Thursday, October 31, 2002

The World-as-Accident, Ideas and Truth & Falsity

Mark Shea and Mark of Minute Particulars have both been having their own conversations regarding theism, materialism, etc. with Jody of Naked Writing.

The topic of both conversations has most recently concerned the accidental (or not) nature of the universe, specifically in regard to the true or false nature of ideas. I'd like to briefly touch on a related issue.

Jody -- by my reading -- seems to be pretty much a materialist: someone who posits that matter is all that is, was, and ever shall be. This means, of course, that the mind is nothing more than the brain, i.e. the matter wherein neural activity is located. It also means that the things that we "think" -- our thoughts -- are also material, being nothing more than a particular arrangement of atoms and molecules in our brains. The difference between one thought and another, then, is merely a difference of arrangement on the molecular and atomic level.

If this is true, though, a problem arises: the notions of "truth" and "falsity" cannot be applied to our ideas. Why? Because ideas (in this worldview) are only arrangements of matter, and arrangements of matter are not true or false... they simply are.

In his nice little book The Journey, Peter Kreeft gives the example of leaves and their arrangement as an analogy for ideas, which follows necessarily from materialist premises. Kreeft points out that the "idea of materialism" represents one particular arrangement of leaves (i.e. atoms in our brains), while the "idea of spiritualism" (the term I'll use here for the viewpoint that there is more than matter in the universe) represents another particular arrangement of leaves.

Now, if we stumbled upon some leaves scattered on the ground in a particular pattern or arrangement, we would not say, "oh! This pattern is true", or "this pattern is false". Why? Because -- as I noted above -- the notions of truth and falsity cannot be applied to things or to their patterns. This clearly leads to an unacceptable conclusion -- that no ideas are true, and no ideas are false... they simply are. Let's return to Kreeft's examples: there, materialism is one pattern, spiritualism another. Neither is true, neither is false; both simply are different arrangements of "leaves" (atoms and molecules in our brains).

But no one accepts this, let alone argues it. Jody clearly believes that materialism is true, while Mark Shea, Mark of MP, and I believe that materialism is false and spiritualism is true. Yet this seems to be the inescapable conclusion to which materialism leads.

Update: Josh Claybourn has also been dialoguing with Jody, here, and here (the latter being a quick comment).
More recommended links

Catholic Light

Karl Schudt's Summa Contra Mundum


BTW, if you've linked me and I haven't reciprocated, please let me know.
How did I forget this?

Yesterday Mark Shea posted a letter he wrote to Fr. Richard Neuhaus, convert and editor of First Things, asking about the Holy Father's actions vis. bishops who have not acted properly in the whole sex abuse mess. Fr. Neuhaus replied, and Mark posted that, as well.
Daschle's urgent plea

It's good to see that my senior senator, Tom Daschle, is concerned about the implications of this election for the life issues.

Too bad he's on the wrong side.
The Documentary Hypothesis

Lane Core and Bill Cork have exchanged posts on the Documentary Hypothesis, a commonly-held theory among biblical scholars which posits multiple sources and editors for the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Lane's is here, Bill's reply is here (both of them focus on Genesis).

As Lane also mentions, there is an fun piece gaining attention in blogland, which "uses" historical-critical methodology to "prove" multiple authorship for the Pooh-Bear books. You can find it here.

For the record, I accept the validity of the historical-critical methods, provided that they're used in conjunction with other methods, and that there limitations are kept in mind by their practitioners.
School of the Americas

Bill Cork has linked and commented on a story about the successor of the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, and a priest who wants the school shut down.

As Bill says... it seems like the school's goal of spreading democracy throughout Central and South America has been fairly successful, hasn't it?
Atheists in America

Interesting ABC News piece on atheists in our country.

A lot of them seem likely whiners, to be honest. "Pay attention to me and my non-belief!!!"

The implicit conceit of others is also interesting: "Paul Kurtz, the head of the Council on Secular Humanism, wants to promote nonbelief as a positive alternative world-view. "What we want to argue is the use of reason," he says, "And that's very radical now.""

Ah yes.. atheists are the only people who use reason; atheism is the only "religious" worldview that stand the test of reason, blah, blah, blah.

I'm sorry for my tone, but the arrogance of statements like this really galls me. Ever heard of John Paul II's document Faith and Reason, Paul? Yes, I know Christians and other believers can be just as arrogant, and that irks me to. But at least in that case, they're actions are in contradiction with their belief systems, and so (hopefully) the arrogant Christian will change his tune. But atheism doesn't have the intrinsic ethical code that Christianity does, so this sort of arrogance is more often the rule than the exception. At least among the activist type.
Narrowing the Gap

Good progress is being made on a UN resolution for Iraq.
Urban Warfare

Interesting article at the Washington Post on the intense preparations the military is making for a possible Battle for Baghdad.
Josh Hartnett: Hollywood Liberal

Apparently, up-and-coming actor Josh Hartnett was on his way to Minnesota to campaign for Wellstone when Wellstone died in an airplane crash last Friday (thanks, Drudge, for the link).

Why am I not surprised? It seems that acting in Holllywood requires being a liberal in political matters.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Evangelization and Apologetics

Bill Cork has a good post on successful ways to evangelize, as seen in the lives of St. Francis of Assisi and Paulist founder Isaac Thomas Hecker.

(If the permalink isn't working, just go to Bill's site, permalinked to the left.)
Good news

The Bush administration has decided to officially refer to embryos as "human subjects" in a charter dealing with the safety of research volunteers.
Memorial Service? Yeah, right.

This Minneapolis Star-Tribune story shows pretty clearly that what was supposed to be a memorial service last night for Paul Wellstone became a political rally for his party and his replacement. And guess what? The whole shabang was broadcast on the local networks. For free.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Msgr. Albacete gives some historical perspective

I have commented in numerous places that those stating that the Church is facing a catastrophe because of the sex abuse scandal and its aftermath are overstating the case. I've also argued against drawing too-strict comparisons between our situation today and that of the Church prior to the Reformation.

I'm happy to be able to point to someone worthy of much greater esteem than myself to confirm the latter point. In the May 6, 2002 issue of New Republic, Michael Sean Winters quotes (at the bottom of the article) Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, who told Winters, "If, in addition to all the terrible things we have learned, if tomorrow it was revealed that the pope had a harem, that all the cardinals had made money on Enron stock and were involved in Internet porno, then the situation of the Church today would be similar to the situation of the Church in the late twelfth century ... when Francis of Assisi first kissed a leper."

Not only does this quote give some perspective to how bad things have been at various points in the Church's history (and how things today are far from the worst), it points to the solution: saints. As Fr. Neuhaus writes in the new issue of First Things -- after this quote from Msgr. Albacete -- "In short, the Church will only be renewed by saints, meaning sinners -- bishops, priests, and all the faithful -- responding to the universal call to holiness."

Don't just Be Happy. Be Holy.
Fr. Neuhaus comments...

In the latest issue of First Things (not yet available online), Fr. Richard Neuhaus takes Rod Dreher to task for some comments Rod made back in August about John Paul II and his governance of the Church (or lack thereof, according to Rod). Fr. Neuhaus concludes his piece by stating that Rod's friends "should give him the benefit of the hope that he will in the future write more honestly, informedly, and responsibly about the Church that he undoubtedly loves." Ouch.
Minds and Hearts

I recently had a discussion with some friends about abortion. All of us are pro-life, but some of my friends weren't too sure about the humanity of the conceptus, i.e. the first cell which is formed when the ovum is fertilized by the sperm cell.

My friends were convinced that the fetus is a human being at the later stage, when the heart beat and brain waves are present. But they weren't so sure about the fetus prior to this point.

Now, this spring I posted on the issue of cloning, going into some depth concerning the moral and ontological status of the fetus in this post in particular. What I want to do here is briefly comment on the issue of a heart and brain as prerequisites for the humanity of the fetus.

I think the problem here is a misunderstanding of the importance and role of these organs for the human being. For the human being at the late stages of gestation (and from there onward), the heart is necessary for the movement of blood throughout the body, this being necessary for the maintenance of each cell's health. The brain is necessary because it is the organ that integrates the human being and gives it direction as a whole. Without the brain, the organism is no longer such: it becomes a mere collection of various organ systems, rather than a unified, integrated organism.

Because of these important roles, we recognize that the heart and brain are necessary for the existence of the human being during most of his/her life, because without them the human being either dies or ceases to exist as a unified, integrated organism (and therefore ceases to be a human being per se). What is important to note, however, is this: it is not the mere presence of these organs that make the human being a living human being, but rather, their function in the human being. Recognizing this crucial fact, the question of the fetus and its lack of brain and heart is easily resolved.

The human being at the early fetal stage is so small that the small number of cells that constitute it can easily replenish their nutrients and evacuate their waste products; the intricate and complex circular system that will soon develop is not necessary at this stage. In other words, the function of the heart is accounted for without the heart at this stage, and therefore the lack of that particular organ has no bearing on the humanity of the fetus.

The same is true of the lack of a brain in the early fetus: the fetus is already an organized, integrated, unified system; at this stage, it is simple enough that it does not require the complex neural network that will later develop. Again, the function of the brain is accounted for at this stage, and so the lack of a brain has no bearing of the fetus' humanity.

We need not be concerned about the lack of a brain or heart in the early fetus; as I've shown here, their importance is in their function, not their mere presence, and that crucial function is found in the early fetus.
Personally opposed, but

Last Saturday, I found this commentary at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The writer supports gubernatorial candidate Tim Penny's stance on abortion, which is this: abortion is a "national tragedy", but he also believes that "government intrusion will not solve the fundamental problem" (see Penny's own views).

The following is a letter to the editor which I recently submitted to the Star Trib:

Dear Editor,

A recent commentary (Rachel Skulstad: Penny's changed for the better; Oct. 26) illustrates well a common misunderstanding of the pro-life perspective. Both Ms. Skulstad and Tim Penny are "personally opposed, but" when it comes to abortion, Mr. Penny even seeing abortion as a "national tragedy". My own question is this: why is Ms. Skulstad "morally against abortion"? Why does Mr. Penny view abortion as a national tragedy?

The pro-life position is very simple: biologically, every fetus is an individual member of the species homo sapiens; every individual member of the species homo sapiens is a subject of human rights; therefore, every fetus is a subject of human rights and hence ought not be killed. That is the pro-life argument, and there is no other reason to oppose abortion. If the fetus is not a human being and hence the subject of human rights, there is no reason to morally oppose abortion, no reason to call it "a national tragedy".

But because the fetus is a human being, and hence deserving of the same protection under the law which human beings at other stages of development are, abortions must be stopped. Will abortions never occur if the procedure is outlawed? Of course not; but laws against theft do not stop robberies from happening, either. Do pro-lifers want the government telling us what to do with our bodies? Yes, if what we are doing with our bodies is killing of another human being.
Lourdes Miracles

Mark Shea has a post with links to the medical review process used by (real) doctors in Lourdes, France to verify whether or not a cure which occurs there is a miracle. There's also a link to the documented, medically-verified miracles.

I'd also recommend Fr. Stanley Jaki's article about Dr. Alexis Carrel, the 1912 Nobel prize winner whose eye-witness of a miracle led to his conversion from atheism to Catholicism.

Monday, October 28, 2002

The Religious Left

The Public Interest has an excellent article entitled Our Secularist Democratic Party, showing how secularists took over the party in 1972 and continue to control it. The drift of the article comes early on, when the authors state, "the media ignores the growing influence of secularists in the Democratic party and obfuscates how their worldview is just as powerful a determinant of social attitudes and voting behavior as is a religiously traditionalist outlook."

Stanley Kurtz of National Review also aptly summarizes the article at this post.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Will on that Contradiction

George Will has written on the case in Michigan which I posted about on Friday; this is the case in which a woman's case against her boyfriend for causing the death of her fetus was upheld by a Michigan appeals court.
North Korea and Iraq

An excellent lead editorial at the Washington Post today, stating why the revelations concerning North Korea's nuclear program actually strengthen the case for war against Iraq, rather than hurt it, as many have been arguing over the last several days.
NYTimes letter watch

Today's installment: Hierarchical Arrogance!!!

This letter from today's NYTimes is a textbook example of someone making public comments without having researched the issue and checked the facts.

The writer seems to think that the Vatican is trying to put the Church's canon law above US criminal law, supposedly because canon law is contrary to the US bishops position on a statute of limitations. This writer apparently thinks that the Vatican is saying, "you can't prosecute someone who abused a child x number of years ago!" In other words, the Holy See is trying to interfere in our judicial process and system.

If the writer took the time to read the Vatican's letter, he'd see that what is at issue here is whether or not a priest who committed an act a number of years ago should automatically be removed from ministry, even if no other crime/abuse has been committed. This has to do with the priest's standing within the Church, a realm where canon law alone has authority.

Please, make sure you know the facts before you go off on someone in public (your's truly is just as guilty, and that's why I can say this :-).

Hillary has been fundraising of late, and telling some whoppers in doing so (see this [link via Drudge]).

Among them:

George Bush was "selected" President, not elected.

And Bush's administration is undoing eight years of Clintonomics.

You're right, Hillary: your "economic success" (I'm not sure what she did, or rather, by what authority, since she wasn't elected or appointed herself) is being undone: years of corporate execs and accountants following the example your husband set by fudging their facts is being undone. And thank goodness for it!

Friday, October 25, 2002

Dare We Hope?

Tom McGovern of Pro Multis and I had a brief discussion about hoping for the salvation of all humanity in the comments of this post at Gregg the Obscure's Vita Brevis. Some of you might be interested in it.

FYI, I posted on this topic this spring.
Terrific Actor Richard Harris...

died today.
Not everything that goes down is recoverable...

Although many bloggers have been frustrated over the hack, it's better to have your blog server go down than your airplane: as many of you probably know already, Minnesota's senior Senator Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash today, along with his wife, adult daughter (two adult sons are the surviving family members), and some staffers and the pilots.

Next time you get frustrated with little things, remember the greater gifts you have.

Requiescant in pace.
A Humanitarian Mission

Good column by Jim Hoagland in the Washington Post today on war in Iraq. The essence of it: "The removal of the Baathist regime should therefore be an act of humanitarian intervention, similar to military actions in Kosovo, Bosnia, East Timor and to some extent Afghanistan a year ago."
NYTimes Letter Watch

Today's installment: Vatican Hypocrisy!

There are a number of letters today concerning the Vatican's response to the zero-tolerance policy of the US Bishops regarding priestly sex abuse of minors. As I was reading them, I ws having a hard time deciding which to highlight. Then I came to the last one, in which the writer states that the church is being "odd, if not hypocritical" because it's uncomfortable with this zero tolerance policy while it's fine with the same policy when it applies to abortion, contraception, or marital infidelity by the laity.

Now, I understand the reader's point, but he is still missing a crucial element: when a layperson commits one of the latter sins, s/he does not lose his/her status as a Christian layperson in the public forum; but that's exactly what the zero tolerance policy does. The Church is by no means papering over the abuse of a minor here... it's a question of how to punish the offending priest in a just and fair manner.

BTW, there is also an excellent letter by Fr. John McCloskey.
"Bin Laden's 'Man in Europe' Captured"

We continue to make progress...
More contradictions for abortion-rights supporters to squirm over

According to this story, a Michigan appeals court ruled that a pregnant woman has the right to use deadly force to protect her fetus.

This means that a "real" human being can be killed when s/he threatens the existence of a "clump of cells". Oh, the inhumanity!
Dominican News site

This is a website that provides news of a Dominican nature, plus general Catholic info. Check it out.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

They're shrinking! Shrinking!

Our diocesan office recently received the Second Edition of the New Catholic Encyclopedia, whose first edition was printed c. 1967. I was surprised and disappointed to note that this edition is smaller than the first edition (which itself was a smaller encyclopedia than the Catholic Encyclopedia published in 1907-1912). In just looking up articles at random, I found a number that were in the first edition but not the second (e.g. the long article on textual criticism of the Bible [found as "Bible, V" in the first edition]).

Does anybody have any "inside info" on this new edition? Why is it smaller?

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput has a strong column on this election and those Colorado candidates who have not come out in support of the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act.

Tough words, but necessary ones.
NYTimes Editorial Watch

Today's installment: The Vatican objects (that's a verb, not a noun -- we're not talking about art pieces)

In this editorial, the Times editors tell the US Bishops that their policy's essential elements are worth fighting for in Rome. Nothing earth-shattering there. But what got me was this line, concerning the decision by the bishops to go with a "zero-tolerance" policy: "The American bishops were convinced by experts that those who commit sexual crimes are likely to commit them again". !!!!! Experts!? It was listening to experts that got the bishops into trouble in the first place! Bloggers and commentators of all media yelled this from the rooftops last spring... it was precisely by heeding the advice of these experts instead of acting as men of God and Church that got the bishops into this position to begin with! But now the Times wants the bishops to listen to the experts again; surely, they must be right this time. Musn't they?

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Our seminarian

Another delinquent permalink goes to Sioux Falls seminarian, (transitional) deacon Todd Reitmeyer, and his blog, Musings of a Catholic Seminarian.
Abortion vs. Pregnancy: Which is Safer?

According to a study published in the August issue of the Southern Medical Journal -- and contrary to the long-standing statements of abortion-rights supporters -- women who chose to abort their child have a higher risk of death than women who chose to deliver the child.

Read more about it here; there is a link to the study at the bottom of that page.
"For your safety and happiness, for your pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the man that you will be reminded of that needs to be removed today is not in Baghdad 9,000 miles away. He resides right here at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- George W. Bush."

So sayeth the chairman of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, aka TNBPPFSD.
The Commission

The members of the commission whose job it is to straighten out the US Bishops' norms and charter concerning sexual abuse of children have been named:

For the Holy See: Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy; Archbishop Julian Herranz, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Archbishop Francesco Monterisi, secretary of the Congregation for Bishops.

For the US Bishops: Cardinal Francis Eugene George, O.M.I., archbishop of Chicago; Archbishop William Joseph Levada, archbishop of San Francisco; Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford; Bishop Edward Lori of Bridgeport.

I'm especially happy with the selections to represent the US Bishops.
More Links

Shawn McElhinney's Rerum Novarum, and The Faith Legion: those Catholics in the Internet who have proclaimed their adherence to Catholicism by posting this Profession of Faith on their blogs or websites. (I did so here.)
Disputations' 'Helpful Hints for Helpful Protestants'

This is a fun read.
The Mandatum

Yesterday Mark Shea commented on the mandatum controversy. Here's my entry in the comment box, plus a bit more:

The whole "academic freedom" argument trumpetted by those who oppose the mandatum is such a red herring... all the mandatum requires is that when a professor states that what s/he is teaching is Catholic teaching, it really be Catholic teaching! Fr. McBrien could take the mandatum and still teach his own stuff... he just couldn't call it Catholic stuff.

In other words, if I were teaching a class called "Catholic Ecclesiology", I'd have to teach in accord with what the Catholic Church teaches about itself. Now, if the class were called "Contemporary Ecclesiological Theory", I'd be free to teach whatever I wanted, provided that I make it clear what is Catholic teaching, and what isn't.

Scary, huh?

As my little sister used to say: what's so big?
Prepare yourself...

J. Bottum writes about the upcoming anti-Pius XII and anti-Catholic book by Daniel Goldhagen, "A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair."

In January Goldhagen wrote a long essay in The New Republic (25 pages! In a magazine!) called "What Would Jesus Have Done?" in which he gave us more than a hint of what this book will look like. Michael Novak responded, as did Ronald Rychlak.

One thing I could not grasp in the fall of 2000 (and again this election year) is how people can be "undecided" with the election less than two weeks away. The only way you can be "undecided" is if you haven't taken any personal effort to consider what issues are important to you, and how the candidates stand on those issues. In most races, the difference between the candidates is fairly clear... it shouldn't be that hard to determine which one is closer to your stance on the issues. Unless, of course, you don't have a stance on most issues, which is probably all too often the case.


"An informed and active electorate is the lifeblood of a democracy. Right now, the United States is hemorrhaging."
-- Me, this blog, today.

According to this NBC story, it looks like patience with the UN is running thin for President Bush and his administration. This editorial at OpinionJournal says we should call France and Russia's bluff and call for a vote by the Security Council.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Another Gem from Redemptoris Missio

Article 83, fourth paragraph:

Activities aimed at promoting interest in the missions must always be geared to these specific goals; namely, informing and forming the People of God to share in the Church's universal mission, promoting vocations ad gentes and encouraging cooperation in the work of evangelization. It is not right to give an incomplete picture of missionary activity, as if it consisted principally in helping the poor, contributing to the liberation of the oppressed, promoting development or defending human rights. The missionary Church is certainly involved on these fronts but her primary task lies elsewhere: the poor are hungry for God, not just for bread and freedom. Missionary activity must first of all bear witness to and proclaim salvation in Christ, and establish local churches which then become means of liberation in every sense. (emphasis added)

Material assistance and human development are certainly aspects of missionary activity, as JPII states. But what is primary is the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: "the poor are hungry for God, not just for bread and freedom"!!
Another delinquent Permalink...

I intended to permalink Steven Riddle's Flos Carmeli some time ago, but didn't.

Sorry, Steven!

Monday, October 21, 2002

Consider this...

For those people who don't care for Vatican II and the popes who called, closed, and implemented the Council, people who think that Vatican II and the bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laity who vigorously support its ongoing implementation are the cause of our current woes: if things before the Council were as perfect as you think, how is it that so many bishops from that "perfect" era -- the overwhelming number of them, in fact -- approved the documents which were then promulgated as the conciliar texts, the supposed source of our problems?

I could elaborate, but I think I've made my point.
Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Cor 9:16)

Here's a gem from John Paul II's encyclical on the Church's missionary activity, Redemptoris Missio, n. 40:

All who believe in Christ should feel, as an integral part of their faith, an apostolic concern to pass on to others its light and joy. This concern must become, as it were, a hunger and thirst to make the Lord known, given the vastness of the non-Christian world. [emphasis added]

Good stuff at NRO again today

Of the plethora of good stuff at NRO, I especially enjoyed Ariel Cohen's take on the rift between our country and the elites of Europe; also to be recommended is Christopher Horner's piece on (my) Senator Daschle's strange interview on Fox News Sunday yesterday.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Here we go again...

As many readers and writers in this neighborhood of the blogosphere know, Robert Sungenis and his Catholic Apologetics International have been going through a bit of a, um... change lately. To get caught up on the goings-on, I'd recommend reading John Bett's blog devoted to the topic, Boycott C.A.I.!, as well as a perusing of Ut Unum Sint.

What I want to look at, though, is one of the newest pieces of writing to be found at CAI, written by relatively-new staffer, Jacob Michael. Mr. Michael's article, ECT's Ecumenical Wrecking-Ball and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (FYI, ECT stands for "Evangelicals and Catholics Together"; and thanks to Bill Cork for the link to this article), is another example of the trouble which some Catholics have with Fr. Neuhaus (see this for another example).

For some reason, I've decided to attempt a thorough response to Mr. Michael's article. I make no promises about finishing, though... the article runs 23 pages. But we'll see what happens...

After introducing the article, Jacob's own views become clear when he tells us of his concern that if we follow Fr. Neuhaus' way, joining the Roman Catholic Church will never be possible for anyone. I'm not sure how well Jacob knows Father's writing, but I my suspicion is... not so well. After all, Fr. Neuhaus himself is a convert, so it seems unlikely that he would support anything that would make conversion to Catholicism impossible.

Jacob next states that ECT's plan is "to eliminate Catholicism in toto." And he says that Fr. Neuhaus admits this in the talk that Jacob is parsing, the talk being "A Personal Retrospective on the Conversation between Evangelicals and Catholics." I have yet to see Fr. Neuhaus admit it, and again, he never would... Jacob seems to read things into Father's talk that simply aren't there.

Mr. Michael next is suspicious about the fact that Tim LaHaye (co-author of the Left Behind series and something of an anti-Catholic in his theology) was at one time -- in some way -- a part of ECT; Jacob asks, "what was he doing there to begin with?"

Now, I'm not sure what to make of this. I see what Jacob is saying, but I think there is a better way to view the situation. Jacob: wouldn't you want Tim LaHaye to be there? Wouldn't you want him to hear the fullness of the truth that is Catholicism in a forum in which his defensiveness to the Church might be somewhat lower than normal? Personally, I would be overjoyed if Mr. LaHaye were a part of ECT... he's definitely not going to hear about Catholicism in any other forum he's involved in. I really don't understand why his presence isn't a cause for joy, let alone being a cause for concern.

Jacob then quotes Fr. Neuhaus regarding the beginnings, expectations, and hopes for ECT; here is the quote from Fr. Neuhaus:

"Anyway, so, Evangelicals and Catholics, mixing it up together in confused and sometimes edifying ways, it's been going on for a very, very long time. Let me suggest that there are several aspects in what has been billed as a "personal reflection": something, first of all, on the history of how ECT came about, with what kind of expectations and what kind of hopes; then, what in fact has been the product of the enterprise; and perhaps, a word on those who have been, how shall we say to put it gently, somewhat "critical" of the enterprise. And then, finally, perhaps some reflections on prospects, where, one can reasonably hope in the years and the decades, and - who knows? - in the centuries ahead, God may utilize this enterprise that has come to be called Evangelicals and Catholics Together."

Somehow, Jacob sees in this statement an assertion by Fr. Neuhaus that the Holy Spirit is present "in equal measure" in all Christian communities; I have no idea how he sees this. Jacob does "concede" that the Holy Spirit is present in other Christian communities, but he says that this work is "the work of conversion". I'm not sure what this means... if it means that the only activity of the Holy Spirit among other Christians is that of conversion to Catholicism, I strongly disagree, as the Holy Spirit is also at work in the sacraments which are practiced validly in other Christian communities, baptism being the most notable.

Next, Jacob criticizes the usage of the phrase "brothers and sisters in Christ" as applied to other Christians. Jacob prefers the term "unrepentant rebel", arguing that Protestants are "runaways" more than anything. The problem I see here is this: if we're talking about the first generation of reformers, I agree: you could use the term "runaway" in some sense and be correct. The problem using it today to refer to other Christians is that the vast, vast majority of them didn't "run away" from anything: they were raised in other Christian communities, not in the Catholic Church. Moving on...

Referring next to Fr. Neuhaus' words on the evangelization imputus behind ECT, Mr. Michael states that it is false to say that "those who have fallen into heresy can assist the Catholic Church in bringing the Gospel to the world." Come, now Mr. Michael... you can't really believe that; you can't really believe that someone who has never before heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ is no better off than he was before if it is a Protestant who tells him of Christ, can you? Let me be clear: I believe that the Catholic Church has -- by the grace of God -- the fullness of truth and the means of salvation. But that does not mean that no one else has it, does it? Of course not.

Okay, that's enough for now; another installment to come. If you're lucky... :-)
The Parish Priest: Pastor and Leader

An new Instruction, The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community, has been published by the Congregation for the Clergy. According to Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation, "the principal objective of this Instruction is to highlight the identity of the pastor as sacramental leader, who from the parish encourages and leads the faithful to Christ, the Way to the Father" (quoted in this Zenit story).
ITC documents

It's unfortunate that hardly any documents by the International Theological Commission are available online... they are typically outstanding pieces of theological scholarship. I read the text, "Christianity and World Religions" which came out around 1997, and was very impressed.

Most recently, the Commission has completed its work on a study of deaconesses, concluding that the first level of ordained ministry is also closed to women.

If anyone knows of an online archive for the ITC texts, please let me know.
Catholic Biblical Scholarship

Thanks to Kevin Miller for pointing out and recommending a new book, The Future of Catholic Biblical Scholarship: A Constructive Conversation by Luke Timothy Johnson, and William Kurz. You can read more about it at the Eerdmans' website, here.
pro-abortion illogic from Catholic priests

Victor Lams commented yesterday on this letter to the editor by four Detroit-area priests in the Detroit Free Press. The priests were responding to this column in the same paper by two profs at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary and a prof from Ave Maria Law School.

I don't know if I can remain calm and comment on these priests' statements. Why don't you just read the comments by Victor, Kevin Miller, and previous comments I made at Victor's blog.

Friday, October 18, 2002


I realized that I don't have a permalink to blogs4God.

New blog

A good friend of mine has a blog now, of a generally-poetic/reflective kind. Go and visit Looking for the Fullness...
Authority & the Interpretation of Scripture

Remarking recently on his understanding of James' doctrine of justification, nuclear physicist and insightful commentor on Reformed theology, David Heddle of He Lives, wrote, "I believe in sola fide because I think, taking scripture as a whole, it is overwhelmingly and clearly taught."

I'd like to use David's statement as the launching pad for some brief comments on authoritative Scripture interpretation.

Actually, they will be quite brief. Essentially, my question is this: when two intelligent and devout Christians have different (even opposite) understandings of what Scripture teaches, what is one to do? In this case, David states that he is convinced that sola fide is the biblical doctrine of justification. But I am just as convinced that it is not. Now what?

If there is no authoritative interpreter of Sacred Scripture, we are at an impasse; we have two devout believers, both of whom are convinced that their doctrine is the biblical one. Each will make his case to the other, but chances are, in the end each will remain sure of his position. (Of course, sometimes one side realizes their error, but this is fairly rare.)

Is this what God intended? That people whose interpretations differ would have no recourse to a divinely-established and -protected authority to resove their differences? Perhaps. But I don't think that this is the case. It seems to me that the Catholic argument that God has in fact established the Church as the definitive interpreter of Scripture makes complete sense (and I also think [naturally] that Scripture supports this claim, but that's exactly what this is all about).

To me, the question of Authority is the question in apologetical and ecumenical dialogue. Not that it is the most important one, but that it is the key to the rest. If we could come to an agreement on the true nature of ecclesial authority, it would be that much easier to resolve our other differences. IMHO.
More from Mark

Mark at Minute Particulars has another fine post on reason, religion, science, and truth.
Direct Killing, Abortionists, and Iraq

On Monday I posted on an apparent contradiction I thought I saw between opposing the killing of abortion doctors while they sit at their dinner table on one hand and a preemptive war against Saddam on the other. [Disclaimer: as I noted previously, my opposition to shooting abortionists is firm; I don't want anyone claiming I support it.] I updated the post, saying that a friend pointed out the relevance of of the moral/ethical concept of "direct killing" in this situation. I promised to explain that more, and so...

Basically, I hold that it is always wrong to directly kill the innocent. What directly kill means in this context is this: to kill as an end (the purpose) or as a means (to the purpose). To help explain this, let me quote from Germain Grisez, moral philosopher and theologian, in his work "The Way of the Lord Jesus: Living a Christian Life" (Quincy, Ill: Franciscan Press, 1993), where he explains how this sense of "direct killing" differs from that of "classical moralists" by looking at the killing of a rapist by his would-be victim:

[begin quote]
No doubt, understanding choosing to kill as they [classical moralists] did, they thought that a woman who puts a bullet through a would-be rapist's head when that is the only way to stop his attack must intend the rapist's death (directly kill him). However, according to the analysis of action used in this work, that woman could shoot the rapist in the head in carrying out a proposal to defend herself against rape, only accepting his foreseen death as a side effect rather than intending it (directly killing him).
Those who hold the classical moralists' view will object that it makes no sense to say someone coudl choose to shoot someone else in the head without intending to kill (directly killing) that person. The objection begs the question, because it presupposes the classical moralists' concept of intention (directness). The employed here has a different concept of intention (directness): people intend only what they choose as a means or seek as an end (people directly do only what carries out or is shaped by an intention). The rapist's death is not what is chosen as a means or sought as an end when the woman shoots him in the head to stop his attack (the shooting is not direct killing). Her end is to avoid being raped; her means is to prevent the would-be rapist from carrying out the behavior which would constitute rape. The nonhomicidal character of her intention (that this shooting was not a case of direct killing) would be manifested if the shot resulted in an incapacitating wound rather than death, and the woman, rather than shooting the wounded man again, promptly summoned an ambulance and, while awaiting it, did everything she could to save his life. (p. 473)
[end quote]

Having said that, the crucial question is this: is the killing of the abortionist wrong because it is direct killing? The answer: no (or rather, not necessarily). Analogous to the rapist example, one could shoot an abortionist without intending his death as the or as the means. In fact, I doubt that any of those who shoot abortionists do so intending death as an end; rather, their intention is to stop abortions, and they shoot the abortionist as a means to that end.

Now, is killing the means? Again, not necessarily; the shooter's intention is most likely to stop abortions, and this does not require the death per se of the abortionist. Therefore, killing an abortion doctor need not be a case of direct killing, and therefore is not wrong for that reason.

And there's the resolution to my apparent contradiction: it's neither the act nor the intention which makes the shooting of an abortionist wrong, but rather the circumstances particular to the situation. And the only way for there to be a contradiction in opposing the shooting of abortionsts and the war against Saddam is if the same circumstances apply to both cases. Since they don't, there is no contradiction in holding both positions.
Peggy on the new Rosary mysteries

In her weekly column today, Peggy Noonan dwells on the luminous mysteries which JPII added to the Rosary; the final portion of her article, in fact, is devoted to how she personally meditates while praying the Rosary.

One of my favorite parts of her piece is this one:

But the rosary had been as it was for almost a millennium. Why did John Paul change it now? "He is making a statement at the end of his life about what's important to him," says Father C.J. McCloskey of Washington's Catholic Information Center. "By adding these mysteries he is saying, 'This is another invitation to look closely at the life of Christ--to contemplate and meditate.' "

"To think," I offered.

"No, not to think. To let the life of Christ sink into you."

[end paste]

"No, not to think. To let the life of Christ sink into you." Amen!

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Vatican says, "Nope."

According to this story, the Vatican has rejected the Dallas norms. Their response will be made public tomorrow morning at a press conference by USCCB President Bishop Wilton Gregory.
Back tomorrow...

I've been out of the office for most of the day, and will return to blogland tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Dulles on "Covenant and Mission"

The latest issue of the Jesuit weekly America has an article by Cardinal Avery Dulles on this hot-button document. In this article (sorry, it's not available online unless you subscribe) Dulles criticizes what he takes to be ambiguities in the usage of terms like "evangelization", "mission", and "covenant". His article concludes, "The document Covenant and Mission does not forthrightly present what I take to be the Christian position on the meaning of Christ for Judaism."

For Cardinal Dulles, this is pretty strong language.
Democracy in Iraq?

Back in August I briefly posted on the question of how easily a democratic form of government will (or won't) take hold in Iraq.

Someone who knows a lot more about these things than I do is NRO contributor Stanley Kurtz. I'd like to link to a few articles he's written and/or recommended on the question of democracy in a post-war Iraq.

Finishing the Job
With Eyes Wide Open
Review of the Huntington/Fukuyama dispute
Bali & Karachi
Address to the 2002 Weinberg Founders Conference by Martin Kramer, Editor of the Middle East Quarterly

Kurtz does support a war against Saddam. But he's also aware of the difficulties we'll face in establishing democracy in post-war Iraq.
Disputations on (the) Hudson

Disputations has a critique of a letter Deal Hudson wrote last week on moral arguments in favor of war against Iraq. While I generally agree with the arguments for going to war, Disputations makes some good points.

He also refers to the criticisms offered by Kevin Miller. Kevin, too, provides a number of good points to ponder for those of us who support the war and think that Just War theory does as well.
Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae

It's been promulgated, and is available at the Vatican website here.
Election Problems in Georgia?

Not really... just some people unhappy that their congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, was thumped in the Democrat primary in August. McKinney, you may recall, suggested in March that Bush's administration knew about September 11th beforehand, but failed to act.

So now, her supporters are suing to have the primary results thrown out and McKinney declared the winner.

Yeah... that's democracy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Direct and Indirect Killing

One of the commenters on my "Abortionist-Killing/War-In-Iraq Contradiction?" post from yesterday asked about the "direct killing" update I made.

I want to assure you and anyone else that I'll be responding to that and the other comments soon in another post.

Stay tuned...
Another good blog...

is the beautiful and spiritually-edifying A Catholic Point of View.
NYTimes Letter Watch

Today's installment: One I agree with!

Responding to a writer from last week, this letter points out that every now and then, war does "solve" problems; one example -- and perhaps the easiest -- is the "problem" of Nazi Germany and a militaristic Japan that was "solved" by WWII.

Just to be clear about my stance: war is to be avoided as much as possible; it is only the last resort. The fact remains, though, that sometimes, the last resort is the only option left.

Monday, October 14, 2002


A slightly-disturbing thought just occurred to me...

This morning locdog asked, "why shouldn't Christians bomb abortion clinics?" This got me to pondering the related question of shooting abortion doctors in their homes (something I do not advocate, just to be clear), and the reasons given to justify it...

Those who advocate shooting abortion doctors argue that these people have in the past and will in the future kill people, and I agree with that. They then argue that -- since there is no reason to believe that the abortionist will stop his/her practices -- the moral thing to do is to (permanently) prevent abortionists from continuing their trade by shooting them (again, I disagree with that).

The thought that occured to me is this: what is the essential moral difference between this argument and the argument for a "preventative war" against Saddam? As any reader of this blog knows, I favor that latter, and I've just made clear that I oppose the former. But... am I contradicting myself by doing so??? In both cases, the person potentially under attack has previously and almost certainly will again take innocent lives... what essentially differentiates the two sufficiently to allow me to hold both positions, i.e. opposition to killing abortionists and support for removing Saddam?

Help?? This idea just popped into my head as I read locdog's post, and so isn't very developed; nonetheless, I can't (yet) see an out, and I'm hoping someone else can. The non-negotiable here is shooting an abortionist... there's no way I'll change on that. But for the sake of intellectual consistency, do I need to change my position on preemptive war? I'm sure I'm missing something, because the case for the latter seems pretty clear-cut to me. But I don't yet see what it is I'm missing...

So, if anyone has any thoughts, I'd really appreciate it.

Update: a friend and knowledgeable moral philosopher was able to help me out by pointing out this distinction: in the case of the abortionist, killing him/her is wrong, but not because it is direct-killing... it's rather indirect-killing (in the moral sense). Now every case of indirect killing is not wrong... in the case of the abortionist it's wrong, but not in other cases (e.g. removing Saddam from power, which may [but not necessarily] involve killing him).

Ahh... that's better :-)
How About This! New Rosary Mysteries!!

According to this story, John Paul II will soon be releasing an Apostolic Letter on the Rosary, in which he will add five new mysteries, these being called the "luminous mysteries" of Christ's life: the Baptism in the Jordan, the temptation in the desert, the proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfigurations, and the entry into Jerusalem. These mysteries would be mediated upon on Saturdays.

This is certainly an interesting development... I'll be very interested to see this letter when it comes out.
Fr. Schall on Education

In his column for Crisis Magazine this month, Fr. James Schall looks at "What's Wrong With Education". The final paragraph is an apt conclusion to this piece:

“Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education,” Chesterton provocatively added. “It is education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching.” This does not mean “dogmatic” teachers cannot be wrong. They are the only ones who can be. The only teacher worth arguing with is a teacher who professes to be pursuing the truth rather than the formulation of his own unanswerable feelings. I can argue with someone willing to give reasons for his position. I cannot argue with someone who has no position apart from his feelings or who has a theory according to which no positions are possible.

I'd highly recommend you read Fr. Schall's column.
Vita Brevis

That's Gregg the Obscure's blog. Check it out, if you haven't already.
HMS Blog readers...

Thanks for stopping by! Stick around and stay a while! Make a comment or two!

A question flowing from Ratzinger’s book

Cardinal Ratzinger also refers to the theological advances which our own country (the U.S.) is “producing”, specifically mentioning the advances in Scripture studies, stating that America “has made new breakthroughs in exegesis, in overcoming the one-sideness of the historical-critical method by so-called canonical exegesis, that is, by reading the Bible as a whole.”

Now, I know that there are efforts being made at getting past an over-emphasis on the historical critical methods, and that canonical exegesis is one of those attempts. But I can’t say that I know specific people and/or schools in the U.S. which have done so much work in this area as to be noticed by the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. So, does anyone know whom the good Cardinal might be referring to in the field of canonical exegesis in the U.S.? Are they Catholics? Protestants? Both?
Ratzinger’s new book

I recently got my copy of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s latest book-length interview, God and the World, and I must say, it is outstanding and thoroughly enriching, both theologically and spiritually. As I’ve been reading through it, there have been several passages which I’ve wanted to post and comment on, but I’d end up putting the whole book online, and while Cardinal Ratzinger might not care, I have a feeling Fr. Fessio would. So, I’m going to try to restrict myself to only a few passages now and in the future.

One of them comes fairly early on, when Peter Seewald (the german journalist doing the asking) asks the Cardinal, “ on these occasions [when the Ratzinger communicates with God in prayer], does God always behave respectfully, or does he let you see he has a sense of humor?” I thought the question itself was terrific, but I loved the answer even more: “I believe he has a great sense of humor. Sometimes he gives you something like a nudge and says, Don’t take yourself so seriously!”

I love it! Here we get a glimpse into how the Ratzinger understands God; I doubt that those who have referred to him as the “Panzerkardinal” would ever guess that he sees God as occasionally elbowing him and saying, “Hey! Lighten up!”

Great stuff!
JPII on Hell

As many of you probably know, Pope John Paul II has—from the beginning of his pontificate—used his Wednesday audiences with the public to present systematic catechesis on a variety of topics. Most well-known is his first series, gathered together in a volume entitled “The Theology of the Body”. But it was by no means the only series of catecheses which the Holy Father delivered… he continued with catechetical series on God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the Church, and Mary, each of which has been published in separate volumes.

The most recent published volume is the Holy Father’s catechesis on Salvation History, entitled (by whom, I’m not sure) “The Trinity’s Embrace: God’s Saving Plan”. This series began November 19, 1997 and concluded March 14, 2001. Since then, the Pope has been teaching on the psalms.

One of the catechetical lessons which received more attention than usual in this just-published series was that dealing with eternal damnation: Hell. It got more attention because JPII spoke of Hell in a way that was, perhaps, not what most people would expect to hear from the earthly head of the Catholic Church; nor was it a way that many Christians of more fundamentalist tendencies cared for.

Because of that controversy, and because I believe the Holy Father’s comments merit another reading, I’d like to offer this teaching by John Paul II again here, and invite any comments.

Hell is the State of Those who Reject God

At the General Audience of Wednesday, 28 July 1999, the Holy Father reflected on hell as the definitive rejection of God. In his catechesis, the Pope said that care should be taken to interpret correctly the images of hell in Sacred Scripture, and explained that "hell is the ultimate consequence of sin itself... Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy".

1. God is the infinitely good and merciful Father. But man, called to respond to him freely, can unfortunately choose to reject his love and forgiveness once and for all, thus separating himself for ever from joyful communion with him. It is precisely this tragic situation that Christian doctrine explains when it speaks of eternal damnation or hell. It is not a punishment imposed externally by God but a development of premises already set by people in this life. The very dimension of unhappiness which this obscure condition brings can in a certain way be sensed in the light of some of the terrible experiences we have suffered which, as is commonly said, make life "hell".

In a theological sense however, hell is something else: it is the ultimate consequence of sin itself, which turns against the person who committed it. It is the state of those who definitively reject the Father's mercy, even at the last moment of their life.

Hell is a state of eternal damnation

2. To describe this reality Sacred Scripture uses a symbolical language which will gradually be explained. In the Old Testament the condition of the dead had not yet been fully disclosed by Revelation. Moreover it was thought that the dead were amassed in Sheol, a land of darkness (cf. Ez. 28:8; 31:14; Jb. 10:21f.; 38:17; Ps 30:10; 88:7, 13), a pit from which one cannot reascend (cf. Jb. 7:9), a place in which it is impossible to praise God (cf. Is 38:18; Ps 6:6).

The New Testament sheds new light on the condition of the dead, proclaiming above all that Christ by his Resurrection conquered death and extended his liberating power to the kingdom of the dead.

Redemption nevertheless remains an offer of salvation which it is up to people to accept freely. This is why they will all be judged "by what they [have done]" (Rv 20:13). By using images, the New Testament presents the place destined for evildoers as a fiery furnace, where people will "weep and gnash their teeth" (Mt 13:42; cf. 25:30, 41), or like Gehenna with its "unquenchable fire" (Mk 9:43). All this is narrated in the parable of the rich man, which explains that hell is a place of eternal suffering, with no possibility of return, nor of the alleviation of pain (cf. Lk. 16:19-3 1).

The Book of Revelation also figuratively portrays in a "pool of fire" those who exclude themselves from the book of life, thus meeting with a "second death" (Rv. 20:13f.). Whoever continues to be closed to the Gospel is therefore preparing for 'eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might" (2 Thes 1:9).

3. The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God. Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy. This is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the truths of faith on this subject: "To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called 'hell'" (n. 1033).

"Eternal damnation", therefore, is not attributed to God's initiative because in his merciful love he can only desire the salvation of the beings he created. In reality, it is the creature who closes himself to his love. Damnation consists precisely in definitive separation from God, freely chosen by the human person and confirmed with death that seals his choice for ever. God's judgement ratifies this state.

We are saved from going to hell by Jesus who conquered Satan

4. Christian faith teaches that in taking the risk of saying "yes" or "no", which marks the human creature's freedom, some have already said no. They are the spiritual creatures that rebelled against God's love and are called demons (cf. Fourth Lateran Council, DS 800-801). What happened to them is a warning to us: it is a continuous call to avoid the tragedy which leads to sin and to conform our life to that of Jesus who lived his life with a "yes" to God.

Eternal damnation remains a real possibility, but we are not granted, without special divine revelation, the knowledge of whether or which human beings are effectively involved in it. The thought of hell — and even less the improper use of biblical images — must not create anxiety or despair, but is a necessary and healthy reminder of freedom within the proclamation that the risen Jesus has conquered Satan, giving us the, Spirit of God who makes us cry "Abba, Father!" (Rm. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

This prospect, rich in hope, prevails in Christian proclamation. It is effectively reflected in the liturgical tradition of the Church, as the words of the Roman Canon attest: "Father, accept this offering from your whole family ... save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen".

(end paste)

The controversial aspect? JPII’s emphasis on Hell as a state rather than a place, as well as his statement that the “fiery” aspect of Hell is more figurative than literal.

Personally, I don’t see what all the fuss is… don’t people understand that the pain of being definitively, eternally separated from Love, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness—i.e. from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is so much greater than that of fire? The Holy Father isn’t downplaying the reality of pain in Hell, people… he’s simply showing what its true nature is.
Good editorials at the Post

The Washington Post has two good editorials today:

One of them concerns the still-poisoned German-American relationship, and the other deals with the strategy of maintaining American military hegemony which is implicit in the new National Security Strategy.
Just to be clear where I'm coming from...

A growing number of bloggers (including permalinked Bill Cork and John Betts) have recently publicly professed their faith by posting the Profession of Faith found here; as Bill noted, their efforts are not intended to be limited to themselves, but to any and all. So, I'd like to do the same...

I, Chris Burgwald, with firm faith believe and profess everything that is contained in the symbol of faith: namely,

I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

With firm faith I believe as well everything contained in God's word, written or handed down in tradition and proposed by the church--whether in solemn judgment or in the ordinary and universal magisterium--as divinely revealed and called for faith.

I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing that is proposed by that same church definitively with regard to teaching concerning faith or morals.

What is more, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate when they exercise the authentic magisterium even if they proclaim those teachings in an act that is not definitive.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Another link...

I've also been visiting Kevin Miller's De Virtutibus regularly, and need to permalink it.
Bill Cork, Re-Named

I've been visiting Bill Cork's website on a daily basis for sometime now, and it's about time I permalink him.

Actually, Bill just changed the name of his blog to Ut Unum Sint ("that they all may be one" [Jn 17:21]) to reflect his strong interests in all things ecumenical and interfaith.
More Disillusionment

I finally got around to reading this week's US News & World Report; Mortimer Zuckerman has an excellent editorial on the unlikelihood of fiscal discipline (i.e. spending increases at or below the rate of inflation) returning to DC.

As Zuckerman notes, this is an problem that involves both parties... Republicans are apparently just as likely to spend, spend, spend as Democrats.

Are our politicians today so concerned that we won't support them on principled stances that they have to buy our votes by spending as much as possible on programs they think we want? Are we -- the citizens -- so greedy and selfish that we turn to the government first whenever we have a problem, expecting prompt resolution (preferably in small bills, Congressman) from the feds instead of turning to our friends, neighbors, and fellow church-goers?

The federalism established and envisioned by our Founding Fathers appears to be on its last legs, my friends, if not already dead. Unfortunately, the vast majority of our fellow citizens don't seem to notice, let alone care. Hey, they've got their MTV after all.
National Adult Catechism

There was some discussion yesterday at HMS Blog concerning the National Adult Catechism (here, here, here, and here) which is being put together by the US Bishops Conference. I'm here to reassure anybody who happens to read this that the NAC is nothing to be concerned about; it's not an attempt by the bishops to undermine the CCC by "filtering" it through an American Catechism. The fact of the matter is, a national catechism is specifically called for by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, which "introduces" the CCC; in that Constitution, the Holy Father states:

"This catechism is not intended to replace the local catechisms duly approved by the ecclesiastical authorities, the diocesan Bishops and the Episcopal Conferences, especially if they have been approved by the Apostolic See. It is meant to encourage and assist in the writing of new local catechisms, which take into account various situations and cultures, while carefully preserving the unity of faith and fidelity to catholic doctrine" (emphasis added).

In other words, the bishops are doing exactly what they were expected to: draft and promulgate (with Rome's approval, of course), a catechism which applies the universal teachings of the CCC to the specific cultural context of the United States. This intention on Rome's part was reiterated just yesterday at the international conference held in Rome this week celebrating the 10th anniversary of the release of the CCC, in the message written by the conference's participants: "This Assembly hopes that with patient, but strongly resolute means, the aim of the Apostolic See be accomplished, that is that National Catechisms and National Directories for the different age groups be written and published. These are inestimable instruments for catechesis called to bring the strength of the Gospel into the heart of culture and the cultures (cf. DGC 131)" (emphasis added). Note: it is the intention of the Apostolic See that national catechisms be written.

Nor is such an action anything new... the venerable Baltimore Catechism was nothing but an application of the Roman Catechism (written after Trent in the 16th century) to our country in the late 19th century.

Furthermore, the draft of the American NAC has already been sent to our bishops for consultation, and I can assure you that the text is excellent.

Hope this helps.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Schoenborn on the CCC

At a conference in Rome this week which is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Christoph Schoeborn, the general editor of the Catechism, made a number of comments, including: 1. his desire for a "condensed version" of the 500-page Catechism; and 2. his desire that the CCC should "form the basis for instruction for all first-year seminarians." An especially interesting thought, that last one...
"Anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot." (note the quotation marks)

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan, I found this article by Yale history prof Glenda Gilmore. Arguing against the new National Security Strategy proposed by the administration and against war in Iraq, Glenda chalks it all up to Bush's desire to be emperor: "It is not enough for Bush to be President of the United States, he must become the Emperor of the World. This unclothed emperor is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no brains."

What I want to know is this: where is the Glenda's "tolerance" for opposing ideas? She clearly doesn't have any. Apparently, Bush is driven not by principles, but by idiocy, ego, or worse; and by extension, so is everyone else who supports his position. Tell me: can Ms. Gilmore not conceive of the possibility that there are intelligible, articulate arguments in favor of the Bush position? Apparently not. I just had a nice conversation about a possible war against Iraq with an old friend, who happens to be generally opposed to such an action. Now, I firmly disagree with him, but at least I am able to respect his position and see that there is intelligibility therein. Unfortunately, people like Glenda Gilmore seem unable to reciprocate.

Talk about intolerant.
Iraq & Just War Theory

Some people have wondered about how Catholics (and other Christians, of course) can reconcile President Bush's stance on Iraq -- i.e. preemptive war -- with the Just War Theory. That is, is it possible to make a moral case which would allow for such a stance?

I believe it is, and I'm not alone. If you're wondering how to one can make a moral argument in favor of Bush's stance, read this Zenit article and interview by and with papal biographer and theologian George Weigel on this very topic.
If God does not exist, than anything is permissible

Mark at Minute Particulars sincerely wonders how one can posit that God does not exist (and that there is no afterlife) and talk about the importance and difference of how one lives his/her life on earth.

Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney outlines a strategy for a lightning-fast campaign against Saddam.
In case you didn't hear...

The House & Senate passed the Iraq Resolution.
US-French relations, & Iraq

According to this London Times story (link via Drudge), there is a good deal of questioning going on in France concerning the "anti-American obsession" which that country has had for, well, centuries. It includes some info on how the French are moving closer to Bush's position on Iraq.
Member Inflation

According to a new book, the National Organization for Women (NOW), which claims to have a membership of 500,000 women, cannot possibly have more than 57,000 members, and even that number is most likely too high. The author, Kimberly Schuld, arrived at her conclusion through an analysis of tax returns, corporate foundation reports, etc., as well as "insider information" from former NOW officers.

So the next time you hear that NOW represents a great number of American women and their views, remember: that "great number" is only about 50,000 strong.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

New Template

I recently changed my template, because the old one wasn't archiving properly.

If anyone has any comments (pro or con), please, let me know.
Another Pollack Review

The WSJ OpinionJournal has a review of Kenneth Pollack's book, The Threatening Storm, which I recommended and spoke of last week. The reviewer criticizes Pollack only on the latter's estimation of the ability of democracy to quickly take hold in Iraq; to be honest, the jury is still out on that, and I don't think there's anyway we'll know the answer definitively until we're at that point.
NYTimes Letter Watch

Today's Installment: Maureen's Echo

This letter in today's NYTimes to yesterday's column by Maureen Dowd. The writer echos Maureen's general train of thought by stating that Dr. Hagan's beliefs (Hagan is being pushed for the FDA panel on women's health policy) are "antiquated and antithetical to progress, and they will set women's health back years, if not centuries." To really see how silly this statement is, you have to read Maureen's column (linked yesterday), and the quotes from Dr. Hager therein.

How this writer thinks that Hager's views are "antithetical to progress" is beyond me. And as far as "antiquated"... a number of writers have spoken of the modern tendency to "chronological snobbery", i.e. the belief that anything more than about forty years old is outdated and useless, including ideas.

That's bunk, of course. It just might be that a few decades in the future, most people will see Dr. Hager's views as on the cutting edge, and actually more favorable to women's health than those of Maureen Dowd and this letter writer.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Someone else on Maureen

After blogging about Maureen Dowd of the NYTimes this morning, I found this article at The Weekly Standard website. Really good stuff... the author (Josh Chafetz of OxBlog) lists Maureen's Five Immutable Laws For Writing a Column. My favorite? Number two:

It's easier to whine than to take a stand or offer solutions. Consider this: In her many columns to date lobbing stinkbombs at the "Whack-Iraq'ers," she has yet to come out and say that she opposes war in Iraq. The reason, presumably, is that she would then have to actually confront and argue against the administration's reasons for attacking Iraq. Instead, she offers this commentary on Bush's U.N. address (from her September 15 column): "But there was no compelling new evidence. Mr. Bush offered only an unusually comprehensive version of the usual laundry list. Saddam is violating the sanctions, he tried to assassinate Poppy, he's late on his mortgage payments, he tips 10 percent, he has an unjustifiable fondness for 'My Way,' he gassed his own people, he doesn't turn down the front brim of his hat."

When confronted with a passage like that, it's hard to know where to begin, but we must be brave. First, notice how she trivializes not only Saddam's violation of U.N. sanctions but even the massacre at Halabja, by including them on "the usual laundry list" along with a joke about being a stingy tipper. Second, notice how she leaves out a few of the more important "laundry list" items--like the fact that Saddam continues to stockpile and build weapons of mass destruction and the fact that he funds terrorism. Finally, observe that she tells us there is "no compelling new evidence" without telling us why the old evidence--"the usual laundry list"--is insufficient. To do that would require considering policy arguments and offering alternative ways to combat Saddam's litany of abuses. Into such territory, Dowd is loath to stray.

Amen, Brother Josh... it's very easy to criticize someone else (and easier yet to do so poorly), but it's a little tougher to come up with solutions yourself. The Democrats and others who have been opposing the Bush stance on Iraq have been finding that out; OTOH, I'm not sure if Maureen is even aware of the fact that she never offers any solutions. Maybe someone should clue her in.
Someone's been listening...

According to an article from yesterday from the Catholic news service Zenit, Cardinal Ratzinger opened a week-long conference celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by stating that "the primordial impulse of man, which no one can deny, and which in the ultimate sense no one can oppose, is the desire for happiness, for a fulfilled, complete life."

Like I said a while back (too lazy to look for the link right now), Catholic moral teaching gives the desire for authentic happiness a crucial place.

I guess Joe heard me ;-)
My Senator, Tom Daschle

Having recently moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I now am able to say that my senior senator is none other than the Majority Leader, Tom Daschle. Boy, am I excited! [about getting to vote against him in a couple of years, that is]

Senator Daschle is one of the few, the proud, the pro-choice Catholic legislators. And Citizen Magazine's latest cover story is all about him. I encourage you to read it. You can find out how he referred to his bishop (and mine), Bishop Robert Carlson, in this way, during the partial-birth abortion ban vote in 1997: "Their harsh rhetoric and vitriolic characterizations, usually more identified with the radical right than with thoughtful religious leadership, proved to be a consequential impediment to the decision I have made today." The article goes on to quote Bishop Carlson:

“I think it was the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League who said several years ago that Tom Daschle was their poster boy, because he talks pro-life but votes pro-abortion,” Bishop Carlson told Citizen. “I told him [after the 1997 vote], ‘Thank you for making me a footnote in history — the first bishop ever criticized from the Senate floor.’ ”

Like I said, good reading.
Presidents Kennedy & Bush

Michael Kelly's column today at the Washington Post focuses on the parallel between Bush's "preemptive war" doctrine and JFK's own philosophy: "In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush clearly sees the American role in the world in terms akin to those President Kennedy expressed in 1961: 'We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to ensure the survival and the success of liberty.'"

He also corrects Ted Kennedy, who refers to Bush's view as "imperialism", noting that -- like Ted's older brother -- Bush' stance could be better termed "armed evangelism", and he goes on to explain the difference: "Unlike the European powers, the United States has never sought to own the world. In its peculiarly American fashion, it has sought to make the world behave better -- indeed be better. It is only in this context that the Bush Doctrine (like the Kennedy Doctrine) can be at all understood."

Now, Kelly doesn't come out in support of this view -- he concludes his piece by calling for a more serious discussion of the notion of preventative wars. But he does do an excellent job of clarifying what exactly Bush's view is and what it is about, as well as correcting Ted Kennedy on a number of points.

So, in conclusion... it's a good column. Read it.
Maureen... at it again

I'm sure the NYTimes has Maureen Dowd on their payroll just to get people like me to read their paper. Well, it works. Maureen continues to amaze me with the sort of commentary that she manages to put on paper. Today's column is no exception. Apparently, Dowd is not too excited about the possiblity of Dr. W. David Hager becoming chairman of the FDA's panel on women's health policy. Why? Because he's a committed Christian (according to Dowd's article) who believes that Jesus has a role in women's health. Dowd brings forth a bunch of evidence of this, and then draws her conclusions:

"Once again, the Bush administration seems to be sowing skepticism about science for the sake of politics. It has smothered the promise of stem cell research to extend and improve life with the right wing's reverence for "life.""

Now, I re-read the article and the quotes from Hager and his work which Dowd brought forth, and I was still unable to find anything that would indicate that Hager and/or the Bush administration was "sowing skepticism about science." She even quotes Hager saying, "The fact that I'm a person of faith does not deter me from also being a person of science." How is that being skeptical of science?? Of course, Dowd has to include a gratuitous slam on the "right wing" reverence for life. Well, I'm sure she intended it as a slam, but I think I'll take it as a compliment.

And finally, she closes with this gem: "Are we so worried about medieval villains abroad that we no longer worry about medievalism at home?" Nice try, Maureen. Maybe you can write about the boogeyman next time.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Priests, not Press Releases

In the last paragraph of this entry, Kevin Miller states that the best way for the US bishops to get their moral messages out (e.g. on stem cell research and the death penalty) would be good moral theology formation of their priests while in seminary, rather than press releases.

Great point... compare how many people ever see (let alone read) a USCCB press release to how many people see their parish priest (at least once a Sunday for most Catholics). From a empirical standpoint alone, Kevin's suggestion is a winning one.
Oh boy

Bob Sungenis continues to sink deeper and deeper... if you want to see evidence, go read this post by John Betts at his Boycott CAI blog. Then read this at Bill Cork's blog.

Anybody who starts using terms like "neo-Catholic papalatrist" (Bob's term for John Betts) is already on very, very dangerous ground.
Bush compares Saddam to another totalitarian dictator

Mark Byron reminded me of Bush's comparison of Hussein to Stalin; it was one of the best portions of the speech, IMHO. Mark has posted the relevant section of the speech... go check it out.
One Ring to Rule Them All

You have got to go here! I don't agree with the implication, of course, but is hilarious nonetheless!
Seeing the future in England

As more than one person in blogland has noted, the British newspaper The Independent last night posted their story on Bush's speech... before he gave it! The Instapundit got it exactly right when he said, "I always figured that they wrote these things without bothering to hear Bush's speeches, but it's nice to see proof that they really do write him off in advance." Amen!
Bush's speech

I caught most of the President's speech last night (our NBC affiliate ended up carrying the MSNBC feed). I thought it was straight forward and clear. Hopefully, it will answer the questions many Americans have, in spite of the fact that many of them may not have seen it.

Monday, October 07, 2002

MP on God and fairies

Last Thursday Mark at Minute Particulars had an outstanding post on the two approaches of reason (demonstration & probability) vis. the existence of God, fairies, and modern science's mode of operation. Really, a great piece, and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Textbook example of the need for lawsuit reform...

According to this AP story, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury has awarded a women 28 billion dollars in punitive damages against Philip Morris, Inc.

28 Billion!! Dollars!

This on top of the $750,000 she already got for "economic damages" and $100,000 for pain and suffering.

This is sickening. Yeah, We've Changed since September 11th.
Bill Cork on Copyright Law

In lieu of CAI's latest attempts to deflect criticism, Bill Cork has an excellent post on "fair use" in copywrite law.

Josh Claybourn--whose blog I highly recommend (and I've added a permalink to)--has posted some of his favorite contradictions today. Most of them are right on. But not all of them...

One of Josh's contradictions: "It's just smart economics to have individual U.S. states freely trade with one another. But the same logic doesn't apply to individual nations."

I guess this could be a contradiction, depending on your definition of "smart economics". For me, a "smart economics" is (among other things) a "humane economics", i.e. one that respects human dignity. Here in the U.S., we have labor laws that protect the worker from exploitation, and so it is "smart economics" (in my sense) to have free trade among US states. But if there is not similar respect for human beings in other nations, then it wouldn't be "smart economics" to trade with them.

I'm all for free trade, as long as all trading partners ensure that their workers are treated with at least a modicum of dignity & respect, in an absolute sense, not a relative one. For example, if under the "old system" a given worker made one dollar a month, the new, free system isn't respective of the worker's dignity & rights if it doubles his prior wage and gives him two dollars a month. Yes, it's better then before, twice as much so. But it's still unjust.

I find the following paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church particularly helpful:

2432 Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits. Profits are necessary, however. They make possible the investments that ensure the future of a business and they guarantee employment.

2433 Access to employment and to professions must be open to all without unjust discrimination: men and women, healthy and disabled, natives and immigrants. For its part society should, according to circumstances, help citizens find work and employment.

2434 A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. "Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good." Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.

Am I off my rocker? (If yes, why?)