Monday, June 30, 2003

Conviction-free judges

Andrew Sullivan doesn't care for Scalia's passionate opinions, or in his words, "angry, sarcastic, bitter tone of [Scalia's] judgments." Now, if he had left it at that, I could understand, if I wouldn't agree in every case: sometimes I think a bit of strong, emotional language is useful.

But Sullivan proceeds to go too far afield, IMHO, when he states,
    Ditto the arguments about the far right nominee, Bill Pryor, a man whose political language about abortion is so inflamed he has had to say to the Senate that he will simply lay it all aside if he is called to rule on the matter. No one can believe in this kind of psychological compartmentalization; and no one should trust anyone who promises it. The truth is: anyone whose views are that inflamed shouldn't be anywhere near a federal bench. A talk-show host or blogger, maybe. A politician surely. But not a judge.
It seems the implicit conclusion of Sullivan's words here is that a judge cannot be fervently passionate about issues which are topical to the day, and if this is in fact the meaning of his words, I passionately disagree -- why should judges be intellectual and emotional eunuchs on particular issues simply because they are controversial?

I don't get it. Perhaps I've misunderstood Mr. Sullivan -- in fact, I hope I have -- because the meaning I see is difficult to agree with.
Ecclesia in Europa

Last November I wondered when JPII's post-synodal apostolic exhortation for Europe would be released.

Well, here it is.

The theme? "Jesus Christ Alive in His Church, Source of Hope for Europe."

It's pretty long (54 pages at 8.5 x 11 format from the Zenit website), but that's typical of John Paul II.

I can't really offer any reflections yet, as I haven't had a chance to read it, but maybe I'll have something this week...

Friday, June 27, 2003

Getting more angry, not less...

I'm actually more angry today about SCOTUS's ruling in Lawrence than I was yesterday when it was released. My post last night pointed to the complete inconsistency of the Court, an inconsistency which galls me to practically no end, especially when it is applied in opposition to moral principles held dear by myself and millions of other Americans.

Why do the majority members of the Court find it necessary to take upon themselves the re-ordering of American society as they see fit? Why can't they simply allow the elected representatives of the people to change society according to the desires of the people, rather imposing upon all their own pet ideologies? Many people think sodomy laws are silly and ridiculous, because they are unenforceable. Fine. Then why can't the people's representatives take the necessary steps to repeal them? Why does the Court have to impose itself in the process and hand down a ruling which by its very nature is so broad as to legalize every form of consensual human activity?

The fact of the matter is, there is no constitutional basis for the Court's ruling, as the dissents make clear. It's nothing more than the imposition of the majority member's personal ideologies, disguised in legalease.

Here are some of the articles which probably initiated my blood pressure increase:

Then go read the following posts by Mark Shea at his blog (he was on quite a roll yesterday):Pray for our country!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Scalila zings again

As the vast majority of you probably know, today the US Supreme Court overturned Texas' anti-sodomy law. You can go read the opinions and dissents here.

I just want to note one thing right now, and that's a zinger from Justice Scalia in his dissent. Here it is:
    I do not myself believe in rigid adherence to stare decisis in constitutional cases; but I do believe that we should be consistent rather than manipulative in invoking the doctrine. Today's opinions in support of reversal do not bother to distinguish--or indeed, even bother to mention--the paean to stare decisis coauthored by three Members of today's majority in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. There, when stare decisis meant preservation of judicially invented abortion rights, the widespread criticism of Roe was strong reason to reaffirm it. ... Today, however, the widespread opposition to Bowers, a decision resolving an issue as "intensely divisive" as the issue in Roe, is offered as a reason in favor of overruling it.
In other words, in the Casey decision (whose opinion was also penned by Kennedy, along with O'Connor and Souter), the Court decided that Roe v. Wade should be upheld, not because it was good constitutional law (it wasn't), but because the importance of precedence had to be upheld in spite of and in the face of widespread criticism. In this Texas case, though, the widespread criticism of the prior Court decision (Bowers v. Hardwick) was cited as reason to over turn the prior decision. So in Casey, opposition to the prior decision demanded sticking by the prior decision. But in this case, opposition to the prior decision demands rejecting the prior decision.


(Thanks to Ramesh Ponnuru's emailer for pointing this out.)
The Black Legend

Great post over at Ibidem on the Inquisition, the Black Legend, and Masons. In it, Jesus Gil points to the work of RW Thompson as the source for the "millions of people killed during the Inquisition" line that McCabe and Hunt use, and Mac Swift (and others) repeat. But he refers to other scholarship which shows that "in the 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition, only between 3,000 and 5,000 people were killed, while at the same time the rest of Europe burnt 150,000 women for witchcraft alone."

The entire post is well-worth a read.
The Seven Hills of Rome

One of the canards one often here's from people who deeply despise Catholicism is a reference to the Church as the great whore of Babylon who sits astride the city of seven hills, i.e. Rome.

The problem is, the Vatican isn't one of the seven hills! As any reference source will tell you, the seven hills of Rome are: the Palatine, the Capitoline, the Quirinale, the Viminale, the Esquiline, the Caelian, and the Aventine. While some of the people who make the claim about Catholicism and the seven hills seem to be aware of this and work around it, most of them erroneously define the Vaticanus as one of the seven, apparently unaware that the Vaticanus is on the other side of the Tiber from "downtown" Rome (it used to be outside the city of Rome), and has never been numbered among the seven hills.

But if history won't stand in their way, why should geography?
There's Mac, and then there's Barbara

While I strongly disagree with method and content on Mac's part, he's nothing compared to a certain Barbara who has been commenting and (primarily) exchanging emails with the folks at Encore. Here's the letter she wrote Pat Madrid (posted here):
    Hello Mr Madrid, I have never heard of you. But recently I saw your name while surfing the web because I try my best to make catholics see the error of their beliefs.

    I hate the RCC because it destroys lives. Need I tell you how? I can. I am interested in why you apologize for the RCC. You could never apologize enough for your pagan system and your idolatrous daily consumption of your wafer god. I am a christian, but, of course not a catholic. You can serve God and mammon.

    I have also studied religion and ancient history and I can tell you that the RCC is not the church of the living God. It is a religious money making machine that manufactures 'priests' like a factory makes puppets. The pope is not holy, nuns aren't either, the wafer is not the Body of Christ, confession is unscriptural also.

    As a matter of fact, the RCC is the great whore that sits on seven hills and is mentioned specifically in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John on Patmos. Jesus told his servant John to send seven letters to the seven churches in Asia. Rome was not one of them. That should tell you something.

    A sister in our church was a cloistered nun for 25 years until God had mercy and saved her. In Mexico one can go to see the old convents where dead bodies of babies were found buried behind walls.A guide will take you through.

    I marvel that you are so amazingly ignorant of the Bible, but that is typical of a catholic. South and Central America are steeped in poverty and ignorance. Why? because some of my ancestors, the Conquistadores brought with them only priests and soldiers, but they did not bring Jesus.

    America is the greatest nation on earth .Why? It is founded on Protestanism. Protestant children fare better than catholic children. and I could go on and on, but I think you get my message. I watch TBN and know many ministers personally and minister myself through prophesy, evangelism and teaching the Bible. I also am a Gospel singer. I see clearly that the faces of the preachers and christians are radiant with joy and EWTN makes me sad to see the dead faces of those poor "priests" and nuns and how the RCC is desperately trying to be like the Protestants.

    Yes, God is able to save catholics and he is doing it, praise his Name, but when he does, he removes them from their paganism and idolatry. I owe Martin Luther nothing and I owe the RCC nothing. I owe all to Christ who died for me.

    In closing, let me say that the RCC will be brought into judgement by God for all the lives that have been destroyed by it's pagan teachings and it's idolatrous behaviour.

    Sincerely, Barbara
Read the comments.

Carl was next to take up the baton. In response to his request that Barbara explain where she got her Bible (and he doesn't mean what bookstore), she wrote (posted here):
    Have you ever heard of the Spanish Inquisition initiated by Ferdinand and Isabella?
    Are you aware how many millions were burned by the Spaniard catholics at the stake because they refused to recognize the pope as vicar of Christ and the teachings of the RCC? That is against the love of God which is taught by the apostles.
    How about the Lateran Pacts of 1929?
    Ever hear of Eugenio Pacelli (aka) Pope Pius Xll who with Mussolini signed the concordat in July 20, 1933?
    Are you aware the pope was in full agreement with the Nazis and it is documented history?
    Are you aware that Central and South America are steeped in ignorance and poverty thanks to catholic teachings brought by the Spaniard priests in the early 16th century?
    Have you ever heard of any greatness come from those countries which are catholic? No.
    Are you aware that Latinos fare poorly and they are all catholic?
    Are you aware the Protestant children do much better in education and do not committ the crimes the catholics do?
    Want me to give you statistics?
    Are you aware that the United States of America is the greatest nation on earth because it was founded on Protestant teachings?
    Are you aware that RCC priests by the hundreds have molested innocent boys, yet were moved to another perish to keep the cash flowing?
    Are you aware of the dead babies bones found btween walls of convents?
    Are you aware that in Latino towns crime there is higher among catholics than Protestants?
    I could tell you the whole bloody history of the RCC, but it will matter nothing to you as long as you are well and fed and happy while millions are lost in catholicism.
    A RCC bishop recently hit and killed a father of four and fled the scene? Why? Because Christ was not in him or he would not have fled.
    Love doesn't behave that way.
    There are no church fathers as you think, but the apostles gave us the NT and your boasting is vain.
    The RCC is the Great Whore that sits on seven hills and if you don't know that is Rome, then I don't know what to tell you.
Wow. Wowy wow wow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

How NOT to evangelize

Mac Swift has been having a running dialogue with myself and other Christians over the Christian nature of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Because Mac has a fun writing style, I was looking forward to an invigorating discussion about the nature of Catholicism. I knew Mac saw the Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon, but I still believed that we'd be able to talk together and strive for the truth, whatever it may be. Disagreement and critiques of arguments were sure to be part of it, but there's nothing wrong with that, as long as a common zeal for truth and love of others is present.

Unfortunately, it has become clear to me (and others) that Mac has no interest in such a dialogue. Now, I've met others with whom I've taken issue with their discussion/argument style. But Mac... well, he's a first.

First on my list -- and that which is prompting this post -- is this: yesterday Mac posted some comments at a Catholic board which uncharitably slammed him. And today, he posted on Catholic censorship [sic]. And later today, he posted on his first hate mail. And now, Mac has shut off further commenting on all three posts! Talk about censorship... not only that, but if you read the comments, you'll find first that he editted the comments of one person (in the hate mail post), and then that the turn of the other two comments discussions was not in his favor. In the censorship discussion, I pointed out that David Hunt's work is full of myth, not history, and I cited a couple of examples. Mac--who rejects out of hand any history presented by Catholics or Orthodox--responded by quoting a Catholic priest who became an atheist! He then deleted shut off the comments. Now, his blog is his own, and he can do what he wants. But these actions sure don't help his case.

With the post on comments made at the Catholic board, Mac gratuitously asserted that the Catholic Church was anti-semitic, and to prove it he linked a book. I noted negative reviews of the book by non-Catholics, and posted a comment against anti-semitism made by Pope Benedict XV, and in response, Mac replied about Pius XI (wrong pope). At this point, I asked Mac the following:
    What is your motive with your posts on Catholicism and your choice of language therein? Once upon a time I thought you desired to convert Catholics out of Catholicism, a desire which I would disagree with, but yet respect.

    Over the past week, or so, I've changed my mind on this, because it seems that your approach to such a desire is, well, not very conducive to its success. What do I mean? Well, if you want to convert anyone, honey always works better than vinegar. Belligerantly attacking their current religion is going to fail 99% of the time, because people's natural reaction is to defend what they believe when it is stridently attacked.

    A better course of action would be to engage Catholics in friendly dialogue, avoiding terms or language likely to alienate the person with whom you are talking. Once a certain rapport has been established, you might use questions to lead the person to the truth.

    Such an avenue has a much greater chance of success, and I'd ask you to consider employing it, for your own good and for the good of your interlocutors.
He replied thus:
    As for my intentions, I think you mistake the purpose of this blog. This is not an apologia blog, but a personal one, where the current subject happens to be catholicism. Eventually it will die down, and I'll write about other topics depending on which way the wind blows.

    I could argue till I'm blue in the face about catholicism, but the truth is only a Holy Spirit involved awakening will free a Catholic from the bondage of Rome. I may engage in argumentative dialogue but I expect no converts, and I'm really not out to make any. If people are persuaded by what I write, God bless them, but if not, what is that to you? And life goes on...
Orthodox blogger Karl Thienes responded,
    This is just a hpothetical question, but what if you are the instrument by which God wants to "awaken the Catholics from bondage?" What if your strident and saracastic tone is thwarting the will of God?

    In other words, you may not have planned on using the blog to defend "the truth" but this is where God has placed you. This is the responsibility inherent with owning a public blog. Public statements are *de facto* apologia. Unless your blog is nothing more than "I had a tuna sandwhich for lunch" kind of writing, you are entering into the world of debate, discussion, and apologia.

    I would consider Chris' words again carefully, and prayerfully if I were you. Chris and I totally disagree with you in regards to many things....but if you are convinced that your views are closer to the truth and need to be heard, you might want to seriously consider changing your tone and approach.

    Just some advice from an "idol-worshipping pagan" who so far is neither convinced by your rational arguments, nor your approach.
Mac's response? He said,
    "...instrument by which God wants to "awaken the Catholics from bondage?"

    Whoa, I make no such claims, and if I were such an instrument, I think God would tell me first.

    Really, I'm not out to convince anyone. Honest!

    You'll have your say and I'll have mine, and we'll both go on believing what we choose to believe.
And Karl replied again:
    "You'll have your say and I'll have mine, and we'll both go on believing what we choose to believe"

    That may well be true. But if this is already your conclusion, why talk at all about anything important?

    If we care about knowing the truth at all, we need to have the hope that all parties involved with "come to the knowledge of the truth."

    Thus, we need to take care to make sure of the accuracy of our comments, as well as the tone in which they are delivered. I think my earlier comment still stands.
At this point, Mac turned off the comments at the thread, and so my own response is not available. But I'll summarize it here...

Basically, I'm fascinated by Mac's approach. As I told him, I've never met a Christian who believes that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon, yet has a "live and let live" attitude. Mac has no desire to convict me of the truth, as he understands it, which is a first (for me) among Christians who believe as he does about Catholicism. Usually, that type of Christian believes strongly in the need to evangelize and bring others (especially Catholics) to Jesus. Mac, though, has no such interest. It's an interesting combination of the zealous Fundamentalist and the apathetic Christian... his views of Catholicism mirror the former, while his disinterest in converting Catholics mirrors the latter.


I've also never met a Christian who believes atheists over Catholics. I personally try to discern the truth wherever it may be found, whether it's an atheist, fellow Christian, another Catholic, or Buddhist. But I can certainly understand why one might take what others say with a grain of salt. But for a Christian to automatically discount what a Catholic says and simultaneously give credence to an atheist... again, something I've never seen.

I'm also disappointed that Mac turned off the comments... it makes it look like he's picking up his marbles and running home. I really wanted (and still want) to engage in a discussion with Mac, in which we both strive for truth, with humility and charity, and concern for one another. Based on his recent comments--and again, much to my surprise--Mac doesn't seem to share that interest.

Hopefully we can continue with this discussion... we'll see what happens.
Catholicism and Republicanism

Mark at Minute Particulars recentlyposted on the lack of dissonance at many Catholic blogs which discuss matters of faith and politics:
    I would think that blogs that espouse Catholic thought and a pretty clear political leaning would grind a few gears on occasion when trying to get everything to mesh. Does the Republican Party or Bush Administration really jibe so well with Catholic Teaching? Does the Democratic Party really resonate so perfectly with Catholic Teaching? I often come away with that impression. Where's the dissonance?
Tom at Disputations also posted.

I think both make good points. As I commented at Tom's blog, I know that my blog probably often looks like the kind of thing which Mark is talking about, although I decidedly believe that there "Republicanism" is not close to Catholic social teaching on a number of very important issues. It simply happens that on the political issues of the day which I've decided to post on, I do see such a harmony.

Again, though, I don't think that harmony always obtains. For instance, I don't see just wage as a very high priority for Republicans. I don't mean that they aren't pushing for laws enacting just wages... I don't even see it as a major public policy issue for discussion on their part. And I differ with the typical Republican stance on the death penalty as well. Those are a couple of areas in which I differ with the Republican party line; perhaps at some point I'll expound more on them.
New link

Another blog I need to link is Dave Pawlak's Improvised.

Check it out.
The Communal Dimension of Christianity

In the newest issue of Traces, the magazine of the Catholic religious movement Communion and Liberation, there is a series of articles concerning a conference held in April at Georgetown University in Washington DC on Msgr. Luigi Giussani's book, The Risk of Education. One of the articles conisists of an interview with Protestant theologian Stanley Hauerwas, who was one of three speakers at the event. In the interview, Hauerwas spoke about how American culture is far more secularized than most people think, stating that "the Christianity in America is not thick in practices that actually form bodies to understand better what it means to be Christian." His explanation of this is very interesting:
    That has everything to do with the kind of Protestantism that shaped American society, which both produced and has then been reproduced by a certain understanding of the relationship with God that is gnostic in character. By that I mean people in America that are religious think that they have a relationship with God, which they go to church to have expressed. It doesn't occur to them that the only relationship with God that you can have--at least the God that we Christians worship--is through the mediation of the Church. So it simply becomes unthinkable for Americans to think that outside the church there's no salvation when in fact that's true: outside the church there is no salvation. The mediated character of Christianity is simply unknown and that means your educational task is not surrounded by the kind of thick practices that are necessary to sustain it (as any serious business).[Emphasis added]
To be a Christian means (among other things) to belong to the Body of Christ, which is the Church. You cannot be a Christian and not be a part of the Church: to state otherwise is to assert an ontological contradiction. As Hauerwas states, we do not go to church to celebrate and express our already-existing relationship with God... that relationship with God is given in, by, and through the Church.
Embracing the Mystery of Suffering

This issue of Traces also has a letter written by an Italian woman who wonderfully expresses the Christian response to real suffering:
    certain things happen because they are part of the Father's mysterious plan, and the problem for us is not to insist on trying to understand the mystery, but to experience that it is good. The greatness of the humanity of Christ, who calls his betrayer "Friend," or the testimony of real men like Fr. Kolbe, who led his executioner to affirm the good, or like you [Msgr. Giussani] who explain life and its meaning to us... confirms me, without a shadow of a doubt, in this certainty of a good and positive destiny.
In my mind, real suffering cannot be overcome by seeking an intellectually-satisfying answer, but only by looking to Christ and Him Crucified, and embracing Him.
The Northern Front

Turkey will shortly have a new prime minister: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who supports the deployment of US troops in his country. Beside the VOA story linked above, this AP story gives the details.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Diversity, past and present

Curious to see what Rush Limbaugh had to say about today's Supreme Court ruling on the University of Michigan's race-based admittance policy, I cruised on over to his website, where one finds his great rhetorical point from today:
    I ask people this question all the time: “Do you think diversity made this country great?” Many liberals will say, “Oh yes” like the caller in the audio link below. Well then, a little intellectual exercise for you, my friends. If diversity has made America great, then where's the problem? Why do we need any at all? Why do we need more? If diversity has made us so great, then where's the problem? I don't see it.
Good one, Rush.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

I couldn't but chuckle

Jeff Miller asks what a parish peace & justice coordinator does:
    Do they work to avoid interpew warfare? Do they mediate treaties between the St. Mary's and St. Joseph's sides of the church? Do they setup Patriot batteries to shoot down incoming missalettes?
That last one got a laugh out of me. Which is typical of Jeff's posts, after all.
New link

In my recent comments discussion at Mac Swift's blog I met a Protestant-turned-Orthodox blogger named Karl Thienes. He and I were jointly dialoguing with Mac about the nature of Christianity in its first centuries of existence (Mac, unfortunately, is so anti-Catholic that he is ready to believe such things as this: St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr c. 90 AD, deliberately and systematically misrepresented Docetism in his letters; in other words, Mac is very ready to believe that Docetism represented "true Christianity," while St. Ignatius represents what would later become idol-worshipping, paganistic Catholicism [how Mac deals with Orthodoxy is unclear here]). {Update: Mac points out in a comment at this post his views on Ignatius, clarifying what I wrote here.}

While we are both about done with our Mac dialogue for the time being, I'm happy to recommend Karl's blog, which is now permalinked to the left.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Okay, so I had (and have) no intention of buying the new Harry Potter book for myself, although I do intend to read it, whether borrowing it from the library or a friend. But I don enjoy public spectacles of this nature, so tonight at about 9:30 I went to the Barnes & Noble here in Sioux Falls with my copy of Ida Goerres' The Hidden Face: A Study of Therese of Lisieux (it's the library's original english edition, which has been republished by Ignatius Press [here's the Amazon link]).

When I arrived, I found out that once all of the pre-order customers got their copies after midnight, about 500 other copies of the book would be sold to anyone who wanted them. I knew that my neighbor and coworker wanted a copy, so I decided that I might hang around till 1 or 1:30 to get him a copy, knowing that I'd be able to sit back and people-watch in the meantime, beside reading my own book.

As midnight approached, the already-crowded store (it's a pretty good sized B&N, especially for a city the size of SF) got even more crowded, and everytime there was an announcement, a hush fell over the crowd -- I have to say, it was pretty amusing, seeing so many families, kids, and adults so excited about such a fat book.

At about a quarter to midnight, I'd decided that I probably wasn't going to stick around until 1. I talked to Bob, and he didn't care either way. Only a few minutes later I overheard someone say that they were going to go to the Walmart next door to see if they had any copies.

Somehow, I never thought to consider that other places of business which are normally open at midnight might be selling the book. Nonetheless, I decided to stay at B&N, at least until the books started to flow. Sure enough, at 12:01 am, the announcement was made (to a hushed and then applauding crowd), the directions were given, and the books started to flow. At about five after, I decided I'd had enough, and walked out to go home. As I left the store, I saw two girls walking in with a bag with what appeared to be the book; I asked them where they got it, and they directed me to the Walgreens across the street, which was selling it for $24.

Now my coworker had been clear: buy the book if you can for under $20. Walgreens was over-budget, but if they had it, Walmart had to have it. So I indeed went to America's #1 retailer, and as I was walking in, I saw a gentleman with the text in hand, asked him what he paid, and heard this price: $17.14. Ah-ha! I go in the store, ask another patron with two copies in hand where I could find them, and go down the aisle, walk up to a Walmart employee, receive my copy, pay, and leave! No waiting at B&N until 1 or later for this boy! I was out of the store with my copy (well, soon to be my neighbor's copy, once the money & text are exchanged) by 1:15!

Now I have 20 hours to read it before I have to give it to him... ;-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2003


A couple of good articles on the "Complexity" of Catholicism to note: one is from Mark Shea, and the other is from James Schall (thanks on the latter to Carl Olson for the link and comments).
Closing shop?

Jack of Integrity is planning to close down his blog at the end of the month.

You will be missed, Jack.

Last week Tom expressed his displeasure with occasional approval found at blogs4God which is given to the "Catholicism is idol-worshipping paganism" sector of Christianity. It led to some good discussion at that post, here at b4G, and elsewhere, which prompted Tom to post again here, here, and here.

Tom specifically had in mind this post by David Henreckson, and some comments made by Mac Swift. In comments at Tom's blog and in posts (like this one) on his own site, Mac unapologetically (yet politely) asserts that Catholicism as it exists today is the result of a 4th century combination of Christianity and paganism.

Mac believes that the Roman Catholic view of history is distorted by lies. Currently, I'm inquiring (via comments at the linked post) about his views of Orthodoxy, considering the affinity between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. We'll see how things progress.
"New" Blog

There are a number of blogs which started up some time ago and I'm only now discovering. One such blog is TS O'Rama's Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor, which is well over a year old.

Sorry, you're going to have to visit to find out what the latin means in english

I want my atheist pastor!

In Denmark, about 90% of the citizens (nominally) belong to the State Church, which is Lutheran. Last week, one parish's pastor gave a newspaper interview in which he revealed that he is an atheist. As a result, his bishop prompted suspended him, pending a clarification of what he meant and what his purpose was.

Now, hundreds of the suspended pastor's parishioners are protesting the bishop's actions! The head of the parish council stated, "If there is no place for our pastor in this Church, then there is no place for many of us either." Yes, I'm serious! These people want to keep their atheist pastor, and are upset that the bishop responsible for their spiritual well-being has suspended the man!

What's more, one group has filed a police complaint against the state church, stating that the pastor's freedom of expression has been violated and that the church has thus violated the national constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights!


[Thanks to Mark for the link.]

Monday, June 16, 2003

Typically excellent

If you don't visit Jeff Miller's blog on a regular basis... start. Today he has a great post on an article critical of Newark Archbishop Myers.

Go take a look.
How could I forget!

This past Friday, Bishop Carlson ordained two men to the priesthood for the Diocese of Sioux Falls: Martin Lawrence and Todd Reitmeyer (Fr. Todd runs this blog). It was a beautiful Mass, and both men are going to be excellent priests for our diocese.

The next day, three men were ordained to the diaconate: two to the transitional diaconate (Justin Wachs and Thomas Fitzpatrick), and one to the permanent deaconate (Donald Wagner). All three are gifts to the diocese, as well.

I'm sorry to say that I missed the first Masses of the new priests, as I left for the aforementioned Promised Land Saturday, but I'll be able to see them many times over the next few months.

Congrats, guys!

After a few days in The Promised Land, I'm back home, and hope to continue posting later today or tomorrow.

Congrats to the San Antonio Spurs on winning the NBA Championship. I can't say that I watched more than 15 minutes of the whole series, but I'm glad Mr. Robinson got another ring. And Duncan, too.

Thursday, June 12, 2003


Disputations has a good post on the Potter phenomenon (he remarks that "the fuss is more interesting than the books"). Take a look at the comments, too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003


Veritas has been moved to the new Blogger program/format/whatever. Hopefully this solves my problem with posting quasi-longish posts.
Umm... how do I take this?

I got a hit today from a Yahoo! search for "hollywood sex" (I'm number 10 on the list!).

Go figure.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003


Last week Sean Gallagher posted on this question, posed in his parish's RCIA class: "He [a neophyte in the RCIA process] came down to it and asked if, when speaking about his own faith to other Christians if his ultimate purpose would be to make them want to be Catholic."

Sean rightly notes that this is a tricky question, and to answer it, he proposes the distinction between an "evangelistic approach" (which is aimed at the non-Christian, he argues) and an approach suited to discussion with a fellow Christian. With regard to the latter, Sean writes,
    This does not mean, however, that a Catholic in a conversation with a Baptist cannot try to explain what he believes to be true and even what he believes to be erroneous. But it should happen in the midst of a dialogue between two brothers in Christ, not as a monologue of teacher to student. And certainly it should not be directed in such a way as to try, then and there, to convince the person to become Catholic.

    In essence, a conversation between a Catholic and another Christian (who is not Catholic) in which the faith of each is the subject should have as its focus their mutual search for the truth. If the party in the conversation who is not Catholic is indeed a Christian then he or she does not need a hard sell approach (indeed, no one, of any faith, needs or deserves such an approach). If this conversation is filled with respect and charity and it is one where both seek to find the truth, then the grace of that conversation will have whatever effect that Father wills if either party is open to that will.
I know what Sean is saying, but I think one could fairly ask, isn't the "evangelistic approach" also one which should be characterized by dialogue (not monologue), and the common search for truth? Why can't the approach Sean suggests for dialogue with a fellow Christian just as easily be employed with a fellow human?

I'm not trying to downplay the difference between non-Catholic Christians and non-Christians... there is obviously a difference, and there we just as obviously have more in common with the former than the latter. I'm only wondering why somone couldn't argue that the second of Sean's approaches shouldn't be the approach used by a Catholic to dialogue with everyone, while taking into account the varying relationship the Catholic may already have with the interlocutor.

Someone might ask, "So, Chris, how would you answer the question posed in the RCIA class?" My response: we should speak and act in whatever manner helps those we are speaking with achieve God's will for their life. The question within the neophyte's question is, "does God will everyone to become Catholic?" and this is both a simple and complicated question. On one hand, you could say, "Of course!" But on the other, one could argue that there are people who never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel and visibly enter the Catholic Church, yet we know that such people can be saved. So did God will that they would become Catholic? The answer to that question, it seems to me, has to be "no," and if that's the case, then the question is analogously complicated when applied to our fellow Christians.

I think I'll leave it at that, at least for the time being.
Alienation versus Persuasion

The internet and everything associated with it (the web, blogs, etc.) are powerful tools for the communication of information and the exchange of ideas. People living on opposite sides of the world are able to swiftly and easily communicate with one another and discuss, debate, and argue about any topic they choose.

In my case, I started Veritas last April for primarily two reasons: to persuade any readers of my blog about my views on theological, philosophical, or political issues, and to grow in truth through the exchanges which the blog might promote. The same two-fold purpose drives much of the dialogue I enter into on other websites and blogs, whether it be in comments boxes or, more rarely, chat rooms.

I think it's fair to say that the same motivation drives most of the other bloggers in the corner of the Blogosphere which I "inhabit" (see my links to the left). For the most part, we all have strong ideas about the nature of (various) things, and we use the internet to test those ideas with others views, in the hope of better understanding the nature of things and sharing that understanding with others.

In the course of internet communication, my own personal experience testifies to the fact that it is quite possible to get frustrated, impatient, and even angry with those with whom we dialogue and disagree. On more than one occasion I've found myself lashing out with sarcastic retorts because of what another person has said to me, whether it be out of malice or ignorance. I've also used labels in a negative manner to characterize or describe others' views, or even themselves.

I wish I wouldn't, and I'm making determined effort to avoid these kinds of reactions; such behavior is not only uncharitable, but is also unconducive to the two-fold goal of internet dialogue which I mentioned above. If I am really interested in persuading others -- as opposed to alienating them -- then I must to everything I can to prevent any negative emotions from impacted my communications. As they say, honey attracts more flies than vinegar... while I can communicate the truth in both ways, the chances that I'm going to succeed with labels, negativity, and sarcasm are much more remote.

Unfortunately, I'm not the only person who succumbs to this kind of communication. Nor is it something which other Christians (including Catholics) are immune to. Most of us who are online have done this kind of thing on occasion. What I think we need to remember is that if our goal is to persuade others, then we must avoid such actions at all costs. If our interlocutor persists in exhibiting such activity towards us, then the best thing to do is simply walk away.

Practice the art of persuasion, not the art of alienation, if your goal is to convince other people of your views.

Sunday, June 08, 2003


Many people have heard of the new Catholic lay-group Voice of the Faithful, but I until the other day I hadn't heard of the group Voice Of The Ordained. You can read more about them here, and discover how these priests think that...
  • Bishops should be elected by priests and the laity of their diocese (okay, some historical justification is legitimate)
  • Bishops should serve fixed, 6 year terms (uh, okay)
  • All bishops should elect popes (uh, no), and...
  • Popes' reigns should be limited to 12 years!
The article linked notes that of the roughly 200 men who make up this bunch, 59 are married, i.e. no longer active priests (whether they were laicized or just left, I don't know).

One last thing: these guys want bishops to be chosen by the laity and priests of their diocese, but they want the pope to be elected by all the bishops of the world. It seems that they have forgotten that the pope is the bishop of Rome... not only have they apparently (and surely, inadvertently) adopted that dreaded pyramid-style ecclesiology, but they want to deprive the laity and priests of the diocese of Rome of the right to elect their bishop.

Seems a bit unfair and undemocratic, don't you think?

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Archbishop Dolan's commencement address

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee gave this year's commencement address at Marquette University, and Zenit has it here.

I highly recommend you read it... it's an excellent speech.
Somali convert in Minneapolis area

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune today has an article about a Somali man who converted from Islam (the heavily-dominant religion in Somalia) to Christianity. He now lives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, but he began exploring Christianity while he was still in his homeland.

Interesting story.
Patton replies

Patton of Postmodern Potlatch has responded thoughtfully to my earlier post on abortion. He states,
    As it were, I am rather aware – at least I would say so – of the rational arguments against abortion. I find them to be many-fold, and – again we will disagree – I have yet to ever really see anyone try to refute with them. No one is “pro-abortion.” What I have yet to encounter are the rational arguments for criminalizing abortion. By rational, I don’t mean “sensical” or “good,” I mean, rational, as in not drivne by a morality claim. Drugs ruin lives, alcohol ruins lives, gambling ruins lives, cults ruin lives, and I am sure that abortion has ruined lives, but nonetheless when the state dictates to its citizens whether or not they can make choices about their own bodies and lives I can only construe that as a forceful grafting of a moral and religious template onto a populous whom it does not fit.
If understand where Patton is coming from, I continue to disagree with him on abortion. Let me explain why:

The pro-life position (which, again, can be argued rationally and without reference to religious dogma) is that from the moment of conception, a personal human being is present. Abortion, then, involves the deliberate killing of an innocent human being, and as such, it should be illegal, like every other instance of deliberately killing an innocent human being.

Abortion is hence unlike drugs, alcohol, gambling or cults, in that none of these per se involve the killing of a human being. I can gamble, and not kill. I can take drugs, and not kill. I can drink, and not kill. I can join a cult, and not kill. But I cannot procure or perform an abortion without killing.

That's the difference. Abortion isn't about a private, moral choice which concerns only me and my body: it is very much public, in that it involves another human being and their body beside the woman and hers... that is, her child. If our legal system is going to be consistent in its recognition of the unique value and rights which each human being has, then abortion should be illegal.
Moving 12 Myths report

I've moved Deal Hudson's e-report which I posted the other day to a blog I created for it and similarly long posts.

The new blog is 12 Myths Every Catholic Should Know.

Creative title, no?
Mistaken vs. Lying

In their rush to condemn President Bush and accuse him of being disingenuous and lying to get us into a war in Iraq, Democrats, liberals, and leftists of every kind are overlooking the crucial distinction between being mistaken and lying.

If -- and I stress, if -- no weapons of mass destruction are found, it would be incorrect to automatically deduce that President Bush lied in order to get us to war. If in fact Iraq has (or rather, had) no WMDs, it is entirely possible that President Bush mistakenly believed that there were such weapons, based on the intelligence data all the time. If that were the case, that isn't lying. Lying requires deliberate misinformation, not misinformation per se. If someone asks me what it's like out, and I say it's sunny, and it turns out that in fact it's cloudy, have I lied? Not necessarily... I may simply have been mistaken.

So when people trot out the President's pre-war statements concerning Iraq's WMDs, remind them of the difference between a lie and a mistake.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Patton's Postmodern Potlatch

Saw a blog I haven't seen before today (no real surprise, considering how many there are out there) called Postmodern Potlatch, with Patton (Price?) as author.

Blogging the other day on the bill banning partial birth abortions, Patton summarized the passage of the bill thus: "American Religious Fundamentalism: 1 ; Roe v Wade: 0."

One could comment in any number of ways. For now, I'll simply note that Patton appears to never have heard any of the imminently rational arguments against abortion; usually I'd blame the person in question for that, as it's very easy to find such arguments on the net, but since I've just "found" Patton, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Oh... for a good source of such arguments, check out Libertarians for Life, founded by atheist (i.e. a non-religious-fundamentalist) Doris Gordon.
Do not lose hope

Many people in the pro-life movement go through periods of disappointment in the ebb and tide of the culture wars. But Rick Santorum has been telling a story lately which is a great lesson for never giving up:

In 1998, I was on the floor of the United States Senate debating the override of the president's veto of the partial-birth-abortion bill. The next morning was to be the vote. We did not have the votes to override the president's veto. The debate had ended that night, it was eight o'clock. The Senate was wrapping up, but there was something inside me that felt that I had to say more, even though there was no one left in the chamber besides the presiding officers. I went back in the cloakroom and called my wife. She picked up the phone and we have six little children and they are all seemingly at once crying in the background, and I said, "Karen, the vote's tomorrow. We are not going to win and everybody's gone. But something tells me I need to say more." And through the din of the children crying, she said, "well, of course, if that's what you need to do, do it."

So I went to the presiding officer and said, "I'll only be a few minutes, I don't want to keep you late." Over an hour and a half later, I finished my talk.

….And we finished up the Senate and closed it down, and the next day the vote came, [and] not one vote changed. But five days later, I got an e-mail from a young man at Michigan State University. And this is what the e-mail said: "Senator, on Thursday night I was watching television with my girlfriend. We were flipping through the channels and we saw you standing there on the floor of the United States Senate with a picture of a baby next to you. And so we listened for a while and the more we listened the more we got interested in what you were saying. After a while I looked down at my girlfriend, and she had tears running down her face. And I asked her what was wrong, and she looked up at me and said, 'I'm pregnant, and tomorrow I was going to have an abortion, and I wasn't going to tell you, but I'm not going to have an abortion now.' "

In April of that year, a little girl was born and given up for adoption. She is four years old today. Now according to the world, when I spoke on the floor of the Senate that night, I had failed. I did not succeed. But God gave me a gift that many of you as you stand and fight the causes that you believe in may never get, He gave me the gift of knowing that faithfulness to what you believe in can lead to wonderful acts and wonderful miracles.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer

I've moved this here.
Another bleg

What is the purpose in God establishing liturgies in which salvific events are re-presented? Jews "re-present" the Exodus when they celebrate the Passover meal, and we Catholics "re-present" Calvary, the Resurrection, etc. when we celebrate Mass.

But why? What is it about human nature that led God to establish liturgical re-presentation, in both covenants? As a Catholic, I believe that the saving acts of Jesus on the Cross are re-presented really (albeit sacramentally) at Mass... it is more than a mental act of remembering. But why is this important? What is the value of being present before Calvary mystically? Don't misunderstand... I rejoice at what the Mass is. But I'm wondering why God made it so? You obviously don't need to be present at the actual event or its liturgical re-presentation to receive its benefits... so what's up?

I'm blegging you!

If you haven't seen the term before, "bleg" is blog-speak for "beg," i.e. to ask for assistance. Well, I need some assistance (in more ways than one!)...

Can anybody point me to a good source for the history of calling priests "Father"? Note: I am not asking for justification for the practice... I do it all the time, and I know why, on what basis, and how it doesn't violate Matthew 23:9.

What I'm interested is the actual historical development of the practice. When did priests begin to be addressed in this manner? Anybody know?
Austrian-school blogs

Earlier this week Ramesh Ponnuru asked if there were any Austrian-school of economics blogs out there, and he got his answer; here are the blogs he heard about:

Mises Economics Blog



Anybody know of any blogs devoted to Wilhelm Roepke in particular?
Search technology

Interesting article on new search technologies which aim to take on Google at its weak point: regularity of crawling sites. Google does not re-check sites as often as is necessary for blogs, and this is a weakness which some are hoping to exploit. But it's also a weakness Google is hoping to rectify.

The Mandatum, Theology and Catechesis

In a recent National Catholic Register article Tim Drake quotes a theology department chair, who says,
    Theology isn't catechesis. Otherwise, we couldn't defend ourselves as an academic discipline. We have to balance between fidelity and fostering independent thinking.
Now, I know where this professor is going, and I agree: theology isn't catechesis. As is noted elsewhere, undergrad theology profs are forced to engage in catechesis instead of theology proper, because most of their students lack the catechetical foundation necessary to do real theology. In this way, I completely agree.

On the other hand, the quote above suggests a dichotomy between fidelity (to the magisterium) and independent thinking, when in fact there is no such dichotomy. It's sad that it even needs to be said, but it is completely possible to be faithful to Catholic teaching and still to actual theology. It happens all the time. I'm sure this chair doesn't intend the implication of the quote, which is that those who are faithful to the magisterium do not engage in independent thinking. As he well knows, such is manifestly not the case.

The controversy over the mandatum really is unnecessary; as Fr. Neuhaus noted once, all it means is this: when one teaches Catholic theology, what is taught must be Catholic theology. An academic is free to teach any form of post-modern, feminist, deconstruction, anti-authoritarian theology they want to, but it can't be called Catholic.

That's all. Nothing more, nothing less.

What's the big deal?

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Another LC U

Many people have heard that the Legion of Christ Catholic religious order is planning to build there first university in the U.S. in Sacramento.

Now they have announced plans for the second LC university, this one to be located in Mount Pleasant, New York.

Thanks to Fr. Bryce for the link.
PBA Ban passes House

The House tonight passed a bill which will outlaw partial-birth abortions. The vote was 282-139, which is a greater margin of victory than the last vote, as Ramesh Ponnuru notes.

Gloria Feldt of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America was typical in her response: "It still doesn't contain an exception for the health of the woman and it criminalizes doctors trying to provide the best care to their patients." And her official PPFA statement states, "the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that could put doctors in jail for providing the best and safest health care to women."

I'm sorry, Gloria, but you won't find any doctor to agree with you that the procedure banned by this bill is ever, ever medically necessary. You're just making yourself look more and more radical by opposing this bill.

Now, appearing radical isn't always a bad thing. After all, being opposed to abortion in all cases probably seems radical to many Americans. But when you appear radical and don't have a rational argument to stand on... well, you're in a world of hurt.
Another prominent ELCA pastor & scholar goes Roman

Rev. Leonard Klein, pastor of Christ Church in York, PA, and editor of Lutheran Forum is crossing the Tiber, according to this UPI story. Klein has had enough of the liberal antics of the bureaucracy of the ELCA. He also gave this explanation for his decision:
    I realized that my view of Lutheranism as a reform movement for the Catholic Church meant that if I was really going to practice the best insights of the Reformation, I belonged inside the Catholic Church -- not outside it trying to make the Lutheran Church Lutheran.
That's to Bill Cork for the link.
Ban tobacco?

Knowing that it's sure to make his fellow conservatives wonder, Mark Byron joins our Surgeon General in favor of banning tobacco products.

I can understand Mark's position, and while I don't completely disagree, I don't completely agree either. Primarily, I have the "recreational tobacco user" in mind. Take me. I've never smoked a cigarette, but I have tried chew, and I'll occasionally smoke a cigar, although I can't say that I inhale (spare me the Clinton jokes, please). I am not addicted to tobacco, and my occasional usage does not harm my health. So why should I be denied my occasional cigar because of someone else's problem?

I can already think of one counterargument: perhaps I should sacrifice my occasional cigar for the sake of the common good. Perhaps.

Switching sides again, what about Prohibition? Many of the arguments for banning tobacco echo arguments in favor of outlawing alcohol, so one might legitimately wonder how a ban on tobacco would be any different.
Define this!

Disputations defines the various branches of theology to a tee.
Kiss and tell

Mark Shea posted the following today:
    Speaking of Quran Kissing...

    Here's another sample of what some would call a Vaticanisti practicing "Spirit of Vatican II" compromise of the Faith. This was recently written to a Muslim Big Shot:

      "We and you must show in a special way to the other nations an example of this charity, for we believe and confess one God, although in different ways. Many of the Roman nobility, informed by us of this grace granted to you by God, greatly admire your goodness and virtues."

    What do y'all make of it?
When you read the comments, you'll find that the quote is from Pope Gregory VII, who was pope nearly a thousand years ago.

So if popes could say these kinds of things to muslims centuries ago, what's wrong with JPII kissing the Koran today?

Go read the comments for some fun.
Blog tweaking

Just over a year after startup, Sean Gallagher is tweaking the direction he's taking Nota Bene. Gone (or at least much less common) will be series of interrelated posts. And as far as an overall focus, Sean plans on getting into Christian dialogue:
    I am very interested in entering into grace-filled, charitable dialogues with those Christians who do not share all of the beliefs and practices that I, as a Catholic, profess and strive, with the grace of God, to live out in my day-to-day life. There would, in my mind, be multiple purposes (they may be hopes as much as purposes) for such dialogues. One, I hope that they would increase for all participants the accurate knowledge of and respect for the faith traditions of the others. Two, I hope that they would be able to lead those Christians who participate and who do not share all of my Catholic beliefs and practices to at least be able to view as a whole the Catholic Church as being Christian.

    Many Christians who are not Catholic already do this. But there are also many who do not. This saddens me and it frustrates me on a personal level. But on more broad level, I think that our common mission to proclaim the Gospel to all nations is impeded by the degree to which various groups of those who are truly Christian are either unable or unwilling to accept one or more of the other as being Christian.
A very laudable intention, IMHO.

Sean posted all this yesterday, and today the change in direction is visible, with a long post which seeks to answer the following questions: What are Catholics and other Christians in dialogue about? And why is dialogue necessary at all? Sean's answers are right-on, especially with regard to the latter.

Go have a look.
Heroes & Villains

Did anybody else watch AFI's Top 100 Heroes and Villains last night on CBS? Through some sort of polling process, AFI presented the top 50 heroes and top 50 villains (or bottom 50, depending on how you look at it, I suppose) in film. Some of the entries were a bit wierd: villain #20 was Man in Bambi, killing Bambi's mom. And when they had Thelma and Louise in the Hero category, I said, "Huh?" to my wife. But other than those and a couple other quirks, and of course some personal disagreement in ordering (I though Maximus from Gladiator should've been higher than #50), I tended to agree.

Spoiler alert! I'm listing the top 3 of each below...

The top three heroes:
3. James Bond
2. Indiana Jones
1. Aticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)

Top three villains:
3. Darth Vader
2. Norman Bates
1. Hannibal Lecter
Better Late Than Never

After eight years, a federal ban on partial-birth abortions is almost law; the House is voting on the bill today, and after a brief conference to sort out the minor differences between the House and Senate versions, it will be signed by the President and become law.

The Big Four

Hugh Hewitt has an article at The Weekly Standard on four blogs which are "poised to remake the political landscape as the '04 election cycle begins." And they are:

Andrew Sullivan
Mickey Kaus
The Volokh Conspiracy

Somehow, I didn't make the list. Hrumph.

Here's the central thesis:
    The first presidential election with full blog participation is opening now. As the Iowa caucuses approach, watch the blogs (1) to see if any Democrat is catching fire there and (2) for leaks of damaging info. Howard Dean is reported to be investing heavily in controlling web-spin, but the blogs cannot be controlled in any meaningful way. The filters that reporters and producers used to provide are gone, destroyed by free agents in cyberspace. The Drudge Report, a sort of Model-T blog, did much to bedevil Clinton. If any of the Big Four reach Drudge-status, it will be as though King Kong, Godzilla, and Mothra all arrived in an Iowa China shop at the same time.

Okay, this is one of those posts which I'm putting up for no reason in particular... just because I can.

My high school: Crosby-Ironton

My undergrad universities (why not include them both?): the University of Minnesota (the real U of M!) and Franciscan University of Steubenville

My grad school: the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (aka the Angelicum)

I'm not sure why you'd have any interest in these links... if you went to any of these institutions, you already know about them, and if you didn't, it's irrelevant. Unless you're thinking about the U of M, FUS, or the Ange, I suppose.

Anyway, there you go.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003


Okay, I'm on the ball this time...

Congrats to Bill Cork, whose blog is celebrating its first birthday/anniversary today. Bill's is one of the blogs that I check multiple times per day, and I'd recommend that my readers consider doing the same.
NRO articles

There have been a couple of articles at NRO the last couple of days which I want to take the time to mention here.

First, David Frum yesterday commented on Newsweek: International Edition editor Fareed Zakaria's book The Future of Freedom? Zakaria argues that there is such a thing as illiberal democracy, and therefore that the US must seek not only elections, but the rule of (impartial) law around the world. Frum comes to Zakaria's defense against a couple of criticisms. It's not a long article, but it's good food for thought viz. spreading democracy throughout the world.

Second is Byron York's longer article on the Left's portrayal of President Bush as as much a liar as Clinton, if not more so. York does a good job of completely disemboweling this scurrilous attack, particularly with regard to the question of WMDs in Iraq.

Irwin Stelzer has a piece at The Weekly Standard website on the global economy and where it's heading, according to various economists and other experts. Generally, things look good, according to this pundits, and that includes W's re-election chances, regardless of the state of the economy in '04.

What caught my eye in particular, though, was the diagnosis given to a number of countries individually, and that given Germany in particular. Stelzer writes,
    Germany is considered a basket case, its economy shrinking and its population declining to the point where it will be "economically irrelevant," in the words of one observer, within the next several decades. All of which is made worse by a soaring euro that is reducing the international competitiveness of Germany's already high-cost industries.
I can personally vouch for the declining population bit, as I have a brother-in-law who is married to a German and lives near Munich. He and his wife receive somewhere around the equivalent of $500 per month, per child, until the kids reach a certain age. The German government is doing whatever it can to promote childbearing, even going to these lengths of paying out considerable sums of cash to families having kids. Of course, not many native Germans are having kids, so the total outlay for the program probably isn't as high as one might imagine. Nonetheless, the very fact that they are taking such action indicates the seriousness with which the government is approaching its population problem, and it ain't the problem Paul Ehrlich (repeatedly) predicted.
Experience and Morality

I'm re-reading (or rather, re-beginning) moral philosopher and theologian Germain Grisez's 1964 book, Contraception and the Natural Law. I'm intrigued by Grisez's conception of the natural law (as distinguished from other Thomists who are not as closely aligned with the analytical movement in philosophy), and I'm also curious about his purely philosophical argument against contraception.

In the Introduction, he has some simple, straightforward thoughts on the place of experience in moral decision-making, and they are worth quoting here:
    Moral judgment is concerned with the ideal, with what ought to be. The deliverances of experience are concerned only with the facts, with what is. If there were no divergence between the two, there would be no place for ethics. Experience with life can show us that something is not as it should be, that something should be changed. But experience itself does not tell us what to change [p. 4].
Exactly! Too many people base their moral decisions solely on their own experiences, without applying their rationality; Grisez's words here demonstrate the gaping error present in such practice.
Two wrongs make you really wrong

Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks has opened her month and inserted her foot farther in, instead of removing it. According to this MSNBC story, the Dixie Chicks are again being pulled from some radio stations' playlists because of the antics of the lead singer.

In this case, Natalie wore a t-shirt on the Country Music Awards which had the letters F.U.T.K. on the front, the message being intended for Toby Keith, who would actually go on to win the biggest award of the show -- entertainer of the year. The two have been publicly sparring ever since Natalie said that Keith's song "Angry American" was ignorant. Things had been dying down, until she used a national platform to stoke the flames of controversy once again.

Smart move, Maines.

Monday, June 02, 2003

The Constitution and Abortion

There's quite a discussion going on at Josh's on what the Constitution & its amendments say (or don't say) about abortion. The post is the one I linked yesterday, but the comments discussion has taken off today.

While that discussion appears generally to be between pro-choicers on one side and pro-lifers on the other, a similar discussion to place between two pro-lifers in the pages of First Things this winter and spring. Robert Bork and Nathan Schlueter went at it in January, and they and some correspondents continued the discussion in April, in both cases with Bork opposing the idea that the Constitution and/or its amendments can be used by either side in the abortion issue.
Where the Father Is

Tom at Disputations posted on my own post on Jesus' Ascension, taking up some of the things I mentioned in passing. His post started a nice (and thus far, little) exchange on the idea of Jesus' going to the Father, and he followed it up with another post on the distinctiveness of each Gospel's ending viz. Jesus' "final destination."

Good stuff, and interesting discussion.
Rebel Against the Culture

That was the theme of Senator Rick Santorum's commencement address at Christendom College in Virginia. You can find a copy of the address here.
True and False Reform in the Church

That's the title of the spring McGinley Lecture given at Fordham by Avery Cardinal Dulles this past April. The lecture will be published in the August/September issue of First Things.
It's out!

The latest installment of the most-read tract series in history is now available! Here He Comes!, the 25th tract in Jack Chick's Bible Tract Series, is now available. It details for us the impending Rature and the Tribulation which will follow, in which the Beast (the Jesuit General) and the False Prophet (the Pope) will wreak their havoc on the world.

Read, if you dare!
Happy Birthday to you...

I missed it, but Lane Core's Blog from the Core recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.

Congrats, Lane!
Taxes & the Law of Diminishing Returns

Josh Claybourn takes up the relationship between tax revenue and tax rates, echoing some thoughts I had back in December, when I asked about the "pefect" tax rate which would maximize revenue (see the Laffer Curve at Josh's post). In response to my post, Mark Byron had some great comments:
    Is maximizing tax revenue the goal? I don't think so, for their are likely points on the left slope of the Laffer Curve (Y axis=Tax revenue, X Axis=tax rate) that would generate less tax revenue but a greater commonweal.

    I've been playing with the idea of a Son of Laffer Curve, (humbly called the Byron Curve), with overall national utility on the Y axis and the tax rate (and the resultant level of government) on the X axis. I think that the curve would max out somewhere well to the left of the Laffer Curve's peak.
I agree.

Jonathan Adler has a piece on how Christine Todd Whitman's departure from the EPA is a good thing.

To be honest, I didn't even know she had left.
The Matrix:Reloaded

I saw Reloaded on opening night, and I suppose I ought to note my thoughts, for posterity's sake and all.

I thought Reloaded was a good movie, although not as good as the first film. Part of this is inherent to the structure of the film: it is, as many have noted, essentially the first half of a two-part movie which will be concluded in Novemember with The Matrix: Revolutions. Because the Wachowski brothers (apparently) decided to make the 2nd and third installments of the trilogy one long film, shown in two halves over six months, the first half was almost necessarily going to be weak, in a certain sense. After all, how many novels would get rave reviews if you only had the first half to read?

So, already there were certain limitations built in to the film, limitations which could very well prove to be irrelevant come November. Beside that, I tend to agree with those who note that the special effects in this film seem less intrinsic to the plot than did those in the first film; the writer-director team, the argument goes, simply put in some eye candy to wow the audience.

As I said, I tend to agree. At the same time, I thought back to the first film, and the scene in the lobby of the building where Morpheus was being held, and asked, "how essential was the mayhem of this scene to the plot?" Really, much of the effects in the first film were also there to amaze the audience. So I'm not sure how much water this argument really carries.

There were a couple of other minor things which bothered me, but they aren't worth mentioning here. Again, I did enjoy the movie, and I'm sure I'll see it again on the big-screen. There are some faults, but many of them could very well be resolved in the final installment of the trilogy this winter.

Out of 10, I'd give it an 8.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

some bloggers are back

Joel Garver of Sacra Doctrina and John Betts are both back to blogging after hiatuses.

Joel has been back for a few weeks, and in that time, he has blogged a couple of times (here and here) on Msgr. Luigi Giussani's text The Risk of Education. The second post contains some remarks Joel made at a book discussion; he makes some good points about how Giussani's terminology might be problematic in an American setting, in that they have differing connotations. (He does note that this may be a translation issue.) I agree, offering only this qualifier: Msgr. Giussani's texts are mostly (as far as I know) intended to be read within a group setting, specifically within the Schools of Community associated with Communion and Liberation, and in this setting, those terminological issues are muted, if not resolved.

Nonetheless, it is obvious that not everyone is going to read Giussani's texts in this setting, and perhaps it would be beneficial for him (or his translator) to take this into account when the english translations are done.
Pres. Bush: JPII is "One of the Greatest Moral Leaders of Our Time"

That's the title and topic of this Zenit story, which details Bush's statement made in Krakow Saturday.
Fetal Rights

Below I mentioned Josh Claybourn's post on America's changing opinion on the moral status of unborn human beings; the story he links is from Newsweek, and I just saw the cover, which has a picture of a human fetus and the words "Should a Fetus Have Rights?" in large font.

I'm glad that the issue is being discussed by Newsweek, but the question is very poorly phrased; by asking whether or not a fetus should have rights, the editors connote the idea that we (i.e. society) are the bestowers of rights, when that is in fact not the case: society recognizes the rights which are already present. A better title would have been, "Does a Fetus Have Rights?" (The answer, of course, is "yes," but that's another topic).

The phrasing chosen by the editors is interesting in that it reveals their thinking on the origin of rights in society. Perhaps they need to carefully re-read the Declaration of Independence, which states that all people "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."
Michael Crichton

While on vacation, I read Prey by Michael Crichton. I had heard "so-so" reviews of the book before, but I decided to read it anyway. Well, in my opinion, the book is "so-so" :-)

Crichton does his usual excellent job of making plausible what seems impossible, viz. technology-gone-haywire; in this case, the "victim technology" is nanotechnology.

The problem comes in the end, when things go "really bad." This time, the disaster is a little too far-fetched, IMHO, and unbelievable.

The other thing is this: in all of his books, Crichton's materialist worldview is apparent, and Prey is no exception. I really wish that he'd make a greater attempt to "prove" the assumptions found in his books, especially when they are so relevant to his main topic.

Alas, I must remind myself that Crichton is a fiction author, and is free to do what he likes.
Americans on Abortion

Josh Claybourn blogs on new data which shows that "public opinion is slowly but surely moving to the pro-life corner," as Josh says. He makes a good point, though:
    While this is welcomed news, I've long believed that this isn't an issue that should be left up to public opinion or to the states. Life, death and murder are already addressed in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The taking of a defenseless life is wrong.
Well said, Josh.
St. Joan of Arc

Bill Cork has been keeping us informed about the latest controversies surrounding St. Joan of Arc parish in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The latest bruhaha surrounds Archbishop Harry Flynn's decision to rescind a catechetical award which was to be given to St. Joan's DRE, along with 18 other catechists in the archdiocese. Why did the archbishop make this decision? Because it was brough to his attention that Kathy Itzin, the DRE in question, lives which her committed lesbian partner.

St. Joan's reacted to this decision with a great deal of anger and frustration, bemoaning the fact that the "official" Church is so hateful and intolerant towards homosexuals. Such is, of course, not at all the case. The Catholic Church has a clear and well-known teaching on homosexual acts, and those who teacher the Church's doctrine are de facto expected to actually teach the Church's doctrine! A parish DRE is responsible for seeing that what is transmitted to the parishioners is the deposit of faith, not one's own perspectives. Furthermore, a catechist is expected to live that deposit; while we are all sinners and hence are guaranteed to occasionally fall short, it is a completely different thing to deliberately and unrepentantly live in contradiction to that deposit. Ms. Itzin, by choosing to act out on her homosexuality and live with another homosexual, lives in what might rightly be considered perpetual contradiction to the faith which she is charged with handing in. This is unacceptable, and Archbishop Flynn is to be commended for acting as he did.
The Ascension of the Lord

Jesus ascended into Heaven 40 days after His Resurrection, which is why Christians have always celebrated the Feast of the Ascension on the Thursday which falls 40 days after Easter. For pastoral reasons, however, many Catholic dioceses in the U.S. observe the feast on the following Sunday, which is today this year. This doesn't mean that the feast has been moved: Jesus ascended after 40 days, not after 43 days. It simply means that the observance of the feast is transferred to a Sunday.

What I want to write about, though, is the reason for the Ascension, or better, a reason for the Ascension. Personally, I would often wonder why Jesus had to ascend at all... why couldn't He simply have remained on earth until the end of time? It seemed to me that this would have solved a lot of problems, like belief in Him, and the governance of His Body, the Church.

There are a number of possible answers to this question, but there is one in particular which I personally find most satisfactory: Jesus ascended and no longer dwells with us as He did 2000 years ago because He wants us to raise our minds to spiritual things. Because Jesus is not visibly present to us as He was to the first disciples, we are forced to ponder the invisible and the eternal; we cannot remain focused solely on the here and now, but must regularly turn our gaze Heavenward, where our Lord and Savior now dwells. Spiritual things, after all, are higher and greater than the the simply-material; by existing beyond our physical sight, Jesus helps us to contemplate and meditate that which is higher and greater.

As I said, there are other reasons which could be given to answer the "why?" of the Ascension, and for others, those answers may be more satisfactory. For me, however, this is the reason which gives me comfort and consolation.