Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pray for the Diocese of Knoxville

The installation of Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika is up on the Diocese of Knoxville's website.

A few people have asked me if I would hazard to give the Bishop any advice. I do not know that I am worthy to advise His Excellency about much of anything, except to say that I hope that he presses the rights and dignity of the Church in East Tennessee with a great deal of vigor.

Let us invoke all the Holy Saints for Bishop Stika and the advancement of the Holy, Catholic, and apostolic faith in East Tennessee.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

A Chronicle in Political Stupidity

Plenty of people in Jefferson County complain about the state of government here, and just this morning over at the Sanitary Drug in White Pine, men were complaining about the inefficiency of the Jefferson County Commission. While this is a very legitimate complaint, I oppose efforts to shrink the County Commission in the way that County Mayor Alan Palmieri would like to do. The solution to the county's government problem isn't to lessen representation, but for the people to elect officials whose prime qualification for public office is something other than complete political stupidity.

A prime example of this lack of general public intellect would seem to be Jefferson City Mayor Darrell Helton, who thinks that citizens should be made to fill out an information form before viewing public records-records that State law says are open to any citizen. Helton further proposed, according to yesterday's print edition of the Standard Banner, that those who refused to fill out this form should be made to present a Tennessee driver's licence to make sure they are from Tennessee.

Those who read this space regularly know that I am very much in favor of States' rights and the general idea of State sovereignty as understood per the 10th Amendment. However, the federal Constitution carries with it a section known as the "full faith and credit" clause. This clause guarantees not only that States must one another's general acts, but that the laws of a given State apply to any person traveling through from another State. Tennessee has an Open Records Act that guarantees the right of any citizen to view public records on request, and that means that visitors to our State also have that right.

Apparently it is too much to ask that an elected official abide by the simple dictates of the U.S. Constitution

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

May the Bishop Sow a Mighty Harvest

Nicole and I attended Bishop Richard Stika's ordination Mass today, and I believe that I am going to love our new shepherd. Within his introductory message was a thinly-veiled shot across the bow to East Tennessee political leaders that he will fight for human rights, and especially for the right to life.

One thing worth noticing is that the Archdiocese of St. Louis really churns out those priests, religious, and members of the hierarchy. Philadelphia Archbishop Justin Cardinal Rigali was the chief celebrant of the Mass. He is the former Archbishop of St. Louis. The next Archbishop of New York (and outgoing Milwaukee Archbishop) Timothy Dolan is from St. Louis. Now St. Louis sends one of her best priests to Knoxville, and there were lots of St. Louis-area priests and religious at the Mass today. Lord, make us as fruitful as St. Louis!

At least we are off to a start-we've given the Church one bishop so far.

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Bishop of Knoxville Ordained Today

Today is an important day in the life of the Catholic Church in East Tennessee as we finally celebrate the ordination and installation of our new Bishop, Richard Frank Stika. I am sure I speak for every Catholic in the region when I say that I hope and pray that Bishop Stika is with us for many years to come. It would seem that when we get a very exceptional bishop, he doesn't stay here terribly long, at least that is the precident so far.

Nicole and I will be in Knoxville at Bishop Stika's ordination today. If you can't be there with us, please pray for the new Bishop and for the Catholic people of East Tennessee as we move forward into a new chapter in faith with great anticipation.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Urban/Rural Realignment

Some pundits who cover Tennessee politics have apparently taken to the notion that the Rural Republican Caucus was merely a stunt designed to put an end to the continual drawing-out of the Kent Williams saga. I do not think that to be the case, because I think Rep. Judd Matheny hit the nail on the head as to why many members of the Tennessee House of Representatives feel the need for a separate rural caucus:

Often on the biggest issues, it's not Democrat versus Republican," said Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma. "It's urban versus rural."

The axiom which Matheny cites is true in nearly every political environment and in every part of the country. I am personally convinced that the "red-blue" divide which still exists in this country is as much urban vs. rural as it is ideological. The split which caused the creation of the new legislative caucus-and that figures in nationally in our political climate-is also symptomatic of a deeper sense of economic and social dread.

As has been written in this space before, the last Depression began on the farm and in rural areas long before the markets tanked. Rural Tennessee was manifesting signs of a serious economic downturn in the present instance months, and even years before that situation began to be reflected in the collapse of banks and brokerage firms (such as Bear Stearns), and the tanking of the major stock and commodities markets. Now that the markets have deflated, the combined economic and social situation has given way to a larger sense that we collectively must fight to keep something of a passing old order:

[T]he economy isn't the only reason for our unease. There's more to it. People sense something slipping away, a world receding, not only an economic one but a world of old structures, old ways and assumptions. People don't talk about this much because it's too big, but I suspect more than a few see themselves, deep down, as "the designated mourner," from the title of the Wallace Shawn play.

If rural as well as urban elected officials both must preside over a state of affairs which they clandestinely believe to be nothing short of the unraveling of the natural social order of things, than rural members of the House need to do what they can to insure that the interests of the countryside and the people of small-town America are protected in the drastic changes that are taking place.

If Tennessee and the Union are now being run by a bunch of city people who know nothing of the folks in the middle (and certainly that is now the case with the federal government), elected people from rural areas can only represent their constituents effectively if they speak with one united voice.

Our country is undergoing the death throes of constitutional government as our forefathers understood it, and if we are to survive in this new era which we appear to be entering, there must be political realignments which are more reflective of the situations in which different segments of society now find themselves.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lough Erin Shore

A great cover of this Irish tune by the Corrs.


The Orange and the Green

The great fun song about the "color problem" in Ireland from the Wolfe Tones.

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St. Patrick's Day

Today falls another Feast of St. Patrick, the patron of Ireland and of the Irish people. The modern version of this feast day, as an occasion for parades, revelry, 6:00am pub openings in some jurisdictions, and the display of green outfits that would look ridiculous on any other day of the year is a uniquely American custom brought here by Irish Americans as a display of ethnic-and sometimes religious-pride. This way of celebrating St. Patrick's Day has since been exported to Ireland and other parts of the world where the descendants of the Irish diaspora live and thrive.

There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with celebrating in this way. I freely admit that I will probably drink more today than any other day of the year, yet I am not predisposed to behave as a sot. It is fitting to celebrate the pride of being Irish on the feast day of the patron of the Irish nation. Many Irish in Ireland are keen to point out that Irish Americans may be a people of Irish heritage, but we are Americans, not Irish-not the way that they are Irish.

There is some sense of truth to this assertion, since many of our ancestors came from that part of Ireland which to this day remains in dispute whether it should be a part of a united Irish Republic, or whether it should remain-as all of Ireland once was-as part of a union with Britain. Though the present dispute dates from the passage of the Government of Ireland Act of 1922, its roots are centuries deep. The peace in the North of Ireland is making things vastly better in the land of our ancient forebears, but it is a fragile peace. As David McKittrick recently wrote in The Belfast Telegraph, "history and geography dictate that Northern Ireland is never going to be a tranquil, placid place." It is for that reason that so many of our forefathers, Protestant and Catholic alike, came to this country.

Some came here escaping the British-imposed penal codes which forbade both Catholic worship (the single-decade "penal rosary" is still popular among Catholics today, and was used to fool the English public officialdom into thinking that the user was not actually praying the rosary) as well as certain dissenting elements of Protestant belief, such as Presbyterianism or other Calvinist churches-which had at first supported Protestant British rule in Ireland. Others fled to America to escape the artificial "Great Famine" of the 1840's, coming from all parts of Ireland to build a new life and help fashion a new nation to replace the one that they had left which was being destroyed. A very legitimate argument is made by some Irish in Ireland that our ancestors long ago removed us from the day-to-day affairs and conflicts of Irish life, that Irish Americans have lost much of their Irishness.

It is difficult for Irish Americans to understand the complexities which plague the question of Northern Ireland because we have been generations removed from the conflict, and all of the discrimination that Irish people of all faith traditions have faced here is rather mild compared to the conflict in Northern Ireland. We collectively wonder agape at why Ireland has not been easily united or the Irish Question is not easily solved. As people in Belfast and Derry and Down and Antrim pray for the maintenance of peace in the midst of violence by dissidents condemned by all communities, we should remember to study the land of our ancestors with a more careful eye before we pass sweeping judgments about the political situation there.

Irish influence on our country is broad and unmistakable, from the founding until the present day. Irish Americans have done more than make their mark on America, they have built much of it with their own hands. Politics became the way for many Irish Americans to achieve upward mobility in this country, and in civil service and politics we collectively have succeeded, and then in so many other areas of life.

That is worth raising a pint in celebration today.

St. Patrick's Day Last Year

St. Patrick's Day 2007

St. Patrick's Day 2006

St. Patrick's Day 2005

Irish Americans and Politics

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Wine Bill Falls Flat

The Tennessean ran an informal poll of lawmakers on the proposal to allow wine in grocery stores, and based on the data from that poll, the paper predicts that the wine bill will not pass the General Assembly this session. Among those polled, my own Senator, Mike Faulk, is listed as being against the bill.

In talking to Faulk today, he says his position is much more nuanced. "They [the Associated Press] came around to our offices and asked how we would vote on the wine bill if we were voting today, and I answered honestly with a no," Faulk told me. Senator Faulk said that he's not against wine in grocery stores, but wants a bill with the tightest possible protections against teens being able to purchase wine in grocery stores. Essentially, Faulk wants grocery store clerks who sell wine to have the same licensure requirements that liquor store clerks who sell it have.

In addition, Mike Faulk says that he favors local control over the issue, saying that if a county wants to allow wine to be sold in grocery outlets, they ought to be allowed to legalize that, while counties that do not wish to allow such sales should be allowed to enact those regulations. Senator Faulk has floated a bill to that effect.

Although I do not agree with Faulk's stance on the current wine bill, I do agree with his ideas about local control. Further, it is clear that The Tennessean likely isn't accurately portraying members' feelings on the legislation-but the way for wine in grocery stores appears stalled for the year once again.


Sunday, March 15, 2009


John 2:13-25:

And the pasch of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple them that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting. And when he had made, as it were, a scourge of little cords, he drove them all out of the temple, the sheep also and the oxen, and the money of the changers he poured out, and the tables he overthrew.

And to them that sold doves he said: Take these things hence, and make not the house of my Father a house of traffic. And his disciples remembered, that it was written: The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up. The Jews, therefore, answered, and said to him: What sign dost thou show unto us, seeing thou dost these things? Jesus answered, and said to them: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews then said: Six and forty years was this temple in building; and wilt thou raise it up in three days?

But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen again from the dead, his disciples remembered, that he had said this, and they believed the scripture, and the word that Jesus had said. Now when he was at Jerusalem, at the pasch, upon the festival day, many believed in his name, seeing his signs which he did. But Jesus did not trust himself unto them, for that he knew all men,And because he needed not that any should give testimony of man: for he knew what was in man.

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