Monthly Archives: October 2010

NFP and Fasting

When trying to explain the Catholic understanding of sexuality to someone “outside”, I almost invariably find myself falling back on analogies relating to diet and gluttony.  It’s a natural comparison, and while modern society has lost any sense that it’s reasonable to have any less sex if you want to have fewer children, people are able to get more righteous then ever over the point that if you want to be fit you must, must, must eat moderately and exercise more. 

Indeed, diet and exercise may be the one thing relating to sexuality where modern culture understands a great deal of self denial.  After all, one of the motivations for all this diet and exercise is, I think one may honestly admit, to look better while naked.

Which leaves the obvious question: Why has a Church which finds itself swimming against a quickening current in regards to its teaching on birth control nearly totally abandoned any sort of severity in regards to fasting? 

Sure, we’re an “Easter people” and all that, but maybe some rigorous self denial for the sake of religion would help us with some rigorous self denial for the sake of our faith.  I’ve been pretty much as bad as the next fellow on this — doing the mental calculation of whether I can make one more cup of coffee and still make the hour fast before mass or falling to the “I’ll say some extra prayers tonight as a sacrifice instead” temptation on Fridays outside of Lent when meat is all that appears on the menu.  But this is, after all, part of the problem.  The constant NFP lament is “Look, we played by the rules all those years before we were married.  Why does there have to be frustration now too?” 

If virtue is a habit, perhaps it’s time to form some more habits around denial of appetite.

Patron Saint of Politicians?

In this political season I was curious as to which saint was the patron saint of politicians.  Much to my shock I learned that on October 26, 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Saint Thomas More as patron saint of politicians and statesman.  It was an inspired choice, but I think the average politician might find Saint Thomas More difficult to emulate.

1.  As far as I can tell, Saint Thomas More always told the truth.  Most politicians seem to regard lying as a job requirement or a job perk.

2.  Saint Thomas More was noted by contemporaries for not taking bribes.  Such honesty was just as rare among politicians then as it is now.

3.  As Cardinal Wolsey, unforgettably portrayed by Orson Welles, in the video clip above noted, Saint Thomas always viewed issues of public policy with a “moral squint”.  Most politicians would view this as a severe handicap.

4.  Saint Thomas gave up the highest office in England over a matter of principle.  I am afraid the average politician’s reaction to this would be, “You have got to be kidding”.

5.  Most politicians when viewing the movie “A Man for All Seasons” would probably think that Richard Rich is the hero of the film. Continue reading

TAC College Rankings: Week 8

There are few reasons a baseball team’s logo leads this week’s post, not the least of which being the Rangers victory that knocked out the Yankees was the last worthwhile sports thing that happened for me this weekend. I had 7 and a half hours of hideously ugly football.

I digress a bit to express my hatred for CBS’s announcers Gary & Verne. Although I am pleased that they have found a replacement after Tim Tebow broke their hearts by both leaving the SEC and by not marrying them, I didn’t near to hear that much about Cam Newton. I’d say more, but this is a family blog. LSU fans now are clamoring for Bama tickets just so they don’t have to hear this duo ever again, and many across the SEC share our pain.

However, my purple and gold brethren were not alone in our pain. The Sooners lost their bid for a perfect season (As did their in-state rivals, but they barely beat The RajunBullCajundogs of ULL so it was to be expected). Texas lost to Iowa St.; Notre Dame got destroyed by Navy. Not a good weekend for most of the powerhouses.

With Texas’s & Oklahoma’s loss, unless Missouri dazzles it’s harder to see the Big 12 getting into the title game. Oregon’s destruction of UCLA makes the Texas win by Oklahoma less shiny (as does Air Force’s loss to TCU) and weakens the conference overall. If Auburn and Bama don’t lose again until the Iron Bowl, they will both have impressive resumes. The Big 10/1/2 has an undefeated Michigan St. team that has only a test against Iowa left to seriously challenge them. TCU also had an impressive victory over Air Force.

The Heisman looks to be Newton’s to lose, but if Auburn sleeps against either Ole Miss or Georgia, a loss could devastate their national title & Heisman hopes. While wins are nice, in a season like this sometimes the losses are more important.

Now to the rankings. No Tito this week, as he is presumably honeymooning in the blue fields of Idaho. Yet, we still have the bizarrest rankings yet. Enjoy.

Continue reading

AP's Article On The Catholic Blogosphere & NPR's Firing Of Juan Williams Are Par For The Course

National Public Radio’s ludicrous firing of Juan Williams and a subsequent mainstream media article on Catholic bloggers may seem to be two separate issues. Some may say what does the overwhelmingly conservative leaning Catholic blogosphere have in common with the liberal leaning Juan Williams? The answer is quite simple; both scare the mainstream media because Juan Williams and the majority of the Catholic blogosphere put forth interesting solutions to often discussed questions.

The modus operadi of some in the mainstream media is to find a couple of unnamed fringe Catholic bloggers, who few read, and then make them become bigger players than they really are. Combine this with a Juan Williams quote which most of America agrees with and voila you have it; the ultimate straw man from which you can tear apart any minority who appears on Fox News or any Catholic blogger who faithfully defends the teachings of the 2,000 year old Catholic Church.

In this Associated Press article on the Catholic blogosphere, the piece mentions Thomas Peters and Michael Voris (who is known for his videos not his blogging,) but focuses on harsh unnamed Catholic bloggers. The article quotes John Allen who calls elements of the Catholic blogosphere “Taliban Catholicism.” The highly respected Mr. Allen, who though working for the dissident leaning National Catholic Reporter, is often known for his many high ranking Church contacts and his fairness. He should have know better than to give the quote that he did. To take a few bloggers from the right (or even from the left) and call them the Catholic blogosphere is the type of journalism that would not pass muster for a high school paper, let alone the AP. This would be akin to taking the worst rated college or pro football team and telling the world this is the best of American football, or perhaps watching the Walla Walla Community theater production of Hamlet and saying this is Hamlet at its finest. John Allen should have realized where this article was going and chosen his words more carefully.

The AP article continues by naming a Church official who seems worried about the Catholic blogosphere. One wonders if the Church official would know the difference between Father John Zuhlsdorf from Father Richard McBrien, Amy Welborn from Aimee Semple McPherson, Mark Shea from Mark Sanford, Rocco Palmo from Rocco Mediate, or Tito Edwards from Tito Santana. I worked for years in a diocesan office and I have yet to meet, even in my travels, a diocesan official who is well versed in the blogosphere. It seems to be a generational thing and most diocesan officials are not to be confused with the younger, more conservative seminarians or young priests being ordained.

While some in the mainstream media snicker at the Pope and Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Catholic Church) they in reality have their own magisterium. In their secular magisterium anyone who believes in the Catholic Church’s authority is hopelessly outdated, because according to gatekeepers in the mainstream media, true thinkers are those in the dying liberal churches who don’t know what they believe. Sadly, GK Chesterton prophetically predicted this would happen. He said, “It’s not that atheists and agnostics believe in nothing, they believe in everything.” In modern parlance, “It’s all good.” How sad that some who proclaim to be “open minded” can’t see the obvious; liberal Christianity is dying on the vine.” Continue reading

October 25, 1415

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
    But one ten thousand of those men in England
    That do no work to-day!
KING. What’s he that wishes so?
    My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
    If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
    To do our country loss; and if to live,
    The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
    God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
    By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
    Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
    It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
    Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
    But if it be a sin to covet honour,
    I am the most offending soul alive. Continue reading


The midterm elections are upon us a week from tomorrow, so it is time for predictions.  Predictions are harder than normal this year because we are dealing with an unprecedented situation in modern American politics.  Never before have the Republicans been so far ahead on almost every generic Congressional ballot, and never have they enjoyed such a large enthusiasm gap between their voters and voters who intend to vote for Democrats.  Additionally, never before have the Republicans fielded so many well-funded candidates in traditional Democrat strongholds.  This is political terra incognita.  Almost all serious political analysts believe that the GOP will take more than the 39 seats necessary to take the House, with some of the chief prognosticators making the following predictions:  Larry Sabato (47), RCP (”up to 57?), Charlie Cook (52), Jay Cost (61), and Nate Silver (51). Continue reading

The Future?

Actually, I think if current trends continue, I could imagine in  2030 a group of Chinese prisoners under guard working in a rice field.  A passerby yells out, “What did they do?”  A guard growls at one of the prisoners, “Wang, tell him what all of you did!”  Wang sheepishly yells out, “We are the economic advisors who thought that American debt made for a good investment!”   As the screen fades, the passerby has to be physically restrained by the guard from attacking Wang.

Army of the Free

Something for the weekend.  Army of the Free, one of the more rousing of the Civil War songs.  Sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring the music of the Civil War to modern audiences.

And here is another rendition:

Continue reading

Pro Bono Publico

Hattip to Instapundit.  To all would be attorneys who read TAC, I have warned you about the law as a profession on several occasions, here, here, and here.  You have been adequately warned!   For those of you who ignore my advice and are jobless on graduation, you can always sue your law school.   (Of course my first born is planning on following me in the law, so my warnings must be inadequate!)  Now this post will have to be brief, because I have 10 calls to return, three bankruptcies to prepare, 2 trials to get ready for, and all the other charming events that the day will bring me in the law mines!

Andrew Klavan on Extremists

In a nation where 40% of the population identify as conservatives, it is hilarious that we have what is laughingly referred to as the mainstream media which tilts overwhelmingly to the left, and purports to determine which candidates are “moderate” and which are “mainstream”.  However, in the age of the internet, the power of the mainstream media is a diminishing asset, especially when such examples as NPR firing liberal Juan Williams for stating that he is nervous on a plane when he sees passengers in traditional muslim garbindicate clearly who the intolerant extremists truly are. Continue reading

What Is This Wicked Capitalism?

One of the difficulties that comes in discussing the many “isms” that populate the landscape of political discussion is that very often people use the same words without mean the same things, or indeed without having any clearly defined idea of what they do mean. While this is the case with nearly any ism (socialism, liberalism, libertarianism, conservatism, etc.) I’d like to address in this case the way in which opponents (particularly Christian opponents) of “capitalism” tend to address the object of their condemnation. This is in some ways a beautifully typical example of a Christian opponent of capitalism attempting to describe what it is he is condemning:

We must remember the capitalistic system we live in also is a materialistic ideology which runs contrary to the Christian faith, and it is a system which is used to create rival, and equally erroneous, forms of liberation theology. It is as atheistic as Marxism. It is founded upon a sin, greed. It promises utopia, telling us that if we allow capitalist systems to exist without regulation, everyone, including the poor, will end up being saved. The whole “if we allow the rich to be rich, they will give jobs to the poor” is just as much a failed ideology as Marxist collectivism.

Admittedly, this is a somewhat muddled set of statements, but I think we can draw out of it the following statements which the author, and many other self described critics of capitalism (in particular from a religious perspective) believe to be true:
-Capitalism is a system or ideology much as Communism is.
-Capitalism is based on greed or takes greed to be a virtue.
-Capitalism is a materialistic or atheistic philosophy/system.
-Capitalism could be summed up as the idea that “if we allow the rich to be rich, they will give jobs to the poor”
-Capitalism promises utopia if “capitalist systems” are allowed to exist without regulation.

While one approach to this is simply to throw out the term “capitalism” entirely, what I’d like to do is accept that claim that we live in a “capitalist” system and that this system is roughly what libertarians/conservatives advocate, and proceed to address the claims made about “capitalism” in that context.
Continue reading

Faculty Committee Finds That Dr. Howell's Academic Due Process Rights Were Denied


Faithful readers of our blog will recall the case of Dr. Kenneth Howell at the University of Illinois.  I have posted on his firing and subsequent rehiring here, here, here and here.  Briefly, Dr. Howell taught a course on Catholicism at the University of Illinois under contract between the Newman Center at the University of Illinois and the University since 2001.  Dr. Howell describes the events which led to his firing:

This past semester was unusual. In previous years, I had students who might have disagreed with the Church’s position but they did so respectfully and without incident.  This semester (Spring 2010) I noticed the most vociferous reaction that I have ever had. It seemed out of proportion to all that I had known thus far. To help students understand better how this issue might be decided within competing moral systems, I sent them an email contrasting utilitarianism (in the populist sense) and natural moral law. If we take utilitarianism to be a kind of cost-benefit analysis, I tried to show them that under utilitarianism, homosexual acts would not be considered immoral whereas under natural moral law they would. This is because natural moral law, unlike utilitarianism, judges morality on the basis of the acts themselves.

 After the semester was over, I was called into the office of Robert McKim, the chairman of the Department of Religion, who was in possession of this email. I was told that someone (I presume one of my students) sent this email to the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Concerns at the University. It was apparently sent to administrators in the University of Illinois and then forwarded on to Professor McKim. I was told that I would no longer be able to teach in the Department of Religion.

Professor McKim and I discussed the contents of the email and he was quite insistent that my days of teaching in the department were over. I offered that it would be more just to ask me not to address the subject of homosexuality in my class. In fact, the other class I regularly taught (Modern Catholic Thought) never dealt with that subject at all. I also averred that to dismiss me for teaching the Catholic position in a class on Catholicism was a violation of academic freedom and my first amendment rights of free speech. This made no difference. After that conversation and a couple of emails, Professor McKim insisted that this decision to dismiss me stood firm.

The Newman Center and the Diocese of Peoria did not stand behind Howell initially, seeming to want to avoid a conflict with the University.  Dr. Howell contacted the Alliance Defense Fund which contacted the University and threatened to file suit.  Catholic bloggers raised a huge hue and cry about the firing.  Eventually the firing decision was reversed, and Dr. Howell was re- hired to teach Introduction to Catholicism in the fall semester of this year.  However, the contract between the Newman Center and the University of Illinois was ended, and Dr. Howell would simply teach the course as a regular adjunct professor of  the University.

The faculty committee has finished its examination of the firing of Dr. Howell.  Inside Education has obtained a leaked copy of the report, and a story on the report may be read here, along with a link to the report. Continue reading

Reading Between the Hats

Pope Benedict XVI has announced the 24 men who will become cardinals next month. There are two Americans in the group: Archbishop Burke of St. Louis and Archbishop Wuerl of Washington D.C.

It seems pretty clear that this is, in part, a stinging loss for those Catholics on the left who have attempted to deride Burke and other hardline Catholics on the abortion issue as being “out of touch with the Vatican.” Obviously, Burke’s viewpoints are not so distasteful and Calvinist to the Pope. Considering how vocal Burke has been on the issue, it would stretch credulity to think that the Pope did not think that Burke’s interpretation of the meaning of the abortion issue in the voting decision is an acceptable Catholic position.

However, with the appointment of Wuerl the pope seems to be suggesting that Burke’s position is not the only one. In a papacy that has confounded left and right, the pope does so again by elevating one of the more vocal bishops on determining withholding of communion on an individual basis in regards to pro-abortion politicians. Wuerl was however also extremely vocal in opposing DC’s move to same-sex marriage.

While neither “side” can claim victory with these two appointments, what has been defeated is the idea that the Vatican has a right answer. That the Vatican secretly disdains all these Republican voters or that the Pope wishes he could excommunicate everyone cannot be held except by the severest of ideologues. Instead, the Pope is sending a message that, as he did in Caritas in Veritate, he wants the different sides of the aisle in American to be dialoguing with each other and this debate, far from being an example of silly American politics, may be one that the rest of the world needs to be engaged in. So while neither side can claim victory, both sides seem to be encouraged in coming to the table to present their arguments.

Political Miscellania 10\20\10

A roundup of political news less than two weeks from the midterm elections.

1.  Kentucky Fried Political Suicide-Jack Conway decided to lose the Kentucky Senate Race with a bang not a whimper.  His video resurrects a college prank pulled by Rand Paul almost three decades ago and attempts to use it to brand Paul an apostate from Christianity.  I have seen lots of ludicrous attack ads over the years but this one takes the case.  And the woman who was tied up in the prank?  Here is her take:

The woman — who was made available to me for an interview by GQ reporter Jason Zengerle in response to the Paul campaign’s denunciations of his article — said she didn’t mean to imply that she was kidnapped “in a legal sense.”

“The whole thing has been blown out of proportion,” she told me. “They didn’t force me, they didn’t make me. They were creating this drama: `We’re messing with you.'”

The woman said that much of the subsequent coverage of her allegations missed a key nuance: As a participant in a college ritual, where lines between acquiescence and victimization are often blurry, she was largely playing along with the notion that she was being forced to follow Paul’s orders.

“I went along because they were my friends,” she said. “There was an implicit degree of cooperation in the whole thing. I felt like I was being hazed.”

By all accounts the ad is backfiring big time on Conway and will probably ensure a double digit Paul victory.  Most voters understand that college students are young and often immature, at least I was,  and can act in fairly foolish ways at times as a result.  Besides, attempting to turn this into an attack on Paul’s religious faith is misplaced.  I am as confident as I can be that when Paul was tying up the coed the last thing on his mind was religion.

2.  Ohio Fried Political Suicide-Steve Driehaus is the Democrat Congressman for Ohio 1.  He doesn’t want you to see the ad above.  He is desperate because he trails his opponent Steve Chabot by double digits according to a recent poll.  He is one of the incumbent Democrat Congressmen who have been cast adrift by the Democrat party because their re-election races appear hopeless.  He is also one of the “pro-life” Democrat Congressman who voted for ObamaCare.    The Susan B. Anthony List paid for a billboard to remind the constituents of Driehaus that ObamaCare allows for public funding of abortions.  Driehaus complained to the Ohio Election Commission, claiming that the ad is misleading.  A hearing is scheduled for the end of October.  The attorneys for Driehaus strong armed the owner of the billboard not to allow the ad until the Commission has issued a ruling.  The President of the Susan B. Anthony List Marjorie Dannenfelser has stated in regard to Driehaus and his lack of familiarity with the first amendment:

The Ohio Elections Commission has allowed Steve Driehaus to achieve his strategic objective of preventing constituents from learning the truth about his vote in favor of taxpayer funding of abortion in the health care reform bill. We are disappointed and surprised that the complaint was not immediately dismissed. The fact that the health care reform bill allows for taxpayer funding of abortion has been agreed upon by every major pro-life group in the country, including National Right to Life, Americans United for Life, Focus on the Family, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The larger problem here is a public official’s attempt to use a criminal statue to silence legitimate debate on his record. The proper place for public policy debate is in the public square, not in an Elections Commission or criminal court. The SBA List will see this process through to the end and vigorously defend our position that the health care reform bill, supported by Steve Driehaus, allows for taxpayer funding of abortion. Moreover, we will use every vehicle possible within our First Amendment rights to communicate this message to the people of Congressman Steve Driehaus’ district between now and the hearing.

Of course by attempting to suppress the billboard, Driehaus has ensured that it has been seen by far more people over the internet and in newspaper and television stories than would have ever seen the billboard.  Brilliant.  Desperate and stupid is a poor combination in politics. Continue reading

Constitutional Ignorance

I see that my co-blogger MJ Andrew has already posted about the Christine O’Donnell-Chris Coons debate, and I thank him as that saves me the trouble of having to sort through a whole bunch of links.

I disagree with him, though somewhat reservedly.  Having listened to the entire clip it does seem to me that O’Donnell is questioning whether the concept of the separation of Church and State is in the First Amendment, not the Establishment Clause.  There was some crosstalk at this point in the debate, and it appears to me that she’s just repeating her question with regards to the issue of separation.  It’s debatable, though, and a candidate should do a better job clearly establishing what she’s talking about in such a setting.

That being the case,  I was more intrigued by  Coons’s own response to the question.  While O’Donnell possibly made a gaffe – an unfortunate one if indeed it was a gaffe – Coons’s response is the more troubling aspect of this exchange. Continue reading

TAC NFL Rankings, Week 6

Parity continues to reign. We’re starting to get the idea that in the NFC, it’ll probably be an NFC South showdown between the Dirty Birds of Atlanta and the Saints who finally had an offensive breakthrough this week, and the Giants and Eagles playing spoilers. However, the AFC looks to be far beyond the NFC.

To the rankings! Continue reading

The Angel of Marye's Heights

Richard Rowland Kirkland is a name that should be cherished by every American.  On December 13, 1862 he was a sergeant in Company G, 2nd South Carolina.  The day was ending and his regiment was stationed at the stone wall at the base of Marye’s Heights overlooking Fredericksburg.  His unit had helped smash Union attack after Union attack, and now he looked over fields strewn with wounded and dead Union soldiers.  He could hear the wounded Union soldiers crying out desperately for water.

Unable to bear the cries any longer, he approached Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw and informed him of what he wanted to do.  Kershaw gave him his permission, but told him he was unable to authorize a flag of truce.  Kirkland said that was fine and he would simply have to take his chances.  Gathering up all the canteens and blankets he could carry, Kirkland slipped over the wall, realizing that without a flag of truce it was quite possible he would be fired upon by Union troops.

Kirkland began to give drinks to Union wounded and blankets to protect them from the cold.  Union troops, recognizing what he was doing, did not fire at him.  For hours Kirkland went back and forth tending to the enemy wounded.  He did not stop until he had assisted all Union wounded in the Confederate portion of the battlefield.  The last Union soldier he assisted he gave his own overcoat.  He was repeatedly cheered by both Union and Confederate soldiers. Continue reading

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