Let's see: The Vatican says women aren't fit to be priests and gays will burn in hell. But Kurt Waldheim--who was barred from entering the U.S. because of his Nazi past--deserves a papal knighthood delivered personally by John Paul II. It looks like Call to Action has a tough row to hoe; the Chicago-based group wants to increase the role of Catholic laity in church decision-making, claiming it represents the three out of four American Catholics who favor a priesthood open to women and married men. Birth control, racism, and the status of women, gays, and lesbians will be among the more than 50 topics examined at its annual convention, We Are the Church: What If We Meant What We Said? The group meets through Sunday at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, 9300 W. Bryn Mawr (just south of River Road and the Kennedy) in Rosemont. Registration begins at 8 this morning. It's $126.50 for the whole weekend, but individual days cost $33 to $71.50. Call 604-0400 for details.
"The trial occurred in 399 BC," wrote journalist-cum-gadfly I.F. Stone in his misguided but enthusiastic The Trial of Socrates. "How does a reporter cover a trial that was held almost twenty-four hundred years ago?" Our source for the tragic affair (which ended with Socrates, a gadfly himself, drinking the fatal hemlock) remains almost exclusively a group of four conversations reported by Plato. The University of Chicago's Adam Rose talks about the central and most moving account, Plato's Apology, at 12:15 today in the second-floor theater of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. It's free; call 702-1722.
Bill Clinton picked Lani Guinier to head the Justice Department's civil rights division, but her nomination was withdrawn after being borked by Republicans, who portrayed the University of Pennsylvania Law School prof as a "quota queen." Guinier promises a more enlightened "Dialogue on Issues of Race in America" when she delivers the keynote speech for a symposium called Voting Rights and Elections. The free symposium starts this afternoon with Guinier's talk at 4 PM and continues tomorrow from 9:30 to 5 at the University of Chicago Law School, 1111 E. 60th. Call 702-9832 for details.
Discovering and Preserving the Past Through Oral Histories is a two-hour introduction to the methods used to capture personal narratives for family and community chronicles. The workshop will be taught by scholars and writers Victoria Haas and Emma Kowalenko from the Chicago Oral History Roundtable. It starts at 10 this morning at the Chicago Historical Society, Clark and North. Admission is $10. Call 642-4600 for more.
The Tribune's Eric Zorn will be honored at the ACLU's Roger Baldwin Foundation dinner tonight for his series of columns on death row inmate Rolando Cruz. Zorn's expose of the prosecution's shoddy case helped persuade the Illinois Supreme Court to call for a new trial. The ACLU's Illinois chapter is also saluting other local champions of civil rights at tonight's event. There's a reception at 6, followed by eats and speeches, at the Stouffer Riviere Hotel, 1 W. Wacker. Tickets cost $150; call 201-9740.
The Terra Museum of American Art is celebrating the reopening of its Michigan Avenue home with a free family day. The museum's open from noon to 5, and tours are offered at noon and 2 PM. A special "interactive tour" includes a look at the museum's current exhibit, "Revisiting Ammi Phillips: Fifty Years of American Portraiture," and ends with an art activity for would-be portraitists. There's a $1 materials fee for the tour and workshop, and reservations are suggested. The Terra Museum is at 666 N. Michigan; call 664-3939.
The people who brought you Party, Girl Party, and Third Party are presenting a four-part play reading series "with a twist." The torrid thespians take a campy approach to classic works by injecting a little gender bending. Their randy rendition of Noel Coward's haunting comedy Blithe Spirit shows this afternoon at 2 and tomorrow evening at 7:30 in the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont. The series continues in coming weeks with Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart, Coward's Private Lives, and Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's Auntie Mame. Tix are $5 and available only at the door. Call 327-5252 for more.
We're not sure what it means that two public forums on political correctness are competing for attention tonight. One's in the city and one's suburban, so you can take your pick. First up is Politically Correct? a panel discussion at 7 PM at Artemisia Gallery, 700 N. Carpenter. Panelists include Jeff Abell of the Chicago Artists' Coalition; Mary Ellen Croteau, an artist and member of the feminist art collective known as SisterSerpents; Diane Grams, director of the Peace Museum; Juana Guzman, development coordinator for the Chicago Cultural Center; and writer and critic Rohan B Preston. It's free; call 226-7323 for more information. Meanwhile, a discussion called Political Correctness and Freedom of Thought is offered at 7:30 at the Skokie Public Library, 5215 Oakton in Skokie. The debaters are Northwestern language professor Gary Saul Morson, who claims to be in favor of a "healthy skepticism of present orthodoxies" (which presumably include the bane of political correctness stalking the land), and University of Chicago prof Gerald Graff, the author of Beyond the Culture Wars, who argues that the current brouhaha about p.c. is a sign of intellectual vitality in the American academy. The library says the pair are best of pals who vehemently disagree on the issue, so sparks may fly. Admission is free; call 708-673-7774 for details.
Since Chilean writer Isabel Allende crashed the boys club of magical realism with her first novel The House of the Spirits, she's received worldwide acclaim for her stories, poetry, and journalism. Allende will read from her work and then discuss her career with U. of C. Spanish professor Rene de Costa at 6 tonight in the Art Institute's Rubloff Auditorium (enter on Columbus between Monroe and Jackson). It's $35 for a reserved seat, $10 for general admission. Proceeds benefit the Poetry Center of Chicago; call 987-4378 for more. Tomorrow night at 7 Allende will read from her latest novel, The Infinite Plan, and she'll talk about other contemporary Latin American writers as part of the Sor Juana Festival at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, 1852 W. 19th. Tickets cost $10; call 738-1503.
David Macaulay's books are supposed to be for children, but adults fall for them in equal numbers. In City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction, Macaulay uses clear prose and elegant drawings to show how the ancient Romans' obsession with planning created surprisingly livable cities; in Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction, he took similar pains to describe the building of a mythical 13th-century Gothic cathedral; and in The Way Things Work, he put his ingenuity to work in analyzing everything from telescopes to light bulbs. Now he's gone multimedia with a CD-ROM version of The Way Things Work, which he'll be demonstrating at 7 this evening at Barbara's Bookstore, 1100 Lake St. in Oak Park. It's free. Call 708-848-9140 for more.
"Berlin, Mexico City, and Chicago have been paramount examples of the modern, working metropolis, able to integrate large groups of diverse people and to give them a strong urban identity," write the organizers of Urban Borderlines, an international conference about the future of city living. If you're waiting for a "but" at the end of that quote, you're not far off the mark; instead of celebrating past accomplishments, the four-day conference carries the subtitle Images of Crisis in Berlin, Mexico City, and Chicago. Architects, politicians, and academics from all three cities come together to discuss the challenges that lie ahead, starting at 5:30 tonight in the downtown center of the University of Chicago, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza. The meeting continues at the same location tomorrow morning from 9:30 to 12:20. The scene shifts next Saturday and Sunday to the U. of C.'s Chicago Humanities Institute, 1100 E. 57th. It's all free, but reservations are requested. Call 702-8274 for details.
The latest edition of the Chicago Public Library's oral history series, Speakin' the Blues, features local musician Willie Kent, who'll be bringing his band, the Gents, and singer Bonnie Lee to the auditorium of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, at 12:15 PM. Besides playing, Kent will talk with Magic Blues editor Lois Ulrey. It's free; call 747-4850.
Margarethe Cammermeyer was an Army nurse who'd earned a bronze star in Vietnam. Once named nurse of the year by the Veterans Administration, Cammermeyer later served as the chief nurse of the Washington State National Guard. But in 1992, after more than a quarter-century of active duty, she was discharged for admitting she was a lesbian. She'll talk about her book, Serving in Silence, at 7 tonight at People Like Us bookstore, 3321 N. Clark. It's free. Call 248-6363 for more.