Thursday, August 31, 2006


Il Santo Padre Benedetto XVI ha nominato... Vescovo di Sioux Falls (U.S.A.) il Mons. Paul Joseph Swain, finora Vicario Generale di Madison. Mons. Paul Joseph Swain

Mons. Swain è nato il 12 settembre 1943, da una famiglia di confessione Metodista. Dopo aver seguito le scuole elementari e medie, ha continuato la sua educazione superiore prima nella Ohio Northern University, dove nel 1965 è diventato Bachelor of Arts in History; poi, all’University of Wisconsin-Madison, dove nel 1967 ha conseguito il Master of Arts in Political Science; e successivamente, presso l’University of Wisconsin Law School, dove ha conseguito il titolo di Juris Doctor, nel 1974. Nel frattempo ha partecipato alla Guerra in Vietnam (1967-1971), come Air Intelligence Officer. Per i suoi meriti ha ottenuto l’onorificenza di Vietnam Veteran Bronze Star. Laureatosi in Diritto Civile, ha seguito la pratica giuridica: prima come Assistant Legal Counsel, League of Wisconsin Municipalities (1975-1976); poi come Avvocato (1976-1979); e successivamente come Legal Counsel del Governatore dello Stato di Wisconsin, Sig. Lee Sherman Dryfus (1979-1983).

Dopo la sua conversione, è stato ricevuto nella Chiesa Cattolica nel 1982. Nel 1983 ha iniziato la sua formazione per il sacerdozio, presso il Pope John XXIII National Seminary a Weston, Massachusetts. Ha concluso nel 1988 conseguendo il titolo di Master of Divinity.È stato ordinato sacerdote il 27 maggio 1988 dal Vescovo Cletus F. O’Donnell. Ha poi ricoperto i seguenti incarichi: 1988-1993: Vicario cooperatore di Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary a Sun Prairie. 1993: Segretario di S.E. Bullock, Moderatore della Curia e Vice-Cancelliere. 1994-1997: Parroco di St. Mary of Pine Bluff. 1997-1999: Rettore della Cattedrale di St. Raphael di Madison. 1997-2000: Vicario Generale. 2002: Parroco di St. Bernard a Middleton. È Prelato d’Onore di sua Santità dal 14 giugno 1997 e membro dell’Ordine Equestre del Santo Sepolcro di Gerusalemme. Attualmente è Vicario Generale della diocesi di Madison e Rettore della Cattedrale di San Raffaele.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New SF, SD blog

Greg Belfrage is a local talk-show host as well as a fellow parishioner at my Catholic parish, and he now has a blog: Prairie Conservative. Check it out!

(He's added to the blogroll to the left as well.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bainbridge on Wal-mart again

Another good post on Wal-mart by conservative law professor Stephen Bainbridge.

As I've noted before with regard to the professor's view, there is a conservative case against Wal-mart, and it's a serious one.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

First jet plane flew today

The first turbojet-powered airplane flew on August 27th, 19XX.

Any guesses as to the year, and the country of origin?

Put your guesses in the comments, and then go here to get the answers.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

More permalinks

I've added a few more blogs that I regularly visit to the blogroll:

Professor Bainbridge
Hugh Hewitt

I know there's a lot of cleaning up to do in the blogroll, with inactive, dead, and moved blogs... all in good time, my pretties. :-)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Speaking of carnivals...

I recommend the Carnival of Personal Finance; archives can be found here.

On the topic, I also recommend Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and Eric Tyson's Personal Finance for Dummies.

Wish I would have read both about ten years ago.
An Elementary [sic] Christian Metaphysics

One of my friends from my time in Rome is Fr. Dan Gallagher, a priest of the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan, who is currently "on loan" to Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

In a recent conversation, Father mentioned that he's going to be teaching metaphysics this fall at the seminary, and said that the text he's assigning is An Elementary Christian Metaphysics by Fr. Joseph Owens. I'm just a few chapters into the work, and while it isn't the easiest read, it is worthwhile, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the topic.

For an idea of where Owens comes from, here's a line from the backcover blurb:
    Using original Thomistic texts and Etienne Gilson's interpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas, Owens examines the application of metaphysical principles to the issues that arise in a specifically Christian environment.
Again, a good introduction to metaphysics.
Comments switched over

As mentioned last week, I've moved from YACCS for comments to Blogger; after leaving both up for a few days, I've taken the YACCS comments offline.

Latest CC is up!

You can read the latest Catholic Carnival here.
New issue of The New Atlantis now online

The editors of The New Atlantis -- a Journal of Technology and Society are kind enough to make each new issue available online a few weeks after it's available for purchase (back issues are also online).

The latest issue is now up, and as always, there are some very interesting articles, including one on the first fourteen days of human life coauthored by my friend, Pat Lee, and Robert George.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Moral utilitarianism among the American left and right

At the First Things blog, Ross Douthat has a terrific post on the prevelance of moral utilitarianism among Americans of all political stripes, offering examples of tactitly approving the torture terrorists to get information that might stop an attack (the right) and approving of embronic stem cell research if it might cure disease (the left).

He then draws the following conclusion:
    This reality, I think, offers the umpteenth example of why the Victorian project (which persists to this day) of doing away with Christian dogma but trying to keep Christian morality intact is doomed to failure. Not because Christian morality can’t be approached rationally by nonbelievers of good will, but because without the lived experience of a religious tradition it will never be anything more than an abstraction, an arid intellectualism, something that gets followed when following it is easy to follow and abandoned as soon as the going gets tough.
I agree, wholeheartedly.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Programming note: Switching Comments

YACCS comments have served me well for a few years now, but YACCS is also often the source of delays in loading the blog and individual posts. So I'm transitioning to Blogger's commenting system...

For the time being, I'm leaving the YACCS comments up (the link tha follows "Not here:"), so that people can read recent comments made to the blog. But for new comments, please use the Blogger comments (where it says "Comment here:").

Gates praises ABC, gets booed by activists

Bill Gates spoke at the 16th annual International AIDS conference, held this year in Toronto. He spoke of the "ABC" approach to fighting AIDS used in some African countries, like Uganda ("ABC" means abstinence, be faithful, and condoms for specific populations that refuse "A" and "B").

When Gates said, "This approach has saved many lives, and we should expand it," he was booed, according to FRC, Lifesite, and a blog by AIDS activists at the conference. Abstinence, after all, is unrealistic... who can really expect people to exercise self-discipline and virtue?
ComprehensiveContraceptive Sex Education = more teen sex

According to a story in yesterday's Washington Post (free registration required), a Philadelphia study found that (black) teens who had a comprehensivecontraceptive sex education curriculum were more likely to engage in sexual intercourse than students whose curriculum took an abstinence-only approach.

The study also found that the teens in the absistence-only curriculum who did have sex were just as likely to know about condoms and how to use them as those in the comprehensivecontraceptive sex education curriculum.
Blogroll updates

I finally updated by blogroll... I use the personalized Google homepage to check a number of blogs, and I've been tardy in getting some of them on the blogroll. So over on the left you'll find new links to:

Whispers in the Loggia
The New Liturgical Movement
Cosmos - Liturgy - Sex
Looking Closer Journal

Happy Feast of the Assumption!

(Find a beautiful painting along with a meditation on the Assumption at Pontifications.)
New Catholic Carnival!

Find it at just another day of Catholic pondering.

Monday, August 14, 2006

It is better to be than to not-be

At Mass this Sunday, Father Al began his homily with a few comments on Jesus' words in John 6:44: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (the Gospel reading was John 6:41-51). Father noted (and I'm paraphrasing here) that at this point in his life, he understands most "mysterious" things, with a few things excepted. One of those exceptions was this: if God knows from all eternity those souls who will finally refuse his gift of grace and salvation and choose eternal separation from Him instead, why did He create them?

Here is my meager attempt at a possible response.

Taking Genesis 1 as the point of departure ("and God saw that it was good"), it is a basic principle of Catholic theology and philosophy that God created all things good, and this fundamental goodness remains, despite the effects of the Fall of humanity in the garden. (Philosophically, this notion is expressed in the axiom that being and good are convertible.)

In other words, insofar as something exists (i.e. has being), it is good.

Consider, then, those who are damned (who count among their number the fallen angels and any human beings who persist in refusing God at the moment of their death). On a moral level, they are rightly described as evil. But on a metaphysical level, the fact that they continue to exist in some way, however diminished, means that they are good, and hence that their being adds some goodness to the cosmos.

And here lays my possible answer to Father's query: by the sheer fact of their being, the existence of even the damned "adds" some measure of goodness to creation. In other words, the universe is better off with them than it would have been without them.

It's not all about "No"

Pope Benedict recently gave a television interview to a panel of four German journalists in anticipation of his visit to his homeland in a few weeks. The english translation of the transcript can be found here. Right now, there's one passage I want to call attention to:
    And when you have so little time you can't say everything you want to say about "no." Firstly you have to know what we really want, right? Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions: it's a positive option. It's very important that we look at it again because this idea has almost completely disappeared today. We've heard so much about what is not allowed that now it's time to say: we have a positive idea to offer
Right on!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Wright on von Balthasar on Protestants and Catholics

Nazarene pastor John Wright has a nice post up on twentieth century theologians Hans Urs von Balthasar (Catholic) and Karl Barth (Reformed Protestant). Wright comments on some passages in von Balthasar's book examining Barth's thought, and a couple of those passages express something I've been trying to get some Net pals to understand.

Here's a key section of Pastor Wright's post:

    Yet Balthasar says important things that accurately, and negatively, define Protestants relationship to Roman Catholics, even after over 50 years that he has written. He writes, 'Protestants are convinced that they have seen through Catholicism once and for all; and if it should so happen that they discover a presentation of Catholic views that they do not find absurd, this must surely be due to the Catholic habit of countenancying "Jesuitical' arguments, hiding the Church's true esoteric features behind politically shrewd and seductive masks" (p. 17). He concludes his observations, "And the result is that, if sloth and inattention hinder conversations on the Catholic side, mistrust and suspicion cripple it on the Protestant" (p. 18).

    Yet Balthasar states that "perhaps today we are beginning to move beyond the era of stale antithese -- Reformation and Counter-Reformation -- with Catholics trying to be more catholic and not 'anti-Protestant' and the Protestants more biblical and 'evangelical' and not 'protesters'" (p. 19).
Let's hope so.
Hey Al: practice what you preach.

Here's an article detailing how Al Gore doesn't live the eco-friendly lifestyle he's been telling the rest of us we need to live.

Big surprise there.

(HT: American Papist)

Friday, August 11, 2006

What, precisely, is Thomism?

Just over two years ago I blogged on a book I'd just read: Dr. Tracey Rowland's Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II. As I blogged then, it's an outstanding book, and I encourage anyone remotely interested in the issues it addresses to read it.

Since then, I've kept my eyes open for reviews of the book, and as I've read those, one criticism is found in multiple reviews, that being that Rowland seems to stretch the definition of Thomism beyond legitimate bounds. The review in Modern Theology by Joseph Wawrykow of Notre Dame posited that Rowland's definition of Thomism "is in fact too broad, so loose that it covers anyone who has been associated with classical Christianity, not simply those who would identify with Aquinas and his particular approach to Christian truth." He proceeds to wonder "why Rowland does not refer simply to ‘creedal Christianity’ or ‘classical Christianity’" instead of "Thomism".

Now, I consider myself a Thomist, and I recognized Rowland as such as well. So this criticism of her work led me to wonder: what, exactly, makes one a Thomist, and what, exactly, constitutes Thomism, beyond the tautology that these terms refer to one who "follows" the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, and to his thought, respectively. In other words, what is the definition of Thomist/m? Clearly, if Scholar A argues that Scholar B is not a Thomist, Scholar A has some operative definition of Thomist/m. So what is that definition?

This question turns out to be somewhat difficult to answer. The best answer I've seen comes from the Dominican priest and scholar, Fr. Romanus Cessario, in his book, A Short History of Thomism. In that book, he offers a short list of what constitutes a Thomist perspective, but like others, he also notes that the doctrinal content of Thomism is not exactly well-defined... his list functions more as a lowest common denominator than as an attempt at a comprehensive definition.

Having said that, I'd be curious to hear what others think about this, and how they might answer the question, "What does it mean to be a Thomist and to subscribe to Thomism?"

Update: only after publishing this post did I check Wikipedia and the resources it links. While the Wikipedia entry on "Thomism" falls prey to the common trend to view Thomism more as a philosophical than a theological school, its list of philosophical positions distinctively Thomistic was helpful. More helpful, though, was the link provided to the 1907-12 Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on Thomism. Again, there are some assertions which could be questioned in light of more recent scholarship, which rightly tends to wonder if neo-Thomism incorrectly distilled Thomas' thought, but the lists (both philosophical and theological, and of both Thomism and the Thomist school) remain somewhat helpful.

I remain curious as to the thoughts of readers on this question, though.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Scientists aren't intrinsically objective

One of the hallmarks of the Enlightenment worldview is a belief (an act of faith?) that science is the (only) path to true, objective knowledge, and scientists are likewise objective in their reporting of the facts they discover. For this mentality, science functions as a de facto religion, and scientists are the priests, prophets, and oracles of said religion. (NB: this is not a critique of science or scientists per se, but of a mentality which regards them erroneously.)

In fact, scientists are fallible human beings just like the rest of us, and they are no more impervious to allowing their biases and subjectivities to cloud their judgment and reasoning than anyone else.

Pat Lee and Robert George offer an example of this in their recent critique of a letter in the journal Science and the reasons for which the letter was hurriedly published. I encourage you to read it.
Hawkish Gloom

A sobering analysis of the geo-political situation by Stanley Kurtz of NRO (and now of the Ethics and Public Policy Center -- home of George Weigel -- as well).
Happy Feast of St. Dominic!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Two Catholic "movements" I love:

The Dominicans

Communion and Liberation

That is all.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Catholic teaching and Philosophy

Josh is a new LCMS seminarian with recently-completed grad degree on mathematics. He's had a blog for years, and enjoys poking a little fun and his fellow Christians who don't happen to be Lutherans. Some might confuse his style as mean-spirited, but I'm pretty confident that it's usually just light-hearted jabbing.

Josh has read some Catholic theology (e.g. Ratzinger's Spirit of the Liturgy), but he still has some, erroneous ideas about the Catholic distinctives. For example (do a Find for what follows):
    I think the conversation with the Roman Catholics is kind of useless since they keep avoiding bringing divine judgment into the language of morality. It's all just natural philosophy (and which natural philosophy is the right one is sufficiently obvious that they don't feel obligated to defend it). I want to know how God thinks about it.
Josh seems convinced that Catholic theology is all too often based (solely?) upon philosophical reasoning. On the one hand, I can somewhat understand that: there certainly have been theologians and theological schools whose language (and in some cases, even substance) tended to be very philosophical.

On the other hand, Catholic doctrine is completely theological, and the employment of philosophical terminology and concepts serve only to explain or elaborate the theological doctrine (usually because it's under attack). Now, it might take some study to see how a particular Catholic teaching is more than mere human philosophical discourse, but such a study will be fruitful.

Josh's particular favorite kicking boy on this is the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Josh thinks it's an unbiblical, Aristotelian attempt to explain the Real Presence. To some degree, that's true (minus the "unbiblical" part). But as I've noted in conversations with Josh, there's little difference between the employment Greek philosophy to "explain" the Real Presence and the employment of Greek philosophy to "explain" the Trinity. Some object here, that in the latter case (that of Trinitarian doctrine) philosophy is only employed to explain what God is, while in the case of transubstantiation, philosophy is employed to explain how the Real Presence occurs. According to this line of thinking, a doctrine which employs philosophy to explain how is illicit, while a doctrine which employs philosophy to explain that is licit.

I don't accept that. It seems to me that every doctrine in some what is both a that and a how doctrine, even though it might be more clearly one or the other in some cases. For instance, it could rightly be argued that transubstantiation is necessary to explain in as full and complete manner as possible the truth that Jesus is really, truly present in the Eucharist. And it could also be rightly argued that Nicaea's trinitarian doctrine explains how we can speak of God as three an one simultaneously.

While the following is essentially a bald assertion, it's worth making it: Catholic doctrine is fundamentally and essentially biblical (and hence theological), and those who argue otherwise will see the error of their ways if they are able to postively engage Catholic teaching without an a priori hermeneutic of suspicion.

Parenthetically, this whole misunderstanding is a macrocosm of the stereotypical view held by many (Catholic and others alike) of St. Thomas Aquinas: he is seen as a philosopher who employs Aristotle to create useless and meaningless distinctions about the faith. In fact, Thomas was first and foremost a biblical theologian, who spent a significant chunk of his lectures and writings in commenting on Sacred Scripture. In other words, the same misapprehension is made regarding Catholic doctrine as a whole as is made regarding the Common Doctor.
Watch out for the Inquisition!

There's an ex-Catholic fundamentalist who emailed a bunch of us at the diocesan offices out of the blue back in January or so, with an anti-Eucharist rant.

I engaged the guy in civil dialogue, and found out that he attended the local Catholic high school back in the day, and he even -- you guessed it -- thought about becoming a priest. It turned out though, that he'd never heard the Gospel preached until one day a few years later, when he was listening to a preacher on the radio. He accepted Jesus at that moment, and left the Romanist, papist heresy (my words, but his sentiment).

Our conversation was all across the board, but there was one thing I kept trying: to find out his name, so that we could pray for one another. He ignored my requests continually.

When the twins came along in February, this convo got put on the burner farthest in the back. A couple weeks back, he (still anonymous) sent another mass email to the offices, but I ignored it.

Then yesterday, I found an anti-Catholic tract (from Mike Gendron's "ministry") in our Cathedral's beautiful adoration chapel, with this guy's email address. I contacted him again, and asked him a couple questions. First, though, I stressed that his anonymous approach was rather unlike that of Jesus', and I implored him to share just his first name, that we might pray for one another.

It was his response to that request that, well, floored me. I'll reproduce it here:
    No, I dare not tell you my name, as I am familiar with the history of the inquisition and the current office of The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." Matthew 7:6
So what the heck do you say to that? This guy is under the delusion that if he reveals his name, I'm going to sic the Inquisition on him! Because, you know, that's what happens to all the anti-Catholic people out there these days!

I'm still in shock.