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March 17th, 2012

This morning I caught the second half of the Mass from Our Lady of Knock Chapel at St. Patrick's Cathedral. The celebrant was Cardinal Dolan, and the homily was given by Archbishop O'Brien. Until I saw Cardinal Dolan, I thought it was a late mass from Dublin.

It was a lovely service, with a hymn I'd never heard, "Those Who Love and Those Who Labour," which I'm going to have to find. And at the end of communion (which took 4 hymns to get through), Dana sang "Our Lady of Knock." Governor Cuomo was there--I didn't notice whether he took communion or not, though he went up. He may have just gone up and venerated the Host since his status as a A) divorced Catholic man, B) Catholic politician who doesn't adhere to a strict pro-life stance, and C) man living in sin with an unmarried partner would make being offered communion by the Cardinal in a nationally televised service unlikely. 

I came in in the middle of the homily. New Yorkers are weird--they applauded during the homily. More than once. When he was done there was a lot. It was a passionate, well-written and -delivered homily, about how the congregation needed to donate more to support the physical structure they were in (maintaining St. Patrick's isn't cheap), and about how "the Church is under attack, both subtle and obvious, from the government." *Sigh* No. The dissolution of the monasteries was an attack on the church. But unless the government begins requiring the church to perform same sex unions, the issue of same sex unions is not an attack on the church. Unless the government requires observant Catholics to engage in birth control, requiring that part of the church involved in secular activities to provide the same health coverage as any other entity involved in secular activities is not an attack on the church, any more than allowing someone to be Episcopalian with equal rights in this country is an attack on the church. 

The thing that got me thinking about it was the fine line O'Brien tread--more than one church has been in danger of losing its tax free status when they crossed a line between religion and politics. I think O'Brien managed to stay on the right side of it, by discussing issues, and the church's view, and calling the congregation to support that view, rather than lobbying for specific politician or referendums; still, it could easily have gone the other way.

But O'Brien isn't the only Archbishop on my mind. Yesterday Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, announced he's going to leave his position as senior prelate in the Anglican community to become the head of Magdalene College at Cambridge. The Anglican Communion has been a bitter place for the 10+ years of his tenure. I remember when he became Archbishop people talked about how he was a gentle, holy man, with rather liberal attitudes, and that he was likely to run into some problems with the more conservative elements of the Anglican community. What an understatement. He said yesterday that his successor was going to need "the constitution of an ox and the hide of a rhinoceros."

I honestly believe that the nominations panel will put forward two names more like Pope Benedict* than like Williams. Though the appointment decision is technically Her Majesty Elizabeth's to make, the Prime Minister will make the choice--no confusing of faith and politics there *snerk*. And he has to deal with what they offer him. It will be a name from the right, I am sure. Not a bishop from Africa, the most conservative region of the Communion, but one acceptable to that faction.

I am a bit disturbed that it seems as though the Christian hierarchies throughout the world are responding to the Ayatollahs and extreme perversions of Islam orthodoxy exhibited by the clerics behind the Taliban and similar organizations by embracing equally extreme versions of their own faith. And it isn't just the Christian elements--Israel is in an extreme internal struggle between the radical Orthodox factions in the rabbinate (and their followers) and the rest of the nation. It seems to me that broad swaths of the world are embracing blind obedience to doctrine and the safety of dictated conscience in every quarter--questions of faith are just the examples on my mind right now, but the push to orthodoxy in all arenas is evident. And it frightens me, because the attitude that "only our way is the right way," that you are willing to enforce at sword point, leads to nothing but death.

*For those who don't know, before he was elected pope Benedict held the senior office in the body that was originally named "Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition"--yes, that Inquisition. The name has changed--the work is the same.

12 of 52

An Irish Country DoctorAn Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm somewhat bashful to admit that I absolutely loved this book.

It is an inescapable fact that this book is reminiscent of All Creatures Great and Small in some ways, or Ballykissangel, and if you don't like those, you won't like this book. I found those pleasant enough, but not as engaging as the world Patrick Taylor has created here.

The voices of the characters are distinct: they're charming, annoying, dotty, nasty...in short, a village of people. The events are simple day to day experiences in a rural town in Northern Ireland when Jack Kennedy was newly dead, the lads from Liverpool were solidly on track, and a new band led by some kid named Jagger was starting to make noise. The second wave of The Troubles hadn't begun, and there were many who remembered the first round, and worried about a young cleric named Iain Paisley and the things he was saying. But that is all background noise to little girls with appendicitis, old men with heart trouble living in their cars, and young men desperate to "do the right thing" but unable to marry the girl unless there's enough money to support the three of them.

There are four more books in the series. I'm going to fight the urge to tear through them. They are short, and there are times when I think I'll desperately need to get away to Ballybucklebo, and Fingal O'Reilly, Barry Laverty, Kinky, Lady Macbeth, and Arthur Guinness--the Smithwicks loving retriever. Yes, I'll keep these, as they say, "in my back pocket," for when the need arises. Who'd have thought this Republic loving girl would grow so fond, so quickly, of some folk from the 6 counties.

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