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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Europe's Crisis of Culture

[Original posted 2:08 AM, Thursday, July 28]
[First update posted 7:33 AM, Friday, July 29]

Here is this weekend's reading assignment...

Zenit has a translation of the lecture given by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the convent of Saint Scholastica in Subiaco, Italy, the day before Pope John Paul the Great died. This lecture took place April 1, when he received the St. Benedict Award for the promotion of life and the family in Europe.

Part 1: Excludes God From the Public Conscience
Part 2: A Confused Ideology of Freedom Leads to Dogmatism
Part 3: Meaning and Limits of the Present Rationalist Culture
added Part 4: The Religion According to Reason

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Cooter Pans Dukes Movie

Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus

Former Congressman, Ben "Cooter Jones' considered opinion on the movie based on the hit TV series on which he played a supporting role is less than glowing:

Unless they clean it up before the August 5th release date I would strongly recommend that true blue Dukes fans hold their noses and pass this one up. And whatever you do, don't take any youngsters to see it. As plain as I can put it, the only thing this movie shares with our show is the title. Oh, they do have the General Lee flying through the air, although according to the New York Times, they didn't even use stunt drivers.

Sure it bothers me that they wanted nothing to do with the cast of our show, but what bothers me much more is the profanity laced script with blatant sexual situations that mocks the good clean family values of our series. Now, anybody who knows me knows that I'm not a prude. But this kind of toilet humor has no place in Hazzard County. Rather than honoring our legendary show, they have chosen to degrade it.
I guess that I would agree in general that the Dukes of Hazzard was a family series, but it is a little ironic to talk about its wholesomeness given all the impure thoughts inspired by Daisy Duke.

(cap tip: Lino at Large)

From St. Louis

Ah, yes. The family road trip. Nothin' in the world like it. We piled in with The Clan and made a trip for the weekend to meet some friends from Oklahoma in St. Louis (they are actually on their way home from vacation in Michigan). We drove down Friday. Today we did Grant's Farm (give me enough free samples and I might grow to like Budweiser Select), swimming at the hotel, and the Arch (I never get tired of the museum, or the trip to the top). Tomorrow it's Mass in St. Charles and on the road.

It's a bit of a whirlwind again, but it's been good to disconnect some. Otherwise I would still be stewin' over Coleman and Frist (there was probably somebody else this weekend, but I wouldn't know about it). I just don't get it. What's changed significantly in four years? In two? The mushy poll numbers are the same. The principles are the same. The truth is the same. Clarity, boys. Clarity. Not sure what it is? Ask the fella at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue. I'd help you today, but I've got friends to visit and a long drive in the morning. Pax.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Humor Style

Memorial of St. Martha

After casting about a little the blogosphere, it appears nobody is bothered by the flip-flops of a couple of individual senators on ESCR, so I figure I need to lighten things up a little--I still have more coming on Sen. Coleman, however.


the Wit


(56% dark, 34% spontaneous, 38% vulgar)

your humor style:
CLEAN COMPLEX DARK


You like things edgy, subtle, and smart. I guess that means you're probably an intellectual, but don't take that to mean you're pretentious. You realize 'dumb' can be witty--after all isn't that the Simpsons' philosophy?--but rudeness for its own sake, 'gross-out' humor and most other things found in a fraternity leave you totally flat.

I guess you just have a more cerebral approach than most. You have the perfect mindset for a joke writer or staff writer. Your sense of humor takes the most effort to appreciate, but it's also the best, in my opinion.

Also, you probably loved the Office. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check it out here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/theoffice/.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Jon Stewart - Woody Allen - Ricky Gervais
Link: The 3 Variable Funny Test written by jason_bateman on Ok Cupid

(cap tip: Dappled Things)

Frist to Back Funding of Stem Cell Study

On the heels of Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman's reversal Wednesday comes Majority Leader Bill Frist with one of his own, as he now plans to support funding embryonic stem cell funding. NYT, quotes an advanced copy of the text Mr. Frist plans to deliver later today, which says that he believes the president's policy should be modified because, over time, it slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases.

Once again, Mr. Frist has underwhelmed with his leadership. I suspect this is based on his perceived need to make a play in line with mushy polling to boost his flagging presidential hopes (he was trounced in a recent online straw poll) because of the paradoxical truffle quote:

I believe human life beings at conception. I also believe that embryonic stem cell research should be encouraged and supported.
In other words, the dignity and sanctity of life only apply to the innocent and defenseless when it works for me. One thing is for sure, I am off the bench for '08.

Closing Out Peter's Pence Drive

The orders have finally cleared and I have received the commission check. More than 25 items were purchased from The Troglodyte's CaveMart online store in May, OK--most of the purchases were family members, but still that's more than $50 on its way to support the work of the Holy Father. I have no way of knowing how many contributed directly to Peter's Pence, but please accept my heartfelt "Thank you."

There have been some minor changes at the store since the drive ended with more to come. There will also be a new design out soon, which will probably have its own dedicated storefront. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sen. Frist Denies Motion to Address ESCR Bill

It appears that the Senate version of a bill passed by the House that would expand funding for embryonic stem cell research is on hold until the fall.

Raising a Countercultural Army

[Welcome, Catholic Carnival visitors. Please feel free to poke around.]

In today's StarTribune, Katherine Kersten profiles (may be FRR) a countercultural family living an alternative lifestyle. Jim and Nadine Reinhardt, married 19 years, have nine (count 'em, nine) children ranging from 3 to 18 years old.

Walking into the Reinhardts' modest home, you'd expect to see a harried mother, a father desperate to escape to a TV baseball game, and a living room without an uncluttered square inch. But on a recent visit, I was welcomed into a spotless kitchen by relaxed and smiling parents, and a passel of helpful, polite kids.

I listened with amazement as the older girls described the family's recent 30-hour drive home from Zion National Park in a 15-passenger van. I had visions of mortal combat over an iPod, Oreo debris everywhere, and parents ready for the insane asylum. But 11-year old Liz bubbled: "We had fun the whole way, playing in the back seat, talking and having contests. I love being in a big family."

Jim and Nadine Reinhardt don't have advanced degrees in Parenting Studies. They've just got a few good ideas about what makes for family happiness -- ideas our culture has largely forgotten.

The first is about the source of happiness. Every day, cultural messages insist that happiness means getting what we want (or think we want). But the Reinhardt household has turned this message on its head. There, happiness comes not from "getting what I'm due," but from interdependence and loving self-sacrifice. ...

The Reinhardts' second insight concerns the importance of connecting effort with rewards. Contemporary parents often believe they should do all they can to smooth their children's path in life. But the Reinhardts stress the self-respect that comes with earning your own way. ...

Finally, the Reinhardts stress the importance of clear rules and expectations -- curfews, no sleepovers, and the like. We baby boomers can find it hard to say no to our kids, because we're often tempted by a desire to be their pals. The Reinhardts use their parental authority to try to build character.

"We discuss everything with the kids," Jim says. "But in the end, we make choices that will help them become virtuous adults -- honest, generous and self-controlled."

Even so, there's plenty of room for fun. Jim says that two essential ingredients for family happiness are "music and humor." ...
So what motivates the Reinhardts' countercultural approach to life? Here's the truffle quote:
"We feel we have a calling to family life," Nadine explains. Their faith, she says, gives them the overriding sense of purpose, strength and joy they need to anticipate each new morning.
It sounds like they have taken a cue from a reputable source:

Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child's earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God.

[Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2226]
Yup. They're Catholic. In fact the live in the same suburb The Clan does, and they attend Mass at a parish near the Troglomatrix. I'm thinking we need to get to know these people because the Troglodytrix and I have not quite created the same order with the seven Troglotykes. Nevertheless, our calling is the same, and it is good to know they are out there.

Finally, I have said it before, and I will say it again. It is folks like the Reinhardt's who are the key to winning the culture clash in which we find ourselves. A shrinking group of nihilists mired in relativism are no match for a growing army of the virtuous and well-adjusted in the Church Militant. May God bless them.

Schönborn Corrects the Record on Evolution

[Original posted 2:47 PM, Saturday, July 9]

Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and companions

In a Thursday op-ed, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn corrects the continuing misunderstanding of the compatibility between faith and evolutionary theory, which was extended by Lawrence M. Krauss in a May article, by clearly stating that while evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not.

The truffle passage of the essay, however, cites an extended quote from John Paul the Great that better captures his thinking (and the truth) than the oft-cited 1996 passing reference that evolution is more than just a hypothesis:

All the observations concerning the development of life lead to a similar conclusion. The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator. ...

To all these indications of the existence of God the Creator, some oppose the power of chance or of the proper mechanisms of matter. To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us. In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without a cause. It would be to abdicate human intelligence, which would thus refuse to think and to seek a solution for its problems.
In other words, denying intelligent design as a product of normal science ceases to be science qua science. As expected, the Predictable are all suitably concerned with this reality being advanced. Now, who are the ideologues again?

Related:

Catholic Analysis has more. Also see IDtheFuture.

Update:

Zenit has an interview (part 1 and part 2) with Fr. Edward T. Oakes re the controversy.

John Paul the Great on the Christian Life #2

Never forget that blindly following the impulse of our emotions often means becoming a slave to our passions.

Message to Young People, Camagüey, Cuba 1998

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sen. Coleman Proposes Stem Cell "Compromise"

This is an attempt to find common ground between science and pro-life.
In a move that appears to please no one, typically pro-life Sen. Norm Coleman has proposed a bill requiring taxpayer funding of ESRC that he hopes will gain more support than existing, more aggressive, funding measures.

In August 2001, President Bush placed a moratorium on taxpayer funding of any new embryonic stem cell research conducted after that point. The proposed legislation moves that date forward and allows federal funds to be used for embryonic stem cell research conducted between then and now.

Mr. Coleman told AP that the president has drawn a line in the sand that is not pro-science, and that he does not desire the Republican party to be the anti-science party.

What?! As a constituent and supporter of the senator, I am profoundly disappointed by this. As someone who is ardently pro-life (with a science and technology background, I might add), I am seriously torqued.

The bill does not have the president's support, and based on the stalemate with the existing bills in the Senate, it is not clear that it will go anywhere there, either.

More later.

Mitt Romney Holding the Line in Massachusetts (Almost)

[Original posted 7:06 PM, Tuesday, July 26]
[First update posted 9:43 PM, Tuesday, July 26]

Memorial of Ss. Joachim and Anne

Following a veto a couple of months ago on an assembly-line approach to embryonic stem cell research, including cloning (cap tip: Stem Cell Extremist), Gov. Romney has made headlines again (NYT FRR, I think) by vetoing a bill that would expand access to the so-called "morning-after" pill (including to girls under 18), insisting that its abortifacient properties would extend the state's abortion laws, and violate a campaign promise.

There are, of course, responses that the governor is trying to make time with the conservative wing of the Republican party in preparation for a presidential run, which is given some credence by Mr. Romney's op-ed in the Boston Globe, where he asserts his pro-life credentials:
I understand that my views on laws governing abortion set me in the minority in our Commonwealth. I am prolife. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view. But while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.
Before authentic pro-lifers get too excited, however, there is his standing concession of being in favor of embryonic stem cell research using "leftover" embryos from fertility clinics with the parents' permission. Here is the Predictable contradiction: The governor claims that life begins at conception and that the practice of ending that life before birth in his state ought not to be expanded, unless that is, apparently, somebody wants to experiment on it.

Update:

Gov. Romney was interviewed by Hugh Hewitt tonight. Look for the transcript at Radioblogger.

Update 2:

Zenit has more on several legal battles brewing around the morning-after pill.

Witness

A Coalition for Darfur Post

Two weeks ago, the Center for American Progress and the Genocide Intervention Fund launched a joint initiative known as "Be A Witness" built around a petition calling on television networks to increase their coverage of the genocide in Darfur.

As "Be a Witness" noted
During June 2005, CNN, FOX News, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur.
This week, tireless Sudan advocate Nicholas Kristof took up the call and chastised the press for its lack of Darfur coverage If only Michael Jackson's trial had been held in Darfur. Last month, CNN, Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, ABC and CBS collectively ran 55 times as many stories about Michael Jackson as they ran about genocide in Darfur. Shortly thereafter, Editor and Publisher printed a piece reporting
New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof's attack on the press for underreporting the atrocities and genocide in Darfur, which ran in today's paper, has drawn the ire of some newspaper editors who said they are doing the best they can with what they have.
In this piece, USA Today Foreign Editor James Cox offered a partial but important explanation for the dearth of coverage
Cox pointed to a two-day series USA Today ran in May on Darfur, stressing the difficulty the paper had in even getting a visa for reporter Rick Hampson to travel there. "It was excruciatingly difficult to get the permission," he said. "We had an application that had been stalled for months."
Sudan does not want journalists freely traveling around Darfur for the sole reason that their reports are going to reveal the true nature of Khartoum's genocidal campaign.

Considering this basic fact in conjunction with the efforts currently underway to expand the African Union mission in Darfur, it might behoove all involved to consider embedding journalists with the AU just as the US did during the initial weeks of the war in Iraq.

People want information about Darfur; journalists want access to Darfur; and the UN and AU want (or at least should want) to disseminate information regarding to crisis in Darfur as widely as possible.

The US and NATO are currently providing key logistical support to the AU mission and ought to insist that any reporter who wants access to Darfur be assigned to and granted protection by an AU patrol force.

Brian Steidle served with the AU in Darfur for six months before eventually resigning his position so that he could share his photos with the world.

Steidle is a hero for doing this - but it shouldn't take personal acts of sacrifice and courage to make the world aware of the genocide in Darfur.

Some Recommended Reading

Zenit interview with Tracey Rowland, dean and permanent fellow of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne and author of Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II
Part 1: Benedict XVI, Vatican II and Modernity
(cap tip: RCB)

Part 2: Benedict XVI, Thomism, and Liberal Culture
(cap tip: Catholic Analysis)

Liguorian magazine article from Dr. Walter Brueggemann on keeping the Sabbath. (cap tip: The Robinson Report)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sen. Specter Threatening to Tack ESRC to NIH Funding Bill

Saw this coming, didn't we?

Churches Could Be Targeted Under Kelo

Here's a comforting thought. (cap tip: Catholic Report)

Minnesota Woman Claims to Be Deaconness

In any action of the sacraments, it is principally Christ who acts, and only secondarily the priest. Christ’s maleness, and by extension, the male priesthood, keeps alive the nuptial symbolism that is so much a part of biblical theology and Catholic worship.

Fr. Thomas Lynch, dean of studies at St. Augustine’s Seminary, Toronto
Despite an attempt last week by St. Paul and Minneaopolis' Archbishop Harry Flynn to persuade her to continue to use her gifts of energy, love, and passion in the Church and not cut herself off from Communion, Regina Nicolosi of Red Wing, MN, with eight other women, participated yesterday in a ceremony "ordaining" (decidedly not Ordaining) them to either the priesthood, or the diaconate, on the St. Lawrence Seaway. (What is it with these things happening on a boat?)

This follows on the heels of last month's "secret ordination" of a woman in central Europe, like yesterday's event, conducted by members of the Danube 7. The Danube 7 were ordained on the Danube River in 2002 by two renegade bishops and were excommunicated promptly. They now claim to be bishops themselves. (See Roman Catholic Womenpriests for more of the silliness.)

While many play this up as an equal rights issue, what is at the core is a misunderstanding of the complementary nature of male and female. As Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in Rome has noted, while it is biologically impossible for a man to conceive, it is equally theologically impossible for a woman to be a priest. This is true, as well, for a deacon, regardless whether she participated in an otherwise technically accurate traditional rite of ordination.

Alphonse Matt, editor and publisher of The Wanderer, an orthodox St. Paul Catholic newspaper, said to the StarTribune that Ms. Nicolosi's "ordination" will have no real effect and she is only deluding herself; that the bottom line is that she won't be recognized. Not quite. The bottom line is that she is committing scandal, and for that reason we pray that she and her colleagues have a conversion of heart.

Israel Grouses About Papal Terror Comments

"The pope deliberately failed to condemn the terrible terror attack that occurred in Israel last week."
At least that was the take of the Israeli Foreign Ministry after hearing Pope Benedict's latest condemnation of terrorism following Sunday's Angelus. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has since recanted a bit by backing off the idea that the omission was deliberate.

In light of the prominent outreach by the pope to Jews during his first 100 days, it is a bit disappointing to see the Israeli government slip into standard victimology dress over a perceived slight. Regardless of whether the pope did not mention a suicide bombing on July 12 in Netanya by mistake, or he really was only focusing on the terrorist attacks of the previous few days, or he was thinking of attacks that were out of the norm and represent an escalation beyond that which is all too common in daily life in Israel, first, today's media climate required a mention during Sunday's remarks, and second, Israel has become as Predictable as the rest of the West.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Poetic for the Justice?

Feast of St. James

I, like everyone else, expected the "turnabout is fair play" scheme (or the Mark Twain option as Captain Ed calls it) to seize David Souter's New Hampshire home to fizzle once we quieted down after the good chuckle that comes with using absurdity to demonstrate the absurd. But now it now appears that more than nothing may come of this after all.

(cap tip: Captain's Quarters)

Pope Benedict is Finishing Book Before Tackling Encyclical

Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office, said that the pope currently is focusing on his book project, which has been in the works for several years, and not his first encyclical as previously reported. While the Vatican spokesman claims the topic of the book is a secret, I think we can better go with the publisher:

"On The Way To Jesus Christ" – the newest book by Pope Benedict XVI which will be released exclusively by Ignatius Press in October 2005 – is about the true Jesus, the Jesus of the Gospels, who is "quite different, demanding and bold." This Jesus is controversial, inconvenient, and brings an often unpopular – and largely unfollowed – message.
Unless there are two books...

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Weather Modification Board Proposed

Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden

The universe , created in and by the eternal Word, the "image of the invisible God," is destined for and addressed to man...

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 299
Is modifying intentionally the weather what God has in mind by entrusting creation to us? Whether we admit how after 75 years we are just beginning to see the effects on Western civilization of something as unnatural as sanctioning and promoting contraception and abortion, or we understand how a society's mismanagement can distort the relationship to its climate and geography and resources and neighbors to the point of its demise, or a host of other cases, at some point we have to recognize that sometimes we set the trap of unintended consequences ourselves.

You don't have an understanding of something if you can't predict it, and we see every day how little we understand the weather and the climate. The best that could come of this is that a another pile of taxpayer-provided money gets squandered.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Arnold the Crime-fighting Pig, RIP

Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene

Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?

Lisa: No.

Homer: Ham?

Lisa: No.

Homer: Pork chops?

Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.

Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.

AP is reporting that a south Minneapolis neighborhood hero, Arnold, died last month. He earned his moniker after biting the leg of one of two men trying to rob his owner, Becky Moyer, at gunpoint in February 2001.

Ms. Moyer had just returned home when the two men confronted her in her garage while Arnold was sitting patiently by the refrigerator waiting for his dinner. Moyer screamed once inside the house, and Arnold sprang into action. He attacked one of the burglars, drawing blood, and forcing both intruders to flee.

Given my taste for the other white meat, learning of Arnold's demise has made for a day of mixed feelings. Arnold, a mixed breed part-Yorkshire, part-Vietnamese potbellied pig was expected to grow to be about 60 pounds. He died at age six, apparently of heart failure, weighing about 450 pounds.

A magical animal indeed.

Priceless

This July marked the sixth anniversary of my father's death. I have written previously about how the doctor's and staff attempted to steal his dignity in the name of compassion. While reflecting on his own father's passing and that of the founder of the modern hospice movement, Dame Cecily Saunders, Marc Vander Maas at PowerBlog gets at the truth. Here's the truffle excerpt:

We hear a lot in our society about the importance of “death with dignity.” Often this phrase is used in the promotion of physician-assisted suicide by people who argue that those with terminal illnesses should have the right to “hasten their death” in the face of suffering. In so arguing, however, advocates of assisted suicide reinforce the idea that those who suffer have no intrinsic value as human beings that would cause society to favor sustaining their life; and as a result they strip those who suffer of any dignity at all. They seem to say that the terminally sick and aged have no inherent dignity - but it can be earned by choosing suicide.

The assisted suicide movement - like so many well-meaning “compassionate” efforts - fails because it does not recognize the inherent worth of every man, woman, and child. Dignity and value are not commodities that rise and fall on some moral market in response to the fluctuations of human frailty. They are intrinsic to what we are as humans. They are a part of our very nature, as real a part of us as the blood that flows in our veins.

Stem Cell Bank Coming to India

Like South Korea, India is seeking to become a player in the global stem cell research realm with two of its premier institutions, King George Medical University and IIT-Kanpur joining to develop a stem cell bank and the next big center for stem cell research.

Stem Cell Legislation Stumbling in Senate

Following passage in the House of bills re both embryonic and adult stem cells and a filibuster-proof margin in the Senate based on an early nose count, it was not unreasonable to expect both sets of legislation would quickly find their way to the president's desk, where he promised to use his first veto to block expanding the policy he defined in 2001.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is having a difficult time getting members of the Senate to reach a consensus on what bills to bring up for a vote on the issue of stem cell research. There are four bills under consideration:
1. An adult stem cell research bill that was almost unanimously approved in the House and would create a national stem cell bank for umbilical cord blood.

2. A bill that would overturn President Bush's limits on using taxpayer funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research, which requires the killing of human embryos.

3. A measure banning all forms of human cloning.

4. A bill to fund the investigation of alternate methods of obtaining embryonic stem cells that don't require killing human embryos.
Taking action was problematic enough given the jockeying around these four bills, but now throw a SCOTUS nomination into the mix and it is clear Sen. Frist has his hands full for getting any of these bills to the floor anytime soon. For the record, as you'd expect, I'd like to see bills 1, 3, and 4 above advance quickly.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

More Live Together and Fewer Marry in US

Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi

Rutgers' National Marriage Project has issued its 2005 edition of The State of Our Unions: The Social Health of Marriage in America. It notes that both the U.S. marriage and divorce rates are dropping while the number of unwed couples living together is rising. The study also showed that the number of U.S. children born to unwed mothers and the percentage of children living with a single parent increased to record highs while the ratio of U.S. households with children continues to drop.

According to David Popenoe, the study's co-author, if we put all those together, it means that those people who marry might have a little stronger marriages than they once did, but fewer people are marrying and more people are living together outside of marriage.

There is the silver lining--stronger marriages. I have noted repeatedly that today's culture clash is one of attrition. Marriage is still a "family value," and those who believe in family values will still tend to have families. Like a shrinking Church that can blossom from a vibrant seed, so too can the institution of marriage.

Canada Makes it Official

Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin signed the bill approved by the Senate Tuesday and by the House of Commons last month, and it was read in the House and Senate, making it law and making Canada the fourth country in the world to recognize same-sex unions as "marriages" nationwide. Predictable to be sure, but still disappointing.

Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, of the Catholic Medical Association, in a recent Zenit interview, notes that rather than filling a mental health "need" for the stability of the partners and the children they adopt, the recent laws in Canada and Spain serve to sanction behaviors that are clinically associated with increased rates of serious psychiatric and medical illnesses and are harmful to children.

Zenit has Interview with Postulator of John Paul the Great's Cause

James Doohan, RIP

"Cap’n, I canna change the laws of physics!"

- Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineer, USS Enterprise
The engineer is rare who faced with a deadline and a difficult technical problem has not adopted the persona that typecast James Doohan. I would also wager that nearly every engineer has applied on occasion the multiplicative Scotty schedule factor of two when predicting how long any such task will take to complete in an attempt to secure a reputation as a "miracle worker." I, for one, am guilty on both counts. Unsurprisingly, the commanding on screen presence in a frantic situation was born of Mr. Doohan’s real heroism as a veteran of the Canadian army.

He was among the Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach on D-Day and crossed a minefield, only to be wounded in six places by machine gun fire before the day was done. This is just one of the tales from his autobiography, Beam Me Up, Scotty, a phrase never actually uttered during the original Star Trek television series that ultimately became a $3B franchise.

James Montgomery Doohan was born March 3, 1920, in Vancouver, British Columbia. He died early Wednesday morning, the 36th anniversary of the moon landing, from complications of Alzheimer's disease. His remains will be transported into space according to his wishes. May he rest in peace beyond gravity's surly bonds.


James Doohan during a guest appearance on the Star Trek:The Next Generation TV series.
(AP Photo/files,Paramount Pictures)

Pope Concerned by Harry Potter

[Original posted 2:42 AM, Sunday, June 30]
[First update posted 11:15 AM, Wednesday, July 13]

With the release of J.K. Rowling's sixth novel in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, planned for July 16, there is renewed interest in Pope Benedict's opinion of the series, expressed before his elevation and soon after the widespread false reports in 2003 of the late John Paul the Great's endorsement.

The then-cardinal sent a letter of support to a German critic of Ms. Rowling's books, Gabriele Kuby. According to LifeSite, the main thrust of Kuby's objection is that the books corrupt the hearts of the young, preventing them from developing a properly ordered sense of good and evil, thus harming their relationship with God while that relationship is still in its infancy. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:


It is good that you shed light and inform us on the Harry Potter matter, for these are subtle seductions that are barely noticeable and precisely because of that deeply affect (children) and corrupt the Christian faith in souls even before it (the Faith) could properly grow and mature.
He went on to write:

That they (children) are being cut off from God, the source of Love and Hope , so that they in sorrowful life conditions are without a foundation that supports them -that they lose the spirit of discernment between good and evil and that they will not have the necessary strength and knowledge to withstand the temptations to evil.
These are serious concerns for sure. There are, of course, many faithful Catholics with a differing view, including the late pastor of our parish when we lived in Oklahoma, who emphasized that Faith requires a properly developed imagination that discerns good and evil; something with which Harry Potter can help.

Are the novels in the series just harmless, imaginative, children's adventure stories, or do they necessarily lead children to the occult and serious witchcraft? These are straw men, so naturally the answer is "neither." As with many things in life, children can realize the benefits and avoid the pitfalls if guided by involved and informed parents. Harry Potter can be enjoyed in the context of the family such that children are not cut off from God, are not without a foundation that supports them, do have the spirit of discernment between good and evil, and have the necessary strength and knowledge to withstand the temptations to evil.

For our case, it was the Harry Potter series that really turned Troglotyke #1 onto reading in general, to the point he is now a voracious reader. He didn't read the Harry Potter books alone, and he is now able to identify those things that can be taken away as good and those that are to be dismissed as storytelling props with no other positive value. Finally, I don't know whether it follows directly, but 'Tyke #1 has now taken to the Lord of the Rings and, more significantly, is able to identify that it is better.

Update:

LifeSite has the translations of the then-cardinal's letters to Mrs. Kuby.

Update 2:

As you can imagine, I side with Jeff Mirus' take on the matter.

Poppin' a Gourd Over Kennedy's Comments Re Roberts

Jimmy Akin finds the senator "dangerously unqualified" based on his Today show comments:

Attention Sen. Kennedy! Judges are not supposed to be on the "side" of anybody! They are supposed to be impartial. That is why Justice is supposed to be "blind." If you don't understand that, you are not qualified to assist the Senate in its "advise and consent" role in the nomination process! You are advocating the idea of judges who dispense justice in a biased manner. That is contrary to the virtue of justice itself. (emphasis in original)
All true, but I chalk it up to Sen. Kennedy's Predictability.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

My Earliest Memory

Memorial of St. Apollinaris

Thirty-six years ago.


A long day of mild amusement for a two-year old, filled by waiting for anyone I know, holding vigil on the back steps of the farm house, toy tractors in hand. Then lots of people my folks knew were looking for my little brother. The funeral for my aunt, my Dad's brother's wife, was over, but I didn't know that. He was looking at cows. They were big and interesting, and he didn't want to play with me on the big, scary steps.

It was getting dark when we got home. People our folks knew were there, too. Something was happening. They were quiet; kind of like before. It was big.

Dad was carrying my brother and told me to follow him outside. The night was warm. Above shined clear the moon. Men were there, but we couldn't see them. We waved anyway. (I think we did that for my brother's sake.) Barely I caught the look in Dad's eyes. Not a question, more a simple command, "See what we can do."

Related:

PowerBlog has more.

Look Here, Son

ALDRIN: Contact light.

ARMSTRONG: Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

Now that I see what we can do,
Appears no chance of fun today,
Another thing my daddy knew.

Red toy tractors and airplanes blue,
Back step play beats watching hay,
Now that I see what we can do.

Gone from the farm, the family flew,
Good-byes said, she's gone away,
Another thing my daddy knew.

Promise remains for sky not through,
Playing alone to fill the day,
Now that I see what we can do.

Follow above shines clear the moon,
Though unseen we waved anyway,
Another thing my daddy knew.

Men were there with gold reason true,
Sparks caught on his eyes betray
Now. That I see what we can do,
Another thing my daddy knew.


March 2003

No Betrayal Here

Starting at least a couple of months ago, there have been rumblings about the looming betrayal by the president, the congressional leadership, and the Republican party against conservative, pro-life Christians who have helped bring them to power. While '08 is still out there and we don't yet know who the presidential nominee will be, the nomination of Judge Roberts ought to ease the anxiety a bit. It is also encouraging that President Bush avoided dissin' women with the "woman's chair."

There are a million places to get commentary (hit just about any blog on the sidebar to start; Southern Appeal is among the best). In contrast to Ann Coulter's reasonable misgivings about how little is known about the next Mr. Justice, we can use Catholic Analysis' round-up for a more positive view.

Points that Matter:

Judge Roberts is a devout Catholic.
Fr. Frank Pavone endorses the president's choice.
Point That is Very Encouraging, but Doesn't Necessarily Matter (see First Ladies Bush):

Jane Roberts has served as EVP of Feminists for Life.
NRLC has more background on the Roberts nomination.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Standing Athwart the Conventional "Nominee" Wisdom

Chesterton once noted that an attitude that ought to be opposed is the view that because we have got into a mess we must grow messier to suit it; that because we have taken a wrong turn some time ago we must go forward and not backwards; that because we have lost our way we must lose our map also; and because we have missed our ideal, we must forget it. In this spirit, Charmaine Yoest, a senior fellow at the Family Research Center, outlines why she prefers the president nominate a man for Justice O'Connor's seat:

Do we have to have a woman to “represent” women?

As the high practitioners of identity politics, the National Organization for Women is lobbying for a woman in the so-called woman’s chair: “The President should honor [Justice O’Connor’s] legacy by nominating a woman to the Court who is likewise committed to upholding equality for all.”

Note the careful crafting of that statement. Not just any woman will do. In order to qualify as a woman in their book, a jurist must be “committed to upholding equality for all.” That’s code for abortion rights. Everyone knows that if the president nominates a woman who has indicated opposition to abortion, NOW will oppose her with every ounce of their mailing list’s might.

This is the key point: Gender really is irrelevant to policy positions, and more relevantly, to an approach to constitutional interpretation. And here’s the awful irony: As we travel further down this path of nominating a woman qua women it will ultimately harm women as a whole.

Here’s why. After this nomination, another will follow. And likely another. But let us ask this question: After the president nominates, say, one of the Ediths — Judge Edith Jones or Judge Edith Clement — for this seat, will he give equal consideration to another female for the next nomination?

No, he won't. This is not an indictment of the president’s consideration process; it is a denunciation of identity and group politics. Once we have succumbed to the perversions of the feminist gender prism, for the next vacancy these same women will be hampered by the qualification that brings them forward this time. They are women. And the exigencies of identity politics will have moved on. ...

Even if the president nominates an Edith NOW doesn’t like, her nomination will represent the full-fledged establishment of the “women’s seat” on the Court. But what a Pyrrhic victory for women. Feminists will have succeeded in further solidifying “women” as a minority interest group, rather than professionals qualified for any opening on the Court independent of gender.

As If There'd Be Any Question





You Are Incredibly Logical





(You got 100% of the questions right)





Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic

You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.

A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!


Monday, July 18, 2005

Vacation's Value

Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis

While on holiday in the Italian Alps, before yesterday's Angelus, Pope Benedict discussed the gift of his "summer pause:"

In the world in which we live, it is almost a necessity to be able to regain one's strength of body and spirit, especially for those who live in the city, where the conditions of life, often feverish, leave little room for silence, reflection and relaxed contact with nature.

Holidays are, moreover, days in which more time can be dedicated to prayer, reading and meditation on the profound meaning of life, in the peaceful context of one's family and loved ones.

Vacation time offers the unique opportunity to pause before the thought-provoking spectacles of nature, a wonderful "book" within reach of everyone, adults and children. In contact with nature, a person rediscovers his correct dimension, rediscovers himself as a creature, small but at the same time unique, with a "capacity for God" because interiorly he is open to the Infinite. Driven by his heartfelt urgent search for meaning, he perceives in the surrounding world the mark of goodness and Divine Providence and opens almost naturally to praise and prayer.
Unfortunately, this bears liitle resemblance to my own recent vacations, which rather than unique opportunities to pause have been feverish distractions of a sort; albethey in contact with nature, moments of silence and reflection have been fleeting. Hmmmm, maybe I should plan another vacation to see if I can't get it right.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Benedict XVI is Writing First Encyclical

Memorial of St. Henry

In addition to preparing addresses for World Youth Day next month in Cologne, Germany, the pope is using his vacation in the Italian Alps to work on what is expected to be a "programmatic" letter.

We wait in anticipation.

Mother Nature Could Use the Comity of the Senate

French farmers, protesting at the behest of their sheep and cattle agricultural companions against natural law originalist wolves, delayed and ultimately forced the relocation of yesterday's 10th stage of the Tour de France. There was no comment from the wolves, prompting calls that the Deputy Chief of Staff Wolf be fired.

In a separate development, reports that French cattle will be seeking equal marriage rights as enjoyed by cattle in Thailand remain unconfirmed.

Goin' Fishin' Again

Intermittent blogging, if any, for the rest of the week. Pax.

Minnesota Abortions at Lowest Level Since 1975; Woman's Right to Know Law Saving Lives

According to the annual abortion report released by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), there were 13,788 abortions reported in 2004, compared to 14,174 in 2003. This is in line with an earlier post citing a Heritage Foundation report that state regulations and restrictions lead to fewer abortions. 2004 marked the first full year of Minnesota's informed consent law.

The law requires abortion centers to inform women of abortion risks, complications, and alternatives. It also includes providing women with facts on fetal development throughout gestation and the facts of fetal pain. Every woman inquiring about abortion is required to be given this information, and abortion centers must report that each woman was provided the information. After receiving this information, 2071 women opted against the procedure and delivered their babies.

Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), has the truffle quote:

One of our great hopes in passing Woman’s Right to Know was that more pregnant women would make an informed decision not to abort their babies, and this is clearly happening.

Pro-ESRC Argument is Divided Against Itself

Alan Padgett, a professor at Luther Seminary, is advancing a variation on the "life begins at implantation" assertion. The crux of the argument is

We also need a little more clarity about just what an “embryo” is. Zygote is the name for the earliest fertilized cell, until it is planted in the womb when it becomes an embryo. After about a month after implantation, when the basic organs begin to develop, we use the word “fetus.”

While “person” is notoriously difficult to define, we also need some sense of what a human person is. At the end of life, there is general agreement that a human person needs, among many other things, some brain activity. When brain activity ends, the human person’s life is over — at least in this life. Applying this to the start of life, at least some brain or neural activity would seem to be necessary for an embryo to be a person.
OK, at this point, as a nearly life-long user of language, I refuse to accede commonly accepted definitions of words to redefinitions by self-styled experts. However, Mr. Padgett is technically correct that what we are talking about are not embryos (operative definitions from Merriam-Webster Online):

Main Entry: em·bryo
Pronunciation: 'em-brE-"O
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural em·bry·os
Etymology: Medieval Latin embryon-, embryo, from Greek embryon, from en- + bryein to swell; akin to Greek bryon catkin
1 a archaic : a vertebrate at any stage of development prior to birth or hatching b : an animal in the early stages of growth and differentiation that are characterized by cleavage, the laying down of fundamental tissues, and the formation of primitive organs and organ systems; especially : the developing human individual from the time of implantation to the end of the eighth week after conception
From part b, it is clear that there is a stage(s) of the developing (read living) human individual before implantation. Note that this goes at the root of the Specter argument. Now, I would point out to Mr. Padgett that "person" has been long defined:

Main Entry: per·son
Pronunciation: 'p&r-s&n
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old French persone, from Latin persona actor's mask, character in a play, person, probably from Etruscan phersu mask, from Greek prosOpa, plural of prosOpon face, mask -- more at PROSOPOPOEIA
1 : HUMAN, INDIVIDUAL -- sometimes used in combination especially by those who prefer to avoid man in compounds applicable to both sexes
Therefore, the human individual is a person, by definition, who has a life cycle that extends before implantation. This renders the assertion that neural activity is required for personhood irrelevant. But just to beat a dead horse, which is distinctly different from beating an equine zygote, looking at the definition of life (again) requires only that there be "the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body." That a zygote can be placed in suspended animation and then later have it resumed such that his or her development may continue along the normal life cycle proves that the distinguishing quality for a person's life at the stage of a zygote is decidedly not neural activity.

That such pro-ESRC arguments require we redefine arbitrarily the language to avoid their self-contradictions for supporting the destruction of living individuals of the family of man indicates that what is at stake is whether we as a culture choose to deny the first of self-evident truths and conclude that some lives are more equal than others.

Stem cell mushroom harvest:

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) delivered a position statement in favor of embryonic stem cell research to all members of the US Senate.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued an executive order that directs the state to spend $10 million on stem cell research, thereby bypassing the state legislature.

StemPAC launched to support stem cell research by rallying grassroots support and targeting elected federal and state officials.

George Daley, representing the American Society for Cell Biology, lays out the argument in favor of ESRC in Senate testimony. It's a long post, but it ought to be read for G-2 reasons, if nothing else.

A Prayer for the Dying

A Coalition for Darfur Post

As Mark Leon Goldberg of the American Prospect reported back in April, the Bush administration was leaning heavily on congressional leaders and managed to stall, and probably killed, the Darfur Accountability Act.

As Goldberg explained, the bill
[E]stablishes targeted U.S. sanctions against the Sudanese regime, accelerates assistance to expand the size and mandate of the African Union mission in Darfur, expands the United Nations Mission in Sudan to include the protection of civilians in Darfur, establishes a no-fly zone over Darfur, and calls for a presidential envoy to Sudan.
Because of this pressue, the bill appears to be trapped in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Relations, presumably never to be seen again.

So what is Congress going to do now that sanctions, a no-fly zone and civilian protection are off the table? Apparently it has been reduced to "[encouraging] the people of the United States [to pray] for an end to the genocide and crimes against humanity and for lasting peace in Darfur, Sudan."

That's right, the US Congress has been reduced to calling on the American people to pray that somehow this genocide ends.

On July 1st, the US Senate quietly passed S.RES.186
A resolution affirming the importance of a national weekend of prayer for the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, Sudan, and expressing the sense of the Senate that July 15 through July 17, 2005, should be designated as a national weekend of prayer and reflection for the people of Darfur.
The House passed a companion resolution (H.RES.333) just yesterday.

The key portion of the resolution reads as follows

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) supports the goals and ideals of a National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection for Darfur, Sudan;

(2) encourages the people of the United States to observe that weekend by praying for an end to the genocide and crimes against humanity and for lasting peace in Darfur, Sudan; and

(3) urges all churches, synagogues, mosques, and religious institutions in the United States to consider the issue of Darfur in their activities and to observe the National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection with appropriate activities and services.
This resolution appears to be the work of the Save Darfur Coalition, a vital organization that has done a great deal to raise awareness of the genocide - but what does it say about the level of US commitment to address this situation when Congress is unwilling to do anything beyond simply asking the American people to pray for the dying people of Darfur?

If members of Congress are truly concerned about the deaths of nearly 400,000 Darfuris, or the fates of an estimated 3 million more, they are certainly capable of doing more than quietly declaring a "National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection."

Save Darfur deserves credit for getting Congress to even do this much, but this resolution cannot absolve Congress of its pathetic failure to adequately address the situation in Darfur. If anything, it only serves to highlight the government's utter lack of concern.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

SCOTUS and Moral Anarchy

The Hudson Institute's Robert Bork appeared on Laura Ingraham's show last week (listen here) and penned an article re what the nomination of a replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor, constitutional law, and moral chaos have to do with one another. PowerBlog and Southern Appeal have pulled their favorite excerpts. Here's mine:

The court's philosophy reflects, or rather embodies and advances, the liberationist spirit of our times. In moral matters, each man is a separate sovereignty. In its insistence on radical personal autonomy, the court assaults what remains of our stock of common moral beliefs. That is all the more insidious because the public and the media take these spurious constitutional rulings as not merely legal conclusions but moral teachings supposedly incarnate in our most sacred civic document.

That teaching is the desirability, as the sociologist Robert Nisbet put it, of the "break-up of social molecules into atoms, of a generalized nihilism toward society and culture as the result of individualistic hedonism and the fragmenting effect of both state and economy." He noted that both Edmund Burke and Tocqueville placed much of the blame for such developments on the intellectual class--in our time dominant in, for example, the universities, the media, church bureaucracies and foundation staffs--a class to which judges belong and to whose opinions they respond. Thus ever-expanding rights continually deplete America's bank of common morality.

Senate Poised to Vote on Funding ESRC

Federal funding legislation for embryonic stem cell research is scheduled for a Senate vote sometime this week. The bill, which passed the House in May, would reverse the Bush administration policy. Time again to make those calls and write those letters.

Related:

A Michigan state representative is looking to put an ESRC funding initiative on the ballot next year. And we can expect action in New York sometime soon based on new polling.

Pope Taking a Break

Following the whirlwind of activity leading up to and following his elevation, and in advance of World Youth Day next month, Pope Benedict began a well-deserved summer vacation yesterday:

Pope Benedict left the Vatican mid-morning July 11 to fly from Rome's Ciampino airport to the airport of St. Christophe-Aosta in northern Italy. He then drove to a villa owned by the Salesian Fathers at Les Combes in the Alps.

The only public events on the papal calendar during his vacation were expected to be the Sunday recitation of the Angelus July 17 and July 24 with visitors gathered on the lawn around the villa.
One of his objectives, according to Cardinal McCarrick, is to think through the direction in which to take his papacy, "[The pope] is using the summer to figure things out. He's saying, 'Now that I'm pope, where do I go and what do I focus on?'"

No Word Yet on Cardinal's Retirement

Washington, DC's archbishop, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, did not divulge whether his recent visit with Pope Benedict XVI has resulted in an extended term in office. The cardinal, who submitted his mandatory resignation letter when he turned 75 on July 7 said, "I'm here until the Holy Father says he's happy to accept my resignation." Cardinals often serve well past retirement age.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Benedict on Benedict

Memorial of St. Benedict

Today, the Church celebrates the memory of the patron of this site. Before yesterday's Angelus, the Holy Father delivered an address about the saint, who obviously is dear to him:

Benedict did not found a monastic institution oriented primarily to the evangelization of barbarian peoples, as other great missionary monks of the time, but indicated to his followers that the fundamental, and even more, the sole objective of existence is the search for God: "Quaerere Deum."

He knew, however, that when the believer enters into a profound relationship with God he cannot be content with living in a mediocre way, with a minimalist ethic and superficial religiosity. In this light, one understands better the expression that Benedict took from St. Cyprian and that is summarized in his Rule (IV, 21) -- the monks' program of life: "Nihil amori Christi praeponere." "Prefer nothing to the love of Christ."

Holiness consists in this valid proposal for every Christian that has become a true pastoral imperative in our time, in which one perceives the need to anchor life and history in solid spiritual references.

[emphasis added]

World Population Day

PowerBlog has a good post on this UN celebration of the Gospel of Death, making many of the same points I made a few days ago, but going further by rightly identifying the cover used for the project's real goal:

Today is the UN-sponsored World Population Day, which most of us have never heard of, I’m sure. From the name, I cynically (and rightly) assumed that rather than celebrating human life, this day would instead address many of the spurious “crowded planet” concerns put forth most popularly in Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (first edition 1968).

You won’t see Ehrlich’s name plastered all over World Population Day materials, but I’m convinced that his thesis is what underlies the effort. Instead, the campaign has cloaked itself in the language of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
And why this will be viewed as a celebration this year:

[I]f the goal of the UN project is to get the world birth rates to fall below replacement levels (usually averaging 2.1 children per woman), they are well on their way. Developed nations continue to set the pace for non-replacement, where “fertility is currently 1.56 children per woman and is projected to increase slowly to 1.84 children per woman in 2045-2050.”

John Paul the Great to be Canonized at WYD?

If it were up to his aide, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, it would be so. This would be the fast track indeed. And one we probably ought to avoid. There is wisdom in the Church's current process of due diligence that prevents canonization from being reduced to a pope's saying "I know a saint when I see one." There is also risk to the Church's mission in circumventing that process by appearing to corroborate the charge that her decisions are arbitrary; risk in that it may slow conversions while faith wrestles with that untruth. Similarly, it is not clear why it ought to take longer for Bl. (Mother) Teresa to be declared a saint than John Paul. Also, as an American, it bothers be not a little that the Vatican could move so quickly on this matter, but was ploddingly diligent in its response to the sexual abuse crisis.

Yes, we know the late pope hopped the bullet train to the Heavenly Banquet, so we can be confident in the outcome of the process. Finally, there is nothing now stopping the faithful from venerating his memory and seeking his intercession, which I, for one, do daily.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

A UN Gospel of Death

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has released recently a report, Reducing Poverty and Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: Arguments for Investing in Reproductive Health & Rights. LifeSite notes that the report argues that “sexual and reproductive health services,” UN-speak for abortion, contraception, and sterilization, are necessary to improve child poverty, HIV/AIDS, and ecological sustainability, not to mention women's mortality rates and general economic development.

The argument goes thus: One-third of all deaths and disabilities of women of child bearing age and one-fifth of global health costs are related to sex (sexually transmitted disease and complications during pregnancy and childbirth), which reduces incrementally the productivity of the female labor force. "Voluntary fertility decline" will therefore enhance economic growth and reduce the global health burden (including health-related welfare costs). Additional alleged benefits include saving women's lives (not including aborted girls, I guess), curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and allowing young women to "break the cycle of poverty" and "empower them to be agents of change." (Hkkkktt - hrkrkrkt - thu - thu - pthhhht - Sorry, I think I hacked up a hair ball on that last part).

This all sounds so Reasonable, as Holy Fool would put it. Except that these "benefits" don't necessarily follow. I have noted previously the misguided approach advocated to contain the spread of HIV. There is also a new book, Against Christianity: The UN and the European Union as a New Ideology by Eugenia Roccella and Lucetta Scaraffia that shows no change, in the past decade, in the number of women who die during childbirth in poor countries - more than half a million per year - because the primary method for reducing death from childbirth is simply to reduce the number of births and increase the number of abortions, rather than improve the healthcare of mother and child. (See more on this book at Chiesa).

The whole economic growth assertion can be called into question as well when considering the amounts and different forms of aid given to Third World nations for years with little progress. We are not looking at a tipping point where only if women increased their collective productivity by a little bit there would be the emergence of new nations abundant in milk and honey with all things sweetness and light. At root is connectedness - cultural, economic, political, and security - or lack thereof, as John Paul the Great noted in Centesimus Annus. Fostering a separation between sexuality and procreation certainly is not going connect the disconnected.

The bright side, if there is one, which isn't even that bright, is that for the fourth year in a row, the US has denied payment of the $34M previously given to the UNFPA precisely because of its anti-life policies. And so we remain vigilant.

Books of Formation Discussion at Catholic Ragemonkey

The question is ""What are the five most essential spiritual reading books so that you can be a well-informed Catholic?" not including the Bible, or the Catechism. You are supposed to go with your gut reaction, so don't think about it. Fr. Tharp promises the reveal next week.

I'm thinking this makes for a good meme, plus I'm curious, so I'll tag Hanging onto Nothing, The Robison Report, and Roman Catholic Blog. You are also free to just post a comment here, but make sure you get your vote in at CRM. For the record, here's my list, admittedly from the hip and not in any order:

Aquinas' Summa Theologiae
Chesterton's Heterodoxy & Orthodoxy (I think they go together)
John Paul the Great's Crossing the Threshold of Hope
Butler's Lives of the Saints
Chesterton's Complete Father Brown Mysteries

Look Who's Growing Up

In this week's The Catholic Spirit, Adam Robinson and his blog, The Robinson Report, are profiled. It is a good piece by Julie Carroll that describes accurately the Report as "one-stop shopping" for Catholic media, particularly for "tech-savvy young adults with busy lifestyles." I'm not sure whether I still fit in the young adult demographic, but as a blogger, I find the Report to be a good resource that is rapidly moving up my list of sites to visit regularly.

Related:

The Troglodyte receives a nice mention in a companion article by Emilie Lemmons. This gives me the opportunity to say, "Thanky, thanky" to the staff at the Spirit (sorry, TCS belongs to Tech Central Station in the blogosphere). I know there are regular readers there, and because bloggers live to be read, I appreciate their reading and I greatly appreciate the plug, which has already translated into increased traffic. What may be the coolest thing, however, is that my mother, The Troglomatrix, called to tell me she saw the article.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Benedict and the Benedictines Homecoming

Family Memorial of Gary P. Warmka

After a 200 year absence, with an ordination at the small village home of Ss. Benedict and Scholastica coinciding with Pope Benedict's celebration of the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul in Rome, the order marks its return. Here's Zenit's truffle quote from University of Tulsa professor, Russell Hittinger:

St. Benedict went back to the basics, he taught about getting it right with the Father. Jesus allowed man to go back to the Father. It's all about liturgy and the Eucharist. ...

To renew the Church we must start from the beginning again like the Benedictines. They took a vow of the reform of manners -- a conversion of morals. It's starting from scratch, with the building blocks of the Church. ...

When I first heard that Cardinal Ratzinger had taken the name Benedict, I thought 'Small is beautiful. That's how it begins.'

Another Wishy-Washy Poll on ESRC

Research!America, a non-profit gaggle of universities, patient groups and biotech and pharmaceutical companies, has released the results of a survey showing that a majority of US adults support embryonic stem cell research, the use of federal funds to support the research, and therapeutic cloning. However, as with many previous polls:

"There's far less support for (embryonic-stem-cell research and cloning) than this poll would have you believe," Gene Tarne, spokesman for Do No Harm, told UPI. He said the questions did not mention embryos, or state that embryos would be destroyed to derive the embryonic stem cells. Polls that have made this distinction have found less support for the research, he added.
My question is actually spurred by this statement:

Dan Eramian, vice president of communications for the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington, told UPI the findings may help persuade investors and companies to commit more funds to this type of research. The legislation in the Senate could influence that thinking as well, he said.
Given my post yesterday re the lack of VC interest in ESRC because of the lack of clinical trial success, the regulatory concerns, the uncertainties of success, and the long time horizon, any company jumping in because of the creation of another corporate welfare program is a prime candidate for having its stock sold short. So what's the real motiviation of the industry spokesman to make such a comment? Why not push the real opportunities based on ASC instead? I suppose it could be another simple case of the MSM missing the story.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Praying for London

This from The West Wing, "20 Hours in America" kind of seems to fit today:

We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect, nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people's strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arive... The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight... The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for... heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for... heroes, and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory...
Our Lady of Peace, pray for us.

Related:

Captain Ed notes that we are all Britons today.

Life is Life, the Rest is Just Details

A few weeks ago, Arlen Specter was making the rounds, pushing a definition of life that I honestly had never heard before. Mark Davis of the Dallas Morning News has picked up the refrain, "Life begins at implanation," to wit:
There is no debating that the moment of conception yields the complete blueprint for a new human life. Once nestled in the uterine wall, that life will grow and should be left alone.

Without the aid of an actual womb, that life goes precisely nowhere. This has led me to a claim that doesn't make for good bumper stickers but does make sense: Life begins at implantation...
Well, ummmm, no. First, "that life" with "the complete blueprint" is a human life. Second, without the aid of sustained nourishment and a protective environment, that life goes precisely nowhere, just like every other human life. But let's back up a second and do a common sense thing.

How do we answer the question of what life is? Words mean things, so let's look it up in the dictionary. From the operative definition on Merriam-Webster Online:

Main Entry: life
Pronunciation: 'lIf
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural lives /'lIvz/
Etymology: Middle English lif, from Old English lIf; akin to Old English libban to live -- more at LIVE
1 a : the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body b : a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings -- compare VITALISM 1 c : an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction
The distinguishing quality in part a and the self-determining distinctive quality of part b are captured by the organismic state described in part c. Does a human embryo sitting in a petri dish possess the capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction? Yes, without question.

Still have doubts? Try a thought experiment. Place an embryo in a special container, an artificial womb. Is there any question that it would fully develop? Would it be alive? Using the Specter and Davis defintion, the feature distinguishing the embryo as a living human being would not be the organism itself, but its artificial container. Were we to follow this logic, Terry Schiavo ceased to be a human being the instant her feeding tube was removed. Nonsense. Distorting and changing the meanings of words like this on the fly often betrays charlatans, scoundrels, and people whose beliefs are based on the convenience of their convictions and is unfitting for a nation predicated on the notion that all men are created equal.

Related:

Judd has more on Mr. Davis' true stripes.

Bishop Sklylstad Chimes in on SCOTUS Vacancy

The USCCB does not get into endorsing, or opposing, individual candidates for public office as a general rule, rather focusing on "policies and principles." The conference's president has sent a letter to President Bush highlighting the "qualities" Bishop Skylstad hopes the president will "contemplate" as he considers the appointment of a successor to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

[B]ecause of the Supreme Court’s ability to affect both principles and policies, I urge you to consider for the Court qualified jurists who, pre-eminently, support the protection of human life from conception to natural death, especially of those who are unborn, disabled, or terminally ill. I would ask you to consider jurists who are also cognizant of the rights of minorities, immigrants, and those in need; respect the role of religion and of religious institutions in our society and the protections afforded them by the First Amendment; recognize the value of parental choice in education; and favor restraining and ending the use of the death penalty. There are many specific applications of these and other fundamental matters which the USCCB has addressed or will address in the future through amicus briefs.
What about gay "marriage," I wonder? Anyway, I suspect that a candidate who is right on the five non-negotiables will be right on the rest of the list.

Venture Capital Outlook Remains Bleak for ESRC

This trend will continue at least until there are successful clinical trials. Many would like to pin the fact that VCs are sitting out on a combination of President Bush's ban on expanding federal funding and regulatory uncertainty. However, it is interesting to note that the trend is also true in the ESRC-friendly UK.

Once investors get beyond the hype, I expect there also will be limited capital infusions from public offerings of stock sales, which leaves the bulk of American industry progress to be funded by federal and state governments. So not only are there ethical problems with government-sponsored research, we are looking square at another corporate welfare scheme.

Pope's First Book to Answer "Do You Know the Way to Jesus Christ?"

Ignatius Press has announced the release this fall of Pope Benedict's first book since his elevation:

Though Jesus Christ is as popular as ever – as evidenced by recent books, films and news articles, many wonder whether this "popular" Jesus is an accurate rendering of the true Jesus of Christianity. So many articles and books ask "Who was Jesus Christ?" And yet, the Jesus they construct seems somehow incongruent with the Jesus of Christianity. The "popular" Jesus makes no demands and never challenges people. Everything and everyone is okay with him, under all circumstances. In fact, even though many see the "pop" Jesus as representing God, they don't perceive him as making any judgment upon their actions or lives.

But this "phantom" Jesus is not a real figure, according to Pope Benedict XVI.

"On The Way To Jesus Christ" – the newest book by Pope Benedict XVI which will be released exclusively by Ignatius Press in October 2005 – is about the true Jesus, the Jesus of the Gospels, who is "quite different, demanding and bold." This Jesus is controversial, inconvenient, and brings an often unpopular – and largely unfollowed – message.
The book, expected to retail around $20, is based on a series of meditations written by then cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger. The publication date is set for October 3. Orders can be placed through http://www.ignatius.com.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Darfur News Round-up

Memorial of St. Maria Goretti
A Coalition for Darfur Post

Khartoum and the two rebel groups in Darfur have signed a prelminary peace agreement with the arduous and contentious details of a comprehenisve peace agreement to be worked out later.

The UN is reporting that $1.3 billion out of the $1.9 billion it needs to support the North/South peace agreement has yet to be received.

Eric Reeves has revised his mortality total for Darfur from 400,000 to 360,000 but warns that the mortaily rate will likely increase in the near future.

Rebels in Eastern Sudan have accused Khartoum of bombing civilians and villages and covering up the attacks.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, briefed the Security Council recently on the status of the investigation into the crimes committed in Darfur. He reported that the ICC has collected a "significant amount of credible information" to show that grave crimes have taken place in Darfur.

Sudan is still refusing to cooperate with the ICC.

Last week, President Bush stated "the violence in Darfur region is clearly genocide."

A survey of 11,000 African show found that about two-thirds of respondents agreed that the U.N. should have the right to intervene to stop serious abuses of human rights in the region.

Janes Defence Weekly reports that sections of eastern Sudan are becoming "areas of choice" for Al-Qaeda and other militant groups as they seek to boost recruitment in the region.

One More Reason Why I Like My US Representative

A couple of weeks ago Rich Galen reported the following:

US Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) represents the eastern half of the "thumb" of Michigan. And she has come up with a great idea: Changing the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution so that only citizens of the United States who can actually vote are counted for the purposes of Congressional apportionment.

The 14th Amendment is generally known as the "equal protection" Amendment as Section 1 states in part, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States … nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

But Rep. Miller's Amendment attaches to Section 2 which reads:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.
The effect of this language is that every ten years the Bureau of the Census counts everyone in residing in the United States - legally or illegally. The Census bureau then dutifully reports on how many "persons" are living here and where they are living.

They then decide, based upon this number how the 435 Members of Congress get split up among the 50 states, apportioning them among the states.

The problem arises because illegal aliens are "persons" for counting and apportionment purposes but, because they are in the US illegally, often find it inconvenient to cast votes in Federal elections.

Ms. Miller's resolution would change Amendment 14, Section 2 to read:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by counting the number of persons in each State who are citizens of the United States.
[edit]

As of last this writing there are 23 co-sponsors of the resolution - none from California. Why? If apportionment is based upon citizens rather than persons then California would lose six seats. Texas, Florida and New York would lose one each.

Those nine Members of Congress would be re-distributed among the remaining states.

Here's why this is important. According to the CNN website recounting the results of the 2004 elections, there were 331,868 votes cast in the election in Michigan's 10th District (which is the eastern half of the Michigan "thumb").

Democrat Xavier Becerra won re-election in California's 31st District with only 110,411 votes. Why? Because there are so many illegal aliens in that portion of LA County who cannot vote.

What that means is, the citizens in California 31 have, effectively, three times the voting power as the citizens in Michigan 10.

This does not appear to meet the "one person- [neé one man] one-vote rule.

Constitutional Amendments - in this mode - need two-thirds votes in each House of Congress plus the approval of 38 state legislatures which is why Amendments are so relatively rare.

This, however, is an idea with such clarity and power that it needs to be taken seriously and acted upon quickly.
Amen. When I checked to see who the co-sponsors are,I was pleasantly surprised to find John Kline's name (The list also includes my former representative, Oklahoma's Ernest Istook). It's been nearly a decade since I volunteered for a candidate in Minnesota. With MSM-darling Coleen Rowley launching her campaign today, it may be time to change that.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The City Still Shines on the Hill

Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal
Independence Day

The Criterion reports that newly sworn citizen, Sr. Loretto Emenogu of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Mercy, will celebrate Independence Day with praise for the country that she now calls home.

America is very, very generous. America is such a godly country. America has a large open door for people to come in and have life and have it in abundance.
It is easy to become jaded in modern America, but with people like Sr. Loretto coming to our shores to fulfill their missions from God, America will redirect such "Rays of ravishing Light and Glory" and continue to be a beacon for others like her.

Rebutting Mario Cuomo on Defining the Beginning of Life

[Original posted 1:45 AM, Sunday, July 3]

The ethical problems of embryonic stem cell research arise from the fact that the process requires the destruction and/or corruption of nascent human life. Some who support such research insist that this is not the case because, as they claim, life begins after conception,namely at implantation. The absurdity of this is obvious, of course, if one considers the thought experiment of a child grown in an environment that simulates the key functions of a mother's womb, which necessarily may not require a comparable step of implantation. Mario Cuomo believes the solution to the question of when life begins is to defer it to a panel of experts. Moreover, the burden of proof ought to be on the side that life begins at conception. Maggie Gallagher responds directly to the heterodox Catholic, Mr.Cuomo:

There's something dismayingly Catholic, in a decadent way, and political, in an obvious way, about Cuomo's suggestion. Replace the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church with the infallible magisterium of a group of people with Ph.D.s? Mario, Mario, a panel of scientists couldn't prove that you have a right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness either. The question of why human rights exist, and who therefore has them, is not a scientific question. Fobbing off core questions like this onto a panel of scientists is merely an attempt to evade moral and intellectual responsibility for one of life's most basic questions: Where does our shared American belief in equality and human rights come from?
Amen. Not only that, but Ms. Gallagher notes that even if the as yet unrealized benefits of ESRC do come, we may not need to go down the path of destroying life to achieve them.

Professor Markus Grompe, a geneticist, and Professor Robert George, a Princeton political scientist who is on President Bush's council on bioethics, announced in this week's Wall Street Journal that scientists have discovered several new ways to get embryonic stem cells that do not require the creation or destruction of human life. For example, Oocyte Assisted Reprogramming (OAR) can take the nucleus from your skin cell, insert it into an egg cell, and with a flick of a genetic switch, make a factory for producing embryonic stem cells. Not only would this protect us from becoming consumers of unborn children, but "their genetic constitution would be virtually identical to that of the donor, thus helping to overcome the problem of immune rejection."
She then drives it home:

Scientists didn't stumble upon this method by accident, but by conscientiously seeking a method of obtaining needed stem cells that would not require the killing of any human life....

I believe that truth, goodness and scientific progress all lie in the same direction. I believe that human beings, made in the image of God, have the creativity to find better solutions to human problems than those that require killing human life. I believe that, if we seek it, science can unlock human wonders that draw us together rather than divide and conquer our humanity.
Update:

Here's more on Oocyte Assisted Reprogramming and its licit nature.

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