Monthly Archives: May 2009
As I prepare for some surgery this coming week to dig out some melanoma or pre-melanoma (docs still aren’t sure) from my back, I caught the last Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I haven’t watched late night talk shows regularly since Letterman back in the 80′s- but I like watching end of an era type programs because everyone seems to be in a more profound mood.
Jay Leno apparently caught that spirit. In his final moments in thinking of his legacy, he said his first reaction was something like- hey I tell jokes, make people laugh- what more do you say. But then he related how one of the band member’s had a child born shortly after he began as the Tonight Show host- and the child was featured briefly on the show. He then brought out the child who was now 17, and this led to his end game. He pulled back the curtain after describing how so many of his crew members met, married and had kids while being part of his show. The curtain revealed 68 kids and young adults, and Jay was beaming at how his show had a big part in bringing people together and making these children a reality.
I am quite certain that there was no political message embedded in this curtain call and speech about legacy- but it was hard to miss that what is of ultimate value is not all the temporary laughter over the years, it is the eternally significant lives of human beings, who may be mysteriously connecting in even the most insignificant of settings. If Jay Leno gets that, then God bless. I think God is always hiding in the most natural and normal of circumstances- the natural family is the greatest supernatural boost to many people’s spiritual growth. Maybe Leno missed out on that while focusing on his career, with no children of his own- or adopted- he and his wife apparently thought they were fine without children at home. But now he seemed to be finding his larger purpose in the children of his employees- which is a good development I think.
Christopher West came in for some criticism recently, much of it deserved, for his appearance on Nightline. In one sense, I sympathize with the critics. I have heard West speak, and found the simplification (bordering on sensationalization) of certain aspects of Theology of the Body somewhat off-putting. In a perfect world, people would read the writings of John Paull II and others to acquire a sophisticated, nuanced grasp of the subject matter. Nevertheless, that is not the world in which we live. That being the case I think, on balance, West’s work is valuable, difficult, and necessary.
And so I was somewhat surprised to see Dr. Schindler take the recent brouhaha as an opportunity to rather harshly criticize all of West’s work. The tension between academics and popularizers is nothing new (even writers as brilliant as C.S. Lewis and Chesterton had and have their academic detractors); but one would hope for a more restrained and sympathetic treatment given the difficulty of presenting the Catholic understanding of sexuality in the modern United States. I think the following defenses by Dr. Janet Smith and Dr. Michael Waldstein help provide a better context for understanding West and his work:
UCLA professor Peter Baldwin pens an interesting priece for the UK’s Prospect in which he argues that the differences between the US and Europe are not as great as is often claimed. Baldwin’s point of view strikes me as left of center, but his argument (mainly a comparison of statistics to see how the US really measures up to various EU countries on questions like poverty, education, environmentalism, etc.) is fairly non-ideological and the overall result is interesting.
Left open ended (though he provides a few thoughts on the matter) is the question of why both Americans and Europeans like to perceive such strong differences between themselves, and what exactly that means about the two cultures.
"Is There a Common Ground on Life Issues?" — A discussion with Robert P. George and Doug Kmiec, moderated by Mary Ann Glendon
Robert P. George and Doug Kmiec engaged in a discussion of the topic, “The Obama Administration and the Sanctity of Human Life: Is There a Common Ground on Life Issues? What is the Right Response by ‘Pro-Life” Citizens?” at Washington, D.C.’s National Press Club, Thursday, May 28, 2009. The discussion was moderated by Mary Ann Glendon.
Nat Hentoff’s characteristically blunt and ‘no b.s.’ columns used to be one of chief attractions of the Village Voice, before they made the foolish mistake of letting him go. Politically he’s not one you can apply a label to — in 2003 he supported the removal of Saddam Hussein’s murderous dictatorship on humanitarian grounds, but as a supporter of the First Amendment and civil liberties, harshly criticized the more excessive measures taken by the Bush administration.
Unapologetically pro-life, he is a staunch opponent of the death penalty and abortion (the latter apparently causing some tension with his liberal colleagues at the Voice) and vigorously opposed the court-ordered murder of Terry Schiavo.
Not surprisingly, he established a rapport with the feisty John Cardinal O’Connor, about whom he wrote an appreciative biography.
A self-described “member of the Proud and Ancient Order of Stiff-Necked Jewish Atheists,” he is also one who might merit the attribution: “on the side of the angels.”
Now, he takes aim at President Obama’s faux-support for “dialogue” at Notre Dame:
Father Alberto Cutié has abruptly left the Catholic Church and has joined the Episcopal church today. Father Cutié was recently caught in a scandal involving a woman in a two year affair and asked and received an indefinite leave of absence from Archbishop John C. Favalora. This has come as sudden and unexpected news to the Church. Archbishop Favalora of Miami has not spoken with Alberto Cutié since his request and has expressed shock at the news.
“I am genuinely disappointed by the announcement made earlier this afternoon by Father Alberto Cutié that he is joining the Episcopal Church,”
[quoting a pro-choice advocate covering Obama's Notre Dame address]
Good, I thought. It will be from the parent of the mentally retarded high school student who was gang raped, the doctor of an 11 year old incest victim, or possibly a woman with four kids already whose husband has just lost his job and medical benefits along with it.
Boy, was I wrong.”
The above desired examples of women (or girls) seeking abortion are precisely the kind of examples that do nothing whatsoever to further the purpose of honest debate about abortion in this country. Women (or girls) in such circumstances are chosen as examples because theirs are the stories most likely to evoke sympathy from most people (even if they do not sway the edicts of the Holy See). That Ms. Burk would cherry-pick them is not surprising, but nor does it speak to her desire to see abortion honestly discussed.
My trouble with her examples stems from my own experience as a doctor in New York City. For a few years, I worked in a clinic that provided free care to adolescents and young adults. I saw many, many young women who had become pregnant unintentionally. Many of them went on to deliver and parent their babies. Many opted to abort. (Before moving forward, I should clarify that our clinic did not provide abortions, but did serve as a point of referral.)
Miguel H. Diaz has been chosen by President Obama, peace be upon him, as the new ambassador to the Holy See. The secular media and Catholic Left has been hailing Mr. Diaz as a Rahner scholar and “pro-life” Democrat. Jesuit Father James Martin of America magazine, who recently claimed that Obama is not pro-abortion, has praised Mr. Diaz for being a Latino, in addition to being a “faithful” Catholic and for receiving a degree from the University of Notre Dame.
Abbot John Klassen of St. John’s Abbey had this to say about Mr. Diaz’s Latino and theological credentials [emphasis mine]:
“He is a strong proponent of the necessity of the Church to become deeply and broadly multi-cultural [I guess we need priestesses to be more multi-cultural], to recognize and appreciate the role that culture plays in a living faith [sounds too much like a living, breathing constitution]. Born in Havana, Cuba [Being born in Havana, Cuba is a good start in creating his Latino credentials.], he is a leading Hispanic theologian in United States.”
In the same week of his nomination of a Hispanic Catholic for the Supreme Court of the United States, President Obama has finally named Havana-born 45 year old Miguel H. Diaz, an associate professor of theology at St. John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota, to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. Eric Gorski (Associated Press) reports: