Friday, February 28, 2003

Update on voting pro-life

Re: this post from yesterday, Kevin Miller posts some additional thoughts, pointing out the relevance of the likelihood of a particular candidate to win. I do agree with him... when I was writing this post, I debated addressing the point he raises, but chose not to. I'm glad Kevin did.

With some help from Jeff Miller I changed how the links work on my blog. But now I can't decide what colors to go with; so if anyone has any thoughts, let me know.

Charles Murtaugh posted yesterday on therapeutic cloning; he supports this, while opposing reproductive cloning (or as he puts them, "embryo cloning" and "baby cloning"). He does a good job of criticizing some of the rhetoric employed by those opposed to cloning, and acknowledges that this comes down to the personhood of the blastocyst.

This is an issue which Mr. Murtaugh and I briefly touched upon last spring. You can read my post at the time here. Later in the summer Mr. Murtaugh posted again, here; although I hadn't noticed that post, I think the post I just linked effectively answers Mr. Murtaugh's claims.

As I noted elsewhere last spring, Mr. Murtaugh is a very thoughtful blogger, yet I believe that on the question of the personhood of the human blastocyst, he is wrong, and this obviously impacts one's views on cloning of any sort.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Planets: the subjects of moral rights???

The same issue of AEI mentioned in the previous post contains a little blurb on Australian Ph.D. candidate Paul York, who in the October/November issue of the Philosophy Now magazine argues against terraforming (remaking another world -- like Mars, for instance -- to fit human needs) because such a planet ought to have moral rights. He apparently believes that in such a situation, the interests of the planet would have to be weighed against the interests of the humanity.

I'm serious.
Prescription Drug Program

A friend recently got me a gift subscription to The American Enterprise, the monthly magazine by the think-tank of the same name. The most recent issue has an interesting column on a prescription drug program devised by AEI economist Joseph Antos and Galen Institute scholar Grace-Marie Turner called the Prescription Drug Security program. It's an interesting program which seeks to have a free-market orientation. You can read more about it here.
Is it ever morally licit to vote for a pro-choice candidate?

Quick answer: yes. But read on...

Kevin Miller (who is soon to abandon De Virtutibus for the uber-blog, HMS Blog) today linked an article at Fox News by Radley Balko, The Agitator. Mr. Balko discusses the firm grip which the abortion rights lobby has on the Democratic Party, as evidenced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich's reversal on the issue. As Balko writes, "Opposition to war, egalitarianism, feminism, big government -- one can fall on the "wrong" side of any of these issues and still be at home on the left. All of these issues are negotiable. But abortion isn’t." Yes, pro-life is the big no-no for any Democratic politician who has national aspirations. Gephardt, Gore, Clinton... they all switched, because it was politically expedient for them to do so. As Fr. Richard Neuhaus noted, Clinton's dedication to the abortion-rights lobby is the only promise he ever kept.

But back to Mr. Balko's article. In the midst of it, he states, "I consider myself pro-life, but I’d gladly vote for a pro-choice candidate with whom I felt comfortable on other issues (I hope to do just that, when Condoleezza Rice runs for president in 2008)."

I have a hard time with this view, because there isn't any issue more important than the life issues. Lower taxes, smaller government, free trade... they are all important issues, but they are nothing compared to the life issues, because all the rights which other issues deal with are predicated on the right to life... if you aren't alive, you don't have any rights!

So if you recognize the truth of the pro-life position, why would you ever vote for a pro-choice candidate, even if they were terrific on the other issues? Either you happen to hold the pro-life position without realizing its gravity, or there is an extenuating circumstance at play...

In fact, there is only one extenuating circumstance I can think of by which one could vote for a pro-choice candidate, and that is this: if the other candidate is also pro-choice, and is worse on the other issues. In this case -- and as far as I can tell, this case alone -- one could licitly vote for a pro-choice candidate.

Now, if that is what Mr. Balko is thinking when he says he'd vote for Condi Rice in 2008, I can understand his position; after all, there is almost no chance that the Democratic opponent in '08 will be pro-life, as Balko's article demonstrates. But the fact that he doesn't clarify this at least makes me wonder. Perhaps he didn't because it wasn't the point of the article. But I'm not sure...

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Why Vatican II?

Carl Olson has reworked an older post at Envoy Encore into a longer article, Why Vatican II? Ten Reasons for the Second Vatican Council.

Great article, well worth a read.
A blog from location unknown...

It appears that we have a blogger serving in the Reserves who is now somewhere where it's dusty.

Go read L.T. Smash.
HTML help?

I'm hoping somebody might be able to help me out with this... in my old template, links weren't underlined, but were of a different color, and they changed to bold (and maybe a diffferent color) when the cursor went over them. (See, for example, Mark Byron's blog.) I've tried to find out how to change link formatting, but I don't have the HTML aptitude to do so.

Anyone know what I need to do?
Concerns from the Colonel

Retired Army Colonel (how the heck do we get "Kernel" out of that?) David Hackworth has a number of articles in which he expresses his concern about the readiness of our military (well, the regular Army, specifically) in a war with Iraq. He also has some choice thoughts for the brass.

Not sure what to make of this... concerns about the overall readiness of the Army in particular have been around for some time; remember it was the Marine Corp which sent the first large units into Afghanistan... the 101st Airborne only came in later.

Food for thought here, people.
New blog! Well, at least one I hadn't noticed yet...

University Blog by Aakash Raut. Aakash is a College Republican who opposes the war (and neo-cons too, it appears). Yes, there are conservatives against the war, and by the looks of the list Aakash gives, quite a number of them.

I, of course, am not among their number, meaning that I believe that war may in fact be necessary.

Thank goodness (this time) for SCOTUS... the Court ruled 8-1 to overturn the lower court ruling allowing RICO -- the law meant to fight organized crime's extortion -- to be used against anti-abortion protests.

You can read the syllabus, opinion, concurrence (by Ginsburg), and dissent (by Stevens) here (thanks to William Sulik for linking it... I hadn't been able to find the opinion until I saw his link).

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

An atheist responds to pro-choice Catholics [sic]

Doris Gordon is an atheist and a libertarian. She is also founder of Libertarians for Life, an organization which uses reason alone to show the validity and truth of the pro-life position.

There are a number of excellent articles at the group's website; one of the newer ones is by Ms. Gordon herself, in which she rebuts the puzzling arguments made by Catholics who support abortion rights. Go read it here.
Robert Sungenis on the JDDJ

In an online chat last Saturday, one chatter asked Robert Sungenis, "Maybe this has already been asked, but I was wondering, Mr. Sungenis, what prompted your exodus to a traditionalist viewpoint? Were your views always that way and just became evident when people started to attack you or was there indeed a change?"

Sungenis replied, Hard to say. I definitely believed the things I believe now when I first reverted in 1993. I think the thing that really changed was becoming aware of the virtual apostasy the Church is in right now," and followed that up with this:

"The first thing that got me thinking was the Joint Declaration on Justification with the Lutherans."

He goes on to enumerate other issues that led him to his current position, but I found it interesting that he believes the beginning of his "move" was the JDDJ.

Monday, February 24, 2003

More on the JDDJ

Bill Cork has a good post on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and some responses to it.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Goldberg's recent column

Jonah Goldberg's recent syndicated column on the French is well-worth a read. He makes a number of excellent points:
  • The french-german notion that they are leading a "new Europe" based on the European peace of the last fifty years is a myth which forgets that that peace was established not by diplomacy but by American strength checking Soviet strength
  • This has led to a "free-ride problem": "the Europeans -- or at least the French and Germans -- now take that stability for granted and berate the United States for doing what it sees as necessary to ensure continued peace and prosperity."
  • France's long-term goal to prevent (anyone's) hegemony exhibits moral blindness: "French foreign policy has a tendency toward blindness when it comes to good guys and bad guys. (Witness the recent invitation of Zimbabwe's thug-in-chief Robert Mugabe to Paris.) Indeed, equating American and Soviet "domination" [as Charles de Gaulle did] -- even rhetorically -- as equal threats is not merely stupid; it is morally outrageous."
  • It is France who wants access to Iraqi oil, not the US: "If we were hellbent on Iraqi oil, we would lift the sanctions tomorrow in exchange for fat oil contracts -- something Hussein has suggested in the past. Or we could have just taken Iraq's oil a decade ago when we briefly occupied the region. America has no interest in fighting a war for oil. But France desperately wants "peace for oil.""
Again, go and readeth.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Kucinich's reversal

Ohio congressman and former Cleveland mayor Dennis Kucinich is officially running for President. Yesterday a couple of bloggers (Mark Byron and Kevin Holtsberry) commented on Kucinich's reversal from pro-life progressive to pro-choice sellout. You see, now that he's running for the Democratic nomination, he had to switch on abortion. Oh yeah: he's Catholic, too.

Actually, this isn't a brand-new development. Last November I posted on an NRO article by Tim Carney, which details how Kucinich stuck by his pro-life guns, until an article in The Nation turned its guns on him and asked how someone who seeks to be the leader of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party could possibly be anti-choice [sic]. Kucinich's stance slowly began to change soon afterward.

Today, there is another article at NRO on the whole thing, this one by David Enrich. Check it out.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Protest mini-documentary

Someone went to a recent peace protest and made a brief documentary (about 5 minutes). If you have a high-bandwidth internet connection, you might want to check it out.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

10/31/99 -- I didn't realize its importance; do you?

Last night I posted on theological pluralism, noting how various and differing theological systems have co-existed within the Catholic Church since, well, the beginning (here's another example: Paul and James). In the course of writing the post, I thought that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and Pope John Paul II, was a good example.

It was only in the course of writing that I realized what the JDDJ says. Now mind you, I've read the document (and the accompanying Official Common Statement and Annex) before. But I never realized fully what it says; maybe its because of the dissertation research I've done... I don't know. But look again at paragraph 40 (which is in no way denied by the OCS or Annex):
    The understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this Declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics. In light of this consensus the remaining differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification described in paras. 18 to 39 are acceptable. Therefore the Lutheran and the Catholic explications of justification are in their difference open to one another and do not destroy the consensus regarding the basic truths.
In last night's post I bolded the text "the remaining differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification described in paras. 18 to 39 are acceptable" and "the Lutheran and the Catholic explications of justification are in their difference open to one another."

I alluded to what this seemed to be saying last night, but throughout the course of the day today, its meaning and significance have impressed themselves upon me: the Vatican signed the JDDJ, which clearly means that it gives its approval to the text (again, along with the OCS and Annex); this approval was confirmed -- not that anyone misunderstood what the signing meant -- in press interviews and releases afterwards.

In the passages highlighted above, the JDDJ states that there is a sufficient consensus on the basic truths of justification that the remaining differences are not church-dividing. To put it positively, the JDDJ is saying that the Lutheran and Catholic explications of justification (as summarized in the JDDJ) can both be held in a fully-united Church. There are differences, yes -- but they are understood in a way analogous to the differences between Molina and Bañez, or the Scotists and Thomists, or Antioch and Alexandria. They can both be maintained -- and argued about -- within the bounds of orthodoxy of the same Church.

Do you realize what this means, dear reader? While Catholics and Lutherans may and must continue to discuss their differences -- they must, so that they may come closer to a common language with which to proclaim the Gospel to the world -- they can no longer claim that they other is preaching a heretical doctrine of justification.

Think about what this means, fellow Catholics and fellow apologists. If you seek to stand by the Catholic Church, you are no longer able to claim that the doctrine of justification as taught by the followers of Martin Luther and in continuity with their tradition is so wrong that a Catholic cannot hold it. The JDDJ demonstrates that this is not the case, and the Vatican has given it its approval. Yes, disagreements continue, as noted above. But each side's viewpoint is now recognized as a legitimate manifestation of the one saving Gospel. As a Catholic, I am no longer able to claim that Luther was wrong, period, on justification. I can disagree with him, but my disagreement is like my disagreement with John Duns Scotus on the relationship between grace and the forgiveness of sin -- both are opinions which can be held by Catholics.

Am I the only one to realize so late the importance of the JDDJ and its authoritative approval? Or do many Catholics continue to understand the Lutheran view of justification as illegitimate rather than legitimate? How many apologists -- professional and amateur -- have appropriated the JDDJ and its significance?

I'm stunned. Shocked. Are you?

Does anyone else ever have a problem posting larger posts, but nothing huge? I had to divide the below post on the JDDJ, because I kept getting "The page cannot be display" and "The HTTP request is too long" messages. Anyone else ever had that problem? I had it last night too.


[I finally got it to work in one post (above), but still...]
NYTimes editorial watch

Today's installment: Schizophrenia on Iraq

In today's editorial on Iraq, the Times' editors note that "without the coercive diplomacy of the past few months there would now be no inspections at all, let alone the limited cooperation on mostly procedural issues that the inspectors reported to the Security Council last week," and they argue that Iraq's WMDs "aren't a uniquely American problem, but an international one." In other words, they almost sound hawkish.

But then they turn around and blast the hawks in the administration for "urging President Bush to bypass the Council and prepare for an invasion joined only by Britain and a narrow coalition of smaller nations" (not that the hawks are doing this, but "it's easy to imagine").

Now, I don't want to simply bypass the UN either. But it seems that the Times' editors believe that ultimately France et al will come to their senses, and that we must do everything possible -- bend over as far backwards as possible -- to bring them to that point.

Haven't we already done that? What more can we do with the French? They say, "more inspectors!" But Hans Blix -- the man whose testimony they hinge upon -- says that more inspectors is not the issue: Iraq's compliance is. As the editorial notes, "One of the most frustrating aspects of Friday's Security Council session was the implication by France's foreign minister, Dominque de Villepin, that inspections were already working, and given enough time could successfully disarm Iraq without further coercive diplomacy."

What makes the editors think that France will come around at all, based on their track record of the past few months?

Saddam is precisely an international threat, but it looks like the international body, the UN, isn't going to deal with him in a decisive manner. At least as long as France is making its case, and other buy into it.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Theological pluralism

Many people -- including well-catechized Catholics -- believe that the doctrines of the Catholic Church constitute a monolithic-type entity which offers no room for disagreement. This is not the case.

The Catholic Church has always had a number of varying theological systems co-existing within its bounds of orthodoxy. The most famous example is probably the 16th and 17th century dispute De Auxiliis, in which Dominicans and Jesuits (strongly) disagreed over the relationship between free will and grace. In the end, the pope stated that that the positions of both camps could be held within the Catholic Church, and he ordered both sides to stop claiming that the others were heretical. Yet this is not the only example of theological pluralism within the Catholic Church. The high and late middle ages were full of various theological schools and systems which disagreed on various points -- for example, the Thomists, the Scotists, and later, the Ockhamists -- yet were all held as legitimate theological options for Catholics to hold. Pluralism can be found even earlier, though: in the early Church, the schools of Antioch and Alexandria each articulated their Christologies in ways which greatly differed, yet which were nonetheless valid options for members of the Church (apart from the various condemned heresies arising from each school, of course).

Note that I am not saying that one is free to disagree with the Church -- where the Church has specifically defined a doctrine or its limits, we must give our assent. But there are innumberable theological topics on which orthodox Catholics can formulate differing explanations, provided that they remain within the bounds of orthodoxy as defined by the Magisterium.

There is a very contemporary -- and for some, controversial -- example of theological pluralism as well.

On October 31st, 1999, authoritative representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and of Pope John Paul II met in Wittenburg, Germany to sign the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. Along with the Common Statement and Annex, the JDDJ states the following about the degree of agreement found:
    40. The understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this Declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics. In light of this consensus the remaining differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification described in paras. 18 to 39 are acceptable. Therefore the Lutheran and the Catholic explications of justification are in their difference open to one another and do not destroy the consensus regarding the basic truths.
What this apparently means is that the Lutheran and Catholic formulations of justification -- as different as they are -- are sufficiently compatible that they can be held within one Church. What this seems to indicate is that a Catholic could freely hold the Lutheran teaching of justification -- as articulated by the JDDJ -- and would be considered to hold a legitimate theological formulation of justification by his Church.
Now who's being imprecise?

Last week I posted on the (mis)use of term "modernist" by some people who have a problem with the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar Magisterium.

What is curious is that a criticism often heard from so many of these kind of people is that the Magisterial documents of the last forty years have been full of ambiguities and imprecisions which are either guilty of or easily lend themselves to modernism. Yet somehow, those who make this criticism never seem to define exactly what modernism is.

How precise is that? Define your terms, people.

Sunday, February 16, 2003


Fr. Bryce Sibley was applauded at the conclusion of his homily last night [the link may not work; just go to Father's blog and scroll down to the post, "Applause?" from Saturday], in which he made the following three points about the recent and ongoing anti-war protests:

1. The protests had a potential for violence
2. They are communist driven
3. The hippies are back.

You can read more of Father's thoughts here, here, and here.
Dissenters against dissent

According to this piece at The American Prowler, the usual suspects of the American Catholic dissenters are upset at Michael Novak, because he dissents from the bishops' opinion on war with Iraq. As the author writes,
    These same Catholics, who normally approve of dissent from the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, are criticizing Catholic theologian Michael Novak for dissenting from the Catholic bishops' stance against war with Iraq. How dare he go to Rome and speak in favor of war as a guest lecturer for the U.S. embassy, they said last week. These heretics and flakes have finally found a dissenter they don't like.
Irony. Hypocrisy. It's all there!
The source of post-abortion distress

Emily at After Abortion discusses the question of whether or not post-abortion distress in women is caused by the judgmentalism of those opposed to abortion or by their own inner turmoil; she strongly argues the case that it is the latter and not the former.
Gay rights in MN

There is a bit of a debate going on in Minnesota -- at least on the editorial & opinion pages of the Star Tribune -- about whether or not sexual orientation should continue to be listed in the state's human rights law. Last Tuesday there was an editorial arguing that new Governor Tim Pawlenty should oppose a current effort -- spearheaded by the Minnesota Family Council and others -- to remove sexual orientation from the law. Here is the money quote:
    Removing protections for gays and lesbians is part of a broader agenda pushed by the Minnesota Family Council. "Interim steps," the council says, might include exempting public schools and transgender persons from the human rights law. The problem, the council claims, is that the law is being used as a vehicle to promote homosexuality as a lifestyle choice.

    Well, rubbish. First, homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice. Second, for conservative Christians to suggest that it is they who are victimized by society's tolerance of gays and lesbians borders on the silly. If this were ancient Rome, Christians of any stripe could easily claim victimhood. But here? And now? Living in a plural society -- and we hope Minnesota still qualifies -- requires some accommodation. Being uncomfortable with someone who is different is no reason to change a law intended to protect people who have suffered discrimination that is real, not contrived.
In today's paper, the president of the MFC, Tom Prichard, wrote a counterpoint, refuting a number of claims made in the editorial. Here's its money quote:
    The mantra by gay advocates in the debate on the gay rights law 10 years ago was, "We just want to be left alone. We just want tolerance." But use of the law in the last 10 years has been about acceptance and endorsement of homosexuality. Removing sexual orientation from protected class status under the human rights law won't be rolling back civil rights protections for gays and lesbians, as the Star Tribune says. It will merely leave gays and lesbians with all the constitutional, civil and criminal protections everybody else in society enjoys -- no less and no more.
Right on, Mr. Prichard.
Oh, so that's it!

Thankfully, Maureen Dowd has informed us of the real reason for the President's urgency on Iraq: "conservatives won't be happy until they erase what they see as the emasculating legacy of leaving Saddam in power, back when we were tied up with our coalition of nervous Nellie allies."

So it's actually not oil and money (don't even bother making excuses like weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a brutal dictator with a penchant for undertaking illogical invasions), but machismo which is the real reason Iraq has the top priority for President Bush.

Thanks for clearing that up, Maureen!
Once again...

A top-notch editorial from the Washington Post on war with Iraq. This one focusing on opposition to such a war as argued by Democrat Senator Carl Levin. Levin, the editorial notes, believes that although Hussein has violated UN Res. 1441, "the United States should go along with proposals for continued inspections, because any action without additional approval from the United Nations would be wrongly "unilateral."" This argument, the editorial rightly indicates, doesn't make sense: "By its logic, the 1999 intervention in Kosovo, which Sen. Levin supported, also would have been "unilateral" and thus unjustified. [...] The problem is not that authority to act is lacking but that a handful of countries are seeking to block the implementation of a unanimously approved resolution."

On the "larger question" of Levin's argument -- the need for a broad alliance -- the editorial comments that some two dozen nations will back the US, including a "decisive majority" of the NATO countries. The editorial continues, analyzing the notion of containment underlying the call for more inspectors: "The risk of a war must also be balanced against the damage to global security from another prolonged and feckless routine of inspections in Iraq. Those who propose such containment rarely acknowledge the previous failure and collapse of that strategy, nor do they explain why it would not be repeated. But history suggests the result would be the survival of a dangerous threat, and a rush by other rogue states to stockpile weapons of mass destruction."

The ultimate argument of those opposed to the war, it states, concern timing and urgency. The response is powerful:
    The risk of a war must also be balanced against the damage to global security from another prolonged and feckless routine of inspections in Iraq. Those who propose such containment rarely acknowledge the previous failure and collapse of that strategy, nor do they explain why it would not be repeated. But history suggests the result would be the survival of a dangerous threat, and a rush by other rogue states to stockpile weapons of mass destruction.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Getting to kn-o-o-o-w you

In an email discussion recently, a friend asked, "What do Catholics usually think of when they speak of Protestants?" My answer: I think part of it comes from the fact that all Western Christians not in union with Rome have traditionally been labeled with a single term: Protestants. Because of this, many Catholics presume that all Protestants believe roughly the same things, just as most Catholics do (or are supposed to). Of course they realize that there are Lutherans, Presbyterians, Reformed, AoG, Baptists, etc., but they still tend to think that they all believe pretty much the same things. And what are those "things", the doctrines which all Protestants believe? They are the doctrines they hear from the Protestants who approach them the most: the Jimmy Swaggert, Jack Chick types. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

While this may not be as true for Catholics who are well-formed in their own faith, it is still a problem. I know of many Catholics who have rediscovered their faith and its truths and often become interested in apologetics. The problem is that all too often they assume that when an writer or speaker makes an argument against one particular Protestant tradition's teaching on a doctrine, that argument can be applied in the same manner in regard to another tradition's teaching on the same doctrine. As I and others I know have learned from painful experience, this is not the case. Catholics must always seek to understand those they are actually engaged in discussion with, and not only for apologetics purposes. Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, states the following in article 9:
    We must get to know the outlook of our separated brethren. To achieve this purpose, study is of necessity required, and this must be pursued with a sense of realism and good will. Catholics, who already have a proper grounding, need to acquire a more adequate understanding of the respective doctrines of our separated brethren, their history, their spiritual and liturgical life, their religious psychology and general background.
Note that the text does not state that "Catholic scholars" must seek to better understand their fellow Christians; it simply refers to Catholics, with the important qualifier that these Catholics must have a proper grounding in their own faith.

Let me give an example: I have on many occasions heard Catholics refer to the "legal fiction" notion of justification as if all Protestants accept it, when in fact that notion of the doctrine is rejected by Lutherans and Reformed as well (at least substantial numbers of both traditions). Pointing out the errors of a doctrine not held by one's discussion partner not only fails to adequately respond to the real issue, but it makes one look foolish as well. Even more, in such a situation one is not speaking what is the truth, and that is the most important thing.
Bill on our attitude towards Bishops

Bill Cork continues to stress the importance of giving the bishops the respect and deference due, not because of who they are, but what they are: vicars of Christ for their churches (dioceses).

After quoting St. Francis of Assisi, he writes,
    So, to those who think they have been appointed to humiliate bishops, or to rage against them, or to cause the faithful to stumble ... would you rather seek to follow the way of Luther, or of Erasmus, or of Francis?

    Perhaps you might consider taking the time you spend in attacking vicars of Christ, and use it instead doing penance for them. Imagine what sort of penance you might impose on them if you were their confessor -- and then do it yourself, on their behalf.

    Ask yourself -- What is your relationship with your own bishop? Do you even know him? Go to him. Speak with him. Tell him your concerns. Ask him how you can best serve the Church, and him.
Sound advice.
Oh no!

I've been deceived!! Karol Wojtyla is really Antipope John Paul II! It's all explained right here!
Conservative = bad person

That seems to be the m.o. of too many liberals, David Limbaugh cogently argues. Referring to a recent column by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen in which Cohen bashes Bush, Limbaugh writes,
    But many liberals, such as Cohen, can't seem to divorce themselves from assessing one's character on the basis of his policy positions -- and the phony pretense to compassion that often accompanies them. If they perceive someone as a fellow liberal, they accord him an irrebuttable presumption of righteousness, even if personally he's a rotten guy.

    Conversely, they presume the opposite about genuinely decent people like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush because they perceive them to be political conservatives. Cohen, after portraying Clinton as compassionate, laments, "This is not the case with President Bush ... and that he seems so untroubled is, in itself, troubling." (Bush, the uncompassionate.)
The Post continues its streak

Saturday's lead editorial in the Washington Post strongly decries Friday's proceedings at the UN. Here's a great quote:
    Britain and the United States tried again to call attention to the path laid out by the council in a unanimous vote three months ago: Failure by Iraq "at any time" to comply was defined as a "material breach" mandating the council's consideration of "serious consequences" -- which all understood to mean military intervention. Finally, France, Germany and Russia argued -- to the applause of the gallery -- that the terms of Resolution 1441 simply be disregarded and that inspections continue despite Iraq's refusal to cooperate.
Exactly. Why is it that Res. 1441 has been thrown about the window by those three nations?

I just don't understand the French and Germans on this. But maybe to expect nation-states to act according to principle in such an important series of events as those upon us now is naive. Regardless, the editorial nails it on the head with this statement:
    the United States cannot again join the Security Council in backing down from a confrontation with the Iraqi dictator, as it did repeatedly during the 1990s, also under pressure from France and Russia. Saddam Hussein was offered a "final opportunity"; no member of the council contends that he accepted it. Even if others lose their nerve, the United States must ensure that this time the dictator suffers the "serious consequences" that are due.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Anglican orders: absolutely null and utterly void?

Usually, but not always: as was mentioned by Jimmy Akin on Thursday's Catholic Answers Live, there are some Anglican (and Episcopalian) bishops and priests who have valid orders, in that they or their bishop has had hands laid upon them by an Orthodox bishop, whose orders, of course, the Catholic Church recognizes as valid.
Bill's thoughts on Kevin's post

Bill Cork concludes that there has been no new development in just war theory, contra Kevin Miller's post, linked yesterday.
I need opinions

In a bible study I lead, we recently discussed Matthew ch. 4 and the temptation narrative. Some time ago I came to the conclusion that satan must not know that Jesus was God. Why? First and most important, it is impossible for Jesus--being God--to sin; it is metaphysically impossible. If satan knew that Jesus was God, he would be aware of this, and wouldn't even have bothered.

Also, the fact that satan refers to Jesus as "Son of God" does not indicate that he knows Jesus is the Son of God, in that the title was used on numerous occasions in the OT to refer to human beings, individually and collectively.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that satan believed that Jesus was God, so why argue in favor of it?

Well, a number of people I've talked with have done just that, much to my amazement. I'm wondering if my friends in blogland can help. What do you think? In the desert, did satan know that Jesus Christ was God Almighty?
Yes, Virginia, there is hope

Today Fr. Bryce Sibley taught some high school freshmen Aristotle.

And they loved it. Yes, they did.

While The Raving Atheist and I seem to disagree so much that we can't even agree on what I've said in the past, we at least agree on one thing: abortion. RA appears to be against it.

Yet another pro-life atheist. No, RA isn't the first.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

New blog worth looking at

It's called After Abortion, and looks like it's going to be a keeper. Check it out.
Thoughts on Iraq

From Kevin Miller.

Thought-provoking thoughts. Read them.
Clerics and Iraq

Fr. James Schall, SJ, today has an excellent article on the general clerical opposition to war against Iraq, and how disagreement is not only legitimate, but perhaps even called for (please note the "perhaps" -- I am not saying those who disagree are stupid). Lest anyone wonder, Fr. Schall is not some loony dissenting warmonger. He teaches political philosophy at Georgetown, and has penned many serious and thoughtful articles and books on a number of issues. Here is a noteworthy passage:
    In our darker moments, we can imagine a discouraged American president, surrounded by clerical doubters, finally caving in at a Prayer Breakfast. "All right, Reverend Fathers and dear Pastors, since you know more about defending the rights of peoples and our country than I do, since you have more information than I do about what is going on in Iraq and the world, since your methods are more effective, I hereby turn the safety of the nation over to your competent hands." Of course, it would not take a moment's reflection to realize that we could not be safe in the hands of the no-war-at-this-time party, however well intentioned it may be. Their advice is just that — advice, not policy, let alone a basis for action.

    Not only would such an alternative be unconstitutional and imprudent, it would be against the stated principles of most Christian social thought — that matters of war and peace are in the hands of chosen leaders who have a right and duty both to spell out their reasons and to act on them. The idea that no action can take place till the last cleric or moralist is convinced of a problem is a formula for disaster.
Really, you should read the whole thing.
Ricks: SpecOps already in Iraq

The Washington Post's Tom Ricks has an article on Special Operations forces that are apparently already active in Iraq. This comes as no big surprise to me; it makes perfect sense, after all. Ricks' article also discusses current thoughts on what any war against Iraq will look like.

If you're interested in the military tactics and strategy of a possible Gulf War II, this is an interesting article.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Re: The Association of Students at Catholic Colleges

Earlier linked to a new blog by the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges; Bill Cork has a post which gives some background and other interesting info on this excellent group.
Liturgical Casualness and Indifference

Robert Gotcher has a solid post on liturgical casualness and indifference towards the sacred in American churches over the past forty years, which has led to a deadening of the sense of the sacred. He isn't referring to "official" changes in the order of the Mass, but in more basic things, things which we (the laity) have some degree of control over.
On the topic of atheism...

A few years ago I read Peter Kreeft's book C.S. Lewis for the Third Millenium. In one of the essays, he quotes from early twentieth century atheist Bertrand Russell's essay, "A Free Man's Worship" in the context of a discussion of empiricism (which says that the only things that exist are those things that we can see, feel, smell, or touch) and scientism (which holds that only things that can be submitted to the scientific method really exist). Russell understood perfectly the consequences of these theories, if they were true:
    Such... is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves
    and beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can
    preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins - all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.
Not only is atheism wrong, but it is, in the words of one of its strongest proponents, "unyielding despair." Talk about depressing.
New blog!

The Association of Students at Catholic Colleges has a blog: Ever Ancient, Ever New. Check it out!
I won!

Yours truly has been awarded the esteemed title of "Godidiot of the Week" by The Raving Atheist, an honor which has been previously granted to Mark at Minute Particulars and Theist at The Secularist Critique.

Feel free to visit RA's site; maybe you'll be lucky enough to win the award next week. And if you're visiting from RA's site, you'll find plenty more "Godidiots" in the links to the left. We won't stop until you become unthinking, mind-numbed robots like us.

A number of bloggers have linked to and commented on this article by Susan Lee of the Wall Street Journal, in which Ms. Lee holds up libertarianism as better than conservativism. Here was my "reader response":

Dear Ms. Lee,

While the libertarian position is in many ways internally coherent, far too many libertarians (including, apparently, yourself) are decidedly incoherent on the most enduring social issue of our time: abortion. You state that libertarianism has one ultimate moral principle: "self-ownership--individuals have the right to control their own bodies." Fine. Then how can you state, three paragraphs later, that libertarians "are in favor of abortion"? The science is clear: the embryo is human, it is an individual, and it obviously has a body. So what happened to that central moral principle from which all others flow?

You could have just as easily left the issue of abortion out of your article, considering that there in fact are pro-life libertarians, like Libertarians for Life, who remain consistent to the principles of libertarianism.
What exactly do some mean by Modernism?

That's the subject of this post I made at LEI last night.

Note: if the link brings you to The Curmudgeon's article on Bob Sungenis's "reply" to Fr. Neuhaus, just go to the blog's "home page" here.
Pat and I agree

I'm listening to Catholic Answers Live, and the guest is Pat Madrid.

Pat just made a great point. A caller, herself a convert, asked how to respond to those who claim that many converts simply bring their fundamentalist tendencies into the Church and don't become fully Catholic.

In the course of his answer, Pat mentioned that sometimes, converts enter into the Church and don't spend enough time "simply being Catholic" before they "hit the circuit," i.e. before they start engaging in apologetics publicly.

I agree completely; this echoes something I've been thinking about for the past several months. While many (most?) converts who truly convert out of conviction that the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth, that does not mean that they have been sufficiently formed in their faith to begin public teaching. I reverted just over eight years ago, and -- as they say -- the more I learn (including two years of undergrad theology and three years of grad theology), the more I realize I don't know.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Let's not get too excited

A lot of people (e.g. Sean Hannity in the five minutes of his show I heard in the car today) are pointing to the tape said to be bin Laden as evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda (here is the story).

However, I don't see anymore of a link between the two than that referred to by Powell: it indicates a "nexus" between rogue states and terrorist groups. It doesn't indicate that al Qaeda and Iraq have been actively cooperating for years or anything. I think some people are really searching for a link between 9/11 and Iraq, and they are too-quickly pointing to this tape as proof, when there is nothing of the sort in it.
Where have the Catholic systematic texts gone?

Where are they? There hasn't been a solid, orthodox attempt to cover the range of systematic theology in decades, at least in among Catholics in the US. What's up with that? There have been a number of good multivolume works by our brothers and sisters in Christ (Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson's two volume work, Systematic Theology is one of the best), but no American Catholic scholar has attempted such a text in the last twenty years, AFAIK.

Do any of you know of one?

Monday, February 10, 2003

Growing European Anti-Americanism

This Washington Post story details how anti-Americanism has spread into the mainstream of European politics.

As I've written before, I'm mystified by European reaction to the case against war. The article details how it's not just American power, but our rhetoric that has increased the sideways glances. But still... the US isn't an empire, it has never been an empire, and there is little real reason to think that it currently seeks to become an empire. Do we have great influence in the world? Of course, and in many ways, several of which I see as negative influences. But influence and imperialism are two different things. Perhaps the Europeans are projecting here... they recall what they did, respectively, when they were top dog. But that's not us.

Nonetheless, the article does conclude on a positive note:
    This suggests to some that the ties that bind are still much stronger than the sources of division. "There are issues where we disagree, and Iraq is certainly one," says Buetikofer, the Green Party spokesman. "But Americans should not misunderstand the criticism when they hear it. People may criticize, they may even use words that can sound offensive, but it does not mean they want to break the friendship with the United States."
Theist: on a roll

Theist at The Secular Critique continues his series of solid posts today, with a post entitled The Massive Faith of Secularism which focuses on the presumption that matter is all there is, there was, and there ever shall be (Carl Sagan's famous line), a presumption which is -- in effect -- a giant leap of faith.
Novak makes his case

American theologian Michael Novak was invited by Jim Nicholson, US ambassador to the Vatican, to explain the US's case for war in the Vatican. Novak's remarks -- made as a private citizen, not an official representative of our government or Catholics in America -- were published today at NRO. They are worth a read.

NB: Novak is part of that triumverate (or three-headed monster, as some would have it) occasionally called NovakNeuhausWeigel, not necessarily in that order.
Cure for insomnia

Jack Chick tracts. One of my favorites is The Death Cookie, which explains how the doctrine of Jesus' Real Presence in the Eucharist is an invention of the popes meant to keep the laity under priestly and papal control and domination.

I wonder what Lutherans, Anglicans, and the Orthodox think about that.
Ideas tend to work themselves out...

On this past Friday's episode of Law & Order: Special Victims' Unit, the show closed with a father who had sold pornographic pictures of his prepubescent daughter since she was an infant defending himself and those like him. He claimed that just as society had once condemned inter-racial marriages and homosexuality before "coming around," so too would society eventually come to accept pedophilia.

Scary stuff, indeed. But there is something of a point hidden in there: the consequences of the sexual revolution -- which tore sexual intimacy away from childbearing and the family -- are slowly working themselves out. While I certainly wouldn't want to be misunderstood to mean that accepting homosexuality necessitates an acceptance of pedophilia, both exemplify a tragic misunderstanding of human sexuality which has become rampant over the past forty years or so.
Long overdue link

I don't know why I haven't linked Fr. Jim Tucker's blog, Dappled Things, before; shame on me. Fr. Jim and I had a few classes together when he made the eminently wise decision to come over to the Ange from the Greg.

Correction: there are too many Fr. Jims who have studied in Rome. Alas, I was confusing Fr. Jim Tucker -- apparently an ardent Greg devotee ;-) -- with Fr. Jim Poumade, who made the proper decision, by God's grace. I think I'll leave Fr. Jim (Tucker's) link up, nonetheless :-)

Thanks, Fr. Jim (Poumade), for pointing out my confusion.
She's been convinced

Colin Powell has convinced Peggy Noonan of the need to invade Iraq.
US military out of Germany?

According to two stories in the NYTimes on Sunday (here and here) and William Safire's column from today, the US is considering withdrawing its troops from bases in Germany and redeploying them to other European countries. While this plan has been under consideration in various forms for some time -- and is most definitely not a result of the recent tension between the US and Germany -- it will no doubt add some fuel to the fire of that tension.

I do wonder about one thing, though: why would Germany be that concerned about such a possibility? What does that country stand to lose if we deployed our troops in other European countries? Would there be much of an economic hit? Diplomatic? Perhaps either, or both, but I wonder if it would be that sever in either case.

Anyone have any thoughts?

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Jeff Miller is back

After a short absence, Jeff Miller is back in blogland, no longer "From Atheist to A theist," but as The Curt Jester.
Friedman: replace France with India

In his NYTimes column today, Tom Friedman argues that France should be replaced on the UN Security Council by India, "Because India is the world's biggest democracy, the world's largest Hindu nation and the world's second-largest Muslim nation, and, quite frankly, India is just so much more serious than France these days. France is so caught up with its need to differentiate itself from America to feel important, it's become silly."

He goes on to outline this French silliness. Referring to a number of incoherent statements made by France's "diplomacy-lite foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin," Friedman notes this doozy: "Mr. de Villepin also suggested that Saddam's government pass "legislation to prohibit the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction." (I am not making this up.) That proposal alone is a reminder of why, if America didn't exist and Europe had to rely on France, most Europeans today would be speaking either German or Russian." Ouch!
Nostalgia romana

There are many things I miss about Rome. For those of you who don't know (and that's probably most of you), I did my grad studies in theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, aka the Angelicum; I was blessed to spend three years there ('97-'00) before returning to the US.

As I was saying, I miss a number of things about Rome. One of them is the traffic. Yes, the traffic. Those of you who have visited or lived in Rome (or are currently doing so) will know of what I speak. Roman traffic is -- IMHO -- a perfect example of organized chaos. At first glance, it seems like a complete mess, and the typical American tourist initially wonders how anyone can get anywhere.

But it works. There is a system, and there are rules. Among my favorites: pedestrians have the absolute right of way, when in the crosswalk. There is nothing as invigorating as walking out in front of oncoming motorini, only to watch them swerve in front of or behind you so as not to knock you over. No, they aren't mad: that's just how Rome works. Nota bene: don't even think about hesitating or even worse, stopping. The drivers have already calculated your rate of advance, and they have planned their own course based on that pace. If you stop, you'll mess things up, and probably get nailed. Just make and maintain eye contact and go. It's simple, easy, and fun :-)

The pasta is another story, but that would remind me about how too many "Italian" restaurants in the US get it wrong, and I don't want to go there :-)

Hopefully I'll get to experience Rome again this spring, but that depends on a successful completion of the dissertation as well as a couple of other things, so your prayers would be much appreciated.

He's baaaack!

Fr. Bryce Sibley has returned from a six-month hiatus from blogland.

Are you ready?

Saturday, February 08, 2003


Andrew Sullivan aptly compares a NYTimes headline from Thursday to one from Friday:

"U.S. Economy in Worst Hiring Slump in 20 Years" - NYT, February 6.
"Unemployment Rate Falls to 5.7% as Job Growth Surges" - NYT, February 7.
The Limits of Science

Theist has a solid post on the science, its value, but also its inability to resolve the ultimate, existential questions of human existence.
Cardinal George

Some people (e.g. Mark Shea) are understandably upset because Cardinal George has decided that trying to stop pro-abortion presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton from speaking at a parish in the archdiocese this Sunday wouldn't be worth the effort at this point. But Tom at Disputations has some good comments in defense of the Cardinal, which I tend to agree with. Because of his track-record, I'm giving George the benefit of the doubt on this one.
France & Germany

Good column by Fred Hiatt in Sunday's Washington Post on the inexplicable position of France & Germany viz. Iraq.

Friday, February 07, 2003

I don't see any alternative

One of my commentors wondered about my stance on a possible war against Iraq, in light of the fact that I acknowledge, accept, and rejoice in the teaching office of the Catholic Church. I do intend to respond, but I cannot do so right now. In the meantime, I'd recommend the following posts from thoughtful Catholics who either are or were ambiguous about a possible war or against it:

Bill Cork's post explaining his change in position.
A post by Emily Stimpson, explaining how she sees no alternative to war, in spite of her wishes otherwise.
A post by Greg Popcak, much like Emily's: he does not want war, but he sees no alternative.
Robert Gotcher's post explaining why he continues to pray for peace and is not ready to jump on the war wagon, even though he is convinced by the case as laid out most recently by Colin Powell.
On the other hand, here is a post by Kevin Miller, in which he posits that a war against Iraq right now would be wrong.
Finally, I would recommend reading Bill Cork's posts from the last week on this issue, including this recent one on the Statement made concerning Iraq by the US Bishops back in November.

Again, I do not want war, and if war is coming, it must be the absolutely last option available. But in my opinion -- which I have sought to form according to the moral principles given by the Magisterium -- we are at the point. Am I in disagreement with Cardinals Stafford and Ratzinger? Sadly, yes. But in my analysis of their positions, I see neither anything which precludes me from holding my position and remaining a faithful Catholic (Ratzinger himself openly notes that his competence is not in political matters), nor do I see anything which convinces me that my position is wrong (this is the analysis I hope to offer in the future). As far as the Holy Father is concerned... I agree with his statements: we must do everything we can do avoid war. And I believe we are doing so.

I continue to pray for peace without war, but I believe that we must also continue to prepare for war in the event that it is ultimately necessary.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Strong words from TNR

Lawrence Kaplan today wrote a strong column about France, Germany, and the UN at The New Republic Online (TNR is a left-leaning mag, having strongly endorsed Algore in '00).
Replies to Cardinal Stafford

Cardinal James Stafford -- formerly the archbishop of Denver and now head of the Council for the Laity in Rome -- recently made some public remarks critical of any US war with Iraq.

Bill Cork has two excellent rebuttals (here and here), the second echoing excellent comments made by Peter Nixon.
Lying in Potter

One of the major objections to the Harry Potter series is the lying and sneaking by the protagonists. Greg Popcak responds to this criticism wonderfully. (Thanks for the link to Kevin Miller.)

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

New Encyclical due out soon

As I mentioned sometime last year, JPII has been working on a new encyclical on the Eucharist, and according to this story, it'll be out by summer.
Mark on the Raving Atheist

Mark at Minute Particulars has a solid post on some of the goofiness which comes from Raving Atheist's fingers. In this case, Mark focuses on RA's take on the First Cause argument for God's existence, taking up some of the comments by Theist I referred to yesterday.

Richard Pearle, chairman of the Pentagon's Policy Advisory Board, said today that "France is no longer the ally it once was" and that NATO "must develop a strategy to contain our erstwhile ally or we will not be talking about a NATO alliance."

Sadly, I tend to agree. France's foreign policy has long seemed to be centered around an attempt to check American influence around the globe, regardless of the nature and character of that influence. This seems to be have become clearer and clearer over the previous year.
Another Luther Legend?

Tons of apologists and polemicists alike -- both Catholic and Protestant -- point to Luther's image of a snow-covered dunghill to illustrate the Protestant notion of imputed justification.

The problem is, it appears that the source for this image is dubious at best. This observation first came to my attention when I read Bill Cork's article Justification By Faith: Can Catholics and Lutherans Agree? Here is the relevant section from Bill's paper:
    As I've already said, Sungenis dismisses Luther's understanding of Justification by referring to the "snow on dung" canard. Funny thing about that quote—despite years of Lutheran seminary education, and experience as a pastor, and the reading of umpteen volumes of Luther's Works, I have never come across that quote in print, nor have I ever heard it from the mouth of a Lutheran. Yet it is a favorite of Luther's critics [and, I might add, Protestants, e.g. James While in his The God Who Justifies]. I asked renowned Luther scholar Eric Gritsch about this, and he replied that it does exist somewhere in one of the "Table Talks" (after dinner ramblings written down by Luther's students—not reliable sources for Luther's thought), but even he couldn't give me a reference.
Bill's observation is corroborated by an answer given to a question at the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod website:
    With regard to the Luther quotation [the snow/dunghill image], a check in the indexes of four major editions of Luther's works does not reveal whether or where Luther might have said or written that.
While the image may faithfully represent the notion of justification held by modern Protestants, it seems unlikely that Luther used it, and also that it accurately reflects his own doctrine of justification.

If anyone has any detailed knowledge of where or how Luther uses this image, please let me know via comments or email. What seems clear is that Luther never used it in his written works or lectures; while it may appear in Table Talk (and I await a citation on that), those discussions most certainly hold a lower place than the other works of Luther.

Monday, February 03, 2003

A Great New Site

Thanks to Kathryn at blogs4God I found a terrific new Catholic blog: The Secularist Critique. The author, Theist, has had a number of excellent articles on one philosophical argument for God's existence: the First Cause argument.

Theist does an excellent job of showing how too many atheists claim that the premise of the argument is that everything needs a cause and hence the argument is self-contradictory is a very sorry misreading of the argument.

Check it out. But be warned: if you follow the links to atheists' blogs, some of the ridiculous ranting will probably raise your blood pressure.
Someone else leaves

Jeff Miller has also signed off.

Is this a trend?
oh for goodness sake

Just go read the blogs linked to the left... they're all good!
Another general recommendation

This one for Kevin Miller's blog.

Good stuff.
Good stuff from Bill

Bill Cork has a number of good posts at his blog. I was going to link a couple of them in particular, but instead, I'd just recommend reading his stuff from the last week or two.
One of the first closes shop

I discovered blogs just over a year ago, and at that point, Catholic bloggers were few and far between: apart from Kathy Shaidle, Amy Welborn was the only Catholic writer I could find.

Well, Amy has closed shop, needing to devote more time and energy to other projects.

We're sorry to see you go, Amy!
Vatican sounds off on New Age

You can read the document here and here.

This document is -- in a certain sense -- provisional, as noted by the text itself and papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who said that "a definitive document will be issued once the Vatican receives feedback from diocese to the provisional one issued Monday" (the quote is the article's paraphrase of what Navarro-Valls said).