Monthly Archives: December 2008
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.
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.
Depending on your temperament, you may be either amused or sobered by an article in this morning’s Wall Street Journal about Igor Panarin, a Russian academic and former KGB analyst who has been predicting since 1998 that the US will collapse via economic implosion followed by civil war during the spring of 2010.
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.)
The production and consumption of energy is a fundamental human practice. Energy is the cornerstone of industrialized civilization. Energy powers everything—machinery in factories, transportation, communications, utilities systems, as well as things that provide the comforts of daily living from television, air conditioning, kitchen appliances, etc. The whole of the economy is contingent on the production of energy; hardly any good or service would be available—at least not as it is now—without the energy put forth toward its production or energy necessary in stores (especially megastores) that enable commerce. It even takes energy to move goods from one place to another.
America has become so accustomed to the conveniences provided by abundant and seemingly unlimited energy that we have taken them for granted. No matter how many air conditions are plugged in on a given day, the local electric company could supply enough energy to run them all. No matter how many cars are on the road, there will be enough gasoline to fuel them all. The American economy in recent decades boomed on energy. From coal to oil, Americans exploited these resources and without really noticing became energy gluttons. Accounting for less than 10% of the global population, the United States consumes about one third of all energy consumed globally. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
No set of issues reflects the heart of Catholic Social Teaching than the “life issues.” Over twenty years ago, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin coined the consistent life ethic using the New Testament image of a seamless garment to describe the cloaking of the image of God in humanity from conception to natural death — in criminals, in the unborn, in the marginalized and forgotten, and even our very enemies. This comprehensive ethical system seeks to link many different issues together by focusing attention on the basic value of life.
Today, talk of a consistent life ethic is practically a joke—arguably this is especially true among pro-life Democratic voters. Nevertheless, no one would argue against the assertion that neither side of the political spectrum fully embraces a comprehensive Culture of Life. The predominant liberalism of the Democratic Party and conservatism of the Republican Party reject the Catholic view on key “life issues”, while embracing it on others. This leaves faithful Catholics in two positions: we feel politically homeless and we cast our ballots with some sort of hesitation, reflecting our desire for better candidates. As if matters could be any worse, the “life issues” are used by political strategists and Catholics who are strong partisans for one party or the other as grounds to vehemently and divisively attack each other for political gain. They all quote from the same Catholic documents emphasizing different aspects of church teaching and appealing to certain basic Christian ethics while slyly or blatantly, but always conveniently, ignoring others; the latter incredibly undermines Catholic witness in the American political sphere.
The debate within the church over the past two elections has been this very issue and while one might agree wholeheartedly with one side or the other, the heated emotions embedded in our dialogue with the other side has damaged attempts toward real debate. Perhaps, at times, Catholics on both sides of the argument forget how much we all have in common. In John 17, we are given a beautiful image of the Lord praying to His Father for Christian unity for his disciples and all those that would come to believe through them. Thus, when our passions and partisanship allows division to win out, the only real victor is the devil. This is not even to suggest that the only solution is a “middle road” option of compromise, but perhaps there is a correct way, or better yet, a Christian way to be right in regard to a controversial matter and a charitable way of addressing the matter without brushing aside counter concerns or being “divisive” in the process.
As a new year approaches, as well as a new presidential administration with a significant party control in Congress, it appears to be as an appropriate time as any to ask the question: can we rediscover the seamless garment of life? I think we can and I think it’s necessary. Despite its terrible misuse, the seamless garment challenges us every day. 1) It encourages consistency in our approach to a great variety of issues that affect human life and dignity. 2) It challenges us to reflect on our basic values and convictions which give direction to our lives. 3) Most importantly, it challenges us to express our commitment to the sanctity of life in civil debate and public policy toward the ends of peace and justice.
There remains a host of challenges for the Culture of Life movement. The “life issues” for many minds refers simply to bioethical issues of abortion, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, embryo-destructive medical research, and other such evils condoned as necessary medical care. Others argue for the inclusion of age-old scourges like war, capital punishment, genocide, torture, poverty and hunger, disease, violent crime, a lack of quality health care, and working toward a just economy, i.e. a more adequate distribution of domestic and global resources. All of these as well are “life issues” according to this view. No attack on human life and dignity in the fabric of human activity is an isolated incidence—they all are fundamentally related.
Catholic social doctrine embraces all of these issues as Christian concerns; whereas there is little debate over the former, there is now much heated debate over the priority each issue should have. There are two temptations that seem to exist: to emphasize certain issues and downplay, or even ignore, the importance of others, or to simply equalize them all across the board. Both have severe flaws. No Catholic, or anyone for that matter, has the luxury of attending only to one or two challenges. It is a clear misapplication of humanitarian principles. On the other hand, while modern threats to the sanctity of life are many, it still remains that the scope and gravity of some issues reflect a greater lacking of good, i.e. a greater injustice and thus, not all issues are on the same moral plane—prioritizing cannot be relative. This is ever more difficult to address when these two temptations are manifest on either side of the political spectrum with one side emphasizing opposition to abortion and “family values” and the other side seeking to find “common ground” on abortion behind pro-choice rhetoric and emphasizing Christian influence on all the “other issues.”
It is clear that these challenges are deeply entrenched in contemporary culture; this is especially true in American culture and the evident fruit of the sexual revolution. All of these matters require daily commitment, particularly in family relations which is the broken institution at the heart of all these moral crises. The mission of the Catholic laity is to build a “Culture of Life” by living a good moral life, promoting family values, living out one’s personal vocation in the service of the common good, engaging the political sphere, performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and dialoguing with people of other religious and political perspectives. As Pope John Paul II so rightfully declared:
“It is your task to reveal the true meaning of life where hatred, neglect or selfishness threaten to take over the world. Faced with today’s problems and disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility. Escape in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence, escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. I propose to you the option of love, which is opposite of escape.”
The more I personally engage my non-Catholic neighbors, the more I notice the profound philosophical differences that exist between us. I made note of this in an earlier post on the state of the pro-life movement on the political left—where all issues are morally equal and the cultural acceptance of moral relativism hindered more substantial progress. This philosophic difference has been hammered by Ryan Harkins in his analysis of American cultural perspective on sexuality in comparison to Catholic anthropology and sexual morality in his latest posts. “As long no one gets hurts” is a prevalent attitude that is irreconcilable with Christianity. There is yet another disturbing mentality in America that asserts that a life that would require greater acceptance, love, and care is considered useless, or seen as an intolerable burden that is rejected in one way or another. This is truly manifest in the acceptance of killing to solve social problems is increasingly characteristic of American society and our public policy—from the unborn, to criminals, or someone of ill health or old age.
We forget that our policies are shaped by our culture and that ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are terms in need of redemption. We live in a culture that in many ways lacks God. There is neither justice nor hope without God. The world needs God. Pope Benedict XVI so beautifully put the Catholic understanding of this God:
“‘He will come with vengeance’ (Isaiah 35:4). We can easily suppose how the people imagined that vengeance. But the prophet himself goes on to reveal what it really is: the healing goodness of God. The definitive explanation of the prophet’s word is to be found in the one who died on the cross: in Jesus, the Son of God incarnate. His ‘vengeance’ is the cross: a ‘no’ to violence and a ‘love to the end.’ This is the God we need.”
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.
from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
being made flesh.