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January 2005 Archives

January 1, 2005

Benjamin Bunny, P.I.

I've never liked detective fiction. Like Joseph Epstein I don't really care whodunit, unless I can know more about the who and what it is exactly they've done. For me, literature is about learning a little bit more about human beings, not solving logic or plot puzzles. If I want to do that, I'll watch them on TV. (The exception is, of course, Chesterton's mysteries which I've never found that interesting as mysteries.) I do, however, like reading Jon Breen's regular updates on the genre in The Weekly Standard. This week, Breen takes on the burgeoning group of mysteries in which the detective is a historical character, and often a writer--like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Poe, Agatha Christie, and Dickens. Breen has many good things to say about the general nature of historical fiction, but he is also very amusing. Regarding my favorite use of a historical character as a detective, Beatrix Potter of Peter Rabbit fame, Breen writes:

While I normally draw the line at talking animals in an adult mystery, in this context they seem unavoidable.

Read the whole article here.

David Hart's Public Catechesis

David B. Hart, the best Eastern Orthodox theologian in America,and probably the best theologian in America, period, has a nice piece on OpinionJournal.com that does a wonderful job heading off at the pass the Voltaire-lite types who want to declare that the tsunami in South Asia shows God is dead. Hart does so by pointing out that the only God who might be affected by such attacks is the deist God of said Voltaire types. Hart does some wonderful public catechesis about the Christian vision with his usual literary flair and without any hint of the pedantic:

Yes, at the heart of the gospel is an ineradicable triumphalism, a conviction that the victory over evil and death has been won; but it is also a victory yet to come. As Paul says, all creation groans in anguished anticipation of the day when God's glory will transfigure all things. For now we live amid a strife of darkness and light.

Pio Nono and John XXIII

I've noted before that my reading of John XXIII's Journal of a Soul shows him to be a perfectly orthodox pope, to the contrary of claims of "radical traditionalists" and Catholic "progressives" alike. One of the very interesting things was when John was beatified a few years ago with Pius IX, many Catholic progressives were horrified. How could the architect of Vatican II be paired with that neanderthal who hated all liberalism. Herewith from the diary of John XXIII during his 1959 retreat in the Vatican:

I always think of Pius IX of sacred and glorious memory and, by imitating him in his sufferings, I would like to be worthy to celebrate his canonization. (p. 299)

While he wasn't able to celebrate it, it may be the case that Good Pope John will be canonized with Pius IX, "of sacred and glorious memory."

Indeed, Pope John was already aware of those trying to manipulate him and his image into something that it was most definitely not. From his August 13, 1961 journal during a retreat:

I must beware of the audacity of those who, with unseeing minds led astray by secret pride, presume to do good without having been called to do so by God speaking through his Church, as if the divine Redeemer had any need of their worthless co-operation, or indeed of any man's. (p. 310)

Pope John's own disposition toward Church authority had never wavered. There was no contradiction between obedience and conscience, since he saw the Christian faith as Newman did, a spiritual army with discipline that was needed to make a Christian fit to serve and use prudence in the first place. Pope John recorded this disposition in his 1954 Spiritual Testament:

I wish to profess once more my complete Christian and Catholic faith, belonging and submitting as I do to the holy, apostolic and Roman Church, and my perfect devotion and obedience to its august head, the supreme Pontiff, . . . . (p. 342).

January 4, 2005

Do We Need to Keep this a Federal Case?

Terry Eastland, publisher of the Weekly Standard, weighs in with doubts about Republican triumphalism regarding the take-over of the US Civil Rights Commission. Eastland's main contention is that the need for a standing civil rights commission is over. I think Eastland is probably right. The Standard in election mode was willing to talk about a new kind of conservative, that is, a big-gov conservative. As a means of triangulating, it's very clever, but it's a dangerous game to keep loading the federal gov't's guns just because right now Republicans are in office. I'm glad to see Eastland and others starting to criticize Bush as well as other Republicans for giving into the "Hudge" appeal so easily (in Chesterton's terms "Hudge" is big gov't while "Gudge" is big business).

Prayers for the Newly Faithful

As someone who is a convert to Catholic faith, I invest lots of prayer and argument into getting people into the Church. A friend serving as a sponsor for candidates for reception at a local parish was telling me that some of the people taking classes on the faith have discovered that being a Catholic is more than just talking about "community," tacky statuary, and bad church music. Dogma is not always so friendly, even if it is man's best friend. So let us pray for those who've begun their journeys that they will keep going and not let difficulties about the faith turn into doubt. I thought these words from a Christmas prayer of Pope John XXIII to the Child Jesus were fitting:

Calm aggressive minds, convert the erring, make your people holy, preserve the purity of virgins, guard the faithfulness of married men and women; fortify the chaste; enlighten those who have only just begun follow your teaching, and confirm them, make them worthy of loftier attainment, and may we at the last all be eternally reunited in your kingdom, O Jesus, together with you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to whom be glory, honour and blessing for ever and ever. Amen.

January 5, 2005

What Hath Man Wrought?

During my annual winter break excursion to the North Shore (of Lake Superior, that is), the Mrs. and I rented the last four tapes of the seven tape series entitled, "Civilisation: A Personal View" by Lord Kenneth Clark. I had heard of them through the lectures on spiritual theology by Fr. Paul Murray, OP during my time in Rome. He seemed to be quite taken with them, and explained that after Lord Clark had produced these documentaries, he became a Catholic himself after realizing that the Church was the main civilizing force through history.

I was not disappointed by the movies. Despite only having the last four tapes (episodes 7-13) that covered the era from the Roman Baroque to the present age of "heroic materialism," Lord Clark's tour of the art, philosophy, and music of the various ages, sprinkled with his own stinging commentary, was a wonderful tour and reflection on Western cultural brilliance and decay.

Clark is decidedly anti-modernist, even if he does show an appreciation for some of the sentiments that led to Romanticism. Even though the movies were made in late 1960s, Clark covers relatively little after the end of the nineteenth century. One wonders if this is subtle commentary on the (lack of) civilization since World War I. He speaks often of Western man descending into barbarism.

Lord Clark published a companion book to add commentary to the videos. Along with Paul Johnson's new book Art: A New History, these are brilliant introductions to the history of Western Culture, especially since the fall of Rome.

Here is his biography:

Clark, Kenneth Mackenzie, Baron (1903-1983). British art historian and critic. Educated at Oxford, he worked with Bernard Berebson in Florence for two years, and became Director of the National Gallery London, 1935-1945. He was Slade professor of Fine Arts at Oxford university 1946-50 and 1961-62. He was chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain 1953-60 and chairman of the Independent Television Authority 1954-57. His books included Leonardo da Vinci(1939), Landscape into Art (1949), Piero della Francesca(1951), The Nude (1956) and Rembrandt and the Italian Renaissance(1966). His television series and subsequent book Civilisation (1969) were extremely popular. He received a KCB in 1938, the CH in 1959, a peerage in 1969 and the OM in 1976. His son Alan Kenneth Mackenzie Clark (1928-) was a controversial military historian and diarist, Conservative MP 1974-93 and a junior minister.

Anatomy of Judicial Usurpation

The collapse of civil society continues apace in Montana where its reported that the Supreme Court of that state has overturned a lower court’s ruling permitting the Montana University System’s policy of denying group health coverage to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court’s opinion is a microcosm of contemporary societal befuddlement and the judicial deprecation that is both its cause and its effect.

The majority opinion finds that the University System has discriminated against homosexuals. It seems the University System has long offered health coverage to dependent spouses as well as those who signed an affidavit asserting that they "mutually consented and contracted to become husband and wife." Naturally, a homosexual signed the affidavit trying to cover their partner. Unfortunately for the University System, they offered insurance to heterosexual couples who signed the affidavit but denied it to homosexual couples who signed. That clearly creates an equal protection issue, and the Court found the use of these affidavits violated the state constitution. The logic is unassailable.

The problem with the decision is that the legal question decided by the Court, the constitutionality of the affidavits, was never raised in the initial complaint. The original complaint challenged the policy of denying coverage to homosexual partners, period. It made no mention of the affidavit policy. The unequal protection argued turned not on a difference between homosexual affidavit holders and heterosexual affidavit holders, but between those who were statutorily married and those who were not. The dissent points out, to no avail, that no one is allowed to change their pleading upon appeal. Here, the Court has done the changing on behalf of the original plaintiff in order to strike another blow against traditional marriage.

Montana statutes state that “marriage is a personal relationship between a man and a woman” and that “a marriage between persons of the same sex” is “prohibited.” The University System’s variance of coverage according to marital status has strong common law support, which is why the lower court dismissed the case. That is a distinction that can be legally made without being discriminatory, unlike a distinction based on race or gender. But the common law is inconvenient for imperial courts, and steps must be taken.

How did Montana get here? At some point in the past, the University System had a clear policy of covering spouses. No doubt some progressive thinking unmarried couple demanded coverage, claiming that they did not believe in marriage, or didn’t need a piece of paper to prove they were committed. The University System, being already compromised by the liberal the contagion being spread by activist courts and cultural elites, caved in and invented the affidavit. The descent down the slippery slope was under way.

This decision is worth the read. It showcases a disingenuous majority skillfully pulling a gay rabbit out of the judicial hat. It also features a blathering, unschooled concurrence decrying the woe of the poor victimized homosexual in the current Dark Age. And for good measure, it has a desperate dissent that points out the obvious crime of the majority, but is then reduced to unbefitting contortions of its own in an effort at some corrupt expostulation.

This sobering burlesque plays itself out over and over across the country every day.

A Set of Predictions I Think Are Plausible

Michael Long has a column with some excellent cultural predictions. The one I'm most interested in claims that pro-lifers will draft something like a Human Life Amendment in 2005 so that pro-abortion forces will have to spend themselves out of money fighting a two-front war 1) to defend Roe in the first place and 2) to defeat the amendment. Long claims that this is desired so that pro-lifers will not have to fight an expensive 50-state battle even if Roe is overturned.

My own inclination is to think that such an amendment is still unlikely to pass, but possibly worth doing for the strategic reasons given by Long. It is also necessary at all times to note that any battle for the good--particularly this one--must be fought not just with strategy and legality must begin, be driven by, and conclude with both prayer and fasting--and personal as well as corporate witness to life in the culture.

Good News for Natural Lawyers

Tip of the hat to OpinionJournal.com for this article in the Washington Post about research showing that more women are not using contraceptives. The article presents this as a problem, perhaps unsurprisingly. I think of it as a great sign. I would like the figures broken down into Protestant/Catholic/Orthodox myself. My suspicion is that much of the increase in women not using contraception is a result of Protestants who've embraced Catholic (and old-school Protestant we must add) teaching on morality. I sometimes feel as if I have more Protestant friends my own age obeying the natural law than I do Catholics my own age. If my hunch is right, this is good news for real ecumenism--the kind that finds unity in the truth.

Speaking of Good News...

University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox has this article in the latest edition of Touchstone Magazine chronicling how sociological data keeps pouring in that confirms the truth (or at least the practical benefits) of the Church's sexual morality.

He ends the piece by noting the rise of enthusiasm for the arguments made by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae among notable evangelicals such as Harold O.J. Brown and J.I. Packer. As Dave mentioned, it seems that Protestants are sometimes latching on to these truths quicker than many Catholics. And it does seem that when offered sound evidence, many evangelicals "convert" to more Catholic positions on any number of matters. Perhaps the term "orthodoxy" in vogue amoung traditionalist ecumenists will perhaps gain a morally robust component.

January 6, 2005

The Anatomy of A Gift Card

With pre-Christmas consumption a fading capitalist memory, it's time for the next big retail season, post-Christmas consumption. If you're like most, you've probably received a handful of gift cards to celebrate the Savior's birth. But did you know why gift cards are such big business? Here are some interesting insights from the inside of Target:

GiftCards are a major traffic driver pre- and post-holiday, since each one sold means at least two trips to the store: one by the giver and one by the recipient. That’s 16 million purchase trips and 18 million redemption trips from November to January.

Here are a few other reasons why GiftCards are an important component of the fifth quarter strategy:

  • One in three GiftCard recipients said they would not have made their purchase at Target had they not received the GiftCard.
  • Nine out of 10 GiftCard recipients spend more than the value of the card upon redemption.
  • More than 78 percent of GiftCards are redeemed within 90 days of purchase—imagine the sales when the 4,000,000 GiftCards sold during December week 3 are redeemed!

Maybe cash isn't such a bad gift after all?

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times. . .

. . .that we need to stop exaggerating. I got my letter today from the Thomas More Law Center asking that I renew my membership. I give this organization, headed by Richard Thompson, some money each year because I think many of the cases they work on are valuable--defending pro-life students who are made to not wear pro-life clothing, crafting pro-life legislation for states, defending Nativity Scenes in public where Menorahs or Crescents have been allowed, etc.

But I take some umbrage at the letter I received which claims that "the main battleground in the culture war is the courtroom. . ."
and that fighting courtroom battles is "the single most EFFECTIVE way to WIN
this all out war for the soul of America!."

With all due understanding of the legal and judicial problems in the US, the line dividing good and evil is still, as Solzhenitsyn put it, running right down the middle of the human heart. As I noted yesterday, the key to that war is prayer and fasting--culture is from cultus, meaning worship. That is the "main battleground in the culture war."

Just like the claim that "America is the last and best hope for the world," such claims invert the proportions in our thinking and thus take our eyes off the main goal, perhaps inducing idolatry. So, fine, give to Thomas More Law Center--I will--but let's all keep our heads and remember that the main battleground is in churches, adoration chapels, prayer closets, and icon corners. Not in the courtroom.

Potter and Fantasy and the Christian

I suppose the most ridiculously pretentious way to describe myself is as a "Harry Potter Scholar," but I have been so described before, embarrassingly enough in print. Ah, Blessed humility! In any case, I have read all of the books several times and seen all the movies, movies which are, with the exception of the last one, somewhat boring and very disappointing. One thing I've never been able to understand is the so-called "Christian case" against Potter because of its "promotion of witchcraft." Andrew Stuttaford, reviewing a new series of "Christian fantasies" by one G.P. Taylor (fantasies about which he wonders how "books quite so bad have sold quite so well?"), begins his review in the print edition of National Review with this (p. 47):

For those of us who like to believe, however tentatively, in human progress, the notion that there are 21st-century Americans who think that the brave, benign--and fictional--Harry Potter can be used as a recruitment officer for the occult is profoundly depressing.

Amen, brother Stuttaford. If you'd like to see what I see in Mr. Potter and his tales, take a look sometime at an article my wife and I did a few years ago, called "Character, Choice, and Harry Potter."

You can also see an essay by David Baggett in a new book (in which my wife and I also contributed a chapter), called Harry Potter and Philosophy.

Take it from me. I'm a Harry Potter Scholar.

January 7, 2005

New Comment Policy

Thanks to our growing popularity we have also been experiencing a growing presence of Viagra, breast enlargment, and online casino "comments" whose relevance to the postings here leaves much to be desired.

To combat this, we are now making registration and manual approval a necessary condition of your comments appearing in the blog.

If you are a new user, you will need to register to enter a comment on one of the postings. Once you have registered, you can enter a comment, though it will not appear until your registration has been manually approved (we don't want to accidentally automatically eliminate anyone with legitimate references to cialis, imitation rolex watches, or mortgage refinance rates below 2%).

Once you have registered and been approved, your subsequent comments will appear in the blog immediately after you type them.

Thanks for your patience in cleaning up the comments here!

Catholic Achdiocese Gives Lawyers Over $33 Million

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles released the details of a $100 million abuse settlement with 90 victims a few days ago.

Turns out when all is said and done, attorneys will walk away with between $33 and $40 million of the total amount.

With 554 abuse claims still outstanding in LA, if I were an unethical attorney with nothing better to do, I would jump on this gravy train in no time.

I'm not persuaded that $4 million (the largest awards in this settlement) is reasonable compensation in the first place. It strikes me as a wee bit astronomical, but the fact that 33%-40% of this settlement doesn't even go to the victims raises some serious questions of justice.

I find it odd that none of the supposed support groups for victims of clergy abuse are raising this concern. You would think they would be the first to call for reform of the legal system. It makes you wonder if they are more interested in revenge than restitution.

I guess the gospels are still accurate in their advice that it's better to settle with your opponent on the way to court, lest the judge hand you over to the attorneys, and they hold on to you until they get every last penny.

January 10, 2005

More Democratic Delusion, Brought to You by the MSM

This article borders on the absurd. It claims that Democrats have been too nice in standing up to persistent Republican "attack-dog" assaults on the character of their candidates, accusing them of being "unpatriotic," members of the ACLU, and soft on defense. Oooohhhh, what nastiness. So basically, Republicans have been attacking the policy positions and ideological leanings of their opponents with consistency.

Of course, GOPers are no angels, and some attacks are "mean-spirited," but Democrats always accuse Republicans of being nasty when their policy positions are criticized. For example, when GOP congressman Mark Kennedy noted in his ads that his opponent, Patty Wetterling, had accepted large donations from the very, shall we say, unpatriotic MoveOn.org, he was denounced as engaging in a mean, "smear" campaign.

But of course, if we look at the actual campaigns run by Democrats, and their coordinated media "hits," you will see Republicans labeled as racist, sexist, war-mongering, uncaring about the poor, sick or elderly, scamming elections (note Barbara Boxer here), sacrificing American lives for oil, etc.

Can these people really be serious? The USA Today reporter says it is impossible to imagine Democrats attacking Republicans for eight straight months. Oh, please.

The Ethical "Hard Case"

The newest controversy, among many others, popping up around the nation is whether Catholic schools should be required to admit the children of homosexual couples. The Chicago Tribune compiles the latest details in the brewing controversy.

I understand the parents' concerns that the presence of the twin boys at the California school may lead other students to think that homosexuality is just another "lifestyle choice." However, the idea that these two little kids will be mouthpieces for the gay agenda seems far-fetched and neurotic. More and more, people want laws and rules to shield them from taking the responsibility of raising their kids. Good parenting and education should safely "insulate" your children from entertaining the validity of homosexuality.

It seems to me a simple matter of justice to let these kids attend the Catholic school. It is not as though they had the choice to be adopted by gays who wanted to play "parents." If we are really concerned about their well-being, the Christian thing to do would be to welcome them (and their parents) into an inviting Christian environment and effectively communicate the truth of the Gospel. There may be a breakdown on two levels: parents who don't want to do the heavy lifting of forming the moral fabric of their child's conscience and schools that don't want to teach Catholic morality for fear of having to offend anyone. If Catholic schools confidently asserted truth, then there would be no controversy over admitting these boys.

While I think various Catholic schools should have their own policies over whom they get to admit (parishioners only, Catholics only, everyone and their brother, etc), I don't like lawsuits by various folks being filed to compel the Catholic schools to admit certain folks. It would be sort of ironic that gay couples would sue to enforce acceptance of their morals and lifestyle on a community that vocally disapproves. But that of course, is today's liberal version of tolerance.

Once again, it all goes back to the abandonment of responsibility (across the ideological spectrum). Let's go after fast food, cigarette companies, and impose insular, narrow-minded policies that allow me to abdicate the hard-work of parenting, and having to live by, or assert, uncomfortable moral truths.

I would love to get some comments on this question, as the solution is not clear cut by any means.

January 11, 2005

Consumer Reports Supports Abortion

In an interesting move, Consumer Reports tackles birth control options in their February issue, and concludes that just about anything from IUDs, to the Pill, to Abortion is a lot better for you than you may think, and probably safer than pregnancy.

They also examine condoms, and conclude the worst two of all those they tested were from Planned Parenthood. Hmmm. Wonder why that would be?

Now even the folks at Planned Parenthood would acknowledge the existence of abstinence as a "birth control method" (Consumer Reports doesn't) and some of the risks of things like IUDs. But check out Consumer Reports glowing report on IUDs:

Yet today’s IUDs have an excellent safety record, allow women years of “set it and forget it” contraception, and can be less expensive overall than other birth-control methods.

Two brands are available in the U.S. The ParaGard T380A, a T-shaped device, releases copper ions that prevent pregnancy by slowing down sperm and preventing eggs from maturing to the point where they can be fertilized. It can stay in place for up to a decade, but can cause heavier menstrual bleeding and cramps.

That’s not the case with the newest IUD, Mirena. “It’s highly effective, completely reversible, and makes periods lighter and less crampy,” says Mitchell Creinin, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh. The reason is that Mirena releases a steady trickle of the hormone progestin, which over time thins the uterine lining so that it can’t support a pregnancy. It lasts for five years, but a woman can have it removed at any time and she doesn’t have to wait before

I don't think the manufacturers could have done better!

Yet another example of ideology, the tie that blinds.

Suffering *TM

German archbishop apologizes to Jews after comparing the slaughter of the innocents known as abortion to the Nazi Holocaust. It seems Jews were outraged that the destruction of hundreds of millions of babies worldwide would be even mentioned in the same breath as the Shoah.

Message from the Jewish group: "We have a trademark on suffering, nothing compares to what was perpetuated against us on the scale of human evil," and "How dare you compare abortion to genocide." The weakest and most vulnerable of society are still us!

Message from archbishop: I will back-down and hedge on the plain truth in the face of small, senseless pressure groups.


One further note, there was a great book put out about five years ago entiled, The Holocaust in American Life, chronicling the marketing of Jewish oppression during World War II. It was a worthwhile book, and makes the excellent point that even sympathetic movements can be twisted for advancing personal and unnecessary ideological agendas. One can be sympathetic to accounts of anti-semitism while at the same time deplore the "crying wolf" strategy espoused by Abe Foxman (remember "The Passion"?) and this German group.

January 12, 2005

Another Look at the Clergy Abuse Settlements

Though reasonable minds can differ on the ethics of lawyers engaged in the Church abuse scandals (see “Catholic Archdiocese Gives Lawyers Over $33 Million” and comments below), it must be admitted that these suits, and the tort law that has spawned them, call into question our conception of justice.

Exhibit A is to be found at www.kbla.com, the home page of the firm that negotiated the recent Diocese of Orange settlement. It is not the money they collected for their services that should be disquieting, but the manner in which they marketed their services. A quick perusal of the site reveals that the firm is “a consumer litigation boutique,” which means that they troll the crankiest and most populous class of Americans, consumers, looking for profitable angst that can be collected and litigated. Their site side bar features complaints they have filed that might strike a chord with a few hundred other ”consumers” and their “Publications” link opens a page bursting with articles designed to inflame the indignation of the curious. Their business model seems to be to find a bad product or procedure, publicize its existence and exactly why a “consumer” ought to be outraged, file an individual complaint when an accomplice comes forward spouting the verbiage they read on the firm’s site, and then advertise aggressively that the gravy train is about to leave the station.

Though they are currently handling tort du jure thoroughbreds such as Fen-Phen, their approach to the clergy scandal is most troubling. Their site features a secure “victim form” and “hotline” for potential plaintiffs to get on board. They inspire potential litigants with messages like this one:

“Those of you who have been reluctant to come forward because of shame, guilt, fear, and emotional pain, these are emotions shared by many of your fellow abused… Those predators who took advantage of young boys and girls at their most vulnerable must be held accountable for the sins of the fathers and those who have protected them. This office is working hard to make this happen.”

But the vertex of this mountainous arrogance and avarice is what they call the “Database of Clergy Accused or Convicted of Sexual Abuse.” This technological marvel allows litigation shoppers the ability to search for specific names of persons or intuitions that have come under the shadow of suspicion, and are therefore fair game. Is your old middle school on the hit list? How about that cranky old priest who taught you geometry? You can look them up. But the firm is so dedicated to justice that they allow you to search by state as well. So simply searching for “CA” brings up a list of 156 individual names of accused Californians. Clicking on the name will reveal the reason for the individual’s election to the hall of shame, and many are as flimsy as this:

“Authorities say [this priest] was the subject of a complaint within the last decade involving a teenage boy.”

A single allegation is all it takes. And since allegations are free, the gravy train grinds on and on. As mentioned below, it would seem to be much easier to “remember” long past assaults if you are free to browse for any familiar names knowing that someone else has already cast suspicion on them. This devious tool tempts every visitor with promises of cash to pull a Richard Rich while at the same time smearing the names of priests and religious that once might have been presumed innocent.

This is justice? My torts class did not cover this.

Good Riddance (But What Took So Long?)

Our Daily Cat Box Liner is reporting today that two pastors from two notorious Catholic parishes are resigning their posts. This is good news indeed, but we will have to wait for the fallout.

As noted in these pages before, the strange contradiction of the Archbishop’s decision to legitimize heretics at renegade parishes indefinitely while at the same time forcefully evicting a chartered, respected organization like Regnum Christi is troubling to the faithful. It is disheartening that these disobedient pastors had to leave, apparently, of their own accord. But now that they are thankfully on their way, the Chancery cannot avoid taking a position. They will have to decide what, if anything, to say about these pastors and then they will have to install new pastors. Who will be the new shepherds for the confused souls at St. Joan of Arc and St. Thomas the Apostle? And what will the Chancery have to say about the “service” of these pastors who ignored doctrine and willfully lead their flock into moral error? Will the new pastors set things right at the expense of parish enrollment, or will they continue the scandal?

It is telling that the answers to these questions are not obvious. They should be.

January 13, 2005

Why I Pay No Attention to Diocesan Social Justice Offices

Once again, the Minnesota bishops have come out for tax increases for a fair and equitable distribution of income and to meet "human needs."

Frankly, this is scandalous. We have been pouring money down the rathole of government welfare projects for too long. In next week's Catholic Spirit there will be an op-ed from Kathy Tomlin or Ron Krietemeyer exhorting me to go beyond my naked self-interest and support the tax increases. Never mind that I donate a sizable amount of my (loan money) to charities that actually do something positive. Nope, not good enough. I need to energize the forces of benevolence at the local bureaucracy so they can create more layers of red tape and associate director positions to more efficiently distribute checks. Monstrous ignorance and stupidity.

If the bishops want to have an opinion, fine. But when are they going to learn that when they speak beyond their realm of credibility and authority, they do more damage to themselves. Why not propose general principles (which are the only real substantive set of doctrines that Catholic Social Thought provides) and focus on the essentials. Supposedly, this is the age of the laity, so shouldn't the bishops get out of the way and let us work out prudential matters with the mind of the Church? The problem is that "the laity" in this case isn't in line with the ex-nuns and "justice" bureaucrats who run chanceries and have the ear of bishops. Read the full statement here.

A list of 2005 legislative priorities for the Minnesota Catholic Conference can be accessed at this link. At least they list the tax increase as the third priority behind abortion and a state marriage amendment.

A discussion on this issue is happening at Amy Welborn's blog, Open Book.

And for more episcopal malaise, Hugh Hewitt compares the Church's response to the sex-abuse scandals with the cover-up by CBS News.

Evolution, blah, blah

While I usually stay away from the evolution debate/discussions, mostly because I really don't care, this news item, sent to me by a friend, was rather noteworthy.

A federal judge has decided that stickers on biology text books that state that Darwninian evolution is theory, not fact, are unconstitutional as an establishment of religion. More news stories chronicling this silliness can be accessed here.

While I think one can reconcile natural selection and theism, the implications of this ruling seem to be a desire to impose state atheism. Questioning a materialistic philosophy in a public school text book is establishment? Asserting some higher "designer" may exist is a threat to freedom? Yowsa.

Tawlk amongst ya selves.

God Save this (Currently) Honorable Court

The AP reports tonight on a televised debate between Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer on the role of foreign judicial decisions and international public opinion in US law. As noted on Power Line, this revelation from Breyer is sobering:

"U.S. law is not handed down from on high even at the U.S. Supreme Court. The law emerges from a conversation with judges, lawyers, professors and law students. ... It's what I call opening your eyes as to what's going on elsewhere."

As the modern federal judiciary legislates its corrupt morality from the bench, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that behind the issue by issue attacks there looms a fundamental collapse of constitutional law as we know it. If you think foreign cases cited in Supreme Court cases is absurd, review Lawrence v. Texas. If you think international public opinion ought to have no role in Supreme Court decisions, make sure you’re sitting down when the Court releases its Roper v. Simmons ruling in the near future.

Law does not “emerge;” it is legislated. There is a rather large clause of the Constitution devoted to that explicit process. That legislative process does not involve judges, lawyers, professors or (God help us) law students in any way, unless they have been duly elected to Congress. Here we see the utter contempt Breyer and other judges have for the Constitution they are sworn to uphold, and for the American people whose rights are protected by that Constitution. It is, in fact, judicial hegemony that “emerges,” irresolute, unpredictable but dangerous nonetheless, like a jackal from a dank, maleficent hole. The legislative process was established here to combat such degeneracy, not to enshrine it.If the judges, lawyers, professors and law students want to have a conversation, I would happily refer to them to some stimulating reading material.

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby.”

It’s what I call opening your eyes to the United States Constitution.

January 14, 2005

Iraq War Blamed for Small Town Violence

A Marine on leave from his transport duties in Iraq goes on a shooting spree in small town California and kills a police officer. A sign of cultural decline? Of failed radical secularism? Of counterproductive liberal social programs? Certainly not. It clearly must be post-traumatic stress disorder or fear of the horrific warfare in Iraq. That is the conclusion posited by many community members and happily reprinted by the ever-professional leftist lackeys at the NY Times. They refer to the slain police officer as a "casualty of war." It’s the eighth paragraph before it is mentioned that the man had a history of gang associations, that his weapon was a banned assault rifle, and that the police he battled with suspect drugs were involved. This is what the MSM refers to as “reporting the news.”

January 17, 2005

On Leisure

Roger Kimball, conservative culture critic, has posted a reflection on the purpose and leisure, and some thoughts on Josef Pieper's important work, "Leisure, The Basis of Culture."

I tend to think it is one of the most important duties of Christians and conservatives engaged in the culture wars to recover this conception of leisure. The problem is trying to foster leisure in an overly-competitive consumer environment where we are inundated with tasks that require us to live in a perpetual state of busyness (except when we are blogging of course!).

The post can be accessed through the New Criterion Web site.

January 19, 2005

The Sterilization of the Spanish Church

While the U.S. Bishop's Conference has been busy debating the merits of quinceaera, their Spanish counterparts have been a bit more active, recently supporting the use of condoms to halt the spread of AIDS:

But "condoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS," Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesman for the Spanish Bishops Conference, told reporters after a meeting Tuesday with Health Minister Elena Salgado to discuss ways of fighting the disease.

Martinez Camino said the Spanish Catholic Church's stance is backed by the scientific world. He cited a recent study by experts in the medical magazine Lancet that supported the so-called "ABC" approach of fighting AIDS - "A" for abstinence, "B" for being faithful to partners, and "C" for condoms.

Faithfulness to partners plural is a curious concept. And never mind the fact that widespread condom distribution the last 15+ years has done little if anything to halt the spread of AIDS. The Spanish Bishops have science on their side.

It's also interesting how the actions of the bishops are reported as those of "Spain's Catholic Church" as if each nation has its own Catholic congregation with its own creed. Such is probably due to reporter ignorance, though with actions like this, the Spanish bishops are already laying the foundations for their own national church.

Peter Kreeft in the New Yorker

OK, so the good Professor didn't actually publish in that droll urban liberals mag, but I saw therein an ad for The Modern Scholar: Great Professors Teaching You, a company not quite modern enough to have a website, but modern enough that you can call (800-636-3399) or fax (410-535-5499) them to order sets of lectures in a variety of different areas, including stand-byes like "Masterpieces of Western Music" and "A History of Ancient Rome," but also more specific topics like "Winston Churchill: Man of the Century," and "The Literature of C. S. Lewis." No, that last series was not the one Kreeft is doing, but instead it is "Ethics: A History of Moral Thought." I'm not a very good listener (just ask my wife) but many people are and I'm glad that the Modern Scholar's ad has a stand-up Catholic teacher so prominently displayed in such a place. It's a good sign for the times.

The Greatest Small College RIvalry

Although I've warned bloggers in earlier posts not to exaggerate, I think I'm OK to describe the men's basketball contests between Calvin College, my alma mater, and rival Hope College as the greatest small college sports rivalry ever. For years now, alums of the two schools have met all over the US and all over the world to watch the contest on satellite. This weekend, after the prayer service at the St. Paul Cathedral on Roe v. Wade day, I plan to go and watch the 155th game of the series at a Twin Cities bar/restaurant called Champps in New Brighton. Calvin has a lead in the series, but they got crushed last year. If you're interested in this game, alum of the two schools or not, check it out here.

More on the Spanish Condoms Debacle

As I figured, this was a non-story. Yahoo! News blared the headline "Spanish Church Backs Condoms" early this morning. I was waiting for the corrections to come out, and come out they have.

It appears that the MSM, in its desire to make the Church look foolish in its inconsistency, or, rather, that it is finally catching up to modernity, pulled this story out of thin air by either not checking with the source, or twisting the spokesman's words.

There was just no way the Spanish bishops, who are a rather conservative lot, would do something like this without the nod from the Home Office. And everyone knows that Cardinal Trujillo is dead-set against condoms as a solution to the AIDS crisis, and for good reason.

Also, read the logic of the Bishops' spokesman's defense of condoms from the Reuters story. What???

This ranks up there with "Church Declares Monopoly on Salvation" that came out when Dominus Iesus was published.

The Curt Jester is on the case.

Harry Flynn Gets Good Press From ... Nick Coleman

Uh oh.

For now, Harry Flynn is in the good graces of the liberal Twin Cities media. A pointless and patronizing pastoral letter on racism under his belt, our good bishop has now attracted more adulation from self-righteous liberal journalists, including our favorite -- Nick Coleman.

Nick is shocked that no politicians showed up for Archbishop Flynn's West Side poverty tour. Is outrage! Those uncaring politicians didn't come to hear why we need more spending, more spending, more spending.

As an aside, Governor Pawlenty has been a huge disappointment in his budget priorities and in the initiatives he takes on. Gambling at MOA? A new U of M campus in Rochester? I'm not one of those folks who believes small government is an end in itself, but rather the best way to foster the health and vitality of families and local communities. It is the subsidiarity principle. When government can step in to "unleas the armies of compassion" or provide needed services or correct market deficiencies, I take the authentically conservative (and Catholic) position that that is a legitimate role. So maybe our pols should re-examine their priorities from time to time.

But that is not the real issue.

The real issue is that no politicians showed up to Harry Flynn's gathering because he has made himself irrelevant. He or his surrogates are always telling politicians what to do. Having a position on the darder snail and other sundry issues has created a huge credibility problem for the church. No one bothers (and can you blame them?) to listen. Is there an echo? Have I said this before?

Harry Flynn spends his media capital in unproductive ways, and when he finally gets to use it, no one cares what he has to say because his policy prescriptions are certainly not the only "Christian" way of looking at the issue. It's one thing to call legislators' attention to the needs of the poor when they are subsidizing professional sports, gambling, and cosmopolitan transportation initiatives. He could have done this. But instead, he advocates tax increases, government health insurance, and more ineffective social service programs.

And what are people really grappling with at the parish level? In-vitro fertilization, divorce and remarriage in the Church, contraception, stem-cell research (oh, and basic Catholic doctrine).

When will see a glowing article from Nick Coleman highlighting Flynn's "Culture of Life" (not yet in existence) initiative?


Catholic Social Doctrine for Dummies

At the IgnatiusInsight Webzine, Mark Brumley has a nice review of a solid introductory book on Catholic Social Doctrine. Brumley describes the book, and illuminates the major principles of Church social teaching.

Since I am always mentioning the topic, and usually criticizing folks for misapplying this collection of doctrines, I thought I would note the presence of the fine introductory volume.

January 20, 2005

Suburban Culture and the Urbanist Bigotry

I'll admit that I find living in a city more congenial and probably healthier than living in the suburbs. I think that much of the new urbanist critique of suburban design is correct. But I also think I, along with a lot of other new urbanists and fellow travelers, often engage in a dangerous sort of pride about where I live. Particularly in the belief that the arts only are valued in cities. Joel Kotkin's "Suburban Culture: Soccer, SUV's, and, now, Symphonies," on OpinionJournal.com, weighs in with some information about the life of the arts in suburbs around the country. He mentions, for instance, the fact that there are more arts jobs in the Chicago suburbs than there are in Chicago proper. I still believe that older urban planning principles--sidewalks, multi-use zoning, narrow streets, etc--beat those of the modern suburb any day of the week. But that does not mean that the people in those suburbs are simply uncultured.

South Park Conservatives

One of conservatism's rising stars, City Journal editor Brian Anderson, has penned a new book entitled, "South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias," due out in March from Regnery.

To whet our palettes, Anderson has written a lenghty feature for OpinionJournal.com describing the new conservatism that he believes is emerging on college campuses, especially the elite schools.

The question I would pose to Anderson is, "To what extent are these young folks actually conservatives?" The conservatism that Anderson is describing is one VERY broadly defined.

Anderson surveys the scene and finds dozens, hundreds of bright and lively young people completely turned off by liberal ideology and embracing more conservative positions on a number of things, especially the war on terror and abortion. Some are Christians, some are not. By all means this is a positive trend.

Continue reading "South Park Conservatives" »

Manners in the Moral Life

If you missed this interview in ZENIT, check out why historian and ethicist Nancy Sherman believes there is an "aesthetic of virtue."

A must read.

Then, ask yourself this question: why does the Church play second fiddle to the military in terms of ceremony, decorum, and ritual when these are basic desires of persons and communities, and they foster virtue? The presence of cassocks and dress blues on city streets can have a subtle, but important effect on the manners of society. Manners foster manners. Good manners breed civilized lives and culture.

A friend of mine says that Rome is more of a hospitable place because of the prevalence of nuns everywhere, especially on the buses.

Let's encourage our priests to keep their clerics on.

January 21, 2005

Peggy Noonan on the Inaugural Address

Former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan has written a sobering critique of the president's inaugurual address.

I tend to think she is right, and the speech was a little over the top. It wasn't Wilsonian in the sense that the president tied America's ideals to her own interests, but it did seem a bit disconcerting. A lot of ambitious talk that seems to lock the nation in to various courses of action. But there seems to be some inconsistency: What about Sudan? Why are we still tight with the Saudis? These glaring issues undermine all of the big talk. What are the principles that cause us to stand with the "lovers of liberty?"

Compare the president's address with this speech by Michael Novak to the center-right governments of Europe. I know they have both read Sharansky's book, and I am sure it is inspiring, but how does this big talk about the march of liberty play out in practical action?

Furthermore, I'm pretty certain that the Hegelian march of liberty is not the defining narrative in history. So where does that leave us?

UPDATE: Another interview with Michael Novak, in a Slovakian daily called Tyzden. Interestingly, Novak notes that Bush's speech is very much in tune with Natan Sharansky's book. Hmmm. See above.

Tort Reform

If you are interested in the ins and outs of the issue from lawyers and economists, and want to get beyond the rhetoric, go to the Becker-Posner blog, run by Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker and jurist extraordinaire Richard Posner. The comments are almost as good as the posts.

I myself am skeptical of a full-scale overhauling of medical malpractice and products liability law, but I think caps on civil jury awards that are still generous (say, $1 million rather than 250K) is only common sense.

Also, I think the infamous McDonald's case was rightly decided. Ooooohhhhh.

Who Has the Catholic Architecture?

Catesby Leigh, the regular architecture critic for the Weekly Standard, has a piece on OpinionJournal.com contrasting the ongoing renovation, or as they say, "wreckovation," of Milwaukee's Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, with the construction of an Episcopal chapel attached to a retirement community. You can already guess which building is more Catholic. Two points need to be made, however. One, this is a chapel for a retirement community--the Episcopal Church is losing numbers left and right and it's not clear that this means anything about the orthodoxy of the Episcopal Church in general. Two, Milwaukee's Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan is a great man and has been fighting the good fight since his installation.

My only question is if it's too early to raise money to really renovate the Catholic Cathedral. I'm sure it would be possible for Archbishop Dolan to raise the money from outside donors saddened at the wreckage left by Archbishop Weakland.

Great and Merely Good Books

Joseph Epstein wrote once that his experience in the University of Chicago's Great Books program left him with the strong desire for some "merely good books." This is an understandable sentiment which I recognized in myself the instant I read it. What is not understandable is the continuing upgrading of many books to "classic" or "great status" with no cause at all. I received a catalogue from Easton Books this week offering their trademark leather-bound books. As an ex-Evangelical Protestant I am familiar with leather bound Bibles (preferably with one's name in gold lettering on the bottom right corner). Such august covering befits the word of God. I can even imagine Easton's leather editions of such things as Stevenson's and Dickens's works, perhaps even Tolkien's. But what I do not understand is why anyone would want leather volumes of Kurt Vonnegut, Donald Trump (How to Get Rich), or, worse yet, that pestilence on world politics Jimmy Carter (Sharing Good Times). Who buys these things? And does the buying of such things warrant corporal, if not capital punishment?

The next item is printed in the University of St. Thomas's St. Thomas Magazine alerting readers to the "Great Books" reading group. The fall books were Aristotle's Children by Richard Rubenstein, Heading South, Looking North by Ariel Dorfman, Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, Richard III by Shakespeare, Longitude by Dava Sobel, and Provocations by Kierkegaard. By my count, that's two great books (Shakespeare and Kierkegaard) along with a lot of other books that might range from pretty good to not so-good. The spring list includes titles by Anne Fadiman, the execrable Karen Armstrong, and C. G. Jung. I think this book club ought to just call itself the "Assorted Books Club" for accuracy.

A Not So Mean Mean

Based upon user feedback over the last few weeks, we have made some additional adjustments to our comment policy here at The Seventh Age.

You will no longer need to register with Typekey to post a comment (many were having problems with this). However comments from first time posters won't appear until they are manually approved.

Hopefully this will help keep out the riffraff without making commenting an insurmountable task.

We'll try this for a few weeks, and make further changes as necessary. Thanks for your patience and patronage!

January 24, 2005

Shout It Out Brother Nino

Our boy Scalia has counselled the Knights of Columbus to be "fools for Christ."

My favorite point Scalia makes in the article is about those who revere St. Thomas More, yet selectively oppose Church teaching. Never one to pull the punches, that Nino.

Harry Flynn, Cardinal Arinze, and the Rainbow Sash, REDUX

One interpid journalist thought she'd go straight to the horse's mouth. It turns out that contrary to the original CNS story, in Archbishop Flynn's meeting with Cardinal Arinze regarding the Rainbow Sash movement, there were no ambiguities regarding the Cardinal's position.

So, why the confusion on Archbishop Flynn's part?

January 25, 2005

Pope Pulse

While CNN only lets you know when the pope looks more ailing than usual, our friends at the BBC have an entire page (updated constantly) devoted to keeping tabs on pontifical developments.

From a delegation of prominent rabbis' recent expression of gratitude to the pope for his lifetime of special commitment in defense of the Jews, to further evidence of Hitler's hope of kidnapping Pius XII, you'll find it all there.

Pervert Studies

My current course of study at one of our nation's top universities provides me with unique access to some of the emerging areas of scholarship that many of you may be unfarmiliar with. The following was a department-wide e-mail I thought I would pass along.


Session Organizers: Jamie Paquin & Katherine Osterlund (York University)
A session of the 2005 Canadian Anthropology and Sociology Association (CSAA)
Annual Meetings, London, Ontario, Canada; May 31st - June 3rd 2005
You are invited to submit an abstract of a paper for oral presentation of
approximately 20 minutes in length.

Initial abstract and letter of intent due Dec 31st, but NO LATER THAN
JANUARY 10TH, 2005.
Note: If you require presentation software (e.g. powerpoint) you must
indicate this with your Abstract/LOI

Complete paper due APRIL 29TH, 2005.

For inquiries and/or to submit abstracts please email: kathyo@yorku.ca
Conference information and list of sessions:

'Pervert Studies': Considerations of the social life of sex, pleasure and
the erotic

Feminist, gay and lesbian, transgender and queer studies have done much to
contest and reveal many forms of sexual persecution, subjectification,
discrimination and misconception. The task today includes extending this
critical engagement with sexual epistemologies, discourses and norms which
preclude or degrade the otherwise meaningful and pleasurable practices of
what Rubin calls 'erotic deviants' (1986). Highly refined, even reified
systems of categories may now obscure the range of practices, processes, and
realities that are the object of an expanded sociology of the erotic.

The time has come to speak of the erotic in all its dispositional variations and
forms, to bring thought and creative analysis to bear upon those domains of
erotic desire and/or conduct still in the shadows. To consider the seen and
unseen of current sexual epistemologies and assess their effects.

The pervert may be defined as 'one who has forsaken a doctrine or system
regarded as true for one esteemed false' (Oxford English Dictionary).

We propose the field of 'pervert studies' as an impetus to be fully engaged in
questioning this logic of truth and falsehood regarding erotic practice,
fantasy and desire, in order to create a space for ideas and open discussion
of erotic conduct, commitments and personas that are held meaningful by
participants and practitioners.

Pervert Studies invites theoretical or empirically-based reflection on
issues including, but not limited to:

  • The constitution of erotic subjectivity: practices, processes, 'structure' and 'agency'
  • Who are some still stigmatized erotic populations? How are these stigmas framed and contested?
  • What is the practice? The pleasure? The context in which it is cultivated and experienced?
  • Has critical sexuality studies gone far enough its investigation of eroticism? Has it created new sexual villains even as it redeemed others?
  • Perversions on the books: Sexual law/social 'laws'; Minors; Money
  • Space and place, pleasure and practice
  • Methodological issues in the study of the erotic

It truly is the end of the university as we know it.

January 26, 2005

Scalia Speaks to Ave Maria Law School

It's official. This blog has become a regular news source of quotable tidbits from our favorite Supreme Court justice, (well, at least mine) Antonin Scalia.

The good Justice remarked at the new law school in Ann Arbor that judges should use history and tradition when hearing cases dealing with religion.

He also made some interesting remarks about raising Catholic children. More on the speech here. Justice Scalia is the Justice in Residence at Ave Maria. Yes, I am jealous.

Also, here is a fun essay advocating Nino for Chief with a rather strange spin.

And one more for good measure.


January 27, 2005

Public Radio Hip

Life is great, no doubt, but let me take this one opportunity to complain (yes, I am always complaining)

I confess that I am a die-hard MPR listener of the classical music variety, not the news station. We have three MPR stations here in the Twin Cities, and up until recently two were devoted to classical music, one being owned and operated by St. Olaf College. I loved the St. Olaf station (89.3) because it played much more sacred music as well as pieces that dated from before the mid-nineteenth century. The "classical" 99.5 frequency focuses a lot on Benjamin Britten, Tchaikovksy, Wagner and more modern "classical music," as though it was designed to appease the sensibilities of Scandinavian and German Lutherans who love to get in touch with the myths of those nations' pre-Christian past (Ride of the Valkyries). OK, maybe those are the people that predominantly do listen to MPR. Additionally, there is a daily dose of "Night on Bald Mountain," which is sort of excessive and creepy.

However, St. Olaf decided it needed to free up some cash and sold the station to the big MPR affiliate here in St. Paul (just after a fundraiser of course). Well, MPR decided to shut down the little station of goodness and in its place establish "89.3: The Current." What a puke title. Just what I needed, more crap to ensure I am a child of the age. How this is "public" radio in the sense of a public service, I do not know. The station allegedly focuses on indie rock and other alternative music that won't be played by those mean corporate stations. Yesterday, they were playing some downtracks from an old "Verve" album as well as some bad rap that could be played only because there was no swearing in it. How can this be justified as a public service? Playing pop and rock songs that aren't good enough to go mainstream (forget the stupid talk about the populace not being cultured enough to appreciate them, because the tunes by-and-large lack any degree of sophistication to appreciate, so are not "cultured" in a refined sense of the term -- ooh, how about that for snotty) instead of classical music that on all accounts is OBJECTIVELY good on a number of levels does not connote a public service.

Furthermore, what segment of the populace is so tragically hip as to actually appreciate what is going on at 89.3? Star Tribune writer Chris Riemenschneider asks the same question, although he is looking for other "hip" folks to help him sustain this great experiment in preserving the commercial-free environment where the cesspool of underground hits can flourish. Forget real diversity in radio, we need another station playing junk like all of the others.

Eventually, we will all have satellite radio in some form (like cable TV), so this will be a moot point and no one will bother to support that great public resource known as MPR.

Thursday Reading

No time to write today, but a couple of good articles to bring to everyone's attention:

"Acorns & Embryos" by Robert P. George dissects some of the analogies used in the bioethics debate. Via The New Atlantis.

Also, a cutting, yet insightful essay on modern parenting via the Piraues blog.


My Thoughts Exactly

Peggy Noonan responds to her critics in today's Wall Street Journal. I am glad she stuck to her guns. A fine piece indeed.

Another reflection on President Bush's inaugural address I would bring to our readers' attention is that of J. Bottum of the Weekly Standard. Bottum believes that a variety of Thomism is the underlying thread that bound the inaugural together. There is a grain of truth to the idea that a certain brand of natural law philosophy and universal conceptions of justice, liberty, and rights come together and have a degree of common ground. But the address went into rhetorical excess. It could just as easily have been James Madison as Thomas Aquinas.

Furthermore, a friend of mine commented that he had heard Bottum give an address a few years back where Bottum criticized some conservatives and conservative publications for holding to the idea that Aquinas, the Founders, and Abe Lincoln all said the same thing. After listening to the President's address, my friend said (in reference to Bottum), "guess he got over it."

January 28, 2005

Katie Couric and the 411 on Teen Sex

For those of you who missed it, Katie Couric spent Wednesday night talking about teens and sex. I made a makeshift antenna for my TV for the occasion, and thanks to a stripped twisty tie and some tin foil, was able to watch the entire program, albeit a bit snowy and occasionally fading into black and white.

All in all it was pretty good. A touch salacious, and overly sexualized, but fairly accurate based upon focus group research I have done with teens about sex. The program was based in part on a survey conducted by NBC/People Magazine. The results are available here and are quite illuminative. You even get to see the questions, as they were asked.

The program even featured a devout Catholic teen saying how sex was so valuable she was saving it for marriage. Her ignorance of what the word "fondling" meant reinforced a few stereotypes, but all in all I think she was portrayed fairly.

Full transcripts and some of the video is available on the web. Bottom line is kids today view sex a lot more casually than they used to and they wish their parents would talk to them more about it, but Boomer parents are afraid to say anything, and their kids are the ones suffering because of it.

Worth the read/watch for anyone working with teens or addressing issues of sexual practice.

Elections in Iraq

With Iraqi elections around the corner, the folks at MEMRI have put together an overview of the election process in Iraq and the major platforms of some of the major political partices.

If you think it's hard electing circuit court judges and soil and water conservation officers, imagine 262 different political parties and indivduals to pick from. This Iraqi election gives new meaning to the notion of democracy!

January 31, 2005

You Gotta Adore This

I know it's the year of the Eucharist, but this is getting out of control,

The left leaning Minneapolis paper ran a front page story in the Sunday edition on Eucharistic adoration. Yes, front page. Yes, Eucharistic adoration. And yes, it is fairly well done, complete with a sidebar of info on how to get it started in your parish.

It's an AP story, and Google news shows 8 sources in the upper midwest running it already.

Does the pope have pull, or what!

Thanks go out to Fr. Peter Laird for bringing this to my attention last evening in his homily.

Campbell In Columbus

Bishop Frederick Campbell has been installed in Columbus, Ohio.

For those of you still mourning the loss here in St. Paul/Minneapolis, you can find his installation homily here.

In his homily, Campbell notes:

One of the Church Fathers (I believe it was St. John Chrysostom) wrote that the first responsibility of a bishop is to enter into the mystery of God and, returning from that encounter, to share the mystery with the people. It is only in the grace of God and with your prayers that I should hope to begin to fulfill that responsibility.

I shall begin, continue, and in due time conclude my dedication to this task by a devotion to the sacred liturgy of the Church and preeminently to the Holy Eucharist.

Hat tip to Mary Gibson at Veritatas Splendor for bringing this one to my attention.

Moyers Feeling "Left Behind"

The shockwaves of the November elections are still reverberating in the Pantheon of the left. The latest coping strategy is apparently to demonize the "religious right" in an attempt to show America the dangerous fanaticism she is embracing.

Bill Moyers did his best in an acceptance speech for the Global Environment Citizen Award. He laments:

One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

We poor blind Christians, clinging to unprovable premises that contradict reality. But it gets better:

In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index. That's right the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the left-behind series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious right warrior, Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.

Anyone who calls himself Christian, must necessarily believe in the rapture, which makes him unfit for political service, and pre-disposed to destroy the environment in order to bring on the eschaton. What is the solution to this mess we find ourselves in?

The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. What we need to match the science of human health is what the ancient Israelites called "hochma" the science of the heart ... the capacity to see ... to feel ... and then to act ... as if the future depended on you.

Now who is clinging to unprovable premises? Enter the journalist-king. The only one fit to rule in these difficult times. Listen to the news, and the news will set you free. Never mind the fact this contradicts the leftist complaint that the conservatives have a stranglehold on the news media now.

Poor Bill. it must be tough feeling left behind in this changing political landscape.

Flynn, Legionaries, and the Parallel Church

For those of you following Archbishop Harry Flynn's move to banish the Legionaries of Christ from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, you'll want to check out this latest piece on the matter.

It doesn't say anything new or insightful, such that I almost didn't even bother to mention it, but it does provide a few historical observations, and I know some people are really into this controversey, so if you are read it, and if you aren't, don't bother.

About January 2005

This page contains all entries posted to The Seventh Age in January 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2004 is the previous archive.

February 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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