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December 2004 Archives

December 1, 2004

Senator Norm Takes on Kofi

In today's WSJ. Is the good senator trying create a national platform for himself???

Ukraine Through the Eyes of John Paul II

This article from www.chiesa breaks down the cultural/religious divide in the Ukraine: A Greek Catholic Church supporting the pro-Western reformer, and an Orthodox Church that supports Putin's man. While JP II is clearly sympathetic to the reformist cause, he deeply desires ecumenical relations with the Moscow Patriarchate. Thus, he is in a pickle, with nothing to contribute but his prayers.

Another Attack on Federalism

The National Review Online has an excellent article this morning summarizing what is at stake in the Ashcroft v. Raich case that is before the Supreme Court this week.

It is a unique circumstance of the American experiment that many are forced to endorse out of self-interest certain political positions to which they are opposed. Unlike European democracy, which was excruciatingly and incompletely cleaved from autocratic political traditions, our Constitution was the result of an unblinking and (mostly) unencumbered assessment of political power and structures. The greatest American contribution to the advance of Western Civilization is surely the structure of our political institutions and the respect we have for it. Federalism is the cornerstone of this structure, and even those who abhor recreational drug use must shuffle over and line up behind the petitioner in this case in the name of preserving the system that makes the ultimate political triumph of a culture of life possible.

Another excellent feature of our system is the independence of our judiciary, and whether the Rehnquist Court’s rediscovery of federalism has been clear (United States v. Morrison, U.S. v. Lopez) or baffling (Florida v. College Savings Bank), we must applaud the Court’s defense of the Constitution. Steadfast in the face of such popular sentiments as keeping guns out of schools and protecting women from violence, the Court has taken the higher road in many cases. Despite the ridicule Ms. Raich probably deserves, and the possible jubilation of recreational drug users, we can expect the Court, at least in this situation, to serve the greater good.

Norm Coleman on Arlen Specter

Yes, I know, the Specter controversy is dead. But I thought our readers might be interested to see the letter I received from Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) on the issue.

Continue reading "Norm Coleman on Arlen Specter" »

Where Does Orthodoxy Live?

The last Tuesday of the month is the monthly meeting of the Twin Cities Chesterton Society at the University Club in St. Paul. Last night we discussed what Twin Cities Chestertonian Steve Miller (no, not that Steve Miller) calls the "trunk" of Chesterton's writings, from which all of his other books and essays find their roots.

The crowd was large, including a number of Evangelical Protestants, some of whom were surprised that even Orthodoxy is viewed by Catholics as a specifically Catholic book, and not just a book of "mere Christianity." Of course, what's remarkable about the book is that it can be read as "mere Christianity," as I did when I read it the first time. But the more one reads it, the more one realizes that Chesterton is already pointing to the Catholic Church, as when he declares in the chapter titled "Authority and the Adventurer":

"Those countries in Europe which are still influenced by priests, are exactly the countries where there is still singing and dancing and coloured dresses and art in the open air. Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground. Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism." (145 in the Doubleday Image Edition)

Notice that "Christianity" is pictured here as synonymous with Catholic Europe and not Anglican England. An older nun tried to argue against the evidence that Chesterton's reference to the Catholic Church was to the Church of England. (She belongs, not surprisingly, to an order of nuns that is fast disappearing.) Chesterton may not say outright that the Authority that regulates the Apostles' Creed is the Roman Catholic Church (and it would be 14 years before he was received into the Church), but his hints are very clear. Christianity is a set of ideas, but it is more than that. It is a body with an authority given by Christ himself.

It's tough for liberal Catholics and Evangelical Protestants to hear, but Orthodoxy has a home, and it's postmaster general is John Paul II.

December 2, 2004

Liberals and Language

Language is a fundamental element of culture. When it collapses, meaningful communications are no longer possible. What’s left has been starkly chronicled by Orwell and others.

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” –Orwell

And so it is very revealing to recall certain liberals comparing conservatives to Nazis during the election season. Now that the Dutch are legally murdering “undesirable” babies in hospitals, we find liberals at a loss for words. If American political conservatives are Nazis, what word do you use for the Dutch who have now assumed Nazi values?

Similarly, we have the insipid puerility of Al Fraken casually spitting the slur of “racist” at David Horowitz. If Fraken’s meager intellect were not totally debased, even he would know that “racist” is one of the gravest accusations a civilized man can face. In days of yore, Fraken would publicly apologize or face his adversary on the field of honor. Instead, Horowitz has other plans.

Diversity is conformity…tolerance is dominion…choice is requirement…

Having a Tolerant, Inclusive Holiday in Denver

Planning to make the phrase “Merry Christmas” illegal on state property, the great city of Denver is definitely protected from the immoral, damnable scourge of state established religion. Non-Christians are now safer from being victimized by reality as they go about their utterly ludicrous irony. In a city forged from rough land in part by French Catholic bishops (who built its first high school and hospital), under the protection of a rule of law founded on Christian values, they celebrate a state-recognized holiday named for the Christian savior, but they will not tolerate the inclusion of that savior’s followers.

December 3, 2004

Haunted by Guantanamo Detentions

This week the US Federal Court in D.C heard a habeas corpus petition from several detainees held as “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay. These petitions are consolidated in Boumediene v. Bush. In the aftermath of Rasul v. Bush and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, courts are filling with such petitions. There are sixty cases pending at this court alone, and several more across the nation.

Boumediene was a Red Crescent worker taken into custody during the routing of Taliban forces and held for three months at a base in Bosnia. A Bosnia court ordered him released for lack of any good reason to hold him. However, upon his release he was immediately picked up again and handed over to the US military who removed him to Guantanamo Bay. After almost three years, he and several other detainees have gained access to an attorney, and the government is left making absurd remarks when forced to account for their actions.

The exact legal position of these detainees is under dispute, and certainly the War on Terror must be prosecuted vigorously, but the Bush administration needs to reassess its detentions of these individuals. Charge them, or release them immediately. Their status is a festering lesion on our body politic. Habeas corpus was such a vital element of the rule of law that the Founders saw fit to write it directly into the original Constitution. It was the only individual right so enshrined before the Bill of Rights. Though the Guantanamo Bay detainees are clearly not citizens, this kind of detention is anathema to the American ethos. Detaining alleged enemies without formal accusation for years. Denying them a trial. Affording no access to family or counsel. Holding them incommunicado indefinitely. Isn’t this (among other things) what the bad guys do? Isn’t that how we know they are bad guys?

Despite the fact that our nation is bathed now in a constant white noise of liberal contempt for American policies and values, it is not villainous to question the government’s actions in this situation. Indeed, it might be the most patriotic position to take. The cost of detaining these people in this way is simply too high.

"As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy" -Dawson

Too big for britches, Part 2

Peggy Noonan had a long piece on opinionjournal.com yesterday recounting her time working for Dan Rather and assessing the man. Her view is that simple Texas boy Dan wanted to ascend the world of establishment media and gave in to the pressure to become an establishment liberal clone to do it. What he didn't realize was that the world had changed and success in 2004 no longer means sucking up to the establishment liberal world at all costs. It's a sad story that Rather's later treachery will outshadow a fairly good career. How different from the feel of the Tom Brokaw send-off.

Not Too Big for Britches

My spiritual reading of the last few days has been from the collected journals of Blessed Pope John XXIII, titled Journal of a Soul. The irony of his reputation is that both "progressive" and "traditionalist" Catholics seem to think he was a wild-eyed liberal caught up in the falsely so-called "Spirit of Vatican II." The reality is that he was a very conservative man, in love with the entire tradition. His own youth was spent, as evidenced by his journals, in a search for holiness that sounds, well, very pre-Vatican II. In his "Meditation" that precedes the text of the journals, Pope John's old friend Giulio Bevilacqua attempts a pre-emptive strike on those who would disdain the journals:

This spirituality might seem to be reduced to interminable examinations of conscience, which arouse in the minds of our contemporaries distrust or even revolt; it is a method which apparently sees God not as love and fatherhood, from whom all fatherhood derives, but only as the Judge who pronounces eternal judgments on the frailty of the creature, a breath of wind that passes and comes no more. . . .
Yet this kind of spirituality produced Pope John: the tree is to be judged by its fruit. This rigorously constructed spirituality is technique, the letter of the law; yes, but it is not only technique and the letter of the law, for within it lives and from it soars a great conception.

The "great conception" Bevilacqua goes on to mention is "a powerful and exalted evangelical impulse which dominates his whole existence, and preserves this constant examination of his own life from any puritanical or pharisaical contamination."

Indeed Pope John looked back on these earlier journals with approval and approved their publication because they might help others learn from him.

So far, I am, and will continue to pass on nuggets.

Daily Mass on the Big Screen?

Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, due out in a few days, looks like a cross between Whale Rider and Rocky with a unique twist, a daily mass attendee on the big screen.

The trailer even sports a scene with a priest giving counsel rather than sexual favors, a refreshing change in this post-scandal era.

While Hollywood may be down on the Church, they just can't escape the fact that they need her sacramentality to convey faith in this visual medium.

I've always been struck by the fact that almost all churchs in the movies have traditional layouts with ornate facades, imposing stone arches, stained-glass windows, statues, candles, the whole works.

If only our modern day "worship space" architects would follow the films!

Real Estate Killed the Blogger Man (and the budget)

My blogging has been a bit light (okay, non-existant) of late as I enter into the real estate fray in hot pursuit of the American dream, my very own deficit. Isn't home ownership wonderful?

So the purchase agreement is signed, the home inspected, and the mortgage almost worked out (if you thought telemarketers were bad, wait until a mortgage broker finds out you are in the market. It gives new meaning to the word relentless.).

I am also encountering the 200% markup that accompanies anything that has to do with buying a house, from inspection services to photocopying documents, to appraisals. Makes me want to consider a career change.

Anyway, here is the new mansion:

Who said debt was such a bad thing? Now I understand why the federal governement has such a hard time balancing the budget. It's so much more enjoyable to buy with someone else's money!

December 4, 2004

Harry Flynn Retiring Soon?

An article in today's Star Tribune on Archbishop Flynn's ad limina visit to Rome notes that his excellency is pondering retirement.

Eucharistic Contemplation

A beautiful discourse from papal household preacher Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap. Go to the ZENIT main page for the full text.

When War Must Be the Answer

New essay by Fr. James Schall, SJ, which begins with a quote from our man Dawson:

"It has been the fault of both pacifism and liberalism in the past that they have ignored the immense burden of inherited evil under which society and civilization labour and have planned an imaginary world for an impossible humanity. We must recognize that we are living in an imperfect world in which human and superhuman forces of evil are at work and so long as those forces affect the political behaviour of mankind there can be no hope of abiding peace."

— Christopher Dawson, “The Catholic Attitude to War,” 1937

Eminem is Right

Mary Eberstadt chronicles the "music of abandonment" created by Eminem and other pop-stars that describes the legacy of "fatherless America." Once again, Dan Quayle was right.

Christian Names Not Allowed

While we are bemoaning the removal of the Ten Commandments from the public square, Christians in Azerbaijan have a different problem, the removal of Christian names from the public square.

Apparently some predominately Muslim localities are denying birth certificates to families who want to give Christian names to their children. Luke and Moses have recently been found quite problematic.

"Luka is not an Azerbaijani name," Mehman Soltanov of the Justice Ministry's civil registration department told Forum 18 from Baku on 1 December. "Why did they choose a religious name?" Soltanov, who wrote to tell Luka's father Novruz Eyvazov on 5 April that he had issued "appropriate instructions" to Kalashova's office, speculated to Forum 18 that it was not the parents who had chosen this name but "some religious sect".

Indeed, in her 1 May response to Novruz Eyvazov, which Forum 18 has seen, Kalashova complained that "during the chaos and anarchy in the country in 1989-90, foreign missionaries came to the village of Aliabad and tried to conduct subversive activity, spreading the Christian faith of the Baptist sect among the population, and tried to change surnames and first names, changing them into Georgian and Christian names, strengthening separatist sentiment and setting friend against friend". She claimed local villagers had protested against such activity. She asked Eyvazov to "respect and honour the desire and wish of the inhabitants of Aliabad".

The U.S. is another story. Christians have a stranglehold on boys' names according to the social security administration, claiming 90% of the top ten with Jacob toping the popularity list in 2003, but girls names are another story, with Emily, Emma, and Madison at the top. Christians can only lay claim to Hannah and Elizabeth at #4 and #9 respectively. Mary doesn't even make the top ten.

In Defense of Pedophilia

Glasgow University handed a doctorate to Richard Yuill the other day for his dissertation in defense of pedophilia.

Richard Yuill said his research, based on interviews with paedophiles and their victims, "challenged the assumption" that sexual relations between adults and under-16s were inherently abusive.

"The conclusions are that in such relationships I think you've got the good, the bad and the ugly, and that's where I stand on that," he said in the Times Higher Education Supplement.

If you thought sexual ethics were erroding, you ain't seen nothin yet!

December 6, 2004

More Rumblings of Crumblings of Roe

I just came across an interesting piece by Frances Kissling, the infamous leader of "Catholics" for a Free Choice," the "Catholic" voice of the abortion industry.

Entitled "Is There Life After Roe?" Kissling spends a substantial part of the piece conceding ground to pro-lifers. Everything from parental notification to partial birth abortion is handed to the pro-lifers on a silver platter. Not only that, she laments the "hardening of heart" of pro-aborts:

For me, a more troubling question is whether or not regular exposure to the taking of life in abortion or the defense of a right to choose abortion would, if not addressed, lead to a coarsening of attitude toward fetal life. The inability of prochoice leaders to give any specific examples of ways in which respect for fetal life can be demonstrated or to express any doubt about any aspect of abortion suggests that such a hardening of the heart is possible.

You might be on to something there Frances!

I think a close reading of the article could make the case she admits the above is forgone conclusion, though she never comes out and says as much.

Obviously, Kissling seems to be reading the signs of the times well, (this was published before the election) striving to make peace with her enemies on the way to court, and while she still maintains her support of abortion, she does a really good job of undercutting such a position. Not only that she levels what I think is a reasonable criticism for all of us to take to heart:

I would expect that if bishops really believed that abortion was murder, they would individually and collectively make far more sacrifices to ensure that abortions did not happen. While the bishops provide very little detailed information about their expenditures, it is clear that the amount of money spent on preventing abortions is very little. The bishops claim that abortion is the greatest moral issue of our time, that Catholics cannot vote for candidates who are prochoice and that prochoice Catholic legislators are committing a grave sin by supporting legal abortion. This is a weak rhetorical response to “murder.” How can any bishop or parish priest justify spending one penny on anything discretionary rather than on helping the many women who would continue their pregnancies if they had the resources to bear and raise a child? No dinners, no business class plane tickets, no vacations, no flowers on the altar as long as one penny is needed to prevent abortions.

Okay, so she has an ax to grind with the bishops, and is grasping for straws to justify her opposition, but as Aquinas says, pay more attention to what is said than who says it.

We'd love to have you join us in living this Frances!

Sell A Parish Save A Diocese

An article in today's Seattle Times asserts that Boston's closure of several parishes was not due so much to declining attendance and a shortage of priests, as it was an opportunity to sell off the property and generate some additional income to pay off abuse settlements.

The article notes:

O'Malley at first insisted that the church closings had nothing to do with the clerical sex-abuse scandal that began here almost three years ago. The Boston archdiocese agreed last year to pay $85 million to abuse victims, a record until last week's $100 million settlement in Orange County, Calif.

In announcing the church closings in May, O'Malley blamed declining attendance, decaying buildings and diminishing bank accounts in the targeted parishes. But authorities now concede that the parishes were closed because the church needed money.

"The commitment of the parishioners at St. Albert is obvious to all of us. We continue to seek ways to help them understand that the reasons for reconfiguration are related to the financial health of the diocese as a whole and not each individual parish," said Kelly Lynch, a spokeswoman for the archbishop.

O'Malley said the archdiocese does not plan to take civil or criminal action at this time.

Ouch! If you can't trust your own archdiocese to look out for the welfare of your parish, who can you trust?

Even more ominous, I can't help but wonder if such a move will lend creedance to the argument that individual parish property should be counted toward a(n) (arch)diocese'a total assets in bankruptcy proceedings. With Boston's behavior, it doesn't look good.

Hope (But Little Optimism) for Ukraine

With our focus on Iraq, Afghanistan and the allegedly nascent Palestinian state, it is easy to forget just how rare the rule of law is. The Bush Administration’s ardent hope that democracy can be cultivated in a reasonable time in regions with long histories of despotic rule seems to ignore the simple fact that there are very few functioning democracies in the world. The vast majority of these evolved clustered together in old Europe over centuries and out of a common Christian religious tradition and Greek/Roman political heritage.

Recent events in Ukraine bring into focus the contours of a society, indeed an entire region, only clinging to republican ideals. While the Parliament, Supreme Court and negotiators for both sides have functioned ably during Ukraine’s election crisis, it cannot be forgotten that the current headlines are the result of a clearly rigged election in a notoriously corrupt nation. Add to this the recent allegation that Yushchenko has been poisoned by his enemies and today’s revelation that the Ukraine government planned to stage a terror attack and lay the blame on the opposition. Meanwhile, an undemocratic Russia casts a disquieting shadow over the entire drama.

With sympathetic Western supervision, it is possible that Yushchenko will prevail in a new election. However, that is no guarantee that a true republic will have been born. Democratic fervor swept Eastern Europe almost a generation ago, but the results are mixed. In places with an authentic political culture, such as the Czech Republic and Poland, democracy flourished. In many places where the rule of law was more a fond wish than a concerted reclamation, such as Romania and Bulgaria, the result has been discouraging. Indeed, this fault line ran directly across the former Czechoslovakia, leading Slovaks to follow a nationalist ideologue away from the Czech lands and into replacement autocracy.

Ukraine’s proximity to Western ideals may help democracy to take root, but that region is littered with revolutions that, so far, have failed. It is sobering to think of Middle Eastern people grappling with republican government without any relevant history.

December 7, 2004

Outbreed 'em, baby!

This will be the new slogan in the culture wars. Steve Sailer adds credibility to the claim that "demography is destiny." In the new edition of The American Conservative, he describes why white birth rates are shaping the nation's political future.

David Brooks adds his take on Sailer's findings in an article entitled "The New Red-Diaper Babies". His conclusions would be crisper if he could get his head around that one group that fits no neat categories: Catholics.

Ben Stein Signs Off

Ben Stein has concluded his "Monday Night at Morton's Column." He ends his gossip column in a very touching way. Take some time out and read this piece. Here is a selection:

"We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction, and when we turn over our lives to Him, he takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves.

In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him.

I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin--or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life."

Pentagon Papers II

We live in an era of remakes, so it's not surprising that the New York Times is running their Pentagon Papers remake. Now if only they would publish the documents again this time around.

United Church of Christ Goes for the Gays

The United Church of Christ has launched a new advertising/branding campaign to combat homosexual "intolerance" that has supposedly crept into Christian churchs.

In the spot, which is running on Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, History, Nick@Nite, TBS, TNT, and several other outlets, two nasty looking bouncers stand outside a Church bouncing a "gay couple" and several minorities, while granting admitance to WASP families.

The text that follows notes, "Jesus didn't turn people away. / Neither do we."

And then the voice over, "The United Church of Christ. No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here."

Welcome to the global syncretism of 21st century religion, where we don't put up dogmatic walls, but rather tear down creeds, replacing them with shallow religious sentiments that are carefully crafted not to offend. Never mind the fact that Jesus excluded many a scribe and Pharisee. In the new Church of Christ, ALL are welcome.

December 8, 2004

The Continuing Litany of St. Adolescence of Liverpool

The usually consequential Powerline today carries an unfortunate apotheosis on this the twenty-fourth anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. Why do we still so lament the extinguishing of such a dim lodestar so low on the horizon?

The strange currency of this age is slippery emotions and sentiments fundamentally averse to critical reckoning. That is what made Lennon first a king, then a saint and finally a martyr. What other qualification does he have to receive the reverent tones and dirges offered every year? An entire generation mistook his angst for a zeitgeist. The error is forgivable, since the generation was itself adolescent. The crime is the continued elevation of idle, ephemeral melancholia from the background noise of adolescent respites to cultural critique and personal fulfillment by a baby boom generation that should finally know better. Angst in fact became zeitgeist. Eidolon eructations couched in witty poesy, said with momentary conviction amid enchantingly incessant melodies. Mind candy served with ear candy. In no other pursuit has the medium so perfectly become the message.

No accumulation of witty turns of phrase and pleasing harmonies can mask Lennon’s role in the general cultural decline. Though he personally bears no more (and perhaps less) culpability, a quick trip down the radio dial on any given day reveals the tradition Lennon represents. There is very little besides remarkably similar, simple instrumentation. And what themes are out there but the beauty of fornication, adulatory devotion to personal gratification over traditions and personal commitments and a general, unreflective, irrational discontent? If this sounds familiar, it’s because it was your adolescence and mine.

It’s not immoral to listen to Beatles songs, but what is the point? It’s the Cap’n Crunch of the soul. Once we all lacked a certain depth and perspective, and had incongruous freedom that allowed us to indulge in shallow pursuits. But adolescence, mercifully, ends eventually. At least, it’s supposed to.

True Justice

Woman who buries abandoned babies wins lottery.

December 9, 2004

Celebrate the Sexual Revolution (Unless You're Evil and/or Stupid)

The ironically named “Arts” section of the New York Times today carries a philippic by Frank Rich equating conservative moral sensibilities with, among other things, epidemics of deadly diseases, mass teen pregnancy and McCarthyism. This week’s totalitarian crime of the century is the decision by a few New York broadcasters to avoid running ads for the new film “Kinsey.” It seems that not every blue state citizen was happy to support the content of a film celebrating a hero of the sexual revolution. It logically follows, of course, that the entire media infrastructure is either utterly ignorant and afraid of sex, or part of a vast right-wing conspiracy that is afraid of sex. Or perhaps just afraid of sex, like everyone in the sexual dark ages before Kinsey. It’s amazing to think that humans actually managed to reproduce before Kinsey’s book.

Quoth he: "’Kinsey’" is an almost uncannily helpful guide to how these old cultural fault lines have re-emerged from their tomb, virtually unchanged. Among Kinsey's on-screen antagonists is a university hygiene instructor who states with absolute certitude that abstinence is the only cure needed to stop syphilis. Sound familiar?”

Um…yeah. Abistience. That does ring a bell, Frank. Volitional restraint from potentially harmful pleasures for a greater good. Subordinating baser appetites to higher faculties. Conforming one’s will to revealed truth in order to be truly free…oh never mind.

Isn’t it just possible that the open cinematic discussion or depiction of sex (or violence, or profanity, or blasphemy) is a matter of taste and reflection on which reasonable minds can disagree? But then, to disagree with the Times’ crusade for sexual rights is to proclaim one’s lack of reason.

2008: Giuliani is the Clear Frontrunner?

So says Hugh Hewitt in today's Weekly Standard.

That would be a fun predicament for Catholic conservatives. We'd really see how committed folks are to denying communion to pro-abortion politicians. Some would become quick apologists for Rudy, the former seminarian, saying that he doesn't advocate abortion like Kerry did, and thus should be treated differently. I tend to think the old-line DNA Democrat bishops might all of a sudden become courageous in their role as pastor's and begin to take eucharistic integriy seriously.

Giuliani will most likely soften his position on abortion, come out in favor of overturning Roe, and declare the matter should be left to the states. Similarly, as Hewitt notes, he will probably favor leaving the marriage issue up to the states. If he sound convincing on judicial appointments during the upcoming battles, he is the clear frontrunner. Bill Frist is trying to shore up his conservative bona fides, but he is a weenie in my humble opinion, and people know it.

So what does this mean for the GOP? I tend to think Giuliani is a tough, results-oriented leader. In other words, a guy you want running a big city, the Justice Department, or a cabinet position. But do I want this guy as president? Career politician, three wives, dysfunctional kids. Does personal character matter anymore, or will the GOP put anyone up there to win. Rudy in 2008 and Arnold in 2012? The dirty little secret is that there is a big chunk of the GOP establishment that wishes social conservatism would just go away, and we could get back to the business of protecting our money and security (and whatever lifestyle we choose).

If things continue to play themselves out this way, I might be going third-party in 2008. I'd probably vote from Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) if in the unlikely event he got the Democratic nomination. But given that he looks like a used-car salesman and he is pro-life, I am not expecting this scenario.

The Future Belongs to the Fecund

More on birth rates and their effect on politics, particularly abortion.

Legionaries Take Satan Seriously

A new course in satanism and exorcisms for aspiring priests at the Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum run by the Legionaries of Christ is a welcome happening. We are finally beginning to move away from the era that "psychologized" sin and Satan. No, really, they are real.

Well, It's a Start

Famous atheist now believes in God. Although, Anthony Flew is quick to point out he is a Jeffersonian deist, who couldn't believe in a God like that of Christianity or Islam, an oriental despot like "a divine Saddam Hussein."

Obviously, he needs to do a little more homework on religions, or just plaint get out of the box he's been living in.

December 10, 2004

John Leo on the Solomon Amendment

A nice overview for those interested.

Getting Nostalgic for the Sedition Act

Our Daily Litter Box Liner carries a Washington Post story this morning revealing that the well-documented tough questions received by Rumsfeld this week from a National Guardsman in Iraq were in fact scripted by a member of the press corps. He snooped around until he found willing accomplices, scripted the questions and then brow beat the soldiers with the microphones into picking his guys. Then he crafted a front page article on low moral that clearly did not represent the general feeling (as recounted here). Just for good measure, he suggested that the Bush Administration’s corruption or incompetence was putting Americans in harm’s way without proper equipment.

Leaving aside the validity of the original question, where does this media subterfuge end? As far as equipment goes, it would seem the US military has the right gear. No one is in Iraq who didn’t sign up for military duty voluntarily. If treason is giving aid and comfort to the enemy, how much farther do the mainstream media have to go before they cross the line? There has got to be a limit.

Oh, Yeah ... It's the Right-Wing Media

Bill Moyers, journalist-extraordinaire, is retiring. He laments the rise of the right-wing media that suppresses free thought because of the bottom line. Perhaps he'd have a tougher time himself if he wasn't subsidized by tax dollars.

Gay Marriage Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

They barely made it past the honeymoon!

Only six months after a flurry of gay marriages, couples in Massachusetts are untying the knot, and the knoty issue of who gets to keep the cats.

The first gay divorce case in Suffolk County, which includes Boston, was filed Wednesday by a male couple who exchanged vows on May 22, five days after same-sex marriage was legalized.

One partner was a 33-year-old religious educator from Boston, the other a 39-year-old professor based in Washington. Since then, the couple said in their divorce filing, "our interests have grown in different directions." Each man signed a settlement attesting that the marriage had "irretrievably broken down."

The most difficult part of the settlement appeared to be custody of their three cats, who will live exclusively with the professor.

But "in recognition of the emotional hardship of such relinquishment," the settlement reads, the professor agreed to provide his ex "with periodic updates, photographs, and any health-rel

So much for commited long term relationships.

December 11, 2004

The Looney Left Loves Literature

This fawning report of a Toni Morrison lecture offers frightening insight into the decay of the study of literature at the hands of liberals. Morrison felt inspired to discuss the epic Beowulf. According to Morrison, Beowulf kills the monster Grendel out of revenge, just as Grendel’s mother comes after Beowulf in revenge. She preaches a moral equivalence, naturally. She suggests we ask ourselves today, "Who or what is the monster? Is it them or is it us? Where do we belong?" Her derision for Beowulf’s unambiguous answer is apparent.

This is a Pulitzer Prize winner? Morrison has, in Dante’s phrase, lost the good of intellect. There is no other explanation for such a moronic misreading of Beowulf and its import.

A quick perusal of the actual story (Raffel translation, 1963) puts the jack boot of reality to Morrison’s revisionist reading. The seething, blind vengeance in the epic belongs to the beast, not the hero. Ridding the world of evil is not an act of mere revenge. Just war is the necessary vocation of the hero. Grendel is roused to murder by the songs sung in Hrothgar’s hall that celebrate the good and the beautiful. Enraged by the good, he sets out to destroy it, coming up from where he had “made his home in a hell not hell but earth.” Beowulf does what a man must do in the face of bestial violence destroying God’s creation. Grendel is a scourge, a malignancy born of the Fall that mankind must face. How they face it goes a long way toward their ultimate redemption. Hrothgar turns to the “stone gods” of old, reverts to heathen incantations and sacrifices in his despair on his way to irrelevance. Beowulf accepts the challenge and faces the demon with conviction.

The bitter irony is that there are in fact significant parallels between Beowulf and our time. But those who habitually defile our collective literary heritage to cheap propaganda are lost to its salvific power.

Victims of Our Own Success

The other day I was lamenting the growing commercialization of the internet that is slowing rendering all search engines worthless.

You would think shopping for insurance on the web would make life easier, but the reality is most of those supposed rate comparison sites are bankrolled by a handful of companies, and the "best rate" tends to be pretty lousy.

Unfortunately, this commericalization isn't limited to the far flung reaches of cyber insurance land. Apparently The Seventh Age has grown so popular, Texas Holdem and Online Casion had to offer about 50 comments on recent entries to try and lure you, our thousands of faithful readers, to gamble your life away.

Being an authoritarian right-wing first ammendment desecrating radical, I promptly removed these comments. I expect the ACLU to threaten a lawsuit over this protected commerical speech in a public forum in the near future. Your contributions to our legal fund to defend our right to can SPAM are appreciated!

The Myth of the Tolerant God

Anytime you try to make an argument that something is morally wrong, you are chided as a Pharisee, by someone who doesn't actually know much about Pharisees at all. Remember, Jesus came to abolish the law! Heh.

Here is nice piece on the silliness of the liberal multicultural God that people have created to jusitfy their sin.

Hat Tip: Touchstone Magazine's Mere Comments blog.

December 13, 2004

You've Already Been Saved ... So Commit to Social Justice

Once again, the big mean church is cracking down on the big-souled folks down at St. Joan of Arc parish here in the archdiocese.

It appears that after a brief (and light) slap on the wrist from the local chancery, the nation's most notorious gay parish has determined it is here to stay and fight. Well, that's because "it's a place of enlightenment," and we definitely need that in the Church. Some more choice comments:

"It was exciting," said Reinbold. "It was like going to a place of enlightenment. I joined right away in probably one of the most crucial times in my life, when I needed spiritual awakening."

It's not hard to find people at St. Joan's who, like Reinbold, say the things they found at St. Joan's drew them back to the Catholic Church after years away.

Reinbold sings in the choir and writes for the parish's Web site. He said he feels that he is a part of the ministry. "We're asked to grow," he said. "We're asked to question."

Reinbold said he regards Wertin "as my spiritual father. His homilies never preach 'that you must be saved,' but rather insist 'you've already been saved, so get on with your life and commit to social justice.' "

--So my follow-up is, what exactly are they supposed to grow and question and St. Joan's? Certainly not their sexuality. Rather, the mean structures of patriarchal cultural and sexual hegemony that keep oppressing them.

A photo attached to the story displays the icon of the two saint companions (I forget their names) embracing each other that homosexual persons like to point to as an instance of a more tolerant historical church. The caption reads, "An Image of Sharing." Sharing what dare I ask?

"Ward Cleaver Dads for Bush"

More statistical analysis from the recent election shows that Bush had a 60 point advantage over Kerry.

Frankly, that is stunning, if not altogether surprising. Real men have kids (unless they're priests, of course), love Jesus, and like sports too. Responsibility, loyalty, courage, love of country, community, tradition, and family and willing to defend those basic institutions; that is the stuff of Dads (as I am just beginning to learn).

Dads know one of their own when they see him.

Legionaries of Christ Banned from Archdiocese

In a letter dated Nov. 23rd Archbishop Harry Flynn notified all pastors and parish life administrators that he has asked the Legionaries of Christ to "not be active in any way in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis." He also asked that Regnum Chrisit activies, "be kept completely separate from all activities of the parishes and the Archdiocese."

This ban comes after similar action by the Archdiocese of Columbus a few years ago where:

Effective October 15, 2002, a revised policy has been placed into effect regarding the Regnum Christi organization and the Legionaries of Christ priests. This is a diocesan wide policy, applicable to all parishes and diocesan facilities and organizations. Regnum Christi is a legitimate association of the faithful in the Catholic Church. While members have a canonical right to join legitimate associations of the faithful, not all associations are approved or supported by the Diocese of Columbus. As a result of concerns regarding some of its operating methods, and stresses that have been experienced from some of its activities here, the Diocese of Columbus does not endorse or support Regnum Christi. In order to prevent any confusion whatsoever, the activities of Regnum Christi must be completely separate from all activities of the parishes and the Diocese.

Effective as of October 15, 2002, Regnum Christi meetings are not to be held on any parish or diocesan property. There is already an agreement with the Provincial of the Legionaries of Christ that their priests are not to be active in any way in the Diocese of Columbus. Furthermore, the Legionaries of Christ priests are not to be used as advisors to any school or parish. They are not to be involved in any school or in any school activities. Neither any school nor any parish is to be used as a recruitment tool for any program sponsored by the Legionaries of Christ or Regnum Christi. Programs for young people or adults sponsored by Regnum Christi are not to be operated through any parish or promoted through any parish channels, including parish newsletters or bulletins. Likewise, programs for young people or adults sponsored by Regnum Christi are not to be operated through any diocesan organization, office or facilities, or promoted through any diocesan channels. No one employed by any parish or the Diocese may use their position to promote the activities of Regnum Christi.

Word on the street is heavy-handed recruting tactics, especially at diocescan seminaries may be in part to blame, but there is no confirmation on this. Flynn's letter just offers vague concerns about the intent of their work.

The quality of formation provided by the Legionaries and Regnum Christi is lauded by many, but their recruiting tactics are also widely criticized. Hopefully this action will help perfect the movement.

December 14, 2004

Thank You, Southern Appeal

One of my favorite blogs, Southern Appeal, has linked to us under the proprietor's "My Huckleberry" category of notable blogs. This is a significant honor for which we give thanks and a big rebel yell.

The blog is run by Stephen Dillard, "Southern Catholic Federalist," and up-and-coming conservative lawyer. He has assembled a collection of fine bloggers to comment on everything from the world of politics, law, religion, and culture (especially Southern).

I let him know I was a Northern (by geography, certainly not disposition!) Catholic Federalist.

Check out his blog and support his sponsors.

We will have our "blogs of fame" up soon. Right, now law school finals are putting the clamp down.

Teresa Collett, Real-Life Hero

I have had the great privilege of being mentored by one of the leading lights (if grossly underappreciated) of the legal academy, Teresa Collett.

I served as a Blackstone Intern for Professor Collett this past summer, and it was a crash course in constitutional litigation. It was a fantastic experience doing some very important work.

At any given moment, Professor Collett is selflessly (usually pro bono) working on numerous cases around the country defending the rights of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage, and the dignity of the human person.

In a series of recent exchanges, Prof. Collett has addressed the question of whether or not it is a "sin against the Gospel" to deny priestly ordination to men of homosexual orientation. You can see the latest post in the exchange at Mirror of Justice, another of our favorite blogs.

December 15, 2004

Apologist Extraordinaire Amy Welborn Gets Pissed

Here is what happens when the daughter of an ace Catholic apologist gets fed fundamentalist literature. Haven't we all felt like Amy at some point? Yes, ecumenism, but sheesh, I get tired!

UPDATE: Link is fixed. There is also some great feedback in the comment box.

So Long Fruitcake, Hello Ink Jet Cartridges

If you thought today's monastics were all still making fruit cakes and communion wafers to support their communites, you haven't been keeping tabs on the Cistercians in Sparta, Wisconsin.

They're busy putting inkjet and toner cartridges to work for their community.

Father McCoy discovered that most printer cartridges are marked up by 1,000-2,000 percent of wholesale costs, and he found that he could save the monastery considerable amounts of money by ordering cartridges directly from manufacturers. A desire to offer the same benefit to other nonprofit organizations and a need to fund monastery operating costs led to Father McCoy’s creation of LaserMonks, (www.lasermonks.com), an online office supply business with a projected $2.5 million gross revenue for 2004 and big-name clients like Morgan Stanley and Panera Bread in addition to scores of schools and churches.

Just goes to show innovation is still happening in today's monastic communities.

Harry Flynn, Cardinal Arinze, and the Rainbow Sash

Archbishop Flynn visits the Vatican and discusses the Rainbow Sash dilemna with Cardinal Arinze.

He stated that he was under no impression that the Holy See wanted him to change his policy. He noted that he and Cardinal George had come to different conclusions about giving communion to sash wearers because "they had assured him in writing" they didn't wear the sash to protest church teaching.

Now seriously folks. I am sure our good bishop is well-intentioned, but this goes beyond all reason. As noted below, I am sure the Legionaries assured the Archbishop in writing that they were not out to engage in overt sheep stealing from the diocesan seminary, but despite the vague and ambiguous nature of the communications between the Legionaries and the Chancery, Harry Flynn took decisive and sweeping action, banning them from any connection with the diocese. There are some gross inconsistencies here that need to be explained.

Pro-LIfe Congressman from South Bend to Lead Democrats?

This would be interesting. Do the Democrats crave power or abortion more?

Chief Justice Thomas?

We should only be so lucky. Although, I still prefer Scalia for chief as I am skeptical of Thomas's natural rights originalism. That being said, if it were enshrined in our jurisprudence, I would be happy as a pig in mud.

Two recent articles, here and here, give an appraisal of the good justice and his many virtues.

This is all in response to Sen. Harry Reid's comments on the Russert show stating that Thomas has been an "embarrassment" to the Court, and produces "poorly written" opinions. While hardly rising to the level of racism, as some have screamed, these were in bad taste and hardly reflect the rising esteem that Justice Thomas has received from the liberal legal academy over the past five years. Hopefully, this ship is being righted.

I also recommend a new book, Judging Thomas, which, from the fifty pages of it that I have read, is a very good read.

December 16, 2004

Democrats Draft Scalia?

New article at Tech Central Station declares Democrats' willingness to smoothly confirm Scalia as chief because they are afraid of allowing a Republican president the opportunity to appoint the first black chief justice (and a mightily conservative one, at that).

If only it were that simple.

Sen. Harry Reid's comments about the brilliance of Scalia's mind came with an important caveat. Scalia reportedly had ethical problems. If folks are naive enough to think that the Dems are going to give Scalia a pass would be in for a big surprise if he were nominated for chief. They attack Thomas as a judicial nimrod and puppet to downplay his qualifications (and subtlely imply he is an affirmative action pick) to be chief. They then overtly praise Scalia's qualifications and make themselves look like they are really concerned about qualified candidates, and are not out to put a litmus test on conservative nominees, thus permanently immunizing themselves with the "we supported Scalia" trope. However, once Scalia gets nominated, it just so happens that they stumble all over Scalia's purported ethical violations and voila! there is no way in good conscience they could make a man who goes on a duck hunting trip with his buddies the chief justice.

You heard it here first.

December 17, 2004

The Alternative State of the Union

For the moveon.org types...

This short movie is pretty funny.

Also, the new JibJab Xmas special is up.

Architecture and Culture

I am continuously fascinated by the ways architecture has (and does) shaped cultural identity.

A recent book by conservative British philosopher Roger Scruton entitled, The West and the Rest, describes the differences in architectural sensibilities between Islam and the West, noting how the Islamist looks at the Twin Towers as pagan defiance of the cultural of minarets, that is, one that points to God.

Scruton's book is sort of riposte to Samuel Huntingtion's "The Clash of Civilizations." Sandro Magister, Italian journalist and proprietor of www.chiesa news service profiles Scruton's book here. The book was recently released in Italy under the title, "L' Occidente e gli Altri," and published by Vita e Pensiero, the publishing house of the Sacred Heart University of Milan. Once again, as compared to other parts of Europe, Italian intellectual life seems rather robust. If only they had the birth rates to match it.

Power or Abortion? Abortion

Planned Parenthood scolds ex-Congressman and pro-lifer Tim Roemer, candidate for DNC chairmanship, who told CNN's John King that he thinks that late-term and partial-birth abortions should be banned. How dare he!

See this post to find out more about Roemer and his promising campaign to lead the Democrats back from the moral wilderness.

Human Events Profiles SCOTUS Candidates

Conservative weekly Human Events has put out its list of possible Supreme Court justice nominees, along with short profiles. Click here.

December 18, 2004

Reject the Faith and Eat Too?

While much focus has been on the growing tensions between Christians and the Islamic world, the Hindus in Indian aren't exactly keen on Christianity either.

A staged "re-conversion" is reigniting controvery in Indian over the role of Christianity in this part of the world. The local bishop claims the conversion and reconversion were both staged for political reasons.

The tricky part is the Catholic diocese is deeply involved in food and health programs in the area, and while Hindus may be opposed to the faith, "the SS [Hindu fundamentalist party] was keen on holding talks with Christian missioners on issues such as malnutrition, deprivation and illiteracy in Melghat."

Morning After Pill Moves to Hawaii

In yet another chapter in the growing politicization of reproduction, Hawaii pharmacists can now distribute the "morning after" pill over the counter without a perscription.

The law comes after the state legislature decided to take matters into its own hands and decree the distribution of the drug over the counter without a perscription.

Call my skeptical, but somehow I don't think heavily lobbied public officials who depend in lage part on financial contributions to keep their jobs are going to necessarily be looking out for the public welfare. They certainly aren't in the case of Hawaii's most vulnerable.

Let's just hope the Congress doesn't take over for the FDA!

Outsourced Santa

Creature from the Far Right

In a move that lends credence to the notion that Roe v. Wade will be overturned in our lifetimes, our friends at NARAL have a new movie on the web you won't want to miss.

Called Creatures from the Far Right, it calls all Americans to stand up and fight the horrific creatures from the far right that are descending upon Washington.

The greatest danger is the nomination of Antonin Scalia as Chief Justice, who is "out of step with America."

They must be getting pretty worried over there in NARAL land if they are willing to resort to humor to try and gain some ground. It isn't exactly their modus operandi.

December 22, 2004

Sam Brownback for President

I had only heard that Santorum was a likely candidate up until now, but I have more respect for Sen. Brownback. There has been some huffing and puffing about a Brownback candidacy as of late. If so, I'm way on board. Too conservative, THEY are saying. Yes, that's right.

In today's NY Times, Nicholas Kristof says Sen. Brownback is to the right of Attilla the Hun, but sometimes he is right, even if it is because of superstitious, intolerant Christian faith.

Our hymnal at church has italicized words at the beginning of each song that describe the disposition with which you should sing that hymn, such as "moderately," "with dignity," "joyously," etc. That is a post for another day. However, I thought I'd highlight the tenor of my response to Nicholas Kristof today: "Charitably." Now the comment: Jack-ass.

Half Right, as Usual

The Minnesota Christian Chronicle, an Evangelical biweekly paper out of Golden Valley, Minnesota shows in its December 16 issue why it is often hard to work with the separated brethren. Two examples will suffice.

In a nearly five full pages of analysis of the year in review, focusing mostly on the presidential elections, Warren Smith and Jamie Dean In their "Mapping the World in Reds and Blues" manage to completely ignore developments in the Catholic Church in the US that help account for the victory of pro-lifers and Republicans at the polls. I'm not sure if this is simply ignorance on the part of the editors or a policy on the part of the paper to never include Catholics as Christians in their "Chronicle." Remarkable, but sad that neither would surprise me a whit.

The other example is a column by editor by editor Brian Flynn titled "Christians Should Dump Contemplative Prayer." Flynn claims he is a former New Age medium and sees now that "New Age" practices have invaded Christianity. While he is undoubtedly right that some contemplative practices from the East are unacceptable (and Flynn is right to note Thomas Keating and Thomas Merton as crossing unacceptable lines), he seems to believe that any contemplative practice is unacceptable. The key principle is that techniques, and that means any technique including reading the Bible, are not the source of Christian prayer. God is the source and technique can only help dispose one to hear God's voice. But Flynn's broad puritan brush can't even make a distinction like this one.

You can read both articles here.

Utne's Choice

The Rake, a somewhat new alternative magazine published here in the Twin Cities, has in their December issue a piece about Eric Utne, the famed creator of the Utne Reader. Utne left his journal about four years ago after it was revealed that the environmentalist lefty actually had four children (gasp!) and lived in the suburbs in what writer Jennifer Vogel describes as his "palatial" home with wife, said children, and a Volvo and a Prius in his garage. He responded to complaints about the four children by telling people that he had asked other friends to refrain from reproduction to balance he and his wife Nina. Charming, non? Not only that, but Utne was committing the sin of having too much "spirituality" in his magazine--namely the nutty sort that would make Brian Flynn cringe.

Now Utne's back with Cosmo Doogood's Urban Almanac: Celebrating Nature and Her Rhythms in the City. A picture in the Rake article shows Utne and wife with three boys. Perhaps in order to get back into left-wing publishing he had to commit to a 53rd trimester abortion on his fourth child to satisfy the environmentalist readership? In any case, Eric's still in the suburb of Linden Hills driving his kids into the city to attend the very expensive Waldorf School.

There are limits, you know.

Half Right, from the Beginning

The great Oratorian priest Louis Bouyer died last month. He was one of those guys who seemed to have read everything and written about it. When he was a visiting professor at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, NY, he told my dissertation mentor (who was then a faculty member at Dunwoodie) that his secret to intellectual life was "read a book every day and write a book every year."

Bouyer was raised in the French Lutheran Church and converted to Catholicism at the age of 26. Much of his published work showed his continuing respect for what the Protestant Reformers got right. I was much impressed by his book The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism which attempted to show both the power as well as the fragmenting of the original genius of the Reformation. Luther's notion of salvation by grace alone and Calvin's appreciation for God's sovereign providence were genuinely in the Catholic tradition and were unfortunately deformed by Calvin and Luther's often unconscious attachment to nominalist philosophy, among other things. Spirit and Forms has been available in a reprint by Scepter Publishers for some time, but Bouyer's other shorter book, The Word, Church and Sacraments in Protestantism and Catholicism has only recently been republished by Ignatius Press. This is an excellent gift for intellectual Protestants--it both validates their best insights and makes clear that those insights can only survive in a Catholic framework.

December 23, 2004

Annals of a Middle-aged Priest

Asks archbishop to stand in for him on Christmas Eve so he can go cheer the Vikes. He assured us all that his parishioners will understand, since he is a long-time Vikings fan.

Baby-boomers: Forever children.

Supply Side Confessionomics

With the 25th just around the corner, confession lines are growing longer as Catholics try to get themselves cleaned up for Christmas, at least in some parishes.

I've always been struck by the lack of availability of confession in so many parishes. Some priests offer confession once a week for 15-30 minutes on Saturday afternoon and then wonder why no one shows up. Sure, they may throw in a communal service during Advent and Lent, but if you can't make it that night, you're out of luck.

Surprisingly, I've found that parishes that offer confession the most tend to have the most penitents (and the longest lines). The explanation, I believe, lies in supply side confessionomics.

The reality is, a lot of us don't limit our sinning to Saturday, so there is a need for the sacrament throughout the week. The other problem is human sloth. Confession is often viewed liked going to the dentist to get your teeth cleaned. We are always looking for excuses to avoid it, and lack of availability is a great excuse.

If on the other hand confession is freely availably, that's one less hurdle to get your soul in the box. If your parish has confession for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening every day, it's hard to say in good conscience you can't fit a visit into your schedule.

The bottom line is the greater the supply, the lesser the excuses, and the greater the demand. And that is supply side confessionomics. If any economist out there have done any work on the elasticity of confession demand I'd be most interested.

No Touch Left Behind

The case of Father Varghese Pereppadan in Boston raises some interesting questions about priestly interactions with the faithful in a post-abuse world.

Fr. Pereppadan, from India, was accused of improperly touching the chest of a girl he knew over her clothes. He has no prior history of abuse, but he was given a one year probationary sentence and had his faculties revoked in the Archdiocese of Boston.

I haven't been able to drum up any details of the specific incident, so perhaps the punishment was merited, but I can imagine many a scenario in which an innocent touch on the part of a priest could be construed as inappropriate. For example placing a comforting arm on a woman's shoulder could be construed as grasping for a bra strap. And I would have to imagine hugs are out altogether. With one's faculties on the line all the time, a priest can't be too careful.

In this zero-tolerance world, reason is being replaced with a new legalism that sets up our priests as potential perpatrators from whom our children must be protected. It definitely gives new meaning to the gospel passage, "Let the children come to me and do not hinder them."

December 24, 2004

Lump of Cells or Logos?

Newsweek reports that 79% of Americans believe in the Virgin Birth. Colleen Carroll Campbell ponders what it might mean if folks drew out the implications of their belief in Jesus for stem-cell research and other bioethics issues. Read it at NRO.

Minnesota's Own Frank Rich

When it comes to religion writing in major newspapers, there are few worse than the New York Times's Frank Rich. Rich has written a series of columns this past year linking "The Passion," George W. Bush, and the general advent of evil.

Not to be outdone, Minnesota has a pair of contenders in Doug Grow and Nick Coleman at the Star Tribune. Grow regularly likes to stick his finger in the eye of religion in general, except when it is useful as a prop for what he wants to say.

Coleman, on the other hand, is a Mo-Dowd kind of Catholic. He laments the silencing of the bells at the Cathedral, and waxes eloquently about the beauty of the (authentically) multicultural communion down at St. Olaf Catholic Church. However, even at Christmas, he must get in a few shots at the forces of intolerance rampant within the Church and American society in general. If only Christians could get what it's really all about (they just need a punch in the face from Coleman). Coleman loves the Church, except when it gets in the way of his politics and personal life.

Turn Those Churches Into Housing Projects

Some interesting comments from a member of the Boston City Council:

     "The best long-term solution, which is supported by leading economists as well as the Municipal Research Bureau, is to increase the supply of housing. Only through increasing the supply of housing units in the city can we attempt to bring down prices," said Flaherty. "I, therefore, look forward to holding hearings when the council reconvenes in the New Year to assess any unused properties in the city of Boston - be they owned by the city, Boston Redevelopment Authority, state or the Catholic Church - and seek to have them developed for affordable housing.

     "If I had one wish this holiday season, it would be for the Catholic Church to give the city first right of refusal in purchasing the properties they are trying to sell so the city can continue the church's mission and use them for neighborhood schools, drug treatment centers, soup kitchens, before and after-school programs, and most importantly, affordable housing," Flaherty said.

Abuse Settlements Hurting Small Dioceses

I recently came across an interesting observation from Patrick Schiltz regarding the problems with major sexual abuse settlements by wealthiers dioceses. He notes:

The amount of settlements agreed to by relatively wealthy dioceses, such as Boston, are going to make it more difficult for relatively poor dioceses to settle their cases.

While Boston may be able to settle for millions, and sell off a few parishes in the process, smaller diocese don't have that option.

Schiltz will be speaking in Dayton, OH for those of you in that part of the world. If you can't make it, his recent article in America, is also a good read for legal eagles with an interest in the challenges surrounding clergy sexual abuse settlements.

The NARAL Party?

While there have been rumblings about democrats softening their abortion support, an article in today's Los Angeles Times sketches out the very real possibility.

Of course while some astute democrats are reading the writing on the walls, spiritual blindness is still causing political blindness in others:

Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Democratic strategists who were pushing for the abortion discussion had misconstrued the results of the November election, by overstating the strength of "values" voters.

She said the party should remain committed to the "women of America, and their health and their lives and their rights."

Feldt said she had spoken to Kerry and Roemer on Wednesday, and both sought to allay her concerns. Both assured her that the party was not changing its stance on abortion, but merely wanted to be more "inclusive."

If the quest for "political capital" trumps the democrats allegiance to abortion, a NARAL party may not be far behind. Of course with murmurs of Arnold and Gulliani types on the right side of the aisle come 2008, maybe a new alliance could be forged.

December 25, 2004

Why Christmas is on Dec. 25

In case you are interested.

December 27, 2004

Christmas for Atheists

Michael Novak writes at NRO on the connectedness of religious truth and freedom, and why democratic self-government allows the human person that very first freedom, the free response to the God who is Truth in himself, whether you are Jew, Christian, or even atheist (which is why in reality, there are few real atheists). Even atheists seek the ultimate good and source of truth -- they are usually just mistaken about what it is (sex, biotechnology, centrally-planned economies). Of course we know who and what the ultimate source of good is. That is one of the great themes of John Paul II's encyclical, Veritatis Splendor. Only nihilism is authentic atheism.

This is an important article by Novak. Your response to it will indicate where you fall among the various types of "conservatives" (assuming you are of the right-leaning persuasion, or a liberal hawk). If you agree with Novak's general thesis, you are in agreement with President Bush and the "neocon" foreign policy establishment that is centered at the DOD, Commentary Magazine, The National Interest, and the Weekly Standard, among other places, as well as religious thinkers like Novak, Neuhaus, and our good friend George Weigel.

December 28, 2004

War, What It Is Good For, Apparently

Brian Conant, doing chemical warfare training drills for Hawaii's National Guard five years ago, realized that his protective, charcoal lined suit was successfully keeping his flatulence from smelling. After coming home from training he determined to make a charcoal underwear insert that would do for others what chemical warfare suits had done for him. And so he has, with little underwear models for doggies, too. You can read about this marvelously, uh, cheesy, invention in today's St. Paul Pioneer Press.

And if you're interested in this as a gift for, um, a friend, you can order here.

Losing Latin America

IgnatiusInsight.com has posted a great article from Homiletic and Pastoral Review by Rev. John Navone of the Gregorian University looking back at the Hartford Declaration of theologians led by then-Lutheran Richard John Neuhaus and Peter Berger protesting the secularizing of American Theology. Fr. Navone notes how widespread this secularist theology was in the Catholic Church, particularly in liberation theology circles in Latin America, with the result that, as more than one Protestant minister has noted, The Catholic Church opted for the poor and the poor have opted to become pentecostals.

Part of the success of the Protestants has been that instead of secularism dressed up spiritually, they actually preached a spiritual message, albeit from a Catholic standpoint a severely defective one. But a little bit of real Jesus beats a lot of Karl Marx in choir robes any day of the week and ten thousand times ten thousand on Sundays. If the Catholic Church is ever to get back its flock in Latin America, Fr. Navone writes about the fundamentals Catholics will have to get back to. Read the article here.

Blessed John XXIII Warns Bloggers

I've continued to read the still Angelo Roncalli's diaries with delight. One of the thoughts I've had when reading his comments as a teen seminarian is that I wish I had half his zeal and his maturity then as I do now in my thirties.

One of the other things that I've noticed is how much he worries about his speech. Where there is much talk there is much sin warns the writer of Proverbs. Angelo Roncalli took this to heart in a way that should make all of us bloggers whose "speech" is often too quick and too thoughtless. I wonder if our judgment will consist of our most thoughtless blogs being "shouted from the housetops" as Scripture says our secrets will be. I won't even get into my actual speech, which gives me fear for judgment day like you wouldn't believe.

December 29, 2004

Chomsky and Zinn Discuss Tolkien

A worthy parody for those who got "The Lord of the Rings" paraphernalia for Christmas (or wish they did) found at the newly-reconstituted American Scene blog.

Sontag: Maddening on the Shoulders of Giants

Susan Sontag has shaken off the white, Western, capitalistic coil and made her way to the happy hunting grounds of liberalism. We who are left must reckon with her legacy.

This won’t take long.

A woman of great intellectual curiosity and horsepower, she symbolized the chaotic and undisciplined age which made a celebrity of her. The fact that she often dropped literary names has somehow obscured the fact that she had in fact read everything in the Western canon and everything worth anything beyond that. From Chicago and Harvard here to Oxford and the Sorbonne in Europe, she earned the right to profit by the greatest minds the world has known, yet she subjected her intellect to her sentiments and chose to spew artful vitriol at Western civilization. This she did with zeal from her comfortable home in New York amid the highest accolades that the despised civilization had to bestow. Her copious mental zeal was somehow expended across 71 years without maturing into a coherent worldview. It is no crime to change one’s mind, but it is a shame to have never held a deep conviction that could withstand the slightest scrutiny. This is the fate of anyone who denies ultimate truth as a concept. Her intellectual sojourn is as admired by educated liberals as it is to be feared by educated recovering liberals.

May she rest in a peace she never knew in this world despite is accessibility.

December 30, 2004

More in the Annals of Too-Clever-by-Half Arguments

Collegium is one of those programs run under the auspices of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities that attempts to get Catholics at Catholic colleges, non-Catholics at Catholic colleges, and Catholics at non-Catholic colleges together to talk about "Catholic Identity" without offending anybody. Of the friends I've had go through their retreats, those whose opinions I've not valued have loved it, those whose opinions I value have thought it somewhat worthless. Why get together to talk about Catholic identity if it has little, if anything, to do with Catholic teaching or magisterial direction?

As a result, Collegium's newsletter, among some useful things, tends to advertise conferences like "Out There: First National Conference of Scholars and Student Affairs Personnel Involved in LGBTQ Issues on Catholic Campuses" at the University of Santa Clara, a (of course) school in the Jesuit tradition. Hey Catholic identity can fit it all, right? (And no, I'm not interested in what the "Q" is for--one gets the feeling that everytime a new perversion is approved by these groups they have to add more letters.)

Collegium's director is (of course) a sociologist named Thomas M. Landy of the College of the Holy Cross. Since he's the head of the newsletter he gets to write about two-thirds of the book reviews. In his review of Colleen Carroll's book, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy, Landy attempts to convince readers that Carroll's use of "orthodoxy" is, well, unorthodox:

The author's sympathies are clearly Roman Catholic, but she seems just as comfortable citing and extolling a revival of orthodox Christianity by the evangelical Campus Crusade for Christ as she is by citing a rise in affiliation at an Eastern Orthodox or Catholic or "Orthodox Presbyterian" church. She almost breathlessly extols a burgeoning trend toward "orthoxy" by citing trends toward some kind of conservatism or inerrancy (whether biblical or magisterial) as if they were a single movement towards a common belief. I find it hard to imagine what Robert Bellarmine or G. K. Chesterton would even make of this kind of orthodoxy.

Ah, dear Professor Landy! It is true that the attitude toward the separated brethren is different today than in the counter-reformation or the twenties, but it is much easier to imagine what they would make of Colleen Carroll than it is to imagine what they would make of one Thomas M. Landy advertising for "LGBTQ" conferences at a Jesuit University.

Professor Landy might also take a look at the documents of Vatican II (yes, it happened after Bellarmine and Chesterton's time) where Lumen Gentium speaks of both a "hierarchy of truths" and
of the fact that all of the authentic gifts of the Holy Spirit found in the separated brethren find their fulfillment in the Catholic Church. The "hierarchy of truths" under which the most important ones are shared by Evangelicals and Catholics, can explain why "Orthodox Presbyterian" really doesn't deserve those sneer quotes, Professor Landy (by the way--it is an actual denomination). They're more entitled to the adjective than Hans Kung or Richard McBrien. Perhaps the part about fulfillment will explain that business about "a single movement toward a common belief."

Landy goes on to say that he thinks "[T]he commonality may be about the 'conservative values,' or about authority--the possibility of finding sources of pure, certain religious knowledge than it is about theological orthodoxy." This is highly amusing stuff--"conservative values" like chastity and the opposition to so-called "same sex marriage" have nothing to do with theological orthodoxy? Nor does the possibility of certain religious knowledge or authority in such matters?

As I said in my entry about Latin America, a little bit of real Jesus--oh, yes, Professor Landy, "theological orthodoxy" to be sure--goes a lot farther than academic secularism, even under the auspices of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. And Catholics need feel no shame about having more in common with Billy Graham than Garry Wills. It's truly the orthodox thing to do.

Best Lecture Series in America

My alma mater, Calvin College, hosts every January during the "interim" term, a lunchtime lecture series that is the best in the nation. I heard such great speakers (if not always great thinkers) like David Broder, Clarence Page, Andrew Greeley, Cornel West, James Fallows, C. Everett Koop, and numerous brilliant others whose names are now clunking around in my mind with all the useless entertainment trivia Gen-X'ers are doomed to carry around with us till our graves.

This year it's another all-star cast with string theorist Brian Greene, Eastern Orthodox writer Frederica Mathewes-Green, Boston College's own religiously tone-deaf secular sociologist of religion Alan Wolfe, and many others. Thursday January 20th features Peter Steinfels speaking on "One Fourth of the Nation: Catholicism and Politics in 2005." Undoubtedly, Steinfels will do his "People Adrift" shtick, an odd business in which he notes the disunity and theological heterodoxy of the Church in America and then asks us all to approve women priests, gay marriage, etc. Considering his former post as New York Times religion writer, one might think Steinfels might have noticed that moves like these did nothing for the orthodoxy or unity of the Episcopal Church. But who knows? If you're in Western Michigan in January, head over to the Calvin Campus and see what's up.

About December 2004

This page contains all entries posted to The Seventh Age in December 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2004 is the previous archive.

January 2005 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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