Papa Z's Views and Comments

Location: Wisconsin, United States

I am a convert to the Catholic Church after serving in ordained ministry for more than nine years in another denomination. I hold a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in historical theology, and another in systematic theology, and am currently working (very slowly) on my doctorate. I work in Christian Education and Formation and teach at the University level. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and eight great kids! When I'm not studying, reading, or blogging, I enjoy eating and drinking! Like Bilbo Baggins, I have been specializing in food for many years, and my table has a high reputation!

Friday, October 31, 2008


For the most part, I have refrained from discussing partisan politics in this blog. I personally am an Independent -- a decision I made some 10 years ago when I was ordained a priest in the CEC. I wanted to feel like I had the freedom to comment upon individuals or particular issues without people feeling that I had partisan motivations for doing so. For the most part, I have never regretted that decision.

I do want to offer a few comments however about the upcoming Presidential election. And I want to do so by referring my six readers to the late author Allen Drury (1918-1998). Drury was, arguably, the father of the modern political novel and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1959 for his book "Advise and Consent". Drury was also a professional journalist who worked for UPI, the New York Times and the Washington Star.

In "Advise and Consent", and in the following three novels, Drury introduced his readers to a Washington in the midst of the Cold War; an era in which the "well meaning" liberal intelligentsia of the day preached a doctrine of total appeasement to the Soviets and engaged in a great deal of "blame America first". The novels followed the careers of two politicians: one, a young energetic, inexperienced, naive governor who can't (or won't) control the violent thugs who (in the name of peace) are promoting his candidacy for the Presidency. The second, an older somewhat
curmudgeonly former Senator and Secretary of State who is not so polished in his speaking -- but who sees the Soviet threat for exactly what it is. The fourth novel, "Preserve and Protect", ends with one of these two candidates being assassinated -- but does not tell us which one. Drury then goes on to write two sequels: "Come Ninevah, come Tyre: The Presidency of Edwin Jason" and "The Promise of Joy: The Presidency of Orrin Knox".

Although now certainly somewhat dated, the heart behind Drury's writing is every bit as applicable today as when first written. Indeed his next to last novel, "A Thing of State", published in 1995, warned of the dangers of Islamic terrorism -- and the similar naivete of the press and blind politicians.

In this election, we have a choice between a candidate who speaks in sound bites; who has a long list of shady characters (at best) as friends and advisors; and who has no real experience in dealing with the wider world -- and a candidate who is percieved as grumpy and curmudgeonly, who is certainly not as polished, and who doesn't draw the adoring masses -- but who understands the national and international security issues facing our nation at this point in time.

For me, the choice is clear.

Think about it.

As a public service, here is my own guide to Allen Drury's fiction:

The Advise and Consent Series:

  • Advise and Consent (1959) -- Winner of the Pulitzer Prize -- a novel about the United States Senate
  • A Shade of Difference (1962) -- a novel about the United Nations -- and race relations -- years before the civil rights movement -- and a sequel to Advise and Consent
  • Capable of Honor (1966) -- a novel about the press -- and a sequel to A Shade of Difference
  • Preserve and Protect (1968) -- a novel about violence used for political purposes -- and a sequel to Capable of Honor
  • Come Nineveh, Come Tyre (1973) -- the first of two possible sequels to Preserve and Protect
  • The Promise of Joy (1975) -- the second of two possible sequels to Preserve and Protect
The Mark Coffin USS Series:

  • Mark Coffin, U. S. S. (1979) -- a novel about a newly elected senator and the struggles of his early days in office.
  • The Hill of Summer (1981) -- a novel about the rise of two leaders -- a vice-president, assuming presidential duties upon the death of his predecessor; and a Soviet premier: young, energetic, and ruthless. This book continues the characters in Mark Coffin.
  • The Roads of Earth (1984) -- a sequel to The Hill of Summer -- predicting, with a certain prophetic accuracy, the decline of communism in eastern Europe.
Other Political Novels:

  • The Throne of Saturn (1970) -- a novel about the politics of the space race; arguably one of Drury's best
  • Anna Hastings (1977) -- a novel about a most colorful newspaper magnate
  • Decision (1983) -- a novel about the Supreme Court
  • Pentagon (1986) -- a novel about the Pentagon, and the politicization of the military
  • A Thing of State (1995) -- a novel about the dangers of Islamic extremist terrorism
University Novels:

  • Toward What Bright Glory? (1990) -- a novel set at Stanford University following the members of one particular fraternity
  • Into What Far Harbour? (1993) -- a sequel to Toward What Bright Glory?, following the extended careers of the main characters
  • Public Men (1998) -- another sequel examining the main characters some 50+ years following the events in the first book

Novels of Ancient Egypt:

  • A God Against the Gods (1976) -- a novel dealing with the events of the late 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt
  • Return to Thebes (1977) -- a sequel to A God Against the Gods

Other Novels:

  • That Summer (1965) -- a rather forgettable novel about angst in California
  • The Destiny Makers (1988) -- I HAVE NO EARTHLY IDEA!!!
Papa Z

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Murphy J. Soirez -- 1928-2008

On Sunday, October 26th at approximately 7:04 PM, my father-in-law, Murphy Soirez, went home to God. He had suffered a massive stroke five days earlier and never regained consciousness. At his bedside was his wife of 57 years and three of his four children and their spouses (including my wife and myself). His fourth child had left the hospital only a few hours previously. The pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas parish, where he had worshiped for 55 years had visited the day before to administer the Last Rites of the Church.

If one defines success as to how well one plays the hand of cards one has been dealt, Murphy was among the most successful of men. Born into poverty in the bayous of Louisiana, Murphy left school after the 7th grade in order to go to work and help support his family. He was always willing to do whatever was necessary for his family. As a young man, he joined the Army and was trained as a firefighter. Although a Korean War era veteran, he never saw combat. Upon leaving the Army, he married Doris, my mother-in-law and joined the electrical contracting firm owned by her family. He remained at Crown Electric until his retirement.

Murphy worked tirelessly all his life. Although not a wealthy man, he was determined to see his children succeed in life. All four of his children spent at least part of their education in Catholic schools (11 years in the case of my wife). He was very proud of the achievements of his children. His eldest son joined him at Crown Electric -- and is now president of the firm. He rejoiced in his 11 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. Murphy was a good neighbor. One cannot count the number of times he mowed the lawns or shoveled the walks of the elderly in the neighborhood. He loved to garden and to landscape -- indeed, he was still gardening until the day before his stroke. He loved the ballgame. One of my wife's fondest memories was the many times her father took her to see his beloved Baltimore Orioles play at old Memorial Stadium.

After returning from the hospital on the evening of his death, his other son-in-law and I raised our glasses in his honor. "To the best father-in-law a man could have" said Matt -- to which I responded "To a good life well lived".

Rest in peace, Murphy Soirez. You will be greatly missed.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction;but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished,their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them,and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples,and the Lord will reign over them for ever. Those who trust in him will understand truth,and the faithful will abide with him in love,because grace and mercy are upon his elect,and he watches over his holy ones. -- The Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9

Papa Z

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Monday, October 20, 2008


"Extended Warranties"

In the opinion of the tremendously unbiased writer, the concept of the "Extended Warranty" has got to be one of the biggest scams on the market today. Two recent examples from the life of the Papa Z family should suffice.

Example One: The New DVD/VCR. For Christmas, the Zampino clan purchased, as a family gift, a new combination DVD/VCR machine to replace two very well worn out components. We made this purchase from a supposedly reputable well-known electronics retailer, and purchased a machine from a supposedly reputable manufacturer. We didn't purchase the "Cadillac" model -- but we didn't purchase the "Yugo" either, by any stretch of the imagination. We declined the "extended warranty" which would have added quite significantly to the purchase price. Well it's October now. The little motor which opens and closes the DVD drawer is shot. It has apparently shorted out. We called the retailer, and were, of course, informed that since we had not purchased the "extended warranty" we were out of luck. We called the manufacturer and were informed that they would gladly cover the cost of the part -- but not the cost of the labor -- AND we would have to pay to have the item shipped out. Estimated cost? Essentially half -- 50% of the cost of the device in the first place. My conclusion? Built-in obselescence. The "extended warranty" was an ultra-expensive insurance product banking on the hopes that the device would last two years. If it didn't -- hey, the device was essentially "throw-away" in the first place. If it didn't last (which obviously, it didn't) then it was my problem. Either way, I'm stuck with either a much more expensive purchase -- or an overpriced repair bill.

Example Two: In February, the Zampino family was forced, out of dire and unexpected necessity, to purchase a car -- a vehicle used, but new to us. It was a 2003 Buick with only 63,000 on it. The purchase was made at a local dealer -- a dealer which owns 5 dealerships in Southeast Wisconsin and Northern Illinose. I received a very fair deal on the trade-in and had no problem with sales department. It even came with a limited warranty! Of course, an "extended warranty" was available (which would have added well over $1,000+ to the cost of the car) which came with its own set of limitations and exclusions. By early April, it had become obvious that the air conditioning needed to be recharged. I was annoyed -- but not particularly angry -- such things happen. I went back to the dealer, paid the hundred bucks for the recharge -- and for the injection of a dye into the system to make sure that there was no leak. I was guaranteed that if I needed a recharge again, it would be taken care of -- at no cost to myself. Within two months, another recharge became necessary. I returned to the dealer -- who informed me that there WAS no dye left in the system; that the condensor had died -- and that the repair would cost upwards of $1,000. I pointed out that under Wisconsin statute, the dealer was supposed to exercise "reasonable care" when inspecting a used vehicle -- and that it was obvious that "reasonable care" was not exercised. Indeed, it was clear that the service department of the dealership had merely signed off on an untested system. I was then informed that had I purchased the "extended warranty" the repair would have been covered. The service department offered to cover half the cost of the repair -- but also informed me that "of course, the repair could cost considerably more" than the estimate! (Like I couldn't see THAT scam coming!) Like the DVD manufacturer, the service department of this dealership didn't care if "reasonable care" was exercised or not. They figured I'd either pay the hefty additional premium -- or find myself screwed a few months down the road. (I might add that the car has developed additional issues in which minimal "reasonable care" by the dealership was not exercised as well -- issues which should not have occurred after only a few months.)

End of rant! (But I am looking for a different vehicle -- from a different dealership!)

Papa Z

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So far, in this blog, I have refrained from commenting on the current events within the Episcopal church. I left that body in 1993 and although I retain quite a few friends, both clergy and laity, within that body (and indeed graduated from Nashotah House in 1998) I have not felt it particularly necessary to add my 2 cents worth.

For the most part, this is still the way I feel. I pray for my friends still in that body and I hope that they find the peace, the hope, and the answers they need.

I do, however, want to bring to the attention of my 6 readers the recent blog posting of Jeremy Bonner writing on the recent decision of most of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to realign with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh is a good and godly man (and preached the sermon on the occasion of my graduation from Nashotah House).

Without further comment, I post the link to this post:

Papa Z

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