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March 2005 Archives

March 1, 2005

Bush's Second Inaugural, redux

In today's NRO, Michael Novak has an excellent essay dissecting the president's second inaugural address in light of the historical events sweeping the Middle East in the last month.

It is a nice rejoinder to critics like myself, who thought the address was too airy to have practical value, and tied our hands too deeply. A worthwhile read.

The Invention of the Homosexual Saints

The latest chapter of revisionist history comes to us from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where Saints Sergius and Bacchus were recently featured for speculation that they were gay lovers.

Some gay Catholics find proof in this account that the two were lovers whose bond was recognized by the church of their day. When the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities holds community events at Twin Cities churches, the gay activist group displays an icon of Sergius and Bacchus in an effort to gain acceptance for gay marriage and gay clergy.

Never mind the fact that there is no historical basis for this, unless of course one rereads the language of Christian charity as that of homosexual love. Yet another example that ideology is indeed the tie that blinds.

The Benevolent Oligarchs Pronounce: No Execution of Minors

Though it is a relief that, for the moment, this barbaric exercise is stopped, we must realize that our languid democracy passed another milestone today on its decline into judicial tyranny with the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in Roper v. Simmons. The Court held, as expected, that executing minors is unconstitutional. According to the 5-4 majority, minors are “categorically less culpable than the average criminal,” and so executing them would violate the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. That position is a rational and defensible position to take.

However, the reasoning the Court uses to get there is ominous. This decision, rife with philosophical inconsistencies and tainted by an unbecoming reference to foreign and international law, marks yet another exhibit in the imperial Court’s legislative will, and hints at the chaos that is washing over our judicial system.

First, the Court takes it upon itself to examine “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” in order to determine if execution of juveniles is cruel and unusual. This examination consists of a strange calculus of simply counting those states that permit juvenile execution and those that do not. This ignores the fact that every state allows for juveniles to be treated as adults in non-capital offenses, and that before today States had the liberty to revisit the issue. No matter. For the meat of their “consensus” argument, the Court goes to the academy, the least representative subdivision of the population. They cite numerous law review articles and academic studies in support of their assertion. The Court has no business interpreting at arm’s length the intents and underlying convictions of State legislatures. They are singularly unqualified to do this. The vaunted independence of the judiciary, which isolates them from the influences of the electorate, works both ways. As Justice Scalia points out in yet another scathing dissent, with this decision the Court “proclaims itself sole arbiter of our Nation’s moral standards.”

Further, the rigidity of the rule is fundamentally undemocratic. The line of 18 years is arbitrary, and simple common sense says that some 18 year olds are fully mature and others border on imbecility. The best forum for determining that is the trial court. Note that the opinion does not shy away from Roper’s actions. Indeed, he serves the Court’s purpose well in that if this demon is free from execution, any juvenile killer will be. Bear in mind that the petitioner here is not seeking to mandate juvenile execution nationwide, but only asserting that in jurisdictions where the people have approved it through their legislatures, juries should be free to weigh the brutality of the crime against the mitigating factor of possible immaturity, an individual examination that this Court has previously mandated. No more. This topic now joins the long list of questions, headed by abortion, that have now been removed from any debate in any State legislature in the land.

Finally, the tortured logic the Court embraces is dangerous. It is said to be irrefutable that minors have less conception of right and wrong, that they are more impetuous and that their characters have not been formed. This language is hauntingly familiar to the language of the greater victim culture at large. How long until a federal Court applies this logic to black males from the inner city? Because of society’s indifference to the inner city and its law of the jungle ethos, it may be soon argued, minorities have less of a conception of right and wrong. Because of society’s abandonment of minorities, an activist Court will say, their characters are not well formed. It is clear that the Court has framed capital punishment in order to set the stage for its eventual abolition by undemocratic means.

Distributism at the Margins

"Don't Blame Wal-Mart" is the title of an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times by former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich.

He makes the important point that while many lambast Wal-Mart for creeping into communities and running small businesses into the ground, the fault lay less on Wal-Mart and more on the consumers who shop there. You really can't blame Wal-Mart for competing in the market and playing by the rules of the game. The nature of the economy is that an entity has to continually be on the lookout for opportunities for growth in order to stay competitive. While one would hope that a company such as Wal-Mart that is oozing in excess reserves might be more discriminate in where it places its stores, the internal dynamics of the global economy have forced corporations to remain vigilant if they wish to survive.

The major problem lies in the fact that consumers desire extra low prices. We are willing to support Wal-Mart and contribute to the damage it does to small businesses and local communities, turning entrepreneurs and proprietors into wage-earners, because cheap products our the first love of our heart. This is the essence of consumerism -- elevating consumer values above all others.

The problem is one not need be materialistic to be complicit.

Continue reading "Distributism at the Margins" »

March 2, 2005

Why Can't All Archbishops Be Like Chaput?

The Rocky Mountain News recently covered a breakfast of civic and business leaders in Denver. Here is a taste of this interesting exchange:

"Why do (religions) feel they have to impose their views on us?" asked one woman during a spirited question-and-answer session following Chaput's speech to the City Club of Denver.

"If we don't - you'll impose your views on us," Chaput shot back to murmurs from the group of about 120 business and civic leaders."

Hat tip: Open Book

"Empty House on the Prairie"

This feature in the New York Times chronicles how small, midwestern towns are literally paying people to come live there. It is a reflection of how due to a number of factors, the growth of corporate farming and the information/service economy, small-town life in Mid-America is dying out. People are rapidly migrating to the cities.

I am tempted to take these folks up on the offer. However, living in community requires, to a certain degree, likeminded people with similar values. I'm not sure how many Catholic, intellectually serious (at least I'd like to think so), and culturally/socially/politically conservative folks (well, there are plenty of those, I suppose) I am going to find on the range. For better or worse, to a certain degree I am addicted to the pleasures of cosmopolitan city living. I will have to focus my search on the plethora of small, German-Catholic midwestern cities if I am to be successful. (Although, the way the boys at Southern Appeal talk about the South makes me want to hitch a trailer and move the family to Birmingham, Macon, or Charleston right now.)

A few nights back I had dinner with an important figure in the legal community who indicated that he gave up on the rigors of big-city American life and moved his family to Utah. It turns out, he loves it, and his family has flourished. Salt Lake City might not have all of the resources of Boston, but it does have them, and they are enjoyed in a less-pretensious manner. People loved the fact that he brought his small son to a Shakespeare performance. This would be taboo in Chicago, or even Minneapolis. Additionally, in smaller metropolitan areas, one can enjoy the happy medium between the big "Euro-cities" and the provincialism of a town in northwest North Dakota.

Judge Michael McConnell

Judge McConnell, on many people's short list for the next Supreme Court vacancy, gave an excellent lecture on public virtue and disestablishment of religion at the Founding for an audience at the University of Minnesota Law School on Monday night. The event was co-sponsored by the MacLaurin Institute and the University of Minnesota Law School Federalist Society, of which I am an officer.

John Hinderaker, of the infamous Powerline blog, was in attendance and wrote this nice summary of the lecture.

Get the Church Out of Politics?

Yesterday's decision in Roper v. Simmons and the revelation that the Church (I should say the USCCB) wrote an amicus curiae brief on behalf of 30 religious groups raises some particular problems that need confronting.

In regard to the decision, it held that the execution of persons who committed the crime while minors was a violation of the 8th Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Now this is perhaps a defensible position, but the Court's rationale in the case is not.

In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy employed international standards of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment as well as relying on what he considered evolving standards of decency. The problem is, Kennedy states that ultimately, it is the Court's role to decide what constitutes "evolving standards of decency." Thus, as many have claimed, controversial social questions will be decided by the instinct of nine lawyers (actually, just five).

Continue reading "Get the Church Out of Politics?" »

March 3, 2005

Are You Heteronormative?

The Harvard Crimson reports that actress Jada Pinkett Smith (wife of Will Smith) spoke at Harvard this past weekend, and made offensive comments regarding male-female relationships that some described as "heteronormative."

Pile this on to the Larry Summers flap, and Harvard looks increasingly like an institution straight out of Orwell's 1984: Good thoughts will be rewarded, bad thoughts will be punished. Here is a mind-numbing excerpt from the article:

"Calling the comments heteronormative, according to Woods, means they implied that standard sexual relationships are only between males and females.

“Our position is that the comments weren’t homophobic, but the content was specific to male-female relationships,” Woods said.

Margaret C. D. Barusch ’06, the other BGLTSA co-chair, said the comments might have seemed insensitive in effect, if not in intent.

“I think the comments had a very strong focus for an extended period of time on how to effectively be in a relationship—a heterosexual relationship,” Barusch said. “I don’t think she meant to be offensive but I just don’t think she was that thoughtful.”

In order to discuss these concerns and ensure that such a misunderstanding doesn’t occur again, Paulus said the BGLTSA and the Foundation are planning a joint breakfast later this week as well as a general discussion forum for all of the SAC member groups."

Hat Tip: Southern Appeal.

How Pope Paul VI Saved the Church

This interview with the late Msgr. Luigi Giussani chronicles the turbulent wars within the Church during the 1970s and Pope Paul VI's disillusionment with the so-called reformers.

Paul VI attempted to stop the bleeding. It would be Pope John Paul II who would cauterize the wound and set the Church on a path to recovery.

March 4, 2005

U.S. Bishops on Terri Schiavo

As promised, here is the reply I got from Richard Doerflinger at the USCCB:

Dear Stephen:

We have jurisdiction to say something about the Supreme Court case because it is a challenge to a federal directive raised in federal court.

Local and state developments (regardless of how much national press attention they may receive) are ordinarily the realm of the local bishop and state Catholic conference, and a national bishops' conference has no authority to make decisions or statements about such cases unless it is empowered to do so by those authorities. The Holy Father and the Vatican, of course, relate to each bishop in the world directly, and they are not bound by the limits placed by our Church on the responsibilities of national bishops' conferences.

The Florida bishops spoke to the Schiavo situation again today. Their new statement is below.

Richard Doerflinger
USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities

I can appreciate the respect for the authority of each individual bishop over his see, but I find it hard to believe the bishops of Florida would not want to "empower" the U.S. Bishops as a whole to speak out.

The "Galactic" Significance of the Eucharist

A former professor of mine. Dr. Christopher Thompson, had a good column on the Eucharist in the archdiocesan newspaper the other day. Here is an excerpt:

The “galactic significance of the Eucharist is affirmed in the various prayers of the Mass itself. The priest proclaims before God that, “From age to age you gather a people to yourself so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.”

Check it out.

Free Speech At Last

Thanks to some new software we recently installed here at The Seventh Age, we have successfully eliminated about 99% of the spam comments we were receiving on old blog entries (about 100 brillant reflections on Texas Holdem and other variants of online poke every day).

As a result, we will return to unmoderated comments. Comments made on any post will now appear as soon as they are submitted, which will hopefully generate some lively discussions.

We're all for free speech as long as everyone remains charitable in their discourse. Let the commenting begin!

Tolerance For A Month

I got an e-mail today from the Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs at my favorite Big Ten university proclaiming the month of March a "Month of Kindness" with the tag line, "Be Kind and Pass it On." The banners are already up around campus.

But what exactly is kindness? According to the Associate Vice Provost:

The goal of this month is to unite the campus by encouraging acts of kindness that create an environment filled with goodwill, tolerance, pluralism and openness.

I'm not sure how we are supposed to treat one another the rest of the year, but themed bracelets will be available this month for $1 each at all events to remind us to be kind. Such events include a weeklong "Stop the Hate" campaign and, as is befitting of all such events, a Kindness Protest is scheduled, which to me sounds a bit, well, unkind. It all wraps up with a "Bridge Sleepover" to raise awareness for homelessness. And no, I am not making this up.

I suppose I should laud the sentiment, as vague and nebulous as it may be. What a strange turn the quest for the true, good and beautiful has taken.

This Is The Enemy

Here is what we are up against, folks. Besides being one of the most deranged things I've seen in a while, it is just tremendously sad. What sort of poison has entered into a man's sould to make him say such things?

Amy Welborn has plenty of commentary on this travesty.

Pray, fast, and pray some more for our world.

Two Philosophers Tackle the Pope's New Book

Once again, it is good to get the Italian angle on Western intellectual currents, especially as seen through the eyes of the Holy Father in his new book, "Memory and Identity."

March 7, 2005

National Geographic's "In the Womb"

For those that hadn't heard about this special profiling the development of little people from conception to birth through 4-D sonograms, here is a link.

This story caught the attention of a NY Times reviewer, who wrote an interested, but skeptical review because she felt like she was being propagandized by "doctor killers." While fascinated by the science, you could tell she is interested in staying as far away from this "gruesome" phenomenon as she can.

March 8, 2005

Shroud of Turin an Easy Forgery?

Some average guy who was perplexed by the Shroud of Turin (admittedly skeptical that is) and was enthralled with reading Chesterton's "Father Brown" stories in all of their paradox, turned the theories of Shroud theorists on their heads. Rather than asking how the imprint was placed on the cloth, Nathan Wilson posited that in reality the image is the original color of the cloth, and everything around it has been lightened through sun-bleaching. He set out to prove his hypothesis, and came up with some results that are truly interesting.

The original article by Wilson himself chronicling his experiment can be found in Books & Culture magazine. Additionally, the Discovery Channel picked up the story and provides a nice summary. Additionally, Wilson has his own web site, ShadowShroud.com highlighting his theory.

As a big believer in the authenticity of the Shroud, Wilson's test is damning. I am interested in hearing more commentary on his hypothesis. What Wilson doesn't really get into is that his hypothetical Crusader forgers would have to be a couple of really talented and really entrepreneurial fellows. Theoretically, there should be some evidence of the Shroud's display in a famous Church during the medieval period. There is none, only that it turned up in France during the fourteenth century under the ownership of Geoffrey de Charnay, whose ancestors were Knights Templars. It didn't seem to provide the excitement that such medieval forgers would need to generate to make it worth their time. Additionally, they didn't sell it to the Church. Why not? More fascinating questions about this amazing relic that will spur debate until the Lord returns and tells us about its authenticity.

March 9, 2005

Can John Paul II Save Europe?

British writer John O'Sullivan has this piece in today's National Review Online.

Here is a taste:

"Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world came to St Peter's Square last Sunday to see the silent pope and hear his appeal for their prayers read by another.

"Will the millions of new Christians they represent in Asia and Africa be the vehicles of the saving grace that will rejuvenate the tired churches of Europe? And will the pope himself live to lead this renaissance as he led the last? Or will he merely glimpse from afar, like Moses, the promised land he is not permitted to enter?

Not to be in the least flippant but: God only knows."

Have Our Bishops Seen This?

Massive study in the UK and Ireland reveals that the main reason for the decline in Church attendance there is theological liberalism and dumbed-down liturgies/services. Yes, people wan't substance. The main culprit of this trend, according to the study, was the notion of "the universal love of God." It seems that if people know that God loves them no matter what they do, then there is no reason to go to church.

The situation for the Catholic Church in both those countries looks rather ominous. In England, the Catholic Church has resorted to an embrace of a milquetoast social gospel while at the same time falling over itself to appease the Anglicans (even though there are more practicing Catholics and the Anglican Church is imploding by the minute in all of its irrelevance). In Ireland, ordinations are down from 100 priests in 1990 to five this year. Ireland is where the U.S. church was in the 1970s: experimental masses, ecumenism everywhere, flabby apologetics. Talking to the Irish seminarians themselves (their elite ones at the Irish College in Rome - where I lived for a year), one gets the sense that they really don't believe any of it anymore.

More astounding, is the embarrassment expressed by English and Irish churchmen at the mention of G.K. Chesterton. The English view him largely as a relic of a pre-modern age, while the Irish are positively scandalized by the romantic portrayal Chesterton had of the nation in his book "Irish Impressions." Now that they are a modern European financial capital, the Irish have no time for the sheep, Guinness, and greenery stuff.

This study comes on the heels of exploding rates of growth for Islam (even among the white population) as well Eastern Orthodoxy among the intellectuals. At one point, England's disenchanted Anglican thinkers became Catholics. No more. Now they are Orthodox, and that is a pity. But those religions teach their faith without apology, and that is what our age needs.

Hat tip: Democracy of the Dead.

Jonah Goldberg on the Lost Constitution

The ever-prescient G-Man has a nice piece skewering the justices who have rendered our Constitution moot. We are now ruled by the policy choices of 5 robed masters.

UPDATE: Here is another great piece in the Weekly Standard on the Ginsburg-Stevens tribute to Justice Kennedy in their concurring opinion from Roper v. Simmons (juvenile death penalty case).

March 11, 2005

Abortion Suppport Dwindling

A recent poll commissioned by the U.S. Bishops and released yesterday shows support for abortion has fallen from 57% in 1998 to 52% this year.

A Harris Interactive Poll on abortion released March 3 shows the strongest opposition to Roe v. Wade in years. The survey of 1,012 U.S. adults conducted February 8-13, 2005, shows Americans support Roe v. Wade by just a 52 to 47 percent margin, a significant change from the 57 to 41 percent margin in 1998. This weakening support for Roe is likely even more pronounced than the poll indicates because the Harris survey question understates Roe v. Wade by declaring “the U.S. Supreme Court decision making abortions up to three months of pregnancy legal.”

The truth may win out in the end yet!

Korn Guitarist Turns Christian

Raunchy heavy metal rocker Brian "Head" Welch has had a conversion to christianty, and is taking it pretty seriously.

This week he was baptized in the Jordan River, and is trying to settle in to his new found faith. He is still Brian Welch though:

He’s commemorated his new beliefs by having "Jesus" tattooed across his knuckles and "Matthew 11:28" inked right across his neck. And while we don’t like to throw around terms like "messiah complex" in the face of this guy’s newfound happiness, he’s also announced plans to release some pretty interesting solo music in the future.

"My songs are God saying things to me, him talking to people. He’s going to use me to heal people and people are going to be drawn to it," he told AP. "Just watch, they will be."

Needless to say there are some stunned folks in MTV land.

I know an old friend of mine used to pray daily for Madonna's reversion to Catholicism. Maybe she'll be next?

Augustine on Lent

I just came across a nice short reflection on Lent by Augustine. Here is an excerpt:

I am constrained to exhort you because you owe the Lord works in harmony with the spirit of the season, works which, nevertheless, are useful not to the Lord, but to you. True, other seasons of the year ought to glow for the Christian by reason of his prayers, fasts, and almsdeeds, but this season ought to arouse even those who are sluggish at other times. In fact, those who are quick to attend to these works at other times should now perform them with even greater diligence. Life in this world is certainly the time of our humiliation as these days signify when the sufferings of the Lord Christ, who once suffered by dying for us, are renewed each year with the recurrence of this holy season.

Check it out.

Election '08 Already Shaping Up

It seems like we just had an election, but pollsters are already tossing around numbers for potential matchups in '08, and John McCain seems to be leading the pack.

Things are looking blue for the former first lady. While 39% of democrats favor her for the nomination (they threw in "democrat leaning independets" too to get her that high), if we include the red states opinion, 46% of voters would love to see Hillary give it a try, but even more (49%) are opposed to her run. 20% of Democrats think Kerry deserves another shot at it, and 15% want to give Edwards a chance.

On the Republican side Giuliani is pulling 25%, McCain 21% Condi at 14% and the Florida Bush at 7%. Of course this makes you wonder if the Republicans really understand the importance the value voters played in this past election. These aren't your mother's "building a culture of life" Republicans.

At any rate, there are enough hypothetical matchups and stats to make your head spin.

March 12, 2005

Minneapolis: BoBos In Paradise

In our continuing series of articles on land use and urban development, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has this editorial extolling the virtues of the new 24-hour downtown.

A new fifty story residential complex is being built on Nicollet Mall, and looks to further transform the city into a cosmopolitan, bourgeois bohemian (BoBo) epicenter. The tower will certainly cater to the influx of DINKs (double income, no kids) couples as well young (and aging hipsters) who seek to be near the high-end shopping and avant-garde arts scene that downtown Minneapolis provides.

This appears to be a further example of the trend that is pricing the middle class out of urban living. Wealthy persons and couples with information-age jobs and lots of disposable income are driving up residential prices in the urban core and forcing families to either relocate to the suburbs, or other cities that aren't so cosmopolitan and chic like Cleveland or Milwaukee.

What does it mean that our cities are becoming more, not less homogenous because of this demographic and cultural shift? More and more, these sorts of places and developments end up excluding families from the scene because of the assault on traditional values that crops up in these new urban enclaves. The bohemian has now mixed with the consumer culture, and the non-conformists are now the ultimate conformists. Families are the new counterculture, but will there be a physical place for them to challenge the dominant paradigm of Western culture?

iPod Nation?

I don't usually agree with Andrew Sullivan on much of anything, but he has an excellent new op-ed that appeared in the Sunday Times of London.

Sullivan describes the iPod portable music device as the symbol of the ongoing balkanization and compartmentalization of American life. No longer is music a shared experience, but along with everything else in society, is completely personalized and individualized. How can society even exist, that is, how can we get together and discuss the basic problems of what it means to live together and help foster human flourishing if everyone refuses to be challenged, be exposed to new ideas, or engage others and new people in conversation?

This is an interesting phenomenon that matches the counter-phenomenon of more and more people desiring to live in a community that has shared values and a moral content. Often, this desire is attracting people to Christianity, in all its forms. Perhaps the churches can respond to the new libertarianism that subverts both human nature and culture by continuing to offer an escape from the busyness and compartmentalization of modern American culture. Some have called for a new monasticism, and that seems about right: silence, contemplation (of real things and God), fruitful labor, and fraternal charity.

Hat tip: Mirror of Justice.

Jews and Catholics on Stem Cells

The iconoclastic Will Saletan of the online journal Slate went to Rome for a bioethics conference at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum run by the Legionaries of Christ. There were a number of Jewish scholars present dialoguing with Catholic scientists about the toughest and most-cutting edge issues in biology.

His account of the event is entertaining. But most interesting were his comments about the highly-learned priest-scientists he encountered. Of course he had to make a Galileo comment (but we will forgive him of his ignorance of both the Galileo saga and the Church's birthing of modern science in the medieval period), but he really hit home on the point that it was the Church that was the defender of the ability of reason and rational discourse to arrive at real ANSWERS about the toughest problems. Whereas the Jewish panelists raised multitudes of questions and provided few answers to the questions, the Catholics were confident in the tool of reason, even though, according to Saletan, they can be criticized for being faithful to reason and letting someone die even though they could be saved by embryonic research.

Hat tip: Open Book

March 13, 2005

It Had to Happen: Tsunami Victims Sue United States

Europeans seem to have a problem with a paternalistic United States taking the lead in resolving disputes. President Bush is mocked and derided as a trigger happy cowboy for his administration’s decisive actions in Iraq and strong language aimed at Iran and North Korea. Western Europe, for the most part, seems to believe that it needs no stern hand from Washington destabilizing international relations, and that they could manage just fine without unwanted intrusions from the United States.

And so it is with wonder that we rampaging Americans learned this week that a federal lawsuit has been filed against our government by several European victims (or their survivors) of the December tsunami that devastated coastal areas of the Indian Ocean. It seems these people are convinced that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not do enough to warn the victims of the danger. Never mind that NOAA is financed exclusively by US tax dollars. Never mind that, as the name suggests, this warning center is geared to monitoring the Pacific Ocean (since the US cowboy foreign policy has not established invasion forces or puppet regimes along the Indian Ocean…yet). Never mind that NOAA is the main source of tsunami data and research, and that this information is freely distributed to the international academic community.

It is clear that the United State’s status as the most successful, most influential nation on earth means for many in Europe that it owes various duties of care to the rest of the world. In the adolescent public policy of many European nations, it seems firm paternal guidance will be met with unprincipled rebellion but maternal care (in the form of global monitoring and financial assistance) will be expected as a right.

Iran's Shame

Another significant earthquake struck Iran today. This one was not as strong as the quake that killed hundreds and left over 100,000 homeless in February of 2004. And that one was small compared to the one in December of 2003 that killed an estimated 15,000 and the one in 1990 that killed an estimated 35,000. As of this afternoon, there were no known casualties, but then again, an Iraqi official noted that the region over the epicenter has “no communication equipment." Probably no running water either and certainly no sewers, hospitals or police. In fact, the vast majority of Iran’s nearly 70 million people live in third world conditions not much different from when Alexander the Great arrived .There are not many techniques available to Iranian builders to account for frequent tremors when the primary architectural material is still the mud brick. Iranian life expectancy is lowest among OPEC nations and over a quarter of their citizens are illiterate (according to statistics provided by the United Nations Development Program). All of this despite having the fourth largest oil reserves in the world at a time of record oil prices.

And human rights? Never mind.

This is the appropriate context in which to reckon with Iran’s recent hectoring rants regarding a nascent nuclear program. The geologic fault lines that run beneath Iran are not a recent development. How much national wealth and human capital has been expended by the current regime in its quest to have a nuclear program, while the masses of Iranians suffer needlessly from preventable disasters? What are they going to do with all that cheap electricity without an infrastructure to deliver it? Where will the weapons experts take refuge when the next big one hits? Even if Iran is able to acquire nuclear material and technologies from some rogue state, will they construct their reactors in caves and arm their missiles in mud huts? What happens to the enriched plutonium the next time Iran shakes violently? Given Iran’s longstanding disregard for the material well-being of its citizens, it should perhaps be no surprise that it continues into the nuclear age. But the coming disaster will far more horrific than any earthquake.

One wonders if Iran’s inferiority complex, which drives its monomaniacal quest to split the atom, would exist if its leaders did not walk every day in the shadow of their undeniable failure to secure basic standards of living. Bellowing recriminations about international equality and security perhaps helps to drown out the cries of the masses buried alive by the latest earthquake.

Protestants Discover the Blessed Virgin Mary?


This story is on the cover of Time Magazine this week. Sign of the apocalypse? I am not going to chalk this up to a slow news period.

Once again, I think we should attribute this phenomenon to the thaw in Catholic-Evangelical relations since the mid-1980s pursued by such men as Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus and Chuck Colson. The continuing conversation, which started when conservative Christians realized they needed to work together in the policy arena, has produced much fruit. Catholics are learning effective evangelization techniques, and many Protestants are rediscovering the depth and beauty of the Christian tradition in all its fulness, including devotion to the BVM. Ecumencial and Interreligious dialogue is evangelization.

To see the ongoing fruit of this coversation, read the latest statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together.

March 14, 2005

Pontifical Academy for Life Appeals for Schiavo

While the U.S. Bishops activites in Florida are focused on reaching agreements with Taco Bell, they continue to remain silent on the case of Terri Schaivo.

The Pontifical Academy for Life, on the other hand, has chosen to speak out. As a Zenit story from today notes:

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Academy for Life, in explaining why the Holy See is speaking out in favor of Schiavo, said Saturday on Vatican Radio that her "case goes beyond the individual situation because of its exemplary character and the importance that the media have rightly attributed to it."

"Silence in this case might be interpreted as approval, with consequences that would go well beyond the specific case," he said.

Amen. At least someone in the Catholic world is finally realizing this story is popping up in ever major media outlet.

Now in all fairness to the Bishops, Cardinal Keeler did issue a statement a few days ago, but it wasn't exactly forceful:

The Holy Father added that these patients have “the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.).” He reminded us that providing water and food, even by artificial means, is “morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering.”

There are times when even such basic means may cease to be morally obligatory, because they have become useless or unduly burdensome for the patient. Deliberately to remove them in order to hasten a patient’s death, however, would be a form of euthanasia, which is gravely wrong

Now I appreciate the need to nuance Catholic teaching, but if I weren't a Catholic with a theology background and I came across this statement, I'm not sure what I would think. Terms like "cease to be morally obligatory" and "useless or unduly burdensome" don't exactly scream "Save Terri!"

Keeler concludes, ”I join with them [the Florida Bishops] in praying that those who hold power over Terri Schindler Schiavo’s fate will see that she “continues to receive nourishment, comfort and loving care.”

Again, that's great and all, but it seems a very defeatist stance to me. Prayer is important, but so is action. Now granted, the medical evidence in Schiavo's case is a bit hard to come by due to the legal blockade Michael has errected around Terri, but there is enough funny business going on to lead most reaosnable people to believe that innocent blood is about to be spilled. Surely we can do more than pray that the activist judges we are all beholden to would show mercy. Last I checked, an unjust law need not be followed.

March 15, 2005

Scalia! I've Heard of This Great Judge, Scalia!

The above should be sang to the tune of "Maria" from "The Sound of Music."

A bit of Scalia potpourri. Three pieces on my favorite legal mind for your review:

Scalia Slams Juvenile Death Penalty Ruling

Scalia Shows His Softer Side

Scalia Slams "Living Constitution" Theory

March 16, 2005

Terri Schiavo Update

Here is the latest word on the ground in the Terri Schiavo case:

I just got off the phone with Br. Anthony of the Franciscan Brothers of Peace -- Br. Paul and Br. Hilary report that what is MOST needed now is to call the Florida DCF to get them to take Terri Schiavo into protective custody. This is most needed because, Br. Anthony reports, that EVEN if the legislature in Florida passes in time, it must go for a "judicial review" before being able to be used in Terri's case -- and guess which judge is responsible for that judicial review? Of course - Judge Greer himself, the judge who has been solely responsible for every denial of every single effort on behalf of Terri's life and dignity.
So even if the legislature passes, which would be good and would protect innocent lives in the future, it will likely not be enough to save Terri's life by itself, unless Judge Greer has an amazing St. Paul-like conversion of heart (pray for this!).
The FBPs see the ONLY option at this point, that will directly save Terri's life, is for the Florida DCF to take her into custody while they investigate abuse.
Please contact the DCF, again and again if necessary! Only they, short of direct divine intervention, can save Terri now.
Their number is 850-488-4855.

Hat Tip to Mary Gibson at Veritatis Splendor for the report.

Dawson Inspires Others, Too!

The Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture has a feature describing Christopher Dawson under its "Who Inspires Us?" section. It has links to other resources on Dawson, as well as pages dedicated to folks such as Orestes Brownson, Dorothy Day, and Jacques Maritain.

Check it out.

March 17, 2005

Constitutional Law 101

If you don't know anything about constitutional law or the Supreme Court (our real rulers), check out the text of Justice Antonin Scalia's recent speech at the Woodrow Wilson. It should be required civics reading and will prime you for all the major issues relating to selecting our judges and the way the Constitution should be understood. The text of this important speech follows. Do yourself, your family, and your neighbor a favor and read this if you care about the future of this country.

Justice Scalia:

Continue reading "Constitutional Law 101" »

March 19, 2005

The Great Foot Washing Controversey

With Palm Sunday tomorrow, and Holy Thursday less than a week away, it is almost time for the great annual liturgical argument, should women be allowed to have their feet washed on Holy Thursday?

An article in today's Boston Telegram noted that Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley has decided to wash the feet of both men and women this year, after consultation with the Congregation for Divine Worship. Last year he was criticized for washing the feet of 12 men.

Such is consistent with a USCCB statement from 1987 that notes:

Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the "Teacher and Lord" who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality,2 the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more.

In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service.

While the "proper" symbolic emphasis of the ritual can make for heated discussion, from a juridical standpoint women can indeed get their feet washed too.

Schiavo Overload

At a retreat I went on several years ago, a priest of the Community of St. John offered some excellent advice that I reflect upon often.

He said, "If you spend more time reading the newspaper than you do in Eucharistic Adoration, you jeopardize your hope."

As my inbox gets flooded with messages from friends, each trying to send me the very latest development from Florida, I can't help but wonder if it is possible for us to become too consumed with the Terri Schiavo case. Perhaps it is just the circles I run in, but it seems to me as if the Schiavo case has become the Michael Jackson trial of the Catholic world. I am well aware of the differences between the two cases (differences which I'm sure many commenters will nonetheless make crystal clear to me), but I am becoming increasingly struck by our obsession with it.

Yes, we should pray fervently, yes we should take political action where appropriate, yes it is a great injustice that has been committed (yet one all too common in our culture), but should we keep our eyes glued to the TV, ears to the radio, and attention to the inbox, tracking the developments moment by moment?

If we spend more time reading the newspaper than we do in Eucharistic Adoration, we may very well jeopardize our hope.

That said, for the latest info on the Terri Schiavo case, visit http://www.blogsforterri.com/. They can keep you far more current than we ever could here at The Seventh Age. And if you find yourself there more than once every day or two, consider your hope.

March 20, 2005

Terri's Bill Unconstitutional?

A friend writes the below post on a listserv I am a part of. Interesting, and I tend to agree. To save Terri, respect for the (positive) law is being mutilated. Read for yourself...


I really don't think that Terri's bill before Congress is constitutional.  As an originalist, I do not see what due process or substantive right under the bill of rights was violated in her case.

Of course, I think she is being murdered.  However, she is being murdered with "due process."  Her case was fully litigated, and Judge Greer made a decision under Florida law.  It was the wrong decision, but does the fact that I disagree with him mean that she didn't get due process?  She got the process, just not the substance I would want.

I think the proper remedy here is in the hands of the Florida legislature, which since the time of the first Terri's bill, should have made clear that Florida law states that to starve someone to death is a violation of their fundamental human rights, and that giving someone food and water is not medical therapy because it is a need common to all humans, and all humans at least at some point in life depend on others for satisfaction of that need (i.e., the unborn, infants, and many ill, disabled, and elderly).

I watched a speech by Justice Scalia this weekend on C-Span where he was talking about the "Living Constitution."  Isn't this the constitution we are seeking to use to save Terri?  Not the real constitution, but the fake one made up federal judges -- the fake one that also gives us a right to kill babies and engage in unspeakable sexual acts.
I'm not as concerned with the worry about this being a private bill because the Congress has authority to fix the jurisdiction of the federal courts.  There is an argument, I think, that this violates the Bill of Attainder prohibition in Section 9 (in so far as it undermines the legally adjudicated rights of Terri to die under Federal law -- which are bogus but legally valid).

Having said all of that, I'm pretty sure that if I were in Congress I would vote for the bill.  That is because we have to work with the legal reality that exists, and not just the one in the sky.  The truth is that we have a living constitution, whether that is right or not.  And Terri is going to die, whether that is right or not.  Granting a federal court jurisdiction will not further the living constitution, but only work within its existential parameters.  The sin is, in other words, the fault of the Supreme Court, which has invented the living constitution, and not the Congress, which though in principle opposed to it uses it to save an innocent life.


UPDATE: Here is an interesting response to the above post, from another friend on the listserv:

Two thoughts:

1. Your criticisms have nothing to do with the actual bill that was passed by Congress.  All that bill does is extend federal court jurisdiction to any federal law claims that might be lodged on behalf of Terri.  This is clearly within any living or non-living reading of Article III.  It also eliminates the prudential standing concerns that might otherwise prevent Terri's parents from exercising third-party standing in asserting Terri's personal constitutional or federal law claims.  So if you are right that the federal constitution doesn't protect Terri in this case, then your arguments are not with the bill that passed (perhaps you would argue that it is futile, but not unconstitutional) but rather at a potential decision made by a federal judge in the C.D. of Florida that might say that Terri's starvation is unconstitutional.

2. As far as your substantive concerns, I don't think it takes that much living Constitution activism to say that the federal courts probably should at least take a second look at whether the process of the Florida courts was proper.  First of all, assuming there is state action involved in this case (which I see as perhaps the most difficult issue in this case, and I'd love to hear some people try to take a crack at that problem) it is clear that this is a procedural due process issue, not a substantive due process issue.  Terri is being deprived of life, and everyone, even faithful originalists, can read that the 14th Amendment means that states cannot deprive people of life without due process.  So the only question is what process is due?  I admit that I am not as versed on the specific factual situation as a lot of the others on this board, but the basic framework for analyzing procedural due process involves balancing the private interest that is at risk of being deprived (in this case Terri's life) plus the risk of erroneous deprivation (the weakness of the evidence that Terri wanted to be starved to death, and the conflict of interest between her and her husband) against the governments financial and administrative interest in denying a certain procedural protection.  So in this specific context, for example, I think a pretty strong argument could be made that the TEXT of the 14th Amendment, without much, if any living Constitution activism, requires court-appointed independent counsel. 

March 21, 2005

Hollywood Learning Sex Doesn't Sell?

The pro-family groups have been making the case for years that PG and G rated movies tend to out gross their R and NC-17 counterparts, but now the MSM is starting to take notice.

An article over at CNN today provides a fairly extensive list of sexy flops, and notes that:

As any theater owner will eagerly tell you, American audiences like their movies PG and PG-13, not R, and certainly not NC-17. At the recent ShoWest convention, National Association of Theatre Owners president John Fithian urged Hollywood to give theater owners more PG-rated hits and a lot fewer R-rated losers.

Last year, five of the top-10-grossing movies were PG. Of the top 25, only four were rated R. "Increasingly, if a movie is rated R," says producer John Goldwyn, "audiences won't go."

Yes my friends, this from the folks over at CNN.

Of course one of the reasons given is that sexually explicit content is now so easily accessible in the privacy of your home, who needs to go to the theater. But even here we see lingering hints of a judeo-Christian ethic, for as the article continues:

"Today's audiences aren't comfortable being seen in a mass-audience public place like a cinema complex seeing something that is inevitably notorious because of its sex," producer Bill Horberg writes in an e-mail. "If you go to a complex, you might run into your kids, much less neighbors, co-workers."

Maybe there is something to that notion of sexual shame that John Paul II wrote about in his Theology of the Body audiences after all.

The article concludes:

In the late '60s and early '70s, American movies were full of sexual encounters: "Don't Look Now," "The Graduate," "Klute," "Midnight Cowboy," "Carnal Knowledge." It's hard to imagine even a studio subsidiary greenlighting those movies now. We're not far away from a time when movie lovers who want to see dramas dealing with relationships between consenting adults will order sexy classics like "Women in Love" or new direct-to-DVD dramas for grown-ups from Netflix, Movielink or their cable company.

"We are a Puritan society," Press says. "We'd rather watch it at home."

And it is this excerpt that is most revelatory, for we see a glimmer of the transformation that is taking place in America. As the sexually liberated flower children of the 60s and 70s become a less influential market in areas of life like the movies, their sexy ways are retreating as well, and the younger generation seems to be more interested in relationships and less interested in orgasms than their parents were.

Case in point, the movie Hitch (see the Feb. 14th entry over at Church of the Masses).

Scalia a "Disastrous Choice" for Chief says NY Times

Today's NY Times has an editorial condemning the jurisprudence of Antonin Scalia as one that would deny people "basic rights." If Scalia were to have his way, we would all be subject to the whim of legislators. Oh, the horror. If we didn't like the law, we'd have to take some effort to change it and convince others of our position, rather than have five justices enforce it by dictate. The NY Times would rather have us be subject to the whim of Anthony Kennedy. What if he and Sandy O'Connor decided they were wrong on abortion? What would the Times say then?

Rather than subjecting Scalia's jurisprudence to reasoned criticism, the Times has to scare people with an imaginary parade of horribles. The Times must not be very confident in the reasonableness of their own position (or have contempt for their readers) that they must scare people rather than convince them.

Interestingly, the New Yorker has an interview with one of its writers who has written a lengthy feature on Scalia for the March 28, 2005 issue. The article is not available on line, but the online interview is quite good and very fair. This reporter actually took time to know her subject, rather than rely on myth and hyperbole. Kudos to them.

The Bishops Have Spoken

The following is from last Friday:

WASHINGTON (March 18, 2005)— Gail Quinn, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, made the following statement today on the recent Congressional action on Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman at the heart of a controversy over withholding nutrition and hydration from people with cognitive disabilities:

"We commend the U.S. House of Representatives for passing H.R. 1332 on March 16, 2005 and the U.S. Senate for passing S. 653 the following day."

"We strongly support legislation to provide Terri Schiavo access to the federal court so she can present her case in federal court," she said.

Democratization of Doctrine

The U.S. Bishops launched a new campaign today to end the death penalty in America. However even more interesting was their justification.

In a press conference held today, John Zogby himself was in attendance to provide some new Catholic polling data:

We found that support for the use of the death penalty among American Catholics has plunged in the past few years. The intensity of support has declined as well. In past surveys, Catholic support for the death penalty was as high as 68%. In our November survey, we found that less than half of the Catholic adults in our poll (48%) now support the use of the death penalty, while 47% oppose it. The percentage of Catholics who are intensely supportive of the death penalty has been halved, from a high of 40% to 20% in this survey.

I am persuaded that the death penalty is rarely if ever necessary in the U.S. and I think the goal is a laudable one, but employing polls to make the case seems a bit odd to me. Perhaps from a prudential perspective, one can argue that the poll is the "hook" to get the MSM to pick up the story. If so, I am impressed with the Bishop's increasing media savvy. But if on the other hand, we are talking about a democratization of doctrine (teaching on what's increasingly popular) I'm definitely not a fan. Let's hope it's the former rather than the latter.

An interesting aside:

The distinction between "life issues" and "social justice issues" will also be an interesting one to track as this campaign unfolds. The campaign seems to borrow language from both, though it definitely has a social justice emphasis.

The strange thing about this is that the death penalty falls under the treatment of the 5th Commandment in the Catechism, not more than 4 paragraphs from the treatment of abortion, placing it squarely in the "life issues" camp. "Social justice" on the other hand is treated under the 7th Commandment.

Now the case can be made that social justice is a much broader category, as it does enjoy its own article in the 2nd part of the 3rd part of the catechism (and you thought the Summa was hard to follow) but there is no mention of the death penalty there. If the death penalty is a social justice issue per se, it shares this status with abortion.

Now some may wonder why go on and on about such a minor distinction, but I have found it is acutually a blue state / red state type of distinction. Life issue are red social justice issues blue. You rarely hear "social justice" Catholics talk about abortion, and you rarely hear "life issues" Catholics talk about the death penalty, though the reds are, in my experience, more likely to cross the aisle.

Framing the death penalty as a social justice issue is probably more politically prudent, as you can build a much larger base (the blues will be behind you, and lots of reds will cross over), but it is to do so at the expense of the reason for the teaching. The death penalty is fundamentally wrong for the same reason abortion is wrong. Life is a gift and should be protected to the greatest extent possible.

To call abortion a "life issue" and the death penalty a "social justice issue" is to deprive opposition to the death penalty of its ultimate grounding, a respect for human life, and to ignore the far reaching social injustices that abortion has and continues to wreck upon our society.

Who Would You Be in 1400?

Here is a fun time waster. It is called, "Who Would You Be in 1400 A.D? It asks 15 questions and determines if you are a monk, a knight, a lady, or a Cardinal.

Just for kicks, my results are below:

The Lord

You scored 13% Cardinal, 56% Monk, 44% Lady, and 51% Knight!

You are of the intellectual breed and yet you are also very interested in war. You are of the aristocracy and head the cavalry a safe distance from the carnage of the front lines. You believe in defeating your enemy with not only might, but also wit.

You scored high as both the Monk and the Knight. You can try again to get a more precise description of either the Monk or the Knight, or you can be happy that you're an individual.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

  • You scored higher than 99% on Cardinal
  • You scored higher than 99% on Monk
  • You scored higher than 99% on Lady
  • You scored higher than 99% on Knight

Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on Ok Cupid

March 22, 2005

Harvard Students Up in Arms Over Dorm Cleaning Service

This feature in today's New York Times tells the story of DormAid, a dorm room cleaning service for uber-busy Ivy Leaguers.

The advent of such a service is not of much note, except for the protest it has generated on Harvard's campus for promoting class warfare. According to one student, it is an offensive display of wealth that could divide students. Of course, the student who made this comment was from Winnetka, Illinois, site of many John Hughes films and hyper-expensive limousine liberal suburb of Chicago.

If you feel uncomfortable as a Harvard student because someone else is dumb enough to pay someone to clean their tiny room, you are a fool. Get a life. (Especially since it is more than likely that you are one of the 70% of Harvard students whose parents' income is more than $100K).

Additionally, Harvard officials made the company, run by two students, change its name from DorMaid to DormAid because Maid is a "sexist, offensive term."

Harvard has had a quite a month with the Summers fiasco, Jada Pinkett Smith's "heteronormativity," and now this nonsense. And these are our best and brightest? Lovely.

Christina Hoff Sommers breaks down the dysfunction at Cambridge on NRO.

Screwtape on Stem Cells

In case you missed it, today's NRO has a gut-wrenching sequel to C.S. Lewis's "The Screwtape Letters." It appears that ol' Wormwood failed, but Screwtape has a new minion -- Mildew (Wormwood's demon nephew).

Screwtape and Mildew conspire as to how they will use vanity and the desire for immortality to corrupt and destroy humanity, especially through this new thing called stem cell research.

Devilishly good.

March 23, 2005

Local Schiavo Vigil Makes the Paper

A prayer vigil at the Cathedral of St. Paul in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis made the Minneapolis Star Tribune today, with what I would caracterize as fairly even-handed reporting.

However, the general ignorance of reporters regarding Catholicism was apaprent. Though the event was a prayer service, it was continually referred to as a mass throughout the story.

The Legal Battle Over Terri

Andrew McCarthy does a good job dissecting the issues in the 11th Circuit's denial of an injunction against Michael Schiavo. While I think the courts have been right in granting a level of deference to Judge Greer and his proceedings, I think it is legitimate that the constitutional claims be examined before Terri is left to die. But, even if the merits were heard, I have a hard time believing there would be a different result. Some point to Judge Greer's reliance on hearsay, a valid point, but that doesn't seem to be the sum and substance of his ruling, from what little I know of it.

March 24, 2005

Florida Stuck Where the Republican Sun Don't Shine

Setting aside for the moment Congressional endeavors, it is instructive to look at the state of Florida in the unflattering light cast by Terri Schiavo’s death by dehydration. After all, we used to embrace a concept known as federalism which ensured (among other things) that the vast majority of power affecting US citizens in their everyday lives would be local in nature and therefore directly bound to the consent of the governed. A couple of dead white guys named Hamilton and Madison were all over this back in the day. They wrote a book.

The power that is currently killing Schiavo is definitely local, but it’s also absolute. Not quite what those old guys had in mind. The executive and legislative branches of the Sunshine State are in the final days of an abject lurch toward complete subservience to the judiciary. Today, the Sunshine Senate failed by a few votes to pass a law that would have likely saved Schiavo, if only temporarily. Several members of that formerly legislative body were quoted in distinctly un-sunny terms, indicating that there was no point in passing “Terri’s Law” since a similar law had already been ruled unconstitutional by the Sunshine Supreme Court. This capitulation capped weeks of discussion about how to craft legislation that would not displease the sovereign judges. The Sunshine Governor fared no better. Today he was seen begging at the feet of these same overlords, waving an affidavit and asking for permission to assert executive power.

The 27th state has a dark and cloudy secret. Its mostly overcast with a 90% chance of judicial tyranny. Who, we may ask, is this Judge Greer? He’s a human black cloud thundering in probate court. If he were any lower on the judicial totem pole, he’d be starving traffic violators in a county courthouse. Yet here he is, enjoying deference that would embarrass Arafat at the UN. He’s tossing out motions made by the governor and listening to seemingly prohibited ex parte communications from the husband’s lawyer. He's ignoring some statutes and creating his own. Today he ordered the county sheriff to ensure that law enforcement personnel did not act contrary to his ruling and gave instructions to the attorney for the hospice where Schiavo is dying as to what steps to take should law enforcement fail to follow instructions. In the good old days, the legislature was tasked with creating laws and the executive was tasked with enforcement.

The website of the Sixth Circuit of Florida proudly proclaims that it “is recognized as one of the most efficient trial courts in the nation.” And now we see why. Republican principles can be extremely inefficient. Better to just enjoy the sunshine in the shadow of an omnipotent judiciary.

The Growing Catholic-Evangelical Alliance

Keeping up on their new "conservative beat," the New York Times has this article chronicling the "culture of life" alliance being nourished by evangelical and Catholic leaders.

Interestingly, it notes the divergence of views over the death penalty. Even Rick Santorum said that he had moved closer to the Pope's position on this issue. But how authoritative is the pope's position on this issue? Yes, I understand the argument that it does not foster a culture of life and is inhumane, but I wish someone would make a better defense of the anti-death penalty stance from a theological or philsophical point of view. I am against the death penalty, but only for prudential reasons such as the incapability of courts to handle capital cases as well as the way it poisons trials and court systems.

Articles like this one by J. Budziszewski, entitled Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice leave me more convinced that the death penalty is morally justified on a theoretical level.

Additionally, isn't the lesson of a movie like "Dead Man Walking" that his repentence was spurred only by the prospect of being executed? Wouldn't he have remained stubborn and obstinate if it were not for the imminent punishment?

Definitely a tough issue.

Demography is Destiny: The Euro-Cities Redux

A few weeks back, I wrote about the phenomenon of Euro-Cities. These cities have made themselves BoBo enclaves for the new, childless information-age elite that has lots of disposable income. These cities are pricing middle-class folks and those with families out of the housing market, and indirectly denying those people access to the cultural resources of urban environments. In another piece, I noted how Minneapolis was itself fostering this trend. Additionally, another piece described the sales-pitch that small towns were making to lure folks away from city life.

In two recent columns, Mark Steyn notes the demographic suicide of the liberal West, and wonders about the point of creating these little utopian enclaves if only for a generation.

Additionally, today's New York Times has a column describing how urban schools are losing enrollments of because of declining demographics. The article notes that urban revitalization has brought folks with high incomes and no children (read: BoBos and DINKs) and has priced families out of the community.

Interestingly enough, the most countercultural and culture-changing thing that people can do is have children and raise them well. It is a powerful witness to a culture that finds children and other inconvenient life forms an annoyance. I tend to think the demographics have a lot to do with worldview, as well as not wanting to be bothered by anything that will get in the way of my chosen lifestyle choices. But an increased respect for and appreciation for life might be a stepping stone to conversion or vice versa. Which, of course, makes our vocation that much more important.

Ratzinger's Stations of the Cross

I suspect that if Cardinal Ratzinger were to walk into Stations at an average American Catholic church, those precious little milquetoast Stations pamphlets would spontaneously combust. At the request of the Pope, Ratzinger has composed his own Stations reflections and prayers which are available on the Vatican website. With literary skill that shames most Stations material I have seen, Ratzinger pulls no punches and places the awful price of past and current human sin back at the radical center of Christ’s suffering and death. It’s a powerful read.

Some excerpts:

“Amid the decay of ideologies, our faith needs once more to be the fragrance which returns us to the path of life.”

“Man has fallen, and he continues to fall: often he becomes a caricature of himself, no longer the image of God, but a mockery of the Creator.”

“Hearing Jesus reproach the women of Jerusalem who follow him and weep for him ought to make us reflect. How should we understand his words? Are they not directed at a piety which is purely sentimental, one which fails to lead to conversion and living faith? It is no use to lament the sufferings of this world if our life goes on as usual. And so the Lord warns us of the danger in which we find ourselves. He shows us both the seriousness of sin and the seriousness of judgment.”

"How often is the holy sacrament of his presence (in the Eucharist) abused; how often must he enter empty and evil hearts… how much filth there is in the Church.”

March 28, 2005

Mommies: Is This You?

An interesting piece of commentary came across my desk that appeared in yesterday's NY Times. The writer is a mother of four, who, unlike her peers, is very sexually satisfied. She attributes this to the fact that she loves her husband more than her children. Given the choice of a child dying or her husband, she would choose the child to die. She would be devastated, "but life would go on."

This piece just struck me as strange. Maybe she makes some good points. As a daddy, I'd like to hear what other mommies think about these issues.

The Latest Vatican Hit Piece

The fact that the supposed "newspaper of record" publishes hysterical rants such as these by Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich is shameful. Do either of these articles have a point?

One good sign is that only losing and being in the minority can turn out such nonsense. So, something good is going on to get this terrible twosome all in fits.

Also, see this very nice Newsweek interview with John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter on the topic of Opus Dei. John does a nice service to truth by imparting some sanity to the controversy surrounding this group stemming from The Da Vinci Code.

Christianity Unwelcome in the Courtroom

As reported here, a jury’s decision to sentence a convicted rapist and murderer to death was overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court. The Court’s indulgence of trial by a jury of peers withered when it was revealed that some jurors had consulted the Bible and discussed certain passages in their deliberations. How quaint, the robed masters must have thought, that some of the vassals still refer to Scripture. Fortunately for us, we have an imperial judiciary to depurate the public square of the stain of religion.

But if we are to cast off 2000 years of civilization, by what standards shall we judge behavior?

March 29, 2005

The Pope on Easter

Here is this year's Urbi et Orbi message.

It definitely has a decidely Eucharistic theme, and references what I think is one of John Paul II's most favorite gospel passages, the road to Emmaus.

Cathy Cleaver on Terri Schiavo

Apparently, the gag on U.S. Bishops' pro-life spokesman Cathy Cleaver Ruse regarding the Terri Schiavo case was removed last week, as she had an op-ed published in Newsday that is referenced on the U.S. Bishops' website.

In the piece Cleaver argues:

"Complex" seems to be the latest watchword in her case. But some things are simple and clear. Terri Schiavo is a woman living with severe disabilities. She is not comatose or "brain dead." She is not terminally ill or dying: Her heart beats on its own and her lungs work without assistance. The thing with Schiavo is that she cannot feed herself without assistance - but then again, neither could Christopher Reeve.

All in all its is refreshingly articulate and well done in my opinion.

You can find the full text here.

Coalition for Darfur

I am proud to announce that our blog has joined the Coalition for Darfur. This collection of blogs spanning the ideological spectrum has teamed up to raise money for Save the Children: Sudan. It is a small effort, but the least we can do to raise awareness and money for this cause. Genocide and religious persecution is occurring on a mass-scale everyday in Sudan. Ending this travesty requires money, political pressure, awareness, and most of all, prayer.

The coalition has a blog to raise awareness, and I will update our site when a new post comes up. Eventually, I expect we will have a direct link to the coalition web site on our blog. Please support this effort!

Read the most recent post, Humanitarian Workers at Risk.

March 30, 2005

Are the Republicans Pushing a Sectarian Christian Agenda?

This is the question being asked by former Republican senator and ambassador John Danforth in today's NY Times. The very "moderate" Republican senator asks about the implications of having the party platform hijacked by Christian conservatives, highlighting the Terri Schiavo case and stem cell research in particular. While Danforth, is a respectable man, his argument falls into citing the usual parade of horribles, and thus deserves little credit.

First of all, even if the Republican party were to adopt policy positions that are the same or similar positions as Christians on moral questions (or any other religious group) and then enacted them, it would not be an establishment of religion. Striking First Amendment fear into the hearts of the nation is lame and dishonest. Shame on him for this stupid throwaway line.

As, Danforth laments, the congressional action to grant jurisdiction to federal courts to hear the constituitonal merits of the Schiavo case usurps traditional state authority, and is somewhat lamentable on federalism grounds. However, except for the Federalist ideologues like myself, federalism has been largely dead for 70 years. For those that advocate the starvation death of Terri Schiavo to cry federalism is dishonest. Now that the wrong party and people are in power, non-conservatives (Republican and Democrat) hate that conservative Christians are in control of the big beast that they created. I agree that Terri's case should have been settled in Florida, and they take most of the blame, but federal intervention on behalf of individuals on any number of levels is very common (remember little Elian!)? Action was taken because this is such a hard case, and hardly a broader precedent for broad federal action over individual health-care directives and end-of-life decisions. Besides, federal laws dealing with particular aspects of these decisions would have a high probability of being found unconstituitonal to begin with under commerce clause jurisprudence, unless they were able to squeeze it in to civil rights statutes somewhere, which is doubtful.

Furthermore, as to Republican action being motivated solely by religious motives, that is an inaccurate description of a movement that claims David Boies, Ralph Nader, Nat Hentoff, Jesse Jackson, and just about every disability rights group in the nation as supporters is hardly just a religious movement.

Continue reading "Are the Republicans Pushing a Sectarian Christian Agenda?" »

Bishop Blocks Gay Funeral

Bishop Robert Brom of San Diego took an unpopular stand a few weeks ago when he ordered all churches in his diocese to refuse to hold a funeral for a deceased gay nightclub owner.

According to the article in the LA Times, the clubs have been rented to firms filming gay pornography in the past and pornography stars often appear at one of the clubs. In addition the clubs feature "slave auctions" and "leather" activities.

Bishop Brom had noted the deceased's business activities were "contrary to sacred Scripture and the moral teachings of the church" and that he wanted to avoid public scandal by offering the deceased a funeral.

Of course the Episcopalians, not wanting to miss yet another chance to affirm their support for homosexuality, were more than happy to hold the funeral.

A Culture in Decline: Exhibit #72363

The new Como Park Conservatory Visitor Center. See photographic documentation of this atrocity here. Warning: it’s not for the aesthetically faint of heart. The post-modern effete elite culture mafia strike again.

A glimmering shambles, the new Visitor Center sits within view of the classical architectural gem that is the Conservatory itself. It’s an illustrative juxtaposition. The 1915 Conservatory was quite modern in its day, yet evokes classical Victorian traditions while remaining functionally true to its purpose. I believe the classical architectural term best used to describe the Visitor Center is “butt ugly.” It is not merely a pretentiously asymmetrical glass and steel monstrosity, but it has an inexplicable pustule on the top which evokes a completely separate glass and steel monstrosity crashing into the first one. The whole thing looks like it might collapse at any moment, and if we are lucky it soon will, with the architect and the bureaucrats who approved the plan inside toasting their noble modernity with organic wine made from free range grapes.

Pioneer Press Breaking News: “Insults Can Sting, Teens Say”

Um…yeah. I feel informed. Call the Pulitzer people.

While its refreshing that the Pioneer Press has not joined in the breathless rants in the Daily Cat Box Liner politicizing the Red Lake school shooting, this article isn’t exactly the height of reportage. If they have nothing at all to say, must they invent headlines? This is clearly a case of profit over substance. Someone decided the paper needed something above the fold about Red Lake and so they produced this revelation of the obvious.

March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo Dies

CNN has the story.

The Marginalizing of Religious Conservatives

Hugh Hewitt dissects yesterday's John Danforth op-ed complaining that the Republican party had been hijacked by religious conservatives.

Never Again: Again and Again

Read the latest post from the Coalition for Darfur, and then send some shekels to Save the Children: Sudan.

Pawlenty for President?

Such is the buzz these days surrounding our tremendously underwhelming governor, Tim Pawlenty. It seems that he has booked Karl Rove to come in for a fundraiser, and that Rove specifically requested to work with Pawlenty rather than the state GOP.

I will continue to comment on the meteoric rise of our very kind and good governor, who, unfortunately has supported projects like new casinos, a branch campus of the University of Minnesota in Rochester and has been pretty non-committal on a state marriage amendment and new abortion restrictions.

This blog also wonders why a far superior politician, Norm Coleman, has been not been talked up as presidential timber.

Pope Has A Fever

While media accounts of the Holy Father have characterized him as "ailing" for decades, things do seem to be taking a turn for the worse for the Pontiff. According to the latest from Reuters, he is battling a urinary infection and doctors and officials don't seem quite as upbeat. Prayers are definitely in order.

New Religious Order Dedicated to Fighting Abortion

Fr. Frank Pavone is starting a new religious order dedicated to fighting abortion and building a culture of life. The most interesting thing, according to the report from the abortion-friendly Kaiser Family Foundation is that the priests trained for the order will be very political, conducting voter registration drives and political advocacy training. Apparently, it has the blessing of both the local bishop, John Yanta, as well as Rome.

However, Planned Parenthood is worried this new order will attract more extremists committed to violence, because there are so many of those sorts in the pro-life movement, of course.

About March 2005

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

February 2005 is the previous archive.

April 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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