is a sequel to a book I loved, The Dogs of March. The series takes place in Darby, a fictional version of the exact spot in NH where I live, and boy does he understand what it’s like here. Dogs of Winter was like Faulkner meets Hemingway. Whisper My Name is veering a little bit into Walker Percy-style “man meets troubled girl, and va va voom” territory and it’s making me itchy, but I guess I’ll keep going.
which is making me laugh out loud but feel bad about it. I just finished scene where he makes several choices about how to deal with the fact that he set his boss’ wife’s guest bed on fire and it just about murdered me. The protagonist has a habit of swiftly and privately making grotesque faces that express how he feels about people he encounters, and that reminds me, it may be okay that we’re supposed to start wearing masks again.
If you haven’t read an Anne Tyler novel (and there are about 700 of them), I would recommend Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant, where I think she was at her full powers — the least prone to precious quirky self-indulgence, and the most fearless and tender toward people doing dreadful things for understandable reasons. (Homesick Restaurant has scenes of child abuse.) Morgan’s Passing is pretty good, but I think she’s a little too patient with Morgan and his midlife problems. I just want to kick his ass.
The kids had a bit of a love/hate relationship with it, as is appropriate for George MacDonald. I know I’ve complained before about the profoundly Victorian unreadability of some of his sentences, and I’ll do it again. Just say it, man!
But the Curdie books are probably the most accessible of his, except for The Light Princess, which is the easiest to read and also the most coherent and straightforward story. The Princess and Curdie is a sequel that’s better than the first book (The Princess and the Goblin), which we also read aloud. It has such good images in it: Young Curdie and his aged father meeting each other halfway up a hill, and if you saw them from a distance, you wouldn’t immediately know who was climbing and who was descending. This idea is carried forward when Curdie is given the power to identify what it is that people are becoming by touching their hands. Some hands feel human, but others feel like the paws or hooves or tentacles of animals. And the reverse is also true: There are fabulous avenging monsters in the story, who are apparently working out their salvation and becoming human again.
You can see how MacDonald’s great admirer C.S. Lewis was influenced by (or at least agreed with) this idea that, by the way we live, we carry heaven or hell within us even before we die. This idea is in The Great Divorce and The Last Battle and probably several others.
Anyway, between that and the imagery of the great princess purifying her beloved children by heaping burning roses on them, and weeping as she does it, I’m glad we read it. BUT THE ENDING. If I had remembered it ended that way, I would simply have skipped the final page. I was reading the book to the six-year-old and the ten-year-old, and some of the teens were listening in. The ending is basically: The young princess grows up and marries the hero and the kingdom is wonderful. But they don’t have children and then die, and then there’s a bad king, and things get worse and worse until he literally undermines the kingdom and it all crashes down and everyone dies, and then no one even remembers it existed. Well, goodbye! Generally, I respect authors to do what they want with their stories but there was no preparation for this happening, other than a general feeling that the story was a broad analogy for humanity in general. Truly unnecessary and the kids were rightly horrified. Boo.
The Green Knight movie comes out soon and it looks absolutely swell.
I read the Sir Gawain by Marie Borroff to the kids many years ago (that’s the one we read in college), in our last year of homeschooling, and they were spellbound. I remember skipping all the other lessons for the day because they wanted me to keep reading to the end. But [sighs until dead] it was a lot easier to spellbind them in those days.
Here’s how the Tolkein begins:
When the siege and the assault had ceased at Troy,
and the fortress fell in flame to firebrands and ashes,
the traitor who the contrivance of treason there fashioned
was tried for his treachery, and the most true upon earth–
it was Aeneas the noble and his renowned kindred
who then laid under them lands, and lords became
of well-nigh all the wealth in the Western Isles.
More fun to read aloud than ol’ George MacD, anyway! Heck, maybe I’ll pay the kids to give the first few chapters a fair shot. And then buy them movie tickets. Those poor children, how they suffer.
At first this struck me as a rather heavy handed “Have you ever seen such cruelty” kind of book, ala Isabelle Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea or Tracy Chevalier’s The Virgin Blue, but it grew on me, and I was impressed at how the author brought two stories together. It follows the lives of two girls in Afghanistan, one born in the late sixties and one in the late seventies. The prose is a bit movie storyboard-y at times, but it’s very sincere and creates a strong mental image of the setting. A painful and beautiful read. As far as I know, it’s a faithful rendition of the history, and fleshed out my skimpy understanding of the era before 9/11 (but it definitely reads like a novel, not a sneaky history lesson). The reading level seems aimed at smart middle school or high school age, but it includes fairly graphic scenes of rape and violence, so reader beware.
This one is a YA book, but Joan Aiken always uses her whole butt and doesn’t talk down to younger readers. Really never read a dud by her. The Shadow Guests is a weird, compelling story about Cosmo, a teenage boy who’s sent to live in the countryside with his great aunt after his mother and older brother apparently killed themselves to avoid succumbing to a family curse. But the past isn’t done with his family, and Cosmo becomes entangled with previous generations. It sounds dark and awful, but it’s very entertaining and funny in parts, and the dialogue and characters are so skillfully and realistically done even as the plot itself is outrageous. We recently read Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase out loud, and it was just as good as I remember. Aiken’s male teenage characters are the most appealing people you’ll ever meet.
3. What do you plan to read next?
Watership Down by Richard Adams
I started it several years ago and didn’t get very far, but I hope to keep going this time. Damien’s been recommending it for years.
4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?
ANY BOOK. I have almost completely ruined my brain with social media, so if I could finish anything at all, I’ll be pleased.
5. What book do you keep meaning to start?
With God In Russia by Walter Ciszek
I’m a bad Catholic reader and I should feel bad. I have now officially lost this book under the bed twice, once under the old bed and now once under the new bed. With God under the bed, I guess.
It’s trendy to talk about your hopelessly neurotic relationship with books. People love to share memes about how they just can’t stop buying more books even though they haven’t read the last books they have. It’s not my favorite schtick, but at least it’s better than the people who, to prove their love of books, share photos of the intricate diorama they made by cutting an actual book into little bits. They just love books soooooo much, that’s what they did to a book!
If that’s how you show love, remind me not to let you babysit.
Anyway, I could tell you a thing or two about what it looks like when book collecting gets truly neurotic. I grew up in that kind of house. My parents weren’t hoarders, but they accumulated books in a way that can’t be completely explained by their love of reading and their thirst for knowledge (which were considerable). My father once bought an entire dumpster full of books, which the seller delivered to our house at an excellent price. The only catch with these particular books was that they had been on fire, and most of them were blackened and crumbling, and wet and moldy. But books! For such a good price, that would otherwise get dumped! And it was such a deal . . . . and it would be such a waste to let books get thrown out.
That’s the thing that catches me up now: It would be such a waste to let them go. You can’t just let books go. Collecting books isn’t like collecting anything else, because they’re not just things. Books are especially important. They hold a special place in our minds and command a certain category of respect. You can’t just let them go!
“According to commercially available records of app signal data obtained by The Pillar, a mobile device correlated to Burrill emitted app data signals from the location-based hookup app Grindr on a near-daily basis during parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020 — at both his USCCB office and his USCCB-owned residence, as well as during USCCB meetings and events in other cities.”
The smartest response I saw to the article was a priest reminding Twitter that it’s okay to not be sure what to think about it all. That’s where I still land: I’m not quite sure. But I have a lot of questions.
People are alarmed and disgusted that someone’s phone data would be tracked and used against them. I don’t like it either, but I’m not prepared to say it’s unethical to use it, if you have a good reason, and if you’re sure you understand what the data signifies. At very least, it’s a great reminder that the best way to defend yourself against this kind of thing is, you know, don’t be gross.
Here are the questions I do have (and Damien doesn’t agree with me on all counts):
Was it necessary to make this public?
Something people ask me every single time I write about ugly stuff. There are a few reasons to make wrongdoing public: One is if the person is prominent enough and the wrongdoing is significant enough; and two is if it’s the only way to protect vulnerable people.
It was right for Burrill to lose his job. Any priest who’s soliciting sex with strangers, whether he’s a sinner struggling with a compulsion or a hypocrite unrepentantly pursing gratification, has grievously betrayed his vows. He is supposed to be a spiritual guide, and he is unfit for his office. Yes, we do hold priests to higher standards, and he held a fairly high office. (The Pillar says he “was charged with helping to coordinate the U.S. bishops’ response to the Church’s 2018 sexual abuse and coercion scandals,” but it’s not clear what that entails.)
I also believe that the fact that he was using Grindr is a problem in itself because of what Grindr is. As I understand it, the app wouldn’t be profitable if it excluded predatory relationships. This isn’t like drinking a can of Pepsi even though Pepsi is Frito and Frito in Kansas has bad labor practices; it’s more like subscribing to Playboy, but just for the articles. There are some things you just can’t separate.
At the same time, I am uncomfortable with the way the Pillar heavily implied that there was a good chance he’s a pedophile, because it’s likely that pedophiles use the app. So this is an “everyone sucks here” situation: Burrill was sleazy for using a site that facilitates predation, and The Pillar is sleazy for helping people assume, without evidence, that he’s probably a predator.
So those are reasons that it makes sense for Burrill to lose his job. But was he prominent enough for it to be important to expose his sins? I mean … I’ve never heard of the guy before, have you? This part is iffy.
As for protecting the vulnerable, this is not a clear cut “stop the bad man to protect the vulnerable” situation, as it would be if he had been meeting people in confession, or using the power of his office to prey on people (quite the opposite: He apparently though he could remain anonymous). So I don’t think it was necessary to make this story public to protect anyone Burrill was directly in contact with.
What about the power of the press to exert pressure on institutions to do the right thing?
I know very well that the Church will often not act unless it’s forced into it, and public exposure is an effective tool. Apparently, The Pillar approached the USCCB and let them know the story was in the works. The USCCB agreed to meet, got rid of the guy, and then told the Pillar, “You know what, we’ll talk some other time.” The Pillar then published the story. So in effect, this is a story about someone making a report of wrongdoing, and the USCCB responding appropriately. If the goal was to remove an unfit cleric from office (either for the sake of justice, or to protect themselves from blackmail), I’m hard pressed to say why it was necessary to go ahead with publishing, since they already accomplished what was presumably their goal.
Or, if that wasn’t their goal, what was it? Are they going to publish stories every time someone who works for the church is caught in sin? Where is the line? I am not sure myself, and I am very curious about what the Pillar’s line is.
And this leads us to the second main question I have:
Did the USCCB know? The sex abuse scandal in the Church has two main components: The abuse itself, and the institutional cover-up of abuse. If it weren’t for the cover-up, the abuse wouldn’t be able to flourish. That’s why the McCarrick exposé was so especially crushing: Not only did he prey on so many people, but so many people knew he was doing it, and didn’t do anything.
Experience tells us that someone, maybe lots of people, probably knew what Burrill was up to. If so, that was wrong, and possibly-to-probably worth writing about. But The Pillar presents no evidence that anyone at the USCCB was aware that this was happening. As they reported it, there was a sinful man doing sinful things while he was at work. The story, as reported, does not actually reveal or demonstrate any malfeasance on the part of the Church. That’s significant. It changes what kind of story it is, and it vastly changes how newsworthy it is.
My third question is about journalistic ethics more generally, and doesn’t have to do with the nature of the sin or even the content of the story:
Who paid for it, and why does that matter?
The Pillar says “According to commercially available records of app signal data obtained by The Pillar, a mobile device correlated to Burrill emitted app data signals from the location-based hookup app Grindr on a near-daily basis during parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020 — at both his USCCB office and his USCCB-owned residence, as well as during USCCB meetings and events in other cities.” It says “The data was obtained from a data vendor and authenticated by an independent data consulting firm contracted by The Pillar.”
It is possible that The Pillar wasn’t working with this same individual (and it’s possible CNA was trying to erroneously create the impression that they were), and it’s possible The Pillar independently purchased and analyzed the data. But if that were the case, why it would say it “obtained” the “commercially available” data, rather than clarifying that it bought it itself?
Why does it matter? Reporters get tips all the time, right? Well, if The Pillar got a tip that Msgr. Burrill was up to no good, and decided to narrow in on him and buy some data to verify it, that would be slightly sketchy but possibly legitimate, depending on the significance of what they found (see my questions, above, about their goal and their mission).
But if, as seems likely, someone came to them with an already-purchased bundle of red hot data about how Burrill spent his weekend, and The Pillar simply verified it and wrote it up, that’s not actual investigative journalism. That’s performing a service for the person who spent the money to make the story happen. This is a huge ethical problem, and I’m alarmed that more people don’t realize it.
The Pillar has been presenting itself as a watchdog journalism site. But if someone else is buying information and feeding it to them, they cannot be considered objective journalists, but instead something more like partners with their source.
Is this what happened? We don’t know, because they don’t say! Which is a problem in itself! They do not name their source, and that’s reasonable. But they don’t make it clear whether they actually even have a source, and if so, what kind of relationship the source has with the story. This is very shaky ethical ground.
None of this is black and white. Despite all the hot takes on social media, it’s not a clear case of either “hooray for The Pillar for uncovering this important story” or “shame on The Pillar for engaging in this obvious sleaze.” Nothing I’ve mentioned above is a clear reason why they should or shouldn’t have written it.
But I will say this: When Damien and I are working on a story and we keep bumping up against more and more and more questions about the ethical way to approach it, we look at each other, sigh, and just walk away. A high number of questions around a story is a red flag in itself, and this story has an awful lot of questions.
just a quick note to say that someone stepped on my computer. The six-year-old, whose knee is the exact size and shape of the new indentation on my screen, reports that it was “probably the cat.” I’m borrowing a kid’s computer, but I’ll be more scarce than usual until my own machine gets fixed! I know there have been some lively conversations in the combox, and I haven’t been moderating them — or in some cases, some innocent comments have been auto-flagged and not published. Sorry about that! I’ll weed through it now, but I will probably fall behind again, as it’s difficult to do on my phone. Thanks for your patience.
It’s Totus Tuus week! We haven’t been for a few years, so we were delighted to sign up again for this Catholic day camp. Well, I was delighted. The kids were jerky about it in that very specific way that signals to parents that it’s actually a good thing, but they don’t want you to feel like you’ve done something right.
The only catch is that the church is 35 minutes away, and we have kids in the day and evening programs, so that makes . . . a lot of driving. That means it’s week for easy peasy meals. Here’s what we had:
SATURDAY Steak sandwiches, fries, watermelon
Well, this was before camp week started, so Damien grilled some steaks and sliced them up, and we had the meat on toasted rolls with mayo, provolone, and roasted red peppers. Mighty tasty.
I love sandwiches that look like they’ve been tucked into bed with a blanket of cheese, and also I don’t really understand why all my pants are tight. In this essay I will explain
SUNDAY Vermonter sandwiches
A favorite cold sandwich, great for prepping ahead of time. I usually use ciabatta rolls, but had sourdough bread this time. Cold chicken, bacon, thick slices of cheddar and green apple, and honey mustard. I took a picture of the fixins
But not the sandwich. Here is a Vermonter of ages past:
Shoutout to everyone who’s recently accused me of journalistic sloppiness, when in fact I’m the kind of person who feels the need to disclose that the sandwich pictured above is a previous sandwich and varies slightly from the current one.
Anyway. Such a pleasant combination of sweet and savory, and all kinds of textures.
MONDAY Chicken caesar wraps
I forget who suggested this on Facebook, but thank you, genius! Really trying to use up leftovers, rather than throw them away. We had chicken left over from the Vermonter sandwiches and from whatever chicken dish we had last week, as well as some freshly-grated parmesan cheese from the pasta on Friday, so I just bought a bunch of pita bread, romaine lettuce, bottled dressing, and cherry tomatoes, and it went very nicely together, very pretty.
I know tomatoes don’t go on caesar salad, but it was a very good addition to this wrap, which just about everyone liked. It turns out almost no one in the family likes the kind of flatbread they sell around here, but they do like pita. You hear that, pita?
It’s funny, I’ve been making all these salads that are modified versions of full, carbier meals, and now lately I’ve been reverting them back into sandwiches. It’s the circle of salad (ingonyama nengw’ enamabala).
TUESDAY Burgers, veg and dip
Nothing to report. Lots of vegetable action happening around here lately.
This is the proper amount of ketchup and mustard, by the way. I am a professional and I should know.
WEDNESDAY Domino’s pizza
I know it’s not exquisite, but I like Domino’s pizza. I like how pillowy soft it is, and I like the salty, somewhat gritty crust. There is far better pizzas in the world, and I like them too, but Domino’s pleases me.
Also, Damien discovered that, if you order it online, it’s $12 a pizza, but if you call up the local store, it’s $7. We did the math and it turns out we’re not quite willing to pay $20 for the privilege of not talking to anybody. But there was a struggle.
THURSDAY Whatever you want from the fancy part of the supermarket.
Listen, Biden just paid us to be lazy, and I’m not made of stone. On the way home home from camp session one, I turned them loose in the supermarket and we came home with an assortment sushi, pizza rolls, chicken tenders, pizza, and misc.
Then Damien and I both dropped off the older kids at session two and got Chinese food while we sat back and waited for a couple of seminarians to secure our children’s spiritual future.
This particular restaurant mayyyy be a grandparent restaurant. They don’t give you chopsticks, and everything is sweet, sweet, sweet, and we’re pretty sure the music they were playing was a jazzy synth version of “How can I keep from singing?” for some reason; but the food was hot and delicious and nobody yelled at me. That has been my standard for an excellent experience lately: Did anybody yell at me? No? Then A+. I had some kind of prawn and vegetable thing that was very tasty, and it did not yell at me.
Then we killed some time at a sort of rural Walmart store called Runnings, which featured some unsettling taxidermy and the biggest frying pan I’ve ever seen. You’ll have to imagine it, because I do have a photo, but while we were out yesterday, someone, reportedly “maybe the cat” knelt on my computer and now it doesn’t work. It’s under warranty, and Lena’s graciously letting me use her computer for now. I don’t know any of my own passwords and I don’t know how to do anything and am suffering greatly. Anyway the upshot is that if I have to process one more photo on an unfamiliar laptop, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown.
Spaghetti? I don’t know. Maybe I will just put out all the extra snacks and lunch treats I bought while suffering from inappropriate guilt over making them go to fun camp for five days! How about that! How about that!
I have an overwhelming desire to talk about cheese! Who’s with me?
Here’s what we ate this week:
I took myself by the scruff of the neck and bought a mere four balls of pizza dough, with which to make a paltry four pizzas for our diminished little miniature family of eleven. We just can’t eat six pizzas anymore. There’s so much left over, it’s ridiculous. We are ridiculous with food.
We had one olive pizza, one pepperoni, one cheese, and one with red and yellow peppers, salami and pepperoni, and fresh mozzarella. Made me want more salami, red pepper, and fresh mozzarella in my life. I would eat that on a sandwich, wouldn’t you?
SUNDAY July 4th cookout!
We didn’t get to have this party last year because of covid. Cancelling it was especially hard, not just because it’s much-anticipated annual family reunion, but because it was supposed to be the party in lieu of a wake for my dad, which we also couldn’t have because of covid. So, this year, we did it! Almost all my siblings were there, many of their children, and also a dear friend from college that I haven’t seen in something like ten years. It was a wonderful, wonderful day.
Plenty of food, great weather, tons of sparklers and kind of a lot of fireworks, and poppers and glow sticks and tiki torches, temporary patriotic tattoos, candy, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and everything.
The only thing approaching a disappointment was that my brother’s dog didn’t like our dog. Our dog was too dumb to realize this, though, so he, at least, was spared the disappointment. I did make frozen ham balls for both of them (you put ham and various dog treats in a bowl or bag of water and freeze it, and licking it it keeps them entertained and cool at outdoor events), but that wasn’t enough to forge a friendship over.
We do a basic American cookout food, no fancy tricks with fish sauce or shallots or bechamel anything. Hamburgers, hot dogs, brats and sausages, veggie burgers and dogs, and smoked chicken thighs. Damien also made some clams in white wine and lemon juice just for fun, and we had pasta salad, and potato salad, veggies and hummus, chips and dip, and watermelon, and more store brand soda than you could shake a stick at (oh yes, there was Dr. Perky and Mountain Lion), and cheap domestic beer, and dark and stormies. For dessert, we had ice cream cups, chocolate and vanilla pudding cups, and red and blue jello cups with whipped cream. U.S.A!. U.S.A! It was a good, good party. Nobody even got burned or drowned.
I think we ended up with about 4o people. Damien got a bird’s eye view with his drone. You can see the kids lining up to get their sparklers lit.
I didn’t get a lot of food photos. The potato salad was potatoes, mayo with cider vinegar and sugar, fresh dill, celery, and salt and pepper. The pasta salad was farfalle, fresh basil and parsley, red onions, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, black olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper and oregano, and fresh parmesan.
MONDAY Leftover chicken, hot dogs, and brats, and salads
So, maybe we made too much food. Plenty of leftovers.
Oops, I forgot to share the smoked chicken recipe. Here: Jump to Recipe
TUESDAY Leftover burgers, chips
Yep, still plenty of leftovers.
WEDNESDAY Chicken caprese sandwiches, watermelon
Hoping to avoid an insurrection, we threw out the rest of the leftovers and had chicken sandwiches with provolone, tomato, and basil on ciabatta rolls.
There was some leftover watermelon, but I craftily cut it into chunks, rather than serving slices. They weren’t fooled, though, and I had to eat most of it myself.
THURSDAY Steak and blueberry salad with lemon feta crisps; cherry pie
Something completely different. Steak was on sale, so Damien made a sugar-salt rub, grilled them and sliced them, and I served the meat on salad greens with blueberries.
I wanted to try making cheese crisps, which I have heard are very easy. Well, they were easy, but I would not call them crisp in any way. Cheese disks, I guess. Cheese blips.
It was probably the type of cheese I used. I crumbled some feta cheese and mixed in some shredded mozzarella and the zest of a few lemons, put the mixture in little piles on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, and baked for 6-7 minutes. I tried 375 and 400, but they really just came out chewy, even after they cooled on a rack for a few hours. The flavor was excellent, though, and really perfect to go with the steak and blueberries. Next time I will try just parmesan and see how that goes.
We had some guests and I was a tiny bit concerned there wasn’t enough food (even thought there is always always always enough food. There is always too much food), so I decided to make some cherry pies. I was planning a lattice crust, which I usually manage without any trouble, but I was rattled due to trying to make a lattice crust while simultaneously getting embroiled in one of the wildest goose chases I’ve been in in years, involving Facebook marketplace and some wooden pallets, heavy rain, an allegedly disgruntled ex-tenant (not mine), a security camera, LOTS of screenshots, at least two people taking photos of each other’s license plates, and the police force in two different towns; and the kids were playing Dungeons and Dragons very loudly the whole time, which is not to say this was their fault, but it definitely did not help. I may possibly write it up at some point, but the short version is I never did get my pallets. We saw a nice turkey family on the way there, though, and some pretty fawns on the way home. I never got any pie.
And look! I have a video of Benny showing us how to pit cherries with nothing but a bottle and a chopstick (and a cherry). This must be about a year old, because it’s shortly after Benny’s haircut, but before I painted the kitchen yellow. And it’s cherry season.
Anyway, I ended up making one pie with a sort of twisted spiral crust
and one rather tacky flower one.
Did I mention I never got any pie? Too embroiled. I hope there is some leftover. (Of course there is some leftover. THERE’S [waves arms like deranged orchestra conductor] ALWAYS ENOUGH FOOD AND THERE’S ALWAYS SOME FOOD LEFT OVER.)
FRIDAY Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce and pasta, garlic bread
Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit.
Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked.
Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.
Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.
Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.
If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.
If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!
If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.
You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.
cherries, cherry pie, desserts, fruit desserts, pie
1/2 cup cornstarch
To pit cherries:
Pull the stem off the cherry and place it, stem-side down, in a bottle with a narrow neck, like a beer bottle. Drive the blunt end of a chopstick down through the cherry, forcing the pit out into the bottle.
To make the filling:
Mix together the pitted cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl and let it sit for ten minutes or so until they get juicy.
Stir the almond extract into the cherry mixture and heat in a heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, for several minutes. Stir in the butter.
Let the mixture cool a bit, then pour into pie shells.
Fr. James Altman can no longer preach, assist at marriages, or baptize without permission, and he cannot celebrate the Eucharist with anyone else present until further notice from his bishop, according to an excerpt of a decree shared by Rocco Palmo on Twitter today.
The celebrity priest of LaCrosse, who gained notoriety for the increasingly strident far right views he shared in his sermons and online, was removed as pastor in May. He publicly rejected his bishop’s call to resign, and has now had his celebret removed for an indeterminate time, meaning many of his priestly faculties have been removed by his bishop until further notice.
The decree says that Bishop Callahan is taking this action as part of his duty to “protect the diocese against scandal and any civil lawsuits that could have dramatic financial consequences for the diocese.”
A cleric’s privileges may be restricted by an ordinary if there has been a delict (canonical crime) committed and proved, or alleged; or if the cleric in question is involved in a situation that, if he remains in a particular ministry, threatens the common good of the diocese.
The decree against Altman is the latter sort. Such a decree is issued when it will harm the diocese if the priest continues to act as a priest in public. The priest is not accused of having committed a crime, but his involvement in a particular situation is a threat to the integrity of the diocese, and the bishop judges that he is forced to constrain the priest’s faculties until something changes.
While the excerpt that has been shared on social media does not specify how Altman’s presence in the diocese threatens to harm its integrity, it does put the onus on him to remedy the harm. It says that if he does not act himself to remedy the situation, it harms the diocese. It says that the restrictions will be imposed “until the cause has ceased to exist” and that “[i]t is primarily the responsibility of Father James Altman to make sure that this cause ceases to exist.”
The decree bars Altman from leaving the diocese, which his bishop is entitled to do by virtue of the obedience Altman owes to him. It also requires him to go on a thirty day spiritual retreat “to give him the possibility to spiritually heal and recharge and to address the issues that caused the issuance of this decree.” It warns Altman that violations of the decree may result in further restrictions or the imposition of ecclesiastical sanctions.
Altman has not yet exhausted his chance to appeal the decree, and may now plead his case before the Signatura, the final canonical court of appeals for issues other than marriage nullity. The Father Altman account today has Alman characterizing himself as “a voice of Truth” whom the “corrupt” hierarchy “boldly continues to cancel.”
When Altman was removed as pastor, a group calling itself Caritas in Veritate launched a fundraiser for his legal defense, claiming he was the subject of “diabolical persecution.” As of July 8, over $359K has been raised. The fundraiser page said that Altman would donate any excess funds to the handicap ramp fund at St. James the Lesser, but only if he were allowed to remain pastor there.
Over spring vacation, we did a family screen detox. We all just spend too much time staring at screens, sometimes more than one screen at once, ugh, and we all needed to back way the heck off and re-learn how to do other things with our time and minds and attention. The kids astutely pointed out that actual detox in real life doesn’t even work, to which we astutely responded, “Too bad; we’re doing it anyway.”
So we did, and it was good. We spent a lot of time together, we read and crafted more, and I absolutely did not miss the bleak numbness that comes with constant, obsessive doom scrolling. One kid, who formerly spent most of his free time drawing and animating on his tablet, pulled out his old sketch pads and started drawing with pencils and ink again. He’s quite good, and I love seeing him draw either way, but I was excited to see the return of the paper and pencil. I asked him how that went.
He said that it was hard, but good. He described what a different sensation it is to feel the texture of the paper under the tool, rather than to work directly with your fingertip on a screen. He said he’d like to develop both skills, because they’re each useful and valuable in their own ways.
Then he said something I hadn’t thought of: That drawing on paper was scarier, because you can’t just disappear your mistakes. When you make a mistake on a tablet, you can just tap it twice (or whatever; I forget exactly what the gesture is) and you revert back to the previous version. But on paper, you can either try to erase a mistake, or you can try to work with it, but you can’t just make it like it never happened.
I’m delighted to announce that the makers of The Catholic Card Game asked for my collaboration, and you can now order the official NFP Expansion Pack of 54 new cards, including an untold but filthy number of the jokes my husband and I came up with while two sheets to the wind.
The Catholic Card Game is a simple party game along the lines of Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, where you must use the hand you’re dealt to finish the sentence. I’ve played the unexpanded version with my kids a few times and they not only enjoyed themselves, they admitted they enjoyed themselves, so that’s pretty hot stuff right there.
The NFP Expansion Pack is not for kids, though. I mean the NFP game is not for kids. If you intend to include kids when you’re playing with NFP– I mean, NFP is just about expanding your– you know what, just buy the game. It’s fun, and we all know you have no other plans for the evening, ha ha ha *sob*.
They also just came out with The Consecrated Expansion, written by nuns and priests, and you can get a discount if you buy both packs.
In conclusion: I have a weird life, but I’m not complaining.
By Damien Fisher with additional reporting by Simcha Fisher
Uwe Lieflander used his position as a youth choir leader, music teacher, and college professor to spend years grooming the child he is accused of sexually assaulting when she became a young adult.
Lieflander’s alleged predation didn’t happen in a vacuum. The members of his small Canadian community, parents of his students, colleagues, and even a priest ignored red flags and explained away the behavior that Lieflander himself likened to grooming, and he was welcomed back to work with children even after the victim said he raped her.
Lieflander, 59, is now a fugitive from justice, having left Canada in 2017 for his native Germany before warrants were issued for his arrest. He now records YouTube travel videos under the name “The Vespa Idiot,” and some of the people and institutions that harbored him have yet to reckon with his abuse.
Sam, now in her late 20s, grew up in a large, strict, Catholic family in the Barry’s Bay, Ontario area.
“My whole family are ultra-conservative Catholic,” Sam said.
She said the family practiced a sort of manichaean, patriarchal faith, believing that the body is bad and shameful, and women and children are meant to be silent.
Barry’s Bay in Madawaska Valley is home to a community of Polish immigrants who practiced an old-style form of Catholicism, but in the 1990s that started to change. New groups of traditional-minded Catholics began moving into the rural and isolated region, including apocalyptic novelist Michael O’Brien, and an early iteration of the right-wing Lifesite News.
Some moved to the Madawaska Valley region to escape what they were sure was going to be the end-of-civilization event of Y2K; others came to build a traditional community. It was there, in Barry’s Bay, that Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy was founded in 1999. The young college with a handful of students made its place sometimes in the very homes of the local Catholic families, like Sam’s, who allowed the school to hold classes on their property. Sam’s family became enmeshed with the school, and it was Our Lady Seat of Wisdom that employed Lieflander.
Sam agreed to share her story, and supply supporting documentation and contemporaneous witnesses. Her real name will not be used, and some information that could identify her will be obscured in this article.
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom was originally founded to offer one-year degrees for mostly homeschooled students. The school’s unaccredited degrees were generally not recognized by other colleges, and for a long time the school served as a feeder program for larger Catholic colleges such as Christendom, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Thomas Aquinas College.
The college’s motto is Veritas Vos Liberabit: “The Truth will set you free.”
The school’s program continue to grow. In 2017, the Canadian Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development granted the school the right to offer Bachelor’s degrees. And this year, demonstrating the school’s continued growing acceptance by the mainstream community, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pembroke agreed to allow Our Lady Seat of Wisdom theology professors Scott Nicholson and John Paul Meenan to teach remote catechism classes for the diocese.
Sam was 15 when she first saw a performance by one of Lieflander’s youth choirs, known as a “Sparrows” choir, at a nearby Catholic parish in the fall of 2008. Lieflander was then a part-time music teacher at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, and he operated several Sparrows Choirs throughout Ontario. He also founded the Sacred Music Society in Ottawa.
Around 2008, Sam longed to be part of the charismatic Lieflander’s Sparrows choir operating in Barry’s Bay. She wanted to learn about music, but also sought some kind of escape from her deeply dysfunctional home life.
Although she was too young to attend college, she was allowed to join Lieflander’s Sparrows choir, and she also took private lessons for him at the college, which he used as a base for his private work. He also taught at several Catholic schools. He presented himself as a caring person, an “uncle” figure who looked after his students. Sam said there was a pattern of Lieflander forging especially deep connections with vulnerable children like her.
“Once you were one of his favorites, you really felt important,” she said.
Lieflander’s lessons included probing into her home life, and also his trademark method of touching children during rehearsal as part of his teaching method.
“There was a lot of touch,” Sam said about her lessons. Lieflander taught over 14,000 students.
Lieflander is described as a musical genius who could draw out remarkable performances from children. He would place his hands on them as they sang, in order to get them to understand where the sound was coming from.
A few Sparrows parents were uncomfortable with the practice, but most accepted the explanation that touching was necessary to his method, according to our source. He would also have children sit on his lap, and routinely played “chasing” and “grabbing” games with them. Around 2015 and 2016, a small number of parents involved with Lieflander’s choirs pushed for him to stop touching children as part of his singing education.
When a small number of parents confronted Lieflander about his unorthodox teaching style and demanded that he change, Lieflander reportedly pushed back. Lieflander, who liked to consider himself something of a friendly uncle to his students, told the parents he had studied the grooming process of child abusers and determined there were 12 steps abusers used, the source said.
“I do all 11 of them, but not the 12th,” Lieflander reportedly said, according to our source.
The source said so many parents and others let their guards down around Lieflander, in part because he was so open and brazen about his behavior. In retrospect, he may have been bullet proofing himself against any accusations that might come out, our source said.
As Sam and Lieflander’s student-teacher relationship intensified, he began discussing her home and family life in more detail. When she was 16 and 17, Lieflander decided that her family was not up to the task of caring for Sam, and he told her he was going to take greater control of her life, for her own good. Sam’s home life did not improve during the next couple of years, and her mental health spiraled. She started cutting, and Lieflander began encouraging her to run away from home.
At 18 she fled to a relative, but her emotional crisis did not abate, and after several months she went to what was billed as a Catholic rehabilitation facility in Florida. Sam spent two years there before she returned home to Barry’s Bay.
It was 2014, Sam was 21, and numb from her years in Florida at a center that she described as a cult. Severe dysfunction still plagued her family. Soon after she got back, she went to another Sparrows concert and Lieflander picked up with her where he left off, making her feel both special and dependent on him.
“I was still in awe of him,”she said.
She restarted music lessons with Lieflander and told him about her troubles. Lieflander directed her to call him “Dad.” He told her he would make all decisions for her, and that he expected her total obedience.
“He completely took control,” she said.
Over the summer of 2014, his control grew to include threats of emotional isolation if she ever disobeyed him, she said. He also persuaded her she was part of his family. She had to give his home address as her home address, for example, and he would randomly demand she recite it for him.
Lieflander got her to attend Our Lady Seat of Wisdom in the fall for a year, earning one of the one-year degrees the school granted in Christian Humanities. They held hands, and he told her she was his child, and that she was emotionally 11 years old, she said, and he continued to insist she call him “Dad.”
“I am going to let you be the child you were never allowed to be,” Sam recalls him telling her.
He also used the nearness of the school to exert more control over her, Sam said. As a student at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, she had to check in with him on a daily basis, and he required that she have a bedtime that he set for her, she said. If she displeased him he would put her under a “house arrest,” she said.
As their relationship intensified, he started giving her 20-minute hugs in his office at the school, and had her sit in his lap so he could look down her shirt, she said. The encounters at school behind closed doors felt like a kind of molestation, Sam said. Lieflander told her to keep their relationship private, but at least one other Our Lady Seat of Wisdom staff member noticed an oddness to their relationship. When the subject was broached, the staffer said that the administrative response was: “That’s just Uwe.”
During her time at the school, Sam sometimes had emotional meltdowns, and Lieflander was allowed at least once to enter her dorm room and “put her to bed.” At the time, the school did not allow men and women to be in each other’s dorms. Only a family member, like a parent, would be allowed. The school denies knowing these bedtime visits happened, but one instance has been confirmed by a witness.
In 2015, Sam graduated with her one-year Christian Humanities diploma and started work in Ottawa as a nanny, but she kept seeing Lieflander, and would go back to the school with him. Lieflander continued to foster a controlling paternal relationship with Sam, telling her she needed him.
“He would say if withdrew his support for even 15 seconds, I would die,” she said.
He ramped up the sexual relationship as well. He started getting her to take her clothes off in front of him, so that he could “help her heal from her wounds,” she said.
“He told me he owns 51 percent of me, and I own 49 percent of me,” Sam said.
The sexual conduct finally escalated to rape, she said. It did not take place on campus. Sam did not want the details of the assault included in the story, but disclosed them in interviews with us, and her story is supported by the criminal charges brought by law enforcement.
During this time she started to self-harm again and she developed an eating disorder. Lieflander kept exerting control over her as a possessive father-figure, she said.
“He would say “I always know what’s best for you and what you want, because I own you and you can’t live without me,” Sam said. “He said I was a nymphomaniac because he was too, I had his DNA because I was his daughter, so I was, too.”
It was cancer that finally disrupted their relationship. Sam was diagnosed with lymphoma in early 2017 and scheduled an appointment for pre-chemotherapy. The woman she had nannied for went to that first appointment to offer support, and it was there Sam told the nurse she was sexually active. Then Sam disclosed to her friend whom she was sexually active with.
“I told her it’s Dad (meaning Lieflander). She freaked,” Sam said.
Sam had been sheltered from the world and naive about sex when she started her relationship with Lieflander. Her friend and her friend’s husband had to sit Sam down and explain to her how wrong Lieflander’s actions were.
“Deep down I knew she was right. It broke me,” Sam said. “People would ask how’s the cancer going. I lost all my hair, but nothing could compare to what I was feeling inside. How’s cancer? Oh right, cancer.”
Once she got her bearings, Sam started telling people about the abuse and rape. This was in May and June of 2017. She wanted to make sure the college knew and could protect any other possible victims. She also started contacting the many parishes where Lieflander still operated Sparrows choirs, to make sure they knew. Sam was aided by a friend, who was able to corroborate that the disclosures were made.
One of Lieflanfder’s attorney’s, Tamara Bubis, an associate with criminal defense law firm Engel & Associates, declined to comment on the case when contacted.
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom responded to Sam’s disclosure by not renewing Lieflander’s contract, she said. The school, in a statement made just days ago, four years after the events, now claims it fired him. The school never followed up with its own investigation or review of Lieflander’s conduct on campus. It did not inform parents or students about the alleged abuse, and it did not contact law enforcement. Lieflander’s Sparrows choirs began shutting down because of Sam’s disclosures, and he left the country in the summer of 2017, and returned to Germany.
One of the people Sam told about the abuse was Fr. Marco Testa, then the pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Port Perry. Testa was reportedly supportive and sympathetic when Sam disclosed the alleged abuse, but she later found out that Testa brought Lieflander back for concerts at Immaculate Conception in January of 2018, after he heard allegations that he had groomed and raped her.
Testa is no longer serving at Immaculate Conception. Neil MacCarthy, public relations and communications director for the Archdiocese of Toronto, refused to divulge where Testa is currently residing. MacCarthy claims Testa retired at the end of 2020. MacCarthy declined to comment on the 2018 concert with Lieflander. Testa is reportedly aware we have requested to speak to him, but he has so far not responded.
Sam went to police a few weeks after the January of 2018 concert. Charges were not brought forward until January 2019 when Ottawa police obtained warrants for Lieflander’s arrest.
Lieflander, who has yet to face charges in court, currently posts videos to Youtube about his scooter riding adventures under the handle The Vespa Idiot.
He started a trip from Germany to Africa on his scooter last week, documenting his international journey to Casablanca online. This week he was in the South of France, according to his Youtube videos.
Christine Schintgen, interim president for Our Lady Seat of Wisdom and one of the school’s founders, declined to be interviewed for this story. Schintgen did agree to answer questions submitted via email. Her answers sought to distance the school from Lieflander.
“This was allegedly perpetrated on an alumna, but only after her time as a student at SWC was over. None of the alleged abuse is alleged to have happened while she was a student here. The alleged abuse was brought to our attention after the victim had ceased to be a student at OLSW. The victim did not bring forward any complaints or concerns to us during her time as a student, nor did anyone else,” Schintgen wrote.
Schintgen stated that the school never made any kind of statement about the allegations until the criminal charges were brought, two years after the school was made aware of the alleged abuse.
“We are deeply saddened by this case and the damage it has done to the victim. However, there has been no claim that the abuse happened on campus, and no reason to believe that the College was negligent,” Schintgen wrote.
Schintgen refused to address the alleged grooming that took place on campus when Sam was a student, and she deflected when asked why the school continued to employ Lieflander after the 2011 controversy over his touching students.
“In 2011 Uwe Lieflander resigned from his position with the Ottawa Catholic School Board rather than agree to abide by its policy prohibiting any physical contact between teachers and students. He argued that for certain subjects some contact was necessary, for example to correct posture while singing,” Schintgen wrote. “There was no suggestion that there had been a sexual element in the touch he employed or that he was guilty of sexual misconduct. After this controversy he continued to be employed by a number of schools and churches in the Toronto and Ottawa regions.”
Amanda Grady-Sexton, a domestic and sexual abuse survivors advocate in the United States, said an institution like a college should take clear steps when it learns about abuse.
“Best practice would be to report the abuse, notify and warn the college community, put the professor on leave pending an investigation conducted by an independent and external investigator, and to connect the survivor with on and off campus support and resources,” Grady-Sexton said. “It is also important to remind the community of the support in place for staff, students, and alumni. Notice to the community should be as detailed as possible, within HR guidelines, with updates as things change with the status of the case.”
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, according to Schintgen’s answers, did none of that. However, in a statement released on June 29, the college now claims, four years later, that it acted swiftly when it learned of Lieflander’s alleged abuse.
“When we learned of this case involving a former student, we acted swiftly, leading to the end of his employment with us,” the new statement reads.
In the statement, the college for the first time publicly encourages any student who may have experienced abuse perpetrated by Lieflander to come forward to the authorities.
“We have strong policies and procedures in place to handle allegations of harassment or abuse, and we communicate them clearly to all incoming members of the College community. We welcome complaints of sexual abuse and harassment, and want to promote a spirit of openness and comfort around disclosure of such incidents so that they can be dealt with in a thorough, just, and proactive manner. We also welcome scrutiny that holds us to a high standard in this regard,” the statement reads.
A former college staffer who pushed for years for the college to deal with the Lieflander accusations said the statement coming years later was “heartbreaking and scandalous.”
“When I became aware of the situation with Lieflander, I asked three different presidents at SWC to make an internal statement for the sake of providing an environment where victims could come forward. The response varied from silence, to threats and hostility,” the former staffer said.
The statement comes weeks after Schintgen became aware of our forthcoming story, and four years after the alleged abuse was first disclosed. Sam was never contacted by the school ahead of the statement’s release, which came as a shock to her.
“I am furious and appalled with their statement that lacks truth and does not reflect the reality of the situation and undermines the credibility of SWC. Their motto, which is Veritas Vos Liberabit, ‘the truth will set you free’ rings hollow and empty across from the statement they produced and without external accountability their internal credibility is corrupt,” Sam said in a statement she provided to us Wednesday night. “Even one person and their story has more value than the whole institution and they have forgotten the human value. Even one victim is too many. Shame on them.”
Women are not safe at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, Sam said.
The college did eventually give Sam $1,000 to help pay for therapy, though Schintgen denied to confirm that, saying the matter is confidential. Sam is currently cancer-free and back studying at a different college.
“I’m just kind of worn out. Life didn’t get easier,” she said.
EDIT July 1, 2:40 PM: A previous version of this article erroneously labelled the featured photo as the main academic building of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom college. It is actually St. Hedwig Church. We regret the error. The photo has been removed.
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