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
Franciscan University of Steubenville
IntraText Digital Library
John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family
Christopher Kaczor
Life Issues Institute
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


< 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
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
... and more ...

News and commentary

Catholic News Service
First Things
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 19, 2002

Archbishop Chaput on the Church (and "cafeteria Catholicism")
... Second, if we say we're Catholic, we need to act like it. When Catholic Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia publicly disputes Church teaching on the death penalty, the message he sends is not so very different from Frances Kissling (of "Catholics for a Free Choice" fame) disputing what the Church teaches about abortion. I don't mean that abortion and the death penalty are equivalent issues. They're not. They clearly do not have equal moral gravity. But the impulse to pick and choose what we accept in Church teaching is exactly the same kind of "cafeteria Catholicism" in both cases.

When Pope John XXIII's great 1961 encyclical, Mater et Magistra, first appeared, conservative author William Buckley, who didn't like the pope's economics, wrote a famous column called, "Mater si, Magistra no!" — mother yes, teacher no. That led Louise and Mark Zwick to later characterize him in the Houston Catholic Worker as "the inventor of cafeteria Catholicism and the pro-choice stance (at least in economics), who accepted encyclicals he agreed with and rejected others." I think they're right. ... full article
This is some months old, but worth a(n other) read.

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Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! The House of Saud has got to go!
U.S. intelligence has identified about a dozen of al Qaeda's principal financial backers, most of them wealthy Saudis ...

Because the Saudi government has previously proven uncooperative in confronting its prominent citizens about links to terror, the United States has not yet sought its help in the new effort ...

The Saudi Embassy had no comment on the matter yesterday. ... full story

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Ways Maureen Dowd is bad

The Weekly Standard has published a brilliant essay, "The Immutable Laws of Maureen Dowd," by Oxblog contributor Josh Chafetz, on the New York Times columnist. Have a look at it. Few pundits do much for me, even conservative ones (e.g., I echo a comment about Rod Dreher's "sandpaper personality" made under this post on Shea's blog). (George Will is one exception, despite his frequent archness, and even though I don't always agree with him.) I generally avoid reading liberal ones altogether, but every now and then, I succumb to morbid curiosity. I don't know that Dowd is the worst of the worst, but she manages to find uniquely shallow ways to be bad.

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Lidless-Eye "Catholic" anti-Semitism

What accounts for this phenomenon, and for the popularity that some figures who exhibit it enjoy in certain circles? This question has most recently been brought to my mind by the discussion in the comments box under Amy Welborn's post on Catholicism and politics on In Between Naps, and by Bill Cork's post on Buchanan and Sobran on Cork's recently-renamed Ut Unum Sint.

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The pope and Vatican on the power of prayer

"VATICAN, Oct 18, 02 (CWNews.com) -- Married couples should rely primarily upon prayer, rather than scientific techniques, to resolve their problems, Pope John Paul II said today. ..." more (subscription required)

"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican issued a new instruction for parish priests that prescribes eucharistic adoration and an intense prayer life as a preventative cure for priestly 'disaffection, disillusionment or even failure.' ..." more

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Vatican on economic sanctions: more details

"VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2002 (Zenit.org).- International sanctions should not be turned into instruments of war or of punishment against a people, the Vatican told the United Nations. ..." more

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wFriday, October 18, 2002

Weekly Standard on Clinton on North Korea

"LAST WEEK, the White House announced that North Korea has admitted what critics of the Clinton 'engagement' ruefully predicted eight years ago ..." more

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Local response to pope's Rosary letter
... Dr. Joseph Nawrocki, 42, an oral surgeon from Canonsburg, said his family would try to make the change when he and his wife pray with their seven children.

"Certainly those mysteries he's proposing are a meaty portion of Christ's life that got left out of the mysteries as they are now. It's logical. It will just take a little getting used to," he said.

Although it will take time to prepare religion teachers, the Rev. Kris Stubna, education secretary for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, expects that local children will soon learn 20 mysteries.

"We plan on running with it," Stubna said.

The rosary has been enjoying a revival. Locally, when Bishop Donald Wuerl recorded the rosary in 1990 the tapes sold so quickly that one secular music store stamped them with bright pink "hot" stickers, said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. ...

Ginny Cunningham, 59, of Morningside learned to pray the rosary as a child. She is a liberal Catholic who prefers her rosary traditional.

"At this point in my life as an adult, I'm not going to give a thought to learning any more. I like what I grew up with, and that's enough," she said. full story

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Peggy Noonan on the pope and the Rosary

Thanks to Greg at HMS for pointing out the link to her column.

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St. Luke the Evangelist

Fr. Jerome, O.C.S.O. (introduced in this earlier post), offers this meditation for today's Feast:
With great conviction, the prophet Isaiah declared, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the one who brings good news, who heralds peace, brings happiness, proclaims salvation, and tells Zion, 'Your God is King!'" (Is. 52:7). Bounding the heights, the messenger of the Lord cries out to those living in the valley of darkness, "The Kingdom of God is very near to you" (Lk. 10:10). The messenger of Glad Tidings speaks to the heart of the people who have been separated from the desire of their hearts (cf. Is 40:1-2). He makes his way without fear because God had steadied his feet like those of hinds climbing the high places (cf. Ps. 18:33). He was confident that not even death could separate him from the Love of the Lord. (Cf. Ruth 1:17.)

In a dream, a Macedonian called to Paul, "Come and help us" (Acts 16:9). Some have suggested that the foreigner who needed the medicine of life was the man destined to become Paul’s beloved physician (cf. Col. 4:14). Knowing his own frailty, Paul was able to proclaim the Gospel of Hope to those who were far off (cf. Eph. 2:17). In his turn, once the wounds of his heart were healed, Luke would proclaim the mystery of God’s love for the poor and outcast. Drawn to the desire of their hearts, the wayfarers came to know the embrace of the Loving Father (cf. Lk. 15:20). Responding to the outpouring of love, the sinner repented and was transformed into a child of God.

Giving voice to the Eternal Word, the Bearer of the Good News cries out, "Come to me and I will give you rest" (cf. Mat. 11:28-30). To those who would scandalize the flock and become hindrances to their growth in the Spirit, the Lord says, "Let them come to me and don’t stop them" (Cf. Lk. 18:16-17.) Yes, beautiful are the feet of the bearers of the Good News. Because of their fidelity to the Word, healed and strengthened are the feet of the hearers of the message (cf. Acts 3:7). Those who respond to the call of grace and ponder its message in their hearts find healing in mind, soul and body.

Paul’s beloved physician became the one who introduced the world to the Divine Physician. The path that leads to life, peace and joy is poverty, hunger and heartfelt sorrow (cf. Lk. 6:20-21). Jesus told His disciples, "Be on your way" (Lk. 10:3). One can almost hear a hint of the words of the angel at the Ascension, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking up at the sky when you have work to do?" (Cf. Acts 1:11 also Mat. 20:6.) The bearers of Good News are to travel barefoot and unencumbered by baggage. Their very poverty was to proclaim the joy and freedom of the Kingdom (cf. Lk. 6:20). They were to pack no provisions or rations. They were to trust God to provide for their needs, believing their master’s words, "the laborer deserves his wages" (Lk. 10:7). Should people refuse the gift of Peace that was offered to them, the messenger is to be moved to tears, knowing that the Lord Himself would wipe away their tears and change their sorrow into joy (cf. Lk. 6:21). Sowing freely as he went, the bearer of Glad Tidings will produce a harvest yielding 30-, 60- or 100-fold (cf. Matt. 13:23).

May we who have heard the Word of the Lord come to know the joy of the Kingdom. As the Lord breaks the Bread for us may we recognize His Presence in our midst. May the Flame of Divine Love burn in our hearts until the Lord returns in Glory. And may He bring us all together to everlasting life. Amen.

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wThursday, October 17, 2002

Will pro-lifers hand a pro-abortionist a victory?

The 2002 Florida gubernatorial race may be very consequential for the abortion issue. Much abortion politics is state-level. And a pro-life governor of a state with lots of electoral votes can help (re-)elect a pro-life president - and vice versa. So we're reminded in this story about the current statistical dead heat in the Florida race.

Perhaps thanks in part to the pro-life movement's own Judie "Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud" Brown (see previous posts like this one), lately discouraging people from voting for Jeb Bush, since he may not be perfect on the issue (Brown actually admits she's not sure of his position, but since she doesn't think his brother George W. is pro-life, she figures Jeb isn't either), even though his challenger is worse. Why? Because voting for him would allegedly encourage political parties to nominate others like him, rather than perfect pro-lifers.

Let's review our civics. Bush was nominated by popular (primary) vote - by voters drawn from the same population who will be voting for or against him in the general election next month - not by some clique of party bosses in a smoke-filled room, some entity standing over and against the electorate. So Brown is worried that voters might encourage themselves to nominate people like Bush.

That's politically incoherent. Brown does no better addressing morally consequential political questions than she does addressing moral questions themselves. With friends like this, the pro-life movement doesn't need enemies.

Floridians: Follow Florida Right to Life PAC's advice and vote for Bush.

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North Korea: Another reason Carter shouldn't have gotten the Nobel
... Now comes word that the sort of appeasement of dictators favored by Mr. Carter and his admirers in Oslo (and elsewhere) has once again born poisonous fruit: North Korea has continued to pursue a covert nuclear-weapons program some eight years after the former president took it upon himself to visit Pyongyang for the express purpose of dissuading the "Hermit Kingdom" from doing so. ... full story

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Oregon v. Ashcroft: The Feds, the states, and deadly drugs
A wise man once said, "Don't believe everything you read in the papers." That is good advice, especially for stories that involve assisted suicide.

Take the media's reporting about the lawsuit between the State of Oregon and United States Attorney General John Ashcroft (Oregon v. Ashcroft), which has generally been abysmal. With reporters generally looking with favor upon legalizing assisted suicide and perhaps motivated by a desire to simplify the complex and popularize arcane issues involved in the litigation, media reports almost always manage to get the gist of the case utterly wrong. ... more

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Vatican on unilateral embargos

"NEW YORK, Oct 17, 02 (CWNews.com) -- The Vatican representative at the United Nations has strongly criticized unilateral embargos, citing their negative consequences for civilians. ..." more (subscription required)

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Jesuit journal on pedophilia
ROME, Oct 17, 02 (CWNews.com) -- The Jesuit magazine Civilta Cattolica has published a long, unsigned editorial on "the problem of pedophilia," stressing the "grave duty" to combat the problem "rigorously and efficiently" when priests or religious are involved. ... more (subscription required)

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Abortion litmus test

"WASHINGTON, DC, Oct 17, 02 (CWNews.com) - Pro-abortion activists are trying to use the pro-life and religious beliefs of the Bush administration's nominee to the Food and Drug Administration's advisory committee to keep him out of that post. ..." more (subscription required)

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Videoconference on women
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The role of women in the Church will be the theme of an Oct. 29 videoconference organized by the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy. ...

Topics scheduled for the conference this month include "Women in Holy Scripture," "Women in the Church" and "Women and the Family."

The conference may be followed live or recorded on the Web page of the Congregation for the Clergy (www.clerus.org). ... full story

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Pope's message for World Food Day
"VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Freeing people from hunger is an expression of the right to life and respect for human dignity, says John Paul II. ..." more

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Popcak on Bush on Iraq

HMS Blog's Greg Popcak, back from the White House, reports on his briefing. I like what he says, including but not limited to what he passes on from Bush. In particular, I especially like this:
... the reason for attacking Iraq now, is that in a post-9/11 world, a nation that is an enemy of the US who has supported terrorism cannot be allowed to acquire chemical, biological or other weapons of mass destruction because they would have no compunction about providing those weapons to terrorist organizations.

Now, if N. Korea, part of the "Axis of Evil" admits that it now has the bomb, does that not make N. Korea rather a priority using the doctrine President Bush expressed in the Catholic Lay Leader briefing? Is the US intelligence community really so stupid that it was unaware of N. Korea's nuclear weapons program? (don't answer that.) Why aren't we hearing about this?
and this:
My position all along has been that Saddam should go, but that we should proceed methodically, prudently and in cooperation with the international community (including even the UN). I left the meeting confident that [Bush] is doing that.

I am certain that a war with Iraq is imminent, but the President respects that war is the failure of diplomacy and he is pursuing that option fully. That is all I have been arguing from the beginning.

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But on the other hand ...

(At the risk of running out of hands here ...)

In reponse to my comment below on that Slate article, Emily says at HMS: "Even after giving generous consideration to the bishops' statement, it's information like that which leads some of us to regretfully disagree with our spiritual fathers on the matter."

Well, I said the article made a "strong" case, not necessarily a "decisive" one.

But putting that aside, "information like that" could rightly lead a Catholic, I think, to disagree with the Vatican and bishops. Where prudential matters are at issue, they may not be fully informed about, for example, what is going on in Iraq. But I want to point out the distinction between that kind of disagreement, and disagreement predicated on the assumption that the UN simply need not matter and/or that the Vatican's view is just one among other Catholic views on prudential matters.

I don't, in principle, have a problem with the kind of disagreement that I think Emily has with the Vatican here. But I may have a problem with some of the kinds that I think I've seen elsewhere lately.

And that's all for me on Iraq until there is new news on which to comment.

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Iraq: But on the other hand ...

Go to this page at Slate and scroll down to Jeffrey Goldberg's post (i.e., the second post from the top). (Thanks to a recent Weekly Standard for reprinting it and thereby bringing it to my attention.)

This sort of case strikes me as a rather strong one on behalf of invasion, unilaterally if necessary.

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War weary

HMS's Emily Stimpson has, as threatened promised, blogged (and blogged, and blogged, and blogged, and blogged, and blogged, and blogged) about the personalism/Church/UN/Iraq issue.

In the end, I, like Greg Popcak, mostly agree with her.

Because of that, and since Greg is already responding at some length, and since I want to put this topic mostly behind me for now and get on to other things (including things besides blogging!), I'll just make two points.

First, whether the UN is "the" forum in which to seek decisions about how a war might impact the rights of nations is indeed a prudential judgment. One has to judge, for example, (a) what kind of entity the UN is in principle, and also (b) what to make of the corruption therein. So I might disagree somewhat with Emily about those things, but I agree a prudential judgment is needed. I do want to caution here that (a) it's important not to beg the question by "stacking the deck" with unexamined a prioris about the limited rights of the UN and/or the "sovereignty" of nations, since it is precisely the extent of these rights/this sovereignty that is at issue; and (b) as I've said before, moral corruption in the UN doesn't make it morally irrelevant, any more than we have a moral right to hire private armies to put abortionists out of business just because morally corrupt politicians won't do their job.

But my main point here is that it is important that Emily seems to have admitted that something like UN-type conversation among nations does, in (personalist) principle, matter morally, and that prudential judgments have to take this principle into account. Some commentaries I've seen recently seem to deny this, and to claim instead that rejection of unilateralism is a purely prudential judgment (reflecting, say, military or political necessity).

I would therefore quibble with some of what Emily says, for example about "world government." What authority the UN has as a matter of international law is, by definition, an international-legal question (though I thought I recalled that its charter forbids unilateral war other than to do things like repel invasions - i.e., other than for purposes more clearly and immediately defensive than a war against Iraq would be at this time). But again, morality doesn't always track international law precisely. Our response to "black helicopter kooks" shouldn't only be to deny emphatically that we want (let alone have) anything even remotely like world government. There may be some matters that, in accord with the principle of subsidiarity, could or should rightly be handled by some kind of trans-national government. See, e.g., Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, no. 81.4.

Second and more briefly. Emily is also right that Catholics can in good faith disagree with the prudential judgments of the Vatican and bishops. By the way, though, "prudential" is not the opposite of "infallible." There are non-infallible teachings about matters of principle to which we are obliged to assent, notwithstanding that the Church could see fit to change them. But I chiefly want to restate that it's not the case that the Church's prudential judgments are no more authoritative or important than our own. As Ratzinger says, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit in the integral exercise of its mission. We are at least obliged, I'd say, to give the Church's prudential judgments a certain benefit of the doubt.

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A little communio among Catholic bloggers

(At Shawn's suggestion)

I, Kevin Miller, with firm faith believe and profess everything that is contained in the symbol of faith: namely,

I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the
Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

With firm faith I believe as well everything contained in God's word, written or handed down in tradition and proposed by the church--whether in solemn judgment or in the ordinary and universal magisterium--as divinely revealed and called for faith.

I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing that is proposed by that same church definitively with regard to teaching concerning faith or morals.

What is more, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate when they exercise the authentic magisterium even if they proclaim those teachings in an act that is not definitive.

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"Gay marriage" in Massachusetts
BOSTON — In the Massachusetts governor's race, the controversy over legalizing gay marriage has emerged as a major bump on the campaign trail for Democrat Shannon O'Brien.

On Tuesday, O'Brien suggested that she would sign legislation legalizing gay marriage if it were to come to her desk as governor of Massachusetts.

"I made the statement I would not thwart the legislation. I would sign it into law. That is my position," O'Brien, the state treasurer, said Wednesday.

But that position has caused her some problems. O'Brien said that she personally opposes gay marriage and would rather push to legalize so-called civil unions, also known as domestic partnerships, which are now only recognized in neighboring Vermont.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney also supports civil unions, but the millionaire businessman and architect of last winter's Olympic Games said O'Brien is trying to have it both ways. ... more
These "civil unions" are very bad public policy - and I'd say that it's supporters of them who are really "trying to have it both ways." On the other hand, it's probably even worse to be willing to call a same-sex union, "marriage." So Mass. voters must choose between bad and worse. Such is the sad legacy of Puritan New England.

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North Korea nukes
WASHINGTON — North Korea has told the United States they have what was a secret nuclear weapons program using highly enriched uranium, which started in the late 1990s, a senior White House official told Fox News.

The startling revelation exposes a violation of a 1994 agreement North Korea made with the United States.

U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said North Korea told U.S. officials that it was no longer bound by the anti-nuclear agreement. ... more
This country worries me more than Iraq does. And the Clinton-Administration-initiated policy of appeasement of North Korea has been just plain stoopid.

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News for Parkinson's patients

... not involving stem cells!
Two breakthrough therapies for the treatment of Parkinson's disease were recently announced. In August, Cephalon, Inc. and H. Lundbeck A/S revealed the initiation of a new North American clinical trial of the compound CEP-1347 for use in patients with early stage Parkinson's disease.

During that same month, Orion Pharma filed a new drug application (NDA) with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market the first triple combination agent to be used either as a stand-alone therapy or in addition to other treatments for Parkinson's disease -- levadopa, carbidopa and entacapone. ... more (registration required)

"NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Oct 04 - Postural sway abnormalities in patients with Parkinson's disease increase with levodopa treatment, but apparently improve with deep brain stimulation, researchers report. ..." more (registration required)

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Catholic master's program in environmental sciences
ROME, OCT. 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).- A master's degree in environmental sciences is being offered in Rome, inspired by Christian humanism.

The degree is offered by the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum in cooperation with the Italian Ministry of the Environment.

Program director Antonio Gaspari explained that the course will begin Oct. 25 and will focus on "the anthropocentric and integral conception of human development, in keeping with the best philosophical and theological tradition of the Catholic Church." ... more

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"LONDON, OCT. 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The British House of Lords rejected plans to allow homosexual and unmarried heterosexual couples to adopt children, BBC reported. ..." more

I would argue that only married couples - or spouses of natural or adoptive parents (i.e., after such parents remarry) - should be allowed to adopt children. But at the very least, unmarried couples should be excluded. Allowing them to raise children teaches children a gravely wrong lesson about the meaning of spousal love and parenthood. Whether or not psychologists think so, that's bad for the children.

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Further comments by John Paul II on the Rosary

From his audience yesterday:
... In order that this synthesis of the Gospel be more complete and offer greater inspiration, in the apostolic letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae" I have proposed that another five mysteries be added to those already contemplated in the rosary, and I have called them "mysteries of light." They include the public life of the Savior, from the baptism in the Jordan to the beginning of the Passion. The purpose of this suggestion is to expand the horizon of the rosary, so that the one who recites it with devotion and not mechanically will be able to penetrate even more profoundly in the content of the Good News and conform his own existence ever more to that of Christ. ... full address
We should all welcome a help in "conforming our existence ever more to that of Christ."

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wWednesday, October 16, 2002

Now, this is a time-wasting distraction

Congress has passed (and Bush is going to sign) an "election reform bill."

This shouldn't be Federal business, inasmuch as it has nothing directly to do with the enforcement of the 15th, 19th, 24th, or 26th Amendments.

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Another brilliant blogger!

(And, a lay Dominican - coincidence? I think not.)

Disputations says some wise things (here and here) concerning the pope/bishops and UN and war issue (and I'm not just saying that because he links to me).

He's very good on the Rosary too, by the way (that includes but isn't limited to his comments on the new Apostolic Letter).

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Wednesday is Book Club day!

Today's selection:
Jean (Cardinal) Danielou, Prayer as a Political Problem, trans. J. R. Kirwan (Sheed and Ward, 1967).
I mentioned this book briefly in my first post on the Rosary, below. It's so good that it's worth mentioning again and more prominently, especially in light of some of the silly utilitarian objections (ably and succinctly answered by Mark Shea) some talking heads have lodged to the pope's decision to write about the Rosary, and in the happier light of John Paul's mention (also noted by some other bloggers) of the Rosary's value to the world (specifically, to the cause of peace, and to the family).

Jean Danielou, S.J., was a close collaborator of Henri de Lubac, S.J.; Danielou was created cardinal by Paul VI, and de Lubac, by John Paul II, to honor them for their service to the Church as theologians. I've read a lot of de Lubac, and only a little Danielou, but this little (123 pp.) book of his is wonderful. Our Franciscan University of Steubenville Communio group discussed it together on one occasion, drawing much interest and many comments.

Danielou's Foreword asks the question, "But how are society and religion to be joined without either making religion a tool of the secular power or the secular power a tool of religion?" Expanding on this, he writes in his second chapter, entitled "Prayer as a Political Problem" after the whole book, that
the true city is that "in which men have their homes and God also has his. ..." A city which does not possess churches as well as factories is not fit for men. It is inhuman. The task of politics is to assure to men a city in which it will be possible for them to fulfill themselves completely, to have a full material, fraternal, and spiritual life. It is for this reason that we consider that, in so far as it expresses this personal fulfilment of man in a particular dimension, prayer is a political problem ...
He concludes in his final chapter, "The Church and the Modern World" (which does refer briefly but explicitly to the Council, and which is as a whole a fine commentary on the the Council's Pastoral Constitution): "Therefore, when Christians defend God's place in the city as being an essential element of the city, it is not God whom they defend - he has no need of anybody's defence and is not even threatened - but man himself."

Yet, that man's saving "Alliance" with God be defended is the will of God himself:
Therefore it is necessary for [the Christian] to realize that the call to struggle comes from God himself in the midst of this earthly city ... When the Christian, having prayed, flings himself into the battle, he finds that he has left God in order to meet God again.
So: Prayer and valuable worldly pursuits presuppose each other. If we don't love the world, we're missing part of the point of our relationship with God. If we don't cultivate that relationship by, in John Paul's words, "contemplating with Mary the face of Christ," we're missing the point of our life in this world. For more details on why the world needs this, beg or borrow a copy of Danielou's book.

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... has been issued! Here are a couple thoughts by way of follow-up to my earlier post.

First, with regard to the purpose of the Rosary, these are the words of Pope Paul VI in Marialis Cultus (and John Paul II quotes them in part in his new Apostolic Letter):
46. As a Gospel prayer, centered on the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, the Rosary is therefore a prayer with a clearly Christological orientation. Its most characteristic element, in fact, the litany-like succession of Hail Mary's, becomes in itself an unceasing praise of Christ, who is the ultimate object both of the angel's announcement and of the greeting of the mother of John the Baptist: "Blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Lk. 1:42). We would go further and say that the succession of Hail Mary's constitutes the warp on which is woven the contemplation of the mysteries. The Jesus that each Hail Mary recalls is the same Jesus whom the succession of the mysteries proposes to us ...

47. There has also been felt with greater urgency the need to point out once more the importance of a further essential element in the Rosary, in addition to the value of the elements of praise and petition, namely the element of contemplation. Without this the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas ... By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord.
Making this view his own, Pope John Paul introduces his Apostolic Letter by saying (no. 1): "The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. ... it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium." And he continues (no. 3), setting forth what seems to be the theme of the document: "To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ."

In keeping with this, the pope eventually suggests (no. 19) that "to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional pattern which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities, could broaden it." His suggested "mysteries of light" are "(1) [Christ's] Baptism in the Jordan, (2) his self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana, (3) his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion, (4) his Transfiguration, and finally, (5) his institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery" (no. 21). (John Paul further suggests [no. 38] that these be meditated upon on Thursdays, with the second weekly meditation on the joyful mysteries transferred to Saturday.)

All of this, I would add, is not unrelated to the teaching of Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium (no. 13) that popular devotions "should ... accord with the sacred liturgy, [be] in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it." Paul VI says that the Rosary meets this criterion: "The commemoration in the liturgy and the contemplative remembrance proper to the Rosary, although existing on essentially different planes of reality, have as their object the same salvific events wrought by Christ" (Marialis Cultus, no. 48). John Paul echoes this view. His theme of "contemplating with Mary the face of Christ" is thus very important. The Church recognizes (see the reference to the Catechism in my post below) that the mysteries of Christ's public life are one important way in which he shows his face. And we might remember that several of the new mysteries have long been the objects of special commemoration in the Church's annual liturgical cycle.

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wTuesday, October 15, 2002

Clemency hearings for death-row inmates

"... [Illinois Gov.] Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in 2000, calling the state's death penalty system 'fraught with error' after 13 inmates were found to have been wrongfully convicted. ..." full story

"... Another death penalty inmate was hours away from execution more than three years ago when Ryan ... put a stop to it. Ryan freed Anthony Porter after another man confessed to the crime. ..." full story

I think that anti-death-penalty activists probably often overstate the danger of the execution of the innocent. And I don't think that danger is in any case the most basic reason to oppose the death penalty. Furthermore, if wrongful convictions take place, the most important thing to do in response is to fix the court system. However, death is a uniquely radical deprivation, and it is especially crucial to avoid executing the innocent. Especially since proponents of capital punishment frequently appeal to its alleged value in protecting the innocent.

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Speaking of war

With various rogue nations pursuing missile technology, I think this is good news and there ought to be more follow-up than is now planned.

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Doctors recommend abstinence
... "I think you can shift greatly the numbers that are going to be involved in sexual activity by teaching abstinence simply with a lot of good medical information," said Dr. John Whiffen of the National Physicians Center. ...

Whiffen is leading a group of 400 doctors in the uphill battle to get family practitioners to stress abstinence with patients. They warn that the very term "safe sex" is misleading and potentially dangerous. But Whiffen says hard medical facts, not moralizing, will get teenagers thinking twice. ... full story

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Greg Popcak is Brilliant Too

See his post, "Personalism Isn't Just for Individuals ...," on HMS Blog. He took the words right out of my mouth, and said them better.

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Deal Hudson on the pope on war

Crisis Magazine's Deal Hudson has reflected on how Catholics should view a possible war against Iraq. I think that Hudson, following George Weigel, somewhat misinterprets just-war criteria, and also gives some misleading advice concerning how to respond to episcopal and even papal pronouncements on such issues.

With regard to just-war criteria, Hudson writes:
In the case of the current war debate, the bishops have said that an attack on Iraq doesn't meet "the traditional just war criteria of just cause, right authority, probability of success, proportionality and noncombatant immunity."

But Catholic scholar George Weigel says that this is a backwards approach to Just War. There are actually two separate sets of moral criteria that must be met if a war is just. First, the "ius ad bellum," or "war decision law," must be addressed. The criteria, as Weigel outlines them, are as follows: "... Is the contemplated action 'proportionate:' is it appropriate to the goal (or just cause); is the good to be accomplished likely to be greater than the evil that would be suffered if nothing were done, or if the use of armed force were avoided for the sake of other types of measures? ..."

Only AFTER these questions are answered positively can one address the "ius in bello," or "war-conduct" issues. Weigel lists these as including "'proportionality,' which requires the use of no more force than necessary to vindicate the just cause; and 'discrimination,' or what we today call 'non-combatant immunity.'"

Weigel explains that, oftentimes, Catholic thinkers have inverted the war-decision and the war-conduct questions, placing all the emphasis on the latter. However, the war-conduct questions deal only with our "conduct" in war, as the title implies. It assumes that we've already "decided" that the war is just, using the war-decision questions.
I think this analysis is, frankly, somewhat muddled. Note that it begins by listing among "ius ad bellum" questions the following: "Is the contemplated action 'proportionate:' ... ?" Thus, it is odd that, only a paragraph later, "proportionality" is consigned to the realm of secondary, "ius in bello" issues.

More generally, while one can distinguish between ius ad bellum and ius in bello issues, there is also some overlap between them, as the dual mention of "proportionality" indicates. Ability to meet ius in bello criteria wouldn't justify a war that doesn't first meet ius ad bellum criteria - so that it is correct that, in a sense, the latter are primary - but it is also true that a judgment about whether to go to war ought to include a judgment about whether it will be possible to satisfy ius in bello criteria in the contemplated war. So the bishops are quite right to say that those need to be taken into account at this time.

Another way of putting this would be to say that it is unlikely that the "right intention" ius ad bellum criterion has been fulfilled when prosecution of a contemplated war would likely violate the ius in bello criteria. (In fact, this is probably part of the reason that traditional just-war analyses like Augustine's and Aquinas's didn't mention ius in bello criteria - the "right intention" ius ad bellum criterion takes ius in bello criteria for granted.)

Hudson also speaks of the Vatican's and bishops' positions as reflecting a prudential judgment with which one can disagree, and even says that in speaking to this matter "the bishops are operating with no more authority than the average lay Catholic." These are, I would say, overstatements.

First, as I have indicated below, the pronouncements of the pope and his spokesmen in particular on this matter probably reflect some developed principles concerning when war can be legitimate - they are not merely prudential judgments that apply the Thomistic just-war criteria to the present situation. It is not clear that all proponents of war have really comprehended or fully taken into account the pope's principles or, as Hudson says, his "moral framework." Thus, it is not clear that they are always fully "using the Church's teachings as [their] guide."

And second, to the extent that the recent teachings do reflect prudential judgments, one has to bear in mind what Cardinal Ratzinger has written in the "Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian," to which I have referred in the past:
24. Finally, in order to serve the People of God as well as possible, in particular, by warning them of dangerous opinions which could lead to error, the Magisterium can intervene in questions under discussion which involve, in addition to solid principles, certain contingent and conjectural elements. ...

The willingness to submit loyally to the teaching of the Magisterium on matters per se not irreformable must be the rule. It can happen, however, that a theologian may, according to the case, raise questions regarding the timeliness, the form, or even the contents of magisterial interventions. Here the theologian will need, first of all, to assess accurately the authoritativeness of the interventions which becomes clear from the nature of the documents, the insistence with which a teaching is repeated, and the very way in which it is expressed.

When it comes to the question of interventions in the prudential order, it could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free from all deficiencies. Bishops and their advisors have not always taken into immediate consideration every aspect or the entire complexity of a question. But it would be contrary to the truth, if, proceeding from some particular cases, one were to conclude that the Church's Magisterium can be habitually mistaken in its prudential judgments, or that it does not enjoy divine assistance in the integral exercise of its mission. ...
Especially if Hudson's comments about prudential judgments are meant to refer to papal teachings (and not only those of the USCCB), it's not clear that he has taken these guidelines sufficiently into account either. Surely they suggest that papal teachings about prudential matters have "more authority than" the judgments of "the average lay Catholic." At the very least, one ought to make more of an effort than Weigel and Hudson seem to make to grapple with and learn from those teachings as part of fulfilling one's own obligations to exercise the virtue of prudence.

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New Rosary mysteries: prayer and Christian life

There has been much discussion of and some objections to the pope's impending anoucement of new Rosary mysteries. I for my part like the idea.

One commenter on another blog has suggested that this is a needless distraction from the task of dealing with sexual abuse by clerics. Apropos of that, I think, are the following comments from a ZENIT interview with Dominican theologian Fr. Ennio Staid:
Q: Is it not better to work with the needy for half an hour than to spend half an hour reciting the Hail Mary?

Father Staid: This objection is an example of the psychological reality in which we have to move. It shows that the explanation of prayer in general, and of the rosary in particular, must be renewed. ...

Q: Then why should people pray the rosary?

Father Staid: Because Jesus says so: "Pray always, without ceasing." Today it is more important than ever to pray to avoid Christianity being reduced to a simple esotericism, a simple action, in which evangelical charity becomes pure philanthropy.

The rosary is an easy and simple way to discover prayer once again, which nourishes faith, because it offers us the possibility of contemplating the whole history of salvation. It reflects the original preaching of the faith. It is the contemplation of the mystery of Christ -- essential, and in an atmosphere of prayer -- together with Mary. Cardinal John Henry Newman described the rosary as "a creed made into a prayer."

The rosary leads us to contrast our life with God's call to love. In this way, it is fully integrated in our life, giving transcendent meaning to our actions. By praying the rosary, with confidence, we take Mary by the hand so that she will lead us to Jesus. To her, first among believers, we pray that she make us live what she lived, namely, the experience of the presence of Christ in us and among us.
This leads us to the concerns Woodene expresses at HMS: "The mysteries of the rosary as they exist now are symbolic of Jesus's life as a whole ... By adding another set of mysteries, that wonderful imagery of life passing through death into new life as symbolized by the three sets of mysteries will be lost." I wonder, though, whether in particular the joyful mysteries fully represent his human life, and whether there isn't more to the dynamic than Woodeene suggests. Jesus didn't simply enter into this life and consecrate it to the Father at its beginning and then bide his time until Good Friday and Easter - he then lived it, and showed us something of what a life in this world consecrated to the Father and already penetrated by the Resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:4, 11) would look like. (It's for this reason that the mysteries of his life are already of salvific value - cf. the Catechism nos. 516-521 - notwithstanding the unique and necessary salvific value of the Paschal mysteries.)

We need to live in this way as well, as Balthasar says in this text I posted several weeks ago. In fact this is the essence of Christian morality. Maybe the new Rosary mysteries will help us do so. Maybe that's why I as a moral theologian like them.

By the way, if you haven't yet, you might enjoy reading Jean Cardinal Danielou's Prayer as a Political Problem.

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wMonday, October 14, 2002

The pope, the UN, and war

Lots of discussion in blogspace lately generally concluding that it's not morally necessary that the UN approve an attack on Iraq - for example, here on Kairos, and here on Mark Shea's blog. Mark has also posted a suggestion of George Weigel's that the pope "is utterly uninterested" in just-war theory and a further suggestion of a friend of his that this is due to the pope's experience of World War II.

My reflections:

First, as I commented on Mark's blog, I think Weigel's suggestion overstates the matter. I think the pope has certainly developed just-war theory, and perhaps one could say that in a sense Catholic teaching has moved "beyond" just-war theory - in the sense that the basic criteria for just war articulated by Augustine and Aquinas are no longer seen by the Church as sufficient to legitimate war.

I would say that this is partly because of the realization that, especially in an age of weapons of mass destruction and of globalization (so that conflicts spread easily), a nation that justly enters a war can end up doing serious injustice (consider Allied bombardment of Germany and Japan during World War II - consider the threats uttered by Shakespeare's Henry V at Harfleur). This realization is an application of the more basic theological realization, which I have mentioned in connection with the death penalty, that attempts to have justice without mercy end in something less than justice (cf. Dives in Misericordia, no. 12).

What about the UN? Perhaps getting UN approval for an attack provides an extra "check" against unwarranted war; perhaps it's better in the long run that some justifiable wars be avoided than that some unjustifiable ones be fought. But perhaps more importantly than that, especially in our age, wars do have broad international implications. Perhaps it is especially fitting that the entire community of nations - corrupt though some of those nations may often be - at least have the chance to deliberate together about a proposed war.

The pope is in general a defender of democracy, especially for the reason, I think, that he sees the opportunity for democratic participation as in keeping with human dignity (e.g., Redemptor Hominis, no. 17; Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, no. 15), even though many people abuse this opportunity for immoral ends, and even though (see Evangelium Vitae, no. 70) such abuse detracts from the value of democracy. Similarly, the dignity of the state - which is an extension of the dignity of the persons who are its citizens - is served by allowing states to participate in decision-making in the international sphere, even though, as the pope well knows (as witness his exhortations to the UN to do good and avoid evil, e.g. with regard to life issues), the outcome of this process may sometimes be morally bad.

In short: as in general both the means and the end of an action must be good for the action as a whole to be good, so in particular both the means by which (geo-)political decisions are made and the substance of those decisions must be good, and means that entail more widespread participation are better means, even if there's no guarantee they'll always (or even often) result in better outcomes.

Nations certainly reserve the right to defend themselves. But are we really morally certain that Iraq poses the sort of threat (a) to which an immediate armed response is necessary, and (b) an armed response to which wouldn't cause evil disproportionate to the threatened evil? If we're not morally certain of both of those things, then I think we are rightly counseled to be patient, and at least to seek UN approval prior to military action.

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Politics and religion in Brazil

"RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 14, 02 (CWNews.com) -- Cardinal Eugenio Araujo Sales has issued a public rejoinder to statements issued by two noted liberation theologians in support of a left-wing presidential candidate. ... " more (subscription required)

Thoughts on this: First, the cardinal is right.

Second, the cardinal's position seems to be based mostly on the candidate's pro-abortion position. It is worth mentioning also that "liberation theology" is deeply problematic, and "a self-proclaimed Marxist" is especially likely to be unworthy of Catholic support.

Third, it should at the same time be mentioned that Catholic critiques of liberation theology must be appropriately nuanced. For careful critiques, see the CDF's 1984 and 1986 Instructions on the subject. The latter is cited by Pope John Paul II in connection with his teaching in Centesimus Annus (no. 26):
In the recent past, the sincere desire to be on the side of the oppressed and not to be cut off from the course of history has led many believers to seek in various ways an impossible compromise between Marxism and Christianity. Moving beyond all that was short-lived in these attempts, present circumstances are leading to a reaffirmation of the positive value of an authentic theology of integral human liberation.

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Cardinal Bevilacqua on Abortion Non-Discrimination Act
... Passage of S. 2008 is urgently needed. In recent years there has been a growing nationwide effort to attack the conscience rights of Catholic and other health care providers. In one example ..., an Alaska court forced a community hospital to provide elective late-term abortions contrary to its policy and the sentiment of the community. Abortion advocacy groups have even urged the state of New Jersey to require a Catholic health system to build an abortion clinic on its premises, to serve what they see as a right of "access" to abortion ...

By opposing this modest legislation, abortion advocates have called into serious question their past claim that they favor a "right to choose" on abortion. ... full letter

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What unwed mothers need
WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 13, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The rise in the abortion rate among low-income women means that unwed mothers need financial and emotional support -- not more contraceptives, says a U.S. bishops' spokeswoman. ... more

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Ecumenism: a moral imperative
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 13, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II urged all Christians, including Catholics, to make an examination of conscience to see where they have delayed or are delaying progress toward full ecclesial unity. ... more

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wSunday, October 13, 2002

Florida death penalty amendment
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Following the Oct. 9 execution by lethal injection of convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos, the Florida Catholic bishops called for the defeat of a proposed amendment that would "enshrine the death penalty" in the state Constitution. ... more
Thoughts: In keeping with the Church's insightful opposition to the death penalty, the Florida bishops are right to address the issue. And I agree that the death penalty ought not be "enshrined" in Florida's Constitution.

At the same time, I think that Federal and state courts are wrong to read judges' favorite policy positions - whether good or bad policy positions - into the Federal or state constitutions, under the guise of interpreting those constitutions. This is a particularly dangerous form of lawlessness (cf. Roe v. Wade).

In particular, it is not clear that constitutional prohibitions against cruel and/or unusual punishment are meant to prohibit the death penalty. Certainly the prohibition against such punishment in the Bill of Rights isn't meant to, since the same Bill of Rights (see the 5th Amendment: "capital ... crime"; "jeopardy of life"; "deprived of life") explicitly evisages it - yet Federal judges have sometimes held the contrary. To the extent that the Florida amendment is meant to prevent such judicial lawlessness, and to allow the people to fulfill their democratic responsibility to deliberate about capital punishment - and this motive is suggested by its wording - I can't help but have some sympathy for its proponents.

On the other hand, I would favor an amendment explicitly to abolish the death penalty, at the Federal or any state level.

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Vatican on advancement of women
UNITED NATIONS (CNS) -- The Vatican said in a statement at the United Nations Oct. 10 that meetings such as the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women had set important goals but now there is a need "to turn words into action." ... more

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