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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Demonstrating the Absurdity of the High Court's Eminent Domain Ruling

Memorial of the First Holy Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church

[Original posted 1:20 PM, Thursday, June 30]

This story of turnabout is fair play has been making the e-mail rounds, and its simple elegance is worthy of a chuckle. In a press release, Logan Darrow Clement has announced he is seeking to take advantage of the recent Supreme Court ruling on Kelo v. City of New London, CT, et al., where local governments are allowed to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue, or other economic benefits, when the land is developed by the new owner.

According to the Boston Herald, U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter's rustic farmhouse in Weare, NH, is assessed at more than $100,000, for which he pays approximately $3,000 per year in property taxes. Mr. Clement has transmitted a letter to Chip Meany, the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, proposing to put a hotel on the property, which he expects would bring in economic development and higher tax revenue to Weare, thereby meeting the Court's requirement of better serving the public interest.

Don't expect anything to happen, however. State Rep. Neal Kurk said that Justice Souter's property will be protected by the good sense of New Hampshire townspeople; a sense he did not display on their behalf in his vote on the decision.

Update:

Looks like Southern Appeal beat me to this.

eBay Appears to be At It Again

[Original posted 10:17 AM, Thursday, June 30]

Item 7332637433: VINTAGE CANDY DISH W/ HOLY EUCHARIST, RELIGION, CATHOLIC

(cap tip: Spirit Daily)

Update:

eBay has now removed the item.

Spain Makes Gay Marriages Legal

This makes three, with Canada set to follow next month.

Colombian Woman Attributes Miracle to John Paul the Great

I trust this is just one of many stories we will hear in coming days (cap tip: Spirit Daily). For the record, I credit John Paul's intercession (perhaps among others), invoked via Fr. Tharp's prayer, with the Troglodytrix' getting through her complications and the safe arrival of Troglotyke #7 last month, which leads me to my other prayer request update re my friend, Don Cook:

He is on his 4th round of the same protocol. He started this one on May 31st. He seems to still be handling it fairly well. The first few days home are the hardest but he recovers quickly. His next set of scans will be done on June 27th. The doctor has promised him 2 weeks off after this round so he and his family can have a vacation this summer, which will probably involve time at, on, and in the lake.
Please, please keep those prayers coming.

USCCB President Urges G8 Action in Letter to President Bush

Text of letter dated June 28, as released by the USCCB's Office of Media Relations:

Dear Mr. President,

As you prepare to attend the G8 Summit in Scotland, I write on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to urge you to take bold action on global poverty, international trade, climate change and the arms trade.

Our Conference is deeply engaged with the Catholic Church and people of Africa. Our experience leads us to welcome the Summit’s special focus on Africa. We commend you, Mr. President, for the commitment your Administration has demonstrated to improve the well-being the people of Africa, but we know there is still an enormous task ahead. We urge you to build on your strong record by working with your G8 colleagues to adopt new initiatives in support of African efforts to break the cycle of poverty and achieve integral human development. We urge your continued leadership in this effort primarily because of the moral obligation which we all share for the well-being of every human person, but also because replacing despair with hope in the African continent will lead to a more secure world for us all.

Africa will be a major beneficiary of your new programs for combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). These programs have placed our country at the forefront of efforts to combat devastating disease and to design new approaches for more effective foreign aid. We commend you for the recent agreement for poor country debt cancellation that should provide the kind of fresh start for many poor countries that our Conference has long advocated.

As you know, many African countries will not benefit from the HIV/AIDS and MCA programs. Outside of these initiatives most U.S. development and humanitarian aid has not increased in recent years. Some of the non-MCA countries face enormous challenges. Much of what needs to be done must come from within the countries themselves, and in countries with weak governance and a lack of accountability and transparency, strengthening civil society is especially important. However, the needs of these countries are too great and their resources too few to enable them to address these problems effectively without substantial external support.

There are several areas that merit priority consideration for new initiatives. We would encourage the G8 to strengthen peacekeeping efforts in countries affected by conflict as well as support peace building and reconstruction efforts in countries emerging from conflict. Also, a substantial number of African countries have been working to introduce reforms in basic education. A G8 commitment to intensify efforts to bring a quality basic education within the reach of all African children would make an enormous difference to the future of the people of Africa.

Aid and debt relief form part of a broader development agenda that must include progress toward a more just international trading system. New international trading arrangements should be structured in ways that unleash the true potential for economic growth, poverty alleviation and integral human development. We are encouraged by the recent G8 Finance Ministers’ statement that gives priority to the Doha development agenda. A successful outcome will require substantial increases in market access and effective special and differential treatment for developing countries. The Summit should be an occasion for the G8 members to take concrete steps toward eliminating trade-distorting agricultural subsidies and targeting farm support to small and medium-sized farmers.

The Summit agenda includes global climate change, an issue of particular concern to us. Because of where they live and their limited resources, the poor will experience most directly the possible harmful effects of climate change and any measures to address it, including potential escalating energy costs, work displacement and health problems. This is true here in the United States as well as abroad. While there are many technical aspects that need to be considered in addressing global climate change, we recognize our moral responsibility of stewardship. Our actions and decisions, particularly those regarding our use of energy resources, have a profound effect today and for future generations. While there may not be full scientific consensus or complete certainty as to the consequences of climate change, there seems to be a sufficient scientific consensus that prudence would dictate taking preventive and mitigating action now.

When you and your G8 colleagues take up climate change at the Summit, we urge that you give priority to further research on the possible impact of climate change on the poor, and the need for programs to help the poor adapt and mitigate the worst effects. An agreement on even modest efforts could help send a signal that the time has come to move forward.

In addition, the proliferation of conventional weapons has been a matter of concern to us for many years and was the subject of a major statement by the Conference in 1995 that condemned the arms trade as “a serious moral disorder in today’s world.” We commend your recent action with respect to the European Union’s arms embargo on China. This Summit provides the United States with a unique opportunity to effect positive change by leading the effort to enact strong life-saving arms control measures.

The G8 Summit will explore many issues of critical importance to human life and dignity. We pray that your meeting will be blessed by a spirit of collaboration that enables the G8 leaders to advance the universal common good by adopting concrete measures on global poverty, trade, climate change and the arms trade.

Sincerely yours,


Most Reverend William S. Skylstad
Bishop of Spokane
President

German Church Sees Surge in Growth

Oswald Sobrino at Catholic Analysis argues, correctly I think, that Luther is a central figure in the rise of modernism, which consequently has wrapped Germany in secularist trappings. For those who may doubt the handiwork of the Holy Spirit in the elevation of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, there is a bright spot from the core of the Dictatorship of Relativism.

Karl Cardinal Lehmann, Bishop of Mainz and presider speaking at the German Bishop’s Conference in Berlin, reported that in the period from May to June more people joined, or returned, to his diocese than in the whole of 2004, with the increase being attributed to the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of countryman Pope Benedict XVI as his successor. He also said that this is a sustainable opportunity that must be exploited fully by increasing engagement with the masses through youth and community work.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Conflicting Priorities

Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul
A Coalition for Darfur Post

For more than two years, the international community has done little to stop the violence in Darfur or provide security to the millions of displaced victims. And the closer one follows the world's response to this crisis, the clearer the conflicting priorities of the major actors (the US, the AU, the ICC and the UN) become.

Though former Secretary of State Colin Powell declared the situation "genocide" in September 2004, the United States has more or less ignored the Genocide Convention's legal requirement that parties to the convention "undertake to prevent and to punish" it. This can be partly explained by the fact that the administration played a key role in ending the decades long war in the South and does not want to risk upsetting it by directly confronting Khartoum over Darfur. It can also be partly explained by the fact that the CIA has developed significant ties to the regime in Khartoum, which has become "an indispensable part of CIA's counterterrorism strategy."

The International Criminal Court has just recently become involved in the conflict in Darfur, taking up an investigation and warning that Khartoum must cooperate with its investigation. The ICC is a relatively new body that has yet to try a case and is still working to establish itself as a viable international body. As such, the ICC is proceeding slowly and cautiously, attempting to stay within the bounds set by the ICC statute and avoid an embarrassing and potentially damaging showdown with Khartoum should the genocidal regime refuse to cooperate.

The AU faces many of the same problems. As a relatively new organization, the AU hopes to become the key to providing "African solutions to African problems." Over the last six months, the AU has only been able to supply 2/3rd the number of troops it initially mandated and will, in all likelihood, be equally unable to fill the size of its expanded mandate. As a fledgling organization, the AU does not possess the clout or support necessary to demand an expanded mandate to protect civilians in Darfur and has been reluctant to seek outside logistical or financial assistance for its mission, perhaps out of fear that doing so will highlight its inadequacies and undermine its credibility further.

While the US, ICC and AU all have a genuine interest in stopping the violence, it is clear that they also have internal concerns that are restricting their effectiveness in Darfur.

At the same time, the United Nations faces internal concerns of its own. The presence of Russia and China on the Security Council has stymied attempts to force Khartoum to reign in the Janjaweed militias and prevented the imposition of sanctions. Nonetheless, no amount of internal concerns can excuse this recent statement by Jan Pronk, Kofi Annan's Special Representative to Sudan.

While Annan was telling Khartoum that the violence "must stop," Pronk was praising Khartoum for setting up meaningless show trials designed solely to slow the ICC investigation
The government says its national trials will be credible and will be a substitute for the ICC, which announced last week the formal launch of its investigation in Darfur.

Pronk said those concerned about the credibility of the national court, which begins proceedings on June 15, should give the government the benefit of the doubt.

"If the government takes a decision to do something which it had been asked to do late, you only have to criticise that they are late, you should not criticise that they are doing it," he said. "So give the government the benefit of the doubt."
For two years, Khartoum has waged a genocidal campaign against the people of Darfur, taking the lives of an estimated 400,000 people. Under no
circumstances does this government deserve "the benefit of the doubt."

Solving the crisis in Darfur is undoubtedly a priority for many in the international community. Unfortunately, it is not a main priority. And because of that, it is likely that tens of thousands Africans will continue to die over the coming months.

Happy 204th Birthday to Frédéric Bastiat

Bastiat was a 19th century champion of free society, firmly allied with the likes of Locke in advocating a political philosophy rooted in natural law:
Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.
He exposed the folly behind much of our mixed economy in his example of the Broken Window and pioneered demonstrating absurdity by being absurd with the Negative Railroad (scroll down) and the Petition of the Candlestickmakers.

For more see Sheldon Richman's annotated bibliography.

Push for Florida Pro-ESCR Ballot Initiative Begins

On the heels of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's comments that he opposes using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research, Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson says he plans a state ballot initiative to fund such research at Scripps Research Institute. This despite the fact that Scripps does not and does not plan to conduct embryonic stem cell research, instead intending to continue to use animal embryonic stem cells and human adult stem cells.

In a parallel effort a group calling itself "Cures for Florida" has started its own signature campaign for an initiative to obtain $1B from taxpayers for the ethnically and technically questionable research.

For those who scoreboard watch, here is the comparison of cures and diseases having treatments derived from the different types of human stem cells:

Adult - 58
Embryonic - 0

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Two Weeks

Memorial of St. Irenaeus

I read that somewhere: the optimal length of time for a vacation--at least when you really need to take some time off from work. Fortunately, that has only been the case for me a couple of times in 15 years, but this was one of them. I finally decompressed about Wednesday last week, and I am just coming out of the feel-like-a-wet-noodle stage now, which is why I intentionally didn't jump right back into blogging and will be easing back into it. Two weeks--yeah, that's about right.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Gone Fishin'

I think this will make 14 or 15 posts in the last two and a half days (a new record for me on the weekend). Even though I didn't get everything done that I wanted (mostly not getting the blogroll updated), I'm calling a halt to go focus on the family during my time off from the office. With the couple of round-ups included in this last flurry, I hope this will keep all y'all covered for a day or two. Until next weekend,

Pax.

John Paul the Great on the Priesthood #1

I am convinced that a priest...should...have no fear of being "behind the times," because the human "today" of every priest is included in the "today" of Christ the Redeemer. For every priest, in every age, the greatest task is each day to discover his own priestly "today" of Christ...
Gift and Mystery

Reciprocity Round-up 4

Blogs for Life: Planned Parenthood economics
Clairity's Place: Family Matters
Flos Carmeli: Living in This Moment
Fructus Ventris: In This Season of Discontent, Worth Reading
Gathering Goat Eggs: Macrofreakonomics
Hanging On to Nothing: What it comes down to

The Flood of Books About New Pope Begins

As a book junkie, I do not need this temptation.

President Bush Addresses NRLC

In a videotaped address at the National Right to Life Conference, the president thanked the audience for their work in fighting to protect the lives of those threatened by abortion by helping to bring pro-life legislation to his desk. He also reminded attendees that political change is not enough:
"We must always remember that human life is not a raw material to be exploited, but a sacred gift." ...

"We must continue to change more than laws -- we must change hearts and minds [and] persuading fellow citizens of the rightness of our cause."

(cap tip: Pro Life Blogs)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

EJ Dionne: (insert uncharitable noun here)

I have something of a medical condition where I ought to take daily steps to prevent my blood pressure from falling too low: drink plenty of fluids, eat some heart healthy salty food, exercise regularly, etc. And on occasion read an EJ Dionne article. His latest on Terri Schiavo's autopsy fits the bill nicely, thank you.

This piece has an abundance of flawed reasoning and is one of the most fisk-worthy things I have seen in a long time. Here's a look at one paragraph:

[T]hose who supported an extraordinary use of federal power to force their own conclusion against the judgment of state courts knew that philosophical arguments would not be enough. Most Americans were uneasy about compelling Schiavo's husband, Michael, to keep his wife alive if -- as the state courts had concluded and as the autopsy confirmed on Wednesday -- she had suffered irreversible brain damage and was incapable of recovering.
First, dismissing the sufficiency of philosophical arguments betrays an ignorance of how politics are informed. Politics are the applied science of ethics, which answers the question of how we ought to live. If only we relied on rigorous philosophical arguments rather than the sophistry of Dionne and his ilk. We all accept and act on a set of principles, but how we choose to select them will determine how far we can go as individuals and as a society. Ayn Rand, in a commencement address at West Point, highlights the alternatives:

[T]he principles you accept (consciously or subconsciously) may clash with or contradict one another; they, too, have to be integrated. What integrates them? Philosophy. A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation--or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind's wings should have grown.
We clearly ignore philosophy at our peril.

Second, Americans were not of a settled mind on this anyway. Yes, they were uneasy about forcing Michael to keep Terri alive, when it was put in those terms. A vast majority was also uneasy about letting him force her death when asked, "If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water?"

I could go on (and on), but with vacation on the horizon, I will stop there.

John Paul the Great on Faith, Hope, and Love #1

Faith is always demanding, because faith leads us beyond ourselves. It leads us directly to God. Faith also imparts a vision of life's purpose and stimulates us to action. ... Christ has commanded us to let the light of the Gospel shine forth in our service to society. How can we profess faith in God's word, and the refuse to let it inspire and direct our thinking, our activity, our decisions, and our responsibilities toward one another?
Homily in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, 1995

USCCB Chicago Round-up

Revised clergy sex abuse norms are one item on bishops' June agenda (CNS)
U.S., Latin American bishops say they share evangelization concerns (CNS)
Bishops OK vocations prayer day, will draft death penalty statement (CNS)
Catholic bishops maintain permanent ban on church work for abusive priests (WLS)
McCarrick ponders end of 'kind' ministry (WaTi)

Pro-embryonic Stem Cell Research Journal Warns of Hype

The British medical journal, The Lancet, is attempting to mute the sensationalist claims of our having miracle cures just around the corner. That therapies derived from embryonic stem cell research are unlikely to be availabe in less than a decade is not news to those who follow this issue closely and are aware of "[t]he natural propensity of embryonic stem cells to form [tumors], their exhibition of chromosomal abnormalities, and abnormalities in cloned mammals." And for those who don't think such future therapies will require a Brave New World-like production and cost efficiency mentality that is based on the destruction of millions of humans, there is this:
"To treat, for example, the 17 million diabetes patients in the United States will require a minimum of 850 million to 1.7 billion human eggs," molecular and cellular pharmacologist and patent attorney, Dr. Kelly Hollowell said. "Collecting 10 eggs per donor will require a minimum of 85 to 170 million women."

"The total cost would be astronomical, at $100,000 to $200,000 for 50 to 100 human eggs per each patient," Dr. Hollowell explained.

Minnesota's Oldest Parish Gets New Church

From the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
The Church of St. Peter, the oldest active Roman Catholic parish in the state, is on its way to enhancing its status as one of the most beautiful ones as well.

The Mendota parish is nearing completion of a $6.9 million rebuilding project on its scenic 18-acre riverfront campus.
After hearing so often these days about the decline of the American Church, that a long-standing parish is vibrant enough to take on this kind of project is welcome news. But for the love of Pete (no pun intended), can't we add anything on to a church without having a "gathering space." For the record, the Clan does not use such spaces for gathering; of course that's because we are chronometrically challenged and are usually racing through the space. I do like the wide passing lanes, however.

The formal Mass of Dedication will be July 10, with another Mass of celebration September 10, with Archbishop Harry Flynn as guest of honor. The Troglodyte extends best wishes and congratulations to the folks at St. Peter's.

The Durbin Maelstrom

Unlike others on the right side of the blogosphere, I find myself unable to get very worked up about this, but that won't stop me from throwing in my two cents. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin's comparison of prisoner treatment at "Club Gitmo" to that of the Nazi's, the Soviets, and Pol Pot is absurd, of course (see Hewitt for fitting indignation and a bunch of links). I find it unlikely that he is ignorant of the histories of butchery of the regimes he mentioned, so either he believes what he is saying, or he is using a rhetorical device to score a point in the twisted impasse that passes for political debate these days. His head fake with a non-apology apology indicates the latter, in which case it becomes too easy for his defenders to say, " Well of course Sen. Durbin doesn't think the US is unjustly killing millions of people." That doesn't fly. The "torture" allegations are isolated cases, so let's play moral equivalency charades and look at an isolated case of how the Nazi's treated one man, as recorded in the sworn testimonials of former inmates of a concentration camp:

Tadeusz Joachimowski, clerk of Block 14A: "In the summer of 1941, most probably on the last day of July, the camp siren announced that there had been an escape. At the evening roll-call of the same day we, i.e., Block 14A, were formed up in the street between the buildings of Blocks 14 and 17. After some delay we were joined by a group of the Landwirtschafts-Kommando. During the count it was found that three prisoners from this Kommando had escaped: one from our Block and the two others from other Blocks. Lagerfuhrer Fritzsch announced that on account of the escape of the three prisoners, ten prisoners would be picked in reprisal from the blocks in which the fugitives had lived and would be assigned to the Bunker (the underground starvation cell)"

Jan Jakub Zegidewicz takes up the story from there: "After the group of doomed men had already been selected, a prisoner stepped out from the ranks of one of the Blocks. I recognized [Prisoner 16670]. Owing to my poor knowledge of German I did not understand what they talked about, nor do I remember whether [Prisoner 16670] spoke directly to Fritzsch. When making his request, [Prisoner 16670] stood at attention and pointed at a former non-commissioned officer known to me from the camp. It could be inferred from the expression on Fritzsch's face that he was surprised at [Prisoner 16670's] action. As the sign was given, [Prisoner 16670] joined the ranks of the doomed and the non-commissioned officer left the ranks of the doomed. Fritzsch had consented to the exchange. A little later, the doomed men were marched off in the direction of Block 13, the death Block."

The non-commissioned officer was Franciszek Gajowniczek. When the sentence of doom had been pronounced, Gajowniczek had cried out in despair, "Oh, my poor wife, my poor children. I shall never see them again." It was then that the unexpected had happened, and that from among the ranks of those temporarily reprieved, [P]risoner 16670 had stepped forward and offered himself in the other man's place. Then the ten condemned men were led off to the dreaded Bunker, to the airless underground cells were men died slowly without food or water.

Bruno Borgowiec was an eyewitness of those last terrible days, for he was an assistant to the janitor and an interpreter in the underground Bunkers. He tells us what happened: "In the cell of the poor wretches there were daily loud prayers, the rosary and singing, in which prisnoers from neighbouring cells also joined. When no SS men were in the Block, I went to the Bunker to talk to the men and comfort them. Fervent prayers and songs to the Holy Mother resounded in all the corridors of the Bunker. I had the impression I was in a church. [Prisoner 16670] was leading and the prisoners responded in unison. They were often so deep in prayer that they did not even hear that inspecting SS men had descended to the Bunker; and the voices fell silent only at the loud yelling of their visitors. When the cells were opened the poor wretches cried loudly and begged for a piece of bread and for water, which they did not receive, however. If any of the stronger ones approached the door he was immediately kicked in the stomach by the SS men, so that falling backwards on the cement floor he was instantly killed; or he was shot to death ... [Prisoner 16670] bore up bravely, he did not beg and did not complain but raised the spirits of the others. ...Since they had grown very weak, prayers were now only whispered. At every inspection, when almost all the others were now lying on the floor, [Prisoner 16670] was seen kneeling or standing in the centre as he looked cheerfully in the face of the SS men. Two weeks passed in this way. Meanwhile one after another they died, until only [Prisoner 16670] was left. This the authorities felt was too long; the cell was needed for new victims. So one day they brought in the head of the sickquarters, a German, a common criminal named Bock, who gave [Prisoner 16670] an injection of carbolic acid in the vein of his left arm. [Prisoner 16670], with a prayer on his lips, himself gave his arm to the executioner. Unable to watch this I left under the pretext of work to be done. Immediately after the SS men with the executioner had left I returned to the cell, where I found [Prisoner 16670] leaning in a sitting position against the back wall with his eyes open and his head dropping sideways. His face was calm and radiant."
Many readers will recognize the story of Fr. Maximilian Kolbe (cap tip: Catholic-Pages.com). Just to be clear, the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are not saints, and they are treated nothing like this.

In a Sprint to Vacation

It's been a hectic, hectic week, and it's not quite done. Why is it that there must be a flurry of activity before a person goes on vacation? Yes, I'll be taking time off next week and (sigh)blogging will be extremely limited. Actually, that's probably a good thing in the long run because I'm getting strung out and I think it's starting to show in my writing. Work has been insane; Troglotyke #7's schedule has not yet settled down, which, with the Troglodytrix on the breast pump to save her sanity, has translated into a couple of nights this week for me with only about two hours of sleep; and like other times when I have issued a blogging advisory, I suddenly find myself with more things on which I want to blog than I have time to write, or can remember (why that is, too, I wonder). Here's a case in point on this last item.

I was checking who is linking to The Troglodyte because I'm working on a big update of the blogroll when I found a post on the Robinson Report that was wondering whether to add this humble blog to the roll (the decision was apparently in the negative). And then I saw a separate post on a lead article in the Sooner Catholic about pro-life legislation becoming law in Oklahoma with bi-partisan support. This was a story that I had actually seen in hard print because the Troglodytrix and I still receive the Sooner Catholic, even though it's been almost two years since we left Oklahoma (I miss it), and I had wanted to write about my reaction to the story. The law is a pleasant surprise because, when Gov. Brad Henry was running against Steve Largent in 2002, he did so as a pro-choice Democrat. Anyway, I guess that's one post I don't have to do anymore.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Donald Trump and Larry King Named Fathers of the Year

Here's an item to savor as we approach Father's Day this weekend. The National Father's Day Council honored four "deserving" fathers for their "exemplary parenthood" at the 64th Annual Father of the Year Awards luncheon on Tuesday, including Donald Trump and Larry King. This, of course, highlights the irrelevance of such events. I don't remember exactly where I heard it first, but step one to being a good father is to love your children's mother. It is a sad state for our culture that a national organization and as many other people as there are would look to two men with 10 marriages between them as role models for fatherhood. For my part, I will strive to be more like the World's Greatest Father.

Humanity's Great Challenge

As he received seven new ambassadors to the Holy See, Pope Benedict urged that man be centrally placed "so that the just destiny of peoples is the main concern of those who have agreed to administer public affairs, not for themselves, but for the common good."

The Holy Father went on to say, "We must address the first challenge: solidarity between generations, solidarity between countries and between continents, for an ever more just distribution of the world's riches among all men. It is one of the essential services that men of good will must offer to humanity." (cap tip: Zenit)

Moving beyond the fuzzy desire "to help," the principle of solidarity requires a determination for each person to commit to the common good, not just in the sense of the good of all, but for each individual as well. In other words, we must act, or as Acton's Fr. Robert Sirico put it:
[W]e can no longer believe that the call of compassion is satisfied by simply writing a check. The poor are asking for much more than our money. We must begin to make the more difficult sacrifices of our time, energy and talents. We must go to the poor where they live and enter into their poverty in order to help them rise above it. In our efforts to help those suffering the effects of poverty, dollars may be the least important consideration.
We cannot stop with individual effort, as challenging as that effort is. We must also act that our "love of preference for the poor" is expressed in our social institutions. Of course, how best to give authentic help is where much contention lies today. Here too, as difficult it is, we must continue to treat those with genuine (legitimately directed toward helping the poor) disagreements from the basis of solidarity; actually, we ought to do so even for those who disagreements are not genuine.

For more check out the tour de force post at Against the Grain. (cap tip: PowerBlog)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hwang to Respect Human Dignity in His Stem Cell Research?

At first I took this as good news from our South Korean friend, Prof. Hwang:
The world's leading stem-cell researcher, Hwang Woo-suk, said Wednesday he would push forward with his research while maintaining respect for human dignity after confronting Catholic critics who have condemned his work as unethical.

"I will take lessons from the great teachings and guidance," Hwang told reporters after a meeting with Seoul Archbishop Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk. "I will not fail to meet the Archbishop's expectations."
that is, until I got further in the story:
However, Cheong said Wednesday he was somewhat relieved to find out Hwang's research would be "complementary" to research into adult stem cells - an area supported by many opponents of the use of embryonic stem cells as an alternative that doesn't involve destroying embryos. Researchers, however, say adult stem cells are less versatile and are sometimes damaged by the health problems of the adult.

"I will pray for God's blessing for his future research," Cheong said.
The professor seems to have a gift for speaking in circles; he will prove to be a difficult adversary in this ongoing global ethical discussion.

Will the Shepherds Please Stand Up?

Yesterday's Washington Times raised the concern that the USCCB may be going short shrift on the matter of homosexuals entering the priesthood. In the draft of the 84-page fifth edition of the Program of Priestly Formation to be approved at the USCCB semi-annual meeting that begins today in Chicago, homosexuality is mentioned only once:

With regard to the admission of candidates with same-sex experiences and/or inclinations, the guidelines provided by the Holy See must be followed.
The kicker is that there are as of yet no binding guidelines available from the Vatican.

The trend is that since the US bishops' first Program of Priestly Formation was released in 1971, each revision has included an increasingly stronger and a more comprehensive formation of celibacy. The latest revision was issued in 1992. Last year, the expectations for the new edition were that this trend would continue, particularly in light of the sexual abuse scandal:

The scandal of clergy sexual abuse of minors and the frequent discussion of weak celibacy formation in the past as a factor will spur a more rigorous look at what should be required in every seminary in this area.
Last month it became known that the seminary admission requirements, to their credit, would be expanded significantly along these lines:

Any evidence of criminal sexual activity with a minor or an inclination toward such activity disqualifies the applicant from admission.
and

Any credible evidence in the candidate of a sexual attraction to children necessitates an immediate dismissal from the seminary.

However, considering that, as the WaTi has reported,

  1. 81% of the 10,667 priestly sexual-abuse cases investigated by the USCCB involved boys, with the largest share of those victims being 11 or older,
  2. Estimates of the ratio of seminarians who have homosexual attractions range from 25% to greater than 50%, and
  3. US dioceses have spent more than $1B on scandal-related costs,

not to mention the cultural damage done to the Church by the scandal, there is a strong case for "special instructions" needing to be have been developed to address the "intrinsically disorded" condition of homosexuals seeking to enter the priesthood.

Pope Benedict has given direct messages that the bishops need to take seriously their roles as shepherds of their flocks, including the laity, clergy and religious, and seminaries and schools subject to their authority, beginning May 7 with his homily during his installation Mass as Bishop of Rome and his address to the Bishops of Sri Lanka during their ad limina visit, as well as more recently during the ad limina visit of the Bishops of South Africa, June 10. In contrast, by waiting for an apostolic visit this fall and a set of [minimum] guidelines from the Vatican, rather than stepping forward as servant leaders, like the question of Holy Communion for pro-abortion politicians last summer, the USCCB as a body has taken a pass and kicked the problem up the chain.

Catechism Digest Due June 28

From the Mail & Guardian Online:
The late Pope John Paul II asked the present pontiff, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in 2003 to prepare a compact edition of the catechism published in 1992.

The late pope said the book should "allow people -- believers and not -- to embrace in one unified glance the entire panorama of the Catholic faith."

The compact catechism was expected to weight in at around 70 pages.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

New Jersey Court Rules in Support of Heterosexual Marriage

From the ruling:
The right to marry has always been understood in law and tradition to apply only to couples of different genders. A change in that basic understanding would not lift a restriction on the right, but would work a fundamental transformation of marriage into an arrangement that could never have been within the intent of the Framers of the 1947 Constitution.
Welcome news, but uh, oh--there's a new target in the land for those against originalism.

Autopsy Confirms Terri Schiavo Was Not Killed by Brain Damage

Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life described it well on the Drew Mariani show in that she did not die of an atrophying of the brain, but from an atrophying of compassion.

What's Your Theological Worldview?

You scored as Roman Catholic. You are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic

89%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

71%

Neo orthodox

71%

Emergent/Postmodern

43%

Fundamentalist

36%

Classical Liberal

29%

Charismatic/Pentecostal

29%

Modern Liberal

25%

Reformed Evangelical

7%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

Not much surprise here, except I'm not really sure that the mix of categories works well for determining a profile.

(cap tip: PowerBlog)

Putting Things in Perspective for the Morally Confused

Judge for yourself, but now it's clear to me. Nascent endangered bird life--must protect. Nascent human life--not so much.

A Clump of Condor Cells (cap tip: CRM)

How Pregnancy Happens* (cap tip: The Dawn Patrol)

*not suitable for all audiences

The Future of Darfur

A Coalition for Darfur Post

There can be no doubt that, relatively speaking, the crisis in Darfur has generated a fair amount of attention. Journalists, human rights experts and bloggers have poured a lot of energy into raising awareness of the genocide and the 400,000 lives it has taken. Unfortunately, this focus on Darfur only highlights the lack of attention being paid to other, arguably even more horrific, crises in Africa.

For instance - Uganda
Eight people are shot, hacked and beaten to death and their bloodied corpses dragged to the middle of a dirt road for aid workers to find.

Six other fatally wounded victims are left lying nearby, screaming in agony. They die hours later.

After nearly two decades of bloodshed, Ugandans are asking why atrocities such as this May 27 attack by Lord's Resistance Army rebels still plague the traumatized people of the north -- and why they seem to have been forgotten by the world.
And the Democratic Republic of Congo
Militiamen grilled bodies on a spit and boiled two girls alive as their mother watched, U.N. peacekeepers charged Wednesday, adding cannibalism to a list of atrocities allegedly carried out by one of the tribal groups fighting in northeast Congo.

The report came as a key U.N. official said the ongoing violence in Congo, claiming thousands of lives every month, has made it the site of the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

[edit]

"Several witnesses reported cases of mutilation followed by death or decapitation," the report said. The U.N. report included an account from Zainabo Alfani in which she said she was forced to watch rebels kill and eat two of her children in June 2003.

The report said, "In one corner, there was already cooked flesh from bodies and two bodies being grilled on a barbecue and, at the same time, they prepared her two little girls, putting them alive in two big pots filled with boiling water and oil."

Her youngest child was saved, apparently because at six months old it didn't have much flesh. Alfani said she was gang-raped by the rebels and mutilated. She survived to tell her horror story, but died in the hospital on Sunday of AIDS contracted during her torture two years earlier, the U.N. report said.
In Uganda, the Lord's Resistance Army has abducted some 20,000 children and forced them to
become either soldiers or slaves. The attacks have displaced nearly 2 million people and every night, tens of thousands of children trek to the cities to sleep, in hopes of avoiding the rampant kidnapping. For years, the LRA had been supported by the government in Khatroum, the same government now responsible for the genocide in Darfur.

In the Congo, an estimated 3.5 million people have died of disease, starvation and violence since 1998. The situation in the Congo can be directly traced to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which itself took nearly 1 million lives. There are currently 19,000 UN peacekeepers in the Congo with a mandate to disarm the militias, but so far they only attention this peacekeeping force has received has come from allegations that soldiers are sexually abusing the residents of the DRC.

Darfur is an anomaly only to the extent that it has managed to generate a significant amount of coverage and global attention. But if the world does not act soon to address this genocide in Sudan, is it all but inevitable that it too will eventually evolve into years-long, seemingly intractable conflict such as those found in Uganda and Congo.

And as we've seen with Congo and Uganda, once that happens, the world will stop paying attention entirely.

Darfur Faces Another Food Emergency

Caritas' staff is warning of another looming disaster, putting the high-risk at even higher risk. From Zenit:
According to U.N. agencies present in the area, over the next two months more than 3.5 million people will need urgent food aid throughout the region -- 25% more than last year.

"Darfur is on the brink of a critical situation," warned Anthony Mahony, an expert in humanitarian operations for British Caritas.

"Since the last rainy season, we have still not been able to restock our food reserves, while the number of people who need food continues to increase," he said. "People are at the limit of their endurance and after several months of living in refugee camps in extreme conditions, and the lack of food might be fatal for many of them over the next months."

Poor access roads to the refugee camps have stifled the work of humanitarian agencies, which have not been able to supplement their food reserves in view of the forthcoming rainy season. The coming rains are expected to worsen the situation.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Potential Benefits from Alternative Source of Stem Cells

Despite serious ethical concerns about therapies having not been proven safe and effective by controlled clinical trials necessary for approval in the United States and other Western countries, there are promising results from Ecuador.

Ten heart failure patients receiving fetal stem cell injections are all showing signs of rapid recovery three months after the treatment. Earlier successes had been demonstrated with cells taken from bone marrow, but the fetal cells appear to be more effective with the change observed in fetal cells in one week matching that observed in autologous cells in three to four weeks.

The use of fetal stem cells would appear to be licit morally if they are donated by consenting parents who experience spontaneous miscarriages (somebody correct me if I'm wrong):

The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. ...

The free gifts of organs after death is legitimate and can be meritorious.

[Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2300-2301]
Of course, restraint is necessary because

[i]t is morally inadmissable directly to bring about the ... death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.

[CCC, 2296]

Hoisting Roe on Its Own Pitard

I received yesterday a fundraising letter from Sen. Jim DeMint on behalf of the National Pro-Life Alliance. In February, Rep. Duncan Hunter submitted the Life at Conception Act, which would leverage the admissions by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade per the NPLA's website:

"We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. . . the judiciary at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." ...

"If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case [i.e. "Roe" who sought the abortion], of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life is then guaranteed by the [14th] Amendment."
I see a certain democratic elegance to this approach. However, were this to become law, I suspect that the question of abortion would eventually be returned to the states, which is where police powers questions ought to be determined anyway, per the Constitution. My check goes out in the morning.

Monday, June 13, 2005

An American Cultural Challenge, North and South

Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua

I had the opportunity to attend my first book launch yesterday to celebrate the publishing of a regional memoir, A Man Learns, by the Troglodytrix' uncle and Godfather, Don Hall (I may try my hand at a book review in a few days, we'll see). It was a gorgeous day, and there was a good turnout (as far as I knew, not having been to one before). I knew very few of the people, but based on the snippets of conversation, I basically could divide the crowd into three groups of increasing size: family (here is where I fell), book industry types (publisher, associate publisher, editor, other authors, including Jon Hassler, etc.), and friends (old & new). As I circulated, I picked up the sense that those in this last group were all in on some inside joke that became clear to me only after reading the book and reminded me of something I had read on Zenit a few days earlier.

The group-in-the-know, who largely grew up in a Catholic-dominated culture and used the Church's "catching up" from its "Medieval ways" during Vatican II as an excuse to categorically dismiss the Church's authority, in a way resembles the religious sects today that, according to president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Paul Cardinal Poupard, represent perhaps the most serious cultural challenge facing the Latin American Church.

According to Cardinal Poupard, religious sects are the penultimate link in a chain that ends in indifference.

That chain, he said, "begins with the absence of an answer through religious experience to the problem of the meaning of life."

This phenomenon is due to "a compulsive search for transcendence," he said, "and rejection of any authority that does not justify itself by being emotionally close."

According to the Vatican representative, the presence of religious sects is evidence of the need to recognize that many Catholics have not had contact "with the proclamation of Christ Savior, with the gratuitousness of love and the transcendence of God."

"Unfortunately they did not receive it from the ministers of the Church that baptized them," the cardinal said. "Many received only imperatives, rules, programs and commitments to action, but they were ignorant of the proclamation of salvation with convincing force and concrete language."

[edit]

According to Cardinal Poupard, culture is transmitted through historical categories, which "consciously or unconsciously respond to the desire for happiness."

"If we do not speak a language the world understands, we will remain shut-in in an academic ghetto," he warned. "If we do not acknowledge that man's being has a specific metaphysical identity, we will remain at the mercy of nihilist practical atheism."

But, we must not fear in the face of these challenges, the cardinal added.

"The beauty of Christ," he said, "makes us capable not only of expressing ourselves in the language of our contemporaries but of communicating the indestructible life for which man yearns."

[emphases added]
Perhaps this is why Pope John Paul the Great insisted on looking at the northern and southern continents as the single, missionary Church of America.

Pope Benedict Speaks Out on Gay "Marriage" and Abortion

[Original posted 2:27 AM, Tuesday, June 7]

The pope remained consistent with his previous days as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in an address at the Basilica of St. John Lateran before a conference of the Diocese of Rome on the role of the family. For the first time since his election, Pope Benedict XVI condemned publicly same sex unions.

He said matrimony was not just a "casual sociological construction" that changed in certain times in history but rather an institution that had its roots "in the most profound essence of the human being."

"The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial marriages and going up to pseudo-matrimonies by people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that wrongly passes for true freedom of man," he said.

He also took the occasion to reiterate the church's opposition to abortion.

Children, he said, were the fruit of marriage and reflected God's love for man.

"From here it becomes all the more clear how contrary it is to human love, to the profound vocation of man and woman, to systematically close their union to the gift of life, and even worse to suppress or tamper with the life that is born," he said.

The Holy Father also echoed Pope John Paul the Great by calling for laws that help families to have children and to educate them.

Update:

The complete text of the pope's remarks can be found at Zenit (consider a donation).

Benedict XVI on Anthropological Foundation of the Family (Part 1)
Benedict XVI on Anthropological Foundation of the Family (Part 2)

Italian Bishops Put Their Influence on the Line

[Original posted 1:38 AM, Sunday, June 12]

Many faithful Catholics longed to hear their bishops, individually and as a conference, speak out in defense of the Church's teaching during the 2004 campaign. Few did. And only a few more have done so since the election. Unlike America, with the referenda submitted today to the people of Italy, there is no question where the bishops' voices are, including the new Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI.

The referenda concern easing the ban on embryo research, eliminating a limit that allows the creation of only three embryos for fertility treatments, allowing egg or sperm donation from outside a couple being treated for infertility, and permitting fertile couples with genetic diseases to screen embryos.

The polls opened Sunday morning and will close at 10 PM; resuming Monday from 7 AM to 3 PM. A majority and a turnout of more than 50 percent are needed for a referendum to pass. The Italian bishops have urged a voter boycott. The Vatican has joined the campaign to maintain the current restrictions, and the pope has endorsed the boycott.

Although I am not necessarily one, many believe that Pope Benedict's legacy will be in how he [successfully] addresses the current decline of the Church, in numbers and influence, in an increasingly secular and apathetic Europe. In that context, by entering the debate, this vote could present a major challenge to the pontiff's efforts. Regardless, this vote in a predominantly, yet often straying, Catholic nation, will set a stake in the ground as to where the Church's influence resides in European culture and how much work is needed to restore it.

Update:

Turnout is low in Italian fertility law vote--referenda appear likely to fail.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

G8 Strikes a Blow for Solidarity

Debt relief for Africa is a welcome development. Of course, the next question is how we proceed without repeating the dismal history of government-to-government aid.

Finding New Man?

In a "Where does he come up with this stuff?" episode, the Troglodytrix relays the following exchange that occurred with five-year old Troglotyke #4 in the waiting room during a recent trip to the doctor's office.
Troglotyke #4: Look, Mom, there are two baby boys in that stroller.

Troglodytrix (noting the frilly socks on each of the twins): I don't think those are boys.

'Tyke #4: Yes, Mom, they are boys.

'Trix: I don't think they are. Look, those socks have bows on them.

'Tyke #4: Mom, it takes a true man to wear a bow.
Of course, 'Tyke #4 might have just found an early version of "hybrid man." (cap tip: A View from the Pew).

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Reciprocity Round-up 3

Memorial of St. Barnabas

Ruminations: Nicely Put
A Secular Franciscan Life: Banned Books Meme
Times Against Humanity: Honor Our Veterans With Deeds Not Just Words
Trousered Ape: Sunday, June 05, 2005
View from the Pew: Another twist to the Fr. Reese resignation

John Paul the Great on Prayer #1

What is prayer? It is commonly held to be a conversation. In a conversation there are always an "I" and a "thou" or "you." In this case the "Thou" is with a capital T. If at first the "I" seems to be the most important element in prayer, prayer teaches that the situation is actually different. The "Thou" is more important, because our prayer begins with God.
Crossing the Threshold of Hope

Friday, June 10, 2005

Benedict XVI and the Fool-proof Way of Chastity

The pope has picked up on his theme of the roots of the family as he visited with the bishops from south Africa, part of the sub-Saharan region that is home to the majority of those infected by HIV. Here's the truffle excerpt from the Vatican:
Family life has always been a unifying characteristic of African society. In fact, it is within the "domestic Church", "built on the solid cultural pillar and noble values of the African tradition of the family", that children first learn of the centrality of the Eucharist in Christian life (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, 92). It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraceptive mentality, all of which contribute to a breakdown in sexual morality. Brother Bishops, I share your deep concern over the devastation caused by AIDS and related diseases. I especially pray for the widows, the orphans, the young mothers and all those whose lives have been shattered by this cruel epidemic. I urge you to continue your efforts to fight this virus which not only kills but seriously threatens the economic and social stability of the Continent. The Catholic Church has always been at the forefront both in prevention and in treatment of this illness. The traditional teaching of the Church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. For this reason, "the companionship, joy, happiness and peace which Christian marriage and fidelity provide, and the safeguard which chastity gives, must be continuously presented to the faithful, particularly the young" (Ecclesia in Africa, 116).
It is no surprise that the MSM plays this up as merely the promotion of abstinence, an implicitly inadequate step in the face of crisis:

The Vatican's opposition to condoms has been criticized by those who advocate condom use as a way to help combat the spread of the HIV virus. However, several prelates have suggested that using condoms that could prevent a death may be the lesser of evils. ...

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for more than 60 percent of the 40 million people infected with HIV worldwide. In March, a U.N. study predicted that more than 80 million Africans may die from AIDS by 2025 and infections could soar to 90 million - or more than 10 percent of the continent's population - if more is not done to expand prevention programs and offer better access to drugs that can control the virus.
The idea that expanding condom use will control the spread of HIV/AIDS has been credibly debunked, plus there is all the other negative consequences that arise from their use (more info here). The Church has it right. What's more is Pope Benedict is asking the bishops to lead by the example of embracing celibacy:

A world filled with temptations needs priests who are totally dedicated to their mission. Accordingly, they are asked in a very special way to open themselves fully to serving others as Christ did by embracing the gift of celibacy. Bishops should assist them by ensuring that this gift never becomes a burden but always remains life-giving.

South Korea to Establish Embryonic Stem Cell Bank

The colorful Professor Hwang puts a disturbing twist on "Made in Korea."
[Hwang] said, “Research teams in the U.S. and U.K. recently proposed to jointly establish a World Stem Cell Bank in Korea,” adding, “I consulted with high-ranking government officials including Oh Myung, deputy prime minister and minister of Science and Technology, and it seems that we can establish the stem cell bank as early as this October.”

He went on to say, “Research teams in the U.S. and the U.K said that they would donate stem cells harvested in their countries to the stem cell bank...
In response to a question about nationalism and security in science, he adds:

There are no borders in science. However, a scientist needs his homeland. Science is a train of hopes and dreams that runs toward the welfare of mankind. I emphasize security because I want mankind to feel grateful for science in the name of Korea. It would be very rewarding if I could distribute stem cells “made in Korea” to mankind.

Vote in the Great Quarter War

Radioblogger.com has yesterday's exchange on Hewitt between Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Colorado Governor Bill "The Exhibitionist" Owens. There is also an online poll to affirm that Minnesota has the better looking state quarter.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Getting Ready to Argue in Favor of Death and Suffering

Memorial of St. Ephrem

Cinnamon Stillwell had a good piece in yesterday's SF Chronicle, in which she identifies where many driving the pro-embryonic stem cell research bus want to go:

The perfection that proponents of embryonic stem cell research seek is nothing less than immortality. Though human beings will always search for cures to diseases, striving for invulnerability can be dangerous. ...

Disease and illness will always beset humans because we are mortal beings. At the end of our lives lies the inevitability of death. To try to avoid this fate is to deny the cycle of life, to deny nature itself. In fact, there are those who actively seek such a state. They subscribe to a philosophy called transhumanism, or "the doctrine that we can and should become more than human" through the use of science. But should we really be so eager to shed our humanity? Rather than "more than human," we could very well end up less so. ...

It seems human beings are determined to march on into the brave new world of transhumanism, without thought for the consequences. Aldous Huxley's premonition does indeed appear to be coming true. In the prologue to Brave New World, he urges us "to use applied science, not as the end to which human beings are to be made the means, but as the means to producing a race of free individuals." Somehow, I don't think our present situation is what he had in mind.
One consequence of this mindset will be to turn human life into a commodity. It also means that those of us who recognize the pitfalls of devaluing human life will have to put forth compelling arguments that there is value in death and suffering.

The Slow Reaction

A Coalition for Darfur Post

The big news regarding Darfur this week is that the International Criminal Court has formally announced that it is conducting an investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity in the region.

This investigation is a welcome, if belated step, but one that is also unlikely to have much of an immediate impact on the violence, disease and starvation that plagues the region.

The investigation is the result of a UN commission of inquiry that began in September 2004. Established under UN Resolution 1564, the commission took three months to investigate "violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties, to determine also whether or not acts of genocide have occurred." In the report it issued in January 2005, the commission declared that genocide was not taking place, but that "serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law amounting to crimes under international law" had indeed occurred. The report went on to recommend that the UN Security Council refer the situation to the ICC for possible prosecution.

In April, the Security Council did just that and turned over evidence gathered by the commission, including the names of 51 people suspected of punishable crimes. And now, two months later, the ICC has finally begun an investigation.

It has taken nine months from the time the Security Council authorized the commission to investigate the crimes in Darfur to reach the point where the ICC has finally launched an official investigation.

The ICC has only been in existence for three years and has yet to indict or hold a trial for anyone connected with either of its two other cases, despite the fact that the ICC began its probe of Uganda in January 2004 and the Congo in April of the same year.

Furthermore, the ICC statute itself contains a provision (Article 17) regarding complementarity" that grants states the priority to try their own citizens for crimes that fall within the ICC's jurisdiction. The ICC thus has no jurisdiction over these cases unless it can be determined that "the State is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution." And making that determination is going to take time.

Considering that Khartoum has already begun to look at ways to exploit this provision and is openly rejecting calls to cooperate with the ICC, it is likely that, as Nat Hentoff noted, "It will be at least a year, maybe two, before the ICC even issues its first indictments."

We ask you to join the Coalition for Darfur as we attempt to raise awareness of this genocide and collect contributions for worthy organizations providing life-saving assistance to the forgotten people of Darfur.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Science Guy's Triumphant Return, Perhaps

Bill Nye returns to TV to tackle subjects such as cloning, overpopulation, genetically modified foods, nuclear waste, global climate change, stem cell research and drug-resistant disease (from AP):

“There are major issues that people — as taxpayers and voters — will have to make informed decisions on in the near future. They will need to understand the science and the ethical considerations to form their opinions. Some of these are issues that will affect humanity for decades to come.”

So he’s back with a new TV show to help people understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. ...

“This show is a different pace for a different audience,” said Nye, 49. “There is a lot more discussion. ‘The Science Guy’ was for younger viewers, viewers who grew up playing colorful video games at top speed, so with ‘The Science Guy’ we put action before content.”

Down to the Wire for Restructuring California Stem Cell Agency

In the face of a funding-related legal battle, support for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is being challenged again, this time by an agency backer from the beginning, State Senator Deborah Ortiz. She has concerns that the language of Proposition 71, which created the embryonic stem cell agency, doesn't ensure California will share in potential profits or that poor residents will benefit from the taxpayer-supported research, and it allows key agency committees to conduct much of their work behind closed doors. She says that the issue must go back to the voters because Proposition 71 prohibits the Legislature from amending the initiative for three years.

The state Senate is expected to vote this week on a proposed constitutional amendment that would tighten loopholes in how the agency is governed, including requiring agency officials to sell off, or place into a blind trust, any investments related to stem cell research, as well as requiring that any drugs developed with agency money be made available, at cost, to California's poor and that any drug profits be shared with the state. If it passes both the Senate and the Assembly with two-thirds majorities by June 30, it will likely be on the ballot for a state referendum this fall.

CIRM supporters say the changes will drive away top talent and corporate involvement as other states and nations begin advancing their own embryonic stem cell research projects. They also fear that returning the issue to the voters could open a new can of legal worms.

I pray she finds a can opener.

Screedblog

Spleen venting as only Lileks can do.

Former Papabile Gives Bioethics Guidance

Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan and once widely considered to be a candidate to succeed John Paul the Great because of his expertise in bioethics, recently published an article in L'Osservatore Romano, intended to address an Italian referendum over the law on in vitro fertilization which will be held on June 12-13, but which also applies to the stem cell research debate in the US. The archbishop argued the following re the legitimacy of defending human life in its initial stages (from Zenit):
1. Human life is always a good. In fact, it is the most precious good that exists and is the foundation of all other goods that a human can possess. Moreover, the life of every person has such a high value that it cannot be compared to the worth of the life of other living beings.

The cardinal clarified that he was not only talking as a believer in God. He was also making an appeal to human reason, in the sense that the value of human life is something that can be grasped through the use of reason and is, therefore, a principle that can be appreciated by all.

2. Protecting human life is a duty that falls upon every one of us, to be taken up with responsibility and decision. It is, in fact, a civic duty given that the protection of human life is an irreplaceable condition for ensuring the common good of all.

3. The Church and the Christian community is united with those who defend human life from the moment of conception until death. The fact that certain rights and duties are defended by the Church does not, however, cancel out their civil legitimacy or their authenticity from a secular point of view.

It should be clear, stated Cardinal Tettamanzi, that defending human life is a prerogative of all, not just of Christians. Moreover, it would be a grave case of ideological intolerance if civil activity, legitimate in itself, were marginalized merely because it comes from Christians. Democracy itself would be the loser if this were to happen.

4. Caring for human life during its beginnings is particularly important, given its vulnerability at this stage of development. Neglecting this protection, either at the individual or social level, carries the risk of creating irremediable damage, or even the destruction of the life itself.
We often hear that you cannot legislate morality. While true strictly, the cardinal went on to note that they are connected: morality guides our consciences directly, and the civil law ought to promote how we should act, adding further that human rights do not originate with the state and, similarly, they cannot be destroyed by it.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Spam, Pornography, Fertility and the American Way

Memorial of St. Norbert

This is an interesting piece from Peter Mirus at Catholic Culture. There is reason for optimism, not only because we've read the end of the book, as Fr. Neuhaus said yesterday on C-SPAN, but because (as I have long said, too) the culture war is one of attrition:

[I]f you are relatively young right now, your children will be living in a more conservative America than you do, and your grandchildren will really start to see the rewards in increased common sense, decency, and family values.

Today, legislation isn’t the answer. But it turns out that you can fight pornographic SPAM, and other social ills, simply by being a faithful, fertile Catholic.

Another Claim Bites the Dust for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Advocates would have us believe that we are wasting hundreds of thousands of opportunities by not destroying human embryos (for the sake of medical research) that will otherwise be discarded. Steve Chapman exposes the myth:

Start with the claim that 400,000 frozen embryos otherwise would go to waste. The truth is that most of them are anything but "surplus." According to a 2003 survey by researchers at the RAND Corp., a California think tank, 88 percent of them are being stored for their original function: to make babies for their parents.

Just 2.2 percent of the embryos have been designated for disposal, and less than 3 percent for research. The latter group amounts to about 11,000 embryos.

When the president had a White House event hosting parents who adopted embryos from fertility clinics, his critics ridiculed the suggestion that this approach could accommodate 400,000 embryos. Finding parents for 11,000 embryos, however, is not so far-fetched. Every year, 125,000 adoptions take place in this country.

For those who think there isn't a genie in the bottle, Mr. Chapman also reveals what the real objective is for the legislation that recently passed the House:

The biggest myth, though, is that scientists will be content with using existing, leftover embryos. The 11,000 embryos, according to the RAND study, would yield no more than 275 stem cell lines. For the task of curing major diseases, an article in Scientific American last year said "hundreds of thousands" of lines may be needed -- which "could require millions of discarded embryos."

But there is no prospect of having millions of discarded embryos. So what will advocates of embryonic stem cell research do when their needs exceed the supply? They will ask for government subsidies to produce additional embryos for experimentation.

Actually, that's not what they will do -- it's what they've already done. Last year, California voters approved $3 billion in state funding for stem cell research, including experiments on embryos created through "therapeutic cloning." ...

So why have the advocates pushed for the much narrower federal bill passed by the House? Because they want Americans to get used to the idea of destroying human embryos in research. Then it will be a small step to get the public to accept what they really want -- creating human life in order to destroy it.

Remembering D-Day

Today marks the 61st anniversary of the release of the greatest expeditionary force known to man. Last year's speech by President Bush was lost in the wake of the passing of Ronald Reagan, and the 50th anniversary speech by President Clinton was eminently forgettable. That leaves President Reagan's 40th anniversary speech at Pointe du Hoc as the best commemorative D-Day address by a US president in my memory. It's worth reviewing.

For more see Douglas Brinkley's article at USNews.

Anti-Catholic Canada?

It would seem the European forces of malice have quite the foothold in North America with a Canadian government agency found to be funding a site ridiculing Pope Benedict and with two abortion activists apparently on the path to the Order of Canada. I supsect this is a real trend that has arisen out of more than just neglect, or ignorance, on the part of the Canadian populace, although I will defer to any Canadian with evidence otherwise.

When Not to Follow Orders

John Paul the Great's secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, recently named the Archbishop of Krakow, did not burn the late pope's notes as his will directed.
[N]othing is fit for burning, everything should be preserved and kept for history, for the future generations -- every single sentence.

These are great riches that should gradually be made available to the public.
Amen.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI Stamps Go on Sale

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Happy Birthday to the Troglodytrix!

From the Scotsman:
The first Vatican stamps bearing the image of Pope Benedict XVI went on sale at the Vatican today, the Vatican post office said. ...

The Vatican post office said that although people queued throughout the day to buy the first Benedict stamps, the crowds were smaller than those that gathered for the stamps issued after Pope John Paul II’s death. ...

The issue of the Benedict stamps was delayed from May 24 because of technical problems, and internet surfers started bidding for the stamps on eBay well before they went on sale.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Intermittent Blogging Advisory Continues

Memorial of Ss. Marcellinus and Peter

My kingdom for a regular schedule! Troglotyke #7's arrival has proven quite disruptive--a joyous problem to have--and its best for all considered that we don't hear "When you have that many, what's one more?" when we're sleep deprived. Tomorrow I'll be returning to work, so maybe, in addition to catching up on my rest, I can resume more regular blogging.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Improvement is in the Eye of the Beholder

Memorial of St. Justin

A Coalition for Darfur Post

Jan Pronk, U.N. envoy to Sudan, recently said that Secretary-General Kofi Annan was greatly impressed by improvement of the situation in Darfur. In Pronk's words
"Mr. Annan was really impressed by the improved situation in Darfur, which he visited on Saturday," Pronk told a press conference in Khartoum.

[edit]

"Foreign press reports, especially in the American press, which speak of no progress in Darfur are completely untrue," he added.
At the time Annan was in Darfur, The Scotsman was reporting that
Confidential African Union (AU) reports have provided damning new evidence of the involvement of Sudanese government forces and their Janjaweed militia allies in the murder and rape of civilians in the Darfur region.
At the same time, two aid workers from Doctors Without Borders were arrested because of a recent report documenting hundreds of cases of rape in the region.

On top of that, the World Food Program reported that the number of people requiring food aid in Sudan is now more than six million, while the UNHCR reported that Janjaweed and government attacks have all but destroyed village life and forced some 2 million people into makeshift slums. With the majority of villages destroyed and insecurity rampant, it is not surprising that the displaced have become entirely dependent on foreign aid and are increasingly unwilling to return home.

As Eric Reeves explained in his most recent update
Sometime in the summer of 2004 (we will never know precisely when), genocidal destruction in Darfur became more a matter of engineered disease and malnutrition than violent killing. In other words, disease and malnutrition proceeding directly from the consequences of violent attacks on villages, deliberate displacement, and systematic destruction of the means of agricultural production among the targeted non-Arab or African tribal groups became the major killers.
According to a recent International Crisis Group estimate, "a minimum presence of 12,000-15,000 [military] personnel is needed now to undertake the tasks of protecting villages against further attack or destruction." But as it stands now, the African Union hasn't even been able to deploy the 3,000 or so troops required under its current mandate and will most likely be able to field the 7,000-12,000 troops called for in its expanded mission.

Thus, it is rather difficult to comprehend just what sorts of "improvement" Annan and Pronk claim to have witnessed in Darfur.

The international community continues to fail to seriously addresses this crisis and so we ask you to join the Coalition for Darfur as we attempt to raise awareness of this genocide and collect contributions for worthy organizations providing life-saving assistance to the forgotten people of Darfur.

Reciprocity Round-up 2

Indefinitions: Well, That Was Quick
Jelly-Pinched Theatre: A Skulk of Foxes
The K Report: A Doctor Who "Nose" His Facts on Stem Cells
Mansfield Fox: Up for a Good "Star Wars" Mind... ?
Mixolydian Mode: Advisory
Papa Familias: Babies are Good
The Passing Parade: The Jungle 2005

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