October 22, 2008
I have not heard much flak about last Saturday’s Buffalo News article regarding the possibility of moving St. Gerard church to Norcross, Georgia, brick by brick (then again, I was out of town all weekend). Tim Tielman, of course, is against the removal of this historic building. To Tim, every building built during Buffalo’s glory days is historic. His solution to the vacant Catholic churches, many in desperate need of repair: “Work a bit harder [about how to reuse them]“.
I’ve done a 180 in my opinion of Tielman and his Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, whom I originally respected as someone looking out for Buffalo’s heritage. Now I just think he’s an obstructionist. And reactionary, someone living entirely in the past. And full of screeds but no real solutions. An attention addict.
The Catholic Church, I would hope, is about the people and not the places. Telling the Church to think harder about how to save empty buildings in a locale that has lost half its population is tantamount to telling them to spend money and resources where they least benefit the community they have dedicated their lives to serve. Dereliction results to half the buildings in an area that needs half its building space. We only have so many Ani DiFrancos and an incredible number of vacant churches – and other historic but decrepit buildings – and hardly any money anywhere to save even a fraction. Tielman needs to get real.
The Catholic diocese may have a unique (and rare!) opportunity to see one of its buildings take on a new life, and I for one would love to see a piece of historic Buffalo in the Atlanta area. The London Bridge is still the London Bridge, even if it spans an artificial water channel in Arizona.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to travel throughout the country and find Buffalo heritage everywhere?
September 26, 2008
“This strategy has succeeded, and we are winning in Iraq.”
– Senator John McCain, September 26th, 2008
The Surge certainly appears to have reduced overall violence and death in Iraq this past year. I am grateful for the reduction in violence.
But is it the Surge, or is it the forced segregation of Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites and the exodus and displacement of over 2 million Iraqis to other countries that is the real reason? The eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq will tell.
My bet is that Iraq will fall into a very bloody civil war no matter when we withdraw. I pray I’m wrong.
June 22, 2008
The Catholic church needs to dumb it down a little. Just a little. Okay, maybe a lot.
As much as I love the Mass and some of the tradition that goes along with it, the Vatican II Council made a big mistake when it opted for the vernacular to bring the Mass to the people. It should also have offered explanations.
Explanations for the readings prior to each reading, so that people would know what the readings were really about.
Take this Sunday’s second reading, from Paul to the Romans. On a difficulty scale of one to ten this reading is a twelve, with a sentence structure so foreign (read: ungrammatical) that it is impossible to decipher by just listening to it. The congregation’s eyes collectively glazed over. I should know. I was the lector reading it to them, and I studied it hard to get the inflection and oratory as meaningful as possible.
So what was the point? It would only take an additional 60 seconds to provide an explanation of the context and meaning of the reading so that the congregation would more fully grasp what the reading was about. I wanted to do this; our priest basically (but nicely) said no.
And before chiding me by claiming that if one really wanted to get more out of the reading that they would study it beforehand, I say that obligations aside, the Church teaches us to be all-embracing, not elitist. There are many, myself included, who need and want an explanation of the more difficult passages of the Bible, and Paul’s letters happen to be almost entirely of that nature.
If the Church is going to continue feeding us snippets, it needs to provide us with context for that snippet. Otherwise, we won’t fully appreciate the meaning.
May 23, 2008
By now most people who browse the Internet or catch any national news knows that the Phoenix mission will attempt an autonomous landing on Mars this coming Sunday. We will observe the lander setting down, either in one or many pieces, at 7:53 PM EDT.
Most people won’t care.
Some will decry the millions spent on the mission to dig into Mars’ surface looking for ice, money which could have been spent feeding the hungry or building new roads here on Earth. Others can’t wait for the science that will potentially be revealed by this spacecraft and other spacecraft that will follow in subsequent years.
I, for one, am ambivalent about most of the science but look forward to the ramifications should the mission discover abundant ice as well as key elements needed to sustain life. For if life – even fossilized life – is found a few feet below Mars’ surface, the whole idea of life originating on Earth (or perhaps, to God creating life on Earth) gets thrown into question.
If life exists – or existed – on both Earth and Mars, there are only three possible explanations: They sprang up independent of each other (or as part of a directed Panspermia); some kind of impact on Mars sent biological material into space and eventually to Earth; or some kind of impact on Earth sent biological material into space and eventually to Mars.
Celestial dynamics, gravity and atmospheric pressure dictate that the latter possibility much less likely than the Mars-to-Earth origin of life; so if we eventually get a spacecraft actually landed on the Red Planet that can analyze subsurface material for DNA, we might just determine with pretty reasonable assurance that the Martians were here first.
In the grand scheme of things I’m just curious as to how religious scholars, fundamentalists and secular intellectuals will deal with that.
April 17, 2008
The current undisputed sensationalistic story du mois is chocked full of juicy things: mothers, children, underage sex, religion, polygamy and now, courtroom drama and lots of lawyers falling over themselves for attention.
The 80-year-old Tom Green County courtroom and a satellite courtroom set up in a City Hall auditorium two blocks away were jammed with dozens of mothers from the retreat, dressed in their iconic pastel prairie dresses and braided upswept hair.
The mothers were sworn in as witnesses, standing and mumbling their ‘I do’s’ in timid voices. As they sat silently, the flock of lawyers was constantly buzzing with murmurs and popping up to make motions or object as Walther tried to maintain order.
But when prosecutors tried to enter into evidence the medical records of three girls — two 17-year-olds and an 18-year-old — the lawyers jumped to their feet and crammed the aisles trying to see the papers. That’s when Walther called the recess.
Oh, the imagery. This will not end well.
February 24, 2008
I have stated this before: Exluding science in the name of God isn’t salvation, it’s laziness. The Museum of Earth History, a rather extraordinary place in Arkansas based on Creation Science and the belief that the world began about 4,000 years ago, is one such place where the ownership group profits from that laziness. Worse, the distortion of good science (Mary Schweitzer’s discoveries is just one example) is simply regrettable.
There is no need for this.
The hard line camps that preach either science exclusively, or religion exclusively, are both in need of an examination of what each other has to offer. Important as the Good Book might be, I think the fundamentalist extreme, in particular, needs to read a little more than just the Bible.
I believe that my God wants me to learn as much as possible the truth about this world in which he put us.
December 1, 2007
Ever hear of Istvan Hernek? He runs the Paraclete Conservatory in Orchard Park. He also performed on the St. Joseph’s Cathedral organ at Reverend Mark Noonan’s ordination this morning (the detail which, unfortunately, can’t be found anywhere on the diocesan web site as of 1 December; why is that?).
Just watching someone with skill play the organ is itself pretty fascinating, at least for people like me who struggle to plunk out Chopsticks with two fingers. Being blown away by the magnificent sound coming from the organ as it is being played takes it to another level.
Just a light touch on any key triggers a cascade of events: A mechanical contact on the key makes an electrical connection that finds its way to a solenoid, that opens a value and allows a massive amount of air to flow from a bellows the size of a station wagon to an organ pipe, which whistles its one-note tune. It’s a couple of ounces of finger pressure turned into 100 decibels of audio pressure. Many fingers flying across the keyboards opens a lot of valves, makes a lot of pipes whistle and, when done right, floods the church with incredible joy.
The musical experience that eminated from this extraordinarily-talented musician on an engineering marvel was greatly appreciated by the 500 who attended Mark’s ordination.
And oh yeah, Blessed Nativity in Orchard Park now has one more priest.
November 17, 2007
Last Thursday I went to dinner with an acquaintence – a Palestinian Christian (talk about two words that just don’t seem to fit together!) – who described the historical aspects of the Palestinian conflict in great detail: Its beginnings as a sort of partitioned British experiment, the growth of fundamentalist Islam, its use as a pawn by neighboring Arab states, and the mess that it’s in today. It was a fascinating discussion.
One comment that stuck with me related the current Middle East Arab-Islamic fundamentalism to 15th century Christian fundamentalism. He felt that’s about where many radical Muslims are today, set in their absolute belief that Islam is the only true faith, that all others are demonic and must be eliminated. My dinner guest pointed out that neighbors who have been friends for years will attack each other if the local Imam decrees that they should because “It’s in the Koran”. His experience, and his reason for leaving the Middle East, was that no one could be trusted not to turn on you tomorrow.
It got me thinking about how many times I’ve heard some Christian fundamentalist say basically the same thing – “It’s in the Bible” – without regard to asking even the simplest of questions: Does that belief have any foundation in reality? Is it subject to interpretation? Is it supported by other theologians? Does it do more harm than good?
I am an advocate for those with strong faith who act genuinely on their beliefs, but acting in the name of God has also produced such recent heroes as James Kopp, David Koresh and even Ernest Ainsley, all of whom preyed (pun intended) in one way or another on the ignorant.
For far too many it is easier to muster acceptance of a charismatic charlatan than to put the effort into finding truth.
November 11, 2007
Abortion, the Death Penalty, Genocide, Euthanasia, and War: What do these all have in common?
They are all Pro-Life issues.
So why do our local Pro-Life rallies focus on the abortion issue and not the rest? Is it maybe because they are not so much pro-life as they are anti-abortion? The anti-abortion movement veils itself behind the much broader pro-life terminology while bearing sparse homage to the belief that all life is sacred, not just the lives of the innocents.
The front lawn of our church sprouted small pink and blue crosses today – Veterans Day – and a sign with the typical emotional statement to end the slaughter of babies. I have witnessed pleas from the pulpit to support the Pro-Life movement, but the rhetoric is always about abortion.
It seems so disingenuous. Shouldn’t we be screaming about Darfur? Shouldn’t we take notice that in the industrialized world, only Japan and the U.S. still have the death penalty? If we are to take a stand against the killing of innocents, we need to take a stand against the killing of others, for any reason, under any circumstance.
Today of all days, these “Pro-Lifers” should be standing amongst the graves of the soldiers who died following orders that were not their own, and thinking about all those lives that could have been.
October 31, 2007
So at church last Sunday, a little girl – handicapped with Down’s Syndrome, strode up to the altar during offertory and “helped” arrange the communion dishes while the priest and altar servers watched. I thought the priest was very kind to wait for her mother to come up and entice her off before continuing the Mass.
I am confused about the complainant’s Christian principles. I am confused about why an act of innocence should be admonished, especially in light of the attitude of the person on whom this church was built.
So to the complainant, I have only this to say: I think you’ve got the whole Christian thing wrong. I think you need to lighten up a little and realize some of the joy that that little girl shared with us on Sunday.
September 1, 2007
What’s so special about Mayor Brown’s firing of city engineer Daniel Kreuz? Nothing really; Kreuz got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and the mayor laid down the law. Good for the mayor. Hopefully other city employees are sweating a little.
What’s so wrong about city government, however, has certainly not got anything to do with his age.
buried in paragraph nine of today’s Buffalo News article: “Kruez was one year away from qualifying for the highest tier of pension benefits.”
Kruez is 29 years
ago employed with the city and he’s 51 years old.
Assuming (perhaps wrongly) that it takes at least a two-year college degree to become an $81,000 city engineer, this means that at most, Kruez has been professionally employed for all of eight years , yet was almost qualified for a full pension.
How could any city contract negotiating team possibly allow this type of employee contract? I don’t want to point the finger at any of our former mayors, but I believe that this had to have been negotiated under one of their watches.
I highly doubt that such a perk, now considered an entitlement by all city employees, will ever be taken away in subsequent contract negotiations. City taxpayers and the State, however, could potentially pay that bill for 45 or 50 years after an employee leaves the city’s employ.
I guess I have nothing critical to say today about the City of Buffalo and their labor contracts. I stand corrected. Thank you Becky for your comment.
August 14, 2007
Today marks 16 months to the day that Sister Karen Klimczak was killed for her cell phone at the Bissonette House, named after Father Joseph Bissonette, who was murdered in his rectory in February 1987. Both had dedicated their lives to helping the marginalized. Both died at the hands of the marginalized.
In front of my house and the one directly across the street from me sits a sign that is appearing in front of many houses in Western New York. I hope that Sister Karen’s I Leave Peaceprints signs increase in popularity throughout the area – not only because of their meaning but also in lasting memory of both Sister Karen and Father Bissonette. I hope that those signs are an inspiration to us for the causes of peace and caring for others.
July 22, 2007
There are several Eucharistic Ministers at our church. Some of them have conflicting convictions as to what constitutes appropriate Communion etiquette and for that manner, appropriate Mass etiquette.
One person in particular is anal-retentive about the rules as spelled on in Canon Law, word for word. Another person is one who prefers the spirit of the law as it allows for appropriate judgment when necessary. One helps the priest (when asked) pour the wine into the chalices (a Canon Law no-no); the other gets annoyed. One writes letters to the Bishop complaining about rules violations; the other complains about the person writing the letters.
When both serve Communion at the same Mass, there’s this sort of non-verbal tension that takes place. A little body english here, an evil eye there. But they both believe in the same God, the same religion, and the same parish. Interesting. One need only have a conversation with these two to understand why people from completely different religions might have trouble getting along. Or Shiites and Sunnis, for that matter.
We have a broad mix of parishioners. Some are very fundamentalist, some are very liberal and some just don’t show up. The fundamentalists complain about every change that’s occurred since Vatican II; the liberals complain that not enough is being done to make the church more inclusive, as Vatican II intended.
How come we don’t review our churches the way we review, say, restaurants? Wouldn’t that be helpful, especially for those who have strayed away from their church because it just didn’t provide them with what they needed?
Church Reviews. Something to collectively blog about.
July 14, 2007
If you are at all interested in the Tridentine mass proclamation from Pope Benedict, check out Sister Joan Chittister’s remarks on it, and more importantly, the dozens of comments in response to her remarks.
Sr. Joan is an inclusionist. She wants the world to understand that God did not impose a different set of rules on women as God did on men; so why should a particular religion (Catholicism, in this case) attempt to distinguish? Her remarks are very thoughtful.
I think that the comments are even more interesting. There is room for agreement, difference of opinion, debate, arrogance, selfishness and selflessness and the various opinions reflect just how broad-reaching the Catholic church is.
A worthwhile read.
July 10, 2007
The Pope reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s position as the only true Christian church, stating unequivocally that all other so-called “Christian” religions have defects. The fullness of grace and truth has been entrusted only to the Catholic church.
So basically, the Pose says: Screw the rest of you. You’re just shadows of the one true Christian church.
The document, entitled RESPONSES TO SOME QUESTIONS REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH, is very short and worth reading in its entirety. It consists of five questions and their answers. The answers to questions 2 and 3 are the ones that stir controversy, and certainly are what pisses me off. (and the response to question 1, which seems to have led to the reinstatement of the Latin Mass, is not far behind).
I’m not alone. Response to the release of this document, especially from other Christian churches, has been (he said, kindly) critical.
I don’t understand why my Church – the Church that I love – continues to believe that it is the center of the universe. How arrogant. How divisive.
Let’s see: The Catholic Church believes that the only way to salvation is through…the Catholic Church. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that only 144 thousand Jehovah believers will be saved, I think. And there must be dozens of other Christian (and non-Christian) religions that also believe that their way is the only way to heaven.
Does all this exclusion mean that we are all destined for Hell? If so, then maybe it’s time I change my way of thinking and enjoy all of life’s vices while I can, because I too must be Hell-bound.
My Church and I are in disagreement. I’m not feeling very Catholic right now…
June 21, 2007
President Bush has an interesting quote in today’s Buffalo News: “Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us.” The President is, of course, talking about stem cell research.
It is also poignantly ironic given his zeal shown for the war in Iraq.
June 17, 2007
My 18-year-old stopped going to church. He hasn’t really been interested nor inspired by our priests or the Mass in a long time. It has not been much of a spiritual experience for him.
And of late, for me neither. Not that it has diminished my faith in God; it’s just that instead of a celebration I feel like I’m attending a dirge. It doesn’t help that our church has traditionally upheld the more solemn, traditional Catholic Mass – to the point where, excepting perhaps an occasional Picardy third, virtually all selected hymns are in a minor key. It doesn’t help that when those rare celebratory hymns are played I get a feeling of embarrassment at the hand-clapping.
It’s been great that the Catholic church has been slow to change with society, as the Church’s foundation is its strength and source of longevity. Changing my own impression of the Church might be as easy as changing which one I go to, but with a new priest coming on board I’m holding out for perhaps new traditions to start right where I’ve been for the last 15 years.
Is it for churches like mine that so many people have left to find better use of their time on Sunday mornings?
June 3, 2007
So the U.S. has successfully replaced a single tyrant capable of influencing an army to do his will, with a dozen tyrants capable of influencing their respective armies to do God’s will. Hmmm, I wonder, in the long run, who would have been more influential: A mortal Saddam Hussein or an immortal God?
What are we to do about violence in the name of God, now that we have helped stir its passion to new heights?
June 2, 2007
Our parish is getting a new priest. The old one resigned somewhat abruptly about a month or so ago and was replaced, temporarily, with Father Paul Seil, who is a great cook and is seen regularly on the Catholic diocese-produced show Our Daily Bread. I understand that Father Seil is one of three candidates to become pastor at our church. The diocesan committee that selects priests for parishes is being secretive about the other two.
There was no fanfare, no farewell, for our outgoing priest. He simply left. I think some parish group that decided to ask “what’s wrong with our church” placed the blame solely at his feet, and he decided to simply get out. With the current priest shortage I’m surprised that the diocese let him walk away; but then again, maybe they are privy to much more data than I, and knew that a change was necessary.
And a change is necessary. Our church, a beautiful building out in the sticks, is poorly attended at best. It needs some life breathed back into it. I feel like our Mass has become a requiem for the dead and the dying rather than being a joyous occasion for the living. If it exists at all the connectedness between the historical Biblical message and today’s society is lost on me when I go to Mass at my church.
The upcoming change may not necessarily be for the better, but something had to be done about the slide that our parish was on. I wish our former parish priest well.
May 22, 2007
Largest denomination by far, around 85%
Only around 10-15% of all Muslims
Found throughout the world
Found mainly in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon
Believe that Mohammed’s first four successors (caliphs) are the rightful leaders of all Muslims
Believe that the fourth caliph is the only rightful leader of all Muslims
Abu Bakr was chosen as caliph in 632 after Mohammed’s death
Ali ibn Abi Talib was chosen as caliph in 632 after Mohammed’s death
The Mahdi (think: supreme leader) has yet to arrive
The Mahdi has already arrived
Al Qaeda is predominantly Sunni
Hezbollah is predominately Shiite
Follow elected leaders (scholars and jurists)
Follow imams (formal clergy) rather than elected leaders
Do not venerate saints
Venerate deceased imams as saints
Similar in hierarchical structure to Protestantism
Similar in hierarchical structure to Catholicism
Tend to be more fundamental than Shiites
Tend to be less fundamental than Sunnis
Have had disdain to the point of killing Shiites since the Battle of Karbala in 680
Have had disdain to the point of killing Sunnis since the Battle of Karbala in 680
A minority in Iraq, but they controlled Iraq under Saddam Hussein
The majority in Iraq (about 60% of the population), they are tasting political domination for the first time
There are many other differences between these two groups of Muslims, much as there are differences between Protestants and Catholics. As the Christian groups recognize each other as Christians, Sunni and Shia recognize each other as Muslim. Their religious differences sprouted mainly from the political problems that occurred with their respective leadership shortly after Mohammed’s death. The Battle of Karbala in 680 became a rallying point for both groups, and the subsequent embellishment of the battle over time has only exacerbated the split between them.
Today, their differences appear to have reached a breaking point in Iraq, where territorial segregation is the only thing keeping them alive, and poorly at that.
And so, the U.S. finds itself not only in the middle of a civil war, but a religious civil war. This will not have a happy ending for anyone. Like the Battle of Karbala 1300 years ago, the U.S. will be remembered for the role it played in helping bring about all the bloodshed over the past four years. The real reasons, right or wrong, will be lost to embellishment.