Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sheldon wants Penny to order a pizza.

Penny: "Sorry honey, I'm meeting Amy and Bernadette for dinner, but you're welcome to tag along."

Sheldon: "Ugh! A girls' night? I don't know if I'm up for an evening talking about rainbows, unicorns and menstrual cramps..."

Sheldon knows; chicks are boring.


Friday, April 29, 2011

What the Duke and Duchess Tart Cambridge

Should have said to each other today...

No, I'm not happy for them. The whole thing is a repulsive farce, a mockery of everything true and good. A scandal from beginning to end.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

The new metaphysics

A friend noted my recent conversion to accupuncturism and offers the following intersting comment by email:
Actually you didn't have too far to go, once you recognized that the womb was an organic aspect of the whole body, not a disposable pouch. The trouble with modern Western medicine is that it is based on a materialistic metaphysics, which is powerful as long as you are dealing with material causes (and it seems to be the case that many diseases exhibit an imbalance in the lower orders of causality) but that is only the tip of the iceberg, as it were. Of course it is very tricky to determine what is the real wisdom in the more ancient approaches to medicine, even more difficult to know whether it still works in present circumstances or to know what to do to make it work. The "New Age" does this all very stupidly. But of course none of the ancient traditions was simply foolish.

I realise how difficult it is to sell the general public on the importance of philosophy. The last 250 years have made academic philosophy a running gag. So much so that I was at some small pains to convince my editors that a recent decree from the Vatican reforming the study of philosophy in seminaries, would be of general interest.

But as my friend Dr. Camp said, understanding where we have gone wrong with our basic understanding of the nature of reality and human nature is the first step to steering us back.

Only The Real counts.


Men: like 'em.

A tribute to the Alpha Male with some of our favourite Orwell's Picnic manly videos:

The one, the only, the greatest of them all...

Not to be outdone, Fightin' Jack Aubry and his manly crew


Just read a bit today of this article on boredom and I have to say that I agree with the general principle. We pale-skinned, frog-eyed denizens of Netland often forget that what we write about, life, happens outside our apartments, outside the computer-generated world. If SOMEone weren't out there doing real things in The Real, we'd have nothing to blog about.

I've been invited to be interviewed on Vatican Radio some time in the next few days about the Vatican's blogger conference, and this is, essentially, what I'm going to say. The internet isn't the Real. Blogs aren't very important.
A couple of weeks ago on a Saturday I felled a small wild cherry tree, sawed it up and split it. Not one minute of the work was dull. I didn’t wonder what the world was up to. When you open up cherry, all you want to do is smell it and look at it and open up more of it. I can’t say the same about what I did Monday to Friday, much of which involved managing—nay, fending off—electronic distractions.
James Tiberius Kirk didn't get to be the youngest-ever captain of a Constellation class starship by spending his youth playing internet computer games, and Jack Aubrey was learning the ropes (literally) on the high seas when he was 14. Lord Baden Powell began serving in the army at 19 and defended the town in the Siege of Mafeking in the Second Boer War. Churchill too fought bravely in the Boer War before going on to become Prime Minister and trounce the Hun.

And none of them, in their entire lives, was ever "bored".

Last night, I was terribly tired, but a thought was trying to germinate in my mind and it was something like this: I'm almost glad about cancer because it has forced me to think entirely in the Real, to concern myself exclusively with real things and to forget about the Fantasies and dreams my brain usually entertains and distracts itself with.

This is something to remember the next time we're sitting in a room that has grown dark because we've not bothered to get up and turn on a light, feet growing cold from lack of circulation, arguing in a commbox somewhere over the minutiae of some damn thing or other...

I've said it before. Go outside. Weed the tomatoes. Talk to a pretty girl. Swim in the sea when it's freezing cold. Draw a picture. Go to a gallery. Make soup.

Today, I'm going down to town, to pick up Katrina Ebersole at Trastevere train station. She's coming here for the Blogger conference and the Scholar's Lounge Blognic. She will be fulfilling a dream and meeting a real live Swiss Guard.

The Real is waiting for you.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A better day

Well, what an interesting day.

This just in from the Pont. Council for SocCom:


Dear Blogger,

As you should be aware, you have been selected to attend the Vatican Meeting with Bloggers on Monday 2 May 2011.

Please come to the Palazzo Pio X entrance on via dell’ospedale, which is off via della Conciliazione, 5, at 3.30pm.

This invitation is strictly personal and you are asked to bring some form of Proof of Identity.

We remind you that as the event has been timed to coincide with the Beatification of John Paul II, we are not supplying assistance with travel, lodging or visa costs or logistics.

We are greatly encouraged by the warm response to this event
and the various parallel initiatives, including the creation of other meetings and groups, [HAW!!] a facebook page, a wikispaces, twitter, and the live feeds being set up for the meeting.

Please see for the programme and any further details that may emerge.

If you are unable to come in person, it would be useful if you were to let us know.

If you are coming, we look forward to meeting you.

Yours, in the joy of the Risen Lord,

Richard Rouse

AND I got a call today, after a small amount of wrangling and only one fairly controlled attack of Brain, from Professore Scambia's office. I am to go for a consultation on Saturday. YAY!!

AND I am a new convert.

You know how I'm all, 'oh all that alternative medicine stuff is just hippie, New Age rubbish'? And remember how I said I hurt my back and have been walking like a penguin for nearly two months now?

Well, went to see the GP today, who does accupuncture and complained about my back being all owie, and he did the accupuncture and some exercisy, stretchy things and

Voy-LAH! Back pain all gone. Walking like a normal person.

Holy cow! It's like those Chinese people had spent some of that three thousand years doing something other than inventing chess and writing and gunpowder. Amazing!

So, now I go home. Maybe sleep for 13 hours again.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hot or cold

O Christians, be mindful of your dignity, and get off the damn fence...

O let us make up our minds to something; let us be resolved one way or the other; let us be either cold or hot; choose life or death. Choose now and choose wisely, for one false choice may become eternal.
Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, a British Lion of the Faith.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by surgery

(Sorry if this is getting boring, but I'm kind of obsessed right now.

Those in the class who have not opted for the elective Orwell's Picnic short course in gynecological oncology may spend the period in the library.)

But, seriously, doesn't this look like great numbers? Check it out.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radical surgery in locally advanced cervical cancer. Prognostic factors for response and survival

Between January 1986 and September 1988, 75 patients with locally advanced cervical carcinoma (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics [FIGO] Stages IB–III) received three courses of neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC), [That's what they're thinking of giving me. It means a short course of chemo before surgery to reduce the size of the tumour.] including cisplatin, bleomycin, and methotrexate (PBM). Fifteen percent of patients achieved a complete response (CR) [Holy crap!] and 68% a partial response (PR). [That means that the treatment worked at least to some degree in 83% of cases.]

Pretreatment characteristics were analyzed for response to NAC. Significantly lower response rates were found in patients with tumor size more than 5 cm in diameter and bilateral parametrial involvement to the pelvic side wall. [Well, that sort of stands to reason, one would think. That's some pretty seriously advanced cancer.]

None of the biological parameters studied was related to chemoresponsiveness. Patients achieving CR or PR had a significantly improved 3-year survival rate compared with those who did not respond. [Again, one would think...]

After NAC, radical surgery was possible in all responding patients. The median number of lymph nodes removed was 60. A lower than expected incidence of lymph node metastases was detected. None of the clinical and pathologic features considered was significantly correlated with the lymph node status.

Twelve of the 62 operated patients had disease recurrence. [Don't forget, we're talking about a total of 75 patients with stages 1B through 3, so that doesn't seem too bad.] Pathologic parametrial involvement and cervical infiltration equal to or deeper than 5 mm were found to be significant prognostic factors for recurrence. [That means 'late stage' in layman's terms.]

A 3-year, disease-free survival of 89%, 73%, and 43% for Stage IB –IIA, IIB, and III, respectively, was found. Among the operated patients these rates increased to 100%, 81%, and 66% for Stage IB –IIA, IIB, and III, respectively.

Every article I've read on this treatment has the same kind of numbers.

So, OK, I now have a specific thing for y'all, in your charity, to pray for.

Please pray that Professore Scambia, (the head of the department) and the hospital ethics committee decide to allow this treatment.


This just in...

From what I have been reading, Professore Scambia is something of a celebrity in the world of Italian medicine, being a major leader in innovative treatment of gynecological cancer.

People have been asking me lately if I wouldn't prefer to be back in Canada for all this cancer stuff. But I have been saying for a few days now that if I were sick or injured in Canada, I would beg and plead to be flown back to Italy.

They may not, as a nation, be able to organise their way out of a wet paper bag, but when it comes to the actual treatment of actual patients, give me Italian care any day.

The difference between the Anglo and the Latin world in health care is, I think, one of attitude. The Culture of Death is still very much an Anglo/Germanic/Scandie phenomenon. Northern European, in other words, and, as we have explored here in the past, a development of the Protestant Revolution. In the Anglo world, Capital-B Bioethics, what Wesley Smith has called "the science of figuring out who we can kill" has totally taken over. It is a medical philosophy of misanthropy and nihilism.

The Latin...or one should say, the Catholic medical world seems to still start with the idea that the purpose is to help the patient.

It's worth thinking about that a man as important as Professore Scambia has taken the time over the easter weekend to send me the following reassuring note:

Dear miss White,
I will be glad to give you all the information you need
I will contact you in the next few days.
Best regards
Giovanni Scambia


Hello Professore Scambia,
> I am a patient at the Gemelli policlinico department of Ginecologia
> Oncologica and I wondered if you might be able to help me.
> I am being treated for cervical cancer that is at stage 1B1 with a 3.5 cm.
> tumour. I was told today that I might be able to avoid a hysterectomy And
> instead undertake a course of chemotherapy that would reduce the size of
> the tumour and render it possible to have a less invasive surgery.
> This was pending the agreement of the head of the department and the
> ethics committee and I am awaiting that decision.
> I have spent the evening reading on the internet a number of medical
> articles about the outcomes of neoadjuvant chemotherapy combined with
> radical vaginal trachelectomy and/or cervical conization and what I have
> read has made me very hopeful.
> Everything I have read has shown that the prognosis for this type of
> treatment for stage 1B1, even though it is not yet the standard, compares
> very favourably with hysterectomy in terms of rates of recurrence and
> intraoperative and postoperative complications.
> I am writing to you because I have found your own name on many of the
> articles I have read and wanted to know if you might be able to tell me
> more about it.
> I have found one article in English, published on the Science Direct
> website, titled, "Treatment of cervical cancer in Italy: strategies and
> their impact on women". I read the abstract with great interest and want
> to read the whole article and I was wondering if you might have a copy
> that you might be able to send me.
> I am particularly interested in it since it applies directly to my own
> case.
> I also apologise for not writing to you in Italian. I have lived here for
> a while, but my Italian is not yet good enough to write about complicated
> medical matters.
> I hope to hear from you,
> Hilary White

What to say in Italy

when approached at an airport by shady-looking characters who might or might not be sex-traffickers:

"Vai via, non sono una putana! Sono sposata e ho dodici bambini e mio zio e un padre padrone nella Curia e mia zia e una stregha."

From Dorothy.


Share with us how you feel

about a hysterectomy, Hilary.

Well, it's been difficult to be specific.

Synonyms: "Horror"

Barbarity. Brutality. Atrocity. Revulsion. Mutilation. Repugnance. Abhorrence. Offence. Outrage. Violation. Disfigurement. Despair. Dread. Fright. Shock.

Not too keen.

"Hmmm... hysteretomy, death...hysterectomy, death...hyst...

give me a minute..."


The Holy Week of Weird

Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.

Two calm days Monday and Tuesday.

Wednesday: Art class in the middle of which, got a call from Gemelli: Show up tomorrow at 7:30 am and "we'll try to get you in".

"Ah, that's a bit short notice. Can you tell me please, what surgery am I going to have? No one has told me anything. Will I be able to talk to someone?"

"Just show up. All will be revealed."

Up 'til three thirty am Wednesday night/Thursday morning getting ready.

Holy Thursday: Took 5:38 am train into the City to get to Gemelli by 6:45. Less than two hours sleep. No food or water after midnight.

After TWELVE FRACKING HOURS of waiting in the hospital, having blood tests, chest x-rays, EKG and general preparation for surgery, finally saw a doctor. First doctor I've spoken to about my situation since March 13th.

Gist of conversation: "Oh, sorry. Did we say that the surgery would be simple and non-invasive? Dear me!

"No no! What we meant to say was that we were going to be chopping out a major organ, destroying the last pathetic shreds of your hopes and dreams for the future and ruining your life forever...sorry, didn't we tell you?" (I paraphrase.)

Had total screaming, crying, hysterical melt-down, right the heck in front of everyone.

Managed, barely, to refrain from throwing things and/or running away from hospital in blind panic. Was medicated into a stupor while (almost) all my friends were at Holy Thursday Mass. (Again, thanks Greg.)

Slept for quite a little while. Woke up in hospital, not completely sure where I was or what the hell was going on.

Good Friday: Spent most of the day stoned to near-catatonia on a combination of valium and pure emotional horror, revulsion and shock.

Around noon, new doctor came in and said, "Since you don't seem to be too keen on the hysterectomy idea, how about we try this other thing."

Other thing accepted.

Went home, slept for 13 hours.

(At least, that's what I think I did. Can't remember very well.)

Holy Saturday: went into the City to go shopping for Easter Monday dinner party and bought what was probably the last two legs of lamb in the entire City of Rome.

Staggered home and slept for 13 hours.

Easter Sunday: Woke up at one pm, got dressed up with lipstick and high heels and went to the City for a party, feeling more bloody-minded and belligerent than usual.

At the party, talked loudly with a priest-friend about what a ridiculous mess this whole beatification of JPII was, and what a disaster his papacy was for the Church, while standing three feet away from George Weigel. Topped it off with a discussion of how much better things are under Benedict, who is, at least, doing SOMEthing to clean up the bloody mess his predecessor left in the Church.

Spent remainder of party sitting on a sunny balcony in Rome in party frock, Easter bonnet and Italian shades, drinking martinis and eating cake.

Went to church not entirely sober.

Staggered home and slept for 13 hours.

Easter Monday (Pasquetta): Woke up at ten past ten, briefly couldn't remember where I was, got up, went to a party down the street where I sat on a balcony, drank gin-and-tonics, ate cake and tried to avoid having the Cancer Conversation for the 56th time.

Got home, had screaming crying meltdown.

Planning on sleeping for 13 hours.

Christus resurrexit; sicut dixit.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

In case you're interested

here is an article on the treatment by the head of the Gemelli's dept. of Gynaecological Oncology, Giovanni Scambia.

Scambia is the one whom my doctors will be consulting to see if they will do this treatment.

I might give him a call to ask if he can email me a full copy of the article, since only the first page is available online for free.


Come to the *Other* Rome Blognic: both cancer treatment AND blognic still on

Attention fellow-bloggie nerds:

I thought I would let you know what's going on. I want you to know first off that whatever plans you have to come to The *Other* Rome Blognic [Pssst... sign up now!] are are still emphatically on. OK? So, no cancelling flights or anything crazy. We're still on for all plans.

The situation with the cancer treatment has changed quite a bit, however, and my own situation is going to be quite a bit different from what I'd hoped. I knew at the start that this blognic idea could easily be interrupted by my treatments, so I'm still determined that everything will go forward.

The doctors have agreed to consider a different treatment involving two short courses of combined chemotherapy.

After insisting pretty hard that the best thing was a complete hysterectomy, and watching me melt down completely at the thought, they offered me an alternative, non-standard treatment. The idea is to shrink the tumour, which is currently at stage 1B1 -leading to 1B2, using this short, sharp chemo course. If the tumour responds, it will be operable with a much less radical and life-changing surgery which will come after the chemo. Normally, this stage of cancer is treated mostly with surgery, but I was very insistent that I want to do everything I can to preserve myself intact, or nearly.

I'm quite grateful that they are willing to give this idea a try. It is a fairly new idea to do chemo prior to surgery for this stage of cervical cancer and I have spent the evening reading the medical literature and all I have seen is that it significantly improves things, both in terms of long-term survival and immediate reduction in complications. The Gemelli is an excellent hospital indeed, the leading cancer research hospital in Europe and they said that they are willing to try.

It won't be fun, but chemo doesn't last forever, and hysterectomy does. It's no joke either, though most of the medical profession regards it as nothing worse than having wisdom teeth out. They regard it as nothing more than a baby-pouch. This is a position I emphatically do not share, and the reading I have done has convinced me that the best thing is to avoid it unless there are absolutely no other options. We are not marsupials and the uterus does a lot more than that throughout a woman's life.

I told them that I would agree to a hysterectomy but only if it were definitely proved to be medically necessary.

This will be a much longer and more complex treatment, but I'm happy that they have shown a willingness to try harder to save as much of my insides as they can.

So, it looks like chemo after all, but I'm ok with it. They said it won't be long and that two rounds will be sufficient to tell them whether it will work. They even said the chemo course will be so short that my hair won't fall out (probably).

The chemo will be very intense, though, and from what I have read a combined chemo regimen will knock you out of activities for quite a while and can have some pretty stern side effects.

This means that for both the Vatican conference and the Scholar's Lounge Blognic, I will either likely be in the hospital or at home asleep on knock-out drugs and/or too sick to move.

I'll be there if I can, but I might have to join the throngs huddling around their computers for the virtual version.

So, on yer bikes and we'll have as much fun as we can.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Cancer update

Thanks to everyone who has prayed for me this week and through this whole business.

Thought I'd let y'all know that they decided not to do the surgery today and I've been discharged from the Gemelli. The doctors are going to try a different approach by doing chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumour so that the more radical, and more life-altering, surgery won't be necessary. I expect to be back in the hospital next week for first chemo. When they've finished chemotherapy, if the tumour has reduced, they will do the simpler, less drastic surgery. Everyone pray that the chemo treatment works. I was told this two-step was not normally indicated for this stage of cancer, but I'm glad that they are willing to try.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Come to the *Other* Rome Blognic: please SIGN UP

I met with Declan, the owner of Scholar's Lounge today, and things are all set.

This is the new room that has just been completed at Scholar's. Gorgeous isn't it? Declan said that all the woodwork was done in Ireland and the whole thing shipped over and reassembled. A real Irish pub in the heart of the Eternal City.

One thing he was quite insistent on was knowing, at least in a ballpark range, how many are coming. This is so that he can get enough food in and allow his cooking staff to prepare.

At the moment, I was unable to tell him. I have really no idea at all how many are planing to be there, but I really REALLY need to know. I told Declan it would be 40 or 50 max. If we get an influx of 100 people at the last moment, he won't be able to accommdate us. So, if you have plans to attend, now's the time to go to the Facebook page, and put your name on the list as "attending".

I've heard from a lot of people that they "may" be there, and I've heard from others that they put their names in as "attending" but know they're not going to be there. I've seen some people saying on their blogs that they will be attending, but haven't seen their names on the FB list.

People, this is not helping.

If you have some kind of Facebook phobia, just send me an email and I will put you on the list. I'm going to be out of things and unable to anything about anything in the next week or so, so now's the time.

If you have plans to come, I need to know.

The "attending" list is not there as an ego booster for me. I need to have at least an idea how many are coming so I can tell the owner of the pub so he can tell his staff and we can all have a nice time, eating and drinking and making merry.



Well, they called, and I'm in tomorrow morning at 7:30 am.

This after three weeks of trying to get them either to call us, or answer the phone, they call today at 3 pm and say, "Can you be there at 7:30 tomorrow?"

Ah. Nice. Thanks for all the notice.

I've no clean laundry and no cat food, the house is a mess and I'm having a toilet paper crisis.

But it's tomorrow. So. I guess that's good.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Maybe we can try this at the Blognic

From a blog post of mine, dated April 20, 2005:
"I would like to suggest the new Pope Benedict XVI drinking game for those who believe in celebrating for octaves of feasts in the traditional manner. The new drink was suggested by John at Disputations. Tak...e a pint of Bavarian beer in a German stein and a shot glass of Benedictine. Sink the shot glass into the beer stein. Whenever you come across a news article or hear something on the radio that has some liberal/commie/feminist/apostate layman with a PhD in pastoral theology whining that this is the end of their revolutionary stranglehold on the Church, stand up, yell, Viva Papa! and chug it down.

If it is a priest [being interviewed] sing the Te Deum in Latin after knocking it back.

If it is a bishop, and he mentions either 'collegiality' or 'ecumenical dialogue,' repeat step one while dancing in the street."

[Psst! Sign up now!]


Ad multos annos (pleaseohplease!)

Hey, remember "Ratzenfreude"? Defined as "The expression of joy about others's dismay about the election of Pope Benedict XVI."

It has been a couple of days since his birthday, and I forgot to put a note up about it.

But today, for the rest of the world, is a somewhat more significant anniversary.

Six years ago today, we were all sitting clustered around the TV up in the top of the house in Toronto, waiting to hear the name.

Down in the square, a bunch of people who were destined to become some close friends of mine were waiting with equal anticipation.


and the name?


...and the crowd went wild. Our neighbour Taylor, accustomed to thinking of the uber-Catholics next door as a fairly quiet lot (at least before 8 pm), must have thought we'd gone mad... cheering and yelling and laughing...

This post from this blog's previous incarnation, of April 26, 2005 amuses me now as it did then:

I suggested that we will shortly be in a crisis situation in which people are going to stop being afraid of him altogether! We have to move on to phase II and just plainly start making stuff up. I suggested that we put it about that he likes cats because he needs something to feed to his rottweiler, thus in one go, dispelling the cuddly cat-lover image and reminding people of the rottweiler connection. Too much of this huggy "God's German Shepherd business..."

Warren didn't send this one out the whole Dogans list, so I felt obliged to share his contribution to the papal chants.

"Perhaps it would be better to refer to His Holiness as "Benito XVI", instead of the "Benedetto" the Vatican insists on using. We might also encourage trads in the loop to shout "Benito, Benito!" whenever he comes in view.

And, to go into cheerleading routines, uttering such approving slogans as,

'Mussolini, what a weenie! Benito, Benito, sweet sixteen!'

Here is the interesting bit from an article by Peggy Noonan that I've remembered since then:
The new pope speaks to the inner adult in all of us...Did you see them running to St. Peter's Square as the bells began to toll?

They came running in from the offices and streets of Rome, running in their business suits, in jeans with backpacks over their shoulders. The networks kept showing it in their wide shots as they filled time between the ringing of the bells and the balcony scene.
Why did they gather? Why did they have to hear?

The faith is dead in Europe, everyone knows that. So why did they come?

why did so many weep as the new pope came out? Why did they chant "Benedict, Benedict" as he stood at the balcony? Why were they jubilant?

Another one of mine from the day after, April 20, 2005:
Woke up to listen to the CBC moaning about what a bad sign it is that his first homily was given entirely in Lain. I did a victory dance and started the day with a big smile, exactly the way I ended the day yesterday.

As for the CBC, I am surprised it took them until 10 am to get hold of Joanna Manning. "It's the end of the line for people like me..."

Te Deum Laudamus!!!

I know that in fact, he is nothing like the martinet they have built him up to be. We had, after all, 24 years of him in the CDF and not one excommunication for heresy, nothing but gentle little slaps on the wrist for the ones who really refused to stop denying the Divinity of Christ and on and on. But I think that even the perception of 'rigid conservatism' is going to work wonders.

The commies and feminists immediately started braying they would give up their 40 year fight. I hardly dare to hope that after their revolution and their oppressive 4 decade long occupation that we would so easily have achieved liberation from their regime in one moment. But if the reputation of being the big bad bogey man that they themselves have created is enough to have them running scared into the hills, who am I to criticize. Demoralization is an important weapon in war, even if the propaganda is patently false. It helps immensely if the propaganda has been promoted by the enemy. I'll take it. If it looks like it will scare them away and help Catholics get their Church back, I will be happy to perpetuate the myth of the PanzerKardinal...


My only worry is that they are going to remember that all their fears about him are ones they themselves invented and try to muscle back in before we have changed the locks.

Share your own memories below.


The littwe wascaw has spiwit!


Palm Sunday at the Circo Massimo

This Sunday, after the (THREE HOUR LONG!) Palm Sunday Mass at Trinita, I was heading over to a rooftop barbeque party at a friend's place near the Flavian Amphitheatre and decided not to take a bus.

Rome is a very walk-able city and it often richly rewards those who eschew the horrible buses. That day, the buses looked particularly gruesome, and while all my friends mashed themselves on, I just couldn't face it. I waved them good bye and decided to walk, and to take a different route from the usual.

I ducked through the old ghetto and took the Tiber-side route past the back side of the Theatre of Marcellus, past S. Nichola in Carcere and around back of the Capitoline, glimpsed the edge of the Forum and took a long detour round the base of the Palatine and found myself, not entirely un-lost, at the bottom of the Circo Massimo where I heard drums.


My first thought was "Damn hippies!"

Then I saw this

It was a celebration of the um...about 3000th anniversary of the foundation of Rome.

As soon as I saw them, I knew instantly.

These were the Roman SCA.

I think re-enactors must emit some kind of high-frequency signal that can only be detected by other re-enactors. I spent a lot of years hanging around with people in home-made clothes, sleeping in six-roomed tents surrounded by piles of armour that people actually use. Maybe it's re-enactor pheromones or something, but when I saw them, even though we didn't speak each other's languages, I knew,

I'd found my posse.

The Commune di Roma had organised all the Roman re-enactors to have a parade past the Colesseum and down the road that separates the Caelian and Palatine hills, and down into the Circo Massimo and stage some combat and gladiator shows. I got there in time to walk about a bit and catch the parade.

One rather sobering thought crossed my mind as I was brazenly gawping at all the cool, and meticulously researched armour, the ladies floating around in gauzy dresses with the high hair dos and the extremely large men carrying their gladiator helmets under their arms. "These peoples' ancestors really did conquer my ancestors."

But it was all water under the Ponte Milvio by this time.

The soldiers all looked very impressive and manly and hard-core.

They marched everywhere, even when it was just to bring bag-lunches for everyone, and even when they were standing around holding cigarettes and chatting with passers-by and letting tourists take their pictures,

it was really not difficult at all to imagine what it must have been like for us conquered barbarians to have had these guys patrolling the Empire and keeping the Pax.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Gosh, they don't half take things seriously over there!

Well well, isn't this fun!.

I must say I enjoyed being referred to on a blog, with ponderous journalistic gravitas, as "White". I am asked to present "evidence," no doubt in triplicate with attached documentation, for my "charges". (But I do like "La Pirhana", which is almost as good as the insult I got from the Messa in Latine blog a while ago, "La Perfida Albione". I'm going to have to start a separate blog label just for the amusing nicknames I get called by other bloggers.)

I see that Mr. Sensible takes all this terribly, terribly seriously. In a previous post he writes, "The stakes are high of course."


Good grief!

No, they're not. Why?

Because the Catholic blogs aren't very important.

What is important?

Well, that babies are being murdered in every corner of the world, and it's legal. That old people are being dehydrated to death in nursing homes. That kids are graduating from highschool who can't write a coherent sentence in the English language. That my cousin in Cheshire was given the HPV vaccine at school and she was only 13. That millions of people believe all kinds of amazing crap about the Faith because the media is owned and operated by Stan.

Honestly, the whole point of my objections to all this is that guilds and Vatican conferences and meetings, complete with proposed treasurers, minutes-takers and subcommittees, is endowing the whole enterprise with entirely too much importance.

Guys, blogs really don't matter very much.

The internet's not real life.

Go pick some flowers, or feed the cat, or have a beer at the pub, woo a pretty girl, or weed the tomatoes, or, I don't know, read a book or something. Take something seriously that is of The Real.

And sign up for the fun blognic. Where there will be real beer, real food and actual live real people to talk to.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Come to the *Other* Rome Blognic

So, I see that there are still only 16 officially registered on the Facebook site.

If you're planning on coming, please please sign up on the FB page as "Attending".

Didn't your mothers tell you to RSVP?

UPDATE 3: So, it turns out that the people in the Vatican DO have a sense of irony after all. Looks like I'm going to be attending their official blogger conference, along with Kat and a couple of other of our favourite bloggie buddies. Congratulations to all the ones who made the list, but please don't let it stop you from signing in as "Attending" on the page. RSVP, people! It's manners!

UPDATE 2: Just spoke to the proprietor of Scholars Lounge pub and all looks just fine. He's got Wifi, a good sound system, loads of room in a newly built space and would love to have a bunch of bloggers come and drink his beer. Meeting with him on Saturday to firm up the plans.

UPDATE: Keynote speaker will be the rootin' tootin' Michael Voris of Real Catholic and The Vortex, speaking on

"How the blogs and 'new media' are shaping the New Evangelisation"

Do you have a blog on which you write about Catholic stuff?

Do you read Catholic blogs?

Do you comment on Catholic blogs?

Are you planning on going to Rome for the Beatification of John Paul II?

Are you pretty sure you're not going to get invited to the Vatican's blognic?

Do you suspect that they found your work just a leeetle too ... err... forthcoming about the bishops, the Church, the state of things?

Well, why not come to the *other* Catholic blogger Rome blognic...

and talk about what *YOU* want to talk about...

Ours will be FUN!

AND we'll have beer...

AND pizza...

AND we'll let you come in your pyjamas if you want.

Tell your bloggy friends and enemies.


We're still in the process of organising this (since we just dreamed it up on Friday). More details about location will follow, but right now we're looking at a very central venue, Scholar's Lounge Pub, the home of the Rome Pub Quiz, which is on all the Centro's bus and tram routes. So it will be an easy access to wherever you'll be camping for the Beatification.

Things we do know:

1) you will be allowed to talk about whatever YOU want

2) No Vatican prelate will "engage you in a meaningful dialogue"

3) the talks will all be in English

4) all the cool kids will be there

For now, the plan is to have two formal "talks," in the style of Theology on Tap: a keynote and a panel. We'll discuss the general state of things, the impact of the "new media" on the Church at the local and international level, the contributions of bloggers to the various Catholic public debates etc (see topic suggestions below).

The rest of the time will be in "small breakout discussion groups" (IOW, sitting around in the pub drinking and talking).

Also, we're going to do our best to get Wifi so you can liveblog it, and we can maybe set up some Skype calls or iChat thingies for people whose bodies can't make it so at least their heads can be there. And we'll see what we can do about getting the thing on video so it can go up on YouTube.

AND, if all goes as planned, there will be discounts for drinks for those who are registered before the event.

"Sounds GREAT! What can I do to help put it together?"

First thing to do is cut and paste this post into your blog (or other new media thingy) and start drumming up interest.

Next, think of three or more Catholic bloggers who fit the following criteria:

1) could be described, in the immortal words of John Allen and at least one influential cleric, "Taliban Catholics"

2) blogs about Catholic stuff

3) is likely to be in Rome for the Beatification anyway

...and invite them to join this facebook event page.

Next, suggest topics you'd like to hear talked about. So far we've had:

1) Whatever the hell we damn well want to talk about

2) "blogging until something happens"
- the intolerable silence of injustice has been disturbed and even destroyed
- the power of the blogs efforts in transparency and accountability

3) "I am not alone"
- isolationism and the iconoclasm

4) Why is the Catholic bloggosphere so nearly uniformly "conservative," pro-Benedict and, above all, young?

5) Are we really "making a difference" or is it really all just narcissism?

6) exchanging stories: how have Catholic blogs, websites and "new media" actually made a concrete difference to the Church or to real people?


We all seem to be having a great weekend!

Deborah Gyapong, my g'friend!

We've all got such COOL friends, don't we?!

...but who's the guy with the fake smile on the left?


Kat could use a hand with $$s

The Crescat has been invited to Rome too, and really deserves to come. She had been all set, with donated funds even, to make a trip last year and had to cancel because of the volcano that shut down all the international flights.

You just can't argue with a volcano.

But she's on the list and doesn't make a lot of money and is a daily read around here. If you can slip a ten-spot into her paypal acct., do drop by.

Oh, and Kat? I forgive you for stealing my "nungazing" post label without attribution.


I wouldn't want to join any club that would have me for a member

Well, well!

Goodness. I hardly know what to say, except,

what are they, nuts?!

I would never have invited me, that's for dang sure!

Crikey, does this mean I'm going to have to be on the "I went to the Vatican's conference" panel at Scholars Lounge? Dang again!

I count on my loyal band of friends and readers to come in and rescue me from the carbonite.


Friday, April 15, 2011

I've just made a deal that will keep the Empire out of here forever

There has been some talk about a Catholic Bloggers' Guild in the UK.

I have no words to describe what a dumb idea I think this is.

Except this:

But Laurence England did:
That's what I thought about the Rome blognic, where loads of Catholic bloggers are invited, only to be confronted by a stern faced Cardinal Sodano of greasing the wheels for Marcel Maciel infamy and an even less amused Cardinal Schonborn, still reeling from the worldwide viewed footage of that clown youth Mass in Vienna. "Turn back everyone! It's a trap!" the bloggers cry, but it is too late! All the bloggers are rounded up and then turned into 'carbonite' by Cardinal Sodano who is now dressed as Bobba Fett, the bounty hunter.

And so did James Preece:
But even if the motives are honourable, I do think that once you have a Guild of Catholic Bloggers, you have an acceptable mainstream face of blogging. You have something that can be leaned on and coerced in to expecting certain behaviour of it's members. You can say that you have the only real version of what Catholic blogging looks like and anybody else isn't really a Catholoc blogger.

What is it with the English desperation to be ruled by bureaucracy anyway? I've noticed for a long time that it is the British Catholic bloggers who are quickest to kowtow to the Powers, the biggest nervous nellies when it comes to political incorrectness and, perhaps ironically, the most vicious pack of pirhanas in the commboxes. Do they even notice how nasty they are? (Scroll down this commbox thread... so much for the old British reputation for manners and restraint). As I said somewhere, if this is what we can expect from a guild of British bloggers, thanks but no thanks.

Guys, there's already plenty of regulation in British society. Try liberty for a while instead. It's the great political and philosophical heritage of England, after all, all the way back to Alfred the Great.

I know it's scary, but it's really, really OK just to say whatever you think on your own blog. It's OK. Really.


Re. my note about about English Blogger Nervous Nellieism.

Hilary White ... 3 hours ago in reply to Quareitur
Man, you English bloggers treat each other badly.

Good thing your guild idea won't work. I'd hate to be the one cleaning up the mess after the meetings.

1 person liked this. Like Reply Reply
Replying to Hilary White

Post as … Cancel

Hilary White [Moderator] 0 minutes ago in reply to Hilary White
Don't edit me! I said you treat each other like crap and that's what I meant.

And I can't believe what a pack of nervous nellies y'all are.



Come to the *Other* Rome Blognic: bring your own tomatoes

So, it looks like I picked exactly the right speaker for The *Other* Rome Blognic.

Everyone's talking about Michael Voris.

Weeeeee hheeeee!

Sign up now!

Oh phooey. It's just Shea mouthing off again. Doesn't count.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Breaking the rules

I'm learning that it's not the first round of cervical cancer that kills you. And indeed, my mother was given chemo and radiation and was cancer-free for about four years. Then it came back and she died.

I'm breaking the rules by doing this, but it's my curiosity. I make a living off it, and I know how to look things up. I can't seem to stop myself.

Recurrence is a bitch

Although there have been important advances in the management of women with cervical cancer, the optimal treatment for patients with locally recurrent and metastatic disease is still problematic, and there are relatively few randomized trials to guide treatment decisions. This paper reviews the approach to management of patients who relapse after primary treatment for cervical cancer. Patients who are still potentially curable with radical treatment are identified, and the various treatment strategies are discussed. However, most women are treated with palliative intent...

A 10%-20% recurrence rate has been reported following primary surgery or radiotherapy in women with stage IB-IIA cervical tumors with no evidence of lymph node involvement...

The majority of recurrences occur within 2 years of diagnosis, and the prognosis is poor, with most patients dying as a result of uncontrolled disease. In a retrospective review of over 500 patients treated at the University of Kentucky, 31% of patients developed tumor recurrence, 58% of these recurred within 1 year and 76% within 2 years.

In this series, only 6% of patients with recurrent tumor survived 3 years. While it is possible to identify subgroups of patients with recurrent cervical cancer who have a substantially better prognosis than this and in whom the objective of treatment is cure, 50%-60% of patients have disease situated beyond the pelvis, which, with few exceptions, is incurable, and treatment is given with palliative intent, as is the case for most patients with pelvic side wall involvement by recurrent cervical cancer..

Most patients who relapse locally after primary radiotherapy are not candidates for further radiotherapy, and pelvic exenterative surgery is the only potentially curative approach for these patients. The 5-year survival rate for patients who undergo total pelvic exenteration ranges from 30%-60%...

Son of a bitch!

And doesn't total pelvic exenteration sound fun!

Invented in 1948, it's still the only treatment option for women "with centrally recurrent cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancers". And hey, since 1948, they've improved the surgery to the point where "operative mortality rates" are a paltry 3-5%, and "major perioperative complication rate" is only 30-44 per cent.

And how long can you live with all your lower organs removed and the openings sewed shut?

"The overall 5-year survival rate in patients who successfully undergo the procedure is 20-50%."

I think the real question for me is how long would I want to live like that. Certainly not five years.


The light of day

This just in from the National Catholic Reporter:
Censorship is Bad - Always
by Michael Sean Winters on Apr. 13, 2011

The Diocese of Scranton and Marywood University recently cancelled a speech planned by Michael Voris, an obnoxious rightwing personality who runs the outfit "RealCatholicTV." Earlier this year, a bishop told me, "Funny thing is that his show is not real and it isn't Catholic."

Now, it is puzzling to me why anyone would invite the spewer of right-wing agitprop to rant on campus in the first place. But, censorship is not the answer. Let people hear Mr. Voris's paranoid fantasies about unorthodox bishops and the USCCB's supposed collusion with the Culture of Death. There is nothing attractive about his rants. The best way to expose a scoundrel is to shine the light of day on him.

Actually, the headline is incorrect. Censorship isn't alwasy wrong. Sometimes it's a necessity and there are several legitimate reasons to curtail the freedom of people to say whatever they want. In the civil order, these might include restrictions on giving away state secrets, "Loose lips sink ships". In the religious realm, this might include the Church having a right to sack a religion teacher who taught the kids errors and tried to pass it off as Catholic teaching.

I really don't have much objection to the bishop of Scranton telling someone like Michael Voris that he can't speak on Church property. He's the bishop, and it's his house. Frankly, there really isn't any such thing as "freedom of speech" in the Church. Civil realm yes, Church no.

And Michael's view, no doubt, is much the same. Mr. Winters says that the best way to expose scoundrels is to shine a light on them and let people see for themselves. Michael's verbal style may not be to everyone's liking, but the point isn't the manner in which he expresses himself.

As with any whistleblower, whether you like him personally is utterly immaterial. Whether you think he's a rightwing nutter or a leftie traitor, you take his evidence and you examine it for yourself and see if he's telling the truth.


Another dream

So, I guess I must still be feeling anxious about ... things, in general.

I've called the doctor asking what's up. They said they would phone "within two weeks" to give me a date for surgery and nothing. And today's exactly two weeks.

The phone rang today, and it was a friend asking how things are going. I jumped and my heart leaped into my throat because I thought it was the doctor. So I'm not sure whether I want to hear from them or not. Emotions are funny things, aren't they? And your gut reaction to something can really tell you a lot.

I've come to realise in the last few months that I am a person who is not well "in touch" with my feelings. Mostly I think this is because of how much I despise people who are, and are always going on about them. Sharing... I remember it from the Hippie Days. Ugh. But as a result of suppressing these Hippie-trained responses, I find I often don't really know how I'm feeling while I'm feeling it.

When I got the news from the Gemelli Oncology dept., I felt quite suddenly as though someone had loosened a steel strap that had been wound tightly around my chest. When I described this to my friend in Vancouver, I said, "I have been feeling sort of 'tight,' like I'm a spring being held forcibly closed. And now I feel like someone has let me go."

My friend said, "Hilary, that feeling of 'tightness' is what the rest of the world calls 'anxiety' and 'stress'."

"Really? I thought all that stuff was just whiney New Age bullshit."

Since then I've had other people confirm for me that feeling "all tight" and then feeling "let loose" is the feeling that normal people call "relief" and "happiness".

Well, the time has slid past and I still don't have a date for surgery and I'm starting to imagine the little tumour growing tendrils into my other important and useful bits. The picture is growing in my mind of me going there all ready to have the problem taken care of easily, and being told "Ooops! Sorry, we left it too long. Now we're going to cut out all your internal organs."

This, I am told, is the return of "anxiety".

I'm trying to get the hang of it.

My brain, however, seems to know all about it.

I had a dream the other night where I went to the hairdresser and they put me under a general anaesthetic and when I woke up I was blond and had extensions...with little jingly things woven in.

It was awful.


Come to the *Other* Rome Blognic: conspiracy buffs welcome

This is odd.

I don't know how many times I'm going to have to say it, but I spose I could do it a few more.

I'm not creating a 'rival' event, and the main differences between the Scholar's Lounge Catholic Blognic and the Vatican blogger conference (which are being held on different days] are thus:

1) Whoever runs a Catholic blog, that is, is a Catholic and blogs about Catholic-related stuff, is welcome

2) I have no "selection process," and couldn't enforce one if I did, since I'm having it in a pub...

3) ... where there will be beer and food and fun and

4) no Swiss Guards (sorry Kat).

Sign up now!


Jackie Parkes who runs a blog in the UK, just sent me a somewhat puzzling, snarky note:

What is wrong with the official meeting? Aren't you being quite biased in your own links? Some bloggers loyal to the magisterium don't all link to the same bloggers..perhaps a third meeting could include them..

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Hi Jackie,

Maybe you could read the posts around town about "what's wrong with the official meeting". A lot of people are talking about it, but most of all, what's wrong with it is the infinitessimal chance I have of being invited.

As I've said (many times now) I didn't want to miss out on the fun, so I'm having this one so I don't have to.

And yes, I'm being biased in my links. These are the blogs I happen to like. I invited them because they're the ones I pay attention to.

You will note, however, that the call is for people to invite whatever Catholic bloggers they want, and for any and all Catholic bloggers to invite themselves.

I don't have a "selection criterion" except, "be a Catholic, a blogger and want to come".

It's a funny thing to be accused of exclusivity when I'm putting a public notice of my event on my blog and on facebook and begging bloggers to invite whomever.

But if there's one thing that characterises bloggers of all stripes it's the pleasure they take in sniping at each other.

Normally I erase comments that contain the even tiniest whiff of snark, but this seemed like a teaching moment. Maybe bloggers have just become so used to thinking in terms of conspiracies and hidden agendas that they can't tell the difference any more.

I can help with that.

A conspiracy is usually done in secret and hidden agendas are, by definition, hidden.

We're having a party for Catholic bloggers, people who write about Catholic stuff on 'blogs that are read by the general public. We're holding it in a public place, where anyone at all can come and I am hoping that lots and lots of people will come whom I've never heard of.

The main speaker is Michael Voris, whose opinions are widely distributed on the internet. My own opinions and biases are also plastered all over the internet for anyone to see. Anyone who is in doubt as to my opinion on any topic whatsoever, is invited to email me and ask. As anyone who has read me for more than a week will know, I'll be overjoyed to fill you in.

I've been inviting bloggers by email and on Facebook and I have begged encouraged other people to do the same and to post the post on their blogs to make other people do so too. I've published an incomplete list of which bloggers I've invited, mostly so they will have a link appear on their blogs so they will notice it and come, or post something about it on their blogs.

I don't actually know who all has been invited, who intends to come or who is actually going to show up. The Facebook sign-up page is public for anyone on Facebook, and I've been sending it around by email to people who don't appear to be on FB.

Short of renting a truck with a loudspeaker on top and driving it around Rome on the day of the Beatification and inviting random passers-by, I'm not sure how much more non-conspiratorial I can be.

But if you really want to think of it as a conspiracy, if that gives you a thrill, be my guest. I'm thinking of helping out the Cloak 'n Dagger buffs by giving out "infiltrator" stickers at the Blognic. If you've come from some group that likes to imagine itself in some kind of rivalry, your Official Infiltrator sticker will be good for one free beer, on me.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

This just in

From the Vatican, issued to all who applied to attend their meeting

Dear Friends
By 8am Monday morning we had received over 400 requests.
On Wednesday 13 April we will close the application process and sort out requests into categories of language, geography, typology etc. and where necessary we will draw lots to make the final selection.

On Saturday a list of participants will be posted on We are heartened by the widespread interest, and ask you all to be patient with this effort to increase dialogue with the blogging community, and also to support us with your prayers.
Richard Rouse & Ariel Beramendi

Richard Rouse spoke to Vatican Radio the other day, saying,
"One of the things we are a little bit aware of is that sometimes the Catholic blogosphere can become a bit of a ghetto…rather than engaging in the world outside."

When asked if he thought there are risks associated with such an initiative, Dr. Rouse said he knew the meeting could be different than others hosted at the Vatican.

“Certainly we are aware that a blog meeting can sometimes be a blog-fest and sometimes it can be a blog-fight,” he said. “We are aware of that, but our intention here…is to start to engage in a first step with Catholic bloggers. Further on down the line, I’m sure we will be able to articulate a more fulsome pastoral response to the reality, but first steps at a time.”


Living in Sin

Michael finds a bishop he likes! Wonders really do never cease.

I once had a friend who was very keen to be more than a friend. He really didn't get it about the whole Catholic thing though, so I was constantly telling him I wasn't interested, but since he was in other ways quite a good fellow, and quite thoughtful and kind, I didn't tell him to get lost. He knew that I would never indulge in anything sinful with him but he really didn't get why.

Then once, he told me about having lived with a woman for five years. He said that she grew increasingly unhappy and took her unhappiness out on my friend more and more, and of course, they broke up acrimoniously. He told me how much he regretted messing up his "relationship" with this woman.

I said, "Well, I can understand why she became angry with you. You were stealing from her."

He was very taken aback and said, "What do you mean?"

"Well, living with a woman, and having sex with her, without being married is appropriating something to yourself that you have no right to. You were taking the privileges of marriage without being willing to give yourself to her in return. You were stealing something precious and important, something that came out of her soul."

He looked very surprised and this, but finally told me that I had given him an insight he had never had before.

I do feel sorry for people out there in the secular, sexual free-for-all world. I see it portrayed on television shows, and some of them accurately depict how much misery it all causes, but none of them ever have a clew why everyone is so miserable. Unlimited sex was supposed to make everyone happy.

I can attest, it really doesn't.


As an aside, I might have one criticism for Michael's video above. The sarcasm is just a tad heavy-handed, don't you think? But the point is taken.

Come see Michael Voris in person at the

*Other* Rome Blognic,

Sign up now!

May 3rd 1-5 pm @Scholar's Lounge Pub
Via Del Plebiscito 101b,Rome
just around the corner from Piazza Venezia and Largo Torre Argentina, across the street from the Jesu.

Look forward to seeing y'all.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Confirmations, want-to-comes, maybes and stragglers

So, who's coming so far?

I've had confirmations from the following well-known bloggers:

Michael Voris
Salt n' Light TV's Rome correspondent
Rorate Caeli
New Liturgical Movement
Orbis Catholicus
Fr. Zuhlsdorf
Seraphic Singles
Discover Happiness
Ars Orandi (whose blog is visually stunning)

Plus a few who have contacted me privately and didn't want to go on the public list. (What can I say? Bloggers are quirky).
Plus a bunch of people who aren't bloggers themselves but just want to come and watch the bunfight.

Registered Maybes
John Smeaton
James Preece
Alex Schadenberg (who told me he'll probably come by proxy)
Dale Price
The Crescat
Weight of Glory

Invited but no response:
John Allen
The Anchoress (Elizabeth Scalia)
The Curt Jester
Chris Gillibrand
Andrew Cusack
Phil Lawler
Eve Tushnet and
Tom Peters

Had a LOT of people say they can't come but want to participate as talking heads via live feed/Skype/iChat or whathaveyou. I've confirmed that the place has Wifi, so this can probably be arranged. I'm still consulting tech-people.

Want to help out?

Send a note about the even to your favourite bloggers who you think might go and give em a poke about it.

We're particularly hoping to see John Allen, Edward Pentin, Andrea Tornielli and Paolo Rodari, all of whom have had the email and the FB invite. Send em a note and tell them there's a beer in it.


Life in the country

I really miss the English country.

The Countryside Alliance does good work.

And check out those cool Welsh accents!


Of your charity,

please pray for the repose of the soul of my mum, Judy, who would have been 67 today.

I miss you, mama. I wish you'd been here for the Rome part.



of the group of people I mentioned below who are annoyed with the way this idea, a good idea that could bear fruit, has been mishandled precisely in the way that the Vatican normally mishandles things.

Jane Mossendew blogs at the Oasis, describing herself thus:

dedicated to the support of His Holiness Benedict XVI through prayer-based apostolic action. Traditional ROMAN CATHOLIC and loyally obedient to his authority as Successor of Peter.

She writes of her irritation:
My dear readers must judge for themselves whether I have calmed sufficiently to avoid a rant..

I am glad to see that Mulier Fortis agrees with me about the ridiculously short notice we have been given if we wish to have the slightest chance of attending the first Vatican blogging conference. In my turn, I agree with the other points Mac offers about expense and the difficulty of making arrangements at this late stage. The Vatican seems to have launched this initiative on the basis of some questionable assumptions.

1. that we can all afford to go to Rome at the drop of a hat. (There seems to be total unawareness that many of us blog simply BECAUSE it is a CHEAP way of keeping in touch with the Church at large, and of sharing out views.

2. that many of us will be in Rome anyway for the Beatification

3. that many of us do not have jobs which preclude any chance of our being there

4. that the majority of Catholic bloggers are 'young'. (see Rome reports video on Bones' blog) Of coursse the Church must attract and look after the 'young'. They are the future. But if you are between 40 and death, do you ever feel that the Church has forgotten about you?)

5. that in the terms they give, the Vatican thinks that with a full capacity of 150 (worldwide and from several different language groups) it can select a truly representative assembly.

SEVERAL QUESTIONS ARE BEGGED. According to the Catholic Herald 'hundreds' have applied already. Who is doing the sifting and how thoroughly? [and I would add, according to what and who's criteria?] Will a list of the successful applicants be published? Why the haste? How can such an event be properly organised within such a short time frame? Rome is usually much more cautious and thorough than this. It shouldn't be surprised that many of us are sceptical.

In their defence, it was probably someone's idea because of the millions who are expected to show up for the week of the Beatification. As I understand it, among those who are going to come anyway, the invitation went out in hopes that some bloggers would be interested and able to attend. It was some fast thinking to try to take advantage of a situation that may not arise again soon. Obviously the Beatification was expected to attract the 20, 30 and 40-something crowd for whom JPII is still a significant figure, and who, statistically, represent the largest bulge in the blogger/new media demographic.

I'm becoming more certain that there was no idea within the walls that this idea would be either so popular or cause so much annoyance. As I've said, I think the learning curve here is pretty steep. And if the goal of many of us bloggers is to get the people in charge of the Church to get up to speed on these things, then I would say that we are likely already seeing results.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Don't get me wrong...

So, I hear that people are all a-tizzy that I've said mean things about the Vatican's official blognic. That this is a "rival" event, that I think theirs will be a bore, that I think they don't really know what's what, that I think their "selection process" is a code for "we're only going to invite 'safe' bloggers" and the whole thing is a nefarious plot to keep "controverisal" bloggers out.

Let's take this one point at a time, ok?

"It's a rival event".

It's not a "rival" event. I'm just brazenly stealing the idea. If it were a "rival" or "counter" event, it would be on the same day at the same time. It's the day after because we're hoping that people will go to both, the "official" one with the important talks, and the fun one with the beer.

"You think the Vatican's conferences are boring."

The Vatican's conferences are boring, in the sense that they're not entertainment. It's impossible for a speaker to be entertaining at them. Sorry, but it's true. Have you ever been to one? I've been to lots. They're often interesting; they're often important, and sometimes they even make a difference, but lawdy! they ain't a fun evening out. It's not the fault of the speaker. Maybe it's the fluorescent lights or the weight of the ages, or the stern gaze of Bernini's saints glaring down at you, but it's just not a fun place. If they got a speaker who was Oscar Wilde wrapped in G.K. Chesterton wrapped in Mike Myers, under the Vatican Serious Solemnity Rays he'd flop.

It's a hard fact if you work Inside, but the only person who works in the Vatican who anyone wants to hear from is the Pope. And he doesn't have to be entertaining.

"You think the Vatican doesn't know what it's doing with the 'new media'"

I know the Vatican doesn't know what it's doing with the new media. The pope admitted as much. I'm thinking that's the reason they want to have a conference for bloggers.

Yay! I'm glad they have seen that Catholic bloggers have interesting and important things to contribute. Do I think they're probably going about it the wrong way? Yep, probably. But that's only because they're new to all this. By the end of the blogger conference, they will know the blogging world better. Which is the point, isn't it?

"You don't trust the Vatican to be the good guys."

In fact, I do. I've actually met a few people who work inside, and I've found them to be (almost) uniformly charming and kindly. And they understand that they're hampered by lack of information. They've got the weight of the world on their shoulders and it's a big world. There are a lot of things to keep track of and not enough people or resources to do the job. It may surprise y'all to learn that there are only a few hundred people running the whole thing, they don't get paid all that much and they're not psychic.

That being said, I'm betting that there were quite a few things they didn't think of when they came up with the blogger conference idea. If they'd asked me, for starters, I would have mentioned that there has been a lot of annoyance in recent years over the appearance of high-handedness in the Vatican's way of doing things. I might have mentioned that announcing an international Catholic bloggers' conference three weeks before the date and asking people to come from around the world, and then saying, "Oh, by the way, we've only got room for 150 of you, so we'll let you know at an undisclosed date who exactly is invited," kind of smacks of that old Vatican "Don't call us, we'll call you" attitude that gets people annoyed.

I think they probably had no idea how many bloggers there were out there, or how fast the news would flash around the 'sphere, or how many people would be interested. The local media has been making some simply amazing estimates of how many people overall are going to be here for the Beatification. Some of them have said 3 million. Well, there are only 3 million people living in Rome. This means that accommodation, even on floors, is going to be, shall we say, at a premium. Do they know that most Catholic bloggers are not professional writers, or people formally attached to dioceses or newspapers who can afford to send their 'bloggers to liveblog the ceremonies? Do they know that most Catholic bloggers are individual parish priests, housewives, students and working people? Not a lot of financial slack to suddenly jet off around the world and pay for a bed when they get here.

I might also have mentioned that it might be a good idea to ask the bloggers themselves who they think the most influential and important among our numbers are. Do they know that we have annual Catholic bloggers' awards? I can't speak for the non-English speaking world, but there are already structures in place in the 'sphere that has created a fairly coherent community. I've not heard from anyone yet who has told me, "Oh yes, the Vatican guys contacted me and asked me how the Catholic bloggosphere works." I don't know a single Catholic blogger who would not have been thrilled to have been asked his advice.

There's something that most people who work Inside the Walls doesn't seem to understand about the Catholic laity: the Catholic laity don't trust them. Whether that is the work of the secular media, whether it's Dan Brown's fault, or is because of societal changes that have created a gap between the average lay person and his priests or bishops, whether it is a vast right wing conspiracy or a vast left wing conspiracy is beside the point. Lay people don't trust the Official Church. The reasons are myriad, complex (and honestly, have been done to death on the blogs), but the fact remains. There have been a lot of people in commboxes speculating on why this conference was conceived, by whom and for what potentially nefarious purpose.

The fact that the laity are the bloggers and "new media", for the most part, hasn't been lost on them, but the gap is there and it won't be easy to cross.

Do I think it's a dumb idea?

Of course not. I would love to go, but I'm not holding my breath.

The idea of the *Other* Rome Catholic Blognic jumped into my mind when I thought, "Dang, no way I'm going to make the cut, sure sorry to miss out."

This way, I won't have to.

And neither will you.


Come to the *Other* Rome Blognic


Well! I'm chuffed and excited and am already having a wonderful time! What a great idea it was to have a party for bloggers!

Sign up now!

Thanks, Vatican!

Just spoke to the proprietor of Scholars Lounge pub

View Larger Map
and all looks just fine. He's got Wifi, a good sound system, loads of room in a newly built space and would love to have a bunch of bloggers come and drink his beer. Meeting with him on Saturday to firm up the plans.


I've had confirmations from all sorts of nice people, (list will follow), and all sorts of people have said they can't come in bodily form, but really want to follow on a live feed. So, I'm going to need help from some tech-savvy people to help with this. I don't imagine it will be any more complicated than setting up a Skype conference call, but suggestions from people who know what they're doing are welcome.


Lots of links coming in from people interested in coming or helping to promote. Thanks John Sonnen (Orbis Catholicus), Fr. Zuhsldorf, Fr. Finigan, Rorate Caeli, Seraphic, Australia Incognita, David Domet (Vox Cantor), Eponymous Flower (plus countless links-to-the-links) and a few phone calls from some unexpected and happy sources, people who have now, suddenly, decided to come to Rome.


Something odd keeps coming up. I've had one commbox message, one email and two phone calls mention the idea that this is a hoax or a joke.

Why on earth would it be a hoax or a joke? Is there something inherently non-credible about having a party for bloggers?

So, no. For the record. I'm having a party in Rome for the Catholic bloggers who want to come. There will be speakers, there will be a panel, there will be loads of mike-time for people who want to say something, and all interspersed throughout this will be "small group break-out sessions," what we in the Real Life biz call "having a drink with your friends and colleagues and chewing the fat".

I didn't think it was that difficult a concept.

More to come


Come to the *Other* Rome Blognic

Another great reason to come to ours...

...all the cool kids will be there. *

AND our selection process for who gets to go isn't a super-duper, humungous, toppity-top secret.

All you have to do is be a Catholic blogger who wants to come.

Sign up now!

(*Sorry, I was just kidding there. Cardinal Burke probably won't be coming. He's not a blogger.)

All pics pinched from Sonnen


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Come to the *Other* Rome Blognic

And meet all the right people...

Sign up now!

This from Fr. Z

I have had many queries about whether or not I am going to be in Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II and the Vatican blogger meeting, which seems to be by Super-Double-Top-Secret Selection.

I am not going to be in Rome for the beatification.

But… I could be in Rome for something else at that time, including a Robber Council Rome Breakout Blognic (read = The Cool Kids Table) I am hearing about.
...whom I've never met and don't read all that often, frankly.

But I like his bird pictures.


Come to the *Other* Rome Blognic

And meet other cool Catholic bloggers.

Sign up now!


Well, my work is nearly done

I've got Orbis Catholicus, Fr. Z and the Vortex.

Now if I can only get Shea to show up, we'll have us a big ol time!



Thanks Fr. Tim

And a big Hello! to all his bajillions of readers.

And yes, the beer, pizza and pyjamas suggestions were all his.

The *Other* Rome Blognic: Update

Michael Voris has agreed to keynote and to get us video.

I've just sent him the following note:


You can talk about whatever you like, as long as it's this

"How the blogs and 'new media' are shaping the New Evangelisation"

Now I've just got to get people to show up.

Love him or hate him, he won't be dull.


Hey "Taliban Catholic" Bloggers!! Come to the *Other* Rome Catholic Blognic

Do you have a blog on which you write about Catholic stuff?

Do you read Catholic blogs?

Do you comment on Catholic blogs?

Are you planning on going to Rome for the Beatification of John Paul II?

Are you pretty sure you're not going to get invited to the Vatican's blognic?

Come to the *other* Catholic blogger Rome blognic...

and talk about what *YOU* want to talk about...

Unlike the Vatican's, ours will have beer...

AND pizza...

AND we'll let you come in your pyjamas if you want.

Tell your bloggy friends and enemies.

May 3rd, 2011, 1-5 pm (for Europeans, that's 13:00-17:00)

We're still in the process of organising this (since we just dreamed it up on Friday). More details about location will follow, but right now we're looking at a very central venue, Scholar's Lounge Pub, the home of the Rome Pub Quiz, which is on all the Centro's bus and tram routes. So it will be an easy access to wherever you'll be camping for the Beatification.

Things we do know:

1) you will be allowed to talk about whatever YOU want

2) No Vatican prelate will engage you in a meaningful dialogue

3) the talks will all be in English

4) all the cool kids will be there

For now, the plan is to have two formal "talks," in the style of Theology on Tap: a keynote and a panel. We'll discuss the general state of things, the impact of the "new media" on the Church at the local and international level, the contributions of bloggers to the various Catholic public debates etc (see topic suggestions below).

The rest of the time will be in "small breakout discussion groups" (IOW, sitting around in the pub drinking and talking).

Also, we're going to do our best to get Wifi so you can liveblog it, and we can maybe set up some Skype calls or iChat thingies for people whose bodies can't make it so at least their heads can be there. And we'll see what we can do about getting the thing on video so it can go up on YouTube.

AND, if all goes as planned, there will be discounts for drinks for those who are registered before the event.

"Sounds GREAT! Where do I sign up?"

Are you on Facebook? look for "The *Other* Rome Catholic Blognic" on the facebook search and sign on. Leave a note on the Wall giving a link to your blog, (or to the blogs where you most often make a pest of yourself in the commbox). It's that simple.

Or, you can just send me a link to your blog in the commbox below, by email or by a message on Facebook and I will put you on the list.

Sounds GREAT! What can I do to help put it together?

First, thing to do, is cut and paste this post into your blog (or other new media thingy) and start drumming up interest.

Next, think of three or more Catholic bloggers who fit the following criteria:

1) is likely to be described, in the immortal words of John Allen and at least one influential cleric, as "Taliban Catholics"

2) blogs about Catholic stuff

3) is likely to be in Rome for the Beatification anyway

...and invite them to join this facebook event page.

Next, suggest topics you'd like to hear talked about. So far we've had:

1) Whatever the hell we damn well want to talk about

2) "blogging until something happens"
- the intolerable silence of injustice has been disturbed and even destroyed
- the power of the blogs efforts in transparency and accountability

3) "I am not alone"
- isolationism and the iconoclasm

4) Why is the Catholic bloggosphere so nearly uniformly "conservative," pro-Benedict and, above all, young?

5) Are we really "making a difference" or is it really all just narcissism?

6) exchanging stories: how have Catholic blogs, websites and "new media" actually made a concrete difference to the Church or to real people?



Bloggers (and Catholic "New Media" people) I've invited

Jeff Miller, the Curt Jester
the "Seraphic" Dorothy Cummings McLean
Elizabeth Scalia, the Anchoress
Michael Voris
Fr. Tim "Hermeneutic of Continuity" Finigan
John "Orbis Catholicus Secundus" Sonnen
Deal Hudson
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
Anthony Ozimic and John Smeaton of SPUC
Chris Gillibrand of Catholic Church Conservation
The "Dyspeptic" Dale Price
Gregory DiPippo, Gregor Kollmorgen and Shawn Tribe of New Liturgical Movement
Andrew Cusack of Andrew Cusack
Fellow former League of Evil Traditionalists:
Mary "Against All Heresies" Alexander
Steve Skojec and Nick Trandem (who no longer blog)
Fr. Philip "Da Mihi hanc aquam" Powell
Oliver McCarthy, who seems to have locked everyone out of his blog
Sean Taylor, also known as Binky the Webelf
Deborah Gyapong who I sometimes forget isn't Catholic (quite yet)
Fr. John "Veritas in Caritate" Boyle
Thomas Peters the American Papist
John Allen (maybe he can tell us what, exactly, constitutes a "Taliban Catholic")
Creative Minority Report
Rorate Caeli
Mulier Fortis who I see has kindly given us a link
Robert "Love Undefiled" Colquhoun