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July 2005 Archives

July 1, 2005

Happy Days are Here Again!

With the anouncement of Jusice O'Connor's retirement today, and the return of the bow tie to its privileged position in the world of men's fashion, there's good reason to celebrate America on this happy Independence Day weekend.

Bow tie article courtesy my boy Feddie who adds his own two cents on fine neckwear.

Ms. O’Connor, the Dustbin of History is That Way

The fawning has already begun to be lavished on Sandra Day O’Connor just hours after her announced resignation. It is good that we will have an ugly confirmation circus to distract us in coming days so that no one is led to say anything ridiculous about O’Connor that they will later regret. Ooops…too late.

"Justice O'Connor has been the most important figure on the court in recent years." – People for the American Way

“Justice O'Connor restored a measure of common sense to our criminal justice system, a measure of respect for our nation's allocation of power between the states and the federal government, and a measure of freedom in the public square to people of faith." - Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas.

O’Connor was "a discerning and conscientious judge and a public servant of complete integrity." – President Bush

We must grant elected officials some latitude in their press releases and remarks since it would be impolitic for Bush or anyone else to simply say, “good riddance.” However, diplomatic etiquette has never been a hang-up in the blogosphere.

"It has been a great privilege indeed to have served as a member of the Court for 24 terms,” she wrote to President Bush. “I will leave it with enormous respect for the integrity of the Court and its role under our constitutional structure." I think she means “over our constitutional structure,” but details never really hindered her pronouncements.

History will not be kind to O’Connor. Certainly her status as the first woman on the Supreme Court is noteworthy. But only the dimmest could have actually wondered if a woman could serve on the Court and needed proof. The rest of America needed a justice, regardless of gender, who would be faithful to the written constitution and who would cultivate a reasonable and defensible jurisprudence.

O’Connor provided neither. In fact, even the most liberal judicial activists such as Ginsburg proved to be at least predictable. O’Connor was a wildcard because her jurisprudence was undisciplined, driven only by desired outcomes. She is not the only practitioner of this long-standing monarchical burlesque, but her record shows her firmest convictions lay not with the constitution and not with the voice of the people, but with her own impressions. She has had a leading role in. When the federal judiciary is finally cowed, as it must be eventually, by the will be people, O’Connor will be remembered as Exhibit A in the decline of the Supreme Court.

July 3, 2005

"My brothers and sisters, The Lohd IS wit' you!"

My blogging rebirth is coming from here in western Washington where I am staying with my in-laws for three weeks. It is a difficult thing to go from the Catholic culture of St. Paul where papal encyclicals are big events to a place where many people are still unaware of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is a place where the former bishop and arch-heresiarch Raymond "Baron von" Hunthausen sat in the episcopal throne and did more mischief than Rembert Weakland ever dreamed of in his time at Milwaukee. The new bishop, Alexander J. Brunett, however, is a good and seemingly holy man and seems to be turning away from the weirdness of years past (the bishop between the two was Thomas J. Murphy, the kind of Irish fundraiser-prelate of years past that excites nothing of either praise or scorn in me).

My in-laws' parish has similarly begun to see small signs of new life. Going to confession last week, my wife and I were struck by the number of younger people (teens, twenties, I confess I'm getting old enough to not tell the difference) there for the sacrament. The pastor, an excitable fellow with a somewhat high voice, is demonstrably orthodox and has a definite enthusiasm for his calling.

And yet. . .Mass is difficult to bear. The problems I have with my parish in Minnesota come to seem delicate eccentricities, like the beauty marks on the lips of starlets, that I'd almost wish were not to be fixed. I keep thinking about Flannery O'Connor's friend whose husband became Catholic after years of attending Mass with his wife. He converted because the Mass "had to be true; it was so poorly done that nobody would have come if it weren't."

The liturgy here bears all the marks of the silly season in theological and liturgical values and, I suppose, should make me pray all the harder. But I subconsciously keep note of these irritating things and thus can foist them on you now.

1) The building is atrocious. Done in the half-circle model so popular among those who talk about the Eucharist as a revelation of the Community to the Community's self, it has no crucifix but instead a giant 70's style relief of the Risen Jesus, apparently trying to do the "C" during a rousing rendition of "YMCA." The all white walls and ceiling are offset by large plants so as to make the place seem like the set of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's old show. The cross that processes in during the liturgy has no corpus because one of the former pastors, credibly accused of child abuse and now probably laicized--certainly inactive--thought that we should "emphasize the Resurrection!"

Ah, yes, silly Catholics will think Jesus still hangs on a cross outside Jerusalem unless Father takes off that gauche corpus.

2) The add-ons to the liturgy are irritating.

a) We begin Mass, or rather interrupt the arm-draped-over-the-pew chatter in sanctuary, with a lector telling us welcome and then giving the starting line-up: "Our principle celebrant is Fr. So-and-so, assisted by Deacon What's-his-face, while our cantor is Bill Whatever, the altar servers are the Olsen Twins, and the gifts are being brought up by the Johnson family." One imagines all these people running in from the back as their names are called and stripping off warm-up pants like the Supersonics do. Maybe when the Archbishop comes they can lower the house lights, turn up the synthesizer a notch and then spotlight the Most Reverend as he comes down the front and the lector intones "Heeeeeeeerrrrrreeeee's Archbishop Allllllexannnnnnnnnder Bru-NETTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!"

b) After the "team" has been introduced, the lector bids us, "In the spirit of family, let us greet each other." After this nonsense is over, we attempt to stop the nonsense with "a moment of sacred silence." At this point I desire silence but I'm afraid if I asked for it, "sacred" would not be the word spitting off my lips.

c) Finally, Mass begins with a banal "opening song." It's sure not an "introit" or even a "processional." Haugen-Haas is presumably considered "high church" in the Breaking Bread hymnal put out by Oregon Catholic Press.

Since a quick scan indicates no heretical phrases, singing the words of the Almighty in first person, or use of the modern guess at how one might pronounce the Tetragrammaton if we wanted to say it, I sing lustily the instantly forgettable show tune.

d)The readings are done ok, and the psalm is actually a responsory rather than a show-tune with a verse loosely based on a gender-neutered paraphrase of a psalm. Yes that's right, I am at peace. . .

. . .until we get to Deacon What's-His-Face, a retired postal worker from New Jersey, who intones the Gospel in a voice that would make Tony Soprano proud, but not before. . .HIS LINES. That's right, the Deacon in the Latin Rite has almost no regular lines in the liturgy, but our man knows that this is his moment, the time to shine.

With a pastoral wave across the congregation, reminding me somewhat of Vanna White magically showing us what we've won (A BRAND NEW CAR!), the Deacon liturgically imparts his message: "My brothers and sisters, the Lohd IS wit' you!"

OK, while it is true that the Lord is "wit' us," this is not the line. It is also true that "it's a sunny day for the Seattle area," but that is not what the Deacon is to say. He is to say, "The Lord be with you." "Be" is the form of the verb we use (a subjunctive, I believe) when we put a blessing on someone. The Deacon is to bless us because we are about to receive the Lord in the liturgical reading of the Gospel. Yes, the Lord is with us, but he is journeying to us through the words of Scripture so that we may journey to him in return.

A small blessing is that Deacon What's-His-Face has not tried to get any more creative. One priest told me about a brother priest who said Mass at a convent and told the sisters, "The Lord is with us." No one knew quite what to do until one elderly sister quizzically responded, "And also with them?"

e) The homily is good. So is the baptism that follows.

f) The offertory hymn is a banality of Fr. Bob Dufford, S.J., one of that team of musical/liturgical felons known as the "St. Louis Jesuits." I hope someday that Church Historians will treat them in the same breath as encratites, Montanists, and Albigensians. OK, Arians, too.

The verses of this selection from ask us to sing the words of God in the first person with no "The Lord said." I shut the book.

g) We make it through the canon fairly well after confusion about when to stand--it's clear that some visitors know that the current protocol is to stand before "May the Lord accept the sacrifice. . ." but the congregation as a whole does not, so the whole thing looks like the tenth round of the Wave at Comiskey park. People are popping up, thinking better, sitting down, looking around. Finally after an eternity we are up.

h) AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHH! Everyone wants to hold hands during the Our Father, a move that prompts me to do my usual eyes-shut-tight-hands clasped-together attempt at prayer without arm-wrestling.

i) In the high point of all liturgy, we give each other greetings of peace and love, everyone rushes around looking for someone to greet with peace; at some point during the hub-bub, the Agnus Dei gets mumbled while a crowd of parishioners slightly larger than the army that attacked Helms' Deep gathers behind the wooden horse-shoe table (available at Restoration Furniture for Four Thousand Dollars, Bobos) used for an altar and then proceeds to hug each other with peace for another few minutes before communion.

g) With the Orc Army in place, our cantor proceeds from his perch, stage right, to get to his wife (an ex-nun if I'm not mistaken) so that they can walk up to the front of the line holding hands. I briefly envision the two receiving crowns as Eucharistic Prom Queen and King, so loving and proud they seem. They make it through communion, bid sad farewells at her pew and then he goes back to his microphone to announce one of those interchangeable communion songs that includes "taste and see" in it.

h)After my communion I go back to kneel and give thanks, when I suddenly realize everybody around me is standing. Ah, yes, this is one of those places where Dale Price of Dyspeptic Mutterings observes that the rule is "You Vill Stand and Sing, Dammit!" At this point I just stay where I am and try to make it through.

i) We are nearly done, but first there are announcements which are, I suppose, appropriately breezy but way too long. The end comes with "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" and, despite my aversion to patriotic songs in Mass, even religious ones like this, I sing since it's the best piece of music thus far.

j) Leaving, I have to remember that the Tabernacle, one of the few nice physical aspects of the Church is hidden in the corner of the smaller chapel, but is visible through a window. So I genuflect toward the back of the Church, inevitably confusing some old ladies attempting to leave; I suppose they thought I was about to propose to one of them.


3) What is most annoying to me is how petty I feel after these masses. When was I worshiping the Lord with a thankful heart during Mass? And why am I so critical?

Looking over at the congregation from my part of the half-circle I see most people are less bored than irritated, but there are some people, generally women, who are able to see through the mess that is the contemporary suburban liturgy. Perhaps it's because I'm a convert from Protestantism that I'm especially annoyed. I sympathize with Christopher Dawson and Evelyn Waugh and all those converts who understood that there are problems with the liturgy in all ages, but that making it into a bad impression of a Protestant mega-church service is not the way to go. I want my children to experience the majesty of the liturgy as they grow up so that they will have an experience of the glory of Christ who is the chief celebrant of the Mass. I want them to experience the suffering humility of Christ in the marrow of everyday life, not in the self-inflicted banalities of liturgists and "cultural Catholics" (meaning little in the way of culture, certainly not Catholic culture, in this context).

And yet I remember a story of Fr. Paul MacNellis, S.J., who gave the homily at a Jesuit ordination some years back. He began by recounting our Father Ignatius Loyola, who said that if he had joined an existing order he would have wanted to join one that was corrupt and decadent, the better to suffer with our Lord. "Today," he remarked, "I believe that Ignatius Loyola would be a Jesuit."

I admire my in-laws for their steadfast holding on to a parish that makes me want to run screaming every time I visit. Their patience is admirable. And my father-in-law has lost much of his musical pitch singing for thirty-some odd years in a choir that reminds me of a group of off-duty cops singing the hymns of Billy Joel right before last call.

But I don't want to my kids raised in such a parish. And I don't want to be so critical when I visit. I know the answer is that I am not spiritual yet, in St. Paul's sense, and that I don't pray hard enough. The saints were able to suffer with a suffering Church and often to change it. I don't know how yet. But I'm going to take our Lord's words, uttered so often by John Paul II, to heart: "Be Not
Afraid!"

This, even as I know that some Deacon somewhere will tell me, somewhat differently, "You are not afraid."

Well, patience, Davy, patience.

July 5, 2005

Hitchcock, TLC, and the Ordination of Women

Suspensefully Sexy

In his book-length interview with and study of the great "master of suspense," Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut includes this bit of amusing dialogue about Hitchcock's actresses:

TRUFFAUT: You stated several times that Grace Kelly especially appealed to you because her sex appeal is "indirect."

HITCHCOCK: Sex on the screen should be suspenseful, I feel. If sex is too blatant or obvious, there's no suspense. You know why I favor sophisticated blondes in my films? We're after the drawing-room type, the real ladies, who become whores once they're in the bedroom. Poor Marilyn Monroe had sex written all over her face, and Brigitte Bardot isn't very subtle either.

TRUFFAUT: In other words, what intrigues you is the paradox between the inner fire and the cool surface.

HITCHCOCK: Definitely, I think the most interesting women, sexually, are the English women, the Swedes, the northern Germans, and Scandinavians are great deal more exciting than the Latin, the Italian, and the French wmomen. Sex should not be advertised. . . .

............................................

Truffaut goes on to ask about the success of such as Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, et al, to which Hitchcock replies that there is a reason why the movies they did were not successful as movies. There is no suspense about a woman who flaunts her sex here, there, and everywhere.

A TV Show Worth Watching

I was thinking about Hitchcock's point of view the other night as my wife and I were sampling her parents' Direct TV. What amazes me about such systems most of all is that whether one has 5 or 500 channels, there is generally nothing on of any quality or substance. But then again, as the late Neil Postman never tired of pointing out, TV might have a sort of sheer entertainment value, but rarely does one learn anything from it that one could not learn better in other ways, say, by reading.

But one show caught our interest. TLC (I think that's The Lifetime Channel?) had on a wonderful show called "What Not to Wear." The basic concept of the show is that friends of the atrociously attired can send in footage of their friends to the show. If selected, the perky hosts, Clinton and Stacy, will show up and offer the person a chance at her fifteen minutes. After a humiliating session of watching montage of the victim's fashion horrors to the accompanying critique of Clinton and Stacy, the victim is sent out the next day to buy expensive clothes on the show's dime. After returning, she shows what was bought and tries it on for the hosts. Inevitably, it seems, the victim takes some of the advice and ignores some of it, ending up with more horrible clothing but some nice stuff. The victim returns again to the shops with Clinton and Stacy and the latter attempt to convince the victim to return some stuff and buy others. When the $5000 clothes allowance is spent, it is time for a session with an Australian hairdresser whose name I forget and then a session with a professional make-up artist whose name I also forget. The victim then returns to show the friends and family how much she has changed, a little crying is done, and then we have voice-overs about how much life has changed with new fashion while we see the new woman posing for a "fashion shoot."

Of course it's easy to mock a show like this, but my wife and I were enthralled. The shows we watched involved twenty- and thirty-something women who were attempting to be trendy and achieved the look of a good-natured but mentally dim hooker.

The fashion mistakes they made can be summed up in Hitchcock's phrase--they were advertising sex. Mesh tops, fishnet stockings, too tight slacks, too short skirts, plunging necklines that never actually came up for air, make-up that would make Vegas showgirls blush. What is not surprising, I suppose, is that both of the girls we watched were normal to chubby women. Wearing the kinds of revealing outfits they did indeed advertised sex, but nothing else. Their dress was the sort of thing that says to a man, "I'm desperately in need of attention and I'll do anything to get it."

As you might guess, Clinton and Stacy did not go far enough, as far as my wife and I were concerned, but we were pleasantly shocked at how far they did go in changing the dress of the two young women. Emphasizing rules like, "Just because a thing is trendy does not mean it looks good on you," "A size up means you'll look a size smaller," and "Dressing your age doesn't make you look older; dressing like somebody younger does." Of course the uber-rule applicable to anybody, lithe and muscular or a little too heavy, is "JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN WEAR IT DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD."

Being around a lot of college kids quite often, my wife and I are horrified at the type of sex-advertisement clothing worn. But what surprises us quite often is how many of the New Faithful-type girls don't dress distinguishably different. (I've noticed a similar problem among Evangelicals.)

New Orders

What does this have to do with the Ordination of Women? Well, in the case of ordaining women as Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, nothing, actually. But I've often thought about the rich layering of "minor orders" in the Church of the Middle Ages and the different positions in monasteries and convents up to today. Particularly interesting is the order of deaconesses in the ancient Church. In Aime-George Martimort's famous study, he concluded that the order of deaconesses was not part of the three-fold ministry of the Church, but essentially existed to help with the initiation of women into Christian faith. This was particularly important since baptism was often undergone in the near buff. Much better to have a woman clothing the neophyte in her white garment after she emerges from the waters.

What we need today, it seems to me, is some sort of minor order of women who could instruct the faithful in how practically to "put on Christ" in St. Paul's phrase, that is, to dress in a way that doesn't "advertise" sex but advertises a woman. Yes, I know there are Christopher West and all the other popularizers of the Theology of the Body, but I get the feeling that many of the New Faithful types already buy into all this. The connection to how they dress, however, is never made. I understand that Colleen Kelly Mast, of the Catholic Answers' produced "The Doctor is In," goes around giving "modesty fashion shows." Wonderful and more power to her. But we need women in every parish who can help young women and, in our culture of obsession with youth, their mothers to realize that the "inner fire" of sexuality is kept hot by keeping a "cool appearance."

The time for an order of Consecrated Fashionistas is now.

Envoi: "Hair!"

An old college friend, when asked what color hair he favored in a woman, responded, "Hair!" Men are attracted to women and almost any man can be provoked to sexual feelings at any instant (we've all heard the claim that men have a sexual thought every six seconds or something to that effect). But to dress attractively, while hinting that her flesh's beauty can only be seen when her soul is seen radiating from it is--well, that is to attain a sexiness greater even than what Hitchcock thought only seen in English, Scandinavian and Northern German women.

Is Prayer Bad?

Newsweek had a piece in their June 20 issue about the growing number of hermits, mostly Catholic people over 50 who have had some sort of intense religious experience as well as some sort of tragedy in their lives. Generally admiring, writer Lisa Miller focuses on Agnes Long, a seventy-something New Jersey woman who is a consecrated woman in the diocese of LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

Long was a successful upper-middle class woman whose first marriage ended when "she betrayed her church and filed for divorce." Reporters don't know that civil divorce is not in itself against Catholic faith, though remarriage is (without a declaration that the first marriage was not successfully contracted). After the death of the second man she married civilly, she felt called by God to confess her sins and to live a life of penance and silence. Now she lives in the wilderness, making icons to supplement her social security check. She has not kept the vows she made when she retreated to visit her children back east every year and she seems not to keep contact with one of her children, though it's not clear why. And she ends up eating more meat than she planned since the neighbors often shoot deer and give her venison. But she is able to do what God called her to: enter into a deeper life of prayer.

The article ends with a very nice line: "A decade of solitude has taught her, she says, that she is as broken as anybody and that God's love is unconditional."

All in all, it sounds as if Agnes has the spirit of the Desert Fathers. It may not be my calling, but it's a recognizable one.

What interests me are the two letters printed in the July 4 edition of the magazine. Susie Leonard Weller, who writes as a "spiritual director and life coach" (two self-designations that make me wonder if she knows anything about life or the spirit) offers the story of her own mother, who was also inspired by the Desert Fathers and ended up in some sort of monastic setting. She concludes, "My mom loved me in her own way, but it's been difficult to reconcile a faith that separates union with God from loving others."

Okey-dokey. My mom loved me, but the faith she practices doesn't believe in loving others? Or maybe we are meant to understand that her mom "loved" in the past tense, but doesn't love her now because of her faith.

I'm afraid I can't understand either of these two possible explanations. If God calls someone to a life of prayer and silence, that doesn't mean he or she doesn't love you. It means that God has called that person to share in the aloneness of Jesus on the Cross. It means that perhaps God has called that person to love you in a way that you can't understand--simply in prayer.

The other letter comes in more straightforward blowhard-know-it-all-guy-in-the-bar-who-knows-organized-religion-is-a-crock-I'm-angry-with-my-religious-mother-jackass letter writing style of a guy who's never met Agnes Long but feels compelled to offer his views on anybody who does weird religious things. BEHOLD, Edward Huber of Philadelphia:

"If Agnes Long had really heard God's voice speaking to her, as she claims, she would have found herself drawn like Jesus to the stink, poverty, and corruption on our planet ("Life in Solitary," June 20). What she heard, I'm afraid, is the voice too many of us hear, which calls us to abandon suffering humanity so that we may live out useless lives of peace and solitude until finally our souls die with a whimper."

O Wise Elder Edward, we are not worthy of your wisdom! "Useless lives" whose "souls die with a whimper." I am sure the poor suffering humanity of Philadelphia, PA crowds to your door to hear your compassionate response to other people's choices. They long to hear your wise counsel about their lives. "You there, drunkard, I don't know you, but it is clear to me you are living a useless life of hangovers and blackouts until finally your soul dies with a whimper." Oh, I'm sure you're quoting the words of Jesus or the Compassionate Buddha or Oprah or something. Please don't tell me, I'm too unexalted.

Well, all scorn aside, Edward and Susie represent a significant problem in human, but especially modern western life: Susie is focused on her needs alone, though she is a grown woman; Edward is focused on "suffering humanity" without being able to resist the temptation to judge the soul of a person who's made different choices than he has whom he knows from a two-page article in Newsweek.

Neither, unfortunately, has any clue that prayer is itself a spiritual task that we are all called to, and that some are called to do in a more radical fashion. These "shock troops" of the kingdom of God live in a state that represents what eternity is like: focusing on God's desires and worshiping him--letting him take care of our business as we take care of his. Some will be called to active physical care of the suffering poor, others will be called to a life of more intense directed prayer, and all will be called to love in the way they are able.

But all are called to continual prayer. It is this witness of the hermits that catches in the craw of the West where we believe that life is about doing, doing, doing.

In the real world, that is the Christian world, we should know that the motto is "Don't just do something, get on your knees and pray."

July 6, 2005

Gonzalez Would Be A Bad, Bad Move

I'm getting lots of conflicting reports about Bush's potential Supreme Court nominee. But it sounds a lot like Bush still wants to nominate Gonzalez. I realize that on this blog I'm the least politically and legally savvy, but I have to say that if Bush nominates him, the party is really over. Without the pro-life issues, the Republicans are, quite frankly, toast. Not because Evangelicals and serious Catholics are going to start voting for the Dems, but because they are not going to be voting for the Republicans. Just as the Dems took blacks, hispanics, and blue-collar people for granted and started losing them, Bush and the Republicans sometimes seem to take us for granted. Failure to enforce the Born Alive Act, Bush and Santorum supporting Specter against Pat Toomey, and various other acts of cowardice and politicking are starting to irk me.

Now's the time to use your political capital, Mr. President.

July 7, 2005

Do Protestants Become Catholics for Love?

After being reconciled to the Catholic Church eight years ago I would occasionally be asked, "What's her name?" This question was meant, I suppose, to indicate that one couldn't become Catholic because one believed Catholic claims, but only as a means to get a girl. I usually answered, "Mary."

Steve Schlissel, a former pastor in the Christian Reformed Church, the denomination of my youth, and now pastor of of an "independent" Calvinist ministry in Brooklyn, NY, posed the question in my title in an article a couple years ago. Last year, Dave Armstrong put it on his blog and responded to it, and I found the piece this morning.

I met Schlissel several times when I lived in New York and baby-sat the children of some of his parishioners (the kids' mother was daughter of North Dakota writer Larry Woiwode, incidentally). I went to church with them one Sunday for the sake of curiosity and nostalgia for good congregational singing. Schlissel is a Jewish convert to Calvinism and makes Judaism something of his schtick (I don't mean this pejoratively). He also has the old-fashioned Calvinist dislike of Catholicism and made several old-fashioned slurs during his sermon--something to the effect that Catholic sacramental theology is "magic." I sent him a note after the service reminding him that he should at least be fair if he's going to criticize Catholics and that calling sacraments "magic" really wasn't going to cut it. I told him something of my journey to Catholic faith in the letter and encouraged him to charity. He never responded at all, though when I saw him a few months later, he looked at me with an odd smile and tended to avoid talking to me.

In any case, Schlissel seems to have encountered more Protestant converts to Catholicism since the phenomenon is the subject of this essay.

Titled "Got Love," Schlissel proposes that the reason many young people convert to Catholicism is not because of doctrinal considerations but because they are simply sick of the fighting and lack of love of Protestants, particularly Presbyterians. (Presbyterians are often known as the "split-P's" in many Protestant circles.) Schlissel adds the somewhat unrelated claim that when many young Presbyterians "study" (notice the scare quotes) patristic sources they are only given "pro-Romish" (notice the old-fashioned anti-Catholic terminology) ways of reading them. Schlissel concludes that Rome will make many gains over the next decade.

About the third point, I agree. Rome is and will make many gains--as it has for the last fifteen years adding between 150 and 200 thousand adult converts a year in America.

About the second point, Schlissel seems to think that there is a Protestant way to read the Fathers. I'm not sure how since the Fathers don't look anything like Protestants. B.B. Warfield, the famous 19th century Presbyterian said the Protestant Reformation was the triumph of Augustine's soteriology over his ecclesiology, admitting that the Reformation was in many ways about sundering in two one of the Fathers. That one can so easily separate Augustine's ecclesiology from his soteriology is to miss how interwoven they were (as well as with Augustine's mariology) in Augustine's own thought. It would be more appropriate to have said "parts of Augustine's soteriology".

About the first point, that Protestant conversions are due to an impatience with a lack of love on the parts of Protestants, there might be some truth. There was for me. But Schlissel should look a little more carefully at his own arguments. If Protestants become Catholics "for love," isn't this simply the fulfillment of Jesus' own words in John's Gospel and (and the Johannine epistles)? Isn't this supernatural love, especially in face of the fact that Catholics don't always like other Catholics (on the contrary, our fights are even more at fever-pitch sometimes), really a sign of the fact that we dwell at the heart of the Church? I think one could make this argument quite easily.

It is also the case that the angry fragmentation of Protestants prods the questions of: What is the Church? How is it governed? How do we know what are the proper theological boundaries for Christians, given the Bible's tendency to speak in a multitude of voices? And all the other questions that follow.

I find myself hard-pressed to think of a single well-informed Catholic who has become a Protestant in the last twenty years. Certainly on the level of pastors and theologians, the tide is quite the reverse. One can name a host who've become Catholic, but there aren't really any examples of the reverse (except those, like Matthew Fox, whom Protestants really wouldn't want to claim). It's Protestant converts who've done the hard theological thinking. Most ex-Catholics were poorly, if at all, catechized, and often have very strange notions of what Catholics teach.

But Schlissel is right in the end. Our Protestant families and friends did their jobs right. They introduced us to a Love whose reality we found in the Catholic Church, Love's Bride and Body.

July 8, 2005

Partial Birth Abortion Still Legal

The latest judicial fiat issued from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals predictably struck down the Partial Birth Abortion Ban of 2003. The suit brought against the government asserts that the law presents an undue burden on the women by not including an exception for the “health” of the woman. The last time this barbaric procedure was outlawed was in Nebraska, a federal court struck that statute from the books (Stenberg v. Carhart), primarily on the grounds that it contained no exception to protect the life of the woman. Congress reacted by passing a federal law with heaps of “findings” and “declarations” designed to make their law Stenberg-proof. It apparently wasn’t enough.

The 8th Circuit today casually remarked that “we need not address the government’s assertions that federal courts must defer to congressional factfinding.” Congress solicited opinions and held public hearings on the matter before overwhelmingly passing the law. Congress essentially claims that a medical consensus exits that partial-birth abortion is never necessary. The Court simply asserts that an opposite consensus exists. The research, hearings and debate of the legislative branch of government are meaningless.

After surveying the ugly landscape of abortion jurisprudence, the Court simply thrusts its palms up and recites the happy refrain of the activist judiciary. “Neither we, nor Congress, are free to disagree with the Supreme Court’s determination because the Court’s conclusions are final on matters of constitutional law.”

It is easy to gnash one’s teeth and toss such a judicial opinion over one’s shoulder, but there a few points here worth mentioning.

First, this Court brazenly describes is chilling detail the procedure they are upholding as legitimate. There is no embarrassment, no shame. This gives the lie to the old liberal line about the court watching the election returns and so not being too far out of the mainstream. Even the recalcitrant abortion champions in Congress have learned that the public wants no part of this abomination, but the courts do not respond to the will of the people.

Secondly, nowhere in this decision does the court address what counts as “health” when making an exception for the “health of the woman.” I doubt this omission was accidental. We can be certain that a headache or even “bad feelings” will ultimately be validated as a negative impact on a woman’s health, and such a proclamation would go a long way toward clarifying the terms of the debate. But it is in the interests of an activist, non-majoritarian judiciary to keep Congress busy passing laws that can be ceremonially struck down, knowing that abortion is a little more entrenched with each one.

Finally, the supremacy of the judiciary cannot be forgotten as President Bush makes his picks for the Supreme Court as well as lower courts. This case will undoubtedly end up before the Supreme Court next term, and its fate is far from certain. An optimistic conservative reads the tea leaves and sees possibly four votes in favor of overruling the 8th Circuit and upholding the law as passed. Whoever will replace the thankfully departed O’Connor will play a pivotal role. If that replacement is Alberto Gonzales, I do not see how he could avoid recusing himself based upon the fact that he is named in the suit (automatically dropped in there to replace Ashcroft as attorney general). A recusal would leave, at best, a four-four deadlock and that would effectively validate the 8th Circuit’s usurpation. This by itself ought to be enough to remove Gonzales from consideration (unless circumstances change).

Pride and Blogging

In an earlier piece I alluded to one of the reasons that I stopped blogging for a while. Other than busy-ness and lack of home access to the net, I said that I could never get the links correct and when I'm embarrassed I tend to shy away from anything that might lead to more embarrassment. Especially on simple things like technical stuff (and no, I've never figured out how to program VCR's either) which any four-year-old child knows how to do. I have had this problem for a long time. My mother, of blessed memory, used to tell me that I don't have to be perfect and not knowing it all is not a problem. When in fifth grade I was in one of those go-at-your-own-pace programs beloved of educational programs dealing with smart kids. While I think it is often a good thing, I have doubts that even "gifted and talented" kids are always well-served by it. In my case, I got stuck on some lesson, having to do with the new-fangled computers that were just beginning to be used in schools, if I remember correctly. Mortified to admit I needed help I read other books and pretended to work on my assignments until three weeks later when the teacher noticed that I hadn't turned in any work. A crisis ensued, my parents threatened me with psychologists if I didn't straighten up and ask for help, a horrid possibility considering my bad experiences with school counselors.

I did straighten up enough to avoid the possibility of counseling, but the problem didn't end completely. I developed a much smoother public face, but still suffered the pride of smart kids. To put it more bluntly, I was not and am not a person who likes to admit I don't know something and will generally find some way of making it through a conversation without admitting I don't know at least as much if not more than the person I'm talking to. It's a dandy skill, but morally a killer.

At some point I'll need to do an entire general confession, featuring all the times I've "faked it" in conversations.

It was the example of one of my most revered teachers, Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J., of Fordham University (perhaps THE GUY in the history of the Arian crisis of the fourth century), that finally made me realize that "I don't know" is a statement of indomitable strength rather than an admission of weakness. I was reading something about Maximus the Confessor and asked Fr. Lienhard what he thought about it. He shrugged his shoulders and said he'd never read any of Maximus and didn't really know any more than I did.

Choirs sang out, the ceiling of Fr. Lienhard's office opened up, and St. Bernard, accompanied by cherubim and seraphim, descended on a ladder chanting, "The three greatest virtues are humility, humility, and humility."

When the vision was over, I said, "Oh, really," and changed the subject. But I've never been the same since that day. I still fake it sometimes, but not as much, and my conscience has gained back enough of its numbed nerves that it hurts when I fake it any more.

Well, I just edited the entry below, "Do Protestants Become Catholics for Love?" for a third time to try and get the link right and I hope it worked. If it doesn't, I'm sorry, I'll keep trying. Keep in mind that I DON'T KNOW what I'm doing.

Ah, that felt better, if my stomach turned over a couple times in typing it.

Before I leave off this confession of faults to you, my internet religious community, it is necessary to recognize that my friend Jason Adkins, to whom I'm extremely indebted for more than he could know, has very patiently emailed me over and over, answering my endless questions about how to do this linking thing, and many other things, with nary a smirk or a dig at the guy who puts "dumb" into "blogdom."

To such as he is the Kingdom of Heaven.

July 10, 2005

SCOTUS Nomination Abonimation Revelation

In case anyone out there missed it, John Derbyshire on NRO’s Corner has encapsulated with careless genius the core issue facing this country as we pass through the nomination/confirmation funhouse.

“When I first came to this country, I assumed that the nine justices of the Supreme Court were taken from the absolute cream of their profession, the very best legal and constitutional brains the U.S. had to offer. Then a kind legal friend, who had actually had some dealings with the Justices, took me aside and gently explained that they are much more often mediocrities from the bulge of the bell curve, chosen to give the least possible offense to the least number of loud factions, or because, never having had an original or interesting thought in their lives, they had never made anyone angry by forcing him into the unpleasant and painful business of thinking.”

This is why an unprincipled subjective hack like O’Connor ended up on the Court and Robert Bork was shown the door. As the imperial Court has breached the walls of Congress and misappropriated political power, what the justices decree has become more and more important. The Senate’s angst is caused by knowing that they are confirming their own sovereign masters, and the subordinate Senate has not always been treated well.

So it is no surprise that the most important attributes an aspiring Supreme Court justice can have are to be uninspiring, unremarkable and, hopefully, unknown. Of course, that simply increases the chances of a nominee drifting from the principles held dear by the President and Senate majority that installed him or her.

We shall know soon if President Bush and Senate Republicans are serious about restoring honor to the Court by once again anchoring it to principled jurisprudence. Already we are hearing names that aren’t ringing any bells, and now there are rumors (overheard at RedState.org) that a third justice, Stevens, may ride off into the sunset. The only way an allegedly conservative President could fail to effectively realign the Supreme Court after naming three new justices in a second term would be if he settles for dim bulbs with no history of enunciating strong principles, low wattage jurists pleasing to bleating liberals who prefer darkness.

Bork on SCOTUS

In his continuing campaign to shame me out of ever writing again about law by saying everything I have ever wanted to say better than I could ever hope to say it, the esteemed Robert Bork, the best damn Supreme Court justice we never had, offered a grim reminder last week of what is at stake as our federal judiciary marches onward with its penumbra shoved up its emanation.

Check out his remarks at the Hudson Institute.

July 11, 2005

Shoe Bomber Sentenced… and Excoriated by Federal Judge

Shoe Bomber Sentenced… and Excoriated by Federal Judge

Check out this post at the John Adams Society Blog quoting at length the remarks of Judge William Young after locking up this lunatic and throwing away the key (also reported here). Our friend at the JAS is right to wonder why this wasn’t reported in the MSM. The omission is telling.

Judge Young pulls no punches:

“Let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of you or any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before.”

“You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier, gives you far too much stature.”

“It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose. Here, in this society, the very wind carries freedom. It carries it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see, that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely. It is for freedom's sake that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf and have filed appeals, will go on in their representation of you before other judges. We Americans are all about freedom. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties. Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bare any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms.”

Amen. Don’t miss the full quote.

A Day of Poetry

Still in Seattle, I had lunch today with my cousin Christine Deavel and her husband John Marshall. Besides being my flesh and blood, Christine (along with her husband) are literary people and fun to talk with about the joy of words. They own Open Books--A Poetry Emporium, the only all-poetry book store west of the Mississippi. For those of you who care about such things, they are an independent operation. The store takes up the bottom floor of a two-story building, and it's a delight to walk in and simply browse their shop, looking both for classics and for things one might not notice ordinarily. Of course, given that we had both boys with us, browsing was a bit more complicated, but Gus, my three year-old is fascinated with books and poems of all kinds, so he was easy to entertain. (Last night while waiting for him to pee in the potty I read him Canto I of the Inferno [John Ciardi's translation]; he was fairly excited about the story--leopard, lion, and wolf appear--but became bored when Vergil showed up.)

In the time we were there, though, I bought a used copy of Dana Gioia's famous book of essays, Can Poetry Matter?, as well as a copy of the famous Welsh Catholic convert David Jones's In Parenthesis with a new foreword by W.S. Merwin. For those who think of Catholics as disrespected among the intelligentsia I'd like to note that the new volume is published by the New York Review of Books Press, a pleasant surprise.

But what I brought home and started greedily reading tonight is an Everyman edition of R.S. Thomas's Selected Poetry. I was under the impression that Thomas was a Catholic priest, but found out from the introduction that he was actually Church of Wales (Anglican) and suffered from the sort of theological doubt common in that communion.

No matter. The poems are exquisite. The first "big" edition of Thomas's work, Song at the Year's Turning (1955), came with an introduction by John Betjeman, a future poet laureate of England. Betjeman wrote:

This retiring poet had no wish for an introduction to be written to his poems, but his publisher believed that a "name" was needed to help sell the book. The "name" which has the honour to introduce this fine poet to a wider public will be forgotten long before that of R.S. Thomas.

As an admirer of Betjeman myself, I take this as high praise. While I've not come across the sort of flippantly humorous tones that Betjeman is able to play with, the Thomas poems I've been able to sample have a penetrating elegiac honesty that is greater than Betjeman's. Perhaps it's the real estate mantra, location, location, location, but Thomas, long-time pastor to tough Welshmen, evokes the hard peasantry, afflicted by the more rigid forms of Reformation Christianity, that "affront, bewilder, yet compel my gaze" (as he says in "A Priest to his People"). A favorite of mine, small-town boy that I am, is this one called "The Country Clergy":

I see them working in old rectories
By the sun's ligh, by candlelight,
Venerable men, their black cloth
A little dusty, a little gree
With holy mildew. And yet their skulls,
Ripening over so many prayers,
Toppled into the same grave
With oafs and yokels. They left no books,
Memorial to their lonely thought
In grey parishes; rather they wrote
On men's hearts and in the minds
Of young children sublime words
Too soon forgotten. God in his time
Or out of time will correct this.

Whatever Thomas's struggles with doubt, there is a deep faith that comes out amidst the Job-like wrestling with God. And there is a great craft for making lines that capture me--". . .rather they wrote/On men's hearts and in the minds/Of young children sublime words/Too soon forgotten. . ." I can't imagine a better poem to send to a pastor in a country parish, particularly with the affirmation that God will correct the bad memories of those served faithfully by pastors outside the spotlight of the city.

Thomas's appreciation of the Welsh peasantry is all the more appealing to me since he embodies the contradictions of modern life. Not growing up speaking Welsh, he learned it as an adult, yet never felt competent to write poetry. He realizes he is not like the Welshmen he serves, but he also realizes the difference is not one of superiority or inferiority. His culture and intelligence are gifts that would enrich their lives, but their closeness to the land is something that he can observe but not share in. In "Affinity," he asks about a rough peasant:

From the standpoint of education or caste or creed
Is there anything to show that your essential need
Is less than his, who has the world for church,
And stands bareheaded in the woods' wide porch
Morning and evening to hear God's choir
Scatter their praises? . . .

The need of our world is great--our need for ears to hear God's choir, our need for charity to recognize those who have such ears, and our need for poetry to put into words our deep longings, desires, and prayers. Take a few moments to read some poetry today.

And buy it from my cousin, would you.

July 12, 2005

More Progress from Seattle--Operatic Even

The great Mark Shea has assured me that the Church in Seattle is indeed growing stronger and more faithful. One interesting character in all this is the Education Director of the Seattle Opera. Perry Lorenzo is interested in Balthasar and Chesterton, Ratzinger and the Theology of the Body, Benjamin Britten and lots, lots more. Check out his nice little blog.

Hat tip to Amy Welborn.

German and Irish-American Anti-Potterians of the World, Unite!

Lifesite.net has an article pompously titled, "Pope Benedict Opposes Harry Potter Novels." The contents are not very edifying, since what this amounts to is a two-year-old German Zenit interview with Gabrielle Kuby (linked to in the article) who is apparently the German version of novelist and anti-Potter fanatic Michael O'Brien. The article tells us that the pope "has denounced" the Potter series as dangerous.

This is simply false. The Kuby interview includes excerpts of a letter from then-Cardinal Ratzinger saying that her writing on the "danger" and "subtle seduction" of the Potter phenomenon is very convincing. But there is no "denunciation" and, importantly, no indication that Cardinal Ratzinger had ever read the books.

Kuby's interview (in German) amounts to the same sort of nonsense seen in critics like Michael O'Brien on this side of the pond--the books have magic, magic is forbidden by the Old and New Testament, no, sorry, it's OK about Tolkien, he was a good Catholic and he was different, blah, blah, blah.

Lifesite.net has the good humor to quote O'Brien, a somewhat talented novelist (though his "Children of the Last Days" series had deteriorated so much by the fourth volume that I've not checked to see if the last two have been any good or not) as saying, "This discernment on the part of Benedict XVI reveals the Holy Father's depth and wide ranging gifts of spiritual discernment."

No, Mr. O'Brien, what this "discernment" reveals is that we can't read everything and that people take things on the word of others. A private communication to a German friend saying, "ja, good article, you're probably right," is not a public statement that merits much attention without further reason. Even if the Pope had read the series and made the comments, which it is fairly certain he did not, Catholics are not bound to papal literary criticism. Catholics, said Chesterton, are bound in faith to agree on a few things, but tend to disagree about everything else.

Mr. O'Brien's critiques of the series are linked to in the article.
For a much better assessment, look instead at the article I did with my wife, "Character, Choice, and Harry Potter" or the interview we did with Zenit in the archives on March 16, 2003.

July 13, 2005

War of the Worlds

Seventh Age reader Clayton Emmer has a nice philosophical post over at The Weight of Glory on the new Speilberg movie.

I suppose technically the movie it isn't new anymore, but as long as it hasn't been out on DVD for more than two years, it's new to me.

Catholics in Bollywood

Step aside Catholics in Hollywood, the Church in India is taking Bollywood by storm.

Well, maybe not by storm, but when you have an archdiocese bankrolling a film, and an Archbishop actively supporting it, you know something is afoot.

Tuscon Bankruptcy Plan Favors Parishes

As you may have heard, yesterday a judge approved the Tuscon diocese' Chapter 11 reorganization plan, setting aside $10 million to pay 45 victims, with $5 million set aside for future victims. The good news is that the judge didn't call for the liquidation of any parish assets:


The most hotly contested issue in the 11-month-old case was who owns the parishes and how diocesan assets should be used to compensate victims.

"What's a used church worth?" Marlar asked yesterday. "Who would want to buy it?"

Bishop Gerald Kicanas said most church properties can't be sold because they were bought with donations for use as future parish sites only.

The diocese sold some properties at auction earlier this summer and raised $5.58 million for the settlement fund.

Marlar yesterday said two attorneys who challenged the Chapter 11 plan on the property issue failed to convince him.

He said they did not provide assessed property valuations or other facts that might have caused him to challenge the parishes' cash contribution to the settlement fund as insufficient.

The parish money is already in the bank, said Mike McGrath, an attorney for the parishes.

He said it comes from parishes' reserve funds on hand to pay for unusual expenses - roof repair, homeless programs and summer air-conditioning bills.

Under the plan, the parishes' contribution will legally protect them from future lawsuits claiming sexual abuse by clergy members.

Also, parishes have agreed to file separate incorporation papers so they will be able to manage their assets independently of the diocese.

Hopefully this will bode well for other diocese facing Chapter 11.

July 20, 2005

Federalist Society Black Helicopters Seen Hovering Over the White House

CNN recently exposed the dark and nefarious Federalist Society whispering incantations into President Bush’s ear as he pondered a new appointment to the Supreme Court. It seems that the Federalist Society’s special ops forces have infiltrated the halls of power. For a calm and neutral assessment of the role Society plays, the CNN reporter turned to Erwin Chemerinsky, a loony leftist at Duke.

“[T]he reality is, given the presence of Federalist Society members within the White House counsel's office and the Bush administration, they are playing a crucial role in selecting judges and likely justices."”

And just what are these constitutional guerrillas up to? Well, the article does say that the group is “conservative,” which in MSM parlance means “quite nasty.” The reporter was apparently snuffed out before he or she could get any details to report, but here at the Seventh Age we boldly dialed up the Society’s webpage and learned the awful truth:

“The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.”

The Federalist Society, it seems, is against the judicial oligarchy that has done so much to advance the liberal agenda at the expense of the democratic process. They do not lobby or author “talking points” memos for the Democrats and the MSM to parrot. The Federalist Society is a forum for anyone concerned about American jurisprudence, from those in the halls of power to dilettante law students (like me). Potential judges and justices do not become conservative candidates for the federal judiciary because they are members; they are members because they are conservative and hold a view that limits the power of the judiciary. It is this disposition that makes them attractive to President Bush as seeks to fulfill his campaign promise of appointing responsible judicial officers that will be faithful to the Constitution. The ultimate nomination of Federalist Society member John Roberts to the Supreme Court reflects this reality.

"They've been remarkably successful in bringing together various parts of the conservative movement," said Duke's Chemerinsky. "I only want the left to have its own Federalist Society."

Alas, the Left does have it own version. Its called the Academy and it features branch offices in every burg and backwater in the nation. The Left has framed the judicial debate for over 75 years. The growth and influence of the Federalist Society is a long-overdue reaction to the leftward lurch of American jurisprudence. Many in the Academy and the MSM just don’t get it. But not to worry. A couple more appointments like Roberts and things will become much clearer.

Roberts for SCOTUS: How Conservative is Conservative Enough?

Though many on the right are quite pleased with the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court (typical response here), the satisfaction has not been universal. Conservative angst in the wake of Robert’s nomination is revealing.

The question is: What’s to dislike? He’s a serious Catholic. He was an accomplished litigator. He worked with distinction in the executive branch. His brief tenure as an appellate judge shows rock-solid jurisprudence. And, he’s eminently confirmable. Even Linda Greenhouse in today’s NYT offers faint praise, essentially conceding confirmation and expressing optimism that Roberts can be turned to the dark side.

And such a turning is precisely the issue. The only real complaint a conservative could have with Roberts is that he’s not militant enough. What many conservatives envision as the ideal SCOTUS nominee is Scalia with a toothache. Only such an ironclad originalist will ease the worries of a nominee contracting leftosis in the unclean air on Capitol Hill.

Of course, if a new Scalia were nominated today with the kind of brilliantly fierce dissents and rebukes the current Scalia has authored, he or she would never be confirmed. Exhibit A: Robert Bork.

I suspect that the range of likely SCOTUS candidates was far thinner than many pundits assumed for the very reason that any Supreme Court nominee in the 21st century has to be an established judicial conservative but not too established or conservative to get confirmed. That tends to make nominees younger (like Roberts) and gives the liberal disease more time to work pernicious effects. It also makes outcomes less predictable. Roberts simply hasn’t been a federal judge for very long, but he could wear the black robe for the next 30 years.

A (vaguely) Conservative president in his second term with a sympathetic Senate majority gets an opportunity to name a SCOTUS justice and yet cannot completely please his conservative base. The most well-established and certifiably conservative candidates are automatically removed from consideration. Does this strike anyone else as utterly absurd? What more is needed before serious citizens from both sides of the aisle are ready to discuss limiting the Supreme Court’s absolute authority?

July 21, 2005

The Church That Tom Built

Ave Maria University unveiled plans today for the new "Oratory" (that's the church for you non Latin scholars) that will be the focal point of the main plaza in their new Catholic town.

Rising 100 feet in the air, with capacity for 1,100, the church is definitely unique. According to interim town mayor Tom "Domino" Monaghan:


“The Oratory’s central location is meant to serve as a visible symbol that the Church and her liturgies are to be at the core of the life of the university,” said Chancellor of Ave Maria University, Thomas S. Monaghan.  “The architectural design of the Oratory was initially inspired by Fay Jones’ famous Thorncrown Chapel, which I’ve always admired.  Since its early stages, both the materials and various design elements have gradually evolved to their current form.”

I think it looks like a papal mitre. You can check out more pictures here and decide for yourself. Definitley an incarnational approach to their respect for the papacy!

July 27, 2005

Yet Another Earnest (and Pointless) Look at Roe v. Wade

Our own Jason Adkins, whose blogging has been mysteriously interrupted, emailed this Washington Times Op/Ed piece as potential blogging fodder. I’m pretty sure this is not what he had in mind, but I am happy to comply.

The article, authored by Helle Dale of Heritage Foundation fame, focuses on medical advances that might soon obviate the pseudo-scientific trimester/viability incantations that provide most of the smokescreen in the base judicial usurpation commonly known as Roe v. Wade. She makes the observation that the point of viability, when a baby can survive outside the womb (with help), is getting pushed earlier and earlier. However, if her aim is to buck up the pro-life rank and file, she missies the mark entirely.

Roe is often mistaken for the core of the right to an abortion. But Roe is simply a tool, one that was quite useful for a messianic court in 1973. The left has enshrined it as some kind of founding document of the equal rights movement, but no serious lawyer bothers to defend its reasoning. Roe will be cast aside the moment that it is no longer useful to the left. It may be true that the words dealing with viability are a self-limiting principle in Roe in a logical sense, but reason plays no role in the alleged right to kill a human baby. The Court would certainly have not bothered with the viability and trimester scietificism if it felt it was not necessary to help the ignorant get with the program.

The simple fact is that there is virtually no limit to the right of abortion. Abortion is the malignancy of judicial usurpation, just one of many evils that spring from the collapse of the constitutional order. Recent abortion decisions in the federal courts do not even bother to hearken back to Roe, except as a kind of vestigial genuflection. The task of the activist judges now is to cow the States and Congress out of placing any limits whatsoever on abortion. We the people can't stop minors from having access to abortion. We can't stop minors from going across state lines for access to abortion. We can't stop federal funds from paying for these deaths. We can't even come too near an abortionist's office. It is legal in our country not only to kill a fetus in the womb but to bring it through the birth canal in a sick parallel of birth and kill it outside the womb in the air it was meant to breathe. All this in the name of the "health" of the woman.

Who is naive enough to suppose that the perpetrators of this holocaust will stop when it can be shown that their own logic games in Roe no longer support them? The vampiric animus at work here is a profligate insurrectionary hedonism that seeks only the unrestrained fulfillment of appetites and the removal of all value judgments that might complicate that fulfillment. The "health" of the woman is now the operative concept being used by the abortion legal lobby. Already the more savvy abortion opponents are focusing on the woman and the physical, psychological and spiritual trauma inflected. One killed, one wounded, as the saying goes. But shall we employ science in the battle against the judicial opinions that legalized partial birth abortion? In ten years, when science can empirically demonstrate that having an abortion damages the reproductive system and leads to clinical depression, will the abortions stop? Only a fool would think so. The radical individualists will find another banner to wave. And by then, after many more counter-majoritiarian social rulings from the federal judiciary have stripped religion from the public square, legitimized every form of deviant behavior and eviscerated all law enforcement, the champions of death will not bother with legal reasoning at all.

Dale herself exposes the true state of affairs. One of the cutting edge technologies she mentions is described this way:

“[Dr. Liu’s] method is to remove cells from the mother's endometrium (the lining of the womb), and grow those cells in a hormones-and-growth-enzymes "bath." Then they let the cells rapidly grow on a scaffold made of biodegradable material molded in the shape of a uterus, into which she plants the embryo. By this method Dr. Liu has already successfully kept alive a brand new human embryo/fetus for six days, after which she voluntarily ended the fetus's existence to comply with current medical-ethics regulations” [Emphasis added].

Ladies and gentlemen, when the current state of medical ethics operates like this, its time to acknowledge that the enemy has us by the throat. Roe is merely one part of the pathology of the culture of death and is not worth another drop of ink. We live with legalized abortion, legitimized homosexuality, protected pornography and all the rest because we have learned to crouch and shuffle before undemocratic powers.

No more marches, no more Congressional hearings, no more litmus tests, no more op-eds. Anyone concerned with ending this accused practice needs to focus their attention on the judiciary and the organs of government that can apply pressure to the robed oligarchs. Ours is a nation founded on open discourse and legislative initiative. Slowly but inexorably, the most important issues are being purposively removed from the public square, insulated from discourse and made impervious to legislation. To ponder the details of any isolated judicial fiat is to miss the point entirely. The point is that we live under a judicial tyranny that enjoys our tacit consent, which is illustrated by Dale’s piece. It is not a judicial case that needs to be recast, but the judiciary itself.

July 31, 2005

A New Pastor for Joan of Arc

The "parish" of Joan of Arc located here in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has been an item of frequent discussion here at The Seventh Age.

Seventh Age reader Clayton Emmer has an interesting update on their search for a new pastor over at The Weight of Glory.

About July 2005

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

June 2005 is the previous archive.

August 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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