Monthly Archives: October 2009

Ardi: Looking at the Latest Missing Link

Virtually everyone with any access to news last week probably heard about Ardi, a 4.4 million year old skeleton of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia. However, given the tendency of the mainstream media to cover every ancient primate discovery as “Scientists discover ‘missing link’ which ‘changes everything'” those who don’t track these things can easily become confused, or even rather suspicious of the whole thing.
So, what is Ardi, and why is this discovery a big deal?

Ardi is a 45% complete skeleton of a female individual from the hominin species Ardipithecus ramidus. This is not a new species: we’ve known about Ardipithecus ramidus since a small number of bones from a member of the species was found in 1992 and formally described and named in 1994. Living about 4.4 million years ago, Ardipithecus ramidus is also not the oldest human ancestor known or a common ancestor between humans and our apparent closest genetic living relatives, the chimps. However, the excitement about Ardi (found along with less complete remains of a number of other Ardipithecus ramidus individuals and also fossil evidence about the plants and animals present in their environment) is not just hype. It is a very important find. Here’s why:

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Congress Needs A Good Pronking

From the only reliable news source on the net, the Onion.  The Urban Dictionary here has a list of the various meanings attributed to the term pronk by Congressman Cummings.  Other definitions of the term are here, here, and here.  To all of this pronk nonsense, I can only quote Abraham Lincoln:   “You can pronk all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot pronk all the people all the time.”

Catholicism Flourishes in Kerala

Luca Fiore of Oasis magazine wrote an article on the Christians in Kerala titled, The Amazing Secrets of Kerala.  I will briefly summarize this article presented by the eloquent Sandro Magister of Chiesa.

Legend has it that Saint Thomas the Apostle arrived and preached in Mylapore, India, not far from Madras, where he suffered martyrdom and where his tomb is kept today.  Prior to his martyrdom Saint Thomas arrived in Kerala at about A.D. 52.  The Christians in south west India called Thomas Christians due to the missionary efforts of Saint Thomas.

St. Thomas the Apostles Tomb Chennai Madras

The Christians in Kerala are of the Syro-Malabar Rite within Catholicism and they constitute up to 20% of the population, where in the rest of India Christians are just a bit over 2%.  Kerala is a pluralistic society where the majority of residents are Hindu, Muslims make up 25%, and Christians 20%.  All the faiths live in peaceful harmony which is unlike some parts of India.

The state of Kerala is somewhat of an anomaly in India.  With relative peace among the different faiths, Kerala also has the highest literacy rates in the country, over 90% compared to roughly 65% to the rest of India.  Another exception is that Kerala is also the only government with Marxists in control.  This coming from a state where the majority of the schools, from elementary to university levels, are predominantly Christian.

Conversions are not common, but when they occur, there is normally no violent reaction whether they convert to Christianity from Hinduism or Islam, though Pentecostals are the most militant and cause the most disturbance among the residents of all faiths.  There are many reasons for conversion to Christianity, some convert because of the communal aspects of worship which is lacking in some Hindu strains.  Other convert due to the love the converts witness that is carried out among Christians.  But there is no definitive evidence of the major reasons behind conversions.

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Lepanto

ourladyoflepanto

     White founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
     And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
     There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
     It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
     It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;
     For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
     They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
     They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
     And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
     And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
     The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
     The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
     From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
     And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Football Player Flagged For His Faith After Touchdown Celebration

Most football fans can relate to scoring a touchdown.  Especially when seeing your favorite team or player score one youChris Johnson flagged for praying or celebrating too much jump up and give high-fives, chest bumps, or take shots of your favorite spirits.

Well in the NFL, or what is sometimes called the “No Fun League”, this past Sunday Chris Johnson of the Oakland Raiders went to his knees and claimed he was giving thanks to God after intercepting a pass for a touchdown.  He was immediately flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for excessive celebration.  Chris Johnson claims it was because he made a religious display while celebrating the touchdown.

I’m of a different mind when it comes to celebrating touchdowns.  The town I grew up in playing football as well as how I practice my faith I generally frown upon celebrating in the end zone.  The way I look at it is that it’s your job to score points.  I don’t chest bump my colleague each time I turn on my computer at work?!  I don’t high-five the secretary for each message she hands over to me?!

It’s your j-o-b to intercept footballs and run them back for touchdowns.

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American Catholic: One Year Retrospective

As Donald noted yesterday, it’s been a year since we started here at The American Catholic. I know we’ve all been pleased both at the quality of the writing from the team as a whole, and also from the interest from our readers.

Looking back over the last year, we put together a list of some of the our favorite posts.

A Can of Worms: In Praise of the Latin Mass Joe Hargrave

Apologia Pro Libertarianism Sua Blackadder

Are Pro-Lifers Stuck with the Republican Party? John Henry

Becoming A Father, A Polical Manifesto Tim Shipe

Catholic Chaplains Series Donald McClarey

Catholic Teachings on Economic Life Eric Brown

Catholics Teaching, Homosexuality and American Life Eric Brown

Cocaine, Cardinal Ocampo, and the Drug Wars Tito Edwards

Delayed Adulthood, Preliminary Thoughts Joe Hargrave

Don’t Adulterate the Adultery Ryan Harkins

Fides Quaerens Intellectum Eric Brown

Generations & American Catholicism John Henry

Moral Simpletons Joe Hargrave

Nationalism and the Problems of the Middle East DarwinCatholic

Partisanship and Empty Rhetoric Ryan Harkins

Pro-Life Movement: Democrats Need Not Apply Tim Shipe

Redistribution of Wealth: A Catholic Perspective Joe Hargrave

Send Me Your Poor DarwinCatholic

Should Catholics Own Guns? Ryan Harkins

Socialism, Catholicism and the Common Good John Henry

Staying Rooted in Parish Life DarwinCatholic

The Old School Date Tim Shipe

The Poor You Will Always Have With You Ryan Harkins

The Vatican’s Rifles DarwinCatholic

Uncomfortable Thoughts on the Declaration Blackadder

Were the Apostles Socialists? Blackadder

Women Priests in the Catholic Church Eric Brown

The Obama Administration and Freedom of Speech

George Washington-Freedom of Speech

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Founding Fathers left no doubt which freedoms they held most important.  They inserted them into the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Freedom of speech and of the press come right after freedom of religion.  These freedoms, and all the others set forth in the Constitution, are the birthright of all Americans and a precious example to the rest of the world.  That is why I am bemused by the manner in which the Obama administration appears to be indifferent to attempts to undermine freedom of speech and of the press at the UN.

Hattip to Instapundit.  In an article here at the The Weekly Standard, Anne Bayefsky, writes about the Obama administration signing on to a freedom of expression resolution.

“The new resolution, championed by the Obama administration, has a number of disturbing elements. It emphasizes that “the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . .” which include taking action against anything meeting the description of “negative racial and religious stereotyping.” It also purports to “recognize . . . the moral and social responsibilities of the media” and supports “the media’s elaboration of voluntary codes of professional ethical conduct” in relation to “combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”

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Re-evaluating American Health Policy: A Catholic Democrat’s Perspective (Part II)

Dr. Peter Pronovost is a distinguished physician known for his efforts to decrease the frequency of deadly hospital-borne infections. His remedy to the problem is surprisingly simple: a checklist of ICU protocols that directs physician sanitary practices (e.g. hand-washing). Hospitals that have put Pronovost’s checklist into practice have had immediate success, reducing hospital-infection rates somewhere between (estimates vary) well over a third to a whopping two-thirds within the first few months of its adoption. Yet as the story goes, many physicians have rejected this solution and Pronovost has struggled to persuade hospitals to adopt his reform.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 100,000 American deaths are caused or contributed to by hospital-borne infections. Blood clots following surgery or illness are the leading cause of avertable hospital deaths in the U.S., which by the most liberal estimates might contribute t o the death of almost 200,000 patients annually. Given such a hideous fact, why exactly does a doctor need to travel about and emphatically seek to persuade other medical institutions to adopt, in effect, a cost-free idea that could save so many lives?

How is that an industry which stridently decries the high cost of liability insurance or the absolute injustice of our tort system(which does need reform) need such petitioning to embrace such a simple technique to save thousands of lives? Moreover, in the United States it is not unheard of for a whole business to shut down due a single illness from some suspicious food—yet, we tolerate the killing-via-negligence on such a grand scale in our hospitals? Medical mistakes and institutional carelessness do not qualify as some must-be-accepted inevitability.

This reality has been almost entirely been neglected in the discourse on health care reform. Beyond the structure and financing troubles of our medical system, the institutional practice and governance of hospitals are in need of severe criticism. For example, in what alternate dimension does the peculiar scheduling of hospital work shifts in any way benefit the patient? A few weeks at the hospitals virtually guarantees a never-ending string of new personnel assigned to one patient’s care. If this can be avoided, should it not? It seems quite reasonable to presume that passing patients off from doctor to doctor, or nurse to nurse, might increase the chance of someone making a mistake? The effect of changing such a seemingly small problem could be huge. Or, take for example, the “sanitary” environment of hospitals in general, which contribute to the nearly 100,000 annual American deaths. Anyone who has ever worked in “corporate America” or in a large building in general might note that the trash is picked up once daily. Is it any different in a hospital? It takes some sort intellectual schizophrenia to insist on ICU sterility in a building if one has not the slightest care over how many times trash (never mind what is in it) is picked up in a day.

Any array of complaints about institutional malpractice must lead to the inevitable question: how is it that the most technologically advanced medical institutions in the industrialized world miss out on a just as modern, just as recent, revolution of quality control and customer-service that has pervaded every other consumer-based industry?  The answer to this question is telling. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Outrageously Anti-Abortion

Sometimes it’s all in the phrasing. The other day I read a mention of the annual Red Mass celebrated in Washington DC which quoted Justice Ginsburg’s explanation of why she no longer attends (though Justice Breyer, also Jewish, attends). The quote in full:

“Before every session, there’s a Red Mass,” Ginsburg said. “And the justices get invitations from the cardinal to attend that. And a good number of the justices show up every year. I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion.”

Outrageously anti-abortion. Well.

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One Year Already?

Happy Birthday American Catholic

I find it hard to believe, but The American Catholic is celebrating its one year birthday today.  I’ve enjoyed writing for the blog over the past year immensely, and I hope our readers and commenters have also had some fun.  Contributors  will be linking to some of their favorite posts.  Here are two of mine:

1.  report-to-the-emperor-first-draft-I posted this on Good Friday and I think I will make this a blog tradition of doing so each year.

2.  triumph-of-the-king-This I posted on Palm Sunday.

My friend and colleague Christopher Blosser is having some computer trouble.  Two of his posts that I greatly admire are:

1.  mitsuo-fuchida-from-pearl-harbor-to-calvary.

2.  catholic-campaign-for-human-development-tainted-by-acorn-or-still-rotten-itself.

In regard to Chris this list would be quite lengthy if I included all the posts he has written which I wish I had written!  Writer envy, it is a terrible thing!

I am sure the next year will be as crowded with events as the last one was.  The American Catholic will be here to comment on the passing scene,  as Americans and Catholics, with, I trust, a leavening of humor and at least a dash of common sense.

President Log

Obama Clueless

“THE FROGS WHO WISHED FOR A KING

The Frogs were tired of governing themselves. They had so much freedom that it had spoiled them, and they did nothing but sit around croaking in a bored manner and wishing for a government that could entertain them with the pomp and display of royalty, and rule them in a way to make them know they were being ruled. No milk and water government for them, they declared. So they sent a petition to Jupiter asking for a king.

Jupiter saw what simple and foolish creatures they were, but to keep them quiet and make them think they had a king he threw down a huge log, which fell into the water with a great splash. The Frogs hid themselves among the reeds and grasses, thinking the new king to be some fearful giant. But they soon discovered how tame and peaceable King Log was. In a short time the younger Frogs were using him for a diving platform, while the older Frogs made him a meeting place, where they complained loudly to Jupiter about the government.

To teach the Frogs a lesson the ruler of the gods now sent a Crane to be king of Frogland. The Crane proved to be a very different sort of king from old King Log. He gobbled up the poor Frogs right and left and they soon saw what fools they had been. In mournful croaks they begged Jupiter to take away the cruel tyrant before they should all be destroyed.

“How now!” cried Jupiter “Are you not yet content? You have what you asked for and so you have only yourselves to blame for your misfortunes.””

Like most conservatives, after last year’s election I thought that Obama would prove a President Crane as far as conservatives were concerned.  With large Democrat majorities in the House and Senate I assumed that Obama would implement changes in this country to send it on a left-ward trajectory.  Instead, other than passing the Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009, sometimes erroneously called the Stimulus bill, Obama has accomplished virtually nothing, a fact which even Saturday Night Live is now mocking. This is astonishing considering the size of his victory last year and the strength of his party in Congress.  Or is it?  I believe there were clear clues from the background of Obama that this might occur.

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Medjugorje, Exploring the Origins

The alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje have had a sordid history.  Much of it to some extent successfully Tomislav Vlasix Marian Hoax Medjugorjeglossed over or reinterpreted by the Franciscans that run the parish at Medjugorje.  A document was put out by Bishop Ratko Peric, the ordinary of the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno that encompasses Medjugorje, which was translated by Richard Chonak of the Catholic Light blog, that put to record of what actually occurred in Medjugorje and how the alleged apparitions were fabricated and manipulated by dissident priests such as Tomislav Vlasic and Slavko Barbaric.

I want to briefly summarize some highlights from this translated document first, which then be followed by the translated document in full.

Highlights:

1. Tomislav Vlasic, in collusion with his superior, undermined the authority of the bishop by relocating himself to Medjugorje without asking permission.  They waited an entire year to do so.

2. Tomislav Vlasic and Slavko Barbaric, the spiritual directors of the alleged seers, did not allow the seers to report any alleged messages from the Madonna without coming to them first so they can have their stories straight.

3. A grave theological error that the alleged apparition stated that all people in Heaven have their souls and their bodies with them.  I guess Tomislav Vlasic never studied the Nicene Creed.

4. Tomislav Vlasic claimed to have visited the Pope (John Paul II) when he never did.

5. The Madonna wanted Slavko Barbaric to replace Tomislav Vlasic as the spiritual director so he could document the entire episode of the visions.  Slavko Barbaric passed away in AD 2000, and the alleged apparitions continue to this day… without Slavko Barbaric.  Another “vision” that never came true.

There are many more, but I just highlighted the big ones that I thought were prescient.  The following is the completed translation of Bishop Ratko Peric’s documentation of the many errors of the apparitions in Medjugorje:

Vlasic’s involvement in the “Medjugorje phenomenon”

Just as last year, when the Holy See sanctioned the Rev. Vlasic with interdict, warning him of more severe penalties if he would not obey, once again numerous comments have appeared in the mass media to proclaim the non-connection between the “Medjugorje phenomenon” and the “Vlasic case”. If in both the letter and in reference to the two more serious penalties there is an explicit reminder of the “Medjugorje phenomenon”,[1] in which Tomislav Vlasic in involved, why is there never any connection between the one and the other? We would like to recall just that undeniable connection, from the beginning.

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