Archive for May, 2012

 This is extremely cool, a recently discovered recording of the author reading her classic short story.

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“Most Americans who are in the slightest degree politically active or interested incline to one of the two chief political positions common in this country, what we call conservatism or liberalism. In fact, each of these blocs constitutes not only a political grouping, but a cultural group as well, each with its favorite publications and web sites, radio shows, almost its own distinct ways of dressing and eating. Although there is much that one could say about these two groups, I want to comment on one thing only about them. This is that each of them is conscious of the claims of the common good and firmly committed to restraint of human passions, backed up even by the authority of law, in one sphere or area of human life, and equally committed to a laissez-faire policy in another sphere. While each group seems to be aware of the dangers that unrestrained acquiescence in human weakness poses to the social good in one area, each is equally blind to those same dangers in another and equally crucial sphere of life.”

Tom Storck examines the contradictions, Left and Right, regarding freedom and the common good, from The Distributist Review

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Not exactly what you have been told:

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Thomas Storck, former contributing editor of Caelum et Terra,the journal I edited in the 90s, will be speaking at the Credo Forum near St Louis on June 10, 2012. Tom is the author of many books and articles and is a leading Distributist thinker (and a good friend). His talk will be on the proper ends of a Christian economy. The Forum will be held at  the Crown Plaza Hotel in Clayton, Missouri. For more information: http://credostlouis.org/2012/01/10/2012-credo-forums/

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Doc Watson, RIP

Legendary folk musician Doc Watson died yesterday at the age of 87 at his home in North Carolina. Blind since the age of one, Doc first began his innovative flatpicking style while trying to play the fiddle parts in a band without a fiddler. His timing was impeccable, as this coincided with the Folk Revival of the 60s, when his kind of mountain music was being rediscovered.

I saw Doc Watson many times in the 70s at bluegrass festivals, and this clip captures the man’s essential sweetness and shows why he was so beloved by audiences:

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When I was young and a fresh convert to evangelical/charismatic Christianity I worked for Andy, a 30ish man who had been raised in the Assembly of God. His father was an elder in the church, a well- respected  white-haired gentleman, a bulwark of his congregation. He had seen the beginnings of the Pentecostal movement, and had seen the growth of his denomination. I looked up to him and to his son; they were more experienced in following the gospel, and had none of the bad habits I had acquired in my years of living life on my own terms.

That summer, the elder man left his wife and took up with a younger woman. Then, a short time later his son’s wife left him for her brother-in-law, the husband of Andy’s sister.

This was my first serious letdown after my conversion. Others were to follow both during my brief time as a non-Catholic Christian and later after my return to the Church. A mentor, a man in his forties, who had helped me in many ways, split with his wife and started seeing a young divorcee. A close friend had an affair, then divorced his wife, got an annulment, and married his mistress in the Church, something that still shocks me to write. Another close friend left her husband and ten kids, other couples who professed faith divorced, etc, etc.

In each of these cases I was shocked because people of whom I thought highly did things I never dreamed they would. These people were one and all serious Christians, not nominal ones. I am still mystified by this, though I am no longer shocked. The mystery deepened when I reconnected with a lot of people I had not heard from in 30 or 40 years on Facebook. Folks that, when last I knew,  had heroin habits, whom I expected to be dead a long time ago, were still married to their former  live-in girlfriends, had achieved apparent success, had grandkids now, and to all appearances were far more together than some of my other  friends who had been zealous Christians while they were sticking needles in their arms.

I had thought I had seen it all, but I had not. There were further shocks to come.

The first of these, which are brought about by someone I did not have a high opinion of turning out to be far worse than I had thought, was the case of Archbishop Rembert Weakland. I was never a fan; during the 80s he was the leading friend of dissent among the hierarchy. And he had been the Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Conference from 1967 to 1977, the years when the Benedictines’ great heritage of Gregorian chant had been dismantled in most monasteries. But I was shocked when in 2002 he was revealed to be unfaithful to his vows. I never would have suspected that he was violating his vow of chastity, nor paying off his male lover. Then instead of spending the rest of his life doing penance in shame, he wrote a self-justifying autobiography, which seems the epitome of narcissism.

I thought he was bad. I never dreamed he was that bad.

Then there was the case of the Legion of Christ. The order never appealed to me; just another bunch of Jesuit wannabees. But I never would have dreamed that the founder was a profoundly immoral man, a hypocrite of monstrous proportions.

Similarly, I never have had a very high opinion of the military establishment. But featuring a course in a military school that promoted dropping nuclear weapons on Mecca, a course that ran for eight years?  No way.

Wrong again. I thought they were evil, but their evil was far worse than I had imagined.

And now this latest disillusionment, with the Franciscan University of Steubenville grants an honorary degree on an advocate of torture, the head of the CIA under Bush. I have long had associations with the school; I have numerous friends who are alumni, and many friends over the years among the faculty. I have dated more than one Steubenville graduate. Readers of the journal will recall that I wrote about driving to Steubenville for a book club that was composed mostly of folks who taught at the university. For years, until I had so many commissions that I no longer had spare icons, I had a booth selling icons at the St Francis celebration, an annual Catholic version of the familiar medieval fest. I didn’t think I had any illusions about the place, was pretty familiar with the bourgeois ethos that was just under the Franciscan habit. But this?

And even worse, I was totally disillusioned by the lack of outcry, both in Steubenville and in the wider Church.

But disillusionment is good, right? Illusions keep one from the truth and we should welcome that which brings us closer to Truth.

I just wish the truth about humans was not so grim.

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For Memorial Day


Since World War II, mental illness and suicide rates among American veterans has been steadily increasing, giving way to statistics such as this: By now, more than 100,000 Vietnam vets have taken their own lives, almost double the number who actually died in the war.


About 18 veterans kill themselves each day. Thousands from the current wars have already done so. In fact, the number of U.S. soldiers who have died by their own hand is now estimated to be greater than the number (6,460) who have died in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Eleven years of war in two operating theaters have taken a severe toll on America’s military. An estimated 2.3 million Americans have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and 800,000 of those service members have been deployed multiple times.


More veterans died from suicide than from combat in the last year:

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