Havana is locked in a bygone era, somewhere in the vicinity of 1959, as if the Castro revolution had only occurred yesterday.
Vintage cars serve as taxis rumbling along cobblestone streets. Classic cars run on diesel, a smell permeating the city. Cuban women are colorfully dressed, like Carmen Miranda or the Chiquita Banana lady, aggressively selling Cuban cigars to unwitting tourists in Old Havana Square.
Across the bay stands the foreboding ancient Morro Castle, a fortress built to guard the city. Public thoroughfares decorated with Russian-constructed missiles serve as a chilling reminder of how close the U.S. once came to nuclear war during the showdown between Khrushchev and Kennedy.
I remember, as a kindergarten student, knowing that Saddam Hussein was a bad man and that it was right and just that we were going to invade Iraq: Operation Desert Shield turning into Operation Desert Storm was a good thing.
I remember making several phone calls to college buddies when Saddam Hussein was captured during operation Red Dawn in 2003. We laughed, we guffawed, we talked about it as an early Christmas present. This was what sophomores in college, deeply engaged in thinking and talking about foreign policy did.
I remember hearing that we had caught and killed Osama Bid Laden. I jumped out of my chair as if to cheer, but the joy got caught in my throat, replaced by the realization that celebration over the death of another is quickly followed by a feeling significantly less pleasant than joy, though no less poignant.
People always ask me about the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes served on Christmas Eve.
So strong is this tradition that I can honestly say that in my lifetime I’ve never spent a Christmas Eve without a variety of fish dishes spread before me. This is a hallowed custom that is passed from one generation to another.
To begin with you must have seven fish selections on the table.
Why seven? Seven is a very important number. It stands for the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. The seven days of creation. In Biblical numerology, seven is a number of perfection.
And fish is the featured dish because Italians have customarily abstained from eating meat on Christmas Eve. In fact, I do believe that for a long time the Catholic church prohibited the eating of meat the day before Christmas, This is the Christmas vigil.
There is no set menu for this feast.
But here are some of the fishes that are traditionally used: calamari (squid); scungilli [skuhn-GEE-lee] (conch); baccala [bah-kah-LAH] (dry, salt cod); shrimp; clams, usually served with pasta; mussels; snapper, trout, tuna or salmon.
We have adapted this menu over the years and updated it somewhat.
Francis is a good man with plenty to teach us. Economics isn’t one of those things. His latest literary offering wasn’t wrong: “the excluded are still waiting,” especially in his poverty-stricken native Argentina, but his home country is a model of socialism, not “trickle-down” capitalism. How can he not know that?
My humble suggestion: the His Holiness should seriously consider with whom he’s siding on the economic front. He can start by signing up for the email list of U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-Twitter).
“[...] the Supreme Court could decide that for-profit employers can limit access to birth control by constraining insurance options available to their employees,” Booker said in a Saturday morning email blast referring, of course, to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to consider an Obamacare contraception mandate challenge. “Allowing employers to inject themselves into these intensely personal decisions would be a huge step backward.”
There is growing concern about what appear to be recent attacks on free markets and on capitalism itself by Pope Francis.
Mary Anastasia O’Grady has analyzed all this quite objectively in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s part of what she has to say:
In the document released last week he [Pope Francis] admonished those who defend “trickle-down theories, which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” There is no empirical evidence for this, he wrote. It is instead “a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
This morning, the House of Representatives passed a resolution, 400-1, urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to allow continued performance of religious services on military installations during the government shutdown.
Pope Francis is in the news for his decidedly different approach to social issues than his predecessors, Save Jerseyans, but the recently-minted Supreme Pontiff’s penchant for rocking the boat isn’t limited to public policy debates and long-fought culture wars.
He’s shaking stuff up in the Garden State, too.
According to the popular Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia, on Tuesday morning in Rome, Francis appointed Bishop Bernard Hebda as coadjutor-archbishop of Newark.
Who? What? Lucky for you I attended Catholic schools! Hebda is 54 years old and currently serves a diocese in Michigan. This move puts him in line to succeed the current Bishop of Newark, 72 year-old Archbishop John Myers. But this move is more significant than simply establishing a line of succession…
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Speaker of the House John Boehner has tasked Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and leader on many international human rights efforts, to lead the bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation to attend the investiture of former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis.
“It is an honor to lead this bipartisan group of House members to this international event,” said Smith, who chairs the House Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee. “The world is a challenging place, in terms of wars and peace, basic human rights and freedoms. The Holy Father has a major role to play in global affairs. I wish him well as he begins his pontificate and am honored to be a part of this historic occasion. The Pope is more than a spiritual leader for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, he is an inspiration of holiness and goodness, and above all, the faithful proclamation of the Gospel.”
There’s little doubt that the newly-elected Pope Francis I is a conservative like the rest of the College of Cardinals of which he is now an alumnus, Save Jerseyans.
The man who used to be called Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is also known a “compassionate conservative” and a straight-shooter. I thought this block quote from the former cardinal in today’s Washington Times, purportedly from a speech delivered back in his home archdiocese of Buenos Aires, was very revealing:
In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage,” Bergoglio told his priests. “These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized!”
Bergoglio compared this concept of Catholicism, “this Church of ‘come inside so we make decisions and announcements between ourselves and those who don’t come in, don’t belong,” to the Pharisees of Christ’s time — people who congratulate themselves while condemning all others.
Hmm. The Church now has a man who, at first blush, seems to have the ability to articulate, in clear language, fundamental Christian principles without coming across as mean or divisive. If he succeeds in turning the Church around, perhaps he can teach the CPAC crowd a thing or two about outreach?
Moments ago, a dramatic scene unfolded inside the Vatican’s walls as cardinals processed, two-by-two, into the famous Sistine Chapel as a full choir sang the “Litany of the Saints.” The conclave’s singular goal? Keep voting until the Roman Catholic Church has a new Supreme Pontiff.
I’m a Catholic so I’ve always been fascinated by this stuff, Save Jerseyans. A plurality of New Jerseyans are Catholic. In fact, the Garden State is one of the most Catholic states in America, with approximately 37,000 Catholics per 100,000 state residents according to the 2010 census and a growing bench of Catholic public officials.
Click here (or on the image to your right) to visit the official Vatican Radio website for more audio/video coverage of the conclave. Just don’t expect another peek inside the Sistine Chapel until after white smoke appears and the bells ring out… and keep your fingers crossed for Timothy Dolan!
Vatican video of the procession into the conclave, oath of secrecy and other rituals straight up until “extra omnes!” is below the fold…
As the Catholic Church patiently awaits the appointment of its new pope, Save Jerseyans, followers wonder what type of leader they can expect in the near future.
Will he be staunchly opposed to expanding the rights of women in the church? Or will he be more liberal, and champion more lenient views on sexuality and contraception?
Traditionalist groups favor a strict governing of the church. They would prefer that the Catholic faith has fewer followers that adhere to the “letter of the law,” as opposed to a larger population that favors reform and relaxed church policies.
However, there are groups within the church that feel like the institution would become stronger and more revitalized if some of the previous laws were more relaxed, to attract new members and entice other members to return after previously leaving due to conflicting views.
The new pope, although he is not expected to “upset the apple cart” so to speak, has the power to make fundamental changes to the church and to inspire followers of the faith to subscribe to his beliefs. But is this the “right” direction to take? Or should the church continue to adhere to past encyclicals?
Although on somewhat of a different scale, we have similar opinions within the ranks of the Republican Party.
Here’s the full text of Benedict’s statement released through the Vatican earlier this morning:
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. [Contd...]