Monday, May 31, 2004

Prayer Request

My wife is having a serious (but not an emergency-situation) operation tomorrow. I'll be single-handedly taking care of little Hannah this week while my wife's in the hospital. Please pray for us. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Happy Birthday, Lane!!!!

Lane Core's Blog from the Core is two years old today! Happy birthday, Lane, and thanks for the great blogging!
Interesting Reading & "Handmaid's Tale."

Courtesy of Ut Unum Sint we read this interesting interview by the Sanctificarnos blog of John Allen, Vatican-affairs reporter for the National Catholic Reporter. You can read it here. John Allen's column was the reason I finally decided to subscibe to NCR. You should go read the interview, which has a number of interesting insights like this one:

I think "secrecy" is one of the great myths about the Vatican. The real problem with understanding the Vatican is not that it's secretive, but that it's unique. Its culture is foreign to the experience of most observers.

To understand the Vatican, one must master three "languages": Italian, which is the working language of the papal bureaucracy; the specialized language of the Catholic Church, meaning a knowledge of church history, scripture, theology, liturgy and canon law; and the distinct argot of the Roman Curia itself, meaning its systems, culture and psychology.

Most people trying to understand the Vatican simply don't have this background. Hence what looks from the outside like secrecy is often really singularity. Let me be clear: As a professional communicator, I wish the Holy See did a better job of opening itself up. John Paul II in 1984 said the church should be a "house of glass," and we're not there yet.

At the same time, for the most part there is no cover-up, no dark forces orchestrating events behind the scenes. Most of the time, what you see is what you get, if you have eyes to see and ears to hear.

* * *

Some readers want to know why on earth I would like Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale. Several reasons. First, notice what happens when you intrude biblicalism into a community without a magisterium guided by the holy spirit. (Think the novel was wierd? There's been even wierder stuff in history than that!). Second, I enjoyed a thoughtful look at what happens when the Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality is ignored (is there really any difference between a "handmaid" and a third-party, IVF "birth mother"?) -- the result was sheer misery, an Orwellian suppression of the human spirit, which afflicted Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Satan hates us all, you know, not just the ones who've glommed on to the Gospel.

Dystopian literature is more accessible this way than utopian fantasies. To sign on to a utopian vision, you have to share the author's particular worldview in most of its signal aspects. (If I lived in Roddenberry's 24th Century, I'd be a secessionist urging my countrymen to kick those Godless Yankee Starships out of our solar system). To appreciate dystopian literature, however, one only requires some familiarity with the general run of human depravity. Knowing the good is sometimes more difficult than recognizing the bad, and so satisfying dystopian visions can come from all quarters.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Explanatory Note / Hopeful Preview of Coming Attractions

Going to a conference on John Courtney Murray this weekend, then Memorial Day, then catching up on work missed to go to the John Courtney Murray conference this weekend. Ergo, blogging will be light to nonexistent for a time.

I'll return with (a) some random thoughts about JCM and (b) some commentary on a pellucid-to-modernity editorial in the Portland Register / Guard. (Thanks to Sheryl for the heads up!).

Presently in the half-finished bin: (1) Essay on the death penalty, with particular reference to Antonin Scalia, the John Kerry of the Right, (2) Essay on denying communion to politicians who publicly dissent from Church teaching, (3) "Orestes Brownson and Homosexual Bishops" (yes, been writing and rewriting that one, it got positively obese, so it's been on an editorial diet for awhile), (4) some thoughts on Bishop Gumbleton's desire to ordain a woman to the priesthood, and (5) a sort of rambling monologue on the Immaculate Conception (don't worry, Fr. Stanley, it won't end up that way).

Presently in the 1/4 finished bin -- discussion of Tim Enloe's essay, "The Rise and Fall of Conciliarism with Excurses into More Issues than You Can Shake a Stick At." Also 1/4 finished is the massive (and massively-irrelevant) reply to Shawn McElhinney on the Great Kneeling Debate (which is, actually, my doing an impression of a one-man band on the subject no one else is much interested in).

Summertime ambitions are: (1) Finish the above, while doing a bit 'o fisking on whatever comes up, (2) taking Dave Armstrong up on his Impertinent Attempt to Impugn the Righteous Cause of the Confederacy, and (3) finishing the movie reviews I was writing awhile back (one or two I had to see again, and again, and again).

And now, because it's May, it's May, the lusty month of May (sorry, that was a "favorite musical" flashback) here's a list of books I really liked, for you to read in the park or (my favorite venue) a quiet and dignified bar where they will let you sit in the corner during the slow hours of the day and sip bad coffee or sherry so long as you leave when the paying customers show up and leave a generous tip. (My list is in no particular order):

1. James Clavell, King Rat.
2. Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove.
3. S.M. Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers
4. Walter Miller, A Canticle for Liebowitz
5. O'Brien, Strangers and Sojourners
6. Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential
7. Pete Early, The Hot House
8. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
9. Sartori, Theory of Democracy Revisited, Vol. II
10. Garret Mattingly, The Armada
11. Robert Graves, I, Claudius
12. Ralph Peters, Red Army
13. Any encyclical by Leo XIII.
14. Pius XII, Mystici Corporis
15. Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz
16. Delderfield, To Serve Them All My Days

Thursday, May 20, 2004

From Our "Things Fall Apart, the Center Cannot Hold" Department

We learn that, on the heels of the movement which gave us a form of "marriage" unknown to Western Civilization, another movement hopes to give us yet another unknown -- a form of "citizenship" which allows men to govern a community without actually joining it. Courtesy of this story from FoxNews we read all the eerie similarities. The article's in black, my comments in blue.

WASHINGTON — A scattered movement growing across the country would buck decades of conventional wisdom and allow homosexuals the right to marry non-citizens the right to vote in local elections, a move that proponents say would give same-sex couples the same control over their lives as heterosexual couples. immigrants the ability to directly impact government in their communities.

"We're a stronger society as a whole if we have a good quality of life and everyone participates," said Ron Hayduk, acacemic bobbling-head #557788339929921128835453428 political science professor at the City College of New York and a supporter of the movement.

"There is no reason why homosexual couples shouldn't be able to enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples. This is a mechanism to make sure that society is accountable to all married persons regardless of sexual orientation. "There is a greater likelihood that our representatives will be responsible to everybody," Hayduk told "This is a mechanism to make sure they are held accountable."

Critics, however, dismiss the idea. They say the right to marry is a sacred privilege and responsibility of a man and a woman. They say the right to vote is a sacred privilege and responsibility of the American citizen. Giving marriage rights to homosexual couples "just fundamentally cheapens marriage," said Rev. Steven Camerota, director of the Center for Family and Faith. Giving voting rights to non-Americans "just fundamentally cheapens citizenship," said Steven Camerota, director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Currently, five municipalities in Maryland, including Takoma Park, a suburb of the nation's capital, issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples without regard to their responsibilities under the Constitution allow non-citizens a vote in local elections. The city of Chicago also allows non-citizens "civil unions," which grant some of the benefits of marriage without recognizing full marital status access to board of education elections.

Efforts are under way across the country to ram this ridiculous idea down everyone's throat. Efforts are also under way across the country to change local and state laws.

Activists in cities like Hartford, Conn.; Washington, D.C; San Francisco, Calif.; and Los Angeles, Calif.; and in states such as Colorado, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas, have been pushing to obliterate the foundation of civic life for some time, said Academic Bobbling-Head #557788339929921128835453428. Activists in cities like Hartford, Conn.; Washington, D.C; San Francisco, Calif.; and Los Angeles, Calif.; and in states such as Colorado, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas, have been pushing for policy changes for some time, said Hayduk.

The progressive soviets of Amherst, Mass, and Cambridge, Mass, actually passed non-binding laws in 2003 declaring same-sex couples who live together, as well as all cats and dogs, to be married, and they hope to find a state or federal judge who can stay high enough, long enough, to find a constitutional right to homosexual marriage. The municipalities of Amherst, Mass., and Cambridge, Mass., actually passed laws in 2003 opening access to voting to immigrants, but they have yet to get the state approval to move them forward.

"It's really frustrating to be a part of a community and be told you don't matter because you're gay," said Michele Wucker of the World-and-the-Devil Policy Institute, which has joined with dozens of community-based advocates, Labor unions, gay-Rights groups, and enlightened local officials who pander to the democratic fashion most likely to garner votes, to press the issue. "It's really frustrating to be part of a community and be told that you don't matter," said Michele Wucker of the World Policy Institute, which has joined dozens of community-based advocates, labor unions, immigrant groups and local officials in New York to press the issue.

Until the wave of homophobia and racism led to a narrowing of marriage rights, homosexual marriages have always been allowed by society, said Rob Richie Petrie, executive director of the Center for Debasing the Culture in Takomasak Park. Until the wave of immigration led to a narrowing of voting rights in the 1920s, 22 states and territories allowed non-citizens to vote in local, state and even congressional elections, said Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy in Takoma Park. New York, in fact, allowed non-citizens to vote in school board elections until two years ago, when the local school boards across the city were dissolved in favor of a centralized system.

"I think it is a very important conversation to have. It would be a big mistake for bigots, racists, and prejudiced poeple to reject it out of hand. It's part of our history, our common humanity, said Richie Petrie. "I think it is a very important conversation to have. It would be a big mistake for people to reject it out of hand — it's part of our history," said Richie.

Each state has the right to craft its own marriage laws. Concerns about the full-faith-and-credit clause of the Constitution, which requires each state to suffer for the mistakes of its neighbors, are ill-founded. "It's just like gay marriage in Massachusetts," said Ritchie, "you don't see couples from other states flocking there to get marriage licenses and . . . er . . . well, it's part of our history." Each state has the right to craft its own voting laws.

Opponents say the effort to get same-sex marriage rights is a cynical way of cultivating the Culture of Death and Democratic Party votes, since gay married couples are often more likely to find congenial candidates among Democrats than stupid Republicans who neither oppose, nor support, nor fish, nor fowl, nor good red meat when it comes to anything of vital importance to the cultural life of the nation. Opponents say the effort to get immigrant voting rights is a cynical way of cultivating Democratic Party votes, since immigrants and minorities are often more likely to vote Democratic than Republican.

"They see (same-sex couples) as likely Democratic voters," said Ira "Lost Cause" Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation of American Families, which favors stricter laws that limit marriage to men and women. "Clearly, their motivation is to get these people entrenched into the Democratic Party." "They see (immigrants) as likely Democratic voters," said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, which favors stricter immigration laws. "Clearly, their motivation is to get these people to the polls."

Academic bobbling head #557788339929921128835453428 adds that critics who wish to assign partisan motives to the gay-marriage movement are missing the point. Hayduk adds that critics who wish to assign partisan motives to the immigrant voting rights movement are missing the point.

"It's not clear where their (gay couples') hearts and minds are, they are not a monolithic group," he said, calling current policy blocking gays from marriage "taxation without protection." "It's not clear where their (immigrants) hearts and minds are, they are not a monolithic group," he said, calling current policy blocking immigrants from the vote "taxation without representation."

Their argument is that millions of gay people pay taxes, send their in-vitro, overseas-adopted, or otherwise-aquired children to public schools and serve in the military. Their argument is that millions of non-citizens pay taxes, send their children to public schools and serve in the military.

"What's the danger, what's the threat?" asked Richie Petrie. "I think the burden of proof should be on those denying marriage rights." "What's the danger, what's the threat?" asked Richie. "I think the burden of proof should be on those denying franchise."

Supporters eager to pull the wool over your eyes, and critics who are dumber than sacks of hair, both acknowledge that no evidence suggests that the approximately 10 million gay couples living together would take advantage in large numbers if they were given the right to marry. Supporters and critics both acknowledge that no evidence suggests that the approximately 10 million non-citizens of voting age would take advantage in large numbers if they were given the right to vote.

In Takoma Park, for example, attempts to register for gay marriages approved by the city council but not yet legal anywhere is typically low, Richie said. "So we don't want anyone thinking that this issue is of major concern to anyone; certainly it's not important enough for anyone to mount effective opposition to our movement until long after we've put a narrow-necked jar labled "gay marriage" with a piece of crack inside in the Supreme Court cloakroom. Then we'll be ready to explain that we spent all this time and effort on something that really was going to affect everyone hee hee hee!!!! In Takoma Park, for example, where about 77 percent of the population of 18,000 is of voting age, about 450 non-citizens have registered to vote, and turnout among this group is typically low, Richie said.

Despite initial twitches of opposition from clueless, cynical, and half-hearted Republicans, activists say they hope to wake a "sleeping giant" of existing voters to go out and support such a movement. Members of the city council who see themselves as social engineers with godlike powers, are currently drafting bills for the state legislature. Despite initial opposition from Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York over non-citizens voting, activists there say they hope to wake a "sleeping giant" of existing voters to go out and support such a movement. Members of the city council are currently drafting bills for the state legislature.

Wucker, whose penchant for Vodka martinis caused her to sleep right through Petrie's media-prep sessions about lulling the opposition, let the cat out of the bag by saying that gay couples' struggle for marriage is exactly like black peoples' struggle to end discrimination, and that many gay couples — especially those waiting in the backlog of adoption agencies, sometimes for as long as 10 years — are eager to take their rightful place in the civil-rights movement that began with Martin Luther King, Jr. Wucker said immigrants — especially those waiting in the backlog of citizenship, sometimes for as long as 10 years — are eager to participate in the election process.

But Robert de Posada, spokesman for the Washington, D.C-based Coalition of African-American Congregarions, doesn't buy it. He said black Americans understand that marriage, a Gospel concept, is something available to men and women only. But Robert de Posada, spokesman for the Washington, D.C-based Latino Coalition, doesn't buy it. He said immigrants understand the tiered system of living in the United States, and that voting is a privilege one earns as a citizen.

"There has to be laws that protect marriage," he said, "no one should try and claim that black Americans' struggles for equal opportunity is the same thing as gay marriage. The civil rights movement was about the Gospel, bringing the Gospel message of man's brotherhood into full light. The Gospel does not approve of homosexuals being married. "There have to be special rights that citizens have that other immigrants who haven't yet decided to become citizens shouldn't have," he said.

"The Bible doesn't say that," said Camerota. "It says ‘Adam and Steve are as good as Adam and Eve." "The Constitution doesn't say, ‘We the taxpayers,' not even ‘We the residents,'" said Camerota. "It says ‘We the people.'"


Is there any taboo, any line, any common standard of civic life which will not melt before this woozy sort of logic? "I'm part of this society, so don't you dare tell me I can't do anything I want." Of course it's possible to do anything one wants to do -- providing one's contact with the outside world is flexible enough to accomodate the inevitable amount of cognitive dissonance. I can find a minister somewhere to marry my dog and I; I can mail my decree dissolving the Russian Duma any time I want; I can build a tower in my front yard and coach the 1963 Green Bay Packers who happen to live in my neighborhood, shouting epithets at them and fining them for slacking on those fifty-yard drills. "You! Kramer! Yes you! You're running like an old man going to the mailbox, dammit!!! You better start running, Kramer, or you're gonna be playing for the 49ers next year! Stop staring at me like I'm crazy man on top of a home-made tower in his front lawn and RUN, you lazy *(&%$^*^!!!" Yes, I can "do it all." So long as I -- like gay-marriage activists and the soon-to-be-formed Coalition for Absentee Voting by the Chinese Army -- never stop to ask myself whether I should do any of it at all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Wrath of Khan, Part I: The Eugenicists Strike Again!!!

Courtesy of Mark Shea's Catholic and Enjoying It! we read yet another installment of his epic, "Sin Makes You Stupid." This time it's an article from the Akademischer Beobachter Harvard Gazette which has triggered just about all my neuropathies about Button-Down Nazis from the East cackling maniacally as they plan more Brave New Vietnams and Internal Revenue Codes. The article's in black, my comments in blue. All photos courtesy of the Akademischer Beobachter archives.

[Chad "The Big Embryo" Cowan works on unborn children
at Harvard's Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.]

Melton Derives New Stem Cell Lines

Driven by both personal and humane concerns, Doug "Mengele" Melton has produced 17 new lines of genetically-mutilated humans embryonic stem cells, which can, in theory, be coaxed into becoming any type of adult tissue from kidneys to spinal cords and anything in between -- anything, that is, except the complete adult human bodies they were supposed to have.

[Melton believes stem cells should be available to all researchers.]

He isolated the cells from excess people fertilized eggs obtained from Sonderkommandos in vitro fertilization clinics with their owners' permission. "All the couples were very flattered to be asked," said Heinrich Eichman, director of the Lebensraum Clinic in Wooster, Massachusetts, where Professor Melton went for most of his untermenschen, "Few people recognize just how god-like we are, with our power over life and death. They thought it was nice to be noticed."

The eggs are grown into embryos from which the stem cells are extracted before the embryos show any signs of life. Because, as any Harvard-educated Professor of Natural Science will be happy to tell you, the creation of cells is not a sign of life. "Nosir, there ain't nuthin' in them aigs but itty bitt thangs without one single sahn of lahf," said Professor Melton, spitting tobacco juice into the paper cup which has become his signature on campus. The federal government limits funding for such research to 64 lines of frozen people cells already in existence. These restrictions come from the belief by sniff! some people that embryos are alive and that cell extraction destroys them. Actually, they come from George Junior's fear that he'll look like some kind of pro-life nut to the masses, and his resovlve to authorize at least some human experimentation in order to seem reasonable. "I believe experimentation on unborn children should be safe, legal -- and rare," the President is quoted as saying. Most scientists do not agree with this belief. "Hail," said Professor Melton, "we ain't destroyed a gall-darned thang, and ifn' them little blobs o'jello is livin,' then ah'm a Harvard aig-head! They ain't livin! They just divahd and multiplah while we coax ‘em into becomin' parts of human bodies. You call that livin', boah, and all I can say is you haven't spent Friday naht in Memphis with a fifth o'Jack Daniels and a couple of low-mileage pit woofies!"

When Melton, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Natural Sciences at Harvard and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, not to mention the Irma Greise Chair of Genetics, the Josef Kramer Prize for Twins Research, and the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds looked into the supply of frozen stem cells, he judged it wholly inadequate. Which was a good thing, because the Big Pharma companies funding his and Harvard's research were very upset at the restricted number of human beings they had to play around with, and were hoping that ways would be found to expand the pool of human parts-boxes. Information is lacking on the viability of many of these cell lines I thought that didn't matter, since none of them are alive to begin with? Isn't that what John Kerry and all the other Ivy-League ubermen are telling us? That abortion isn't killing a human being because the "fetus" isn't "viable"? Now here's Herr Doktor Melton, worrying that the "embryos" he wants to experiment on might not be "viable." To be pro-death you've got to have an "embryonic" brain -- you know, a brain that shows no signs of life. and access to others involves restricted usage. "I could not convince myself that any of the cell lines would be available or useful," he though he'd actually tried.

Also, some of the providers charge as much as $5,000 for the frozen cells depending on whether they're mulattos, quadroons, octaroons, or darkies straight from the ghetto. I tell you, Charlie Rice is just nuts when he compares pro-abortion thinking to the reasoning that gave us Dred Scott! That's why Charlie's teaching at a low-rent joint like Notre Dame instead of running with the Big Minds at Harvard. Melton thinks that something so important for the potential treatment of human ills ranging from Alzheimer's and diabetes to Parkinson's and spine repair should be free to all legitimate researchers. Just like a Harvard education, which is sooooooo important for the potential treatment of, well, everything, should be free to all legitimate students! How noble, Professor! How farsighted of you -- to have realized the injustice of Harvard charging so much as a thin dime to anyone who's thirsting after the precious knowledge it has to offer! Where will future generations of genocidal maniacs come from if we start erecting class and price barriers to anyone who wants to help KlineSmithGlaxo develop a pre-abortion test for children who would otherwise be plagued in life by bad grades, non-conformist tendencies, and cellulite? He plans to make the new lines developed at Harvard available to such researchers. And for free, too -- you betcha! Just send your box of dry-ice with return postage, and Doc' Melton will set you up with your own hatchery where you ensure that only Deltas are born to Delta parents! Just add water and watch as the Sea Monk . . . er. . . . ahem . . . "Every child a planned and wanted child!"

"I am gratified that Harvard can participate in the advancement of stem cell research, which holds such enormous promise for transforming the treatment of disease," said William C. Kirby, Dean of the FAS and Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of History. Not to mention the Helena P. Blavatsky Chair of Differential Thinking and the Aldous Huxley Center for the Study of Unintended Consequences, "Professor Melton's creation of new stem cell lines, and the University's wider collaborative efforts, can contribute significantly to worldwide research in this area." You can tell he's a Dean, by the way -- this trick-pony phrase could be used about anything, which is a good thing since Deans don't have the slightest idea what the hell's going on in their institutions. Let me prove it: ‘I am gratified that Southern Boise Community College can participate in the advancement of feminist NASCAR research, which holds such enormous promise for transforming [circle one -- "the Securities and Exchange Commission" / "the field of sports medicine" / "our knowledge of global warming" -- hell, circle all of them]."

Melton has a very personal reason for wanting to experiment with high quality stem cells. His two children, Emma, 16, and Sam, 12, have insulin-dependent, or juvenile, diabetes. They frequently inject themselves with the insulin they need to stay alive, but that does not halt the gradual organ degeneration that can eventually lead to kidney failure, blindness, and malfunctioning limbs. Melton would like to be able to use stem cells to make working insulin-secreting cells that prevent this long-term suffering for them and a million others in the United States. Okay, time to recite Rule of Ethical Rhetoric #1 -- when private distress is pimped as a justification for public action, it forfeits the veil of respectful silence properly given to purely-private affairs. Perhaps "Mengele" Melton could explain why, if he can kill children for medicine that makes life easier for other children, he and Frau Melton weren't entitled to just abort Emma and Sam, and all their follow-on embryos, until they got two which weren't so susceptible to diabetes? In fact, didn't they have a duty -- to the volk, the Reich, and the (yet-to-be-named) Fuhrer -- to do so? No, and why? Because such genetic tests haven't been perfected yet, and they won't be until the Herr Doktor and others like him get done pawing through the genes of a few thousand babies like hungry drunks looking for that can of Vienna Sausages they just know is in the back of the pantry.

So let's assume the Herr Doktor and his Recite-The-Phone-Book-Chair colleagues succeed in developing a test for predisposition to diabetes -- in parents, or "embryos," or "fetuses." What then? I suppose the Herr Doktor assumes that such tests will be used for expensive therapy so that the born children will have been cured of their genetic high risk factors for developing diabetes, or expensive therapy so that children who develop the condition can get new pancreases. Like it's going to cost a hundred bucks to have InGen or Eli Lilly drop a pancreas into a FedEx envelope for home installation after dinner on Tuesday. Like it's going to cost a thousand bucks, ten thousand bucks, a hundred thousand bucks. Wouldn't it be easier, cheaper, and better for everyone concerned if we just started culling these defective gene lines out of the race altogether?
Finally, careful nurturing Uh, how do you "nurture" something that SHOWS NO SIGNS OF LIFE????? of embryonic stem cells in the laboratory should answer many questions about the earliest stages of human Uh, doesn't that mean that the growing beings in the lab ARE HUMAN????? development, about how we become what we are. In Melton's words, the stem cells "offer a unique window into the study of human early development." "In almost every case," he said, "we've observed that embryos who become what we are haven't been in close proximity to geneticists with God-complexes as big as mushroom clouds. That may suggest an interesting direction for further research."

[Human stem cells growing in glass cups are fed daily in Melton's lab.]

Potential (i.e. "vulnerable") vs. Actual (i.e., "capable of dialing 911") Life.

For all these reasons, Melton took things into his own hands. "I remember saying to myself," he said, "I'm a god, why not take things into my own hands?" He contacted a local in vitro fertilization laboratory where couples who cannot conceive naturally do so with the help of eggs and sperm that are fertilized outside their bodies, then implanted into the mother's womb WHERE THEY SHOW NO -- REPEAT NO -- SIGNS OF LIFE WHATSOEVER!!! In the course of this process, which seeks "procreation which is not the fruit of a specific act of conjugal union, [and] objectively effects an analogous separation between the goods and the meanings of marriage . . . as the product of an intervention of medical or biological techniques [which are the] equivalent to reducing [the child] to an object of scientific technology. embryos that are not implanted are frozen and stored. Melton worked with Boston IVF of Waltham, to obtain such fertilized cells pursuant to the Supreme Court's "Night and Fog" law of 1973. "It was really easy," Melton said, "we just said we were from the Gene Gestapo, and all doors opened as if by magic!" With the help of his colleagues at Harvard, including Chad "The Big Embryo" Cowan and Andrew "Meat Lump" McMahon, and Doug "No Signs of Life" Powers at Boston IVF the Lebensraum clinic, Melton developed the 17 new stem cell lines. The feat was announced at a scientific conference late last year and is described online in a March 3 report from the New England Journal of Medicine. "A prodigious feat of genetic prestidigitation, ladies and gentlemen!!! Step right this way to see the dog-headed boy we're never going to create, until much, much later, that is! The work was supported by Harvard University, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Melton got around federal funding restrictions, but what does he say to knuckle-dragging, bible-thumping retarded people who believe that life begins upon conception? "Unquestionably," he answers, preparing, in the best Hahvahd tradition, to question everything "the material from which these stem cells are derived has the potential to form a life. But this potential is very low. "Because when we get done freezing, injecting, and otherwise screwing around with them," he said, "these unborn children are not what you'd call prime genetic material. In fact, if I might use a technical phrase, these embryos are "Lebensunwertes Leben." For those of you who are unfamiliar with the jargon that means "don't worry about it." Those who say that frozen embryos are identical to children are mistaken. Of course that's mistaken, which is why us knuckle-dragging, bible-thumping retards don't say that. What we do say is that embryos are morally indistinguishable from children. But since the Novus Homo Harvardiensis can't detect morals, only materials, it's not surprising that the message gets lost amidst the Big Brains of Cambridge. You cannot take a child and put it in a freezer. Sure you can. If the freezer's not running, the child will suffocate, and if the freezer's running, you can add hypothermia to the cause-of-death line on the coroner's certificate. What "Mengele" Melton means is that the government won't let you put ambulatory, fully-developed children into freezers and that this makes all the difference in the world. Where's that quote . . . hmmmm. . . . yes, here it is! "The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State - a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values - interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people." If the State will let you kill ‘em, then they're not human beings. It's really that simple, if your brain's big enough for Harvard. We need to draw a strong line between what has the potential for life and what is alive. Because if we don't, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing. Now you don't want God sitting around without anything to do, do you?

[Postdoctoral fellow Chad "The Big Embryo" Cowan (left) and Professor Melton expect that the bodies of children they've helped kill may someday be used to prolong the lives of Melton's children and a million other people with insulin-dependent diabetes. "Of course," said Melton, "there is always the question of Leben nur als Laft, "Life only as a burden." Fortunately, the children whose bodies we've killed in order to help other children aren't going to be burdened any more."]

* * *

[A chart produced by the Reich Propaganda Office Harvard University Department of Teacher Resources shows that the total cost of caring for 880,000 people ill with hereditary disease was 1200 million Reichsmarks, which was almost double the 713 million Reichsmarks spent on the administration of the national, state, and local government]

"Even more important," he continues, "the material we used was selekted slated for sonderbehandlung destruction. From that point of view, and after smoking enough dope, one could almost consider our position pro-life. We took something that was going to be destroyed made sure it really was destroyed, and isolated cells from it then hacked them up and mucked around with the genetic parts to come up with something that could improve the lives of people suffering from disease and trauma. Gotta love the ethical subtleties here. "Honey, I've decided to kill you tomorrow, at high noon, in the town square. So since you're going to die anyway, why don't I kill you now and make it look like an accident? That way the kids and I can use the insurance money. Honey, what's wrong? Don't you understand? My decision is almost, from a certain point of view, pro-family! Now stop squirming and let me put this needle under your big toenail . . . ." I don't know of any scientist who thinks this was a bad idea or that it should not have been done." MAYBE THAT'S BECAUSE THEIR BRAINS CAME FROM EMBRYOS THAT SHOWED NO SIGN OF LIFE WHATSOEVER!!!

[This illustration shows that an entire family of healthy Germans can live for one day on the same 5.50 Reichsmarks it costs to support one ill person for the same amount of time.]

* * *

["According to proven statistics, an alcoholic will have 894 descendants in 83 years and of these 40 will live in extreme poverty, 67 will be hardened criminals, 7 will be murderers, 181 will turn to prostitution, and 142 will be beggars. Altogether, these "asocials" and their activities will cost 5 million Reichmarks!]

Privately funded efforts to study the feasibility of using embryonic stem cells to treat disease and make replacements for malfunctioning organs are proceeding at Harvard and other universities, such as Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Wisconsin-Madison, Minnesota, and U.C., San Francisco. Harvard's effort is expected to be the largest.Because, well, Harvard has the Biggest Brains. "I am gratified that Harvard can participate in the advancement of stem cell research, which holds such enormous promise for creating a renewable food source," said William C. Kirby, Dean of the FAS and the Soylent Chair of Bioethics and History. "Professor Melton's creation of new stem cell lines, and the University's wider collaborative efforts, can contribute significantly to worldwide research in this area. Naturally, they will breed prodigiously, eh? There would be much time and little to do. With the proper breeding techniques, and starting with a ratio of, say, ten women to each man, I should estimate the progeny of the original group of 200,000 would emerge a hundred years later as well over a hundred million. . . . . MEIN FUHRER! I CAN WALK!!!!

Last month, researchers in South Korea announced the creation of 30 embryos by a more controversial method - cloning. In this technique, human embryos were cloned from a single adult cell, then stem cells were removed from the embryos. Conceivably, the embryos can be grown into a full-term child, but the Korean scientists say they will not try to do this. "We were going to try," said In-Jung Pak , Director of the At-Least-It's-Not-North-Korea's-Nukes Foundation for the Eradication of Man, "but then we read how Professor Melton, who has a really, really big brain, said that embryos have no signs of life and don't have anything to do with children. So we gave that up as a dead end."

[Korean scientists had hoped to clone sources
of replacement body-parts for human beings].

To expand the research done by Melton, Harvard University plans to establish a Stem Cell Institute devoted to research on the use of stem cells. Gee, that's a curveball -- a Stem Cell Institute devoted to Stem Cells. Gotta hand it to the Veritas boys, you don't think connections like that just happen, do you? It takes a lot of hard work and a really, really big brain. That effort will include researchers from Harvard Medical School and several Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals in Argentina and Kenya.

[Stem Cell Research Institute for Stem Cell Research organizational chart.]

* * *

[Colleagues gather at recent Stem Cell Research Conference on Stem Cell Research. From Left to Right: Professor Harold "The Finger" Wenk, Gesundheit Chair of Biological Research on Biology, Stanford; Wilbert "Beano" Tufts, Smithkline-Beecham Professor of Human Pharmacological Reseources, Stanford; John "The Forehead" Smithson, Chair of the How To Break Up a Group Photograph Department, UC-Davis; George Stands-Like-Klink, Johns-Hokpins University Department of Genetic Genetics; Fred "My Tunic's Tighter than My Corset" Ungerer, Chairman of Human Experimentation University of Wisconsin-Dolly Madison; and Willy "Big Jodhpur" Muhlmann, Post-Graduate Doctoral Candidate, Cellular Cell Studies, UC-San Francisco]

The institute will be co-directed by Melton and David "I Was Never an Embryo" Scadden of Massachusetts General Hospital. And isn't that a coincidence! Melton just happens to go on a successful safari for new stem cells, and Harvard just happens to make him Herr Direktor of a fully-funded Institute. Just be sure to remember that this is all about altruism, nothing but altruism . . . . . and the kids, of course. The ones we leave alive, I mean. The ones who'll grow up with glossy blond hair, bright blue eyes, and aptitudes for science, mathematics, and obeying orders.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Just Came Into the Office -- Anybody Know About It?

A client brought in a violin. The body is very old and finished in a maroon color. The chin rest, strings, string-holder (don't know the technical name) and neck are replacements made of plastic. Inside is an old discolored label.It's either paper, or a very thin slice of wood, that matches the inside grain and color of the violin. It reads:

Antonius Stradiuarius Cremonenfis
Faciebat Anno 1716

On the bottom right-hand corner there's a small logo, two circles, inside which is a Cross flanked by the letters "A" and "S".

So, do we have a hoax, or something that needs to go in the vault? Anybody want to help us find the right person to examine it?

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Ave, Atque, Vale!

Roman Capitals
Roman Capitals- You have a proud and noble bearing,
and are of ancient pedigree, but you tend to be
very rigid and set in your ways.

What Calligraphy Hand Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, May 10, 2004

Thinking of Moving

Via Fr. Sibley's Saintly Salmagundi we learn that the Catholics of Fargo, North Dakota are blessed with a good bishop, Samuel J. Aquila. He is aptly named, especially in light of the following homily, which you can read here in PDF format. For those who lack Adobe software, or for whom it is difficult to load (mine sometimes is -- it can lock up the machine), I reproduce the entire homily here.

* * *
In our Gospel reading for this weekend we hear the threefold question, "Do you love me?" put to Peter – the apostle who denied that he knew Christ, the apostle who wept inrepentance for that denial. In the threefold question, Jesus makes Peter Hissuccessor. He makes him the one who is first among the apostles. The Church ever sincethat time has had Peter serving her in the papacy. Each successor of Peter, and everybishop, is a Vicar of Christ. Jesus gives Peter the command to "Feed my lambs…tendmy sheep… feed my sheep." He reminds Peter that all of this must be rooted in love, inlove and knowledge of who Jesus Christ is.

When we hear Jesus pose the question a third time, we are told that Peter was distressed that Jesus had questioned him yet again, and Peter replied, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." With those words, Peter reveals the depth of knowledge, trust and intimacy he had with Jesus Christ. Jesus knows everything about us, better than we ourselves know, and he calls us to the same knowledge, trust and intimacy.

We are called to be in an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, accepting Him as our Lord and Savior. Only then will our hearts and our minds, our words and our actions be truly formed by Jesus Christ. Only then will we have the courage to be like the apostles and the disciples in the Acts of the Apostles, in the first reading, who had the courage to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ at great cost. When they were brought before the Sanhedrin, Peter and the apostles said in reply to the accusations made against them, "We must obey God rather than men."

In the light of the last few days and all of the media coverage regarding John Kerry's unambiguous support of abortion rights, his personal opposition to abortion, and his insistence on the separation of his Catholic faith from his professional life, I, as a successor of the apostles, cannot remain silent. I, as an apostle, must speak with the apostles and obey God rather than man and present to you the teaching of the Church on the proper relationship between our faith and professional life. Neither the media nor the theologians who support the separation will present the clear teaching of the Church. I have the responsibility and duty before God to teach and to present to you the teaching of the Church on the matter of living one's faith in the world.

In the words of the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers remind Christians that we are of two cities; and that we are to discharge our earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel. They state, "This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age (GS 43)." My sisters and brothers, it was in 1965 that the statement was made. The seriousness of the error is far greater today. In 1965 it was not legal to destroy the most innocent human life, the most vulnerable, that is the unborn child in the womb. The destruction of the unborn is always evil. Science clearly supports that every one of our lives began the moment two cells came together to form one in our mother's womb. Human life, even for twins, begins at that moment.

This past week there was controversy over the photographs of coffins coming back from Iraq. They demonstrated the reality of the war, which is not a bad thing for people to see, for in any war evil is present as is death. Yet, as I looked at that photo with real sorrow for the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country and for their families, I thought to myself, "Imagine if the media showed thirty-five hundred to four thousand coffins a day just in the United States of those who are aborted, of those who are denied a right to life." The outcry would be great, but because it is hidden, a so called "right," there is no outcry.

The Council Fathers went on to teach, "Therefore, let there be no false opposition between professional and social activities on the one part, and religious life on the other. The Christian who neglects his temporal duties, neglects his duties towards his neighbor and even God, and jeopardizes his eternal salvation (GS 43)." My sisters and brothers, "pro-choice" Catholics, "Catholics for a free choice," must listen to those words, for they are the truth rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has taught us that we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are to proclaim His Gospel, the Gospel of Life, to the world. He entered the world that we might have life, and life abundantly (Jn 10, 10).

Furthermore, Jesus Christ has warned clearly within the Gospel that hell is a reality and that we are free to choose it. Catholics who separate their faith life from their professional and social activities are putting the salvation of their souls in jeopardy. They risk the possibility of hell. Any Catholic who stands for a law of man, most especially one which is objectively evil, before a law of God, puts his or her soul in jeopardy of salvation for they cooperate with a real evil. We must think about the seriousness of this. We are called to live the life of Jesus Christ. We are called by Him to be in the world, but not of the world. We are called to live our faith in the world. We cannot put the laws of man above the laws of God and remain faithful to God. When we do this we are more faithful to society than to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Council Fathers of Vatican II taught the great truth of the role that we are called to have in the world, in society, especially the laity. "What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature…the laity, by their very vocation, seeks the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs…" and listen closely, "…and by ordering them according to the plan of God (LG 31)." That is the responsibility of every Christian. That is the responsibility of every Catholic politician – to order all temporal affairs according to the plan of God, according to the way of God. The teaching is clear, based in Scripture and Tradition.

The grave error that has come about, the grave error that the Father of Lies has planted in the hearts of many is the lie of thinking that we can have one foot with God and one foot with the world. We are in the world, not of the world. We are in the world to transform the world. The only way that the world will ever have peace, the only way the world will ever live in the truth is if the world embraces Jesus Christ. While we may never impose the Gospel message or force someone to believe in Jesus Christ, we must always propose the truth. We cannot move into negotiation, ever, with evil. As citizens, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, teaches us that we "…are obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order. ‘We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29)' (CCC 2256)."

My sisters and brothers, we are called today to reflect upon how we live our lives in the world and who really forms our hearts and minds. As Jesus Christ posed the question to Peter, so, too, does He pose the question to each one of us, "Do you love Me?" If we respond with yes, then we must live that out no matter what the cost. We cannot separate our professional life from our faith life. We must always put the law of God above the law of man, especially as it concerns the dignity of the human person and the life of the unborn.

In regard to the question of sanctions for Catholics who are "pro-choice", who say that they are personally opposed to abortion but whose words and actions speak otherwise in their support of abortion rights, I would share with them the words from St. Justin Martyr in today's Office of Readings. This was in 165 A.D. They shared the same problems we do today. "No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ." Those words are still valid for us today. We are called to live lives in accordance with the principles given us by Jesus Christ. I would remind Catholic politicians, clergy and all of the faithful of the words of St. Paul when he reminds the people who are not living their lives according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and yet still receive the Eucharist that they bring judgment on themselves (I Cor 11, 27-29). They bring judgment on themselves. Let those words sink in.

One day all of us will have to stand before the judgment seat of God. Our God will not be interested if we were a Republican, an independent, or a Democrat. He will not even be interested in what occupation we had in life. What He will be most interested in is our faithfulness to Him and our faithfulness to His Son. What He will be most interested in is if we loved Him, no matter what the cost, and if we obeyed His commandments. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments (Jn 14, 15)."

In the first reading, we are told after the disciples had left the Sanhedrin, "they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name." We, too, must be a people today who stand for the truth of the Gospel. Jesus Christ has taught us clearly that, "you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (Jn 8, 32)." He is the truth. He is the one who sets us free. He is the one who teaches us what it means to be human and live in the world. He is the one who teaches us how to be in the world but not of the world. He is the one who teaches us obedience to the will of the Father, no matter what the cost. He is the one who teaches us about eternal things and how we can embrace heaven or how we can embrace hell by our actions. The Father of Lies has clouded the hearts and minds of many and he continues to cloud, yet the only person who will bring about the truth and the light of the Gospel is Jesus Christ. We must walk in that light in order to avoid the darkness of the error of separating one's faith from one's professional and social life.

In conclusion, my sisters and brothers, I urge you to pray first of all to our Lord. Listen to the question Jesus posed to Peter. Let that question, "Do you love me?" penetrate your heart and mind this week. Respond to the question from the depth of your heart, and let that love transform your heart and mind so that it may be formed by Jesus Christ and not the world.

Second, I urge you to reflect upon the teachings of Vatican II, especially those teachings contained in the Constitution on the Church and The Church in the Modern World, which point to the union of faith and one's professional and social life, of the need for the two to be cohesive. We cannot preach one Gospel and live another. We must be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and live that, no matter what the cost. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, especially the sections on Human Life, Participation in Social Life, Social Justice, and The Authorities in Civil Society (See CCC 1897-1948; 2234-2257; 2258-2330). Read, too, the Holy Father's encyclical, The Gospel of Life, which specifically addresses the questions of today on human life. These documents can be found on the internet or in books. Do not let the newspaper and media form your hearts when it comes to Church teaching. Go to the sources so that you may read them yourselves. Every adult Catholic, and most especially Catholics involved in society, has an obligation to read and study the documents. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you read.

Finally, I ask all of us to seek the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Truth, for she will lead us to the truth. She will always lead us to her Son, Jesus Christ, who is "the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14, 6)." Mary's intercession will grant to us every grace that we need to walk in Jesus' steps and to follow in His light, to bring the truth to the world which so needs it today. May each of us grow in obedience to the will of the Father, and may we, too, respond with Peter to the Risen Christ's question on love, with his words, "Lord, you know that I love you."

I like where I live. But today, I wish I lived in North Dakota.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Recently Over-read

For what it's worth, herewith some interesting things I've read in the past few weeks. I call it "over-read" because, now that you're reading it, it's like "overheard."

* * *
Of course there are specifically Christian forms in all the arts but, nevertheless, architecture, sculpture, poetry and painting had all reach sophisticated levels in the ancient world. Even a thousand years before the ancient Greeks . . . we can see at Knossos highly developed art and architecture. In comparison with all this artistic activity, music alone remained largely undeveloped. There were, of course, various instruments that existed in pre-Christian days such as the lyre, drums and elementary woodwind instruments. But from what we can deduce, ancient music was of the very simplest kind: basic tunes, perhaps with one or two accompanying chords. Plato mentions music briefly in The Republic, referring to the power of the ancient musical modes and their ability to alter human moods. This is certainly evidence that the ancients had worked out musical scales. A double flute was used to keep rowers in time, or to provide a rhythm for gymnastic exercises, just as pop music is used today for aerobics. A strumming lyre would be used to accompany lyric poetry. But the fact remains that anything beyond the very simplest harmonic blocks, let alone polyphony, was unknown. We have to skip forward into the Christian era, and to Catholic Europe, to find the invention of what we would understand as music.

I realize in this very simple description that I have left out what is loosely described as ethnic or folk music. I am also leaving out the vast subject of plainsong, which was part of the worship of the early Church -- not because it is unimportant, but because what I want to focus on is the whole notion of music as chordal progression or several voices singing together in different parts. What I am saying is that music as we know it, music sometimes referred to as "art music", was an invention specifically of the Catholic Church -- and that a similar claim could not be made for any other art form. I am talking here about the motets and masses of Machaut, Josquin des Pres, Palestrina, and then on through Byrd, Monteverdi, to Vivaldi and beyond. The world never saw anything like it before, and it staggers me to think that it all happened so recently in relation to the history of civilization. It has all happened in the last five or six hundred years.

Bearing in mind that it was under the auspices of the Church that music exploded into being with little or no reference to the ancient world, unlike every other art form in the Renaissance period, I want to ask how this could be? Is it coincidence or luck? Or is there something unique about Christianity, or even about Catholicism, that allowed music finally to come of age in Europe?
-- Frederick Stocken, "Music as a Christian Art." Second Spring, No. 5
* * *
Not only does meditation on these mysteries nourish faith; it also promotes virtue. Observing that there are three influences which effect the decline of society, Leo points to the rosary as their remedy. These evil influences, he declares in Laetitiae Sanctae are: " . . . first, the distaste for a simple and laborious life; secondly, repugnance to suffering of any kind; thirdly the forgetfulness of a future life."

In treating the distaste for a simple, laborious life he applies the cure of the joyful mysteries. The examples "of humility, hard working endurance and of other virtues -- once they have made their influence felt -- gradually take root in the soul, and in the course of time fail not to bring about a happy change of mind and conduct."

To the repugnance to suffering he urges meditation on the sorrowful mysteries. Beholding Christ "overwhelmed with sadness, so that drops of blood ooze like sweat from His veins . . . bound like a malefactor . . . torn with scourges . . . nailed to the cross . . . who is there who will not feel his heart grow warm with the desire of imitating Him?"

The evil chiefly characteristic of the men of our time, he contends, is to pursue the false goods of this world in such a way that they banish from their memory the everlasting happiness of heaven. "It is from this danger," he exhorts, "that they will be happily rescued who in the pious practice of the rosary, are wont, by frequent and fervent prayer, to keep before their minds the glorious mysteries. Here alone we discover the true relation between time and eternity, between our life on earth and our life in Heaven."
-- Fr. James Buckley, F.S.S.P., "Leo XIII and the Rosary." Pastoral and Homiletic Review, May, 2003.
* * *
"After all, in addition to such worthy accomplishments as making Yale coed and doggedly attending Bilderberg, Aspen Institute, and Law of the Sea conferences, one or more of these men were partly or largely responsible for such disasters as the Bay of Pigs, the Vietnam War, the bankrupting of New York City, and the blight of "urban renewal." (New Haven, the cynosure of that effort, remains abjectly unrenewed nearly four decades later.) Why did these men, who were convinced of their own brilliance, so often make such a hash of things? It turns out that although they were all quick, clever, and poised, their intellectual attainments were negligible. [Kingman] Brewster and [Elliot] Richardson admitted that they didn't like to read -- the preferred to get their ideas from schmoozing. Richardson . . . may have held more Cabinet posts than any other man in history, but he failed to make a lasting mark in any of them. ([McGeorge] Bundy certainly left his mark as National Security Adviser, but probably he wouldn't be pleased to be remembered as the pseudo-tough-guy advocate of the "graduated escalation" of the Vietnam War.) I thought I knew quite a lot about these men before reading this book . . . I was inclined to see them fairly kindly. But what clearly, if inadvertently, emerges from this book is their most unlovely disdain for so many of their countrymen, whom they believed they were born to lead. Although they repeatedly wrung their hands over the plight of minorities . . . they consistently failed to extend the same sympathy to those of their fellow citizens whom they perhaps regarded as less exotic . . . . Richardson sneered at suburbanites in their ‘little houses made of ticky-tacky.' Meanwhile, Bundy characterized the American Legion as ‘composed largely of the same class of people as those who brought Hitler to power -- the penny-proud, ignorant petit bourgeois fold . . . Kabaservice recounts John Lindsay's solipsistically self-righteous response to complaints that ‘all the taxes came out of the white pockets to be spent in black neighborhoods' (the city's welfare spending rose by $600 million during Lindsay's first term). ‘We,' this product of St. Paul's, Yale College, and Yale Law School lecture to his working-class Brooklyn constituents, ‘have three hundred years of neglect to pay for.' . . . [A]fter reading a tome-ful of declarations such as Brewster's ‘We [members of the Yale community] are best equipped to be our brother's thinker,' one finds oneself agreeing with the young and intemperate (and improbably populist) William F. Buckley, Jr., who called this bunch ‘haughty totalitarians who refuse to permit the American people to supervise their own destiny.'"
-- Benjamin Schwarz, review of Geoffrey Kabaservice's The Guardians. The Atlantic, June, 2004.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

I'm Sure It's Just Coincidence

Almost immediately after subscribing to the National Catholic Reporter I received, for the first time in my life, solicitations by mail from the ACLU and the Democratic Party. I know, I know . . . post hoc ergo propter hoc and all that . . . but still, doesn't it seem like a strange coincidence? Heh heh.
Good News, Sort Of

Here's a story about a bishop with a spine, and layman with a conscience. McGreevey didn't make the right choice, but it's a choice that can be respected. I tend to think McGreevey's sincere; only someone to whom communion matters would make this choice. But even if McGreevey's hoping to draw some shallow PR boost from being a "noble martyr" to the True Faith of Modern Constitutional Jurisprudence, it's still a respectable choice. This is the Roman Catholic Church; we don't get to make up the rules as we please and as we go along. McGreevey, whatever his motivations, has accepted that fact. May God grant Governor McGreevey the grace to pursue this course of integrity all the way back to the holy altar of Jesus Christ.

It's interesting to wonder whether the same progressive outcome would have happened under a former bishop. I'm speaking of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick -- now of Washington, D.C. -- who thought then-Governor Christine Todd Whitman's public support for the Culture of Death unobjectionable enough to allow her to use his Cathedral during her inauguration. When it comes to rulers who use state power to promote abortion, and who then approach the altar for the body and blood, soul and divinity, of our Lord, Cardinal McCarrick's motto is: "What they do, is really their business and not mine."

It's interesting how apostolic toughness makes a difference; the bishops of New Jersey end up with Catholic layman McGreevey, who makes a choice one can respect, if not approve -- a choice which publicly upholds the Church's teaching that Christ has nothing in common with Belial. But in Washington, Cardinal McCarrick has produced Catholic layman John Kerry, who's made a choice no one can respect -- a choice which publicly upholds the apparent sacredness of "having it all," having it any which way, whenever one wants to have it. If the Kingdom of God is a place where choices have meaning and consequence, then it's a lot closer to hand in New Jersey than Washington. May God grant Cardinal McCarrick the grace to see that even McGreevey's choice is better than the status quo.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Army of One Interview

I was recently interviewed by JD Mays of the Army of One blog. Army of One is part of a large network of "God blogs" -- blogs which have something to do with God. Herewith, and with Mr. Mays' kind permission, is the interview in its entirety. Mr. Mays -- who, I gather, is a Reformed Christian -- says he may take up the cudgels on several points. I look forward to hearing from him, and thank him again for the original interview and permission to post it here. Mr. Mays' words are in blue, mine in black.

* * *

You've chosen a Spy Theme for your blog. Other than the fact that it sounds kind of cool are there any reasons for this theme?

Thanks! It started out as my shame-faced way of posting on a message board after I had, with every good intention and very publicly, sworn of message-board posting for Lent. I got ahold of some websites for various anti-popes (guys who think, for some delusional reasons, that they're the pope and that John Paul II is not the pope). There's Lucian Pulvermacher, a/k/a Pius XIII, who's somewhere in the pacific northwest, and then there's "Pope" Michael I in Delia, Kansas (who, if memory serves, has proclaimed the Atkins diet as the official Catholic diet ex cathedra). So I did fisks of their websites and posted them under the name "SecretAgentMan." After that, I just kind of kept the name. There are other reasons as well, of course, one of them being that I don't want to get my vanity mixed up in my writing, which is hard enough to do even using a pseudonym.

Did you ever buy that "History of Food" book that captivated your attention so much?

Yes, I did! It's a wonderful book, although you can't sit around reading it for hours at a time like you could other books. There's too much, you have to slow down and take it in bits and pieces, like a good meal. You have to linger over it, returning occasionally to sample some more. There's no end to the fascinating information in that book. For example, the author notes that the Church didn't consider vegetable oil to be prohibited by fasting regulations but did consider butter to be proscribed, levying rather large payments for indulgences allowing the holder to use butter during periods of fasting. He goes on to consider the fact that most of "Reformation country" (Germany, Scandinavia, England) relied on butter, as opposed to olive oil, for its shortening, and wonders if the onerous burdens created by the Roman system didn't play some role in heightening, or piquing, ordinary peoples' resentment. He's a responsible author, and so he doesn't imply that the Reformation was about butter or anything silly like that. But it's an interesting coincidence of fact insofar as people tend not to embrace revolutionary upheaval unless they feel entirely and inescapably oppressed; taxing and controlling food, doing it in God's name on a culturally-discriminatory basis, is certainly one way to generate a perception of oppression that can itself open or increase individual awareness of larger quarrels.

You seem to be to the right of center in the political spectrum but I can't tell by reading your blog if you are a Libertarian or a Republican or some combination thereof. Who do you tend to support for political office?

I'm definitely not a libertarian. You can't refuse to employ the power of the community against gross evils like prostitution, slavery, and drug-peddling and obey Christ. But that's what libertarianism, strictly defined, means. Now there are people who use "libertarian" as more or less a synonym for favoring economic freedom and private property, but I'm not using that definition in my answer. I tend to favor Republicans because their fascism is much slower and more haphazard than the Democrats'. I'd probably better explain that by pointing out that fascism isn't the same thing as anti-Semitism or a kooky pan-Germanism. Fascism is a serious, though evil, political philosophy. Its real progenitor was Mussolini, who described the fascist attitude thus:
Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal, will of man as a historic entity. It is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual.

And if liberty is to he the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State - a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values - interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people."
Fascism is a direct and open repudiation of the Kingship of Jesus Christ, described so wonderfully in Pius XI's 1925 encyclical Quas Primas. (Which proclaimed the Feast of Christ the King in direct rebuke of Mussolini). The essential outlines of Mussolini's system have been in place for a long time in our education, our culture, our government -- what is Roe v. Wade if not an example of "the State expressing the real essence of the individual" to the exclusion of unborn children? How could abortion and pornography thrive in the United States without our belief that "the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value"? I could go on and on about this topic, but basically I support (some) Republicans because they're generally ambivalent about the progress of fascism. Democrats, on the other hand, have long since stopped worrying about it. But I wouldn't call myself a Republican by any means.

Apparently, you're a lawyer of some sort. What led you to that profession?

I'm not really sure. It's certainly not the profession I would have chosen for myself.

Many Catholics feel that the Iraq War was not a just war. They think it was wrong to go to war against Iraq. What do you think?

Well, I guess I need to start out by distancing myself from the"Oh God, we're so corrupt and evil, how dare we defend our society so long as one child remains hungry" bunch who oppose the war. Most of my "writing" about the Iraq war is long lost, since it was only posted on Gary Hoge's message board (which is a great place to visit, by the way) and they don't keep extensive logs of old posts. I don't think the war was "just" inasmuch as a just war has to be conducted according to lawful authority, and the only lawful authority the United States has, by treaty, is the UN Charter which authorizes the use of military force only with the consent of the Security Council or when a threat to national security is so immanent and direct that it is unrealistic to consult the Council. I never heard anything -- including Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council -- which convinced me Iraq posed that kind of dire threat to the United States. I heard proof that Iraq had an evil and murderous regime, which harbored nothing but malice toward its people, its neighbors and the United States, and that it might have had weapons of mass destruction. If that's enough for us to invade Iraq, then it's enough for me to shoot my neighbor if he's a mean, wife-beating son-of-bitch who hates me and owns a gun. And the Security Council refused to authorize our attack. That about did it for me; I'm not in love with the United Nations. I think it's an insidious organization in many ways. But as long as we're publicly binding ourselves to the Charter then we ought to abide by the Charter.

More to the point, I think the invasion of Iraq was an enormous blunder. It was the brainchild of some very miseducated people who think there's meaning to the term "nation building." Clinton tried that in Somalia, but there's no such thing as a "cultural erector-set" that you can take overseas and spend fifteen minutes (or fifteen years) putting together to build a civilization. The rise of modern Western institutions took about 500 years, all of it was unplanned and brought about by historical accidents and unintended consequences. I simply don't understand a contrary view which ignores religion, culture, and historical experience as guides to the future of a nation and focuses entirely on typing up grand plans for a "free and democratic Iraq" on computers running off the Fourth Infantry Division's portable generators. That's hyperbole, of course, but that's still the sum and substance of how we're going about "civilizing" Iraq. What did Mussolini say? "The Fascist conception of the State is all embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism, is totalitarian, and the Fascist State - a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values - interprets, develops, and potentates the whole life of a people." I can see how, starting there, one ends up with the idea that we can create a whole culture of laws, customs, and politics simply by tinkering with the form of Iraq's state. Unfortunately, I fear all we will end up having done is unseat a dangerous dictator so that the equally-dangerous passions of millions of his former slaves can be unleashed against one another and ourselves. We've made the United States an irredeemable object of disdain, distrust, and outright hatred in every other Arab and Muslim country in the world without any appreciable increase in U.S. security. We shouldn't evaluate our policy on the stark question of whether the U.S. is "safer" now that Saddam is out of power -- of course we are, but the increased safety is both marginal and, if recent events in Iraq are any indication, temporary. I think our policy guarantees that a future Iraq will be ruled by a regime eager to prove that it's not "tainted" by the "Great Satan" and which will, therefore, engage in even more anti-American activity -- perhaps by actually acquiring weapons of mass destruction and actually sponsoring Al-Qaeda or whatever nefarious group replaces it on the world stage.

You've written, "Television is a lice-ridden drunk. Why do I keep saying that? Because if you watch television long enough, you'll see the kind of things you'd see if you hung out with a lice-ridden drunk." There's a lot of truth to that. However, when you do watch television what do you regularly watch?

I don't really watch anything regularly. The last TV series I followed with any kind of consistency (a good deal of consistency, really) was Babylon5. I liked its open repudiation of Gene Rodenberry's vision of the future, which is essentially that everything comes up roses after we toss 10,000 years of human experience out the window in favor of the sentiments in John Lenon's "Imagine." (Kudos to Star Trek's Deep Space Nine series for Commander Eddington's pithy speech about the Federation, and Quark's analogizing the Federation to root beer "soft, sweet, bubbly -- it's insidious!"). I particularly enjoyed B5's open embrace of religion, including Christianity, via Catholic characters like Brother Theo and also Brother Edward in the "Passing Through Gethsemane" episode. Unfortunately the series had an ending that was as mindlessly humanistic and dramatically easy as anything Gene Rodenberry could want. But you take the bitter with the sweet when it comes to television.

I sometimes watch the History Channel, at least on those occasions when it's not obsessing about Adolf Hitler or running stupid shows about Jesus and Christianity. "American Choppers" is amusing, as are reruns of the first year of "Law and Order." Every once in a while there's a decent movie on AMC, Bravo, or the Sci-Fi Channel. CSPAN's programs are worth watching, especially if they're in-depth profiles of authors; I could watch their interview with Shelby Foote over and over again. The political programs are less interesting -- seeing Colin Powell, Orrin Hatch or Ted Kennedy flap their gums is about as edifying as watching my dog chew nits. With people like that at the helm, this country's in for rough times. Yes, I'm a tad cynical about our prospects. Always have been, so take that for what it's worth depending on your view of our prospects.

I find that most of my television experiences are gained via DVD. You can control the content, and sometimes the content's not half bad. I'm currently working my way through Star Trek's DS9 series, which is also more serious about religion than most modern television even if the religious content is repackaged inside an invented culture (Bajor's) and equipped with a materialistic escape hatch ("wormhole aliens" rather than "prophets"). Kai Winn's slide into apostasy is very well done, both intellectually (via pursuit of the Pa Wraiths) and symbolically (her union with Gul Dukat), and the conflict between good and evil is tantalizingly worked out in the way it always is -- in a "real" world which plausibly (but only plausibly) provides a solely-materialistic explanation for people who can't see very much.

Television can also give one a good glimpse of the dementia of modern culture. We're probably the first civilization to openly celebrate dumbness, depravity and decay "live" on a 24/7 basis. MTV is a good way to see that sort of thing. Now I don't recommend watching MTV with any frequency, but there's sometimes the odd bit of value in the programming. For example, once you've seen a single episode of "Newlyweds" you've acquired some interesting evangelical material. The show's proof of the shallowness of materialism. There aren't two people on the face of the earth who are dumber and less talented than Nick and Jessica. If one of them ever had an idea, he or she would instantly become unrecognizable to the other. But they are rich, and live a life of great luxury, which goes to prove that riches and luxury don't produce an admirable life, one which has importance, meaning, and a sense of inherent responsibility to the larger causes of the human race. And Road Rules? The French nobility at Versailles, or the country-house set of 1920s England, look like Plato's Symposium compared to the brainless, amoral stumbling one sees on that show. Who on earth wants to actually live like those people? No one, really, and that makes MTV an occasionally-useful resource for guerilla evangelism.

Not long ago I was doing a fair amount of evangelical work with young people (people in their late teens and early 20s). One thing that interested me is that they all watched MTV. The other thing that interested me is how they all harbor a tacit animosity to MTV and what it stands for. They were almost eager to despise it, because I think deep down they could easily identify the shallow commercialism that motivates every "avante garde" and "rebellious" thing MTV pretends to do. I won't say that MTV is some kind of school for Christ; I think trying to reach people through MTV (as the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island has tried to do) is a fool's errand which can only interest fools. But the Church Fathers weren't squeamish about describing what went on at the games, and so there's something to be said for knowing how to point out the lice and the stink of alcohol on the next flashy drunk to wander across your TV screen. (And, too, there's an aspect of guilty pleasure involved. The fastest way to feel like John Savage is to turn on the Brave New World television network!)

I fear I've spent a good deal of time talking about MTV, which wasn't my intention. It certainly doesn't reflect the amount of time I spend watching that perpetual celebration of all that is bland, mediocre, and trashy in the human condition.

One of the things I appreciate about Catholicism is that it has reinforced a set of moral values and stuck with them throughout history. Issues such as abortion and homosexuality which seem to be "up for debate" in a lot of Protestant denominations are still solidly held in the Catholic church. Why do you think this is the case?

This reminds me of a remark by John Paul II about the crisis in the Balkans. He said there were two possible solutions, the miraculous and the mundane. The mundane solution, he said, was for Jesus to send the Blessed Virgin with ten legions of angels and restore justice and harmony to the region. The miraculous solution, he said, was for the people living there to achieve justice and harmony. In a similar way there are two reasons for the Church's - relative - steadfastness on traditional moral teaching. The mundane reason is that the Holy Spirit guides the Catholic Church and so the gates of Hell will not prevail against her. The miraculous reason is that God has established the Church so that her legitimacy is inextricably bound up with the idea of an infallible and constant magisterium. Even if Bishops wanted to legitimize abortion and homosexual marriages (and it wouldn't surprise me if there were one or two who did), the act itself would indubitably expose the entire Catholic edifice as a sham. I realize that answer provokes many more questions, but that's it in a nutshell.

When Protestants say "The Church" I think they are using a somewhat different definition than Catholics. So...when I say "The Church" what does that mean to you?

There are so many meanings for that word in Catholicism. It can mean the visible structure of the Church on earth, the papacy, the bishops, the laity, etc. It can also mean what Protestants take it to exclusively mean -- the invisible community of God's friends. It can mean something of both perspectives. The nuances are why the Second Vatican Council deliberately chose the word "subsistare" in Lumen Gentium:
This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth". This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists ["subsistare"] in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.
You don't seem to like Bishop Spong a whole lot. What do you think is the best way to defeat him and those like him?

Heh. I don't. Not because he's a heretic. It's because he's such a silly, puling, ridiculous heretic. I think the best remedy for that nonsense is ridicule, and plenty of it. The Bible enjoins us not to answer fools according to their folly. If one treats the Spongs, Crossans, and Drinans of the world as though they were serious figures, noteworthy examples of Christian life with significant things to say about our faith, one has ignored good Biblical advice (as well as the entire content of the Bible).

What do you think is causing the growth of evangelical fundamentalism?

As the barbarian invasions produced refugees in early-medieval Europe, the barbarian onslaught on American society and its mainline Christian denominations is producing a similar agitation.

Do you think Priests should be able to marry? Or at the very least, do you think there are some changes that should be made in the Priesthood?

Married men can be priests the East. Men marry before ordination (usually about 24 hours before ordination), and my understanding is that they are not allowed to remarry should they become widowers after ordination and married men may not be elevated to episcopacy. (I think that's true for both the eastern-rite churches in communion with Rome and for those not in communion with Rome). In the Western tradition, celibacy has been the preferred discipline for clergy from the earliest centuries of the Church. Personally, I don't think that discipline should be relaxed. A celibate priest is a walking rebuke to the unwholesome desires of the world and an inspiration to follow Christ in chastity, the use of one's sexuality in a way proper to one's state in life. I know that my priest's only, and entire, loyalty lies with the Church which, for him, is both wife and child. His celibacy is an undeniable commitment to that paternal relationship, and while there are priests who don't even try to live up to that standard, I think religious celibacy is a very wholesome aspect of Catholicism. It's interesting to note how few priests, either proportionately to the whole priesthood, or in comparison with other professions or ministries where men are married, are involved in criminal or scandalous sexual activity. To me that says, "See, it is possible to live chastely. God will provide." The root of the sexual scandals in the Church is essentially a disbelief in the reality of Jesus Christ as King of an eternal moral universe which will triumph over conflicting human desires. Celibacy is a direct repudiation of that disbelief, not a cause of it.

What follows is mostly conjecture and surmise. I would like to see bishops selected from a candidate pool of priests who have served as pastors for at least 15 years and who are no more than five years removed from direct, primary responsibility for a parish or religious community. I suspect that many, if not most, American bishops have been on an "episcopal career-track" and spent far more time in chanceries and bureaucracies than parishes, and I think the overall tone of leadership suffers for it. Perhaps it was easier for Cardinal Law (41 years' service, 12 years as a priest ending 30 years ago, then 29 years as a bishop) to perceive Fr. Shanley as a "personnel problem" than a ravening wolf because of that difference in focus. It's not that Law "didn't care," but that his care was filtered through a managerial perspective which perhaps left him less aware of the best way to solve that problem. That's just a suspicion, however, and I'd be happy to let anyone correct me on it.

As a protestant, the whole idea of confession to a priest has mystified me. Why would the priest have anything to do with the whole forgiveness? Isn't that why Jesus died on the cross, so that I wouldn't need a Priest to intercede for me?

It depends on the view one takes of God's involvement with human life. I would say that Jesus died on the cross so that men could share the joy of confession and absolution, contrition and penance, and the joy of praying for one another on earth and in Heaven. If that seems vain or presumptuous, I'd point out that from the same standpoint one could say it's vain or presumptuous to say that Jesus died for us at all: "It's vain to contend that Jesus died 'for us.' Soli Deo Gloria! Jesus died for God's glory, not man's!" To do that sort of thing only requires imaginarily pitting one truth of Christianity against the others and talking as though you can't believe them all simultaneously. But Jesus died 'for us' and soli deo gloria because God glories in the divine and triumphant condescension of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. When it comes to priestly absolution and saintly intercession, Catholics just think God's condescension know no bounds, in that He entrusts men even with a share in His work.

To a Catholic, questions like yours sound nonsensical and frustrating, like asking, "Why would a doctor have anything to do with the whole idea of healing? Isn't Jesus the only healer we need?" There are a few Protestants who have continued that line of thought, going so far as to reject either modern medical care or even any medical care whatsoever. The Catholic Bible contains the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), in which God, the author of Scripture, says:
My son, in thy sickness be not negligent: but pray unto the Lord, and he will make thee whole. Leave off from sin, and order thine hands aright, and cleanse thy heart from all wickedness. Give a sweet savour, and a memorial of fine flour; and make a fat offering, as not being. Then give place to the physician, for the Lord hath created him: let him not go from thee, for thou hast need of him. There is a time when in their hands there is good success. For they shall also pray unto the Lord, that he would prosper that, which they give for ease and remedy to prolong life. He that sinneth before his Maker, let him fall into the hand of the physician.
-- Sirach 38:9-15 (KJV).
Commenting on confession and penance, St. Jerome thought of the same analogy:
"If the serpent, the devil, bites someone secretly, he infects that person with the venom of sin. And if the one who has been bitten keeps silence and does not do penance, and does not want to confess his wound to his brother and to his master, who have the word that will cure him, cannot very well assist him. For if the sick man is ashamed to confess his wound to the physician, medicine will not cure that to which it is not applied."
-- Commentary on Ecclesiastes, 10:11.
To a Catholic, it seems quite sensible to conclude that God, who created men to do His healing work in this world, also created men to do His spiritual work as well. That such men exist doesn't prevent God from healing or forgiving miraculously, without the involvement of men. But still God creates men and expects them to rely on one another in His service.

Protestants believe this somehow denies God's sovereignty, and that attitude totally mystifies me. How is it denying God's sovereignty to say that when a priest absolves sin, he does it because God is more powerful than evil? The answer I usually hear at that point is your question -- if God is doing it all anyway, why do we need priests and saints? That leaves me wondering, "Well, then what the heck are we here for to begin with?" Certainly God wants us here for some reason, and I can heartily agree that it's to witness to His glory and sovereignty, but how that witness can be accomplished without participating in His work is beyond me. I'm sorry if that sounds a bit pugnacious, but I just really am stumped at the source of this particular criticism of Catholic doctrine.

If all we had was the Bible in it's present form today. Do you think Catholicism would still look the same?

Ahh, but if the Bible were really "all" we had, then our God would be a very cruel God wouldn't He? Without the divine person of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, the Bible would be at best a standing unalterable condemnation of man or at worst a sheer waste of paper. What good would it do for us to have the Beatitudes without the Person who grants the grace to understand and live them? How could we avoid damnation by the Beatitudes themselves without His forgiveness and merciful sacrifice? I understand that's not really your question, but I think it's important to say nonetheless. There are too many Protestants who think Catholics only believe in "the Church and the Sacraments" and not Jesus, and too many Catholics who think Protestants only believe in "the Bible" and not Jesus. It's important that we keep praising His name to one another so that our mutual suspicions can be lessened or prevented.

When you say "the Bible in its present form today," I want to know which present form -- with or without dueterocanonicals like Sirach/Ecclesiasticus; the NIV, KJV, or Douai-Rheims translation? Do we read the angel's salutation to Mary in Luke 1:28 as "hail, thou who art highly favored" (KJV) or "hail, full of grace" (DRV)? The Douai-Rheims Bible translates Matthew 6:11 as "give us this day our supersubstantial bread," whereas the King James and Revised Standard translations render it as "daily bread." To make matters more complicated, the American Catholic Bishops have produced a Bible (NAB) which translates Luke 1:28 as "Hail, favored one!" and Matthew 6:11 as "daily bread." To believe in sola scriptura one must affirm that Scripture is the word of God and infallible "in the autographs." But we do not have the autographs. Whose transcription of the autographs should we depend on -- St. Jerome's in the Vulgate? The scholars who produced different renderings of 1 John 5's proof (or non-proof, depending) of the Trinity? (Compare 1 John 5:7 in the 1611 KJV with the same passage in the RSV, NIV, NKJV, etc.). I think one undeniable fact of life in Christ is that Church vouchsafes Scripture, not the other way around. (I leave open the identity of "Church" in that statement, since the idea of vouchsafing Scripture, broadly conceived, doesn't itself require "Romanism"). I think even Scripture attests to this, for our Lord says "the sheep follow him: for they know his voice." John 10:4 (KJV). So, I guess I have to reply that I don't think I can really answer your question. We've never had "only" the Bible. God is too generous and merciful to allow that. Catholics and Protestants agree on this, even if they view the particulars of our divine accompaniment differently.

But, if you're asking where I am on the "material sufficiency / partim-partim debate" regarding Tradition and Scripture, I really don't see merit in the distinction, since Scripture and Tradition have a dynamic interrelationship within the Church's ongoing contemplation of Christ. I don't agree with the more radical "material sufficiency" folks, who sometimes give the impression that you can have sola scriptura Catholicism -- i.e., Catholicism with all its facets growing without the possibility of error from the Scriptures by a process that only differs in degree from completing a jigsaw puzzle. Nor do I agree with the more radical "partim-partim" folks, who sometimes give the impression that God withheld a secret gnosis from the faithful so that he could tell, shibboleth-style, the "real Christians" from the ones who only accepted the written part of His revelation. The existence of Catholicism and Presbyterianism is irrefutable proof that one finds in Scripture what one is predisposed to find via a guiding hermeneutic which is Scriptural, Traditional, spiritual, cultural, familial, historical -- in all the things that God has allowed to make a man. The relationship of Scripture and Tradition occurs within that landscape, and so I think it's ill-advised to regard them as insufficient (radical "partim-partim" theology) or redundant (radical "material sufficiency" theology).

Do you think that receiving communion saves a person from hell?

Yes. No. Forgive me, but I might better answer by a question. Do you think reading the Bible saves a person from Hell? To the extent one answers "Yes," he's making a host (no pun intended) of conclusions about the alignment, if you will, of the Bible, the soul and God. One can answer "no" simply by refusing to make those assumptions or even by making hostile assumptions, such as referring (per the Biblical example) to Satan's use of Scripture recounted in Matthew Chapter 4. The Apostles were very clear that both Scripture and the Eucharist could harm or heal depending on the individual's relationship with the God who made them both. (2 Peter 3:15-16; 1 Cor. 11:29). In the Eucharist and Scripture, God takes hold of the human person -- what happens to the human person can be as wonderful as the Transfiguration or more terrible than Pharaoh's death. Our hope is to seek His grace and be ready, for His day will come like a thief in the night. Fortunately, our God will always ensure that we find such grace because He is a kind and loving Father.

Is the Pope infallible? Does he have the power to forgive sins?

I hope you won't be offended if I reply that the first question has an inherent unclarity which is the cause of a lot of misunderstanding, and I'd like to do what I can to avoid that. Infallibility isn't a fixed status. It's a quality which may be potential or actual. So asking if the Pope "is infallible" is like asking if Joe "is smart." Sometimes Joe does or says smart things, and sometimes he doesn't. But even when we realize that Joe has said something dumb, we still call him "smart" because we're referring to his capability and not to every action which might possibly involve it. We can say that "the pope is infallible" in the same way we can say "Joe received a Ph.D.," namely to denote some abstract ability, or we can say "Pius IX infallibly proclaimed the Immaculate Conception" in the same way we can say "Joe was really smart to connect the presence of clouds with rain," namely to denote a particular use of the ability. In neither case, however, are we committed to believing everything Pius IX or Joe ever said is infallibly true, or even smart.

At this point I should like to go a little further and point out some things which may be very unfamiliar to Protestants. Protestants' experience with divinely-assured truth is bounded by a particular understanding of Scripture which commits them, quite understandably, to identify infallibility only with regard to Scripture and thus as inseparable from other things also identified with Scripture, namely divinity, revelation and inspiration. So I think that when they address papal infallibility they assume, quite naturally but quite incorrectly, that Catholicism regards papal infallibility as an inspired, revelatory act by a divine figure who adds more Scripture to the Gospel. That papal infallibility has often affirmed ideas which contradict the orthodoxy held by Protestants heightens this confusion, since infallible proclamations like Ineffabilis Deus are read from a paradigm that already says the Immaculate Conception appears "nowhere in Scripture." The Catholic biblical exegesis which produced, literally through many centuries, the dogmatic conclusion in Ineffabilis Deus is not "on the radar screen," so to speak, of the Protestant mind. Thus the idea of Pius IX proclaiming that dogma seems far more like the idea of Moses going back to Sinai to get a third tablet than the reasonable conclusion of pre-existing and time- honored streams of thought about grace, redemption, sanctity, and the place of man in God's universe. This isn't to suggest that all Protestant disagreement with papal infallibility is the result of a misunderstanding. It's only by way of explaining why so much Protestant disagreement with papal infallibility is plagued by misunderstandings.

I noted above our Lord's words, "the sheep follow him: for they know his voice." John 10:4 (KJV). That's what infallibility is all about -- the sheep knowing the shepherd's voice. Infalliblity is a divine help, which in Scripture accompanies inspiration and revelation, but which in a particular exercise of the pope's office isn't accompanied by them. Infallibility is a guarantee that the Church, in communion with the Pope, will never bind man's conscience to blasphemy, apostasy, or error. The Church, in communion with the Pope, will by God's grace bind men to the Gospel, the whole Gospel, and nothing but the Gospel. I understand that there are arguments that the uses for which the charism is claimed are not, in fact, the Gospel. But an adequate appreciation of (or dispute with) the dogma of infallibility must recognize that the charism is not a generative faculty. It creates nothing. It affirms and expresses what "the Church", conceived simultaneously as a divine and human institution participating in eternity and passing through history, has always been told by God. Thus "papal infallibility" is an exercise of a gift which Christ grants to His whole Church, so conceived. All that having been said, then yes, of course the Pope is infallible when he undertakes to perform that part of his office which has been blessed by that gift. This brings us to a host of other contentious issues ranging from critiques of Newman's theory of doctrinal development within Christianity to quarrels about the ambiguity which the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church declared by the First Vatican Council allows in the identification of infallible statements, but I've gone on long enough and will leave it at that.

As to the pope's power to forgive sins, he has no special ability apart from that of my parish priest. He obtains his power to absolve by his ordination as a priest. There are rare cases in which Canon Law reserves absolution to the Bishop, or even to the Pope himself, but that is a matter of discipline rather than the nature of the sacramental ministry of confession per se..

I understand and believe in what is known as "The Apostles Creed". Are there any additional things that I must believe in order to be saved?

I think the necessary degree of congruence between one's orthodoxy and salvation is a difficult topic. Your selection of the Apostles' Creed is a good example of the problem. I would say that if Protestants understood "born of the Virgin Mary," they would understand that Mary is ever-virgin and that the "brothers and sisters" of the Lord are not Mary's offspring; if they understood "the holy catholic church" they would understand that it is in communion with the Pope; if they understood "the forgiveness of sins" they would know about regeneration by the sacrament of baptism, about confession and penance; and that if they understood "the communion of saints" they would invoke Mary and the other saints to pray for them. But they don't understand those things and, as a result, don't believe in large and significant parts of the Gospel. You, no doubt, would note that I'm a Roman Catholic and say that I'm actually the one who doesn't understand those articles of the Creed and who doesn't believe large and significant parts of the Gospel. I'm fond of saying that the differences between Catholics and Protestants are fundamental, and this makes them more (not less) difficult to understand. This is a good example of the paradox; we say the same Creed, but we identify it with greatly-divergent theologies and ways of living Christianity.

So, given that the larger portion of my faith is (according to a Reformed perspective) heresy at best, is there any hope I might nonetheless be saved? From what I can tell, the stress which Reformed Christians (and not a few Evangelicals) put on doctrinal orthodoxy as a necessary sign of a happy predestination forbids a favorable answer:
Multitudes undoubtedly believe that God is, and admit the truth of the Gospel History, and the other parts of Scripture, in the same way in which they believe the records of past events, or events which they have actually witnessed. There are some who go even farther: they regard the Word of God as an infallible oracle; they do not altogether disregard its precepts, but are moved to some degree by its threatening and promises. To such the testimony of faith is attributed, but by catachresis; because they do not with open impiety impugn, reject, or condemn, the Word of God, but rather exhibit some semblance of obedience. . . . . But as this shadow or image of faith is of no moment, so it is unworthy of the name. . . .

I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. . . .

Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never attain to the full result or to fruition.
-- Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter 2, §§ 9-11.
This all seems eminently reasonable to me, given Protestantism's commitment to the mind's translucency as regards the Gospel, and even more reasonable if one believes that grace is irresistible. Some Catholics are offended when the Reformed debate whether we're Christians, but I think the question (if taken, as it should be, within the context of Reformed theology) is unobjectionable.

I don't want to be uneven in my appreciation of the problem. Catholicism also has a theological impulse towards doctrinal orthodoxy as a criteria of salvation. Some, for example Fr. Feeney, go too far in their estimation of the doctrinal rigor required for salvation. The rigorists only sometimes take direction from an (erroneous) belief in irresistable grace or transposing sola scriptura's belief in the clarity of the saved mind onto the statements of the Magisterium. Mostly, I think, the rigorist attitude results from an excessively-juridical idea of the Church; rigorists enjoy quoting Unam Sanctam repeatedly as though this settled the issue of whether non-Catholics can be saved. That's a mistake, because Boniface VIII was juridically applying a theological principle to a political-ecclesiastical dispute within Catholicism and so quite naturally spoke in a juridical idiom which, however appropriate to that dispute, does not (and was not intended to) blithely address the state of modern schisms or their adherents without further effort. This juridical paradigm was easily applied to the Reformers themselves, many of whom were Catholic clergy acting contrary to vows, and to their followers who had (or were presumed to have had) adequate catechism and instruction in the faith. But the relevance of a moral argument may change. It may become more, or less, just as the case to which it is put changes. Post-Reformation Protestants may go through their entire lives without ever having had a meaningful evangelical encounter with Catholicism; indeed, they may go through their entire lives having heard nothing but abominable nonsense about Catholicism. The position of such men and women is, I think, far less dangerous (and less susceptible to theological/juridical evaluations) than that of Philip IV, who received his crown from the hands of a Roman Catholic bishop.

I think God saves those who love Him and try, whatever the cost, to follow where He leads them. I like to think that every non-Catholic, Christian or otherwise, is on a journey into the Roman Catholic Church. For some, that destination will never be reached. For others, it will be reached in Heaven, or somewhat earlier than that. I don't mean to imply that visible communion with the Pope is the perfect end-point of Christianity; Luke 12:48 would obliterate that kind of triumphalism, even if 1 Cor. 13:12 weren't already enough to do that. What I mean to say is that the only reason anyone should ever become a Catholic is that a lover wants to please his beloved in every possible way. God let me wander through more than thirty years of sin before I saw the possibilities open to me, so why should I begrudge a Presbyterian his thirty years of mere heresy? I say "mere," because all sin is error, but not all error is sin. I know Baptists whose theology is plagued with all kinds of errors touching on the sacraments, Scripture, the saints, the authority of the Roman Pontiff, etc., etc. Each of them loves and follows Jesus Christ more tenderly and with more brave devotion than I ever mustered during my thirty years as a baptized Catholic who was wallowing in all sorts of sin. What did Thomas A'Kempis say? "I would rather feel contrition than be able to define it." I think there are lots of people who go about their lives feeling contrition, so to speak, but who may not be able to define it with any degree of precision. Will God damn them all?

I don't think so, but I also think the real answer to your question can only come from God at the end of your life (or from Him to me at the end of my life). I can say that someone's not pleasing his beloved in every possible way, but is that a comment about the other person's coldness of heart, or only about his ineptitude as a lover? I'm sure there are people whose failure to love Him in every possible way is caused by malice rather than a lack of art, and that their cold-heartedness will end up being more than His dignity can abide or His mercy overcome. But that's really all I could say that responds to the question.

What do you think are the main cultural differences between Catholics and Protestants?

That's a great question. I think one chief difference is that Catholics instinctively love hierarchies while Protestants instinctively abominate them. I think Catholics also have a soft-spot for exuberance, flamboyance, and a "sun-and-wine" attitude which can make our religious experience a little off-putting to people who are used to more restrained and collected ways of doing things.

Have you ever thought of becoming a Presbyterian? (okay that question was asked just for fun. You don't have to answer it.)

No. I once briefly thought of becoming an orthodox Jew, but that's when I was a religious tourist. If I'd applied, they'd have been right to turn me down flat amidst fits of laughter.

Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Yes! But this is more than too long already. Thanks for the interview!