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

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

"Why 'De Virtutibus'?"



wLinks, resources:
Worth browsing ...

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

blogs4God

< x ? ChristBlogs # x >

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

Select Catholic and other good blogs

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

News and commentary

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

Some especially good moral theology reads ...

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

Who is this blogging moralist?


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



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wSaturday, February 15, 2003


Illegal immigration, asylum seeking: world effects

"LONDON, FEB. 15, 2003 (Zenit.org).- 'Borders Beyond Control' is the catchy title of an essay by Columbia University professor Jagdish Bhagwati in the January-February issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. ..." more

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"Female feticide": Where are the feminists?

"NEW YORK, FEB. 15, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Concern over sex selective abortion in India and other Asian countries is rising again. ... The use of ultrasound tests to find out the sex of unborn children is now routine, ... and in some villages the sex ratio is 6 or even 7 boys born for every 3 girls. ..." more

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UN efforts; Aziz at Assisi; Church's call for peace

International community: "UNITED NATIONS — Rattled by an outpouring of anti-war sentiment, the United States and Britain began reworking a draft resolution Saturday to authorize force against Saddam Hussein. ..." more

Hypocrisy: "ASSISI, Italy — Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz urged the world to 'resist war and the intentions of aggression' during a visit Saturday to the hilltown of Assisi, known for its messages of peace. ..." more

Clarity: "ROME, FEB. 15, 2003 (Zenit.org).- As the possibility of war in Iraq grows, the Church is also feeling the heat. The repeated pleas for peace issued by the Pope, members of the Roman Curia and assorted bishops' conferences have been criticized by some observers as evidence of either unjustified interference, mere pacifism or not-so-subtle anti-Americanism. ..." more

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"Bear one another's burdens"

In today's Office, we read, from Bl. Isaac of Stella:
Why, brothers, are we so little concerned to seek one another's well-being, so that where we see a greater need, we might show a greater readiness to help and carry one another's burdens? For this is what the blessed apostle Paul urges us to do in the words: Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ; and also: Support each other in charity. For surely this is the law of Christ.

... Is it because I lack that virtue which suffers all things, is patient enough to bear all, and generous enough to love?

This indeed is the law of Christ, who truly bore our weaknesses in his passion and carried our sorrows out of pity, loving those he carried and carrying those he loved. ...
Do we take this "law of Christ" with utmost seriousness? Does it, for example, sufficiently inform our reflections on the manner in which we must take into account the good of others as well as our own in discerning whether to go to war against an enemy?

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w


Homeland/airport security: the good, the ugly, and the sad

Intelligent oversight of foreign students, especially from Middle Eastern/Islamic countries: "Desney Tan knows things could be worse. As a student from Singapore, he's never faced anti-Arab taunts or scrutiny from immigration officials like some foreign students. ..." more

Airport screening methods today: a waste of everyone's time: "Aversion therapy is sometimes used when there are associated behavior patterns that are pleasant but might be regarded by a third party as undesirable. ..." more

Lost at the security checkpoint: "They belonged to her older brother, James Croslin. As a 'starry-eyed' teenager, Smith got the chance, many years ago, to pin the silver wings on her brother's uniform when he was commissioned as an Air Force second lieutenant. She was so nervous her hands shook. ..." more

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Taking child sexual abuse seriously

"The tearful mother of a little girl abused by serial child molester William H. Randolph took the stand yesterday in federal court to denounce him before his sentencing. ...

"... A child pornographer once featured in an expose on ABC's '20/20,' the former owner of J.C. Video in Donora has convictions for molesting little girls in Georgia when he was 27 and in McKeesport when he was 38. ..." more

If he molested children at 27, what was he doing out of prison at 38? And if he did so again at 38, what was he doing free at 53?

"Waukesha - For 20 years, Father David Hanser molested boys, but no charges can be filed because the state's statute of limitations has expired, the Waukesha County district attorney has concluded. ...

"But had the Milwaukee Archdiocese and police searched more aggressively for other victims when they got a complaint in 1988 about past abuse, charges could have been brought in the late 1980s, Bucher noted. ..." more

Criticism of the archdiocese is fair, given that it didn't bar the priest from ministry in 1988. However, do victims have any responsibility to come forward more quickly - before being prompted years later by reports of other victims? And if victims or others speaking for them are going to report abuse, as a brother of the 1980s victims apparently tried to do, don't they have some responsibility to follow up on a police chief's advice concerning whom to contact? The archdiocese isn't the only party to have dropped the ball here, I'd say.

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w


Iraq, terror

"BRUSSELS, Belgium — NATO members were reported in top-level negotiations Saturday seeking a compromise in a dispute over planning for a possible Iraq war that has produced the alliance's worst split in years. ..." more

"LONDON — Prime Minister Tony Blair said Saturday it would be 'an act of humanity' to depose Saddam Hussein and insisted signs of Iraqi cooperation with weapons inspectors were suspect. ..." more

"LONDON — Anti-war rallies drew more than one million protesters in Rome and tens to hundreds of thousands in cities around the world Saturday to express their opposition to a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq. ..." more

"NEW YORK — Led by Bishop Desmond Tutu, hundreds of anti-war protesters gathered Saturday inside a church opposite the United Nations before joining a massive demonstration against U.S. military action in Iraq. ..." more

"BAGHDAD, Iraq — Dancing to drums and tambourines, tens of thousands of Iraqis — many of them armed with Kalashnikovs — demonstrated across the country on Saturday to support President Saddam Hussein and denounce the United States. ..." more

"MANAMA, Bahrain — Bahraini authorities broke up an alleged terrorist ring that planned attacks in this Persian Gulf kingdom, home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, the official Bahrain News Agency reported Saturday. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — President Bush told Americans not to panic about the high terror-threat warning and to let the professionals worry about keeping their communities safe from attack. ..." more

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Partial-birth abortion ban coming?

"WASHINGTON, DC, Feb 14, 03 (CWNews.com) - House Republicans on Thursday re-introduced a bill to ban partial-birth abortions. ..." more (subscription required)

"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities praised the introduction of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 in the U.S. House of Representatives. ..." more

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w


Scalia on judicial vacancies, judicial activism

"PHILADELPHIA, Feb 14, 03 (CWNews.com) - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said on Thursday the reason the selection of judges has become so politicized is because so many courts are engaged in judicial activism ..." more (subscription required)

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w


Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, cooperation

"ATHENS, Greece, FEB. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- After almost 10 centuries of separation, the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches are experiencing a rapprochement, given the need to express a common concern over the future of Europe. ..." more

"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope John Paul II said Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox must move beyond their troubled past and work together to ensure Christian faith and values continue to play an important role in Europe. ..." more

"VATICAN, Feb 14, 03 (CWNews.com) -- A Vatican delegation has returned to Rome after a four-day visit to Greece, reporting substantial progress in ecumenical talks with the Greek Orthodox Church. ..." more (subscription required)

"MOSCOW, Feb 14, 03 (CWNews.com) -- The chief foreign-policy spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church has joined Pope John Paul II in calling for explicit recognition of the role of religion in the new constitution of the European Union. ..." more (subscription required)

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w


Why the pope didn't go to Iraq in '98

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A cardinal made public the reason why Iraqi authorities impeded John Paul II's visit to the homeland of Abraham in 1998. ..." more

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wFriday, February 14, 2003


Deal Hudson's dissent?

Greg Popcak carefully analyzes the Crisis editor's response to the Vatican on Iraq. Greg seems to be on the same page that I am. These comments on Hudson are also relevant to the matter of the James Schall column to which I referred at the end of my post below.

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w


A Catholic school and a "Catholic" pro-abort governor

HMS Blog reports: The school changes its mind about auctioning off a lunch with the governor; a stupid newspaper columnist whines about "intolerance" (the linked report tells you how you can tell him where to go).

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Bad "Catholic" reason to oppose war in Iraq

Mark Shea exposes the anti-Semitism of "the 'Buchananite Traditionalist' faction of Catholics who oppose war with Iraq (as distinct from the Dorothy Day types)."

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w


And speaking of the Pill

On 2/24, PBS will present "American Experience: The Pill." The associated web site is very interesting, and includes a place to "Share your thoughts about birth control in America." A friend points out: "I am certain that many High School and College students will be watching and reading this (many as a requirement)." You may want to see how the show "spins" the Pill, or otherwise leave your comments.

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Evidence new Pill causes dangerous blood clots

"Our centre, the Dutch spontaneous reporting system for adverse drug reactions, recently received five reports of thromboembolism as a suspected adverse drug reaction to the new oral contraceptive Yasmin ..." more

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RIP Dolly; questions about cloning

"LONDON — Dolly the cloned sheep was put to death Friday, after premature aging and disease marred her short existence and raised questions about the practicality of copying life. ..." more

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Carcinogenic playgrounds: junk science?

"The Consumer Product Safety Commission scared parents this week about wood playground equipment causing cancer in children. ..." more

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w


Bush judicial nominations and the Senate

Landrieu's lie: "With the December runoff quickly approaching, Mary Landrieu's hopes of maintaining her seat in the Senate were waning. ..." more

GOP stratagem: "At last, a GOP Senate leader has called a filibuster bluff and made Democrats flap their gums. ..." more

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The Michigan "affirmative action" case

"The proponents of racial and ethnic preferences want to frame the debate as if it hinged on whether racial and ethnic diversity is a good thing or a bad thing. ..." more

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Pioneering school-choice program now under a Democratic governor

"Friends of school choice in Milwaukee are breathing a sigh of relief, because it looks like their model program will survive a major political transition. ..." more

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w


Iraq, terror

"BAGHDAD, Iraq — Saddam Hussein banned nuclear, chemical and biological weapons on Friday, meeting a longtime U.N. demand even as top weapons inspectors told the Security Council they have found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. ..." more

"UNITED NATIONS — In reports that could determine whether the U.S. goes to war with Iraq, chief U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei told the Security Council Friday that Saddam Hussein is making progress in disarming his nation, but still has a long way to go. ..." more

"UNITED NATIONS — The world should not be taken in by 'tricks that are being played on us' by Saddam Hussein, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday, pressing reluctant U.S. allies to threaten force if Iraq does not disarm. ..." more

"NEW YORK — Foreign ministers from all corners of the globe took turns Friday reacting to reports from international chief weapons inspectors ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Democrats clashed with Republicans and among themselves in their assessments of the latest U.N. weapons inspection briefing at the U.N. Security Council on Friday. ..." more

"VATICAN, Feb 14, 03 (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II met on Friday with Iraqi deputy premier Tarek Aziz, for a heavily anticipated discussion of prospects for avoiding a new military conflict in the Persian Gulf. ..." more (subscription required)

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II called for 'concrete commitments' by Saddam Hussein's government to respect U.N. resolutions on disarmament. ..." more

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the statement made by Joaquín Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican Press Office, following John Paul II's audience today with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. ..." more

"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- ... While opposing a preventive attack on Iraq, the Vatican is worried that it is being mistakenly cast as a foe of the United States and a friend of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. ..." more

"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Buried in the Vatican's new yearbook for 2003 is a striking statistic, and it helps explain Vatican apprehension about a new war in Iraq. ..." more

"ROME — Iraq's deputy prime minister on Friday insisted his country has no relationship with terrorists and warned Europe against joining Washington in a war, saying participation would be seen as a crusade against Arabs and Muslims. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Law enforcement officials now believe some of the information that led to upgrading the terrorist alert status to the second highest level last week was likely fabricated ..." more

"WASHINGTON — As the nation's capital remains on guard in the face of a heightened terror alert, President Bush told law enforcement officials Friday that the newest counterterrorism intelligence agency will help the United States better fight the war on terror. ..." more

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Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Today is the feast of these "Apostles to the Slavs." A good day to pray for all our Eastern Christian brothers and sisters.

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New blog by Catholic college student group!

Looks interesting.

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"Abortionists Seek to Hijack New Bush AIDS Budget"

"Hoping to exploit a legislative weakness, abortion providers and population control organizations have seized upon the Bush Administration's new $15 billion AIDS program for Africa, seeking to regain some of the Federal funding that President Bush has blocked from them since the beginning of his administration. ..." more

I have criticized certain expressions of negativity about Bush's plan. However, one still needs to be vigilant about possible serious abuses.

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w


Survey of parents on sex ed

"For years groups such as Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), Planned Parenthood, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, Advocates for Youth and similar organizations have claimed that 80 or 90 percent of parents support comprehensive sex education (also known as 'abstinence-first' or abstinence-plus sex education). ..." more

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Noticing the culture of death's effects in some communities

"Israel Cyrus wasn't stabbed to death in a vacuum. ..." more

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Religious dating services

"Scott McWilliams didn't believe that God had chosen one woman for him -- until he met and married the woman of his dreams through Equally Yoked, a club for Christian singles. ..." more

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How not to be pro-life

"ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A registered nurse has been charged with firing a shotgun at an abortion clinic before it opened for the day, police said. ..." more

"Federal agents yesterday arrested a Washington County Ku Klux Klan leader with links to the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, charging him with plotting to bomb an abortion clinic. ..." more

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Debate about public school teaching

"A capacity crowd of about 400 turned out last night for a town meeting on teacher quality, debating what's needed to improve quality and who is responsible for the problems that exist. ..." more

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Iraq: war near?, terror alert and concerns, Korea

"WASHINGTON — As thousands more U.S. troops head to the Persian Gulf to prepare for possible war, the Bush administration is laying out the framework for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. ..." more

"NEW YORK — Foreign ministers from several nations will meet in a potentially divisive showdown at the United Nations Friday to receive a report from chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei on whether Saddam Hussein is disarming. ..." more

"WASHINGTON -- As jittery residents of New York and Washington continued to prepare yesterday for a possible terrorist attack, Congress' senior intelligence committee member said there was 'absolutely no reason' for panic and criticized the new Department of Homeland Security for not communicating better with the American public. ..." more

"Searches won't be limited to travelers boarding planes at Pittsburgh International Airport anymore. ..." more

"DENVER -- If the script for any future terrorist attacks play true, there will be none of the mass panic shown in disaster films, with people stampeding hysterically and trampling their own mothers. ..." more

"WASHINGTON -- Showing a readiness to readjust one of the cornerstones of U.S. military policy in South Korea, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Congress yesterday that he might consider withdrawing some of the 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. ..." more

"SEOUL, South Korea — President Kim Dae-jung said Friday he was aware of illegal payments to North Korea ahead of a historic 2000 summit but allowed the money to go through in the interest of peace on the peninsula. ..." more

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wThursday, February 13, 2003


USCCB pro-life official on cloning ban

"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops' pro-life spokeswoman applauded the House Judiciary Committee Feb. 12 for approving a bill to ban human cloning ..." more

Keep the heat on your representatives and senators (see below)!

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US senators to social ministry workers

"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- One senator spoke of American's moral responsibility to share its wealth with others, particularly by financing health care and research into diseases affecting the Third World. Another painted a picture of a coming financial crisis brought about by fiscal irresponsibility. ..." more

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World Day of the Sick coverage

"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In Vatican City and Washington and at the French shrine at Lourdes, Catholics marked the 11th World Day of the Sick with the anointing of the sick and disabled, discussions aimed at improving health care in the Americas and special concern for those who suffer. ..." more

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Ratzinger on God and sin

"ROME, FEB. 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- It is not possible to remove God's judgment and punishment from the Christian faith, because to do so would mean that God is indifferent to evil, says Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. ..." more

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Pope on Catholic-Jewish relationship

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed his desire to bring Catholics and Jews ever closer, and called on believers of both communities to help build peace in the face of a threat of war. ..." more

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w


The end is near!

And speaking of country music ... (Sob!!!)

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w


Country music

This song has been getting a lot of play recently on country radio. I like the fact that country stations blank out the words "cocaine and" in the third line, so that it comes out "Been fueling up on - whiskey." Less troubling to hear; perhaps truer-to-life as well (there are no doubt more people out there who drink their troubles away than who sniff them away). (I still find the song marginally annoying, though. I'm not a country purist, but ...)

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"Last resort"

It occurs to me that in my long post below I might also have mentioned that even if Iraq has cooperated with al-Qaeda and is thus a morally-certain threat to the US, it's still not entirely clear to me why we should adjudge means of dealing with that threat short of war to have failed. Can't a sufficiently stringent inspection regime keep Saddam "boxed in," even if his cooperation is less than complete? This may also have been one of the points on which Powell's speech was found wanting by some. I'm willing to accept the administration's prudential judgment on this point - provided that they are really striving to make that prudential judgment rather than some other one based on some other principle/criterion. I think the fact that they have continued to work, albeit impatiently, with the UN is an indication that they are taking something like the proper principle seriously as the basis for their judgment. And I think it's likely that, even if war wouldn't be legitimate at this time, it is legitimate that we be warning of war if Iraq isn't sufficiently cooperative to make inspections useful at least to eliminate an imminent morally-certain threat.

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w


"Sex in High School and College"

"By today's standards, the high school girl from Montgomery County was a slow starter when it came to sex, having reached ninth grade before she kissed a guy. ..." more

Sad. (This is several weeks old but it was just pointed out to me today and I don't recall whether I saw it blogged elsewhere before.)

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w


Confession

Emily Stimpson blogs a new USCCB book on going to confession. This is good, especially with Lent on the horizon.

I wonder whether it mentions making an act of thanksgiving after the sacrament. As Robert Gotcher has blogged, "Fortunately, the extent of forgiveness is not proportional to the emotional high we experience." Yet even during a time of great desolation, we ought to be conscious of and thankful for God's liberating mercy. I sometimes find that dwelling on my thankfulness, even when it's only something I "think," rather than something that I "feel," is one of the things that best helps me to cooperate with God's liberating mercy and allow it to bear fruit in my life (to the extent that it does) as I return to my daily activities. And we can prolong that cooperating thankfulness, even though we can't simply create or prolong the "feeling" that may go with it.

In general, we can't worry too much about our "feelings," since they are bound to be somewhat disordered in this fallen (though redeemed) world. And of course, God can even work through feelings of desolation, to bring about a deeper faith, hope, and love in us. This, too, is something for which to be thankful - as also when in times of consolation, we feel the joy that goes with that now-deepened faith, hope, and love.

Oh, and Greg, it's not too late to convert from and confess having been the antichrist. Maybe Robert should also go again and confess the cat auction.

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House Dems support "affirmative action"

"WASHINGTON — House Democrats are launching a legal attack in reaction to a White House decision to oppose the University of Michigan's affirmative action admissions policy by filing a brief with the Supreme Court ..." more

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Judicial nominee news

"WASHINGTON — A Senate committee voted 11-8 Thursday to approve an Ohio judicial nominee whose selection had been criticized by advocates for the disabled. ...

"The committee postponed decisions on three other nominees ..." more

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Iraq, terror, N. Korea

"BRUSSELS, Belgium — NATO canceled an emergency meeting to discuss its bitter standoff split over Iraq Thursday after Germany insisted any breakthrough would have to wait until a key United Nations meeting Friday. ..." more

"UNITED NATIONS — Experts have concluded that Iraq's al-Samoud 2 missiles can travel beyond the 93-mile limit allowed under U.N. resolutions, a capability that the United States calls a serious violation. ..." more

"PARIS — Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said Thursday his country lacks the means to attack Israel should a conflict erupt. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — France and Germany's opposition to military force against Iraq is creating a diversion that further prevents Saddam Hussein from complying with U.N. demands for disarmament, Secretary of State Colin Powell said ..." more

"NEW YORK — As he prepared his report for a critical U.N. Security Council meeting, the top U.N. nuclear weapons inspector said Thursday that inspections should continue for months because 'we are moving forward.' ..." more

"BAGHDAD, Feb 12, 03 (CWNews.com) -- Cardinal Roger Etchegaray arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday, February 11, telling waiting journalists that he would urge Saddam Hussein 'to cooperate with the UN on the basis of peace and international law.' ..." more (subscription required)

"BAGHDAD, Iraq, FEB. 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Pope's special envoy to Iraq traveled to northern city of Mosul to meet with the Christian community while awaiting his meeting with President Saddam Hussein. ..." more

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II in his meeting Friday with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz will stress the need for Baghdad to collaborate 'in an effective manner' with the United Nations to avoid war. ..." more

"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Policy has reiterated that a war against Iraq would be 'difficult to justify' due to a lack of evidence that the country posed an imminent danger to the United States. ..." more

"NEW YORK — New York City, scene of the worst terrorist attack in American history, was on extremely high alert for a new act of terrorism Thursday -- one day before foreign ministers from several nations gather on the city's East Side to hear the chief U.N. weapons inspectors report on Iraq's disarmament efforts. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Police carrying semiautomatic rifles patrolled the grounds of the Capitol on Thursday, and the government warned key industries and utilities to beware of employees who might have been planted by Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. ..." more

"SEOUL, South Korea — China and Russia insisted Thursday that the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program should be resolved through direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang, even though the issue is now before the U.N. Security Council. ..." more

"UNITED NATIONS — The United States said Thursday that it would not call for punishing U.N. sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program, a move Pyongyang had said would be an act of war. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Colin Powell told Congress Thursday that North Korea had turned down a proposal by the Bush administration to involve China and other nations in talks with the United States over North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. ..." more

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Whither "just-war theory"?

It has been suggested by at least one commentator that, in light of the reality of terrorist movements and rogue states and missiles - which are difficult if not impossible to deter, and whose attacks tend to come "out of the blue" (no invasion forces massing, etc.) - just-war theory needs to be developed to take into account the need for preemptive strikes. Indeed, one blogger has proposed that such strikes don't even require "development" of Catholic teaching on war. And Michael Novak claimed - incoherently, I'd say - at the Vatican that the war to which we are marching "has nothing to do with any new theory of 'preventive war,'" even while speaking of "risks" (rather than "certainties") that Saddam has given or will give weapons to al Qaeda.

It seems clear to me, though, that, for good or for ill, a development is at issue. Whatever has been said before by Catholic teachers, the Catechism's criterion that "the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain" and indication that legitimate defense is a matter of "putting an end to" such damage (and this when "all other means" of doing so are "impractical or ineffective") seems impossible to square with the claim that the kind of preemption that we may now be contemplating would be moral. Now, naturally, this doesn't mean that one has to wait until the bombs have literally fallen or the armies landed (especially since moral certainty isn't the same thing as mathematical certainty). But I think it does fairly clearly mean that - at the least - development of the current Catholic position would be needed in order to permit war against entities that possess, but haven't literally "threatened" to use, even weapons of mass destruction.

The question then becomes, is the proposed development proper? And it then becomes very significant that Catholic thought and teaching about legitimate war almost certainly has already developed - in what is probably the opposite direction from that now proposed. I and others have made this claim before; one can substantiate it by, e.g., comparing the Catechism's teaching with that of Aquinas or this old text and noting the more stringent criteria in the former (e.g., "defense" only).

Nor does this development have anything whatsoever to do with "a naive utopianism" that fails to take into account the fall. Rather, it is a matter of recognizing that the goods we Christians must love and therefore protect and defend include our enemy's as well as our own. This - Weigel and those influenced by his commentaries seem to forget - is also part of what Aquinas had in mind in placing his defense of "just war" in the context of his treatise on love. And it is this point that is the basis for the recent developments, as its implications are pursued more deeply.

After all, as Darrell Cole has pointed out, just-war theory isn't about baptizing war simply because and whenever it would serve our needs or desires. Cole is generally unsympathetic to the notion that just-war theory has much to learn from pacifism. Yet, he insists:
Nevertheless, Christian pacifists may yet have something meaningful to contribute to Christian just war thinking, primarily when they point out how hard it is for the just warrior to sustain the presumption in favor of losing rather than doing injustice. As the late Paul Ramsey so often pointed out, Americans have a hard time fighting limited wars. When we think our cause just, our instinct is to obliterate the enemy. As Hauerwas notes, the habits of a people require “great drafts of courage and sacrificý not unlike that of nonviolence” in order to conduct a justifiable war. Exactly. And this brings us back to that small space pacifists and just war defenders share. Pacifists and just war defenders agree that it is better to die than to do evil. This is a point largely lost among modern just war defenders. (Its absence is especially noticeable in Michael Walzer’s ethic of “supreme emergency,” which allows a nation, if threatened with total defeat, to do any evil believed necessary in order to preserve itself.) A crusade mentality and the kind of fighting that goes with it are disturbingly common in the history of American wars. Certainly this was true for the two World Wars, and, to a lesser degree, for the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.

Americans, we must say, and say gladly, have been demonstrating much better combat behavior of late. The Gulf War and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan have shown that American soldiers are quite capable of fighting justly (i.e., with discrimination and proportion). Nevertheless, we must caution that what was on display in the Gulf War and Afghanistan may be less a show of virtue than technological and tactical prowess. Our technological superiority in particular has allowed us to overwhelm our enemies in the recent past. Will we be able to demonstrate the same level of self-control when we meet a more formidable foe? This is a question we need to ask. For if President Bush is serious in pursuing terrorists into whatever countries they may hide, we may very well find ourselves in a much more difficult fight before too long. And it takes a lot of blood (along with sweat and tears) to defeat a formidable foe.

Christian pacifists, then, are right to remind Christian just war advocates that Christian just war demands definite, limited goals and a limited, controlled use of force. President Bush tells us that the U.S. is going to aim at destroying “every terrorist group of global reach.” Does he really mean that the U.S. is going to use military force against every significant terrorist group, no matter how marginal their danger to us, and no matter where they are found? President Bush may simply be preparing American citizens for a lengthy struggle by employing dramatic rhetoric. One can only hope, and pray, that this is so. For actual war planning, if it is to be just, must have limited aims. President Bush owes it to the American people to spell out those aims as soon as possible and to the fullest possible degree.

Unlimited war has, in the past, led to unlimited, uncontrolled uses of force. Christians cannot say “yes” to that kind of fighting. What if we reach a time when we have to make a choice between terminating a war and resorting to combat practices that are out of bounds according to just war doctrine, such as intentionally targeting the innocent in order to get to the guilty or using disproportionate force? Surely all Christian just war defenders, at least those who pay any attention to traditional just war doctrine, will say that we must accept defeat, at least for the moment, rather than prosecute a war unjustly. If the just war doctrine is to possess any sort of integrity, it must be able to say “no” to some wars and “no” to some actions in war. ...
Recent developments, I contend, build organically on this dimension of just-war theory, especially by recognizing that love and mercy toward one's enemy needs even to go beyond the minimal requirements of justice. This is reflected in the Catechism's relegating of the very expression "just war" to a small-print afterthought.

And if war - for mercy's sake - needs to be as strictly defensive as recent developments have it, then it must be admitted, I would say, that the sort of development Weigel proposes (or that others claim wouldn't even be necessary to encompass war against an uncertain "threat") would actually require something of a reversal of the developments that have already occurred. For genuinely defensive killing requires a morally certain threat, not one whose probability, in Novak's words, is "somewhere between 0 and 10." Now, based on Powell's speech, a reasonable person might conclude that the threat now posed by Iraq (via terrorists) is as morally certain as the one posed by Afghanistan revealed itself to be post-9/11; I incline fairly strongly toward that conclusion, so I am inclined to think that war would be legitimate (even as I continue to pray several times daily that it be avoided). But I can see why someone (e.g., at the Vatican) would conclude otherwise, and such a person would be right to oppose war against Iraq at this time, pace one Straussian cleric's claim that such a person would simply be ignoring evidence and preferring inaction to action. For the principles that underlie the development that has actually taken place in Catholic teaching on war are, I think, theologically indisputable.

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Democrats lie about Estrada nomination

"New Jersey Senator John Corzine (D.) has offered the charge that the D.C. Circuit is frequently split 4-4 in its opinions (with the tacit assumption that this split is along party lines) ..." more

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More on Total Information Awareness: Not "Big Brother"

"Several months ago DARPA, the Department of Defense's Research and Development arm, announced the Total Information Awareness (TIA) project, a radical new tool for FBI and CIA intelligence gathering. ..." more

(See also below.)

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North Korea commentary

"I really enjoyed CIA Director George Tenet's answer before Congress Wenesday to the question of whether or not North Korea has a missile capable of hitting the west coast: 'I think the declassified answer is yes.' ..." more

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Called to penitential preaching

Today, Dominicans celebrate the memorial of Bl. Jordan of Saxony, who succeeded St. Dominic as Master of the Order. From his On the Beginnings of the Order of Preachers, from the Office:
Brother Reginald, of happy memory, came to Paris and began his energetic preaching. I was moved by divine grace to conceive within myself a desire to join his Order ...

Once my own mind was made up, I began with all eagerness to try to entice my friend and companion to join me ... seeing that both his natural gifts and his gifts of grace would make him a very useful preacher. ...

When the day came on which the imposition of ashes reminds the faithful of their creation from the dust and their return to the dust, we decided that it was a suitable occasion for us to begin our life of penance ...

The three of us went to St. Jacques, and we arrived unexpectedly but appropriately, while the brethren were already singing "Let us change our garments." Without delay we put off the old man and put on the new, so that what they were singing was actually realized in what we did.
Jordan was sent to the Order's first General Chapter after less than two months as a Dominican. Then, the following year,
they saw fit to make me the first provincial of Lombardy, although I had only been in the order one year and had not struck root as deeply as I ought to have done. I was to be placed over others as their superior, before I had learned to govern my own imperfections. I was not present at this Chapter myself.
Another illustration of why it's dangerous to miss a meeting.

Jordan adds the following interesting anecdote about a famous custom:
After the death of Master Dominic there was a brother in Bologna called Bernard, who was plagued by a most savage demon, to such an extent that he was driven day and night by horrible seizures of madness, which caused no end of disturbance to the brethren. No doubt God's merciful providence had sent them this trial to exercise his servants' patience.

Brother Bernard's fierce tribulation was the occasion which prompted us to decide for the first time to sing the Salve Regina after Compline at Bologna, and this practice spread from there to the rest of the province of Lombardy, and finally the same devout and beneficial practice was adopted throughout the whole Order. A dependable religious once told me that he had often seen in spirit, while the brethren were singing "Turn then, most gracious advocate," the mother of the Lord prostrating herself in the presence of her Son and praying for the safety of the whole Order. The memory of this ought to be preserved, so that when the brethren read of it, they will be inspired to even greater devotion in their praises of the Virgin.
May she, and Bl. Jordan, pray for us as we proclaim the Gospel of life in this world in the shadow of death, in this valley of tears.

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Love: our need, God's gift

Fr. Jerome, O.C.S.O., reflects on today's readings:
God turned His gaze towards the work of His hands and said, "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Gen. 2:18). It is not good for an individual to live in isolation, from oneself, from the world, and from God. Physical, mental and moral alienation are detrimental to human development and to personal growth. God knew that such a life was without meaning and without direction. Seeing His children so harassed and dejected, He was moved to pity (cf. Mat. 9:36). Filled with compassionate love, He cries out, "I am already close to you, I will not delay, if only you would listen to my words" (cf. Is. 46:13).

Seeing the effects of unbridled energy, God said, "It is not good that man should be totally self-sufficient" (cf. Gen. 2:18). The human heart longs for intimacy. The human person longs for love and seeks it day and night (cf. Song 3:1). Even though the individual cannot identify the object of this longing, he or she seeks to satisfy it. Convulsed by obsessive desire and worn out by frustration and failure, the individual becomes more fragmented and more isolated. Warily he or she has strained after things that cannot satisfy the deepest longing of the human heart (cf. Is. 55:3).

God looked at all that He had created and said, "It is not good for man to live in a self-centered world" (cf. Gen. 2:18). We must never forget that God created human beings in His image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:27). By God's design, human beings are capable loving and of being loved. Like God, human beings can give life and nurture it through chaste intimacy. This notion of nurturing love is repulsive in a society that has degraded love to base animal passion. Chastity has become incomprehensible in a world that has perverted the notion of intimacy. What we have made a human intimacy bears little resemblance to the wonder of love God originally entrusted to us (cf. Mat. 19:8). If only God would touch us at the core of our being and give us hearts capable of loving as He loves (cf. Ezek. 11:19). Oh that He would kiss us with the kiss of His lips (cf. Song 1:2)!

God looked down from His throne on high and saw the miserable state of his human children. He saw how their passions were enslaving them (cf. Ex. 3:7-10). Moved by pity and compassionate love He sent His only begotten son to bring them healing and reconciliation (cf. Jn. 3:16). The Son who never left the Father’s loving embrace (cf. Jn. 1:18) was numbered among the alienated and outcast. The Father's beloved Son, allowed himself to be treated like the scum of the earth (cf. I Cor. 4:13). In this way, He overcame the world (cf. Jn. 16:33). His victory has restored us to the fullness of life and has regain for us the image we lost through sin. Turning His gaze upon those who came to life as the blood and water gushed from His pierced side, Jesus said, "You, indeed, are flesh of my flesh" (cf. Gen. 2:23). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has made us members of His body --- the church. It is in the only-begotten Son that we have chaste intimacy with one another and with God.

When people who live in a litigious environment look at the wretched state of people around them, they are quick to condemn, berate and punish the wrong they observe. Unlike God’s worldview, theirs is extremely narrow. Things were not always this way (cf. Mat. 19:8). There was a time when people would seek out God’s help for people who were in trouble. Consider the story of the Gentile woman who came to Jesus at the city of Tyre (cf. Mk. 7:24,ff.)! This woman saw the self-destructive path her daughter's life had taken. Moved with pity, not judgment and condemnation, she sought out the only person who had the power to save her daughter's life. Trusting the compassion and love of the Lord, she refused to be silenced until her petition was granted. May we who gather around the Table of the Lord come to know the Father's compassionate love and loving compassion. May we voice our petitions before the throne of mercy until all the children of Adam-and-Eve prefer nothing to the love of Christ. One day, may He bring us all together to everlasting life.


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More questions about minority education programs

"The federal government is investigating the legality of a state-run college preparation program aimed at minority students ...

"The complaint questions a requirement in the state's Minority Precollege Scholarship Program that recipients be of particular ethnic and racial backgrounds ..." more

(See also below.)

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Death-penalty law/morality questions

"FAIRFAX, Va. — Lawyers for sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo challenged the constitutionality of Virginia's death penalty law in court papers filed Wednesday. ...

"The law allows a jury to impose the death penalty if it finds that a defendant's crime is 'outrageously or wantonly vile' or that the defendant would commit future crimes that 'would constitute a continuing serious threat to society.' ..." more

Are these criteria in keeping with the teaching of Evangelium Vitae 56? I do not think so. Even if they yield only the relatively "rare" death sentence, they are not exactly the right reasons to be considering. The question of the vileness of a crime probably has little to do with future dangerousness. The second criterion, concerning future crimes, sounds more on-target. But it's doubtful that juries are instructed to apply it in a way that takes into account whether life imprisonment could neutralize the threat. This, and not dangerousness in the abstract, is the morally relevant question.

Of course, none of this touches the question of constitutionality. I doubt that the law is unconstitutional. But for moral reasons, it should be changed by the Virginia legislature. Indeed, in practice, the death penalty is unlikely ever to be fully moral (in keeping with mercy as well as justice) in the US; state legislatures and Congress should abolish it.

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Terror warning/war, Iraq plans

"WASHINGTON — The State Department is advising nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain. The advice is based on anti-American sentiment in the region, a U.S. official said Wednesday. ..." more

"LONDON — A British-based Islamic news agency said Thursday it has a new audio recording of Usama bin Laden in which he predicts he will die as 'a martyr' this year in an attack against his enemies. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Seven terrorist suspects have been caught through new border security measures and 104 people have been convicted of terror-related charges, Attorney General John Ashcroft said ..." more

Another questionable use of resources?: "Vehicles entering Pittsburgh International Airport may be randomly stopped and searched for explosives ..." more

"KIDRON, Ohio — America's terror alert has some people buying wood stoves, drums to collect rainwater, duct tape and plastic sheeting -- just in case. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Senior Bush administration officials spoke dismissively Wednesday of European calls for more and better weapons inspections to disarm Iraq at the same time the Pentagon took new steps toward war. ..." more

Don't try cyberwar at home: "WASHINGTON — Real patriots don't hack. Uncle Sam says only he can do that. ..." more

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wWednesday, February 12, 2003


Pope, Pontifical Council president on Day of Sick

"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Amid last-minute international efforts to avert war on Iraq, Pope John Paul II called on sick people around the world to transform their suffering into an ardent prayer for peace. ..." more

"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The world's sick and infirm can find comfort through the 'paradox' of uniting their suffering to Christ's suffering on the cross, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers said ..." more

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Papal envoy seeks peace in Iraq

"BAGHDAD, Iraq, FEB. 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, John Paul II's special envoy to Iraq, confirmed that he will meet with Saddam Hussein to hand him a letter from the Pope. ..." more

"BAGHDAD, Feb 12, 03 (CWNews.com) -- Cardinal Roger Etchegaray arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday, February 11, telling waiting journalists that he would urge Saddam Hussein 'to cooperate with the UN on the basis of peace and international law.' ..." more (subscription required)

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNS) -- Calling war in Iraq the 'worst solution' to the crisis, Vatican envoy Cardinal Roger Etchegaray began a series of meetings with Iraqi authorities in Baghdad ..." more

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Book Club

This Wednesday, I present:
Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1953).
Today is Lincoln's birthday (our nation will be observing it next Monday as part of "Presidents' Day" by not getting mail), and in honor of that occasion, and as a quiet protest against the PCization of the Lincoln Memorial, I had contemplated reblogging a months-ago Book Club post of a fine recent book on Lincoln. However, I then decided that would be cheating. But a book on political philosophy would certainly be apropos. And since I blogged Voegelin a few weeks back, it had also occurred to me that, in case any political philosophers are reading my blog and keeping score, I ought to blog Strauss sometime.

That earlier post mentions some similarities and differences between Voegelin and Strauss. Strauss certainly thought that classical, over and against modern, political philosophy had attained some insights from which it would be important for us to learn. His reading of classical thought differed from Voegelin's, however. Among other things, his reading was affected by his conviction that the great philosophers wrote esoterically, so that only the wise would discern their true teaching, and by his judgment that this true teaching would reflect, to say the least, a different view of the relationship between faith and reason than, say, John Paul II's (I have even seen a political philosopher/theologian/"expert" undertake a laughable attempt to harmonize Strauss's and John Paul's perspectives by straightforwardly denying that John Paul means what he says in his criticism of "the theory of so-called 'separate' philosophy" as "patently invalid" so that such "philosophy only does itself damage"; the commentator thereby also illustrates nicely the excesses to which inferior Straussians can push Straussian esoteric exegesis, so that it devolves into self-parody).

I think that Natural Right and History is perhaps Strauss's most interesting book. He begins with critiques of modern historicism and positivism (including, like the aforeblogged Voegelin monograph, treatment of Weber). He eventually treats "Classic" and "Modern Natural Right," and what he calls the "Crisis" of the latter. Strauss is not always right, but it is usually worth the effort to understand and ponder his subtle analyses. I mention now a few of the passages in which he addresses questions of special interest to me. First, in discussing "Socratic-Platonic natural right," Strauss suggests:
... If striving for knowledge of the eternal truth is the ultimate end of man, justice and moral virtue in general can be fully legitimated only by the fact that they are required for the sake of that ultimate end or that they are conditions of the philosophic life. From this point of view the man who is merely just or moral without being a philosopher appears as a mutilated human being. It thus becomes a question whether the moral or just man who is not a philosopher is simply superior to the nonphilosophic "erotic" man. ...
This adumbrates Nietzsche's important attack on "Socratic rationalism," which in turn is not unrelated to the question of the relationship between truth and beauty.

Second, Strauss's thoughts on Aristotle (and Plato) and Aquinas on the nature of moral norms:
The variability of the demands of that justice which men can practice was recognized not only by Aristotle but by Plato as well. Both avoided the Scylla of "absolutism" and the Charybdis of "relativism" by holding a view which one may venture to express as follows: There is a universally valid hierarchy of ends, but there are no universally valid rules of action. ... The only universally vaid standard is the hierarchy of ends. This standard is sufficient for passing judgment on the level of nobility of individuals and groups and actions and institutions. But it is insufficient for guiding our actions.
This probably reflects a fairly typical reading of Aristotle, in light of his apparent assertion, to which Strauss appeals, of the unqualified mutability of natural right (not only relatively derivative rules). One could also add mention of Aristotle's characterization of deliberation as concerning the easiest and most beautiful means to an end; while efficiency is not Aristotle's only criterion, it is also not immediately clear that he would recognize the possibility that there might be no worthily beautiful, hence virtuous, means to some (virtuous) ends in some cases. And Strauss goes on to conclude that Thomistic natural law is therefore a departure from Aristotelian natural right, perhaps made possible only by the conflating of natural and divine law, perhaps accomplished through the contention that "the natural end of man is insufficient, or points beyond itself ... Thus natural reason itself creates a presumption in favor of the divine law, which completes or perfects the natural law." Was Thomas's reading and invocation of Aristotle thus problematic? I know of one response, and it is a convincing one: Christopher Kaczor, "Exceptionless Norms in Aristotle?: Thomas Aquinas and Twentieth-Century Interpreters of the Nicomachean Ethics," Thomist 61 (1997): 33-62.

Finally, there is Strauss's brilliant exposition of Locke. Locke is often thought to have taken social-contract theory back in a more moderate, quasi-traditional direction after Hobbes. But Strauss concludes, first: "It is on the basis of Hobbes's view of the law of nature that Locke opposes Hobbes's conclusions. He tries to show that Hobbes's principle - the right of self-preservation - far from favoring absolute government, requires limited government." Next, he identifies the centrality of property in Locke's thought. He proceeds to argue: "Locke's doctrine of property is directly intelligible today if it is taken as the classic doctrine of 'the spirit of capitalism' ..." And he contends:
Locke's teaching on property, and therewith his whole political philosophy, are revolutionary not only with regard to the biblical tradition but with regard to the philosophic tradition as well. Through the shift of emphasis from natural duties or obligations to natural rights, the individual, the ego, had become the center and origin of the moral world, since man - as distinguished from man's end - had become that center or origin. Locke's doctrine of property is a still more "advanced" expression of this radical change than was the political philosophy of Hobbes. According to Locke, man and not nature, the work of man and not the gift of nature, is the origin of almost everything valuable: man owes almost everything valuable to his own efforts. Not resigned gratitude and consciously obeying or imitating nature but hopeful self-reliance and creativity become henceforth the marks of human nobility. ...
Strauss makes a solid case. And Locke's view, as thus explained, helped pave the way for Kant - and, contrary to some Straussians' scholarly and popular claims, should not be conflated with the origins of Wojtyla/John Paul's personalistic teaching on "rights"; yet the differences concerning Lockean and personalistic accounts of "rights" require further, careful exploration.

Anyone interested in ethics and politics should have some familiarity with Strauss, and a study of Natural Right and History together with the key primary texts of the key authors therein treated is a long project that is especially to be recommended.

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Cloning ban news

"WASHINGTON — Following up on a promise to prevent science from getting ahead of humanity, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee pushed through a bill on Wednesday that would ban all types of human cloning. ..." more

Meanwhile, write your senator and tell him to resist the continuing pressure for the Hatch clone-and-kill bill, e.g.: "... 'It is essential that we pass legislation that will allow this exciting research to proceed and to ensure that it is subject to appropriate and ethical [sic] oversight,' Dr. Sandra Carson, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which supports the Hatch bill, said in a statement." full article (registration required)

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Good organ-donation news

"It's always been a struggle to boost the number of people donating organs for transplant, but local officials are heartened by a jump in donation rates over the past several months. ..." more

Catholics: Read and take to heart the Catechism 2296, and Pope John Paul's 2000 address (see also below).

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Estrada nomination "showdown"

"WASHINGTON — The White House on Wednesday refused to release internal Justice Department memos written by one of President Bush's nominees to an important appeals court, setting up a partisan showdown over Miguel Estrada. ..." more

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Iraq, terror (including McVeigh/OKC), N. Korea

"BRUSSELS, Belgium — France, Germany and Belgium rejected a scaled-down U.S. proposal Wednesday for NATO preparations in case of war in Iraq, prolonging the alliance's worst internal crisis since the end of the Cold War. ..." more

"UNITED NATIONS — International missile experts found that an Iraqi missile exceeded the maximum 93-mile range allowed under U.N. resolutions ..." more

"WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has called up tens of thousands more National Guard and Reserve members to active duty, pushing the total to 150,252 ..." more

"WASHINGTON — FBI investigators in the Oklahoma City bombing gathered evidence linking Timothy McVeigh to white supremacists who the government had been told before the bombing were threatening to attack government buildings ..." more

"WASHINGTON — CIA Director George Tenet returned to the Senate Wednesday to warn once more that multiple sources with strong Al Qaeda ties are reporting plots aimed at the United States and the Arabian peninsula. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Terror attack precautions were being taken nationwide Wednesday, one day after a new audio message attributed to Usama bin Laden urged Iraqis to stage homicide attacks against Americans. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — In the shadow of the Capitol, a surface-to-air missile launcher sits ready and able in case of a terror attack ..." more

"ROME — The United States is delaying its 2003 food pledges for North Korea amid "credible" reports that food is being diverted to the North's soldiers and political elite ..." more

"WASHINGTON — The North Koreans have one or two nuclear missiles that are capable of reaching the United States ..." more

"WASHINGTON — North Korea has an untested ballistic missile capable of reaching the western United States, top U.S. intelligence officials told Congress Wednesday. In Vienna, the U.N. nuclear agency declared North Korea in violation for its nuclear program and reported the country to the Security Council. ..." more

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The Estrada confirmation battle continues

"The battle over the federal appeals-court nomination of Miguel Estrada has taken an ominous turn for Republicans, with Democrats beginning an unprecedented filibuster and demanding that President Bush make concessions before they will allow a vote on Estrada's confirmation. ..." more

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Are we flush with news today?

Or are we trying to paper over a lack of important stories by recycling ones that were dumped long ago? Seriously, this does make one appreciate the modern world.

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University's "minorities program": controversy?

"They come from Pittsburgh, the Deep South, New York City and elsewhere. These black, Hispanic and American Indian high school students from 35 states spend summers in Pittsburgh, hosted by a school trying to better their chances in science and engineering.

"Since its creation a couple of years back, Carnegie Mellon University's six-week summer academy for minority students has offered, as one school vice president put it yesterday, 'a life-changing experience.' ...

"'Anyone can apply,' Elliott said. 'We typically select students who are African Americans, Hispanic and Native American.' ..." more

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Federal spending

"WASHINGTON — Congressional bargainers struggled Tuesday to resolve disputes over a Senate-approved $3.1 billion in farm aid that is blocking final compromise over a wide-ranging $396 billion spending bill for this year. ..." more

P.J. O'Rourke said of an earlier farm aid measure: "Drag [it] behind the barn, and kill it with an ax." That won't, but should, be the approach this year, too. Why is farm aid the Feds' business?

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Iraq, (axis of?) terror, N. Korea

"PARIS — Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday that U.S. military action against Iraq without U.N. consent would be a 'grave error,' and hinted that Russia might use its veto on the Security Council against any 'unreasonable use of force.' ..." more

"WASHINGTON — U.S. planes bombed a ballistic missile launcher in southern Iraq on Tuesday, Pentagon officials said, in the first operation against Iraqi weapons that are meant to hit ground targets instead of aircraft or ships. ..." more

Comment: War underway?

"WASHINGTON — Addressing a historic rift within NATO, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday the future of the 53-year-old military alliance is at risk if it fails to confront the crisis with Iraq. ..." more

"France circulated a plan Tuesday that called for extended and more aggressive U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, hoping to provide the Security Council with an alternative to imminent military action against Baghdad. ..." more

"LONDON — NATO, which won the Cold War without firing a shot, faces a crisis over Iraq that may damage or even cripple the world's most powerful military alliance. ..." more

"WASHINGTON -- Is President Bush using inappropriately religious language as he talks daily about the possibility of war with Iraq? ..." more

Comment: No. The critics here are reading into his words.

"WASHINGTON — Two federal law enforcement agencies had information before the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing suggesting that white supremacists living nearby were considering an attack on government buildings, but the intelligence was never passed on to federal officials in the state ..." more

Comment: !

"Drivers heading to Mitchell International Airport can expect more vehicle searches and fewer places to park, as security tightens under the federal 'code orange' terrorist alert, airport officials announced Monday. ..." more

"Random vehicle searches moved smoothly and quickly at Mitchell International Airport on Tuesday, the first day of the new security procedure. Capt. Peter Jaskulski, commander of the Sheriff's Department's airport security detail, said his goal was to send drivers on their way within 60 seconds ..." more

Comment: I'm not sure these searches are much more than a feel-good measure. Will they stop a determined and suicidal driver of a car bomb? Especially (though not only) given the possibility of switching to other targets (than airports)? Are these searches the best use of resources?

"DOHA, Qatar — A man believed to be Usama bin Laden, in an audiotape broadcast Tuesday night on Al-Jazeera satellite TV, called on Muslims throughout the world to unite behind Iraq. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — The Bush administration, which once urged American television networks to show restraint in airing messages from Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden, on Tuesday spread the word itself that another tape had surfaced. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — The CIA warned Congress Tuesday that Al Qaeda may try to attack both the United States and the Arabian peninsula as early as this week. ..." more

Comment: Does the videotape prove an Iraq-al Qaeda link, as Powell and this commentator assert? I think that depends on what "link" means. Proving that Osama supports Saddam doesn't prove that Saddam supports Osama - the much-more-relevant point, I'd say, in deliberating about war against Saddam. On the other hand, there is other evidence for Saddam's support for al-Qaeda, as adduced by Powell last week.

"SEOUL, South Korea — President Kim Dae-jung is asking for cooperation from Europe to help resolve the standoff over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, while China is rejecting a request from the United States to get more involved. ..." more

"VIENNA, Austria — Raising the stakes in the nuclear standoff with North Korea, the U.N. nuclear agency is turning to its last and most solemn option -- passing the dispute to the Security Council for possible sanctions on the reclusive regime. ..." more

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Continuing the diablog: Pflegeritism, etc.

Karl blogs a response to my post below. I agree with his response.

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wTuesday, February 11, 2003


Upper Ohio Valley MDs talk with congressman

"STEUBENVILLE - Tri-State Area physicians had an opportunity to present their concerns on a variety of health care issues during a meeting with U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, Monday at Trinity Medical Center East. ...

"Strickland said during his meeting with physicians he learned the malpractice insurance issue in West Virginia was affecting physicians who practice on both sides of the Ohio River. ..." more

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Diablogging: Cardinal George, Catholicism, and Pflegeritism

I blogged below my disappointment about Cardinal George's handling of Al Sharpton's appearance at St. Sabina's. Having now read some defenses of George in the blogosphere, I'm still siding with those who are disappointed. Disputations has blogged a couple of those defenses; Summa Contra Mundum has added another. I would especially like to engage briefly one of the latter's arguments.

Karl writes of St. Sabina's Fr. Pfleger that "he took a dying parish in a poor, dangerous Black (African-American if you prefer) neighborhood and has made it thrive. Lots and lots of good things happen at that parish, and Catholic sacraments are still being given and received. ... The goal, the law of laws in the Church, is the salvation of souls! Many souls are likely being saved at St. Sabina's." He worries that "If you beat up Fr. Pfleger, admittedly a disobedient and self-promoting priest, you will cause that parish to collapse, and probably to go into schism."

My objection here is that, for all the good things that may be happening at the parish - for all that the sacraments are being administered - the parish seems in some very significant ways to be an obstacle rather than an aid to those sacraments' bearing their proper fruit. The proper fruit of the sacraments is the Catholic communio with the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. One isn't supposed to receive the sacraments apart from an intention to live that communio (and repentance for the times when one has failed to do so). And it's not clear in what sense that communio is being lived or fostered - rather than hindered - by St. Sabina's. One sees it in the very way the parish defines itself. As a correspondent summed it up in a note I blogged last month following my initial post about the parish, "they at St. Sabina are not Catholic, but Pflegerites."

This goes double when the parishioners are sent the message, by what their speakers say and by the very choice of those speakers as allegedly appropriate, that it is more important to pursue Al Sharpton's (and more generally the left wing of the Democratic Party's) version of racial justice than to safeguard the right to life. This is not learning how to live so that one's reception of the sacraments will bear fruit. It is especially problematic when this divisive (born against unborn, and black against white too) message is sent during the Eucharistic celebration itself (cf. 1 Cor. 11:17-34).

I don't take the prospect of schism lightly. I have held that it would be unwise to engage in mass replacement of bishops partly (though not only, or probably even mostly) for the reason that this could provoke schism. But St. Sabina's strikes me - however laudable much of what is happening there may be - as in something close to de facto schism, in light of its pastor's disobedience to his bishop and flouting of authentic Catholic (not to say human) moral priorities - of the requirements of authentic communio. For all that I value the sacraments, I'm not sure how much St. Sabina's parishioners are being helped by them. This is of course not to despair for their salvation; they are likely invincibly ignorant of what they're doing wrong. But there is a problem with allowing them effectively to blackmail the diocese into continuing to extend them the sacramental ministry while they live as they please, not unlike the problem with giving into pressure to baptize a baby who will be raised de facto unchurched.

As I indicated below, my esteem for Cardinal George is genuinely high. But I think he's mistaken in this case. I'm very happy to give him, as other bloggers suggest, every benefit of the doubt. But I don't see much doubt in this case of which to give him the benefit. Sharpton should not be allowed to speak at a Catholic parish. Especially not during Mass.

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NR bashes JPII over Law

The 12/31/02 (I'm behind, okay?!?) National Review's "The Week" item on Cardinal Law's resignation concludes:
... The only shame in his stepping down is that it came after a prolonged media and legal assault, not as a swift punishment by enraged superiors. The calendar of the saints includes, in addition to martyrs and missionaries, some hard-as-nails administrators. Now is time for one, God willing.
Did Rod Dreher write this (more on Dreher's FT shot at JPII/Neuhaus sometime soon, I hope)? First of all, it's telling - an abandonment of pretense, one suspects, actually - that the author refers to "punishment." One has seen claims that Pope John Paul should have removed bishops in order to bring about the removal of priests in order to protect the young. But the above refers, not at all to "protection," but to "punishment." Remove bishops, not to protect anyone, but to make a point. This, I submit, is a bad idea, for ecclesiological (among other) reasons.

Second, what "superior" has the authority to "punish" (or otherwise remove) a bishop - besides the pope? One does have to read the item as a complaint against, not the USCCB, say, but the pope. Now, reasonable people can perhaps disagree about whether the Church would be better off were John Paul II a "hard-as-nails administrator." But what could the author mean by, "Now is time for one, God willing"? One envisions someone longing for the day when he'll be able to say, "The pope is dead; long live the hard-as-nails-administrator pope!"

I hope that I'm somehow misinterpreting the item - that I'm being as unfair to NR as its Dreher (perhaps among others) has been to the pope.

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Overheated Headline!!!

From today's Catholic World News (subscription required); reproduced here in its entirety to clarify why I think the headline is problematic:
Canadian Court Agrees That Bible Is Hate Literature

REGINA, Saskatchewan, Feb 11, 03 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - In a ruling given virtually no media coverage, the Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatchewan, ruled that a man who placed references to Bible verses on homosexuality into a newspaper ad was guilty of inciting hatred. The December 11, 2002 decision was in response to an appeal of a 2001 Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (HRC) ruling which ordered both the Saskatoon StarPhoenix newspaper and Hugh Owens of Regina to pay CAN$1,500 to three homosexual activists for publishing an ad in the Saskatoon newspaper quoting Bible verses regarding homosexuality.
The purpose of the ad was to indicate that the Bible says no to homosexual behavior. The advertisement displayed references to four Bible passages: Romans 1, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, on the left side. An equal sign (=) was situated in the middle, with a symbol on the right side. The symbol was comprised of two males holding hands with the universal symbol of a red circle with a diagonal bar superimposed over top.

Justice J. Barclay rejected the appeal ruling: "In my view, the Board was correct in concluding that the advertisement can objectively be seen as exposing homosexuals to hatred or ridicule. When the use of the circle and slash is combined with the passages of the Bible, it exposes homosexuals to detestation, vilification and disgrace. In other words, the Biblical passage which suggests that if a man lies with a man they must be put to death exposes homosexuals to hatred."

Janet Epp Buckingham, Legal Counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, told LifeSite: "The ruling that a verse from the Bible can be considered to expose homosexuals to hatred shows the danger for Scripture if Bill C-250 passes." Bill C-250, proposed by homosexual activist MP Svend Robinson, would see "sexual orientation" added to hate crime law as a prohibited ground of discrimination.
First of all, I think the ruling (and probably the law on which it is based) is unjust. Freedom of speech and of religion are human rights too. And the ad's author may well have intended to speak what I would agree is a religious truth.

Second, though, the ruling did not concern the "Bible" per se but rather certain passages placed in a certain context for a certain purpose. And I'm not sure that the ad's use of these passages was an entirely responsible use of speech or of Christianity. The Leviticus passages, including Lev. 20:13, are by no means irrelevant to Christian morality, as some revisionists would have it. But the citation of this verse, with its mention of the death penalty, in connection with the circle-and-slash, does strike me as inflammatory and counterproductive, bound to shed more heat than light on the controversy about homosexuality. So also, therefore, CWN's headline. Let's evangelize forthrightly and unapologetically, but let's not reduce evangelism or the controversies it engenders to sound bites.

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Cardinal, convert from Judaism, on Jewish-Christian relationship

"NEW YORK (CNS) -- Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris told a New York audience that Jews and Christians need to work together in confronting challenges both faiths face in the modern world, rather than focus on the issues that divide them. ..." more

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Cardinal appeals for support for UN

"ROME, FEB. 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome, said it is imperative to support the United Nations 'sincerely' in the face of challenges to world peace. ..." more

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Vatican warning about "New Paradigm"

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican official warns of a plan to supplant Christian values with a 'universal ethic' in the new context of globalization. ..." more

I can certainly vouch for the accuracy of what he says about bioethics today. See, e.g., this popular text.

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Papal envoy in Iraq

"BAGHDAD, Iraq, FEB. 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, John Paul II's special emissary, arrived in Baghdad with a message he says is 'crucial for peace.' ..." more

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Vatican symposium on religion and peace

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A symposium condemned attempts to turn religion into a force of division and violence, and instead encouraged the need for interreligious dialogue. ..." more

"VATICAN, Feb 11, 03 (CWNews.com) -- An interfaith conference on peacekeeping efforts has produced a joint declaration calling upon all religious leaders to become actively involved in work for peace. ..." more (subscription required)

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"Life Can Win"

"Maybe invoking the name 'Christopher Reeve' ... doesn't always end a debate, after all. The New Jersey state assembly was all set to pass an unprecedented cloning bill on Monday (more details here). ..." more

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The Supreme Court: What will Bush do?

"Is White House counsel Alberto Gonzales on the short list to fill the next Supreme Court vacancy? ..." more

Pray that the answer is "No." And pray that Estrada gets confirmed, so that Bush won't be tempted to go "moderate."

(See also below.)

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Theology and heresy

Against the Grain (at the Ratzinger Fan Club) blogs some thoughts on "the heresy of hating 'heresy-hunts' more than heresy itself." I think his point is well worth making today, but also could use some qualifications.

First, heresy-hunting by amateurs can be dangerous. Witness another ("Rarely blinks, but not lidless") blogger's recent post, in which heresy-hunting itself leads, ironically, to mistrust of the Magisterium (the blogger also offers another example not long after). (Naturally, one does also still find mistrust of the Magisterium among those who aren't at all concerned about avoiding or repudiating heresy.)

Second, even "professionals" can make bad judgments in these matters. Consider the judgments that some mid-century Roman theologians and curial officials made about de Lubac and his colleagues. (And note that then-Father Karol Wojtyla was on de Lubac's side, not that of Garrigou-Lagrange et al. - the conclusions to be drawn from which should be self-evident concerning whether the suspicion of de Lubac was reasonable.)

And consider, as another, ironic, example, that Brian Harrison, the selfsame putative expert whose item "Hunting the Heresy Hunters" Against the Grain blogs, has shown himself to be a - to put it charitably - highly questionable judge of these matters, given some of the - to put it charitably - very exorbitant claims he has made about dogma/heresy in areas like religious liberty and the nature of scriptural inerrancy (see follow-ups on the latter point).

In short, theologians have sometimes been "suspiciously and narrow-mindedly supervised," if "only" by their peers and by the peanut gallery - whose supervision is nonetheless not always without effect. And when questions are raised concerning a de Lubac or a Ratzinger or a John Paul II or a Kasper, it would be especially inappropriate to accuse them of substituting "sentiment" for "dogma."

And third, even though it is necessary to begin theology with faith ("faith seeking understanding"), which includes assent to dogma, and thus to avoid genuine heresy, it is also necessary to keep in mind the thoughts of de Lubac in Catholicism (pp. 309ff):
... another enemy which has been very properly denounced is controversy. For a heavy tribute has been paid to its requirements. "It is a great misfortune," it has been said, "to have learned the catechism against someone." For it is to be feared, in the first place, that in such a case it was but half learned, and even if all of it that is remembered is literally and absolutely accurate, still does not the consequent narrowness of outlook and lack of proportion amount in practice to error? For if, as the whole history of the Church shows ..., heresy is an occasion of progress for orthodox doctrine, there follows in its train the danger that this progress may be one-sided and the occasion in its turn - history proves this as well - of further error; if salutary inflexibility is not soon followed by an attempt at deeper investigation, the necessary defense of threatened truth, with its operosae disputationes, may deflect attention, unless we are careful, from the orationes quotidianae; what the Church "has never ceased to proclaim in her prayers" can thus disappear for a time from some theological treatises. Who, then, can estimate the evil done in this way by a heretic or false mystic not only by propagating his opinions but even by provoking his own condemnation, with the inevitable commotion it causes and the prejudices it creates? ... A reinforced sector of the walls is not the whole city won!

The motherhood of the teaching Church is far from being merely the judicial power which she exercises against error. As products of the extraordinary Magisterium the definitions of faith themselves are a result of a "defense-reaction" which controls their choice and the form of their expression. That is what Franzelin recalled at the Vatican Council. "The purpose of the holy Councils," he explained ...,
was never to expound Catholic doctrine as long as it was undisputed ... but to expose dangerous errors and, declaring the truth directly opposed to them, deny them admittance. Hence decrees almost always contain two parts: a statement of the error with its peculiar features, and its condemnation; and a declaration of the Catholic doctrine under the precise aspect whereby it is opposed to the error. These two parts are so closely related that sometimes they are connected together even in the Canons themselves. It clearly follows from this purpose that in a dogmatic definition not only the choice of doctrinal points, but also the essential character of the exposition necessarily depends on the precise form of the error that is to be exposed and condemned. Thus the Catholic doctrine should be enunciated under that formal aspect in which it contradicts the peculiar character of the error.
So classical theology was never confined to a commentary on and a justification of texts whose authority, however absolute, does not prevent their being incomplete, dependent on circumstances, and more often negative than positive. Unenlightened zeal in these cases would result only in a doctrinal minimalism to the prejudice of Christian thought and life. Perfect fidelity to the decisions of the Church in matters of faith is only a starting point. "Bar the way to error," said St. Cyril of Jerusalem, "so that we may go forward along the only royal road."

Moreover - and this is less often noticed - "as a very frequent historical phenomenon, through a fresh application, a new verification, of the very ancient law of antinomies," the very conflict between two doctrines nearly always implies certain presuppositions common to both. Whence arises another danger for the theologian who makes too many concessions to the demands of controversy. In his struggle against heresy he always sees the question, more or less, willingly or unwillingly, from the heretic's point of view. He often accepts questions in the form in which the heretic propounds them, so that without sharing the error he may make implicit concessions to his opponent, which are the more serious the more explicit are his refutations. ...
So: mistrust of the Magisterium? No. But "heresy-hunting" as the heart of theology? Also no.

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