"NEW YORK, JAN. 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, long the bane of ecology groups, are now under attack from Christian organizations. ... John Paul II has clearly (and repeatedly) expressed his worry over ecological matters. ..." more
"WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Scientists downplayed the cloning claim made at the end of December by Dr. Brigitte Boisselier. ... But that didn't keep the ethical debate from bubbling. ..." more
"Washington - As many as 20 million acres of the nation's wetlands may lose federal protection from industrial pollution or unlawful development as a result of new guidelines announced Friday ... Officials said the step was necessary to comply with a Supreme Court ruling ..." more
Where does the Constitution give the Feds power over this? Doesn't the Federal government have more important things to do? Aren't states capable of handling this?
"President Bush has not framed the proposed invasion of Iraq in the language of 'just war' standards, as his father did for the 1991 Gulf War, a prominent ethicist told 400 of his colleagues at the Society of Christian ethics ..." more
"Peace in our time"?: "SEOUL, South Korea — The last time North Korea tried to pull out of the global nuclear arms treaty, the standoff was resolved peacefully with the North's negotiators hailing an end to nuclear tensions 'once and for all.' ..." more
And: "SANTA FE, N.M. — North Korea does not intend to build nuclear weapons, a senior Pyongyang diplomat assured New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson ..." more
But: "SEOUL, South Korea — Angered by recent tensions and 'hostile policies' directed at them, North Korea announced Saturday it is considering ending its self-imposed 1999 moratorium on ballistic missile tests ..." more
"WEIRTON - One Weirton doctor officially is back to work while others at Weirton Medical Center are expected to end their leaves of absence by the end of this weekend ..." more
Meanwhile, however: "WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) - A walkout by surgeons over the high cost of medical malpractice insurance eased in this northern West Virginia city Friday but threatened to spread elsewhere as doctors in Elkins and Martinsburg planned to take leaves of absences. ..." more
Also: "COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Doctors are already looking for short-term relief from medical malpractice rates despite a new law that was supposed to help. ..." more
As blogged below, the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord and the commemoration of the miracle at Cana are part of Epiphany. Both are part of the manifestation of Christ and his identity and his saving mission. From today's Office of Readings, here is Faustus of Riez (5th cent.) on Cana:
On the third day there was a wedding. What wedding can this be but the joyful marriage of man’s salvation, a marriage celebrated by confessing the Trinity or by faith in the resurrection. That is why the marriage took place “on the third day,” a reference to the sacred mysteries which this number symbolizes.
Hence, too, we read elsewhere in the Gospel that the return of the younger son, that is, the conversion of the pagans, is marked by song, and music and wedding garments.
Like a bridegroom coming from his marriage chamber our God descended to earth in his incarnation, in order to be united to his Church which was to be formed of the pagan nations. To her he gave a pledge and a dowry: a pledge when God was united to man; a dowry when he was sacrificed for man’s salvation. The pledge is our present redemption; the dowry, eternal life.
To those who see only with the outward eye, all these events at Cana are strange and wonderful; to those who understand, they are also signs. For, if we look closely, the very water tells us of our rebirth in baptism. One thing is turned into another from within, and in a hidden way a lesser creature is changed into a greater. All this points to the hidden reality of our second birth. There water was suddenly changed; later it will cause a change in man.
By Christ’s action in Galilee, then, wine is made, that is, the law withdraws and grace takes its place; the shadows fade and truth becomes present; fleshly realities are coupled with spiritual, and the old covenant with its outward discipline is transformed into the new. For, as the Apostle says: The old order has passed away; now all is new! The water in the jars is not less than it was before, but now begins to be what it had not been; so too the law is not destroyed by Christ’s coming, but is made better than it was.
When the wine fails, new wine is served: the wine of the old covenant was good, but the wine of the new is better. The old covenant, which Jews follow, is exhausted by its letter; the new covenant, which belongs to us, has the savor of life and is filled with grace.
The good wine, that is, good precepts, refers to the law; thus we read: You shall love your neighbor but hate your enemy. But the Gospel is a better and a stronger wine: My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.
"WHEELING - Two surgeons returned to work Friday at Wheeling Hospital, the first of about two dozen surgeons throughout West Virginia's Northern Panhandle who walked off the job ..." more
Meanwhile: "COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. Bob Taft acknowledged Friday that a new state law to fight rising medical malpractice insurance rates won't do anything for doctors who need immediate relief. ..." more
Republican and Democrat introduce House bill banning all human cloning; USCCB encourages
"WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 10, 03 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - Republican Congressman Dave Weldon of Florida and Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan are reintroducing legislation to ban all cloning of human life ..." more (subscription required)
"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Congress must pass the Human Cloning Prohibition Act and send it to President Bush for his signature, an official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement ..." more
"WASHINGTON — As the White House expressed disappointment, but not surprise at North Korea's decision to abandon the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the State Department condemned the action ..." more
"WITH NORTH KOREA'S announcement Friday that it is withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Pyongyang's nuclear defiance is no longer just an American or Korean problem. ...
"Our choices are much starker than most diplomats suggest. We can face the reality that Pyongyang is a nuclear violator and treat it as such. Or we can engage in another round of self-delusion ..." more
"NORTH KOREA'S PURSUIT of a nuclear arsenal directly threatens the security of the American people ..." more
"Suddenly, with the stealthiness of man-made bio-warfare virus, there are signs of an ominous outbreak of revisionist history. ..." more
"READING THE AVALANCHE of op-ed articles on U.S. policy toward North Korea ... you can't tell whether our leading foreign policy experts are dumb or dishonest. Why, they ask ..., is President Bush not threatening military action against North Korea? ..." more
"The United States finds itself on the horns of a dilemma, twitted by North Korea as U.S. military forces are deploying in preparation for a possible war against Iraq. ..." more
"President Bush greeted North Korea's expulsion of U.N. atomic-weapons inspectors and its threats to continue bomb production by saying that he expected the 'situation ... will be resolved peacefully.' At the same time, he warned that Saddam Hussein's 'day of reckoning is coming.' ..." more
"... Although it is not surprising that both principled critics and cynics should call for sterner action right now against nuclear North Korea than they do against a non-nuclear Iraq, it is hard, after a sorry decade of appeasement, to move precipitously against a rogue nation that could ruin Tokyo or Seoul in a few minutes. ..." more
"The lead story in today's Washington Post is headlined: 'No "Smoking Guns" So Far, U.N. Is Told.' Like much of the reporting this morning, that mischaracterizes the situation. ..." more
Meanwhile: "WASHINGTON — Iraq may have obtained as many as 400 electronic 'jammers' that could throw America's smart bombs off their programmed path if the U.S. goes to war ..." more (see below)
Much to do on campus and here as the beginning of a new semester draws very near. But I surprised even myself with both the quality and quantity of my blogging in the past few days! There are brief notices of interesting news items, and long, penetrating, gripping analyses. You should take the opportunity to scroll down and see what you might have missed.
From St. Maximus of Turin (in today's Liturgy of the Hours):
The Gospel tells us that the Lord went to the Jordan River to be baptized and that he wished to consecrate himself in the river by signs from heaven.
Reason demands that this feast of the Lord’s baptism, which I think could be called the feast of his birthday, should follow soon after the Lord’s birthday, during the same season, even though many years intervened between the two events.
At Christmas he was born a man; today he is reborn sacramentally. Then he was born from the Virgin; today he is born in mystery. When he was born a man, his mother Mary held him close to her heart; when he is born in mystery, God the Father embraces him with his voice when he says: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: listen to him. The mother caresses the tender baby on her lap; the Father serves his Son by his loving testimony. The mother holds the child for the Magi to adore; the Father reveals that his Son is to be worshiped by all the nations.
That is why the Lord Jesus went to the river for baptism; that is why he wanted his holy body to be washed with Jordan’s water.
Someone might ask, “Why would a holy man desire baptism?” Listen to the answer: Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched. For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water.
For when the Savior is washed, all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence.
I understand the mystery as this. The column of fire went before the sons of Israel through the Red Sea so they could follow on their brave journey; the column went first through the waters to prepare a path for those who followed. As the apostle Paul said, what was accomplished then was the mystery of baptism. Clearly it was baptism in a certain sense when the cloud was covering the people and bringing them through the water.
But Christ the Lord does all these things: in the column of fire he went through the sea before the sons of Israel; so now, in the column of his body, he goes through baptism before the Christian people. At the time of the Exodus the column provided light for the people who followed; now it gives light to the hearts of believers. Then it made a firm pathway through the waters; now it strengthens the footsteps of faith in the bath of baptism.
"WASHINGTON — The Bush administration faces a touchy political choice over whether to join a Supreme Court showdown on affirmative action, a case that is a lightning rod both for conservatives and for minority voters ..." more
"WASHINGTON — More than 300,000 illegal immigrants who have been ordered deported remain at large in the United States, roughly the same number as in December 2001 when the government began a campaign to capture them. ..." more
(Compare the story about the CA sex-offender registry below.)
"MIAMI, Florida, JAN. 9, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Florida's Catholic bishops called on U.S. President George W. Bush to order the release of more than 200 Haitians who swarmed ashore from a foundering boat last October. ..." more
"TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- The Catholic bishops of Florida described the U.S. government's treatment of a group of Haitian refugees as 'indefensible and inequitable' ..." more
Meanwhile, in Haiti: "PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNS) -- Vigilantism against street children and the number of citizens disappearing have increased in Haiti ..." more
"If we want vocations, we have to cultivate families"
"ROME, JAN. 9, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Pastoral efforts to foster vocations should begin with families, says a leading Italian expert in the formation of candidates for the priesthood and consecrated life. ..." more
David C. Reardon, Ph.D., writes: "The idea that 'abortion is an act of despair' is one of the key points I have always tried to stress in my writing and speaking engagements. Despair ... is also the greatest obstacle to post-abortion recovery. ..." more
"UNITED NATIONS — Iraq is engaged in a 'deliberate attempt to deceive' the world and is in 'material breach' of the U.N. mandate that it disarm, U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte said Thursday. ..." more
"SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea agreed on Thursday to Cabinet-level talks with South Korea that could include attempts to resolve the nuclear standoff, but suggested pushing back the proposed date ..." more
Attack on Bush judicial nominees, and more on race
"WASHINGTON — Black lawmakers on Thursday reinvigorated their fight against President Bush’s judicial nominees, accusing the president's choices of attempting to turn back the clock on civil rights achievements ..." more
"In a statement Wednesday, New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer charged the renomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is part of a Bush administration plan to destroy 'basic civil rights' in America. ..." more
"In their renewed attacks on Bush appeals-court nominee Charles Pickering, Democrats have focused on Pickering's rulings in a 1994 cross-burning case. ..." more
"Peter Beinart, the editor of The New Republic, says conservatives like me don't get it when it comes to Trent Lott. I don't get what I don't get. ..." more
"On Monday, the Los Angeles Police Department released the first set of statistics regarding the ethnicity of motorists and pedestrians stopped and searched by LAPD officers between July and November of last year. ..." more
"A FEW DAYS AGO--the night of January 1, as it happens--British television's Channel 4 aired a program about art in China that featured photographs of performance artist Zhu Yu eating the corpse of a stillborn baby. ..." more
"Spike Bowman got a bonus. A huge one. Amounted to something between 20 and 35 percent of Spike's comfortable salary. And oh, don't forget, a framed commendation from his boss, the president of the United States. ..." more
The Baptism of the Lord and the sending of the Spirit
St. Cyril of Alexandria writes (from today's Office of Readings):
In a plan of surpassing beauty, the Creator of the universe decreed the renewal of all things in Christ. In his design for restoring human nature to its original condition, he gave a promise that he would pour out on it the Holy Spirit along with his other gifts, for otherwise our nature could not enter once more into the peaceful and secure possession of those gifts.
He therefore appointed a time for the Holy Spirit to come upon us: this was the time of Christ’s coming. He gave this promise when he said: In those days, that is, the days of the Savior, I will pour out a share of my Spirit on all mankind.
When the time came for this great act of unforced generosity, which revealed in our midst the only-begotten Son, clothed with flesh on this earth, a man born of woman, in accordance with Holy Scripture, God the Father gave the Spirit once again. Christ, as the first-fruits of our restored nature, was the first to receive the Spirit. John the Baptist bore witness to this when he said: I saw the Spirit coming down from heaven, and it rested on him.
Christ “received the Spirit” in so far as he was man, and in so far as man could receive the Spirit. He did so in such a way that, though he is the Son of God the Father, begotten of his substance, even before the incarnation, indeed before all ages, yet he was not offended at hearing the Father say to him after he had become man: You are my son; today I have begotten you.
The Father says of Christ, who was God, begotten of him before the ages, that he has been “begotten today,” for the Father is to accept us in Christ as his adopted children. The whole of our nature is present in Christ, in so far as he is man. So the Father can be said to give the Spirit again to the Son, though the Son possesses the Spirit as his own, in order that we may receive the Spirit in Christ. The Son therefore took to himself the seed of Abraham, as Scripture says, and became like his brothers in all things.
The only-begotten Son receives the Spirit, but not for his own advantage, for the Spirit is his, and is given in him and through him, as we have already said. He receives it to renew our nature in its entirety and to make it whole again, for in becoming man he took our entire nature to himself. If we reason correctly, and use also the testimony of Scripture, we can see that Christ did not receive the Spirit for himself, but rather for us in him, for it is also through Christ that all gifts come down to us.
"CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Bob Wise proposed plunging West Virginia deeper into the medical malpractice insurance business Wednesday, unveiling a $20 million plan to rescue doctors from high premium costs. ..." more
Why not just pay trial lawyers not to sue doctors, and eliminate the middlemen (insurance companies)?
"WASHINGTON — Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones was poised Wednesday to become the first black woman to serve on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee after Republicans abandoned a decision to shrink the panel that threatened to embroil them in a new controversy over race. ..." more
"WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is looking past a bristling statement by North Korea for a response to its offer of direct talks. Only U.S. incentives for the North to stop its nuclear weapons program are being ruled out ..." more
"WASHINGTON — From sheep to pigs to even humans allegedly, cloning has put godlike power into the hands of scientists, leaving some God-fearing lawmakers questioning whether to limit those scientific endeavors. ..." more
"SAN JOSE, Calif. — California has lost track of more than 33,000 convicted sex offenders, despite a law requiring rapists and child molesters to register each year for inclusion in the Megan's Law database. ..." more
Court: citizens can be enemy combatants, lose rights
"WASHINGTON — U.S. citizens overseas who take up arms against their country can be held as enemy combatants without the constitutional rights afforded other Americans, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. ..." more
"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The use of the death penalty on juvenile and black offenders came under fire Jan. 7 in separate events. ..." more
The racial argument may not be the strongest one, but in the end, one does want to remember John Paul II's teaching in Evangelium Vitae (no. 27) that "growing public opposition to the death penalty" is a "sign of hope" in our "culture of death."
"PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Evoking the plight of 'poor women, children, families, and elderly and disabled persons,' the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Oregon is endorsing an income-tax increase ..." more
I will defend Catholic Conference positions to the (n - 1)th degree - but I don't buy this one. See Centesimus Annus, no. 48.
"SALT LAKE CITY, Jan 8, 03 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - In a victory for unborn children diagnosed with possible physical and mental disabilities, the Utah Supreme Court has upheld the state's ban on so-called 'wrongful birth' lawsuits. ..." more (subscription required)
"VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A new book published by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace contains John Paul II's addresses to the Diplomatic Corps between 1978 and 2002. ..." more
World Day of the Sick observance to include studies of health/pastoral care
"VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The World Day of the Sick will be observed in Washington, D.C., from Feb. 9-11. On this occasion, the theme is 'The Path of Solidarity: The Vocation of Catholic Health Care in America.' ..." more
Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics: An Introduction (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1987).
Voegelin was, together with Leo Strauss, one of the most important political philosophers of the 20th century. Voegelin and Strauss considered some of the same theoretical and practical concerns, like the phenomena of positivism and totalitarianism, and the relationship between faith and reason, from somewhat different perspectives (see this recent reply, by a teacher of mine, James M. Rhodes, who is a careful student of Voegelin's thought among other things, to an old Straussian critique of Voegelin, which also illumines some of the issues in Voegelin's thought; for more of the latter especially, see also Rhodes's "On Voegelin," cited in the linked paper). Voegelin's New Science, originally published in 1952, is seminal and accessible if somewhat obscure in places; his later magnum opus, the five-volume Order and History, became more obscure, and perhaps more problematic in some respects.
Voegelin was not an orthodox Christian, and the question of the relationship between his thought and Christian thought is a complex one, as is the question of whether his later, more explicit rejections of elements of orthodox Christianity were grounded in or a departure from elements of his earlier thought.* In any event, a Christian will have few quarrels with New Science. In this series of lectures, Voegelin considers, in a word, the relationship between politics and Being. Against modern positivist proponents of value-free political science like Comte and culminating in Weber, Voegelin, like (but in a different way than) Strauss, saw in earlier thought indications of the possibility of "the consciousness of principles," and he sought to elucidate how philosophy, religion, and politics have attempted to "represent" principles, transcedental meaning or truth or reality, Being - how, then, political science could be a genuine "science of order."
Voegelin explains, though, that modern attempts to do this often go awry. They seek to "re-divinize" society and politics, and not by way of "a revival of polytheistic culture in the Greco-Roman sense," but rather through variations on the Christian heresy of Gnosticism. Among Voegelin's insights was his critique of 20th-century totalitarian ideologies as forms of Gnosticism. With regard to these matters, in one of my favorite passages from the book, Voegelin writes (the significance of the underlined text will be discussed below):
... The attempt at immanentizing the meaning of existence is fundamentally an attempt at bringing our knowledge of transcendence into a firmer grip than the cognitio fidei, the cognition of faith, will afford; and Gnostic experiences offer this firmer grip in so far as they are an expansion of the soul to the point where God is drawn into the existence of man. This expansion will engage the various human faculties; and, hence, it is possible to distinguish a range of Gnostic varieties according to the faculty which predominates in the operation of getting this grip on God. Gnosis may be primarily intellectual and assume the form of speculative penetration of the mystery of creation and existence, as, for instance, in the contemplative gnosis of Hegel or Schelling. Or it may be primarily emotional and assume the form of an indwelling of divine substance in the human soul, as, for instance, in paracletic sectarian leaders. Or it may be primarily volitional and assume the form of activist redemption of man and society, as in the instance of revolutionary activists like Comte, Marx, or Hitler. These Gnostic experiences, in the amplitude of their variety, are the core of the redivinization of society, for the men who fall into these experiences redivinize themselves by substituting more massive modes of participation in divinity for faith in the Christian sense.
A clear understanding of these experiences as the active core of immanentist eschatology is necessary, because otherwise the inner logic of Western political development from medieval immanentism through humanism, enlightenment, progressivism, liberalism, positivism, into Marxism will be obscured. The intellectual symbols developed by the various types of immanentists will frequently be in conflict with one another, and the various types of Gnostics will oppose one another. One can easily imagine how indignant a humanistic liberal will be when he is told that is particular type of immanentism is one step on the road to Marxism. ... Secularism can be defined as a radicalization of the earlier forms of paracletic immanentism, because the experiential divinization of man is more radical in the secularist case. Feuerbach and Marx, for instance, interpreted the transcendent God as the projection of what is best in man into a hypostatic beyond; for them the great turning point of history, therefore, would come when man draws his projection back into himself, when he becomes conscious that he himself is God, when as a consequence man is transfigured into superman. ... And the transformation is so gradual, indeed, that it would be difficult to decide whether contemporary phenomena should be classified as Christian because they are intelligibly an outgrowth of Christian heresies of the middle ages or whether medieval phenomena should be classified as anti-Christian because they are intelligibly the origin of modern anti-Christianism. The best course will be ... to recognize the essence of modernity as the growth of gnosticism.
... Totalitarianism, defined as the existential rule of Gnostic activists, is the end form of progressive civilization.
Interestingly, in the course of this passage, one finds footnotes citing, among others, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac. And while the work of the latter that is cited is The Drama of Atheist Humanism, one can even compare the underlined texts with de Lubac's earlier thoughts in Catholicism. There, apropos of a discussion of the importance for man of the transcendent, de Lubac writes:
Here we come face to face with the quasi-religious ideologies which are struggling today for the conquest of the world, and particularly with Marxism. In the short statement of his "Fifth Thesis on Feuerbach" Marx, relating his thought to his predecessor's, unconsciously summed up the most fatal of the objections which lie against himself. "Feuerbach," he wrote in that spring of 1845 when Marxism was born, "dissolves the religious being into the human being. But the human being is not an abstraction that inheres in isolated individuals. It is found in reality only in the whole body of social relationships." We may interpret: Feuerbach dissolved the religious being into the human being; Marx, completing the process, dissolved the human being into the social being. What was to exalt man ended in his ruin.
... The truth of [man's] being transcends his being itself. For he is made in the image of God, and in the mirror of his being the Trinity is ever reflected. But it is only a mirror, an image. If man, by an act of sacrilege, inverts the relationship, usurps God's attributes, and declares that God was made to man's image, all is over with him. ... Previously, something within him could evade constraint and exploitation; now he is no more than a social function, a "network of social relationships."
Voegelin's critique of Marxism as "Gnosticism" closely parallels de Lubac's critique of it as a "quasi-religious ideology," I think. Both de Lubac and Voegelin see Marxism (and other totalitarian ideologies, like National Socialism), insofar as these ideologies seek to grasp divinity rather than accepting it as a gift, as leading to oppression by the "superman."
This critique is interesting not only because of its intellectual merit but also because it has been picked up by John Paul II. In his 1989 Centesimus Annus (no. 25), he explains that Marxism tries to do by secular means what only true Christianity, with its genuine openness to (rather than grasping of) God, can do:
... When people think they possess the secret of a perfect social organization which makes evil impossible, they also think that they can use any means, including violence and deceit, in order to bring that organization into being. Politics then becomes a "secular religion" which operates under the illusion of creating paradise in this world. But no political society — which possesses its own autonomy and laws — can ever be confused with the Kingdom of God. The Gospel parable of the weeds among the wheat (cf. Mt 13:24-30; 36-43) teaches that it is for God alone to separate the subjects of the Kingdom from the subjects of the Evil One, and that this judgment will take place at the end of time. By presuming to anticipate judgment here and now, man puts himself in the place of God and sets himself against the patience of God. ...
What Sacred Scripture teaches us about the prospects of the Kingdom of God is not without consequences for the life of temporal societies, which, as the adjective indicates, belong to the realm of time, with all that this implies of imperfection and impermanence. The Kingdom of God, being in the world without being of the world, throws light on the order of human society, while the power of grace penetrates that order and gives it life. In this way the requirements of a society worthy of man are better perceived, deviations are corrected, the courage to work for what is good is reinforced. In union with all people of good will, Christians, especially the laity, are called to this task of imbuing human realities with the Gospel.
This careful distinction, with its characterization of Marxism as a "secular religion," parallels, it seems to me, not only de Lubac's distinction between accepting being in the image of God and declaring that God is in the image of man, with its critique of Marxism as a "quasi-religious ideology," but also Voegelin's distinction between Christianity and Gnosticism, with its elucidation of the Gnostic character of Marxism.
There is much else of interest in New Science, such as Voegelin's discussion of Puritanism in American history. It is a challenging but rewarding read.
*On this, see James M. Rhodes, "Voegelin and Christian Faith," in The Good Man in Society: Active Contemplation: Essays in Honor of Gerhart Niemeyer, ed. John A. Gueguen et al. (Univ. Press of America, 1989), 255-300.
"Is New York City dying? Events of the past month suggest the seemingly implausible conclusion implied by the question. ... The larger issue implied by New York's current crisis is whether cities are as important as they once were. ..." more
"Aside from appearing frequently on the Sunday talk shows and making an occasional pro-segregationist gaffe, most people don't have the foggiest idea what a Senate Majority Leader actually does. But [he] serves an important political function: He must settle Capitol Hill turf fights. ..." more
"THE RELIGION GAP--the tendency of religious conservatives to vote Republican and of atheists, agnostics, and non-churchgoers to vote Democratic--is large, relatively new, and systematically underreported in the media. ..." more
It is not the physical act of taking a life that is wrong, no, it is the violation of the rights of God, the supreme Lord of life. In killing a human without God's permission, we violate His rights. He does not object if we do it in capital punishment (cf. Romans 13:4) or in a just war. But otherwise we are violating God's rights if we kill a human.
Pace Fr. Most, I think this is at best very confusing, and perhaps confused. It seems to suggest that God and morality are arbitrary. They are not (if they were, we should be Nietzscheans, not Christians). God wills that we not kill the innocent because to choose to kill the innocent (speaking of this as a "physical act" would, however, not be entirely helpful; "intentional act" would be better) is by nature wrong (unjust). Capital punishment may sometimes be permitted because to choose to kill the guilty (as punishment) is not by nature wrong in the same way (although it is not always permitted because it can be wrong in another way - as contrary to the mercy we were made to exercise along with justice). Killing in war may be analogous, or it may not be intentional killing at all. God does or doesn't "object" to intentional killing - intentional killing is or isn't contrary to his "rights" - when and because it is or isn't wrong.
Judie Brown has for some time been among the leaders of a very philosophically-wrongheaded crusade against the conclusion that "brain death" is death. Sometime I'll make good on my long-ago promise to explain the philosophical problem with her objections. For now, though, I'll confine myself to her (to put it mildly) downplaying of what is now clear Catholic teaching on the matter.
Most recently, asked "What is the exact position of the Church on Organ Donations? Are there any quidelines a Catholic donor must follow (or that the family must consider)," Brown begins her answer: "The magisterium of the Church has not spoken on the specific question of organ transplant and donation."
Organ transplants are in conformity with the moral law if the physical and psychological dangers and risks to the donor are proportionate to the good that is sought for the recipient. Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorous act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity. It is not morally acceptable if the donor or his proxy has not given explicit consent. Moreover, it is not morally admissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.
Brown does, at the end of her reply, cite without discussion John Paul II's 8/29/00 Address to [the] International Congress on Transplants. This, contrary to what Brown implies by the way she begins her answer, is also a(n Ordinary) Magisterial document! In a 9/14/01 letter (a copy of which I have) responding to a query that had been directed to John Paul by nephrologist and Harvard Professor of Medicine Theodore I. Steinman, MD, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, Vice-President of the Pontifical Academy for Life and Director of the Institute of Bioethics at Rome's Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, affirmed: "The Church's thinking continues to be what was expressed" in this address (emphasis added). Shortly after the address, Fr. Gonzalo Miranda, secretary of the Institute, had similarly indicated that the pope's address is "an explicit magisterial pronouncement. His teaching leaves no room for doubts. ... [W]e ... have a clear teaching and a clear call to fidelity."
And in the Pope's address (no. 5), he speaks to the specific question that continues to worry Brown, even (though not very explicitly) in the answer in which she cites the document:
Here it can be said that the criterion adopted in more recent times for ascertaining the fact of death, namely the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity, if rigorously applied, does not seem to conflict with the essential elements of a sound anthropology. Therefore a health-worker professionally responsible for ascertaining death can use these criteria in each individual case as the basis for arriving at that degree of assurance in ethical judgement which moral teaching describes as "moral certainty". This moral certainty is considered the necessary and sufficient basis for an ethically correct course of action. Only where such certainty exists, and where informed consent has already been given by the donor or the donor's legitimate representatives, is it morally right to initiate the technical procedures required for the removal of organs for transplant.
In short, contra Brown, the Church has spoken specifically to the question of transplants and donation; and not only by saying that organ donation must not cause the death of the donor, but also by affirming that organ donation (and transplant) that does not do this is licit, noble, meritorious, and to be encouraged, and even more specifically that the modern total brain-death ("neurological") criterion for diagnosing death is legitimate, not some sort of murderous fudge.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to respond to all her distortions and howlers. I will note a couple, though.
Brown claims: "The partial birth abortion 'ban' passed by Republicans and vetoed by a Democrat was not a ban at all. It merely regulated the procedure, allowing it to occur in cases specified in the bill." This is pure spin. The bill was indeed not a total "ban," but that doesn't mean it was "not a ban at all" but merely "regulation." Furthermore, it was more or less the best bill possible - not because of Republican laxity, but because a bill is totally ineffective and all but pointless if it is bound to be struck down by a renegade Supreme Court (cf. Roe) if it becomes law.
Brown complains at the same place about the Bush administration's handling of RU-486. She doesn't mention his appointment (noted by me the other day) of pro-life, anti-RU-486 physicians like Hager and Stanford to a key FDA panel.
Elsewhere, Brown charges: "The destruction of a human embryo for the purpose of acquiring that individual's stem cells is killing. The president favors these acts as long as someone in the private sector does the killing. That is what his August 9, 2001 statement makes perfectly clear." This is, wittingly or (one hopes) unwittingly, a perverse misrepresentation of Bush's decision. Recall that Bush prohibited the use of Federal funds for research on embryonic stem cells derived from any embryo (whether killed using private or public money) after that date. Bush cannot, of course, unilaterally prohibit any stem-cell research - he has control only over the Federal-funding issue. And his willingness to allow the use of Federal funds for research on stem cells derived prior to the date of his decision does not bespeak any kind of approval of the past killing of embryos; it simply acknowledges that it happened, and recognizes that an attempt to ban funding for research on the cells for which the killing took place would be futile and probably counterproductive (since it would probably push Congress to allow even more funding than Bush did). Bush's policy is probably moral and his decision was certainly prudent.
In short, Brown's claim to provide "facts, not opinion" is absurd, and her "opinions" are frequently groundless at best.
Then, last but certainly not least, there is her her bizarre response to the question, "Could you tell us what Pres Bush could be doing to help pro-life efforts?":
The president could, with the stroke of a pen, issue a Proclamation declaring that a human being is a person at conception/fertilization, and he could then send a lobbying force to Capital Hill with a proposed Human Life Bill and ram it through the way he would if we were discussing "homeland security" or "war on terror" initiatives. ...
Why, yes, of course! Why didn't we pro-lifers think of this before!? Just get the president to "issue a Proclamation," and then "ram" a bill through Congress (and then, one must add, past the Supreme Court), and everything will be fine!
Really, Brown shows no evidence of "expertise" on the moral or political or factual dimensions of "Pro-Life Issues." EWTN should get someone who does for its Q&A, so that it will not be publishing the sort of embarrassing-to-serious-pro-lifers, at-best-useless nonsense I have cited. And pro-lifers should look to the NRLC or Priests for Life for guidance, not to Brown and her sycophants.
As I blogged below, the celebration of the Lord's Baptism in the Jordan (on which Western Christians focus this coming Sunday) is part of the celebration of the Epiphany. What does the mystery of the Baptism mean? Here, from today's Liturgy of the Hours, are the thoughts of St. Proclus of Constantinople (early 5th century):
Christ appeared in the world, and, bringing beauty out of disarray, gave it luster and joy. He bore the world's sin and crushed the world's enemy. He sanctified the fountains of waters and enlightened the minds of men. Into the fabric of miracles he interwove ever greater miracles.
For on this day land and sea share between them the grace of the Savior, and the whole world is filled with joy. Today’s feast of the Epiphany manifests even more wonders than the feast of Christmas.
On the feast of the Savior’s birth, the earth rejoiced because it bore the Lord in a manger; but on today’s feast of the Epiphany it is the sea that is glad and leaps for joy; the sea is glad because it receives the blessing of holiness in the river Jordan.
At Christmas we saw a weak baby, giving proof of our weakness. In today’s feast, we see a perfect man, hinting at the perfect Son who proceeds from the all-perfect Father. At Christmas the King puts on the royal robe of his body; at Epiphany the very source enfolds and, as it were, clothes the river.
Come then and see new and astounding miracles: the Sun of righteousness washing in the Jordan, fire immersed in water, God sanctified by the ministry of man.
Today every creature shouts in resounding song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is he who comes in every age, for this is not his first coming.
And who is he? Tell us more clearly, I beg you, blessed David: The Lord is God and has shone upon us. David is not alone in prophesying this; the apostle Paul adds his own witness, saying: The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all men, and instructing us. Not for some men, but for all. To Jews and Greeks alike God bestows salvation through baptism, offering baptism as a common grace for all.
Come, consider this new and wonderful deluge, greater and more important than the flood of Noah’s day. Then the water of the flood destroyed the human race, but now the water of baptism has recalled the dead to life by the power of the one who was baptized. In the days of the flood the dove with an olive branch in its beak foreshadowed the fragrance of the good odor of Christ the Lord; now the Holy Spirit, coming in the likeness of a dove, reveals the Lord of mercy.
"WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 7, 03 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - The largest pro-abortion lobbyist in the United States is re-launching itself under another new name, in response to ... 'the most hostile atmosphere' for abortion rights in three decades. ..." more (subscription required)
"ROME, JAN. 7, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Mysticism is alive and well -- and very much connected with the real world, says a Discalced Carmelite ... and a consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ... more
"WEIRTON - Dr. Sam Licata, a general surgeon, is one of 10 doctors who have taken leave from Weirton Medical Center as a protest over rising malpractice insurance costs and what they perceive to be the state's inaction ..." more
As promised: "WASHINGTON — President Bush on Tuesday renominated appellate court nominees Charles Pickering of Mississippi and Priscilla Owen of Texas, who were rejected by the Democrat-controlled Senate last year ..." more
"CHICAGO — Despite the advent of a vaccine four decades ago, flu-related deaths in the United States have risen dramatically since the 1970s, and influenza now claims more lives each year in the United States than AIDS ..." more
As the article points out, this is partly because the immune systems of the elderly often don't respond to the flu shot. This is another reason for younger people to get vaccinated. If there's less flu going around among younger people, it's less likely that more-vulnerable older people will catch it.
Today is the optional memorial (for Dominicans, memorial) of St. Raymond of Penyafort (1175-1275), third Master of the Order of Preachers (1238-1240), possibly a patron saint of my maternal grandfather and of a favorite priest who was my spiritual director for a while (there seems to be one other St. Raymond). Here's a brief excerpt from a letter by him, from the Office of Readings:
... May you never be numbered among those whose house is peaceful, quiet, and free from care; those on whom the Lord's chastisement does not descend; those who live out their days in prosperity, and in the twinkling of an eye will go down to hell. ...
Look then on Jesus, the author and preserver of faith: in complete sinlessness he suffered, and at the hands of those who were his own, and was numbered among the wicked. As you drink the cup of the Lord Jesus (how glorious it is!), give thanks to the Lord, the giver of all blessings. ...
U.S. Catholic bishops, unable to discipline priestly molesters and the bishops who protected them, have turned their attention to Iraq. "[T]he strict conditions in Catholic teaching" relating to just war have not been met, the bishops said. The bishops stretch the requirement that war be declared by a legitimate authority to include "some form of international sanction," which is U.N. base-stealing. They say that a war's "unpredictable consequences" violate the requirement that there be a probability of victory (then Churchill should have thrown in the towel, since his war brought the Soviets into central Europe, and fatally weakened the British Empire). Finally, the bishops urged that "the lives of Iraqi men, women, and children should be valued as we would the lives of ... citizens of our own country." If citizens of our own country were in bondage to a murderous despot, we would try to liberate them. Once again the shepherds fail their flock.
The reference to the sex-abuse scandal is an irrelevant cheap shot, and moreover an uninformed one (how precisely are bishops supposed to discipline other bishops?).
The bishops do not "say" that relevant conditions haven't been met; they say that they "offer not definitive conclusions, but rather ... serious concerns and questions," and that they fear that just-war conditions haven't been met.
The bishops do not assert on their own authority the importance of UN involvement - they cite the Vatican on this point. Has the pope also failed his flock? (Did Rod Dreher write this thing?) And as I and others have explained, this development in just-war theory is cogent, given the interconnectedness of the world and the consequences for it of war. (What, by the way, is NR's counterargument?)
The bishops relate the problem of "unpredictable consequences" to the criterion of "Probability of success and proportionality." Does NR mean to claim that choosing war is justified not only when it may have negative effects, but even when there is a substantial probability that they will outweigh its positive ones? A case can be made that the net effects of WWII were positive (Stalinist rule of Eastern Europe may have been better than a Thousand-Year Reich, and the loss of the British Empire, which might have happened anyway, was not self-evidently a net evil). Furthermore, the "unpredictable" consequences of which the bishops speak are not unforeseeable; WWII's (in-themselves) bad consequences for Eastern Europe may have been.
Would we try to liberate our own citizens at any cost? The bishops say, in full: "In assessing whether 'collateral damage' is proportionate, the lives of Iraqi men, women and children should be valued as we would the lives of members of our own family and citizens of our own country" (emphasis added). Would we not take into account possible collateral damage before an operation to liberate our own citizens? Is it not a matter of the most basic fairness that we value Iraqi lives in the same way?
I've subscribed to National "Mater si, magistra no" Review for over a decade now, and have no plans to stop reading it. But its moral analyses aren't always fully cogent. And I know it's not a Catholic periodical, but lots of Catholics work for it, and in any case it ought to give the Church its due and refrain from cheap shots and careless readings (Rod, NB).
The apostle and evangelist John wrote, "Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God but that he has loved us and has sent his son as an offering for our sins" (1 Jn. 4:10). God's love far outstrips our notion of merit and reward. Like the Santa we have created, we keep a list of all who have been naughty or nice. God's love is demonstrated in the fact that "Christ died for us while we were still sinners" (Rom. 5:8), while we were "naughty" and had nothing "nice" to show for ourselves. The Father knew that as a result of sin we needed help, help which He alone could give. God so loved the world that His only begotten Son became like us, so that free from sin, we might become like Him. The only condition God has placed on His unconditional love was that people be willing to accept it. As we read in the prologue of John’s Gospel, "For all who did accept Him, He gave the power to become children of God" (Jn. 1:12).
How odd of God to have placed the weight of the world on the tiny shoulders of an infant! How awesome of God to manifest the strength of His arm in the frail limbs of a baby. How mind boggling of God to place the proclamation of the Good News on the lips of one unable to utter a word! Are we willing to accept the mystery of God’s merciful love revealed to us in human frailty and weakness (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8-9)?
Throughout the Christmas Season, we call to mind the fact that the Eternal Word became a human being and lived among us (cf. Jn. 1:14). He made His own all the limitations of our human nature (cf. Heb. 5:2). He was tested in every way that we are but never sinned (cf. Heb. 4:15). He experienced hunger and thirst, and knew confusion and doubt. He understood the allurements of the world and felt the pain of rejection. Through it all, He was sustained by the knowledge that He had come into the world to do the will of the One who sent Him (cf. Jn. 6:38). It was the Father’s will that He be the Light that would shine on those who were lost in the darkness. It was also the will of God that those who accepted Him would know the fullness of life (cf. Jn. 1:4). Trusting the promise God made through the Prophets, the Psalmist wrote, "Let the mountains and hills ring out the message of peace, for God will defend the poor and save the children of the needy" (cf. Ps. 72: 3-4).
Jesus Christ is the "image of the unseen God" (Col. 1:14). Like His Father, when He sees His Chosen People wandering aimlessly, He is moved to pity (cf. Mk. 6:34). Not only does He feel sorry for them, but He also takes steps to gather them to Himself (cf. Ezek. 34:11). When the disciples voiced their anxiety at the enormity of the task that was set before them, Jesus did not send the people away (cf. Jn. 6:37). Rather, He encouraged the disciples not to be afraid to bring forth whatever resources they had, no matter how limited they might be (cf. Mk. 6:37). The Spirit of Him who spoke to the disciples was the same Spirit that inspired the prophet Amos to write, "Let justice flow like water, and integrity like an unfailing stream" (Amos 5:24). May the Lord Who touches our lives through Word and Sacrament keep His love alive in our hearts. When He returns in glory, may He bring us all to everlasting life.
"Wauwatosa - Angry neighbors bolstered by Milwaukee County sheriff's deputies halted work Monday at the site of Aurora Health Care's planned hospice center ..." more
I lived within a brief walk of this site for eight years. Naturally, those involved in the construction should get their permits in order. But it would be wrong to use the permit process as an obstacle to the hospice. Hospices are important and needed, this is a good site for one, and an 18-bed hospice isn't going to affect the neighborhood.
"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As the United States counted down to a possible attack on Iraq this winter, Pope John Paul II and his top aides turned up the volume on a litany of cautions and caveats. ..." more
"Even with Trent Lott (R, Miss.) relegated to the Senate's backbenches, Democrats want the issue of Republicans and race front and center. ... Before lecturing Republicans, Democrats should mop up their side of the political spectrum. ..." more
"President Bush is preparing to re-fight one, and perhaps two, of the most-contentious judicial-confirmation battles of the last year ... In response, Democrats are preparing ... to again accuse a Bush nominee of 'racial insensitivity.' ..." more
"Who should have the right to decide whether you receive life-sustaining medical treatment ... ? ... [I]n a growing number of hospitals, your right-to-decide is being taken away from you (or your family) by bioethicists and members of the medical intelligentsia ..." more
Smith certainly points to a real problem. But perhaps it's a more complex problem than the article suggests. Is there such a thing as objectively inappropriate medical treatment? And if so, are physicians and hospitals ethically obliged to provide it on demand? I suspect that the respective answers to those questions are, "yes," and "no." I suspect the larger problem is that many "bioethicists" and health-care professionals have an exaggerated (mis)understanding of what kinds of life-sustaining care are inappropriate.
Interview with author of vaccine-mercury safety study
"Dec. 3, 2002 — Editor's Note: There has been much debate about the safety of thimerosal, which is used as a preservative in childhood vaccines and also in adult influenza vaccines. ..." more (registration required)
"WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 6, 03 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - The Bush administration's awarding of ... funding for five adult stem-cell studies is being met with ... complaints from scientists who ... claim that experimentation on human embryos will prove more fruitful. ..." more (subscription required)
"WHEELING - An attempt to create an Ohio County-based trauma center to address medical malpractice rates and end a walkout by surgeons will depend on the cooperation of the area's two hospitals. ..." more
"As the doctor walkout in the Northern Panhandle enters its fifth day, one hospital administrator thinks the whole situation could have been avoided if Gov. Bob Wise would have taken a more proactive approach. ..." more
The Eastern Christian feast of Theophany celebrates Christ's baptism in the Jordan, the first revelation of the Holy Trinity (as the Father's voice was heard, the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove, and Christ was thereby manifested as the Son). In Western Christianity, the feast of Epiphany focuses especially on the adoration of Christ by the Magi, the first revelation of Christ to the gentiles. But the feast is closely associated with that of the Baptism of the Lord, and in fact Epiphany is traditionally thought of as commemorating the Baptism, and also Christ's changing of water into wine at Cana, his first miracle or "sign" according to John, as well as the coming of the Magi. So the Office for Epiphany mentions and connects these three events, most profoundly in the antiphon for the Benedictus from Morning Prayer:
Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan's waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.
The purpose of the Incarnation was that we might receive a share in the nature of, and so adore, the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. This is the signficance of Epiphany/Theophany. And of course this requires not only the Incarnation but also the death and resurrection of Christ, as the gift of myrrh reminds us. So Christmas points through Epiphany to the Easter Triduum.