Head of Oregon Catholics Retires; New Archbishop is Country’s Youngest

Written by: Ken Fallon

The Most Rev. John G. Vlazny, who served as archbishop of the Portland, Ore. Catholic diocese for 15 turbulent years, finally got the answer he’s been waiting to hear on Wednesday.

Photo of Alexander K. Sample

Alexander K. Sample was named the new Archbishop of the Portland, Ore. archdiocese on Wednesday

A year after Vlazny submitted his retirement letter, Pope Benedict XVI approved the retirement request and installed the Most Rev. Alexander K. Sample as his replacement.

The 52-year-old Sample, a bishop from Michigan’s upper peninsula, became the youngest archbishop in the United States. He tweeted Tuesday morning that “As of 6:00 a.m. EST I have gone from being the Bishop of Marquette to the Archbishop-Designate of Portland in OR. Please pray for me!”

Vlazny became archbishop in October 1997, jumping from Minnesota into the heart of a priest sex-abuse scandal only beginning to gain exposure. By 2007, the Portland archdiocese had completed a bankruptcy reorganization plan, agreeing to pay almost 180 abuse victims some $70 million and to release thousands of documents that spelled out the extent of the abuse.

“It is my sincere prayer that our ability to compensate the many victims will assist them in their efforts to achieve personal healing and peace of heart,” Vlazny said at a press conference when the bankruptcy was approved. “I pray for them daily and I know that the Catholic people of Oregon join me in asking God to bless them.” 

Vlazny, now 75, was never implicated in the scandal, but the subsequent release of internal documents made it clear that the archdiocese covered up the scandal in the years since the abuses happened in the mid-20th century.

Sample comes to Oregon with a reputation for social media savvy – in addition to Twitter, he has a Facebook page, and uses podcasts and YouTube – and high expectations from church leadership. Noted Catholic blogger Rocco Palmo observed the impressive turnout for his Michigan ordination in 2006 and called him someone who is “going places” within the church.

He’ll need every bit of that savvy as he leads western Oregon’s 415,000 Catholics. The Northwest is considered one of the nation’s most “unchurched” regions, with one in four residents claiming no religious identification; about half that percentage claim membership in Oregon Catholic churches.

But at a press conference Wednesday in Portland, Sample was undeterred. 

“To me, some might look at the small percentage and say, ‘Boy, that’s a tough area to go into to be the Catholic archbishop.’ I kind of see it as the opposite. I see this as rich, fertile ground for the planting of the seeds of the New Evangelization,” he said, referring to a Catholic initiative to reach out to those who have experienced a “crisis of faith” and to non-believers. “What I would hope to do is help people who are of a very spiritual nature but maybe who don’t profess any particular religious belief, connect that longing in their heart…with who I believe is the answer to that longing, and that is the Lord Jesus.” 

Like his predecessor, Sample adheres to Catholic doctrine on controversial social issues. His Facebook page shows many photos from the March for Life, a pro-life gathering that was held Jan. 25 in Washington, D.C. to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade court decision that legalized abortion. 

In Wednesday’s press conference, he said he stands by the church’s position regarding same-sex marriage, “but that should never take away from the dignity of the human person.” 

That same day, he was quoted on LifeSiteNews.com as saying he would do whatever he could to oppose the Obama administration’s health-care mandates regarding birth control. “I would be willing to go to jail in defense of religious liberty,” he said. 

In 2009, he spoke out against a decision by the University of Notre Dame to invite President Obama to give the commencement speech, citing the president’s support for embryonic stem-cell research and abortion.

Portlandia ramps up the weirdness in Season 2

Written by: Jacob Kleinman

Portlandia on IFC
Portlandia stars Fred Armisen and Carry Brownstein

Last night IFC’s breakaway hit TV series Portlandia premiered its second season and it came as no surprise that the episode delivered the show’s patented bizarre brand of comedy while dishing out healthy servings of social satire.

Portlandia stars Fred Armisen (of Saturday Night Live) and Carrie Brownstein (guitarist of the Portland based feminist-rock band Sleater-Kinney, currently on hiatus). The two play the majority of the show’s main characters throughout each episode, which is composed of a series of unconnected skits surrounding the narrative of Fred and Carrie, who moved to Portland from California in the pilot.

First let’s discuss the weird skits, which are usually more fun. The episode opens on an entrepreneurial couple with the catchphrase “We can pickle that,” who pickle anything they can get their hands on from cucumbers to the broken-off heel of a shoe to a dead bird. Later an uptight couple attempts to go rafting but is shocked to find that the river is full of beer drinkers in inner tubes. In a skit poking fun at helicopter parents, a teenager collecting signatures for an environmental cause is dismissed by a homeowner. Seconds later the boys parents ring the doorbell and demand to know what their son has done wrong, and when the door is slammed in their face the boy’s grandparents show up to set things right.

Finally we arrive at Women and Women First Bookstore, an independent bookstore run by two insane feminists. In past episodes, the shop’s owners Candace (Armisen in drag) and Tony (Brownstein) have locked Steve Buscemi inside the store while going to the bank for change and heard Heather Graham discuss the details of her sex life at a journaling class. This time an elderly air conditioner repairman visits the owners and after being lectured for calling them “sweetie” and “ma’am” is given a tip jar containing 28 dollars instead of the $300 he’s earned for the repair. But even that is a loss for the owners who ask themselves “Now what are we going to do for money?’ before answering, “I guess we’ll have to sell some books.”

Meanwhile Fred and Carrie venture outside of the title city for the first time after Carrie falls in love with a bartender/mixologist played by Andy Samberg. The two first meet at a trendy bar called Mint where Samberg offers to create an original cocktail when Carrie can’t decide what to order. The drink, which contains ginger, bourbon, home-made bitters, whole eggs and rotten bananas, is delicious, and Fred thinks this mixologist may have a crush on his friend. “He mixed you a drink. Now you mix him a tape,” he suggests.

But when they return to Mint the next day, mix tape in hand, they learn that their favorite bartender has taken a new job in South California. After a quick drive Fred and Carrie arrive in California, where they are burnt by the intensity of the sun and retreat into a store to purchase burqas before deciding to walk to the bar on foot, figuring it can’t be too far.

After a pit stop at a restaurant where the waiter offers to cook their entire meal into an omelet or douse it in Jack Daniels our heroes finally make it to the bar, where Sandberg has completely transformed from mixoligist into brainless bartender complete with sunglasses and a dab of sunscreen on his nose as he pours endless shots for blonde girls. After being initially rejected, Carrie succeeds in winning Samberg’s attention with a song, accompanied by Fred on the flute. The two declare their love for each other and agree to drive back to Portland immediately.

Overall, season 2 of Portlandia’s first episode was a complete success. Although the weirdness factor has not diminished all of the jokes connected and had me laughing, unlike in the first season where I was sometimes left simply scratching my head. It feels good to be back with Tony and Candace in their bookstore and to be back in the twisted alternate dimension version of Portland that Portlandia.