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Intelligent Design: Science, Philosophy, Neither?

Intelligent design came up in a classroom discussion the other day, and it occurred to me that I have never gotten around to reading much about it. My uneducated impression is that it is a sort of plug-in-God approach to explaining any current limitations in evolutionary theory. I find this unappealing at first glance, but I should probably remedy my ignorance before passing judgment.

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What Is Middle Class

When one reads 19th century British literature, one of the constant sources of tension is as to who is “a gentleman”. As used in this context, it was a term that applied not merely to manners and honor, but to economic status. A gentleman was not “in trade”. He did not have “a job”. He might own estates which he oversaw, though if he actively worked them his case became much weaker (“gentleman farmer” was more often a term of dismissal as approbation.) He might be a clergyman or a doctor (but not a surgeon — cutting flesh and sawing bone was not manual for a “gentleman.) He might be a military officer. But generally to be a “gentleman” one was expected to live off one’s investments and devote one’s time to either society or unpaid accomplishments. Many accomplishments in fields ranging from literature to philosophy to economics to science during the time period were the work of “gentlemen” who pursued these fields as “hobbies”.

I don’t think this was necessarily a good or healthy attitude towards work, but it’s interesting to me that in the modern US we have nearly diametrically opposed social/economic prejudices. The idle rich could not be more scorned, and it is the object of everyone to claim membership in the “middle class” and ideally to claim “working class roots” as well.

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Thanksgiving in Rome

From Amy Welborn (presently in Rome) tells us How to get a bunch of Americans to start tearing up, immediately?:

Start playing America the Beautiful as your closing song at a Thanksgiving day Mass at an American-centered parish in a foreign country. Even if it’s Italy, and even if it’s a beautiful Roman day outside. Halfway through the first verse, I looked around, and saw six people wiping their eyes….

It was Thanksgiving Day Mass at Santa Susanna, the American parish in Rome, run by the Paulists. I got there about halfway through, so I didn’t hear Cardinal Foley’s homily. But I did meet him as he juggled coffee and a muffin, and also had the great honor of meeting Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, who was there in attendance, and read President Bush’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation after Mass.

Zenit News Service relays Thanksgiving Address of Cardinal Foley, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, at the Santa Susanna Church in Rome: Continue Reading

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Robert Royal on "Getting Thanksgiving Right"

A temptation lurks here, however, that has recurred historically. If you don’t believe – and strongly at that – in a God Who transcends and needs to save the world, you will be strongly tempted to believe in some lesser god substitute. A nation is a perpetually plausible alternative because it participates in divine attributes. Authority over other men and, at times, power over life and death, are not just another set of practical arrangements within a commercial republic. The mysterious ways that a regime and its laws and lands, peoples and history, grow into a living human society, though by no means divine, reflect something at work in history beyond us. For that very reason, if Christianity does not remain faithful to itself, it can quickly be absorbed into a kind of divinized politics. This is true whether you believe in Americanism as a religion or in some anti-American liberation theology.

Among the things it is good for a Catholic to remember today, because they anchor us in a reality outside the quite proper human fellowship we will be celebrating, is the Eucharist, which means, literally in Greek, giving thanks. St. Paul says “give thanks (eucharisteite) always” (1 Thess 5:13) and reports that Jesus Himself even “on the night he was betrayed” gave thanks. (1 Corinthians 11:23). Catholics can bring to the American mix precisely this sense of a gratitude that extends beyond the good things of life as most people understand good, to something much greater, even in the midst of immediate evils, something that exists on an entirely different plane than the greatest regimes, however much we are grateful for them in our human way.

Getting Thanksgiving Right, by Robert Royal.
The Catholic Thing November 27. 2008.

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Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-afghanistan

May all of our readers have a Happy Thanksgiving!  As we thank God before eating mass quantities of turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes, et al, perhaps one blessing we might praise the Almighty for is the skill and courage of a lot of men and women, many not too far out of their teens, who spend their Thanksgivings far from home and family so that we may live in peace and freedom.

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Asking the Wrong Question

M.Z. over at Vox Nova has a post up entitled “No you can’t wash your hands” about voting for flawed candidates. He makes a fair point insofar as both parties support policies that are in tension, if not contradiction, with Catholic Social Teaching. Voting is basically a binary choice in American politics, and in many cases voting for either candidate constitutes material cooperation with evil. However, his description of the choice facing Catholics this past election was very puzzling. Here it is:

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Is the Country Moving Left? St. Thomas style….

Thanks to commenter Tim for the question, and my sincere apologies to St. Thomas Aquinas:

Objection 1: It seems that the country is moving to the left. In the recent election, the Democratic party picked up seats in both houses of Congress and won the Presidency.

Objection 2: A disproportionate number of younger voters voted for the Democratic party in the recent election.

Objection 3: The polling on social issues such as same-sex marriage has moved dramatically leftward over the past thirty years.

Objection 4: The recent bailouts will result in expanded government intervention in the economy.

On the contrary,

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Is Religion the GOP's Downfall?

Everyone seems to have their own idea of what it is that the GOP lacks these days. Kathleen Parker seems to think that the big problem is its lack of a columnist with the prose style, intellectual rigor and cultural sensibilities of a Maureen Dowd — and in her most recent Washington Post column she tries to fill that void. [HT: Cranky Conservative]

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

I’m bathing in holy water as I type.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

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Catholic Campaign for Human Development – Tainted by ACORN or Still Rotten Itself?

A lone individual with a sign protesting the second collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development sets Vox Nova‘s Morning’s Minion on a tirade against Fr. Neuhaus and evangelicals:

After a moment of confusion, it suddenly dawned on me what this was about. And then I became rather angry. Yes, it was just one “whack-job”, but I was still angry. And then I thought of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’s partially-successful attempt to align Catholics with the emergent right-wing evangelical movement, and realized that it had come to this. Catholics, including Neuhaus, were lambasting an anti-poverty program because it simply did not fit with the the ideological talking points of the hour.

As Fr. Neuhaus points out, “Ten years ago, CCHD was exposed as using the Catholic Church as a milk cow to fund organizations that frequently were actively working against the Church’s mission, especially in their support of pro-abortion activities and politicians.”

Pointing to the CCHD’s stated principles, including that it “will not consider organizations which promote or support abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, or any other affront to human life and dignity,” Morning’s Minion dismisses Neuhaus’ concerns:

This is important as many of the critics (including Neuhaus) claim it is funding pro-abortion activities. (Yet again, the mis-use of the abortion agenda as a Trojan horse to further a distinctly less noble cause– will this ever end?)

Unfortunately, Neuhaus’ claim is true — CCHD has a disappointing history of, contrary to its stated principles, providing extensive funding for questionable political groups with agendas morally at odds with Catholic teaching.

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Life Expectations, As Viewed Through the Fiat

When I consider the malaise that has spread across our nation, I ponder where it has come from. Is it a matter of a historical discomfort, so that it has always been present and is simply more noticeable now, or is it a more recent phenomenon? Part of me wants to simply assert that in the past, we were too busy worrying about survival to really bother with such concerns, and that nowadays we have so much luxury time that we can actually sit back a think about things are.

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Bragging Rights

Goodness knows, there are lots of ways that liberals and conservatives manage to annoy each other. Still, one that has struck me recently is an odd sort of bragging rights.

One of the main divisions between these groups at this point in time is over how the less vulnerable in society are best provided with care. The liberal view is generally that comprehensive government programs should be set up to assure that everyone in society has a certain basic level of food, income, medical care, housing, babysitting, rice pudding, etc. The conservative view is generally that guaranteed government handouts create dependency and hurt people in the long run, and that short term help for those in trouble is generally better provided by family, church or private charity.

The problem comes when members of these two groups get together and start arguing about how to help others.

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Petition the United Nations to respect ALL Human Life

On December 10th — the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by the UN General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948 — pro-abortion groups will present petitions asking the United Nation’s General Assembly to make abortion a universally recognized human right.

The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute created an alternate petition drive that calls for government to interpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as protecting human life from the moment of conception to natural death.

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What Makes Music American?

Tito and Donald have instituted a worthy tradition of posting music on the weekends here at American Catholic, and so as the weekend winds to a close I thought I would attempt by own contribution to the genre, though with a characteristically analytical slant.

I’m not sure how it is that one can say that a piece of music “sounds like” a particular country. And yet some pieces of music very clearly have a regional tone. For instance, Vaughan Williams orchestral music simply sounds like English countryside.

While I don’t think I could describe what it is that makes something sound American, the following are some of the most American-sounding pieces of music that I know of.

Jerome Moross received an Oscar nomination for the score he wrote for Big Country, the outstanding 1958 western staring Gregory Peck, Charleton Heston and Burl Ives.

The movie itself is very much worth watching, and the score is one of my favorite movie scores. This video illustrates the main theme with scenes from the movie.

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Canonical Options For Dealing With FOCA

With President-elect Obama assembling together the most anti-life and anti-family radicals imaginable for his upcoming administration.  In addition to ignoring the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) statement* (November 12, 2008 AD) to reconsider not signing the misnomered Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).  Along with other abortion related executive, judicial, and legislative acts, the options to combat this evil are becoming fewer for American Catholics.

With American Catholics being left to their faith for sustenance, our shepherds, the Catholic Bishops (USCCB), may need to review their canonical options for dealing with Catholic legislative support for FOCA.  The USCCB will have to engage the issue of well known “Catholic legislators supporting a specifically and gravely evil bill” as Dr. Edward Peters, a well respected canon lawyer, stated today on his blog.  Dr. Edward Peters sees four (4) canonical options in “dealing with these Catholic legislators who support FOCA” (emphasis mine):

1. Canon 915. Make plain, by public announcement and/or private contact, that a legislator’s support for FOCA qualifies as (probably formal, but certainly proximate material) cooperation with objective grave evil and that such conduct, in this case, would render one ineligible for reception of holy Communion under Canon 915.

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Turkeys, Reporters and Thanksgiving

Governor Palin is interviewed while turkeys meet their mortality in the background.  She pardoned one lucky turkey at the turkey farm.  This video has become a minor media sensation and I can understand why.  Most reporters do have a certain kinship with the victims.

 

Update:  We hear from the Turkey wrangler here.  My favorite quote: 

“Tomes has worked at the Triple D Turkey Farm in Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska for the past nine years. He says Palin is being unfairly criticized over the video. “The only thing I can say is, ‘Don’t mess with my Governor!'””

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To Pray, To Engage, and Fight Like a Maccabee.

I confess I am disappointed to see one of my colleagues at American Catholic dismiss the “Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama” as only so much “fruitless and pointless rhetoric”.

In response, permit me to explain what led to my own signature of the letter in question.

Readers of Catholics in the Public Square are no doubt aware that I have emphatically disagreed with Henry and those contributors at Vox Nova who supported Barack Obama throughout the 2008 election.

At the same time, to say Catholics shouldn’t have cast their vote for Obama is not the same thing as asserting that they were prohibited from doing so. This, at least, seems to be the conclusion drawn from the USCCB document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”:

There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position [on abortion] may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

Suffice to say I was among the those who did not believe a “grave moral reason” existed that warranted voting for Obama. And if some members of Vox Nova disagreed, I’ll give them the benefit of a doubt, and trust they thought about it as long and hard as my own decision to vote for Senator McCain.

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A Call to Arms for God, Life, and Country

With the election of the most anti-life president in this nations history, Christians across America will soon be facing a daunting gauntlet of attacks on the sanctity of life.  We need to now follow Jesus more than ever, embrace His teachings, practice our faith, evangelize our friends and neighbors, and pray.  Pray and strive for prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance with faith, hope, and love.

st-michael-the-archangle-by-raphaelThis is spiritual warfare on a massive scale.  We need to win the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans in order to push back against evil.  What is at stake are unknown millions of innocents that will be slaughtered for Mammon’s sake.  Not since World War II and maybe even the French Revolution has human civilization been faced with such dark forces arrayed against it.  The time for fruitless and pointless rhetoric ended on November 4th.  We now cannot stand by the wayside and negotiate the nonnegotiables with those that intend to do harm to the most vulnerable among us.  No equivocating, no complacency, and no compromise.

Pray and fast for President-elect Obama and our glorious nation.

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Top Ten Catholic Bestsellers for November 2008

One of the major resources that I used to educate myself on my Christian faith were reading books.  I am a book-hound.  I have a stack of books that I haven’t even begun to read yet that are all on Catholicism.  Whether if they are about saints, history, mysticism, philosophy, or our Holy Bible, I am just enamored with almost anything Catholic in book form.  Right now I’m reading several books (not all at the same time).  Render Unto Caesar by Archbishop Chaput, St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, and Father, Forgive Me, for I Am Frustrated by Fr. Pacwa just to name a few.

I am always hunting for books at my favorite Catholic bookstore here in Houston, Veritas, or Half Price Books.  Yes, I even browse the books at Barnes & Noble and Borders.  And if that’s not enough, I go online to Amazon.com.  I have always enjoyed reading books and this love of reading helped me a lot in learning as much as I could about Christianity.  Having to hold a book in my hand and read it rather than going online to learn more about Catholicism, it is difficult to explain but it just can’t be beat. 

So in order to share my love of reading to you all, I’ve decided to post Amazon’s* Top Ten Bestsellers for Catholic books.  I find Amazon’s to be more concise than other providers.  Enjoy!:

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Newly Discovered Screwtape Letter!

What follows here is the first of a new batch of letters written by that infamous demon, Screwtape, who was immortalized in a collection put together by the late C.S. Lewis.

. . .

My Dear Wormwood,

When last I had written you, I had assumed that you had everything well in hand with your patient, and so I am dismayed to find this hastily scribbled note of panic. All seems lost, you say. Your patient has turned away from all the pleasures that sexual iniquity can provide and has dedicated himself to a chaste life, and thus has made himself nigh unassailable to our devices. I must say that I am disappointed, Wormwood, not that any mismanagement on your part has led to this setback (though we will discuss that in due time), but that you are so quick to cry defeat. The Enemy ever persists in granting his graces to these featherless bipeds, so you must remember that our work is never done as long as the patient lives.

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Sexual Selection and Modern Dating

The other day my beautiful wife emailed me a link to this City Journal article entitled “Love in the Time of Darwinism” by Kay S. Hymowitz about the selective pressures which the modern dating environment places on the mating pool. It seems the same author had written another article earlier this year entitled “Child-Man in the Promised Land” about the phenomenon of single men in their twenties and even thirties who, rather than shouldering the “grown up” interests of their forefathers a generation or two before, linger in an extended adolescence of playing video games, watching cartoons and gross-out comedies, and seeking only uncommitted sex rather than marriage on the dating scene. In response to this first article, the author had received numerous emails from young men informing her that the reason that they behaved that way was essentially that the actions of the women on the dating scene left them little other choice. Hymowitz sums up their reaction this way:

Their argument, in effect, was that the SYM [single young male] is putting off traditional markers of adulthood—one wife, two kids, three bathrooms—not because he’s immature but because he’s angry. He’s angry because he thinks that young women are dishonest, self-involved, slutty, manipulative, shallow, controlling, and gold-digging. He’s angry because he thinks that the culture disses all things male. He’s angry because he thinks that marriage these days is a raw deal for men.

And so this article is basically an investigation into how accurate this complaint is.

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Cutting the Leg Off a Stool?

The Republican Party is often described as a three-legged stool consisting of social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and foreign policy hawks. I had recently been encouraged by the moderate nature of some of Obama’s early appointments (e.g. retaining Joe Lieberman as Chair of Homeland Security, appointing Clinton for Secretary of State, talk of retaining Gates as Secretary of Defense). My thought was that these moves indicated a moderate streak in President-elect Obama that might translate into opposition to radical measures like the Freedom of Choice Act. Ross Douthat, in a characteristically smart
post, has caused me to reconsider, highlighting the dangers of Obama-the-foreign-policy-centrist for social conservatives:

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How To Argue About Roe

One of the most common complaints directed at pro-lifers is that they are trying to overturn a Supreme Court decision that is popular with the American public. In one respect, this is a fair point. Roughly sixty percent of the country, when asked, says that they would not support overturning Roe. At the same time, roughly 2/3 of people say they would prefer the type of ‘stricter limits’ on abortion that are barred by Roe and Casey.

Noting this disconnect, Peter Suderman recently suggested that pro-lifers should focus on framing Roe as a barrier to compromise on abortion.

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How Obama Got Elected

Thanks to the above video and this wonderful site we now have some answers.  The Zogby poll on the website is pretty scary as to the level of voter knowledge.  However most of the media was so far in the tank for Obama that I find it hard to blame voters for lacking knowledge as to many pieces of negative information about the President-Elect during the campaign.

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Andrew Sullivan's Rage

andrew-sullivan

Seems as if last weeks lecture by Cardinal Stafford at CUA where he referenced President-elect Obama’s presidential campaign as “apocalyptic” has gotten Church dissenter and gay activitist Andrew Sullivan all hot and bothered:

“The Vatican hierarchy has become radicalized under Benedict and John Paul II– so much so that they see the West since the 1960s as entirely a creature of resistance to Humanae Vitae, the papal declaration that all non-procreative sex is a moral evil.  But the notion that the recent election of Obama is a sign of the Apocalypse has, until now, been restricted to Protestant loonies. Until now…”

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Rescue Packages & the Automobile Industry (II)

Last week, I questioned the wisdom of Congress making investments investors are unwilling to make in the automobile industry. Responding to similar arguments by smarter people, Jonathan Cohn suggested (citing a report showing productivity improvements in Big 3 factories) that the Big 3 are in the process of turning around, and that the bailout would help these companies complete the transition to profitability. Jim Manzi has posted a fairly devastating rebuttal to Cohn’s arguments. Here is an excerpt from Manzi’s response:

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How Do You Turn a Culture

It has been widely observed that the only real way to achieve change on various issues which straddle the moral-legal-cultural arenas is by “changing the culture”.  Drawing from the past: although segregation was theoretically made illegal fairly early on in the civil rights movement, it was not until the cultural consensus swung heavily against segregation that it really started to vanish in practice.  Similarly, if dueling were suddenly made legal in the modern US, I rather doubt it would suddenly become frequent in social sets that are not already known for shooting each other — we have reached a cultural consensus that swords or pistols at first light are not an acceptable means of settling arguments.

Yet how does one change the cultural consensus on an issue such as abortion, the nature of marriage, etc.?

Moral conservatives are often accused of “only caring about political means” when it comes to dealing with the great moral controversies of the day. And yet the advantage of advocating change within the political arena is that it’s clear how one does it. How does one work to change the culture as regards to the acceptability of abortion? Or the morality of gay marriage? Or any of the other pressing questions which provide fodder for the “culture wars”.

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Palling Around With Terrorists-Take Two

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Well what do you know? Now that the election is over with unrepentant terrorist William Ayers admits to the New Yorker that his contacts with the “Obama circle”, his words, continued until, once again his words, his name became part of the “campaign maelstrom”. In a reissue this month of his memoirs Fugitive Days Ayers refers to Obama as a “family friend”. Too bad America in the last election had a media that seemed largely unable to do anything other than recycle Obama campaign releases. It will be very interesting to see the role that unrepentant terrorist Ayers plays behind the scenes in an Obama administration.