No runs, no hits, no errors?

After a day off…

I feel like I should at least acknowledge the NTY’s long, page one Sunday story about the Archbishop of New York and how he dealt with sex abuse in St. Louis and Milwaukee.

When I picked up the paper, I probably had the same reaction as a lot of folks: Oh boy. I wonder what they got on Dolan.

I read it all the way through and came out thinking: Not much.

I realize that these things are in the eye of the beholder, but I thought the story gave one a good sense of the very difficult situations that Dolan faced. The main anecdote, about an allegation of abuse in St. Louis, left me without any clear sense of what Dolan should have done.

In the end, although Dolan said and did a few debatable things, I thought the story made him look pretty…good.

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, not surprisingly, saw the article as a failed “hit,” noting that it was largely ignored by other media.

On the Commonweal blog, veteran journalist Paul Moses concluded “No runs, no hits, no errors.”

In the comments section, former Commonweal boss Peggy Steinfels more or less agreed: “I thought the reporter managed to convey the hard places in which Dolan found himself over the years.”

Dolan did blog about the NYT on Sunday, but didn’t mention that day’s article by Serge Kovaleski.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests — SNAP — usually responds to major media reports about abuse. SNAP was featured prominently in Sunday’s article, but I don’t see any statement from the group on their website.


A liberal Catholic shot at the NYT

As I’ve written before, recent media coverage of sex-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church has faced harsh criticism from those who sense anti-Catholic leanings in the secular media.

Weighing in now is none other than Westchester’s own Kenneth Woodward, the former longtime religion editor at Newsweek (where he remains a contributing editor). I’ve often praised the terrific lecture series that Woodward organizes at his parish, St. Theresa’s in Briarcliff Manor.

In fact, the next FREE lecture is this Monday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m., when Christian Smith, director of Center for the Study of Religion and Society and the Center for Social Research at Notre Dame, will talk about “Souls in Transition: The Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults.”

Woodward has written a critique of the New York Times’ recent stories about sex abuse for the Catholic weekly, Commonweal. This is particularly interesting because Commonweal is, of course, a liberal magazine that has been very critical of the church’s handling of the abuse crisis.

Woodward’s essay, called “Church of the Times,” actually has two, almost separate themes.

The first is that the Times is a sort of Church of Secularism that can’t help seeing believers as space aliens — quite odd and difficult to understand. He makes the case that the Times operates much like the Vatican:

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As U.S. newspapers go, the Times is also a venerable institution and its hierarchy of editors, deputy and assistant editors, and copyeditors is a match for the Roman curia. The paper has been controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family since 1896. To those who devote their lives to it, the Times has become “a place that will shelter you the rest of your life,” as Arthur Gelb wrote in his detailed memoir, City Room. I know what he means: Newsweek in the nearly four decades I worked there was also a sheltering institution. Moreover, with reporting flowing in from our worldwide news bureaus, we in New York felt as if we were operating at the throbbing center of the known and knowable universe. Given its exponentially larger work force, not to mention hourly input from the Internet, this illusion is all the more powerful at the Times. A journalist could spend a lifetime in its newsroom without encountering a dissenter from the institutional ideology.

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Woodward’s point that the Times sees its mission as Big and Important (“All the news that’s fit to print,” anyone?), not unlike a religious institution, is quirky and fun to consider, whether you agree or not.

His second point is that the Times’ coverage of two high-profile “scandals” was poorly done. He spends much less time on this point, opening and closing his essay with it.

First and foremost, he asserts that the Times has been too reliant on the legal papers (and views) of the lawyer Jeff Anderson, the most high-profile defender of abuse victims.

He writes: “It’s hard for a newspaper to climb in bed with a man like Anderson without making his cause its own.”

But Woodward doesn’t critique the stories — dates, places, chains of command — as other critics have tried to do.

Woodward does make one timely point about all the Times’ recent front-page stories about abuse scandals connected or vaguely connected to the pope: “…clearly the Times considers sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests more newsworthy than abuse committed by other groups. An April 13 verdict against the Boy Scouts of America, which has struggled with the child-sexual-abuse issue for a century, did not merit page-1, above-the-fold treatment but rather a single paragraph deep inside the paper.”

I would like to know how the Times would explain its meager coverage of the Boy Scouts’ case, which involves a national organization having decades worth of files related to scout masters who have abused minors. Here is their most recent story about the case, which ran deep inside the paper.

The Times’ ombudsman, Clark Hoyt, recently defended the paper’s coverage of things Catholic.

Are the media picking on the Catholic Church?

Headlines about sex-abuse scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church seem to be everywhere these days.

And that means that media coverage will be widely critiqued — and often judged to be anti-Catholic.

In fact, none other than Archbishop Dolan, on his Facebook page, when writing about a NYT article about a scandal in Germany, alleges that his church is getting singled out:

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What causes us Catholics to bristle is not only the latest revelations of sickening sexual abuse by priests, and blindness on the part of some who wrongly reassigned them — such stories, unending though they appear to be, are fair enough, — but also that the sexual abuse of minors is presented as a tragedy unique to the Church alone.

That, of course, is malarkey. Because, as we now sadly realize, nobody, nowhere, no time, no way, no how knew the extent, depth, or horror of this scourge, nor how to adequately address it.

The sexual abuse of our young people is an international, cultural, societal horror. It affects every religion, country, family, job, profession, vocation, and ethnic group.

*****

Dolan also argues that the church is getting little credit for all that it’s done to correct past problems.

Just this week, the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference announced that its annual report card on sex abuse “shows the fewest number of victims, allegations and offenders in dioceses since 2004.”

In 2009, dioceses across the country received 398 allegations. 71% of the allegations involved incidents from 1960 to 1984. Only SIX allegations involved children under the age of 18 during the year 2009.

Dioceses spent more than $21 million for child protection programs including training, background checks and salaries for compliance staff, according to the report.

Referring to the church’s policies on sex-abuse, adopted in 2002, Cardinal Francis George, president of the Bishops Conference, writes: “The Charter is causing a cultural change in the U.S. Catholic Church, one I hope will permeate all areas of society.”

The church’s efforts to turn things around are why Dolan also writes:

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We Catholics have for a decade apologized, cried, reached out, shouted mea culpa, and engaged in a comprehensive reform that has met with widespread acclaim. We’ve got a long way to go, and the reform still has to continue.

But it is fair to say that, just as the Catholic Church may have been a bleak example of how not to respond to this tragedy in the past, the Church is now a model of what to do. As the National Review Online observes, “. . . the Church’s efforts to come to grips with this problem within the household of faith — more far reaching than in any other institution or sector of society — have led others to look to the Catholic Church for guidance on how to address what is, in fact, a global plague.”

As another doctor, Paul McHugh, an international scholar on this subject at Johns Hopkins University, remarked, “Nobody is doing more to address the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church.”

That, of course, is another headline you’ll never see.

*****

Dolan couldn’t have been happy to see today’s NYT, which features a front-page article about a late Wisconsin priest who molested hundreds of boys — while the Vatican did not react to pleas from several bishops to do something.

It’s one of those stories that leaves you shaking your head. How could it happen?

So, is Dolan right that the Catholic Church is being picked on and not given credit for its reforms? It’s a tough case to make when the pope is apologizing to the people of Ireland for decades of abuse and Germans are up in arms about scandals there.

Sure, the church is trying to turn things around (although some advocates for victims would say that some bishops and dioceses are still dragging their feet). But Catholics and the society at large are still only coming to terms with decades of abuse and how it happened.

I, for one, find it hard to buy the argument that sex-abuse outside the Catholic Church gets ignored by the media. It’s a case I’ve heard for the last decade.

Dolan notes that there has been much more abuse in public schools than in churches. It’s true, BUT each school system is responsible for what its employees do. There is no national school board that sets policies on abuse or can shuttle abusive teachers around.

When an abusive teacher is arrested in, say, Tulsa, the media there cover it. But the rest of the country has no interest. So, while there is extensive coverage of abuse in schools and other walks of life, the coverage does not feel tied together like coverage of abuse in the hierarchical Catholic Church.

When Jeanine Pirro was the Westchester DA and regularly busted men for seeking under-age sex partners via the Web, the Journal News put just about every case on Page One. But these were “local” stories that the national media would not have picked up on.

This week, a sex-abuse trial in Portland, Ore., involving the Boy Scouts of America revealed that the Scouts have kept confidential NATIONAL files on suspected abusers among its troop leaders. The trial has received extensive media coverage all across the country — as have past trials involving sex abuse in the Boy Scouts.

Sex abuse does get covered in all areas.

I want to share an email blast I got today from Father Thomas Berg, a priest and head of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person. He deals often with the media and has this take on the recent coverage:

*****

You may have seen the front page (above the fold) story in today’s New York Times by Laurie Goldstein regarding Vatican inaction on a Milwaukee priest accused of sexual misconduct.  My take (and I know the author) is that while NYT is definitely taking aim at Pope Benedict and smells blood in the water, Goldstein’s real message was more about a culture of inaction and of hushing up abuse cases in order not to tarnish the image of the Church and to “avoid scandal”.   That internal culture and its attendant modes of operation certainly do need to change; they were, for all intents and purposes, still the m.o. in the late 90’s when these reports reached the Vatican. It may be the case that, at the time, then Cardinal Ratzinger was still working under those received ways of (in)action; but I believe the truth about Benedict is that his whole m.o. on how to handle these things underwent a real metamorphosis in the early part of the new decade of 2000.  Although lengthy, I encourage you to read the following article by John Allen which makes a compelling case for that sea change in mentality in Cardinal Ratzinger who became, in Allen’s words,  “a Catholic Eliot Ness” after becoming Pope in terms of handling high profile abuse cases. The question now is how the Pope will handle things from here and will he be true to his past.

****

Read that John Allen story. I praised it just the other day.

Hanging up his ‘Beliefs’ after 20 years

Happy New Year.

As a long-time religion writer in New York, I have to pay tribute today to Peter Steinfels, who retired his weekly “Beliefs” column in the NYTimes this past Saturday.

peter4It shouldn’t be a surprise that I quickly turned to “Beliefs” every Saturday after I pulled the Times and Journal News from the driveway. I was always anxious to see Steinfels’ subject of the week — “What does he think is important right now in the religion world” — and to  admire, inevitably, how he handled the many complex subjects that come up and never go away.

For 2o years, Steinfels gave a clear and fair review of the matter at hand — how we got here, what it means and where we might be going.

In his farewell column, he addressed this approach:

*****

Beliefs observed the journalistic practices governing the main news sections where it appeared. The choice of topics and the way they were framed inevitably revealed a personal perspective, but, until this sentence, I never wrote in the first person singular, and the column eschewed outright advocacy and critical judgments of the sort advanced by Op-Ed page columnists or critics in the culture sections.

At their best, these strictures lent the column a degree of gravitas, and in many circles I earned a reputation for even-handedness that probably owed as much to The Times’s standards as to my own character. At the same time, because these strictures cut against personal anecdote or casual comment, they sometimes fostered a false solemnity, to say nothing of a straining to end many columns on a note of Olympian impartiality too often verging on “Time will tell.”

*****

That false solemnity was long at the heart of “objective” journalism in this country, but is quickly disappearing.

I miss it, even if Steinfels’ “strictures” may have reduced his personal voice. I love a columnist (or any writer) who explains an issue — so that I understand it better — instead of delivering yet another soliloquy of self-righteous opinion and personal anecdote.

But that’s me.

Steinfels writes that he couldn’t take sides on all the hot-button religious issues that have helped to define the Culture Wars. He writes: “I look forward to being less limited to “900-word thoughts” and to being more personal, more direct and, when needs be, more political.”

Fair enough.

But I’ll still miss Beliefs for what it was.

Steinfels is a devout Roman Catholic who wrote one of the best books to come out of the sex-abuse scandal: A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.

He used to cover religion as a staff writer for the Times, but left the “regular” staff in 1997.

He and his wife, Margaret O’Brien Steinfels, a former editor of the liberal Catholic weekly Commonweal, now co-direct the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture.

I’m sure many Beliefs readers are wondering whether the mighty Times will provide a new outlet for religion news, opinion, etc.

We’ll see, but I doubt it — unless it’s something Web-based and not aimed at print.

The anti-Catholicism debate continues

The Catholic blogosphere is rallying around Archbishop Dolan’s recent attack on what he calls “anti-Catholicism” in the NYTimes, which I blogged about early in the week.

Many bloggers have been particularly buoyed by Dolan’s criticisms of columnist Maureen Dowd, who often writes about her (liberal) unhappiness with the state of her church.

tjndc5-5p3nx301dfb4zxlsj0a_layoutOn his blog, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., wrote: “All I can say, is right on, Archbishop Tim.”

Another blogger wrote that Dolan’s criticism means more because he’s a nice guy: “Harsh criticism from Dolan sounds like harsh criticism from Mother Teresa. When it occurs, you oughtta listen. If a cur accuses me of being a cur, I shrug. If the kindly older fellow at my church takes me aside and tells me I’m behaving poorly, I blush and want to crawl under a rock.

Maybe it’s time for Dowd to crawl under a rock.”

Yet another blogger focused on the Times’ unwillingness to run Dolan’s piece as an Op-ed: “New York Times readers will not see the Archbishop’s response, it was rejected for publication. His Grace should take solace, however, knowing that at least 98 percent of Times readers, when seeing his byline, would have skipped over it anyway.”

And another: “Like President Obama and other leftists, the Old Gray Lady cannot handle constructive criticism.”

Interestingly, Laurie Goodstein, the national religion correspondent for the NYT, who is mentioned by name in Dolan’s blog, wrote a lengthy response to Dolan as a comment following his blog. It is now about 20 comments down and was posted on Nov. 4 at 2:42 p.m.

Goodstein, who is a highly regarded reporter in the journalism world, sounds exasperated by Dolan’s blog: “You write as though the Catholic Church is some sort of special target, when in fact any institution that is accused of wrongdoing receives critical coverage and commentary. As you know, the Catholic Church is the largest religious institution in the world, and a quarter of Americans are adherents. The Catholic Church is a hierarchical church with a clear chain of accountability. It is only natural that it receives such scrutiny. As you acknowledged in your blog, there are recent developments in the Church that are “well-worth discussing and hardly exempt from legitimate questioning.” So when a newspaper undertakes this kind of coverage, it should not be seen as anti-Catholic.”

She also writes more personally: “Archbishop Dolan, you and I have known one another since we first met in Rome in 1998 when you were rector at the North American College. We met again years later when I was doing a story about you and several others whom I dubbed “Healer Bishops” who were trying to help the church recover from the scandal over sexual abuse by priests. I am pained that your blog selectively overlooked all the articles in the Times that you and other bishops in the church have praised over the years because you found them fair, and there are many (including some about your appointment to the Archdiocese of New York). This is why I cannot accept your characterization of the Times as “anti-Catholic.” ”

I was part of a show yesterday on The Catholic Channel on satellite radio about this debate. I offered that anti-Catholicism is a complicated charge that means very different things to different people. I know this because I have been accused of anti-Catholicism many times for simply writing about things Catholic.

I think that it is extremely tricky to make a case that anti-Catholicism runs through the “media” or even just the NYT — as some sort of philosophy that seeks to smear Catholic belief or tradition.

As I said on the Catholic Channel yesterday, we all know that the Catholic Church takes many positions that are odds with the direction in which American culture is heading. This fact produces tensions, conflicts and bad feelings.

It also raises the question: If someone takes public positions that oppose the beliefs of the Catholic Church — or reports those positions — at what point does it become anti-Catholic. I think people have very different interpretations of where this line should be drawn.

I addressed the question of anti-Catholicism in the media when I spoke at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers a couple of months back. I remember reminding seminarians that the Catholic Church, which represents 1 in 4 Americans, is a very big target. And a very big target will get hit more than smaller ones, sometimes accurately and sometimes not.

This is is a debate that is not going away. It also shows the sway that the Archbishop of NY continues to have with Catholics outside this archdiocese.

UPDATE: Today, Sunday, the Times’ public editor, Clark Hoyt, weighed in on Dolan’s blog.

He addresses Dolan’s complaints in a rather flat way that I doubt will satisfy the paper’s critics. He concludes that the paper has not been guilty of anti-Catholicism and doesn’t really give Dolan any points.

Hoyt doesn’t even see why conservative Catholics might have a problem with Maureen Dowd’s recent column that not only attacks the Vatican’s investigation of female religious orders in the U.S., but goes after the pope in the broadest, most cliched terms: “Nuns need to be even more sepia-toned for the über-conservative pope, who was christened “God’s Rottweiler” for his enforcement of orthodoxy. Once a conscripted member of the Hitler Youth, Benedict pardoned a schismatic bishop who claimed that there was no Nazi gas chamber. He also argued on a trip to Africa that distributing condoms could make the AIDS crisis worse.”

Hoyt concludes that Dowd was “well within a columnist’s bounds.” True, but anything is within a columnist’s bounds.

If you’re going to explore Dowd’s column and quote her, at least acknowledge that Catholics might be pained by this.

Dolan takes on the Times

There’s been a lot of buzz about Archbishop Dolan starting a blog.

There will be more buzz now that the Boss has posted a letter that he submitted to the NYTimes, which Dolan says the Times declined to publish.

In his letter/blog post, Dolan takes the Times to task for several examples of what he believes to be anti-Catholicism in its pages.

tjndc5-5p0fc8qf1e9x8c196h4_layoutHe starts off: “October is the month we relish the highpoint of our national pastime, especially when one of our own New York teams is in the World Series!

Sadly, America has another national pastime, this one not pleasant at all: anti-catholicism.”

He cites four problems:

1) A Times article about child sex abuse in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, about which he says “Yet the Times did not demand what it has called for incessantly when addressing the same kind of abuse by a tiny minority of priests: release of names of abusers, rollback of statute of limitations, external investigations, release of all records, and total transparency.”

2) An article about a priest who fathered a child two decades ago and has had a strained relationship with the mother and child. Dolan writes: “..one still has to wonder why a quarter-century old story of a sin by a priest is now suddenly more pressing and newsworthy than the war in Afghanistan, health care, and starvation–genocide in Sudan. No other cleric from religions other than Catholic ever seems to merit such attention.”

3) The Times’ lead story last week about the Vatican’s move to welcome disenchanted Anglicans. He writes: “Of course, the reality is simply that for years thousands of Anglicans have been asking Rome to be accepted into the Catholic Church with a special sensitivity for their own tradition. As Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, observed, “We are not fishing in the Anglican pond.” Not enough for the Times; for them, this was another case of the conniving Vatican luring and bidding unsuspecting, good people, greedily capitalizing on the current internal tensions in Anglicanism.”

4) A column by Maureen Dowd, in which Dowd takes aim at the Catholic Church’s treatment of women, in particular nuns. Dolans writes: “In a diatribe that rightly never would have passed muster with the editors had it so criticized an Islamic, Jewish, or African-American religious issue, she digs deep into the nativist handbook to use every anti-Catholic caricature possible…”

Bishops and Catholic leaders often charge the mainstream media with anti-Catholicism. Dolan, though, is unusually precise about what he doesn’t like and why. That’s why the Catholic blogosphere is getting revved up about his piece.

I’m not a media critic — and I’ve always thought that it’s a bit unfair that every word in the Times gets dissected for hidden meanings and agendas — but I have a few thoughts.

About Brooklyn’s Orthodox (we’re really talking Hasidic) community, Dolans writes “there were forty cases of such abuse in this tiny community last year alone.” Tiny? Dolan is new in town, so he probably doesn’t know that we’re talking about a vast, fast-growing community.

The problem of sex abuse in the Hasidic community is only beginning to be grasped and understood by the outside world, so it might be a bit early to expect the Times or anyone else to know how to address it. It will have to be addressed, of course, and there is reason to think that the DA’s office has let things slide for too long.

By comparison, clerical sex abuse in the Catholic community is something we learned about piece-by-piece over at least two decades before the scandal of 2002 erupted.

Measuring the merits of one newspaper article is always a difficult exercise. The priest-fathered-a-child story was an interesting tale, but whether it merited its prominent play is probably in the eye of the beholder.

I agree that the Anglican conversion story was overplayed by the national media, not just the Times. A strong argument can be made — and is being made — that the Vatican was simply responding to convervative Anglicans who had reached out to Rome. We already knew about the Anglican Communion’s internal divisions and the potential for break-ups.

The clear implication of much of the media coverage is that the Vatican is seeking converts in some sort of aggressive new way.

Maureen Dowd was being Maureen Dowd. Right?

Sam Harris ‘troubled’ by God-fearing fellow scientist

I happened to write Saturday’s FaithBeat column about Dr. Francis Collins, President Obama’s nominee to become head of the National Institutes of Health. Collins is quite outspoken about his belief in God, particularly how his knowledge of science informs such belief.

I mentioned that Collins had a debate a few years back with Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist who thinks that belief in the God of the Bible is nutty — and contradicts all that we know from science.

Today, Sam Harris, another fervent atheist, has an Op-Ed in the NYTimes, in which he questions Obama’s choice of Collins. (NOTE: I originally said it was Dawkins who wrote the piece. My mistake. I mixed up my high-profile atheists).

Harris writes:

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Most scientists who study the human mind are convinced that minds are the products of brains, and brains are the products of evolution. Dr. Collins takes a different approach: he insists that at some moment in the development of our species God inserted crucial components — including an immortal soul, free will, the moral law, spiritual hunger, genuine altruism, etc.

As someone who believes that our understanding of human nature can be derived from neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science and behavioral economics, among others, I am troubled by Dr. Collins’s line of thinking. I also believe it would seriously undercut fields like neuroscience and our growing understanding of the human mind. If we must look to religion to explain our moral sense, what should we make of the deficits of moral reasoning associated with conditions like frontal lobe syndrome and psychopathy? Are these disorders best addressed by theology?

*****

In sum: Harris seems to feel that Collins’ crazy beliefs in supernatural powers must limit his ability to see the world in scientific terms and will affect his judgment as a scientist.

How is the Eastern Orthodox Church turned inside out?

Okay, this has been bothering me for over a month now.

On May 25, the NYT’s Alessandra Stanley started a review of the TV show “Mental” with this lead:

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There is nothing wrong with turning a proven success inside out — reversible raincoats, “Grendel” and the Eastern Orthodox Church have all shown lasting appeal. Opposites aren’t always apposite, however: an Oreo cookie assembled backwards is a little too gooey to handle.

*****

For the life of me, I don’t know how or why the Eastern Orthodox Church is a proven success that’s been turned inside out.

I understand the proven success part. The Orthodox Church has been around a while.

But turned inside out? Like a reversible raincoat?

I asked a Greek Orthodox priest the other day and he had no idea.

Stanley is a former Rome correspondent for the Times who covered the Vatican extensively and wrote often about the Orthodox Church, as well. She knows what she means. But I don’t.

What does she mean?

Bless the sun (or wait 28 years for another chance)

Jewish tradition holds that once every 28 years, the sun returns to the same place — at the same time and same day of the week — where it was at the moment of creation.

This rare solar celebration is tomorrow morning.

All around the world, Jews will recite the blessing of the sun — Birkat Hachamah — the least-said prayer in Judaism.

At sunrise, groups of people will face East and say: “Blessed are You, Adonai, our God and God of all the universe, who makes all things in creation.”

I can’t really explain the calculations used, but you can read it here (if you dare).

This rare observance is mostly associated with Orthodox Judaism (many public sun blessings are promoted by the Chabad-Lubavitch Hassidic sect), but many Conservative and Reform congregations will also thank God for the sun in their own ways.

In recent months, as interest has increased in Birkat Hachamah, many people have found an absolutely hysterical article that the New York Times ran about the observance way, way back in 1897. The article — which has to be read and can be HERE — deals with a public observance in Tompkins Square, where police disrupted things because the gathering did not have a permit.

The article explains how Rabbi Klein tried to explain what was happening to Officer Foley — and includes this:

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The celebration is rather a complicated matter to explain to anybody. Rabbi Klein’s knowledge of English is slight, while Foley’s faculties of comprehension of matters outside of police and parks regulations and local events are not acute. The attempt of a foreign citizen to explain to an American Irishman an astronomical situation and a tradition of the Talmud was a dismal failure.

Both became excited, and the people who clustered around them increased the confusion. When Foley was told in broken English about a “new sun,” he was doubtful whether it was an attempt to guy him, or whether some new infection of lunacy had broken out on the east side. His demonstrations because so threatening that Rabbi Klein understood that he was in danger of being arrested and clubbed, and chose the easiest and fastest plan of escape.

*****

There was no by-line on the article.

Archbishop rumors flying (again)

I remember when the speculation was rampant over when Cardinal O’Connor would retire.

It went on for years. And years.

Of course, O’Connor would die as archbishop in 2000 at the age of 80 — five years past the point when bishops submit their retirement papers to Rome.

Cardinal Egan turned 75 in April of 2007, and the rumors were flying before he could blow out the candles on his cake. (That is, if archbishops have birthday cakes. Red velvet, perhaps?)

Speculation picked up after Egan acknowledged the possibility of retirement in a TV interview.

In December of 2007, I wrote an article about the likelihood that Egan would become the first archbishop of New York to retire (alive).

Then the pope came and went last April, which many saw as Egan’s last hurrah.

The archdiocese was said to be preparing a retirement residence for him (although I was told that it would be for “visiting dignitaries).

Nothing happened.

Since the summer, most priests and church insiders I’ve spoken with had stopped paying attention. At least day-to-day attention. The transition would happen when it happened.

Rumors floated that Egan’s piano had been removed from the archbishop’s residence, sparking some interest.

That was then.

A few days ago, Edward Pentin, a Rome-based journalist for National Catholic Register (owned by the Legionaries of Christ) reported that the pope had made his choice for New York and an announcement was imminent.

The NYT followed with its own report today, which will surely kick the rumor mill into its highest gear (yes, an odd string of cliches).

Milwaukee TV picked up on the rumor that the city’s archbishop, Timothy Dolan, is considered to be front-runner for New York (as has been the case for years).

And Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia writes about how difficult it can be to separate the rumors from the facts: “Yet in terms of an ecclesial outlook, this infinite, intense interest in what’s doing behind the curtain offers a powerful storyline in itself, one that should come as both comfort and challenge to our main players: namely, leadership matters — and God’s people are, even now, looking for it.”

I’ve heard the announcement could be next week. Even tomorrow.

So we wait.