Monday, September 29, 2008

A Well-Deserved Honor

I've written previously of my admiration for Fr. Rich Simon, who recently received the Lifetime Dedication Award from the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Hispanic Catholics.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Rev. Simon said that he learned his Spanish while volunteering at a North Side orphanage, leaving him with the vernacular of a Puerto Rican orphan. But the language served him well, as for more than 20 years, Simon served as liaison to the city's charismatic renewal prayer groups, a demonstrative form of worship that appealed to many immigrants from Latin America.

The experience convinced Simon of the benefits Hispanic culture could contribute to both Catholicism and American culture.

"Our background ultimately isn't ethnic, it's Catholic," Simon said. "Our future lies in the relationship between Spanish-speaking and English-speaking people. If we don't deal with it in a serious or realistic way, we will get swamped."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Baseball Loyalties

I've written before of my affinity for the Cubs. I guess I became a Cubs fan when I moved to Chicago in 1996, for my freshman year of college at Loyola.

As a then-North Side transplant, I figured, you know, "When in Rome..." Plus, I saw no contradiction in simultaneously remaining a Twins fan, as I had been (to varying extents) since I was a wee lad, at a time when I was unaware that there were other benighted tots outside our state who thought, whilst playing "Duck, Duck, Goose" that they were playing the real thing.

But I digress.

These days, I still see no contradiction in being both a Twins and a Cubs fan. After all, who is the Twins' archrival—who they just swept—huzzah!—to take over sole possession of first place in the tradition-rich AL Central? The White Sox, of course.

And what American League do Cubs fans hate the most? Obviously, the White Sox.

As the old saying goes: My enemy's enemy is my friend.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008










I remarked a few months ago on this here weblog that at one time in my life, I thought I knew a lot about economics. Ironically, the more I came to learn about economics, the more I realized I actually don't know very much about it.

Like many of us, I'm left scratching my head wondering whether the current bailout proposal is a good idea. Needless to say, I'm skeptical.

[HT: Mark Shea]

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"...[I]t remains the most famous do-over in a sport where there are no do-overs."

Today marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most famous incidents in baseball history, which has long since been known as "the Merkle Blunder".

What with the Cubs' history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since the Curse of the Billy Goat was visited on them 37 years later, it's somewhat ironic that this putative miscue was committed not by the Cubs, but by their opponents—specifically, Fred Merkle of the New York Giants.

Not insigifnicantly, the incident played a major role in allowing the Cubs to make the playoffs that year. They would, of course, go on to win the World Series.

It needn't be mentioned that they haven't won a World Series since.

The New York Daily News offers a fascinating look back:

One hundred years ago this afternoon, the New York Giants and the Chicago Cubs played a game that can still be found on baseball's figurative Mount Rushmore, next to the Bobby Thompson home run game, the Sandy Amoros catch game, Don Larsen's perfect game, and the game where Carlton Fisk waved it fair.

No one who played in or saw the game is alive. The Polo Grounds, where it was played, was demolished a half century ago. Doesn't matter. Some games just endure.

More specifically, what happened on Sept. 23, 1908, was this.

With the first breezes of autumn in the air, Giants' Hall of Famer Christy Matthewson had allowed only a solo home run by Cubs' shortstop Joe Tinker in the first nine innings. On the Cubs' side, Jack Pfeister also gave up just one run through eight.

But in the bottom of the ninth, the Giants' Moose McCormick reached on a fielder's choice with two out and was singled to third by rookie Fred Merkle. As Cait Murphy noted in her marvelous book "Crazy '08" (Smithsonian. $24.95), some reporters felt Merkle could have gotten himself a double. But his decision to stay at first was considered smart baseball, since he would gain little by trying for second. In the bottom of the ninth of a 1-1 game, only McCormick's run mattered.

Al Bridwell followed Merkle and slammed a clean line drive single to center, sending McCormick home and Giants fans pouring out onto the field to celebrate their 2-1 win.

Except there was a problem.

Running toward second base, Merkle had seen McCormick cross the plate and the crowd start to overrun the field. Following the custom of the day, then, he took a right turn and headed for the clubhouse, which in the Polo Grounds was behind dead center field.

When he did, Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers yelled for center fielder Art Hofman to throw him the ball.

What happened after that, Murphy notes, is lost in the mists of time - mists that closed in rapidly. The next day's newspapers contained at least a half dozen radically different accounts of the events at the apparent end of the game.

In some of them, Merkle was intercepted by Mathewson and steered back to second base. Some accounts said he got there, which he didn't.

In most accounts, Giants' pitcher "Iron Man" Joe McGinnity dashed from the first base coach's box to intercept the ball Hofman threw back to the infield and fling it deep into the stands.

That was that, McGinnity figured, except Evers was still yelling. If that ball was gone, he wanted another one.

Eventually he found one. Some say it was the real one, ripped away from a fan in the stands by little-used relief pitcher Rube Kroh. Others say it was another ball, relayed to Evers by shortstop Joe Tinker and maybe even third baseman Harry Steinfeldt, in a bizarre alternate version of the Cubs' famous Tinker-to-Evers-to Chance double play combination.

Whatever the ball's origin, Evers secured it, touched second base and asked the umpires – R.D. Emslie at second base and Henry O'Day behind the plate – to call Merkle out on a force play, which would nullify McCormick's winning run.

Emslie, who fell to the ground avoiding Bridwell's single, said he didn't see whether Merkle touched second and therefore couldn't make a call.

O'Day said he did see and no, Merkle did not touch second. Therefore, yes, he was out. McCormick's run did not count. The score was still 1-1.

The reason the home plate umpire was watching second base on this play was a story in itself. Nineteen days earlier, on Sept. 4, O'Day was behind the plate when Evers had attempted a similar appeal after a Cubs' game against Pittsburgh ended with a similar walk-off single.

Back in Pittsburgh, O'Day said he could not call the runner out because he had not been watching whether he touched second. Umpires never like having to say they didn't see something they should have, so obviously O'Day had made a mental note not to let that happen again.

By the time Merkle was called out, it was also getting dark, and given the logistics of clearing the field, O'Day saw no way for the game to resume. He called it on account of darkness and left National League President Harry Pulliam to decide what to do next.

Since there were still two weeks left in the season, Pulliam joined the general hope that in the end this game wouldn't affect the standings and he wouldn't have to do anything.

No such luck. The season ended with the Giants and Cubs tied for first place at 98-55.

So on Oct. 8 they all trooped back to the Polo Grounds to replay what was already being called The Merkle Game or, less kindly, The Merkle Blunder.

Read the rest here.

The New York Times notes:

On the afternoon of Oct. 8, an enormous crowd engulfed the Polo Grounds, willing to do anything to see a game that would decide the pennant. They teetered along Coogan’s Bluff above the ballpark; climbed up on the grandstand roof; perched on the elevated train viaduct out past left field. One man fell to his death from the el; another fell from a telegraph pole and broke his neck. A wedge of fans broke through a wooden fence into the outfield and had to be pushed back by mounted police. Later, they tried setting the fence on fire.

A second crowd gathered down at Grand Central Station to jeer the Cubs as they arrived after a 14-hour train ride. The Cubs players literally shouldered their way into the park. Once inside, they were allotted only 15 minutes of warm-ups, after which McGinnity came on the field, ringing a bell and telling them their time was up.

Some accounts at the time said McGinnity went right up to Frank Chance, the Cubs’ manager and best player, cursing and spitting and apparently trying to start a fight that would get Chance thrown out of the game.

Nevertheless, Chance and the Cubs kept their heads. The Giants fans set up a perpetual roar, ringing cowbells and blowing trumpets. They went wild when the great Christy Mathewson made his slow walk to the mound from center field, but what they did not know was that Mathewson, who had thrown 110 innings in September alone, had a dead arm. The Cubs pushed across four runs early and held on behind their own ace, Mordecai Brown, better known as Three Finger.

“From the stands there was a steady roar of abuse,” Brown said later. “I never heard anybody or any set of men called as many foul names as the Giant fans called us that day.”

Foul names might have been the least of their worries. The New York Journal reported that Cubs catcher Johnny Kling, chasing a pop foul, had to dodge “two beer bottles, a drinking glass and a derby hat.”

The moment Brown got the last out in the Cubs’ 4-2 victory, he and his teammates ran as fast as they could to the center-field clubhouse.

They were not fast enough. Pitcher Jack Pfiester was knifed in the shoulder, and Chance was punched so hard in the throat that he sustained broken cartilage. At least three other Cubs were struck, and the police had to hold shut the clubhouse doors with guns drawn.

So what happened to Merkle?

Merkle's career went up hill from there. He went on to play another 18 seasons, compiling a respectable .273 batting average.

Perhaps ironically, he was known as a smart player, someone who paid attention to the nuances of the game. After he retired he managed for almost 10 years before he took some government jobs and later went into the fishing equipment business.

With some trepidation he returned to the Polo Grounds for Old-Timers Day in 1950 and was greeted with cheers.

Still, the legacy of Sept. 23, 1908, followed him.

"I suppose when I die," he told a reporter, "they'll put on my tombstone, 'Here Lies Bonehead Merkle.'"

For what it's worth, they didn't.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Du Bist Deutschland

On my last post, one Santiago Chiva posted the following comment, at the end of which was a link to an uber-cool video:

On the topic of abortion, even many people who defend the possibility of legal abortions, they say they are not pro-abortion, but they don’t want to punish women who are in this difficult situation. In Germany a curious thing has happened. Something that reflects that legal abortion affects adversely to the country. And also that the change is possible: you can promote a culture of life with the support of the citizens, when really there is a real wish of avoid abortions. Since the liberalization of abortion in this country, the number of abortions is officially four million. For that reason, among others, children are seen as an unintended effect of having sex. Many people thought it was necessary to promote greater social acceptance of children in an aging society. And civil society acted, without waiting for action by the State to promote births. They joined several media organizations in a campaign. Interestingly, after the campaign, the birth rate has risen in Germany. The video is exciting. Look here:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gianna Jessen, an Abortion Survivor, Tells Her Story

In response to this ad:

...ABC News reporter Jake Tapper a person who claims to be a man, and who claims to be named Jake Tapper, and who claims to be a reporter for ABC News (which claims to be a news outlet), said earlier this week that Jessen "claims" to be an abortion survivor.

While it's entirely correct to say Jessen "claims" to be an abortion survivor, it's also an entirely stupid thing to say, as a little fact-checking verifies that not only does Jessen claim to be an abortion survivor, but that she actually is an abortion survivor.

Now, to be fair, the reporter who claims to be Jake Tapper has since posted an update indicating that Jessen's medical records "support her story". How nice of him to point that out. Indeed, they do support her story, because it happens to be a true story.

Yesterday, Barack "But if [my daughters] make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby" Obama has responded to the Gianna Jessen ad:

But as Jill Stanek has shown through extensive documentation, the Obama camp's argument that the Illinois BAIPA was superfluous falls flat.

Summit Recap

Here's the write-up of the National Pro-Life Leadership Summit we hosted yesterday, and here is the statement [PDF] we issued.

In Honor of Today's Being Talk Like a Pirate Day

Did you hear about the new pirate movie?

It's rated arrrrrrrrrrr.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"A Day Late But Not an Overtime Dollar Short"

For them that don't know, we received rainfall of biblical proportions this past weekend. Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood was among the areas that suffered the worst flooding as a result.

This letter writer in today's Chicago Tribune had this to say:

Not Olympic ready

As a nearby resident, I took a walking tour of the Albany Park area Sunday afternoon. I saw the conflicting images of the rapid devastation of a river's torrents and the placid, ineffectual crisis-management response by the city and county administrations. The only sign of completed work was a smattering of small sandbags having been placed at river's edge. There was a poorly managed group of city workers from various departments attempting to make something of a sand pile at one cross-street while police officers were posted at intersections where there was no traffic.

The lack of urgency and collective purpose was appalling—a day late but not an overtime dollar short.

In witnessing the debacle of last year's marathon, I came to expect (but not accept) this type of paltry response on the part of the mayor's office. Is this a city administration that can properly govern the 2016 Olympics? Of course not.

—Jeffrey Conover


Give that man a cigar.

This Is Where I'll Be Tomorrow

Pro-Life Organizations Launch Nationwide Campaign Against Planned Parenthood

CHICAGO, Sept. 17 /Christian Newswire/ -- This Thursday, September 18, leaders from more than 20 pro-life organizations will come together in Rosemont, Ill., to draft a joint resolution, expected to outline a plan to de-fund and shut down Planned Parenthood.

The pro-life advocates will gather at the "Planned Parenthood: BAD for America" summit, organized by the Pro-Life Action League, of Chicago, to share techniques that have proved successful in impeding Planned Parenthood's objectives across the country. This is the first time so many pro-life groups from across the country have gathered in a single location to address fighting Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider.

"Each pro-life group emphasizes different strategies for effectively reducing abortion, but we all share a common goal - to stop abortion forever," says Eric Scheidler, PLAL communications director. "Even as the abortion rate declines nationally, Planned Parenthood's abortion numbers are on the rise - and now Planned Parenthood has launched a major expansion, aggressively targeting the young and vulnerable of our nation. Today more than ever, the pro-life movement must stand together to oppose Planned Parenthood."

Scheidler led the effort last year to oppose the opening of a massive new Planned Parenthood facility in Aurora, Ill. - called "Ground Zero" by Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards -- and has advised other pro-life groups around the country on mobilizing grassroots resistance to Planned Parenthood's designs on their communities.

The summit agenda includes presentations by experts who are veterans from the pro-life battlefield, including the following:

"Fighting Planned Parenthood in the Courtroom" with Tom Brejcha, chief counsel of Thomas More Society/Pro-Life Law Center, which has litigated cases against Planned Parenthood in state and federal court.

"Exposing the True Face of Planned Parenthood to the American Public" with Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America, which has exposed Planned Parenthood's willingness to accept racially motivated donations through a series of widely viewed YouTube videos.

"Planned Parenthood's Vision for the Future" with Jim Sedlak, executive director of STOPP Planned Parenthood, the nation's leading Planned Parenthood watchdog group, which has charted Planned Parenthood's expansion effort.

Scheidler and his father, Joe Scheidler, renowned pro-life advocate, will facilitate discussion and drafting of a joint resolution on steps the pro-life coalition will take to combat Planned Parenthood in the coming years.

"Planned Parenthood is a huge organization, flush with cash, but no enemy is too big when we work together," the younger Scheidler says. "When all of these pro-life groups gather on Thursday, America will see a unified front in the battle to save unborn babies from their number-one enemy, Planned Parenthood."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


HT: Mark Shea

The War on Abstince [Sic]

Last week a press release from the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy found its way into my inbox with "Abstince-Only [sic] Programs Advance Harmful Stereotypes" in the subject line:

Abstinence-only sex education programs not only are ineffective, but also advance harmful gender stereotypes, states a new ACS Issue Brief. The authors examine a little-noticed aspect of a controversial issue that otherwise has been much studied.

The article notes that the abstinence-only programs “taught in the U.S. public schools suffer from numerous flaws,” such as providing students misinformation. But the authors, Bonnie Scott Jones, a deputy director with the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Michelle Movahed, a staff attorney with the Center, point out that abstinence-only programs also can contain the “deeply harmful flaw” of perpetuating gender stereotypes.” Some of the programs “teach boys and girls that their abilities, natures, capacities, and potential are defined and limited by gender.”

What, you mean, like, teaching that *only* one of the two sexes can get pregnant?

Tut, tut.

The reliance on, and advancement of, these stereotypes, the authors say, subvert the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.


They call on lawmakers and educators to take steps to ensure they are not used in public school curricula.The authors also suggest a number of reforms they say policy makers and educators should consider.

Such as?

For example, they say that lawmakers should stop funding abstinence-only programs in favor of non-discriminatory, comprehensive sex education programs.

Ah, yes—of course:


Monday, September 15, 2008

A Life Saved

Yesterday, September 14, will always hold a special place in the hearts of Jocelyn and me.

On this day, six years ago, we had our first save. (For those of you unfamiliar with sidewalk counseling, a "save" happens when a mother, just steps away from entering a clinic where she has an abortion scheduled, decides instead to choose life for her baby.)

This was an especially fitting date for this manifestation of God's infinite goodness, as September 14 is the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

For several months, we had gone on Saturday morings to stand outside of an abortion clinic on Chicago's northwest side (which, incidentally, is to be the site of a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil starting next week) to join others in prayer for the abortion-bound mothers, and for the sidewalk counselors who speak to them to warn them of the dangers abortion poses to them personally.

On this particular day, we had just finished praying the rosary, and were about to head home. Just then, one of the veteran sidewalk counselors spoke a few words to an abortion-bound mom who had just arrived with another woman, and hastily called for Jocelyn and me to come over. Both women spoke only Spanish.

The sidewalk counselor knew only a few Spanish words, but knew that Jocelyn and I spoke more than she did. (Neither of us is fluent, to be sure, but I speak it better than I understand it, and Jocelyn understands it better than she speaks it, so between the two of us, we can communicate with someone who speaks only Spanish fairly well.)

I don't remember what I said to this woman -- her name was Blasa -- but it was clear that she did not want to have an abortion. All I remember is that we offered to bring her to a place where she could get real help (a pregnancy resource center just around the corner).

Just steps away from the abortion clinic entrance, it took less than a minute for Blasa to decide that she was going to keep her baby.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And Baby Will Make Seven

I announce with great joy that Jocelyn and I are expecting our fifth child!

The baby is due in April. Please keep us in your prayers.

Friday, September 5, 2008

On TV, Part 2

I mentioned a couple days ago that I was interviewed by a reporter for CLTV for a story dealing with teen pregnancy and the debate over abstinence education vs. so-called comprehensive sex education.

I can't seem to link directly to the story, but you can watch it by going here. Then, in the search field below the video screen, type in "teen pregnancy on the rise", and it should be the first result.

Commenter Autodidact noted that the story was pretty fair, and I'd have to agree (especially when one considers the Gomer Pyle Axiom of High and Low Expectations).

Interestingly, the interviewee representing the "other" side of the issue, Soo Ji Min, works for the Illinois Caucus of Adolescent Health (ICAH).

Two years ago, ICAH held its (adults-only) annual fundraiser at the Playboy offices. Last year, their (adults-only) fundraiser featured a stripper.

It's the economy values, stupid.

The Search for a Unique Third-Class Relic of Mother Teresa

As today is the eleventh anniversary of the death of Blessed Mother Teresa, I'm reposting here this entry I wrote 52 weeks ago:

For some time, Mother Teresa has had a special place in my heart, likely stemming from my great fortune at being part of the crowd at a papal audience at Castel Gandolfo with John Paul II, of happy memory, two days after she died, at which he paid tribute to his dear diminutive friend.

We named our first daughter after her. It’s especially fitting that we did so, since Teresa was born on January 21, 2003 (January 21 is the feast of St. Agnes; and Agnes was Mother Teresa’s baptismal name -- although we didn't know that at the time our Teresa was born!), and 2003 was the year she was beatified.

A few months ago I had lunch with a friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in three years. I guess you could say Jan and I were "colleagues", although I'm generally inclined to think the word "colleague" sounds hifalutin.

At any rate, she and I are both former Religion teachers at Good Counsel High School in Chicago, where she also served as our department chairman for two years. (The school closed in 2003; the building now houses a charter school.)

During the course of our conversation, Jan asked me if I had ever heard the story about the time Mother Teresa had visited Good Counsel. I said that I remembered some of the teachers mentioning something about it one time, but I was sketchy on the details.

As it turns out, Mother Teresa once visited the school for some sort of convocation on religious life (presumably sponsored by the Felician Sisters, who operated the school and whose Mother of Good Counsel Province motherhouse was located next door).

One of the Felician sisters in attendance at the convocation had the foresight to recognize that Mother Teresa would surely one day become a saint, and so, after the event, this sister took the chair in which Mother Teresa had sat, put some sort of identifying mark on the underside of it -- with masking tape, as I recall -- and put it in a storage room. For, were Mother Teresa to become a saint, the sisters would then have their very own third-class relic.

After it was announced in the fall of 2002 that Good Counsel would be closing the following spring, the sister who had stored Mother Teresa's chair contacted Jan about it, because she couldn't remember where she put it! By that time, Jan had left GC and taken a teaching job in another state, but she called another former of colleague of ours -- Nancy, also a Religion teacher -- and told her about the missing chair/third-class-relic-to-be.

Nancy was teaching freshmen that year, and so decided to elicit the help of her charges in looking for said chair. So, she led them on what could, in a manner of speaking, be considered a mini-pilgrimage -- it was, after all, a quest for a relic -- and dispatched them to search the nooks and crannies of the school.

Sure enough, they found the chair. I'm told it's now in safe keeping at the Felician Sisters' motherhouse.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Scheidler v. Trombley

A few weeks ago I wrote about a court hearing in our libel case against Planned Parenthood.

On Tuesday, the judge in the case handed down her ruling [PDF], and we (most especially my co-worker, Eric Scheidler) took it on the chin.

My co-worker, Matt Yonke, sums up the ruling here.

Here's the press release we issued:

Kane County, Ill., Court Grants Planned Parenthood License to Lie

Pro-Life Group Files Amended Complaint

GENEVA, Ill., Sept. 3 /Christian Newswire/ -- A Kane County, Ill., circuit court's decision yesterday to dismiss a libelous ad and letter in a lawsuit filed against Planned Parenthood of Illinois and Director Steve Trombley could have far-reaching consequences for free speech rights throughout the state.

"Planned Parenthood has been granted a license to lie," said Eric Scheidler, communications director for the Pro-Life Action League and one of the Aurora, Ill., residents who brought the libel suit. "This ruling gives Planned Parenthood, and any other organization with deep pockets, total immunity for making false, defamatory statements against private citizens."

Aurora residents who had been protesting the opening of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in their city filed the suit on October 1, 2007, saying a letter from Steve Trombley to the Aurora City Council and a full-page Planned Parenthood ad in The Beacon News that accused them of violence was maliciously false and libelous. In response, Planned Parenthood filed a motion to dismiss the suit based on Illinois' newly enacted Citizen Participation Act.

The Citizen Participation Act was established in 2007 to protect small grassroots organizations lobbying for government action against large corporations who want to scare them into silence with the threat of a frivolous and costly lawsuit. In this case, it is the multi-million-dollar company, Planned Parenthood, that claims it is being intimidated by the small group of Aurorans. Because the ad it ran against pro-lifers contained a line urging readers to call their local alderman in support of the new clinic, Judge Judith Brawka interpreted it and the letter to City Council as being protected under the Citizen Participation Act.

"The judge didn't decide Steve Trombley is innocent of libeling us, but that it didn't matter even if he were guilty," said Scheidler.

Brawka did allow Scheidler to file an amended complaint based on four other items in which Planned Parenthood made defamatory statements about his group. It is possible that these new items, including an open letter in The Daily Herald, may not fall under the protection of the Act as interpreted in yesterday's ruling because they didn't include the line urging readers to contact their alderman.

Scheidler also is planning to appeal the ruling if necessary.

"Illinois lawmakers drafted the Citizen Participation Act to protect people's freedom to speak their minds, not to keep citizens from defending their good names," said Scheidler. "If this ruling stands, anyone can spread deliberate, malicious lies about another person, as long as their statements can be construed as seeking action from any unit of government, including voters. That should scare all Illinoisans who care about honesty and accountability."

Scheidler could be forced to pay all of Planned Parenthood's legal costs associated with the libel suit, which he estimates could be more than $50,000. That would mean bankruptcy for him and his family, but he says that's a price he's willing to pay.

"No matter what lies Steve Trombley and Planned Parenthood may tell about us, pro-lifers in Aurora are peacefully saving babies from abortion at Planned Parenthood every week," he said.

A status hearing on the four additional counts of libel and slander will take place October 1.

And Still She Remains

There's a touching article in yesterday's Chicago Tribune that beautifully captures the continually enduring popular piety in the neighborhood surrounding the former site of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish on Western & Walton Avenues on the Near West Side:

The massive red-brick church has been converted into condos. The choir loft is now a dining room. The altar has been replaced by a kitchen island. Even the towering steeple has been transformed. It's a rooftop patio, suitable—the developer suggests—for a Jacuzzi.

Nothing is sacred anymore at Our Lady of Good Counsel. Nothing, that is, except a small white statue of the Virgin Mary, at the corner of Western Avenue and Walton Street, which was left in its original spot and continues to draw steady visits from the faithful. Some people lay flowers. Others kneel and pray.

"The first time I saw someone stop, it was an older gentleman," said Nathan Skillicorn, 28, whose second-floor balcony overlooks the statue. "He was just walking by like everyone else. Then he stopped and made the sign of the cross. It looked like he said a quick prayer, and then he walked on. It was kind of weird to see, but it was also nice."

There's nothing new about churches turning condo. ...

But the red brick church on Western Avenue was different. Even after the building was desanctified (the altar and tabernacle were removed, and the archdiocese released a written decree that "what was sacred is no longer sacred"), even after the pews were taken away and the tall stained glass windows were hauled off, people still came to pray.

Today, the faithful often pause before the concrete, 3-foot statue of Mary, which has watched over the bustle on Western Avenue for decades.

"Living in the neighborhood, you go by her so many times. You just look at her and feel like she's looking right back at you with a smile," said Lillian Penar, 91, a white-haired great-grandmother who passed the statue several times a week for many decades, before moving to the suburbs. Every time Penar went by, she said a prayer, even after the church was shuttered.

"Think of how many people have prayed to her," said Penar.

Read the whole thing.

It seems to me that grassroots devotional practices like these are what Mark Shea has in mind when, in response to the question, "Do you belong to an organized religion?" he says, "Nope. I'm Catholic."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I just finished doing an interview with a reporter from CLTV for a story about abstinence education.

I'm told it will air on the 5:00pm news tonight. (Apparently the news also replays every half hour before 10:00pm.)