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February 2005 Archives

February 2, 2005

Battle of the Brands

An interesting article on the top brands globally, and by continental region. Some surprising results including Al Jazeera as the #5 global brand, and Target besting Walmart handily in U.S./Canada. Also included some interesting tidbits including Starbucks opening 3.5 store per day, and Google accounting for 57% of all internet seaches.

Medved on the Oscars

In an article in USA Today, Michael Medved reflects on the underlying message Hollywood is sending with its Oscar nominations. Basically, they are afraid of traditional religion.

He also raises an interesting point regarding the historical success of biblical films. He notes:


Between 1949 and 1959, six religious-themed pictures (Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, Quo Vadis, The Robe, The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur) each became the nation's top box-office hit in the year of its release, while drawing significant Oscar attention. Ben Hur, in fact, set a record that lasted for nearly 40 years with its 11 Academy Awards.

Now against this historical backdrop, and with the recent success of films like The Passion of the Christ, and the growing lament of the left at the religiosity of America, if I were a studio exec, I'd start releasing religious films left and right out of sheer greed if nothing else. "Left Behind" on the big screen would be a no-brainer. Perhaps the studios are more principled than we give them credit for?

Hat tip on this one to Barbara at Church of the Masses.

2005 Catholic Blog Awards

The 2005 Catholic Blog Awards are now accepting nominations.

You have until this Frday at 12:00 P.M. EST to submit your nominations here.

Needless to say, if you like what we are doing (or even if you don't), we would welcome your nomination.

Catholics on the Rise

The annual pontifical yearbook is out, and the news looks good. Catholics are on the rise, with the baptized faithful sitting at 1,086 million in 2003, up from 1,071 million in 2002 with nearly 50% living in the Americas.

Proud of Our President

Despite my quibblings with President Bush's policies and rhetoric, I am proud to call this fine man our president. Read the text of the State of the Union. Well done.

Additionally, Bill McGurn, a very fine Catholic writer who has worked for National Review and the Wall Street Journal, has replaced Mike Gerson as the President's head speechwriter. An excellent choice.

The mark of fine leadership is the ability to amass the right "whos" and plug them into the organizational scheme. That Harvard M.B.A. the President possesses has taken him far. He seems to continuously demonstrate sound judgment.

When all is said and done, I think President Bush will go down as one of the great presidents of the 20th and 21st centuries.

February 3, 2005

McDonald's and the Effete Society

Bruce Fein, writing in the Washington Times, comments on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that a lawsuit against McDonald's on the grounds that it was endangering its customers with Big Macs, fries and shakes is meritless, and has been thrown out unanimously by a three-judge panel.

Fein makes the point that this lawsuit would have been unthinkable in the first place if we lived in a less effete society where parents took responsibility for their kids eating habits.

Worth the read.

February 4, 2005

Homosexuality for Kids

Our friends in the public television realm are doing their best to normalize homosexuality by introducing kids to same-sex "families" in public television kids cartoons.

According to the Pioneer Press, an upcoming episode of "Postcards from Buster" (Buster is Arthur the aardvark's best friend. For those of you unfarmilair with Arthur, he is the Barney of the 21st century) features:


...a farm family that milks cows, builds bonfires and makes maple syrup.

Seems tame. Except the rural Vermont family is headed by same-sex parents.


Of 349 public television stations across the nation, only 21 have commited to airing the episode, our local Twin Cities Public Television among them.

It makes me long for the good old days when Mr. Rogers visited peanut butter factories and fed fish.

February 5, 2005

Loving thy Enemy ... Help!

Lent is upon us -- a time of purification and penance. Because I'm not particularly interested in being just a nice pagan, I thought I would really spend this Lent meditating upon how I can love my enemies (actually, one in particular as I try not to cultivate too many -- which is difficult since I am always defending Justice Scalia). This is easier said than done. While it is not too difficult to love those that wish us ill or hate us for what we stand for, when your enemies infiltrate your personal life or family, that is when it gets tricky.

While I think praying for your enemies and willing their authentic good is a start, does our obligation to love our enemy end there? What are the positive obligations of this command? What if they continue to sin against you and spit in your face? Must we be civil? Must we try to be-friend them? Can we admonish them as sinners and instruct them as ignorant?

I think this would be a great thread in our comments box. Please offer your suggestions to the benefit of our readers (and writers).

February 7, 2005

Bush Condemns Nation to Hell

So says the MSM in chorus after the release of the President's budget. Here is the headline from today's Star Tribune, which expanded upon the lede from yesterday's New York Times, which noted that the new budget raises health care copayments for veterans. Hmmm. You have a gazillion page budget, and that is the dominant feature worth profiling?

"President Bush sent Congress a $2.57 trillion budget plan today that seeks deep spending cuts across a wide swath of government from reducing subsidies paid to the nation's farmers, cutting health care payments for poor people and veterans and trimming spending on the environment and education."

Read the full story here.

My question is, will there be a fair appraisal of this bill anywhere in the media besides talk radio, the blogosphere and Fox News? Does anyone have time to read this and analyze it. Are we to think that the President is so cavalierly stupid as to promote cuts in the very things Democrats will demagogue to defeat the Bush agenda?

And remember, spending cuts for liberals often mean reductions in the proposed annual spending INCREASES. So instead of increasing education spending 20% (as may have been scheduled or proposed), we only inrease it 10%.

Oh, the humanity.

February 8, 2005

Emanations from Penumbras

Those legal nerds among us will immediately know the reference and be inspired to read this article by James Taranto chronicling the constitutional "right" of privacy.

So, is there a zone of privacy that government cannot enter into and interfere with? Is it possessed by individuals, families, groups? Is it an unenumerated right? Or, is it just the First Amendment (free speech and freedom of religion) or the Fourth (unreasonable searches and seizures)? Should we enshrine this in law?

Some interesting things to consider? I'd love to hear your various perspectives.

Railroad Privatization

OK, I need to get on my policy wonk soapbox. Privatizing the nation's railroads would be a magnificent development and in my estimation would lead to a boom in rail travel. AMTrak is a horrible waste of resources (losing 500 million dollars annually) and is in one accident after another. It is expensive and slow. We can do better.

Incidentally, Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) is one of the chief defenders of the rail line. Why, one asks? There is no line I am aware of in his district, or a rail connection from Minneapolis to Duluth (please correct me if I am wrong). Let's get on the horn with legislators and help end the rail behemoth known as AmTrak.

February 9, 2005

Vatican To Help U.S. In Sacrament of Marriage

The Catholic Church in the U.S. is quite young, and is consequently still learning how to do things like administer the sacraments, marriage in particular. At least such is what one would conclude from the fact that roughly 66% of all annulments granted world wide are decreed by U.S. (arch)dioceses.

To help combat this (okay, they didn't put it quite that way, but we are reading between the Italian lines here) the Vatican has just released updated guidelines for the annulment process.

Of course we still suffer from the media framing of annulments as "Catholic divorce" (perhaps the U.S. Bishops should put some of those annual Communication Campaign dollars to work combating this) which only results in disenfranchised faithful when they get that "bad" news that their marriage was really legit.

The document is called "Dignitas Connubii,” though I haven't been able to find a copy online yet.

A Saint Among Us?

According to an article in today's Star Tribune, the process has begun to open the cause of Rochester, Minnesota physician Dr. Giancarlo Rastelli.

Rastelli, who was born and married in Italy, first came to the Mayo Clinic in 1960, and died in Rochester in 1970 at age 36.

Bishop Harrington of Winona, MN gave Bishop Silvio Bonicelli of Parma, Italy, (Rastelli's native diocese) permission to lead the effort to have Rastelli canonized. With the Italians on board, championing his cause, Rastelli chances are definitely improved.

You can read more about Rastelli on page 2 of the February issue of the Winona Diocese newspaper.

Hat tip to my sister Catherine, who works at Rastelli's old parish in Rochester, for bringing this to my attention.

Minnesota's 2006 Senate Race Gets Interesting

The 2006 Senate race in Minnesota was shaping up to be a weenie-fest. Sen. Dayton was poised to face Rep. Mark Kennedy in what was sure to be an uninspiring campaign. However, Dayton has spent his personal fortune, and because he is such a lame senator with no appeal whatsoever, has no money to run again and doesn't want to bankrupt himself. Thus, he has decided not to run for reelection.

This changes the dynamic because now the Democrats can put up a more credible, qualified and articulate candidate. While Bill Luther and Mike Ciresi are getting hyped early on (and Kennedy has already defeated Luther twice), my pick is that the Democrats will go with savvy Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar is extremely intelligent, high-profile because of her prosecution work and very articulate (did I mention well-connected to the $$$$ in the legal community?). She could wipe the floor with Mark Kennedy (who is a very fine man, but not a good politician).

So, here is my early call to have one of our outstanding, articulate Republican women officials such as Michelle Bachmann or Mary Kiffmeyer get into this race (and encourage Kennedy to keep fending off Patty Wetterling in the 6th district).

The Dayton v. Kennedy blog will keep updates on this race (and hopefully rename itself).

February 10, 2005

The Protestant Rosary

An article in today's Dallas Morning News notes the growing popularity of the rosary among non-Catholics.

The ELCA has created their own Lutheran rosary for lent (though it is unclear what prayers one would say) and a Lutheran married to a Catholic has launched an "ecumenical rosary" that uses many of the same mysteries and ironically replaces the Hail Mary with other scriptural ejaculations.

According to the article:


Terry Ziegler, co-owner of Catholic Art & Gifts in Farmers Branch, Texas, said Protestant customers will sometimes ask, "I'm not Catholic. Can you sell me a rosary?" His reply: "If you've got cash or a credit card, sure."

Hat tip to John Paul II for the recent year of the rosary!

If You DON'T Move It, They Will Come

At mass yesterday evening, the priest offered what I thought was a striking insight in his homily. Far more Catholics attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, than on the other holy days of obligation throughout the year.

I think this is largely attributable to the sacramental character of the liturgy. There is no skirting the reality of sin and death as the palm ashes are smeared on your forehead and you are reminded that such is the destiny of your body this side of eternity.

There is something about walking around all day with ashes smeared on your forehead that creates a sense of Catholic belonging that we rarely experience in this day and age.

However, the strong attendance at Ash Wednesday liturgies does call into question the logic that the faithful just can't make it to mass during the week, the very logic that undergirds the practice of transferring holy days of obligation to Sundays.

Leave the Holy Days alone, add some sacramentals to sweeten the deal, and the faithful will be there with ashes on.

Sacramental Drugs

While some may accuse our president of being a Christian zealot, his administration is not afraid of setting reasonable limits on the practice of religion. Take for example the case of the Brazil-based O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal. His administration has asked the Supreme Court to bar them from using the hallucinogenic hoasca tea as part of their religious services.

According to an AP article in today's Lexington Herald-Leader:


The church, which has about 140 members in the United States and 8,000 worldwide, said the herbal brew is a central sacrament in its religious practice, which is a blend of Christian beliefs and traditions rooted in the Amazon basin.

On the other side of the coin:

The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to block a New Mexico church from using hallucinogenic tea that the government contends is illegal and potentially dangerous.

Perhaps the ACLU will come to the defense of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal in this case? Stay tuned.

February 11, 2005

A Kinder Gentler Passion

Mel Gibson is at it again, this time with a gentler cut of his hit movie The Passion.

According to ABC News, the new version reworks the scourging scence, cutting out about 6 minutes of suffering. According to the article:


The new less violent version of the film goes easier on the brutal details of the last days of Christ.

"There are no new scenes, and the cuts are limited to the more violent aspects of the film, if that's the right term. The scourging scene in particular has been substantially adjusted," Mr Davey said.


The movie is slated for release a month from today, in time for Easter.

Gay Genes MIA

A study slated for publication in the journal Human Genetics gives a scientific boost to the argument that there is no such thing as a gay gene.

Apparently, scientists could find no statistically significant indication that genes make you gay:


The analysis says of the study, “The authors describe in the article three non-X chromosomal ‘new regions of genetic interest’ (7q36, 8p12, and 10q26). In the authors’ view, a noteworthy aspect of the study as follows: ‘Our strongest finding was on 7q36 with a combined mlod score of 3.45 and equal distribution from maternal and paternal allele transmission. This score falls just short of Lander and Kruglyak's (1995) criteria for genomewide significance.’ They go on to say ‘two additional regions (8p12 and 10q26) approached the criteria for suggestive linkage’ -- again pointing out that neither was statistically significant.”

Thus, even the author’s “strongest finding” was not statistically significant by widely accepted scientific criteria.


Watch for a backlash in a newspaper near you.

The Cost of Infidelity

The national Episcopal Church is out $4 million in donations since they ordained a gay bishop according to an AP article in today's Kansas City Star.

This represents a 12% decline in donations from local congregations, as some realign themselves with more conservative dioceses in Africa.

Bottom line, it pays to keep the commandments, and encourage others to do so.

February 12, 2005

Queer Festival at Notre Dame

A friend of mine at Notre Dame Law School emailed yesterday asking for prayers. Notre Dame has mired itself in another controversy, hosting a "Queer Festival" on campus. Yikes.

As to how this slipped through administration is baffling, considering the strong leadership in the provost and president's office. However, as the firing of Ty Willingham unfolded, it was clear "senior management" wasn't informed. Which begs the question of who is running the show at Our Lady's university. It appears that the trustees and donors run the athletic department, and the Left runs the rest of the campus.

Read the story in the Notre Dame Observer.

February 13, 2005

You Have Made Us For Yourself, O Lord

And our hearts are restless until they rest in thee. So says St. Augustine in one of the most beautiful lyrics to the Creator. Is it possible that we are "wired" for faith? Made to seek God? Nicholas Kristof asks that question in Sunday's New York Times.

It may be, says Kristof, that faith is an irrepressible part of the human condition. Try as we may to scorn it and keep it down, deeming it useless in modern, commercial society. It keeps popping up. The Chinese even made the world's firmest atheist, Chairman Mao, into a God. Ironic.

However, it all makes sense. It is only fitting that our Creator would create us in a way that would allow us to find home. It is as though there is a homing beacon inside us, providing a faint signal beyond the material to the One Who Is. God seeks out man, but provides in man the ability to seek God. As Aquinas said, the true end of man, what he was made for (his telos), was eternal communion with God. It really is "built" into us. As a great professor of mine once said, "We hit the ground running." And so it is.

Of course, this wouldn't be news if people read their Aquinas.

Lenten Movie Recommendations

Hollywood Guru Barb Nicolosi posts her Lenten movie picks here.

February 14, 2005

Euro-America and the Aspirational Cities

There is a very good new article up at the Weekly Standard discussing demographic, economic, and cultural trends in America's cities.

The author, Joel Kotkin, claims that the fastest growing cities are one's that allow people to pursue "happiness". In Kotkin speak, that means have the most opportunity for upward economic mobility. By contrast, there are the Euro American cities that have become small bohemian paradises. As a result, elites move into these places, driving home and property values, displacing the "aspirational" crowd to other parts of the country. However, the "aspirational" cities now believe they must have little "So-Ho" enclaves if they are to compete for the New Elite. It is a Catch-22.

The cultural and political effect of this trend is far-reaching. Here is an excerpt from the article as an example:

"In the wake of John Kerry's loss to George Bush, a widely circulated editorial entitled "It's the Cities, Stupid" in The Stranger, a Seattle alternative weekly, called on Democrats to adopt a politics that excludes countryside, suburban, and exurban constituencies. Democrats "are the party of urban America," the paper proclaimed, suggesting a political approach catering to city-dwellers at the expense of those living in "the soulless sprawling suburbs" and in rural America.

"The highly urbanized Kerry voters, we were told, represented "the real Americans" who reject "heartland 'values' like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia." The suburbanites and small-town denizens came from places where "people are fatter and dumber and slower." "Let them have the shitholes, the Oklahomas, Wyomings, and Alabamas," the Seattle paper raged. "We'll take Manhattan.""

The Global Consciousness Project

This story is particularly weird and worth reading. It chronicles a worldwide experiment centered around a little black box that predicts the future, using its connection to little sensory "eggs" and churning out random number sequences

What I take away from this piece is that scientists have some how found a way to tap into the order of nature. It would seem that we should dismiss projects like this (and they sound rather Orwellian), but like evolution, they may tell us something extraordinary about God and the universe. It could be that nature and catastrophic disturbances within it (such as mass destruction or loss of life) have a profound (history-altering) effect on persons and nature, whether or not we know it. Perhps there is a profound inter-connectedness between persons and creation. It would make sense in light of an understanding of sin that permeates all of creation. "All creation cries out, 'How long O Lord?'" Just as our actions (good or bad) can have a profound effect on others as their effects diffuse, why couldn't large pheonomena be "sensed" in nature, both forward and backward in the "space-time continuum." OK, I don't know about much about science, but that seemed like a good term to use.

Of course, this is all very speculative and random, but thoroughly interesting, even though it sounds like Obi-Wan Kenobi talking to Luke Skywalker about the Force and mitochlorians.

Catholic Legal Theory

Not to be missed for our jurisprudentially-minded readers is this interview with my friend Mike Scaperlanda, professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, on the future of Catholic legal thought.

Terri Schiavo in Trouble

The case of Catholic Terri Schiavo took a turn for the worse today when Judge Greer denied her parents' motion to set aside his 2000 order and appoint an attorney for her.

According to the article:


Greer implied that Terri Schiavo would have been entitled to an attorney in a guardianship establishment proceeding. But he declared that she had no such right in a tube removal proceeding where her “guardian or surrogate decision-maker is authorized to exercise her constitutional right to privacy for her.”

Ah, that great constitutional right to privacy, a great way to get yourself killed even when you (or your unborn child) want to live.

Welfare for All

I got an interesting letter in the mail today from yet another social service outfit in town, Animal Ark. Apparently this $591,000 per/year organization is committed to providing luxry accomodations for the homeless, homeless pets that is.

According to their site:


Dogs are housed in spacious kennels, the largest of which measure 9-feet by 12-feet. Each dog is provided with its own, soft, raised bed with blankets, chew toys and treats. Large, outdoor play yards are provided for our pooches. Three times each day, dogs are taken out for potty breaks and play with other dogs. In the heat of summer, kiddy pools and water misting systems provide the dogs with cool comfort. Additionally, dogs are walked each day by a group of dedicated volunteers.

Rabbits are kept in a luxury bunny suite that includes all the amenities a house rabbit deserves.

They also served 90,000 "meals" this past year, and have touched the lives of hundreds of pets. Take for example the heroic story of Annie.


Annie is a 7-year old German Shepherd that had lived her whole life outside on a short chain before coming to Animal Ark. And the years of neglect and abuse had taken their toll on her. Though she had a gentle peaceful spirit, she was fearful of everyone and everything. But with a lot of pampering, daily massages and lots of treats, Annie learned to apprciate her new life. Annie not only found a new home, Animal Ark used her story to help the City of Saint Paul to pass restrictions that prevent the chronic chaining of dogs outside.

No, I am not making this up. I won't even tell you about the "Pit Fix" Pit Bull Sterilization Program.

Don't be surprised if the rising costs of Pet Care necessitate a new Peticaid Program so that no rabbit is left behind.

Religious Politicians

The startribune.com has an interesting comparison of views on the role of government as it relates to providing basic services for immigrants.

Here are excerpts of the two perspectives:

PERSPECTIVE 1

I believe that through heavy taxation (30 to 50 percent for most Americans), big and intrusive government actually hinders Christians' ability to give, leaving few available resources to help the poor. Instead, their income supports ever-expanding government bureaucracy and services through which its recipients become increasingly dependent upon the government; many are enslaved to the very system initially designed to liberate them.

PERSPECTIVE 2
Because human needs require it, and other resources are not available to meet those needs, we believe that it is right and proper to raise income taxes justly and equitably ... . We know [Minnesotans] are willing to sacrifice for their poor brothers and sisters facing difficult financial hardships. The taxes we pay today, and those paid by our parents and grandparents before us, have allowed us ... to develop and sustain a high quality of life [and] allow us to meet our moral responsibility toward our fellow citizens, our brothers and sisters in the family of God."

Now let's play match the perspective with the author.

POSSIBLE AUTHORS

A) The chair of the state democratic party
B) The chair of the state republican party
C) The head of a middle class household in Minnesota
D) A retired evangelical pastor
E) The local Catholic archbishop


Match the perspective with the author.

February 15, 2005

Poland Beats Back Abortion

While the troops of the culture of death advance around the globe, the faithful remmnant in Europe has resisted, for now.


WARSAW, Poland--The Polish parliament voted Tuesday not to consider a controversial bill allowing abortion up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

The bill had been proposed by the ruling Democratic Left Alliance but was fiercely opposed by the Catholic Church, conservative groups and large sections of the public in this fiercely Catholic country.

The bill would have also made sex education a separate subject in junior high schools and allowed minors to seek abortions without parental consent.

Consideration of the bill was defeated by 199 votes to 183.

Though I must say, the closeness of the vote does not bode well for the future.

The Bible Belt: A Catholic Desert

I just came accross this interesting map of the percentage of Catholics by county in the US:


(Click on the map for a larger version)

Lots of mission territory down their in the bible belt!

February 16, 2005

Terri Schiavo Abandoned by U.S. Bishops

I had the opportunity to attend a lecture last night by Cathy Cleaver Ruse, the official pro-life spokesperson for the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

The spiritual director for the Schindler family was in attendance, and after the lecture, he asked Ruse what the U.S. Bishops were doing to stand up for Teri Schiavo. After some quips about being video taped, and a prolonged silence, Ruse revealed that she had been specifically instructed that the Schiavo case is considered a strictly local matter, and she is not to speak to it at all. Keep in mind this is the national pro-life spokesperson for the U.S. Bishops.

Never mind the fact that the Schiavo case is in the national spotlight, with news outlets all over the country running the story. Never mind the fact that there are commentaries in the Washington Times, articles in the New York Times, opinions in the Los Angeles Times. This is the story of our times, an incredible opportunity to publicly affirm the value of all human life, and educate the faithful on end of life issues, and the U.S. Bishops are remaining silient, not accidentally, but willfully.

One would hope that the abuse scandal had taught the bishops something, but it seems it is business as usual at the UCCB. Needless to say, such actions seriously undermine the credibility of the bishops on the life issues as a whole.

February 17, 2005

Pope to Tackle Modern Media

Word on the street is John Paul II has another apostolic letter up his sleeve, this one dealing with recent trends in the media and communications. Slated for release Feb. 21st, the title is "The Rapid Development." Watch your mailbox.

Who Won?

The general world consensus is that the Iraqi elections were a great success. But isn't it ironic that most people have no idea who won?

The results, along with some analysis can be found here. Interesting reading.

Ave Maria, FL

Tim Monahan's Catholic colony and college in the sunbelt got the green light today.


The Southwest Florida Planning Council approved plans today for Ave Maria University and its adjacent town.

Preliminary site clearing is already underway on 5,000 acres of field land in Collier County just south of Immokalee and 25 miles northeast of Bonita Springs.

The Roman Catholic University will eventually have 6,000 students. The town, also called Ave Maria, will have 11,000 diverse dwellings when built out, expected in 10 to 20 years.

First phases of the university and town will open together in the summer of 2007.


It will be interesting to see how this project unfolds. Are bars allowed in Catholic college towns? A FedEx Kinko's? Only time will tell.

Seven Deadlies Enter the Academy

The Seven Deadly Sins seem to be all the rage these days, and the academies do not want to be left behind. Interestingly enough, the journal Text and Performance Quarterly is dedicating an issue to the Seven Deadlies.


Michael LeVan and Daniel Makagon, guest editors of Text and Performance Quarterly, invite essays at the intersections of performance, culture, and the seven deadly sins. Of particular interest are manuscripts that engage a specific deadly sin (e.g., lust, gluttony, sloth, anger, greed, envy, or pride). Topics addressed in submitted manuscripts may range from examinations of sin as method and/or resource for performance, scholarship, cultural critique, or political resistance to explorations of sin in the cultural imagination, in performance practice, as a technique of power, as an economic or social virtue, or as a resource for writing, relationships, freedom, or critique. Manuscripts from a wide range of perspectives, including rhetorical, feminist, ethnographic, political, and aesthetic are welcome.

Needless to say the suggested topics are quite revelatory, but if any of you have any political resistance to explorations of sin in the cultural imagination that you need to get published, this is your chance.

Continue reading "Seven Deadlies Enter the Academy" »

RIP Notre Dame

As if the Queer festival at Notre Dame reported here a few days ago wasn't bad enough, the latest news is that the infamous Vagina Monologues are being performed on campus.

Not only are they being performed, the author, Eva Ensler, appeared as a luncheon guest on campus yesterday to mark the beginning of the three day run of the performance.

The local ordinary, Bishop D'Arcy, has been working quietly since this past summer to try and persuade Notre Dame to cancel the event, and issued a statement condemning Notre Dame's actions a few days ago.

Regrettably, the case of Notre Dame is not unique. The scandal of the performance of Vagina Monologues on Catholic campuses across the country is chronicled at the Cardinal Newman Society web site.

Of course the scandal at Notre Dame is far worse, in light of the institution's national Catholic reputation. William McGurn did a great job making this point in a recent article in First Things. He wrote:


In the last weeks of the 2004 electoral campaign, a Notre Dame dean, Mark Roche, appeared on the New York Times op-ed page making the case that, the evil of abortion notwithstanding, Kerry’s candidacy reflected Catholic teaching better than Bush’s did. On the whole, it reminded me of Marion Barry’s defense of his mayoral record in Washington D.C.: “Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”

As a newspaperman who has solicited and edited op-eds for the Wall Street Journal on three continents, I’m fairly confident that the name the Times wanted on its pro-Kerry op-ed page was not Mark Roche’s but Notre Dame’s. Which reminds us that Catholic enablers are institutions as often as individuals. Had Governor Cuomo delivered his 1984 speech at Yale or had Mark Roche been a dean at Indiana University, nobody would have paid attention.


It's no accident that of all the universities performing the Vagina Monologues, Ensler did lunch at Notre Dame. What's a Catholic to do?

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary...

The Global Consciousness Project ... Continued

A few days back (Feb. 14), we had a post on this strange phenomenon going on at Princeton and other places. Now, the Evangelical Outpost has taken up the discussion in a lively way. Check it out.

Can You Prove the Bible Says That Marriage is ONLY Between One Man and One Woman?

Alabama state representative Alvin Hayes (D-Montgomery) is offering $5000 to anyone who can prove that Bible restricts marriage to one man and one woman.

""Anybody could have any interpretation they want of the Bible," Holmes told the Montgomery Advertiser."

This has raised all sorts of hackles with people dumping annotated and marked up Bibles at Hayes' office "proving" that the Bible is clear about marriage.

However, this problem gets to the heart of biblical interpretation and epistemology more generally. First of all, what does Hayes mean by prove? Does he requires some sort of absolute certainty. Is it one of the many burdens of proof available to legislators when constructing laws. No matter who offers him "proof," Hayes will always be able to hide behind a false notion of scientific and empirical proof that really cannot be applied to the Bible.

Furthermore, no matter how convincing your "proof" might be, if Hayes finds one religious figure to contradict you, you will be out of luck. Which of course raises the question -- by what authority? In order to be able to prove something of this sort, you have to agree on some standard interpretive authority or common framework of interpretation through which all parties can agree to be bound by. Otherwise, since words can mean anything we want them to mean in today's post-modern linguistically-debased context, you will get a quote like this from Hayes:

"Holmes responded quickly, according to the station, saying, "OK, but what that says [is] ... if two people should get married and if they are of the same sex then he becomes his wife and he's the husband.""

Of course, we will soon hear reports from the MSM that no one could "prove" it to him. Heh. Another case for the Magisterium.

The Eucharist, the Rainbow Sash, and Pro-Abortion Politicians -- Does Arinze Provide the Final Word?

Francis Cardinal Arinze appeared on EWTN and definitively stated that the Rainbow Sash movement was in defiance of the Church and that pro-abortion polticians should not receive the Eucharist.

Of course, this is of particular note because of the ongoing discussion of Archbishop Harry Flynn's relationship with the Rainbow Sash Movement and his conversations with Cardinal Arinze chronicled here and here.

Will this be the final word? How will bishops get around Arinze's statements? Of course, none of this has received any press here in the diocese. While it is good that the only coercive power the lay faithful have over their bishops is nagging, letter writing, and the media, the sort of deception and malfeasance we've seen from bishops regarding the Eucharist, along with the bishops' conference completely abandoning Terri Schiavo is a sign that much more prayer and fasting is required before a real "springtime of evangelization" can be ushered in.

Tomb of St. Paul Discovered...

Underneath the Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome -- which of course makes sense. But silly me for thinking they always knew it was there, under the altar.

Lesbian Culture 101

From the New York Post. Warning: Graphic.

It appears that lesbianism, which was supposed to be all about women being sensitive and understanding of each other, nurturing their partner's well-being outside of the sphere of male patriarchal hegemony, is really just about cheap sex.

Schiavo Protest Begins

Pray for Terri. And also pray that the protestors and politicians all use charity and prudence in this matter, and even if an injustice may result, respect for the rule of law will prevail.

The New Fallacy Perpetuated by Big Abortion *TM

Jimmy Akin has a great post dissecting NARAL's call to join pro-lifers in ending the reasons women get abortions.

Needless to say, he demolishes their rhetoric and undermines the consistent abortionist claim that pro-lifers care only about the baby before it enters the world. The Pro-Life movement has been consistently creating resources to help women in need for the past thirty years. Of course we can do better. But because we have used a good chunk of our limited resources to fighting legal abortion rather than preventing unplanned pregnancies through government spending programs is not a sign of the pro-life movement's bad faith.

Hat Tip: Southern Appeal

Some Sanity for New Parents

Parenting is one of the areas where keeping up with the Joneses tends to be rather important from a social standpoint. Our competitive society fosters competition in child-rearing, even among Christian parents who shouldn't let the "world's" standards of success or achievement rule their actions.

Because our generation understands that we live in a time where you need a lot of things on your resume just to make a middle class living, and signs of status and success are harder to come by, we use our children as the measure of our own worth and success as persons. It is taking the maxim that the children are a reflection of the parents too seriously. Christians are especially guilty of using their children as symbols of success because from a social standpoint you really can't love lots of possessions or be prideful about your academic degrees. But you can sneak your child's astronomical SAT score and command of six languages, including sign languages as a notch on your proverbial acheivement belt.

However, just as modern competitive society is exhausting its adults, we are in danger of exhausting our children, creating them into little neurotic over-achievers (I am one of these, but it is not my parents' fault). What happened to just plain being?

Folks are starting to wise up to this, and thus we have the book Confessions of a Slacker Mom. And while I think some use these ideas as an excuse not to spend a lot of time with their kids or justify their careers, there is a lot of truth in the idea that you don't always have to be inundating your kids with creative activities and learning aids. Your kid won't be a serial killer if you don't use baby-wipe warmers.

Trust me.

Pope to Release New Book

Will chronicle his early years as pope and discuss his thoughts on the assassination attempt that nearly took his life. It will be entitled "Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums." An English edition is planned.

February 19, 2005

Gates of Central Park

Now, thru February 27th, 23 miles of New York's Central Park are lined with fabric "gates" in the latest public exhibit by artistic fabric wrappers Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The full explanation is available here. They claim "There is no particular special vantage point to experience and enjoy walking under The Gates." but for our broadband users out there NASA has a great overhead shot of central park.

Putting Porn to Work for Spam

If you have spent much time on the web, you have probably encountered a captcha ("Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart"). These are those boxes of barely readable letters in strange colors and contortions that you are asked to type in to prove that you aren't an automated computer script angling for another hotmail account.

Well, the spammers who try and crack these so they can try and sell you a cheap rolex have found a great incentive. Free porn:


The ingenious crack is to offer a free porn site which requires that you key in the solution to a captcha -- which has been inlined from Yahoo or Hotmail -- before you can gain access. Free porn sites attract lots of users around the clock, and the spammers were able to generate captcha solutions fast enough to create as many throw-away email accounts as they wanted.

You can read more here.

Exposing the Greed?

Seventh Age commenter Paul over at info theory has an idea he is putting forward to save Terri, money for Michael.

An interesting idea, though as he notes the Schindlers' efforts in this area thus far have been rebuffed.

Check it out here.

The Real Terri Schiavo

Why all this commotion over Terri Schiavo?

If you are looking for a quick overview of her case, and why so many are outrage at what is transpiring, you can find a quick summary here.

Basically we have an innocent woman who is quite alert, about to be starved to death by a greedy husband and the courts are helping him pull it off.

February 21, 2005

The New Government News Agency

A while back I noted the transformation taking place on Minnesota's "public airwaves," in particular the elimination of one of the classical music stations in favor of the indie-rock station "The Current." It seems that NPR is interested more in expanding its empire than being a public service.

If the public radio scene in Washington, D.C. is indicative of coming national trends, then Minnesota's one classical station may be gone very soon as well. Andrew Ferguson at The Weekly Standard chronicles the demise of WETA's classical music programming and transformation into an all news and talk programming format. Of particular note is the quote he cites from WETA president Sharon Percy Rockefeller:

"One comment, from WETA's president, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, struck us as revealing. "We're in the business of trying to create a larger audience," she told the Washington Post, explaining the board's decision. Her line of reasoning is shared by the new generation of station managers who have gained control over public radio in the last 15 years. According to their conventional wisdom--though whether it's wisdom or merely convention has yet to be determined--news and chat inevitably bring in more listeners, and more affluent listeners, than classical music or jazz. And affluent listeners draw higher-class advertisers (called "underwriters" in the painstaking lexicon of public broadcasting) and respond more generously during pledge drives."

Pope's Latest Letter Out

Pope John Paul II's latest apostolic letter, The Rapid Development, is now available. Here is an excerpt:


Do not be afraid of new technologies! These rank “among the marvelous things” – inter mirifica – which God has placed at our disposal to discover, to use and to make known the truth, also the truth about our dignity and about our destiny as his children, heirs of his eternal Kingdom.

I gave it a quick glance, and didn't see anything earth shattering, but it is fairly short, and worth a read in your spare time.

Whither the "New Urbanism?"

Because appropriate architecture and city planning can help cultivate the "good life" (especially the spiritual life -- in an indirect way) one of the resources our blog will continue to provide is a link to some of the most important articles on urban and suburban demographics, with a particular emphasis on how home design and urban planning shape culture and politics.

Here is the latest big feature on this topic from the New York Times, chronicling the rise of "new urbanist" communities in the Southeast USA.

February 22, 2005

Msgr. Luigi Giussani, Requiescat in Pace

Msgr. Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation has died. If you are not familiar with his writings or the movement, click on the hyperlink.

His trilogy, "The Religious Sense" - "At the Origin of the Christian Claim" - "Why the Church?" is particularly edifying.

Msgr. Giussani, pray for us.

Bush's Strategy on Judges

Byron York at NRO has detailed the upcoming battle over Bush's judicial nominees. It looks like our main man Bill "Mr. Roe v. Wade is an Abomination" Pryor will be the guinea pig.

Now we'll see if the Specter gamble pays off.

Have You Been Reading Godspy.com?

One of the best kept secrets of the Catholic Web world is Godspy.com. It is an eclectic e-zine with all sorts of great contributors including Gregory Wolfe and Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete.

It has two new articles of particular interest up on its page today. One by Msgr. Albacete entitled, Guilt and Wonder, and another chronicling one woman's crusade to end no-fault divorce and reform the canonical procedures for an annulment.

Great Reading.

Landmark Eminent Domain Case at the Supreme Court

The most important case of this Supreme Court term is being heard today. The issue involves whether municipalities can condemn non-blighted areas and tracts of land and sell them to private developers for the purpose of economic development under the 5th Amendment's "public use" doctrine. More specifically, is economic development a valid "public use" that allows governments to take people's homes if it will increase the aesthetic appeal and tax base of the community? My personal position is ABSOLUTELY NOT. Is that clear enough?

The Federalist Society at the University of Minnesota will be hosting a debate on this topic this upcoming Thursday (Feb. 24) at 12:15 in Room 50 of the Law School for those interested in attending. Dana Berliner, who will argue the case today in front of SCOTUS, will be a participant.

More on this landmark case can be read here, here, and here, as well as some editorials here and here.

Evangelization Through Monasticism

One of the main reasons I still prefer the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal is for articles like this. It is a "travel" article detailing a Jewish man's retreat experience at a Maronite monastery. The article is deeply appreciative of the tradition and monastic life.

Many have called for a "new monasticism" (see here and here) as a way of evangelizing the fast-paced and spiritually exhausting culture around us.

Often, when folks take the famous Beliefnet.com quiz, their "spiritual type" ends up being something like Mennonite, Quaker, or some other Christian peace denomination. I think what resonates with folks today is communion with others and the environoment, as well a simple lifestyle. This is precisely what the monastic tradition provides.

Perhaps the most we can hope for is that folks make "retreat" every so often and get a little perspective. However, I think we should be more ambitious and try to re-evangelize through a "new monasticism." Any suggestions?

Hat tip: Open Book

The Bishops and Terri Schiavo, cont'd

Open Book has a lively discussion about what the USCCB should or should not be doing in this case. It does appear that the Florida bishops have spoken out in defense of Terri. It may be the case that a stay has been issued.

Here is our post from last week chronicling the USCCB's willful silence on the issue. In fairness to the bishops' conference, it has been noted that the statement by the USCCB, "Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services" deals with this issue by making it a matter of conscience for the patient and her family. Whether that applies in the case of Ms. Schiavo is unclear.

For the latest on the situation, visit ProLifeBlogs.com.

All Roads Lead to Rome

A major phenomenon has gone largely unchronicled over the past fifteen years. Multitudes of Protestant academics and pastors are coming home - to Rome!

I largely think this is a witness to the fact that ecumenism is a form of evangelization. Once barriers of suspicion fall by the wayside and we can engage each other in fruitful conversation, then truth can be communicated clearly and effectively.

Among the myriad of conversions, two recent ones should be noted: Creighton university theologian R.R. Reno has recently come into the Church and penned an apologia for his move in the February edition of First Things. Additionally, University of Texas philosopher J. Budziszewski came into the Church in 2004. Two interviews with him are especially noteworthy. The first is with ZENIT (Part 2) which broke the story last spring, the other is a lovely extended conversation that appeared in the January Catholic World Report.

February 24, 2005

Pope Back in Hosptial

Flu relapse. If it is as serious as a few weeks ago, this is not good. I tend to think it is having more to due with his Parkinson's and the difficulty in breathing it causes, rather than "flu."

In Other Pope News...

Hugh Hewitt at the Weekly Standard analyzes the Holy Father's new document on the media, entitled, "The Rapid Development."

Hugh, the world's leading philosopher of blogging, believes that JPII is sympathetic to the newest means of internet communications. If only there were a Latin word for blogging, he may have mentioned it specifically. Someone call Reggie Foster, the "Pope's Latinist."

So Why "The Seventh Age"?

Some of you have asked about our provocative title. Is it new age? Is it a patristic reference? What gives?

So, I have written an apologia of our blog name that will eventually go under the "About Us" link. I'd love to get your feedback.

Here goes:

Why the Seventh Age?

In 1960, English Catholic historian Christopher Dawson published a collection of essays entitled, The Historic Reality of Christian Culture. The central theme of the collection was Dawson’s belief that spiritual and moral forces shaped a culture as much as political and economic ones. This idea has never been lost on the Catholic Church, which has known that if it was to build a new universal civilization of love and peace under the kingship of Christ, it must shape the cultures of the peoples it sought to evangelize.

Dawson described the Church as passing through six ages, defined by the crises that beset its mission to the nations, as well as the spiritual energy that it possessed in fulfilling this mission. Often, the Church’s problems and successes over the course of its history are due to its attentiveness, or lack thereof, in providing the moral and spiritual resources necessary to foster healthy cultures. When Dawson wrote the essay, he believed the Church was in the waning years of its sixth age.

Continue reading "So Why "The Seventh Age"?" »

Watching Queer Eye Makes You Queerer

Among the advantages of being holed up in one of our nation's most liberal towers of ivory is that I get to find out about things before they get published, like a recent study forthcoming in Communication Monographs.

A few of my colleagues exposed about 120 undergrautes to about 135 minutes (6 episodes) of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy under the guise of a class, and measured their attitudes towards gays before and after using an established scale for measuring these sorts of things (ATG, Attitude Towards Gay Men Scales).

Their conclusion was that exposure to six episodes of the show changed prejudicial feelings towards gay men by about 10% on average. Interestingly enough, the researchers did not monitor the change in direction, as to do so would be to make a judgement about what it means to be gay, which they did not want to do, but the bottom line is what you watch is affecting you whether you are aware of it or not.

P.S. They did a similar study with an English transvestite comedian, and found a 14% shift in attitudes toward transvestites. No, I'm not making this up.

Did You Ever Think You'd See the Day When...

Man sues woman for sperm-theft distress?

A woman somehow "steals" a man's fertility juice and impregnates itself. He is rollling over in pain and agony about being a new father without his permission.

This from an Illinois appellate court. I dare not say more less I actually dignify the absurdity of the matter.

New Maine Bill Protects Fetuses With "Gay Gene"

There is a soft-spoken and under-the-radar pro-life stance among many gay Americans. Of course, if a gay gene is actually discovered, many prospective parents would (at least for now) abort. Unfortunately, confronted with a gay child, many folks would be socially ostracized for not aborting. Barbaric.

Interestingly, some Maine legislators have already pre-empted the gay gene and have introduced legislation preventing abortion of fetuses carrying the gay gene.

I am glad these folks are pushing pro-life legislation, but where have they been? It is OK to abort fetuses for being one sex or the other (China just banned sex-selective abortions by the way). In fact, you can abort for no reason at all! So, how is this legislation going to get through? Hopefully, its proponents will waste no time supporting President Bush's judicial nominees.

February 26, 2005

Terri Given A Few More Weeks of Life

For those of you following the Schiavo case, judge Greer gave an order that will allow Michael Schiavo to have Terri's tube removed at 1 p.m. on March 18. This gives her a few more weeks of life, and her family a few more appeal opportunities.

Still no word that I can find from the U.S. Bishops. I e-mailed their Communication Department regarding this issue, I'll let you know if I get anything back.

Jesus Never Met the Woman at the Well

So proclaims a recent column in my local archdiocesan newspaper. Is it no wonder Catholics fail to appreciate scripture?

Basically, the gospel truth of the matter according to this enlightened "biblical scholar" and columnist is that:


Biblical scholars seriously doubt that this event ever took place in the life of the historical Jesus. After the resurrection of Jesus, the Johannine community, the one responsible for writing the fourth Gospel, included Samaritan believers. Thus, this scene was read back into Jesus’ lifetime by the Johannine community. It was their way of welcoming and including both Samaritans and women who had come to believe in Jesus.

How do we know this? Because "Contextually and historically speaking, the story is froth with irregularities." Never mind the "irregularities" of the resurrection narrative. Or maybe the "historical Jesus" didn't rise from the dead? At any rate I digress...

Anyway, while some may naively view this gospel encounter as a profound reflection on the relationship between God and Israel, and the ongoing infidelity of the bride Israel to her husband Yahweh, the author shares what is really going on:


Clearly a subversion of patriarchy is taking place here. The Johannine community is affirming new roles for women. Women are faithful witnesses to who Jesus is and are not constrained by male cultural norms. Women are able to dialogue with Jesus.

Subversion of patriarchy? Now I am really getting confused. I thought that was one of the problematic "irregularites" of the original story. Or maybe it is the case that the historical Jesus was unable to subvert the patriarchy but the Johannine community was able to? I guess this new exegesis is a little more challenging that I first though.

The worst part of it all is that such a reading strips so much meaning from this gospel passage. Sure you can lift a few quotes, throw in some histroical critical speculation and come up with a subversive anti-patriarchal reading to lay the groundwork for the ordination of women, but it doesn't hold together very well in light of the gospel narratives as a whole or the tradition that has guided interpretation of this passage.

And then to take this shallow reading, and promulgate it to 100,000 Catholics in the official newspaper of the archdiocese? That is the true tragedy. How long Lord?

February 27, 2005

Dawson and the "Six Ages of the Church"

Some of our readers have requested that we outline Christopher Dawson's (that's him above, left) ideas about there being six ages of the Church. This, it is said (and I heartily agree) will provide more historical context for our blog name. Eventually, this will all be under our "About Us" link as a helpful (and much needed) resource.

So, in that spirit, I have compiled a number of commentaries relating to the essay itself. The original can be found in the collection of Dawson essays entitled "Christianity and European Culture," edited by Gerald Russello.

Two commentaries from "The Public Square" in First Things are especially helpful: Dawson's Daunting Questions and
Something, Like Maybe, A Catholic Moment.

The essay is referenced in this piece by Dawson entitled, "The Study of Christian Culture."

I have pasted Fr. Richard Neuhaus's short and concise summary of the important essay below:

Continue reading "Dawson and the "Six Ages of the Church"" »

February 28, 2005

Sister Lucia and the Demise of Communism (and Islam?)

A very nice overview of the Marian apparitions at Fatima and a tribute to Sr. Lucia, one of the visionaries, appeared in a very unlikely place: The Weekly Standard.

Their normal readership was exposed to an altogether kooky and somewhat unnerving story, namely, that the rise and fall of communism is best understood in the context of cosmic history, as revealed to Sr. Lucia and her siblings by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. I'm sure it was quite a surprise to what must be an altogether more secular readership of the conservative weekly.

While never being one to dwell too much on the Fatima apparitions (especially since they have spawned much lunacy, fear-mongering, and general malaise within the Church by many overzealous folks), I find the message of Fatima impossible to ignore. The Vatican documents relating to the release of the "third secret," with a reflection by Cardinal Ratzinger, can be accessed here. It seems that Cardinal Ratzinger believes that the historical moment for which the message of Fatima is relevant, has passed.

For an amazing reflection on Fatima, communism, and Islam, read this piece by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. It might be the case that the message of Fatima is still critically important.

Pope to Be Fed Intravenously?

Here is a newsflash from "Inside the Vatican" magazine that details this important health concern, as well as its implications for the naming of new cardinals:

Pope To Be Fed Intravenously?

Though John Paul II is recovering and is not thought to be in immediate danger, doctors are worried his inability to swallow easily may require him in the future to be fed intravenously

by Inside the Vatican staff

ROME, Italy, February 27, 2005 -- Appearing well on the road to recovery following his second hospitalization in four weeks for breathing difficulties associated with a case of the flu, Pope John Paul II at noon today greeted well-wishers with a smile, standing, from behind a closed window on the 10th floor of the Gemelli Clinic in Rome.

But a doctor contacted by Inside the Vatican has revealed that physicians attending the Pope are so concerned about the advance of his Parkinson's condition and his consequent difficulty in swallowing that they are weighing the option of feeding him via a tube, intravenously.

Our source advised: "His heart is very strong. The problem is that, during this last month, his Parkinson's disease has grown more serious. The Pope has difficulty swallowing food. Should this situation continue or worsen, it may be necessary to resort to feeding him continuously via tubes.

"The other problem around the corner is not so much the problem of speaking (the Pope should be able to begin speaking again within 10 or 12 days) but rather pulmonary edema. As a result, in part, of his Parkinson's, the lungs of the Pope are no longer able to expell a sufficient quantity of liquids, which accumulate inside the lungs, so that the Pope is at risk of dying, using an example which is perhaps a bit extreme, as if by drowning.

"This clinical and pathological picture means that from now on the Pope, once he returns to his apartment in the Vatican, will have to be attended, not only as he has been for the past two years by one doctor, but by a team of three doctors or specialized nurses, around the clock."

Despite these concerns, the consensus in Rome, based on a number of generally reliable sources, is that the Pope will proceed to exercise his pontifical office for some considerable time, "not just weeks or months, but for years," as one generally well-informed source put it.

It is in this context, then, that one must set renewed rumors in Rome of a new consistory to appoint new cardinals.

Continue reading "Pope to Be Fed Intravenously?" »

Gender Neutral Marriage

If you venture to Ontario, Canada with your husband or wife, be careful not to refer to them as such, it may get you in trouble. The terms “man and woman”, “wife”, “husband”, “widow”, and “widower” have all been banished from all Ontario law in the latest move to try and remake marriage a gender-neutral institution. Yet another sad example that ideology is indeed the tie that blinds.

About February 2005

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

January 2005 is the previous archive.

March 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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