Wednesday, April 30, 2003


"The American River Ganges,"

In reading the book I referred to last week, The New Anti-Catholicism by Philip Jenkins, I came across reference to this cartoon from 1875 by Thomas Nast (see a larger [over 1 MB] version here).

The cartoon is called "The American River Ganges," and was published in Harper's Weekly in the September 30, 1871 edition. Here is an explanation of the cartoon:
    By the middle of the nineteenth century, large numbers of Catholic children had withdrawn from the significantly Protestant American public schools to attend newly organized Roman Catholic schools. With a large and influential Irish Catholic constituency, the powerful New York City Democratic machine centered at Tammany Hall persuaded the Democratic state legislature to provide public support for the Irish schools. A firestorm of controversy ensued, especially in states like Ohio and Illinois,where the Catholic hierarchy had made similar requests. The controversy re-ignited smouldering Republican nativism, a policy of protecting the interests of indigenous residents against immigrants; and it suddenly became attractive as a vote-getter since that Reconstruction issues appeared to have been resolved. Tammany politicians are shown dropping little children into the “American River Ganges,” infested with crocodilian bishops. The American flag flies upside down, the universal signal of distress, from the ruins of a public school. Linking Roman Catholicism to the Ganges, the sacred river of Hinduism, suggested its exotic un-Americanism and also linked it with what Americans then considered a primitive and fanatical religion.
Interestingly, Nast would make the anti-Catholic nature of the cartoon even stronger four years later:

“The American River Ganges”

(A very large of this version is found at the Harper's website here.)

Anti-Catholicism, Cont'd

Harper's explains both versions, noting the differences in the later one:
    For the 1875 version, Nast replaced Tweed and his associates with generic political thugs (who grab the schoolchildren and lead Miss Columbia to the gallows), and switched the label on the Vatican from "Tammany Hall" to "The Political Roman Catholic Church." In both instances, Nast's cartoon was accompanied by articles written by Eugene Lawrence, "The Priests and the Children" (1871) and "The Common Schools and Their Foes" (1875), in which the Catholic hierarchy is bitterly assailed for its alleged assault on the public school system.
Can Healthcare Providers be compelled to offer certain services?

Many of the extremists in the pro-abortion movement are outraged at the fact that Catholic hospitals (which constitute a large percentage of American hospitals) refuse to offer abortions, contraception, etc. In many cases they are working to legally compel such institutions to offer these "treatments."

Excuse me? On what basis can the provider of goods be compelled to offer a service? While the law disallows discrimination in who is served, there is no moral or legal basis I know of to force a company to offer a particular good or service. Do I have the right to walk into my local gas station and demand that they sell hard-core pornography? Of course not. And it doesn't matter if they are the only establishment in the area that might offer such "goods"... if they don't want to, they don't have to.

Nor should Catholic hospitals be forced to offer abortions, etc.
The Blaine Amendment

Ever heard of the Blaine Amendment? I hadn't, until just recently.

James G. Blaine was the Speaker of the House from 1869 to 1875, a Senator, and he sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1876, 1880, and 1884 before winning the nomination (and losing the election) in 1888. As Speaker in 1875, he proposed an amendment to the US Constitution forbidding the use of federal funds at "sectarian" schools (primarily Catholic schools, not simply religious schools... most public schools at that time taught religion & morals, but of a Protestant persuasion. This is why the Catholic school system was initially erected).

The amendment failed, but all of the states that entered the Union afterward -- and some already in the Union -- would adopt the amendment in their state constitutions. Today, 37 of the 50 states have this amendment in their constitutions.

So what's the big deal? Let me refer to what the Becket Fund has to say:
    Until recently, it has not been widely known that Blaine Amendments were passed as a direct result of the nativist, anti-Catholic bigotry that was a recurring theme in American politics during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Finally, in the Supreme Court's Mitchell v. Helms decision in 2000, the four-Justice plurality explicitly recognized that the term "pervasively sectarian" in First Amendment jurisprudence has a "shameful pedigree." Justice Breyer's dissent in this year's Zelman v. Simmons-Harris further develops the theme, and makes clear that the Court now recognizes that many of its school funding decisions rest on shaky ground.
These amendments have to go, and the Becket Fund is helping. Last week they filed a federal lawsuit "challenging a provision of South Dakota's Constitution because it 'violates federal constitutional guarantees against religion discrimination.'"

Let's hope they win.
AIDS Funding

Guest columnist Pia de Solenni has a good piece on the AIDS bill currently working its way through Congress. She discusses the tried & (not so) true means to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa (i.e. bombarding the populace with condoms, etc.), contrasting that with the success in Uganda with abstinance programs. As she says,
    Uganda has provided an alternative to condom hype. In 1995, when Uganda began to address HIV/AIDS by emphasizing abstinence, the country had an infection rate of 18.5 percent. By 2000, that rate had fallen to 6.1 percent. No other country has had this success. In fact, no other country has decreased its rate of infection despite the prevalence of condom programs.
Funny, why hasn't this news been seen much in the mainstream press?
The Libertarian Question

That's the title of a piece at NRO by Stanley Kurtz. Kurtz's purpose is to explore the bearing of libertarian philosophy of the question of gay-marriage. He begins by posing the libertarian question(s):
    Why should any form of adult consensual sex be illegal? What rational or compelling interest does the state have in regulating consensual adult sex? More specifically, how does the marriage of two gay men undermine my marriage? Will the fact that two married gay men live next door make me leave my wife? Hardly. So how, then, does gay marriage undermine heterosexual marriage? Why not get the state out of such matters altogether?
He then sets out to show that the libertarian mindset has difficulty finding a place for social taboos, specifically those concerning consensual sexual relations.

More importantly, Kurtz argues that in fact certain forms of consensual sexual relations do impact negatively on marriage. Although seeing a gay couple may not prompt me to divorce my wife (as the "libertarian question" puts it), Kurtz argues that what once were called "non-typical" sexual relations impact society's understanding of marriage, negatively so. At one point, Kurtz states,
    But what, exactly, does the taboo on homosexuality protect? There is more than one way to approach that question, but the short answer is: The taboo on homosexuality protects marriage. Or, to look at the same problem from a slightly different angle, the institution of Western marriage, in its most traditional form, has been protected by a many-sided taboo against all sexuality outside of its confines — and against non-procreative sexuality within it. Just as the taboo on incest reduces the temptation to child abuse, the taboo on non-marital and non-reproductive sexuality helps to cement marital unions, and helps prevent acts of adultery that would tear those unions apart.
Later, he elaborates further on how gay marriage is detrimental to monogomy:
    First, gay marriage threatens monogamy because homosexual couples — particularly male homosexual couples — tend to see monogamy as nonessential, even to the most loyal and committed relationships. [...] Even more powerfully, gay marriage threatens monogamy through its tendency to lead, on a slippery slope, to the legalization of polygamy and polyamory.
Kurtz thus addresses the libertarian question head on:
    The libertarian asks, Just because two married gay men live next door, is that going to make me leave my wife? In a way, the answer is "Yes." For one thing, as a new generation grows up exposed to gay couples who openly define their marriages in non-monogamous terms, the concept of marriage itself will gradually change.
This is a powerful piece, well worth reading.

The Libertarian Question, Cont'd

Having said that, I do take issue with Kurtz on one point. Alluding to Senator Santorum's remarks, he writes,
    Unlike Sen. Santorum, I would rather accept some disruption in family stability than go back to the days when homosexuality itself was deeply tabooed. The increase in freedom and fairness is worth it.
I disagree with the concept of freedom which Kurtz implicitly holds here. He believes that the loss of the taboo of homosexuality is generally good, in that it has led to an increase in freedom. Clearly, Kurtz's view of freedom is a "freedom of indifference" as moral theologian Servais Pinckaers (and following him, George Weigel) puts it, as opposed to a "freedom for excellence."

Modernity tends to view freedom exclusively as freedom from (external) coercion; it has lost the older understanding of freedom as freedom for excellence, for virtue, etc.

The relevance is clear for those with a Christian worldview: one can be free from coercion, but still in bondage... to concupiscence and sin.

In my mind, this is one of the major defects in much modern political discourse, whether on the right or left. Whether or not the term "sin" is used ("vice" is a very acceptable alternative), the fact remains that a democratic society can be "free" in one sense, but not in another (more important) sense.

Other than this, however, I do believe that Kurtz's piece is excellent and well-worth a good read.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Beware the "Idolatry of the Market"

In this Zenit story, Pope John Paul II "says the great danger posed by the "civilization of consumption" is the so-called idolatry of the market." The story quotes the Pontiff's address to the Czech ambassador to the Vatican:
    History teaches us that the journey from oppression to liberty is arduous, often marked by the lure of false forms of freedom and hollow promises of hope [...] While economic development and the accompanying social transformation have benefited many in your country, the weaker members of society, particularly the poor, the marginalized, and the sick and elderly, must be protected [...] Authentic development can never be attained solely through economic means. In fact, what has become known as the 'idolatry of the market' -- a consequence of the so-called civilization of consumption -- tends to reduce persons to things and to subordinate being to having. This seriously detracts from the dignity of the human person and makes promotion of human solidarity difficult at best. Instead, recognition of the spiritual nature of the human person and a renewed appreciation of the moral character of social and economic development must be acknowledged as prerequisites for the transformation of society into a true civilization of love.

Monday, April 28, 2003

"Our life-enhancing cause"

Back in January, Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt spoke at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, where she spoke to "people who proudly call themselves progressive pro-choice Christians." In her speech, she spoke about our culture, a culture which she claimed "is hostile to our life-enhancing cause."

Did you read that? The president of Planned Parenthood said that American culture is hostile to her life-enhancing cause. Life-enhancing??? What is this woman smoking? Is abortion life-enhancing? If so, should there be more of it, to more greatly enhance life???

You know what else is sad? Ms. Feldt's speech is chock-full of stories of women who had an abortion because they had no where else to turn. While that may have been true at one point (although that seems doubtful), it certainly isn't true today: there are all sorts of crisis pregnancy centers available for women with unplanned pregnancies which offer real support. It's not a choice between killing a child and starvation or homelessness... there are people who will help!
W's War on Women
    Since his first day in office, George W. Bush has appeased his domestic hard-right political base by pursuing a steady campaign to eliminate reproductive freedom. He has revived retrograde anti-choice policies, installed religious political extremists in key administration posts and on the federal bench, and pushed ideology rather than scientific or medical evidence in domestic and international reproductive health policy. With all these measures, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress threaten women's rights and health, not only in the U.S., but around the world. The effects will be felt first and foremost by poor women everywhere, but will ultimately touch everyone.
Brought to you by the kind folks of Planned Parenthood at their Save Roe website.

I need to throw up.

This item from the Media Research Center compares how USA Today and the New York Times each treat the economic situation of state and local governments: a recent headline in USA Today read, "States, localities spend at record pace," while a headline from the next day's NY Times read, "Deep Cuts Have Not Closed Deficit in Many States, Report Says."

Censor me? No! Censor you? Yes!

Once again thanks to Jeff Miller, I found this story from 2000 which explains how actress Susan Sarandon "added her voice to the campaign to keep radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger off TV."

Yes, that free speech champion, Susan Sarandon, at work again, fighting for the rights of all... who agree with her. And against the same who dare to believe differently than her.
Oh boy.

Thanks to this post by Jeff Miller, I just read an article by Mary Jo Anderson (contributor to Crisis Magazine) on Sean Hannity, specifically his status (or lack thereof) as a spokesman for Catholicism.

Apparently, Sean recently claimed on air that "the Church has slacked up a bit on its teaching, adopted a "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy on homosexuality." Like Mary Jo, this elicites a big groan from your's truly. She goes on to describe a caller who sought to set our talk show host straight by quoting the Catechism, at which point Sean replied... [ready yourself]... "Which catechism is that?" Once the caller explains, "THE Catechism," Sean "dismissed the Catechism because, he says, he has consulted theologians on this matter and they say something different."

Oh boy.

This is why -- as Mary Jo so eloquently put it -- Catholics who live and work in the public eye "need more training than an altar boy."


And that's why I'm in adult faith formation :-)
New blog

In some recent comments discussions at Josh's Lutheran blog (my title, not Josh's) I've seen come great thoughts from Alan Phipps.

Thanks to Bill Cork, I'm glad to see that Alan now has a blog of his own! As he notes in his first post, he's a convert from Southern Baptist.

Go take a gander!
Which Twentieth Century Pope are you?
(from Disputations)

John Paul II
You are Pope John Paul II. You are a force to be
reckoned with.

Which Twentieth Century Pope Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Jonah's right on today

In today's G-File, NRO editor Jonah Goldberg slam dunks the ridiculous claims coming from Hollywood about censorship and the (alleged) infringement of free speech rights viz. the war in Iraq. The entire column is worth reading, but to try to give a sneak-peak, here's one paragraph:
    Now, I don't want to belabor this point, but there is something remarkably obvious that needs to be said. In countries where actual free speech is threatened, where fascism or Orwellian thought control are the order of the day, the victims of the backlash don't typically go on to pose naked on the cover of a magazine, mock their critics, and score exclusive primetime interviews on national TV as well as, literally, thousands of write-ups in magazines and newspapers across the country. It's just not the way it works in … hmmm I dunno, let's say, for example's sake, Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Over there people who criticized the president received different treatment. Over there, if I were to mention at the local bazaar, for instance, that Saddam Hussein dyes his mustache, I might expect a knock on the door later that evening from some men. One of them might grab my tongue with a pair of pliers and then, without anesthetic, slice my tongue off before I was carted off to jail for an unknown and unknowable period of time.
Right on, Jonah... stars who complain about the fact that a large swath of the American public don't like their views and then act on that -- e.g. the boycotting of the Dixie Chicks -- are being hypocritical: they have the right to criticize the President, but apparently no one has the right to criticize them.

Here's another good passage:
    [Martin] Sheen and his defenders want to be simultaneously saluted for their "courage" to speak out while at the same time believe they there should be no risks for those who do speak out. Well, if there are no risks, where's the courage? And why should movie stars have a right to risk-free political speech when no other profession has anything close?
You got it, brother.

I like President Bush's take on this phenomenon, referring in his interview last week with Tom Brokaw to the Dixie Chicks:
    Of the singing Texas trio, who have been outspoken critics of the U.S.-led war, Bush said, "The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind."

    At the same time, Bush added: "They shouldn't have their feelings hurt just because some people don't want to buy their records when they speak out. You know, freedom is a two-way street."
Bingo. If you can't take it, don't dish it out.
France and Iraq

Today Fox News carried a story from England's The Sunday Times which details how information found in the Baghdad headquarters of the Iraqi foreign ministry indicated assistance to Iraq from France over the past couple of years. The story states, "The information, said in the files to have come partly from "friends of Iraq" at the French foreign ministry (search), kept Saddam abreast of every development in American planning and may have helped him to prepare for war."

Thanks again, Jacques.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Bishop Carlson and Senator Daschle

A couple of items concerning the dustup:

UPI has an excellent commentary by Uwe Siemon-Netto. The closing paragraphs are right on the money:
    Carlson is first and foremost a pastor. He will and must not tell the rest of the world what he has told Daschle, although we can assume that it did not differ from the teachings of Ratzinger, Pope John Paul II, and the whole Church.

    A brief statement from the bishop ends with a beautifully revealing paragraph: "Other than inviting people to pray for the Senator's conversion, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to discuss my pastoral relationship with the Senator. ... I would never break off dialogue or a pastoral relationship with anyone."

    A pastor indeed!
Also interesting is this CNS piece. The article quotes Judie Brown -- never one to mince words when it comes to abortion, politics, and the church:
    "I'm very proud of the courage of Bishop Carlson and I respect his privacy in this matter," she said. "He, I believe, is very upset about the fact that this was made public."

    Brown said that, because she had not seen the letter, she did not want to comment on what Carlson might or might not have written to Daschle.

    "I'm just going to say that [Carlson] is a very heroic bishop, who has repeatedly done everything he possibly could to be a good shepherd to Senator Daschle," she added.
Coming to Santorum's Defense

Two great articles recently, coming to Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's defense.

The first is by Stanley Kurtz, who does an excellent job of showing the actual "slippery-slope" argumentation of Santorum's AP interview.

The second is by Deal Hudson; it's his most recent e-letter. It's not online yet, but Deal asks that we forward it to anyone whom we think might benefit from it, so I'm going to post it here:
    I've been in the media business long enough to have learned a thing or two about the way the system works. Sometimes I learned those lessons the hard way after being misquoted or having my statements taken out of context by an unfriendly reporter. It's like playing the old game of telephone: What you say, no matter how clearly you phrase it, is almost always jumbled and confused after being passed from person to person.

    We've all been there before. And now it seems the latest victim is Senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania.

    Sen. Santorum, a devout Catholic with a strong pro-family voting record, has recently come under fire after he was quoted in an AP article as saying, "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."

    On the face of it, this statement seems confusing. Is Santorum equating homosexuality with incest? What exactly does he mean here?

    It's not surprising that members of the Democratic party and various homosexual activist groups have jumped all over this. Santorum's comments have been equated with Trent Lott's earlier remarks about Strom Thurmond, and some are even calling for his resignation as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. The political director of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights lobbying group, said, "Clearly, there is no compassion in his conservatism. Discriminatory remarks like this fuel prejudice that can lead to violence and other harms against the gay community."

    But is Santorum really being discriminatory here? It's always a tricky business talking about homosexual activity in today's society, especially if you happen to be against it. But this isn't just a case of differing views -- Santorum's comments here were taken out of context.

    The interview he gave AP was in reference to a case coming up before the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of Texas' sodomy laws. The plaintiff in the case is arguing that the state has no right to interfere in one's sexual life (in the form of anti-sodomy laws) on the grounds that it violates our constitutional right to privacy.

    The question is, how far does our right to privacy extend? Legal scholars have pointed out that, if the sodomy laws are overturned on the basis of our right to privacy, then other sexual acts that are currently illegal -- like incest, bigamy, and adultery -- will have to be made legal on the same grounds. Santorum's point is not a new one, nor is it discriminatory. Really, it's just being consistent.

    Reading the full transcript of the AP interview makes it even clearer that Santorum isn't "gay-bashing," but merely questioning the constitutionality of the argument for sodomy based on the right to privacy, and then extending that argument to its logical conclusion. Rather than having the Supreme Court come in, Santorum said that the people should be allowed to vote within their state as to whether they want sodomy laws, or any other kind of laws that restrict these activities.

    The moral of this story is this: You can't get too philosophical with reporters. In the end, your in-depth analysis will be reduced to a 5-second sound byte, and no one will bother to understand your original point. Trust me, I've been there. Just chalk it up to experience and move on. I hope that Senator Santorum will do the same.
NYTimes Watch

America's Media Watchdog, the Media Research Center, has launched a new website: Times Watch, which is devoted to "Documenting and Exposing the Liberal Political Agenda of the New York Times."

Check it out.
It's a little moot now, but still...

I just came across this article from February 1st by Julie Birchill in the left-leaning British paper, The Guardian. After establishing her past credentials as an anti-American, she argues in favor of the war in Iraq. Noting that "The new enemies of America, and of the west in general, believe that these countries promote too much autonomy, freedom and justice," she comments on "the sheer befuddled babyishness of the pro-Saddam apologists," responding to the most common arguments made against the war. In response to the fourth of the arguments she treats -- "Saddam Hussein may have killed hundreds of thousands of his own people - but he hasn't done anything to us! We shouldn't invade any country unless it attacks us!" -- she notes, "If you really think it's better for more people to die over decades under a tyrannical regime than for fewer people to die during a brief attack by an outside power, you're really weird and nationalistic and not any sort of socialist that I recognise."

Amen, sister.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

See what I mean?

For the first time in decades, Iraqi Shiites are able to make a pilgrimage to their holy sites Karbala; over a million people have crowded into the town.

And what do some of them do? Protest the US! The country that enabled them to make their pilgrimage in the first place! One of them, a 25-year-old engineering student, Khudayer Abbas Musawi, said, ""Saddam Hussein was evil. And so is America. America came here not to free the Iraqi people but for oil. They came to occupy, not to liberate. The Americans removed Saddam and now the Americans should leave."

You know where Khudayer is getting these ideas? Michael Ledeen is betting on Iran, and I'm inclined to agree with him.

We'd better deal with this soon, and Ledeen lays out a strategy for using the Iranian methods against them.
Wild Win! Wild Win! Wild Win!

Last night, playing for the second consecutive night, the Minnesota Wild defeated the two-time NHL champs, the Colorado Avalanche, 3-2 in overtime in game seven of their Stanley Cup playoff series. Not only the the Wild unexpectedly win the series, but they did so by coming back from a 3-1 series deficit, winning two of the last three games on the road.

As Minneapolis (Red) Star-Tribune sports columnist Pat Reusse said, this may be the biggest upset in Minnesota pro sports history.

Awesome, baby!

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Kerry on Santorum

Trying to strike while the iron is hot, Democrat Senator and Presidential candidate John Kerry today commented on Senator Rick Santorum's comparison of homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest, and adultery (see this post). Kerry said, "Every day in our country, gay and lesbian Americans get up, go to work, pay their taxes, support their families and contribute to the nation they love. These comments take us backwards in America."

What is the Senator saying? That men with multiple wives don't "get up, go to work, pay their taxes, support their families and contribute to the nation they love"? What intolerance! And what about adulterers? Don't they do the same? Okay, maybe they aren't doing the best with regard to their family, but hey... if no one finds out, what's the problem?

Iraqi Information Minister has a new job!

Last week I read (here) that Iraq's former (Dis)Information Minister, Mohammad Saeed Al-Sahaf, had found new employment.

I don't know why I haven't heard more about this.
Affirmative action grading

Erin O'Connor blogs about UNC-Wilmington criminal justice prof Mike Adams who has been so convinced by the arguments in favor of affirmative action in university selection processes that he has altered his grading policies accordingly. You can read his letter here.
A Climate of Fear?

This Wash Post story shows how the anti-war Hollywood figures are doing pretty well, thank you.

I guess that forecast for a chilly climate by Tim Robbins was about as accurate as tonight's ten-day futurecast.
Give an inch....?

A Washington Post story from today begins,
    A series of important advances has boosted the potential of human embryonic stem cells to treat heart disease, spinal cord injuries and other ailments, but researchers say they are unable to take advantage of the new techniques under a two-year-old administration policy that requires federally supported scientists to use older colonies of stem cells.

    Now pressure is building from scientists, patient advocates and members of Congress to loosen the embryo-protecting restrictions imposed by President Bush, with some on Capitol Hill saying they want to take up the issue next month.
Later in the story we read about well-known ethicist, Senator Orrin Hatch, who "said that he is 'disappointed at the number of stem cell lines that have been available' to federally funded scientists, and that he will work with others on Capitol Hill 'in reexamining the administration's policy.'"

Thanks, Senator. Glad to hear that you still support killing the youngest of human beings.
More on Laci's 'fetus'

Cal Thomas has a good column on the issue of Laci Peterson's murdered (pre-born) child and its implications for the abortion debate.
That's Outrageous!

The Reader's Digest used to (and may still) have a feature called "That's Outrageous!" which detailed some of the ridiculous lengths people will go to in enforcing various codes.

Phyllis Shafley's column today is repleat with examples worthy of the title, all of them referring to taking "zero tolerance" policies too far in elementary schools. Here are the first two:
    A first-grader at Struthers Elementary School in Youngstown, Ohio, was suspended for 10 days for taking home a plastic knife from the school cafeteria in his book bag. The 6-year-old wasn't threatening anyone; he just wanted to show his mother he had learned how to spread butter on his bread.

    A third-grader at O'Rourke Elementary School in Mobile, Ala., was given a five-day suspension for violating the substance abuse policy after classmates reported that he took a "purple pill." His offense was taking a multivitamin with his lunch.
Go read the column to see the rest of the ridiculousness.

Has anyone ever heard of prudence and its application?

Monday, April 21, 2003

Sen. Santorum in the hot-seat

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has provoked the wrath of gay-rights lobbyists by staying in an interview with the AP, "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."

Kevin Miller's take is right on: "if you accept homosexual acts, there's nothing to stop you from accepting those other acts. The comparison is reasonable."

A little late to the party

Oops. The other day I linked the article, "War in the Gulf: What the Pope Really Said."

Well, it turns out that Lane Core linked the piece three weeks ago!

Sorry, Lane :-)
The Last Acceptable Prejudice

A few months back I read about a forthcoming book by Penn State history and religion prof Philip Jenkins. Jenkins is well-known of late for a couple of reasons: first, his 1996 book Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis made him a sought-after figure during the priestly sex-abuse scandals this time last year (many people were probably surprised to find that his thesis did not damn Catholicism or priestly celibacy); second, his 2002 book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity and the companion article in The Atlantic Monthly gained him serious attention for his forecast of the growth and development of Christianity in this century.

The book I read about also concerned Christianity and its largest Church, Catholicism. In particular, it was to focus on the bias against that institution and its members.

This book, The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice is now available (I just purchased a copy at Barnes and Noble). It should be an interesting read. As Jenkins notes, he used to be a Catholic, but is no longer; nor does he have any vested interest in defending Catholicism (one would expect just the opposite from a former Catholic). He simply trains his scholarship on the only bias which is acceptable among the elite of the West, or at least a significant portion of that elite.

It should be an interesting read.
Will the real Hussein please stand up!

Someone has too much time on their hands.

Go here and watch & listen to a parody of Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady," in which the singer isn't our lost rapper, but our lost dictator. Without the swearing of the former.
The depths to which some will go...

You've probably already heard about this, but this story explains how "The head of the National Organization for Women's Morris County chapter is opposing a double-murder charge in the Laci Peterson case, saying it could provide ammunition to the pro-life lobby."

The article quotes NOW's Morris County President, Mavra Stark, who stated, ""If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder."

You're right, Marva. It is murder, in both cases. What must be news to Ms. Stark is this: over 24 states already have "fetal homicide" laws. Now, how abortion remains legal in these states is a good question (who said legislators are consistent?). But the fact remains, that at least in cases where the mother wants the child, you can't kill it without the law coming down on you. But NOW apparently wants to change that, too.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

The Real Hockeytowns

Before the third playoff game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul, ESPN's Terry Frei had a great column on the return of NHL playoff hockey to Minnesota and the Twin Cities. It's a great piece which shows how the state is the center of the sport in the US.

I'll be honest.. I'm not a fan-atic about hockey; my hometown and the surrounding area are relative rarities in the state, in that hockey is not one of the top three sports. But even so, I enjoy hockey, and I recognize (as any honest person has to) that Minnesota is the heart of hockey in the country.

Sorry, Detroit... the Twin Cities are the real Hockeytowns.
Holy Saturday

Apropos of today, Fr. Bryce Sibley has three posts worth reading: von Balthasar on Holy Saturday (here; it's a link); Jesus' descent into sheol (here); and Balthasar, the Passion, and the Beatific Vision (here).

On Friday Fr. Bryce also referred to an excellent article by Avery Cardinal Dulles on Balthasar's thesis that we can hope for the salvation of all; there's a nice little discussion in the comments, too.
Follow-up to the post below

Re: the media reaction to the new papal encyclical, Bill Cork has two posts (here and here) detailing the media spin on EdE.

Crazy stuff.
The Media reacts to Ecclesia de Eucharistia

It's an exercise in hilarity to watch the mass media react to official theological texts like John Paul II's new encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Do a search for "eucharist" and "encyclical" at the Google News site. Here are some of the returns:

Pope reaffirms ban on joint communion - Toronto Star
Pope speaks against Eucharistic 'abuses' - Chicago Sun Times
Pope gives warning on Communion - Boston Globe
Pope takes tough stance on communion - Edmonton Sun
Pope warns against unholy communion - Guardian
Pope reminds Catholics of restrictions on communion - Minneapolis Star Tribune
Pope Cracks Down on Abuses Among Divorced - Guardian

And on and on.

Now, JPII does touch on these issues, but they in no way form the substance or bulk of the encyclical. But how should we expect a media that thrives on controversy to react?

The other day I linked an editorial in the Arab News, and offered my letter to the author. Today (via The Corner) I came across this opinion piece, in which the writer refers to "the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and soldiers, and ten times that number of injured, most with permanent injuries."

This guy is supposedly talking about Operation Iraqi Freedom, but where he gets his numbers is beyond me.

He only serves to heighten my incredulity regarding the Arab response to the op. So many Arabs (who knows what percentage of the overall population they represent... I sure don't) have strange, incomprehensible responses to the liberation of Iraqis from Saddam's reign of terror. Some are depressed that Saddam's regime failed to put up a fight, believing somehow that this reflects poorly on the Arab Fighting Man.

I don't get it. How does the response of the defenders of the Hussein regime to our armed forces reflect in any way on, say, Joe Egyptian, or Joe Jordanian? I realize that there are religious and culture ties, but c'mon... I wouldn't react in this way if the Chinese took it to the Russians, or the Russians to the Germans (we didn't, in '42-'45, in fact).

Amazed and incredulous. That's me.
No anathemas

Contrary to what some people claim and many believe, Pope John Paul II never condemned a war against Iraq. That this is the case is aptly demonstrated in this article.

I warmly recommend it.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Oh yeah

The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers are the mens' college hockey champs for the second consecutive year!!! Woo-hoo!

Okay, that's a few days old, but I'm entitled...
Ecclesia de Eucharistia

Pope John Paul II's fourteenth encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia has been released; you can read it here.

I am a little surprised at one thing: it's length... it's a lot shorter than I expected! Not that that's a bad thing... I've just grown accustomed to long encyclicals from JPII. If you do a print preview on this encyclical, there are about 26 pages of text before the notes; in the last encylical, Fides et Ratio there were 50 pages before the notes, and Veritatis Splendor had 63 pages of text before the notes. Interesting.

Regardless, I'm sure it's an outstanding piece of theology; maybe being shorter will prompt more people to read it! I think I might make it my Triduum reading...

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Oh yeah

I forgot... during the war-hiatus, Veritas celebrated it's one-year birthday on March 31st, which was Easter last year.

Thanks for all the visitors this past year... I hope you're visits have been worthwhile!
Arab Media

Last week I linked a couple of pieces detailing the reaction to the swift collapse of Saddam's regime in Baghdad in the Arab media. One of the more ridiculous pieces linked in the articles I linked was by Arab News managing editor John Bradley, who wrote:
    Nothing, that is, but wait for history to take its course, for Fortune’s wheel to turn as it inexorably does, crushing underneath those who once danced on top of it. But not in our lifetime. Yes, there will be more terrorism, and Osama Bin Laden — or at least his infamous voice — was heard once more yesterday, calling for suicide attacks and thus giving more easy justification, as he did on Sept. 11, to America’s imperial ambition. Thanks, Osama, you’ve done us all about as much good as George W. Bush. Both are two sides of the same coin.
Here's the letter I wrote to Mr. Bradley in reply:
    Dear Mr. Bradley,

    I must say, I am perplexed by oft-repeated references to "America's imperial ambition." On one hand, I do understand the tendency to imagine that such an ambition exists... after all, every other world power in history which has had the strength the US has today has sought to extend its control over other nations, around the world in some cases.

    But on the other hand, the history of the past 100 years demonstrates conclusively that the US does *not* have an imperial ambition; consider the facts: in both World Wars, the US and its allies liberated or defeated France (twice), Germany (twice), Italy, and Japan, among others. Yet in no case did the US extend its political control over those nations. Consider also more recent military actions: Grenada, Panama, Serbia, Kuwait and Iraq in '91, Afghanistan... in none of these cases did the US extend its political power over these nations in the way that an empire seeks to do.

    There is no "American imperial ambition," Mr. Bradley. To claim that there is is to project the actions of past hegemons onto the US, in spite of the US's own actions in the past century.
No reply was forthcoming.
David Bloom

Here's the letter I sent to the email address for condolences for NBC's David Bloom, who died a week and a half ago in Iraq:

Dear Mrs. Bloom,

My wife and I first "discovered" your husband in the 9/11 coverage; we were impressed with his style of journalism, which was serious and very real & sincere... he always seemed to truly mean what he said. I wondered why he wasn't moving higher with NBC, only to learn recently that he loved being in the field.

We were again excited (if that's the right word) to see that he was an "embed," covering the war with the 3rd Infantry Division. Whenever Brokaw or anyone else would go to David, I'd yell to my wife, "David Bloom is on!"

I was sorry to learn only after his death that your husband was from my home state: Minnesota. I knew there was a reason I loved him! :-) Seriously, his personality and demeanor epitomized "Minnesota nice."

I can't imagine what the next few days, weeks, and months will be like for you and your daughters, and for your extended family. Although we will most likely never meet this side of Heaven, I want you to know that David, you, your daughters, and the rest of your family will remain in our daily prayers.

[end of letter]

Today I saw that David's funeral was at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York; Edward Cardinal Egan said that Bloom would attend Sunday Mass at the Cathedral after his Today Show duties.

What a guy.
Encyclical tomorrow!

Tomorrow at the Last Supper Mass at St. John Lateran's Basilica in Rome, Pope John Paul II is going to sign and thus promulgate his latest encyclical, this one devoted to the Eucharist. Should be exciting reading!
General Barry McCaffrey

A lot of people have been rightly mocking all the doomsdayers who just two or three weeks ago were throwing out "quagmire" and "Vietnam" left and right. See, for instance, this column by National Review editor Rich Lowry, detailing all the Chicken Little statements we heard.

Lowry, and others, include General Barry McCaffrey among the naysayers, referring to a statement made by Gen. McCaffrey to the BBC about a week into the war that, "If the Iraqis actually fight, it's going to be brutal dangerous work and we could take a couple to 3,000 casualties." McCaffrey was one of the most vocal critics of the size of the ground force we sent into Iraq.

I don't think the criticism aimed at McCaffrey is warranted, at least to the degree we've seen. On the question of the size of the force, I think he was wrong, and that events have proven so. I agree that it would have been better if we had had more forces at the ready, but non-military considerations made that difficult.

And on the question of casualties, note that he said, "we could take a couple to 3,000 casualties." He didn't claim that it was likely that we would, let alone out-right asserting that it was bound to happen. He merely offered his opinion that we might face that level of casualties. What's the problem with that? Should we mock the president, who warned that this war could last months? No. Nor should we be overly-critical of General McCaffrey, IMHO.
Can Freedom Be Imposed?

As the war in Iraq is moving out of the "decisive combat operations" phase, I'm been thinking about over the last week or so about the goals of the operation. Our purpose in this war was primarily to remove a threat to national and world security; along with that, we wanted to liberate the Iraqi people.

Some people, though, make more out of the second goal than is due, or rather, they treat it too blithily. What I mean is this: yes, all human beings desire freedom, by their nature. But we have to distinguish between different kinds of freedom, and then identify what kind of freedom we are giving the Iraqis in liberating them: political freedom, i.e., freedom from external coercion. As many would certainly agree, true freedom comes from God by His grace, not by the armed forces of the USA. This also means, though, that it was possible for the Iraqi people to be free in the greater sense even though they were politically oppressed while under Saddam's regime. And that leads me to my primary point...

How would we react if someone came into your home and said, "I'm here to free you from the horrible political regime under which you've been living for decades, but I'm going to kill two of your children and permanently main another. You have no choice in the matter." How would you react?

Yes, the Iraqis desire freedom, as all people do. But when it comes at such a great cost, they must choose it freely, and that they did not do.

I'm not saying that I've changed my mind about the justice of the war; I'm only "deflating" an argument I hear too often in its favor. In other words, I still believe that what we did was right, and I think it was just and right of us to liberate the people. But we must remember that there was a cost paid by some Iraqis, a cost which they were not given a choice whether or not to pay. And in this sense, I think we must recognize that at least a small number of Iraqis may hate us, because we killed their loved ones.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Arab Media

Yesterday I read a couple of articles detailing the reaction from Arab media to the events (here and here).

It's unbelieveable stuff. I'll comment later, but I wanted to get the links up now, before I forgot.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Interesting thought...

Seems some people are toying with the idea of putting a conventional warhead on our ICBMs (read about it here). Hmm... strike anywhere in the world in under an hour... I could see some scenarios where that might be helpful...

At the same time, the political considerations seem a bit dicey; after all, there is no way for someone who detects the launch to know whether or not we are just slamming some terrorists, or nuking someone.
Three Weeks

That's all it took for us to get to Baghdad and remove the regime from power there. No, we don't have full control of the city yet (let alone the entire country), but "for all intents and purposes" (whose fav phase is that?) we have removed Saddam et al from power in Iraq.

Today Tim Russert referred to something a senior administration official told him in light of the events Firdos Square: "I wonder how the Iraqi Information Minister is going to explain this?" Indeed! One of my favorite lines came from an LA Times story on Monday; the 3rd ID was on the western bank of the Tigris to stay, and Sahaf had to hold his press conference on the roof of a hotel. While he's trying to explain how there are no Americans in downtown Baghdad -- in spite of the sound of machine gun fire and rising, black smoke -- an interpreter for Sky News is translating on the fly: "At one point, an interpreter translating Sahaf's words into English for Britain's Sky News television was overwhelmed by the absurdity and started laughing." Ain't that great!

I can't wait to see what the 4th ID does in Tikrit...

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

LT fixed

I fixed the link to LT Smash's blog; he's the reservist now serving in Kuwait. Make sure you check it out... good stuff. His Dad's got a powerful post today on an exchange between CNN's embed with the 1st Marine battalion and four young Marines. Check it out.