Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"Society's most powerless receive television as a consolation prize."

That's from the Todd Giltin's article "Flat and Happy" in Wilson Quarterly 17:4 (Autumn, 1993). (You can probably access it via Ebscohost, which in turn is probably available via your public library.)

It follows this line:
    Television has the virtues of being cheap and accessible, and does not require much engagement--it is therefore most popular among children, the old, the poor, and the less educated.
Strong stuff. But -- unfortunately for me -- it resonates as true.
Catholic Carnival XXXII is up!

Find it here.
Christians, Movies, and Culture

As longtime residents of and visitors to St. Blogs know, one of our own -- Barbara Nicolosi -- is a screenwriter and script consultant in Hollywood, and is the founding Director of Act One, "a nonprofit organization founded to train people of faith for careers in mainstream film and television," and whose "goal is not to produce explicitly 'religious' entertainment, but movies and TV programs that are examples of truth and beauty for the world."

Barbara and Act One have a new book coming out, consisting of a series of essays by Act One faculty members, and if they get enough pre-orders, there will be a larger initial press one.

So... if you have any interest in promoting a Christian worldview in tv and movies, go pre-order this book! (Here's the Amazon link.)
Salt on the wound

Fr. Rob Johansen recently listed the Catholics in the House of Representatives who voted for the embryonic stem cell research bill last week; he separates them by party, and in so doing, I discovered that GOP Rep. Mike Castle -- one of the leaders of the "more ESCR!" crowd -- is a Catholic.

What do you say? Nobody should be in support of ESCR... the reasons its wrong are clear and plain. But you'd think that Catholics in particular would be aware of it, considering our Church's clear teaching on the matter.

But then again, why am I surprised?

(HT: Mitchell Hadley.)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

From the AP...

"Mom Indicted for Hiring Stripper for Teen"

Apparently, a Nashville mother thought hiring a stripper would be a nice present for her son at his sixteenth birthday party.

Here are a couple quotes of hers from the story:

I tried to do something special for my son. It didn't harm him."

Who are they to tell me what I can and can't show to my own children?"
Catholic Carnival XXXI is up!

Find it here!

Thursday, May 26, 2005


St. Hugh of Lincoln wrote the following while prior at Witham, the first Carthusian house in England:
    Our books are our delight and our wealth in time of peace, our offensive and defensive arms in time of war, our food when we are hungry, adn our medicine when we are sick.

    (Charles Montalembert, The Monks of the West: From Saint Benedict to Saint Bernard, vol. 5 [London: Nimmo, 1896), 208; cited in Thomas E. Woods, Jr., How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization [Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2005], 43.)
Hear hear, St. Hugh!
Back to the books, Doctor.

K-Lo linked this post by pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon, where he writes,
    The discussion of stem cell research and President Bush's threatened veto of expanded research deserves a response from every responsible physician and scientist in America.

    The President and his advisors will cost countless children their health, their futures and their lives if they continue to oppose the use of embryonic stem cells to create cures for diabetes, childhood leukemia, and other diseases. Doctors who call this "false hope" are liars and demagogues. Spineless politicians who support the President's luddite point of view should be removed from office as soon as possible.

    Could they possibly be this mean, stupid and unresponsive to scientific imperatives and the desires of the preponderance of America's people?

Here's my comment in reply:
    I respectfully suggest that Dr. Gordon review his embryology texts from med school, which indicate that the embryo is an actual homo sapien, i.e. an actual (not potential or theoretical) human being.

    And in this country, we don't kill and dissect human beings for the sake of science, no matter now promising or noble in purpose.
"They die, so they aren't human." ???

A number of people who support abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research note that embryos occasionally fail to implant. They attempt to make this the basis of an argument ad absurdum against the (scientific fact of the) humanity of the embryo:
    Them: So you think the embryo is a human being?

    Us: Yes.

    T: Did you know that many embryos fail to implant and hence die?

    U: Yes.

    T: Yet you still believe that these embryos are human beings?

    U: Yes.

    T: You're not serious, are you?

    U: Yes.
That's pretty much it... the fact that the embryos die somehow indicates that they aren't human beings, and therefore there is no problem offering them updissecting them for Science.

Ramesh Ponnuru has his own argument ad absurdum which indicates the absurdity of this position:
    A lot of human embryos die because they fail to implant, therefore they weren't alive in the first place. In other words: because they die naturally, it's okay for us to kill them deliberately. Because tsunamis happen, is it okay to slaughter Asians?
Well done, Ramesh.
The Promise of Benedict XVI
    John Paul II will long be remembered as the greatest pope since the Reformation. His successor, Benedict XVI, may well turn out to be the harbinger of a new reformation. I say this despite the fact that the selection of this particular pope was a surprise to many.
That's the title and opening of this article in Christianity Today by Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University.

More high praise for our pope from an evangelical.
Abortions continue to decline

Last fall there was a flurry of commentary when an ethics professor claimed that President Bush's economic policies had resulted in an increase of abortions during his first term in office. A number of bloggers debunked his faulty reasoning back then, but the definitive debunking has now been done by factcheck.org (described by one blogger as "rabidly non-partisan", fyi).

They point to data from the Alan Guttmacher Institute (definitely no friend of the president or any pro-lifer, for that matter) which indicates that both the actual number and rate of abortions declined during '01 and '02 (data isn't available yet for '03 & '04).

As a brother-in-law would put it... there you have it.
Archbishop Foley on the Reese Affair
    I generally find myself in agreement with a recent editorial in Our Sunday Visitor and with Russell Shaw's op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that a priest-editor, who in some way is expected to represent the magisterium of the Church, cannot appear to give equal weight in a publication sponsored by a religious community to articles which present the teaching of the Church and articles which dissent from it.
More here.
Blogging Bishops!

Three Philippine bishops have their own blogs! Read about it and find the links here.

I wonder when we'll find some of their American brothers following suit...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

More inanities

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is somewhat pro-life, supposedly. So like other "somewhat pro-lifers" (especially across the aisle), he supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, AKA killing the youngest of human beings in the name of science:
    Today, the president once again stood on the wrong side of science and the American people. We must put politics aside in the interest of giving new hope to those who suffer today. Embryonic stem cell research will provide scientists the tools to do groundbreaking and lifesaving research to find new cures and therapies.
He also claimed that President Bush was "wrong politically, morally and scientifically" for opposing taxpayer-funded ESCR.

Then there's this story, in which some marketing guy at a DC PR firm says he's going to start a campaign to oust any politician who opposes ESCR:
    We want to very strategically do whatever is necessary to remove from office those extremists who are frankly blocking stem-cell research. Anyone putting theoretical possible life ahead of actual life is someone who should not be in office.
This isn't really that complicated.

Last time I checked, we as Americans believe in the dignity of each and every human being.

An embryo is a human being. It's an actual life, not potential or theoretical. That's a scientific fact. It's biology. It's embryology. It's not an opinion. It's the way it is.

So... if we really believe in human dignity, then we should all abhor ESCR.

Really, it's pretty simple.

And to the marketing guy: most Americans are opposed to federal funding of ESCR, meaning that politicians who oppose federal funding are well within the mainstream, not the extreme.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Once again...

why am I a Republican?

Actually, you know what? As of tomorrow, I don't think I am.

Conservative? Yes.

Registered Republican? Nope. Not when 50 GOP representatives -- nearly a quarter of the House GOP caucus -- votes to subsidize the sacrifice of millions of children on the altar of Scientific Progress.

Sure, the President will veto the bill (if he sticks to his word). But I'm not a Republican because of George W. Bush... I'm a Republican because I find that my political views are best reflected by that party.

But when it comes to the most innocent of human beings -- and when the issue of "a woman's right to choose" isn't even a factor -- 50 of my party's leaders vote to kill.

Adios, GOP. Some of your candidates might get my vote, but you'll have to earn back my allegiance.

Update: Jim Cork offers his thoughts on this; his poses this excellent -- and frightening -- question:
    The real question is, if 50 Republicans approve of federally funding research using human embryos, how many of our representatives would be likely to support a bill banning the practice altogether? One? Two, maybe?
Chris Smith for sure. Beyond that, I don't know.

“He does not ask for help. He asks for you.”

    Those words from the medieval author of The Cloud of Unknowing ought to be pondered by every liturgical director, elder, deaconess, chorister, church usher, and cutter-out of white felt doves for Pentecost, always and everywhere, till the Lord comes again, and let us hope that is soon.
The opening of this terrific post at Mere Comments.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

In the ongoing debate over Iraq, it's natural to trumpet news which supports one's own position, while neglecting news which supports the other view. As many readers of this corner of blogdom know, the MSM has sadly taken sides in this, focusing more often on bad news than good news. (I have to say, I think that's attributable not only to a liberal bias, but also to sensationalism; stories about blown up things sell more than stories about built up things.)

However, there are some people who downright excel at not only ignoring contrary evidence, but exceedingly magnifying other evidence to bolster their own position.

Just a Bump in the Beltway is such a blog. If there's bad news about Iraq -- actually, about any position taken or promoted by President Bush and conservatives in general -- you'll hear about it there. If a news article fails to discuss how Iraq is going to hell in a handbasket, the bloggers at Bump will decry it as shoddy (at best).

The subtitle of Bump is "Politics and culture from the left side of the page," but the only regular discussion of culture is politicized culture. Like so many others (across the political spectrum), Bump's authors apparently view the world through the prism of the purely political. All news is immediately mapped and categorized on a liberal/conservative grid.

I am only too aware of my own politicizing tendencies. But I'd like to think that I'm nowhere near making my politics an all-encompassing ideology as so many have done, including the Bumpers.

I need to note that I'm not picking on Melanie et al, but more offering their blog as an example. I'm sure some of my liberal readers (if there are any left :-) can offer a similar example on the right side of blogdom.

There's more to life than politics, folks. And as some have noted, "politics is downstream from culture." So for most of us, if you want to change the course of our nation, politics cannot be neither you sole nor even your primary focus.
Forgotten gems

Thomas of Endlessly-Rocking reminds us of some Steven Segal films we rarely hear about. He has the plot summaries, but I'm only going to list the titles, in the hope that you'll go take a gander:
  • The Council of Florence
  • Alcuin
  • Inquisitor On The Ragged Edge
  • The Ten Commandments Redux
I need to get to Blockbuster!
I don't know what to say...

New Hampshire Republican congressman Charlie Bass made the following statement today in regard to taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research:
    For America to stand back because of a moral principle and not allow sound scientific research to proceed under the umbrella of the National Institute of Health, I think, is unconscionable.
In the context of the judicial filibuster issue, some have noted that there is a difference between a Republican majority and a conservative majority. Being a Republican and being a conservative are not the same thing.

In light of Mr. Bass' comments, I think it's safe to say that being a Republican and being morally-intelligible are not the same thing either.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The consequences of Darwinism

As informed folks know, the Catholic Church has no inherent beef with evolution; if science discovers that species can and in fact did originate from other species (i.e. what's often called "macroevolution"), there's nothing problematic for Catholicism.

What is problematic is that form of evolution-theory known as Darwinism, which argues that species have evolved through a completely random, undirected, purely-chance process. It's problematic, of course, because it denies a Creator!

But all of this is well known. What isn't as well known, though, is the broader implications and consequences of Darwinism. You see, Darwinism's reach extends beyond biology to virtually every sector of human life and culture. This is made clear in comments by a proponent on Darwinism in a debate from 1994:
    Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear -- and these are basically Darwin's views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That's the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.

Looks to me like there's reason for parents to be concerned about the teaching of Darwinian evolutionary theory in our public schools.

HT: Nancy Pearcey, in her book Total Truth (p. 214).
"... so that all attention is centered on him whose Vicar the Pope is."

From an interview by Zenit:
    Q: What will be the novelties of Benedict XVI's pontificate?

    Tornielli: As he has already done since the first hours after the election, I think the new Pope will seek to turn attention away from the figure of the Pope, insofar as person, so that all attention is centered on him whose Vicar the Pope is.
And later:
    I don't think that Benedict XVI's "program" is to combat relativism. I believe, instead, that he will seek to proclaim and witness the simplicity, purity and beauty of faith in Jesus Christ.
And again:
    I hope that, little by little, without divisions or traumas, this taste for the liturgy well celebrated, which allows one to perceive the grandeur of the mystery that is lived in the Mass and that has God as protagonist -- who comes into our midst and speaks to us -- and not the cleverness or inventiveness of the priest or the community, will gain ground.
Really, you must read it all.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Why am I not surprised?

This March, Senator Byrd compared Republican Senators to Adolf Hitler.

This week, Senator Santorum compared Democratic Senators to Nazi occupiers in France.

Yesterday, a NYTimes editorial complained about one of these comparisons, but said nothing about the other. Can you guess which is which?

HT: Pejman and Patterico.

Friday, May 20, 2005


High praise for Russell Crowe from John Podhoretz, in the context of preliminary remarks about his upcoming film, Cinderella Man:
    As for Russell Crowe, there's almost no superlative that wouldn't be appropriate. Crowe hasn't made a full-on comedy yet. If it turns out he can do that too, Russell Crowe will then have proved himself unquestionably the greatest screen actor not only of our time, but probably of all time.
As I said... wow.

My favorite Crowe films are Gladiator and LA Confidential, although I recognize his brilliant performances in other films (e.g. A Beautiful Mind).

If you don't have a hangup with Star Wars, you shouldn't have any hangups with Harry Potter.

If you're a Christian, you should be critically aware of the pantheistic tendencies underlying Star Wars (which do not prevent you from being able to enjoy it), while also being aware of the deep Christian allegory & symbolism of the Potter-verse (cf. John Granger's thesis).

Thank you.
Supermajority to reject?

Apparently, James Madison thought that a 2/3s majority of the Senate should be required to reject judicial nominees, the point being that the role of the Senate would simply be to catch and reject extreme cases. As one commentor notes, "Taking a bipartisan coalition to reject any nominee, now that's an idea."

HT: Doverspa and Althouse.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


One of the books I'm currently reading is Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. I'll blog more on it later... it's a very good book, with (so far) just a few flaws. Right now, I need some help...

At one point, Pearcey quotes Rousseau, who saw the liberation of the individual from civilization (yes, I typed that correctly) as coming from the state: "Each citizen would then be completely independent of all his fellow men, and absolutely dependent on the state."

It's quite a quote... it certainly fits in with Rousseau's political philosophy. But here's the thing... the only reference she can provide is to a work by twentieth century sociologist Robert Nisbet, who did not give a reference when he originally quoted it himself.

So... for all those Rousseau scholars who read this blog: can you point me to the original source?

Much obliged!
He's kidding, right?

I just read this at one liberal's blog:
    Sen. Schumer was emphatic in his remarks to us. He said the hard right, both economic and religious, has decided that the only way to push their agenda through is to control the courts. If they win and gain control of the courts, both economically and socially, they will roll back America to the 1930's or the 1890's.
You're kidding, right, Senator? Because the entire reason the "hard right" is so energized is because of their perception (which happens to be correct) that it's the liberal agenda that has been pushed not through the legislative process, but through the court system. Does the good senator remember Roe v. Wade? Hello?

I think it's safe to say that most conservatives would be happy to have the hot-button social issues settled more often in the state and federal legislatures rather than in the court system. Schumer's words are presumably fodder for his own base, because he can't seriously believe them.
Well... some of them are.

In the course of this whole judges thing, some have said that Democrats are opposed to "people of faith". Others have said that that is an inappropriate (and wrong) thing to say, and I agree with them.

However, it does appear that at least one highly-vocal liberal organization -- which apparently has a good deal of say in the Democratic Party -- does think there's a problem with having religious judges. See this.

And as I've said before... it's pretty clear that the consequence and implication of the Democratic senators' actions is that no Christian who upholds traditional Christian beliefs on various moral issues is fit to be a judge.

Update: the picture has been removed. No surprise... it was a picture of Pope Benedict, editted to show a gavel in his hand, and him standing before the doors of the Supreme Court, with the words "God already has a job.... He does not need one on the Supreme Court. Protect the Supreme Court Rules" above his head.

I'll link it if someone puts it up elsewhere. Newer Update: here it is!
The debate begins...

The Senate has begun debate on the constitutional option (to allow floor debate & then an up or down vote on judicial nominees). Well, technically the debate is about nominee Priscilla Owen... her nomination is the battleground over the issue.

The NRO editorial on this begins thus:
    The Democratic position on the filibuster comes down to this: Senators should not be allowed to vote up or down on judges, because judges have to stay in the business of keeping voters from being able to decide policy issues. Anti-democratic ends justify anti-democratic means.
That pretty much sums it up.

If Democrats don't like Bush's nominees, fine. Just win the White House and nominate your own people. If they don't like being in the minority (and hence unable to vote down nominees on their own), fine. Just win back the majority in the Senate.

But don't change minority rights to minority rule.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Remind me...

in light of this, why am I a Republican, again?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Catholic Carnival XXX: Pentecost and unOrdinary Time

Yesterday we celebrated the great feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Today, the Church continues with the liturgical season of Ordinary Time, which is hardly that (I don't think the connotation of "ordinary" in our age can be applied to anything ecclesial).

With that in mind, let's get to the posts of this week's Catholic Carnival!

In "Entering Hazardous Territory," Pondering the Word offers us his thoughts on this year's two popes, focusing especially on the subtle change that the office of pope has gained during Pope John Paul II's tenure.

At "Circles for Pentecost," Notes offers us a java applet for Pentecost Sunday.

With "Sin City Confidential," Clairity's Place gives us an insider's story of a small community of Catholics in the hostile city of San Francisco, including Fr. Fessio who founded the St. Ignatius Institute and Ignatius Press and Archbishop Levada, just appointed head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In "Peter Milward SJ & the Jesuits in general," la nouvelle théologie presents, well, a discussion about the works of Peter Milward SJ & the Jesuits in general :-)

With "theory and practice of the "Reductio ad Inquisitionem," Lex Communis discusses the way the Inquisition is brandished about by secular liberals in discussion with Catholics.

At "St. John the Baptist and Pentecost," HerbEly publishes one of his mother's poetic reflections on 18th century icons painted by Franciscan missionaries in New Mexico.

In "Being that way about Jesus," Exultet talks about how to use the language of love about Jesus: the passionate example of St. John of the Cross.

At "Whoa, it's NOT magic," Penitens offers a reflection on trying to do things "automatically" in
the Christian life.

With "Freed from Narcissus: Divine Love," Heart Speaks to Heart presents the third part in a three part series of reflections on why women fall for narcissistic men rather than truly loving men. This post dwells on the parallel of our own relationships with Christ and asks the question, why do we so often choose false gods (wealth, health, pleasure) over the one true God?

At "The Spirit of Unity and Peace," HMS Blog offers us a reflection on what the readings for Pentecost tell us about how the Church should live in the Spirit.

Deo Omnis Gloria presents a quick look at some of the benefits when a society embraces Catholicism in "Why Catholicism is Good for Society."

Our Word and Welcome to It posits that the debate over whether or not Rainbow Sash wearers should receive Communion poses questions that all of us should consider in "I just wish they would have come to mass for Jesus, not for themselves."

Ales Rarus offers us a quote from St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in which the great saint warns us of the dangers of careless apologetics comparing it to giving wine to the sick, in "The Dangers of Apologetics."

In "Fill in the Blank," Crusader of Justice analyzes the question, "What sort of Catholic are you?"

Finally here at Veritas and the post "Communion and Liberation," I discuss my initial encounters with this ecclesial movement.

Communion & Liberation

As some of you know, I've had an interest in the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation for some time. That interest has (finally) translated into action, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss CL a bit from my perspective. First, though, I want to present CL's own self-understanding... the following is from last year's Special Edition of Traces, the movement's monthly magazine:
    What isCl

    Communion and Liberation is an ecclesial movement founded by Fr. Luigi Giussani. Its origins go back to 1954. It was born in the city of Milan and, after spreading quickly throughout Italy, is now present in about seventy countries on every continent.

    The essence of the charism given to CL can be indicated by three factors:

  • First, the announcement that God has become man (astonishment at it, the reasonableness of it, and enthusiasm for it): "the Word was made flesh and dwells among us."
  • Second, the affirmation that this man -- Jesus of Nazareth, died and risen -- is a present event in a "sign" of "communion," that is to say, the unity of a people guided, as a gurantee, by a living person, ultimately the Bishop of Rome.
  • And third, only in God made man, so in His presence, adn therefore, only, in some way, through teh tangible form of His presence (therefore ultimately only within the life of the Church) can man be more true and manking be truly more human. St. Gregory Nazienzen wrote, "If I weren't yours, O Christ, I would feel a finished creature." So it is from His presence that morality and passion for man's salvation (mission) spring up securely.
With these words, you, dear reader, know more about CL than I did after three years...

My introduction to CL was roundabout. During my second year of studies in Rome, I came across an article by Msgr. Luigi Giussani (the founder of CL) in the theological journal Communio. The article was entitled, "The Religious Sense," and in it Giussani set forth an explanation of how each one of us -- every human being -- is created with a "religious sense," a desire for the Infinite, that is, a desire for the Mystery that is God. Now, that is pretty straight-forward stuff -- St. Augustine said the same thing when he wrote, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." But there was something more to it, something in the way Giussani made his case that was especially attractive and appealing... something which I believed (and still believe) would resound especially for the modern human being.

All of this took place in the context of my discovery of some of the preeminent Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. I already knew of the stature of Pope John Paul II and (then) Cardinal Ratzinger, but it was only in my time in Rome that I became acquainted with Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar (among others, of course). In reading the work of these men, my previously-limited understanding of the faith was shattered... blown apart. I became aware of Catholicism's beauty (something which is still growing), as well as its ability and willingness to engage & assimilate the true, good, and beautiful wherever it is found and encountered (because where those transcendentals are, there is Jesus Christ, who is The Way, Truth, and Life). I could go on about the excitement of this discovery, but it would take me too far afield. The point here is that Giussani fit right in with that understanding, that vision.

However, that encounter was a fleeting one. Other than a quick glance at some of his published books, I didn't continue with his thought at the time. I did not pick up Giussani again for two years, when I was teaching at Steubenville, and found out that Regis Martin assigns The Religious Sense (Giussani's book on the topic) for his freshman course on Catholicism! I ended up buying Giussani's triology (of which The Religious Sense is the first volume), and read some other articles I found on him.

It was then that I found out that there was a movement around this guy, called Communion and Liberation. I'd heard of it before, but didn't know anything about it (like who the founder was). I was only struck by its name, which had for me -- and others -- a bit of a communist ring to it :-)

At this point, I put the brakes on again, but in a more deliberate fashion. I was still interested in Giussani's thought, but I had absolutely zero interest in joining a movement. Now, don't get me wrong: I have great esteem for the movements in the life of the Church, and admire the work of many of them. But for me, simply being Catholic was enough. I saw the movements as an "add-on," as something more than being "basic(ally) Catholic" (rather than as a way to live Catholicism).

When we moved to Sioux Falls, though, I found out that some friends in my hometown in central Minnesota had discovered the movement, and I took the opportunity to explore it a bit more, to try to answer this question: "why?" Why a movement? What's the goal? More importantly, what's the point?

Bringing this to a close (and omitting more details that I might include in another post in the future), over the course of the last two years, I've come to a deeper & deeper understanding of CL. For me, I see it as a movement that has something particularly important to offer the Church and the world in our time. CL has a way of presenting the faith that trascends the dichotomies of our age, of offering a way to live life that is integrated. CL in a particular way demonstrates that Christianity is about fulfilling the deepest desires of the human heart, that Jesus Christ alone is the answer to the cry of the human heart.

In CL, I have found a way of living the faith which is for me.
Do we have a free press?

Jay Redding wonders: "It's one thing to be free of government interference, it's another thing to have a press that is slavishly adherent to a certain ideological view."
Did you know...

that there are five hundred containers full of needed supplies for victims of last December's tsunami sitting on the dock in Colombo, Sri Lanka?

or that there are fifteen hundred similar containers at the dock at the port of Medan, Indonesia?

or that Canadian prime minister Paul Martin pledged $425 million to the relief effort, and that of the pledged amount, $40 thousand has so far been delivered?

This from Mark Steyn, who sees this as relevant to the debate over John Bolton's nomination:
    National Review's Cliff May observed that "the real debate is between those who think the U.N. needs reform -- and those who think the U.S. needs reform.''

    Very true. Sen. George Voinovich, one of those "maverick Republicans" the press goes goo-goo over, seems to believe, as Cliff May puts it, "that the problem is more American 'unilateralism' than U.N. corruption, immorality, anti-Americanism and ineptitude."

    On the face of it, this shouldn't be a difficult choice, even for as uncurious a squish as Voinovich. Whatever one feels about it, the United States manages to function. The U.N. apparatus doesn't. Indeed, the United States does the U.N.'s job better than the U.N. does. The part of the tsunami aid operation that worked was the first few days, when America, Australia and a handful of other nations improvised instant and effective emergency relief operations that did things like, you know, save lives, rescue people, restore water supply, etc. Then the poseurs of the transnational bureaucracy took over, held press conferences demanding that stingy Westerners needed to give more and more and more, and the usual incompetence and corruption followed.

    But none of that matters. As the grotesque charade Voinovich and his Democrat chums have inflicted on us demonstrates, all that the so-called "multilateralists" require is that we be polite and deferential to the transnational establishment regardless of how useless it is. What matters in global diplomacy is that you pledge support rather than give any. Thus, Bolton would have no problem getting nominated as U.N. ambassador if he were more like Paul Martin.
And that is, indeed, sad.
Right folks

A query: is there any contemporary folk music that isn't overtly political? I'm curious about the genre, but it appears that many of the more popular songs are very, very political, and you can guess from which direction.

Thanks to anyone who can help.
"Everybody MOOOOOOVVVVE!!!!!!" (Name that movie!)

Clairity's place has a couple great posts on ecclesial movements. The first discusses the phenomenon of movements in relation to the feast of Pentecost. The second seeks to explain them within the frame of those who don't quite get them.

Both are excellent.
College: a four-year vo-tech

One of the things that irks me about higher education in our country today is the generally-pervasive mentality that sees college as a four year vocation school. Most college students (and grads) see college as the place they go to to learn how to do whatever it is that they want to do in life, i.e. to learn their trade. This is essentially the same perspective as a vocational school, but is most definitely not the purpose of the college as it has been understood for centuries.

To vastly oversimplify things, college is intended to form young men and women into broadly-educated, well-rounded thinking adults. At the heart of this is the liberal arts education, which is (allegedly) the point of the generals required for every major at the college level. (It's also the point of the core curriculum idea, which remains somehow controversial in many places.)

Dr. Phil Blosser has a post related to this issue, entitled "On why liberal arts programs are being eroded". I encourage you to read it.
"Making the world safe for autocracy"

Jimmy Akin posts about a Robert Kagan article on China's rise, in which Kagan writes,
    [I]sn't it possible that China does not want to be integrated into a political and security system that it had no part in shaping and that conforms neither to its ambitions nor to its own autocratic and hierarchical principles of rule? Might not China, like all rising powers of the past, including the United States, want to reshape the international system to suit its own purposes, commensurate with its new power, and to make the world safe for its autocracy?

No, not the World Council of Churches, but Whole Community Catechesis.

Bill has an interesting post on it here.

The following is from Bill Cork:
    Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar, of the Family Committee of the Mexican Bishops Conference, says: "In reality, homosexuals are hetero-phobic. They have fear of the other sex, of sexual difference, which is the source and root of legitimate and healthy reproduction." This in response to a campaign on the part of the Mexican government aimed at getting acceptance of homosexuality.
Somehow, I'm guessing that the particular class of political activists that is so (apparently) benevolent toward the Third World won't take kindly to these remarks.
The (Lutheran) Law/Gospel "dogma"

At Pontifications, Luthodox (Lutheran with Orthodox "tendencies") Chris Jones posed this question to his fellow Lutherans:
    Why is the Law/Gospel hermeneutic thought to be the unique way to understand Scripture - the “canonical hermeneutic” if you will? Why are we to believe that this is precisely what St Paul meant by rightly dividing the word of truth? Who among the Fathers before Luther not only used this interpretive method, but gave it the privileged position that the Lutheran Confessions give it?

    Don’t get me wrong; it’s a useful and illuminating interpretive principle. But from where I sit it’s no more a fit subject for dogma than (for example) a metaphysical explanation of the Real Presence. I’m open to correction, and I’ve asked before for an explanation of this from my more knowledgeable Lutheran friends. Can you help?

This question prompted this post from Chris Atwood at Here We Stand; if you have any interest in Lutheranism, this post (and the comments) are quite interesting.

John Hass on Benedict XVI

Dr. John Hass is the president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and he has a nice reflection on Benedict XVI (whom he has met) here. Check it out.

(HT: Amy.)

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Outright, deliberate distortion by CBS

We all know about Rathergate from last year: Dan Rather ran a story on 60 Minutes II about damning documents pertaining to President Bush's National Air Guard service. As it turned out, the documents were forgeries, something Rather himself apparently did not know.

Now CBS has a brewing scandal which is far, far worse.

In a recent interview (see the first search result) footage aired showing CBS's Gloria Borger asking Ken Starr (the guy who got Clinton impeached) about the Republicans' attempt to end the filibuster. In his answer, Starr said, "This is a radical, radical departure from our history and from our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government."

Now, a lot of people were struck by this... it seemed odd, coming from him. So Ramesh Ponnuru of NRO emailed Starr, who replied:

    In the piece that I have now seen, and which I gather is being lavishly quoted, CBS employed two snippets. The 'radical departure' snippet was specifically addressed -- although this is not evidenced whatever from the clip -- to the practice of invoking judicial philosopy as a grounds for voting against a qualified nominee of integrity and experience. I said in sharp language that that practice was wrong. I contrasted the current practice . . . with what occurred during Ruth Ginsburg's nomination process, as numerous Republicans voted (rightly) to confirm a former ACLU staff lawyer. They disagreed with her positions as a lawyer, but they voted (again, rightly) to confirm her. Why? Because elections, like ideas, have consequences. . . . In the interview, I did indeed suggest, and have suggested elsewhere, that caution and prudence be exercised (Burkean that I am) in shifting/modifying rules (that's the second snippet), but I likewise made clear that the 'filibuster' represents an entirely new use (and misuse) of a venerable tradition. . . .

    [O]ur friends are way off base in assuming that the CBS snippets, as used, represent (a) my views, or (b) what I in fact said.

Others have pointed out the significance of this:
    This is worse than Rathergate. Dan really really really wanted to believe the forged documents were real, but there is no evidence he knew from the get-go they were bogus. The distortion of Starr's remarks has to be deliberate.
Liberal media bias? Nah.

(Hat tip: Machos Nachos.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

It was inevitable...

That I make a "Numa Numa" post.

You can find the original here, the American Idle parody here, and the Napoleon Dynamite dance here.

I have succumbed.
A book & a review worth reading

The book is Prospects for Conservatives by Russell Kirk (conservative giant); you can get it through your public library.

The review is of that book, and it's by Maclin Horton. Here's the opening 'graph:
    When someone tells me that he is a conservative, I want to know what it is that he wishes to conserve. And I ask the question with a certain intention to harass, for I have always had trouble understanding how the beliefs which most Americans understand to be implied by the word “conservative” could reasonably merit that term. I was therefore delighted to discover, seven or eight years ago, the existence of the traditionalist conservative movement, of which Russell Kirk is a well-known spokesman, and to find it at war, at least part of the time, with those for whom the word “conservatism” means an ideology composed of free-market economics, nearly idolatrous nationalism, and a very 19th-century notion of “progress”—a definition which makes necessary the clumsy and somewhat redundant term “traditionalist conservative.”
Read the rest of it here.
It's not about principles... it's about winning

A while back, I ran across an article which talked about how conservatives tend to be more focused on first principles, on developing the philosophical foundations for their policies, while liberals tend to be more focused on pragmatic, practical steps which will further the likelihood of victory in elections. (The article linked by someone at The Corner, and was written by someone who leaned to the left, but I can't find the link! Argh!)

Anyway, that generally corresponds with my experience... many of my liberal friends & acquaintances don't feel the need to intellectually justify their positions... they see them as self-evident. So, for instance, some liberals justify federal social programs by arguing that its our duty to help the poor and others in need, and this is obviously how we fulfill that duty.

Now, I need to stress that this is a generality and not a universal truth... there are obviously some liberals who do seek to argue the fundamental principles behind their policies, just as their are some conservatives who are more interested in just winning. The point is what's more often the case, and I think that the assertion holds.

An instance of this is provided for us by Markos Zuniga Moulitsas, the founder of the blog Daily Kos, one of the more vitriolic liberal blogs in existence. Like his blog, Zuniga is well known for his anti-Bush, anti-Republican invective. And he demonstrates the thesis of this post in the following quote about a new liberal think tank he is involved with, the New Policy Institute:
    Policy think tanks are pretty useless,” he told the Hill newspaper. “All the great policy white papers aren’t going to do any good.” The purpose of the New Policy Institute will be on “building a Democratic Party that is focused on winning.
John Podhoretz aptly comments:
    There we have it, a perfect encapsulation of the Babbittry that has overcome the Democratic Left. Ideas are bunk. "Policy white papers" are boring. What matters is salesmanship
I think he's right, and I think it's bad for American politics. We need both liberals and conservatives to have vigorous internal debates about what liberalism and conservatism entail, so that they can fairly and thoroughly make their case to the American people.

After all, it's not just about winning... it's about finding the best way to serve our nation.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

So, what was the purpose of the judicial filibuster again?

This post is too good to only quote in part. Read it, and then go read the comments:
    The Democrat talking point was that filibustering is not about requiring a supermajority to approve judges, but rather it is about stopping some radical rightwing nutjobs from being given lifetime appointments to the federal bench.

    Scratch that talking point. Let's face the truth. The Democrats want to establish -- in advance of a Supreme Court nomination -- that the President must get someone who can be approved with a 60% majority, not a 51% majority. Keep in mind that the Constitution specifies very specific tasks requiringg more than a 51% majority. Those matters that are not specified as requiring a supermajority, including judges, have always been recognized to require just a simple majority.

    Not any more.

    Need proof? Let Harry Reid explain it to you.

    This fight is not about seven radical nominees; it's about clearing the way for a Supreme Court nominee who only needs 51 votes, instead of 60 votes.
    At least he is admitting it's about holding the Senate hostage to the whims of a supermajority and they can drop the shtick about the filibusters blocking "radical nominees."

    Now that Reid admits the Democrats are not filibustering for cause on a case by case basis, but are filibustering to require the Senate to vote in a way the Constitution does not contemplate, will the Republicans get on with it and nuke the judicial filibuster?!

I hope so.

Catholic Carnival XXIX is up!

You can find it here.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Family Protection Budget Act

Ever heard of it? I hadn't, until I read this post today. Essentially, it calls for a reform of the budget process, including the following key points:
  • Converts the current budget resolution from an advisory opinion to a legally binding budget, signed by the President. This budget will force the President and Congress to commit to the same budget before spending any money that year.
  • Provides government shutdown protection whereby the government can operate at the prior year's funding levels in the event that negotiations are deadlocked (usually over higher spending) at the beginning of a new fiscal year.
  • Places enforceable caps on the growth of entitlement and discretionary spending and closes loopholes that made such limits easy to exceed in the past.
  • Sunsets most entitlement programs and all discretionary programs over a period of time to allow for a thorough cost-benefit analysis as to whether they still merit federal funding.
I already emailed my representative, asking her to support this bill when it is reintroduced, and I think every single one of you should, too.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Andrew Sullivan has lost his mind

Jesuit priest Fr. Thomas Reese will be resigning his position as editor of America magazine as of June 1. There's talk that his resignation was requested by the Superior General from the Jesuits in response from pressure applied regarding the leftward slant of the magazine.

This has completely unhinged Andrew Sullivan, who claims that Pope Benedict fired Reese, referring to the Holy Father as a "petty, prissy tyrant". He goes on...

This is a signal that not even moderate, calm, balanced and respectful examination of Church doctrine or Church government will be allowed in future."

The measures Ratzinger used as prefect will actually be intensified as Pope, until all free thought is extinguished."

Message to Catholics: remove your minds. Message to Catholic thinkers: obey on everything - or we will fire you."

If I were a Jesuit, I would take the hostility of this clerical tyrant as a badge of honor."

Firing this moderate, quiet, modest man is really a call to arms for those of us who need to save our church from this disastrous choice for the papacy."

So, what are you going to do, Andrew? Exactly how do you plan to "save our church"? What "arms" are you going to take up? Are you planning to convoke Vatican III? Or appoint bishops more to your liking? As far as I can tell, the only thing that he could do that could even be called "harm" is convincing people to stop tithing to the Church, but even if he were able to do so on a large scale (which is isn't), there would be no real harm: Catholicism would remain Catholicism.

Mr. Sullivan keeps taking his marbles, going home, coming back, taking his marbles, going home, coming back... I wish he'd make up his mind. Either deal with it or leave, Mr. Sullivan. I'd prefer that you stay, but your ignorant ranting (yes, he is being very very ignorant in his diatribes) must stop.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

It's "pop"!!!

Your Linguistic Profile:

70% General American English

15% Upper Midwestern

10% Yankee

5% Midwestern

0% Dixie

One of the questions is "do you pronounce 'Aunt' like 'ant'?" I don't now (and the above scores are reflective of that), but when I was growing up I did, and a "yes" answer gives the following result:

Your Linguistic Profile:

75% General American English

15% Upper Midwestern

5% Midwestern

5% Yankee

0% Dixie

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Consecrated Life

In the Fall 2004 issue of Communio, Jörg Splett has an article entitled, "Evangelical Counsels in Marriage?" As one might rightly infer from the title, he discusses what it might mean to be married and live the life of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

In setting the stage for his discussion, he offers a couple citations which impressed me. The first comes from a 1975 address by Cardinal Hermann Volk to religious women superiors in Germany:
    You don't need to join an order to care for the sick or to run schools with a consciously Catholic spirit. In most cases, the majority of personnel in hospitals or schools run by the orders are laypeople. They also want to serve in a Christian and Catholic spirit. This means that it has to be the order itself, and not what it does, that first attracts young people.
The second quote includes Splett's own words along with a citation from Gottes Schönheit Leben by Kurth Koch:
    The decisive service that consecrated life performs for the Christian world is its existence as such in the state of the counsels. It is the fact that "in response to today's chronic question, 'what do you do?' says 'I am--and by God's grace at that.'"
I think both are right on. With the reform of religious life after Vatican II, many communities seem to be struggling with determining exactly what the nature of the religious life is. In some cases, it becomes little more than a lay apostolate for single people who live together. In fact, it seems to me that the reality of secular institutes provides both an opportunity and a challenge for religious communities as they seek to understand their place in the Church and the world in our time.

Professor Bainbridge's "The Conservative Case Against Wal-Mart".

HT: Maclin of Caelum et Terra (a blog I recently discovered, and recommend).

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The latest Catholic Carnival is up!

Check it out here.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The dangers of an overly historical approach to theology

That's the topic of this article by Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn of Vienna. In the course of the article, he outlines some of the dangers which come with overly stressing the historical nature of theology. Among them is this:
    A fourth difficulty concerns mainly the West, but probably touches the whole Church. I call it a tendency to encyclopedism. All of theology becomes a large encyclopedia. Ever since the 18th century there has been a tendency in the West to write encyclopedias. The Enlightenment tried to gather the whole of human knowledge in large encyclopedias. The teaching of theology has become largely a kind of encyclopedia of approaches, of models, of authors, which lack coherence and an organic structure. At the end of theology, students have bits and pieces of their faith, without a coherent, global view.
I find this to be a very accurate observation, and unfortunately, it's an error which I've committed. Theology must be presented in a manner which demonstrates its coherence, its organic nature. Unfortunately, it's all too often not done in such a manner.

The cardinal provides this theologian with the impetus to do better on this point.

(HT: David.)
Pope Benedict & Liberalism (broadly-speaking)

Jimmy Akin has a short post linking an article by Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute, in which Fr. Sirico argues that Pope Benedict "will turn out to be a real liberal," meaning "liberalism of an older, classical variety that placed it hopes in society, faith and freedom."

There's a small discussion in the comments, in which yours truly is involved. While I have great respect for Fr. Sirico, I think that he (and scholar Michael Novak) are definitely stretching it when they try to claim Ratzinger/Benedict for their interpretation of Catholic social teaching with regard to capitalism and democracy. As I note in one of the comments, Ratzinger is a founder of the journal Communio, which has tended to be critical of liberalism, even the older, classical variety. That's certainly not to say that our pope is simply an opponent of capitalism or democracy... far from not. Nor does it imply that he is a supporter of the welfare state or socialism... that's certainly not the case either. It simply means that he has some serious reservations with regard to the deeper assumptions of modern democratic capitalism and the culture it engenders, reservations which Sirico and Novak do not share.
Altered Nuclear Transfer

The latest issue of Communio (Winter 2004) has a number of excellent articles, well worth reading. In this post, though, I want to discuss three in particular, all of them regarding altered nuclear transfer.

Altered nuclear transfer (hereafter, ANT) is a proposed offered by Stanford prof William Hurlbut as a way to break the embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) impasse. The problem with ESCR is, of course, that research with great potential with regard to various diseases involves the killing of human beings at the embryonic stage. Hurlbut seeks to do an end run around the impasse by using genetic engineering to create entities with embryonic stem cells which are not actually human embryos. The idea is to "turn off" certain genes (prior to the completion of ANT), as a result of which there would be only brief development, sufficient only for ESC's to form. If such a proposal could work, it would avoid the problems of ESCR (killing people) while being able to move forward with this research. Needless to say, such a solution is very promising.

However... some scholars have raised serious issues with ANT, among them the authors of the three articles in this quarter's Communio: David L. Schindler, Roberto Colombo, and Adrian J. Walker. I'll summarize each below.

In his piece, Schindler takes his characteristic long-view approach, questioning not so much the immediate questions involved with ANT, but rather the broader & deeper metaphysical and ontological premises upon which ANT is dependent. Briefly, Schindler argues that ANT share similar ontological premises with ESCR, specifically a mechanistic metaphysics which treats organisms as machines and asserts only external causes, neglecting (if not denying) "inner," teleological causes. At the heart of this metaphysics is an understanding of nature as merely neutral, i.e. empty of any moral status in and of itself, rather than nature as already "containing" a positive moral & metaphysical status (which corresponds with what God said at the end of each day in the first creation story: "it is good").

Colombo's article is a few short notes on the biological & moral questions involved directly with ANT. The gist of this article is to question Hurlbut's argument that the entity created by ANT is not actually an embryo.

A similar argument is made by Walker, in which he extensively argues that the entity created by ANT is in fact a human embryo, albeit one with severe genetic defects. In brief, Walker's argument is that the mere fact that the entity does not develop extensively before it begins to dis-integrate, this in and of itself does not demonstrate that the entity is not an embryonic human being. The rough analogy that came to mind is this: what if scientists "turned off" the genes which result in the development of arms... would there be no human being simply because one phase of development was prevented beforehand? No. If Walker's analysis is correct, something similar obtains with ANT: merely prohibiting more than elementary development does not mean that the entity in question is not in fact a human being.

It seems to me that all of these arguments need to be weighed and considered by those examining ANT as a possible alternative to ESCR, to ensure that ANT is not in fact ESCR in a different form.

Parenthetically, the latest issue of The National Catohlic Bioethics Quarterly (Spring 2005) discusses this issue in its opening colloquy; a number of scholars offer their perspectives on ANT, and Hurlbut himself responds. However, his response does not seem to address the sorts of criticisms found in the articles considered here, or at least does not do so in great depth. It should be noted, BTW, that Hurlbut is motivated by a desire to avoid killing people in ESCR; hence his proposal. He's on our side... it just seems that his proposal is not what he thinks it is.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Conspiracy Theorists meet in D.C.

to discuss our time, which "may be the darkest time in our history".

That's because traditional Christians are being good citizens and are involved in the political process.
Science is objective, but scientists aren't necessarily so

Consider this post from Andrew Stuttaford:

    One of the curiosities of the debate over man-made global warming is the way in which true believers in this hypothesis seem so unwilling to enter into any debate with those that challenge them. I can understand established scientists not wanting to give equal time to cranks but shutting out experts of the calibre decribed in this account seems to be indicative of something else.

    Is the global warming crowd quite so sure of the science as it likes to make out? Read on, and judge for yourself...

    "A British authority on natural catastrophes who disputed whether climatologists really agree that the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, says his work was rejected by the American publication, Science, on the flimsiest of grounds. A separate team of climate scientists, which was regularly used by Science and the journal Nature to review papers on the progress of global warming, said it was dropped after attempting to publish its own research which raised doubts over the issue.The controversy follows the publication by Science in December of a paper which claimed to have demonstrated complete agreement among climate experts, not only that global warming is a genuine phenomenon, but also that mankind is to blame.The author of the research, Dr Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California, analysed almost 1,000 papers on the subject published since the early 1990s, and concluded that 75 per cent of them either explicitly or implicitly backed the consensus view, while none directly dissented from it.Dr Oreskes's study is now routinely cited by those demanding action on climate change, including the Royal Society and Prof Sir David King, the Government's chief scientific adviser. However, her unequivocal conclusions immediately raised suspicions among other academics, who knew of many papers that dissented from the pro-global warming line.They included Dr Benny Peiser, a senior lecturer in the science faculty at Liverpool John Moores University, who decided to conduct his own analysis of the same set of 1,000 documents - and concluded that only one third backed the consensus view, while only one per cent did so explicitly. Dr Peiser submitted his findings to Science in January, and was asked to edit his paper for publication - but has now been told that his results have been rejected on the grounds that the points he make had been "widely dispersed on the internet".

    What's going on?


I occasionally hear secularists glorifying the objective and factual nature of "science," which "religion" for its lack thereof. But we all have our pet theories and biases, so merely claiming objectivity is, of course, insufficient as a demonstration of it.