Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Scandal Time III

Fr. Neuhaus' latest commentary on The Situation is now online at the First Things website. Check it out.

While you're at it, read Deal Hudson's latest e-update on the Plenary Council which eight US bishops have called for in order to address the root causes of The Situation (something the Dallas meeting didn't do, and probably wasn't meant to do). The update is available here at Mark Shea's blog.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Roadmap to Renewal

Emily Stimpson has laid out an excellent Roadmap for Renewing the Church. The only thing I'd add (probably under Emily's Point #1: Learn the Faith): become familiar with the documents of Vatican II. Read them. Learn them. Know them. Make them yours.

John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger have both pointed to these texts and the knowledge of them by the faithful (that includes all states of life in the Church) as the key to authentic renewal in the Church.

Take their advice.
Can't we all just get along?

The Weekly Standard's online editor, Jonathan Last, has a piece on this November's Godless Americans March on Washington (link via Amy Welborn). Speaking of the commonalities which all of the various atheist groups share, Last points out that the first such commonality is a preoccupation with Christianity. Why is that? Christians are no longer the largest religious group in the world (Muslims now have that honor); Christians are hardly the only religious group (including self-proclaimed atheists) to commit atrocities against their fellow man (this being a common charge against Christianity); and atheists secularists have spent bunches of time and energy "proving" that the positives of Western Civ have nothing to do with Christianity. So why the preoccupation? I suppose it might be as simple as the fact that most atheists in this country were raised Christian, but I wonder if there is more to it.

[Update: a sharp reader noted that there are still more Christians than Muslims in the world... I inadvertently compared the total number of Muslims to the number of Catholics, not all Christians. Nonetheless, I'm still not sure that it's the numeric superiority of Christians which gets atheist ire up.]
Waiting is safest

A good, succinct commentary piece on the value and efficacy of abstinence-only sex education programs from the president of the Heritage Foundation.
Not so Godley to me

According to this article from Reuters, two gentlemen in a town in Texas got into a disagreement about who was going to Heaven and who was going to H-E-double hockey sticks, and it ended with one shooting the other with a shotgun.

The name of the town is Godley. Seriously.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Betts vs. Svendsen

John Betts recently "ran into" polemicist Eric Svendsen, who's been on a mission over the last year or two to prove that modern Catholic usage of the term "Theotokos" (literally "God-bearer", usually translated "Mother of God") points to Christological heresies on the Catholic's part.

I, for one, am befuddled by this sort of refusal to accord Mary a title which was historically given her specifically in order to "safeguard" the unity of Jesus' (divine) person, as John very aptly demonstrates. Maybe some of my Protestant friends in the blogosphere can help me understand this phenomenon.
"The Pope really is great"

A great article from the Toronto Globe and Mail (link via Gerard Serafin). Early on, while explaining the attraction of John Paul II, the author writes, "Everyone is drawn to true greatness, and John Paul II is quite simply the greatest man alive."


Saturday, July 27, 2002

Chris West and JPII

Fellow Catholic blogger Bill Cork recently made some critical remarks of Christopher West's take on JPII's rich theology of the body.

I haven't read West's stuff, but I know people who hold his work in high esteem; at the same time, I've come to respect Bill's insights "from afar". Hmmm... guess I'll have to listen to the tapes and decide for myself.
Comments recommendations?

I'd like to add a comments function to my blog, and I'm looking for recommendations. YACCS is not accepting new signups right now, and I'm wondering if I should just wait (only until Aug. 1), or if there is another good hosted service out there.

Let me know!

TF Barans

As promised, TF Baran's response to my brief comments on Phil's argument against embryonic personhood (see the earlier post from today below).

TF comments thus:

Clever observation, but at a more serious level it fails to consider several critical points.

First, you have got to know that I'm going to point out the difference between human "life" and human "personhood" -- and that what dies between fertilization and early pregnancy is human "life" (as are eggs, sperms and many forms of cell tissue) but has none of the ACTUAL qualities of an actual human person, but merely the POTENTIAL of possibly developing them in the future. This is especially true of the many fertilizatons that occur but which die very early without even becoming attached to the uterine lining.

Second, even if someone does actually consider the embryonic fertilized material to be a human person, there is a real difference between "someone" dying at the start of their expected life span, before they have had any actual experiences of being a person (and I would reiterate before they have the capacity for experiencing personhood because they are not persons yet), and at the end of a reasonable life span when they have actually lived life and experienced personhood.

Third, if one considers "risk" in purely relative terms, and considers "risk" to the one PERSON involved whose personhood is not in question -- the pregnant woman -- it is not only obvious but supported by extensive statistical evidence that carrying a pregnancy to full term is far more hazardous than abortion. The only reason to bring it up at all is that sometimes the objection to abortion is shrouded in a rather silly argument that it is risky to the woman.

In the course of my discussion with TF previously, I often proposed the definition of personhood which I posted previously: a person is a being which has the active capacity to reason and freely-will. TF has never really grasped this definition, or at least she doesn't seem to have done so on the basis of our discussions. That this is so is seen in her first point, in which she argues that the embryo lacks actual personal qualities, and therefore is not a person. On the contrary, the embryo does have one of the essential elements of personhood: it has the active capacity (i.e. a capacity which it develops of itself, and is not developed by an external action) to reason and freely-will.

She then points out that there is a difference between a person dying at the beginning of their life and and the end. So there is, but it has no significance vis. the moral and ontological status of said person.

Finally, she points to the dangers of pregnancy for the mother, but along the way begs the question of the personhood of the embryo.

I'd invite you to go to TF Baran's essay (linked in the earlier post today), read it, and -- if you have the time -- engage her in a charitable discussion of embryonic personhood. You'll definitely learn how to argue for your position, and -- who knows? -- you might make some progress with showing her the truth of that position.
The Vikes

One of the benefits that our relocation brings is the ability for me to catch more games of that team that every Minnesotan has a love-hate relationship with, the Minnesota Vikings (or Viqueens, as my seventh grade social studies teacher put it). Most national commentators have written off this coming season for the Vikes, chaulking it up to rebuilding; I can certainly understand why. Nonetheless, I think they're going to surprise a lot of people and win more games than most expect. Hey, they still have Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss, who apparently is going to get 40% of the offense's plays directed to him. Some might think doing so is foolish -- it's practically inviting a double team. But guess what? Moss already gets double-teamed on most plays. I say, throw him the ball anyway... let him outjump both defenders.

I'd like to point out that Mark Byron also expects to see a few more W's than others do from the Vikes: he expects they'll win the NFC North!

Speaking of Mark, by the way, I'd like congratulate him on his marriage earlier this month... Congrats, Mark!
A Job!

One reason I haven't posted in a while is that I've been busy with job interviews, and I'm happy to say that last week I accepted a position with the Diocese of Sioux Falls. The position I'm taking will (eventually) be Director of Evangelization and Adult Faith Formation. I ask for all of your prayers as my wife and I prepare to move to Sioux Falls and undertake this new phase of our lives.

A Belated Acceptance

As some of my (former) regular readers may recall, in June I was involved in a discussion concerning the morality of our bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One of those who disagreed most strongly with me was William Sulik, the Blithering Idiot. A couple of weeks after making his first remarks (which I linked to on my post below from June 4th), he publicly (on an archived blog entry which I can't get to for some reason) and privately (via email) apologized for the tone of his remarks. I immediately thanked him for doing so, but am only now following through on my promise to return his public apology with a public acceptance. Thanks, William.


When I was more active on blogging (which I hope willl be possible again soon), I tried to link to the blogs I checked regularly. Unfortunately, the plethora of excellent blogs has become so numerous to make such a task too daunting for now. So instead, I'd recommend you visit the following blogs (all linked to the left) and check out their links: Amy Welborn, Fool's Folly (soon to be defunct, unfortunately), Mark Byron, and Gerard Serafin's Blog for Lovers (near the bottom of the links list).

The Risk of Pregnancy

A couple of years ago while surfing the Net for substantial arguments in favor of abortion rights, I stumbled across an essay entitled Women's Reproductive Self-Determination, whose author goes by "T.F. Barans". This was (and is) one of the more substantial arguments in defense of abortion rights I'd come across, and I engaged in an email discussion with TF which lasted the better part of four months. Speaking for myself, I found the discussion to be very helpful in learning how to articulate my own pro-life views. Much of my position in favor of the personhood of the conceptus was developed in the course of that discussion.

Every now and then I stop by TF's site, and check out her forum (the feminine possessive reflects only my intutions on the basis of our conversations). TF occasionally posts the more meaningful responses she receives (in edited form), along with her replies. Recently I found a post from an abortion rights supporter named Phil, who argues that because there is a 50% chance that a pregnancy will miscarry, engaging in natural reproductive activity is wrong because it is unsafe, as half of those persons who come to exist will die before birth. Somehow Phil sees this as an argument against the personhood of the fetus.

I wrote TF and asked her to send along my response to Phil, which ran like this: natural human reproduction is completely unsafe... every human being who comes to exist because of it (not just half) dies. Not a very good success rate, if you ask me ;-)

My point, of course, is that it's ridiculous to argue against the pro-life position by saying that half of those "persons" who come to exist from sex will die and therefore they aren't really persons, because we all die after we come to exist; whether death greets us two days or seventy years afterwards has absolutely no bearing on our moral and ontological status as human persons.

TF made her only comments in response. I'll get to them a bit later.