My Left Knee

November 14, 2015 — Leave a comment

My left knee has served me well for over 70 years and I appreciate its faithful service.

But in the interests of the rest of my body, we’re parting company. It’s not the knee, it’s me. I need to move on.

I know that I will no longer be able to claim for myself a quality deemed of great importance these days: “All Natural”.

I don’t care.

It’s my decision and if people don’t like it, fine.

It’s all about the pursuit of my personal aspirations: to be healthy, good-natured, energetic, not limping.

The GOP Debate

October 31, 2015 — Leave a comment

The Republican Presidential candidates are complaining about the types of questions they received at the last debate and are threatening to set their own debate rules. To help out, here are some questions they might be looking for:

QUESTION 1: What is your favorite color?

QUESTION 2: Who was your favorite teacher?

QUESTION 3: What is the name of your favorite pet?

QUESTION 4: Is there anything else you would like to say?

My most recent post on Tuesday May 5 detailed how, during the three days starting April 28, I talked to a dozen or so Comcast employees by phone and in person trying to get internet and telephone service into the condo we had just moved into. Ultimately these services became available only because I kept calling for three solid days until I found someone at Comcast with the skills to address the problem.

I then pointed out my victory dance at this point was premature because while it was giving me the runaround, Comcast had cancelled our 45-year old phone number and given us a new one so that if we called someone, Caller ID displayed a new and unfamiliar number and that we were calling from Hobbs.

As I said in my last post, Comcast staff had promised on both on Friday, May 1, and on Monday, May 4, that we would definitely be getting our phone number back in 48 hours of my phone calls to them. The 48 hours from the Monday promise ran out on Wednesday, May 6, with no results.

Nor did our phone number come back on Thursday.

So on Thursday afternoon I made yet another call to Comcast. Yes, they said, we see the work order in your records and so we will now connect your old number.

[So, you might ask, why was this order just sitting there until I called? Maybe these people need some To Do Lists?]

After another 30-40 minutes of back and forth, I was told the new phone number was now transferred and in two hours it be working just fine.

Of course, the number didn’t come back either that night or the next morning.

So I called Comcast again on Friday and they referred me to the “Activation Center” which I had found typically operates from the Philippines. It employs ESL operators who work from a very limited menu of possible solutions. I had already had a number of disappointing experiences with the Center.

But luckily my call did not go to the support desk in the Philippines but instead to someone with good English and technical skills. While it took about an hour, I am pleased to report that we did actually retrieve our original phone number on that day, May 8 and it continues to work for all three of the days since then.

Hey, it was only 11 days that people were being told our number had been cancelled. And maybe some of them were telephone solicitors.

So what does this experience tell us?

Without competitors to Comcast, there will just be more of the same in our future, except that the price will keep going up. Comcast is not likely to have good systems then and it still won’t be adequately training its support staff.

Perhaps our condo building will switch over to DIRECTV after Comcast’s contract runs out. But then who will provide high-speed internet service? Comcast will do it but will the price be reasonable and can we deal with the hassle?

Other alternatives?

CenturyLink’s internet service is quite slow, a reminder of the dial-up days.

Google is expanding its internet service to more communities across the country and is actually laying fiberoptic. Albuquerque with its economic woes is not likely near the top of their list.

Perhaps if AT&T does buy DIRECTV as it now proposes to do, maybe it will find a way to provide reasonably-priced robust internet service to its DIRECTV customers in New Mexico.

And maybe those said to be planning to provide low-cost internet service with low-orbit satellites will do so sooner, rather than later.

There is hope.

In any event, the cable and satellite model of delivering lots of channels we don’t use or want for a fat price is on the way out. More and more first-rate programming will move to the internet just as HBO is moving right now. But that does require that we have reasonably-priced high-speed internet access.

It is possible that with the unbundling of cable TV programming and the increased availability of good programming over the internet, maybe the incumbent cable and satellite providers will somehow conclude they are playing a losing game and feel the need to start serving their customers far better than is now the case.


[FYI, if you want, you can leave a voicemail complaint about Comcast by calling the City of Albuquerque’s Franchise Authority at 768-5340. But don’t expect a callback. I’m still waiting.]

In April, we moved out of our longtime residence to a condo at Park Plaza in downtown Albuquerque.

Because the remodeling of our unit wasn’t to be done until late in April, we moved temporarily to a vacant unit on another floor.

There our Comcast cable, telephone and internet worked flawlessly for a month.

TUESDAY (April 28). We moved into our own unit. The same Comcast equipment was installed. We had cable but no internet or telephone service.

I called Comcast but they couldn’t fix it over the phone so a technician was scheduled to come between 9 and 12 on Wednesday.

WEDNESDAY. I stayed home all morning but the technician never showed. I called Comcast and was told that the reason no one came was that no one had been scheduled to come. I asked how that could be but there was no answer for that.

I asked that another technician be sent but I was told that the computer system would not allow another technician to be sent for unknown reasons. I asked to speak to a supervisor and was told the supervisor was in a meeting but would call in 45 minutes.

Never got that callback. So I drove to the local Comcast office and after a 40 minute wait, was told that the previous occupant of our new unit had not used Comcast services. Therefore it was necessary that some “back office” actions be taken. Once that was done, I was told, then a technician could be scheduled to come to our condo.

But it would take 48 hours.

THURSDAY. Not having got a promised status callback, I was back on the phone with Comcast. By some miracle, I managed to reach a person with technical skills. This person got both the internet and phone working. Without a Comcast technician had coming to our condo.

FRIDAY. I was relaxed and relieved to have finally gotten the Comcast problem resolved.

Then I learned that those calling our phone number were being told it was no longer in service. Called Comcast and was told we had been assigned a new phone number, replacing the one we had enjoyed for the past 45 years.

I expressed my consternation and demanded our old phone number. This could be done, I was told.

But it would take 48 hours.

MONDAY. A promised callback when the problem was resolved never came. Those calling our old number were still being told our number was no longer in service.

I called Comcast again. The person who answered said he would try to restore our original phone number. I suggested that failure to do so would have grave consequences. Back on the line, the support person reported that happily our old number was still available and was being assigned back to us.

But it would take 48 hours.

TUESDAY. Tomorrow, May 6, the 48 hours will be up. Will we really get our phone number back? It’s Tuesday afternoon and it hasn’t happened yet.

Any bets?

It’s hard to see why it makes any sense to approve the new Navajo gambling compact, especially when you consider that all the other gaming tribes are able to have the same agreement and all of them will live on for another 22 years.

There is little doubt that there is a serious problem gambling problem in New Mexico. Yet the new compact continues the practice of asking the gaming tribes to do very little about the problem they are creating.

The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that 1.2% of New Mexicans (18,795) are problem gamblers. The private agency selected by the gaming tribes and racinos to provide treatment to problem gamblers reports that it treated 196 problem gamblers in 2014.

The gaming tribes provide little money for treatment. For example, the new Navajo compact will only require the Navajo casinos to provide around $200,000 of their $80 million net win to support treatment of problem gamblers.

Plus we have no information about the nature of these services or the results.

At the same time, the Navajo compact would extend the hours of casino operation, allow casinos to extend credit to gamblers, and also allow them to provide more than $2 million in food and lodging to selected gamblers each year.

We can expect this will only add to the numbers of problem gamblers without adequate treatment.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times a few weeks back, the writer said he was glad to be leaving Albuquerque because it was a “land of violence” where the rate of violent crime was twice the national average.

While the article provoked lots of discussion locally, the writer’s views of the city were not challenged by anyone at the City or State or in the local press. As one who frequently travels to large urban areas around the country, I found it hard to believe Albuquerque is extraordinarily dangerous. Could it be that I’m oblivious to the level of crime in the areas of the City I don’t frequent?

The FBI Crime Statistics for 2012 (the most recent full-year FBI numbers available) do indeed state that the rate of violent crime in Albuquerque is twice that of the country as a whole.

So Albuquerque is the most dangerous place in the country, right? Not exactly.

It turns out that of the 74 U.S. cities with more than 250,000 people, only 7 had violent crime rates lower than the national rate. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure that large urban areas would experience more violent crime than do smaller cities or rural areas. The FBI numbers confirm that.

In the FBI ranking of large cities, Albuquerque comes in not at number 1 in violent crime but at number 29.

Among the 28 large cities that have higher rates of violent crime than Albuquerque, some a great deal higher, are Houston, Tulsa, Kansas City, Nashville, Oklahoma City and Las Vegas, Nevada. The writer of the Times article said he thought Albuquerque felt more like the Mission District in San Francisco than Tucson where he’d previously lived. Yet the rate of violent crime in Tucson is just below Albuquerque’s, ranking only 5 places behind it.

In any event, the FBI and the American Society of Criminology both caution against ranking cities based on FBI crime data.

The FBI on its web site says its data should not be used for rankings because they lead to “simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents.”

In November 2007, the executive board of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) approved a resolution opposing not only the use of the ratings to judge police departments, but also opposing any development of city crime rankings from FBI Uniform Crime Reports.

The ASC resolution opposed such rankings on the grounds that they “fail to account for the many conditions affecting crime rates” and “divert attention from the individual and community characteristics that elevate crime in all cities”, though it did not provide sources or further elaborate on these claims.

The ASC resolution also states the rankings “represent an irresponsible misuse of the data and do groundless harm to many communities” and “work against a key goal of our society, which is a better understanding of crime-related issues by both scientists and the public”.

Certainly the City can and should do better in many ways but some perspective is in order.


A former Aquinas Newman Center parishioner wanted to know if other former ANC parishioners were interested in celebrating Mass together at the Norbertine Community’s Abbey on South Coors. Knowing the Abbey chapel is quite small, she called ahead to see if it would be okay if 20-30 former ANC parishioners came to the 9:00 A.M. service on August 24.

Told that it was okay, she sent out an email to a few parishioners. They passed them on and on August 25 more than 200 former ANC parishioners converged on a chapel that seats only about forty. The Norbertine staff brought out chairs from the library, from offices and anywhere they could. In the end, almost all attendees found a seat. It was a fishes and loaves kind of happening.

Clearly, the former ANC parishioners hadn’t lost their sense of community in the two months since their church buildings and Dominican priory were in a sense expropriated by the Archbishop of Santa Fe by his removal of the ANC’s Dominican staff. The Dominican Order had created the ANC at the University of New Mexico more than 60 years ago and has staffed it since. The staff that replaced the Dominicans is of a different stripe altogether. They are from what is commonly referred to as the traditionalist wing of the Church, meaning (among other things) they do not embrace Vatican II. They yearn for the bad old days.

On the weekend of July 5th-6th, ANC parishioners attended the first Masses under the new staff at ANC. But many did not return. The chapel had been greatly changed in the few days since the July 1 takeover and this was the first opportunity for parishioners to see them. The altar had been relocated to the chapel’s east end and now had the look and feel of a stage on which the celebrants were to perform rather than engage. The former half-circle seating around a mid-chapel altar was no more. The long and narrow alignment meant that the Mass would now be more heard than seen by those sitting in the back half of the chapel, the reason why the altar had been in its former location.

The chapel had been redecorated but the effect was not pleasing. The formerly bright and cheery chapel now seemed dark, dull and lifeless. One parishioner aptly characterized it as “creepy”. Parishioners’ artwork that had formerly brightened the chapel and brought joy and inspiration was gone, replaced by dreary statues and Stations of the Cross depictions that must have come from the Dollar Store. The altar now sported three fancy chair/thrones on which the presiders now occasionally sat, dour and unsmiling.

The new pastor had little to say at his first Mass about the takeover and made no effort to mollify unhappy parishioners. His homily was okay but simplistic and portended a future of disappointing preaching. The standard set by homilists from the Order of Preachers (as the Dominican Order is called) would now only be a memory. What was most striking about the service itself was all the genuflecting, bowing, nodding and ceremonious moving about on the altar—a kind of formalism that brought to mind my altar boy experiences of the ‘50s. I had thought that platens were a thing of past once dry, non-slippery communion hosts began to be placed not on recipients’ tongues but on their hands, in accordance with Vatican II. After all, one of the rationales for the change was to reduce the number of dropped hosts. Yet here they were again. Altar servers carefully held the platens under the priests’ hands to catch wayward communion hosts. Communion was distributed only by clergy—lay people are no longer worthy at ANC. Further, there will be no women altar servers with possible exceptions for pre-menstrual females. For now, only men measure up.

Unsurprisingly, things have not gone well at ANC after the takeover. Several lightly-paid but popular ANC staff members were terminated when the new staff took over on July 1. These terminations occurred because the new pastor had decreed that only clerics, not lay people, had the qualifications to oversee religious education for children and the preparation of Catholic converts. For similar reasons, a lay Bible study teacher for many years was told he could not continue his classes at ANC.

Most of the choir members, most of whom have sung at the ANC for many years, had intended to stay on under the new pastor. But it wasn’t long before the new pastor complained that they were “distracting” the faithful and almost all decided to move on to other parishes and other choirs.

At this point, with Mass attendance and Sunday collections down by more than half, some say by much more than half, all of the remaining ANC administrative staff and the music director have now been laid off. The pastor pleads for more donations, saying he doesn’t want to ask the Archbishop for financial assistance to the parish, yet it’s hard to think of anyone more appropriate to help out.

In light of how things are going, the new pastor, who had refused all requests to meet with parishioners before the takeover, has now instructed his 26-year old associate pastor to reach out to current and former parishioners and invite them to an open community meeting. These efforts seem unlikely to bear fruit.

Needless to say, there was no reason for any of this painful, slow-moving disaster to happen. Before the takeover, the ANC was by all measures a thriving parish with increasing membership, a much-loved clerical staff and parishioners who generously funded and volunteered time to student activities at ANC, including a Sunday night dinner. The dinners are now being discontinued for lack of funds.

Why did all this happen? Although he claimed he sought only to increase vocations among students, Archbishop Sheehan had not been happy with the ANC for a long time, apparently because the Dominican priests at ANC followed the charism of their religious order, took Vatican II reforms seriously and embraced the words of Pope Francis. That is why they declined to follow the Archbishop’s wishes that they devote more of their preaching and parish activities to such matters as abortion politics and gay marriage. The Dominicans were also in his doghouse because they allowed women to speak from the pulpit from time to time, always earning reprimands from the Archbishop, even if the speaker was a Dominican nun.

Whatever the Archbishop claims were his motives for banning of the ANC Dominicans, the operative fact is that he is a traditionalist who, well after Pope Francis’ inauguration, wrote in praise of Pope Benedict for stifling Vatican II reforms. He wanted his parishes to follow his traditionalist lead and the ANC didn’t go along.

So a Pope Benedict Archbishop took down a Pope Francis parish.


The deed and the damage have been done. The ANC diaspora has occurred. Hundreds of former ANC parishioners are now checking out other parishes in the Archdiocese and finding new spiritual homes. The Dominicans are gone and they won’t be coming back. This is not to say the ANC could not be resurrected by the appointment of a new pastor who truly believes that Vatican II is the law of the land.

Barring that unlikely event, what must we do? We must do two things: (1) be a positive influence on the selection of Archbishop Sheehan’s successor and (2) support efforts to reform the governance of the Catholic Church. Without such reform, other U.S. Archbishops will, like Archbishop Sheehan, continue to stand in the way of implementing Vatican II, hoping that Pope Francis’s tenure will be short, as it may well be considering his age.

According to Vatican II, we lay Catholics are entitled to assume this role. It said that the Church is the “People of God”, not the priests and the hierarchy. Yet when Church authorities began to roll back the reforms of Vatican II, we lay Catholics failed to assume our responsibilities as the People of God. We shrugged our shoulders in what-can-we-do resignation, allowing ourselves to remain an adjunct of the Church while the Church continued to define itself as the priests, the bishops and the pope.

To look back to several significant events since Vatican II is to see plenty of reason for us to join reform efforts. We see bishops covering up for pederast priests and then spending vast sums on legal fees to avoid compensating victims, many of whose lives were ruined. We see the Vatican rejecting the use of condoms for HIV prevention. We see continued sanctions on remarried divorcees while retaining the wink, nod and humiliation of the meaningless annulment process. We see the Vatican blocking the beatification process for Archbishop Oscar Romero, martyred in 1980, a block that was lifted only this year. We see the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposing the Affordable Care Act on several grounds including its failure to allow employers to restrict access to contraceptives. We see Cardinal Müller criticizing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for “promoting radical feminist themes”. In a most personal way, we have seen a willful Archbishop single-handedly ruin a parish and then refuse to meet with even a single parishioner to discuss his actions.

It’s time for the People of God to step up to the challenge of improving Church governance. As you will see, there are already many working in this vineyard who can show us the way.

Influencing the Selection of the Next Archbishop of Santa Fe.

If we have learned anything from the ANC fiasco, it is that we don’t want another autocrat to be our new Archbishop. We want someone who thinks that lay people can make meaningful contributions to Archdiocese decision-making and will listen to them. Archbishop Sheehan claimed that is the case now but no one is taking that seriously, nor should they.
This point of view and others we wish to be considered in the selection process need to be brought in a useful way to the Apostolic Nuncio. It is the Apostolic Nuncio who will forward recommendations to the Vatican for Archbishop Sheehan’s successor.

We can do so through an organization known as Voice of the Faithful. VOTF is a leading and responsible advocate for Church governance reform. It was created a little over a decade ago when Boston Archbishop Bernard Law was discovered to have protected and reassigned predatory priests, enabling them to continue their crimes. These disclosures eventually led the Archbishop to abruptly move to a palace in Rome so as to avoid criminal charges in the U.S. As Catholic author James Carroll puts it, this incident created an “explosion of Catholic awareness of Church failures”. Very quickly, VOTF grew from a few dozen to more than fourteen thousand people. Today VOTF has more than 100 affiliate organizations and more than 25,000 members. The slogan of VOTF is “Keep the Faith, Change the Church.”

In 2012, the Bishop Selection Working Group of VOTF launched and continues to host a web portal ( enabling Catholics to provide input into the selection of bishops, such as the needs of their diocese, the desired qualities of their next bishop, and the names of potential nominees. This input is then transmitted directly to the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington D.C. who is charged with making formal recommendations to the Vatican on candidates for bishop. In 2012, nearly 200 Chicago-area Catholics utilized this portal and another 200 filled out a related second survey. The lay participation was said to be the best-facilitated volunteer input to a Catholic bishop selection in modern times.

Surely we can and should do as well.

John Doyle who chairs the VOTF Bishop Selection Working Group, advises that though there were few if any acknowledgements of the many letters recently sent by ANC members in regard to Archbishop, that does not mean they were not read by the Apostolic Nuncio and his staff. In fact, Archbishop Viganò, the Apostolic Nuncio, has committed to assuring that all input reaching him from individual Catholics via the bishop selection web portal will be reviewed and that “serious observations may well be incorporated in the developed confidential process.”

Mr. Doyle recommends that as broad a cross-section of Catholics as possible should respond. He also suggests that letters should not focus solely on Archbishop Sheehan’s actions at ANC. That would contribute to an impression that only the disgruntled parishioners of a single parish have concerns. The ANC disaster is over. Our concerns are much broader.

For example, we are all hopeful the new Archbishop will actually consult and listen to the laity. Also, many of our former ANC parishioners are strong supporters of Vatican II and so we hope to have an Archbishop who intends to it as well. These are merely illustrations. Speak from your heart.

Improving Church Governance.

The ANC disgrace occurred because there are no checks on the authority of the Archbishop of Santa Fe, no matter how wrong-headed or venal the exercise of that authority may be. In any other organization, including those far smaller than the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, board members or advisory groups have meaningful roles in decision-making. The chief executive officers report to them. Not so in the world of Catholic governance. An Archbishop shares power only if he chooses to do so. It remains as described in that old expression, “pray, pay and obey.”

This same situation exists in all Catholic Archdioceses, though clearly not all Archbishops are autocrats in the Archbishop Sheehan mold. A strong proponent of improved Church governance is Emeritus Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco. He has written two books on the subject that received praise from Pope Francis. Archbishop Quinn proposes a more collegial church as is envisioned in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, “The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”. Archbishop Quinn and his book are described in a National Catholic Reporter article in July:

You might also consider getting a copy of James Carroll’s Toward A New Catholic Church published in 2002. You will find it just as, if not more, pertinent today as it was then.

Even if all that you can offer is prayer, you should be engaged in the efforts to improve church governance. Those who are able should also consider supporting VOTF and/or other organizations that advocate for improved Church governance. And we should also consider creating a local organization that could affiliate with one or more of these national organizations for assistance in making our voices heard.

I cannot provide sufficient information here on which you can make an informed judgment on whether to support these organizations. You will have to go their websites and study their descriptions of their work. I have studied the websites of the organizations listed below and I am enthused that such robust efforts in the governance arena exist:

Voice Of The Faithful (, described above, also supports victims of clergy abuse and has other worthy programs such as the bishop selection effort.

Call To Action ( was created in the 1970s in collaboration with the U.S. Bishops but the bishops were not enthused about some of the reforms proposed and backed away. Be sure to read the 1990 Call For Reform which can be found in the History section of the website.

FutureChurch ( advocates for collaborative governance, married and celibate priests, male and female Church leadership and broad access to the Eucharist

The American Catholic Council ( is a quite recently-formed organization that has developed a Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities that all will find very interesting. The ACC held a national meeting in Detroit a couple of years ago that my wife and I attended and we found it both instructive and inspiring. Interestingly, the Archbishop of Detroit threatened any priest who attended with sanctions, yet quite a few were there.

There are likely other worthy organizations similar to these that you may discover and want to support.

Finally, in the aftermath of the Archbishop and ANC, it is important for all of us to do a better job of staying informed about what’s going on in the Church today. The National Catholic Reporter does an excellent job of covering developments in the Church and you’ll remember it told the world about Archbishop Sheehan’s actions at the ANC. The Reporter is a well-written and independent source of news and information on all facets of the Church and it has gained some predictable enemies in the process. The Reporter also includes stories of Catholics doing great things around the world that help us maintain pride in our church, despite the shortcomings of some of our Archbishops. The National Catholic Reporter can be read online at It has no paywall though voluntary contributions are requested. Or you can subscribe and get the newsprint version.

As VOTF says: Keep the Faith, Change the Church.