Friday, February 12, 2010, 12:45 AM
Writing at Vox Nova, the author known as “Morning’s Minion” has published a post calling for consistency in the application of canon 915— the denial of Holy Communion to those who “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin”— in this particular case, the public advocacy of abortion and torture. The post was occasioned by the recent appearance of Mark Thiessien on Raymond Arroyo’s “The World Over”, in which the duo lobbied vigorously in defense of waterboarding:
I think the analogy is clear. Arroyo and Thiessen are both Catholic public figures, and Arroyo in particular is a TV personality on a Catholic TV channel, making the scandal all the more grave. They are clearly “obstinately persevering” in support for an intrinsically evil act. Worse, they actually try to justify it on Catholic grounds. Thiessen has made it his life’s work to claim that some forms of torture are virtuous. Arroyo, again and again, invites defenders of torture onto his show, and instead of confronting them with clear Church teaching, voices his agreement. As [Archbishop Raymond] Burke says, this is “public conduct” that is gravely sinful. I would go further and argue that it is even more scandalous than support for legalized abortion. Most public supporters of abortion do not go on television extolling the great virtues of abortion for women and society. Their argument is more with how it should be treated under the law. But the Arroyo-Thiessen-Sirico cabal are (i) claiming to the faithful Catholics while (ii) making public pronouncements on the positive value of torture.
Catholic debate over torture (and/or what the Bush administration has termed “extreme interrogation”) has been going strong for several years now. It’s online manifestation initiated—to my recollection—with the publication of Mark Shea’s article in Crisis, “Toying with Evil: May a Catholic Advocate Torture?” and subsequent discussion at Amy Welborn’s, in March 2005. From time to time I’ve personally blogged on the various vollies and controversies between various camps as the debate has asserted itself, time and again, over half a decade (has it really been that long?)
That EWTN (“Eternal Word Television Network”) has hosted two explicit defenses of waterboarding— most recently by Thiessien, as well as Fr. Joseph Sirico of the Acton Institute, not to mention Q&A from Judy Brown of the American Life League questioning whether torture should be considered “intrinsically evil”—does not surprise me in the least. As I noted recently, there has been open dispute as to whether waterboarding constitutes torture from many prominent Catholics, including editor Deal Hudson, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, and Fr. Brian Harrison (in the pages of This Rock—the flagship publication of Catholic Answers, the largest largest lay-run apostolates of Catholic apologetics and evangelization in the United States).
Little wonder that a Pew Forum survey examining “the religious dimensions of the torture debate” found many white Roman Catholics, along with most frequent churchgoers, affirming that the use of torture against terrorists is “sometimes” or “often” justifiable.
With respect to abortion, readers may recall a number of opportune moments during the 2008 presidential elections when Catholic bishops were obliged to speak out, publicly, forcefully and collectively, in correction of blatantly false presentations of Catholic teaching on abortion by Nancy Pelosi and (then) Senator Joseph Biden.
There have been numerous missed “teaching moments” for our bishops and the moviedl Catholic Church on the matter of torture.
Further discussion of this (cross)post at The American Catholic — with some helpful comments from readers: (more…)
Wednesday, December 30, 2009, 1:22 AM
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was interviewed in a recent edition of Newsweek, in which she had the opportunity to set the bishops straight on the participation of Catholics in public life.
I think you have had some brushes with [church] hierarchy.
I have some concerns about the church’s position respecting a woman’s right to choose. I have some concerns about the church’s position on gay rights. I am a practicing Catholic, although they’re probably not too happy about that. But it is my faith. I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that is that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will.
Is it difficult for you to reconcile your faith with the role you have in public life?
You know, I had five children in six years. The day I brought my fifth baby home, that week my daughter turned 6. So I appreciate and value all that they want to talk about in terms of family and the rest. When I speak to my archbishop in San Francisco and his role is to try to change my mind on the subject, well then he is exercising his pastoral duty to me as one of his flock. When they call me on the phone here to talk about, or come to see me about an issue, that’s a different story. Then they are advocates, and I am a public official, and I have a different responsibility.
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf applies the necessary fisking and muses:
“I cannot fathom why she hasn’t been told she must not receive Holy Communion. How much more public scandal does she have to give before the bishops of the places where she resides take concrete action?”
My thoughts exactly. Note that she has already received a gentle admonishment from the Holy See in February ’09 and an invitation to “converse” from San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer in September ’08.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009, 2:08 AM
Friday, November 27, 2009, 1:00 PM
Ed Stoddard of Reuters’ religion blog Faithworld carries a roundup of the skirmish between Congressman Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, has claimed that Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin.
In conclusion, Stoddard asks:
This leads to a question about the consistency of views in the U.S. Catholic Church leadership. The Church opposes abortion and therefore liberal politicians who support abortion rights risk being refused communion. The Church supports a healthcare overhaul that would make the system more equitable. So does a conservative Catholic politician who opposes this reform risk being denied communion for ignoring the Catholic social teaching that justifies it?
How about support for capital punishment, which the Vatican says is unjustified in almost all possible cases, or for war? In the build-up to the Iraq war, Pope John Paul was so opposed to the plan that he sent a personal envoy to Washington to argue against it. Did bishops threaten any measures against Catholic politicians who energetically supported that war despite Vatican opposition?
The author’s questions reveal an elementary ignorance concerning the moral issues in question and their relationship to varying levels of Church teaching. While I am disappointed by his answer (Faithworld is generally one of the better and more educational “religion blogs” in the secular media), it is understandable — as even many Catholics find themselves confused on this matter.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 10:30 AM
Vatican Information Service on the Meeting between “Ecclesia Dei” and the Society of Saint Pius X:
“On Monday 26 October in the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio, headquarters of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, the study commission made up of experts from “Ecclesia Dei” and from the Society of St. Pius X held its first meeting, with the aim of examining the doctrinal differences still outstanding between the Society and the Apostolic See.
“In a cordial, respectful and constructive climate, the main doctrinal questions were identified. These will be studied in the course of discussions to be held over coming months, probably twice a month. In particular, the questions due to be examined concern the concept of Tradition, the Missal of Paul VI, the interpretation of Vatican Council II in continuity with Catholic doctrinal Tradition, the themes of the unity of the Church and the Catholic principles of ecumenism, the relationship between Christianity and non- Christian religions, and religious freedom. The meeting also served to specify the method and organisation of the work”.
(Oh, to be a fly on that wall …)
More on Rome’s talks with the Lefebvrists by way of the newsletter of Dr. Robert Moynihan, editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican, on the perspective of Bishop Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), as well as the fundamental question, that of “Rupture, or Continuity?”:
What is the real, fundamental issue of these talks?
It is this: Did the Second Vatican Council teach new doctrines not in keeping with prior Church teaching, and so lead the Church into error (as the Society of St. Pius X, and other traditional Catholics, have often argued)?
Or did the Council develop doctrines based on what the Church has always taught, and so open up new, legitimate aspects of old doctrines?
To put it another way: Did a “new Church” come into being after Vatican II, a Church which broke with the “old Church” of the pre-conciliar period?
Or is it still the same Catholic Church of all time, which has simply been passing through a confusing period as it attempts to find a way to live in and bear witness to the modern world?
Benedict has been calling for a reinterpretation of Vatican II for almost 40 years. In book-length interviews when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, in major studies of the liturgy and in addresses as Pope, he has denounced interpretations of Vatican II which claim it as a rupture with the Catholic faith of all time.
The Lefebvrists have maintained that is is difficult, if not impossible, to interpret Vatican II as being in continuity with all prior Church tradition.
But Benedict has said he believes this interpretation can be made.
And he has sent his chosen men into this dialogue to show the Lefebvrists how it can be done.
(You can subscribe to Dr. Moynihan’s daily newsletters from Rome here).
Wednesday, September 23, 2009, 1:05 AM
In August 2002 the Consultation of the National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs released a statement, “Reflections on Covenant and Mission”, which espoused a two-fold or “dual covenant” path to salvation—the Jews through their adherence to the Mosaic covenant, Christians (and/or) gentiles through Christ. Its assertion that “campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church” was thus interpreted as a demand that Christians cease any attempt to share their faith with, or pray for, the conversion of the Jewish people. The ensuing criticism, both evangelical and Catholic, obliged the USCCB to distance itself from the document, acknowledging that it was not to be taken as the formal position of the U.S. Bishops’ conference but rather “represents the state of thought among the participants of a years-long dialogue between the Church and the Jewish community.”
Seven years later, the USCCB has released a formal correction in its Note on Ambiguities Contained in Reflections on Covenant and Mission, reasserting the Church’s authoritative teaching: (more…)
Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 8:30 AM
In “A Just War Theory of Homeschooling” (InsideCatholic.com), William Fahey reminds us that homeschooling, while desirable in some circumstances, “can also become a destructive ideology”:
Contrary to the Catholic understanding of education, there is a rising individualism that is worming its way into our literature on homeschooling. Homeschooling in this nation was spearheaded by the hippies of the 1960s and has largely been embraced by Protestants; some 95 percent of homeschoolers today are Protestants, and the tone of the literature and materials often reflects that make-up.
More alarming, homeschooling has risen alongside home-churching. The “Non serviam” banner has long been unfurled by those who do not wish to recognize the sovereignty of Christ in the temporal or ecclesiastical order. Homeschooling at all levels is not rooted in either the Western tradition or . . . in the Catholic tradition. It is a proper response to a crisis within society and (we must be very sad to admit) within some quarters of the Church.
By analogy, war— justly pursued—is a legitimate response to a threat to a community’s life. Yet war is not a norm, even if it is regularly present or must be sustained for long periods. What I am calling for is a sort of “just war theory” of homeschooling. After all, we are engaged in the defense of hearth, home, and the families entrusted to us. Should we not also have carefully thought-out principles of education rooted in natural law, Scripture, and the Catholic tradition? Should we not also have an objective for this struggle beyond the solitary education of a child
A thoughtful discussion ensues.
Sunday, August 30, 2009, 12:59 AM
I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith I have tried to right my path. I want you to know Your Holiness that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I have worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination, and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty, and fought to end war. Those are the issues that have motivated me and been the focus of my work as a United States Senator.
I also want you to know that even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field, and I’ll continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone.
Excerpt, Letter of Senator Edward Kennedy to Pope Benedict XVI, which President Obama delivered to the Pontiff in July, 2009.
* * *
While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old. [...]
I share in the confidence of those who feel that America is willing to care for its unwanted as well as wanted children, protecting particularly those who cannot protect themselves. I also share the opinions of those who do not accept abortion as a response to our society’s problems — an inadequate welfare system, unsatisfactory job training programs, and insufficient financial support for all its citizens.
When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.
Excerpt, Letter of Senator Edward Kennedy to Thomas E. Denelly, August 1971.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 8:59 AM
Paul Zummo (Crankycon) has written a good review of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:
The atheism is only a small part of the issue with objectivism. Galt (and thus Rand’s) objection to the concept of original sin is naive, but even absent this aspect of objectivism, it remains a dehumanizing and abhorrent moral philosophy. Rand detests totalitarianism, it is true, but other writers have written better and less repugnant works in defense of capitalism and against totalitarianism. If libertarians and conservatives wish to seek out inspirational works on the topic, they are better off with the likes of George Orwell, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Sowell, Wilhelm Roepke, F.A. Hayek and countless others.
The fundamental problem is that Rand is as naive about human nature as the socialist utopians. After all, a utopian is a utopian, whether they are Marxian or Randian utopians. Therefore the rejection of the concept of original sin is something of a problem because it blinds Rand to the idea that human beings cannot simply shut off their passionate desires. . . . [More]
Speaking of Rand, here also is Maclin Horton (Light on Dark Water) with “Ayn Rand, Crank”:
Several hundred pages into the book I noted to myself that it contained no love, no children, and no humor. It did eventually bring in a notion of love, a rather strange and constricted sort of love which is more accurately called admiration: the producers love the work of their hands, and they get involved with each other romantically, but even their romances have a weird ideological charge, being defined as an exchange of value. And two perfect (in Randian terms) children do appear briefly in the capitalist utopia, the offspring of two perfect producers. But I never saw any humor whatsoever—no intentional humor, anyway, although some things struck me as unintentionally funny, such as the constant application of adjectives like “lean,” “hard,” “superlative,” and “incomparable” to the heroes and the heroine. . . .
Humorlessness is one of the characteristics of a crank, and judging by Atlas Shrugged a crank is what Ayn Rand was: not stupid, but narrow and shrill; not entirely wrong, but fixated on one inadequate idea which she thinks can explain everything; hostile to and uncomprehending of any disagreement. Believing that she has absorbed all philosophy and religion and that almost all of it is nonsense, she only demonstrates how little she really understood. And like everyone who denies that there is something fundamentally and inherently amiss in the human condition, something that no mere idea or program can remedy, she ends up as one more proof of the truth she denies.
Nothing like a dissenting review of Ayn Rand to bring the disciples of Objectivism swarming to her zealous defense. Maclin’s initial review brought him a whopping 100+ comments. His follow-up to indicate what Ayn Rand got right, 230+ comments. I anticipate a similar reaction to Paul Zummo’s piece before the day is through. (I would do the same here in a bid for readership, but alas—I never finished the book).
Monday, August 17, 2009, 10:43 AM
William Park (InsideCatholic.com) lists, in his judgment, “the fifty best Catholic movies of all time”.
Some readers, myself included, were surprised by the absence of The Mission. A magnificent cast (including Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons, and Liam Neeson); a screenplay by Robert Bolt (A Man for All Seasons) — it has, in my estimation, one of the most powerful illustrations of penance and forgiveness depicted on film.
The Mission deservedly won seven Academy Awards, and made the top fifteen films under ‘Religion’ selected by the Vatican commemorating 100 years of cinema.
So why didn’t it make the list? Park doesn’t offer much of an explanation, save that “Bolt’s screenplay for The Mission looks at the Church from the point of view of Dostoevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor.” Steven D. Greydanus, however, explores the complexities and ambiguities of The Mission in a thoughtful review for DecentFilms.com.
Monday, August 17, 2009, 10:38 AM
In our ongoing roundup of commentary on Pope Benedict’s social encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the Distributists and Austrians weigh in, and renegade liberation theologian Leonardo Boff believes the Pope could use a good dose of Marxism (little surprise, there).
Tuesday, August 11, 2009, 8:56 AM
As we rush into another week of blogging, posting, texting, and tweeting, consider David Ulin on “the lost art of reading”:
Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being. We possess the books we read, animating the waiting stillness of their language, but they possess us also, filling us with thoughts and observations, asking us to make them part of ourselves. This is what Conroy was hinting at in his account of adolescence, the way books enlarge us by giving direct access to experiences not our own. In order for this to work, however, we need a certain type of silence, an ability to filter out the noise.
Such a state is increasingly elusive in our over-networked culture, in which every rumor and mundanity is blogged and tweeted. Today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know.
(HT: Vox Nova)
Saturday, August 8, 2009, 1:32 AM
In May 2009 the Bishop of Paisley, Rt Rev Philip Tartaglia, issued a pastoral letter — read aloud to every parish in Scotland — cautioning Catholics against an obsessive reliance upon new technology:
“In dialogue with others we need to be wary of the inane chatter that can go on in the digital world which does nothing to promote growth in understanding and tolerance,” he wrote.
“We should avoid an obsessive need for virtual connectedness and develop primary human relationships, pursuing true friendship with real people.
On August 6, 2009, a DOS (“Denial of Service”) assault on Twitter crippled the popular social-networking site for all of two hours. According to CNN, the Twitter blackout left users feeling ‘jittery,’ ‘naked’:
… for people like [Christina] Cimino, who said she “felt naked” without access to Twitter, the attacks were a serious reality check — a chance to evaluate just how dependent they’d become.
“You know how you pat your pockets for your cell phone and your keys? Well it’s that same kind of phantom [limb] with Twitter,” she said. “It’s like, ‘I can’t update! I can’t update!’ It’s just one of those bugs that gets in you.”
She added: “I was pretty upset, actually. It feels like a lifeline for me … Pretty much everyone knows almost every detail of my life by what I’m doing on Twitter.”
“Horrors!!! People will have to communicate face to face!” one user commented on CNN’s SciTech blog. …
Now that Twitter is back online, the No. 1 conversation thread on the site is called “whentwitterwasdown,” where users discuss what they did without their real-time Twitter updates.
FLASHBACK — Over at Alternet, in one of my favorite rants of all time, Alexander Zaitchik wonders: “Can it be long before the entire country is tweeting away in the din of a giant turd-covered silicon aviary?
Ultimately, I suspect this week’s outage may prompt disillusioned users to venture further into the virtual frontiers of Flutter.
(On a serious note, over at American Catholic I chart Pope Benedict’s forays into the world of evangelization-via-social-networking”).
Tuesday, July 21, 2009, 10:10 AM
That Margaret Sanger — eugenicist, birth control activist and founder of Planned Parenthood — wished to preserve society from blacks, immigrants, and the “feebleminded, idiots, morons, insane, syphilitic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others” through a “rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted” is an embarrassing fact that contemporary members of PP would like to sweep under the rug.
However, what Sanger actually thought of abortion may come as a surprise.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 11:10 PM
Caritas in Veritate is the first social encyclical of the 21st century, and Pope Benedict XVI’s chosen topic couldn’t be timelier. Forty years after the publication of Pope Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio, and following in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul II (who marked its twenthieth anniversary with his own Sollicitudo Rei Socialis), Benedict conveys his desire to
“pay tribute and to honour the memory of the great Pope Paul VI, revisiting his teachings on integral human development and taking my place within the path that they marked out, so as to apply them to the present moment.”
It is Benedict’s conviction that Populorum Progressio deserves to be considered “the Rerum Novarum of the present age”, shedding light upon humanity’s journey towards unity.”
Benedict’s reflection is a lengthy and substantial one — 30,468 words: an introduction, six chapters, conclusion, and 159 footnotes, to be precise.
Caritas in Veritate online
And for those who just want to quickly skim over a coffee break:
What follows is a compilation of coverage, commentary and resources which may perhaps assist us in doing so — none of which, of course, should substitute for reading the document itself — (I cannot emphasize that enough). (more…)
Friday, July 3, 2009, 2:09 PM
Well, it’s official. The Vatican has announced that Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, titled “Caritas in Veritate,” will be released Tuesday, July 7:
Those participating in Tuesday’s conference will be: Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” and Stefano Zamagni, professor of political economy at the University of Bologna, Italy and consultor of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Signed by the Holy Father on June 29th, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and released in time for the G8 international summit in L’Aquila, Italy (July 8-10), Caritas in Veritate will be the first social encyclical to be written in almost two decades.
There has been much speculation as to what the encyclical will say. Fortunately, the Pope himself has given several helpful indications. (more…)
Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 10:39 PM
Tuesday, June 23, 2009, 10:50 AM
Fascinating examination of Thomas Kinkade, Joe. I was unaware of (and impressed with) his earlier work—which of course prompts the question: what happened?
This “60 Minutes” interview/profile of Kincade is quite revealing, as an artist seduced by mammon: (more…)
Tuesday, June 23, 2009, 9:19 AM
Reminiscent of Orwell, or perhaps Terry Gillian’s Brazil:
Upon learning of his son’s death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a “bullet fee”—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.
Mr. Alipour told officials that his entire possessions wouldn’t amount to $3,000, arguing they should waive the fee because he is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war. According to relatives, morgue officials finally agreed, but demanded that the family do no funeral or burial in Tehran.
Meanwhile, the senseless death of another young Iranian protestor has unwittingly created “the voice of Iran”.
Saturday, June 20, 2009, 1:46 AM
Speaking to his general audience on January 28, 2009, Pope Benedict expressed the hope that his gesture in lifting the excommunications of the SSPX would be followed “by the hoped-for commitment on their part to take the further steps necessary to realize full communion with the church, thus witnessing true fidelity, and true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the pope and of the Second Vatican Council.”
In February 2009, following the commentaries of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf and George Weigel, I devoted some time to considering the disagreements between the Pope and the leading voices of the Society on the matter of Vatican II’s articulation of the principle of “religious liberty” and the relationship of civil and religious authority (See: Pope Benedict, the SSPX, and the dispute over Religious Freedom and Church-State Relations, Against The Grain, February 22, 2009).
While the Pope has counseled that the Second Vatican Council can be appreciated as a vehicle for renewal of the Church “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic,” I see precious little evidence that the SSPX is interested in doing so. On the contrary, the SSPX has expressed the conviction that
- “these texts [of Vatican II] themselves emanates, under the sweet appearance of kindness and dialogue, the stench of naturalism, of the corruption of the Faith” (The Angelus, April 2003).
- that to employ the proposed hermeneutic of continuity places one in danger of “[renunciating] the principle of non-contradiction, logical rigor, correct thinking”—such is the gulf between “the traditional vision of the relation between Judaism and the new heterodox conception of Judeo-Christian “dialogue”; the condemnation of religious liberty and liberalism by the Syllabus and the new Catholic-liberal conception of politics” (Si Si, No No, August 2008).
- that “to read Vatican II in light of Tradition is not to read it correctly. It means to bend, to twist the texts” (Bishop Tissier de Mallerais, SSPX February 2009).
There is little doubt that the CDF will touch on these matters when it begins the much-anticipated doctrinal discussions with the SSPX. (I wonder, will Fellay revisit his condemnation of “the perfectly liberal” Pope’s own remarks lauding religious freedom during his historic visit to the United States (“a country founded upon Masonic principles, that is, of a revolution, of a rebellion against God”)?
In the meantime, it comes as no surprise that the SSPX has announced it will go ahead with plans to ordain 21 priests in America, Germany and Switzerland, despite opposition from local bishops (Catholic Herald June 12, 2009).
“Such unauthorized ordinations,” notes Time‘s Jeff Israely, “are indeed reminiscent of what led to the schism in the first place”:
In this specific case, the Lefebvrites want to decide who becomes a priest of the Catholic Church, an authority that for centuries has rested solely in the hands of local bishops, who derive their authority from the Pope himself. One senior Vatican official says that the Pope’s unilaterally reaching out to the Society, even with many outstanding issues unresolved, has emboldened rather than humbled the breakaway flock. “They thought all concessions had to come from Holy See,” he says. “But they are [now] going to have to admit their own obedience to authority.”
For further analysis and discussion, see Get Religion and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 3:14 AM
LifeSiteNews.com profiles Luhra Tivis, a former employee of the late-term abortionist George Tiller, whose experiences working at his facility drove her into a life of pro-life activism.
Tivis had no hand in the performance of the abortions themselves—rather, she was assigned the task of marketing Tillers’ services to prospective clients. But it was enough to cause her to reconsider her profession.
Curiously, unlike many pro-choicers (advocates and practitioners alike) who hide behind euphemisms and technical descriptions, Tiller may have recognized the grim reality of his practice, as indicated by the macabre services he provided for the portion of those babies killed via lethal injection to the heart, and delivered with limbs intact:
One of the more disturbing aspects of the abortion process at Tiller’s clinic was the “memorial services” he openly offered, as published on his website, to parents after they had killed their child. Tiller even employed a chaplain at his clinic, where he offered baptisms, baptismal certificates, and mementos such as a lock of hair or “fetal footprints.”
The clinic also offered parents a chance to bond with the child’s corpse for a little while after the abortion, in a process Tiller described in a 1996 promotional video as an “identification and separation encounter.”
“We will bring the baby to you, either at the bedside, or we will go to our quiet room, and we will bring the baby to you there,” said the abortionist.
“During this encounter we will describe to you what’s right with your baby, we will identify what’s wrong with your baby. You may hold the baby. We can take pictures of you and the family holding the baby, if you wish, and that is not an uncommon request. . . . the identification/separation encounter may involve 2 or 3 hours of bonding with the baby—the identification that this is your baby and you have had a delivery.”
In “Abortion and the New Disability Cleansing” (National Review, 1997), Gregg Cunningham poses the inevitable question:
Nearly as bizarre is the fact that Rev. George Gardner, pastor of Wichita’s College Hill United Methodist Church and an outspoken Tiller apologist, publicly admits to performing post-mortem baptisms on Tiller’s victims. If the deceased aren’t babies with souls, what do these parents think they’re baptizing? If they are babies with souls, why isn’t this infanticide?
I recently watched an interview on CNN with a mother who described bringing her child—stricken with an incurable illness—to term, delivering him, and holding him as he passed in her arms. To mourn a child’s death in such a manner is an understandable inclination on the part of any parent. What is particularly gruesome in this case is that these services were offered by the man who actually snuffed out the very life of a child only a few minutes before.
For additional testimonies, see Ex-Abortionists: Why They Quit, by Mary Meehan. Human Life Review Spring 2000.
Sunday, June 14, 2009, 11:41 AM
On Friday, President Obama commented on the Iranian election:
We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran. Whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact there has been a robust debate hopefully will advance our ability to engage them in new ways.
Powerline aptly describes his remarks as “criminally useful idiocy.”:
Obama should not have lauded the election, much less characterized it as advancing our ability to engage Iran in new ways, until he was satisfied that the election was honest. A fraudulent election in which the existing, intransigent regime claims a landslide victory will not advance our ability to engage in Iran in new ways.
A senior official of the Obama Administration remarked: “The administration will deal with the situation we have, not what we wish it to be” — prompting Weekly Standard‘s Stephen Hayes to note the inconsistency between Obama’s tepid response and his Cairo speech.
On Meet the Press today, Vice President Biden expressed his doubts about the legitimacy of the election, but concluded “we have to accept for the time being” Ahmadinejad’s claim of victory.
Saturday, June 13, 2009, 12:34 PM
Having recently purchased an iPhone I’ve been appreciating not only the myriad functions of the device itself but in particular Amazon’s Kindle application, bringing immediate access, in my case, to the Federalist Papers, the Book of Genesis, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and even some H.P. Lovecraft as the mood strikes. Enduring a long and crowded subway commute with precious little elbow room, the advantages of “e-books” speak for itself.
Upon reflection, however, I think it is precisely that simple convenience it brings to reading while commuting that appeals most. Whatever the perks, it still doesn’t hold a candle to picking up and reading (much less owning) what I’m inclined to refer as a real book: its reassuring weight; the crackle of the page; the pleasure of familiar words, read time and again. Not to mention the multi-faceted beauty of a well-stocked bookshelf (or two, or three).
Christine Rosen identifies the poverty of virtual reading in “People of the Screen” (The New Atlantis Fall 2008):
There are practical concerns as well: Despite Kindle’s emphasis on accessibility—get any book, anywhere, instantly—this is true only if you can afford to own the device that allows you to read it. You can’t share the books you’ve read on your Kindle unless you hand the device over to a friend to borrow. There are other drawbacks to the Kindle, more emotional than practical. Unlike a regular book, where the weight of the book transfers from your right hand to your left as you progress, with the Kindle you have no sense of where you are in the book by its feel. It doesn’t smell like a book. Nor does the clean, digital Kindle bear the impressions of previous readers, the smudges and folds and scribbles and forgotten treasures tucked amid the pages—markings of the man-made artifact. The printed book is the “transformation of the intangible into the tangibility of things,” as Hannah Arendt put it; it is imagined and lived action and speech turned into palpable remembrance. Such feelings of partiality to the printed book are impossible to quantify, and might well strike the critic as foolish attachment to an outmoded medium, as rank sentimental preference for the durable over the delible and digital. To be sure, “I just like the feel of it” is hardly firm intellectual footing from which to launch a defense of the paper book. But it is at least worth noting that these tactile experiences have no counterpart when reading on the screen, and worth recalling that for all our enthusiasm about the aesthetics of our technologies—our sleek iPhones and iPods—we are quick to discount the same kind of appreciation for printed words on paper.
And it may well be true that Amazon’s Kindle Library may boast over 300,000+ virtual texts, “auto-delivered wirelessly in less than one minute.” But I wouldn’t trade all the downloading in the world for the thrill of shelf-by-shelf exploration of my local library—such as my parents introduced me to when I was young, and I hope to convey one day to my son. (I trust we’ll still have libraries.)
On that note, for fellow bibliophiles and bookworms, here’s a feast for the eyes: “a compendium of beautiful libraries” compiled by the blog Curious Expeditions:
Tucked away on the top of a hill in Prague is the Strahov Monastary, the second oldest monastery in Prague. Inside, divided into two major halls, is a breathtaking library. The amazing Theological Hall contains 18,000 religious texts, and the grand Philosophical Hall has over 42,000 ancient philosophical texts. . . .
Shocked into a library induced euphoria, Curious Expeditions has attempted to gather together the world’s most beautiful libraries for you starting with our own pictures of Strahov. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
(By way of Alan Jacobs’ Text Patterns, who blogs on the technologies of reading, writing, research and knowledge: “what do we lose, what do we gain, what is (fundamentally or trivially) altered? And, not least, what’s fun?”).
Tuesday, June 9, 2009, 10:36 AM
Thomas Peters (aka American Papist) issues a challenge to “left-leaning Catholics” (such as Joe Feuerherd of the National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters of America, and Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ):
I challenge them to explicitly and totally repudiate the pernicious claim that US Bishops, when they speak about abortion, are engaging in “partisan politics.” This same claim is similarly made about American Catholics when they, essentially, mimic the talking points of the US Bishops.
The claim that US Bishops, and those who agree with them, are “partisan” when it comes to abortion is deeply hypocritical, because such a claim is, itself, a partisan charge made exclusively by liberals.
Monday, June 8, 2009, 3:23 PM
Criticism of President Obama’s speech in Cairo has been offered aplenty from conservative pundits on the web— largely focusing, it appears, on what they deem an overly-conciliatory attitude toward Islam.
Thus, for instance, at a National Review symposium, Bat Ye’Or applies (predictably) the label of “dhimmitude”, and Rush Limbaugh—the mouthpiece for modern conservatives(?)—is most incensed that Obama could have ascribed any positive contribution to Islamic civilization.
While I am by no means uncritical of the President’s speech, it’s worth noting that, in distinguishing between a “small but potent minority of [Muslim] extremists” and one billion Muslims worldwide; and “principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings” that are shared between the two traditions, President Obama’s tone and language are not unlike that of Pope Benedict XVI (see, for example, his 2005 address to the Muslim community of Cologne, Germany, or more recently, his Address to Muslims at the Dome of the Rock and endorsement of the Amman Message during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land).
It appears that both the President and the Pope share the conviction that if we are to achieve any measure of success in the Middle East, it will be with the aid of Muslims.
This was evident, for example, in Iraq, where General Petraeus’ found willing allies against Al Qaeda in Sheikh Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha (founder of the “Anbar Awakening”), and his successor, Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha—the latter an active participant in interreligious dialogue with the Vatican and self-proclaimed “Protector of the Chaldean Catholics.” Likewise, where local Muslims assisted their Chaldean neighbors in rebuilding St. John’s Church in Baghdad, and filled the pews at a Mass to welcome a returning bishop.
I should also mention the thousands of Muslim-Americans serving in our own armed forces (some 10,000-20,000)—including the late Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan, who perished when he stopped a suicide bomber from entering an American compound in Baquabah.
Legitimate criticisms can be made. Islamist extremism and antisemitism pose a daunting obstacle to advocacy of a “two state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The human rights record in Arab nations (particularly treatment of women and religious minorities) must be confronted head-on. But I am nonetheless wary of the conservative pundits and talking heads who shriek with dismay when something remotely positive is said of Islam or Islamic civilization.
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Addendum 6-9-09: President Obama and Pope Benedict may have something in common in their approaches to the worldwide Muslim community, seeking common ground and affirmation (rather than wholesale denunciation from the hysterical right).
On the other hand, for an assessment of where the Pope and President part ways, see today’s Obama vs. the Pope by Spengler.