Father Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things, is currently undergoing treatment for cancer. Jody Bottum has conveyed the following general message:
Please forgive this group email, but so many have asked after the health of Richard John Neuhaus that is seemed best to send out this single message to all our friends.
Fr. Neuhaus is in the hospital here in New York. Over Thanksgiving, he was diagnosed with a serious cancer. The long-term prognosis for this particular cancer is not good, but it is not hopeless, either, and there is a possibility that it will respond to the recommended out-patient chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, over Christmas, he was taken dangerously ill with what seems to be a systemic infection that has left him very weak. Entering the hospital the day after Christmas, he was sedated to lower an elevated heart rate and treatment was begun for the infection. Over the last few days, he has shown some signs of improvement, and there is a reasonable expectation that he will recover from this present illness—sufficiently, we hope, that he will be able to begin the chemotherapy for the cancer.
Fr. Neuhaus is not able at the moment to receive visitors or speak on the telephone or answer his mail, and he has requested that no flowers, candy, or other get-well presents be sent—just your prayers for his quick recovery. Further bulletins will be sent when there is news to report.
Fr. Neuhaus disclosed his condition in a post to First Things‘ “On The Square” earlier in December.
A follow up to Tito’s post on Princess Caroline. I have always been opposed to euthanasia, but I do think it is time to put out of its misery Princess Caroline’s bid for a bit part in the Obama revival of Camelot.
Darwin’s post on the Russian professor who predicts the breakup of America, reminded me of an intriguing book I read decades ago, The Nine Nations of North America, by Joel Garreau. It was fun to read although I thought that only three of the regions were close to being true nations: Dixie, Mexamerica and Quebec.
At one of the blogs I read regularly, Neo-Neocon, the proprietress has an excellent story highlighting the praise of Mathew Parris, a British atheist and writer, for the work of missionaries in Africa and the enormous positive spiritual changes which frequently occur in their converts. I have long thought that the good work performed by missionaries around the globe, but especially in Africa, was the major overlooked story of the last century. If I had to pick one development of the past century that will still be having a major impact a millennium hence, I would pick the fact that Africa is becoming a Christian continent. As much of Europe is forgetting the Faith, and too many Americans are cold and indifferent, the message of Christ is meeting with cries of joy throughout Africa. Perhaps some day Christian missionaries from Africa will light the fire of faith again in “darkest” Europe.
On December 27th, 2008, Israel launched a series of air strikes on Hamas training camps, headquarters, weapons storehouses, underground missile silos and command-and-control centers in Gaza — the start of an open-ended offensive to stem the increasing barrage of rocket-attacks that have plagued Southern Israel in the past months.
Israeli ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shaleb defended the operation:
“Israel is taking the necessary military action in order to protect its citizens from ongoing terrorist attacks originating from the Gaza Strip and carried out by Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” Shalev said, adding that Hamas “holds the sole responsibility for the latest events.”
Israel, she continued, “has exhausted all means and efforts to reach and maintain quiet and to respect the state of calm… Israel’s response is aimed solely against the terrorists and their infrastructures in the Gaza Strip. It is not intended against the civilian population. Israel is committed to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
Shalev asserted that “No country would allow continuous rocketing of its civilian population without taking the necessary actions to stop it.”
Commenting on the three-day air assault by Israel on Hamas, Deal Hudson states “Bombing Gaza Won’t Make Israel Safer”. It’s a good post and, if anything, certainly jeopardizes Hudson’s standing as a member of the cabal of “Catholic neocons” beholden to Israel and the Republican Party (see Robert Sungenis and other tirades from the fringe-right). That said, I wish to register some thoughts in reaction, both to Hudson and our fellow critics at Vox Nova:
This is the third post in a series of four on sexuality, Catholic teaching—especially the theology of the body—and the pitting of body against soul and soul against body that sexual immorality naturally entails. I discussed general sexuality here and masturbation here. Now we turn our attention to fornication, especially premarital sex.
I mentioned before that masturbation is the primordial sexual sin, the precursor of most sexual sin, and in fact that most immoral sexual acts are just thinly disguised masturbation. As regards fornication, this is most obvious in the treatment of sex as just a recreation tool, and in the behavior of people who are just looking to “score” for one night. Perhaps the most offensive example of masturbation disguised as sex comes from the comparison between having premarital sex and test driving a car.
I can’t speak for any other guy out there, but if I ever suggested to my wife that I was treating her like a vehicle—something to be used while it works, and then traded it once it had exceeded its usefulness—I would have found myself in the ER hoping that the doctors could salvage a portion of the brain matter leaking out of my ears. Certainly I hope that anyone would receive such a wake-up call from whatever Chevy Nova or Toyota Corolla he happens to be dating at the time.
Mrs. Caroline Kennedy is pining for the open Senate seat that is being vacated by Hillary Clinton and is battling the media perception of her entitlement. Unfortunately Mrs. Kennedy doesn’t help her case with her constant use of you know in this interview.
(Biretta Tip: American Thinker)
UPDATED 12-30-08 A.D.:
Caroline Says ‘You Know’ 142 Times– Toby Harnden, Telegraph
(Biretta Tip: Lucianne)
From the most dependable news source on the Internet, the Onion. I missed this during the campaign for some reason. Zapatero and Obama do seem to go together, and, as in the case of Obama and many Americans in this country, many Spaniards are not convinced that Zapatero is good for Spain. For the sake of the country, I hope it was one whale of an internship!
(Content advisory: A bit of bi-partisan crudity at the very end.)
Napoleon purportedly made some remarkable statements about Christ while he was imprisoned on Saint Helena. This one was supposedly made to General Bertrand:
Something for the weekend. A gently sung music video of We Three Kings of Orient Are by Jennifer Avalon who has a website here. A good article on the magi who came to worship the infant Jesus is here at the indispensable Catholic Encyclopedia.
The song Good King Wenceslas has entwined the names of a martyr king and the first of the glorious long line of martyrs, Saint Stephen. The warmth of their faith is good to remember on a cold day.
I. The Truths of the Incarnation Never Suffer from Being Repeated
The things which are connected with the mystery of to-day’s solemn feast are well known to you, dearly-beloved, and have frequently been heard: but as yonder visible light affords pleasure to eyes that are unimpaired, so to sound hearts does the Saviour’s nativity give eternal joy; and we must not keep silent about it, though we cannot treat of it as we ought.
“Let every heart prepare Him room …”
The twenty-fifth day of December.
In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world
from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;
the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses
and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David’s being anointed king;
in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;
the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world,
Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary,
being made flesh.
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
For this Holy Night, O Holy Night sung by Renee Fleming.
One of the things I love most about our country is that it is not a state built to give expression to a particular “nationality” in the sense that swept the world like an plague in the 19th and 20th centuries. Our country shares a set of political ideals and cultural touchstones, but it is also a glorious mix of different traditions which we, as a nation of immigrants, have brought with us and continued to develop here.
In honor of which — and because it seemed to me that perhaps we could use a “getting to know each other” thread around here — I take the liberty of cross posting the following from my personal blog:
The feast of the nativity of Our Lord has traditionally been a time for feasting and the gathering of family and friends. And since taste and smell are powerful hooks for memory, many of us have intense connections to various Christmas foods and drinks. The other holiday here in the US which is heavily food-centric is Thanksgiving, yet with a few familial variations, the Thanksgiving food palette is pretty well defined. Christmas food traditions, however, are pretty various.
“It is called the Lord’s birthday when the wisdom of God presented itself to us as an infant, and the Word of God without words uttered the flesh as its voice. And yet the hidden divinity was signified to the wise men by the evidence of the heavens, and announced to the shepherds by the voice of an angel. And so we celebrate this day every year with great solemnity, because on it was fulfilled the prophecy which said,
Truth has sprung from the earth, and Justice has looked forth from heaven (Ps 84:12).
Antichrist and Advent, an odd combination? Cardinal Newman didn’t think so before his conversion. He preached a series of Advent sermons on the anti-Christ which were published in Tract 83 in 1838. I have always been struck by this passage:
Practically buried in the news in the wake of the corruption scandal of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was the publication, on December 11, of a report by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member John McCain (R-Ariz.) — the culmination of an 18-month long investigation into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody:
Self-avowed atheist Penn Jillette of the Las Vegas show, Penn & Teller, is well known for his antipathy towards Christianity. But something happened to him just recently in an encounter with a practicing Christian after one of his shows. He had a profound experience that moved him and Mr. Jillette did not hesitate to post this experience on You Tube on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
(Biretta Tip: The Anchoress via Kevin Knight)
How are we, as American Catholics, to understand our Second Amendment rights? As the Constitution of the United States is a document made by man, it is subject to errors, and has contained notable ones in the past. Could it possibly be that the “right to bear arms” itself is a mistake? Certainly gun ownership has come under heavy fire in the past few decades, and while this issue hasn’t been as loud as others, it remains a divisive issue (especially since, once again, it is a polarized issue, with the loudest proponents on the Right, and the loudest opponents on the Left). Recently we on the Right celebrated what we viewed as a great victory in the battle for gun rights, as the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the ban on guns in Washington D.C. But should we, as Catholics, see this in the same way?
Since the bad joke who happens to be the governor of my state is apparently fond of quoting Kipling, the title to this post is also from Kipling who had very little use for most politicians. A variant of the great poem “If” , much more fitting for Blagojevich, is provided by Claudia Rosett here.
Blagojevich, Chicago’s curse to the state of Illinois, might be more careful in the choice of poets he quotes. Kipling did not think much of the Windy City.
Iowahawk advises us of yet another bailout.
Something for the weekend. A stirring rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
The Our Lady of the Annunciation Monastery of Clear Creek located in Oklahoma is a booming order of Benedictine monks. They have completed their main residence hall and are currently building their church adjacent to their hall. The following is a short video explaining their progress.
To learn more about these monks and their monastery click here.
(Biretta Tip: New Liturgical Movement)
Pat Lee — professor of bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville — has an article up at The Public Discourse on the nature of marriage and why it is inherently heterosexual.
Ed Morrissy of Hot Air has a good post on the question of whether the law should be changed in Illinois to allow the Senate seat being vacated by Obama to be filled by a special election.
Historically the Catholic Church has had, or has been perceived to have, a rocky relationship with “freedom” in the sense that the term has come to be used in a political and cultural sense since the Enlightenment.
Freedom in the modern sense is often taken to mean, “I’m free to do whatever I want without anyone telling me what to do.” The Church, on the other hand, generally takes freedom to mean, “Freedom to do that which is good.” The Church sees sin as enslaving and as reducing one’s capacity to choose freely in the future, and as such even where acting contrary to the good is in no way forbidden, doing wrong is not seen by the Church as exercising “freedom”.
So the in the moral sense, the Church does not hold “freedom” in the sense of simply doing whatever you want to be a good. Rather, the Church holds doing the good to be the good, and freedom to be the means of achieving that.
I speak above in the moral sense. However, let us look now at the political question of freedom.
“A Paris reporter asked TV-Comedian Milton Berle how he felt about the Bishop Fulton Sheen program which is on a competing channel with his own show. Said Berle: “We’re known as Uncle Miltie and Uncle Fultie now. It doesn’t make any difference if we’re in competition. It’s a pleasure to have him opposite me. After all, we’re both using old material.” ”
Hail and Farewell Helen Jones-Kelly. The Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services who snooped on Joe Wurzelbacher resigns.
My own thoughts on fornication and adultery in specific are slow in coming right now, but Steven Greydanus has an excellent piece up at Jimmy Akin’s blog dealing with sex, its multiple purposes, and how those multiple purposes can go right or wrong depending on intent. I especially like
However it may work out in practice, sex must always be done in a way that is at least open to the multifaceted goodness of sex in all its levels and aspects. Whatever aspect of sex is a couple’s motivation tonight, either they take the occasion to accept the mystery of sex in its fullness, insofar as it is available to them, or they seek to reject and exclude some or another aspect, to the detriment of the act itself and their own being.
It is my hopes with my next post to speak directly to what those detriments that SGD mentions are, especially in terms of trust, deceit, relational bonds, maturity, and so on.
Ed Morrissey of Hot Air has a good article regarding the investigation launched by the Indiana Attorney General of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. Thanks to the intrepid Lila Rose, and her colleague Jackie Stollar, the long standing flouting by Planned Parenthood of mandatory reporting laws regarding sexual abuse is now coming to the surface. Ms. Rose and her associates are to be congratulated for coming up with a clever tactic, and having the courage and initiative to implement it, to combat Murder, Inc. Bravo! It is precisely this type of energy and novel thinking that the pro-life cause needs.
December 10th marked the anniversary of the untimely death of Thomas Merton — Trappist monk, contemplative, mystic, writer, poet. I have already paid my own tribute of sorts here at The American Catholic — here are a few others from around the web:
C.S. Lewis wrote an introduction to an English translation of Saint Athanasius’ On the Incarnation which is on-line here.
This past Summer a conference took place on the shores of Lake Michigan on reinvigorating the use of Gregorian Chant in our liturgies. The Reform of the Reform continues.
(Biretta Tip: New Liturgical Movement)
“I think it’s okay as long as nobody gets hurt.”
That has become the rallying cry of our times, the gloss over all deeds, the excuse for practically any sin. It is the banner of the sexual revolution, the fallback position of those confronted by the “narrow-minded” religious in society. After all, who does it really hurt if teenagers have pre-marital sex, as long as they play it safe? Who does it hurt if two consenting adults decide to have a one-night stand? Who does it hurt if two men or two women decide to sleep together? More importantly, how could one possibly claim anyone is harmed if someone masturbates?
Not really. This New York Times article contends that my home state of Illinois is not the most corrupt state in the Union. However I note that two of the three methods by which they obtain their rankings focus on convictions. In a truly corrupt state, convictions might lag because the engines of law enforcement are often part of the problem. Based upon spending my entire life in Illinois, except for three years, I believe FBI Agent Robert Grant is correct, if Illinois is not the most corrupt state, it is a strong competitor for the title.
Update I: Lisa Madigan, Attorney General of the State of Illinois, is attempting today to have the Illinois Supreme Court strip Blagojevich of his powers as Governor. I agree with this article that her brief is extremely weak and would draw a “C” as the effort of a first year law student. At any rate I doubt if the Illinois Supreme Court will step into this briar patch. If the House acts swiftly to impeach him, Blagojevich may resign, but I do not think anything short of this will work. To add to the banana republic quality that is part and parcel of current Illinois politics, Lisa Madigan is the daughter of Michael Madigan speaker of the House who has a long-standing blood feud with Blagojevich. Lisa Madigan herself has long been thought to be hungering to be Governor. Illinois politics frequently consists now of hereditary political fiefdoms that are passed down through the generations. We have the reality of a largely feudal political system with none of the entertaining trappings.
Update II: As usual, John Kass of the Tribune has a brilliant column on the farce that is Illinois politics.
Update III: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has an excellent look at the behind the scenes machinations of this mess. I wholeheartedly agree with his conclusion: “Calling this sewer “The Land of Lincoln” is a bad joke. If Illinois voters aren’t inclined to make the kind of necessary changes, can they change the license plates to read, “The Land of Capone”? It’s certainly a more accurate description.”
Why did God come to us, as one of us, in the Incarnation? Why this particular path for our salvation? Great saints throughout the history of the Church have sought to answer this question, and perhaps the best answer is one of the earliest, that given by Saint Athanasius of contra mundum fame:
Probably because of my skeptical bent, most apparitions (including those approved as worthy of belief) are things I can take or leave. I don’t disbelieve in them, but they’re not something I give much thought or spiritual focus to. The great exception to this is the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has been dear to me ever since I was a child reading Tommie dePaola’s outstanding The Lady of Guadalupe.
The story of Our Lady’s appearances to Juan Diego is simple and moving on its own, and the significance of her appearance in emphasizing the truly universal nature of Catholicism cannot be underestimated.
Happy December 12th.
Today the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a new Instruction entitled Dignitas Personae, On Certain Bioethical Questions. You can find it along with a Vatican summary as well as a Q&A and press release from the USCCB here.
It is usually a bad sign when a President’s Chief of Staff is ducking questions. To all those outside the Land of Lincoln, welcome to Chicago politics 101!
Update I: I think Emanuel may be an ex-chief of staff even before he becomes chief of staff if this story pans out.
Update II: More detail as to the contacts between Blagojevich and Emanuel as to the Senate seat.
“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”
In an instant on Monday Mr. Dong Yoon’s world was destroyed.
One of the big criticisms of free market economics is that markets are driven by greed. “Why would you want to allow markets to set the price of [health care, wages, basic housing, food, education, etc.],” the argument goes, “when that means subjecting a basic humanitarian necessity of the dictates of unfettered greed?” I think this represents a basic misunderstanding of how markets work, and I’m going to try to address that in this post — though I approach the attempt with some trepidation given the difficulties of the subject matter and the limits of the medium.
I’m going to start by conceding a point which those making the assertion I describe above may consider to prove their case: The economic view of market dynamics tends to view individual actors within a market as value maximizing agents. In other words, a market consists of a number of actors each trying to get the most possible value for the least possible expense.
Doesn’t this mean that markets are driven by greed? Don’t we need to encourage people to be something other than value maximizing agents?
Well, certainly, there is much more to life than what you can buy and sell,
My inspiration for starting this post and continue the topic through several other posts is the “Day without a Gay” protest, which is supposed to inspire homosexuals and those in support of homosexual marriage to take the day off and perhaps commit to volunteer work (to take a little bit of the sting out of the strike). Whenever issues like this come up (as they do at least annually here at the University of Wyoming with the Matthew Shepard Symposium), I find myself reflecting on human sexuality, the importance it plays in our lives, and the great detriment its misuse has caused, both to the nation and to myself personally.
My homestate of Illinois is one of the most corrupt states in the Union.
President-Elect Obama used the word audacity a lot in his rise to the presidency but how much audacity does it take to be a liberal state senator, representing a liberal district, in a liberal state? True audacity is going against the odds and against the consensus on pundits. That is exactly what Joseph Cao did in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District. Cao is a devout Catholic Republican Vietnamese immigrant in an overwhelmingly African American and Democrat congressional district. Although his opponent is undoubtably corrupt politician facing serious indictments, he was still not given a chance at winning. Unfortunately, voters, especially it seems African American voters, often overlook these flaws in the name of some sort of racial solidarity. Nevertheless, Cao won! Let’s pray that he can help rebuild the wonderful city of New Orleans and provide true opportunity for its amazing people. Cao, like Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin, is already getting attention from Republican leadership as the future of the party.
Although Cao probably hasn’t even had a chance to organize his staff, yesterday I heard Al Sharpton say that he would be working to “fix” this situation. Seems for Sharpton and his ilk working with a person who cares about the district and its people is trumped by partisan and racial politics.
Politico reports here that liberals are concerned that Obama may steer a course as President that is too moderate for them.
Discussing history is a surprisingly contentious activity because to a great extent we define who we are (and what our institutions are) by our past actions. Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that when Chris Blosser posted the fascinating (to me at any rate) story of Mitsuo Fuchida, who went from living the samuri-derived Bushido code of behavior to becoming a Christian missionary as the result of seeing the lived-out Christianity of Westerners after World War II, one of the first comments was:
And yet how many of you would still defend the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Not to mention the bombs he have dropped repeatedly on Iraq?
This is, I think, indicative of a certain approach to discussing history, one in which discussing historical events must always involve ritual denunciations of specific wrongs, or perceived wrongs. Thus, for instance, a discussion of America’s founding documents must, according to this school of thought, always include a statement that, “Of course, this was written in the context of minorities and women having no rights at all.” Any discussion of WW2 where the Allies are treated as having been better than the Axis must result in a denunciation of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden. Any discussion of the medieval Church must be accompanied with denunciations of the crusades, clerical corruption and anti-semitism. And on, and on.
While it is certainly important to bring our sense of moral judgement to our understanding of the past