Thursday, August 20, 2009

Catholic drama and 'grassroots entertainment'

San Diego playwright Cathal Gallagher recently spoke about his plays and his efforts to advance Catholic drama.

While movies cost millions to make, plays are the “grassroots of entertainment,” Gallagher told Catholic News Agency. He rightly noted that such works can have a “profound impact” on college and high school students.

His play "Viva Cristo Rey!" about the Jesuit priest and martyr Blessed Miguel Pro was performed at the Denver archdiocesan seminary earlier this year under the direction seminarian Scott Bailey.

(Last year I saw and deeply enjoyed Bailey's production of "A Man for All Seasons." We in Denver may hope he can become both a successful playwright and a priest, like a certain famous pontiff.)

Recently Gallagher has produced his play "Malcolm and Teresa," about British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge and Mother Teresa. According to CNA, his next production is “Margaret of Castello,” about the young Italian woman who "led a life of sanctity in 13th century Florence despite being born blind, lame and a hunchback, and also being abandoned by her parents."

Gallagher's belief in the promise of community theater may be sound. Small theaters have fewer financial and social barriers to entry than the film business. A good dramatist will form more personal connections with the actors, the audience, and artists, a sure precondition for the development of local culture.

And of course, there's no reason a successful play can't become a good movie later on, when it's found worthy.

There's a kind of Christian culture-maker who has a "Hollywood-or-Bust!" attitude. Many of them would have benefited from testing their talents before a live audience first. I worry their shoddy film productions more easily attain prominence just because industry publicity machines emphasize the film's Christian Message (tm).

Small-time stage plays often lack that rare luxury and have to succeed on merit.

However, not being a frequent patron of community theater, the field is unknown to me. I welcome comments from the knowledgeable.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Man who threatened Conn. politicians in Catholic bill controversy was FBI informant

Earlier this year, Connecticut witnessed the proposal of ominous legislation that would have forcibly reorganized the Catholic Church and crowded out bishops and clergy in favor of lay-run boards. The backers of the bill were apparently channeling the plans of the would-be Catholic reform group Voice of the Faithful.

In an additional hint of the “culture war” being waged, both sponsors of the legislation were homosexuals who have spoken out against Catholic opposition to same-sex “marriage.”

After a swift outcry, this legislation was withdrawn. However, the Catholic reaction itself came under scrutiny, as state officials pondered whether church leaders had violated lobbying laws by organizing a rally for thousands of the faithful.

To this mess of First Amendment violations, internal church division and political retribution is added a new twist: one of the most extreme critics of the bill, arrested for threatening legislators, was an FBI-trained agent provocateur.

According to the Associated Press, New Jersey-based blogger and radio show host Hal Turner in June urged his readers to "take up arms" against Connecticut lawmakers. He said government officials should "obey the Constitution or die," because he was angry over the Connecticut legislation.

(The AP slavishly follows the bill supporters’ characterization of the bill as one that “would have given lay members of Roman Catholic churches more control over their parish's finances.”)

The Jersey Journal reproduces Turner’s comments:

”This is a direct government assault upon the Catholic Church, in absolute violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution for the United States... the state of Connecticut has become tyrannical and abusive. It is actively and aggressively attempting to directly interfere with the internal governance of a church and the free exercise of religion. It is retaliating against citizens for exercising their right to petition for redress of grievances. This is tyranny and it must be put down.”

Saying a lawsuit was “too soft,” this armchair revolutionary/FBI informant and his Turner Radio Network advocated that Connecticut Catholics “take up arms and put down this tyranny by force.” He pledged to release the home addresses of the bill sponsors and another government official.

“It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally,” Turner’s bombast continued. “These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die.

“If any state attorney, police department or court thinks they're going to get uppity with us about this; I suspect we have enough bullets to put them down too... elected and other government officials… need to learn their place or be put there by force.”

His words are shocking on their own. But the shock deepens when one learns that Turner reportedly worked for the FBI from 2002 to 2007 as an "agent provocateur." He was taught by the agency "what he could say that wouldn't be crossing the line," his defense attorney Michael Orozco told the AP.

“His job was basically to publish information which would cause other parties to act in a manner which would lead to their arrest," he continued.

The AP reports that prosecutors acknowledge Turner was an informant who “spied on radical right-wing organizations.” Though Turner was not working for the FBI at the time of the threats, his attorney claims there was “no difference whatsoever” in his rhetoric.

Turner’s attorney says he plans to subpoena his client’s FBI “handler,” so the story could continue. As a reminder that this is no disinterested party, let’s remember that the attorney is also claiming that his client informed about a potential plot to kill President Obama.

What might Turner's supremacist fans think of the man now that he is exposed as a snitch?

It's clear what his enemies thought of him. The Hartford Courant reports that this informant conveniently attracted the attention of prominent advocacy groups:

“Turner has been branded a racist by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Elsewhere on the blog, the recent fatal shooting of a Kansas abortion provider is called ‘a righteous act.’”

Recall the Department of Homeland Security report which warned of right-wing extremists who exploit opposition to abortion. The FBI deserves an audit to see whether the Bureau itself is throwing gasoline on smoldering coals.

In a June 3 statement, Bishop of Bridgeport William E. Lori made remarks seemingly in response to Turner’s outburst and arrest:

...we deplore and condemn hateful language and advocacy of violence of any kind. Such speech is contrary to the civil and respectful discourse that reflects the Christian values we hold so dear.

We further denounce any individuals or groups who might try to exploit this matter for their own separate agendas.

What might Bishop Lori say, now that there are indications the federal government itself is helping fund the advocacy of violence?

We see here that the Connecticut government supplies the provocation, while the federal government has trained the extremist opposition. For their part, anti-discrimination groups and left-wing watchdogs provide publicity and use examples of extremism for their own fundraising purposes. This obviously is not the “balance of power” envisioned by sound republican principles.

Barring irrefutable proof, there is no need to speculate that there is some conscious anti-Catholic conspiracy afoot. Rather, this may be evidence of a structural problem, a self-aggrandizing, unselfconscious Iron Triangle that is both fueled by, and fueling, political extremism.

Monday, August 10, 2009

When Hospice Care provides the Terri Schiavo treatment

Chris Roach, commenting at What's Wrong with the World, reports his horrible experience with the scandal of hospice care:

Medicare typically pays only for a few weeks of hospice care on the theory that it's for the dying, not the merely very sick. So folks sent into hospice are essentially drugged up on halidol, rendered unconscious, and then dehydrated and starved to death. Disoriented and grieving relatives are told this is the "dying process" and "he's feeling no pain" and "this is all very normal," when their grandparents and spouses are, essentially, being murdered before their eyes.

I saw this with my own grandfather two years ago. I was totally unfamiliar with what was going on. I saw them remove his brown urine from the bed, brown because essential nutrients and water were being denied him. I saw them put the lotion on his lips so that we couldn't see the evidence of willful and easily remedied dehydration. I wasn't sure exactly what was going on; I've actually never had anyone close to me but him die. But as I looked into it, it became clear; he was being euthanized in plain sight, and an entire industry has grown up around this evil practice.

When the financial incentives are flowing up and down the chain of care in the Obamacare regime, it will be all the more tempting to encourage living wills with limitations on food and water and doctor-ordered, cost-saving trips to the hospice. Two weeks later, no more "expensive bills racked up at the end of life."

I'm not very emotional of a writer/blogger, and I almost never give testimonials. But seeing this all take place was one of the most disturbing experienced of my life, and I had limited understanding and no power (or at least no lawful authority) to stop it. But I sure as sh*t won't do this to my parents some day, and I'll encourage everyone I know to do the same. There are of course some legitimate hospices out there, but I believe one must make triple sure what you're dealing with before sending a loved one to a possible scene of mass murder.