Tuesday, December 31, 2002

New Link

I was happy to find an excellent website for general Catholic info. It's called Internet Padre, and it's run by Fr. Ronald Vierling.

I recommend checking it out.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Some good news in Cleveland

(No, I'm not talking about the Browns making the playoffs.)

It appears that John Carroll University no longer links Planned Parenthood on one of its webpages. They've replaced it with WomanKind, a pro-life counseling and assistance center.

Thanks to Amy and one of her readers for the update.
The Accidental Imperialist

That's the title of this Jackson Diehl column in today's Washington Post.

Diehl argues that Bush's stance vis. international terrorism, Iraq, and North Korea is his response to "the crystallization of a new global era."

A pretty good read.
Movie Watch

Having seen the second installment of The Lord of the Rings when it opened on the 18th, I saw its newest competition at the box office -- Catch Me If You Can -- last week, and I have to say, it was pretty enjoyable.

But it isn't LOTR.

According to this Fox News story, The Two Towers is on course to do better than its predecessor, The Fellowship of the Ring, having already crossed the $200 million mark. My favorite quote is from a movie industry professional: "To say it's this generation's Star Wars is almost an understatement."

NYTimes Editorial Watch

Today's edition: Mr. President, don't tear down this wall!

In today's lead editorial, the editors of the Times followed their columnist Paul Krugman's lead (which I blogged on here) and decried President Bush's decision a couple of weeks ago to allow religious groups which run social service programs to receive federal funding more easily. There are two specific comments I have.

First, the editorial states that "President Bush's initiative runs counter to decades of First Amendment law, which holds that government dollars cannot be used to promote religion." The editors are correct, in that Bush's plan runs counter to decades (and only about five of them) of rulings on the First Amendment. In November I blogged about two new scholarly books which demonstrate that the modern understanding of the First Amendment is not only relatively new, but runs counter to the original intent of the Amendment. And this ties in to the error in this editorial's statement: nowhere does the First Amendment use the term "promote". Rather, it prohibits the establishment of a state religion. The reading of the editors may be common, but it is wrong nonetheless.

Second, the editorial states that "the faith-based initiative is also unconstitutional, and fundamentally unfair, because it allows tax dollars to be used in programs that discriminate in hiring." But tax dollars are already given to various programs that discriminate in various ways (the bruh-haha over the U of Michigan's law school's acceptance practices being one notable example). Discrimination per se is not wrong... that is determined by the specific way in which it is applied. The fact that I -- as a man -- cannot use a women's restroom is discrimination, but it isn't wrong. So too do religious groups have the right to choose whom they want to hire.

This editorial repeats the standard secular mantra against religious activity in the public square, a mantra which scholarship is more and more proving to be unhistorical and illegitimate.
Abortion Politics

As many of you probably already know, last Tuesday the Bush Administration appointed a number of doctors to the FDA's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs.

Such an action would normally receive little attention. But when the doctors appointed are pro-life, that's not the case. The usual suspects (NARAL, Planned Parenthood, etc.) have decried the appointments, as this CNS story shows.

Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt called the selection of one of the doctors -- Dr. David Hager -- a "frontal assault on reproductive rights."

A NARAL statement issued on Dr. Hager prior to his appointment stated that "his potential appointment is part of a pattern from the Bush Administration of supplanting science and objectivity with anti-choice politics and ideology."

Okay now... the Bush Administration prefers "anti-choice [sic] politics and ideology" over "science and objectivity"?? And I suppose that NARAL reverses that preference, because there is no way that the abortion lobby would ever let their own interests, bias, and concerns interfere with their judgment, correct?

I'm baaack!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and remember -- it ain't over! Today is the sixth day of Christmas, with six to go before the Feast of the Epiphany.

My football prognostication skills continue to deteriorate... I was sure that the Pack would lock up homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a W over the Jets, but they got pounded instead.

Oh well... at least my Vikes beat Detroit. Hey... that's two road wins in three games! And three Ws in a row! Woo-hoo!

Monday, December 23, 2002

Merry Christmas!

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!

I might get a chance to blog over the next few days, but if not... see you next week!
Steelers can clinch tonight... like that's gonna happen!

The AP website has a headline, "Steelers can clinch division tonight", meaning that if they beat Tampa Bay in Tampa, they will clinch the AFC North.

Okay, raise your hands if you think Pittsburgh can beat Tampa anywhere this year, let alone in Tampa.


I'm no Bucs fan, and I don't have anything against the Steelers, but there is no way the latter can beat the former this year.
Thanks, Trent

Thanks to Senator Lott's multiple attempts to save his status as Majority Leader by apologizing for all sorts of things -- including sound legislative decisions -- liberals have new ammo to use against conservatives.

Consider, for instance, William Raspberry's editorial in today's Washington Post. Raspberry concludes this piece as follows:
    It is impossible to review the succession of Lott apologies without concluding that he not only regrets the racial insensitivity of his birthday party remarks but also has come to suspect that some important aspects of his present political views -- the dominant views of his party -- may be racially insensitive as well.

    You see why he had to go?
Because of Lott's goofy statements, Raspberry can more easily make the still-ridiculous claim that sound policy stances -- like opposition to affirmative action -- are "racially insensitive".

Thanks, Senator.
Frist's Pro-life record

CNS has an article on soon-to-be-SML Bill Frist's pro-life record.

The Senator is pro-life except in the instances of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is threatened. This is, of course, a barely intelligible argument. What is the only reason to be pro-life? Because one acknowledges the humanity & personhood of the embryo. But if the embryo is acknowledged as being a human person, on what grounds can abortion in the case of rape & incest be considered morally licit?

According to the article, abortion is not one of Frist's top 14 issues (listed on his website). The website does have a statement Frist made on cloning:
    No one can deny the potential human cloning holds for increased scientific understanding. [...] But given the serious ethical concerns this research raises, the fact that promising embryonic stem cell research will continue even under a cloning ban, the lack of significant research in animal models, and the existence of promising alternatives, I am unable to find a compelling justification for allowing human cloning today."
This is hardly a statement bound to reassure pro-lifers. And this is the guy the White House wants as Majority Leader.

Don't get me wrong: I realize that President Bush has other things on his mind. And I recognize that he has done a number of good things for the pro-life cause (I don't follow Judie "There's a cloud in every silver lining" Brown [credit to Kevin Miller for that] and her ever-present pessimism). But I wish he'd support a guy who is unabashedly pro-life, a guy like Rick Santorum.

Oh well.
The BBC on Jesus' Conception

According to a documentary [sic] aired on the BBC last night, Jesus may have been conceived when a Roman soldier raped Mary.

Okay. Whatever.

(Read more about it here if you care to.)

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Kmiec on himself

Douglas Kmiec, dean of Catholic University of America's School of Law and possible Bush nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, has penned an article in the Wall Street Journal on the attempt of some to prevent him from attaining that position.

Kmiec argues that essentially, those opposed to his judgeship do so because of his morals and his religion, and that such criteria are neither appropriate nor the best means to determine one's ability to serve as a federal appellate judge.

Good column.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Lott Leaving

Lott is stepping down today as Senate Majority Leader, according to several media outlets. Go read your fav for the details.
Science, Religion, and Young Earth

David Heddle has a terrific post on the needless opposition between science and religion (if the archives still aren't working, it's the post from yesterday, Thursday the 19th). David's post focuses specifically on the question of the Earth's age, in light of the Genesis creation narrative. As he points out, the notion that the "day" of Genesis 1 refers to a 24-hour period is not that which was held by most theologians in the early Church.

The idea the science and religion (Christianity in particular) are diometrically opposed is a fallacy which has been pushed for far too long. We acknowledge God as Creator of the material universe, and hence any discovery about that universe's nature and workings cannot but complement what God has revealed to us directly.

Kudos to David for a terrific post.
C-FAM's Friday Fax is up

I referred to it yesterday... it discusses the coming impact of AIDS in Eurasia.

Well worth a read.
LC in the Curia

The much-maligned priestly congregation Legion of Christ yesterday saw one of its own appointed to an important Curial position. Father Brian Farrell, LC was appointed by John Paul II as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. Fr. Farrell (soon to be Bishop Farrell) is replacing Bishop Marc Ouellet, who was named Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada last month. (Bp. Ouellet is also an outstanding theologian, having taught at the John Paul II Center for Marriage and Family at the Lateran University in Rome.)

IMHO, the LC doesn't deserve the bad rap it often gets, even from Catholics of every stripe. Perhaps there are some problems, but all in all, I think LC is and will be a great gift to the Church. Time will tell...

Thursday, December 19, 2002


Most of my archives are gone! And it looks like the same thing has happened to most of the other bloggers whose pages I've visted. If anybody knows what's up, please let me know.

Vatican II, Integrism, etc.

There have been a number of posts over the last few days concerning the implementation of Vatican II, what it means to be a "Traditional Catholic" as opposed to being an integrist, and some of the latest problems from the latter. Envoy's Encore has a number of them:
  • This one by Matt Abbot, Art Sippo, and Pete Vere on the new Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary
  • This one by Carl Olson on Vatican II
  • This one by Carl on rebellion from the left and the right, in general
  • This one by Dwight Longnecker on the correlation but not causation between Vatican II and the post-conciliar problems in the Church
  • This one by Carl on the implementation of the Council
  • This one by Shawn McElhinney and Pete Vere on what makes an authentic Traditional Catholic
Besides these Encore posts, Mark Shea has also commented (here and here, among other posts), as has Bill Cork (here and here, again, among other posts). Kevin Miller also has an excellent post.

I'd highly recommend reading these posts, along with the accompanying comments discussions.
The Future Impact of AIDS in Eurasia

Tomorrow's Friday Fax from the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute summarizes an article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs by demographer Nicholas Eberstadt. Eberstadt foresees the AIDS epidemic moving out of Africa -- where it has had little global impact, because of Africa's position on the "fringe" of global affairs -- and into Eurasia, where it will especially impact Russia, India, and China, countries which are decidely not on the fringe of global affairs.

I highly recommend you read it, once it is put online on Friday.

I also highly recommend subscribing to the free subscription to Friday Fax, which is sent out via email.
Germany under Schroeder: Adrift

That's the basic message of this NYTimes editorial in today's edition.
Today's college seniors = 1950's high school grads

"The college seniors of today have no better grasp of general knowledge than the high school graduates of almost half a century ago, according to the results of a new study."

That's how this CNS story opens.

Among the factors contributing to this stagnation are:

  • "A decreased emphasis on general knowledge in high school, placing colleges and universities in the position of having to fill academic gaps among students entering college"
  • "The dumbing down of curriculum, both at the college and high school level"
  • "Many colleges are placing less emphasis on liberal arts education in favor of more specialized education geared toward specific career paths"
  • "Also contributing to the trend is an easing of college admissions standards"

If you're interested, here are the questions asked.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

LOTR: The Two Towers

Saw it tonight... outstanding. I think I had hyped it up too much in my own mind, but it was still a terrific movie.

Gollum was amazing... I pitied him more than I did when I read the books. ROTK is going to be especially interesting on that front...

Aragorn acts as the king-in-waiting he is... I was a little disappointed with his portrayal in FOTR, but I think he was my favorite character in TTT.

Helm's Deep pretty much lived up to its billing.

Elves and bows: cool.

Ents: pretty good. I wish the Isengaard scene had been longer, but it was still very enjoyable.

TTT moved very quickly... as some critics have written, it went too quickly! (That's not at all a negative... when the movie ended, I was hoping it wouldn't.)

Bring on ROTK!!! (After a number of repeat viewings of TTT, of course.)
Saddam's Plan: Scorched-Earth

According to this AP story, Saddam Hussein's strategy in the event of a war with the US and its allies will be to destroy his own country's infrastructure, blame it on the US, and hope world opinion forces the US to stop its attack.

The story also tells us that "U.S. intelligence officials also believe Saddam will use his biological and chemical weapons if he believes he is about to fall, even in the opening days of a war. His primary targets: U.S. forces in Iraq, as well as the populace in his longtime enemies of Israel and Kuwait, the officials said."

It also goes into some detail in describing the "multilayer" defense that Iraq plans to employ, with the poorer military units furthest out, the Republican Guard closer in (to Baghdad), and Saddam's most loyal unit, the 10,000-strong Special Republican Guard, defending Baghdad itself, from within the city.

Pretty interesting article. One thing didn't quite make sense, though: the story says that this info came from a briefing which intelligence officials gave to reporters at the Pentagon; but it also says that the officials "spoke on the condition of anonymity."

Huh? How do you hold an anonymous briefing with the press?
When your doing dissertation research...

you learn all sorts of interesting tidbits. This quote, for instance, from Carl Braaten's Justification: The Article by Which the Church Stands or Falls is interesting:

[Reformed theologian Karl] Barth symbolized his decisive rejection of [various] Lutheran principles by curtaining off the whole Weimar edition of Luther’s works in his study, since Luther’s writings—“that Pandora’s box”—appeared to him as a source of all evils against which he had to contend [p. 65]


In the teachings of which ever Christian community you belong to, dear Reader, can faith be correctly described as a cause of justification?

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

A wide net is cast

Several years ago, I made it a habit to visit various anti-Catholic websites run by well-meaning but not-so-well-informed fundamentalists. I found it interesting to see how these kind of people perceived Catholicism. In many cases, it was apparent that their perception was a little off... what they condemned as Catholicism often had little to do with authentic Catholicism. In other cases, the objections they raised to various Catholic doctrines and practices were surprisingly thin; it appeared that the goal was to list as many objections as possible, regardless of their strength.

One of those sites was (and is) Biblical Discernment Ministries, or BDM. BDM has compiled a list of cults, along with a set of articles on each of them, and -- you guessed it -- Catholicism is counted as a cult, alongside the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science, Scientology, Seventh-Day Adventism, the Silva (mind-control) Method, the Moonies, etc. etc.

I recently returned to the BDM website, and I found a section which I had not previously noticed, this one full of exposés. These articles focus on individuals or groups, detailing how each of them deviates from Gospel truth (as understood by BDM, of course). Some of those who are "exposed" surprised me. For instance...

Bill Bright
Larry Burkett
Chuck Colson (based on BDM's perspective, this doesn't suprise me too much)
James Dobson (ditto)
Billy Graham
Hank Hangegraff
Dave Hunt (who wrote the book A Woman Rides the Beast; guess what it's about...)
Tim & Beverly LeHaye
C.S. Lewis (ditto to the Colson note above)
Josh McDowell
J.I. Packer
R.C. Sproul
Mother Theresa (of course)
Philip Yancey

and even...

Martin Luther!

Yes, BDM also has an exposé by BDM devoted to Luther. Why? Because he preaches The False Sacramental Gospel. In fact, BDM claims that "the false sacramental gospel of 'Baptismal Regeneration,' as proclaimed by Martin Luther and others, has probably (God only knows) led more people to hell than any other error propagated and tolerated within the ranks of professing Christianity."

Oh, remember the Reformation's rallying cry of sola fide? Well, you'll be surprised to learn that "in reality, Luther did not hold to JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE!" because "if he had really held to this, he would have rejected the doctrine of 'baptismal regeneration.'" So as it turns out, "the OBJECT of Luther's faith was not Christ ALONE, but CHRIST plus BAPTISM. That is ANOTHER GOSPEL!!!" Uh-oh. Bad news for Lutherans, no?

In BDM's other article on Luther, we learn that sola fide is not the only sola which Luther didn't really hold: "Sola Scriptura? -- Luther altered the Ten Commandments! Sola Gratia? -- Luther had grace being dispensed through baptism and communion! Sola Fide? -- Luther added baptism and the sacraments to a simple believing faith! Based on these contradictions, and the clear words of Paul in Galatians 1:6-9, what should be our position concerning Luther's true saving faith?"

So there you have it... the founder of the Reformation preached a false Gospel, one far too akin to the false Gospel of the papist idolaters of Rome (boo! hiss!).

The Theocrats are coming! The Theocrats are coming!

Today Paul Krugman -- columnist for the NYTimes -- does his Paul Revere imitation, but this time it isn't the Brits... it's those dastardly foes of the Religious Right! Quick, save the children! Hide the women!

Krugman is wringing his hands over the Bush decision to make it easier for faith-based social services to obtain federal funds. The way Krugman reacts, you'd think Bush just declared that pastors and priests will be replacing congressmen and senators next week.

Actually, Bush's action is common-sensical; there are all sorts of social service organizations which do great things for the poor, single parents, minorities, women, etc. -- and oh, by the way, they happen to be church-based -- and are ineligible for federal grants. But rather than do something that might help those less fortunate than themselves, people like Mr. Krugman would prefer to maintain that inviolable Wall of Separation Between Church and State, the magnitude of which was inconceivable sixty years ago, let alone two hundred years ago when the Constitution was drafted and approved.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Try, try again

According to this Rachel DiCarlo piece at The Weekly Standard, Republicans in Congress are ready to pass a new partial-birth abortion ban, one that would pass muster with the Supreme Court's decision in Stenberg v. Carhart.

Let's hope it works.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

The Simplicity of a Child

Awhile back I posted on Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's latest book, God and the World, another book-length interview between the Cardinal and German journalist Peter Seewald. Since then, Bill Cork has also commented on the book, as has Kevin Miller.

There are innumerable quotes from this text that are worthy of consideration and reflection, but for now I want to focus on one in particular.

Seewald asks the Cardinal about Jesus' enthusiastic love for children, and quotes Matthew 11:25: "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes." Ratzinger comments thus:

Yes, here again is the mysterious pattern of the way God acts: the whole magnitude of it is more easily grasped by simple people than by those who, with a thousand distinctions and diverse intellectual baggage, ferret out each little bit on its own and are no longer capable of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the whole.

No rejection of intellectuals, or of detailed knowledge of Scripture, is intended here, but a warning not to lose our inward simplicity, to keep the meaning of the whole in view, and to allow oneself to be impressed, to be ready to accept the unexpected.

It's no secret that for intellectuals this is a great temptation. When we look back on the history of the ideologies of the past century, we can see that simple people ahve often judged more soundly than intellectuals. The latter always want to make more distinctions, to find out more about this and that--and thereby they lose their overall view. [emphasis added; pp. 243-244]

Ratzinger is right on here. For those of us who's way of living and grasping the faith is perhaps more intellectual, the temptation to over-intellectualize the faith is indeed great. We must always seek to have that childlike simplicity, that awe and wonder at God's work of creation and redemption. We must be on guard against the temptation to "experiment on God," to reduce Him to a scientific project or hypothesis which we are seeking to validate. We must remember that we are the creation, and He is the Creator.

As the Cardinal notes, Jesus is not condemning intellectuals or an intellectual approach to Him per se, but rather He is calling us to retain that wonder, that simplicity, which so characterizes the child's view of the world around him.
An outstanding, timely homily

An acquaintance of mine from Rome, Fr. Jim Tucker, preached an outstanding homily today. I strongly encourage every Catholic to read it, especially in light of the past year's events in the Church in the U.S.

(Thanks to Jeff Miller for pointing it out.)
Oh for goodness sake

Newsweek's article on Cardinal Law's resignation is now online.

I am not impressed.

Actually, let me take that back... a bit. The article in many ways is okay. It's the views of the people quoted that fail to impress me.

For instance, the article quotes a "suburban priest" who compared the situation "to the Protestant Reformation and the Second Vatican Council." Perhaps the good priest is exercising a bit of hyperbole, because it's frankly ridiculous to compare what Boston is going through to either historical event.

We then learn that Dr. Jim Muller, founder of the controversial Voices of the Faithful [sic] has an unfortunate understanding of the place, role, and importance of the liturgy for Catholics. Commenting on the revelations concerning defrocked priest Geoghan, Dr. Muller said, "My wife and I, who were devoted Catholics, could not bring ourselves to go to church in January.”

One can certainly understand the pain and frustration which people in Boston like Dr. Muller and his wife felt. But I cannot understand how one might respond to the news of what had happened in the Archdiocese by not going to Mass on Sunday. Dr. Muller doesn't say that he and his wife didn't go as an act of protest, and I'm not implying that he did. Nonetheless, it would seem to met that a "devoted Catholic" would run to the Jesus present in the Eucharist precisely at a time like this, when there is so much pain, suffering, and frustration in one's own heart and in the hearts on so many fellow Boston Catholics.

Where the article really turns south, though, comes when it discusses Garry Wills, calling him "a moderate Catholic intellectual if ever there was one." Huh??? This is the guy who wrote the book "Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit" for goodness' sake! And they call him a "moderate Catholic intellectual"???

Wills is asked about his views on VOTF's attempts to have greater say in Church decision-making. The article reads, "In other spheres 'we don’t accept authority unless it is accountable,' Wills told NEWSWEEK. 'The hierarchy thinks it owns the church. It doesn’t.' Could a group like this really pose a threat of revolution, or even reformation?"

Wills is right: in other spheres, we don't accept authority that isn't accountable. But he fails to remember (if he even knows) that the Church is different. Catholics believe that the hierarchical structure of the Church was determined by God, not man. This means that authority in the Church is different from authority in other realms. Bishops and popes and most surely accountable for their actions, but not to us. They have to answer to Someone else.

Now, I don't have a problem with revisions in the way bishops are selected. Such "conservative" Catholics as George Weigel have done the same. But those revisions have to be done within the tradition of the Church, not according to the programs and policies of those who do not think with the Church.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

"Revisions in mass worry some Catholics"

That's the title of this story in the Minneapolis Star-Trib last Saturday. It's generally not a bad article, in the sense that there's not too much spin from the author. However, the singular title "Revision in the mass..." may have been better, because the primary focus of the article is the fact that in the new GIRM, extraordinary eucharistic ministers can approach the altar only after the priest has communicated. Here's the paragraph that addresses that focus:

"Specifically, the new rules prohibit unordained Catholics from approaching the altar before the priest has taken communion. In the past, many churches had lay eucharistic ministers who would help prepare the eucharist for distribution to the congregation. Now those responsibilities are the priest's alone."

Now, this change isn't any big deal to me. But it is to some. The next paragraph reads,

"'We're struggling with what this might say and how deeply we might implement it,' said the Rev. Tim Power, pastor of the large and growing parish, Pax Christi Church in Eden Prairie. It was begun as a lay-driven congregation that incorporates many of the teachings of Vatican II in its liturgical life."

A "lay-driven congregation that incorporates many of the teachings of Vatican II in its liturgical life"? Who are they kidding? Pax Christi is by far the St. Paul-Minneapolis parish that diverges most from the Catholic Church's doctrine. A reading of the Vatican II documents wouldn't lead one to imagine a parish like Pax Christi.

What troubles me most about the article, though, is this: Catholics (lay and ordained) continue to misunderstand the role of the laity in the Church, according to Vatican II. The typical Catholic thinks that to be "involved" means to act as a "liturgical minister," i.e. a reader, extraordinary eucharistic minister, an usher, a greeter, etc. Now, those ministries are all valid; I'm not questioning them. What I am questioning is the stereotypical view that serving in one of these roles is what defines the active, involved Catholic, and that is most definitely not the case.

The role of the laity according to the texts of Vatican II is to bring the Gospel to the world in our daily lives. We are the ones who must bring the Gospel into the places we live, work, and relax. We are the ones who must reveal the truth, goodness, and beauty of our faith to others, and hence lead them closer to the Father through Jesus and in the Spirit. The ordained and religious also do this, of course, but look at the numbers: there are far more laity than ordained and religious, and thus we have a greater ability to reach more people, more quickly. The role of the priest is to empower the laity through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments to bring forth the Gospel to a world that is aching for it!

Clericalism is a major problem in our Church today... everybody wants to be one! The laity have been clericalized! But that is most definitely not what the bishops at Vatican II wanted. They wanted to awaken the sleeping giant that is the Catholic laity, to help them become aware of their essential role in the Church's mission.

When will it happen?
USCCB and liturgical books

Interesting post by Bill Cork on the USCCB's new aggressiveness regarding liturgical books.

Friday, December 13, 2002


EWTN's webpage now has the sixteen documents of Vatican II not only in english, but the original latin as well!
Think Tanks Fail in the Abortion Debate

That's the title of this UPI piece.

Kind of a wierd piece, in a certain sense. The author wishes there was more objective "solid research and sound data" done by think tanks, "so they can inject important information to a significant debate."

Honestly, I'm not really sure what the point of such "objective" research and data would be. The crux of the abortion debate is the question of the personhood of the embryo. Biology has already weighed in on this. The reason there is widespread disagreement is that people have taken different philosophical stances on the "objective" data which embryology long ago provided.

Abortion is a relative rarity in modern political discourse: there isn't really any middle ground, because the core issue only has two solutions. Either the embryo is not a person (and hence there is no problem with abortion and there is no need to restrict it), or it is a person (and hence abortion should be outlawed).

This article seeks to find another way, and hopes that "objective research and solid data" might provide the way. But there isn't another way. Abortion is the moral equivalent of either elective cosmic surgery or manslaughter (at best). There is no other option.
Novak on Boston

Michael Novak has a good piece up on the Church in Boston, in general.
Why now?

Why did Pope John Paul II not accept Cardinal Law's resignation back in April, instead of waiting until now?

Mark Shea offers come excellent thoughts to answer this question (here and here), pointing to the reality that the Holy Father is the Bishop of Rome, not CEO of Catholicism, Inc., i.e. that JPII thinks in Gospel terms, not political terms.

I would also highly recommend reading Sean Gallagher's comments made in response to this post by locdog, calling for John Paul's resignation. Sean makes excellent points about a proper understanding of the structure of the Catholic Church and the relationship between the pope and his brother bishops.
Less than two months!

Until Fr. Bryce Sibley, the Saintly Salmagundi, can return to blogland!
new link

This one to Robert Gotcher's Classic Catholic blog.
Cloning at Stanford

Eric Cohen & Bill Kristol have a great article on Stanford's recent announcement that they will begin cloning, in spite of the university's PR attempts to spin it in another way.
White House not happy with Supply-siders campaign against Friedman

This Washington Post article quotes an official close to the White House, who said, "The president does not get pushed around by self-appointed leaders of groups that represent wealthy elites that want their taxes cut and don't have any real constituency outside of New York or Washington."


My family is far from wealthy, and I don't live in DC or NYC, but I agree with the stance of groups like the Club for Growth.

I guess the White House has determined that supply-siders are another part of their base that they can afford to anger; anybody remember McCain-Feingold?
Law's resignation accepted

Here's one story.

Amy Welborn has a bunch of stuff at her blog.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Supply-side theory and the Law of Diminishing Returns

I'm a supply-sider. I believe that cutting taxes actually leads to greater tax revenue down the road, and this belief is bolstered by a quick examination of the U.S. budget when Reagan took office and when he left office: although tax rates were drastically cut, revenue by the end of the decade was up (in real dollars).

However, it also seems to me that this principle must have a limit, in the mathematical sense. There must be some tax rate at which this principle ceases to apply. After all, taking it to is logical extreme -- a 1% tax rate -- would surely not yield greater tax revenue in the near future, would it?

So what is the "perfect" tax rate? How do we know we aren't there now? I'm not saying we are, but I think we who call for tax cuts need to remember that there is a "basement" tax rate, below which the supply-side principle fails to work.

Anyone have any insight?
The National Debt: much ado about nothing

What I just posted (below) leads me to speak briefly about deficits and the national debt. A lot of people get really, really concerned about the size of the national debt. Now, I can understand that intial reaction. But I don't think shrinking the debt should be a top priority for any administration, let alone Bush's. Here's why:

The national debt is nearly six trillion dollars. That's a lot of money. But consider this: as our economy continues to grow over time, six trillion dollars will progressively become a smaller and smaller percentage of the GNP. Presuming that we do not add considerably to the debt, that six trillion dollars will -- in a couple of decades -- be a relatively insignificant amount of money which we will easily be able to pay off.

Maybe I'm missing something, but that seems pretty straightforward to me. Note that I'm not encouraging deficit spending. I'm simply saying that we don't need to put debt-payoff among the top priorities of our nation. While this sort of money-management wouldn't work for a family or company, I see no reason why it can't work for our country.
I hope Bush knows what he's doing here...

According to this AP story, the President is going to announce Stephen Friedman as his top economic advisor this afternoon.

This line from the story is what most worries me: "Snow is likely to join Friedman in challenging tax cuts that threaten to put the government on course to long-running deficits, just as O'Neill did."

Can someone remind me again why O'Neill was dismissed? Wasn't one reason said to be that he wasn't supporting Bush's tax-cut based economic vision strongly enough? So how are Snow and Friedman different, exactly?

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

More Lott stuff

Mark Byron -- who previously supported Lott's removal as Majority Leader -- says he's "going to do a 180", concluding that "Lott may be more valuable in place than out of place, for getting rid of him will spill blood in the water for the left's sharks to get into a feeding frenzy over."

Read what he has to say.
Good thoughts on skeptics and raising kids

by Amy here at HMS Blog.

Bill Cork has had a couple of good posts on "how not do to ecumenism" (here and here).
Business as usual?

At HMS Blog, Greg has posted the beginning of a story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on the state's Catholic bishops and an advisory committee they are forming to "ensure their own accountability." This committee was to be appointed by Dec. 1, but it hasn't yet, which is probably the reason Greg titled the post as he did: "MN Bishops: Business as usual".

I have a bit of a problem with Greg's title, because (along with the beginning of the story he posted) it gives the impression that the bishops in that fair state (yes, I'm biased) have simply let their plan go by the wayside. In fact, that's not at all the case, as the rest of the story indicates. Rather, the 10 bishops of the state decided at the national meeting and then a "local" meeting in St. Paul to hold off on forming the committee. They seem to be fully aware of their original intentions, and in fact still plan to carry them out.

Now, I suppose it's possible that the reasons given are only excuses. But it's also possible that they are legitimate concerns. Why don't we presume the latter? Because of the actions of some other bishops? That doesn't seem fair. If I decide that I'm going to be proactive and take additional steps to deal with a particular problem which others in my "profession" have faced, and I then decide that I need to adjust my timetable for implementing those additional steps, would I be automatically deserving of a sideways look?
A creche? Religious. Menorahs and the Star and Crescent? Secular.

At least that's how the New York City public school system sees things. They will allow "secular" holiday symbols like "Christmas trees, Menorahs, and the Star and Crescent" but not "religious" symbols like a nativity scene. (Read more about this here and here.)

Does this make any sense? Actually yes, if your desire is to somehow prohibit explicitly Christian symbols while permitting symbols from other traditions.
Stephen Friedman? I hope not

A number of economic commentators have been writing on possible Larry Lindsey replacement Stephen Friedman. Unfortunately, it's looking less and less like this is the guy for the job. NRO has a good trio of articles in NRO Financial to get you started.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Lott and Clinton

Trent Lott's remarks last week were foolish, insensitive, and wrong. Fortunately, he apologized for them and noted that he was not supporting segregation by them.

What is interesting (but not surprising) is the degree of moral outrage being expressed by some on the Left (and the Right, actually), especially when compared with Clinton's recent remarks highly praising the former Arkansas senator J. William Fulbright. As Mark Levin notes in this piece, Fulbright was an unabashed segregationist. Yet you didn't hear Jackson et al condemning Clinton for praising Fulbright, did you? It makes it hard to take Jackson's remarks as little more than the partisan politics they are.

NB: I am not excusing Lott's remarks, as I noted in the beginning of this post. I'm only pointing out the inconsistency of those calling for Lott's head, when they gave Clinton a free pass.

Oh, one other thing: did you see that Tom Daschle came to Lott's defense? Makes it hard to paint Lott as a segregationist (let alone a racist) when that happens.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Canadian humanists to all hospitals: do what we say!

Apparently, the Humanist Association of Canada has adopted a resolution "which calls for the secularization of all public tax supported hospitals across Canada."

Our Humanists to the north are not happy that "certain services, notably abortion, contraception, tubal ligations and vasectomies, are not offered in some hospitals due to their religious orientation in spite of the fact that the need for them and the demand exist."

They do so because they are respectful of religion, of course. That is, as long as you practice your religion in your home. With your shades pulled. In the basement. From the hours of 5 am to 8 am on every other Wednesday in months that begin with the letter Q.
Two good NRO pieces today

One by Stanley Kurtz, on his ongoing debate with Andrew Sullivan over gay marriage.

Another by S.T. Karnick on one of my favorite t.v. shows, Monk.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

The Bishop: A Successor to the Apostles

Bill Cork had a great post the other day on the theology of the espiscopacy and the respect and deference due to bishops. As Bill writes, "The bishop, in Catholic teaching, is not some dispensable figurehead or middle manager or papal delegate: he is vicar of Christ for the local Church of which he is pastor." Exactly. It was only a couple of years ago that I came to this understanding, in the sense that it "clicked" for me. Bill includes a post from Fr. Keyes, who in turn quotes St. Ignatius of Antioch: "Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God." Amen.
Have they completely turned on him?

Continuing the criticism begun by Maureen Dowd, the editors of the NYTimes today penned an editorial which is generally critical of Clinton.

The Clintongrouppies are dwindling.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Safe Motherhood

Remember my post from the other day on the UNPFA report?

Now read this interview with the executive director of Newfoundland-based MaterCare International and then tell me that what the women of Third World really need is more access to contraception. I dare you.
What if they were (one of) us?

Victor Davis Hanson imagines what the world would be like, if the roles were reversed in the major (and minor) flaps between the U.S. and other nations and groups.
Breaking news: O'Neill resigns

According to Fox News, Drudge, the Washington Post, and most of the other media outlets, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has resigned, effective in a few weeks.

I guess that Bush economic team shake-up rumor that's weeks old was true.

Update: CNN is reporting that Larry Lindsey, the White House's top economic advisor, is also resigning, and that both resignations would requested by the Administration.
Good news on the environmental front

According to a study done by Conservation International, 46% of the Earth's land surface remains untouched wilderness. The findings surprised even the authors of the study, according to this CNS story.

The study also found that the Amazon and Congo tropical rainforests are substantially intact.

Good news!

Thursday, December 05, 2002

This really irks me

As I'm getting into my dissertation work, I've been reading and re-reading various responses to the documents which have come out of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, specifically the U.S. document from 1983 and the well-known universal document, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed in 1999.

A while back I read the LCMS's response to the JDDJ, The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in Confessional Lutheran Perspective. While I greatly respect and esteem the LCMS for its doctrinal emphasis in general, I sometimes worry that its members (or at least some of them) haven't quite got the ecumenical thing figured out yet. The following is always foremost in my mind when it comes to examples:

The former President of the Synod, Alvin Berry, had requested that the departments of systematic theology of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne and of Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis prepare evaluations of the JDDJ; these evaluations, along with a summary of them, constitute the LCMS response.

In its evaluation the Fort Wayne department of systematics rightly pointed out that the Lutheran and Catholic differences in their theologies of original sin play an important role in the question of justification. As they write, "Lutherans hold that original sin is really sin and that it remains after Baptism. Roman Catholic doctrine holds that original sin is eradicated by Baptism and that concupiscence is not really sin." Exactly correct, and this is one of (if not the) major sticking points in this dialogue. I agree completely with the evaluation at this point.

My problem is with the sentence that follows shortly. The evaluation introduces the Council of Trent's statement on concupiscence thus: "The issue came to a head in Trent's Decree Concerning Original Sin (Fifth Session), which calmly anathematized St. Paul: 'This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin.'"

Which calmly anathematized St. Paul??? This little jab really irks me. I could understand it if it came in the context of a polemic on the issue, but it really seems out of place in an evaluation of an ecumenical statement. The fact is, we (Lutherans and Catholics) disagree on what exactly St. Paul meant in places like Rom 6-8 and Col. 3. We don't read his language to mean that the concupiscence in the justified is actually sin; they do. I am aware of and acknowledge this difference of interpretation, and naturally I think that ours is correct. But I would never say that Lutherans "anathematize" Paul in their understanding of what concupscence is. This just seems really out of place and uncalled for to me. Maybe I'm over-reacting, but everytime I read this line, it gets me going.
The Envy of Christendom

In October the executive director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) for the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church, Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, commented on the differences currently "plaguing" the Synod.

Essentially, Dr. Nafzger said, the differences are strategic, not doctrinal. When it comes to doctrine, he said that "We are the envy of Christendom for the doctrinal unity we have."

I'm not sure what to make of this, i.e. do I agree or disagree. On one hand -- and as far as I know -- there is a great deal of doctrinal unity among LCMSers, to the degree that I've never heard or read of real dissent (accusations by some of others' dissent, but that's different) as has been the case in the Catholic Church. On the other hand, the LCMS is a relatively small group of Christians, so maintaining that degree of unity isn't as impressive as it might be. Or is it?


Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Porn? Yes. Politics? No.

Interesting post by Mark Byron on the web-filtering done in China to keep their populace under control. Porn sites are allowed, but political sites (like most of the blogosphere) aren't.

Glad the Chi-Comms have their priorities straight.
NYTimes editorial watch

Today's installment: McCain-Feingold

As you might expect, the Times' editors are hoping (and praying? probably not) that McCain-Feingold survives a court challenge on the question of whether or not it impinges on the First Amendment. Which it does, of course, but the Times doesn't seem to mind.

One of the things that struck me, though, came when the editorial listed the "usual suspects". Among the "unlikely array of opponents" to the law, it includes "the National Rifle Association, civil libertarians and the political parties themselves."

What I want to know is this: why did the editors name the main gun lobbyist (the NRA), but not name the main civil libertarian lobbyist, the ACLU? Is it perhaps that they want to disguise the fact that the ACLU comes down (for once!) on the opposite side of an issue as the Times editorial staff, lest anyone realize how far out the Times' position is? Hmm...

Did you see Maureen Dowd's latest column? In it, she blasts.... (get this) Bill Clinton! Parsing Clinton's speech to the DLC, she trains her sarcasm on the "most loathsome living American" (that's not a quote from her... see my next post).

There are all sorts of zingers in this piece, but rather than spoil the fun, I'm just recommending you read it yourself.
Greatest Living American? Ronald Reagan, baby!

That's according to a new Esquire survey, reported in the Washington Times here.

Bill Clinton came in fifth on this question, but was numero uno on the list of "most loathsome living American."

How's that for a legacy?
No heading does this justice

The Rev. Mark Bigelow recently wrote to Bill O'Reilly, telling him that "Jesus was for peace on earth, justice on earth, compassion on earth, mercy on earth, and choice on earth."

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. Earlier in the letter Rev. Bigelow wrote, "one thing I know from the Bible is that Jesus was not against women having a choice in continuing a pregnancy."

Yes, the good reverend believes that Jesus Christ -- Son of God and Son of Man -- was pro-choice, i.e. had no problem with the killing of the youngest of human beings.

You see, Rev. Bigelow is on the Clergy Advisory Board for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

If you really want to know more, read this.
Biggest problem facing the world's poor: no condoms

That's basically what the U.N. Population Fund's annual report for this year stated (read about it in this CNS story and this AP story).

Not clean water, not basic sanitation services, not basic medical services, but birth control.


Tuesday, December 03, 2002


This is a post by John Miller over at NRO:

"TWO TOWERS RULES [John J. Miller]
Saw an advance screening of The Two Towers this afternoon. You'll read more about it on NRO around the time of its official release in two weeks, but for now let me say this much: WOW! If you thought last year's Lord of the Rings installment was good, you're going to love the one that's about to come out."

Yes!! That's what I like to hear...
Glenda, back again

Back in October I posted on Yale history prof Glenda Gilmore and her intolerant stance on war in Iraq. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan (via whom I first found Ms. Gilmore's piece), I read this column in the Yale student newspaper, only to find that Ms. Gilmore -- and some of her faculty collegues -- are trying to shut down the newspaper's online discussion forum in response.

More evidence of extreme liberals' selective tolerance, which often goes by the name intolerance.
A Pro-Life Generation?

In this column, Maggie Gallagher takes up the liberal demigod of Progress and points out that -- contrary to the hopes and expectations of those who worship at this altar -- the "progressive" stance on abortion (i.e. that of the next generation) is pro-life. For instance, a November Zogby poll showed that 33 percent of 18-29 year olds support a total ban on abortion, a percentage much higher than the prior generation.

Good news for the future? Let's hope so.
The Bush Realignment

Interesting article at The Weekly Standard on Bush's opportunity to "forge Republican majorities for the next generation."

Monday, December 02, 2002

The Changing "Times"

That's the title of this Newsweek story on the NYTimes and the changes there that have come with Howell Raines' ascendency to the role of executive editor.

A good read.
One more...

Maureen McHugh's A Religion of Sanity.
Two more links...

Chris' All the Fulness


Christopher's The Directed Path