"Diversity" talk on campus is usually bad news. Now this: "After an outcry ... a top University of Wisconsin-Madison administrator said Friday that the school would reverse a decision not to fund "Shadow Day," a student government recruitment effort aimed ... at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. ..." more
"WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is investigating whether the Saudi government funneled money to two students who helped two of the Sept. 11 hijackers that crashed four commercial airliners. ..." more
Undoubtedly worth investigating.
"WASHINGTON — The U.S. government on Friday added more rules to a brand-spanking new electronic system programmed to keep track of foreign visitors. ... Citizens of Saudi Arabia ... are not on this list. Justice officials [said] that ... the list is 'evolving' ..." more
While I am not a libertarian who advises others to vote Libertarian, many of my libertarian friends and relatives feel otherwise. They view the Republican party as cavalier about individual liberty, supporting big government when it serves their purposes as much as Democrats do when it serves theirs. What conservative Republicans often fail to realize is that libertarians are an important constituency that should not be ignored or taken for granted lest their votes be driven to the Libertarian party or even to the Democrats. Telling libertarians they should vote Republican despite their serious reservations about Republican policies is futile. These concerns need to be addressed rather than ignored.
Some of the writer's suggestions - especially about federalism - are well taken even if one is not a libertarian. (Federalism is not only what the Constitution requires, but also a good application of the principle of subsidiarity.) However, the way libertarianism tries to ground its conclusions (whether good ones, like support for federalism, or bad ones, like the pro-choice stance it sometimes adopts) in a philosophical individualism is very problematic. Pace Locke and Ayn Rand, we are by nature social (and political) animals. So thought Aristotle; so thinks the Church.
What is most important is to convert people away from libertarianism - not so that they'll vote GOP, but so that they'll vote in accordance with sound principles.
And in any case, it is not a law of physics that libertarians will vote Libertarian instead of GOP and thereby elect Democrats whose views are even more obviously inimical to their own. Not everyone whose philosophical principles are wrong is thereby destined to be a complete idiot. In short, along with advice to the GOP to take seriously the truths captured by Libertarian policy preferences should come advice to libertarians to take seriously questions about why politics matters and what they're trying to accomplish when they vote.
"In the new Homeland Security bill just passed by both houses of Congress, stricter visa controls were enacted for people wishing to gain entry to the United States from one specific country: Saudi Arabia. ..." more
If more of the 9/11 terrorists had been denied visas, as they should have been, perhaps 9/11 would have been prevented. This shows that homeland security requires, perhaps more than anything else, better control over who enters the US legally. The pope and the Catechism (no. 2241) don't rule out barring terrorists.
"FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's Schering and Dutch rival Akzo Nobel said on Thursday they would join forces to develop a male birth control pill that could reach the market in five to seven years. ..." more
"ROME (CNS) -- An international coalition of religious and human rights groups has proclaimed Nov. 30 the World Day Against the Death Penalty. The Rome-based Sant'Egidio Community ... announced the date during a Nov. 22 press conference. ..." more
"WASHINGTON, DC, Nov 22, 02 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - Dr. W. David Hager ... says he wants the abortifacient RU-486, or Mifeprex, recalled -- based on safety considerations and inadequate testing rather than his views on abortion. ..." more (subscription required)
"VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II met with the new ambassador of Haiti to the Vatican and stressed the duty of those who govern to be committed to the eradication of poverty. ..." more
... I would suggest that merciful justice does not permit infliction of punishment beyond restitution, although, as part of restitution I would include those reasonable steps necessary to actually reform the offender. It is my opinion that justice which attempts to go beyond this becomes vengeance de facto. After all, if a punishment is not intended to ensure restitution or reform, what is the point? Nothing more than satisfying the vengeful feelings of the victim, which is, in itself, an offense against the dignity of both the victim and the offender. ...
Greg is quite right to have begun by saying, "We don't disagree much," because for the most part I endorse his latest thoughts. I do think one can distinguish justice and mercy in principle, and that it is of some importance to do so (for one thing, because it is justice that allows exacting restitution/punishment at all, and in fact that sets absolute upper limits on these things), and that insisting on strict justice for its own sake might not yet be vengeance. But one is nonetheless entirely correct to insist that de facto justice and mercy cannot be separated. Attempts to have justice without mercy do lead eventually and of necessity to a vengeful spirit and even to actions that are in themselves unjust. As I have blogged some time ago, this is John Paul's explicit teaching in Dives in Misericordia, and this is what underlies his opposition to capital punishment in Evangelium Vitae.
"BOSTON — Early testing shows an experimental vaccine to be 100 percent effective against the virus that causes cervical cancer, raising doctors' hopes of someday sending the lethal disease into retreat in the same way as smallpox and polio. ..." more
This is happy news, I think. I also think it'd be even happier if people prevented STDs through chastity, so that resources devoted to them could be used for other health-care needs.
All cloning! Not just on "reproductive" as opposed to research cloning. That is, not a ban that would in practice amount to a clone-and-kill policy. With EU and US support (the US has even helped to kill clone-and-kill), there is now more reason to hope for a real ban on human cloning. And a reason to be grateful for the EU's existence.
Here on his own blog, and here on HMS, Mark Shea blogs some reasons the GOP might not want to emphasize the partial-birth abortion ban issue. One does indeed want to avoid doing things that will so galvanize one's opposition as to be counterproductive. On the other hand, I wonder whether galvanizing partial-birth-abortion proponents would be all that damaging to the pro-life movement. There aren't very many partial-birth proponents, and if they got loud and shrill, they might well turn off most folks in the middle on the abortion issue to the pro-abortion side, which could be good for us pro-lifers.
In fact, that was probably the best reason for pushing for a ban to begin with - the fact that doing so can help to educate middle-of-the-road Americans about the extent of the abortion license in this country and about the extremism of those pro-choicers who want to defend that unlimited license.
On the other hand, now that the GOP is in control, there might well be reason to have other priorities (without neglecting partial-birth!). Besides the importance of dealing with the judicial-nominee-confirmation backlog, there is need to pass the previously-blogged Abortion Non-Discrimination Act.
This is especially so given this news:
ST. LOUIS, Nov 21, 02 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - A Missouri appeals court has ruled against a state law banning partial-birth abortions because it does not make exceptions for the so-called "life or health of the mother," a requirement imposed two years ago by the US Supreme Court ruling on a Nebraska. It now remains for the federal court to rule if the law is unconstitutional. ... more (subscription required)
The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act is not only more likely to be consequential than the partial-birth abortion ban, it is also more likely to be ruled constitutional (it should be a slam-dunk, in fact). And the partial-birth ban will be more likely to be held constitutional once we get some good judges confirmed. So it's reasonable to give those matters priority, if necessary.
HMS's Greg has blogged here, here, and here about the relationships among these things.
Greg points out, in a nutshell, that forgiveness does or need not mean absolving from the consequences of an action, i.e., from the requirements of justice, and wonders what forgiveness or mercy (as opposed to "indulgence") adds to true justice.
It seems to me that justice can permit one to require an evildoer to do more than "clean up the mess" made by his evildoing (e.g., pay medical bills). Justice, in short, permits the infliction of punishment or retribution (beyond restitution, though this does not mean revenge), punishment that "fits the crime" or is proportionate to the evil inherent in the crime. Perhaps this is what Greg means when he says that justice requires that one make up for both "spiritual and temporal consequences" of one's actions - i.e., perhaps punishment (beyond restitution) makes up for an action's spiritual consequences - but this is not clear (and Greg's examples of what he thinks justice allows one to require of another - like bill-paying - seem to rule out this interpretation).
Mercy, I think, entails a willingness to mitigate such punishment. At the very least, it entails a willingness to limit punishment more than considerations of justice alone would limit punishment - to limit punishment to the extent necessary to provide adequate protection of society through incapacitation of proven evildoers and/or deterrence of would-be evildoers, even when this is less than what might "fit the crime." For example, whereas justice alone would probably legitimate inflicting capital punishment on a murderer, mercy would probably (in most situations) entail a willingness to punish a murderer with life imprisonment (this incapacitates the offender, and probably provides adequate deterrence, especially since in a culture of mercy there will probably be fewer people needing to be deterred from committing murder). Mercy might even sometimes entail a willingness to absolve entirely from punishment, or even from restitution as well - as Hugo's Bishop of Digne did when he not only protected Jean Valjean from imprisonment, but also allowed him to keep the silver he had stolen. This sort of mercy is perhaps what is meant by "indulgence."
What of forgiveness? I think that forgiveness entails a willingness to show at least a minimal degree of mercy. Thus, if you have been the victim of a crime, forgiveness entails at least the willingness not to request the maximum punishment (death for the murderer of a loved one) if a lesser punishment would adequately protect you and others in the future - as well as the willingness to pray for the murderer's repentance/salvation, whatever punishment the state might decide to inflict. In other words, forgiveness does, I think, mean not pursuing as much as one is due in justice, even though it doesn't necessarily mean not pursuing any of what one is due in justice (it can be consistent with pursuing restitution and even some punishment to prevent future harm).
MIAMI (Reuters Health) Nov 12 - A new levodopa pro-drug may address several drug-delivery drawbacks associated with levodopa that impede effective management of Parkinson's disease, according to Dr. Eldad Melamed, speaking here at the Movement Disorders Society's seventh international congress. ... more (registration required)
MIAMI (Reuters Health) Nov 12 - A transdermal patch containing the dopamine agonist rotigotine may reduce the fluctuating symptoms that are the bane of many patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), Dr. Peter A. LeWitt said here Monday at the Movement Disorders Society's 7th International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders. ... more (registration required)
But, bad news:
CANBERRA (Reuters) Nov 11 - Australia was expected this week to give the green light to controversial research on human embryos but only after a marathon debate in the national parliament and a barrage of attempted legislative amendments. ...
Advocates of the research believe embryonic stem cells could help find cures for illnesses such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, as well as diabetes and cancer.
But others argue that extracting the stem cells will kill the embryos, with no proof that this line of research will produce the coveted results. ... more (registration required)
Let's focus on treatments that are ethical, not on ones that kill to try to save lives. Especially since ethical treatments seem to be showing promise.
How much there is of "the Good Samaritan" in the profession of the doctor, or the nurse, or others similar! Considering its "evangelical" content, we are inclined to think here of a vocation rather than simply a profession. And the institutions which from generation to generation have performed "Good Samaritan" service have developed and specialized even further in our times. This undoubtedly proves that people today pay ever greater and closer attention to the sufferings of their neighbour, seek to understand those sufferings and deal with them with ever greater skill. They also have an ever greater capacity and specialization in this area. In view of all this, we can say that the parable of the Samaritan of the Gospel has become one of the essential elements of moral culture and universally human civilization. And thinking of all those who by their knowledge and ability provide many kinds of service to their suffering neighbour, we cannot but offer them words of thanks and gratitude.
So it is with sadness that one continues to find stories like this:
Recently, a close friend underwent a complicated bowel resection at a center well known and respected for its GI surgery service. The IV Demerol wasn't touching his pain postop, so the staff, in consultation with the pain service, changed the order to Dilaudid, and then to morphine. But within about 3 days, they decided it was time to taper him off the IV medications and start oral Vicodin. Part of a well-researched, evidence-based pain protocol, I'm sure, and I'm sure it may have almost always worked. But this fellow's pain was unrelieved and his surgeon restored the IV medications for a couple more days. This back-and-forth went on for about a week. The impression my friend got from them was that his pain should not have been that bad, so he was either a wimp or liking the drugs a little too much. And he was left wondering whether he was becoming addicted or, alternatively, that if the pain should not have been that bad, then something must be going terribly wrong with him, which it was -- but not as wrong as dying, which is what he thought and which, of course, made the pain even worse.
The surgical team did not look for an underlying cause for the pain that didn't go away, not until several days later...and then, there it was, an abscess the size of a baseball. Great relief all around, some chagrin, "No wonder you were in pain!" ...
The author continues:
What is our problem with pain? Based on my friend's experience and that of others, it seems that the very purpose of pain -- to warn you (and your doctor) that something's wrong -- may be overlooked by a system of fragmented management and care. And this makes me think that it's time to turn pain management back to the provider who knows the patient best: the primary surgeon or internist, the family doc, the general neurologist, in consultation with the pain specialists when necessary, but only then. ... more (registration required)
Worth considering. In any case, I think it's a matter of basic ethics for heath-care professionals to provide adequate pain control/relief.
Sean Schuetz said he is not surprised by events that unfolded after the publication of his Oct. 29 viewpoint in The Marquette Tribune in which he made a plea to end bias against homosexuals. ...
Schuetz was a victim of what psychology professor Stephen Franzoi called "heterosexism." ...
Heterosexism can be as subtle as failing to include male/male and female/female couples when discussing romantic relationships ...
According to Franzoi ..., the distinction between being [a person with homosexual inclinations] and doing [homosexual acts] is one that is lost on most people and looked upon as a "sham."
Until the Catholic Church changes its statements on the separation of the person and the act, there will be confusion over what the Church truly believes, Franzoi said. ...
"I would be perfectly happy the day that it is perfectly acceptable to walk down the street holding my boyfriend's hand," Schuetz said. full story
And here I thought that Georgetown's student paper had problems (the article has been partially fixed since Amy Welborn blogged about it - it no longer refers to the "Vatican II Counsel," but it does still refer to "Pope John Paul XI in 1965"). Marquette's may be far worse - promoting not only stupidity, but also self-destructive behavior.
A junior English major at Marquette University has complained in the Marquette Tribune about the "white colonist" on Marquette's seal. While she is "not implying that Marquette is an overall racist institution" (yes, she is an English major), she is "explicitly saying that Marquette's seal is racist."
That "white colonist" turns out to be Fr. Jacques Marquette, S.J. (You can find the seal in the Marquette Student Handbook - scroll down to p. 87 for a picture and an explanation.)
Leon R. Kass, Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics (Encounter, 2002).
I have blogged about this book twicebefore, and I am now happy to feature it. Kass's latest book has been on my shelf for several weeks now, and I began reading it last night to help prepare me to fill in as a panelist on an episode of Franciscan University Presents on genetic modification that was taped today. I have actually known of Kass - now semi-famous as the Chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics - since the late 1980s, when I read one of his earlier books, Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs. That book helped influence me to go eventually into moral theology, and I use it as a text for my Sexual and Medical Morality course. Kass's latest (he has authored several other books, like the fascinating The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of our Nature, and multiple articles, in the interim) appears to be up to his usual standards. Kass is especially strong on the problematic tendencies of the modern (post-Bacon/Descartes) scientific project (cf. C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man), and on the ways in which the body reveals itself to be more than just the sum of its material parts (and thus to be at once transcendent and humble). Everyone concerned about trends in biomedical science and ethics should read Kass. He sums up his concern about our age at the end of the chapter on genetic technology in Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity:
We are in turbulent seas without a landmark precisely because we adhere more and more to a view of human life that both gives us enormous power and, at the same time, denies every possibility of nonarbitrary standards for guiding its use. ... We triumph over nature's unpredictability only to subject ourselves, tragically, to the still greater unpredictability of our capricious wills and our fickle opinions. ... That we do not recognize our predicament is itself a tribute to the depth of our infatuation with scientific progress and our naive faith in the sufficiency of our humanitarian impulses.
And the final chapter, "The Permanent Limitations of Biology," he propounds a profound critique of modern biology, with implications for any biology:
... modern biology has carefully defined its conceptual and methodical boundaries in such a way that it is inherently incapable of understanding life as lived ... It is inherently incapable of understanding that (and why) living beings are ordered and active wholes, particular ones of a particular kind; individually unique, time-bound, and experiencing a nuanced journey between birth and death; perishable and needy and, therefore, aspiring and energetically self-concerned ... self-developing, self-maintaining, self-moving beings, each with a relation to its own world, mediated always by "inwardness," however rudimentary, comprising awareness of and appetition for things beyond their boundaries ... they are purposive, serving both themselves and their descendants ... their patterned surfaces are on display, often revealing - in part - various communicable aspects of the state of the soul within; that (and how, and why) there is a hierarchy of capacities and powers - within a given life, within social groupings of the same species, and in the entire kingdom of living things overall. ... Modern biology will never be able to tell us what life is, what is responsible for it, or what it is for.
Biology is still very interesting to me, but Kass's work suggested to me that moral theology would be more fulfilling, and his new book further explains why.
"The Senate's online voting record shows simply that the nomination of Dennis Shedd to a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was confirmed last night by a 55 to 44 vote. But there was much more to it than that. ..." more
IN SOUTH DAKOTA'S Senate race, voting irregularities ... have made some Republicans wonder whether Democratic senator Tim Johnson's 524 vote victory ... was legitimate. ... But ... another factor undoubtedly helped Johnson's cause: Libertarian candidate Kurt Evans managed to garner 3,000 votes ... more
As I blogged before, "Third-party voters are idiots."
I had almost decided that enetation was behaving itself - until yesterday (seemed to be down every time I checked). This weekend I will switch to haloscan, since it continues to work very well for others, based on their reports and what I've seen. If you've made a favorite comment on De Virtutibus that you want to save, you have till sometime over the weekend. (If enetation lets you get at it.)
"NEW YORK (CNS) -- The job meant 'tough times on several occasions,' but the results of U.N. diplomacy would have been different 'if we had not been there,' Archbishop Renato R. Martino said. ..." more
"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A new report commissioned by the Catholic Health Association on the health care safety net challenges Congress to do a better job in helping Catholic and other nonprofit hospitals provide care for the uninsured and the underinsured ..." more
"COLUMBUS, Ga. (CNS) -- In an annual peaceful protest that began with 13 people in 1989, thousands of demonstrators called for the closing of the former School of the Americas at Fort Benning in Columbus Nov. 16-17. ..." more
"OMAHA, Nebraska, Nov 19, 02 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - Some research institutions are cutting back on the use of tissue from aborted babies, and the change seems to be in response to public criticism. ..." more (subscription required)
BALTIMORE, Nov 19, 02 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - Scientists from Johns Hopkins University and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered that in vitro fertilization (IVF) appears to be associated with a rare combination of birth defects characterized by excessive growth of various tissues. ... more (subscription required)
"MADRID, Spain, NOV. 19, 2002 (Zenit.org).- In the age of globalization, the model of the social state needs to be changed while democracy must be revised under the principle of subsidiarity, says a Vatican aide. ..." more
Speaking of "reproductive rights": Report on "status of women"
A report card on the status of women in Wisconsin, being released today, shows that they are faring average or below average in nearly all areas studied.
The state scored a C in political participation, down a half-grade from the last report in 2000, a C+ in employment and earnings, a C+ in social and economic autonomy, an F in reproductive rights and a C+ health and well-being, down a full grade from 2000. ... more
WASHINGTON — Republicans were looking for some political payback as the Senate set aside most of Monday to debate the appeals court nomination of U.S. District Judge Dennis Shedd, who passed the Judiciary Committee by a voice vote last week. ...
The panel also approved Utah professor Michael McConnell for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver by voice vote, over objections by groups opposing his outspoken opposition to abortion. The full Senate completed his confirmation Friday night without debate or a roll call vote. ... more
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider whether some interest groups should be allowed to contribute to federal candidates and parties, which could open a fresh avenue of political giving as a new campaign finance law closes another. ...
In the case before the high court, North Carolina Right to Life contends that it and other tax-exempt, not-for-profit advocacy groups who rely on individual donors rather than business or union money also should be free to make political contributions. ... more
Pope calls for faithful catechesis on family, sexuality
"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- All who teach in the name of the Catholic Church must be absolutely clear in transmitting the church's position on matters related to the family and sexuality, Pope John Paul II said. ..." more
... Archbishop Foley called for greater access to the media for religious organizations, and condemned the spread of pornography and gratuitous violence, particularly on the internet. He said that the media should "seek to reflect the totality of the human experience," which includes the experience of religious faith. ... full story (subscription required)
"When the Republicans assume control of the Senate in 2003, they will start combing through the stacks of bills that have been piling up on Senator Daschle's calendar since the 2000 elections. One of those bills is the ban on partial-birth abortions ..." more
Chicago - Using a patient's own cells from various parts of the body, scientists have created a variety of experimental repair jobs for damaged hearts. ...
"This therapy will replace heart transplant," predicted Nabil Dib, director of cardiovascular research at the Arizona Heart Institute in Phoenix. ... full story
SUNDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthScoutNews) -- Two new engineering feats may one day brighten the prospects for cardiac bypass patients and other heart patients. ... more
SUNDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthScoutNews) -- Injecting bone marrow into the scarred pumps of heart attack patients can reverse the damage and make the contracting muscle run better, a new study has found. ... more
"Who's your daddy?": another good reason for chastity
Waukesha - A legal tug of war between two men over custody of a child has broken new ground in Wisconsin law, with the state Court of Appeals ruling that a person who is not the biological parent can be given custody over the natural parent.
The precedent-setting case - likely to be appealed to the state Supreme Court - involves a Pewaukee man who has custody of a 4-year-old girl he thought was his biological offspring.
His now ex-wife confessed that the girl was another man's child shortly before the woman went off to prison for embezzlement in 1999.
At that point, the biological father, Brendan Brennan, tried to establish paternity and obtain custody.
... the appeals court for the first time in Wisconsin said that Randy Johnson was entitled to be treated as the "natural father" under the "equitable parent doctrine" because he had cared for the child since her birth and had established a close bond with her. ...
"Any Supreme Court decision would be more far-reaching" than the appeals court ruling, Geske said. "Frankly, with the number of relationships that break up and people having extramarital affairs, this could be a problem that easily arises many times." full story
Aristotle speaks of the importance of the virtue of "equity" in applying the law. The appeals court may have practiced that virtue. But it'd be far better had it not needed to - had the mother and biological father practiced chastity. Because a case like this can't possibly have a perfect outcome, howsoever wise and equitable a judge may be.
JB the Kairos guy blogs his discomfort with the tendency to refer to victims of abuse as "survivors," concluding, "I would very much like to be shown why my discomfort is not well-founded." Sorry, JB, can't help you there, because I share your discomfort. Not only for the reasons you cite, but also because I wonder whether thinking of oneself as a "survivor" is really more conducive to inner healing. It seems to be a way of saying one has gotten past what one has suffered - but a way that "doth protest too much," inasmuch as by using it one continues to identify oneself with one's efforts so to overcome one's past. There has to be more to life than "surviving" what one has undergone. (Whereas "victim" accurately describes a past event without making it so much the focus of one's present activity.) Greg Popcak, you're a counselor, and a slave to neither PC nor reactionary anti-PC - what do you think? (Is it at all relevant here that we call Christ the "victim" for our sins, not the "survivor" for our sins - notwithstanding the overriding importance of the resurrection?)
Amy Welbornblogs here the latest from Fr. Doyle. I have blogged about Doyle previously. Doyle now commends a Springfield priest whose parish is withholding money from its diocese. How this squares with canon law, canon lawyer Doyle does not explain. Doyle also sarcastically refers to calls for chastity as "simplistic." How this further substantiates my concerns about Doyle's agenda, I don't think I need to explain.
St. Augustine: Mercy prepares us for the second coming
From today's Office of Readings:
... he will place some on his right, others on his left. What is more equitable, what more true than that they should not themselves expect mercy from the judge, who themselves were unwilling to show mercy before the judge's coming. Those, however, who were willing to show mercy will be judged with mercy. For it will be said to those placed on his right: Come, blessed of my Father ... And he reckons to their account their works of mercy ...
What is imputed to those placed on his left side? That they refused to show mercy. ...
... if you wish to receive mercy, be merciful before he comes; forgive whatever has been done against you; give of your abundance. ... These are the sacrifices most pleasing to God: mercy, humility, praise, peace, charity. Such as these, then, let us bring and, free from fear, we shall await the coming of the judge ...
NEW YORK, NOV. 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican Congregation for the Clergy sponsored a worldwide videoconference with theologians on Oct. 29 on the theme "The Church and Women in Contemporary History."
Among the participants was Father Michael Hull, a professor of sacred Scripture at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, New York. Here is an adapted text of his address. ... more
"STOCKHOLM, Sweden, NOV. 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 brought with it a 'peace dividend' that enabled many countries to reduce military spending ... But that trend has been reversing ..." more
The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation.
God addressed these words to His chosen people through the prophet Jeremiah. "I know the plans I have in mind for you, plans for peace, not disaster, reserving the future of hope for you" (Jer. 29:11). As we near the end of the liturgical year, it is good to keep in mind that with the end of time, as we know it, will bring with it the fulfillment of God's plan. His plans of peace and hope are to be realized in us. He has entrusted His dream for humanity to us. A few minutes ago, we heard these words taken from the Gospel of St. Matthew. "He entrusted his property to them ... each in proportion to his ability" (Mat. 25:14,15). Keeping these words in mind, let us consider a passage from the Book of Genesis. "God took the man and a settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it" (Gen. 2:15). God created the world and all that it holds. Then He handed it over to the care of His human sons and daughters. In effect God was saying that His dreams for the human race could only be realized if His children made His dream their own. God knows how much each of us is capable of doing because He was the One who made us and gave us the talents we possess. The question each of us must answer is, are we willing to risk all the He gave us so as to bring about his kingdom? If we exert ourselves "so that in everything God may receive the glory" (1 Pet. 4:11), we will not lose. Keep in mind that we have nothing to lose even if our endeavors fail. Everything we have came from God, in the first place! God does not expect success, but He does demand obedience.
There is something tragic and sad about the servant who buried his talent. Perhaps you have heard the commercial advertising in New York Lotto, "You have to dream bigger!" One might imagine that this servant said to himself, "If only I had a few extra dollars I could make something of myself." Don’t we all have dreams of the great things we could do if someone only gave us a break? According to the parable, the master gave the servant a nest egg and told him to see what he could do with it. He finally got the opportunity he had been dreaming of and he did nothing. He could not bring himself to believe that the master really trusted him. He chose not make his master’s dream his own. As a consequence he realizes own worst nightmare, total exclusion from the Master’s Presence. For those who refuse to make the Master’s dream their own there will be no heavenly reward.
The biblical centerpiece of Cistercian Spirituality is the Song of Songs. One reading the test must keep in mind that God is the bridegroom and the human soul is the spouse. God has entrusted His heart to His bride. God turns His loving gaze towards us and takes great delight in what He sees. As the objects of His love we are to bring honor and glory to his name all the days of our life. For the glory of His own name, God delights in making the work of our hands fruitful.
Like the wife mentioned in today's first reading, taken from the Book of Proverbs, God considers us precious in His sight. Are we willing to live as if we believed that God loves us? Those who know that they are loved can take risks. Those who know that they are loved feel free to use their gifts and talents for the sake of building up the kingdom of God. Living in love and knowing that all we possess belongs to Him, we can stretch out our arms to the needy and the poor in love and compassion. Simple and often mindless acts of love are the kernel that produces the bounty of the Kingdom of God. When the master returns and reviews His accounts with us, may He say, "Well done, good and faithful servant … come and share your master's happiness" (Mat. 25:21).