Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Personal Asides: Dan Curry Can Probably Answer This…and The Complicated Cardinal


I have written before about Dan Curry’s blog, the only one I will formally recommend, called A former top newsman he has more info on the news media than anyone else, with accent on local races. Let me ask him a question which I am sure he can answer on his own blog: Dan, the New York Times is taking the heat, as well it should, for publishing hitherto secret probing of bank accounts by the administration…and you have pelted the paper deservedly. But as I read it the dispatches also say the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times also ran the story. Did they just copy the New York Times or did they receive the same leak? Why do they seem to be exempt from most of the criticism? I’m sure you have the explanation and I don’t know anyone who understands the media business better. So if you would enlighten me, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.


An auxiliary bishop told me not long ago that Francis Cardinal George is indeed not just brilliant but a multi-talented intellectual: gifted writer, superb homilist, stunning original theologian, profound philosopher whose original thought deserves one day to be studied in universities. And then he added something I wondered about: He’s a complicated man, very complicated. Just how complicated, I found out not long ago when I was fielding questions to him at a gathering of Catholic CEOs.

During a short lull while people were thinking of questions before raising their hands, I asked him this one which I hoped would elicit a short, positive answer. I told him I made a speech in Dallas which espoused a return to the Baltimore Catechism for the instruction of the young. Everyone but one dissident hailed the idea since everyone of a certain age has had to memorize the catechism, to speak it by rote under the admonishing glare of our mothers and the nuns.

I said, I daresay you had the same experience when you were a kid at St. Pascal’s, Eminence.

That’s where I was wrong and where he rained on my parade as intellectuals have done throughout my life. Throw them a line you think they’ll snap up to help you and they invariably go on like Hamlet, parsing first this qualification and then that. His answer was in paraphrase:

Actually, no, I didn’t learn the Baltimore Catechism because at St. Pascal’s we had two Catechisms—the Baltimore and a second one that we also committed to memory with the result that the strong definitions in Baltimore somehow did not get across in the way you represent. Perhaps you’ve heard of a new Compendium that has just been compiled, a distillation of the new Catholic Catechism adopted under John Paul II. It is a Compendium that faithfully puts forth the doctrines of the Church…

Is there anything out of date with the old Baltimore?

Not in the sense of being out-of-date, no. Not in that sense but as you know there are always accretions to the Faith which it could be said the new Compendium presents.

Thanks a lot. After seventy-five years of the faithful committing to memory the unfailing verities of theology now we’ve got a Compendium. Yes, the Auxiliary was right: George is complicated. Moreover, exasperatingly complicated; let me add astoundingly complicated. All he had to say was, “Not a bad idea. Go to it!”

But that’s not how intellectuals think. They step on lines, blur exhortations. You boot the chance to send people home to reconnoiter with the old Catechism by making it far more complicated by bringing up a new volume no one has yet seen. Only an intellectual Ph.D theologian, Ph.D philosopher would think that way. No, bafflingly complicated.


  1. Tom,

    The Wall Street Journal and LA Times had some if not most of the information but both choose not to publish in part due to the Administration's pleas to keep the program secret.

    The other two papers released their stories AFTER the NY Times released the story as the program in information was already public and the harm already done.

    Hopefully Dan can concur or add something I may have left out. I've read the above during the week but would have to dig up the links - something you can probably find with a search of the internet.

  2. Tom, so you prefer a cardinal who approaches things basically as a journalist like yourself? Enough already of the carping. Most of us are grateful he's not a simpleton.

  3. Did anyone actually think that the US Government was NOT monitoring these transactions? Given that you sign about a pound of paperwork when applying to do international wire transfers, stating that the money transfer information can be provided to the Federal Government, is it actually suprising that monitoring does occur?

    There is not a soul in the banking industry that did not know this was going on. It has to be one of the worst-kept "secrets" in the war on terror.