View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Friday, April 29, 2005


A number of people I know have been watching that apocalyptic show "Revelations." I've watched parts of it.

The satanic character in the show reminded me of the Beast, and all the speculation about his/her identity. I know when I was younger I wondered about Nixon...

I know 666 is the Number of the Beast. Here are some related numbers:

660 - Approximate number of the Beast
DCLXVI - Roman numeral of the Beast
666.0000 - Number of the High Precision Beast
0.666 - Number of the Millibeast
/666 - Beast Common Denominator
1010011010 - Binary of the Beast
Beast1-666 - Area code of the Beast
00666 - Postcode of the Beast
1-900-666-0666 - Live Beasts! One-on-one pacts! Call Now! Only $6.66/minute. Over 18 only please.
$665.95 - Retail price of the Beast
$699.25 - Price of the Beast plus sales tax
$769.95 - Price of the Beast with all accessories and replacement soul
$656.66 - Target price of the Beast
Route 666 - Way of the Beast
666F - Oven temperature for roast Beast
666mg Recommended Minimum Daily Requirement of Beast
Netscape 6.66 - BetaBrowser of the Beast
i66686 - CPU of the Beast
666I - BMW of the Beast
668 - Next-door neighbour of the Beast

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A Democratic secret

There’s something some Democratic Party leaders have been trying to keep hidden from voters for a long time.

Some Democrats are pro-life.


It’s a little secret they have been trying to keep behind closed doors, like a crazy uncle.

Back in 1992, they wouldn’t let Bob Casey, the pro-life Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, speak at the Democratic convention.

On the party website, they have fought to keep off links to pro-life Democratic groups. But they do have links to groups like Catholics for a Free Choice.

They have tried to keep pro-life Democrats from getting on party committees and from receiving the party’s endorsements for elective offices.

Oh those crazy pro-lifers. Just like Uncle Ed.

But last fall the party got a rude awakening. Democrats lost. A lot of them. And in some cases, polls suggest it was because of pro-life voters rejecting – dare I say it – the party’s fanatical support for abortion.

Some of the smarter Democrats are taking note of this situation. Senator Hillary Clinton of New York has voiced some moderation on the issue. That former Planned Parenthood worker and now Democratic Party head, Howard Dean, has even said that the party has to recognize that there are pro-life Democrats.


Maybe the first step for the national party should be to recognize Democrats for Life of America, an organization founded in 1999. There are currently chapters in 41 states. There are a number of elected officials affiliated with the organization.

Democrats for Life is certainly trying to get the word out. It just announced a new initiative: DFLA 95-10.

According to a press release from the organization. “The 95-10 Initiative is a comprehensive proposal of 15 different policy programs that, when fully funded and implemented in coordination with each other, will hopefully reduce the number of abortions in America by 95 percent over the next 10 years.”

Good goal.

Among the initiative’s proposals are:

Federal Funding for Toll-Free Number/National Public Awareness Program
Federal Funding for Abortion Counseling and Daycare on University Campuses
Make Adoption Tax Credits Permanent
Ban Pregnancy as a “Pre-Existing Condition” in the Health Care Industry
Require Adoption Referral Information
Women’s Right to Know
Increase Funding for Domestic Violence Programs
Fully Fund Federal WIC Program
Parental Notification

There’s lots more to it.

The initiative is supported by, among others, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI), Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-TN), Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), Congressman Jerry Costello (D-IL), State Representative Mark Miloscia (D-WA), and Tom Atwood, President and CEO, National Council on Adoption

Lots of Democrats in there.

Pro-life Democrats.

Check out the press release, the full initiative and Democrats for Life of America at

Perhaps it’s finally time for Democrats to let Uncle Ed out from behind that closed door.

Friday, April 22, 2005

What kind of Christian are you anyway?

While cruising the world of Catholic blogdom, I came across one called Half Baked Taters ( It contained a link to a Christian Traditions Selector.

Through a series of questions, the test is supposed to indicate how your beliefs line up with those of various branches of Christianity. I took the test with some trepidation. After all, I wandered away for a while from my Catholic roots, and even got ordained in another denomination. I wondered if I would come out Catholic.

Your results for Christian Traditions Selector

1: Roman Catholic (100%)
2: Eastern Orthodox (78%)
3: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England (69%)
4: Lutheran (69%)
5: Presbyterian/Reformed (59%)
6: Congregational/United Church of Christ (46%)
7: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.) (38%)
8: Church of Christ/Campbellite (38%)
9: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene (34%)
10: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic) (25%)
11: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God (23%)
12: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist (19%)
13: Seventh-Day Adventist (13%)

Phew. Check it out at

Thursday, April 21, 2005


While voicing praise for JP II
some wearied of his point of view.
So they prayed for their way
from the conclave ballet,
but instead got JP II-II

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Catholic sin binge?


VATICAN CITY—In the interim between Pope John Paul II's death and the election of his replacement, unsupervised Catholics seized the opportunity to sin without fear of reprisal, sources confirmed Tuesday.

"For two weeks, it was like Mardi Gras all over again," said Bryan Cousivert, a Catholic from Arizona. "People were drinking, cursing, and engaging in premarital or even extramarital sex. More importantly, everyone was being totally open about it. No one was worried about doing any penance at all!"

Continued Cousivert: "When the cat's away, the mice will play."...

See the rest of the story at The Onion -

Old joke

Karl Rahner, Hans Kung and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) all arrive at the pearly gates the same day.

St. Peter approaches the three of them, and tells them that he will interview each of them to discuss their views on various issues.

He then points at Rahner and says "Karl! In my office..." After 4 hours, the door opens, and Rahner comes stumbling out of St. Peter's office. He is highly distraught, and is mumbling things like "Oh God, that was the hardest thing I've ever done! How could I have been so wrong! So sorry...never knew..." He stumbles off into Heaven, a testament to the mercy of Our God.

St. Peter follows him out, and sticks his finger in Kung's direction and "Hans! You're next..." After 8 hours, the door opens, and Kung comes out, barely able to stand. He is near collapse with weakness and a crushed spirit. He , too, is mumbling things like "Oh God, that was the hardest thing I've ever done! How could I have been so wrong! So sorry...never knew..." He stumbles off into Heaven, a testament to the mercy of Our God.

Lastly, St. Peter, emerging from his office and says to Pope Benedict, "Your turn." TWELVE HOURS LATER, St. Peter stumbles out the door, apparently exhausted, saying "Oh God, that's the hardest thing I've ever done..."

habemus papam

I was in the new car I was buying (appropriately, cardinal red) when I heard about the selection of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger as the next pope.

My initial reaction was “What!?”

But then, I laughed.

Let me explain.

For years, many progressive Catholics (myself included) have viewed Cardinal Ratzinger with distrust. My own diocese (Rochester, NY) has had run-ins with him (Father Charles Curran, for example, is a priest of our diocese.)

We considered him a panzerkardinal, a Grand Inquisitor, an ecclesial boogeyman.

We found him a convenient scapegoat for our dismay at some of the pronouncements coming out of the Vatican in recent years on a variety of issues near to our hearts (ordination of women, for example).

Surely it was the “Rat man,” and not the beloved Pope John Paul II, behind these hard-line stances?

And as the late pontiff grew sicker and frailer, some suggested that the German cardinal was really running the show.

Some people also speculated with hope that once John Paul passed on to his reward, the iron fist of the Cardinal Ratzinger would lose its grip on the church’s windows, and they would fly open to let in their particular versions of fresh air.

Their wish was that he would finally be granted his own oft- stated dream of retiring to Bavaria.

All very simplistic, and not quite fair, I admit.

As for the possibility of him being elected pope?

Not long before the conclave I was talking with a friend who belongs to the nation’s second largest denomination, ex-Catholics. We both viewed the possibility of a Ratzinger papacy with horror. I don’t recall my exact words, but I basically said it might be a disaster for the church.

It’s amazing how certain a few beers can make you.

But now that moment that made me laugh.

It was not with delight because I am a fan of the new pope.

It’s because I believe this choice just proves what I have been saying all along: God has a sense of humor.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Conclave haiku

April morning –
cardinals in conclave
at the bird feeder

Sunday, April 17, 2005

SNAP judgment, then a musical interlude

SNAP calls five cardinals 'morally unacceptable' as papal candidates

ROME (CNS) -- Five cardinals are "morally unacceptable as papal candidates" because they do not understand the gravity of priestly sex abuse of minors, said a U.S. advocacy and support group for abuse survivors.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, released the names at an April 15 press conference in Rome, urging other electors to exclude the five cardinals from consideration. They are: Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City; Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state under Pope John Paul II; Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy under the late pope; and Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz Ossa of Santiago, Chile.

SNAP based its list on statements it said the cardinals have made in the media. Because SNAP feels that the "crisis of sex abuse by priests will grow to other countries" beyond the United States, "we believe that it should be a factor in choosing the next pope," said Barbara Blaine, founder and president of SNAP.

Hmm. Hoyos, Carrera and Maradiaga are on a lot of lists as potential candidates. I don’t know what the latter two did to offend SNAP. NCR suggests that Hoyos’ crime might be that he suggested the sex abuse scandal was an “American problem.”

I guess he lumps the U.S, Canada, Ireland, Austria, Poland and Australia - all of which have had sex abuse problems in recent years - together in North America. Maybe we should disqualify him just for his poor geographic skills.

SNAP has a right to weigh in on who should be next pope – God knows, even non-Christians I know are voicing views. And a papal candidate’s reaction to the sex abuse issue is as valid a criteria as many others.

As for me, though, I want to see the papal candidates’ music collections.

A man’s taste in music might give us an idea of his character.

Given their ages, many of them could have been listening to music in the ‘40s or ‘50s. Do they like Bing Crosby (good Catholic) or Frank Sinatra (bad boy)? Maybe a little big bad? Or jazz?

Gregorian chant or classical would be safe, but might show a conservative nature.

I’d also want to see if they kept up with music over the years.

A cardinal with St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in his collection might just be open to experimentation.

A little Cat Stevens or Seals and Crofts might indicate ecumenical sensitivity.

Some nice world music would be a positive sign.

So too would be some Gospel.

On the other hand, any disco, Abba, or Tony Orlando and Dawn would raise doubts in my mind about a cardinal’s taste. I shudder to think what liturgical changes he might introduce.

And, of course, any Michael Jackson would be bad.

So let’s check out their music collections while they are in the conclave. Ultimately, it wouldn’t affect who gets chosen, but it might give us an idea what to expect.

Hey, maybe U2 might even get invited to play at the Vatican. Bono is used to pontificating anyway.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Who are Church?

This statement from Catholic League president William Donohue recently arrived in my e-mail:


“In November, 1997, before a packed house of ‘progressive’ Catholics at the annual Call to Action convention, Sister Maureen Fiedler exclaimed that ‘a lot of people in this Church are waiting for a person in this Church to pass away.’ Translated, this means they couldn’t wait for John Paul II to drop dead. Indeed, I have personally heard many disaffected Catholics, including quite a few nuns, say the same thing. Now that the conclave is about to begin, they think their moment has arrived. Watch for them to crash once the new pope is named.

“Whoever the new pope is, he will not turn the Church over to the Call to Action fringe. That’s because they represent a dying breed. Consider what happened in 1996-97.

“In April, 1996, Sister Maureen Fiedler of Maryland’s Quixote Center launched a petition drive aimed at getting one-million Catholics to sign a statement calling for radical changes in the Church’s teachings on women and sexuality. The campaign was dubbed We Are Church, and was well-greased by fat cats who hate the Catholic Church: the Ford Foundation, which funnels millions to Catholics for a Free Choice, used its ‘Catholic’ group to give big bucks to Fiedler. ‘We were blessed with substantial grants,’ Fiedler admitted. ‘We had organizing kits,’ she said, ‘we had grass-roots [efforts]; we did full-page ads [in newspapers]; we had massive mailings; we did public collections in front of cathedrals, like St. Patrick’s in New York.’ They even bribed kids by giving them a dollar for every signature they got.

When the year was up, the campaign was such a bomb that it was extended for six months. In the end, it netted only 37,000 signatures. It was at the Call to Action 1997 convention in Detroit that Fiedler reported the sorry results. She blew up at lay Catholics, saying that progressives overestimated their ‘theological maturity’; she concluded by sounding her death wish for the pope.

“It is for reasons like this that the new pope is not about to turn Left, for to do so would be tantamount to going South.”

I remember this campaign. I knew a few people who were passionate about it, and even signed the statement.

But most of the Catholic progressives I knew - me included – concluded early on that there was little chance they would get the one million signatures, or that the effort would have any discernable effect on the Church. A number of the folks who would have been in favor of such a statement had already left the Church, anyway.

It just seemed like wasted energy that was only going to end in more frustration.

As for Donohue’s predictions about the next pope, only God knows how the conclave will go – and the Lord’s not sharing that information with anyone.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Haiku inspired by JP II

April evening
white dove rises heavenward
hunters all miss

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Miracle attributed to John Paul II

A Carthage, N.Y., woman has reported the first miracle attributed to the late Pope John Paul II.

Rosa Reebeeds says that she was cured of vision loss by praying to the pope for aid.

"I fell asleep on the couch and when I woke up I could barely see," Reebeeds said. "When I fell asleep I could see fine."

Reebeeds said she called to her husband for help, but he didn't respond. It was at that point that she turned to John Paul II.

"I asked him to heal my eyes so I could see like before," she said.

A few moments later her vision was restored.

"It was like the lights suddenly popped back on," Reebeeds said. "I was blind, and now I see.

"It was a miracle."

Reebeeds' husband, Sam, said the problem was a tripped circuit breaker caused by a short in a lamp. He said he just unplugged the lamp, and reset the circuit.

Rosa Reebeeds said her husband was not a man of deep faith. She also said that he was not a handiman, so it is hard to believe he would know what to do for an electrical problem.

"If he did fix a circuit, that would have been another miracle," Rosa Reebeeds said. "Thank you Pope John Paul II."

Friday, April 08, 2005

Your full-service Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood of Carthage has received state approval to open a fertility clinic.

The State Department of Health granted the license after a long, contentious hearing process.

Elizabeth Bordon, Planned Parenthood’s executive director, applauded the decision.

“This clinic will allow us to address more of women’s health care needs,” Bordon said. “It will also address the needs of men.”

The clinic will offer fertility testing and counseling, in-vitro fertilization, and donor services.

The clinic will begin operation in May.

In addition to its traditional education and pregnancy prevention services, Planned Parenthood of Carthage already offers genetic testing and abortion services. Bordon said the new clinic will fit in with the spectrum of services PP provides.

“We want to make sure that our clients get the babies they want when they want them,“ Bordon said. “When it comes to sexuality, we want to be a full-service organization.”

The announcement was greeted with dismay by local prolifers who had battled approval of the clinic.

“Full-service? They want to be there to start the baby, then kill it if it’s not the right kind,” said Dr. Mary Breeder, coordinator of the Carthage Coalition for Life. “It just goes back to Planned Parenthood’s eugenics roots.”

Bordon dismissed Breeder’s charges.

“We don’t believe in imposing our beliefs on women,” Bordon said. “We are working hard to pass laws that will keep the anti-choice crowd in check.”

As for rumors that Planned Parenthood also planned to add an adult bookstore and an escort service to its outreach efforts, Bordon declined to comment.

Planned Parenthood spokesperson Susan Smith later said, “Planned Parenthood has no plans to operate such businesses.”

When asked about such two such businesses housed in Planned Parenthood’s former main offices, Smith said, “Those businesses simply lease space owned by Planned Parenthood of Carthage. They are separately incorporated.”

The Lusty Living Bookstore and Ecstatic Escort Service are both owned by Bordon’s long-time partner, Alene Wornos. She has been operating the businesses out of Planned Parenthood's former offices on Main Street since the organization moved into the multi-million dollar complex it built on Sanger Road.