Monday, December 22, 2003

Here it is

Thanks to a link from Mark Brumley, tonight I discovered the website Godspy, which is one of the best Catholic sites I've seen on the web.

I arrive at that judgment in large part because of the Mission Statement, which I highly recommend viewing via the flash-based visual version linked above the text version, which reads as follows:
    Blowing the Dynamite

    Catholic scholars have taken the dynamite of the Church,
    have wrapped it up in nice phraseology,
    placed it in an hermetic container
    and sat on the lid.
    It is about time to blow the lid off.
    - Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement.

    What We Believe

    We've created Godspy because we believe that Catholic faith is beautiful and mysterious, often exhilarating, and sometimes infuriating.

    We believe that the person of Jesus Christ is the answer to the deepest desires of the human heart, and that the Catholic Church is his mystical body. And that we Catholics, despite our best intentions, do a good job of obscuring that fact.

    We believe that the Church is not a lifeboat off a shipwrecked world, but that it exists "for the life of the world" [John 6:51] - our world. And because this world matters so much to the Church, Catholics need to do more to engage modern culture, and the people who shape it.

    When asked why he became a Catholic, the novelist Walker Percy answered, "What else is there?" We feel the same way. But we know this answer seems absurd to many people.

    It seems absurd to those who have been hurt by representatives of the Church. It seems absurd to those who only know the Church from newspaper headlines when things go wrong, or from biased, outdated history books. And it seems absurd to those puzzled by the Church's teachings, or turned off by half-hearted worship and preaching. These people need to know and experience the invisible reality that is the real Church, the Church of Jesus Christ, who is "the answer to the question that is Man." But how will that happen, unless committed Catholics reach out directly to them?

    Why Godspy?

    Love it or hate it, everyone can agree: the Church can't be ignored. "Catholic" means universal, and the Church is that in every sense. It's one billion members large, and it's spread across the globe. But it's universal in a more important sense. Nothing human or cosmic is beyond its reach.

    "The Catholic person is truly universal: he is interested in everything and afraid of nothing," says the Catholic philosopher Adrian Walker.

    That's why we believe there needs to be a fearless, intelligent forum for Catholics that's as universal as their faith, where non-Catholics and those in-between are invited to join the conversation. Not to "change" the Church, but to give witness to their lives.

    We believe that Catholics and other seekers are looking for an intelligent magazine about real Catholic faith - without apologies - that doesn't avert its eyes from real life. A magazine that speaks with a voice that's authentic, honest, and generous. A magazine that's written for the average person, rather than for theologians or religious insiders.

    Who Inspires Us

    Much of our inspiration comes from the great Catholic fiction writers of the last century: Georges Bernanos. Graham Greene. Walker Percy. Flannery O'Connor. They were believing, often times anguished, Catholics who used their faith to reveal the truth about human existence. And from their vantage points, they challenged the preconceptions of both believers and non-believers.

    Flannery O'Connor, in answer to a critic who said devout Catholics were "brainwashed," and lacking in the freedom necessary to be first-rate creative writers, said "there is no reason why fixed dogma should fix anything that the writer sees in the world. On the contrary, dogma is an instrument for penetrating reality. Christian dogma is about the only thing left in the world that surely guards and respects mystery." She challenged non-believers to consider the unseen reality, the eternal truths, within and beyond the visible world.

    O'Connor was equally direct when addressing fellow Catholics and other believers. She criticized those who try to "tidy up reality," letting spiritual pride blind them to the realities of our fallen, broken existence. "We lost our innocence in the Fall," she said, "and our turn to it is through the Redemption which was brought about by Christ's death and by our slow participation in it. Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality and an early arrival at a mock state of innocence, which strongly suggests its opposite."

    In their art, all of these writers looked upon reality without illusions. Their honesty touched the hearts of non-believers. We believe this sort of "Christian Realism" can touch the hearts of non-believers today, and help mend the rift between the Church and the world. That's why we explicitly invite all "seekers" to read Godspy.

    We fully expect the graces to flow the other way, too. "Unbelieving searchers," observed O'Connor, "have their effect even upon those of us who do believe. We begin to examine our own religious notions, to sound them for genuineness, to purify them in the heat of our unbelieving neighbor's anguish."

    Godspy's mission is to be a place where such encounters can take place. A place where Catholics and others searching for the face of God can together ponder "the mystery of things, as if we were God's spies" [King Lear].

    Patron Saints

    We entrust Godspy to Mary of Nazareth, the New Eve, the Virgin Mother of God.

    We pray for the intercession of our patron saints: St. Catherine of Siena, St. Phillip Neri, St. Edith Stein, and St. Maximillian Kolbe, as well as three possible future saints: Dorothy Day, Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. They were all radical: in their faith, in their love, and in their lives.

    Of course, our greatest living, human, inspiration is Pope John Paul II. Mere words can't convey our debt to him.

    Thanks for your interest in our mission. Welcome to Godspy, and may the peace and mercy of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father be with you always.
As articulated here and as exemplified in their articles, Godspy appears to answer a deep need: presenting the full beauty and truth of the Catholic faith (as opposed to watering it down in the face of external pressures) in an attractive and stimulating manner.

Make sure and check this site out.

Sunday, December 21, 2003


I saw Lord of the Rings: Return of the King this past week. Actually, I saw it twice: once on Wednesday, once on Saturday (that should suffice for what I thought of the film).

Tonight I watched part of Titanic on NBC, and the actor who played the captain of the ship reminded me of Bernard Hill, the actor who did an excellent job (imho) potraying King Theoden of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings. So I got online, checked Titantic at Internet Movie Database, and what do you know! They are the same guy!


Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Read this NYTimes article and the blasting which the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, gave the Security Council over its actions toward Iraq. Some choice quotes:

"Settling scores with the United States-led coalition should not be at the cost of helping to bring stability to the Iraqi people."

"Squabbling over political differences takes a back seat to the daily struggle for security, jobs, basic freedoms and all the rights the U.N. is chartered to uphold."

"One year ago, the Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable. The United Nations as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years, and today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure."

"The U.N. must not fail the Iraqi people again."

And extended passage:
    He also took on countries like France that have expressed doubts about the current governing group. "As Iraqis," he said, "we strongly disagree with those of you that question the legitimacy of the present Iraqi authorities."

    He continued: "I'd like to remind you that the governing council is the most representative and democratic governing body in the region."

    He said, "The members of the Security Council should be reaching out and encouraging this nascent democracy in a region well known for its authoritarian rule."
For being so stupid, he sure has fooled a lot of people

Go here and read The Right Christian's author Allen Brill complain about how bad a president George Bush is, so much worse than Nixon.

I think Allen needed to let off some steam, because this kind of post isn't typical of him.

And while you're there, read various commenters' theories about how Bush can possibly be polling above single digits.

I'm sure I'll read things like this from the conservative side of blogland if we ever have another Democrat president (let's hope not, at least without major policy changes), but until then, I can only wonder if I'd ever write something like this.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Philip Bartlett responds

Back at the beginning of the month I briefly posted on sedevacantist Philip Bartlett. He responded in the comments of that post and by email; here's his take (in the email, with the subject line: Private Interpretation?- Response To A VERY Confused Man which will be posted on our website):
    Mr. B (full name omitted to keep people from going to his website to be corrupted by heresy),

    Your entire notion of private interpretation is skewed and faulty. We are indeed allowed to read the texts of the magisterium and also understand what they say. We also have the ability to understand what they say. We also have the ability to understand what the statements of the word of God, the scriptures say. As His Holiness Pope Leo XIII makes extremely clear, the approved method of interpretation of the scriptures is the literal and obvious sense.

    "But he must not on that account consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine-not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires;(40) a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate. " PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS (Leo XIII)

    The fact is that not only do I believe that I must interpret the documents of the magisterium, SO DO YOU! For example, you interpret the catechism. You interpret the documents of the present day magisterium. You interpret Pope John Paul II's encyclicals. When I say interpret, I mean you read the words and accept what they are saying. The words themselves have meaning. If we were to adopt your false principle, that we may never interpret anything written to us, there would be no way whatsoever to prove that the Catholic faith is the true one.

    Now you might say to me that you interpret something a certain way unless there is an indication from the Vatican that you can no longer interpret it that way. THIS IS LIKEWISE FAULTY. Because you are indicating by that notion that you believe that the Vatican is clear in its foribidding a certain interpretation, and that its statements forbidding such are clear.

    Well then.... I submit to you, that the statements of the original councils are likewise clear for us. If they were not clear, there would be no point in having the scripture, tradition, or councils.

    If you accept that those who seek God with sincerity can be saved outside of the Catholic religion, and that they will never enter the Catholic Faith or religion, you will be damned, because you deny and contradict the clear words of Gregory XVI, that submitting to the Catholic faith is necessary for salvation for every man. It has been defined by council, that in order to be saved you must hold to the Athanasian creed. IF you do not hold the concepts stated in the Athansian creed, you are completely damned. To understand that you should best read the implicit faith heresy article.

    Therefore, if you condemn me on the basis of "private interpretation", I condemn you on the basis of the same, seeing that you seek to interpret the words of the New Magisterium in an effort to understand that I am wrong. You are privately interpreting what they are saying. But, even as you do that, you deny that me that very same right. If I were living in 1400, I would interpret the words of the olde councils in the exact same way you are interpreting the words of the present magisterium of Antipope John Paul 2- in their literal and obvious sense, the sense that God requires. The fact is, you are denying the words of the olde councils in their literal and obvious sense, in order to accomodate the heresies of Vatican 2.

    Just as you deny the words of Christ Himself, who states that unless a man is born of water (in baptism) he can not enter the kingdom of heaven. By denying all of these clear words, you become a heretic.
Here's my response, by email and here:
    Mr. Bartlett,

    1. I'm not afraid to link your site, because I know that truth is more powerful than error, and that the people who read my blog are sufficiently formed in their faith not to be led astray by your own comments.

    2. I contend that your intepretation is similar to that practiced by some Protestants for this reason: as you say, everyone interprets, and I agree. However, what distinguishes us is a recognition of the authority of the Catholic magisterium, or more precisely a recognition of the fact that it is the magisterium which has been given the gift of infallibility, not my own interpretation. In other words, I recognize the authority of the Bishop of Rome and the other bishops in union with him (today and throughout history), and I interpret texts according to their authoritative teaching. You on the other hand still employ a methodology which exalts the individual's interpretation over that of the magisterium, while calling yourself a Catholic.

    3. Your argument hinges on the idea that the bishop of Rome and his fellow bishops can together teach error, even in an ecumenical council. If that is correct, why accept any of the prior magisterial texts? Your conclusion of error at V2 depends on your own understanding of prior magisterial texts, rather than the understanding of the body which promulgated them: the Church's magisterium.

    I'm not confused, sir. As a Catholic, I acknowledge the authority of the magisterium... I do not reject it and raise my own intellectual judgment in its place.

    Have a blessed Advent & Christmas.

Give me a break

While perusing this comments thread at Howard Dean's website, I found a post (do a find for "degrift", part of the author's name) which states,
    The damage caused by the Bush administration to our society is unaffected by Saddam's capture:

    --Our environment continues to deteriorate.
    --We still need a health care system.
    --International relations remain damaged.
    --The rich continue to get richer at the expense of everyone else.
    --Unemployment remains way too high.
    --Wages for an honest day's work remain inadequate to own a home for too many Americans.
    --Our civil liberties remain under attack.
    --Our policies continue to provide incentive for terrorist recruitment.
    --K-12 education remains weak.
    --College education is still becoming less affordable.
    --Ownership of mass media continues to become concentrated.
    --We continue to undermine our children's future by wasting energy and natural resources.
    --There are still large numbers of people (like Alert, today's troll-du-jour) who don't understand the values upon which the country was founded.
    --Church and State are being merged.
    --Human rights for many Americans are still not respected.

    Capturing Saddam Hussein doesn't solve these problems although many Americans may forget this for a few days.

    Only this great campaign of hope led by Howard Dean will lead to resolving these real problems.
Come on. Apart from erroneous assertions, Mr. Van Degrift apparently believes that presidents possess the ability to solve all our nation's problems. I wonder, for instance, what exactly Howard Dean would do to solve the problem that "Wages for an honest day's work remain inadequate to own a home for too many Americans." Maybe we could enact a $40,000 per year minimum wage... I'd support that! Sign me up!

As you all know, Saddam was caught by US forces last night near Tikrit. There's no point linking news stories, since it's visible at any media outlet.

What interests me is the reaction of the left, both secular and progressive. Some are clearly happy about the events (Allen Brill, for instance), but others acknowledge the importance in a sentence or two (or less) and then talk about how this isn't really any big deal, how it's not going to have that much of an effect, etc. etc. (see Atrios and progressive Catholic Melanie, for instance). They aren't exactly excited about what is clearly good news, even if it doesn't mean that Iraq is going to be completely peaceful by tomorrow.

Relatedly, on Meet the Press this morning, Joe Lieberman said, "if Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would be in power today."

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Almost forgot

Much to my surprise, last Saturday I found an email from Wisconsin state legislator Marlin Schneider, responding to the most recent letter I'd written (he'd indicated that he wouldn't be continuing the discussion, but I guess he changed his mind). You can find it under "Third Update" in the original post.

I've yet to respond, and frankly, I don't know if I will.
New additions to the blogroll

Lutheran Confessions


Revealed truth and philosophy

Using the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as a case study, Mark of Minute Particulars shows how the philosopher can take advantage of revealed truth in his own discipline. The key quote:
    While it's true that any discipline which purports to work exclusively in the light of reason cannot come to conclusions that depend on revealed truths, such disciplines can use the light of faith to point them in the right direction and eliminate some avenues of speculation.
Precisely. The philosopher -- knowing that x is true -- can eliminate certain solutions to a particular problem in light of x, thus aiding him in solving the problem at hand.

This reminds me of the discussion in the mid to late 80's between a number of theologians: David Schindler one one side, George Weigel, Michael Novak, and Fr. Richard Neuhaus on the other. While I think highly of the second bunch, and appreciate and agree with much of their work, I think Schindler was in the right. The discussion is to wide ranging to attempt to summarize, but in a nutshell (which will probably be less than helpful to anyone who isn't familiar with the debate) it concerns the relationship between nature & grace and faith & reason, democracy, and public policy.

Why am I reminded of this discussion? Because what Mark is saying reminds me of part of Schindler's argument: IIRC, he argues that we should use the meaning of person as indicated by revelation (i.e. its communitarian dimension as seen in the Trinity) to a greater extent, rather than relying on a purely philosophical concept. That's not to say that public policy discussions should include references to Scripture or Nicea I, but that those concepts should be utilized when "person" is being discussed in the public square.

Monday, December 08, 2003

A theological thumbs-up for The Passion of Christ

Fr. Gus Di Noia, OP, whom I quoted the other day viz. nominalism and morality, did an interview with Zenit, the Rome-based Catholic news organization. Fr. Di Noia -- currently the undersecretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and member of the International Theological Council -- recently saw Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ, and had positive things to say about it, as you can see in the interview.

Check it out.
Two Churches?

In his latest commentary, Bob Sungenis contrasts "the old church," "the church of the past," and "the church of tradition" with "the church of today." However, what he is really contrasting in most cases is the views of individuals, both in the past and today. He is not comparing (let alone contrasting) "the old magisterium" with "the new magisterium," but rather what individuals in the past and today have respectively said.

In addition, he claims that adherents of "today's church" cannot claim that the "old church" erred (this claim is debatable in itself), because to do so would leave them open to the "future church" claiming that today's church erred. He says,
    Therefore, if those of us on the Traditional side of the fence choose to accuse the modern church of being wrong, there is nothing they can say against us, for they have already opened Pandora’s box by claiming that the Traditional church was wrong. If the Traditional church can be wrong, then the post-conciliar church can be wrong, and we are at a stand-off.
Mr. Sungenis evidently does not see that he is opening himself to the same problem which proponents of "today's church" allegedly face: as soon as he says that today's church can err, then he is saying that yesterday's church can err, because they are one and the same.

That is the crucial point: yesterday's church and today's church are identical, not separate entities as Mr. Sungenis says when he claims that "the old church survived intact for 1965 years." As soon as he claims that the church in the post-conciliar era can err, he's asserting that the church prior to Vatican II can err.

In any case, I think that Mr. Sungenis misstates the proposal of Vatican II and the post-conciliar Magisterium... the point isn't to condemn the past, nor to say that the Church was wrong in the past, but rather to propose that the unchanging doctrines of Catholicism need to be presented in a new manner for the modern mind. One can argue that the modern mind doesn't hold a candle to the medieval mind (in many ways, that's true), but it's beside the point: the purpose of the Church is to bring the Gospel to people where they are at, not where we would like them to be. The goal of the Church is the same as it was fifty years ago: to bring the Gospel of salvation to as many people as possible. The difference is that the Church believes that this can best be accomplished in means different from those employed in the past. One can argue as to whether or not these new means are effective or how effective they are, but the fact remains that the goal is the same.

Has the pope asked forgiveness for certain actions of Church members of the past? Of course. Does that mean that he's said that "the church of the past is wrong"? No.

I think I'll leave it at that.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Now that's presidential

In an with Rolling Stone magazine, Massachusetts Senator and Democrat Presidential nominee John Kerry use the f-bomb to describe President Bush's Iraq policy.

Classy. Real classy.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

PP Holiday cards, 2003

Last year I blogged about Planned Parenthood's holiday cards, one of which read, "Let There Be Choice On Earth".

They're at it again this year. You can see the latest at Jeff Miller's blog here, along with his own version... ;-)
Fr. Sibley on The Matrix

Fr. Bryce Sibley's thoughts on The Matrix Trilogy and its philosophy can be found here. In short, Fr. sees a definite philosophy underlying the films, rather than a hodgepodge of philosophies. What is that philosophy? Nietzscheanism. Here's Father's conclusion:
    Presuming that this analysis is at least sound, it creates an amazing irony in the films. Neo is the Superman whose "will to power" helps his to rise above the machines, yet it is the same Nietzschean ideals that presumably lead to the rise of the machines in the first place. The will to power force the exponential increase of technology and creating the ethic of "it is possible, do it." So, with Neo’s death, have the humans finally been freed from the Matrix or simply become more inexorably intertwined with it?
Radical agenda?

Josh Claybourn responds to NY senator Hillary Clinton's assertion that President Bush has turned from his campaigning as a compassionate conservative to an "extremist agenda" in which he seeks to reverse Roosevelt's New Deal by noting the extraordinary growth of the federal government under Bush, something which many conservatives have been noting and complaining about for some time.
The bane of morality: Nominalism

There's a good discussion going on here at Disputations concerning the impact of the late medieval philosophy of nominalism on morality. Tom offered a quote from U.S. Dominican and current undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Fr. Augustine Di Noia as found in John Allen's latest Word from Rome:
    Nominalism, [Under-Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Fr. Augustine] Di Noia[, OP,] argued, "let loose a catastrophe on the human race" by separating morality from anthropology... Imagine, he said, a mother cooking dinner who spots her child eating cookies. The mother could say, "eating cookies is forbidden in this house," appealing to her authority. Or she could say, "if you eat those cookies, you'll spoil your appetite," appealing to a truth about human nature. Nominalism proposes the first kind of morality, Di Noia said, while Thomism proposes the second.

    Speaking of nominalism, Di Noia said: "The prevalence of this kind of moral theology gave rise to the intolerable tensions experienced by many Catholics in the face of the moral teaching of Humanae Vitae -- and eventually the entirety of Christian teaching about human sexuality -- which seemed to impose an outdated moral obligation whose connection with the human good was either denied or dismissed, or more commonly, simply not apparent." ...

    Di Noia said the aim of John Paul II's 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor was to resuscitate a natural law approach to morality, one that sees obedience of moral commands "not as the suppression of the human person, but its perfection."
As I indicate in my comments, I agree completely Fr. Di Noia. For those interested in this discussion, I'd highly recommend The Sources of Christian Ethics by Di Noia's Dominican confrere, Fr. Servais Pinckaers.
Rep. Schneider responds

Wisconsin state representative Marlin Schneider has responded to my most recent letter to him regarding his comments on the letter Bishop Burke sent to three Catholic politicians in Wisconsin who support abortion rights.

There's no more substance in this response than in the previous one. You can find it just below in the post, "Chilly thinking from Wisconsin" under "second update."

Thursday, December 04, 2003

New link

I'm blogrolling Certus Veritas, a blog which offers "Commentary and Opinion on Christianity, Politics, and Religion in the Public Square".

Check it out!
Chilly thinking from Wisconsin

This morning The Mighty Barrister linked a story in the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal on letters which La Crosse Catholic bishop Burke wrote to some of the state's Catholic legislators who vote for abortion rights. The Journal obtained a copy of one of the letters, written to state senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point). After explaining the letter's contents, the article relates the senator's comments: "I'm concerned that the bishop would pressure legislators to vote according to the dictates of the church instead of the wishes of their constituents because that is not consistent with our Democratic ideals [...] When I was elected, I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and that means I have to represent all the people of all faiths in my district."


It gets worse... state representative Marlin Schneider (D-Stevens Point), "called the letter outrageous." Him comments: "Churches ought not use the pulpit for blatant political purposes [...] When they start telling legislators how to vote, they've crossed the line." Schneider, mind you, is a Lutheran.

Here's the letter I wrote to him:
    Dear Rep. Schneider,

    Today I read the article in the Journal-Sentinel, "Bishop appeals to Catholic lawmakers".

    I hope that the paper misstated your comments, because I found them to be outrageous. Perhaps you were not appraised of all the information, perhaps you reacted out of anger... I do not know. What I do know is that your comments do not indicate serious consideration of the issue.

    For instance, the paper quotes you saying, "Churches ought not use the pulpit for blatant political purposes." Bishop Burke did not use the pulpit, Mr. Schneider. He wrote a private letter to Rep. Lassa which he did not publicize. And from the bishop's perspective, the issue is one of human rights, not "blatant political purposes."

    The article also offers this quote from you: "When they [churches] start telling legislators how to vote, they've crossed the line." The Catholic Church has not told Rep. Lassa how to vote; the bishop informed Rep. Lassa that her votes did not accord with the faith that she professes, and that she needs to bring one into line with the other.

    Mr. Schneider, what if a Catholic legislator had consistently voted in favor of racist legislation? Would you be outraged if one of the state's Catholic bishops wrote that legislator a private letter explaining that that person had to reconcile their voting with their faith? I doubt it.

    I expect better from the state's representatives.

    Chris Burgwald
What's going on in Cheesehead Land? Too much beer drinking, maybe.


Rep. Schneider promptly replied to my email; here it is:
    Wrong. The day my church tells me how to vote and threatens me with salvation or membership is the day I leave. I have to represent all the faiths in my district not give preference to one over the other. I am sorry you do not understand that. This is just the kind of stuff that leads to Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Chechnya, and on and on. And they do use the pulpit and the church bulletins for blatant partisan political purposes. I walked out of my church one Sunday just three weeks ago when they passed out campaign materials in the bulletin. Obviously you agree with the Church's position on the issue not the principle involved in separation. This Doctrine of the Dual Swords goes back a long ways but our forefathers had the foresight to provide mechanisms that forbid us from favoring one religion over another. As a Lutheran do I favor my church's position on issues or that of the Constitution or my district's voters or just what? If I favor my church's position on aid to parochial schools, for example, (they were against it) as the basis of my judgment what do I tell Catholic voters who favored it? As a representative of people of all persuasions the principle must be followed of both the State and Federal Constitutions not my personal religious beliefs. I am sorry you are outraged but I will not favor one religion over another as a policy maker nor will I allow people who espouse the "truth" as only that coming from their particular denomination as the basis upon which I must make a judgement on public policy. To do so would make me a liar to my oath of office and I would bear false witness to my constituents. If you ever want to see this country tear apart at the seams just allow religion to become the basis for public policy with one becoming dominant over the others.

Here's my response:
    Dear Rep. Schneider,

    Thank you for your reply to my earlier email.

    Do you think that opposition to something by the Catholic Church makes that issue a "Catholic issue" which then shouldn't be incorporated into public law? That seems to be implied in your response. In fact, abortion is not a "Catholic issue," Mr. Schneider... it is as a human rights issue. The human embryo is biologically a human being, and as such, deserves to be protected by the law like every other human being.

    What if Bishop Burke came out tomorrow with a letter against racism? Would you say that his stance is a religious view, but that you have to respect the views of all your constituents, including racists? Would you invoke the principle of separation then? I'm sure you know that many abolitionists in the last century were fervent Christians; would you support slavery because opposition to it is a "religious belief," and public policy shouldn't be founded on religion?

    If Bishop Burke had written Sen. Lassa and required her to support legislation affirming that there are seven sacraments, then I would agree with your position. But the issue at hand is a human rights issue and not merely nor exclusively a Catholic issue.

    Thank you for your time.

    Chris Burgwald
We'll see if he responds again.

Second Update

He did.

Here's Rep. Schneider's response:
    I am not going to continue a running debate with you. I believe in separation as provided in our Constitution. I believe that churches have a right to speak out on moral issues. I do not believe they have a right to threaten lawmakers to violate their oath of office or to represent their theological views exclusively above all others. Most Americans agree with my position, not yours. Do you think if I were a Mormon lawmaker that the Mormon Church should be allowed to dictate public policy on race as it did for so many decades? I would refer you to the historic statements of my hero President, now much maligned by the right, a Catholic President named John Kennedy, whose picture hangs in my office, about the relationship between Catholic office holders and the Church. End of discussion.
Normally I'd give an interlocutor the last word in a case like this. But I couldn't this time. Rep. Schneider completely failed to respond to any of my points, and I needed to make that clear. Here's the final letter in this little discussion:
    Dear Rep. Schneider,

    I know that I will not receive a response to this email; I understand your decision not to continue this discussion, and I respect that.

    However, I do need to state that this was not a debate. In a debate there is an engagement of the ideas offered by the two sides. You have never engaged the points I've made, but continue to refer to this as a case of Catholic "theological views" being exclusively represented instead of acknowledging it as a human rights issue. You failed to respond to my example of racism as well.

    I often tell people how real political discourse is absent in America because it's rare to find two opposing sides on an issue engage in a real meeting of the minds, in which the issues and respective positions are addressed directly, without talking past one another. Unfortunately, you have done nothing to reverse my opinion on that matter.

    Wishing you a joyous Christmas Season, and

    Chris Burgwald
As Kevin Miller noted in my comments, Rep. Schneider is known in Wisconsin as "Snarlin' Marlin," and I can see why.

Third Update

Here's the letter Rep. Schneider sent to me in response to the above:
    And NOTHING I could ever say will reverse or impact your view. I refer you to John F. Kennedy's speech to the Texas Ministerial Association. Your argument is based on abortion not separation and your views will not change. I respect your belief on that I just don't believe that it is as simple as some would make it. The Church teaches all abortion is wrong. I believe there are instances where it is necessary. You won't accept that and I will not change my mind either. But that is not the issue. Let me ask you just
    one question. If Senators Feingold and Kohl were dictated to or threatened on some issue by a Rabbi, since they are both Jewish, let's say on foreign policy as it relates to Israel, would you argue that they should represent the views on Wisconsin's people or that of their religion? When churches attempt to dictate public policy it crosses over the line. I have not argued that they have no right to state their views. To impose those views by church doctrine on the rest of us is what leads to the conflicts we have seen throughout history. It is why the Pilgrims came here in the first place. I want my representatives to represent me as best as they can using their best judgment on the issues before them. If they allow one set of religious dogma to dictate their policy decisions then I object. When Bishops sit in on committee hearings with thumbs up and thumbs down directing policy makers to vote a certain way I object. And that does
    happen. When my church "leaders" said it was sinful for a Lutheran minister to participate in an ecumenical service with people of other faiths in New York after 9-11 and threatened him with excommunication I objected strenously at my church. It is that kind of narrow minded thinking among Lutherans that is quite distasteful to me. And when a Bishop threatens my friends and colleagues I will also object because his faith is not mine. I would object just as much if it were a pastor of another religion. Those who want to impose their religious views on the rest of us through public policy, sometimes without even reading bills or knowing what they mean, just a title, do a disservice to both their religion and public policy debate.
He doesn't seem to grasp my point... I'm not sure yet if I'll try again.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

In one door, out the other

Sadly, some people enter the Catholic Church through one door (often evangelicalism) and within a few years, leave it through another (schism or worse).

One example of this is sedevacantist Philip Bartlett, whose website Roman Catholicism (sic) offers "Undeniable Proof that John Paul 2 Cannot Be Pope", recently told Robert Sungenis how Sungenis' writings had led him from Protestantism to Catholicism.

It appears that Mr. Bartlett continues to believe in private interpretation... now not of Scripture, but of Tradition.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Principle, please

In the past couple of weeks I've engaged in some interesting discussions with progressive Christians (including Catholics) on the topic of same-sex marriage and the morality of homosexual acts, one discussion occurring in the comments of this post at The Right Christians, the other in the comments of this post at Matt Zemek's Wellstone Cornerstone.

Beside making positive rational and non-religious arguments defending the notion that same sex marriages should not be legalized and that homosexual acts are immoral (on the former see especially this article by Princeton political philosopher Robert George), I think it's also beneficial to ask Christians (and others) who support the legalization of same sex marriages (sic) to articulate the principle by which they view homosexuality as moral while rejecting (any) other form of consensual sexual behavior as immoral. I pushed Matt especially on this point (in the second of the links above). Basically, I don't think that such a principle exists... if homosexual acts are moral, what moral or ethical principle prohibits any other form of consensual sexual behavior, regardless of the gender or number of the participants?

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Europe and Italy

Those of you who are at all familiar with Italian culture should really enjoy this.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Who is being precipitous?

Episcopalian Chris Johnson posts on ECUSA's response to the sundering of ecumenical ties with ECUSA by "just about every Orthodox church in the world."

Liberals (religious and political) occasionally complain about the fact that Americans have an almost subconscious superiority complex when it comes to the place of the USA in the world. While I understand the point and to some degree agree, I wouldn't term it a superiority complex, let alone an arrogance.

Either way, liberals are just as guilty, as the aftermath of Bp. Robinson's election & consecration demonstrates: pretty much the rest of the Christian world gives ECUSA a big thumbs down, but that's their problem... we are, after all, enlightened American Christians who know best when it comes to these things. Didn't you know that?

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The Feminist Case Against Abortion

Great article on Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life.

The Catholic Educator's Resource Center recently posted Fr. John Hardon's introduction to Islam at its website.

It's well worth a read, especially for Catholics.
Still exclusive

Peter Sean Bradley on today's Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage:
    Persons afflicted with "multiple sex partner attraction," "intergenerational sex attraction" and "dead sex attraction" complain that they have thus far been left out of equal protection promise of Massachusetts Constitution.
Peter's right. The Court said, "We construe civil marriage to mean the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others.” Fine. But why two? What's the big deal about marriage being limited to two people? Isn't that intolerantly exclusive of others?

John Derbyshire points this out: "I see nothing in your "construal" to prevent me from marrying my sister, for example. Is this actually OK in the state of Massachusetts?"

The problem is this: despite whatever Andrew Sullivan (and those of like mind) thinks, once the procreative aspect of sex (and implicitly, marriage) has been discarded, there is no logical reason to oppose the sorts of things which Peter alludes to in his comment. The "ick factor" is irrelevant, in that it not only is non- (or might even be anti-)intellectual, gay & lesbian sex used to (and for many, still does) fall under this category, and Sullivan et al dismiss it for what it is: shoddy.

Unfortunately, when these things are said, one is accused of all sorts of hateful things, as the comments in my SVU post below illustrate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Farther and farther

Robert Sungenis believes "that many in the upper hierarchy of the Church have gone deep into apostasy," and based on his reference to a 2001 statement issued by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity on an Eastern eucharistic prayer (the Anaphora of Addai and Mari)--with the approval of Ratzinger and the Holy Father--and other "blasphemies" it appears that he's not just talking about Bishop Gumbleton, but rather of JPII, Ratzinger, and other members of the Vatican and its curia.

His justification for this appears to me to question the indefectibility of the Church: responding to the common Catholic argument that Matthew 16:18 guarantees that the Church cannot err in matters of faith and morals, Sungenis argues that the verse only indicates that the gates of hell with not prevail against the Church, i.e. that hell "will not win the final war." He argues, in fact, that apostasy at the highest levels is to be expected.

Now, it is certainly possible for members of the hierarchy to fall into apostasy. But Sungenis seems to be arguing more than that: if the PCPCU, the CDF, and the Holy Father can all get a doctrinal decision wrong, who's to say what else they may have gotten wrong, not only today, but twenty years ago? Or thirty? Or forty? Or fifty? Or fifteen-hundred?

I think Sungenis' line of thinking is extremely dangerous.
Everyone who sees same-sex attraction as disordered is a homophobe

That was pretty much the conclusion I took away from tonight's episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, in which a psychologist whose studies allege that SSA is a disorder turns out to be a murderer, and of his gay son's boyfriend, no less. The captain in the show even referred to the doc as "Dr. Homophobe," before there was any hint that he was the murderer.

Because, of course, anyone who sees any form of consensual sex as disordered must themselves be disordered, passionately hating those "deviants."

Whatever, Dick Wolf.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Can you see Clinton writing something like this?

This summer Francesco Cossiga, former president of Italy (a largely-figurehead position) wrote the following letter:
    In his letter of June 22, 2003, to the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, Luigi Giussani continues his intelligent, not abstract, but pastoral work of theological teaching, which speaks to both the heart and the mind of the transcendence and "fleshliness" of the Revelation and Redemption, beyond any "enlightenment"-type scheme or form of pious devotion. Thus, the focus is on the Motherhood of God, which took concrete form in space and time in the Motherhood of Jesus Christ in Mary, and what in it the proclamation of this dogma by the Council of Nicaea intended to mean: the divinity of Jesus Christ not only in Jesus the Logos, but also in Jesus the Man, and the unity of the two natures, divine and human, in one sole human-divine person who binds for all Eternity, the Eternal to time and thus the Eternal to history, the Infinite to the finite, and in this way guarantees the resurrection of man in his entirety. Only the virginity of Mary could be the unique method of incarnation of the Logos. If He were the son of one human seed and of a woman whose fertility was tied to a partial, individual "fleshliness," Jesus would not have been able to unite in one sole person the divine nature of the Logos, spiritual and eternal, spiritualizing and eternalizing in Christ a flesh that, no the fruit of just one seed, is the "universal," so to speak, "flesh" of mankind, which all in Christ will resurrect men on their earth, will recognize new heavens in itself; it will resurrect men in their time and in their history, which together will expand into the Eternal. This is the sense and the meaning of Mary's virginity: an "event" that is not a "truth of the philosophers," but an historical event to be accepted with Faith.
Now, there are some theological imprecisions present, but nonetheless, this is a letter than I cannot even imagine Bill Clinton or--to be honest--any other former US President writing.

Monday, November 03, 2003


I caught the second half of ABC's "documentary" "Jesus, Mary [Magdalene], and da Vinci."

How was it? Let me put it this way: from what I saw, Fr. Richard McBrien of Notre Dame was the most conservative "expert" they had. Which tells you what the piece thought about equal time.

This "Da Vinci Code" bull is getting out of hand.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

China a threat?

Daniel Schmelzer argues that Chrina is not the next real competitor of the US. If anyone is likely, he thinks its India.

Interesting argument... check it out.
reactivated blogs

A couple of blogs are active again:

Sunny Days in Heaven


The Secularist Critique.

Welcome back, guys!

Friday, October 31, 2003

Pro-life progressive

Thanks to Allen of The Right Christians, I recently discovered a blog by a politically-progressive Catholic: Matt Zemek's Wellstone Cornerstone. We've been having some interesting discussions in his comments, here and here. The latter discusses abortion: Matt is pro-life, but does not believe that changing laws (e.g. reversing Roe v. Wade) is the way to go: he'd rather see RvW become irrelevant because of a lack of need on the part of women to seek abortions. I strongly disagree, but it's been an interesting discussion, and some of you might be interested.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

two new permalinks

One by a brother-in-law: Carried Away.

Another by Fr. Rob Johansen (who has flown down to Florida to give pastoral care to Terri Schiavo's family): Thrown Back.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

new permalink

This one to John Gibson's Expagan blog.

Thanks for the link, John!

There's a good discussion going on in the comments box of this post at Disputations on the question of progressive/liberal and conservative, in politics and religion.

Check it out.
Make sure

you're reading Bill Cork on a regular basis.

Too good to pass on for very long...

Last week I came across a couple of columns slamming JPII for -- of course -- being too rigid, conservative, etc. etc.

I share them now for anyone who has too-low blood pressure...

First is this column by Jesuit priest Fr. Daniel Maguire of Marquette University in Milwaukee. [Correction: Maguire is laicized and on his second wife, and was diocesan, not Jesuit, and Marquette alumnus Kevin Miller informs me in the comments; thanks, Kevin.] The title of the article is A Papacy's 25 Years of Unfulfilled Potential," and the subtitle is, "We shouldn't celebrate John Paul II's demeaning view of women and obsession with 'pelvic orthodoxy.'" Oy-veh.

Second, this column by San Francisco Gate columnist Mark Morford. The title of his piece? "Slap A Condom On The Vatican," with the subtitle, "They say condoms kill. Meanwhile, millions die of AIDS. Can the Catholic Church be stopped?"

For some nice stuff, though, read Maggie Gallagher on JPII, or this Dallas Morning News editorial, or Phillip Jenkin's take, or George Weigel's view.

All of these should return your blood pressure to optimal levels.
been busy...

and hence I haven't had time to blog much in the past week.

I'm not gone, though...

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Friday Fax

Here's the latest Friday Fax from the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute:
    Dear Colleague,

    Today we report on the anniversary greetings the BBC sent to the Pope in the form of a vicious "documentary." It appears the Catholic Church must be persecuted, because it has little faith in condoms.

    Spread the word.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Douglas Sylva
    Vice President

    Action Item: To get the complete transcript of the documentary, go here.

    To complain to the BBC, write to,, or


    October 17, 2003
    Volume 6, Number 43

    BBC Accuses Church of Worldwide Condom Misinformation Campaign

    To mark the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) aired a television documentary Sunday night roundly criticizing Catholic moral teaching on sexuality, even accusing the Catholic Church of engaging in a worldwide conspiracy to misinform people about condoms' effectiveness in preventing HIV infections.

    Stephen Bradshaw, the reporter of the documentary, entitled "Sex and the Holy City," said that "The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken by AIDS not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through which the HIV virus can pass - potentially exposing thousands of people to risk. The Church is making the claims across four continents despite widespread scientific consensus that condoms are impermeable to the HIV virus."

    Ideological opponents of the Vatican's promotion of traditional sexual morality have seized upon these reported statements doubting condom effectiveness. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the world's largest distributor of condoms, said in a press release that it "deplored" the actions of the Church. A UNAIDS scientific advisor said that the Church is "totally incorrect. Latex condoms are impermeable. They do prevent HIV
    transmission." A World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson claimed that the "Catholic Church's incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous," since "consistent and correct" condom use is 90% effective in stopping infection.

    Many observers charge the BBC and its allies with attemeting to smear the Catholic Church. Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, England, said that the BBC was exhibiting "hostility" towards the Church and that "the Catholic Community is fed up." C-FAM president Austin Ruse, who was interviewed for the documentary, said, "my interview with the BBC was among the most biased, aggressive and deceptive I have ever participated in. it was shockingly clear that their conclusions were drawn against the Church long ago."

    Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, who was quoted in the documentary, later said that he "was surprised with some of the reactions" to his questions about condoms and "safe sex." "I simply wished to remind the public, seconding the opinion of a good number of experts, that when the condom is employed as a contraceptive, it is not totally dependable, and that the cases of pregnancy is not rare. In the case of the AIDS virus, which is around 450 times smaller than the sperm cell, the condom's latex material
    obviously gives much less security. Some studies reveal permeability of condoms in 15% or even up to 20% of cases. Thus, to talk of condoms as 'safe sex' is a form of Russian Roulette," he said.

    The Cardinal also cited US government research that has found that condoms do not protect their users from a number of sexually transmitted diseases, including genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, syphilis, chanchroid and trichomonas.

    Critics of the international response to the AIDS epidemic have long doubted the efficacy of condoms, as well as the morality of telling people in the developing world that they are "safe" from infection when condoms admittedly fail 10% of the time, even when used "consistently and correctly."

    Copyright - C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute). Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.

    Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute
    866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 427
    New York, New York 10017
    Phone: (212) 754-5948 Fax: (212) 754-9291
    E-mail: Website:
Pastores Gregis

That's the title of the new Apostolic Exhortation published today by JPII, On the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World. It flows from the work of the tenth Synod of Bishops which was held in 2001 in Rome.
Ad multos annos!

The heading for this post is the latin birthday wish (the sentiment in translation is, "and many more [years]!"), but I'm using it today to congratulate Pope John Paul II on the 25th anniversary of his election as pope, and to wish him many more years of service.

Congratulations, John Paul the Great!

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Yeah, we respect human dignity

I haven't posted much on the infuriating-and-sad case of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, who -- although not in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), let alone a coma, and in spite of the fact that multiple medical experts have testified as to her awareness -- is now being starved to death by court order.

If you haven't heard about this, go read Earl at Times Against Humanity, who has been covering this extensively for some time, and Mark Shea, who has some spot-on posts from today and some links to similar comments at other blogs.

As Mark notes, even Fox News is keeping the story at an arm's distance. Like Mark, this reminds me of how "devoted" many political conservatives are to the pro-life cause -- not very, it seems to me. Liberals, of course, who claim to be the ones who are there for the down & out and the defenseless, are even more mute.

But keep praying: starving to death takes days, which is usually a curse, but in this case, it may mean that Terri can still be saved.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

So smart, for being so dumb

People who seem to have an ax to grind viz. the President are writing a lot on Bush's ability to say one thing while really meaning something else. They refer to the "elaborate webs of disinformation" which come from Bush and his administration.

As I've said before, Bush's ability to misdirect is amazing, given that he's so stupid.
True, unfortunately

Mark Brumley comments on the latest letter from the US Bishops Conference, Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility:
    What If They Issued a Document and Nobody Read It?

    The U.S. bishops are getting a jump on the 2004 elections by issuing their election year treatise Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility. With all due respect to the bishops, they have produced one more long document that will have virtually no impact on the vast majority of Catholics in the United States. Even if every Catholic in America read it--and let's face it: only a tiny minority will ever even hear of it--most of them are so poorly catechicized that they would not benefit very much from it. And even if they understood what the document says and why it says it, they wouldn't necessarily be disposed to accept its teachings.

    With respect to prudential judgments contained in documents issued by the U.S. bishops, it is fine enough that the laity exercise some independence of judgment. When it comes to genuine principles of Catholic social teaching, Catholics should embrace these principles according to the manner in which the Church presents them. At the very least, these principles represent authentic Catholic teaching and are therefore owed at least the "religious submission of will and intellect." Assuming, of course, we're talking about the genuine teaching of the Church and not simply some ecclesiastical officeholder's political opinions.

    But whether Faithful Citizenship presents Catholic teaching that all Catholics should embrace or a list of debatable prudential judgments Catholics may question or both, very few Catholics will ever set eyes on the document. Few priests will ever read it, much less the laity. Most Catholics will go happily or unhappily on their way without giving the least bit of attention to this document, regardless of its merits or demerits.

    Being at ease in Zion gives you a certain sense of continuity, doesn't it?
Sadly, this is true: the vast majority of Catholics in the US will never read this document -- they just don't care.

There's a lot of work to be done out there.
Miracles and science

Amy Welborn links an LA Times story on cures which modern medical science is unable to explain.
You know what's hard to stomach?

Arrogant politicians who think they have the right to go anywhere and speak anywhere, even when their requests to do so are specifically denied.

The arrogance.
Two days...

until the 25th anniversary of Karol Wojtyla's election as pope. Kevin Miller links a number of articles on JPII.
He's thrown in the towel

Andrew Sullivan no longer calls himself Catholic, at least in public. He explains: "this past year has been a watershed for me. The combination of the cover-up of sexual abuse and the extremity of the language used against gay people by the Vatican has made it impossible for me to go back inside a church. I do believe that something is rotten in the heart of the hierarchy."

Sadly, if he had dropped the final three words of the last sentence, he would have hit the nail on the head: both the saint and the sinner are both with original sin and the tendency to commit sins (concupiscence); the difference between the two is that the former acknowledges his failings as such and seeks forgiveness from God, while the latter denies that his actions are sinful to begin with.

Keep Andrew Sullivan in your prayers. And read Gerard Serafin's thoughts on this.

Monday, October 13, 2003

T update

A week or two ago I had a brief exchange of blogs, emails, and comments with Tristero. Every few days I'll wander back to his blog to see what's on his mind.

Generally, Tristero (like Atrios) assumes the worst about President Bush and his administration, e.g. the "hidden motives" behind Bush's public policy, the administration's lies [sic], the president's intelligence, and so on. Why that is, I have no idea, since my contact with Tristero has been so limited. Because I don't know him that well, I think it would be rash to speculate on his own motives, so I'll refrain from doing so.

His biases results in posts which are certainly interesting to read. For instance, in a post from today, he speculates as to what he would do if he were the leader of another country today; not any specific country, but just not the US. Here's what his general plan would be:
    I would work as hard as possible to ensure that never again would the US be in a position to act militarily in the face of nearly universal opposition. I would work to limit American power in as many ways as possible.
Two points:

1. "Nearly universal opposition"... this is a red herring; Tristero well knows that dozens of countries gave at least a modicum of support to the US. The fact that France and Germany and some other countries opposed Bush does not equate with "nearly universal opposition."

2. Tristero would prefer, evidently, that things return to the way they were before we invaded Iraq, when we had evidence going back to the Clinton administration that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and when Saddam ran a terror state. (NB: I've said before that the latter does not justify the war; but it is indisputably a positive side effect.) He would prefer that the US be unable to act "independently" (to assume Tristero's red herring for a moment) when the President and majority of people and their representatives believe that there is just cause for us going to war.

Needless to say, I disagree.
The "imminent threat" lie [sic]

A great post on the interchange between Fox's Tony Snow and Sen. Jay Rockefeller. Rockefeller accuses the President of calling the Iraqi threat "imminent," and Snow calls on it. Over. And over. And over.

Some people claim that Fox News is biased in favor of conservatism. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Either way, Snow's fisking of Rockefeller and the "imminent threat" myth is real.
When in doubt, google

It'll increase your chances of finding what your looking for.

Why do I say this? Because someone out there in cyberspace went to Ask Jeeves and inquired as to "young marines in the nude". The seventh result was yours truly. Why? Well, "nude" came from a quote I posted about the Dixie Chicks posing nude on a magazine cover, and there are plenty of references to marines during the Iraqi War.

In any event, I'm happy to say that the inquirer did not find exactly what s/he was looking for.
Emily on the job

Emily of After Abortion has a couple more extraordinary posts.

The first, from Sunday, details how some students and faculty from a Catholic college in Madison, WI recently held a ceremony for four trees -- yes, trees -- yet no students or staff have shown up at the Madison abortino clinic to pray the Rosary with the local Bishop.


The second post, from today, discusses a series of letters in Glamour magazine, which has long been an advocate of abortion rights. After discussing each letter, Emily writes,
    All in all, this selection of letters is telling and important. They didn't print one single letter from a woman saying that all she experienced was relief. (I wonder if they didn't get any such letters?)

    Considering that "what women experience after abortion is relief" is the primary theme of pro-abortion groups with respect to post-abortion emotions, and considering that Glamour is a long-time staunch advocate of choice and a very widely-read fashion magazine, this is a significant development. I'm very happy about it.
Me too, Emily.

Tim Graham posts a couple excerpts from Dennis Kucinich's presidential campaign website:
    Congressman Kucinich is one of the few vegans in Congress, a dietary decision he credits not only with improving his health, but in deepening his belief in the sacredness of all species.

    I support Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose, and will select Supreme Court justices who affirm this Constitutional right.
Ah, but I've forgotten: consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, right?
Anglican divorce

Christopher Johnson posts on the future of his Episcopalian/Anglican community. One comment he makes: "Relations with Rome and an international presence are nice. But leftist street cred and New York money are nicer." And his conclusion? "So, barring a miracle, my "official" Anglicanism will finally be over in a couple of days."

Pray for Anglicans as they hold their "crisis summit" in the next few days.
Safe sex?

Amy Welborn discusses Cardinal Trujillo's recent comments on condoms and AIDS, and offers her own thoughts as well. She proposes the follow thought experiment:
    Perhaps its helpful, if we're trying to understand, to think of it this way: What if your daughter came to you and said, "I'm going to have sex with a man who's HIV positive, but he's going to use a condom. Okay?"

    Aside from all the other attendant issues, would you be happy with her actions? Would you feel that she was doing a "safe" thing?

    And would cheerily paying for the condom yourself, handing it to her, and saying, "Have a good time and good luck" be a loving act? Do you think, in retrospect, she would see it so?
Mark on Pat

Mark Byron posts on Pat Robertson's comments about nuking the State Department (as Mark says, "How does Rev. Robertson walk around all day on one leg? He always seems to have a foot in his mouth.) and then addresses Robertson's point.
Another new link

I'm also linking The Might Barrister, whose author, The Barrister, has linked me for some time (sorry 'bout the delinquent return-of-favor!).

One of his recent posts discusses an ex-Catholic atheist who rails against The Barrister (TB) for his blind dogmatism [sic] and then blocks TB from commenting!
New link

Mark Brumley -- a "rare" pre-Hahn evangelical convert to Catholicism -- is an editor at Ignatius Press and an author as well. His website has been around for a while, and he has a blog as well.

At that blog, he has a great post on hypocrisy, born out of the Limbaugh controversy.
Justice vs. Vengence

Mark Shea has a great post in which he uses the reaction of too many liberals to Limbaugh's addiction to make a terrific point about the purpose of justice and punishment.

Go thou and readeth.

Fr. Bryce Sibley notes that today is the anniversary of the miracle of the sun at Fatima: thousands of people (including atheists and other skeptics) saw the sun begin to spin and "plunge" towards the earth.

Of course, it was all a hallucination peformed at the hands of three illiterate pre-teens.

Tom at Disputations posts a response to another blogger's question about God's nature as omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent.

One good line: "Some evangelical atheists sneer at "imaginary sky gods," but such errors are easy to make when confronted by Christians whose faith is, essentially, in a Really Big Invisible Human."

Check it out.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Hate speech

It's typically people on the right side of the political spectrum that are accused of engaging in hate speech, and some times the accusations are probably correct.

But it's not only some members of the right who are guilty of the "politics of personal destruction" and similar forms of hate speech. A few weeks ago I linked this blog as an example of unobjectivity. That blogger today posted on Rush Limbaugh's confession of an addiction to pain killers, and the comments... well, they aren't exactly kind, tolerant, and loving.

Besides the hatred of Limbaugh evidenced by those comments, I confess myself not to understanding so many of their charges. Rush is called a hatemonger and a racist innumerable times in these comments alone, when he is nothing of the sort. Why can't these people understand that it is possible for good, honest people to reach different conclusions on the issues? Why is it that someone who disagrees with the liberal take must be a lying, intolerant, racist pig? Again, I know that some conservatives repeat the favor, but that only indicates the widespread nature of the problem... it doesn't excuse it.

What this tells me -- again -- is that there is very little real exchange of ideas between hard-core conservatives and liberals in too many cases. Just listening to Rush or one of his liberal counterparts doesn't cut it, because there is no sustained dialogue. We need to talk with one another and get to the heart of the matter of our disagreements. Yes, people will probably continue to disagree, and that's fine. But it would eliminate the demagoguery that passes as political discourse.

To return to those comments, for a moment, I think Fr. Rob Johansen hit the nail on the head in this comment at this post of Mark Shea's: "I find it ironic that the leftists inhabiting the Atrios site are so free to accuse conservatives of preaching "hate", and to call Limbaugh, et al., hatemongers. I have never seen hate concentrated and condensed to the point of acidity, as I have on that site."

Unfortunately, I have to agree.
Judge upholds infanticide?

A couple big bloggers (Kathryn Jean Lopez in this post at The Corner and Mark Shea on his blog here) have linked this article which begins this way:
    Is a crying baby alive? No, not necessarily, decided Cook County Circuit Court Judge Karen Thompson last November when she acquitted a mother previously convicted twice of murdering her newborn daughter.
The piece got my blood pressure up sufficiently to try to find out more about the case, and what I found doesn't really agree with what the article claims, at least by my reading. Here's the comment I made at Mark's blog:
    I'm not sure about this one, Mark. I followed K-Lo's link to the same article, and was sufficiently outraged by the it that I did some googling to find out more about this, and in the process, I found the opinion, here.

    Maybe the legalese confused me, but reading the opinion tells me that the circuit court judges believed that there was enough doubt about whether or not the infant was alive when born to say that the mother may not hve killed her. In other words, it may be that the baby died prior to or during birth, and that the prosecution failed in ruling that possibility out beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Maybe I'm wrong in my reading of the opinion, but if not, it seems that the charges against the judge are not deserved.
More signs of success in Iraq

Andrew Sullivan summarizes Paul Bremer's press conference on what we have achieved in Iraq:
    Here's a more prosaic account of the extraordinary work that the U.S. armed services have been doing in Iraq. It's from the CPA's new official website. Yesterday, Paul Bremer gave a brief overview. (And, believe it or not, even the anti-war New York Times covered it.) My highlights:

    Six months ago there were no police on duty in Iraq.

    · Today there are over 40,000 police on duty, nearly 7,000 here in Baghdad alone.
    · Last night Coalition Forces and Iraqi police conducted 1,731 joint patrols.
    · Today nearly all of Iraq’s 400 courts are functioning.
    · Today, for the first time in over a generation, the Iraqi judiciary is fully independent.
    · On Monday, October 6 power generation hit 4,518 megawatts—exceeding the pre-war average.
    · Today all 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges are open, as are nearly all primary and secondary schools.
    · Many of you know that we announced our plan to rehabilitate one thousand schools by the time school started—well, by October 1 we had actually rehabbed over 1,500.

    Six months ago teachers were paid as little as $5.33 per month.

    · Today teachers earn from 12 to 25 times their former salaries.
    · Today we have increased public health spending to over 26 times what it was under Saddam.
    · Today all 240 hospitals and more than 1200 clinics are open.
    · Today doctors’ salaries are at least eight times what they were under Saddam.
    · Pharmaceutical distribution has gone from essentially nothing to 700 tons in May to a current total of 12,000 tons.
    · Since liberation we have administered over 22 million vaccination doses to Iraq’s many children.

    This is what some in this country want to stop. This is what would never have happened if we'd let Saddam Hussein stay in power. It's simply beyond me how anyone can describe this war as about "oil" or about "imperialism" or about "greed" or "militarism." It remains one of the most humanitarian acts in modern history. And, if successful, it could turn an entire region around - a region that has been the main source of real danger to itself and to the West in my lifetime. I'm banging on about this not simply because it's by far the most important issue in our politics right now, but because a wilful and petty disinformation campaign is being waged to distort this achievement, undermine it, and reverse it. We mustn't let that happen. We cannot let these people - and ourselves - down again.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

new link

Although we disagree profoundly on political matters (and probably other things as well), Allen of The Right Christians is a liberal blogger who is patient, charitable, and more than willing to engage in an open and honest dialogue about contentious issues and/or personalities. He is, in short, the kind of liberal blogger whom I've been looking for, and because of that, I'm happy to permalink him.

You may disagree with him (I certainly do at times), but his style of discussion promotes rather than hinders the exchange of ideas, and that's something which regular readers of this blog know I value immensely.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

An anti-racism classic is... racist?

Sean Gallagher posts today on an Indiana high school that decided to cancel its theater production of To Kill a Mockingbird because the local NAACP chapter said that it might foster use of the "n" word by students.

Unbelieveable. I just read (well, listened to) the classic novel on tape last winter, and it's one of the greatest "arguments" against racism I've ever seen.

I guess the local NAACP chapter can't see the forest for the trees, or however that goes.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Spongy thinking

Another result of googling for news on JPII: this piece from Australia, discussing some recent comments by Retired US Episcopalian bishop John Shelby Spong. Noting the offense Spong took at remarks made by John Paul II about difficulties in the path to Christian unity caused by the Episcopalian election of an openly-gay bishop, the piece quotes Spong: "Truth has to trump unity at all times."

Absolutely, Bp. Spong! For once, the man is right! Too bad he's right for the wrong reasons... he goes on to say, "I'm not interested in being a member of a homophobic church, and if the price of unity with the Bishop of Rome is that we have to begin to treat women as second class citizens and reject our homosexual brothers and sisters, I'm simply not interested in that unity."

Translation: if others do not bow to my infallible intepretation of the amorphous will of the genderless, apersonal deity, forget about them.

Thanks again for the reminder, Bp. Spong.
It's got everything!

While googling for news on Pope John Paul II, I came across this opinion piece from the St. Petersburg (Russia) Times, written by Chris Floyd (doesn't sound very Russian to me, but hey!).

Floyd's opening line? "The defining issue of modernity is control of women's fertility." Uh, okay. Later, we get some samples of "today's fundamentalists": bin Laden, Bush, the Pope, Afghan warlords (U.S. backed), and Iranian mullahs. Nice, morally equivalent bunch Mr. Floyd has there. And what is it that these crazies cannot accept "at any cost"? Why, "the freedom of a woman's body," of course!

Floyd goes on from there, discussing abortion (but never the heart of the issue: the moral and ontological status of the human embryo) and some other things.

Pretty interesting piece, in a way.
Science and Religion

In Sunday's Argus Leader there was a Reader's Forum column on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act by Thelma Underberg, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota in Sioux Falls. The column--no longer online--concluded with the following paragraph: "The UVVA would adopt one religious belief about the beginning of life – that the fetus at all stages of development is a person – and make it the law for all, regardless of individual beliefs."

Here's the letter I submitted to the editor in response:
    In her recent Reader’s Forum commentary Thelma Underberg wrote that the Unborn Victims of Violence Act “would adopt one religious belief about the beginning of life – that the fetus at all stages of development is a person – and make it the law for all, regardless of individual beliefs.” Ms. Underberg asserts that the view that the fetus at all stages of development is a human being is a religious belief—this is manifestly false. The science of embryology has long informed us that the being which comes to exist at the point of conception is a human being, i.e. a member of the species homo sapiens. This accords with common sense: the fetus surely isn’t a horse, a cat, a cow, or a member of any other species but our own. In other words, the view that the fetus is a human being is a scientific truth, not a religious view. (One might also point to pro-life atheists like Libertarians for Life founder Doris Gordon as evidence against Ms. Underberg’s assertion.) And in our justice system the law is (supposed to) protect every human being from harm done by others. The UVVA simply continues that principle.

Friday, October 03, 2003


I know I haven't posted much of late... we're moving into a new home, and -- as you can imagine -- it's a little time-intensive.

Once we're settled and mostly unpacked.... "Ah'll be back."

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Limbaugh: racist?


There's some controversy today about comments made by Rush Limbaugh last Sunday on ESPN (he has a Sunday gig there on their football show) about Donovan McNabb -- quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles -- being portrayed by the sports media as better than he really is. Why would the sports media do so? Limbaugh thinks the answer is McNabb's skin color: he's black. The (sports) media, Limbaugh is arguing, wants McNabb to be a great quarterback -- even if he isn't great -- simply because he's black, and they want to champion great, black quarterbacks.

Now, Limbaugh might be all washed up on this, but it's hardly a racist statement, as many have been saying (see this AP story), with Democrat presidential contenders Wes Clark and Howard Dean -- along with the NAACP and others -- calling for Rush's termination from ESPN.

With Chris Berman -- host of the ESPN show -- I didn't see Limbaugh's comments as racist, and apparently, neither did Michael Irvin and Tom Jackson, two black panelists also on the show.

Here's part of Rush's take on the whole thing (I'm posting it in case the links change tomorrow):
    Quotes from Rush on McNabb

    October 1, 2003

    "This thing is alive and kicking today because the Philadelphia sports media and the newspapers decided to kick it up. There was no immediate reaction among fans or viewers that I heard of. We had no phone calls here about it."

    "My point was that it would be a shame if these black assistant coaches ended up being used as pawns simply to keep the league out of court. I was very sympathetic to the black head coach premise and black assistant coaches in the league. Nobody commented about that. Nobody reacted to it at all - and nobody puts it in context with this McNabb business."

    "If the sports media are going to get upset with me for saying that their desire for black quarterbacks to do well might influence their opinion and coverage of McNabb, I'll take it back and say, 'Okay, you're not interested in black quarterbacks doing well.'"

    "My comment was actually a comment aimed at the media, not even at McNabb. It's not by any stretch of the imagination a putdown. It doesn't say McNabb is bad."

    "It's clear that many of the people writing about this story have no real experience listening to this radio program and probably haven't even heard some of the other things that I have said on this ESPN show. My essay in the first week of this ESPN show came to the defense of black coaches in the NFL."

    "I'm not the one that's even introduced race in this, if you want to know the truth. You can go back. You can read Philadelphia sports media last year, the year before, and you can see that guys have been writing about the great things that Donovan McNabb's success means in a racial context."

    "What is it when the sportswriters automatically and in unison, in lockstep, agree with Martha Burk when she makes her claim about Augusta National? Is that not political when these liberal sportswriters demand that Augusta change its private membership policy and admit women?"

    "Liberal sportswriters have pushed the notion that it's unfair that there haven't been more black quarterbacks, and I agree with that. I have simply said that their desire for McNabb to do well has caused them to rate him a little higher than perhaps he actually is."

    "This was a discussion on what's wrong with the Eagles and what's wrong with McNabb. And from that, why, you would think that I had gone back and wished for the South to have been successful and everything that goes along with that. I mean, it's literally incredible."

    "I was comparing McNabb's reputation on the field to his reputation in the media. The media has portrayed Donovan McNabb as a great quarterback, and they have credited him almost exclusively with the Eagles' success, and I've always thought that there were more components to the Eagles' success than just the quarterback."

    "At one point we didn't have enough black quarterbacks. Well, now there are quite a number of black quarterbacks and it's my opinion that the sports media, being liberals just like liberal media is elsewhere, have a desire that black quarterbacks excel and do very well so that their claims that blacks are being denied opportunity can be validated."

    "I guess if you listen to the elitist liberal sports media, I nor anybody else who hasn't been somehow close to the game or played it or whatever, shouldn't be on a program where these items are discussed."

    "Fans are often wrong. Everybody disagrees with everybody when it comes to opinions expressed about practically everything, including sports."

    "If anybody is entering politics into this, it's the sportswriters, not me. I have studiously avoided it because I know people are laying in wait for it."

    "You know, the critics here have a little bit to explain themselves. I think they have some questions to answer. Who is entitled to speak about these things on the media or privately or publicly? Who decides that? What is the criteria for determining somebody's value or worth in this regard?"

    "These are the people who claim to be the most tolerant among us. This is the compassionate left who claim to have the biggest hearts and the biggest degree of understanding, but they're the ones who are the least tolerant."

    "You think I'm all wet on this. So what? I'm all wet. In your mind, I'm all wet. I'm wrong. Whoopee-doo! You know, why not leave it at that? People who think I'm wrong, think I'm wrong. But it's gone way beyond that."

    "They can make all the references to the race of athletes and what it means to the community and what it means to the black population of the country and how many kids look up to them. They can do it all day long, but nobody else can."

    "My point Sunday on ESPN was that the defense of the Eagles, I think, deserves a lot of the credit for this team's success. It's a sports opinion, for crying out loud - and I think it's an accurate one."

    "For those of you, by the way, who are saying, 'Rush, what were you thinking?' I thought about this the night before. I weighed it, I balanced it, but you know what I decided? Look, they brought me in to be who I am. This is what I think. It's a sports issue. It's a sports opinion."

    "This is not by any stretch of the imagination the end of the world. None of this stuff is. To start balancing and weighing what I say versus the political correctness requirements that are out there? Why, I don't do that here so why should I do it anywhere else? Let the chips fall."

    "You know, this is such a mountain made out of a molehill. So much needs to be said here. I guess at the top of the list would be that we supposedly have freedom of speech in this country, but if you don't say what people who consider themselves the Arbiters of What Can Be Said agree with, then they want to come after you with everything they've got and try to humiliate you and take a stab at your reputation and otherwise get your mind right."
You can go to Limbaugh's homepage for more on his side of things.

Maybe you aren't a Limbaugh fan -- I tend to agree with his policy stances, but rarely listen to him these days -- but you have to admit that there is no racist intention in what he's saying.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

No Soaring

Christian blogger Allen Brill posts today about the response of "Christian Hawks" to the Valerie Plame affair (Ms. Plame is the CIA employee whose employment with the Agency was recently made public by columnist Robert Novak).

In his post, Allen writes that I've ignored the whole thing, which is true in the sense that I've not posted on it, although I've been following it.

So, let me say a brief word: if something illegal has been done by someone in the Bush Administration, then they should be prosecuted. Has anything illegal been done? I have no idea (which is one reason I haven't posted on it). Bob Novak -- the guy, again, who revealed her employer -- claims that the Administration officials who mentioned her did nothing illegal, and others have said that her employment at the CIA was and is common knowledge. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't (Clifford May claims that "everyone" knew).

I'm not sure what Allen thinks my motivation is for not blogging about the issue; perhaps he thinks I was avoiding it because it paints the President and/or his administration in a bad light; perhaps he thinks I was agonizing over it; perhaps he thinks I am in denial; perhaps he hasn't even wondered about my motivation at all.

What is my motivation for not blogging about the incident? Two things come to mind: first, I don't blog about everything -- good and bad -- which affects the President. A lot of times, it just depends on my mood. Second, and relatedly, at this point, the issue doesn't seem as big of a deal as some claim. It surely isn't indicative of Bush's character, as Allen believes it is, when he writes:
    The Plame Affair reveals the very heart of this administration. While they have claimed to put the security of the nation above all else, even to the point of dragging us into a war with little international support, it is now becoming clearer day by day that the national security is far less important to them than their own political power. Honor, dignity and integrity have vanished like so much mist. Some of us knew it was a mirage all along.

Allen, here's how I understand the events: Novak spoke with senior administration officials who mentioned that Ms. Plame worked for the CIA. Novak said as much in a column.

This is indicative of dishonor, lack of dignity, and integrity... how, exactly? That's what I don't get, that's why I don't think this is a huge deal, and that's why I haven't blogged on it. If it turns out that these actions constitute a violation of the law, fine: prosecute those involved. But even then, how is this a major breach of the public trust?

I'm being honest... I'm trying to be objective, and I just don't see why or how this says what Allen thinks it says about Bush et al.

I look forward to Allen and anyone of like mind explaining why and how this is bigger than it seems to me to be.