Monday, November 21, 2005

Credit Where Credit Is Due

The former first lady urged President Bush to protest China's forced abortions, according to Lifesite, which quotes from a portion of a letter Hilary Clinton recently wrote to the president:

"Since first introduced in 1979, China's one-child policy has evoked strong concern over human rights abuses. These abuses have reportedly included denial of social benefits, fines, detention, destruction of property, forced abortion and forced sterilization. . .," she wrote. "In 1995, as a participant in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, I heard first hand about these practices and spoke against them."

Blessed Mary

The Blessed Virgin Mary is blessed because of her discipleship than her motherhood, says St. Augustine.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Torturous Debate

Fascinating discussion about torture is going on at Mark Shea's blog, sparked by a challenge to lurkers to express their views on the use of torture in the War on Terror.

As a point of focus, Mark linked to a Wall Street Journal column, which he called an execrable piece of filthy agitprop for Strength Through Torture.

By the way, I agree with Mark on this. St. Paul tells us not to do evil in the hopes of good. Sin kills us and I want to live, that is, forever, as in having eternal life.

Lots of good commentary on this topic over at Mark's. For the most part, people on either side are addressing the discussion with the respect it deserves. And it is a serious topic. Do we torture prisoners or not? And if so, are we prepared for the consequences? History suggests otherwise. By that I mean, World Wars I and II introduced new and more efficient ways to kill and terrorize populations. It is no coincidence that Modernism emerged out of the shell-shocked nations of Europe following World War I. After Modernism's popularization came Existentialism, a soul numbness that accelerated following World War II and that continues to this day.

U.S. Catholic Bishops: End State Murder Now

During yesterday's meeting, U.S. Catholic Bishops approved a new statement on the so-called "death penalty", saying it is a "tragic illusion", and urging the U.S. to abolish it.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I Must See This Film

A movie that takes you into another world via silence and time. The Carthusian monks are the subjects of Into Great Silence, what the U.K. Telegraph calls a "strangely fascinating meditation" on the daily lives of these monks of the French Alps. These monks are the strictest religious order in Christianity, living in near silence and constant prayer.

H/T Open Book.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

So Dosing Yourself With Hormones Isn't A Good Thing After All?

So the birth control patch isn't so safe. No kidding. In fact, it's riskier than the pill, killing about a dozen young women last year from blood clots and dozens more survived strokes and other clot-related illnesses.

Funny. I saw a Planned Parenthood ad for the pill and the patch today. It ran in the local "alternative" rag and the ad featured the usual young, healthy looking, urban hipsters. I could be wrong on this but none of the models appeared to be gasping for breath due to a clot blocking their lungs. Neither of the models looked like they had been paralyzed by a stroke. I'm sure this was an oversight.

The AP reports also that the company disclosed, in an internal memo, its refusal to fund studies comparing the patch to the pill out of fears that the results would not be positive (cash-wise) for its makers.

Okay, so birth control makers may not necessarily be looking out for the health, safety, and lives of women. Who knew?

New Law Requires Public Discloure of Church Financial Data in Mass.

Turns out the post I wrote way back in August about the end of the First Amendment rights in Massachusetts has come to pass.

Legal Protection for Catholic Employers

A reader writes:

"Found this great article at the Beckett Fund site about Churches being able to preserve church autonomy in respect to the hring practices of teachers. This is in relationship to Katelyn Sills and Loretto HS."

Ms. Sills, you may recall, is the high school girl whose mother notified the Bishop of Sacramento of the abortion activities carried on by the girl's teacher. The school reluctantly fired the teacher after being ordered to by the bishop. A newspaper outed Katelyn's identity and her blog has been swarmed by agents of the culture of death ever since. Katelyn has been expelled by the same nuns who refused initially to fire the abortion rights teacher. Now the teacher plans on suing. So it's important that the right of Catholic institutions to require employees not to publicly protest church teachings is upheld.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Place for Kindness

Got this email today from the owner of Oaktree.org seeking a link:"I am a fellow Christian that has also helped start a website/blog/prayer chain called Oaktree.org (www.oaktree.org.) ... We are interested in giving people that seek Christian community and conversation in their life every opportunity possible to find it."

They seem to be evangelicals, if that matters any. Myself, I'm just glad to see some online Agape action. I recommend Oaktree with the caveat that one of their links connects to a site that says Catholic thought on Mary is "dangerous". I realize some evangelicals misinterpret our love of Mary, but ... come on now.

Oaktree itself seems to take an ecumenical stance. In fact, Catholics looking to perform spiritual or corporal works of mercy can take some hints from the mission of Oaktree to provide an open source venue for people seeking, hope, prayers, money, and community.

Says the FAQ:
"OakTree.org gives those willing to help an opportunity to directly impact the person in need; we call this direct effect giving. We open the channel between those in need and those willing to help. After financial assistance, prayers, encouragement or advice is provided to the person in need, the one helped is encouraged to do two things. First thing is to thank the person that helped them by posting a public "thank you" and then pledge to help someone else within the following 90 days. This continues the direct effect indefinitely! "

I spent some time at Oaktree -- a nice little spot of kindness on the Internet. It's good to know they are Christians by their love, rather than by their sarcasm and pharisee-like devotion to the Law like so many Catholic sites.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Blogs 4 $$$

What's the 2005 version of the professional protestor? "The activist blogger"!

According to a post on the ever-amusing Craigslist, if you are an "active member of the progressive movement" and have a strong command of the written language (hint: not really necessary for a career in the blogging arts), and feel your posts are worth $3 each, then you may be qualified to be a professional licensed blogger.

Since most bloggers are already blogging at work, the extra coin can seriously up your hourly pay rate.

Denver to Ordain 14

So says Abp. Chaput in his weekly column: In Denver we’re blessed with an abundance of seminarians. They study in two new diocesan seminaries founded in the 1990s: St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary. These are wonderful young men. They’re carefully screened for their character, background, balance and dedication before they enter. And they’re formed throughout their education in a spirit of service and healthy chastity.

How exciting it is to live in the Archdiocese of Denver where a "vocations crisis" does not exist. Thanks be to God!

Elsewhere, The Denver Catholic Register reports that J. Michael Miller, C.S.B., secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, spoke to seminarians and faculty last week about the role of the priest. The article talks a bit about the "priest as teacher", but then delves into the unexpected (well, to me anyway):

We must speak from the heart,” Archbishop Miller said. “Proclaim the Gospel, but not on your own authority, rather Christ’s.” Then quoting Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Miller said that priests are not sent to proclaim themselves, but the mystery of Christ.

“Like John the Baptist, the priest is only the precursor,” he said. “The focus is not on him, but on the other.”

In proclaiming the Gospel, Archbishop Miller said that seminarians must become masters of prayer. There is a need in the world, he said, a need to know Christ, but often people don’t ask for it.

“People want to know God,” he said. “They come to you to teach them to pray.”


How very true -- we laity do need our priests to help us pray. Very much so.

The comparison to John the Baptist reminds me of the prophet's response when asked whether he is the Christ: "I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie." The best priests know they are nothing next to the one whom they proclaim.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Religion Ghosts In Paris

Get Religion, the finest web-based media criticism site, has a fascinating discussion going on about the elements going unreported in the "Paris Is Burning" news story.

Mainstream Media Now ID-ing Rioting Youth (But Still Burying Lead)

This Associated Press news story about the violence in Paris over the last 11 days departs from other mainstream news stories in that it finally does identify the perpetrators as coming from mainly "Muslim" or "African immigrant" communities, which gives a different impression from earlier reports that "French youths" were rioting. Of course, it took 8 paragraphs for the reporter to get around to identifying the actors in this story but at least he got around to it.

Why does it matter? For one, it's a journalism basic to identify the "Who" as well as the "What", "Where", "When," and "Why" of a story. As basic as the inverted pyramid structure. So when the pros fail in the fundamentals of News Writing 101, it raises suspicions that they are hiding something and begs the question why this is so.

Identifying the rioters as Muslims or African immigrants tells the reader a whole lot more about the nature of this event than saying "French youths are rioting." Youths riot over won or lost football games. They riot at keg parties (at least they do in Boulder). They riot because they hate George Bush and he happens to be in their city (at least they do in Portland -- or try to). Identifying the perpetrators in the case of the Paris riots tells us that these are not spawned by vague "unrest" (a news speak term if I ever heard one), but by political or religious reasons. Considering that Europe and the U.S. have been targeted by Muslim terrorists in recent years, the question of who is rioting becomes crucial.

By the way, the Union for Islamic Organizations of France, identified here as France's largest "Muslim fundamentalist organization" has forbidden Muslims from participating in the riots. This piece of information is also important. Guess how far down the page it is buried.

A Prioress? Where do I apply?

The Prioress
You scored 0% Cardinal, 66% Monk, 52% Lady, and 45% Knight!

You are a moral person and are also highly intellectual. You like your solitude but are also kind and helpful to those around you. Guided by a belief in the goodness of mankind you will likely be christened a saint after your life is over.

You scored high as both the Lady and the Monk. You can try again to get a more precise description of either the Monk or the lady, or you can be happy that you're an individual.



Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Friday, November 04, 2005

But It All Sounds So Sensible

Let's be perfectly clear. Kathleen Lundquist is not exaggerating when she describes abuses of "assisted suicide". I know this 1.) because I lived in Oregon for nearly 3 years, and 2.) I know somebody who tried to kill his father.

"John" was dating my roommate "Jane"*. One day Jane picked me up from the airport and on the way home, after I told her about my trip to New York, explained that she had had an exhausting week. John's father had had a stroke, she said. He was in the hospital, unconscious. The man's children were pressuring their mother to pull the plug. As Jane put it, the kids thought they were doing the old man a favor. For many years he had expressed his fear of death thusly:"If I ever get so that I can't feed or clean myself, shoot me." The father kept a shotgun under his bed and referred to it when he instructed the children over and over to kill him should he become helpless.

John and his siblings did not get their way because the father regained consciousness. Unable to speak or move one side of his body, John's dad was forced to defend his own life after being told by hospital personnel that unless he could indicate otherwise, the family was going to act on his earlier stated wishes to be put to death.

I have had three near-death experiences: Two severe bouts of pneumonia and one bad accident that resulted in numerous bone fractures. I also nearly drowned a few times. I can't imagine in the midst of these having to also defend my life against a bureaucracy, not to mention my own children.

Somehow, John's father managed to indicate to the bureaucrats that yes, he wanted to live. And, this is the part that spooked Jane the most, John was actually disappointed he didn't get to kill his dad.

"All week [John] kept calling me apologizing for not being around and saying he'd see me 'Once we kill him'. He seemed to be almost looking forward to it. Then when his mom said that she would not pull the plug, [John] seemed almost angry," Jane told me. She decided to break up with John.

As for John's father, he never left the hospital. Seeing that everybody around him but for his poor wife wanted to hasten his death, John's dad did them all a favor and died.

Before meeting John, Jane was unabashedly pro-assisted suicide. (She harbored doubts after her experience with John, but never quite came around to opposing the law.) Jane's support of assisted suicide was shared with just about every other Oregonian I knew. Except for John, whom I never liked, these were kind-hearted pragmatic people who saw assisted suicide as a way to ease suffering and to allow individual autonomy. Oregonians think there is such a thing as radical individualism. You just can't reason with them.

One guy I dated in Portland decided I was a religious fundamentalist kook because I was against assisted suicide. He accused me of being cynical when I told him that Oregon's system was designed for abuse. He kept telling me about "safeguards". As Lundquist puts it:

"By now, you’ve all heard of the DWDA and its sensible-sounding requirements: a terminal illness, six months to live, three requests (one in writing), a second concurring medical opinion, self-administration of the drug overdose, no lethal injections. Over the past seven years that Oregon’s DWDA has been in effect, every single one of these walls against abuse has been breached." [emphasis hers]

Lundquist goes on to describe case after case of abuse of the tenets of Oregon's assisted suicide law. If you don't live in Oregon, you may wonder why these cases are not being publicized. They are. There is no outrage because the people of Oregon refuse to hear. Why is this? Lundquist explains:

"In his famous sermon, John Donne said, “No man is an island”; supporters of assisted suicide seem firmly to believe the opposite. They regard any need for others to care for them as the greatest horror, the greatest cause of suffering, to be avoided at any cost. This raises the question: Can this sort of “suffering” really be avoided? Does such a radically self-reliant attitude actually improve our society, or does it in fact diminish us as a human community?"

Appealing to the Oregonian sense of social justice, I argued that assisted suicide would cause more suffering; that it would be only a matter of time before HMOs began "incentivizing" suicide. These compassionate rugged individualists nearly always responded the same way: They looked at me like I had just grown two heads and said that this would never happen. Oh no? In 2002, National Review Online reported that Kaiser Permanente (the HMO whose slogan, ironically, is "Thrive") emailed 800 physicians seeking volunteers to assist in patient suicides.

There is nothing compassionate about Oregon's assisted suicide law. We know that since assisted suicide became legal, more and more people are dying under from that which should be called by its true name: Murder. Moreover, there's no compassion in telling sick and disabled people that their state is such that the law recognizes they should not want to live.

As Lundquist puts it:

"Disability rights groups (such as the one cheerily named Not Dead Yet) boldly carry the banner against assisted suicide, and this is the reason: They deal every day with personal issues of loss of autonomy, loss of control of bodily functions, loss of former physical or mental abilities, and many others. And yet, they insist that their lives are worth living. They insist that they are dignified human beings. Every time someone sounds off using the media’s megaphone with some version of “I wouldn’t want to live in that state,” it’s as if that person had walked up to a wheelchair-bound or mentally ill person on the street and said right to his or her face, “You know, don’t you think you'd be better off dead?” This is compassion?"

*Names changed to protect the guilty.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nifty

The remains of 16th century astronomer Copernicus, who challenged the notion that the Sun revolves around the Earth, have been found in a Polish church.

Tendrils in the World Wide Web

How beautiful and recursive this Internet thingy has turned out to be.

Today I read over some lovely pieces on humility over at Disputations, which linked to Waiting in Joyful Hope's piece on forgiveness. At the same site, Fr. Dowd posts a link to a piece by Oregonian Kathleen Lindquist at Catholic Exchange on the horrors of living in a state that permits "assisted suicide". Lindquist's chilling piece deserves its own post, which I hope to have up by morning.

Disuptations on Humility

Disputations has two wonderful items today about humility.

The first post is about a priest who is given food from a starving family at Christmas. He accepts the food reluctantly, telling his companion, "Tim, you know you really have to be humble to accept a gift of food from a family that poor."

A comment box fisticuffs has emerged at Disputations over whether the priest should have accepted the family's gift. I agree with what this guy wrote, "Actually, the true gift is not the bread: the true gift is the *giving of* the bread. As in the Eucharist, I would think. As in Love made manifest. The father is not feeding the priest; the father is *loving* the priest."

The second post is about St. Martin de Porres, whose feast day is today, and his "way of humility". This inspired Disuptations to ponder various ways of humility:

"The humility of St. Dominic lay in disregard of honors and comforts that might impede the preaching of the Gospel. St. Thomas's humility guarded against distractions from his study. St. Catherine is the great doctor of the "she who is not" humility that stands as nothing before God.

St. Martin's humility strikes me as marked by complete absence of ambition. He had no desire for anything greater than he had, and in fact desired to have less. He wasn't interested in doing great things -- not for himself, and not even for God."


Lots of food for the journey here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Clueless Condescension

This National Catholic Reporter essay says more than I think the author intended. Really, this is almost too perfect of a parody of white, western, clueless condescension. Peg Helminski recounts a conversation with an African Catholic about women's ordination. Abena, who had been tortured in Cameroon for her faith and is preparing to be martyred once she returns, opposed to women's ordination. Helminski sees Abena's opinion as "sexist" yet forgives her since Abena is a "product of her culture" and is too "simple" to hold Helminski's "ever-evolving, collective understanding of God."

Helminski writes:

I do not know why women keep trying to be Jesus. They should try only to imitate the example of humility and obedience of our Blessed Mother.”

“Abena, are you saying that men should not try to imitate the example of Mary?”

I struggled to contain my anger. And I succeeded because this was Abena, a very simple woman, not a bishop, the pope or a Vatican spokesperson, all of whom, I think, should have a broader view of church history and the place of culture in determining our ever-evolving, collective understanding of God.

She laughed readily, “Of course, we all should. But what is more important is that women learn the beauty of raising children.

“Just today God has answered my prayer. The husband of a sister of ours planned to divorce her because she has not been pregnant in many years. I learned today that she is two months with child. God is so good!”

My blood nearly boiled at the sexist content of this assertion and her archaic proof of God’s mercy. Yet, I forgave her immediately because I recognized that she is a product of her culture. Only recently from Cameroon, she was jailed there for her faith. Shackled, she was beaten on the soles of her feet. Now, walking is difficult. Wearing shoes is still painful.

“They wanted to break my spirit,” she laughed when she told me. “They only strengthened my faith!”


Though Helminski's faith has not been tried, she writes that she and Abena are "evenly matched" in religious conviction. Somehow, I doubt it. Abena's faith, as described by Helminski, is joyous and generous even though she has been tortured and expects to die a martyr when she returns to Cameroon. Helminski, a product of Minnesota, believes the Church should conform to the expectations of a handful of western liberals and becomes enraged ("I struggled to contain my anger." "My blood nearly boiled") when others express beliefs to the contrary.

God bless Abena.

Thanks, Colorado!

Referendum C passes; D is deadlocked.

As a lower, lower, middle-class Coloradoan with ongoing health issues and no insurance, I thank the voters for assuring that I can access decent health care.

Update: D has failed.