By Senior producer
msnbc.com
updated 4/6/2005 10:08:19 AM ET 2005-04-06T14:08:19

5 p.m. ET

My parish priest would have had a lock on the role of Father Flanagan in any revival of “Boys Town” if he only had an Irish brogue. He was that kind of priest: loving, friendly, and down-to-earth.

He used to take big groups of kids downtown to see touring productions of Broadway shows.  It really opened our eyes to life beyond Cleveland.  He was at my First Communion party and Confirmation party, and endured my rebellious phase after graduation when I insisted on calling him by his first name and discussing the issues I had with the Church.

At an altar boy training session, my classmate Jimmy turned green and then threw up on the marble floor.  Father Tom just said, “Good Lord,” and grabbed a mop while he continued to talk about the importance of holding the incensor “just so.”  Good times.

I would say they don’t make them like that anymore, but I doubt that is true.  They just don’t make as many of them.  For every 100 priests who die, somewhere around 30 replace them.  About 2,000 parishes have no priest of their own, and rely on visiting priests for masses.

I think we all know the myriad of reasons why the numbers of seminarians are diminishing.  It’s partly the allure of better paying jobs, partly the changing social norms about sex and sexuality.  Is there a way to draw in good candidates without compromising key values of the priesthood?  Maybe.  We will discuss this today.

And in other top stories, a look at the emerging Iraqi government.  Depending on who you listen to, it’s either right on track or an utter disaster.  As always, the truth might lie somewhere in between.

Sad news from the ABC family today, as anchor Peter Jennings announced he has lung cancer.  He will begin chemotherapy treatments, and we all wish him well.  We will discuss the causes and treatments for lung cancer with an accomplished pulmonary care expert.

Send us your thoughts, especially questions about the proceedings at the Vatican. We are happy to have our experts answer them.

12 p.m. ET
So, in between all the breaking news stories I squeezed in a visit to my dentist.  Apparently my gums are receding.  My hairline is receding, as well.  I've entered a recession. 

The hair part doesn't bother me so much, but I'm desperate to hold onto the teeth.  The way I see it I've got a 50/50 shot.  My dad's mother went to the grave at age 94 with a full set of her natural teeth.  On my mom's side of the family, corn on the cob is only for thrill seekers.  I don't think they have a complete set of choppers between them.

As we continue to watch the beautiful and moving images from the Vatican and keep you updated on the process of electing a new pontiff, we also want to give you a look at other important stories making news this week.

Today, a look at the Robb-Silberman intelligence report on weapons of mass destruction.  The report hurls some heavy criticism at the CIA, and very little at the White House.  Critics say the report neglects the political maneuvering that may have led to the reporting of erroneous intelligence, boosting the case for war.  We'll take a look at the findings.

And then we'll get you reconnected on a story from last week.  The Minutemen, a group of private citizens determined to patrol the Arizona border, have nabbed a handful of illegals making a run for the border and even saved a life in the process.  As the Arizona desert is treacherous and dry, many people trying to cross it risk dehydration and death. It seems like they are making good on the promise to bust illegalsand provide humanitarian assistance.  This private citizen intervention comes with a sandstorm of controversy, though. More on that in the noon show.

Finally, a look at what we have in store for the five o'clock edition.  We're bringing you a look at the issues confronting the Catholic Church, today with a story about new seminarians.  What can the Church can do to keep enrollment in Holy Orders at the required levels? 

And later, Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department seem to be softening the language of the Patriot Act.  Were they wrong all along, or are they just caving to pressure from civil rights groups?

Send us your e-mails. Connected@MSNBC.com.


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