11/01/1999

Harry (not his real name, but a real person) was an amateur philosopher and professional fishing guide. We had been enjoying each other's conversation for hours and exchanging "tips" on our favorite writers. But when I mentioned C.S. Lewis, Harry's face darkened. "What don't you like about him?" I asked. "Oh, he's a good writer, [...]

Harry (not his real name, but a real person) was an amateur philosopher and professional fishing guide. We had been enjoying each other's conversation for hours and exchanging "tips" on our favorite writers. But when I mentioned C.S. Lewis, Harry's face darkened. "What don't you like about him?" I asked. "Oh, he's a good writer, [...]

"A religious education and surrealism have marked me for life."      ~Luis Bunuel A man sharpens a razor and slits the eyeball of a young woman; a bomb, planted by the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus, explodes in Paris. These two scenes—aiming at the jugular of the spectator—open in 1928 and close in 1977 the [...]

Thomas Merton once said that a saint is more ordinary than the most ordinary of persons. In his ordinariness, the saint embodies a holy anonymity, eclipsed by the image of Christ shining from his entire being. The life of Vincent Robert Capodanno, MM, is a story of great ordinariness: He was a military chaplain who [...]

In January 1999, as the pope was preparing to fly from Mexico City to St. Louis, a rumor rippled through Cherokee County, Oklahoma. Perched in the foothills of the Ozarks, Cherokee County is the capital of the Cherokee Nation; here ended the 1839 Trail of Tears, the 1,000-mile forced march of the Cherokees from Georgia [...]

Most Americans have probably never heard of the European Parliament. With good reason. Though its members represent the people of the European Union, it has very little power, and even Europeans hardly bother about it. But many American Catholics have probably heard of the singer Dana Rosemary Scanlon who has been the featured singer on [...]

Just as we slowly lost our belief in the Devil, Hell was watered down before it was doused altogether. The English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588- 9) can take much responsibility for creating that kinder and gentler Hell—"Heck" we might call it—where God sends the "clanged" and then not even for long. And Hobbes used [...]

In the past six months, Bill Donohue and the 350,000 members of the Catholic League have been battling movies like Stigmata and Dogma, the smear campaign against Pius XII, and the sin against both faith and beauty at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Mayor Guiliani's decision, surely prompted by Donohue's growing influence, to defund the [...]

Catholic Bashing has been around for about as long as anyone can remember, so long that many Catholics are either inured or indifferent to it. Some were lulled into complacency by the election of John Kennedy, thinking that the "Catholic question" had been settled. In their enthusiasm for JFK's victory, however, they conveniently forgot that [...]

In the days of Daniel Webster and John Calhoun, when the Senate was debating the Oregon bill, Calhoun anticipated the argument that would be made later in the Dred Scott case: American citizens should have the right to carry their property in slaves into the territories of the United States. After all, the territories were [...]

On June 12, 1999, in Collegeville, Minnesota, the finest American Catholic writer of the 20th century died at the age of 81—leaving behind him almost nothing as a legacy His name was James Farl Powers—J.E Powers, as he signed himself—and over the last 50 years, he published only five books, one a decade, to some [...]

Charles De Gaulle once said that Brazil is a country of enormous potential—and always will be. The musical analog of that quip could well be the work of Heitor Villa-Lobos, Brazil's greatest 20th-century composer. Not only did his music portray Brazil as a place of exciting potential, but the music itself promised greatness. Was it [...]

[EXT. RANCH HOUSE—DAY] Tight shot of a door opening to reveal a pleasant-looking MAN in a business suit, briefcase in hand. (Soundtrack: birds chirping.) PULL BACK to show the neatly painted house, well-kept lawn and brand-new station wagon. It's a sunny morning in suburbia. As the man glances at his watch and starts down the [...]

A reflection of Mark Twain abides: "How often we recall with regret that Napoleon once shot at a magazine editor and missed him and killed a publisher. But we remember with charity that his intentions were good." Sympathetic words these, spurring the hope that my list of curiosities about Napoleon Bonaparte, the "Boney" of so [...]

Honesty is the best policy—at least for us mere mortals who have to live with our neighbors and friends in ordinary relationships. For politicians and intellectuals, however, lies, particularly "big" lies, have spectacular benefits. In the twilight of the Clinton years, it takes a really big lie to make us sit up and take notice. [...]

Someone sent me a column from The Washington Post (Reuters, August 15) about legislation for pet owners in San Francisco, knowing how much the confusion of human beings and animals annoys me. According to the article, a group called, no less, In Defense of Animals objects to the idea that pets are property. It believes [...]

As the curtains close on the 20th century, we are presented with countless retrospectives. Of particular interest to me is a decade that covers three major chapters in my life: school, work, and marriage. It also happens to be the decade that is routinely ridiculed. If you guessed the 50s, you are correct. The media [...]

End Notes: Lord Jim

A small book recently appeared on the shelf reserved for the memoirs of flown nuns and former priests, this one by a man who was auxiliary bishop of St. Paul, Minnesota, when he abandoned ship. Reluctant Dissenter by James P. Shannon is a book that tells a story far different from the one its author [...]

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