Friday, February 25, 2005

The Joy of Sects: Anglican and Episcopalian Churches in America

I thought that there were only seven Episcopal/Anglican Churches in America. Instead, here's a list that includes at least thirty of them.
Pope John Paul II back in hospital

The Pope's back in the hospital, and underwent a tracheotomy to help him breathe. Since he suffers from Parkinson's he will have a harder time recovering than most 84-year-olds. The BBC reports that his appetite is good and he is recovering.
Anglican split worsens

Prelates of the Anglican Communion, meeting in Northern Ireland, have asked the American Episcopal Church and the Canadian Church to withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for three years, until the 2008 Lambeth Conference. According to the BBC, "One observer said: 'The primates have handed the North Americans a pearl-handled revolver."

As the February Meeting Communiqué puts it:

"14. Within the ambit of the issues discussed in the Windsor Report and in order to recognise the integrity of all parties, we request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference. During that same period we request that both churches respond through their relevant constitutional bodies to the questions specifically addressed to them in the Windsor Report as they consider their place within the Anglican Communion. (cf. paragraph 8)"

The Anglican Church of Canada's primate, the Most Rev. Andrew S. Hutchison, found the document, while imperfect, "
does, however, reflect the consensus that we were able to achieve."

The Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA, Most Rev. Frank Griswold, is less sanguine. "
These days have not been easy for any of us and the communiqué reflects a great deal of prayer and the strong desire to find a way forward as a Communion in the midst of deep differences which have been brought into sharp relief around the subject of homosexuality." and "Clearly, all parts of the communiqué will not please everyone. It is important to keep in mind that it was written with a view to making room for a wide variety of perspectives."


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Magdalene Laundries: A Study in Faith-Based Oppression
From just after the Potato Famine until 1996, several orders of nuns ran "Magdalene Laundries", where "fallen women" and other women deemed likely to "fall" were imprisoned. Thirty thousand women went through these laundries. Six days a week, 52 weeks a year the women would be forced to work in laundries run by the sisters without pay. They could not leave. Priests and nuns took sexual liberties with the inmates. Inmates who died were often buried in unmarked graves, and to add insult to injury, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity (!!!) in Drumcondra sold off their Magdalene graveyard, exhumed 155 women, had all but one cremated, then had them buried in a mass grave at Glasnevin Cemetery.

The Irish government and Irish society collaborated in these abuses. Often women were sent to these laundries by their own families. The government knew full well about the laundries, yet did nothing to help the prisoners, opting instead to help the nuns run their slavepits.

Justice for Magdalenes, based in County Cavan, Ireland, offers documentation on the Magdalenes from sources as diverse as Crux News ("Chronicling the Culture Wars and the Clash of Civilizations") and the Workers' Vanguard ("newspaper of the Spartacist Group Ireland, section of the International Communist League.")

Courting Divine Chastisement?

After seeing the movie, I could not help wondering about the state of the nuns' immortal souls right now. While I don't hope that their souls are burning in eternal Hellfire, I do hope that God has made them see what they have done with that clarity afforded by the afterlife. That seems to be the modern definition of Purgatory.

This is why many good Christians of all denominations get very nervous when a government decides to offer them power or money. Anybody familiar with Christian history knows the crimes that Christian clergy can commit when society gives them too free a hand. And most Christians believe that committing such crimes endangers their own soul, and the scandal that issues thereof turns people away from Christianity.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Howard Dean elected DNC chair

In a victory for the Democratic blogosphere, Howard Dean was elected Democratic National Committee chair. To celebrate, many of us have placed donation links to actblue.com, like the one that you see to your left. If you are a Deaniac, it's time to put your money where your mouth (or fingers) are and donate.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Why the Midwest could use high-speed rail: A Tale of Three Travellers

The Midwest High-Speed Rail Association argues, and nine state Departments of Transportation agree, that the Midwest could support a network of fast trains. Wisconsin is doing environmental-impact studies of a Madison-Milwaukee run. Trains have run at 90 mph in Michigan and Illinois is building up the Chicago-Springfield corridor.

Here's why it can work. Consider the trip from downtown Chicago to downtown Indianapolis. Most of us would drive it, but for some reason Southwest Air runs four flights and United runs eight flights on that route. (All times are Central.)

Margaret Ironbladder drives the route nonstop, leaving home at 8 am. The trip takes about 3.3 hours at posted speeds, provided she drives non-stop and avoids both cities' rush hours, summer construction and winter weather. In practice, 4 hours is considered normal and 5 hours is prudent. She arrives in Indianapolis around noon Central time; by IRS rules the 180-mile trip costs about $67.50

Jim Propflight takes an airline to Indianapolis, leaving home at 8 am. First comes the trip to O'Hare or Midway, which takes 30 minutes on a good day from downtown via CTA, though one hour is more prudent for drivers. He has been advised to arrive an hour early for the flight. Finally he gets on the plane for the one-hour flight. He gets off the flight between 10:30 and 11:00 am Central time. Arriving at Indianapolis International, on the city's western edge, he then must get his bags (10 minutes if he's lucky), and get the rental car (another 10 minutes) or on the hourly shuttle bus (average 30 minute wait). It is now between 10:50 and 11:40. It takes 20 minutes to get downtown if I-70 permits, so Jim arrives between 11:10 and 12 noon. The ticket cost $39 (Southwest Airlines, 3/9/05), the shuttle to the hotel $12, total $51.

At 8 am, Roberta Railman takes a 30-minute taxi or public transit ride to Union Station. She arrives 30 minutes early, again to be prudent. The train averages 70 mph, and Roberta arrives in downtown Indianapolis at 11:50 am, a $5-$10 taxi ride from her destination. The current Amtrak fare for this trip is $16, though that probably hides a subsidy. Still even at twice or three times the price Roberta would ride in comfort while her colleagues would endure 3-4 hours of stressful driving or uncomfortable flying.


Monday, February 07, 2005

Super Bowl XXXIX Notes

Patriots 24, Eagles 21

During the interminable Super Bowl pre-game show, Fox invited George H.W. Bush (Republicans, #41) and Bill Clinton (Democrats, #42) to talk for a few minutes about tsunami relief. Clinton fans will be pleased to learn that the UN named him the special envoy for tsunami reconstruction, effective March 1. Clinton foes will be pleased to learn that the resorts affected by the tidal wave are open and offer great bargains, should they decide to follow him around. Clinton also correctly predicted a close game characterized by strong defense on both sides, while Bush predicted that the Patriots would defeat the Eagles by over 14 points.

Guide for Papal Paparazzi

The Pope was taken to the hospital late Tuesday evening (2200 GMT) and by Wednesday, the ghouls descended on Gemelli Hospital to report the latest breaking news on his condition. They set up a forest of satellite dishes outside the hospital and mingled with the pilgrims. A satellite forest of satellite dishes orbited the main camp to report on the media frenzy.

A sick Pope is manna from Heaven if you're a modern journalist. Nobody shoots at you. The food's better than it is in Baghdad (let alone Darfur). You don't get herded around or confined to green zones. Forged documents went out with the Papal States. Best of all is the polyglot flock of pilgrims, some of whom speak your language and all of whom offer plenty of local color.

Best of all, covering the Pope is not always a 24/7 affair, since you can tell how grim his condition is by where he's staying. (Better to tell your audience that his condition is grim, no matter what, so they remain interested.) So here's a helpful color-coded guide for the professional ghoul who wants to enjoy Rome while boosting his career.

Code Green: The Pope has not cancelled his appearances at the Vatican. Remind your audience that he is ill with Parkinson's and frail. Never mind that the poor man endured enough disease and injury after age 65 than would kill an ox. And what are you doing in Rome, anyway?

Code Blue: The Pope has cancelled an appearance. Be sure to intone it as gravely as possible, then enjoy la dolce vita on your expense account before you go to your next assignment.

Code Yellow: The Pope has entered his suite of rooms on the tenth floor. While he is suffering and in pain, his life's not is proximate danger. Whatever you do, don't let the audience know that the Pope will probably recover in a few days. This is the sweet spot of Papal coverage, where minimal effort can produce maximal career results. But monitor the BBC, since the Pope's condition just might deteriorate.

Code Orange: The Pope entered intensive care. You're on 24/7, interrupted only by the Michael Jackson trial. In a few days intensive care will be old news, and you can return to Code Yellow and two-hour spaghetti carbonara lunches with wine.

Code Red: You've been sent home, and the senior anchor is on his way. Be sure to interview a cardinal or two at the airport.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

On Human Suffering

A gem from Archbishop Akinola, leader of the conservative faction of African Anglicans, from The Nation, Nairobi (and reprinted here). He was trying to brush aside questions of homosexuality, but the African media kept after him. Apparently the South Africans are not on board.

"But annoyed at the prolonged questioning on this one issue, Archbishop Akinola, who has led the fight against acceptance of gays in the church and the ordination of gay clergy, said: "I didn't create poverty. This church didn't create poverty. Poverty is not an issue, human suffering is not an issue at all, they were there before the creation of mankind."

Human suffering before mankind? Perhaps there were diabolical plans afoot, but last I checked human suffering requires a human participant. Also, last I checked human suffering is a prime Christian concern.

Maybe this is how Anglicans defuse controversies -- by talking them to death.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

R I P, Nermal Kinesis, April 24, 1992 - January 31, 2005

Nermal Kinesis was born in late April in the city of Hammond, Indiana. As is so often the case with alley cats, his father is unknown. His mother resided at the house next door to my grandmother. They say that he was part-Siamese, but if so, that part had to be Traditional Siamese since in his prime he weighed 17 pounds and measured 35.5 inches from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail, not far from the world record.

He had a very rough kittenhood. Neighborhood scuttlebutt is that one of the humans at his mother's house abused him -- and as is so common among graduates of the School of Cruelty to Animals, a SWAT team came for his abuser two years later. As a kitten, Nermal was adopted across the street, then moved up the block. When my grandmother's neighbor saw him being dragged through the alley by his neck, she rescued him. The neighbor then asked my grandmother to watch him so she could go to Los Angeles. From LA, the neighbor told my grandmother to keep him.

A few days later, my grandmother asked me (through my mother) if I could watch him over the Fourth of July weekend. We met at Mom's house, where the little black bundle of nerves stared at me from Grandma's lap, continuously hissing as other kittens might mew. From there we went to my apartment, where they dropped him off. I showed him my hand, and for some strange reason he greeted me by rubbing against it instead of ripping it off. So I fed him and he came up to me on the futon. Of course I dared not name him, since when you name an animal, he is yours and he would have to go back after the weekend.

On Monday, July 6, 1992 Mom called me at work to say that Grandma didn't want him back. So I named him Nermal (after the kitten in Garfield who always got mailed off to Abu Dhabi) Kinesis (for running all over the apartment like a maniac) and began to tame the little savage. He developed an intense fear and loathing of the vet from whom he got his shots; where other cats have a pedigree, this one had a rap sheet. After he was neutered, sadly, I had to declaw him. Oddly enough, instead of turning into a true neurotic cat as the experts said he would, he became a lot more affectionate. I think he tried to show me affection but didn't know when to retract the claws, I'd push him away when he drew blood so he took that as a challenge and attacked again.

He saw me through Grandma's death in April 1993 and my father's death in June 1993. I started spending lots of time at Mom's house, so I brought Nermal there. He enjoyed the house greatly, and started to transfer his affections from me to Mom since the resident cat, Sable, was still smitten with me. His favorite song was "Sukiyaki" (Ue wo muite arukoo) and he would come running whenever I sang it until the last months of his life. He would also yowl, hiss and strike at any other male human who dared enter the house.

When Sable passed on and Tango entered our lives by way of Bloomington and IU, the Litterbox Protocols of 2001 declared that I was now Tango territory while Mom was Nermal territory. Shadow, our dog passed on and Nermal assumed his reign. An unusually benevolent alpha-male, he always ceded the food dish to Tango -- sort of like the squad leader that makes sure that everybody else has eaten before he does. (Of course he almost always defeated Tango in single combat, which I broke up more than once, sometimes to have Tango re-enter the fray.)

He began his final decline of health in mid-December 2003, when his thyroid went into super-hyper-mega-overdrive. He'd vomit, we'd treat the vomiting, he'd stop vomiting and one day his vomit turned brown and smelled of feces. From there it was a struggle between the thyroid, dehydration and the rest of his body rejecting the thyroid medication with vomiting and, finally, loss of bladder and sphincter control Sunday morning. The fluid IV that he took easily two weeks earlier had become a bath of pain by Friday. By Monday evening he had lost half his weight and the only way to save him involved 15-17 days of hospitalization and a radioactive thyroid injection -- of course two weeks at the cursed vet might have killed him as well. So, we had him euthanized at 6:00 pm last night. He fought the euthanasia bravely, and his last breath was his trademark snort of defiance. He died as he lived.

The vet offered a printout all about the Rainbow Bridge which people say that beloved housecats cross after going to sleep and gaze down lovingly upon their bereaved humans from fields of catnip. That was not Nermal's style, so I didn't take it. He'd be more of a Nekoyama cat spirit, who might still love you but had his limits.

Oddly enough, January 31 was my father's birthday as well, and my father detested Nermal. So when I join the celestial choir, I may hear that two discordant notes rang out on January 31, 2005:

"You said I was in Heaven!"



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