Monday, June 30, 2008

Meet Me in St. Louis – OK, Not Anymore

As Rocco Palmo reported in his excellent blog, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis has been appointed Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.

The Apostolic Signatura is the Supreme Court of the Catholic Church, just with a lighter case load than our own Supreme Court. The position of Prefect is an enormously important post, but not one that can influence the affairs of the Church. Archbishop Burke actually has more influence through his position on the Congregation for the Clergy. Every prefect of the Apostolic Signatura has been elevated to cardinal. Raymond Cardinal Burke would than be an elector in the next conclave. He is also only 60 years old and as a result will be voting in Papal Conclaves for the next twenty years should those conclaves be necessary.

Archbishop Burke is an extremely complex figure who elicts strong emotions from both the Orthodox wing and the more liberal wing of the Catholic church. He has done enormous good in priestly formation and the seminary in St. Louis. Vocations to the priesthood have steadily increased with the assistance and focus of Archbishop Burke, lending credence to the argument that the more Orthodox and faithful a diocese, the more vocations it produces.

He is most famous for announcing that Senator John Kerry would not be allowed to receive Holy Communion at any parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 2004. While correct both in terms of the responsibilities as a bishop and under the Code of Canon Law, it was not necessarily the most pastoral of actions.

In November of 2007, two ‘Catholic’ women were ‘ordained’ to the ‘priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church’ by an excommunicated female ‘Bishop’ at a St. Louis Synagogue. The Catholic Church teaches and confirmed in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis by John Paul II and restated by Benedict XVI that the priesthood is reserved for men only through the example of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. Archbishop Burke excommunicated the two women and began an investigation into the actions of Sister Louise Lears. Sister Lears served on a parish board near the synagogue and led prayer services with the rabbi for the two women who were ‘ordained’. The Canonical Discipline was released in a statement. Archbishop Burke placed Sister Lears under Interdict and prohibited her from holding any mission in the archdiocese.

As the Prefect for the Apostolic Signatura he may soon see the appeal from Sister Lears on her canonical punishments. The Prefect only breaks a tie so in all likelihood he will not have to rule again on this issue.

The cardinal’s hat and his role as Prefect represent a promotion, but what influence he will have, is hard to determine. It is probable that he will have less influence on daily Church affairs from the Vatican than if he were still in St. Louis. The vote in a conclave however, cannot be minimized in its importance. Archbishop Burke will represent a powerful voice for Catholic Orthodoxy, though many will breathe easier now that he is thousands of miles away.

What will be interesting is who Benedict XVI chooses to replace Archbishop Burke in St. Louis. Burke’s actions have made him a hero to Orthodox and Traditionalists Catholics (he is a proponent of the Traditional Latin Mass) and anathema to Progressives.

Personally I am sad to see Archbishop Burke leave the United States where so much work remains to be done. But we here in the United States cannot be selfish and cannot be overly focused on are small slice of the Catholic Church. He did a great deal of good while in St. Louis and will now go to serve the needs of the Universal Church around the world. God Speed Archbishop Burke.

In other Church news Benedict XVI opened the Pauline Year at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Rocco Palmo has excellent analysis of the service. The symbol of unity illustrated by their actions give us hope that one day soon both Lungs of the Church [The East (Orthodoxy) and the West (Roman Catholic Church)], in all their fullness, will again, breathe as one.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Halfway There: The Cubs at the Midpoint

At the mid-point of the baseball season, many analysts release their mid-season report card for their teams and look ahead at what is to come. So, what have the Cubs told us this season and what remains to be told.

The Cubs have the best record in baseball. Their 49-31 record is outstanding and certainly gives Cubs fans hope that perhaps our 100 year odyssey in futility may finally be at an end. Jim Hendry has done a superb job assembling this team over the last few years. Five years ago he orchestrated a trade (that occurred on July 23rd) that brought Aramis Ramirez to the Cubs, stabilizing a third base position that had long been in flux. Phil Rogers, a sports writer for the Chicago Tribune, notes that “when he made the trade for Ramirez, he did more than fill a hole. He laid a major foundation piece for a team that has emerged as the team to beat in the National League and, at this point, probably the majors.”

The Cubs lead the National League in batting average (.284), slugging (.446), on-base percentage (.362 – this state is probably the most surprising given the Cubs free-swinging ways), walks (324 – there is something wrong with this), total bases (1249), RBIs (414), hits (796), and runs (437). The Cubs offense has done everything that is asked of it. The Cubs have been able to score runs in bunches in nearly every inning and that helps both in putting teams away, but also in coming from behind. A

Even without Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs offense remains potent. Jim Edmonds has performed superbly since being acquired off of waivers. Derrek Lee is having a strong consistent season and is healthy. Aramis Ramirez as always is dependable. Geovany Soto gives the Cubs a weapon at Catcher they have not had in a long time. Kosuke Fukudome has been brilliant, though, his batting average is very low on the road. Reed Johnson, Ryan Theriot, and Mark DeRosa have all been strong contributors to the Cubs this season. There is no reason to envision the Cubs offense falling off in the second half.

The Cubs pitching has been strong, though not nearly as strong as their offense. Their team ERA of 3.85 is good for third in the National League. They rank fourth in strikeouts with 596. The team’s WHIP (walks/hits per inning pitched) is 1.32 which ranks 3rd. Opposing batters are hitting .249 against the Cubs (3rd in the NL). Overall the pitching has been very good and effective, but there are holes that raise some alarm. B+

The Cubs pitching has more cause for alarm. After Carlos Zambrano (a clear #1) and Ryan Dempster (an emerging #2), the Cubs pitching is unsettled. Ted Lilly is turning around, but still has not had the consistency of last season where his ERA was nearly a full point lower and his WHIP was only 1.14 (versus this season’s 1.32). Jason Marquis is not a #4 pitcher and has had serious issues, highlighted by a WHIP of 1.52. Sean Gallagher is an intriguing young arm, but the Cubs don’t have the best track record with young arms (thank you Dusty Baker). The Cubs need one more consistent starter (he may be in the Cubs farm system or he may be with another team).

The back end of the bullpen has been solid around Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood. However, Carlos Marmol’s overuse is beginning to raise red-flags. He has already pitched 47 innings this season and has been torched in four of his last six outings. Couple that with the weakness in the front of the Cubs bullpen at times this season and the ability to hold the lead requires the explosive offense to continue scoring runs. This raises doubts about the Cubs ability to continue to win close games down the stretch. The Cubs bullpen must become better and needs to be a focus for Jim Hendry before the trade deadline.

The Cubs road record is also a cause for alarm. They are nearly unbeatable at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. They have played 38 games on the road with a 16-22 record. That means they have more games on the road than at home for the rest of the season. The month of September features 25 games, only 9 are at Wrigley. Their last seven games will consist of a four-game series against the New York Mets at Shea (hopefully still listless) and a three-game series at Miller Park against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cubs will be in a race the entire season. Just as their pitching and road record represent weaknesses, their offense and home record represents outstanding strengths. The Cubs enjoy a 4.5 game lead in the NL Central. Once derided as the weakest league in baseball, the NL Central is perhaps Major League Baseball’s strongest division (it is without a doubt the strongest in the National League).

I trust Jim Hendry to make some important moves and for a few Cubs to step up. I see no reason why Cubs fans won’t be singing, “Go Cubs Go” into the magical month of October.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Moment of Truth in Iraq -- A Must Read

In general the media coverage of the Iraq War and the War on Terror in general has been horrendous. The notable exception has been the “New Media”. This collection of independent journalists and bloggers provide the best picture of the war.

Bill Roggio’s Long War Journal covers the entire Global War on Terror (GWOT) from Operation Enduring Freedom to Iraq, from the tribal regions of Pakistan to the Maghreb. Not all the posts are his own, but a compilation of the efforts of numerous journalists to cover the entirety of the War on Terror. represents a one-stop-shop for Operation Iraqi Freedom. It pulls from Mr. Roggio’s work on the Long War Journal, other news agencies and bloggers and think tanks to provide an accurate and complete picture of Iraq.

The best journalist covering Iraq today, is Michael Yon. To quote from his biography, “Michael Yon is hands-down the best and most exciting battlefield reporter working today, internationally renowned for his dispatches and photos seen by millions around the world. Yon, who has spent more time embedded with U.S. combat forces in Iraq than any journalist in the world, is totally independent and has never been co-opted by Left or Right, Military or Media.”

He has recently released a new book, “Moment of Truth in Iraq”, from which the above was quoted. The book provides a powerful picture of the changing situation in Iraq as it struggled through the liberation from Saddam in Operation Iraqi Freedom, emerged from the brink (or fact) of civil war in 2006, to the success of the surge in 2007 and 2008. Against all this, “The war isn’t over yet. Victory remains in question. The choice is ours, the time is now – for a moment of truth in Iraq” (Yon 227).

Michael Yon traces the mistakes that were made, but more importantly the actions that have countered those mistakes. Al Qaeda came to Iraq. Al Qaeda sought to establish its Caliphate in Iraq, “but there will be no caliphate. Al Qaeda has lost Iraq” (199). Michael Yon worked directly with the Iraqi people, interviewing them, photographing them, and telling their stories. He repeats one lesson again and again, “Iraqis are willing to fight for Iraq” (Yon 223).

I urge you to please read this book. Since he is independently financed, he relies on donations from us, the reader. I urge you to consider donating to his website or purchasing his book. Let your friends and family know about this book. Tell your public libraries to carry this book. Help Michael Yon tell the story about the “Moment of Truth in Iraq.”

Michael Yon is a great American journalist.

Michael Yon's New Book, Moment of Truth Available Now!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher – Martyrs for the Faith

“I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” – St. Thomas More

June 22nd is the liturgical feast day of both Sts Thomas More and John Cardinal Fisher. Their lives represented an example of how to live in the world, but not of it. They showed us how to live the command of Christ to render to Caesar, Caesar’s, and to God, God’s. The Catholic is called to be counter-cultural and proclaim the Truth of the faith at all times and in all circumstances.

St. John Fisher was born in 1469. After completing his theological studies at Cambridge in England, he was ordained to the Priesthood. Appointed bishop of Rochester, he led a most austere life and fulfilled his pastoral role by frequently visiting the faithful. He also composed works against the errors of the time.

St. Thomas More was born in 1477 and was educated at Oxford. He married and had one son and three daughters. While Chancellor in the King’s Court, he wrote works on the governance of the realm and in defense of the Faith.

Both were beheaded in 1535 by order of King Henry VIII, whom he resisted in the matter of his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. St. John Fisher was martyred on June 22nd and St. Thomas More on July 6th. (Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church)

The Church is strengthened and enriched by the example and blood of the martyrs. We can learn from their example and pray that in the same circumstances, we would have the courage and grace to respond as they did.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Ultimate Child Abuse

The Diocese of Richmond and the Virginia Branch of Catholic Charities (Commonwealth Catholic Charities) recently endured a grave scandal that must shake the trust placed in those two organizations, but specifically in the Charitable Actions of Commonwealth Catholic Charities.

Catholic Online reports that a child receiving support services from the Catholic Charities procured an abortion. This would not automatically be the fault of the Charity under different circumstances. Sadly, it is the fault of Charity because it was enabled by the Charity in the person of its employees working as instruments of the Charity.

A staff member of the Catholic Charity signed off on the consent form for the abortion and others assisted the minor in preparation for the abortion. Previously, staff members had assisted with the implantation of a contraceptive device.

Catholics of Virginia have placed their trust in these staff members of Commonwealth Catholic Charities to provide social services consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The individuals placed in the care of the CCC also trust these staff members both to provide for their needs but also to do no harm.

The subsequent investigation led to two major actions by the CCC. First, they will place a greater emphasis on Catholic teaching and how that should impact their work. Second, disciplinary actions (termination) against the employees involved.

That disciplinary action had to include severance of all relationships and ties between those individuals and the Commonwealth Catholic Charities. Not only did they shatter the trust placed in them by Catholics of Virginia, but they engaged in a direct and intrinsic evil. As John Paul II articulated in Evangelium Vitae: “Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

The workers involved in this abortion have already been punished for their own actions, both by the Church and their employer. Canon Law 1398 states: “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.” By their actions, these workers have cut themselves off from the body of the Church. Thankfully, there is a means by which that severance can be ended and full communion restored. But that does not nullify the original action and the need for penance. The termination from employment with Commonwealth Catholic Charities was a just punishment for the staff members’ actions.

There is no justification for their actions and they must be held to account.

The Church has had to struggle with the sexual abuse crisis and the loss of trust that crisis caused. The actions of certain bishops and priests were a grave scandal and sin for the Catholic Church in America. It is sad, but the actions of staff members of the Commonwealth Catholic Charities are in the same vein. It calls into question the ability of Church leadership to supervise the charitable organs of the Church. These charities must be unquestioningly Catholic in their outlook and it is the responsibility of the Bishops, as chief shepherds of the faith, to guard that Catholic identity.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Iraqi Army Stepping Up

Over the last few months we've seen numerous stories of the Iraqi Army stepping up and gaining a level of competence and success that is too often ignored here in the United States.

During General Petraeus's presentation to Congress the situation in Basra was brought up repeatedly to highlight the inadequacy of the Iraqi Army and other Security Forces. The Truth of the Matter, the Basra Operation demonstrated just how far the Iraqi Army has come. Bill Roggio's Long War Journal provided some of the best coverage of Operation Knights Assault which was personally led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Bill Roggio notes that, "Operation Knights' Assault was launched against the Mahdi Army in Basrah on March 25. After six days of heavy fighting, the Mahdi Army pushed for a cease-fire. The Iraqi security forces also dealt the Mahdi Army a heavy blow in the southern provinces of Najaf, Karbala, Qassadiyah, Maysan, and Wasit."

Since the successful operation in Basra, the Iraqi Army has followed it up with clearing operations in other provinces and cities. The new focus is Maysan Province.

"They came at dawn, thousands of Iraqi troops and US special forces on a mission to reclaim a lawless city from the militias who ran it.

By the end of the day, al-Amarah was under Iraqi Government control - without a shot being fired."

The above from the Times of London highlights the growing competence and ability of the Iraqi Army.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More Latin! -- Wider use of the Tridentine-Rite Latin Mass

Pope Benedict XVI would like every Catholic parish in the world to celebrate a regular Tridentine-rite Mass, a Vatican cardinal has said (CNS and Daily Telegraph).

First, one needs to take reports like this with a grain of salt, however hopeful they may be. I find it incredibly unlikely that the Mass of St. Pius V (Tridentine-Rite) would be renamed the Gregorian-Rite. The reports of the Pope’s recent Motu Proprio was forecasted repeatedly years before it actually emerged, though the actual document was far more permissive than the rumor mill. Furthermore, the numbers of reports stating that the de facto schism with the Society of St. Pius X was nearly ended have sadly, repeatedly been proven false.

At the same time, this report is certainly a sign of cautious optimism. While Vatican II unquestionably resulted in many positives for the Church as a whole, the vitality and strength of the faithful have decreased. According to a survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, only 23% of Adult Catholics attend Mass weekly (contrary to the Precepts of the Catholic Church).

Part of the decline of Mass attendance is certainly a cultural issue as devotions have fallen across the board in this country and the Western world at large. But part of it is certainly a loss of the sacred that is inherent in your average Sunday Mass (despite the best efforts of many an Office of Divine Worship Coordinator).

The Tridentine-Rite Mass, properly celebrated is a remedy to his ailment in the wider Church. While it will take years to adequately form and train Catholics priests in the saying of the Latin Mass, it is an endeavor well worth the time and effort of seminarians, priests and bishops. When one walks into the Traditional Mass, there is no doubt, that one has entered the House of God. One often hears jokes about the “Smells and Bells” of Catholic worship before Vatican II, but there is something behind that, which is intensely powerful. As the priest advances to the Altar he chants, “Introibo ad altare Dei”. This begins the Latin Mass and sets the stage for the experience of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. One becomes intensely aware that we are at a Sacrifice, we are at Calvary, and we are at the Heavenly Jerusalem.

The Traditional Mass is already available in most dioceses in America. In Milwaukee it is at offered at St. Stanislaus Church on historic Mitchell Street. Chicago has numerous locations including St. John Cantius.

Certainly the Church would benefit from an even wider availability for the Tridentine-Rite Latin Mass. However, it is not the panacea that many believe it to be unless it is coupled with proper Catechesis and reverent worship with both forms.

Josef Cardinal Tomko recently said in Quebec at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress that “If we understand in depth the meaning of our weekly Eucharist, we will revise our frequentation to it”.

He could not be more right.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hey Hank, the National League is REAL Baseball

For those of you who are not inclined to watch America's Past-time, George Steinbrenner, former owner and chief big-wig of the New York Yankees, recently stepped aside allowing his two sons to take over.

Hank Steinbrenner is a blow-hard of, but has been incredibly interesting to watch and listen to as he pontificates about the New York Yankees and Baseball without any actual knowledge of the subject. Exhibit A is his latest tirade against the National League and the designated hitter (DH).

To quote Mr. Steinbrenner, "My only message is simple. The National League needs to join the 21st century . . . I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He's going to be out. I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s."

Chien-Ming Wang, the Yankees ace, injured himself running the bases. It is a shame that he will be out until September, but it is not an injustice. It is part of Baseball.

The horror, a pitcher actually has to play baseball, bat, and run the bases? Apparently the American League believes real baseball involves large, relatively immobile power hitters who don't have to play the field. The Designated Hitter is an abomination. Sadly, it isn't going away with All-Stars like David Ortiz and Travis Hafner. The DH gives the American League a distinct advantage in American League parks where the National League is forced to improvise. In the National League, unless the pitcher is named Carlos Zambrano or Micah Owings, the pitcher is an automatic out or a sacrifice bunt.

Yet, there is something pure about the National League. It is the senior league of professional baseball and it expects its players to be well-rounded. That means not only can they swing for the fences, but they should also have to play the field. The American League has chosen to not require the pitchers to bat or the DHs to play the field. While that may make their offenses more dangerous, it does not make better baseball.

So, Hank, do all of baseball a favor, and shut up!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Standard Introductory Post

The idea for this blog has been evolving in my mind for a few months now. Yet, each time that I sat down to begin it, I deleted it.

The title of the blog describes who I am. I am an Orthodox Roman Catholic loyal to the Holy See (Rome). I am an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Army (Iraq). I am from the best part of this great country, the Midwest (Home).

I hope to assist anyone who wants to follow my upcoming deployment to Iraq with this blog. I will try to post weekly at a minimum, but I can make no guarantees. That is ultimately the primary purpose for its creation, at least initially. I hope I can make a small contribution in your understanding of the U.S. Military, Military Intelligence, how it operates, the War in Iraq, and the wider Global War on Terror.

My interests are far too broad to limit myself solely to Iraq and the War on Terror. This commentary will aim to provide insight on all things Catholic and on national events. I hope to keep this blog relatively free of partisan politics for at least as long as I am an Active Duty Military Officer. While those who know me, know my politics, and know that I do not hesitate to state my opinion; as an officer of the U.S. Army, I have no public politics.

You’ll also get baseball, football, entertainment, and just about anything else I deem interesting and worth noting. Though, I promise to strive for relevance to Rome, Iraq and Home.

Welcome to my blog and I will try not to bore you.

God Bless