Saturday, November 19, 2005
Earlier this week, Democrat Jack Murtha (described by the AP as "one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats") made big news when he "called Thursday for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq."
Note that carefully: according to the AP (and other major media outlets), he called for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. And there was no correction of that description from Murtha or anyone else.
Yesterday, the Republicans said, "fine. You Democrats want a withdrawal? Let's put it to a vote." So they offered a resolution virtually identical to Murtha's and put it to a vote.
Guess what how the vote went: 403-3 in opposition.
Now, Democrats were up in arms because the resolution called for an immediate withdrawal, while Murtha apparently wanted a withdrawal when practicable.
So tell me: what's the difference between the latter view and the President's view? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yet Murtha made it clear that things aren't going right, and that we need to change direction and "redeploy now. This was (rightly) interpreted to mean that he was calling for an immediate withdrawal, because the only other possible interpretation of his words is virtually identical to the President's position.
In the end, the Democrats' bluff was called, and they voted against an immediate withdrawal, despite their unending pressers for weeks, it seems, calling for an immediate withdrawal.
So, what do the Democrats stand for when it comes to the war?
Friday, November 18, 2005
Another excellent post at Right Reason today, this one on the unlikely prospects for a decisive pro-life turn in our culture as long as contraception is widely accepted. The author, Christopher Tollefsen, argues that we must seek -- one person at a time, not via political or legal action -- to cure our culture of its contraceptive mentality for its own sake and for the sake of the pro-life cause.
Naturally, this will be a bit unsettling to those pro-lifers who are not morally opposed to contraception, but he is nonetheless right on.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Thomas of Endlessly Rocking has a very interesting post in which he questions the genealogical approach to identifying the origins of modernity and its attendent problems.
In short, this approach -- which is used by von Balthasar and the Radically Orthodox, among others -- "holds" that the origin of a "position" is found by tracing its intellectual ancestors (hence the name "geneaological method").
Thomas first notes that he has been a practioner of this method himself, or at least has been in agreement with the more notable of said practioners. But he then proceeds to poder about the validity of the method.
If you're at all interested in questions of modernity, liberalism (the broader variety), and Ressourcement or Radical Orthodoxy theology, check this post out.
From The Writer's Almanac for Thursday, November 17th, 2005:
It was on this day in 1968 that NBC interrupted its coverage of a football game between the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets with one minute remaining in order to show the scheduled movie Heidi, about an orphaned girl who goes to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps.
In the last minute of the game, the Raiders scored two touchdowns, coming from behind to win the game 43 to 32. Football fans were enraged. So many people called to complain that the NBC's telephone switchboard in New York City blew 26 fuses.
It was that game, and the storm of protest by fans, that forced TV executives to realize how passionate the audience for football really was. Two years later, networks began showing football on Monday nights as well. And because of that game, the NFL now has a contract with the networks that all football games will be shown until their completion.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
You've probably heard about the girl attended a Sacramento all-girls Catholic school whose mom complained about a teacher who was a Planned Barrenhood escort, resulting in the firing of the latter after the Bishop got involved.
If you can stomach it, read through the comments in the above and other posts at her blog; the lack of a Catholic understanding on the part of some of the students and alumnae is sadly apparent.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
I have a guilty pleasure: the tv show "Boston Legal", created by David Kelley, who is liberal in both the political and Catholic senses of the term. His politics often come out in the show, but generally they do not outweigh the other, more positive dimensions of the show. Simply put, the man knows his business, and he does it very, very well. He manages to create a program that is both very funny and simultaneously fairly substantial, whatever his own politics, apart from the more egregious instances of outright propaganda.
In tonight's episode, the law firm to which the characters belong represents a man who is by his own admission to them guilty of negligent homicide (he hit and killed a man with his car). Candace Bergen's character is the lead attorney on the case, and she succeeds in getting a not-guilty verdict for her client.
I just don't get that.
Isn't it called the "justice" system for a reason? How is it that defense attorneys can conscientiously defend clients whom they know to be guilty of the charges made against them? I've heard the argument made that this prompts the state to make its best case, but that's not what the justice system is about, is it? It's about the guilty being punished and the innocent not, right? So what's the justification for defending someone who is admittedly guilty of what they are charged with?
I'm hoping someone can explain this to me in a manner that doesn't make a travesty of the idea and virtue of justice.
Monday, November 14, 2005
This article explains how Italy's low (sub-replacement) birthrate is due to the fact that many Italian men live at home well into their thirties; in fact, 40% of Italian men age 30-34 still live at home.
Based on my time in Rome, I can vouch for the argument of this article... it's true, pure and simple.
The Italian mammas need to give their boys the boot, and the latter need to take some responsibility of their own.
From Fr. Neuhaus:
Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device—trade-named: BOOK.
BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It’s so easy to use, even a child can operate it.
Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere—even sitting in an armchair by the fire—yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM.
Here’s how it works: BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of recyclable paper, each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.
Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now, BOOKS with more information simply use more pages. Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet.
BOOK may be taken up at any time and used merely by opening it.
BOOK never crashes or requires rebooting, though, like other devices, it can become damaged if coffee is spilled on it and it becomes unusable if dropped too many times on a hard surface. The “browse” feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an “index” feature, which pin-points the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.
An optional “BOOKmark” accessory allows you to open BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session—even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous BOOK markers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK. You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with optional programming tools, Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Styli (PENCILS).
Portable, durable, and affordable, BOOK is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. BOOK’s appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking to invest. Look for a flood of new titles soon.
Friday, November 11, 2005
From the President's speech today:
- And our debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war. When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support. I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I accept the responsibilities, and the criticisms, and the consequences that come with such a solemn decision.
While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.
They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power. (Applause.)
But I don't think this is about the truth anymore. It's about power politics. It's about trying to score points against the President, to tie his hands and weaken his support so that he's unable to implement his agenda and in so doing set the stage for more GOP victories in '06.
Most politics isn't about doing what's right for the American people anymore, and I think that applies to people on both sides. But I think it applies more to the Democrats, because they're the minority party now, and they'll do anything to get back into the majority.
Look that the "Blue Dogs" in the House. These are self-described conservative democrats who -- among other things -- want to see some degree of reduced federal spending. But not one of them -- not a one -- will give their support to HR 4241, which by and large just seeks to reduce spending increases in the next budget. Pelosi has her troops in line, and their following party over principle, presumably in the hope that partisan discipline will help them ultimately at the ballot box in '06, '08, and beyond.
We'll see, I guess.
(For the few liberals and/or democrats who read this blog, I'd be happy to hear how I'm wrong, or how the GOP is just as bad as your team. Seriously. I know this post is a bit "rantier" than normal, but don't take that to mean that I'm unable to hear what you have to say. So, comment or email away.)
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Fr. Reginald "Reggie" Foster, OCD, is the papal latinist, and probably the greatest latinist in the world (some people have said his latin is better than Virgil's). He's the one who wrote the latin text for Pope Benedict's first formal address to the Cardinals the day after his election.
He's also very eccentric. Having always worn his habit, he took it off for good the day after JPII mandated that all clergy in Rome had to wear either clerics or their religious habit. And in an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune a few years ago (Fr. Foster is from Milwaukee), he referred to the (private) Masses he's celebrated in the nude.
If you're curious about the guy (and I'd be surprised if you weren't), you can check out his weekly podcast at Vatican Radio, The Latin Lover; pretty interesting listening, as you might imagine.
From Fr. Neuhaus:
- One notes in passing that President Bush was much criticized for taking two days before making a national address about Katrina and the devastation of the Gulf Coast. He should have responded more quickly. By way of contrast, however, President Jacques Chirac of France waited until the violence had raged for eleven days in hundreds of cities before addressing the nation, and has been invisible since.
The following comes from today's Washington Post:
In comments that echo arguments made by intelligent design advocates, the pope at his weekly audience described the world as a product of "creative reason, the reason that has created everything, that has created this intelligent project."
Once again, evidence of a deep-seated assumption that America is at the center of the world's attention 24-7.
HT: Hugh Hewitt.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Back in September, the archbishop of Granada, Spain -- Javier Martinez -- invited about 25 theologians from the US and Europe -- both Protestant and Catholic -- to a theological convention he called "Meetings for a New Beginning". Archbishop Martinez gathered together in particular scholars from three different "schools" -- Catholic la nouvelle theologie, Anglican-Catholic Radical Orthodoxy, and the Protestant-Catholic "Duke School" of Stanley Hauerwas -- to talk about the Church in the present cultural and social moment.
Reformed theologian and "member" of the Radical Orthodoxy school, James KA Smith, was an attendee, and offered a series of three "dispatches from Spain" back in September (here, here, and here). Now, in the new issue of Traces, the monthly magazine of the Catholic movement Communion and Liberation, cielina and scholar Elisa Buzzi shares her own thoughts on the meetings, as well as some brief interviews with Archbishop Martinez and Stanley Hauerwas. You can see the table of contents of this issue here, and when the next issue comes out, you'll be able to read these articles online.
This sounds like it was a very interesting meeting; if anyone knows more about it, I'd love to hear from you.
I was recently invited to join the blog Radical Preaching, which has as its subtitle, "Can preaching again have something to say? This blog marks the attempt to bring the theological vision of Radical Orthodoxy into the worship and preaching of the local church."
Check it out... I'm sure many of you will find it somewhat provocative :-)
Monday, November 07, 2005
I posted the following at la novelle theologie today:
Recently, David referred anew to his list of reasons for disagreement with Michael Novak and his “Whig Thomism” theology. After a brief email discussion, I accepted David’s invitation to work together on a series of posts elaborating on the reasons for disagreement; I’m not with David on all of them (e.g. the Iraq War), but for those which I’d see as foundational or fundamental, we see eye to eye.
(I also want to note that I consider this a work in progress, and I’m more than open to constructive criticism.)
With that brief introduction, let’s get to it…First on David’s list is the following: “1. The death of God for our times, for our culture, for us, is Liberalism.”
I see this as the most important of the points, and I’m completely with David on it. So… what does it mean?
Speaking for myself (although I think Major Jones would echo me), there are a number of important theologians and philosophers who have led me to the view that Liberalism is Public Enemy Number One when it comes to widespread contemporary worldviews in opposition to the Catholic understanding of reality. (NB: “widespread” and “contemporary” are both important qualifiers in that statement; don’t forget them.) In order of my “discovery” of those thinkers (“discovery” meaning my awareness of their opposition to Liberalism), they are as follows:
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Peter Augustine Lawler
There are others as well, but these serve as the primary sources for my views on the matter.
So, what is this “Liberalism” which David and I see as such a threat to Catholicism? Essentially, liberalism in all its forms (more on this below) is characterized by the autonomy of the individual, which results in the individual as the primary focal point of every form of discourse: political, social, cultural, religious, etc. (We see this evidenced today in what Mary Ann Glendon referred to as “Rights Talk”: you can’t have a very significant substantial conversation without someone’s (or some group’s) rights being referred to in one form or another.) This characterization of liberalism goes by a common name: individualism.
However, individualism is not the only feature of liberalism: the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre is well-known for his critique of what he calls “the Enlightenment project”. MacIntyre uses this term to describe the attempt by Enlightenment philosophers to construct a “public morality” accessible to reason alone, i.e. without any reference whatsoever to religion and acceptable to anyone with the basic ability to think. (MacIntyre convincingly demonstrates how such a project is an ultimately futile one.) This, too, tends to define liberalism broadly understood.
It’s important to note that liberalism in this sense encompasses the vast majority of political discourse in our country today; virtually all of those people who describe themselves as liberal and conservative are actually liberals in this broad sense. MacIntyre explains how there are radical liberals (communists, nihilists, etc.), liberal liberals (John Kerry et al), and conservative liberals (George Bush et al), but all of them are liberal in this larger sense. (The conservatives people like Russell Kirk.)
Now, why is liberalism understood in this sense the death of God for our times? Because of its amazing capacity to create and sustain (false) antagonistic dualisms, e.g. faith and reason; body and soul; church and state; religion and life. Note well: I’m certainly not denying that each element of each pair of terms is distinguishable from the other… that’s obviously true. My point here is that liberalism doesn’t merely distinguish between (for example) faith and reason: rather, it puts them in opposition to one another at a fundamental level.
Ultimately, liberalism is so problematic because of its propensity to separate religion from “everyday life”. I’d submit that the vast majority of Americans fail to structure their lives according to their faith at an ontological (as opposed to moral) level. Were you to ask someone how being Christian informs and shapes (for example) their profession, you’d be lucky to get more than, “I don’t cheat, lie, or steal because of my faith” (i.e. moralism). What we’re talking about here is the split between the faith believers profess and the lives they live which Vatican II and Pope Paul VI referred to as the great drama of our times. And I think a convincing argument can be made that the origin for this drama is liberalism.
What we’re talking about here is secularism: the view that denies religion’s intrinsically pervasive nature. Secularism tries to create the “naked public square,” i.e. to make religion a purely private matter without bearing and impact on the public life of a nation. I would argue that secularism is one of the logical consequences of liberalism, in spite of the fact that some liberals (e.g. conservative liberals) might themselves be vociferous opponents of secularism. In other words, there is a logic of liberalism which inexorably works itself out, whatever the positive and good intentions of individual liberals.
It is precisely because of its secularist consequences that liberalism is regarded by people like David and myself as the “death of God for our times”. If we want to get to the heart of the problem of secularism, dealing with the problem of liberalism is a necessary consequence.
Friday, November 04, 2005
In light of a recent discussion about what it means to be Catholic, the following is from the letter's page of yesterday's issue of the Rapid City Journal.
- Live your faith
In Mary Garrigan's (Oct. 23) column on declining vocations, she claims that mandatory celibacy is a major reason for our shortage of priests. In truth, there are fewer vocations because there's a shortage of holy Catholics who understand and live their faith.
If I call myself a vegetarian, but I eat meat, does that mean I'm an unorthodox vegetarian? If I proclaim there'd be more vegetarians if we all just ate meat, does that mean I'm more open-minded and progressive than traditional vegetarians? No. It means I'm not a vegetarian.
So it is with spurious Catholics. If you don't practice the teachings of your faith, you aren't Catholic. If you don't understand your faith, but think you know more than the collective wisdom of our 2,000-year-old church, then you're a prideful, ignorant, spurious Catholic.
There are many pro-abort, contracepting, priestess-promoting, pro-homosexual marriage, anti-annulment, "Holy Eucharist is just bread" parishioners who think like Garrigan, but they aren't living their faith either.
If you don't like Catholicism, there are plenty other denominations to choose from. Just stop professing to be something you aren't.
Vocations come from good Catholic families and good Catholic families come from holy Catholics understanding and living their faith.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
John Duns Scotus was one of the leading theologians of the late medieval period (he lived from 1265-1308). Unfortunately for him, his name is the origin of the modern word "dunce", indicating someone who ain't to keen. In fact, he is known as the "Subtle Doctor" for the rigor of his intellectual work. He was the thinker who developed an explanation for Mary's Immaculate Conception which was later ratified ex cathedra when Pope Pius IX defined that Marian doctrine, and Scotus was also renowned during his own lifetime for his holiness: virtully immediately upon his death, he was referred to as "blessed" (his official canonization wouldn't come for quite some time: JPII beatified him in 1992!).
Having said that, I've found over the last several years that we've got the good doctor to thank for all sorts of problems in theology (and hence, elsewhere). For instance...
First, in research for my dissertation, I found that while Ockham is rightly criticized for positions on sin and grace which Luther would rightly reject (erroneously believing that they articulated authentic Catholicism), many of Ockham's problematic positions could be traced at least in part to Scotus' own thinking.
More recently, I've found scholars who argue that criticisms of virtue ethics trace themselves beyond Kant and Ockham to Scotus and his division of the will.
Finally and also recently, I've found that the theological "tendency" called Radical Orthodoxy sees Scotus' metaphysics as the harbinger of modernity and its attendent secularism.
Now, I think it's clear that we're talking about unintended consequences here; Scotus was a faithful son of the Church, a holy man, and a brilliant thinker. But some of his thoughts turned out to have conclusions which were and are detrimental to Catholic Christian thought and practice.
I've finally gotten around to reading James K.A. Smith's Introducing Radical Orthodoxy, and it's really an exciting read, especially for anyone favorable towards the ressourcement school of Catholic theology.
There are all sorts of quotes from the book I've thought about posting, but one in particular finally got me to the keyboard; it is as follows:
- Contemporary scholarship in a plurality of fields has demonstrated that how we think about the body has a direct impact on our politics and our construction of social reality. In other words, dualistic understandings that devalue embodiment often give rise to totalitarian organizations of social arrangements. Further, such dualistic devaluations of the body are reductionistic, producing notions of being human that are driven by factors that consider many aspects of embodiment unnecessary or at least merely supplemental. (104)
As George, Smith, and JPII demonstrate(d), getting our understanding of what it mean to be human has profound implications.
Yesterday I duplicated a post by Jonah Goldberg which pithily explained how Plamegate doesn't have the connection to the case for war which some people think it does.
Today, the Wall Street Journal has an outstanding editorial (presumably written by op-ed editor Paul Gigot) which explains point-by-point how all of the evidence and investigations done heretofor exonerate the Bush administration from claims of intelligence manipulation.
Regardless of your opinion on the matter, this is a must read.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
What Jonah said:
- SMEARING WILSON [Jonah Goldberg]
In arguments with readers and others I keep hearing the same argument: Why would the White House go to such lengths to smear Wilson if what he was saying wasn't true?
I just don't get it. At all. First of all, What lengths? Was I out of the country when the White House mounted a full bore assault on Wilson? When I ask for examples from people peddling this the answer invariably is "They outed Valerie Plame!"
Well, that's actually the subject of considerable debate, no? Novak's source wasn't charged with anything. Novak himself was an opponent of the war, so why would he be the go-to guy for a smear campaign? The conversations Libby allegedly had were brief. The evidence that the motive of her outing was punishment as opposed to a desire to rebut Wilson has never been presented. The fact that a smear is usually associated with saying something untrue as opposed to true -- as was the case here -- is often overlooked as well.
But, whatever, we will be debating that for a long time. But where is the rest of the smear campaign? Is the entire list taken up by the Valerie Plame outing? Is that all there is?
Moreover, let's assume I just missed this smear campaign and it really took place. Why does it follow that the White House would only come down on Wilson like a ton of bricks if he was telling the truth? Doesn't it make exactly as much sense to come down like a ton of bricks on a guy if you think he's lying? Especially when those lies are undermining the war? Indeed, there's vastly more evidence that Wilson launched -- with the aid of a still pliant media and the Kerry campaign -- a smear campaign against the White House. Is it really so outrageous that the White House would respond? Particularly given the larger political climate? I just don't get it.