Monthly Archives: March 2011

Who’s Your Doctor?

Alrighty then – time for a little diversion.

April 23 2011 – Dr Who Season Six starts. Here’s the trailer:

Season Six trailer

I’ve been a fan since 1982, when I first discovered the Doctor one Saturday night, channel-changing (no “surfing” then as we didn’t have a remote) and landing on the local PBS station. Just fun brain-candy sci-fi that didn’t take itself all that seriously.

Nowadays the production values are great, the special effects cooler, the locations and sets go way beyond your run-of-the-mill gravel quarry, and the story lines and season arcs are, for the most part, superb. I have found that plenty of the “reboot” fans were fans of the Original Series – and there are quite a few who discovered the series the same way I did, way back when: channel surfing and discovering this enigmatic time-traveling mysterious Time Lord known only as the Doctor.

Talk to any seasoned fan, such as myself, and they’ll tell you right off who their favorite actor was to have played the Doctor, and will volunteer which one ranks last on their list. For most, it’s either Jon Pertwee (#3) or Tom Baker (#4) as the favorites (mine is Tom Baker), with Colin Baker (#6) settling at the bottom. And everyone has their most favorite episodes, along with their least liked one.

I know that quite a few Catholic bloggers and readers are Dr Who fans as well. So let’s do an impromptu unscientific survey. Of all the Doctor’s you’re familiar with, which episodes of each were your most favorite, and least favorite? Let’s limit the discussion to the first 7 incarnations (forget about that dismal Fox movie from 1996 that featured Paul McGann as #8). You don’t have to give a reason if you don’t want to.  Perhaps at a later date we’ll look at the Reboot Doctors, but for now, let’s stick with the Original Series. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Foxfier on Internet Debate

The American Catholic is blessed with many fine commenters, regular visitors to our blog who enliven and illuminate our comboxes.  One of the finest of our commenters is Foxfier who is unmatched in internet debate.  Go here to read her classic debate with “Sal”.  On her first rate blog Head Noises, she has written her rules for arguing on the internet.  I wish they could be engraven on every blog that allows comments.  Here beginneth the Foxfier Lesson:

1) You do not have the right to a reply.
The only person involved in an argument on line which you can control is yourself. Argument from ignorance is still invalid– just because they didn’t responds to your spittle flecked rant from nowhere well researched and calmly argued response to their post, even if it has been five minutes a long time since you posted. Not everyone will check back at a post. Not everyone will read or heed even if they are subscribed to comments.

Some people will make rules about who they will or will not spend their time on– I have a three strike rule; three indications that continuing would be a waste of time, and I will stop trying to have a conversation. I’ll still debunk false or misleading claims, but that is because Google will find the conversation and it makes sense to counter false or misleading information everywhere you can, if it might mislead others.

  2) Wiki isn’t a source.
 Wiki is edited by non-experts, with their biases intact. It’s like walking into a room and asking a question, then listening to the loudest folks as the truth. Wiki is, however, a great way to get some information to start from– give you an idea what to search for. This leads to my next point….

  3) Make your own argument.
 By this I do not mean that you have to be a unique flower with only your own special view and none of those icky shared opinions, especially if said arguments are shared by lame parents authority figures. The strength of an argument is inherent, not based on who is making it. I mean that if you are supporting a position, make the arguments. Don’t link to an information page and berate the other person for not going, sifting through the dross and trying to find an argument for you.
 Linking to a detailed, cited argument for your view is alright– in many cases, it’s a superior way of arguing, since it keeps the comboxes nicely clear, and allows for a lot more detail. For example, here  (Sadly, link is broken because the blog moved, and the comments are no more; here’s the article, though.) a poster named Aaron links to a white paper that consists of a short statement and argument, with the option of greater detail if you download the information. Which also leads to:

  4) Be familiar with basic definitions. 
If the topic is biology, know what “organism” means in that context; if there are multiple meanings for a word and you wish to focus on a specific one, define the term as you are using it. If you wish to discuss torture in the context of treaties, link to a treaty and offer the relevant definition. If you’re using an unusual definition, don’t be surprised if the opposite side calls you on argument by bizarre definition rejects it.

 This is not to be confused with a common form of #3– “go look it up!” If you find yourself about to type that, stop, find the definition, post the link. If it’s as obvious as you think, it will make them look foolish; if not, problem solved! ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

MLB Preview: AL West

Though the American League’s western division is arguably the weakest in all of baseball, it is the home of the defending American League champions, the Texas Rangers.  There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.   Like the American League Central, the AL West sports a trio of decent teams that should be in the hunt for a division title, though two should separate themselves from the third.  →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Jesus is Hardly a Pacifist (Neither is St. Michael, nor Gandalf)

Whenever the Gospel scene of Jesus cleansing the Temple comes up in conversation, is it always entertaining to see people try to rationalize or explain away the anger that our Lord displayed.  There are those who will say that this is a demonstration of Jesus’ humanity, but such an explanation always seems to have an accompanying tinge of “perfect divinity, imperfect humanity.”  After all, when we say of someone, “He is only human,” we are usually doing so to justify an imperfect action or reaction, as if to say, “He is human, and therefore not perfect.”  Such an accusation of Jesus is misleading at best.  Yes, Jesus is human, fully human, in fact, as well as fully divine.  However, Jesus is perfect in his humanity.  Therefore, any reaction he gives is the perfect reaction to the situation that stands before him.  This is good news for the rest of us, for it demonstrates that humanity in both its core and destiny is fundamentally good, that imperfections found within all of us are the result of sin (both original and personal), and not the result of being human as such.  Therefore, the perfection that Jesus possesses in being fully human is a perfection that awaits us, God willing, in our glorified state.

 

What then, should we make of the anger demonstrated by Jesus in his cleansing of the Temple?  The first conclusion we can draw is that there is a place for a righteous anger in dealing with the problem of sin.  Of course, we should not mistake this kind of anger for the irrational, impatient, and reactionary kind that we so often demonstrate in our lives.  But Jesus is hardly a pacifist.  To get a better sense of righteous anger, it helps to consider a few examples.  The first we will take from the life of Jesus, the second from the archangel Michael, and the third from that master of myth, J.R.R. Tolkien.
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Mormon Long March

 

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One of the oddest episodes in American military history occurred during the Mexican War.  In 1846 the Mormons were beginning their epic trek West which would end with their carving a Mormon Zion out of the wilderness in what is now Utah.  The Mormons, realizing they would need at least tacit Federal approval to accomplish this, sent representatives to Washington.  The Polk administration asked for a quid pro quo.  The Federal government would render assistance if a battalion of Mormons would enlist to fight in the Mexican War.  Brigham Young readily agreed, and a battalion was raised after much cajoling by Young, due to the suspicion of most Mormons of the Federal government as a result of Federal indifference to the persecution of Mormons in Illinois and Missouri.

Along with the approximately 500 men, the Battalion was accompanied by 30 Mormon women, 23 of whom served as laundresses, and 51 children.  The Mormons were mustered into the Army on July 16, 1846.  They were assigned to the Army of the West under General Stephen W. Kearny, a tough regular.  From Fort Leavenworth on August 30, 1846, the Mormon Battalion made the longest infantry march in US military history, 1900 miles to San Diego, California which they reached on January 29, 1847.  The Battalion captured Tuscon, Arizona on the way to California, but saw no fighting, although the harsh climate and terrain they marched through more than made up for the absence of human adversaries.

The Battalion was discharged on July 26, 1847 in Los Angeles, and most of the men began the long trek to rejoin the Mormons in Utah.  Among the men who marched in the Mormon Battalion was George Stoneman, a future governor of California.  The video below at the end shows members of the battalion rejoining a Mormon wagon train after their service in the Mexican War.

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Libya and Just War

President Obama, winner of the Nobel peace prize, has thrust the United States into yet another war. I know from facebook and twitter that many of Obama’s liberal supporters are shocked and upset with the decision. It really shouldn’t surprise anyone. As I noted out in the run-up to the election, Obama never was a peace candidate, much less a proponent of just war theory. Instead he uses roughly the same calculus for war as Bush did, though as Douthat points out he uses a more multilateral approach once he’s made that calculus. Obama’s position as a peace candidate was grounded more in not being a Republican than being a believer in peace, and it is the fault of those advocates for peace that they didn’t do the basic research to see that truth. I am curious to see if this has changed the minds of many of the more “liberal” Catholics who voted for Obama, but I have not seen anything from them yet.

Since most of our attention was on Japan, I think most Catholics and Americans are still feeling a little whiplashed by the quickness. It’s so difficult to determine whether this action was just b/c there is so much confusion and secrecy both about our true intents towards Libya as well as the actual situation in Libya. The Vatican hasn’t been able to offer much guidance either. It is true that Pope Benedict’s neutral statements are far less condemnatory (if they are condemnatory at all) than JPII’s during the buildup to Iraq, but the key word there is “buildup.” There was very little buildup, and very little opportunity for debate and dialogue before the war was begun. It is true that the Vatican is more comfortable with a multilateral, UN-endorsed war than a unilateral war but it is not certain whether the Vatican approves.

So we’ll need to rely on the sources of just war doctrine ourselves to determine whether this was a just war. I confess that I don’t feel comfortable enough with the facts of Libya to say for certain, but I find it very unlikely that this is a just war. Don did a post a few days ago with different just war standards, and just for the sake of brevity let’s assume that there are two different approaches to just war: the Thomistic approach and the current approach.

Under the Thomistic approach, there are 3 requirements in the Second Part of the Second part, Question 40: (1) that the war be declared by a legitimate sovereign; (2) that there be a just cause; and (3) there must be an intention of advancement of good. Catechism 2309 has a more detailed description (I would argue that they simply explain further what Aquinas is saying rather than raising the requirements, but that may be an argument for a different time) in which the aggressor nation (i.e. the one to be attacked) must be inflicting lasting, grave, and certain damage, all other means must be exhausted, there must serious prospects of success, and the use of arms must not produce greater evils than the evils sought to be prevented. Let’s look at the Libya situation in detail

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The CIA and Facebook

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From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.   Hmmm, so I guess that Facebook could potentially do more harm to people than merely being a venue where future employers can see drunken photos of job applicants. I don’t know, this seems a bit too clever for the CIA.  On the other hand, if someone wanted to claim that Facebook was started by the Internal Revenue Service, I would readily agree.

Augustine’s Confessions: Sin for the Sake of Sin

In Book 2, we find Augustine (the character) as a teenager, while Augustine (the author) takes the opportunity to think about what makes us sin. The connection will be familiar to us all. Augustine talked about Original Sin in Book 1, that tendency which we can see even in very young children towards selfishness in which we can see the rooted tendency towards self over others which is at the root of sin. But that selfishness of childhood is largely unthinking. It is as we enter late childhood and early adolescence we attain the ability to think about sin in a way much like that of adults, but with the drives almost unique to adolescence. Augustine sees this in his past self and doesn’t like what he sees:

For as I grew to manhood I was inflamed with desire for a surfeit of hell’s pleasures. Foolhardy as I was, I ran wild with lust that was manifold and rank. In your eyes my beauty vanished and I was foul to the core, yet I was pleased with my own condition and anxious to be pleasing in the eyes of men.

In this book, the story of what’s going on in young Augustine’s life (versus his examination of the human condition) struck me, with the ways that it seemed both familiar and alien. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Scott Walker: Crusader Against Abortion

 

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In all of the furor over Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s bill to curb the power of public employee union to careen the state of Wisconsin into insolvency, other stances of the Governor have been overlooked.  Leftist magazine Mother Jones notes in a current story that Walker is an ardent foe of abortion:

Walker, the son of a minister, attended Marquette University in Milwaukee from 1986 to 1990, where he served as chair of Students for Life. He dropped out of the school without graduating in 1990, and unsuccessfully ran for the Assembly that fall. He ran again in 1993 in a special election and won an Assembly seat representing Wauwatosa, a city just outside of Milwaukee. It didn’t take long for him to take up the abortion fight.

In November 1996, Walker and Assemblywoman Bonnie Ladwig R-Caledonia announced plans to introduce a bill banning “partial-birth” abortions, or what’s medically known as dilation and extraction. Anti-abortion groups have condemned the practice, but groups that back abortion rights argue the procedure could save a woman’s life in the case of severe late-term complications during a pregnancy. Walker said partial-birth abortions are “never needed” to save lives, adding, “This procedure is not a medically recognized procedure.” ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

MLB Preview: AL Central

The American League Central boasts a trio of good, but not great teams that should battle it out down to the wire.  It’s difficult to see any of these teams pulling away or fading from contention.  In the end, I’m going with the team that always seems to wind up on top.

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Von Galen Contra the Swastika

In my first post on Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, which may be read here, we examined the life of this remarkable German bishop who heroically stood up to the Third Reich.  Today we examine the second of three sermons that he preached in 1941 which made him famous around the globe.  One week after his first breathtaking sermon against the Gestapo, my examination of which may be read here, he preached on July 20, 1941 a blistering sermon against the Nazis and their war on Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular.

Today the collection which I ordered for the inhabitants of the city of Münster is held in all the parishes in the diocese of Münster which have not themselves suffered war damage. I hope that through the efforts of the state and municipal authorities responsible and the brotherly help of the Catholics of this diocese, whose contributions will be administered and distributed by the offices of the Caritas, much need will be alleviated.

Charity, always a prime duty of Catholics.

Thanks be to God, for several days our city has not suffered any new enemy attacks from without. But I am distressed to have to inform you that the attacks by our opponents within the country, of the beginning of which I spoke last Sunday in St. Lambert’s, that these attacks have continued, regardless of our protests, regardless of the anguish this causes to the victims of the attacks and those connected with them. Last Sunday I lamented, and branded as an injustice crying out to heaven, the action of the Gestapo in closing the convent in Wilkinghege and the Jesuit residences in Munster, confiscating their property and possessions, putting the occupants into the street and expelling them from their home area. The convent of Our Lady of Lourdes in Frauen­strasse was also seized by the Gau authorities. I did not then know that on the same day, Sunday 13th July, the Gestapo had occupied the Kamilluskolleg in Sudmühle and the Benedictine abbey of Gerleve near Coesfeld and expelled the fathers and lay brothers. They were forced to leave Westphalia that very day.

The Nazi war on the Church is becoming more brazen in the midst of the War. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Interfaith Dialog with Muslims

I was really struck by the seriousness and beauty of the earlier post that Christopher Blosser wrote regarding Islam. Coincidentally or providentially it directly related to conversations on this topic that I have been having at the college where I teach.

Too often (here at this website and elsewhere too be sure) we reduce our conversations regarding Islam to that of promoting misunderstanding and fear against Muslims. To promote the standard conservative punditry rhetoric against Muslims is doing a great disservice to our fellow Catholics, to our fellow Americans, and to our fellow man. We can do better. We must do better. As well-formed Catholics we can lead this discussion here in America (and abroad) against those who preach hatred, violence, or misunderstandings against Muslims. The questions we need to ask are these two – How is the current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, showing us the way that we should dialog with Muslims and why he is doing this?

The problem(s) of modernity is not a “clash of civilization” against Muslims. It the struggle against what Henri de Lubac referred to as “Atheistic Humanism”. It is a clash against though who deny the supernatural… Those who deny the existence of God. Muslims are not our enemy is this battle against relativism, secular materialism, consumerism, hedonism, sexual licentiousness, etc.

We do not live in Middle Ages, as much as I would love to be there with many of you. We live in 2011. We need to recognize reality now for what it is and where we find ourselves.

I would encourage folks to engage the thought of Miroslav Volf, Robert Louis Wilken and Peter Kreeft on our topic. Recently Miroslav Volf has been interviewed about his new book on Islam. These interviews are very much worth checking out. Refer to it below.

A Voice across the Great Chasm: An Interview with Miroslav Volf

Meet Miroslav Volf, whose ‘Allah’ is a path to peace

Also don’t miss out on Robert Louis Wilken’s award winning FT article if you haven’t read it yet.

FIRST THINGS – Christianity Face to Face with Islam by Robert Louis Wilken

In my previous post below (Alliance of Civilizations or Clash of Civilizations?) I linked to Peter Kreeft’s work on this topic.

Related Posts:

Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus on Islam and Reform

Alliance of Civilizations or Clash of Civilizations?

What is the meaning of existence?

The Ground Zero Mosque And Religious Freedom (4 Parts)

Hardtack: Civil War Taste Treat!

 

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Something for the weekend.  Ah, hardtack!  A food that superb has to have a song about it, as indicated by the first of the above videos.

Hardtack, a very hard, thick cracker, was the soldier staff of life North and South during the Civil War.  Prior to the War, hardtack had long served as a food staple for explorers, hunters and anyone else who needed a food source that was light and could last forever.  Unfortunately, the hardtack often became infested with weevils.  Soldiers who didn’t want the extra protein would often put the hardtack into water and skim the weevils off the top.

The hardness of hardtack was legendary and gave rise to many soldier jokes.  This one was typical.

Private Jones:  I bit into a piece of hardtack and hit something soft.

Private Green:  A worm?

Private Jones:  No, by glory, a ten-penny nail!

Things like hardtack remind us that it is definitely more amusing to read about the Civil War than it was to actually participate in it! →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Archbishop Warda: Iraq’s Christian History “Wiped From Collective Memory”

Archbishop Bashar Warda of Northern Iraq

In an address in Ireland for the 2011 report by Aid to the Church in Need on Christian persecution, Archbishop Bashar Warda of northern Iraq did not mince words about the plight of Christians and other non-Muslims  in his country. Christians in Iraq face “near genocide” due only to their non-Muslim status as the Iraqi government muddies the waters of jurisprudence.

What we Iraqis are suffering is a crisis in cultural change. We are living in a region which cannot decide if it is for democracy or for Islamic law. It cannot decide if it is for the rights of human beings to live in freedom in all its exciting and challenging forms, or if it is for the control of the spirit and the minds of its people.

Since 2003, roughly a million Iraqi Christians have either fled their native homeland or been massacred. The damage wrought by Islamists has also taken its toll on Christian buildings dedicated to serving and uplifting the downtrodden.

Now I would like to talk to you about the systematic bombing campaign of Iraqi churches. The first Iraqi church was bombed in June, 2004 in Mosul. Following that event, successive campaigns have occurred and a total of 66 churches have been attacked or bombed; 41 in Baghdad, 19 in Mosul, 5 in Kirkuk and 1 in Ramadi. In addition, 2 convents, 1 monastery and a church orphanage was bombed.

While Islamists have insisted on blowing up, killing, or otherwise suppressing everything and everyone identified as Christian in Iraq, the Church there has been seeking to build. In January, it was announced that the Church, with the assistance of Aid to the Church in Need, would minister to the Christian community in northern Iraq, the area Christians are fleeing to, by building a university and a hospital.

Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said both schemes would provide jobs, training and other opportunities for thousands of Christians flooding into the relative security of Kurdistan, away from the religious violence, especially in Baghdad and Mosul.

Speaking after a committee of faithful and clergy met to advance the schemes, Archbishop Warda said: “The plans we have been developing over the past few months are symbols of hope for the Christian presence in our country.”

Christians defend life, education, employment, and religious freedom while Islamists seek only to destroy them. This is an all too familiar theme that has not been missed by Cardinal O’Brien of Britain.

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Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War

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In the comments to  my post last week, Henry V Times Four, which may be viewed here, and which had four versions of the immortal “band of brothers” speech, commenter Centinel posed a very interesting question to me:

Mr. McClarey,

I’ve come to respect your knowledge of history and your insights. I just wanted to get your honest opinion on oneissue. As I understand it, Catholic doctrine would say that wars of aggression are not justified (most of the time). Though I enjoy Shakespeare’s plays, it bothers me that Henry V was fighting a war of aggression – hence, an unjust war.

From Henry V’s point of view, the war was about his (legitimate?) claim to the French throne. But from the point of view of the French peasantry, whichever dynasty sat on the French thronedid not really make any difference in their lives. They were merely caught in the middle; the longer the war lasted, the greater the collateral damage to French civilians. Besides, Henry V already had the Kingdom of England. Hence, it was just pure greed driving Henry V to claim the French throne.

I would appreciate your opinion on this.

My response:

Centinel thank you for very kind words and for inspiring a forthcoming post! The more I thought about your question the more complicated my answer became and only a post length reply, which I will attempt to do in the next week, will do it justice. The short answer is that Henry V, by the just war analysis of his day, had a defensible claim to be fighting a just war, while under the just war analysis of our day his war would be unjust. However, there is much more to say than that, and I will attempt to do this intriguing question justice in my forthcoming post.

In answering the question we must first examine how the formulation of the Just War doctrine has changed from the time of Henry V to our time. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

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