Oh Jealousy…Jealousy

Deacon Greg pointed this out to me today. Seems that some in the Catholic media are peeved that the Jesuits didn’t release their interview with Pope Francis to a myriad of Catholic Sources. Here’s one such complaint from Greg Erlandson, publisher of Our Sunday Visitor:

It appears that hardly any bishops had a head’s up that this was coming. News organizations had advance copies that were embargoed. That means that they promised not to publish anything before 11 a.m. EDT.

And Deacon Greg responds:

Is it possible that this was a concerted effort to shut out other voices? So that the only ones who could speak definitively about it were, in fact, a small cadre of Jesuits? Once it was published, it would take several hours for bishops, reporters, theologians, analysts to get up to speed and be able to comment on this, but by then, the folks at America had already done it. It’s the “get” of the year, maybe of the decade, and good for them. But for a work of this significance, that kind of strategy strikes me as rather small and perhaps even antithetical to the Franciscan spirit of evangelization. For at least a little while, America elected to keep this news, and by extension some of the Good News, to themselves.

And my response is OF COURSE THEY DID.

When you have the story of the year, you don’t exactly give that up to every other reporter. You want to be the one who breaks the big story. And America Magazine and the other Jesuit journals did exactly that.

Some thoughts from a former journalist:

I think the people complaining about this are clearly jealous and to further this point, perhaps they should go the extra yard and try to cultivate a source or two and write their own big story about something. That’s called doing some WORK and not relying on others to do it for you(That said, I’m riffing on Deacon Greg’s column, so I’m just as lazy as you are). I had the David Cone aneurysm story before anyone else. A college friend working for the Yankees leaked it a full twenty minutes to me before anyone else. And a talk show host at the talk station I worked for wouldn’t put it on the air. I had nowhere to go. I decided to leak to the old station I worked for and they broke the story instead. I was really annoyed. I had the story, I cultivated the sources.

And I had nowhere to go with it.

At Busted Halo I was able to interview Bob Shepherd, the longtime Yankee Stadium announcer, who had been sick and nobody thought he’d be able to return. NOBODY had the story of when or if he would be returning. A reporter from the New York Post, who will remain nameless, took the story and wrote it without ANY credit given to me or Busted Halo. To say the least, I was annoyed and there were plenty of other places sports and otherwise who gave us plenty of credit. It was the top Busted Halo story that year.

And I wasn’t giving anyone a head start on it. I sent it to people who I knew would further our reach and who would give us the proper credit for our hard work.

So, sorry, but I’m not buying that America or any of the other Jesuit journals had to release this to anyone else. And they did give advances to people who they knew would further the story and work with them to make sure it was a big story and that America and the Jesuits would get the deserved credit.

Key bishops, he said, received an advance copy of the magazine by mail. Cardinal Dolan received a copy the day before it appeared online. So did the USCCB’s director of media relations, Sister Mary Ann Walsh.The only other person outside the publishing world who received an advance copy was the Superior General of the Jesuits.

And there’s no reason why these media outlets couldn’t spin America’s story for their own purposes as commentators from any number of angles. There’s no reason why in the breaking news moment of the day they couldn’t sit down and make a few comments and tweet a few tweets and try to capitalize on the “story of the day (Week?).” Breaking news happens and when it does you need to be ready. That’s called being a journalist.

Fr. James Martin, SJ talked with Deacon Greg about this today and didn’t back track.

Why didn’t other Catholic media outlets receive a heads up? ”What would the alternative have been?,” Jim asked. ”The alternative would have been to give it to multiple magazines, and the other Jesuit magazines around the world were very worried about leaks…they did not want their story to be scooped.” Jim explained, too, that some of the other publications had a strong resistance to releasing any of the text in advance at all; they weren’t accustomed to dealing with American media practices. ”And frankly,” he admitted, “we wanted this to be a big story.”

And it was and still is. And America and the other Jesuit journals from all over the world deserve all the credit. They did the work and hustled and used their influence to produce a work that may very well win the Pulizter Prize.

It is pure balderdash for others to be jealous and it’s a typical reaction for non-Jesuit entities to be green-eyed monsters at this point. I’m jealous of them too, but ya don’t see jumping up and down like a two year old saying “WAAAAAAH I want to be invited to the inner circle.”

Please. None of us deserved a head start and I consider James Martin and the guys at America good friends and I work at a Jesuit institution. We didn’t get a head start either and we were able to comment and push the story further for our own purposes in any number of ways. They gave a head start to those who would give America and the Jesuits the props for doing one fine piece of journalism. As an employee of the Jesuits, I have to say I’m really proud of the work that all the journals did in collaborating together and Matt Malone, S.J. and James Martin, S.J. did a yeoman’s job in working the media here in the United States.

Do some work journalists. You’ve got a hard job. But stop whining about the success of others. This one’s for you.

We All Build Fences

Fences, the gripping play by August Wilson was the first Broadway Play that I had ever seen. Being the son of lower middle class Irish immigrant stock, a trip to NYC from Yonkers (just about 10 miles north) for my family was the equivalent of going to New Delhi. It was a big deal and therefore we never travelled out of Yonkers when I was a child. So my first Broadway experience wasn’t until I was in 10th or 11th grade and Billy Dee Williams played Troy Maxon, Wilson’s protagonist who at times also seemed like his own antagonist. Fr. Jim Martin, S.J. caught the latest revival, this one starring Denzel Washington as Troy and has many kind things to say about the play in America and has several insightful points that I haven’t thought about in years.

“Fences” could be a case study out of The Moynihan Report, Senator Patrick Moynihan’s analysis of the status of the underclass in this country in the 1960s, specifically African-Americans. By play’s end, Troy can count one child each by three different women. All his progeny are hovering in the sympathetic but sturdy orbit of the only woman he married, long-suffering Rose, herself the child of what might charitably be called an “extended” family. It’s not a new point, but Wilson makes it with force over and over, and nowhere more forcefully than in “Fences”: The women keep the home fires burning while the men are off finding themselves, often in contention with each other. That is a worthy quest, no doubt, but all too often it includes a component of sexual conquest alongside other emblems of validation. Wilson created many exemplars of both the rover and the homebody in his plays, but no couple so iconic as Troy and Rose. None of his loyal women is more tested than Rose, and none of his questing men crash down to earth with a greater thud than Troy.

While the play is based on a black family in the late 1950s, I resonated with the class struggles and the mentality of Troy as he fears his own son being able to become more than he is. I know in my own family that classic struggle exists. It’s a very Irish notion I fear, and I can almost hear my own mother’s words.

“Don’t think too much of yourself,” (If I showed the slightest bit of pride)

“Who do you think that you are?” (If I bragged about an achievement)

“We’re not THOSE kind of people!” (whenever I’d suggest going to NYC for theatre or even a ballgame)

At one point in the play, Troy suggests that his son, Cory, give up on sports and his quest for a college scholarship, both well within his grasp and tells him to make sure he keeps up his job at the A&P Supermarket chain. The line draws hysterics often at performances bordering on the ridiculous:

“You go and work yourself up in that A&P.”

When I heard that line I nearly cried. Wilson captured not only the fearful cry of unfulfilled black men, who came of age too early for the Civil Rights Movement, but also, of the working class parent too afraid to reach beyond their caste to hope for more, content with life as it is and seemingly befuddled by their child’s aspirations. Fr. Martin captures the idea perfectly:

This is Troy’s tragedy, and August Wilson’s unflinching point: A 53-year-old man might indeed still grapple for a sense of who he is and what he should be, even at the expense of those he loves. This is not only because he is a flawed male of the species, but because he still lives in a nation that does not recognize or validate his larger-than-life manhood. In part, you could say it is a matter of bad timing; Troy, after all, lives on the cusp of America’s huge civil rights breakthroughs. But even those triumphs have been interlaced with tragedy. When in 1968 Memphis garbage workers went on strike under the defiant slogan, “I Am a Man,” the nation’s greatest civil rights leader rushed to march with them. And we all know how Martin Luther King Jr.’s trip to Memphis ended.

Fences transcends race. It is the story of unfulfilled dreams in a world that doesn’t even care what your dreams are. We all build fences to protect ourselves. Many want to keep safe from the fear of what we might be missing, perhaps considering our lives a series of misfortunes. It’s that fear that often leads the affluent to also build gated communities, lest signs of poverty show itself in their neighborhood. Out of sight, out of mind.

But we also build fences to hurdle them. We might even literally sit on the fence in order to see that horizon that exists for us. And in that dreaming and noticing of desire we may be aided in making a decision on which way God may be calling us. I know I have had to knock over my share of fences throughout my life, but I have also been gifted by many open gates and many of those have been afforded to me, sadly, because of the color of my skin.

My wife and I just closed on our first “real” house. It’s a fenceless property right now but we’re considering building our own fence to allow our dog, Haze, to roam free in the backyard. But I sincerely like the symbol of the fenceless home. Where all are indeed welcome, where love can be given freely and where adventures and dreams are always just outside the door.

The Gospel According to Blog

America Magazine’s Fr James Martin, S.J. blogged on the Pope’s Message for the World Day of Communications today in which he essentially encourages us to blog the gospel.

This is an essential message for all those in the Catholic church who disparage new media. About ten years ago I remember speaking with a long-time observer of the Catholic church, and asking why so few Catholic leaders–especially some in the hierarchy at the time–seemed to have so little to say about television. “They don’t watch it,” he said bluntly. It was infra dig. That was pretty shocking, and it reminded me of someone who told me that those who proudly say that they don’t watch television are actually saying that they know nothing about the culture in which we live.

Today the same could be said about the new media–the Internet, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Some of these developments, to be sure, are a mixed bag, a blessing and a curse, to borrow from Scripture. (What man-made creation isn’t?) The Internet, which boasts Wikipedia and thousands of sites for reputable news sources, can sometimes seem like Newton Minow’s famous “vast wasteland,” filled with hate-filled blogs and, well, pornography. (One of the most popular songs from the musical “Avenue Q” is “The Internet is for Porn.”) Youtube, a marvelous place to find clips of movies and songs that you thought you’d never see or hear again, is also the home of, well, more porn. Facebook, a terrific way to keep up with friends and trade photos, is also the originator of the minute-by-minute account from “friends” telling you that they’re cleaning their bathroom.

But guess what? That’s where people are congregating today and if we want to emulate Jesus we should remember that he went out to see people, rather than simply letting them come to him. (He did some of the latter, but much more of the former.) The history of Christianity is in large part the history of the church using to great effect the latest media, sometimes even inventing media, to evangelize.

Read the whole thing as Fr Jim essentially gives a history of Saints who use modern methods of communication for their time.

Fr. Frank Desiderio, CSP who ran Paulist Productions for many years once told me that we’re really extending the message of Jesus when we use media. Jesus used the media of his day: itinerant preaching–parables or story telling, if you will. St. Paul was a letter writer and Paulist Founder and now Servant of God, Isaac Hecker was a publisher. So blogs like this one and sites like BustedHalo® are simply doing what Jesus and his followers have always done.

So blog the gospel, facebook the psalms and tweet Catholic social teaching because there is where the message of Jesus needs to be most alive.

A h/t to the Jewish Journal for the pic and to America Magazine.

Student Bloopers

Always an interesting and humorous writer, Dr. Thomas Beaudoin, now at Forhdam after two stints at Boston College and Santa Clara has a hysterical piece in America Magazine this week. Beaudoin, now solely teaches graduate students but has collected a series of undergraduate “student bloopers.” After reading these I laughed but was also slightly shocked that these bloopers came from two of our top collegiate institutions. In fact, my college roommate got wait-listed at Boston College and will relish seeing these mistakes, the type of mistake he would never make.

On Faith and Relationships

My girlfriend is my most coveted possession. Our love is similar to that shared by Adam and Eve during the reading of the creation story. I believe that God gave sex for humans to use in the pretext of marriage.

On God

The question of whether a higher being exists has plagued man since the beginning of civilized society. The question “Who is God?” is one that has been bounced continuously back and forth. Many ask why God acts the way He does, while others ask the question why doesn’t God act the way He does. The dessert ascetics believed in the ascendance of God. I think God’s ways are mysterious, and the meaning is not going to jump out and bite us in the ass. God is a different person to everybody, and to some he may not have a corpulent form at all. Theocratically, God is so far more advanced than mankind. And while there is nothing you can do to impress God enough to give you internal life, universal salvation is a huge turn on.

On Catholicism

Certain aspects of Catholic belief are founded on realty. The Catholic religion remains strict on their teachings in order to withhold tradition. However, through Vatican II, Christians are now not the only good people in the world. Doris Day started the Catholic Worker.

On Scripture

The closest written text to the period of the Big Bang is the Bible, which is the underlying scripture of the Christian tradition, and one of the earliest and most influential texts available for theologians. In the Bible, God is loving, forgiving, powerful, and a creationist. In the Book of Genius, God created all the living and nonliving, proclaiming his intention ‘good.’ For tempting Adam and Eve, God scalds the serpent. With regard to Adam and Eve, I am so tired of being told that because of two fictitious people I am not dancing around naked with Brittany Spheres. God promised never to erase mankind again but there is no mention that He won’t screw with us. God led the Israelites out of Egypt to the land of cannon, so they could make scarifeces in the woods. God wreaks havoc on the Egyptians in a fairy tale manor. I really like interrupting the scriptures in class.

Luke’s gospel tells of shepherds who come to worship a babe. In the Greek language of the Gospel of John, Jesus is described as the “haggis” or Word of God. Mary Magdalene was the first to see the woman Christ. Women were whitenesses of the death of Jesus. Jesus always tells people that he is the sun of God. Jesus amazed people, starting with his emasculate conception. The passion of Christ is a dramatic, griping story. The New Testament ends with the reformation, and allows the writers to see into heaven. The Bible should not be rewritten because it is apart of the Christian Tradition.

Archbishop Quinn on Notre Dame and President Obama

This is very clear-headed thinking in America Magazine

These questions are not negligible. Cardinal James Gibbons, when he received the “Red Hat,” in a memorable sermon at the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, strongly praised the tremendous benefit that came to the church in our country because of the separation of church and state. During our more than two hundred years of history, the American bishops have until very recently steadfastly held to the position of making judgments about policy but never judgments about persons in the political arena. One reason for this position was that the episcopate recognized that the greater good of the mission of the church would be served in this way.

Taking account of what serves the greater good of the mission of the church is not opportunism. It is what Catholic tradition calls prudence. The saints have used various words for this cardinal virtue: discretion, discernment, practical wisdom. The great teacher of discernment, St. Ignatius Loyola, points out in this context the serious evil of the temptation of the good. Not everything that seems good is in fact good. Weighing, discernment and discretion are necessary even in things that seem on the face of it to be good. There is always the twin issue of the objective itself and the means of achieving it. One may be good, the other not.

The bigger question though which Bishop Quinn addressed in the first few paragraphs of the article is a doozy: How do unborn get served in the end by either withdrawing the invitation or by allowing President Obama to speak? Which ends up serving their needs best? I agree with Bishop Quinn on this point:

But it does not improve the likelihood of making progress on this and other issues of common concern if we adopt the clenched fist approach. The president has given ample evidence that he is a man of good will, of keen intelligence, desirous of listening and capable of weighing seriously other views. The Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, citing Augustine, points out that “ Certain situations cannot be resolved with asperity or hardness” and goes on to say “(B)ecause his daily pastoral concerns give the Bishop greater scope for personal decision-making, his scope for error is also greater, however good his intentions: this thought should encourage him to remain open to dialog with others, always ready to learn, to seek and accept the advice of others.”

There’s a lot of good thoughts in the early part of the article as well which you should read by going here

Hat tip to Susan Franesconi who pointed this article to me on Facebook where there’s a good conversation going on that was started by Jeremy Langford.

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Is Blogging Ministry?

Yes…next question…

But seriously, Deacon Greg thinks so too. And in this beautiful and funny piece for our friends at America Magazine he tells us why.

Then, one night in August, on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption, I decided to check my e-mail before going to bed. There was an item in my inbox titled, “I lost one of my students today.” I sat down and took a deep breath. It was from a Catholic teacher in Newark, N.J. One of his pupils, a 15-year-old boy, had been shot and killed that morning while sleeping in his own bedroom. News reports said a neighbor downstairs had been handling a rifle that had gone off accidentally.

The teacher was devastated. He told me that he wrote because he just needed to get it off his chest. “I am stricken with grief at a time when my heart would otherwise be elated—but I know my young student, my child, celebrates this feast in the arms of the Blessed Mother,” he wrote, and asked for prayers for himself, his students and the boy who had been killed.

I did not know what to say. I wrote back to him, offering a few words of consolation, and told him I would pray for him. But something, I felt, had changed.

The flickering words on a computer screen spoke of something greater, and deeper, and sadder than anything else I had encountered in my months of blogging. In the middle of all the bickering in the blogosphere, I had encountered a moment of unexpected grief and profound grace—beautiful, heartbreaking, soul-wrenching grace.

If nothing else, the Internet makes us acutely aware of this: the world is bigger than we realize and smaller than we expect. We are bound together in ways we cannot even imagine. I have learned a lot since I began blogging, but the greatest lesson may be that we are catholic, which means we are universal, and that we are everything and everyone, for better or for worse.

Indeed he is correct. From my time here and my 8 1/2 years at Busted Halo I’ve gotten e-mail from prisoners concerned about homosexuality, women who have had miscarriages and thought their child had lost all hope for salvation, I even had someone write in who was afraid their son was contemplating suicide. While our retreat program is filled with similar experiences, they pale in comparison to what gets revealed in the anonymity of the internet. It is beautiful and sad at the same time. Beautiful that we are all connected and can reach out to one another and that we can provide some kind of virtual ministry to these people who seek us out. At the same time, the world seems like a lonely place where people have to resort to sending a note on the internet to virtual strangers, albeit people with whom they likely respect and maybe even feel some kind of spiritual or emotional resonance.

The rest of the article is downright funny and poingnant in other ways. So check out the whole thing here.