29

The Only Winners in Wisconsin are the Packers

Yesterday, the Republicans in Wisconsin edited the unions bill to make it non-fiscal, thus eliminating the Wisconsin procedural requirement that all senators be there. Thus, since there was quorum the bill in its new form was passed by the State Assembly and is expected to be approved by the Senate today.

It’s hard to fault the Republicans for ending this mess. It had to end, and if they weren’t going to abandon the bill it was best to figure out a way to get it passed and move on. That doesn’t change the fact that their bill is in clear violation of Catholic Social Teaching by stripping the workers of their right to unionize on benefits.

In the end, this episode underscores just how dysfunctional our democracy is. Democracy is based on different ideas interacting and challenging each other. Today however, ideas don’t mix; we are left with mindless slogans about empty ideas left to do battle not on the merit of the idea but rather the brute force of the quantity of supporters. In Wisconsin, the Democrats abandoned debate and vote in favor of grinding the process to a halt. The Republicans shattered the rights of workers in order to no longer discuss issues with the unions. Neither side showed any interest in a true debate or an attempt to compromise. In this case, we all lost.

16

Rand Paul Gets It

I have never been a fan of Ron Paul, to say the least, but I am rapidly becoming a fan of his son.

Yesterday the Senate in a 44-56 vote rejected the House proposal to cut 57 billion from the budget.  Then the Senate rejected a Democrat proposal to cut the budget by 5 billion dollars, 42 to 58. 

This year the federal budget deficit will be an estimated one and a half trillion dollars and that is probably on the low side.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky voted against both proposals because he believes that neither are serious attempts to come to grips with the sea of red ink which is threatening to destroy this nation’s future prosperity.  He is absolutely correct.

He has proposed 500 billion dollar cuts.  This would be a serious start, but would still leave a deficit this year of a trillion dollars.  Here, hattip to David Fredosso at the Washington Examiner,  are the details of his plan: Continue Reading

2

Taps For The Last Doughboy

It is hard to believe they all gone now, the millions of Americans who fought against the Kaiser in the American Expeditionary Force.  Frank Woodruff Buckles, 110, America’s last Doughboy, went to join his fellow soldiers on Sunday, February 17, 2011.  He lied about his age to enlist in the Army at age 16.  He served as an ambulance driver in England and France.  He left the Army in 1920, but that was not the end of his wartime adventures.  In World War 2 he endured three years as a guest of the Emperor, as a civilian POW in the Philippines.  God rest his soul. Continue Reading

9

Let Us Not Mourn the Passing of These Texts

I don’t know how many people have been keeping up with the forthcoming changes to the Roman Missal.  This has been a particular passion/hobby of mine lately.  At my home site, I am doing a weekly column of pieces explaining the new translations.  Thus far, I have discussed all the changes to the people’s parts and this Monday I will begin taking up the priest’s parts, starting with Eucharistic Prayer I.  (For those interested, the entire collection can be found here.)

Today at Mass the need for a new translation became crystal clear.  What follows is a comparison of the two prayers from the Mass.  First, the Collect.  What we heard at Mass just hour ago was,

Lord protect us in our struggle against evil.

As we begin the discipline of Lent,

make this day holy by our self-denial.

Not bad … at least there is some discussion of self-denial and discipline.  But listen to the new translation:

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting

this campaign of Christian service,

so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,

we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

Holy fasting … campaign … battle against spiritual evils … armed with weapons of self-restraint.  That’s the kind of Lent I’m talking about!  However, what really got me going was the Prayer Over the Ashes.  Here is the current “translation”:

Dear friends in Christ, let us ask our Father

to bless these ashes which we will use

as the mark of our repentance.

Lord, bless the sinner who asks for your forgiveness

and bless all those who receive these ashes.

May they keep this lenten season

in preparation for the joy of Easter.

Before we get to the new translation, just for kicks, let’s look at the Latin: Continue Reading

6

Ash Wednesday: God Wills It!

Lent is a time for confronting evil, especially the evil within us.  Today is Ash Wednesday.  The origins of the use of ashes on Ash Wednesday is lost in the mists of Church history.  The first pope to mention Ash Wednesday, although the custom was very old by his time, was Pope Urban II.  At the Council of Clermont in 1095, the same Council at which the Pope issued his world altering call for the First Crusade, the Council handed down this decree (among others):  10-11. No layman shall eat meat after the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday until Easter. No cleric shall eat meat from Quinquagesima Sunday until Easter.

That the first pope to mention Ash Wednesday was the same pope who launched the First Crusade is very appropriate.  Although even many Catholics may not realize this today, from first to last the Crusades were a penitential rite for the remission of sins.  One of the foremost modern historian of the Crusades, Thomas Madden, notes this:

During the past two decades, computer-assisted charter studies have demolished that contrivance. Scholars have discovered that crusading knights were generally wealthy men with plenty of their own land in Europe. Nevertheless, they willingly gave up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was not cheap. Even wealthy lords could easily impoverish themselves and their families by joining a Crusade. They did so not because they expected material wealth (which many of them had already) but because they hoped to store up treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt. They were keenly aware of their sinfulness and eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love. Europe is littered with thousands of medieval charters attesting to these sentiments, charters in which these men still speak to us today if we will listen. Of course, they were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had. But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.

Pope Urban II was clear on this point in calling for the first Crusades when he reminded the chivalry of Europe of their manifold sins and called them to repentance through the Crusade: Continue Reading

11

Religious Egalitarianism

The five minute window between approximately 5:16 and 5:21 p.m. is my least favorite time of the day.  Not only am I usually waiting for a bus that has about a 25% chance of showing up,  that’s when both the sports radio talk show that I listen to and the Michael Medved show hit commercial breaks.  This leaves me a few options: turn off the darned radio for a few minutes, see if one of the FM stations is playing a good song, or flip to Sean Hannity.  Perhaps out of some yearning to perform an daily act of penance I often choose option three.  (To understand why this is a quasi-penitential act for me, you can read my post about Hannity here.)  At least he usually has on a guest during this time slot who is both more informative and entertaining than he is – a low bar to be sure.

Today he had two guests, both Muslim.  One was a woman that I’ve heard on his show before.  I am not sure if she is currently a practicing Muslim, but she clearly thinks that it is in the thrall of radicals, and she makes this clear by practically shouting each word that she speaks.  The other gentleman was a “moderate” Muslim.  The few minutes of the exchange that I listened to largely consisted of the former insisting that the latter’s abhorrence of sharia law and radicalism was a minority viewpoint within Islam, and the latter insisting that he represented the majority viewpoint.  Neither really advanced any supporting evidence for either viewpoint save to just insist more fervently in their respective positions. Thrilling radio.

Before tuning out to return to the vitally important discussion of the NCAA tournament (perhaps an even stricter form of penance), the man said something that struck me as rather bizarre.  He stated that he did not think that any religion was any better than any other, and that to believe that one’s own religion was superior to other religions was a sign of arrogance.

Come again? Continue Reading

7

Inequality, Heritability and the American Dream

Ever since people finished identifying “the American Dream” — the idea that in the US in particular and the New World in general somehow allowed people to escape the hidebound social structures of the Old World and better themselves via their own efforts — people have been worried that it is on the point of dying. Americans continue to show an an unusual degree of belief in the ability those who work hard to better themselves by their own efforts. For instance, in the 1999 International Social Survey, 61% of Americans agreed that “people get rewarded for their effort”, whereas only 41% of Japanese agreed, 33% of British and 23% of French. This belief has actually increased in recent decades. In 2005 the New York Times reported that while in 1983 only about 60% Americans agreed that “It is possible to start out poor, work hard and become rich” by 2005 nearly 80% of Americans agreed with that statement.

And yet, those who study inter-generational income mobility have been increasingly worried in recent decades that despite American’s belief that people can work hard and get ahead, that it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to actually achieve this in the US. In a lengthy report by the liberal think thank Center for American Progress, Tom Hertz of American university brings together a number of the recent studies on intergenerational income mobility in the US as compared to other countries, showing how people who are born into the lower income quartiles in the United States are less likely to reach the top levels of income than in other countries such as Germany, Sweden or Denmark. Continue Reading

7

Tax and Spend Impasse

Reading a rather cursory opinion piece this morning (calling for federal spending to be decreased) it occurred to me that there’s an interesting symmetry to what the more aggressive advocates of tax increases and spending cuts suggest:

The most passionate tax increase advocates frame their calls for tax increases in terms of some prior level of taxation: “We should roll back all the Bush tax cuts and return to the tax rates people payed under Clinton. We all remember the ’90’s; the world didn’t end when the top marginal tax rate was 39.6%” or “By golly, we should go back to the tax tables that were in force under that ‘socialist’ Eisenhower. 91% top marginal rate. That’ll teach those corporate fat cats to vote themselves bonuses.”

Similarly, when passionate spending cutters explain their plans, they tend to phrase it in terms of rolling back to a previous level of spending: “These ‘draconian’ cuts in fact only represent a return to 2006 spending levels. Did we starve in the streets then? Did the world end?” Continue Reading

15

NPR: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.  The above video features the latest sting operation of James O’Keefe.  The President of  the NPR foundation meets with alleged members of an Islamic group dedictated to spreading Sharia, and the merriment begins!

The Daily Caller’s report focuses on the liberal hysteria aspect of the meeting:

In a new video released Tuesday morning by conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe, Schiller and Betsy Liley, NPR’s director of institutional giving, are seen meeting with two men who, unbeknownst to the NPR executives, are posing as members of a Muslim Brotherhood front group. The men, who identified themselves as Ibrahim Kasaam and Amir Malik from the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center (MEAC) Trust, met with Schiller and Liley at Café Milano, a well-known Georgetown restaurant, and explained their desire to give to $5 million to NPR because, “the Zionist coverage is quite substantial elsewhere.”

On the tapes, Schiller wastes little time before attacking conservatives. The Republican Party, Schiller says, has been “hijacked by this group.” The man posing as Malik finishes the sentence by adding, “the radical, racist, Islamaphobic, Tea Party people.” Schiller agrees and intensifies the criticism, saying that the Tea Party people aren’t “just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic, I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

Schiller goes on to describe liberals as more intelligent and informed than conservatives. “In my personal opinion, liberals today might be more educated, fair and balanced than conservatives,” he said. Continue Reading

5

Multiculturalism Explained

You are on target Klavan on the Culture!  Knowledge of other cultures and their history is a great thing.  Multiculturalism, however, has become merely a mantra for those who wish to excuse bad behavior, here and abroad, if the malefactors can claim favored victim status bestowed by the forces of the Left.  Curiously, or pehaps not so curiously, it is usually embraced by political liberals, who are often notoriously intolerant towards domestic political opponents who have ideas that differ one iota from their own. Continue Reading

17

U.S. Anglican Ordinariate Update: Father Scott Hurd at Houston’s Our Lady of Walsingham

Father Scott Hurd serves as the liaison with the USCCB for the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Cœtibus here in America.  He has been looking at the options available to all Anglican groups in establishing a U.S. Anglican Ordinariate.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops created an ad hoc committee led by Donald Cardinal Wuerl last September that was charged with assisting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in implementing the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Cœtibus.

Today Father Hurd concelebrated Mass at Our Lady of Walsingham (OLW) Anglican Use Church as part of his visit to Houston.  After Mass there was a tiny reception outside the church which was followed by a short talk with a question and answer period for the parishioners of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Left to Right: Deacon James Barnett, Father Bruce Noble, Father James Moore, Father Scott Hurd, and Father James Ramsey before concelebrating Mass today.

Some major points that were learned today concerning the process as to where we are in possibly establishing a U.S. Anglican Ordinariate.  Please note that none of this official.:

Continue Reading

13

The Lion of Munster

Neither praise nor threats will distance me from God.

Blessed Clemens von Galen

The Nazis hated and feared Clemens August Graf von Galen in life and no doubt they still hate and fear him, at least those now enjoying the amenities of some of the less fashionable pits of Hell.  Going into Lent, I am strongly encouraged by the story of Blessed von Galen.  I guess one could come up with a worse situation than being a Roman Catholic bishop in Nazi Germany in 1941, and confronting a merciless anti-Christian dictatorship that was diametrically opposed to the Truth of Christ, but that would certainly do for enough of a challenge for one lifetime for anyone.  (Hitler privately denounced Christianity as a Jewish superstition and looked forward after the War to “settling accounts”, as he put it, with Christianity in general and Roman Catholicism in particular.)

Priests who spoke out against the Third Reich were being rounded up and shipped off to concentration camps.  What was a bishop to do in the face of such massive evil?  Well, for the Bishop of Munster, Clemens von Galen, there could be only one answer.

A German Count, von Galen was from one of the oldest aristocratic families in Westphalia.  Always a German patriot, the political views of von Galen would have made my own conservatism seem a pale shade of pink in comparison.  Prior to becoming a bishop, he was sometimes criticized for a haughty attitude and being unbending.  He was chosen Bishop of Munster in 1933 only after other candidates, no doubt recognizing what a dangerous position it would be with the Nazis now in power, had turned it down.  I am certain  it did not hurt that he was an old friend of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII.

Von Galen immediately demonstrated that he had not agreed to become Bishop of Munster in order to avoid danger.  He successfully led a fight against the Nazi attempt to take over Catholic schools, citing article 21 of the Concordat between the Vatican and Nazi Germany.  He then began a campaign, often using humor and ridicule, against the Aryan racial doctrines proposed by Alfred Rosenberg, chief Nazi race theorist, and a man even some high level Nazis thought was little better than a crank.  Von Galen argued that Christianity totally rejected racial differences as determining how groups should be treated, and that all men and women were children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Bishop spoke out against Nazi attacks on the “Jewish Old Testament” stating that Holy Writ was Holy Writ and that the Bible could not be altered to suit current prejudices.

In early 1937 he was summoned by Pope Pius XI to confer with him on an encyclical in German, highly unusual for an encyclical not to be written in Latin as the primary language, that the Pope was in the process of drafting.  The encyclical was the blistering Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Heart) that the Pope ordered be read out in every parish in Germany on Palm Sunday 1937.  A head long assault on almost every aspect of National Socialism, it may be read here.

The language in the encyclical was blunt, direct and no doubt benefited from von Galen’s input and his experience from the battles he was waging with the Nazis. Continue Reading

6

Cultural Multiple Personality Disorder

Michael Potemera muses on the survival of two very different cultural institutions – Playboy and National Review:

I just caught the last couple of minutes of a cable-TV documentary about Playboy magazine, which featured a clip of Hugh Hefner opining about the huge cultural impact the magazine has had in its 50-plus years of existence. And it struck me as an illustration that, even in the realm of culture and ideas, it’s the supply side that makes the greatest difference. Two young men in the mid-1950s had vastly different ideas of what the American audience really wanted and needed, and ventured forth to create magazines that reflected these views. Hugh Hefner, convinced that America was too sexually conservative and really needed to let its hair down, founded Playboy in 1953. Bill Buckley, convinced that America was too politically liberal and needed to restore its older, small-r republican virtues that had been eroded in the Progressive and New Deal eras, founded National Review in 1955.

Now, think about how these ventures must have appeared at the time. Playboy was an outrage to conventional pieties about sexuality. National Review was an outrage to conventional pieties about politics. How much money would you have bet, at the time, that either one would survive for very long? “A dirty magazine? Won’t people be embarrassed to buy it?” “A magazine that’s to the right of Eisenhower and Nixon? Are there that many real fringies out there?” But the supply side takes a chance. And, quite amazingly, both ventures succeeded beyond imagining. Playboy bore fruit in the Sexual Revolution, which may already have reached its high point but shows little sign of receding. And from National Review emerged Reaganism, and conservatism as the broadly dominant system of political thought in recent years.

An extraordinarily prescient person, writing in the mid-1950s, might have predicted one of these triumphs. But anyone who predicted that both of the magazines, simultaneously, would have a massive, culturally transformative impact on our country, would have been dismissed as, at best, an extremely confused thinker.

But the truth is, we are a confusing country. We contain, in Walt Whitman’s sense, multitudes. Even as we prize national unity, we resist homogeneity; even as we embrace populist fads, we remain suspicious of conformism. It makes me wonder: Which two implausible — and apparently mutually contradictory — cultural ventures of our time will end up shaping the American life of the next half century?

Certainly fodder for further thought.  There is a superficial explanation to this seeming contradiction.  In a country that at the time both publications were launched numbered 200 million citizens, and where now north of 300 million live, it’s not unreasonable for disparate publications to attract very large audiences.  If you draw, say, 100,000 subscribers (and I have no idea if this is anywhere close to how many people subscribe to either publication, now or ever), that’s barely more than .o1% of the population.  So it’s easy to see why the same country can pack arena-sized mega Churches on Sunday while also making pornographic sites the biggest profit makers on the Internet.  To put it simply, there are a lot of people, and they’re going to like very different things.

But of course that really is Potomera’s main point.   We are a culture deeply divided, and that division seems to be getting more intense.  While the pron industry is doing quite well, conservative (traditional, Orthodox, whatever adjective you prefer) religious institutions are also faring quite well.  Gay marriage is gaining some traction while at the same time larger and larger families are filling the pews every Sunday.  Admittedly, there is some overlap as some of the commenters observe (not to mention that William F. Buckley wrote articles for Playboy at one time), but by and large we’re talking about – dare I say it? – two Americas.

In the comments section I wrote the following, and it’s hopefully worth repeating here.  One of the things to consider is the standing of both magazines within the movements that they helped launch. Playboy is considered tame nowadays, what, with the explosion of raunchier magazines like Hustler, and even more so with the easy availability of hard core pornography on the Web.

As for National Review, while there has been an explosion of other conservative magazines, institutions, and other media, NR remains one of the most influential journals of conservative opinion. Sure some might think it has gone “soft” in its own right (including yours truly, at least on occasion), but it is still no doubt more influential within its own sphere than Playboy is nowadays.

What that says about our society, and where it is trending, is perhaps more troublesome.

24

Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address: A Plea For Union

I doubt if there has ever been a bleaker inaugural of a President than that which awaited Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1861.  Seven slave states of the deep South had already seceded from the Union, stretching from South Carolina to Texas.  Secession movements were active in every other slave state except for Delaware.  The nation was shattering in two, a process that James Buchanan had been impotent to stop.  North and South, all Americans now were eagerly wondering how the new President would address this overwhelming crisis.  Lincoln realized that this speech would be carefully read and he chose his words carefully as he set out the policy of his new administration:

Fellow-citizens of the United States:
In compliance with a custom as old as the government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take, in your presence, the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, to be taken by the President “before he enters on the execution of this office.”

I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.

Lincoln gets right to the point.  The secession crisis was all anyone in the country was thinking about, and there was no use pretending otherwise. Continue Reading

8

Our Lady of Good Help

A reenactment of Our Lady's apparition to Adele Brise in 1859

About three months ago a groundbreaking development with significant nationwide implications occurred in Wisconsin.

No, I’m not talking about the showdown between Gov. Scott Walker and public employee unions, nor even about the Green Bay Packers winning the Super Bowl.

I am referring to the Dec. 8, 2010, declaration by Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay that an apparition of the Virgin Mary to Belgian immigrant Adele Brise in 1859 was “worthy of belief” and of veneration by the faithful.

The declaration makes the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis., the first — and to date only — site in the United States of an approved Marian apparition. The site is only the second in North America (besides Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City) to be so designated. More background on the apparitions and on the visionary herself can be found here at the shrine’s website.

As fellow TAC blogger Dave Hartline has noted, approved Marian apparitions tend to coincide to some extent with events that can be described as trials or upheavals in the immediate region, or on a national or worldwide scale. Notable examples include Fatima, which occurred just as the Communist Russian Revolution took place in 1917; the apparitions at Kibeho, Rwanda in 1981, which foretold the Rwandan genocide; and Our Lady of Zeitoun (Egypt) in 1968, occurring shortly after Egypt’s defeat in the Six Day War.

Did the pattern hold true in this case? It would appear so. First, the apparitions themselves occurred as the nation was sliding rapidly toward the Civil War. The apparition on Oct. 9, 1859, occurred only one week before abolitionist John Brown’s famous raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia — an event which convinced many Americans that civil war could no longer be avoided.

Second, and much closer to home, was the devastating forest fire that ravaged Peshtigo, Wis. and surrounding areas 12 years later — almost to the day — in 1871. The Peshtigo fire killed between 1,200 and 2,500 people — up to 10 times as many as the much more famous Great Chicago Fire which broke out the same night. The shrine which Adele and her family had built to Our Lady was in the path of the flames, but was spared after residents gathered there to pray.

With all that in mind, I can’t help but suspect an element of Divine Providence in the timing of the shrine’s approval. When Mary originally appeared, it was to a struggling frontier people, lacking proper formation in their faith, facing the upheavals of nature and of imminent civil war.

Now, just as another wrenching cultural battle breaks out in the Badger State itself, the Church grants Her blessing to this apparition, and makes her a patroness that can be claimed by all Americans. Perhaps her intercession could help us through the moral and social wilderness in which we find ourselves today?

 

1

Why?

Catholics don’t ask why enough.

Seriously.

To some — for instance, those who have the run-of-the-mill dissenter in mind — this might seem to be prima facie false, given that plenty of Catholics seem to question Church teaching. But I’m not talking about questioning Church teaching in the sense of doubting it; yes, dissenters do that aplenty, but what they don’t do is ask “Why?” with sufficient depth, with the goal of truly seeking to understand what the Church teaches on topic X and why she teaches that. In the case of most dissenters I’ve encountered, their “why?” is really “Well, that’s silly, I don’t believe that,” without any substantial engagement with the Church’s teaching, without any grappling with the inner rationale of the doctrine. For the most part, dissenters don’t really ask “why?”.

But they should. And so should the rest of us.

Continue Reading

14

Shahbaz Bhatti: Martyr For the Faith

Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.  Courage and Faith.  Abstractions to many, meaningless phrases to some, to others they are a way of life.  Shahbaz Bhatti was in the last category.  His faith was obvious to all.  As a Roman Catholic in overwhelmingly Islamic Pakistan he was tireless in spreading the Truth of Christ, and in standing up for the rights of Christians in Pakistan.  Appointed Minister of Defense of Minorities in the Pakistan government, he took on the position, knowing full well that he was signing his death warrant.  Death threats against him were constant.  As constant was his speaking out for the rights of Christians and other minorities in Pakistan.  After leaving his government office each day, he would head over to the offices of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, working late into the night to continue aiding Pakistan’s embattled minorities.

He never married, thinking it unfair to put a wife and children in the cross-hairs in which he lived.  On March 2, 2011 he was visiting his mother.  After he left his car was sprayed with bullets and he was killed.  The murderers of Al Qaeda and the Taliban have claimed responsibility. Continue Reading

33

Snyder v. Phelps

This morning the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Snyder v. Phelps. The case involved the Westboro Church, which is infamous for its protests at military funerals. The media publicizes the anti-homosexuality aspect of their protests, but the Church chose the Snyders also because his family was Catholic and his parents divorced and they view the Church as a monstrosity that encourages idolatry.

The Court’s 8-1 decision with the lone dissent by Alito sided with the Westboro church in a limited opinion. Although the case might have some interesting effects for First Amendment law in general (the protection of the 1st against suits of intentional infliction of emotional distress even when directed at a private figure if the speech is directed at matters of public concern if I read it right), it questionable whether this is the last word. The Court did not have the opportunity to consider whether laws restricting the time, place, and manner of protests surrounding either military funerals particularly or funerals more broadly are constitutional. Legislatures seem keen to pass such laws, and in fact in Maryland such a law was passed after the Snyder funeral.

Discerning where the Court will go is difficult. I suspect such laws will be upheld. The majority seemed particularly concerned that juries would be unable to fairly determine whether conduct was outrageous in tort cases (like infliction of emotional distress), but this concern would not be applicable if there was a truly content-neutral regulations about the manner of protesting around funerals. Of course, the Court would be rightfully concerned whether such regulations were in fact truly content-neutral but I think a legislature could make a strong argument if the statute is written well enough. Moreover, Alito’s well-reasoned dissent provides the strong emotional basis for such laws: namely, families at funerals are innocent parties who are particularly emotional vulnerable, and the protestors are exploiting their grief to get air time in a most callous and unchristian way.

So like many times when the Court hands down a ruling, the verdict is that very little has been settled and more decisions are to be expected.

 

Vote for the National Catholic Register

The secular website About.com is running a contest of which is the Best Catholic Newspaper (among many other categories).  I’d like our readers to go visit their website to vote for the National Catholic Register as their choice (if it’s not your choice, move along and read the other articles here on our website).

The National Catholic Register is America’s oldest Catholic newspaper as well as being the most read and well written.  They hold fidelity to the teachings of the Magisterium so you know you’re getting high quality articles.

To vote for the National Catholic Register please click here.

4

Another Dissident “Faithful” Catholic Attacks the Church

The same-sex marriage debate is heating up in Maryland, and our Bishops continue to fight the good fight.  Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore, and Bishop Francis Malooly of Wilmington together wrote a statement condemning the State Assembly’s vote to approve of same-sex marriage, and urged Catholics to continue mounting opposition.  This drew the ire of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of something called New Ways Ministry, which is is described as a “Catholic [sic] ministry of justice and reconciliation for lesbian/gay Catholics and the wider church community.”  He writes: Continue Reading

5

Why Do Popes Bother?

Last fall, Pope Benedict issued the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini, On the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. With a handful of exceptions, the response of the American Catholic blogosphere (and the Catholic commentariat in general) was crickets.

It seems that unless a papal document somehow touches on an issue of the culture wars, near-silence is the response.

So, why do popes bother?

The question is rhetorical, of course. The fact of the matter is, Catholics ought to be reading these documents, and not just “professional Catholics” or clerics, but all of us. Look at whom Verbum Domini is addressed to, for example: bishops, clergy, the consecrated, and the lay faithful. Virtually every other major magisterial text is similarly addressed (curiously, one of the more technical ones which does get greater attention — JPII’s Veritatis Splendor — is addressed only to bishops), yet all too often, even informed, orthodox Catholics seem to fail to read them.

Why is that?

Look at the documents of Vatican II… both before and after they were elected to the See of Peter, Popes John Paul II and Benedict were emphatic that the renewal of the Church which the Council hoped for would not happen unless the members of the Church actually read the documents and internalized them. Even in his apostolic letter closing the Great Jubilee (Novo Millenio Ineunte), John Paul called for the further implementation of the Council, again, with the actual reading of the texts. Have these calls been heeded?

With Lent nearly upon us, now seems an appropriate time to prayerfully discern which one of these gifts of the Magisterium we might take up and read.

9

Of Tiger Moms and Ramen Noodles

I finally got around to reading Amy Chua’s stirring defense of the “Tiger Mom” approach to parenting.  For those unfamiliar with her parenting techniques, she sums it up for you:

Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

Chua proceeds to justify this approach both in this article and in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. On the surface this strict approach seems to work.  Her children and a staggeringly high proportion of Chinese-American school children perform remarkably well in school.  Furthermore, her comments about western parents’ obsession with the self esteem of their children are not completely off the mark.

Let’s assume that this strict approach is the best way to ensure that a child achieves academic success (ignoring for the moment that I was permitted to do all of the things that her children were not and I still managed to earn a Ph. D).  Setting aside any reservations one has about this almost totalitarian style form of parenting, my question is: and then what?  Continue Reading

20

The Academy Awards and Deception

I had hoped to be able to write a post discussing the merits of most of the movies up for “Best Picture” before this Sunday, but my 3 month old made going to a movie in theaters most difficult. While I saw Inception, Toy Story 3, The Social Network, and even Winter’s Bone, I didn’t think I could write something without seeing King’s Speech or True Grit, both of which I am very eager to see.

Nevertheless, I was amused to see that after Colin Firth won the award for Best Actor that facebook lit up with a few statuses from female friends that were very pleased that “Mr. Darcy” won. If you don’t know, Firth played Mr. Darcy in the epic BBC adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. This ignorance would also require that you are a) male and b) have never been in a relationship with a female.

I thought this was interesting that people immediately associate Firth with his fictional character. I’ve one the same thing myself. For example, when in Saving Private Ryan the (spoiler alert I suppose) fake Saving Private Ryan is revealed, I exclaimed “oh wow! That’s Capt. Reynolds!” referring to Nathan Fillion’s role as Capt. Mal Reynolds in “Firefly.”

I bring this up because while all of us if pressed would acknowledge that Firth is not really Mr. Darcy and that Fillion is not really Capt. Reynolds, I think there is a level at which we truly believe that these people are the characters they play. This is a remarkable accomplishment. Even though we know that they’re not, even though we know the actors are trying to deceive us, we are in some sense deceived. We don’t act out against it; instead we celebrate the accomplishments. Those who fail to deceive us either through unconvincing performances or trite dialogue are regarded as terrible actors.

This is important because when acting was used as a counter-example in the Lila Rose undercover debate, I thought it was mischaracterized. Before you leave, don’t fear-this is not another Lila Rose debate post. Continue Reading

11

Tolstoy’s Theory of History

I’ve been really enjoying listening to the unabridged War and Peace (I’m listening to a reading by Neville Jason) as a commuting book. It’s episodic enough to be good when listened to in half hour increments, and it’s good enough to be a pleasure to hear while not so stylistic in its prose as to be make one feel as if one ought to be reading it rather than listening. However, this morning I hit one of Tolstoy’s chapter long theory-of-history sections, and was startled at how little sense it made. This is a chunk of Book 9, Chapter 1:

From the close of the year 1811 intensified arming and concentrating of the forces of Western Europe began, and in 1812 these forces—millions of men, reckoning those transporting and feeding the army—moved from the west eastwards to the Russian frontier, toward which since 1811 Russian forces had been similarly drawn. On the twelfth of June, 1812, the forces of Western Europe crossed the Russian frontier and war began, that is, an event took place opposed to human reason and to human nature. Millions of men perpetrated against one another such innumerable crimes, frauds, treacheries, thefts, forgeries, issues of false money, burglaries, incendiarisms, and murders as in whole centuries are not recorded in the annals of all the law courts of the world, but which those who committed them did not at the time regard as being crimes.

What produced this extraordinary occurrence? What were its causes? The historians tell us with naive assurance that its causes were the wrongs inflicted on the Duke of Oldenburg, the nonobservance of the Continental System, the ambition of Napoleon, the firmness of Alexander, the mistakes of the diplomatists, and so on. Continue Reading