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, March 01, 2003


"Three Cheers for Marriage"

"LONDON, MARCH 1, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Britain celebrated National Marriage Week from Feb. 9 to 16. The event, organized by a private group and now in its seventh year, had in the past been financially supported by the government. No more. ...

"A collection of essays published in the United States last year, 'Marriage, Health and the Professions,' contained numerous studies showing the advantages of marriage. ..." more

(See also below.)

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w


Fighting AIDS

"NEW YORK, MARCH 1, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Commentators regularly excoriate the Catholic Church for its opposition to condoms in 'safe sex' and anti-AIDS programs. ..." more

(See also below.)

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w


Columnist on JPII on Iraq

"Pope John Paul II is causing heartburn among one of the president's key constituencies: conservative Catholics. ..." more

Two comments. First, McGrory seems to equate the pope's position on abortion and cloning with his position on Iraq, and to suggest that Bush's disagreement with the latter somehow cancels out his agreement with the former. This would not be correct; abortion is a different kind of issue - clearer and more fundamental (war, unlike abortion, is not always morally evil), and generally an overriding one.

Second, I think it's interesting that the very liberal Richard McBrien is concerned about Saddam's use of the pope's position as propaganda. One can contrast the lack of such concerns on the part of the liberal sister blogged below.

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w


Iraq

"ANKARA, Turkey — In a serious blow to U.S. war plans, the speaker of Turkey's parliament nullified a legislative vote Saturday that would have allowed deployment of 62,000 U.S. combat troops in Turkey to open a northern front against Iraq. ..." more

"SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt — Arab leaders said they reject a war on Iraq and U.S. threats to remove Saddam Hussein, but their message Saturday was undermined by exchanges of insults and sharp divisions at a summit aimed at finding unity over the Iraq crisis. ..." more

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w


9/11 arrest

"ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was arrested Saturday in Pakistan, both senior Pakistani officials and U.S. intelligence sources have confirmed. ..." more

"ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Name, nationality and status of some major Al Qaeda figures: ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed turned Usama bin Laden's wish to kill Americans into a reality like no one else in Al Qaeda, and his arrest could lead to information about terror attacks still in the planning stages, U.S. counterterrorism officials say. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — President Bush celebrated a major success in the fight against terrorism Saturday with the arrest of the Al Qaeda operative suspected of planning the Sept. 11 attacks. ..." more

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w


More from Pittsburgh on Mr. Rogers

"Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup. ..." more

"Mr. Rogers helped me move back to Pittsburgh. No, he didn't drive the truck or pack the boxes, but he was there. ..." more

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w


Not a serious solution to malpractice-insurance crisis

"HARRISBURG -- Gov. Ed Rendell pledged yesterday to continue short-term financial relief to physicians facing high medical malpractice insurance rates, even if the state has to borrow money to cover the expense. ..." more

Also: "CHARLESTON (AP)- The state would give doctors $10 million worth of tax breaks over two years in the compromise version of the medical malpractice insurance bill being drafted by a joint conference committee late Thursday. ..." more

Why not? See below.

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w


"Safe environment" against child sex abuse?

"... Doty is a coordinator for Virtus -- Latin for virtue -- a 6-year-old program started by the national church's self-insurance organization to stem child abuse within the church.

"The program, adopted by 30 dioceses and under consideration in the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, made its Pennsylvania debut in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown this week ..." more

Some screening and knowing and watching for "warning signals" is necessary. I question windows in confessional doors, though. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," I know, but perhaps among the most important preventives for the problem is deterrence by cooperation by all in the prosecution of abusers. It ought to be - it must be - possible for the Church to function as the Church, not as a place where suspicion prevents us from being each other's brothers and sisters in Christ. The Church gives our life meaning only because it's the place where we give and experience that kind of love (see John Paul II's Redemptor Hominis 10). And Catholics who thus understand the nature and purpose of the Church will take that understanding into account in deciding whether to sue their dioceses.

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w


Specter opponent begins campaign

"Lehigh Valley Congressman Pat Toomey began his statewide barnstorming tour challenging U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in next year's Republican primary by repeatedly hammering Specter as a liberal who is out of step with conservatives like himself. ..." more

(See also below.)

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w


Black churches on AIDS

"For the Rev. Jason Barr, pastor of Macedonia Church in the Hill District, the battle against HIV/AIDS has become an increasingly personal one. ..." more

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w


Dominican sister, union organizer march in Iraq against war

This is an example of how Catholics should not go about opposing war. (Contrast "Iraqis on Saddam and freedom" below, as well as this article. Where do the protesters show more than perfunctory support for this perspective - when they're taking part in Saddam-organized demonstrations?)

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w


How should the media cover religion?

A columnist seeks readers' thoughts.

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w


Nobel laureate Carter will apply peacemaking skills in Georgia

Georgia, USA, that is - not the former Soviet republic.

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w


9th Circuit maintains absurd Pledge stand

"SAN FRANCISCO — Rebuffing the Bush administration, a federal appeals court Friday refused to reconsider its ruling that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because of the words 'under God.' ..." more

Why "absurd"? First, the recitation of the pledge in government-run schools cannot reasonably be termed either an "establishment of religion" (or a deprivation of "the free exercise" of religion, since no one is forced to take part). Second, the 1st Amendment begins, "Congress shall make no law ..." School boards and principals and teachers are not Congress. And the claim that the 14th Amendment's "due process" clause applies the 1st Amendment to the states (and local governmental entities), however "settled" it may be to lawyers and judges, is wholly specious. Substantive rights like those having to do with religion are not procedural ("due process") rights. (If they were, by the way, then the 5th Amendment Federal "due process" clause would be redundant with respect to the rest of the Bill of Rights.)

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w


Iraq, terror, N. Korea

"WASHINGTON — Iraqi forces guarding Baghdad are armed with chemical weapons and may have orders to use them, U.S. officials say ..." more

"NEW YORK — As time runs out for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to disarm or face a military thrashing from the United States and its allies, 'pro-war' — or 'anti-anti-war' — Americans are saying they have had enough of the recent protests in various cities at home and abroad. ..." more

"UNITED NATIONS — While welcoming Iraq's decision to destroy a key missile system, top U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix maintained Friday the country still has a long way to go in to prove it's serious about disarmament. ..." more

"BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.N. weapons inspectors have conducted a private interview with an Iraqi biologist, the first such interview since Feb. 7, the inspectors said Saturday. ..." more

"BAGHDAD, Iraq — News of Iraq's planned destruction of more Al Samoud missiles was praised by governments opposed to war, but those advocating military action remain suspicious. ..." more

"SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt — The United Arab Emirates on Saturday called for Saddam Hussein to step down to spare the region from war, the first Arab country to do so publicly. ..." more

"CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The first person convicted under a law that bars aid to terrorists was sentenced Friday to 155 years in prison ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Terror suspects prosecuted by U.S. military tribunals could be charged with any of two dozen crimes, including hijacking, poisoning and rape, under a draft list of offenses the Pentagon released ..." more

"WASHINGTON — A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency is on the ground in Nigeria for what it describes as a 'radiological emergency.' Sources say radioactive and highly toxic material that could be used to build a 'dirty bomb' was stolen ..." more

"WASHINGTON — The independent commission on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is trying to get a half-million pages of documents compiled by the House and Senate intelligence committees. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Faced with political turmoil in the Philippines, the Pentagon Friday backed away from a plan to launch a joint combat offensive against Muslim rebels there. ..." more

"SIDON, Lebanon — An Egyptian man with purported links to Al Qaeda was killed Saturday in a bomb explosion at Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp ..." more

"KARACHI, Pakistan — A man arrested after opening fire and killing two Pakistani police officers guarding the U.S. Consulate in this southern city had a note in his pocket saying it was his duty as a Muslim to kill the protectors of infidel Americans ..." more

"SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, in his first policy speech since taking office, on Saturday warned of a 'calamity' from the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program unless a peaceful resolution is found quickly. ..." more

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w


Should Orioles pitcher's widow sue?

Probably not. On the other hand, the selling of unnecessarily dangerous stuff like ephedra is right up there on a list of examples of corporate irresponsibility. It's legal, and people should know better than to buy and use the product (would warning labels really help?), and civil lawsuits shouldn't be a backdoor method of criminalizing - but perhaps forthright criminalization of ephedra sales wouldn't be a bad thing.

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wFriday, February 28, 2003


Children in church

"PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Msgr. Philip Murnion of the New York-based National Pastoral Life Center tells this joke: 'A baby starts crying loudly in Mass during the sermon. The mother stands up to take him out. "Don't worry, he can stay," the priest says from the pulpit. "He's not bothering me." The woman says, "Thanks, Father, but it's you who are bothering him."' ..." more

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w


UN population projections

"NEW YORK, Feb 28, 03 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - The United Nations has released the 2002 Revision of the official United Nations population estimates and projections. For the first time, the United Nations Population Division projects that future fertility levels in most developing countries will likely fall below 2.1 children per woman, the level needed to ensure the long-term replacement of the population, at some point in the twenty-first century. By 2050, the medium variant of the 2002 Revision projects that three out of every four countries in the less developed regions will be experiencing below-replacement fertility, with all developed countries far below replacement level as well. ..." more (subscription required)

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w


USCCB on Court decision about pro-lifers

"WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 28, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A U.S. bishops' aide hailed the Supreme Court's ruling that held a federal racketeering statute cannot be used against pro-life protesters. ..." more

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w


Pope to new Anglican archbishop

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2003 (Zenit.org).- In a letter to the new archbishop of Canterbury, John Paul II expressed his hopes for continued progress in Catholic-Anglican relations. ..." more

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w


Vatican and Iraq

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican official told the ambassadors at the Holy See that it is imperative to have 'the force of law, and not the law of force' prevail in the Iraqi crisis. ..." more

"VATICAN, Feb 28, 03 (CWNews.com) -- During his Thursday briefing for the Vatican diplomatic corps, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran had strong messages for two ambassadors who attended the session: the envoys from Iraq and the United States. ..." more (subscription required)

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The promotion of peaceful ways to resolve the Iraqi crisis has created amazing unity among Christians, says a Vatican representative. ..." more (Compare John Paul II's Ut Unum Sint 21, 43, 68, 74, 76.)

"ROME, Feb 28, 03 (CWNews.com) -- Israel's ambassador to the Holy See has taken issue with recent Vatican statements regarding the situation in the Middle East. ..." more (subscription required)

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w


Sad country song with happy ending

"Three Wooden Crosses" (clip). One of this this great artist's many excellent songs. He picks good, traditional-country material, and his voice is well suited to it. An older hit of his: "Forever And Ever, Amen" (clip). Also terrific: "Spirit Of A Boy, Wisdom Of A Man" (clip).

(See also below.)

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w


What's causing AIDS in Africa?
FRIDAY FAX

February 28, 2003
Volume 6, Number 10

British Medical Journal Asserts Coverup in African AIDS Pandemic Claims AIDS Crisis Caused by Bad Medicine, Not Sex

A prominent British medical journal has published a series of articles claiming that the mainstream AIDS community seriously misinterprets data concerning the spread of AIDS in Africa because it is blinded by its pro-condom ideology. According to the authors of the papers, published in the International Journal of STD and AIDS, the majority of new AIDS cases in Africa are not caused by heterosexual activity, but by contaminated needles used for medical injections. Therefore, the massive distribution of condoms over the past twenty years, the keystone of the international community’s response to the African AIDS epidemic which continues to this day, is bound to be misguided and even counterproductive.

Most AIDS researchers hold that the African AIDS epidemic is overwhelmingly the result of heterosexual activity. The authors recount that, “In 1988, prominent organizations and experts circulated estimates attributing about 90% of HIV infections in African adults to heterosexual contact. Estimates have inched upwards since. According to the World Health Organization’s 2002 World Health Report, ‘current estimates suggest that more than 99% of HIV infections prevalent in Africa in 2001 are attributable to unsafe sex.” However, the authors contend that “we have been unable to locate any document – from the 1980s or later” to substantiate these claims. Instead, according to their data, up to 70% of HIV infections occur through health care transmission, most notably through the reuse of needles.

In the articles’ most stunning passages, the authors question the motives of researchers who disregard this data. “Why was evidence ignored? It has been said that people often see what they wish to see…In short, tangential, opportunistic, and irrational considerations may have contributed to ignoring and misinterpreting epidemiological evidence.” Specifically, they suggest that the AIDS community may be influenced by a homosexual, population-control agenda. “First, it was in the interests of AIDS researchers in developed countries – where HIV seemed stubbornly confined to MSM [men who have sex with men]...to present AIDS in Africa as a heterosexual epidemic...Second there may have been an inclination to emphasize sexual transmission as an argument for condom promotion, coinciding with pre-existing programmes and efforts to curb Africa’s rapid population growth...”

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the WHO quickly discounted these findings. IPPF flaty claims that the “new research findings...have been rejected by medical experts...”

The authors conclude that their studies should “...have major ramifications for current and future HIV control programmes in Africa,” and that “Africans deserve scientifically sound information on the epidemiological determinants of their calamitous AIDS epidemic.”

At this moment, the Bush administration is discussing how to allocate $15 billion for a new AIDS initiative in Africa and the Caribbean. Many of the international agencies and nongovernmental organizations involved in condom distribution and the “safe sex” campaign, such as IPPF, hope to receive a significant portion of these funds.

Copyright – C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute). Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.

Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute
866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 427
New York, New York 10017
Phone: (212) 754-5948 Fax: (212) 754-9291
E-mail: c-fam@c-fam.org Website: www.c-fam.org
(See also below.)

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w


Sex selling classical music

I've noticed this trend, and I agree it's disturbing.

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w


The WTC site proposals

I agree with one complaint from this commentary: the proposals "were all wacky. They just didn't look like real buildings. They looked like something a first-year architecture student would come up with, when he's got the math and the physics and the graphics software down pretty well ..." I disagree with the rest. The site should host something majestically beautiful, not merely nicely modest and functional. The problem with the designs, including the winner, is that they aspire to majestic beauty but end up majestically ugly, partly because they don't look like real buildings.

By the way: Why do I care about this; why have I been blogging about this? As John Paul II teaches in his encyclical on fundamental moral theology (51): "In order to perfect himself ..., the person must ... contemplate beauty."

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w


Medicare money

"It's not hard finding objectionable items in the massive, omnibus appropriations bill the president signed into law last week. But of all its provisions, the one that's likely to end up costing taxpayers most is one that, officially, had no cost at all when it was agreed to. ..." more

(See also below.)

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Challenge to liberal GOP senator from right

Good: "Pat Toomey will challenge Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter in the Republican primary in April. ..." more

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White House challenge to Dems on judicial nominee

"In perhaps its most forceful effort yet to break the stalemate over the appeals-court nomination of Miguel Estrada, the White House has now invited every member of the Senate who has doubts about Estrada's legal views to submit written questions to Estrada by the close of business Friday. ..." more

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w


Iraq, terror, N. Korea

"WASHINGTON — Excerpts from a letter written by Iraqi Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, who ordered Iraq to begin destroying its Al Samoud 2 missiles and their components by Saturday: ..." more

"BEIJING — Russia is ready to veto a U.S.-British resolution in the U.N. Security Council authorizing use of force against Iraq if such a step is needed to preserve 'international stability,' Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said ..." more

"BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq will begin destroying its Al Samoud 2 missiles on Saturday, the last day of a deadline given by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, Iraqi sources said ..." more

"PARIS — French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Friday that Iraq's decision to begin destroying its Al Samoud 2 missiles confirms U.N. weapons inspections are working. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel said Thursday that while he abhors war, he believes the world community must confront Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — President Bush's showdown with Saddam Hussein started with the goal of regime change and disarmament. Now the administration's objectives in Iraq are expanding as Bush searches for a compelling theme that will win support and blunt growing world opposition to war. ..." more

Aha! (but the Civil War parallel is faulty, if one recalls that it began with an attack by the South in the form of secession and Ft. Sumter): "ONE REASON the coming war disturbs many Americans is that it seems optional. While the fight in Afghanistan was thrust upon us, this conflict is one our country enters by choice. ..." more

Problems with using Palestinians-Israel to argue for war against Iraq: "Just when it appeared as if he could do no wrong, President George W. Bush this week reminded us all that even great leaders can make monumental mistakes. ..." more

"KARACHI, Pakistan — Gunmen opened fire on a police post guarding the U.S. Consulate in Karachi on Friday, killing two policemen and injuring at least five others ..." more

"WASHINGTON — President Bush promised a 'united defense of our homeland' Friday in marking the launch of the department created to answer the danger of terrorism. ..." more

"At midnight Friday, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) turns into a pumpkin. Saturday morning means a whole new arrangement for administering the immigration law, ending years of debate over the issue. But whether things will actually improve is not clear. ..." more

Interesting interview with expert on Muslim apocalypticism: "... Rod Dreher: What are the main beliefs of Islamic eschatology? David Cook: Referring to Sunni Islam, the principal beliefs are: ..." more

"SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's Foreign Ministry confirmed Friday that North Korea has restarted a small reactor that could produce plutonium for atomic weapons. ..." more

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w


250th anniversary of "French and Indian"/"Seven Years" War coming

"History buffs have a new Internet site to visit. ..." more

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w


More on Mr. Rogers from his hometown paper

"The first time Marc Brown, creator of the animated PBS series 'Arthur,' met Fred Rogers, they talked about loss. 'He never used the word death, he always used the words "going to heaven." Boy, if anyone deserves to be in heaven, it's Fred Rogers,' Brown said yesterday. ..." more

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w


We pretend to value marriage, but we don't

Examples: various recent "reality" shows, and contests like this (the man's record is just the icing on the bad wedding cake).

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w


What to do about troubled urban youth?

How about having urban men try to be a positive influence on their public behavior?

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w


"Desegregation" and "diversity"

"Republican lawmakers looking for state budget savings may try to cut the Chapter 220 desegregation program or merge it with the less expensive public school choice program, but a new study says either would be a major blow to diversity in suburban Milwaukee schools. ..." more

De facto segregation resulting from where people live is radically different from de jure segregation. And the law should not impose busing to remedy de facto segregation in the name of "diversity." This is a waste of money.

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w


One more on EPA regulations and "perverse incentives"

I'm for clean air, but the Bush plan sounds reasonable to me, and I think that this is misguided. (See also below.)

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w


HS graduation requirements

"Milwaukee Public Schools students will need 22 rather than 23 units of high school subject credits to graduate under a change in curriculum requirements the School Board approved Thursday. ..." more

Hmm. I can't recall how many credits my high school (admittedly, a private, college-prep school) required when I was there, but I believe I had 23.5 units, and I see that the school requires 23 now.

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w


Cloned pigs source of human organs?

"DeForest - A Wisconsin biotech firm said Thursday that it has genetically engineered and cloned a litter of piglets with organs that may resist rapid rejection by the human immune system. ..." more

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w


The EPA, water, and radium

Speaking of regulations, this one troubles me. Maybe it makes sense substantively - on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis - and maybe it doesn't.

But here's my concern. The "Environmental Protection Agency" sounds like an agency that's supposed to protect the environment - from pollution, etc. - for the sake of human health and (more generally) well-being (it's good that natural beauty is preserved for our contemplation), and perhaps also for its own sake. What does regulating the amount of naturally-occuring radium in drinking water have to do with this (I had the same concern about the Clinton - and now Bush - arsenic standards)? How is this "environmental protection"? Is "environmental protection" the same thing as (putatively) "protection from the environment"? I think that having an organization called the EPA to make these kinds of regulations amounts to a bait-and-switch scheme. (And, why shouldn't drinking-water standards, and the cost-benefit analyses that should underlie them, be local matters?)

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wThursday, February 27, 2003


More "perverse incentives"

Columnist: Using tax money in ways that are a disincentive to marriage helps the poor; using it to encourage marriage is wasteful. (She may, however, have a point about "a mother's place"; I've long been ambivalent about this aspect of welfare reform.)

(See also below.)

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w


Illinois doctors and malpractice insurance

"SPRINGFIELD--Eduardo Barriuso, a Humboldt Park obstetrician, says he pays $104,000 a year for malpractice insurance and was just told there'll be a 10 percent to 15 percent increase by July. ..." more (Thanks, Chris. And see also below.)

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Eucharist encyclical coming on Holy Thursday

But, the story below is wrong.

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Requirements for ecumenical dialogue

"ROME (CNS) -- While theological dialogue is essential to building Christian unity, the ecumenical movement cannot succeed without prayer and conversion, said Cardinal Walter Kasper. ..." more

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w


School choice in another state?

Moving beyond WI and OH?

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w


Vatican revision of abuse norms

"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope John Paul II has changed several Vatican norms to expedite the trial or laicization of priests who have sexually abused minors. ..." more

(See also below.)

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w


Abortion discrimination?

"WILMINGTON, Delaware, Feb 27, 03 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - A pro-abortion woman who was fired from her post as a teacher at a private Catholic school after her support for abortion was mentioned in a newspaper ad celebrating Roe v Wade has launched a discrimination complaint. Michele Curay-Cramer, 31, claims her dismissal violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits firing an employee for having an abortion. ..." more (subscription required)

Fill me in. What kind of law (state, Federal) is this? When was it passed? How does "firing an employee for advocating for abortion" = "firing an employee for having an abortion"?

(See also below.)

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w


Parents on homosexuality and sex ed

"CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, Feb 27, 03 (LSN.ca/CWNews.com) - A new Zogby poll of 1,200 parents shows that 71 percent of parents do not want sex education programs teaching students that homosexual relationships are as normal and acceptable as loving heterosexual relationships ..." more (subscription required)

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VP of Pontifical Academy for Life on science and ethics

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Science cannot be without ethical judgment because research in areas such as biomedicine and biotechnology can have consequences for everyone, says a Vatican official. ..." more

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w


Diablogging: Pro-abortion candidates

The article on Kucinich that I blogged below prompts some good reflections by Chris Burgwald. Chris is right that abortion should be an overriding issue (and my link to the article wasn't meant to imply agreement with what the article says about, e.g., Rice - not that I'm implying that Chris was implying this implication, but I just want to clarify; in fact, though, I think the article's critique of of the abortioncentric left is all the more striking given what it says about pro-abortion candidates and other issues).

I do, however, think that there could be cases in which it would be legitimate to vote for pro-abortion candidates other than the one case Chris mentions - "if the other candidate is also pro-choice, and is worse on the other issues." First, of course, pro-choice/pro-abortion is somewhat a matter of degree, and if candidates A and B are both pro-abortion but one less so/more pro-life than the other, it could be moral (even necessary) to vote for that candidate. I don't know that Chris meant to exclude that case, though.

Less obvious, but still compelling to me, are arguments for the morality in some cases of voting for a more pro-abortion/less pro-life candidate. The underlying point is that there is more to deciding, based on the overriding issue of abortion, for whom to vote than considering how each candidate would personally deal with the overriding issue of abortion if elected.

Suppose one votes for a candidate who has no serious chance whatsoever of winning. This can amount, in practice, to a vote for one of the other candidates (as when Nader voters in 2000 effectively voted for Bush, and Buchanan voters, for Gore). Suppose that candidate C is fully pro-life; candidate D, partly pro-life/partly pro-abortion; candidate E, fully pro-abortion. But candidate C has no chance of winning. A vote for fully-pro-life candidate C rather than less-pro-life D increases the chance that not-at-all-pro-life candidate E will win - that is, increases the chance that the election will have a worse rather than better outcome for the abortion issue. A pro-life voter in such a case could - perhaps should - vote for candidate D, not because he is the most pro-life candidate, but because he is the most pro-life winnable candidate. Naturally, dealing with such a situation requires a prudential judgment about "winnability"; in some cases, the judgment will be fairly easy; in others, less so.

Now, suppose that candidate F is (relatively or fully) pro-life, and candidate G, pro-abortion. But candidate F represents political party X. Most members of this party, and especially those party leaders who will be installed as committee chairs, etc., if the party is in control of a legislative chamber, are pro-abortion. Meanwhile, candidate G represents party Y, most of whose members are pro-life, etc. And in this particular election, control of the legislative chamber for a seat in which candidates F and G are running is closely contested between parties X and Y. So, if F is elected, there will be one more pro-life vote in the chamber. But it is also very likely that party X will thereby be given the majority in the chamber, with the result that pro-abortion committee chairs, etc., will be installed, with the result that pro-life measures will be killed before F has an opportunity to vote for them. Meanwhile, G, if elected, would vote pro-abortion, but in a chamber probably controlled by party Y, who would at least bring pro-life bills up for votes. Here again, I think that a - this time more complicated, less certain - prudential judgment is called for on the part of the voter. Obviously, electing lots of pro-abortion Yers will be counterproductive - it's only useful to pro-lifers that Y be the majority party if there will still be enough pro-life votes to pass the bills that the party's leaders will allow to be considered (and if some pro-abortion Yers are successful in getting elected, this could encourage others to run). But, also important, I think, is the consideration that electing some pro-abortion Yers rather than pro-life Xers may in the end produce more pro-life laws.

I blogged about these kinds of judgments last fall, contra Judie Brown (who, of course, goes so far as pretty much to think, absurdly, that one may never vote for a less-than-perfectly-pro-life candidate, even when such a candidate is the best one in a race). I still think I'm right that at the least there are prudential judgments to be made here - pro-life voting in races with more than two candidates, or in races when control of a legislative chamber is up for grabs, isn't always as simple as voting for the most pro-life candidate.

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Dreher on JPII on war: who's "hysterical"?

Amy blogs Dreher's latest rant (her posts can no longer be linked directly; scroll down to "From Rod Dreher:"). Two comments. First, I'm not sure how accusing the pope of lacking humility about his position, and comparing him to "the hysterical lady in Western movies," square with Rod's claim to think John Paul will "rightly" be called "St. John Paul the Great." Second, more substantively, Rod asserts, "We have had 12 years of dialogue and diplomacy with Saddam, to no avail." "To no avail"? Let's see. Saddam hasn't invaded any of his neighbors, hasn't even fired a Scud at Tel Aviv. Hasn't, in short, repeated the specific acts that led to the "12 years of dialogue and diplomacy" to begin with. That's very minimal. Yes, he's been a terror to Iraqis. But, "to no avail"?

Mark Shea sufficiently responds to the rest of Rod's comments (immediately below them). I believe I've seen Rod accuse people of hysteria before. I think he ought to get out of his glass house if he's going to keep throwing that particular stone.

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Another anti-malpractice-cap appeal

Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture, granting that malpractice occurred? (See also below.)

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House passes cloning ban

Now, tell your senator to get on board.

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Senate GOP tries to call Dems' bluff on nominee ...

But their approach may fail. See below for what they should do.

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"Anti-Affirmative Action Bake Sale"?

Creative, and helps illustrate the point to which it's trying to draw attention.

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Iraq, terror

"PARIS — President Jacques Chirac is under pressure from key supporters who fear that France's opposition to war with Iraq could cripple relations with the United States, wreck the United Nations and leave France isolated. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — The U.S. military buildup for war topped 200,000 troops in the Gulf region Thursday while inside Iraq Saddam Hussein was said to be moving some of his best-trained forces into new positions. ..." more

"UNITED NATIONS — U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix says Iraq failed to make a major effort to produce evidence of its weapons programs and therefore its disarmament has been 'very limited so far' ..." more

"NEW YORK — Children of military parents across Maine are being harassed in school, in some cases by teachers who claim the little ones' mothers and fathers are wrong to fight for their country ..." more

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed to Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar and all parties involved in the Iraqi crisis for 'peaceful initiatives ... inspired by international law.' ..." more

"VATICAN, Feb 27, 03 (CWNews.com) -- In a special briefing for diplomats accredited to the Holy See on February 27, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran summarized the Vatican's stance regarding Iraq, saying that Saddam Hussein's regime must disarm, but that military action against Iraq is not justifiable. ..." more (subscription required)

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- To the question, 'What concrete contribution can the Church make to the cause of peace?' a Vatican official has four answers. ..." more

"ROME, FEB. 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- What guidelines for world peace can the Church offer amid the debate over Iraq? ..." more

"WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The president of the U.S. bishops' conference says it is hard to justify a war against Iraq, given the lack of clear evidence linking Baghdad to an imminent and grave attack or the Sept. 11 attacks. ..." more

"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II and a special envoy of Iran's president huddled for talks that focused 'on the need to safeguard peace in the Middle East region.' ..." more

"NEW YORK — Red tape at the Immigration and Naturalization Service is preventing police from reporting illegal immigrants who commit crimes ..." more

"CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Thirty-seven people accused of being illegal immigrants were arrested at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, headquarters of the nation's largest arsenal of intercontinental nuclear missiles. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — A leading civil rights groups has asked President Bush to end the extra scrutiny given to Arabs and Muslims in the post-Sept. 11 fight against terrorism. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda operatives plotting U.S. attacks may use sophisticated surveillance techniques that are difficult for local security and police officials to detect ..." more

I'm for this if it means I won't have to remove my shoes and belt anymore: "WASHINGTON — The government is getting ready to test a new risk-detection system that would check background information and assign a threat level to everyone who buys a ticket for a commercial flight. ..." more

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"Perverse incentives"

I'm no libertarian, as multiple posts below show (see here and here). But there are good reasons - sometimes principled, sometimes prudential - for government not to regulate some things.

Two 1/27/03 National Review items illustrate an often-overlooked prudential concern about overregulation: that, as P.J. O'Rourke has observed, the Law of Unintended Consequences is the one law that Congress never fails to pass. The first example is in a "The Week" item:
While traveling in the Andes last year, James Michael Kovach, a Virginia orchid enthusiast, discovered an undocumented species now known as the Phragmipedium kovachii - and set himself up for a bureaucratic nightmare. According to a report in the Washington Post, Kovach returned to Miami with the Phragmipedium in a suitcase, intending to take it to an American botanical institution that could publish his find and ensure that the species would be named after him. Kovach was never stopped at customs, though he told officers twice that he had plants to declare. Once the discovery had been announced, however, the Phragmipedium was seized by officials alleging that it had been transported in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Kovach contends, reasonably enough, that he could hardly have been expected to know a species was endangered that had not even been known to science. By the terms of the convention, Kovach could face a year in prison and $100,000 in fines. Endangered species, it would seem, merit so much respect that it would be better if we didn't even know they existed.
The second example is treated in an article (not on NR's site, and too long to transcribe) by Rod "Crunchy Con" Dreher called "USDA-Disapproved: Small farmers and big government." Dreher substantiates this thesis:
State and federal regulations governing the nation's meat and dairy supply are supposed to guarantee safe, quality food products. But the rules are actually tailored to benefit mass agriculture producers at the expense of small farmers. Also hurt are consumers - who are being denied the opportunity to purchase meat and dairy products that taste better, and which may be better for them (or, at least, not as harmful as the government fears).
So: laws enacted to protect endangered species and ensure good food actually discourage behaviors that can accomplish these ends (also interestingly, regulations may above all help big businesses to compete against small ones - a lesson for those who think regulations are the best way to curb the excesses of such businesses). Does that mean we should eschew regulation? No. But it does, I would say, suggest something about what regulations make sense. Not only are there some ends whose achievement is not worth the cost of regulations - but also, when regulations are to be employed, we need to be sure that they are really able to achieve their purpose. That may mean regulations that reward or punish people more for what they accomplish than for whether they employ arbitrarily- and, frequently, ill-chosen means to their ends.

For example, regulations ought not assume that allowing someone to benefit from discovery of a new species is necessarily inimical to, rather than possibly helpful for, the preservation of endangered species. More generally, while it is unjust and un-Christian to structure society around selfishness, not all self-interest is selfish, and there is nothing wrong with, and something to be gained from, permitting and even encouraging unselfish self-interest. The law ought not, that is, assume that life is a zero-sum game in which it is always necessary or helpful to pit interest against interest.

Morality does require good means as well as ends. But not all choices of means are moral issues. The law ought not treat as vice what is at worst morally indifferent in itself, and possibly beneficial. This is unfair and imprudent.

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On Mr. Rogers

"A friend of mine who grew up in Mister Rogers's Neighborhood — I mean that literally, as in down the street from him in Pittsburgh — can't tell me enough good things about him. ...

"Here is the secret of Mister Rogers: He says exactly what he means and exactly what is true, and he says it for the consumption of a single, simple audience: children. ..." more

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Medicare reform?

"What happens when a popular president wants to reform a popular public program without spending much political capital? ..." more

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Free lunch?

"WASHINGTON — More than a fourth of the 28 million children who eat free or discounted school lunches might be ineligible, and the Bush administration is considering rules to reserve the meal programs for children of families who prove their low incomes. ..." more

"When Bush budget officials recently reviewed the federal government's spending habits, they realized they weren't the only ones looking to trim some fat. ..." more

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More obstruction of Bush judicial nominees

"WASHINGTON — Two of President Bush's judicial nominees may hit the same Democrat-engineered roadblock that has delayed Senate action on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the federal appellate bench. ..." more

Yet: "As Kate O'Beirne observed in NR recently, hostility to the filibuster used to be something of a progressive cause. ..." more

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House debate on cloning

"WASHINGTON — House Republicans planned to push through a White House-backed bill that would ban all human cloning, even as some lawmakers fought for provisions to protect scientific research. ..." more

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Iraq, (less) terror

"ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish parliament moved Thursday to delay until Saturday a full vote on whether to host more than 60,000 American troops for a possible Iraq war ..." more

"WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence has detected Iraqi President Saddam Hussein moving some elite army troops into new positions as time ticks down toward a possible U.S. invasion ..." more

"SALAHUDDIN, Iraq — A key Kurdish leader appealed for unity Thursday, urging the people of Iraq to rise up and establish a democratic country. ..." more

See Robert Gotcher on why this analysis is incomplete: "ONE OF THE SLOGANS of the antiwar movement is 'win without war.' ..." more

"BAGHDAD, Iraq — South African disarmament experts visiting Iraq said Thursday they are convinced Iraq is doing its best to disarm, and appealed to the U.N. Security Council to give weapons inspections more time ..." more

"SEATTLE — A federal judge postponed sentencing Wednesday for convicted terrorist Ahmed Ressam after being assured the defendant will be eligible for a shortened sentence in exchange for help he has provided in terror investigations. ..." more

Can I un-duct-tape myself now?: "WASHINGTON — The national terror alert level was lowered from orange to yellow on Thursday ..." more

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Cooperating with God's mercy

Fr. Jerome, O.C.S.O., reflects on today's readings:
I have worked with drug addicts and alcoholics for a number of years. Likewise, I have been confessor to many people who have struggled with habitual sin. Reflecting upon their experiences, I have been able to gain insight into my own sinful and compulsive behaviors. At the beginning of sobriety, just says at the beginning of one's conversion, God grants the individual light to see how his or her life has become dangerously disordered. Let me rephrase the passage we just heard from the book of Sirach. "God allows us to see that we have sought after the passions of our hearts in ways that are neither healthy nor life giving" (cf. Sir. 5:2). This moment of light is a grace that is given to us by God because of His infinite mercy. I know of some people who ignored or refused this grace and eventually died in their addiction.

God's mercy is universal and everlasting. However, His mercy is limited by our willingness to receive it. God has the power to free us from sin and addiction. However, He cannot do so if we do not allow Him. The capacity of a human being to respond to grace is itself a gift from God. The awesome reality of grace is that it cannot be brought to fruition without our collaboration. We have been created in the image and likeness of God. This means that God has placed in the core of our beings a longing and a hunger that only He can satisfy. St. Augustine penned this reflection, "God brings to completion in us what he has begun, and since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it" (C.C.C. #2001).

Throughout His ministry, Jesus attempted to teach His disciples the dire consequences of acting contrary to God's will or of influencing others to do so. In today’s Gospel reading we heard these shocking words, "One [who is a cause of scandal] would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck" (Mk. 9:42). The newspapers are filled with stories about scandals. In His preaching, Jesus gave a slightly different twist to the term "scandal." Jesus wanted His disciples to realize that they could become stumbling blocks, or sources of scandal, to themselves. The admonition to amputate hand or foot was given by the one who Himself would be nailed hand and foot to the wood of the cross. The instruction to pluck out an eye came from the one who Himself would be blinded by the trickle of blood that flowed from His thorn-crowned head. In his Rule for Monks, St. Benedict offers his disciples this suggestion for dealing with the stumbling blocks that they would encounter throughout their monastic journey. "As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ" (RB 4.50).

St. Paul wrote, "When Christ set us free, He intended us to remained free" (Gal. 5:1). We must keep in mind that God’s mercy is everlasting. The road to freedom will lead us to Calvary where, with Christ, we will be crucified to the world and all its allurements. If we allow ourselves to bear the brand marks of Christ, we will come to know the freedom that is ours as the children of God. Because of Christ's great love for us, we will show ourselves to be more than conquerors over the evil powers that oppress us (cf. Rom. 8:37).

May He who called us to Himself free us from our sins and guide the desires of our hearts. Responding to the movements of grace, may we learn to hold the good things of this world with reverence and in a spirit of detachment. Filled with wonder and awe, may we abide in His Presence until the day He brings us all to everlasting life. To Him be glory, honor and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.


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"Sad day in the neighborhood"

R.I.P., Mr. Rogers.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood began its life at about the same time I began mine. It was one of a few shows my parents let me watch from an early age. They later told me that the experts had said that it was good. Their willingness to take such advice is probably not responsible for my psychopathologies.

I think that my favorite series of episodes of the show was the one in which Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden appeared as a guest (and revealed some interesting information about life in space). This probably was especially responsible for my interest in manned spaceflight.

How much did I like Mr. Rogers? When I was six, my mother was expecting my youngest sister. As the due date drew near and passed by, I became increasingly impatient. Finally, one afternoon, Mom told me that when Dad got home from work, he was going to take my other sister and me to our grandparents' so that he could take her to the hospital to have the baby. My response: "Can't I finish watching Mr. Rogers first?"

I hope that he is in the most beautiful of Neighborhoods.

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Environmentalists vs. science on genetically-modified crops

"ON TUESDAY, after winning approval from the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, agribusiness giant Monsanto gained consent from the EPA to sell genetically-altered corn designed to resist rootworm, one of the biggest pests to America's largest crop, corn. ..." more

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Diocese on CDF on abusive priests

"The Vatican has revised its rules for dealing with priests accused of molesting minors, a decision that will allow swifter removal of known sexual predators from the priesthood and permit qualified lay persons to sit in judgment of them. ..." more

(See also below.)

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"Disabled" on our dime?

"People ask where Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Jaffe, the shakedown artist, went wrong. That's easy. ..." more

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The US Supreme Court said on Monday it would decide whether a company violated a federal law protecting disabled Americans by refusing to rehire workers who have been fired for drug-related misconduct but have been rehabilitated. ..." more

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Former Pakistani PM speaks on US, Middle East

"Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto held a packed Heinz Hall in thrall last night, denouncing fanaticism as the enemy of Islam, and calling on the United States not to make the same mistake in her homeland that it made in Afghanistan. ..." more

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Reaction to abortion-racketeering decision

"... 'I'm hoping that protesters don't see it as an opening to start the things that were going on in the '80s and '90s again,' said Susan Hill, president of Summit and five other abortion clinics. 'That was a very rough period for abortion providers. We were being invaded, attacked, and doctors were being killed [What?!? Who? By pro-lifers?], and we don't want to return to it.' ...

"Leaders of the anti-abortion movement, including Scheidler, said Wednesday that although the decision was likely to encourage more people to protest outside clinics, the movement was committed to using non-violent methods of demonstration. ...

"He called the sit-ins of the past 'passe' and added, 'We are trying to have a system where we approach women peacefully and cut out the shouting [Good.].'" full story

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Public school economics class leads to ... boxing?

"West Bend - School officials and police are investigating allegations that a West Bend East High School teacher got into a boxing match at school with a student, authorities said Wednesday. ..." more

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What did NASA know, and when did it know it?

Chilling: "WASHINGTON — One day before the Columbia disaster, senior NASA engineers worried the space shuttle's left wing might burn off and cause the deaths of the crew ..." more

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Death penalty and "Gulf War Syndrome"

Even if it's "only" psychological, that's one more reason to be merciful: "WASHINGTON — A Gulf War veteran facing possible federal execution should be allowed to get a brain scan before President Bush decides whether the soldier should be put to death, a Senate Republican said Wednesday. ..." more

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Culture of death

"Shortly after 13-year-old Brittany Cambric was fatally shot in a Wilkinsburg apartment, Joyce Brown's phone rang. It was 3 a.m. ..." more

"FAIRPLAY, Colo. — The leader of a high school clique who allegedly ordered the slayings of a classmate and his grandparents in order to test the loyalty of members pleaded guilty to reduced charges. ..." more

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The Kucinich flip-flop: the left and abortion

"Five years ago, we were in the throes of impeaching a president. I was fascinated at the time at how quickly the left lined up behind the president. ... I became convinced then the American left exists for one reason and one reason only: to protect abortion rights. ..." more

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Biomedical research and the culture of death

"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Economic and ideological concerns, particularly in favor of abortion, are having an increasing impact on biomedical research and on the presentation of research in medical journals ..." more

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Hunger

"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Devastating famines no longer come as a surprise to relief agencies, but more people than ever are starving or going hungry worldwide ..." more

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The CDF and abusive priests

"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An official of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said Feb. 26 that Pope John Paul II has given the congregation the power in some 'very clear, grave cases' to laicize priests who have sexually abused minors without going through an ecclesiastical trial. ..." more

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Cardinal on cloning

"WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 26, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua urged Congress to approve the Human Cloning Prohibition Act and to reject 'deceptive substitute measures.' ..." more

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Pope on liturgy

I like this: "VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II called for an examination of conscience on the beauty and dignity with which Catholic communities should celebrate the liturgy, particularly in regard to music. ..." more

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Diablogging: Probabilism

I am probably a probabilist (perhaps especially, though not solely, for the reason given in section III.B.(2)(e) of this article - and I think the problem it identifies applies, in principle, to "experts" as well as to "ordinary people"), and I agree with Fr. Jim.

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wWednesday, February 26, 2003


Wednesday Book Club

The last book to be featured on De Virtutibus (the Book Club will continue next week on HMS Blog) is:
Karl Rahner, Hearer of the Word, trans. Joseph Donceel (Continuum, 1994).
I blogged a few especially good passages from this book yesterday, but I would like to say a bit more about it, as "part 1a," as it were, of a two-part fulfillment of the promise I mentioned in the earlier post. Hearer seeks to develop a philosophy of religion and show its relationship to religion itself and theology. This entails working out a metaphysics of the human person as open to hearing the Word. Rahner's prose can strike the reader as dense and abstract, but he does, I think, by and large, accomplish the project he undertakes, an especially important one in a world influenced by Kantian prejudices about the limits of the human intellect. Influenced by such earlier "transcendental Thomists" as Maréchal and Rousselot (both in turn influenced by Blondel, who also influenced de Lubac), Rahner begins with the phenomenon of human questioning about being, and deduces the unlimited openness of the human spirit, the freedom of God, and the possibility of God's word in history.

I would like now to comment especially on Rahner's handling of one important issue. If the human spirit is infinitely open and transcendent, then in what sense is God's self-communication to us gratuitous - rather than something that he owes us or that we can grasp of ourselves? As a preliminary answer to this question, Rahner considers whether we have a natural desire for God, whether God is our natural end. Readers of de Lubac will be aware of the importance of this latter question; and it is on this question that I think Rahner is weakest. First, Rahner allows, "If humanity's natural end is the beatific vision, ... we can no longer conceive of a revelation as a supremely free act of God as a free and gratuitous self-manifestation." But this is wrong. It conflates the question of our natural end with the question of whether we can grasp it of ourselves. It rejects what de Lubac calls "the Christian paradox of man."

Next, Rahner considers how the beatific vision could not be our natural end, given "the absolute range and limitlessness of the human spirit's transcendence." His answer is: "We have admitted" this transcendence
as a condition of the possibility of an objective knowledge of finite beings and of human self-subsistence. The purpose of this transcendence is to make possible the peculiar mode of being which turns a finite being into a spiritual being. This purpose has been reached even when the capacity of this transcendence is never immediately filled by the manifestation of this infinite being itself. We have posited and we were able to establish this transcendence only as the condition of this possibility. We have not presented it as a function that had its own telos [end] for itself alone. Hence we have no right to demand that this transcendence should, in itself, independently of the makeup of our human spirit, receive a fulfillment other than the one on account of which we affirmed its existence.
Rahner is correct to reject a "demand." But apart from this, and with all due respect to Rahner's achievement in this book and elsewhere, the above is arbitrary and metaphysically incoherent. Rahner conflates two distinct issues: that of the basis of the deduction of the human spirit's transcendence, and that of the object that could genuinely fulfill the sort of transcendence that has been thus deduced. The limited nature of the former does not impose a limit on the latter. Once deduced, the spirit's transcendence takes on, so to speak, a metaphysical life of its own that Rahner ignores.

This problem is related to a problem that appears in Rahner's later work, in which he labors to show how a non-natural desire could at the same time be non-extrinsic to us (if our openness to grace is extrinsic to ourself, then, de Lubac points out and Rahner largely admits, Christianity is an imposition, and will be rejected in favor of secularization). Rahner speaks of a conditioned desire for God on the part of the transcendent spirit which is made absolute by a "supernatural existential." Once again, however, this is metaphysically incoherent - not the use per se of the Heidegger-inspired "existential," but its use to try to reconcile non-natural with non-extrinsic. A "conditioned" desire for God is not yet a non-extrinsic real desire. So, at two critical theological-anthropological junctures - with respect to both the desire conferred on us by our transcendence, and the manner in which that desire is non-extrinsic - Rahner seeks to do the metaphysically impossible: to not have his cake and eat it too (to borrow a friend's recoining of an old phrase).

Interestingly, Rahner admits that "Thomas himself speaks of a natural desire for the immediate intuition of God," but then adds, coyly?, "It is not quite certain what Thomas meant exactly by this expression. Every theologian who has written about it seems to have an interpretation." Perhaps Thomas's meaning is not "quite," "exactly" certain, but one who labors under neither the sad influence of Cajetan's commentaries [sic] on Thomas nor undue (for reasons to be explained below) fears of compromising the gratuity of grace will find Thomas's meaning sufficiently plain. (Compare, by the way, the Catechism 1718.) Also interestingly, Rahner continues by saying, "At any rate, it shows that Thomas admitted that there are, between our spiritual nature ... and the beatific vision, relations that do not merely derive from the fact that humanity has been called by grace to the immediate intuition of God, but that are previous to this invitation and rooted in human 'nature.'" Would that Rahner had explored Thomas more deeply on this point rather than being diverted by the theory of the "supernatural existential."

Now, having said all of the above, Rahner points out that revelation (and grace) might still be superfluous given God's "pure luminosity." Here he gets back on track after his unfortunate (and, in his later writings, consequential) lapse. He provides a fuller answer to the question about gratuity by deducing God's freedom as the condition for our ability to affirm ourselves absolutely despite our contingency. If God is free - if God is love - then his self-communication is utterly gratuitous. And one is happy to see that Rahner's ultimate answer in Hearer turns out to dovetail with de Lubac's ultimate explanation of the gratuity of grace. Pace Rahnerian Stephen Duffy, this "gratuity from above" suffices.

I would now like to turn away from the nature-grace problem and conclude as Rahner does, on the subject of the Church. I shall let him speak for himself:
Let us suppose ourselves to be convinced that it belongs to the essential and basic attributes of a life that we have to inquite and to search whether the living God has not, in a wholly determined here and now of human history uttered the decisive word of our personal self-manifestation and that this word is for us in the most proper sense existential, i.e., decisive and disposing of our whole destiny. Let us further suppose that we are convinced that such a word of God, which is to be the existential ground of our lives has, of its very nature, to emerge in human historicity, hidden, as far as its appearance is concerned, as a human word, hence exposed to all that is fortuitous and irritating in history for the eyes of reson with its eternal ideas that remain always clear and lucid.

Then we might wonder whether to be convinced of the above statements is not already to have behind us the greatest part of the way to the Christian faith of the Catholic Church, insofar as the intellectual aspect of living decision is concerned. Let us imagine knowing from the start that we may and must reckon with a historical religion, one that can be reached only by accepting and turning to a historical here and now, that cannot be analyzed in intellectual statements, that is not simply the correlate of a religious feeling or experience or any other religious disposition. Because it reaches us precisely as revelation of God in human historicity, it carries with it all that in historical phenomena is fortuitous and unclear, that might have been different and is likely to be criticized. Now, when somebody is ready, from the start, to consider the possibility of such a religion, is it hard for such a person to acknowledge the Holy Roman Catholic Church as the place of the real revelation of the living God?

As far as concerns the claim of the Church with regard to all non-Christian religions, all attempts of the modern history of religions, which try to bring Christianity down to one of the many stages and forms of humanity's religious attitude do not start from an a posteriori observation of the factual likeness between Christianity and other religions. This whole research stands already from the start under the more or less explicitly stated a priori that there can be no revelation of the living God at a privileged spot of human history, with exclusion of the others. For them it can only be a question of the how (not of the fact) of a history of all religions, in which all of them have to be reduced to the same denominator, because a "supernatural" history of one religion, in contrast to all others, is excluded from the start.

The parallels that can be established a posteriori between Christianity and non-Christian religions may also be explained in fact without accepting this false a priori principle of the modern history of religion. They may be explained by the simple fact that here and there we are concerned obviously with the same human person and that our expectation and looking out for a real revelation of God, when not fulfilled or not considered as fulfilled, easily invokes similar substitute formations.

However, those who do not share this a posteriori prejudice and who have not, from the start, given up the courage of the absolute within the finite, cannot find it difficult to establish the essentially qualitative difference of Christianity from all other religions, to recognize the Church as the sign raised among the nations [signum elevatum in nationibus], as she testifies by herself that she is the place of God's revelation, always, of course, in the presupposition that one takes into account a possible historical revelation of God. This is presupposed, if one is to be able to see Christianity in its qualitative difference. Otherwise one comes up with a priori arbitrary demands for the historical form of Christianity, demands which Christianity, as God's history, coming under the guise of human history, can, of course, never satisfy.

As for what concerns the church in relation to the other forms of Christianity (we are thinking especially of Protestantism - the situation is somewhat different with the Orthodox Church) we might say that since they themselves no longer have the courage (which they should have) to consider themselves exclusively as the place of God's revelation as such, and this in their own historical uniqueness, we are entitled not to mention them.

We may speak of a historical revelation of God only when its historical appearance makes as such the claim of "outside the Church no salvation" [extra ecclesiam nulla salus], the claim to be, as visible and historical event and with exclusion of all others, the place at which alone the free God of a revelation can be adequately reached, where religion as a really successful bond between the whole person and God (something which cannot be established from our standpoint alone) has become a reality.

When this courage is lacking, when one claims at the most only a certain preference above other forms of Christian religion, one gives up the historical uniqueness of God's word and together with it the courage of believing in a real revelation of God. In fine, whoever considers the possibility that a certain sector of human history might be, with exclusion of all others, history of God, can really be and become nothing else than Catholic. We have discovered that the essential core of the philosophy of religion and its essential relation to theology consisted precisely in considering such a possibility.
It is interesting to consider whether Rahner's later identification of salvation history with all of history and related notion of "anonymous Christianity" constitute a reversal of the above position, are motivated by excessive fear of "the scandal of particularity," and so have, as Ratzinger has suggested, detrimental spiritual consequences. In any case, Hearer is a most important book, because of the influence on the later Rahner and on others of the ideas developed in it, and because of the value of those ideas, some problems notwithstanding.

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Civic culture and religion

"Picture albums of Pittsburgh oftentimes illustrate our city with views of steeples and temples as an essential part of our urban landscape. ..." more

Good reminder. A smaller-scale version of Pope John Paul's repeated reminders (most recent example) to Europe of its religious heritage.

Makes me think of the beautiful city of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, in which I lived for eight years before moving out here. For a long time, 'Tosa had had a cross on one quadrant of its city seal - because one of the things one can't help seeing as one looks around the old part of the city is church after church. While I lived there, in response to a church-state lawsuit, the city fathers replaced the cross with the words "In God we trust" (figuring that those words, being on our money, are, so to speak, sacrosanct). Not the worst possible solution - but the new seal still fails to capture the effect that trust has had on the look of the city.

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"Homophobia"

... is allegedly the reason that actors don't want to audition for "Queer as Folk."

Good. Maybe the show will end up flushed down the sewer where it belongs.

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"The bird" and the decline of Western civilization

An AP story (not online) in today's paper concerns the casual prevalence today of a certain hand gesture. One woman quoted explains that "its meaning isn't always negative: 'It can be done out of excitement, joy - or if you finally found the perfect pair of shoes to go with a new outfit.'"

I can't see the women I know, e.g., Emily, celebrating shoes in that way. (Maybe, though, she would gesture at the snow. I don't think I could fault her for that.)

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Belated report on Kucinich on abortion

"WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a recent entrant in the presidential race who during his more than three terms in the House has been a solid anti-abortion vote, said Wednesday his thinking has evolved and he firmly supports a woman's right to choose. ..." more

(See below.)

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WTC site plan

"NEW YORK — A cluster of sloping, angular buildings with a 1,776-foot spire that would be the tallest in the world was chosen Wednesday as the blueprint to redevelop the World Trade Center site ..." more

I still don't like it (see below).

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Iraq, terror, N. Korea

"PARIS — In an impassioned appeal Wednesday, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin warned that waging war against Iraq now -- without exhausting all peaceful means for disarming Saddam Hussein -- would split the international community and 'be perceived as precipitous and illegitimate.' ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Iraq is still not cooperating fully with the U.N.'s demand that it disarm, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Wednesday, as the tug of war continued in the Security Council over how and when it should deal with Saddam Hussein. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — While Moscow has said it wants more time for inspections to work in Iraq, a Russian lawmaker visiting Capitol Hill Wednesday said that doesn't mean the country would object to a U.S.-backed resolution authorizing force. ..." more

"LONDON — The House of Commons backed Prime Minister Tony Blair's determination to disarm Iraq, voting Wednesday to support his handling of the crisis and reject his opponents' assertion that the case for war is 'unproven.' ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Lieberman said the Bush administration should consider promoting an experienced Arab government official to oversee Iraq after Saddam Hussein is removed from power. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — Capitol Hill and the White House were barraged with electronic protests Wednesday as anti-war activists used a digital-age approach to opposing the Bush administration's stance on Iraq. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — President Bush on Wednesday addressed concerns about a war with Iraq, saying that while it would be difficult to rebuild the post-war nation, the United States has successfully met those challenges before in both Germany and Japan after World War II. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — President Bush on Wednesday expressed an almost complete lack of faith in the Iraqi regime's efforts to avoid war, making another U.S.-Gulf conflict an even more distinct possibility. ..." more

"BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein said in an interview televised Wednesday that his country is preparing to defend itself vigorously against a U.S.-led attack. ..." more

"UNITED NATIONS — Iraq still hasn't committed to disarming, the chief U.N. inspector said, but he appeared to push for continued weapons inspections ahead of a debate by a divided Security Council on a U.S. draft resolution authorizing war against Saddam Hussein. ..." more

Iraqis on Saddam and freedom: "'Could I have the microphone for one minute to tell the people about my life?' asked the Iraqi grandmother. ..." more

Saddam's stockpile (but is "capacity for evil" a casus belli?): "... 'Let me show you an inventory of what we are talking about,' McInnis said on the House floor, citing CIA-generated data on Iraqi chemical weapons. ..." more

Pope's prayer: "VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II publicly prayed in Polish that 'the specter of war' be removed from the world. ..." more

Vatican to explain: "VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See will convoke an extraordinary meeting with the diplomats accredited to the Vatican in order to set forth its position on the Iraq crisis. ..." more

US bishops: "WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops reiterated their opposition to an American-led war against Iraq, saying an attack lacked 'moral legitimacy.' ..." more

US doesn't like it: "ROME (CNS) -- U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson rejected criticism of U.S. 'unilateralism' on Iraq ..." more

"TAMPA, Fla. — A Palestinian professor charged with leading the U.S. operations of a Middle Eastern terrorist group was fired Wednesday by the University of South Florida. ..." more

"BOISE, Idaho — A Saudi Arabian man studying computer security in Idaho was arrested Wednesday for visa fraud after authorities claimed he set up Web sites urging violence against the United States. ..." more

"SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Four men of Arab descent were indicted Wednesday on federal charges they illegally sent at least $4 million to Iraq through a Syracuse-area charity. ..." more

"NEW YORK — The U.S. non-immigrant visa-issuing process is in dire need of reform and could accommodate would-be terrorists, according to an independent immigration report released this month. ..." more

"WASHINGTON — North Korea has reactivated a nuclear reactor, U.S. officials said Wednesday, in what could be a first step toward production of additional nuclear weapons. ..." more

"SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean Prime Minister Goh Kun on Thursday said his country would work with the United States to seek a peaceful resolution to the standoff with North Korea ..." more

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Court: Pro-lifers aren't racketeers

An 8-1 ruling, even. (See also below.)

Even as I admire the devotion of "rescuers" to respect for and protection of life, I have reservations about the prudence of their approach, and more serious ones about the way that some of them have sometimes suggested that theirs is the only way to be pro-life. But this ruling should have been a slam-dunk.

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The lengths to which Texas will go to execute

"WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court sided Tuesday with a black Texas death row inmate who claimed prosecutors stacked the jury with whites ..." more

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