wDe Virtutibus
The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.
-St. Gregory of Nyssa; CCC 1803

De Virtutibus; or, Kevin's Kasuist Korner; or, Miller's Moral Musings.

"Why 'De Virtutibus'?"



wLinks, resources:
Worth browsing ...

Balthasar: a Sketch
Book TV.org
Center for Life Principles
Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics
Communio
Dominicans
Franciscan University of Steubenville
IntraText Digital Library
John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family
Junkscience.com
Christopher Kaczor
Life Issues Institute
Lifeissues.net
Marquette University Institute for Natural Family Planning
National Catholic Bioethics Center
National Right to Life
New Advent
Perseus Digital Library
Priests for Life
Ratzinger Fan Club
The Thomist
USCCB
Vatican

blogs4God

< x ? ChristBlogs # x >

<< # St. Blog's Parish ? >>

Select Catholic and other good blogs

After abortion
Being! Or Nothingness
Catholic Analysis
Catholic and Enjoying It!
Catholic Light
Catholic Ragemonkey
Dappled Things
Dawn Patrol
Disputations
Dyspeptic Mutterings
Envoy Encore
Fructus Ventris
HMS Blog
In Light of the Law
Open Book
Rerum Novarum
SecretAgentMan's Dossier
Sed Contra
Summa Contra Mundum
Thrown Back
Veritas
... and more ...

News and commentary

Catholic News Service
First Things
FOXNews.com
National Catholic Register
National Review Online
Town Hall
Weekly Standard
ZENIT News Agency

Some especially good moral theology reads ...

Aquinas, Summa Theologiae; Ashley & O'Rourke, Health Care Ethics; Cessario, Introduction to Moral Theology; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Christian Freedom and Liberation - Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian - Euthanasia - Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons - Procured Abortion - Profession of Faith - Questions concerning Sexual Ethics - Respect for Human Life in its Origin and Dignity of Procreation - "Theology of Liberation"; DiNoia, Veritatis Splendor and the Renewal of Moral Theology; Gagnon, Bible and Homosexual Practice; Kaczor, Proportionalism and the Natural Law Tradition; de Lubac, Brief Catechesis on Nature and Grace; Matera, New Testament Ethics; Melina, Sharing in Christ's Virtues; Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love - Four Cardinal Virtues; Pinckaers, Sources of Christian Ethics; Schindler, Heart of the World, Center of the Church; Schürmann, Ratzinger, Balthasar, Principles of Christian Morality; Sokolowski, Moral Action; Steck, Ethical Thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar; Vatican II, Apostolate of the Laity - Church in the Modern World - Priestly Formation - Religious Freedom; Wojtyla/John Paul II, Catholic Universities - Church in America - Dignity and Vocation of Women - Faith and Reason - Human Work - Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum - Gospel of Life - Letter to Families - Lord and Giver of Life - Lord's Day - Love and Responsibility - Mercy of God - Person and Community - Redeemer of Man - Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World - Social Concern - Splendor of Truth - Theology of the Body

Who is this blogging moralist?


Note. This blog adheres to the Welborn Protocol: All correspondence is bloggable unless it requests otherwise - and to the Shea Protocol: At my sole discretion, uncivil commenters will be banned.



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wSaturday, October 05, 2002


Another pro-life actress in Hollywood!

O'Reilly Factor interview with Patricia Heaton noticed here by John Augustine.

(See also below.)

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Biotech and bioterror

Interesting and balanced article by Jon Cohen from The Atlantic Monthly (Jul./Aug. 2002):
Four years ago a team of Australian scientists, attempting to create a genetically engineered virus to combat common pests, stumbled across a mechanism that could potentially increase the killing power of a host of human diseases. Their findings, published last year amid great controversy, bring to the fore a question of increasing urgency: Might technologies intended to improve the world provide terrorists and rogue nations with the means to build the ultimate bio-weapon? ... more


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Why Pat Buchanan should give us the creeps

That is, yet another example of why (thanks, In Deo Speramus).

I'm glad Buchanan opposes abortion. That's always the right position to take on that singularly crucial issue. But Buchanan will neither be able nor deserve to be a credible spokesperson for the pro-life message until his view on abortion can be seen to stem from something other than an arbitrary and frequently noxious collection of cultural prejudices.

I don't always agree with William F. ("Mater si, magistra no") Buckley Jr., but he did the mainstream conservative movement a service when over a decade ago he excommunicated Buchanan (who in one of his books has expressed his approval for Buckley's "magistra no") from that movement. This is especially worth keeping in mind as Buchanan weighs in with a new magazine.

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Much Ado about Death

Discussion of Catholicism and capital punishment continues in the blogosphere, for example, in comments on my post below, and in the In Between Naps comment box I mentioned in that post, and in Shawn's excellent post at Rerum Novarum, and in John's appreciative (and appreciated) thoughts on the teaching (and on my analysis) at Man Bites Blog.

I want to add to my earlier remarks by responding to two of the questions that have been raised, concerning (1) whether the Church's developed teaching contradicts (or whether further development would contradict) Scripture and/or Tradition, and (2) when a merciful desire to keep innocent lives (especially those of prison guards) safe from convicted murderers would warrant using the death penalty.

I will do that in two subsequent posts over the next few days, between weekend chores and other duties! So stay tuned. (I also expect to blog this weekend about another matter on the legal-moral front: yesterday's $28,000,000,000 judgment against Big Tobacco's Phillip Morris, also noted, and criticized, at Veritas).

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wFriday, October 04, 2002


"Meteor Explosions Could Spark Nuclear War"

"... That's because large meteors, which regularly explode as they enter the Earth's atmosphere, could be mistaken for a nuclear attack, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Simon P. Worden. ..." full story

Not the greatest news for a world in need of peace. Especially in light of this other news item:

"ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Nuclear neighbors Pakistan and India conducted tit-for-tat missile tests Friday, threatening to escalate tension in a region that is once again close to the brink of war. ..." full story

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Vatican Radio administrator on US/Iraq

Today is a good day to think about how to open ourselves up to God's gift of lasting peace.
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2002 (Zenit.org).- A papal collaborator appealed for prayers for the Iraqi crisis and asked world leaders to consider three critical questions. Cardinal Roberto Tucci, president of the Administrative Council of Vatican Radio, appealed to world leaders who insist on a military solution without the involvement of the United Nations, to reflect on the implications of such action. The official had traveled worldwide over the past 23 years as organizer of papal trips. ... more


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A Dominican on St. Francis

These are the words of St. Catherine of Siena, from an excerpt from her Dialogue included in the Dominican Office for the feast of "Our Holy Father Francis of Assisi":
With what fragrantly perfect poverty and what pearls of virtue he governed his order's ship! He steered it along the way of high perfection - and was the first to practice it - giving it true holy poverty as a bride. He himself had espoused her by embracing lowliness. ... In fact, by a singular grace, the wounds of my Truth appeared in his body to show in the vessel of his body what was in his soul's affection. Thus did he make a path for the others.

But you will say to me, "and are not all the other orders founded on the same thing?" Yes, but it is not the principal aspect of all of them. True, all are founded on this, but it happens as it does with the virtues. All the virtues have their life from charity; nonetheless, this virtue is peculiar to one, that to another, though all are grounded in charity. So it is with these people. True poverty was peculiar to the poor Francis, and in love he made this poverty the rule of his ship, with many strict ordinances, for perfect people, not ordinary, for good ones and few. ...

What workers the father sent into his vineyard to uproot the thorns of vice and to plant the virtues! Truly Dominic and Francis were two pillars of holy Church: Francis with the poverty that was his hallmark and Dominic with learning.


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wThursday, October 03, 2002


Roman professor on pro-life politics

Ángel Rodríguez Luño, professor of moral theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome: ... Catholics voting against a measure that would eliminate some (but not all) abortions "are responsible for the very permissive law continuing in force, and this is not acceptable for Catholic morality" ... so Catholics "may, and generally must" vote for such a measure ... "It is worthwhile to take progressive steps" ... full story

(Rome calling Judie Brown ...)

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Vatican envoy withdraws from fundraising dinner

"NEW YORK, Oct 3, 02 (CWNews.com) -- The Vatican's representative to the United Nations has pulled out of a fundraising dinner in New York because the dinner will honor an abortion-rights advocate. ..." more (subscription required)

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Cardinal Bevilacqua's Respect Life Sunday statement

"... 'In our technically advanced society, we are tempted to treat life as dispensable when it seems to stand in the way of individual freedom or technical "progress,"' said the cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities. ..." full story

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EU delays funding embryo experimentation and population control

Two pieces of good news about the European Union!
ROME, OCT. 2, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Italian Pro-Life Movement praised the government's opposition to the use of European Union funds for experimentation on human embryos. In a statement, the Pro-Life Movement explains that this opposition has resulted in "the postponement until Jan. 1, 2004, of the funding provided by the European Community." ... more
and
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct 3, 02 (CWNews.com) - Although the European Union politicians had pledged to increase the body's funding for the UN Population Fund after the US announced it was holding back $34 million from the population control agency, sources in the European Parliament have now said the EU funding will now be delayed, according to the Population Research Institute (PRI). ... the European Parliament's delay now indicates increasing disquiet among MEPs in light of increasing evidence of UNFPA's complicity in China's forced abortion program, PRI said. ... more (subscription required)


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Theses on John Paul II on the Death Penalty

The Church's position on capital punishment has generated a lot of comments on In Between Naps, apropos of this post about a request by the Florida bishops that Gov. Bush stop an execution. I have made some of said comments. Herewith, some summary reflections on the teaching of John Paul II and the Catechism.
  1. The Church has taught in the past that capital punishment is not the same sort of act as, say, abortion. The Church does not now teach that it is.
    • Thus, for example, in The Gospel of Life, the pope says that abortion is unjust, intrinsically evil, and never acceptable. He does not say these things about capital punishment.
    • He does allow that capital punishment can sometimes (if probably only in hypothetical circumstances) be acceptable (and so he also commends as a sign of hope in our culture of death the movement to abolish the death penalty [no. 27]).
    • Thus the traditional teaching that capital punishment is not murder and can be acceptable has not been altered - although, it is doubtful that this traditional teaching has been infallibly taught, so it probably could be altered by a pope.

  2. The pope has expressly taught in The Gospel of Life (no. 56), an encyclical (a particularly "high-level" papal document), that capital punishment ought to be used only when necessary to protect society, adding that in view of developments in penal systems, such cases are today rare if not practically non-existent. The 1997 official Latin edition of the Catechism (no. 2267) has echoed this teaching.
    • And when the pope refers to protection of society, it's fairly clear he has in mind defense from future crimes by a particular convict, not from crimes by others (i.e., by capital punishment's possible deterrent effect). This is clear from his stated reason for adjudging cases in which capital punishment is necessary for defense to be so rare: namely, improvements in penal systems. These probably wouldn't make non-capital sentences better deterrents than before, but would make them more effective in defending society from those who receive them.
    • This adds to previous Catholic teaching, but does not contradict it, since there was no prior teaching, let alone an infallible one, that capital punishment must be used whenever it would be a proportionate and therefore just response to an offense. Many theologians and possibly some popes may have thought this, many conscientious Catholics may have acted as though it were true, but it was not a teaching.

  3. Why the narrow limits on the use of capital punishment, if it's not unjust, not the same thing as murder (as, e.g., abortion is)? This "development" (Cardinal Ratzinger's word, in his remarks when The Gospel of Life was issued) reflects a heightened awareness in theology, and in particular on the part of this pope, of the importance of mercy for the building and maintaining of a "culture of life," as indicated in The Gospel of Life itself, in light especially of his earlier encyclical The Mercy of God. When sentences short of death are sufficent to protect society from even someone who has committed very grave crimes, such sentences are the merciful option. Why is it imperative that we take this into account?
    • In general, mercy is an essential dimension of the Christian life. The practice of mercy is even an intrinsic requirement for the practice of justice. John Paul has taught that "justice is not enough," and that attempts to be just but not merciful end in injustice. This is because if we don't fully open ourselves to union with, to transparency to, God (who is "rich in mercy"), morality - even justice - will come to seem a burden rather than a liberating blessing.
    • The experience of mercy is what leads to conversion - conversion is "the fruit of mercy." This is because, apart from the experience of God's merciful love, one will, again, not appreciate that morality is a liberating blessing rather than a burden.
    • These are principled reasons, not merely prudential ones (even though the judgment that in fact imprisonment today suffices to defend society is obviously a prudential one). Thus, though the teaching that capital punishment must not be used when not strictly necessary to render a criminal harmless is (like earlier teachings on capital punishment) not an infallible one, the faithful Catholic owes it "religious submission of mind and will" (Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, no. 25), which is "an extension of" "the assent of faith" (Catechism, no. 892).
      • The lay faithful do have the responsibility to make their own prudential judgments concerning when capital punishment really is necessary for the defense of society.
      • But they must make their judgment in the precise terms and within the limits taught by the pope - and not in some other terms of their own choosing (e.g., only capital punishment will satisfy me in a particular case even though society could be protected from the criminal by imprisoning her for life; or, capital punishment should be imposed to deter others, even when not needed to defend against future acts by the convict whose punishment is in question; or, ...)


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"Diversity" or "racism" at Catholic schools?

The 9/30/02 National Review's The Week reports:
In a lawsuit against Loyola College in Baltimore, Denys Blell is charging that he was rejected for a job as assistant vice president for academic affairs and diversity because he wasn't black enough. Blell, who has light skin, claims that Vice President for Academic Affairs David Haddad told him the school "needed to hire an African-American that was visibly black."
If this is true, it's shameful. But probably no more shameful than schools' use of students' tuition dollars to hire people with titles like "assistent vice president for ... diversity" to begin with - or, for that matter, the desire of individuals like Blell to fill such positions. Blell's and Loyola's chickens are coming home to roost as they find themselves respectively rejected and having to defend against a lawsuit. NR concludes:
"I'm pigmentally ambiguous," Blell told the Baltimore Sun. "And isn't that what we mean by diversity?" Mr. Blell, do you really want us to answer that question?


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Religion and Politics

Should tax laws force citizens to choose which First Amendment rights - free exercise of religion, or freedom of speech - to practice? Lyndon B. Johnson decided they should, and the House of Representatives still thinks he was right.

(By the way - lighter blogging today, and probably tomorrow.)

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wWednesday, October 02, 2002


John Paul: Corporate Prophet

Over at Catholic and Enjoying It!, Mark Shea blogs about two issues that touch on questions of corporate responsibility/business ethics.

First, he links to an excellent blog on Catholic feminism that mentions the need for businesses to accomodate mothers' needs. This provokes some response in Mark's comment box.

Second, weighing in on a conversation at National Review Online, he sides with those who oppose TV commercials that target children.

How does Catholic social teaching speak to these questions? In his most important social encyclical, Centesimus Annus (no. 35), Pope John Paul enunciates the key principle:
In fact, the purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavouring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society. Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business.
This principle means that each owner/investor, executive/manager, or worker in a corporation must cooperate in at least:
  • providing a beneficial and safe product or service to the larger community,
  • marketing it responsibly (not by appeals to greed, vanity, or the like),
  • providing employees with a family wage and family-friendly working conditions, and
  • providing owners with diligent work and a fair return on their investment.
Now one must apply the principle and its implications to the specific questions of family leave and advertising to children. This is left as an exercise for the reader.

Note: As John Paul also says in CA, implementing his vision requires that all people approach economic decisions (investing, buying, selling, bargaining, ...) in the context of a new lifestyle in which their sense of their own self-interest is informed by Gospel values and priorities!

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Cue the violin music

"WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) Sept 25 - President Bush's policy limiting funding for research on human embryonic stem cells is slowing medical progress and driving researchers out of the country, scientists told a US Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday. ..." more (subscription required)

I would like to see medical progress take place. But it would be incoherent to want to kill embryonic human beings as a means to the end of improving human health. Why do some medical researchers not see this? Have they come to value "the conquest of nature for the relief of man's estate" so much as to be blinded to the costs?

Very good on this: Leon Kass, Toward a More Natural Science. Kass isn't perfect on every issue, but such is my regard for this book that it's the main text I use in the medical half of my Sexual and Medical Morality course.

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New Wednesday Book Club!

Ever since Oprah ended her book club some time ago, people have been telling me that I ought to pick up where she left off. I've now succumbed to the pressure, persuaded that this really is a serious responsibilty that I ought not shirk any longer.

So, I hereby introduce a new, regular feature of De Virtutibus. Every Wednesday, I shall tell you about a good book. Most will be related only tangentially, if at all, to moral theology. All will be fairly highbrow, but not impenetrably dense - indeed, you might find many of them difficult to put down.

Without further ado, here's this week's selection:
Robert L. Wilken, The Land Called Holy: Palestine in Christian History & Thought (Yale University Press, 1992).
Wilken is Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia, and a scholar who does some most interesting work. Some of you may be familiar with articles of his from First Things, like his contribution, "Gregory VII and the Politics of the Spirit," to FT's 1999 series on the ten most important figures of the past millenium.

The Land Called Holy "focus[es] ... on the spiritual and religious aspects of Christian history in the Holy Land" until the Muslim conquest, "and on the piety that came to center on the land." Reading this book, a copy of which I stumbled across at my local Half Price Books some time ago, might help you to continue to form your thoughts about the current situation in the Holy Land, about which I have blogged below. And perhaps more importantly, you might get to know yourself better as a Christian or as one who lives in a world influenced by Christianity.

Robin Darling Young reviewed the book very positively in First Things, by the way.

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Speaking of canonizations and of the Jesuits ...

Memo to any important Jesuits who may be among this humble blog's readers: Are there any good reasons (i.e., apart from most Jesuits' preference for Rahner) why Henri Cardinal de Lubac's cause has not been introduced? If not, can you do something about this?

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Opus Dei

Today, the memorial of the guardian angels, is considered the anniversary of the founding of Opus Dei. Its founder, Bl. Josemaria Escriva, will be canonized in a few days.

And much blogging about Opus Dei lately, inspired by some media stories. This brief notice at In Between Naps has generated many comments. A number of HMS Blog's contributors and readers have weighed in. And over at Disputations, John assesses the controversy, concluding:
The carpers in the New Movement Wave insist that a thing is simply evil. The loyalists insist it is purely good. Neither is true, and both carper and loyalist end up talking past each other when they attempt to prove their argument by appeal to anecdote. If something bad happens, then there is cause for caution, but not necessarily for wholesale rejection. At the same time, approval at the highest levels of the Church doesn't obviate the need for prudence. Whenever humans are involved, even a good thing can be misused. As I've said before, the Church approves the fruits of a movement, not its nuts.
All quite right. I've had some experiences of Opus Dei members - and have sometimes even seen some patterns of what strikes me as somewhat typical behavior among them - that, taken in isolation, might have led me to question the movement's whole vision, spirituality, and structure. Other experiences, taken in isolation, might have convinced me that Bl.-soon-to-be-St. Josemaria was the greatest thing for the Church since the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John. (But, heck, I could probably say the same things with regard to the Jesuits/St. Ignatius.) In the end (by way of summary of my experiences, and also of "full disclosure"), I am (and am happy to be) a "cooperator" of Opus Dei, though I don't ever see myself becoming a member of any kind, and don't now receive and have only very briefly in the distant past received spiritual direction/formation from Opus Dei priests/members. I am encouraged in my generally favorable view of Opus Dei by the regard the Church and especially the present pope have had for it, and in fact I think that regard is deserved, and I think that Opus Dei has borne fruit for the Church and the world, such that I'll be glad to see its founder canonized.

That said, I will add two thoughts, though. First, while I agree that "the Church approves the fruits of a movement, not its nuts," I take it that a movement in order to deserve approval needs to be oriented toward the bearing of fruit rather than nuts. That is, the nuts, but not the fruits, must be somehow "accidental." Thus, I think a certain depth of discernment is necessary in these matters (and I'm happy not to have the job of doing that discernment all for myself). This is especially so given the truth captured in the old joke once told me by a political scientist: Q. What's the plural of "anecdote"? A. "Data."

Second, among my quibbles with what I've often seen in Opus Dei is the following: what strikes me as a tendency sometimes to reduce Opus Dei spirituality to "Catholic lay spirituality," rather than seeing it as a particular Catholic lay spirituality. Now, certainly, not just any proposed "Catholic lay spirituality" would be valid - all valid such spiritualities will have some essentials in common. But I think it's problematic to suggest - as some Opus Dei members have sometimes seemed to suggest to me - that there's nothing to Opus Dei but those essentials - just as it would be problematic for a Benedictine or a Franciscan or a Jesuit to suggest that his order were nothing but "religious/consecrated life" such that anyone called to such life could obviously consider himself called to that particular order.

I speculate that one of the things that could lead to such a tendency is that there aren't other entities that I know of that are to Opus Dei what, say, other, later religious orders are to the Benedictines. (And it will be remembered that the Benedictines and the other monastic orders that are its offshoots looked down upon the first friars, such that, for example, St. Thomas Aquinas had to write in defense of the Dominicans, and indeed had been pressured by his family to become a monk instead.) So it's not that the tendency isn't understandable, given the historical situation in which Opus Dei, as a new movement and new type of movement, finds itself.

But I still think that it can be a problem - including but not limited to in the area of "P.R." And I also think that this tendency is linked with the question of "secrecy/privacy" of Opus Dei membership. If Opus Dei is a particular Catholic lay spirituality, it might sometimes lead to particular ways of seeing things and of approaching the world (despite, and even compatible with, the freedom Opus Dei members have in most matters). Thus, I think the notion that membership is something so primarily between the member and God that it ought usually to be kept "private" is somewhat (though certainly unintentionally) disingenuous - just as it wouldn't be quite right for a priest to deny the "social" relevance of his being a Cistercian vs. a Jesuit vs. a Pallotine vs. ..., and to insist that the matter therefore be private.

Again, all this is in the context of my appreciation for Bl. Josemaria's spiritual insights and vision and his holiness, of my desire to see Opus Dei bear ever more of its proper fruit.


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wTuesday, October 01, 2002


Pro-lifers may not be mobsters after all! (And: Moon may not be made of cheese!)

WASHINGTON, DC, Oct 1, 02 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - The US Supreme Court is set to revisit the case of National Organization for Women v. Joseph Scheidler, the 16-year-old lawsuit that saw pro-lifers characterized as a Mafia-like organization with a racketeering verdict in 1998. But now "an increasing array of evidence," says World magazine, suggests pro-abortionists may have given false evidence. ... more (subscription required); original story here


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AIDS aid

WASHINGTON, DC, Oct 1, 02 (CWNews.com) - Several AIDS activist groups have charged the Bush administration with engaging in a "witch hunt" against those who promote condoms as a way to prevent AIDS. The coalition of activists said the administration is hostile to any program that is not abstinence-only. They point to the removal of information about condoms from a government web site and a federal audit of AIDS groups, examining their finances and programming. ... more (subscription required)
And this would be bad because ... ?


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More Catholic concerns about Iraq attack

"VATICAN, Oct 1, 02 (CWNews.com) -- Father Pasquale Borgomeo, the director of Vatican Radio, argues that a 'preventive' military strike against Iraq cannot be morally justified. ..." more (subscription required)

Notwithstanding my sense that Bush is approaching this issue in a morally responsible manner, this view resonates with me (as does, to a lesser extent, the concern about unilateralism). If one takes seriously that a just war must be "defensive," it's hard to see how an attack is justified that's not based on a more imminent threat than I suspect even Bush would want to claim we face now.

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I understand your concerns, Emily, but ...

At HMS Blog, Emily's response on the procreation issue (she is free to disagree with a professor, by the way!):

Precedent – the Wisconsin law sets a bad one. If a dad can be banned from procreating for failing to pay child support, why not child abuse? And if child abuse, why not child endangerment? And if child endangerment, why not…the list can go on and on. And with each addition to the list, the state gets to define the terms. Scary.

My response: Again, I understand the concern. But what if we substituted "be imprisoned" for "banned from procreating" above? The answer to the "why not" question is: At some point, the punishment would no longer be just. Recognizing that, we don't consider imprisonment for serious crimes to set us on a slippery slope that will lead to imprisonment of jaywalkers. Why is forbidding procreation - a lesser restriction on one's freedom - more problematic? (I will stipulate that there is a strong prudential concern here that restrictions on procreation will in practice be adhered to through use of contraception and/or abortion.)

Rights of the Government – I don’t think the question can be, "Do deadbeat dads have the right to procreate?" Rather, it has to be, "Does the government have the right to restrict procreation." In almost all cases, that answer is no. Human beings are simply not the government’s property. Tax dollars, however, are, and if the state wants to restrict the amount of aid it provides to those children, that is perfectly within its rights (and should placate all the angry people e-mailing me right now).

My response: No, we're not the government's property, and any justification for restricting procreation that assumed we were would be gravely wrong. But I don't think that has to be the justification here. In general, we lose some of our liberty rights when we commit crimes. In general, that's the basis for punishment - not a totalitarian notion of citizens as state property.

And I add, finally: Again, even if Emily is right and these court decisions are unjust, I'd argue that there's no just (i.e., legally/constitutionally warranted) remedy available from the Supreme Court (at any rate, no remedy the logic of which could be distinguished from the sort of tortured constitutional logic underlying Roe.)

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More from the Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud department

A couple - wrongly - have their sperm and eggs used to create frozen embryos. They decide they're not going to bear some of these children. What should be done with them? It'd be wrong to use them for experimentation. It may be necessary simply to allow them to die. Sometimes, though, another couple is willing to adopt such an embryo - to have it implanted in the woman's womb so that she can bear it and that couple can raise the child. And sometimes, a couple who are unwilling to bear their own embryonic children are willing to donate them to other couples for adoption.

I think that embryo adoption is laudable. So does ALL's Judie Brown (e.g., writing here at EWTN).

Recently, the Bush administration funded a campaign to let couples with frozen embryos know that then can thus donate their embryos. You'd think Brown would welcome this, right?

Wrong. She complains: "The Bush administration supports CHOICE - the parents can donate their babies to research (which will kill them) or leave them frozen (which will eventually kill them) or give them to a couple through the process of embryo adoption ..." Thus, she concludes: "yes, the Bush Administration supports murder."

What does Brown want? Bush can hardly be expected to fund ads saying that couples "must" donate these embryos for adoption (or have them implanted in themselves). First, it's not clear that leaving the embryos frozen (or thawing and allowing them to die) would be morally illicit. Second, in any case, it'd be politically (and, probably, judicially) impossible to get such ads funded. Third - sadly - it's clearly legal for couples to donate these embryos for research, so Bush can't say it's not. And, fourth - sadly - it'd be politically (and, even more likely, judicially) impossible to make research on embryos illegal at this time.

So Bush does the best he can to bring about the saving of some lives - reminding parents of the oft-neglected truth that life is one of their "choices." And Judie Brown (see also below) of the American Life [sic] League says he thereby "supports murder."

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A right to procreate?

Also at The Blog To Watch, HMS Blog, Greg Popcak notes a news story about "deadbeat dads" who are appealing court decisions prohibiting them from procreating. Emily Stimpson responds: "It is simply none of the state's business how many children anyone has. I'd rather shell out my hard-earned money to support the kids of a virile deadbeat than let some government bureaucrat develop a God-complex and start regulating family size."

I'd say: Yes and no. If bureaucrats (or judges) really were to regulate family size per se, that'd be a serious issue of justice. However, first, I don't know that there's a justice issue in these cases. The following comments in the story make sense to me:
"We recognize procreation as a fundamental right. But this is an alternative to going to prison for five years where he could not procreate at all," said Diane Welsh, the assistant Wisconsin attorney general opposing Oakley's appeal.
and
In the Oakley case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said, "Incarceration, by its very nature, deprives a convicted individual of the fundamental right to be free from physical restraint, and this in turn encompasses and restricts other fundamental rights, such as the right to procreate."
In short, if someone may justly be imprisoned - and "deadbeat dads" probably may be, even if that'd be imprudent since then society would have to to support them and their "families" (which are obviously broken or never-intact ones in these cases) - then I'm hard-pressed to see why he may not justly be forbiden to procreate.

But note that this is different from the idea that it's okay to restrict procreation to limit population or even just because someone has been determined to be "irresponsible."

And second, we should remember that there isn't a good judicial remedy for every injustice. So even if these sentences are unjust, it's not clear to me that they're unconstitutional. Maybe they're "cruel and unusual," but I doubt it. And I suspect that the appeals are actually based on something like a "right to privacy" ground, which is not only dangerous (it's what brought you Roe v. Wade), but also constitutionally specious in principle. So if these rulings require remedy, I think it should be a legislative one.

This reminds me of a case a few years back (I'm not going to dig up the details right now) out of Washington state, that was about roughly the following: A law there allowed grandparents to sue for visitation rights (courts still had discretion whether to grant those rights, but they had to give grandparents a hearing). Some parents asserted that the law was unconstitutional. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court took the case, and found the law unconstitutional. Now, I think the law was very bad public policy, and I sympathize with those pro-family advocates who argued in friend-of-the-court briefs or elsewhere that the law should be struck down. But I think that they, and the court, were wrong, even though I also think that the state legislature was wrong to enact the law. The Constitution simply doesn't grant parents legal rights against every anti-family state law.

The Constitution is a just (basic) law. Such (just) laws bind in conscience. Courts in particular are bound by them. That's the foundation for judicial review. But result-oriented jurisprudence that ignores such laws - however laudably just the motives behind it - is wrong. We may not do evil to bring about good. We end up with Roe.

Good reading that comes to mind: Christopher Wolfe's The Rise of Modern Judicial Review.

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Women

Over at HMS Blog, Emily Stimpson lists "The Top Ten Reasons Why 21st Century Catholic Womanhood Rocks." A reader responds that, of course, women are not always treated by society in accordance with their dignity.

But I think Emily is right about the Catholic view, even though society has not fully learned from it (and may have regressed in this respect). Aristotle and Aquinas weren't precisely anti-women, but their faulty embryology (not their own fault) led them to some views that logically imply a certain inferiority on the part of women (of course, Aquinas thought that they are equal to men with respect to their supernatural destiny). There are bio- and theological reasons to reject the idea of such inferiority, as does John Paul II in The Dignity and Vocation of Women and elsewhere. For some of the underlying theology, the theology of active receptivity, which is a way - even the most basic human way - of imaging the Trinity, see Balthasar's Theo-Drama vols. 2-4. For a brief analysis of this theology and how it differs from contemporary secular feminism, see "Catholic Theology, Gender, and the Future of Western Civilization," chap. 9 of Schindler's Heart of the World, Center of the Church. (Yes, I'm always recommending readings. You can take the professor out of the classroom, but you can't take the classroom out of the professor.)

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Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah on the uprising

"Nothing good has come of it."

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The pope on real ecumenism

He reminds us that "diversity in the Church is a dimension of its catholicity," and adds that "this must not lead to a certain indifferentism that, by a false irenicism, puts all opinions on the same level."

For more John Paul II on ecumenism, see his encyclical That They May Be One. The pope quotes Vatican II: "many elements of sanctification and of truth can be found outside [the Catholic Church's] visible structure. These elements, however, as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, possess an inner dynamism toward Catholic unity." So: "The way of ecumenism" is "the way of the Church"!

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wMonday, September 30, 2002


Blogged in recent days

Say! Have you read the latest on:
  • abortion politics (here and here),
  • stem cells (here),
  • the war on terror (here and here),
  • the Israelis and Palestinians (here),
  • Milwaukee's new Archbishop's plans (here),
  • why it's not always bad when actresses appeal to politicians (here),
  • what's down the road for America (here),
  • Ratzinger's "liberalism" (here),
  • the 17th-century Japanese martyrs (here),
  • the Situation and the Church (here),
  • sanctity and service (here),
  • going into the vineyard (here),
  • following Christ (here), or
  • Grisez and cats (here)?
You haven't? Have fun catching up - and see also today's other posts just below - more exciting blogging tomorrow!

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Narrowing down the possibilities

Lisa at the new Catholic Commentary asks her "Question of the Day": "Can someone explain to me why suicide bombers have killed far fewer children than well-trained and well-equipped, American-backed Israeli troops?"

Here is my Answer of the Day: Not for lack of trying.

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"Trained honeybees"?

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines co-won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Now it turns out that honeybees can be trained to sniff out unexploded mines with great efficiency. Wonder whether this will be all the buzz in Oslo next year?

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Zeal

Good reflections on zeal here at Rerum Novarum. (I also echo his profession of faith - one of my proudest days was when I took it before my bishop upon beginning my job here.) (And here is Ratzinger's very important commentary on the profession.)

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Mark Shea alerts us to several new blogs

Here.

One of which blogged yesterday's news that Nancy Reagan supports embryonic stem-cell research, and presented an accurate diagnosis of what leads to this, I think. (Though my idiosyncrasies as someone who studied developmental biology lead me to disagree when she says, "Babies are cute but are not photogenic in their embryonic state," but then, no disputing taste.) This line from the full NY Times story (registration required) really infuriates me: "A Republican legislator recently told Michael Deaver, a Reagan adviser and confidant, that some conservatives contend that Ronald Reagan would never have approved of embryonic stem cell research. Mr. Deaver said he retorted, 'Ronald Reagan didn't have to take care of Ronald Reagan for the last 10 years.'"

However, I disagree with another new blogger's way of addressing the Middle East crisis: "Let us work with the Arabs for a COMMON GOAL and that is to rescue the people of Palestine from the crimes of the Israelis." There have been such crimes, I think, and we ought to work with the Israelis especially to end them. But we also ought to work with the Arabs - to the extent possible - to end the heinous crimes that Palestinians have been committing directly against innocent Israelis. (See also below.)

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For whose nuclear weapon program?

"Turkey seizes weapons-grade uranium."

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Is Andrew Sullivan Catholic?

Mark Shea links this Protestant's suggestion that he isn't entirely.

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The pope proposes a peace process

And maybe the most promising one yet. He is right:
... the political attempts are worth little if spirits remain exacerbated and there is no ability to demonstrate a heartfelt disposition to renew the line of dialogue. But, who can infuse such sentiments, save God alone? It is more necessary than ever that prayers for peace be raised to him throughout the world. Precisely in this perspective, the rosary reveals itself as a particularly appropriate prayer. It constructs peace also because, while appealing to God's grace, it sows in the one reciting it the seed of good, from which fruits of justice and solidarity in personal and community life can be expected.


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The pope receives an unusual gift

I can't complain about the symbolism.

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Boston College takes on The Situation

It will "explore three main issues: the roles and relationships of lay men and women, priests, and bishops; issues of sexuality among Catholics in American culture; and challenges of living and handing the faith on to the next generation."

All important issues. Will this be helpful? I'm not sure I trust BC to "explore" these issues constructively.

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wSunday, September 29, 2002


Translating Te Deum

I don't know when Anglicans say the Te Deum (for Catholics, it's part of the Office on Sundays, solemnities, and feasts), but a 1940 Episcopalian hymnal that I once picked up used contains the following translation of it (with chant setting):
We praise thee O God; We acknowledge thee to be the Lord. All the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting. To thee all Angels cry aloud; the Heavens and all the Powers therein; To thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry, Holy Holy Holy Lord God of Sabaoth; Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of thy glory. The glorious company of the Apostles praise thee. The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise thee. The noble army of Martyrs praise thee. The holy church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee; The Father of an infinite Majesty; Thine adorable true and only Son; Also the Holy Ghost the Comforter. Thou art the King of Glory O Christ. Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father. When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man, thou didst humble thyself to be born of a Virgin. When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father. We believe that thou shalt come to be our Judge. We therefore pray thee help thy servants, whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood. Make them to be numbered with thy saints, in glory everlasting.
A beautiful translation - from the first line you know it's going to be better than ICEL's "You are God ..." (Memo to ICEL: I have little Greek and less Latin, but I can tell you that if you're going to be in the translation business, you should learn the difference between "Te Deum" and "Tu [es] Deus.")

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The unholy tragedy in the Holy Land

FOX reports on the second anniversary of the second uprising.

And here are thoughts from The Weekly Standard's (9/23/02) David Gelernter. They don't settle the question of what the Palestinians are, as a matter of justice, entitled to. But within that limit, they seem cogent to me, at least at first glance.
Many Europeans and their admirers think of Israel as a mere colonial power, an ugly European implant in the pristine body of the Arab Middle East. But there is a much better analogy - to the very states Versailles created in its devotion to self determination.

In 1914 (for example) there was no such state as Poland. Poland had disappeared from the map in 1795, partitioned like a jumbo apple pie among the powers of east-central Europe. In 1914 it belonged to Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. The reemergence of independent Israel required a unique historical catastrophe. As for Poland's reemergence, "only a prodigy" could have brought that about, Churchill wrote in 1929; "it was necessary that every single one of the three military Empires which had partitioned Poland should be simultaneously and decisively defeated in war, or otherwise shattered."

During the long years of Poland’s submersion, many Poles stayed at home; some left for Western Europe or America. Many non-Poles settled in Polish territory. Germany in particular colonized its Polish holdings aggressively.

Obviously the analogy between Poland and Israel is rough. Poland was submerged for 123 years, Israel for nearly two millennia. But the similarities are obvious, too. Lots of Arabs moved to Israel during the years when no Jewish state existed. Lots of Germans moved to Poland. But Poles and Jews maintained an unbroken presence in their homelands. The idea that a Pole returning to Poland is a "colonist" is idiotic; a Jew returning to Israel is no "colonist" either. Nor does the fact of a large Polish diaspora in America make Poland’s existence any less necessary.

Nor does the Jewish diaspora make Israel less necessary. Poland's 1919 borders (finally fixed in '21) incorporated a large German minority, many of whom stayed on. Her 1945 borders incorporated even more Germans, most of whom fled or were driven out; the historian Henry Ashby Turner reports a staggering "exodus of between ten and twelve million German refugees from these eastern
regions." German refugees from Poland might have been the same kind of festering problem as Palestinian refugees from Israel. They aren't, because Germany took them in - after all, they were Germans. It is tragic whenever a settler of long standing has to pull up roots and move elsewhere. This is a tragedy that Jews, hounded from country to country for 2,000 years, know better than anyone else. It is a tragedy no Jew has ever made light of. But when such refugees can find a new homeland where the language, religion, and worldview are all familiar, it is a manageable tragedy. Jews have known worse.

Many thousands of Jews were driven out of European and Arab countries. Many came to Israel. By way of comparison, Arab refugees who left or fled Israel in 1948 (as Israel struggled to fend off invaders who had jumped her on every side) numbered something over half a million, according to Martin Gilbert in his Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. By an interesting coincidence, roughly the same number of Jewish refugees fled from Arab countries (where "most of their communities dated from Roman times," Gilbert notes) to Israel. So things are all even on refugees. Except that they aren't. Because another half million or so refugees came to Israel in the postwar years from the devastated Jewish communities of Europe - more than 150,000 from Poland, over 200,000 from Romania.

Israel might have kept them all in filthy camps, taught them to pine bitterly for their lost homes and eventually sent forth their teenagers to murder Poles and Germans, Iraqis and Egyptians at random, in order to establish themselves as romantic heroes in the minds of self-hating appeasers the world over. But they were Jews, and Israel took them in. For any fair-minded student of history, there is only one conclusion: The Mideast refugee story is first and foremost a story of Jewish refugees. (And yet sometimes, listening to NPR or ABC, you don’t get quite that impression.)

Europe should be (you would think) very glad it all worked out this way - that Israel (like Germany) welcomed its countrymen home instead of (like the Arab countries) sending them back where they came from to blow up buses, schools, and supermarkets. Or does Europe feel, in its worshipful admiration of Palestinian refugees, that Jewish refugees should emulate them? Should Israelis whose families lived in Cologne or Cracow for a thousand years go home to murder German and Polish schoolchildren? The next time Europe feels inclined to blast Israel on account of the Palestinians, it might think this over, and cast its mind back to the 1920s, and shut up. "Our wish," Lord Robert Cecil said in 1918, "is that Arabian countries shall be for the Arabs, Armenia for the Armenians, and Judea for the Jews."
Your thoughts?

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Suggested non-blog readings for today

Today is the feast of the archangels (superseded liturgically this year since it's a Sunday). So read through Tobit (Raphael), or Daniel 7-12 (Gabriel and Michael), or Revelation 12 (Michael), or Luke 1 (Gabriel).

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A new Archbishop's thoughts

Here in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

My very brief thoughts: sounds like he has sound plans, is doing a careful job of picking his battles, and does well to appeal to, among other things, the decisions of the USCCB (e.g. with regard to matters like kneeling and First Penance) as a basis for some of his concerns.

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