Monday, October 31, 2005

The Catholic Card

How long before it drops on Alito?
If Samuel Alito is confirmed by the Senate, he will be the fifth Catholic on the nine-justice panel. I wonder how long it will take for the opposition to play the Catholic card against him. Dick Durbin previously tried to make John Robert’s Catholicism an issue.

After the administration’s not-too-well-thought-out attempt to appeal to the public on the basis of Harriet Meirs’ evangelical credentials, and considering that Alito represents a shift in the court power balance, I imagine the Dems will go for broke in their opposition.

It leaves them in a bit of a pickle. If they attack Alito’s religiosity, they will placate their rabid base but they will turn off almost everyone else. Religious bigotry just doesn’t play well in today’s America. There is still a fair amount of anti-catholic sentiment in the US, but most of it is on the pagan Left and among mainline (read leftist) protestants; the vast majority of Evangelicals and orthodox protestants make common cause with Catholics with regard to politics and social issues.

Alito has a ton of experience and a lengthy and distinguished track record. Therefore, they really can’t oppose him except for his views, and there is no real way to attack his views without either (a) making “litmus test” complaints about his potential rulings on certain issues, or (b) going after his religion. Neither one will win points with the people, and the longer they drag the process out, the closer it gets to next year’s election season.

There are people out there who think the whole Harriet Meirs thing was a smoke screen preparing for Bush’s real nominee. That’s way too Byzantine for me to buy into, and I just can’t see it as this administration’s style. But I can’t help thinking W has made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. He has gotten his base back together, and he has left the wacko left loyal opposition in a rather unpalatable situation. On the drama side, it will be interesting to see how it plays out; on the practical side, I hope the confirmation goes through quickly.

The Blogging Song

To the tune of I’m a Lumberjack and I’m Okay (aka The Lumberjack Song)

I’m a blowhard and I blog.
I strut my stuff all day.
I waste time sending comments,
And never earn my pay.

He’s a blowhard and he blogs.
He struts his stuff all day.
He wastes time sending comments,
And never earns his pay.

The evening news is boring;
Talk radio is lame.
Online I find I can opine
And never feel shame.

He’s a blowhard and he blogs.
He think’s talk radio’s lame.
Online he finds he can opine
And never feel shame.

I thrive on self-importance.
My ego’s wrapped so tight,
If someone tries to argue
I just ban them from my site.

He’s a blowhard and he blogs.
His ego’s wrapped so tight.
If someone tries to argue,
He will ban them from his site.

I live to see my website
Referred to by my peers.
A trackback from some other bloke
Will dry a thousand tears.

He’s a blowhard and he blogs.
He’s referred to by his peers.
A trackback from some other bloke
Will dry a thousand tears.

My ego is not shallow;
I simply would prefer
That millions use my visage
For desktop wallpaper.

He’s a blowhard and he blogs.
He simply would prefer.
That millions use his visage
As desktop wallpaper

I’m a blowhard and I blog.
My world’s as it should be.
The sun shines down, the world spins ‘round
Its axis, which is ME.

He’s a blowhard and he blogs.
His world’s as it should be.
The sun shines down, the world spins ‘round
Its axis, which….Oh, good grief…give is a break…we’re out of here…

Distraction in prayer

From Flos Carmeli

A wonderful little post on the role of distractions in prayer, which is always something I have found it impossible to eliminate, or even keep to a minimum. If it really is impossible to eliminate them, then perhaps that fact means something?

...For Teresa and for John as well, this constant babble of wayward thoughts is part and parcel of who we are. To deny it is to deny who we are. I would go further to say that this constant stream of thought defines, in a special way who we are. More than that, this constant stream of thought forms the ostinato against which the melody of prayer plays out. That is to say, that these very real, very present concerns are a real part of prayer...

Be sure to read the whole thing here – it won’t take you more than five minutes.

An engagment in the blogosphere

The Common Anglican ties the knot
Congratulations to the Commoner, and sympathies to his lovely betrothed. Laura.  May the Lord grant them both many years together in love and joy.  Should we expect a blog merger to be part of the union?  

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Catholic school takes a stand

American Girl's gifts to agency lead school to scrap show

A Catholic school in Waukesha County is the first non-profit group in the nation to cancel a coveted American Girl Fashion Show amid concerns that the Wisconsin-based doll company behind the show gives money to a national girls organization that presents abortion, contraception and a lesbian sexual orientation as acceptable.

News of the decision by parent volunteers and the pastor at St. Luke School in Brookfield is being reported in bulletins at Masses this weekend.

"It seemed like a match made in heaven; a motivated Catholic school and an all-American icon," Father Frank Malloy, the pastor, says in his printed explanation. "We seemed poised to raise enough funds for a new playground and a remake of the school library."

But, he concludes, "As for us, it's a bargain we'll just have to pass up. The cost is too high. Our integrity isn't for sale."
(From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal – read the whole thing here.)

I think I like Father Malloy. He and his school will no doubt take a lot of flak for this; sadly, I bet a lot of it will come from the parents of his students. He and his volunteers could have simply kept their mouths shut, followed the path of expedience, and continued to be the “good guys.” They chose the narrow path.

The only way these companies are going to quit pushing their agenda is when they finally realize that there really are more people opposed to it than in favor of it. They listen to the loudest voices; as long as we keep quiet and acquiesce, they only hear the other side.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

John Paul II's Ford sells for $690,000

From World Magazine
A light blue 1975 Ford Escort GL once owned by Pope John Paul II sold for $690,000 Saturday to a Houston multimillionaire who said he plans to put it in a museum he wants to build in his hometown.

"To me, it's a piece of history," said John O'Quinn, 62, a Baptist who said he has a collection of about 600 vehicles. "What a great human being Pope John Paul was."

Question. If John Paul II is eventually canonized, as many expect, does this car become a relic of the saint? 500 years from now, will we have a shrine to some 21st century saint’s I-Pod? This takes a little getting used to.

Cool bible quiz

Bible Content Exam Learning Tool

I got a 92 on the 2005 test – smirk, smirk, smirk. See if you can beat me! This is intended as a tool for prepping for PCUSA ordination exam. It would be really interesting to know how clergy of various denominations score, but I suspect that sort of data is highly classified.

Tip of the gimme cap to Will Prydain

Quote of the day

From our favorite Dominican Cnytr, responding to an upcoming Dominican women’s earth conference where they will “listen to Earth, and rethink cosmology, theology and justicemaking as foundational for the Order to move into its Ecological phase.”

"What is the earth asking of the Order?" To leave it the heck up to the Franciscans, that's what.

We have bigger fish to fry.

Thank you, Cnytr, and Amen.

More from the Religion of Peace

Christian girls beheaded in grisly Indonesian attack
Three teenage Christian girls were beheaded and a fourth was seriously wounded in a savage attack on Saturday by unidentified assailants in the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi.

The girls were among a group of students from a private Christian high school who were ambushed while walking through a cocoa plantation in Poso Kota subdistrict on their way to class, police Major Riky Naldo said.

3 New Delhi Explosions Kill at Least 49
Coordinated explosions in India's capital ripped through at least two markets jammed with evening shoppers ahead of an upcoming Hindu festival and a bus, killing at least 49 people.
Officials blamed terrorists for the blasts, which came as India and nuclear rival Pakistan began unprecedented talks on opening their disputed and heavily defended Kashmir frontier to bring food, shelter and medical aid to victims of the Himalayan region's massive earthquake.

Suicide bombing in Israeli town of Hadera kills five
A Palestinian suicide bomber standing in line at a crowded falafel stand blew himself up Wednesday in this central Israeli town, killing five people and injuring 21, police and rescuers said.

Ahmadinejad: Wipe Israel off map
"The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world," the president told a conference in Tehran on Wednesday, entitled The World without Zionism.

"The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land," he said.

"As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map," said Ahmadinejad.

And before anybody gripes that I shouldn’t blame all Moslems for these crimes: I don’t blame all Moslems, but I do blame Islam. I don’t blame all Germans for the Holacaust, but I do blame Germany. The problem is intrinsic to the nature of the faith. Any religion can produce terrorists; no other religion produces them so systematically.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Volunteers Sought For Avian Flu Vaccine Study

Vaccine Would Be First To Protect Against Bird Flu

Umm...that's okay. I don't want to hog all the glory. You guys can go first.

Kill a doctor, save a rat

Animal rights activist: 'Kill the researchers'

Read it all on WorldNet Daily:
WASHINGTON – A radical animal rights activist shocked members of the U.S. Senate this week by advocating the murder of those conducting medical research.

Jerry Vlasak, spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front, told the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that killing medical researchers was "morally justified" to save laboratory animals.

Vlasak compared the life of lab animals to African American slaves and the Jewish victims of Nazi concentration camps.

This is the logical result of a relativistic world view. If humans are animals (as we are) and nothing more, then there is no reason to value a human over a mosquito. Peter Singer and his ilk try to define a hierarchy based on sentience, but that leaves a crippled human morally less worthy of life that a healthy rhesus macaque. To quote, “Of course, if the superior intellectual capacities of one being enable that being to have, interests that a being with lesser capacities is unable to have, that may make a difference to how we ought to treat them. But this is not a distinction between humans and nonhumans, for some nonhuman animals are superior in their capacities to some humans, for instance, those suffering from profound intellectual disabilities.[1] It isn’t rocket science to figure out that those who write such articles are quite high on the hierarchy and thus entitled to life.

Mr. Vlasak doesn't even bother to try and justify himself with the hierarchy. A lab rat is equivalent to a human being, and the killing of a human being in defense of a lab rat is therefore justifiable homicide. Mr. Vlasak's ideal society would no doubt exterminate itself in order to bring back the buffalo. When evil runs out of other targets, it eventually has no outlet for its hatred besides self loathing and self-destruction. Ultimately, it is not dramatic, but merely sad.

Of course, the whole animal rights enterprise neglects to answer the simple question: If coyotes eat deer, and mountain lions eat deer, why shouldn’t I eat a deer? And if I can morally eat one to preserve my own life, why can’t I morally use one in research to preserve another’s life?

[1] Singer, Peter (2004) Taking Humanism Beyond Speciesism, Free Inquiry 24(6), 19-21.

New gods for the new man

How the cult of the guru puts gullible nation under its spell

They are everywhere - the life coaches, the supernannies, the makeover experts, the celebrity chefs, the fashion police.

They tell us what not to wear, what not to eat, what not to do with our lives, our children's lives and our bathrooms…

…In a speech at the Battle of Ideas Festival tomorrow at the Royal College of Art, Prof Frank Furedi says the collapse in traditional authority figures has not produced a less deferential or more questioning society.

Instead, we are now slaves to therapists and "hustlers" and taking advice on saving Africa from pop singers.

Prof Furedi, the professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury, said the "unquestioning and fatalistic deference" to relationship and other types of experts was coming from the "very top of society".

He added: "It is so sad when you see grown-up people - people of my age - on television needing someone to take them shopping for clothes. There is this myth that we live at the end of an age of deference, but we are entirely subservient to unacknowledged forms of authority…

…The Rev Giles Fraser, the vicar of Putney and a philosophy lecturer at Wadham College, Oxford, said celebrity worship had gone too far.

"We are considerably more superstitious now than we were 200 years ago," he added.

"It emerges in celeb-worship and the feng shui-isation of life. Spirituality has become a make-over term.

"When you stop believing in God, you don't believe in nothing, you believe in anything.

"The point of the Christian gospel is that we find relief from our demons by concentrating on things outside ourselves, whereas many of these new therapies are self-centred."

The Vatican said Catholics would be better off believing in "encounters with aliens" than being sucked into anything that resembled the New Age movement.

Ann Widdecombe, the Tory MP and Catholic who recently won Celebrity Fit Club on ITV by losing a tenth of her body weight in six months, said: "People like to think these gurus' opinions are almost holy writ. Everyone is infallible these days except the Pope."
(Read the whole thing at the News-Telegraph (UK) Online.)

You see exactly the same thing in the USA. Jane Fonda and Barbara Streisand are experts on foreign policy. Leonardo DiCaprio is an expert on global warming. Madonna becomes a prophet for moral rectitude. It would be funny if it didn’t carry with it the promise of disaster. People who know about things are ignored or lambasted as “establishment.” People who make noise about things they don’t understand are worshipped and get free time on the ten o’clock news.

If, after the good he has done for you, you forsake the LORD and serve strange gods, he will do evil to you and destroy you. (Jos 24:20, NAB)

Someone please remind me to stock up on food and ammo.

You gotta love the Brits

Record heat raises climate fears
From The Independent (UK) Online:
Sun worshippers took to Brighton beach in their hundreds yesterday, where the temperature hit 18.1C. In Kinlochewe on the far north-west coast of Scotland, it was a balmy 22.4C.

Just four days before Hallowe'en, Britain was enjoying the warmest 27 October since records began in 1880.

I love the Brits. Their record 18.1C is 66F. “A balmy 22.4C” is 72F. When I worked in the lab years ago, my boss there had studied at Cambridge. He always talked about his favorite British headline, written during a heat wave before they went metric. "72 Again Today – No Relief in Sight".

When we have a high of 66 around here, we usually refer to it as “winter.” Perspective is everything.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Some good news from across the pond

Most British favor abortion restrictions, poll shows

London, Oct. 26 ( - Solid majorities of British residents believe abortion is too common, and favor restrictions on the practice, a new poll shows. Support for curbs on abortion is strongest among women and young people.

More than 80 percent of those questioned in an October survey said that the number of abortions performed in Great Britain each year is "too high" at 200,000, and "ways should be found of reducing this number."

A slightly less robust majority-- 62 percent-- said that they would support an effort to tighten the current law, which allows for unrestricted abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy. And as medical science makes it possible for ever-younger babies to survive, an overwhelming 89 percent said that the law should be reviewed regularly in light of medical advances.

Significantly, the poll found that support for lowering the gestational age limit for abortion was heaviest among respondents between the ages of 18 to 24, with 75 percent favoring greater restriction. Support for the lower age limit was also higher among women (66 percent) than men (58).

The survey of 1,005 adults was conducted by the CommunicateResarch opinion firm, on behalf of the pro-life group Alive & Kicking.

USDA says randomly testing poultry for bird flu

Thank God they are doing random checks and not profiling!  There would be no end to the lawsuits.

Apparitions everywhere

Jesus on a tree

No, not The Tree – a tree in New York City. I’d find these sorts of things a whole lot funnier if they didn’t make Christians look like a pack of addled dorks. As I read scripture, I don’t find a single case of the Lord appearing as an image in a foodstuff, a dirty mirror, or any other natural or manmade object. With the exception of the burning bush (from which the Lord spoke, mind you!), whenever He wanted to show up, He just showed up.

My favorite part is the sandwich:
In the American breadbasket town of Lincoln, Neb., an eBay member claimed the face of Jesus on a sandwich was responsible for a miraculous turnaround.

'Jesus' said to overlook unclean meat on this grilled ham and cheese

"On Sunday Jan. 14, 2001, my life changed forever," the Nebraskan explains. "I had been a heavy drinker for many years and on that day, I discovered what appeared to be the image of Jesus Christ on my grilled ham and cheese. After that day, I quit drinking and began to make much needed changes in my life. I have kept this sandwich a secret from everyone, but it has served as a daily reminder of this magnificent miracle. Now however, I feel that this sandwich should be shared with the hope that its image will inspire others to make changes in their lives."

Check out the original article. The “Sacred Image” on the tree looks to me more like Charlie Manson

and the face in the sandwich looks more to me like the face on Mars.

Sad commentary, if true

Get ready, America, for a tidal wave of church closings

…Church doors are indeed being locked in more places than we like to think, as Christians are being told forcefully that they may not openly practice their faith.

But in our own setting these days, I think we Americans should worry a good bit more about another trend that I doubt we're prepared for. That movement is the locking of thousands of church doors from the inside, just because there are so few folks in there to keep things going…

Read the whole thing, by Joel Belz in World Magazine, here.

This is a truly sad commentary on what amounts to the Europeanization of the USA, fueled largely (IMHO) by both the lay indifference and the clergy scandals generated from decades of “liberal” theology.

I’m not sure where in the country Mr. Belz is writing from, though. It really doesn’t parallel what I see here in Austin – which is hardly a “bible belt” sort of city. New churches are forming and blossoming all the time. The mainline denominations may just be holding their own, but evangelical and conservative mainline offshoots (like Missouri Synod Lutherans) flourish. A local Orthodox church has set up two missionary branches in the exurbs.

At Beloved-but-Expensive daughter’s college, there is a very active Christian presence on campus. It is driven from the bottom up, by the students, rather than from the top down like in the old days (“religious affiliation” having become pretty passé), but that only makes it more vibrant.
It could be a red state blue state thing. Doom and gloom may be a matter of geographical perspective.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

New Comments (Think the old ones are nuked)

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Sucking marrow from dead men's bones

I normally try to avoid the purely political on this blog,

…but this is truly revolting

I do not understand the glee on the part of the modern-day political left at American casualties in Iraq.  If confronted, they will act somber and talk about the tragedy of it all.   But when they don’t think anyone is looking, they are positively excited in a rather ghoulish and perverse way that is positively creepy.  It reminds me of that lawyer who was fighting to remove Terri Schiavo from life support – there is just something there that is not healthy.  I’ve always been at least relatively conservative, but I don’t remember the traditional liberal opposition ever acting quite like this.  Something very basic has changed.  These folks “look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.”  (Mat 23:27, NIV)

As terms of the politics of the matter go, if I want opinions about the casualty rates in Iraq, I’ll go ask the soldiers who are in harm’s way, not an aging millionaire like George Soros.  The ones I know resent being exploited by the likes of him.

Filed in the "I can't make this up" department

Australian fined after wounding motorist while trying to shoot cow

A man who twice missed while trying to shoot a friend's cow only to accidentally shoot a passer-by in the leg was fined Wednesday for what an Australian court described as a freak accident.

Rudolf Stadler, 61, agreed in April last year to shoot the troublesome cow which belonged to a friend who owns a hobby farm at Caboolture in tropical Queensland state.

Stadler lured the cow to a shed, and then took aim with his rifle. He missed. He took aim a second time, fired and missed again.

The second shot went through the back of the shed, a fence across a paddock and then through the door of a car being driven along a road behind the farm.

The bullet hit 46-year-old Carrie Tunning in the leg, the Brisbane District Court heard. Tunning, a passenger in the car, made a full recovery but Stadler was so distressed by the incident that he handed in his firearms license.

The court fined Stadler A$1,000 and banned him from obtaining another gun license for five years.

The cow was not so lucky, with Stadler eventually finding his mark.

Okay – I am not a very good shot, but how in blazes do you miss a cow, in the same room with you, twice, with a rifle? I especially like the part where he “lured the cow to a shed;” I wonder what sorts of promises he made.

Just what we need

Suspended Ontario Priest Might Move to Anglican Church

Tip of the gimme cap to Not So Quiet Catholic Corner for this one.

“An eastern Ontario Catholic priest suspended for his support of women clergy said he might move to the Anglican church but he won't leave Catholicism quietly”

Great. Just what Anglicanism needs is more dissident priests. I think it has been incontrovertibly demonstrated that Anglicans are quite capable of producing their own heretics and do not need to poach any from other churches. Perhaps he could be convinced to convert to Islam?

The problem of the rigid seminarian

From off the record at Catholic World News, reprinted in its entirety

Over the past thirty years or so we've often heard concern expressed by bishops, theologians, seminary rectors, and vocation directors that many candidates for the priesthood are unsuitable on account of their "rigidity." In these circles it goes without saying that rigid is bad.

But suppose, in place of the word rigidity, we substituted the word tenacity. Immediately we see that tenacity can be a positive quality, something martyrs and confessors had, something laudable in any believer and eminently desirable in a priest.

Whereas rigidity is kind of a directionless term, negatively descriptive of its subject, tenacity is incomplete until we ask, tenacious of what? In the context of discipleship, we mean tenacious of principles, values, standards: in short, the truths of the Faith. So how is that a Catholic who would have been commended as tenacious before, say, 1945, has come to be disqualified as rigid?

The kind of officer who excels in wartime often founders in times of peace; finding himself at a desk, he lacks the suavity, affability, and fondness for compromise that mark the managerial bureaucrat as promotable. When the game is no longer victory on the field of battle but cutting deals with patrons and rivals, the combat veteran turned office hack appears uncouth, awkward, and sometimes counter-productive in the eyes of his smoother colleagues. Since the Council, the Catholic clergy in the prosperous West has effectively transformed itself into a peacetime army, concerned not with fighting threats to the Church but with making life comfortable and consolidating political gains. The term "rigidity" belongs to the negative vocabulary of a peacetime army, "tenacity" to the positive vocabulary of a wartime one. The qualities that made Edmund Campion a hero in anti-Catholic England would make him a pastoral liability in Malibu.

Or so it may have seemed. Psychoanalyst Karl Stern, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who converted to Catholicism, remarked how the experience of the concentration camps falsified many assumptions of pre-war psychology. Stern says it was the conservative Catholics, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the ultra-Orthodox Jews who endured extremes of stress without selling-out, going mad, or collapsing, whereas the enlightened bourgeois typically lost all sense of selfhood and integrity in the maelstrom. Stern's point was that his fellow psychiatrists didn't realize the extent to which their model of psychological health was conditioned by the context of peacetime upper-middle class urban life, so that the types judged by agnostic academics "most likely to succeed" crumbled disastrously in the camps, while non-adaptive persons, well accustomed to marginalization through tenacious -- did someone whisper "rigid"? -- adherence to principle, maintained their equanimity and character.

The Church in the West has enjoyed a half-century of comparative ease, in which the agenda has largely been set by professorial Catholic clergy -- men who dress, dine, recreate, and vote in ways indistinguishable from their heathen faculty colleagues, men who have had almost no price to pay for their highly adaptive Catholicism. It's not surprising that they should be alarmed by "rigidity" in their juniors. It's not surprising to read
Fr. Richard McBrien lamenting a survey of seminarians that finds "many students resist 'the learning enterprise' because it threatens their 'preconceived ideas about theology.'" Yet, with some few exceptions, it's the professoriate, not the students, that feel threatened, and the source of the threat is not the students' inflexible ideas about theology (indicating rigidity), but their stubborn adherence to Catholic doctrine (indicating tenacity). These aren't 18-year-olds arriving dewy-eyed from a 1950s high school sodality; they tend to be college grads, sometimes converts, with personal experience of the false promises of the secular world, who have made an existential alignment with Catholic teaching. Regardless of theological maturity or naiveté, they know what they're saying No to.

We have to admit that some seminarians, by temperament, are wrapped too tight and can't handle conflict. I wouldn't call them rigid, but brittle. Many are conservatives, but many aren't: brittleness is a characteristic of one's psychological endowment rather than one's convictions. Few would argue with the contention that brittle candidates are unsuited for the priesthood. But most of the men disparaged as rigid earned the label because they refused to join their professors and superiors in the doctrinal compromises that have guaranteed them such a comfortable life -- perhaps the most comfortable life any Catholic clergyman has ever enjoyed. Like the blunt language of the combat vet, the intractability of the doctrinally tenacious Catholic is both an embarrassment and a threat to the accommodationist. And just as academic psychiatrists gauged mental health by adaptivity to their own bourgeois environment, so the seminary gatekeepers have measured "fitness for ministry" by the standards of success current in the faculty lounge, the theatre lobby, the embassy reception. Blessed Rupert Mayer held his own in KZ Sachsenhausen, but he wouldn't go down well at Georgetown Law.

But we're preparing contemporary American men for contemporary American ministry, someone might object, and Malibu isn't Dachau. True. But Dachau wasn't Dachau until 1933, just a drowsy Munich suburb. Times change. And times are changing. Has hatred of Christianity faded in the last twenty years, or increased? Has the secular world grown fonder of Catholic doctrine or less so? Are your grandchildren likely to find their faith easier to live, or more difficult? Having answered these questions, ask yourselves which quality is more necessary in the priests who will minister to your grandchildren - tolerance, or tenacity?

The problem discussed here is not peculiar to the RCC. I have seen several people crumble when exposed to the local ECUSA seminary, and only the “rigid” seem to survive with their faith intact. Others quickly buckle the theology of expedience around their waist, arm themselves with the breastplate of tolerance, and fit their feet with the gospel of inoffensiveness.

The truth of the author’s last paragraph is likely to be exposed, if not in my lifetime, then certainly in Beloved-but-Expensive Daughter’s. And to answer his last question, I expect that tenacity will be required not only of my grandchildren’s priests, but of my grandchildren themselves.

There is always a temptation to see our little slice of history as unique, with unprecedented issues –what Lewis referred to as “chronological snobbery.” I think that is a root cause of the periodic end-times manias that seem to grip the Church at large. Surely events happening today, unlike all those that have happened before, are Signs and Portents of the times prophesied in Scripture? But prophecy comes in two flavors. There are prophecies that point to future events, like those pointing to the First and Second Comings. But there are also prophecies that are based on the very nature of human evil and sin and the societies produced thereby. We see those signs and portents in every age of man. Civilizations rise, and civilizations wither, and the Church survives as Israel survived. God preserves His remnant, and in the end, His will is done.

Jesus talked about those who lack “rigidity,” be they lay or cleric. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. (Mat 13:21, NIV)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

New Poll: Majority of Americans Oppose Most or All Abortions

Richmond, VA ( - A new poll conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University shows a majority of Americans say abortions should either always be illegal or that abortions should be allowed in only very rare circumstances. In summary, most Americans oppose most abortions.

Asked which of three views on abrotion comes closest to representing theirs, 12 percent of those polled said abortions should always be illegal. Another 44 percent said abortions should be allowed only in cases of rape or incest or when the pregnancy directly endangers the mother's physical health.

Such cases constitute as little as 2 or 3 percent of all reasons for an abortion, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood.
Just 39 percent in the VCU survey say abortions should always be legal.

That means 56 percent of Americans oppose approximately 97 percent of the abortions performed annually in the United States and fewer than 4 in 10 support abortion.

That squares with other recent polls.

An August 2005 CBS News poll found 53 percent of respondents said all or most abortions should not be permitted and only 43 percent said all or most abortions should be permitted.

Also, an April 2005 Gallup Poll showed most Americans oppose most abortions. According to the poll, 59 percent of Americans say they oppose all or most abortions.
The Virginia Commonwealth University Life Sciences Survey conducted telephone interviews with 1,002 American adults from September 14-29. The margin of error in the poll is three percent.

That is very good news. I remember when I was in my twenties, abortion on demand was a very popular issue. Both my wife and I supported it at the time. My wife was a practicing nurse who believed the procedure would only be used by women who were in dire straits; I was your basic heathen who pretty much bought the whole notion of the autonomous self.

We have obviously changed our minds since then. Medically, abortion turned out to be a procedure of expedience, not a procedure of last resort. My “autonomous self” pretty much ran aground on the sandbar of reality in the late seventies. And when we had Beloved-but-Expensive Daughter a few years later, the real significance of what abortion involved finally sank in. The last poll I saw while my wife was still active in nursing showed that most nurses had turned against abortion on demand. Most of our sixties contemporaries have raised families, and a lot of them have changed their viewpoints because of looking at their own kids.

The kids themselves aren’t stupid, either; they know that in the United States of America, they are alive not because of any “inalienable right” but because their parents decided not to kill them. That has got to impact your view on abortion! And, of course, people who have abortions don’t have as many kids as people who don’t. A lot of the potential pro-abortion voting block was, well, aborted.

Now if the president will just pay attention to his base and get the Gang of Nine Supreme Court turned around, the whole issue will wind up going back to the states where it belongs. Texas and Oklahoma will probably get rid of it; Massachusetts and Connecticut will almost certainly keep it; and who knows - California might make it mandatory for humans and forbid it for fur-bearing mammals.

Today's Really Scary Picture

Balloon Sculpture of Jesus

Courtesy of The Angry Twins.

(Warning - Gratuitous Editorial Comment):
There are way too many churches out there where that's the Imago Christi that's delivered from the pulpit. Prais God when we find our way to good churches with devout congregations and good pastors And to think I get to go to two of them!

American Girl feels heat of protest

Family advocates believe anti-abortion campaign working
(A lot of groups have been upset about this, and it really made the rounds of the blogosphere recently. You can see my first post on this topic to get the background.)

After launching a protest campaign, pro-family groups claim the maker of the popular American Girl dolls has begun to de-emphasize its partnership with a group that supports abortion and lesbianism.
(Read the whole thing here.)

This is good news, but I can’t help wondering if it really means very much. The Episcopal Church (USA) raised a fair storm of protest when it posted a carbon copy of a Druid “eucharist for women” on its Women's Ministries website, complete with the offering of raisin cakes to the “queen of heaven.” (No, they didn’t mean Mary! Check out Jeremiah 7:18.) When people got upset, they simply removed the links and provided a really lame excuse for the posting. They never changed their attitude. All large corporations tend to act the same way.

And it has apparently been going on for a long while, according to . Back in 1889, a Mr. Phineas P. Jenkins, a salesman of pig-iron products, spent a night in a Pullman car in the company of far too many bedbugs. Jenkins penned a note of complaint to George M. Pullman, President of the Pullman Palace Car Company. In return, Jenkins received a wonderfully detailed and heartfelt apology from Pullman. Its effect was undermined, however, by the enclosure of his original letter, across which Pullman had handwritten "Sarah -- Send this S. O. B. the 'bedbug letter.'"

Priest prays with animals

A priest from Suffolk has revealed he is accompanied to his church services by a group of animals.

Father Peter MacLeod-Miller, 43, keeps a donkey, lambs, goats and alpacas in a paddock at his rectory and takes them to the church in Barrow.

Australian-born Father MacLeod-Miller said: "Animals are central figures in many Biblical stories. I just find they can help people relax and add interest."

According to BBC online he added: "It's hard to doze off in church when there's a donkey standing in the aisle. People seem to like them."

He keeps two goats, three lambs, three alpacas, 30 chickens and a donkey in a paddock at his rectory.

He takes the animals to services at All Saints Church and uses them when working in schools and making visits.>
From Ananova.

I’m not sure what to think about this. On the one hand, having quadrupeds in the aisles seems like both a likely source of serious irreverence and distraction during the Holy Mysteries, as well as a possible fire hazard. And who knows what sort of “offering” they are likely to leave behind? There is something very off-putting about “May the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you forever. Mind the donkey poo on the way out.”

On the other hand, I guess that anyone who has been to church with me can claim to have worshipped in the company of a jackass, at least on occasion!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Argumentum ad dictionarium

From Speculative Catholic:
Opponent: "The dictionary defines abortion as the termination of a pregnancy. The dictionary also says that pregnancy begins when the zygote implants.

Because the morning after pill is designed to prevent implantation, it therefore does not cause abortion. You can't argue with the dictionary."

Me: "Ok, I'll concede that. But the dictionary does provides a definition that covers an effect of the morning after pill - the killing of a human by another - it's called homicide."

Opponent: [Head explodes.]

Post of the day

Growing Vocations
A post from The Curt Jester on how the Roman Catholic Church is addressing the vocations problem.

Decadent Virtues

New-Age Froth and Feel-Good Ethics Come to the Fore

LONDON, OCT. 22, 2005 ( Western Europe and the United States are decadent societies because they have abandoned a morality based on the traditional virtues. So says a book just published by the London-based Social Affairs Unit, "Decadence: The Passing of Personal Virtue and Its Replacement by Political and Psychological Slogans."

Edited by Digby Anderson, the volume brings together authors from a variety of backgrounds and views. A first section contains essays on the "old" virtues, such as prudence, love and courage. The second deals with the "new" virtues, centered on the environment, caring, therapy and being critical.

The book does not pretend to give a complete analysis of any of the virtues, and the authors of the chapters differ in their approach to the subject matter. Readers could also disagree about some of the interpretations of the virtues. Overall, however, the book provides a stimulating reflection on the dangers of discarding the tried-and-true virtues for passing fads.

In the introduction, Anderson explains that the old virtues were genuine ones, in that they demanded of people specific types of behavior. The new ones, in contrast, often fall into the category of slogans or rhetorical appeals. Or, if in some cases they do contain elements of true virtue, they tend to elevate a trivial aspect into the main virtue.
(Read the whole thing here; Zenit tends to recycle it’s articles pretty often.)

I’m not sure this is a whole lot different from what people have been saying for years. The underlying basis of modern liberal Protestantism has more to do with removing any demands on the congregation than it does with whacked theology. Revisionist theology may have provided an entry point for moral slippage, but is no longer the driving force.

The desire for the elimination of moral restraints now appears to be what is shaping revisionist theology. One only has to look at what has happened in ECUSA, PCUSA, the UCC, and similar bodies. The American Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor report was basically an attempt to cherry pick arguments to justify what people had already decided they wanted to do.

2000 years ago, the Church was born into a pagan world where the gods were propitiated in the service of human lusts, “automation” consisted of a bunch of slaves turning a crank, involuntary sexual servitude was commonplace, abortion and the abandoning of children to die was a standard practice, sexual perversion and adultery were a normal part of life for Young Urban Romans, and punishments for real and fabricated crimes were both brutal and arbitrary.

In a few brief centuries, the Christian Church changed all that. And here we are 2000 years later, where the shepherds of many a flock gleefully participate in the repaganization of those same societies. You can leave your wife for the boy next door, just don’t buy fur. Kill your own baby; just sign this petition to divest from Israel. It’s a pity that slavery has reemerged in Africa and South Asia, but what we really need to do is protest globalization and Wal-Mart. And live however you want; after all, Jesus accepts you just the way you are.

I guess there’s nothing surprising about this; it’s not like we weren’t warned a long time ago.

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves.

Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.

In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. (2Pe 2:1-3, NIV)

But of course, we have to contextualize that, and realize that it was never intended for us.

Mysterious illness prompts mid-Mass evacuation

WETHERSFIELD, Conn. October 23, 2005, 6:26 PM EDT
A mysterious illness forced the evacuation of hundreds of parishioners in the middle of a Mass Sunday at a local church.

Police, fire and environmental crews responded to The Church of Incarnation during 11 a.m. Mass after getting reports that several people had fallen ill.

The symptoms included dizziness, nausea and, in one case, fainting, said Deputy Fire Marshal Jeffery Morrissette. About a dozen people were affected and at least two were taken to the hospital.

Some 400 people were evacuated while crews from the Department of Environmental Protection took air samples. Tests for carbon monoxide came back negative, but the church remained closed while authorities await results of further tests. A confirmation service scheduled later in the afternoon was moved to a church in Rocky Hill.

"Until the fire chief and health director are totally convinced that things are safe, obviously they're not going to let us return to the church," the Rev. James Moran told WVIT-TV. I’ve sat through a number of services like that myself. The prime causes of dizziness and nausea in me are:

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Gospel according to Anne

In two weeks, Anne Rice, the chronicler of vampires, witches and—under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure—of soft-core S&M encounters, will publish "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt," a novel about the 7-year-old Jesus, narrated by Christ himself. "I promised," she says, "that from now on I would write only for the Lord." It's the most startling public turnaround since Bob Dylan's "Slow Train Coming" announced that he'd been born again.
(The whole article is published in Newsweek.)

Yea, God! If He could get through to a blockhead like me, she must have been a piece of cake.

ET lives...and he's Christian!

From The Times for 10/18/2005:
There is probably intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe, and there is evidence in the Bible to suggest that it could be Christian, according to the Roman Catholic Church.

In a document published by the Catholic Truth Society, the official publisher for the Vatican, a papal astronomer speculates that “sooner or later, the human race will discover that there are other intelligent creatures out there in the Universe”.

Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit, who is one of the Vatican’s leading astronomers, concedes that he could be wrong. Ultimately, he says, “We don’t know.” But in the new book, part of the Explanations series designed to explain Catholic teaching in everyday language, he says that part of his hunch is scientific. With so many billions of planets, stars and galaxies, he says, “ surely, somewhere in that number, there must be other civilised, rational beings”.

To back up his hunch that the aliens will have been subject to Christ’s saving grace, he cites the verses from John’s Gospel known as the Good Shepherd passage. In John x, 14-16, Jesus says: “I am the Good Shepherd . . . I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, one Shepherd.”

A lot of Christians seem to get really bent out of shape at the idea of extraterrestrial life. Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it – and, hopefully, I’ll see it before it eats my face.

It is still a common belief among scientists that intelligent life must be common in the universe, but that has been changing over the last couple of decades. The happenstance series of events that led to the development of human intelligence (or apparent happenstance for those of us who think the whole thing was rigged) makes intelligent life appear like a very exceptional occurrence. Combine that with the growing perception that both the solar system and the earth-moon system are pretty atypical, and you get the idea that technological civilizations may be very few and far between. Besides, if there were that many advanced civilizations out there, then they ought to be here! They should have colonized Earth a long time ago, and we should either be extinct or specimens in the Great Galactic Zoo.

Of course, all that theorizing will be worthless if a ship lands tomorrow on the National Mall and some little grey dudes come out to trade with us natives. But I don’t see where the theological problems arise that seem to scare so many people. There appear to be only a handful of options. (None of these are original to me, but I don’t remember where they came from.)

  1. They never fell – although one then wonders why they would want to hang out with us.
  2. They have their own version of the Incarnation – i.e. Jesus’s sacrifice is realized in multiple ways in multiple places. That raises some problems, but I wouldn’t think they would be unsolvable. If every Eucharist is the realization of Calvary, “the cross present in history,” then there doesn’t seem to be any reason that the cross and other incarnational sacrifices couldn’t represent the one unique eternal redemption of creation throughout space-time. I’m not a theologian, however; if that notion is heretical, then kindly forget I ever said it.
  3. They may never have heard of this whole Messiah idea, in which case everbody’s mission budgets are going to go through the roof.
I think people may just be afraid that the aliens would somehow discredit Christianity. If one looks at history, however, there is no necessary correlation between technological achievement and moral or religious achievement. The Nazis built pretty cool rockets, but their religious values were a bit suspect at best. The Romans were really good engineers and butt-kickers, but they had to borrow their religion and philosophy from the Greeks. You can make a pretty good case that loss of their moral compass is a common failing of dominant cultures, and the primary reason they turn over as often as they do. If the little grey dudes want to trade, then they might find the Gospel to be a really good bargain for that surplus case of thermonuclear toothbrushes they’re trying to peddle.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

This is bad

Every American Christian knows about the suffering of the church in China, the beatings, the torture, and yes the occasional murder of Christian believers by the Chinese authorities.

Recently, however, there has been a sinister new twist to these cruel practices.

In Hunan province in the past month, the authorities have started kidnapping Christian leaders, taking them to hidden locations, and then subjecting them to mind-altering drugs.

Several Christians have recovered from stupor, only to discover, to their horror, that they have betrayed their fellow-believers while temporarily under the influence of these malign chemicals.
(Read the whole thing here.)

This is really bad. I know several people over there in the mission field. The worst that is likely to happen to them is that they get thrown out of the country. The same cannot be said for the groups they serve. These tactics were developed by the old Soviet Union, and the Chinese have been good students.

I like the chance to buy cheap overseas goods as much as the next guy, but let’s not forget what we support when we play slap and tickle with the Chinese. We get so lost in our toys and comforts that we give aid and comfort to those who not only savage their own people but, given half a chance, would destroy us as well.

Headline of the weekend

Arctic ice melts faster as it gets warmer
From USA Today

I will refrain from any comment.

Friday, October 21, 2005

"The Eucharist is the cross present in history"

Interview With Archbishop Comastri, Pope's Vicar for Vatican City State
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 20, 2005 ( Is the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist a convention or a fact?

Archbishop Angelo Comastri, the Pope's vicar general for Vatican City State, has asked himself this question and responds in this interview, which comes as the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist draws to a close this Sunday.

"Some years ago, I published an investigation on Eucharistic miracles," he says. "To my surprise, I received a letter that challenged the documents collected, stating that the phenomenon of the Eucharistic Blood was the fruit of a naive age. …

"This affirmation made me suffer, and the reason was very simple: It wasn't so, and the facts speak unequivocally."

Q: What do you think of the accusation of obscurantism leveled against those who have devotion to the Eucharist?

Archbishop Comastri: Much more than being important, devotion to the Eucharist cannot be omitted. There is no Church if there is no Eucharist.

Moreover, we must not pay attention to what the newspapers write or what the first person we meet thinks.

We must listen to Jesus who has endowed the Church with the Eucharist as the greatest gift of this time of pilgrimage toward eternity, toward the new heavens and the new earth.
Jesus waited for the most overwhelming moment, when he was preparing to ascend the cross, to go to Calvary, the moment of greatest love.

In that moment, Jesus put in the hands of the apostles this enormous gift, in which he enclosed the act of love which is the root of the whole of salvation that exists in history; because the Eucharist is not an alternative to the cross; the Eucharist is the cross present in history.
It is the cross that, by a miracle that only God can bring about, is present throughout time, is broken in time, is present in time and saves it.

As believers, we understand these things immediately. What do we need other than the cross of Christ? What can save us other than the cross of Christ? Who can liberate us other than Jesus Christ?

In the Eucharist, that salvific act is present, which is the greatest good, the only true good in the history of humanity.

Q: What can you say about the Eucharistic miracles? Are they proofs for people of little faith?

Archbishop Comastri: Precisely because the Eucharist is the most precious gift, many miracles occur around it because of God's mercy. The Eucharist is the presence of Christ the Savior. I would be surprised if miracles didn't occur.

The greatest miracles are those of conversion, of the change of heart, of the healing of despair. Great miracles happen in persons who come into contact with the Eucharist.

Together with this, in his mercy the Lord wills to create, to effect other miracles that confirm us in the faith and make us understand that Jesus' words are absolutely true.

There have been very many Eucharistic miracles. For example, Marthe Robin, a living Eucharistic miracle, was nourished for more than 40 years only by the Eucharist. Theresa Neumann, in Germany, was nourished for more than 36 years only by the Eucharist.

Padre Pio of Pietrelcina was a man who had the miracle of the Eucharist imprinted on his body. It could be said that in his body was reflected, as in a mirror, the mystery that he celebrated on the altar, in order to say: "Believe in what is happening" -- just to cite three great contemporary miracles, but there are very many.

The problem is that many don't have the humility to look at the facts, to bow before history and to face these miracles.

Blaise Pascal was right when he said: "There is enough light in the world for those who want to believe, but enough shadow for those who do not want to believe."
The responsibility lies in not wanting to see, because the Eucharist is full of light, and if one wants to see, if one wants to open one's eyes and accept the light, one cannot avoid falling on one's knees and giving thanks to God.

I was going to condense this, but decided to post the whole article. “The Eucharist is the cross present in history.” That sounds like a pretty good summation of Catholic belief, at least for those of us, like me, who are new to it. And the Archbishop’s comments on “What do we need other than the cross of Christ? What can save us other than the cross of Christ? Who can liberate us other than Jesus Christ?” ought to take the wind out of a lot of anti-Catholic sails.

Cool science story for 10/21

The world’s smallest car

What's the point? Nanotrucks, of course.

Eventually the researchers want to build tiny trucks that could carry atoms and molecules around in miniature factories.

"We'd eventually like to move objects and do work in a controlled fashion on the molecular scale, and these vehicles are great test beds for that," said James Tour, a Rice University research who co-led the work. "They're helping us learn the ground rules."

The setup will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Nano Letters.

The scientists had to use "scanning tunneling microscopy" to see the thing and prove that it rolls like a car.

"It's fairly easy to build nanoscale objects that slide around on a surface," said Tour's colleague Kevin Kelly. "Proving that we were rolling – not slipping and sliding – was one of the most difficult parts of this project."

So just how do you make a nanocar go?

At room temperature, strong electrical bonds hold the buckyball wheels tightly against the gold, but heating to about 200 degrees Celsius frees them to roll.

This will never sell in South Austin until they engineer a gun rack onto the device.

I am torn about nanotechnology. On the one hand, things like this are way cool. 4 nanometers across is 40 Angstroms. This thing is smaller than a lot of protein molecules, which form most of the “nanomachines” that run our cells. Enzymes tend to be a lot more sophisticated, but then they’ve had a long time to reach their current state of refinement, not to mention a better Engineer. This sort of tech leads to the possibility of making completely new kinds of materials and solid-state devices, assembled atom-by-atom with minimal imperfections.

On the other hand, I’ve seen way too many science fiction stories where these little dudes eventually become our replacements. The whole idea is a teeny (no pun intended) bit creepy. Luckily for us, “Eventually the researchers want to build tiny trucks.” If they succeed with that, the Teamsters will enforce sufficient union control that the little guys should prove no threat. It’s one thing for nanobots to challenge and defeat the military–industrial complex; it’s quite another to take on the Union.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The pathos of our times

England's King Henry VIII was granted the title "Defender of the Faith" in 1521 by Pope Leo X, who was grateful for Henry's attack on Martin Luther. Though Henry was to make his own break with the papacy in later years, successive British monarchs have retained the title, down to Elizabeth II.

Queen Elizabeth is to be the last of the British monarchs crowned with this title, "Defender of the Faith." Charles, the current Prince of Wales, is likely to be England's first New Age king, complete with belief in reincarnation, a panentheistic worldview, and postmodern morals. In a recent interview, Charles declared himself unwilling to take on the title, "Defender of the Faith." Better, he said, to be known as "Defender of Faith" since "people have fought each other to the death over these things, which seems to me a peculiar waste of people's energies." He added that he would be the "defender of the Divine in existence, the pattern of the Divine which is, I think, in all of us, but which, because we are human beings, can be expressed in so many different ways." So the future King Charles will defend faith, but no particular faith, including Christianity and especially the Church of England, of which he will be head. Charles will be the perfect king for a church whose bishops routinely deny the most basic doctrines of the Christian faith.
(From Albert Mohler; read the whole thing here.)

In many ways, it is very sad to live in such a diminished age of chestless men. As a child and adolescent, I always believed that the collapse of civilizations must resonate with dramatic and heroic events, shot through with gallantry and high tragedy. In reality, it is merely shabby and pathetic.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
(William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming)

Least surprising headline of the week award

Australian study finds alcohol linked to croc attacks

SYDNEY (AFP) - Almost one in three people bitten by deadly saltwater crocodiles in Australia had been drinking alcohol before the animal attacked, new research has found.

"About one-third of the people who had been attacked had actually been drinking alcohol," study co-author Charlie Manolis told AFP Wednesday.

"But it doesn't mean they were ... (drunk) when they fell into the river -- although it did happen."

I suspect attacks were even more common and vicious if the crocs had been drinking too.

Mainline church decline caused by fertility rates, study shows

CHICAGO (ABP)The decline membership in of mainline churches over the last century had more to do with sex than theology, research by a trio of sociologists suggests.

The popular notion that conservative churches are growing because mainline churches are too liberal is being challenged by new research that offers a simpler cause for much of the mainline decline—the use of birth control.

Differences in fertility rates account for 70 percent of the decline of mainline Protestant church membership from 1900 to 1975 and the simultaneous rise in conservative church membership, the sociologists said.

“For most of the 20th century, conservative women had more children than mainline women did,” three sociologists—Michael Hout of the University of California-Berkley, Andrew Greeley of the University of Arizona, and Melissa Wilde of Indiana University—wrote in Christian Century.

“It took most of the 20th century for conservative women to adopt family-planning practices that have become dominant in American society,” the writers said. “Or to put the matter differently, the so-called decline of the mainline may ultimately be attributable to its earlier approval of contraception.”
(Read the rest here.)

“The decline membership in of mainline churches over the last century had more to do with sex than theology.“ What a wonderful example of how we slide painlessly towards the Apocalypse! Behavior has been successfully decoupled from theology. What we do in our bedrooms can’t possibly have anything to do with how we see God, His will for man, and His relation to the created order.

I think you can make a pretty good case that it was the general acceptance of contraception by the mainline churchgoer that began the slide of what Philip Turner calls the “practical theology” of the church. Prior to that, revisionist thinking was largely limited to the seminaries and universities. Contraception opened the laity to the theology of expedience and acculturation; separation of belief from behavior led to the wide acceptance of Gnostic philosophies, where “those in the know” are viewed as leaders and “those who do” are marginalized.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

How many Anglicans to change a light bulb?

REUTERS, Oct 19, 5:07 AM ET (emphasis added)
How many men does it take to change a light bulb in a church?

Thanks to the European Union's "Working at Heights Directive" the answer is four -- over three days at a cost of more than 1,300 pounds.

Preaching at St Benet's Church in Beccles, Suffolk in gathering gloom, Father Anthony Sutch had to call in electricians to change light bulbs that are 40 feet above the congregation.

Because safety regulations deemed the church ceiling too high for a ladder, scaffolding had to be erected for a lengthy and costly replacement operation.
Could Father Sutch have done the job himself?

"When I was a young monk. I climbed up a ladder to have a look at something and two girls whistled and said what good legs I have. I haven't climbed up a ladder since," he told Wednesday's Daily Mail.

Here’s yet one more reason why the EU can’t possibly represent the 10 Evil Kingdoms of the Apocalypse. No self-respecting antichrist would ever put himself in a position of having his plans potentially thwarted by legalized union rules!

I can see it now:
AntiChrist: “These people have refused to recant their ridiculous Christianity and bow before me, their Glorious Master! Take them to the guillotine!”

Lord High Executioner: “Sorry, Most Satanic Potentate – the guillotine release switch is broken.”

AC: “Well fix it forthwith, or behold the pain and anguish of my wrath!”

LHE: “But I can’t, your abominableness – no one can!”

AC: “Why the hell (and I mean that literally, you insufferable worm) not?”

LHE: “The guillotine is 42 feet tall. We’re not allowed to touch it, and the union says it won’t be ready for three days!”

AC: “Three days? THREE DAYS!!! Do you know what happened the last time I waited three days to make sure Somebody was dead? Aaarrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhhh (indecipherable gurgling noises.)”

The Most Supreme Court Suit

From Mere Comments, the weblog of Touchstone Magazine. Posted with emphasis added, but without comment.

In jail for murder,
[a] Romanian prisoner
is suing God for failing to save him from the Devil. The inmate, named as Pavel M in media reports, accused God of “cheating, abuse and traffic of influence.”

His baptism, he contends, was a contract that was not honored. He hopes the court will honor his suit. The scary thing is there may be justices in our country or in Europe who believe they are competent for just such a trial.

Holy See's address on information technology

NEW YORK, OCT. 18, 2005 ( Here is the text of an address delivered by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, last Thursday before the U.N. General Assembly commission on "Questions Relating to information."
* * *
”Mr. Chairman, The Holy See recognizes the right to information and its importance in the life of all democratic societies and institutions. The exercise of the freedom of communication should not depend upon wealth, education or political power. The right to communicate is the right of all. Freedom of expression and the right to information increase and develop in societies when the fundamental ethics of communication are not compromised, such as the pre-eminence of truth and the good of the individual, the respect for human dignity, and the promotion of the common good.

Furthermore, new technologies have an important role to play in the advancement of the poor. As with health and education, access to the wealth represented by communications would certainly benefit the poor, as recipients of information to be sure, but also as actors, able to promote their own point of view before the world's decision makers.

Given the ever increasing ease of access to information of every possible kind, the Holy See also stresses the need to protect the most vulnerable, such as children and young people, especially in the light of the increase of content featuring violence, intolerance and pornography.

Perhaps the most essential question raised by technological progress is whether, as a result of it, people will grow in dignity, responsibility and openness to others.

In this context, the Holy See has set up a unique continent-wide initiative called the Digital Network of the Church in Latin America ("Red Informática de Iglesia en America Latina" -- RIIAL) which promotes the adoption of digital technologies and programs in media education, especially in poor areas. The success of this project has drawn the attention of the Observatory for Cultural and Audiovisual Communication in the Mediterranean and in the World (OCCAM) and other international organizations. The Holy See also supports the continued promotion of the traditional role of libraries and radios in formation.

It is to be hoped that the Second Phase of the U.N. World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), to be held in Tunis shortly, will lead to further concrete efforts to build a more inclusive digital society which will reduce the widespread "info-poverty." It would be well if a new dynamic were created which goes beyond the political and commercial logic usually at play in these fields.

My delegation believes that the Information Society should be one endowed with the ability, capacity and skills to generate and capture new knowledge and to access, absorb and use effectively information, data and knowledge with the support of information and communication technology. Already in society there are many "agents of meaning" or "knowledge workers," such as the family, schools, the state, opinion makers and leaders, not to mention religious institutions.

Knowledge is essential in establishing presence in the international marketplace, and is key to participating in the global economy of which the Internet is an increasingly important vehicle. Moreover, knowledge should be recognized in its role in the development of information and communication technology. At the same time, there is a fundamental need to develop an ability to discern information received, given the enormous sea of information available. This process can flourish only where there is a recognized hierarchy of values.”

Oh great, this insignificant blogger takes on the Holy See. I’m doomed. Better order my asbestos underwear today.

Actually, I don’t have any issues with the archbishop’s goals. It just gives me the screaming willies every time I see somebody appealing to the UN. I know, I know - a lot of people throughout the world still look up to the UN. As an American (and a Texan at that), I tend to see it as a money pit, an old-boy club for corrupt murdering dictators, and the last bastion for aging socialists. I don’t trust them any farther than I can throw their building, and I wouldn’t mind pitching their building into the deepest hole in the Atlantic.

It also bugs me every time somebody invents a new “right.” I believe wholeheartedly that free access to information is, in general, a very good thing. The better the access, and the more people having that access, the better off we all are. One of the best things that can happen to repressed or poverty-stricken populations is to have the Net available – Kim Jong Il would not long survive a few weeks of Western advertising where housewives argue about the softness of toilet paper or some chorus sings “Eat steak; eat steak; it’s a mighty good food.” But a right? Rights are things we get from God that governments are required to recognize; they are not things we give ourselves. Things we give ourselves today can be taken away tomorrow, by assigning a new contradictory “right” to a different party.

So yeah – high speed internet for the third-world and “Laptops for Namibia.” Go for it! But a right mediated by the United Nations? Spare us, Oh Lord!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Anglican leader says praying like sunbathing

Tue Oct 18,11:38 AM ET: The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told worshippers to compare praying to sunbathing, except that it is soaking in the light of God.

Williams, the spiritual leader of the 77-million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion, said on a BBC radio programme that many people had trouble praying and thought it was a matter of "generally getting your act together".

He said worshippers struggling to pray would be better off comparing praying to lying on a beach.

They should stop trying too hard and just be where the light can reach them -- in this case the light of God.

Williams admitted he was not a keen sunbather but there was something about doing it that revealed more about the experience of prayer than a slew of religious jargon.

"When you're lying on the beach or under the lamp, something is happening, something that has nothing to do with how you feel or how hard you're trying," he said.

"You're not going to get a better tan by screwing up your eyes and concentrating. You give the time, and that's it.

"All you have to do is turn up. And then things change, at their own pace. You simply have to be there where the light can get at you."

An interesting metaphor, but I still don’t think you can top the time-tested words of the Fathers on prayer. I do, however, very much like his comment that when one prays, “something is happening, something that has nothing to do with how you feel or how hard you're trying.”

Equation of the day

Elevated from a comment box, from TechnoBabe:

(Scripture + Tradition + Reason) – Scripture – Tradition = Secular Humanism

I think we should call this the Griswoldian Transform, in honor of one of its chief practitioners, though it seems to be a general solution that applies to almost any mainline protestant body, to that large subgroup of western Catholics doped with “The Spirit of Vatican II,”  and to subpopulations of many other denominational bodies.  Susceptible populations appear to be strangely skewed, increasing both from south to north and from east to west.  Research is recommended to determine if these trends are correlated with anomalies in the geomagnetic field.

So what is this faith thing, anyway?

A good definition of faith

From Julie D. at Happy Catholic.

"For the pastor at the Byzantine Catholic Church who said he didn't know what faith was and if anyone had a good definition to let him know (as reported by TSO).

  • Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.
    Saint Augustine
  • Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…
    St. Paul, Hebrews 11:1

If our priest said this I'd start worrying about everything else he said. It seems to me that someone who doesn't have at least an inkling of how they define faith is living an unexamined life. Way too unexamined on a very basic level to be giving the homily and telling everyone else how to live. At the very least, such a person is living a life without having read (even very cursorily) the classic Church Fathers...or certain parts of the Bible. Scary."

That is scary indeed, though I expect it is hardly an unusual circumstance in many denominations today. I am surprised to see it in the clergy of a Byzantine parish, however. Most Eastern clergy have always struck me as being pretty well grounded in the historic faith, with a healthy skepticism of modernist trends and fashions. It reminds me of Holy Amma Syncletica’s comment about teachers:

“It is dangerous for a man to try teaching before he is trained in the good life. A man whose house is about to fall down may invite travelers inside to refresh them, but instead they will be hurt in the collapse of the house. It is the same with teachers who have not carefully trained themselves. Their mouth invites to salvation, their way of life leads to ruin.”
From Ward, S. Benedicta, 2003, The Desert Fathers, Penguin Books, London, Pg. 105.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Britons fly abroad for stem-cell makeovers

Warning - Evidence of Societal Decay

Tip of the gimme cap to Amy Wellborn for this one:

Britons desperate to halt the ageing process are being injected with the stem cells of aborted foetuses at a clinic that charges £15,000 for a controversial new cosmetic treatment. Despite warnings from biologists in the UK that the process is unproven and could be harmful, dozens of British women have flown to Barbados in the hope that the injections will make them forever young - and possibly even boost their sex drive.

The treatment is also available in Ecuador, Russia and Ukraine, where it was developed by scientists to treat Parkinson's disease and blood disorders. But converts claim that wrinkles can be ironed out and the fresh face of youth restored.

"It is the most natural form of healing there is," said Barnett Suskind, chief executive of the Institute of Regenerative Medicine (IRM) in Barbados. "You think better, sleep better, look better. Your quality of life improves and your libido certainly improves."
From The Independent (UK), 10/16/2005 (Emphasis mine)

“The most natural form of healing there is.” Just to make sure I have this straight - killing babies, grinding them up, extracting the stem cells, and shooting up with them - what could be more natural than that? And all so you can look good, without even the utilitarian pretense that you are curing something in the process. Natural? Somehow, I can’t see finding “Dead Babies” in the cooler next to “Pure Florida Orange Juice” at the organic foods store. On the other hand, given the rate at which we are turning ourselves into savages, who knows what we’ll see in five or ten years. God, have mercy on us. How much longer can this go on, and how much worse can it get?

"You shall also say to the sons of Israel: 'Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. (Lev 20:2, NASB)

Farewell song to ECUSA

Leavin’ ECUSA
(to the tune of Sloop John B, with apologies to the Beach Boys )

My whole family and me,
Worshipped with the COE,
Genuflectin’ away
And scoffin’ at Rome.

We didn’t know
Just how quick we would go.
Ahh, this church is so broke up,
I can’t call it my home.

At first, things didn’t seem big
And I didn’t wanna sound like a prig,
So I kept all my doubts to myself
And I just went along.

I didn’t mind women priests,
Just couldn’t care in the least,
We’ll just take the collections
And keep on singin’ our songs.

Then all the powers that be
Started dissin’ the Great Trinity.
They even called into question
Christ’s duh-vin-i-ty.

No objections came up
From the local Bishop.
And we found ourselves wonderin’,
How can such things be?

I saw their Druid Eucharist.
Saw they marched with abortionists.
Saw how they went and made holy

Time to take down the flag
When the bishops wear drag.
I think I’m now ready
For some new scenery.

We don’t need to be glum;
Can go join the Continuum,
Or we can find us some shelter
‘Neath a Maronite dome.

Try a mass Tridentine,
Check out things Byzantine,
But this church is so broke up,
We’re gonna find a new home.

My apologies; perhaps I’d best stick with the day job.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

My free will magnifies the Lord

An interesting question came up in Christian Ed today concerning whether the exercise of human free will puts limits on God’s omnipotence.  (I said it was an interesting question, not a new question.  I suspect there haven’t been any new questions in at least 500 years – probably longer.)

The traditional answer I’ve always hears has revolved around God’s self limitation by granting free will to His creation.  I was wondering, though, if free will doesn’t actually showcase God’s omnipotence.  The Christian hope revolves, eventually, around the promise that, in the end, “all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”  That promise, coupled with free will, indicates that – whatever we do – in the end, it will make no difference to God’s will.  The evil generated by human free will has no ultimate effect.  If I take a machine gun to the mall, in the end it will make no difference (except to me).  The New Jerusalem will descend from heaven, and nothing I or anyone else can do will stop it.  Sort of like filling a barrel with ball bearings and flinging it down the hill, only to find at the bottom that the bearings form a sculpture of Christ.  If I take some of the bearings out, if I put more bearings in, if I throw the barrel harder or softer, even if I empty the barrel – at the bottom of the hill, I get the same sculpture of Christ.  Now that is omnipotence.

I am sure that thought is not original either.  I once had a theological notion thought was my own, but later found it in some patristic work from the third or fourth century.  I don’t even remember what it was.  Either I had read it once, forgotten about it, and resurrected it as “original,” or it was such an obvious thing that a zillion people have come up with it independently.  But, then, if I stop to think about it, looking for “original” theological insights is probably about as dangerous as engineering “original” viruses.  Perhaps I’ll leave well enough alone.

Hilarious website of the week

When you really need a night away from home

“Hello and thank you for visiting the world's only website dedicated to infant and child confinement solutions. We are proud to announce that we have just sold our 10,000 baby cage!! Thank you so much for you business. In celebration of this historical event, we ask that you send us any photos you have of your child using any of the BabyCage products. We plan to make a baby cage photo gallery where you can show off your beautiful children.”

Any new parents out there should check out It would also be a great solution for small parishes that don't have the space or funding to set up a separate cry room. Perhaps, if this company is successful, it could produce similar containment devices for bishops.

On a more serious note, we actually did use a baby leash on occasion when Beloved-but-Expensive Daughter was but a wee thing. There was nothing even remotely traumatic about it, and it was a blessing when making those runs between gates at crowded airports for the obligatory Christmas visits. Only now that she’s 21 and beautiful, do I regret that I never purchased a travel cage. They probably don’t have a large enough size, I’m afraid. I really do need to get her that concealed carry permit this summer…