritual message in all of this somewhere, I am sure.


    And part of that message is a son playing catch with his old man, whose old man played catch with him.


    And we can no more describe this game than we can describe the tradition of our American culture, the rewards of hard work and persistence, the smell of green grass, the chill of an October night, or the simple love of father and son.


    God bless the Cardinals and the Rangers. God bless this game.



    Pictured: My son Colin O'Brien in the dugout at Busch Stadium, age four or so.



    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Bad Monks and the Rest of Us

    Regular reader Ink has an interesting post on her blog "With Eager Feet" about something I said concerning Bad Monks and Actors.


    Ink writes ...


    ***


    Some time ago, I had the chance to meet Kevin, owner of Theatre of the Word, Inc. I now consider him a friend (and hope he considers me the same, even with the age difference). Something he said in one of our conversations stuck with me, and I will do my best to repeat it here:


    Actors are basically bad monks. Monks devote themselves fully and completely to one subject–prayer. Actors do the same thing for theatre, but they have strayed from their path along the way. That’s why they’re all so messed-up.”


    I would like to make the same case for architects. I am frequently here in studio till all hours of the night, working, talking, laughing–always in studio. And many of my classmates are here with me. We throw ourselves headlong into our work and only come up for air when a project is over, at which point in time we promptly fall asleep on the nearest horizontal surface. This is entirely normal and expected of us. We live like ascetics – cloistered in studio, often eating only one meal a day. ... All we talk or think about is architecture, or studio this, or studio that. ... I have slept in studio. ... I frequently eat in studio. My friends are in studio. ... And I work, and work, and work, late into the night.


    So, Kevin–I think architects just might beat actors in terms of “bad monks.” Minus the universally accepted norm of “messed-up is okay,” of course (though we still do have our weirdos).


    Excerpt taken from Memoirs of a Bad Monk, a book as of yet unwritten by Ink.


    ***


    To which I responded ...


    ***


    Maybe it's not Actors and Architects who are bad monks. Maybe Monks are just good actors or good architects.




    Pictured: the Incredibly Sexy amoral hero Howard Roark, uber-architect from Ayn Rand's novel about how power is sexier than love.


    You know, Ink, you’re at that age when most girls fall in love with that hunk of a dreamer-architect-Nietzchian what’s-his-name in that awful Ayn Rand book about how architects without morality are better than non-geniuses who actually care about people. I forget the name of the book. Don’t read it. Just wait for a Hallmark movie about sexy architects and you’ll do better.


    Anyway, my point is that this kind of devotion is really only virtuous if it’s an expression of love. If you love your art, your craft, your writing, and if your love and the fruits of your love bring greater glory to God and benefit to your neighbor, then by all means give up everything for this pearl of great price – sleep in studio, miss meals, live out of your car. I mean, if you get married and have kids, you’ll do all that for your kids – stay up all night when they’re sick, miss meals so they can eat better, sacrifice everything for them – and gladly.


    But we also see people live this way because they’re losers or addicts. And many a non-genius businessman with a beer gut will sleep in the office and miss meals to make that project deadline – and not really out of love or for the greater glory of God, but for a more selfish reason.




    So it’s important that our sacrifices, our asceticisms, our loves, are prioritized. There always tends to seep in that love of self, that desire to be admired and adored (at least it does in my case) – and that is utter poison, turning “losing your life to gain your life” into “losing your life to gain power over life – and over others”.


    May we always beg God to purify our hearts that we may, even in the midst of our mixed motives, always make true sacrifices for His sake, not false sacrifices for our own sake.


    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    The Full Story on Bishop Finn


    "Let's step outside and settle this thing like men," she said, and she was a lady. "You're spewing anti-Catholic rhetoric!" he insisted. "How can you criticize a bishop when you're an actor and everyone knows actors are perverts and nitwits," she screamed. (That last gal had a point).


    These are all reactions to my post last week about Rod Dreher's article on Bishop Finn's Indictment.


    And above all, people are charging me with believing the biased media coverage of the scandal.


    This, at least, is not true. In fact, everything I say in this post will be taken not from a media account of the scandal, but from the independent report on it as commissioned by the diocese, the Graves Report, which you can read on your own here.


    So let's shove the media aside and see for ourselves what's contained in this internal diocesan report conducted by an independent firm.


    ***


    Fr. Shawn Ratigan was a priest of the diocese of Kansas City - St. Joseph, Missouri. While pastor of St. Patrick's Parish (a parish with a grade school), his behavior around children raised many red flags. There were several incidents of "boundary violation", in which Fr. Ratigan held girls on his lap or tried to spend time with them alone while waiting for rides. At one function, he began rubbing a girl's back until her father angrily pulled her away. A pair of girl's panties was found in Fr. Ratigan's back yard planter.


    In December, 2010, a computer technician servicing Fr. Ratigan's laptop discovered hundreds of photographs of young girls, apparently taken by Fr. Ratigan. Many were of children playing, the photographer focusing on their crotches and not including their faces. There were photos of girls climbing ladders in swim suits, focusing on their crotches. There were photos of girls wearing shorts sitting with their legs apart, focusing on their crotches. The girls appeared to be between eight and ten years old. One stash of photos was of a child in diapers. The series of photos ended with the diaper moved to the side, to reveal the girl's genitals and her bare buttocks. The photos were labeled with this toddler's name. Another series of photos was of a girl of about age seven, sleeping, but posed in sexually provocative ways while asleep. Her face was fully visible. The computer also contained links to internet sites advertising spy photo pens and two way mirrors.


    The computer technician who made this discovery, his hands shaking, brought this laptop to the deacon at St. Patrick's and showed him the photos. The deacon immediately took the laptop to Msgr. Murphy, the Vicar General of the diocese, and Bishop Finn's right hand man. Before he viewed the images, Msgr. Murphy called and asked a friend of his who was a police officer if a single photo of a nude girl on a laptop "in a non-sexual pose" constituted child pornography. The officer answered that it might, but, particularly if it were of a family member, it would probably not be prosecuted.


    This was the only contact the diocese made with the police until the following May. For, even after Msgr. Murphy viewed the images, and after it became clear that these images were not of family members, and that they were of a sexual nature, and that they were almost certainly photos Fr. Ratigan had taken of children in the diocese, neither Msgr. Murphy nor any one else involved in this case, contacted the police for nearly six months.


    As soon as the pictures were discovered, Fr. Ratigan tried to kill himself, leaving a note saying he was sorry for what he had done. He survived his suicide attempt and was sent to a psychologist in Philadelphia who specializes in treating priests with problems. And yet, after interviewing Fr. Ratigan, and even after viewing the pictures which were pulled from Fr. Ratigan's laptop, the psychologist concluded he was not a pedophile. He was just lonely. And depressed. Why? Because the principal of the school was "out to get him," having complained about his inappropriate behavior around children. It was her fault, not his.


    The diagnosis being evidently wrong, there were at least a few people in the Chancery Office who advised Bishop Finn to seek a second opinion. He did not.


    At one point the legal counsel for the diocese told Msgr. Murphy that an attempt should be made to identify the children in the photographs, particularly if they were children in the diocese, as it appeared they were - victims of a child pornographer, and perhaps of other more violent sexual abuse at his hands. Legal Counsel also advised Msgr. Murphy to report this case to the Missouri Division of Family Services.


    But contrary to the advise of counsel (and contrary to common sense, not to mention Christian charity), no one made any attempt to identify these victims or to reach out to their families.


    No one made any report to the Division of Family Services.


    In fact, no one even bothered to report the incident to the Independent Review Board, as required by diocesan "Protecting God's Children" policies!


    Bishop Finn then assigns Fr. Ratigan to a Vincentian Retreat Center ... where school groups often go on retreats. He tells Fr. Ratigan to stay away from computers, cameras and children, but he allows him to say Mass for the school groups.


    The Vincentian leaders at the retreat house adamantly claim that they were never informed of these restrictions on Fr. Ratigan, nor were they told he was a pedophile with a flair for child pornography; they thought he was simply recovering from his suicide attempt. Bishop Finn says he informed them of the full story; they say he did not. In fact, they told the firm conducting the independent review that if they had known the full scope of the situation, they would not have let Fr. Ratigan live with them. In any event, no one was placed in a supervisory role over Fr. Ratigan. He was living entirely unsupervised.


    Immediately, Fr. Ratigan began using Facebook. He started attending public events and St. Patrick's parish-family events where children were present, including a birthday party for a sixth grade girl. He started glad handing parishioners, telling them the reason he had not been re-assigned to St. Patrick's was that the principal was "out to get him". Against the Bishop's directives, he made contact with children on retreat at the center, and on Easter Sunday - Easter Sunday - he tried to take pornographic pictures of a girl at the center.


    Bishop Finn was informed of all of these violations of the "honor code" he had placed on Fr. Ratigan and yet Bishop Finn admitted that, as late as May of 2011, he had (in his own words) "not formulated a plan to further address Fr. Ratigan's behavior if he continued to violate restrictions".


    By the middle of May, Msgr. Murphy eventually let his policeman friend know of the full scope of the situation - that the laptop contained not one photo of a nude girl in a non-provocative pose (as he had told him earlier), but hundreds of photos of girls, all of a lascivious nature. The police officer said, "You never told me that," and informed Msgr. Murphy that the diocese should immediately turn the laptop over to the police.


    But instead the laptop was given to Bishop Finn, who gave it to Fr. Ratigan's brother, who (naturally) destroyed it.


    And while copies remained of the photos, the original evidence (the laptop and its hard drive), including any other cached information the police could have obtained, is now gone for good.


    ***


    Now, Bishop Naumann makes a passioned defense of his brother bishop, and points out that many in the Kansas City media are viciously pro-abortion and will stop at nothing to destroy the Catholic Church. Bishop Naumann, I'm sure this is true.


    And many lay folk have pointed out to me that Bishop Finn is orthodox in his teaching and has boldly attacked pornography, for example. I'm sure that this is true as well.


    But have we come to a stage where we are so desperate for orthodox bishops that we turn a blind eye to their other shortcomings? Are we so defensive against our own sins that we refuse to acknowledge where we fall shy of virtue, simply because other sinners are pointing our failures out to us?


    And how do we expect to turn the hearts of the pro-abortion zealots in the Kansas City media if we don't even have the gumption to protect a two-year-old girl who's being victimized while asleep by one of our priests? Why on earth would they listen to us about the evils of killing unborn babies when we won't even do anything to protect a sleeping two-year-old from a predator?


    Because, my friends, it comes down to this.


    Bishop Finn and his Vicar General knew that children under their care had been exploited and abused. Bishop Finn and his Vicar General did nothing to identify or protect those children. Instead, and incredibly, when the story finally broke, Bishop Finn and his Vicar General instructed that the parish of St. Patrick's hold listening sessions at which parents were asked to write down one "hurt" and one "hope".


    As the Graves Report states, two "hurts" collected at listening sessions included the following ...


    ***


    The images of my daughter's private areas that the FBI showed me, they are forever burned into my brain. Shawn Ratigan was in my house, around my children in February, and I thought my children were completely SAFE!!


    ***


    You let one of your priests hurt my children and you saw the pictures and decided to cover it up. That monster was in my house in February 2011 to prey on my children and I let him in since you felt you were above the law and made that decision not to turn in photos of my kids.


    ***


    So those of you out there who are offering to take me out back and fight me, those of you who think I'm an anti-Catholic filled with hatred and Chick-tract rhetoric, those of you who think that if a human being happens to be an actor, he should not be allowed to write about this, answer one question for me ...


    What would you say to these parents? Or better yet, if Fr. Ratigan had taken pictures of your sleeping two-year-old girl and removed her diapers to take a spy-pen snapshot of her vagina and her bare butt for use on his computer, and perhaps molested her and the diocese never bothered to tell you this, and never bothered to warn you not to let this man back in your house, or reach out to make sure you and your daughter got the help you needed (all the while the beg letters for the annual diocesan appeal kept coming in the mail) ... what would you put down on the "hurt" card? What would you "share" as your "hope" during the listening session while somewhere a man we call father masturbates to a picture of your sleeping two-year-old?


    Perhaps Bishop Finn should not be tried for this misdemeanor (failure to report the crime in a timely manner) in the criminal courts of my state. I think a case could be made either way. But one thing I'm sure he should do.


    He should repent in sack cloth and ashes and beg the forgiveness of every girl dancing naked in Fr. Ratigan's dreams. For he had the ability to reach out and offer help and the love of Christ to these girls and their parents, and he did not do it.