Tuesday, December 23, 2003

WHAT ABOUT INFERTILE COUPLES
Jennifer Roback Morse has an interesting answer to that question.

Which leads to another thought -- it always bothered me a bit how proponents of same sex marriage would use infertile couples as a talisman to make their point. As if they had chosen this infertility, and were desirous of being a pawn in this political game.

I guess I could see it as the dehumanizing part of the movement. People don't exist to be people, to live in freedom and love that God created them for; they exist for my benefit. So, if some couples are not able to conceive children, I can use that as a rhetorical point in order to get what I want.

I sincerely doubt that anyone who invokes infetile married couples in arguing for same sex marriages gives a damn about them as people, or is really that concerned that the mean purtianical Christians will consider them "less married." They're just tools.

As if they weren't suffering enough.

Monday, December 22, 2003

I'M LISTENING
One of the things I think we've become very good at recently is finding reasons not to listen to people.

This discussion is in an interesting exhibit of that. Gays think they don't have to listen to the Church because it uses words like "intrinsically disordered" to describe their behavior. Priests write a letter showing how this presents a pastoral problem, and commenters say we shouldn't listen to their concerns, because they use words like "vile an toxic." Cardinal George responds with pretty much, "let's talk," and some commenters say he should have been more forceful. Those disagreeing say Cdl George's was a "prudent" response. This is another hot button word, since many see it as a sign of excuse making for bishops.

Maybe it's because we're so bombarded with images and messages that we have to filter things somehow. It's true that certain words are tip-offs that the commentor is coming from a personal malice rather than principals. If someone refers to President Bush as "Dumbya", chances are I'm not going to find what she has to say interesting.

But I think there's something else going on here, and it's that people just want o find reasons to not listen to things they want to hear.

Again, I think Cdl. Martino's comments last week are illustratative of this. Some reasons to dismiss Martino have been floated around the past week including:
  • He wasn't speaking for the Vatican.
  • He supports the UN, and the UN supports birth control (nicely debunked by Kevin Miller here)
  • He wasn't nearly critical enough of Saddam.

All these things are side issues to the real question Martino's comments present, "Was televising the examination an affront the dignity God had put in Saddam that can never be taken away?"

That's a hard question, and an affirmative answer leaves us with some unpleasant implications.

Going back to the original point, there is a difficult question, which is how do we take the Church's teaching on homosexuality to a hostile culture? That's another hard question. And brushing it aside by questioning the motives of the questioner doesn't do us much good.
WHAT ABOUT THE VICTIMS?
Usually, I deplore this type of thinking. It's a cheap way to disredit those who, for example, oppose the death penalty or think that we ought to respect prisoner's dignity.

But reading this article I couldn't help thinking about it. Why does Ricky Clemons, a man given an athletic scholarship despite not owning a high school diploma, and convicted sexual abuser, given all this special attention from the university president's family? Why not focus on healing the victims, and reforming the athletic department so they don't introduce any more menaces to the campus.

One of the reasons I usually reject this type of reasoning is it presents a false choice. One can have compassion for victims and still respect the dignity and humanity of perpetrators.

But in this case, it seems pretty clear that Clemons is being given attention and support at the expense of the victims of his crimes, with the wishing she would just shut up, and implying that her acusation comes from a sterotypical trait of white women.

Maybe the university's efforts with Clemons really do come from someone seeing a spark in him and trying to channel him to be a great human being. I'd be interested to see if non-athletic students who get themselves into trouble receive similar support.
SIGN OF A GOOD COMMENT WAR
You can always tell a discussion in a Catholic blog has reached the "talking past each other" stage when either Jesus preventing the stoning of the prostitute or Jesus driving the money chagers from the Temple is invoked.

If both are invoked by opposite sides, then you've got a real humdinger.

Bonus points if the invocation of the prostitute story is answered with "Yes, but Jesus told her to sin no more!"

Friday, December 19, 2003

UNCAREFUL CRITICISM
Mark Steyn writes of Howard Dean:

American courts, unlike the international ones, would have the option of the death penalty. But Gov. Dean couldn't have been less interested. So how about Saddam? The Hague "suits me fine," he said, the very model of ennui. Saddam? Osama? Whatever, dude.
...
And that's our pugnacious little Democrat. On Osama bin Laden, he's Mister Insouciant. But he gets mad about bike paths. Destroy the World Trade Center and he's languid and laconic and blasé. Obstruct plans to convert the ravaged site into a memorial bike path and he'll hunt you down wherever you are.

I think this is reading a little too much into these things.

I'm expecting my first child in March (stay tuned for cool 4-D ultrasound pics!). If you asked me if I wanted to be a boy a girl, I would honestly say it doesn't matter to me, so long as the baby is healthy.

To follow Steyn's pattern of rehetoric, I could thus be accused of "not caring" about my own child, which could not be further from the truth.

I think Dean's attitude is likewise. Where Saddam is tried is incidental so long as he is brought to justice. To Steyn, that means he must be put to death. I'm not so sure, and maybe Dean isn't either.

I guess this is a turnaround of liberal's accusation that conservatives "don't care" about the poor, etc. Now it's conservatives turn, in this example, and the rehotirc in the the Catholic blog comment boxes about how Cdl. Martino's statements show that the Vatican "doesn't care" about Saddam's victims.

Either way, it seems like a dirty trick to me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

THE ROOT OF THE DIFFERENCE
I think the basic difference between how I see things and how Mr. Drehere sees things, is that I think the hierarchy is a neccesary ally in the culture war, while Mr. Dreher sees it as a hindrance.

So, when Cardinal Martino makes a statement like that, his instinct is to distance himself (and American Catholics) from it, since it makes us look foolish. It's an oppurtunity for a "Sister Souldiah moment", so to speak. My instict is to defend the kernel of moral truth in the statement so that the hierarchy will suffer (greater) loss of credibility.

Why do we see things this way? If I can engage in some armchair psychology, I think it might be because Mr. Dreher arrived at the Catholic positions on life issues without the hierarchy's help, whereas I had to bend my will in the the face of the hierarchy's teachings. So, I see the hierarchy as a valuable instrument of teaching, and Mr. Dreher just sees it getting in the way.

Mr. Dreher was also privy to more details of the abuse scandals than I was, so that probably led to a dimmer view of the hierarchy.
ONE MORE THING
As I've noted before, I despise this habit we Americans have of reacting to reminders of our own injustice with cries of, "Well, where were you when this other injustice was being carried on by these thugs?"

If we're not willing to be held to a higher standard than Saddam, then what the hell are we doing over there?

It's moral escapism at its worst.
ON THE MARTINO STATEMENT
Below is my response to Rod Dreher's rheroric is response to Mark Shea's post on Cardinal Martino's statement concerining the US's treatement of Saddam:

Mr. Dreher has long been crying out for "leadership" from the hierarchy.

But then, when a Vatican official says something counter-cultural, something to trouble American consciences, Mr. Dreher and others jump all over him, distort what he said, read malice or indifference into lack of statements on other matters, and dredge up ugly incidences from the recent past.

This is not the we should act when in disagreement with a loved one, especially when we say we want that loved one to excercise bold leadership.

Do you really think this type of reaction will embolden our shepherds to confront our culture on abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception?

Do you think this will make us more receptive when the US bishops challenge politicians, or will it make it easier for them to brush it aside?

If we are going to cry out for leadership, we should at least display some semblance of willingness to be led.

But that's not what I'm seeing. I'm seeing us cry out for leadership on matters we agree with, and hoping the hierarchy would shut up when they don't agree with us.

I can accept agrument's like Mark's that Martino's statement was imprudent, or that it stressed the wrong things.

What I will not accept is the notion that the hierarchy is disqualified from defending Saddam's dignity because it didn't release enough statements about victims of sexual abuse, or didn't condemn Saddam's regime enough.

This is the way to silencing the hierarchy, and with it the Church on all issues.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

YOU KNOW...
It's good that Mel Gibson made a movie about the Passion, and tried to be true to the Gospel, but some of the rhetoric around it makes it seem like the release of the movie is analogous to the Second Coming of Christ.

It's not. It's a movie release. If the movie is good, and moves people, it will do well. If not, it will not do well. I don't feel particularly called to ensure its success before I know whether it's any good or not.
*SIGH*
I'd be a lot more eager to get behind the efforts to get bishops to hold pro-choice poiliticians' feet to the fire if I were convinced it was truly about concern for the unborn, rather than personal dislike and jealousy directed towards these politicians.

Reading some things out there, I sometimes get the idea that these people would be disappointed if, say, Jennifer Granholm, were to wake up tomorrow and spurn her pro-choice record and vow to sign a partial-birth abortion ban if it came to her desk. Then, we'd actually have to get off our butts and work instead of just pointing at her.

I think we have to get off our butts and work, regardless.

Monday, December 08, 2003

BCS BS
Nout much to say about it. It seems like USC ought ot be in the title game, and that Oklahoma gave up its chance, but what do I know?

I have a larger point -- why does there have to be a "National Championship Game" anyway? And why can't college foot ball games end in ties? Why do they need this carnival-like overtime to settle things?

I guess I don't understand why USC, if it beats Michigan, can't just celebrate a great one-loss season with a conference championship. Why the emphasis on being #1, on being better than every other team in the country? Yes, I know every game is about being better than the other team on that day, and that's fine. But why doe we need to crown a "national champion" in college football?

Some suggest adding a playoff, which would do to the concept of "student-athlete" what same sex marriage would do to marriage being a lifelong, faithfil commitment for the transmission of life.

And does a playoff game really settle things? I love a good playoff game. But raise your hand if you really think the Florida Marlins were the best baseball team last year. Syracuse the best basketball team? Anaheim the second best hockey team? They got hot at the right time, and rode a hot player to the title. Nothing wrong with that, but don't tell me it settles the question of who the best team is.

Friday, December 05, 2003

AH, POST HOC REASONING
We know we're right; we just need to dig up a couple quotes to prove it.

Um, shouldn't we be studying the saints and Church fathers first, and then consider wheter or not to picket in the light of that wisdom instead of deciding to picket first, and then scouring for justification?

Thursday, December 04, 2003

GET SOME CRUCIFIXES, STAT!
and give them to those commenters who think who think there are some who think that there are circumstance under which it would be proper for a ruler to commit a mortal sin.

One perversion of this is the thought, "Well, Christianity is about self-sacrifice, and what greater sacrifice could there be than to jeopardize one's eternal soul for the life of the world!"

Luckily, Jesus has an answer for that -- "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. " I never thought I would see this used as a limitation on what we are called to give but there it is. We aren't called to give up our eternal lives, our mortal lives are all we can offer.

To commit a mortal sin and thinking we're performing a "greater love" is quite clearly incorrect.
STATING THE RIGHTS
This conversation brings up one of the arguments in the public sphere that I'm most uncomfortable with, basically, "There should be no appeals to federal courts from the conservative point of view, since conservatives favor states' rights, and appealing to the federal courts reveals the hypocrisy."

The first thing I dislike about this is that it invokes a somewhat monolithic view of coservatives. Some conservatives believe that the governement should not discriminate based on religion. Conservatives tend to prefer that state legislatures handle difficult questions rather than federal courts. Thus, it's hypocritical to appeal to the Supreme Court to stop this discrimination. Well, not quite. The two positions are not at all contradictory.

As for this particular case, I disagree that revoking the scholarship based on the declaration of major is a denial of his right to education. I tend to agree with Dahlia Lithwick that this case falls in the middle ground -- states can or cannot choose to fund education. It's not unconstitutional for them to do so, and it's not unconstitutional for the m to not do so. Though I disagree with he conclusion that this is the only way to "prevent a theocracy" for reasons Eugene Volokh outlines. I'd rather see the amendment repealed through the democratically appointed legislature.

Monday, December 01, 2003

ON THE SAME SEX MARRIAGE LOT
Reading some of the arguments for same sex marriage, I get the feeling of a car salesman trying to sell me a car with no turn signals.

ME: That certainly is a nice car, but it doesn't have turn signals, which doesn't seem too safe to me.

SALESMAN: What do you mean? Do you think driving is all about signaling?? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard! Driving is about going and stopping and turning, not about signaling! The very first cars didn't have turn signals, and people signalled with their hands, would you say those weren't valid cars? [Loud voice] This guy thinks driving is all about using turn signals!!

ME: I'm not saying that driving is all about signalling. I am saying that signalling is an important part of driving, and your car makes that impossible.

SALESMAN: Well, there's lots of drivers out on the road who don't use turn signals all the time. Why aren't you stopping them? Why don't you tell them they're not valid drivers? Seems like that's what you should be worrying about, instead of stopping people from enjoying this fabulous new car!

ME: Well, it seems to me that if you put a new car out there without turn signals, it will create an environment where people will be less inclined to use the signals they have, and that would make the situation worse.

SALESMAN: How can you be so paranoid? [Loud voice] This guy STILL thinks driving is all about signalling!

ME: I give up.


There's just so much strawman bashing out there.

We who oppose same sex marriage don't think that marriage is "all about procreation," but do believe that openness to procreation is a vital aspect to marriage. And while contraception, divorce and adultery in existing heterosexual marriages pull marriage away from its ideal, calling something marriage that is from the beginning explicitly and publicly closed to procreation is only going to make this worse, and is worth the effort to oppose it.

Believe me, I wish I could just say "whatever floats your boat" and move on, but the stakes are too high.
QUESTION
If, as Andrew Sullivan suggests, the connection between sex and marriage is a peculiar obsession of the right, and that same sex marriage advocates are all enlightened individuals who recognize that marriage is about more than sexual attraction, then why is the restriction against same sex marriages onerous at all? If marriage isn't about sexual attraction, then it seems like gay folks ought to be able to form these "friendships" with members of the opposite sex.

Looks like someone is trying to have his cake and eat it too.

Friday, November 21, 2003

MY PET PEEVE
Catholic blogs and comment boxes are overflowing with people criticizing the bishops for not defending the Church's teachings.

But when I'm on secular bulletin boards like the Fray engaging in debates about these teachings, I find myself alone.

Where are all these brave defenders of the faith? Yelling into an echo chamber, I'm afraid.

Carping about the bishops isn't going to do that much. Witnessing to the secular world will. But we don't really care to do that. We'd rather sit around and complain about how the bishops aren't doing enough, and can you believe there's a Dignity mass at this Church, and how could the bishop meet with this known dissenter, etc. etc.
WHAT AN INTELLECTUAL CORNER LOOKS LIKE
Andrew Sullivan finds himslef in one, as he applauds the sham marriage of a convicted killer who will never get out of prison.

Is this the best way for this woman to spend her life? Doesn't matter. It helps support the case for same sex marriage, so three cheers for the parent killer!

After Sullivan's celebration of the Massacussetts judicial fiat, he has absolutely no credibilty in supporting same sex marriage as a "conservative" ideal. Nor does he have any credibility for accusing his adversaries of abandoning conservative principles. None.

Monday, November 03, 2003

CONINCIDENCE?
I got an eerire sense of deja vu reading Mickey Kaus describe an LA Times front page story about attitudes toward Bush in Michigan? Why is that?

I know! There was a similar story on the front page of yesterday's St. Louis Post-Dispactch!

This one's even more ridiculous, as a St. Louis paper feels the need to send a reporter to Michigan to get a sense of what "Middle America" is thinking, as if it gets more "Middle America" than the St. Louis area.

Apparently, according to the bottom of the article, visiting Allen Park, Michigan is a bit of a tradition for the Post-Dispatch because of "Reagan Democrats."

Whatever.

Monday, October 27, 2003

I HATE THIS COLUMN
Jonah Goldberg makes the case for hate.

I hate Stalin. I hate Hitler. I hate Kim Jong Il, Yasser Arafat, Saddam Hussein, Mumia Abu Jamal, and people who feel the need to be cruel to dogs.

I disagree. As much as we might hate what these men have done, when we give in to the temptation to hate them personally we invite disaster.

Take Saddam. The most charitable version of the events leading up to the Iraq war is that Bush and other members of the administration truly believed that Saddam had WMD's. I also believe several of them would say they hate Saddam.

Do you think one might have to do with the other? Saddam is guilty of many hateful things, but it appears that developing a large WMD program in the past few years is not among them. It seems pretty clear to me that "hatred" of Saddam would lead to looking at the WMD evidence less skeptically.

The cost? Well, the Administration has lost a lot of credibility.

Hatred is a bad idea, even when it's justifiable. We need to fight against it, rather than wear it like a badge of honor.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

ON BELOW
Look, I know that people who carp about bishops are well-intentioned people who want to have good bishops, and it's better than doing nothing.

But I think we've gotten to the points where "calling the chancery" is a golden hammer we've got in our tool belt that makes the world look like a nail, and keeps us from doing what we need to do.
YOU COMPLAINED FOR ME
Reading some of the comments in the Catholic blogs about the Schiavo case, I think some people have a reading of Matthew 25 that goes something like this:

For I was hungry and you complained to the chancery that the diocese had an insufficient food pantry, I was thirsty and you wrote letters to the dicoese asking them to install a water fountain, a stranger and you complained that the bishop was not outside to welcome me, naked and you complained about how well-dressed the bishop and chancery staff are, ill and you withheld contributions from Catholic hospitals that you feel have an insufficient Catholic identity, in prison and you wondered why the bishop doesn't visit me.

Would it be better if Bishop Lynch was more in the forefron in confronting this tragedy? Absolutely!

Is that neccesary for us to do something? No! Witnessing the Good News to the secular world is our job as the laity. Maybe we should look to what kind of job we're doing there before telling the bishops how to do theirs.

There's a word for this phenomenon -- clericalism. I though we all decided about 18 months ago that it's not a good thing.

Let's do our job, that was given to us in our Baptism and Confirmation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

CULTURE OF DEATH
Push for someone's lives to be saved, either by preventing abortions, preventing an execution, or stopping someone from removing a feeding tube, and you're likely to have your motives questioned. You just want to keep women down, you don't care about victims, etc.

But push for death, and you receive the benefit of the doubt. In fact, others who question your motives are told that they darte not do so. If you want an abortion, it must be out of love for the baby. Want to starve and dehydrate your wife? Must have a good reason.

We've got a lot of work to do.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

ON THE MCNABB/LIMBAUGH THING
Since everyone else, even those who confess they know next to nothing about football has wieghed in on this have done so, I figured I may as well. Especially since I'm one of the few people who actually watched Limbaugh utter the controversial words.

Yes, it's true. We went to late Mass last week, and I had ESPN on as I was reading the Sunday paper. Limbaugh made his point quickly, trying to squeeze his words in. It did not seem like a big deal.

I think a lot of the people who a re "shocked" have never watched one of these Sunday morning programs. Suffice it to say that they are not a bastion of well-considered opinion. It's sort of Crossfire meets sports talk radio, with a few updates thrown in for gamblers.

Limbaugh has a point, but he made it crudely. This is par for the course on these shows. An enterprising person could probably make everyone on these shows look foolish by viedeotaping predictions they make that don't come true, analyses that prove incorrect, and statements that they later contradict.

Anyway, in yesterday's paper, Leonard Pitts has a column saying how demaning it is to be reduced to a color. He compares McNabb's experience to Keith Van Horn:

When he entered the NBA a few years ago, he was compared by some to Larry Bird, one of the last U.S.-born white guys to be considered a basketball immortal. Van Horn was called, quite openly, the "great white hope" of a league that had become overwhelmingly black.

Sorry, I don't remember this hype. I remember he had a great career at Utah, leading that program to new levels of prominence, and his game was compared to that of Larry Bird. But I don't think anybody thought he was the vanguard of a new era of white dominance in the NBA.

It's also interesting that Pitts brings up Bird without referring to Isiah Thomas's equally outrageous comment that if Bird was black he'd be just another ballplayer. Bit I digress.

Pitts goes on...

To put it another way: For all the similarities, there's a difference between Van Horn's experience and McNabb's. Whatever else he's had to deal with, Van Horn does not have to bear the weight of legacy. He struggles against no long history of people saying white guys are not good enough to play the game.

Excuse me? Wasn't there a movie called "White Men Can't Jump?" I don't remember the "Black Guys Can't Read The Cover 2" movie.

What would be more accurate would be to say that Van Horn didn't have to deal with a legeacy of exclusion.

Anyway, I still dispute the notion that there is much "similar" about Van Horn's experience. If anything, I would say McNabb deals with greater expectations than Van Horn ever had to deal with. He is the QB of a team with the defensive talent to win the Super Bowl in a large football-mad town. Van Horn has been the third best player on whatever team he's on for several years now.

Finally , there's this:

I do, however, know something about the kind of thinking - I use the word advisedly - that says this or that black man only got where he did because of race. In the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal, we all do.

You remember what was said: Poor little colored boy elevated beyond his modest abilities by well-meaning white liberals at The New York Times. It is a caricature beloved by some on the political right. So beloved that they are blind to the patronizing assumptions and rank hypocrisy at its core.


What Pitts doesn't say is who is doing the patronizing, and whether those assumptions are true. He doesn't dare say that affirmative action and set-asides might have something to do with this notion.

Here's a question: How much quicker might Michigan State have fired Bobby Williams if they weren't aware they's be reducing the number of black head Division I-A coaches by a third?

What Pitts is saying (by his omission of affirmative action) is that it's OK to consider race at the beginning, but not OK when to examine those policies when the results are substandard.

And that's what's draining and demeaning. It builds a culture of entitlement rather than accountability, so Jason Blair can go sell his story and not feel the least bit bad about it.

If affirmative action is such a great policy, it should be able to stand up to scrutiny and criticism. The results should speak for themselves. There should be no need to cry "foul" whenever someone questions whether it might be leading to some undesirable conclusions.

But it's not.

Donovan McNabb has an opportunity to prove Rush Limbaugh wrong every Sunday when he takes the field.

If his defenders would only let him instead of turning him into a martyr.

Friday, October 03, 2003

GEE
I don't know why I thought the chancery siege plan would be lacking in charity. Could it be posts like this?

Doesn't look much like uncompromising charity to me. But then I'm just whatever "cute "derogatory name they want to come up with for people like me. In just a short post, I think Popcak managed to break three out of the four suggestions. (ah, but it wasn't a "communication", I guess)

I'm far from being won over. "Making chancery rats scatter" is not my idea of a charitable endeavor.

Friday, September 26, 2003

STRUGGLING
Stories like this are a struggle for me.

On the one hand, I want to shout it from the rooftops. It shows how Planned Parenthood really isn't all that interested in "women's health." It shows the lie of "safe" abortion.

On the other hand, it feels exploited. A woman had died, and I want to use her death to score political points? Sure, the pro-choice crowd does this all the time with their "back alley" rhetoric, but I want to be better than that. This woman didn't ask to be a pro-life talisman. In fact, her taking of the pill probably reveals that's about the last think she'd like to be.

Is there a way to tell this story that doesn't exploit?

Sunday, September 21, 2003

ST. LOUIS
One of the more entertaining things about living in St. Louis is seeing how each year the St. Louis Post-Dispatch picks a different city that St. Louis should model itself after. Previous entries included Protland, Cleveleand, and Minneapolis(I think).

This year's entry is San Diego.

Because when you think of cities that have a lot in common with a midwestern town with cold winters and notoriously steamy summers best know for a beer company, you immediately think of a seaside town on the Mexican border with a large military base and temperate year round temperatures.

To his credit, the author realizes it's a tough sell, but cites three similarities between San Diego and the St. Louis of the future:
  • Biotechonology
  • A new downtown baseball stadium
  • Downtown housing


The baseball stadium comparison is laughable -- the ballpark in in San Diego hasn't even opened yet. So calling it a success, let alone something St. Louis should model itself after is laughable. This also ignores the fact that St. Louis already has a downtown baseball stadium!! The proposed site for the new one is right across the stree from Busch Stadium. It's just not going to make that big a difference.

St. Louis needs to be St. Louis, not pretend it's San Diego.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

ON THE CHANCERY SIEGE PLAN
I have many thoughts -- this is from a comment I made on the Disputations, with whom I agree on this plan...

It is our job, as laity to confront the culture with the Truth. What efforts like this reveal to me is a basic lack of seriousness about that task.

If fetal farms come, they won't come because Jennifer Granholm ate lunch with some high school girls, or Call To Action held a meeting on Church grounds. It will be because we (the Catholic laity) failed to effectively witness to the Truth of its immorality.

Are there things the bishops could do that might make it easier? Sure, and that's why the meeting earlier this week was probably a good thing.

But if our response to that is to turn our focus inward, onto these petty political fights, I think we're taking the coward's way out.

Sure, we may make CTA have their meeting at a Holiday Inn instead, but what does that do to help the unborn? How does that witness to what marriage is?

It doesn't.

We in the Catholic laity have important work to do, and we haven't been doing a very good job of it, if you look at the culture. Let's focus on our jobs, rather than obsessing over telling the bishops how to do their job.

UPDATE: "coward's way out" is probably a bit strong. What I mean to say is that we are picking and easier and less important fight than the one we have to win.

Monday, August 18, 2003

FINDING COMMON CAUSE WITH THE FUDDY-DUDDIES
I'm usually one of the first to pooh-pooh those who complain about liturgical music. But sometimes they have a point. Last Sunday, we did "I myself am the Bread of Life" by Rory Cooney at communion. I don't think this song has been particularly singled out for scorn, but let's look at the words to the chorus:

I Myself Am The Bread Of Life


An almost direct quote of Christ's from the Gospels. There are those who don't like having the congregation sing Christ's words directly. That's discussed in considerable detail here. I don't have much new to say about this other than I don't have a problem with it, and those who do have a problem with it would also have to have a problem with the psalmist.

You and I are the Bread of Life

It's here where the fuddy duddies would check out saying, (truly enough) "Hogwash! We are no such thing!" But let's continue...

Taken and blessed, broken and shared by Christ
That the world might live

Ok, that's a nice enough image, even though that's no actually what happens. I'd be willing to let it go as metaphor.

Except for one thing. There's so much confusion right now among the faithful about what the Eucharist is. Do we need to introduce more metaphors? Is the imagery worth the extra confusion? We do not actually become the Bread of Life, but the Blessed Sacrament does become the Body and Blood of Jesus. Isn't that what we ought to be stressing?

We also (apparently) switch after the first line from quoting Jesus to speaking for ouselves, which is a tad awkward. All in all, we have to go through considerable mental gymnastics to get to a non-heretical meaning.

Now, I also think that Cooney and the music minister are not putting this song out with the intention of spreading heresy. They think it presents a nice image (which it does), and did the best they could. What bothers me about the fuddy-duddies is the way many of them seem to think that anyone who could like a song like this is some sort of radical heretic bent on destroying the Church.

And I don't find that attitude helpful.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

WHY NO BLOGGING?
The short answer is I've been busy.

The longer answer is that I'm finding a lot of the debates in "St. Blog's" and the web in general to be less than stimulating. Topics include:
  • Calls to tattle on any Catholic to his bishop if he says something about gays that could be construed as less than a condemnation.
  • Discussion of what hymns should be banned
  • Talk about when it's OK to kill people
  • Discussion about whether a returning relapsed Catholic should be discouraged from receiving the Eucharist.
  • Discussion of when it's OK to use invective against people.


I wish the we were instead discussing how best to reach out to people, how we can avoid violence and invective, and how we can spread the Word to others.

Instead we sit around pointing out the splinters in each others eyes.

I will probably be back later; I'm just not getting much out of the current debates.

Monday, June 30, 2003

Woman Biting Blog
Yes, the wife of a twenty something somewhat conservative Catholic is attempting to get cyber savvy and learn the art of blogging. So, if the men of blogger.com stop writing and sharing their opinions, it would, of course, be my fault. If my more vocal outbursts intimidate the boys, I should, of course, stop writing. But I won't...
I'm coming in late on the conversation about girl alter servers, but it seems to me that our fine Church needs to nurture the devotion to the faith in both genders...I was not Catholic as a child (I converted in college, long before I met my wonderful Catholic husband) so I do not have memories of being left out of the altar serving world. I converted of my own free will to a Church that I knew does not allow women priests. I don't have an axe to grind about this issue--I just don't see how keeping girls and women out of any Godly ministry does the Church good. If there is a young lady who is interested in serving her Church, telling her no sends the message that her service to others is not valued. And that, in these days, is a terrible message to send to a young person, boy or girl. To send that message to a girl because her participating in mass "intimidates" a boy misses the real problem--and that is a boy whose desire to serve the church is overshadowed by insecurity. Amid recent "Girl Power" campaigns to shine light on unfairness to girls (positive), there has been a dearth of aide to young boys. And boys today, with the epidemic of fatherless families, need all of us to build them up as we've built up young girls. Young people, boys and girls, need to be seen as equally important to us, and to the Church.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

TALK ABOUT "INGRATITUDE"
It takes a certain amount of chutzpa for Andrew Sullivan to collect over $34,000 from a website made from a free technology (not even the upgraded one you have to pay for), bury the obligatory icon for it at the bottom of the page where nobody can see it, and then bitch that it "Of course, it sucks."

Does the phrase "you get what you pay for" mean anything to Sullivan.
WOMAN BITES BLOG
I've asked my wife Kristin to write here occasionally, and hopefully that will start soon.

Will the presence of a female contributor make me less likely to contribute? If so, would that be a case for me excluding women from contributing? You can read the discussion of this as it pertains to alter servers in Amy Welborn's comments. I guess you can tell where I stand.

I especically like this response that said that we shouldn't allow girl altar servers because they're better at it than boys, and this scares boys away. Does it ever enter these people's minds that this might be a clue from the Holy Spirit that girls are perfectly capable of this ministry?

UPDATE: I think I mischaracterized the response above, he was not saying that girls should not serve, only that altar serving should be "gender neutral."
I better shut up before I get myself in trouble.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

DEFENDING DREHER
Yes, you read that right.

Kevin Miller runs the follwing quote:

This week, I spoke with a faithful young orthodox priest of my acquaintance, and he said, "I've decided I can't pay attention to the bishops anymore. There's too much work to be done to serve the Lord to worry about those men." I think this is probably the only sane way through this mess, just pretending that this hapless bench of bishops doesn't exist. But think about what that means for Catholics, to recognize that our bishops are so pathetic and irreformable that they are an impediment to faithful Catholic living, and should thus be ignored as much as is possible.

then goes on about how good Catholics can't ignore the bishop's teaching.

But I don't think that's what the priest was saying. I think the priest was saying that he's not going to obsess over every little piece of news about bishops, and focus on his work. Dreher says that's pretty sad, and I think he's going to far, but I don't think either of these men are advocating ignoring the bishops when they teach.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

MY MOST EMBARRASSING CATECHETICAL MOMENT
This HMS post reminds me of my worst catechetical moment, when I told a group of catechumens that when the Holy Father speaks, "he's not just speaking as Bela Karolyi".

It's even more embarrassing since I can't stand Karolyi's act...
DO CHRISTIANS NEED TO HELP THE "LAZY POOR"?
You can find my answer on this Fray thread.

Monday, June 16, 2003

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SPURS
But I can't help feeling that they're the New Jersey Devils of the NBA.
ALAN SIMPSON TO PRO-LIFERS -- SHUT UP AND GO AWAY
And it's so helpful to unity to tell people with deep concerns about the million unborn children killed every year that they have "rocks for brains" and should let their concerns slide.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

WOMEN AND RELIGION
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a write-up about Muslim women who choose to cover themselves, and how it's misunderstood and not demeaning. Yes, it's forced upon women at the point of a sword in all countries, but it's really just a voluntary act ther allows the light of these women's wisdom to shine through.

I look forward to similar positive treatment about women's roles in Christian religion. For example, Catholic women who are happy with their ministry and have no desire to be priests, and embrace the Church's reasoning for it.

Hmm, I somehow get tge feeling that won't be forthcoming.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

ANDREW SULLIVAN ASKS

How do you make peace with people who behave like this?

Well, I'd say not calling them savages would be a start, as would not using a picture to stoke bigotry against them.

But what do I know?

UPDATE: Thinking about it some more, I think it's important to remember that this is a picture after Palestinians were killed by Israelis. It takes a certain type of selective observation to take a picture like this and use it to demonize Palestinians. Why are the savages the people who pull the body parts out of the car rather than those who fired the missile to kill them?

UPDATE 2: Sullivan has apologized for and removed the post. Now if only LGF would apologize...

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

ON NEUHEISEL
I remember when I was going to college at a DIvision III school, I somehow got roped into being the secretary of our residence hall council (we were the only hall council with a web page!). Our greatest challenge was figuring out how to spend the budget they provided us. One thing we did was hold a free giveaway around the NCAA tournament. We sat at a table in the doorway, and invited the sudents to pick one of the 64 team names out of the hat. The person who pulled the winning team won a gift certificate.

This was fine until we asked a member of the football team to draw a name, and he didn't because NCAA rules forbid gambling on any NCAA sport. So even though he wouldn't have to pay any money, and the prize was non-cash, he couldn't participate. Perhaps he was being overly prudent, perhaps not.

Anyway, if a likely non-scholarship football player at a Division III school knows that taking part in a free raffle for the NCAA tournament brushes up against the rules, I find it very hard to believe that the head coach of one of the most prominent football programs in the country wouldn't know that placing bets amounting in the thousands on the NCAA tournament wasn't kosher.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

WHAT'S WRONG WITH AMERICA
Slate's "summary judgement" rounds up the reviews of the Clinton book, including...

And in the Kansas City Star, John Mark Eberhart issues an unequivocal rave: Clinton "comes off as eminently human," he writes. "She worries about her hair. Her poor vision. Her backside."

It's striking to me that "eminently human" is seen as an "uneqivical rave" for the memoirs of a U.S. Senator rather than damning with faint praise. And it's part of the culture the Clintons helped create.

We don't want our leaders to have bold vision, skill at building consensus, or excellence in execution. No, we want them to be like us, and have the same concerns we do.

And we wonder why we end up with leaders we get.
QUESTIONABLE LOGIC
Andrew Sullivan writes on Canada legalizing gay marriage: "Opponents will have to base their arguments in future on actually tearing existing marriages apart. What a conservative idea!"

That's some new ground in circular reasoning there. If something you oppose comes to pass, then your continued opposition to it will violate your stated principles. Doesn't seem like a winning argument to me.

That's sort of like saying that if restrictions to abortion are passed, than pro-choicers will have to base their arguments on saying that people alive should have been aborted. It may make me feel better, but it's not a convincing argument.
DEVILS WIN THE STANLEY CUP
As great as the Devils have been, whenever they win the Stanley Cup, I always think it's because no other team went out and won it.

Though they've shuffled their personnel and coaching, the Devils have been pretty much the same team for about 10 years now -- Brodeur in goal, stifling defense, oppurtunistic offense, and disciplined play. Effective, but unspectacular. They'd win by default.

But if the Avalanche go out and get Rob Blake and Ray Borque, or the Red Wings sign Dominik Hasek and a bunch of veteran snipers, or the Stars get Brett Hull, they'll win the Cup.

That's pretty much what happened this year. No other team put together anything special (the Ducks could only go so far on Guguere) so the Devils won the title. Kind of reminds me of the Canadiens about 10-15 years ago.

Monday, June 09, 2003

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY
I'm familiar with the advertising convention that fathers are portrayed as clueless morons who are saved from their ignorance by their all-knowing wives and children.

Still, is it too much to ask that for Father's Day ads, they not be portrayed this way.

I saw an ad over the weekend for Burlington Coat Factory that made me hit a 9 on the yelling at the TV scale. Your typical clueless dad is standing over the dryer on the cordless phone with his wife pulling out formerly white clothes that he dyed blue by washing them with a blue sock. So, the ad is to buy Dad clothes for Father's Day at the Coat Factory to replace the ones he ruined.

Not out of appreciation for the gift of fatherhood, not as a gift, but to compensate for his cluelessness. Can you imagine a similar ad running for Mother's Day?

Hmmm -- can't imagine why we have a culture where men are reluctant to get married and devote themselves to fatherhood...

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

ANSWERING FOR KRUGMAN
InstaPundit links to this post from Roger Simon:

But Krugman must get the demon Bush, using any pretext he can, the WMDs in this case. But let’s give Paul his due. Let’s stipulate, even though we have no way of knowing at this point, the presence of these weapons was exaggerated by the administration; I still say—so what? Saddam’s gone. It was worth it. And I ask Krugman this simple question: What if some leader had used a similar ruse to get rid of Hitler in 1940? What would he think of that?

Prediction: We won’t be hearing a Krugman answer to that one any time soon.

and adds "That's a safe one, I think.".

Ah, but I'll answer, despite being no fan of Krugman. Let's say we had used a similar ruse to get rid of Mussolini in 1938, and it was exposed as a ruse. Then we tried to use the same ruse to get rid of Hitler in 1940. Would that then be easier or more difficult?

Credibility is expensive. I suppose the case could be made that Saddam was worth that price. But I don't think it's clear-cut. Expecially if someone worse than Saddam emerges from the woodwork.


Thursday, May 01, 2003

ON THE FORMAT CHANGE
The response to my format change idea hasn't exactly beein overwhelming (or even "whelming") but I still think it's a good idea, and will probably send some e-mail invites to see if anyone's interested in playing.

Here's the deal -- it will be a one-week stint in which the guest and I will trade messages (though not neccsarily on a one-to-one basis) on the topics of the day, hopefully playing into the guest's area of expiertise. Then I'll start it agin the next week with a new guest. You get my drift. Kind of like Slate's "Breakfast Table" used to be, except I probably won't have many Manhattanites.

Anyway, e-mail me or comment below if you're interested in a guest spot. I don't have anything to offer, except my suspicion that it will be fun and invigorating.

Friday, April 25, 2003

YOU MAKE THE CALL
Bottom of the ninth, one run lead, bases loaded, one out.

Your best lefthanded reliever just gave up back to back walks (one semi-intentional) to load the bases. Righthanded batter coming up. Who do you bring in?

Well, if you're Tony La Russa, you bring in Cal Eldred, who has spent his entire career as a starter, has never been brought in to pitch in a situation like that before, and does not seem to be adjusting well to life in the bullpen. But he's righthanded.

Not surprisingly, Andruw Jones promptly hit a two-run single to win the game for the Braves.

Now, with Jason Isringhausen hurt, La Russa may not have had any better options. But the sad part is, the Cardinals had a good bullpen last year! They had Isringhausen, Dave Veres, Mike Crudale, Mike Timlin, Luther Hackman, and leter RIck White from the right side, and Steve Kline from the left.

But that's too imbalanced for La Russa, he likes to have more lefthanders so he can gain the slight platoon advantage by swapping between left and right handed relievers non stop in the final innings. It's enough to drive a viewer bonkers.

What's even more annoying about it is that the last two Cardinals' seasons have ended with a left-handed slap hitter (Tony Womanck then Kenny Lofton) driving in the winning run with a hit off the left-handed (and to be fair, usually very effective) Kline, despite Kline's vaunted platoon advatage. Might this be a clue that it's not as important as La Russa thinks.

Apparently not, since the Cardinals found it neccesary to completely revamp their perfectly good bullpen in order to have the requisite number of left-handers to enable La Russa's platoon gamesmanship. And we can see the results -- Cal Eldred being asked to come into the game in the ninth inning with men on base to get critical outs.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

REDEFINIG BIGOTRY
John Scalzi continues the quest to brand Rick Santorum as a bigot as follows:

Allow me to make the following suggestion to clear up the confusion, if in fact no one's done this before: Let's make concrete this distinction between desiring members of the same sex and actually having sex with them. Let's call the desire for members of one's own sex homophilia, and actually having sex with them homosexuality. Likewise, the desire for members of the opposite sex is heterophilia, while actually having sex with them is heterosexuality.
...
This is clarifying in a number of ways, but the most obvious advantage is that it helps pin people down. If "homosexual" simply means having sex with members of your own sex, then people like Santorum can no longer wiggle around saying "I have no problems with homosexuals." He will in fact have to admit he does have problems with homosexuals; the population he has no problem with is in fact the homophiliacs -- the relatively few ones that are heterosexual or asexual, that is. And that's not at all the same thing.

Santorum and others like him will no longer be able to deny that X is inseparable from X' -- In short, they'll have to admit their own bigotry, even to themselves. And what a refreshing change that will be

Except that if you redefine "homosexual" as those who engage in homosexual sex, then the statement "I have a problem with homosexuals" is not longer an expression of bigotry.

If someone were to say, "I have a problem with women," one could conclude that that person is sexist. However, if I redefine "woman" to mean "prostitute", then the sentence now has a different meaning altogether, and thus we can't draw the same conclusions.

In fact, this is quite clarifying. The "problem" is now based on that person's actions, "the content of their character" if you will, not a trait that is likely genetic in nature. Isn't this what we're supposed to be working towards? Seems to strange to call it bigotry.
MISSING THE POINT
On Santorum's recent comments, Andrew Sullivan writes:

Think about that: the number three Republican senator wants to allow the cops to police the bedrooms of straight couples to make sure there aren't any blowjobs. That's how far out there he is.

By that logic, any polictician who supports laws against incest "wants to allow the cops to police the homesto make sure nobody's sleeping with anyone they're not supposed to." Which, of course, was the point of what Santorium was saying.

Monday, April 21, 2003

NEW FORMAT IDEA
This discussion about the days of the all-Fray Breakfast Table has given me an idea for the blog -- instead of just posting whatever silly thoughts I have, I would have a dialogue with a different guest writer each week, about whatever they wanted to talk about.

Don't know if it'll work, but if you're interested in a "guest spot," drop me a line at the address over there.

Monday, April 14, 2003

SECRET OF BRAVES' SUCCESS?
Rob Neyer traces through how John Rocker's career went downhill. He pinpoints the trade to the Indians, rather than the controversial Sports Illustrated quotes, as the point where theings started to go downhill...

The answer, I think, is that he was lucky. And I think his luck just didn't hold after leaving the Braves. But he got unlucky in two ways. Not only did his luck not hold, but he went from being exceptionally lucky to being exceptionally unlucky. ... That said, if Rocker can still strike out 11 hitters per nine innings, he's probably worth a flyer. I'd like his chances a lot better if Leo Mazzone was again his pitching coach, though.

I tend to think it may have more to do with having Andruw Jones as the centerfielder than anything else. Quite simply, I think Andruw Jones is the most dominant defensive baseball player since Ozzie Smith.

It's kind of a joke to hear the Cardinals' announcers rave about what a great center fielder Jim Edmonds is. Edmonds is good, and makes a lot of spectacular plays, but he's not in the same class as Jones.

Friday, April 11, 2003

I SEE WHAT THE FRENCH WERE AFRAID OF
Fred Kaplan has an article laying out the changes the US military made to enable them to win this war.

I think there's a bigger factor, which is the impetus for change -- widespread information technology.

Robert Wright and others have been writing for some time about how the spread of information technology makes the world a more dangerous place. Terrorist cells no longer need a "base" of any kind, and fiery rhetoric and images can be spread throughout audiences that will react to it with terrifying results.

That may be true -- but I think it takes too narrow a look at what's going on. Before the war began, President Bush addressed some of his words to the Iraqi people and soldiers, and they heard him. Many Iraqi soldiers surrendered or abandoned their posts, likely thanks in part to their knowledge that they didn't stand a chance against the coalition forces, despite being flooded with propaganda to the contrary.

This, combined with precision-guided weapons, makes war significantly less terrifying and idea than it used to be. In fact, it could even result in a net reduction in killing.This is good news, since nobody likes killing, but possibly bad news because it makes warfare a less costly option, and thus more attractive.

This makes the US even more poweful. As information gets more perfect, fewer and fewer soldiers will be willing to take on the US military, even if their leaders want them to. This makes it much easier for the US to impose its will on the world, at little cost to itself.

Thus my title -- it is understandable that the French or other countries, would be wary of an excercise that makes the power of the US more apparent. The US must be extremely prudent in how it excercises this power. Because the only way to check it would be for the rest of the world to unite against it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

STRANGE SAMPLE
Wow, the the first mailbag column of the year from Rob Neyer did not include the words "sample size" anywhere in it.

The annual column where Neyer chastises his readers for making snap judgements on the small sample size of the first week of the season is practically a rite of Spring.

Maybe that's why the weather won't cooperate...
CASTING THE FIRST STONE
Reflecting on yesterday's Gospel, I got to thinking that a lot of those dissenting from the Holy Father's and bishops' judgement on the war in Iraq are using the suffering of the Iraqi people in the same way the Pharisees were using the prostitute. They didn't really care about her; they were using her sinfulness in order to get Jesus to sanction their violent solution to it.

In the same way, I don't think a lot of the folks expressing outrage about the terrible things Saddam does to his people would really give a darn about it if they couldn't use it to sanction the war we're facing now. But that's not enough -- they demand that the Holy Father bless this war, and say he's irrelevant if he does not.

But the Holy Father, like Jesus, refuses to see violence as the answer to sinfulness. And this refusal is not a dismissal or acquiescence to sin -- Jesus tells the woman to "refrain from this sin."

Maybe we should reflect on this before we ask the Holy Father and the bishops to bless our stone throwing.

Monday, April 07, 2003

DO ME A FAVOR
Slap me if, when someone brings some injustice to my attention, I ever respond with, "Well, where were you when this other injustice was going on?"

Slap me twice if the injustice that is being brought up is one carried out by an instutution I respect, and the injustice I bring up is or was being carried out by someone I consider a murderous thug.

Friday, April 04, 2003

"CHOICE"
A couple pieces on HMS blog show just how all this "choice" rhetoric plays in real life. I was especially moved by this response from a reader:

A timely story about our youth: My daughter attends a local public high school and is a freshman. She's a chorus geek and her friends (guys and girls) mostly come from that crowd. And a diverse crowd it is -- Muslim, staunch Presbyterian, assundry nominal and nondenom Protestants, Buddhist, Jewish, Catholic. They share many common traits, however -- moral, principled, articulate, loving, caring. A joy to be around. A few months ago, a classmate of theirs turned up pregnant (14). She got a
ration from the group about 'messing around with boys' -- and then they did what classmates do -- helped her keep up with her studies, included her at lunch, etc. These kids disapproved of what happened but were willing to support her through the pregnancy. Can't say the same for her parents. She disappeared for a week recently -- only to appear not pregnant. Not her idea but her parents thought is was best 'for her health.' As one kid put it, "The parents couldn't handle it -- thought her life was over. Can't they tell the difference between life-changing and life-ending???"

It seems like our kids are hungry for fruits and vegetables, and we're feeding them candy and soda because it's easier for us.

The Culture of Life holds the true path fulfillment, and it's what our children most deeply want. But instead, we're selling them "choice."

It's a terrible shame.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

AL JAZEERA
Interesting Slate piece on al Jazeera. I 've also bin a little it uncomfortable about how al Jazeera is portrayed as little more than a mouthpiece for Arab regimes. It has its biases, but so does the American media. The cheerleading tone of FNC's converage has made it almost unwatchable for me.

There's also this:

check out the most recent Lycos 50, a tally of the most-searched-for words and phrases on the Lycos search engine.


I can testify to that, as almost half the hits to this site have come from search engine queries on a misspelled versions of "Al Jazeera".

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

INSURING THE CULTURE OF DEATH
If you want to know if we live in a culture of death, take a look at what a typical medical insurance company covers and doesn't cover.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

NEW PROGRAM
I think a good name for this would be the "Allied program requiring inviting laymen For ordination of laity".
I AM NOW A HOMEOWNER
which may explain my paltry blog output.

I'll be back with my long-awaited baseball preview later.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

REQUIRED READING
For the benefits of those new to the debate, I'll repeat the standard response from pro-war Catholics facing criticism for dismissing the Church's position. (You can say it with me if you like. Maybe it should be set to music and made into a hymn).

The Church's position on the war is a matter of prudential judgement, not a statement of doctrine, and thus does not require the assent of the faithful.

There.

Another problem I have with this is people measuring themselves by what is "required." Cathoics are also only required to go to confession and recieve the Eucharist once a year, but I think most of us know that we should recieve those sacraments more often in order to live a life of holiness.

One of the big things Jesus was about was calling us to a positive morality of love rather than a legalistic morality of staying withing the Law. Obeying the Commandments are important, but it's a bare minimum of what we're called to do.

A lot of the pro-war Catholics say that those who agree with the bishops and the Holy Father fail to think for themselves, and are guided by a warped sense of personal loyalty to the Holy Father that is inappropriate. But then they hide behind this legalistic statement in order to answer any objections that maybe the arguments they're using aren't all the helpful to the Church, and could cause long-term harm to the Church's ability to teach.

Who is really thinking for himself? Who is engaging his conscience? The person who uses this "prudential judgement" loophole to make broadside attacks on the Church's teaching authority, or the one who doesn't see the difference as a license to harm the Church?

Monday, March 24, 2003

ANOTHER GREAT POST AT MINUTE PARTICULARS
Regarding faithful Catholics who are dismissing the Church's position on the war.

A couple highlights and comments:

I actually wonder if avoiding the word "dissent" is really a very smart tactic. If you don't want to distance yourself from the context of a bishop or pope's prudential judgment, and authentic discussion ought to attempt to preserve the proper context of such judgments, then why not roll up your sleeves and get dirty? Why not claim that as a faithful, good-willed, intelligent Catholic, you are dissenting from an official statement by the USCCB or pope? Using "disagree" or some such term undermines the weight of the official statement and the impact that a contrary opinion might have; and yes, avoiding "dissent" waters the position of the bishops and pope down to mere opinion devoid of wisdom or inspiration from the Holy Spirit (you see the pattern developing).

First of all, that's what the pro-war Catholics want to do, so their conscience is not as troubled.

Secondly, many of these commentators wrote themselves into a corner during the sexual abuse scandals. They wrote (sometimes rightly) that "dissent" was the root cause of the sexual abuse scandals, so they obviously don't want to be associated with it now. Which leads to the next point:

My concern from the start, when I first raised doubts about the wisdom of Catholics writing an Open Letter that seemed inappropriate, was that there have been motions, some subtle and perhaps unintended, some explicit, vigorous, and deliberate, to vitiate the Church's moral authority in secular matters. I get the impression that Catholics are being encouraged to look for loopholes, to walk within the letter but perhaps not the spirit of Church Teaching, to wiggle and squirm so they can comfortably dismiss the clear statements of concern about current events from the USCCB and the pope. I don't mean genuine, faithful dissent that may be heroic, objectively correct, and noble. I don't mean a humble, reverent shaking of one's head in disapproval. I don't mean the kind of disagreement that leaves one uncomfortable, causes one to look again for what is not seen, and hobbles one a bit by pangs of conscience. I mean the dissent of Catholics who boldly proclaim the bishops are wrong, the Vatican is wrong, the pope is wrong on an issue of utmost moral significance.

Right, and if we create an American Catholic culture where people feel comfortable to boldly proclaim the wrongeness of the Church, then we're doing real damage to the ability of the Church to teach authoritativley about anything. I dare say that such open and naked dissent from faithful Catholics does more to harm the Church's teaching authority than the abuse scandals.

And please don't come to me with this "prudential judgement, not doctrinal statement" rubbish -- yes, for the hundredth time, I know that Catholics are not required to assent to prudential judgements. But those who wish to undermine the Church's teaching on doctrinal matters aren't so particular about the distinction.

If we love the Church, and we desire it to continue to be a moral force, then we need to take her teachings seriously, rather than look for loopholes for how they don't apply to us.

And that is true even if it's a "prudential judgement."


CRYING FOUL
It's not right what the Iraqi's are doing to the US soldiers. But I can't help but find some of the complaints about Iraq not complying to the Geneva convention a bit, well, unbecoming.

I try to imagine what this must look like to an outsider, and I came up with a basketball analogy (yes, another, hey, it's tournament time, too!). Imagine a local YMCA team started yapping about how terrible the Los Angeles Lakers were, and that they could beat them. Initially, the Lakers ignored them, but the trash talking got louder and pouder to the point that they could no longer ignore them, and they decided to come to their gym and show them what's what. After taking a big lead, the Lakers gave up a basket to make the score 20-2, and then complained to the officials that the YMCA team should get called for a technical foul for celebrating the basket too much. It seems to me that's what we must look like.

Of course, this situation is much more serious than a basketball game -- soldiers' lives are being played with, and I can't imagine the anguish these soldiers' families must be going through. And Iraq poses a bigger threat to the US than a trash talking basketball team poses to the Lakers (though the world may not yet have come around to this point of view). Nevertheless, what did we expect? We are going into this country to oust the regime. What, exactly, is their incentive to follow the Geneva Conventions? Especially since our rationale for going to war is that this is a regime of lawless thugs that thumbs its nose at the international community. And then we have the nerve to act surprised when they don't follow the Geneva Convention?

InstaPundit has been taking the "I eagerly await the protests" tack, that I took on below The US should accept, and in fact welcome a higher standard of behavior than is applied to the Iraqis. If we aren't willing to do that, then we have no busineess there.
ATTENTION THOSE COMING FROM GOOGLE
I don't have links to any videos, and you probably misspelled "Al-Jazeera" in your search.

Friday, March 21, 2003

WHERE ARE THE STANDARDS?
Joanah Goldberg writes:

Of all the wars and conflicts all around the globe, this is the one that has caused them to spill out onto the boulevards in rage. This is the one they've decided warrants human shields and boycotts. There were no human shields boarding buses to defend the Kurds or the Kuwaitis from Saddam Hussein — but they're falling over themselves for the opportunity to get in our way when we try to defend or liberate them. The useful idiots didn't rend their clothes and gnash their teeth when the Soviets invaded Kabul, but they were out in force when we liberated it. In short, these people don't hate war or care for the innocent nearly so much as they hate America.

Earlier this week, Mickey Kaus pointed to acolumn by Heather MacDonald that included:

Four days after the executions of two undercover officers in Staten Island this week—they were shot point-blank while trying to buy a semi-automatic weapon from a gang of gun hustlers—Barron, Sharpton, and the rest of the city’s cop-haters have preserved a perfect public silence. There will be no demonstrations outside the courthouse when the murderers of Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews are arraigned, unlike the protests that Sharpton organized outside the Bronx courthouse to scream at the four New York officers who mistakenly shot Amadou Diallo in 1999. Nor will anyone be parading coffins outside the homes of the lowlives who blew out the brains of the two Staten Island detectives, as New York’s anti-cop bigots did outside the homes of the Diallo officers.

These "where are the protests and demonstrations against the thugs" arguments are viscerally satisfying, but ultimately empty. Another way of phrasing this is, "why don't the protestors hold thugs and criuminals to the same standards as cops and the US government?" The answer is simple -- because they're thugs and ciminals. Put that way, you can see how ridiculous this type of argument is..

Protestors demonstrate against cops or against the US because they believe they have some chance affecting change. Protesting against street criminals or Saddam Hussein has no hope.

The protests and demonstrations are a sign that the US does at least listen to its people, and that it is held to a high standard. That should be good news.
CHALK IT UP TO IGNORANCE
I've been filling out NCAA tournament brackets for at least the last 15 years, and I've never heard the term "chalk" used in reference to picking the higher seed. Now it's all over the place, especially at ESPN's DailyQuickie

Does anyone know where this came from? Does it have anything to do with KU's equally mystifying "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" cheer?

Help me out here.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

MY FINAL FOUR
Kentucky, Duke, Texas, Syracuse.
Texas over Kentucky in the final game

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

THE LAIMBEER FLOP
I predict this will be the next great meme of the Blogosphere (itself meme coined by Bill Quick), and it comes from Mark at Minute Particulars.

It's a pattern of argument you see a lot. Rather than stand their gorund, the debater flops, and hopes for a "foul" to be called on his adversary. Depending on the argument, the "foul" can be questioning someone's loyalty, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, insensitivity, or anything else that's not socially nice.

I invoked this in a discussion on the Fray, involving the flag and the anti-war movement. Rather than protect the flag, they flop and claim that the pro-war movement has "co-opted" the flag by assosciating it with the pro-war movement. We're supposed to think this is a terrible offense.

But if the anti-war people were willing to yield the flag in the hopes of having a foul called, then what does that say about how much they value it? And then why should I be all upset that the pro-war movement "co-opted" it, when they were willing to let it happen?

Sometimes the referee is looking the other way, and sometimes the referee is on to your tricks. Other times, there is no referee. And in those times, you need to stand and defend your ground, rather than hope that the other side will get called for a foul.

I suspect even Bill Laimbeer knew that.

Side Note: I probably find this even more interesting, since as a tall white kid who often played basketball in the playground in a racially mixed neighborhood, I was tagged with the nickname "Bill Laimbeer." Probably mostly because of physical resemblance, but I'd like to think also because of intensity of play.
ON THE WAR
Readers know I have my misgivings about this war, but now that it is starting, I hope and pray that it will be a swift victory, helped along by surrendering troops, and that it does lead to true peace.

I'm not sure this is the best way to achieve true peace, but it is nevertheless my hope that it comes about.

Monday, March 17, 2003

PRUDENTIAL DISSENT?
Mark at Minute Particulars has a thoughtful post concering those who, as seem a bit too happy to declare the Holy Father and the US Bishop's position on Iraq a "prudential judgement," and thus not at al binding on their conscience.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT WAR?
Kairos Guy has been confronting the "war is always a disaster" statement put forth by, among others Cardinal McCarrick.

And what is so terrible about war, as opposed to all the other fundamentals of the fallen human condition, anyway? We all die sometime, but in war, those who die are more prepared for the possibility than most of us. Heroism is rarely possible on my morning commute, but in war, sometimes "uncommon valor is a common virtue." The disruptions to our complacency that war brings are nowhere to be found in most corporate boardrooms, judging by the financial news of the last couple of years.

The opportunities for heroism points says more about our culture's warped sense of what heroism is than anything else.

Would it not have been heroic for someone in one of those corporate boardrooms to stand up to malfeasance and dishonesty rather than go along with it?

Is it not heroic for a young person to commit to and live a life of chastity in today's sex-saturated world?

Is it not heroic for someone to move past their comfort zones and go into our nation's roughest neightborhoods in order to minister to the poor?

Is it not heroic to maintain one's faith in the Church despite the scandals?

We don't need war to have an opportunity for heroism. We have such opportunities every day. We just don't recognize them as such.

And as for the "more prepared to die" point, we're talking about mostly young men. Some with wives and families, others who hope to have them one day. Others who might want to come back to other productive jobs in their home countries. They may be "prepared to die," but that doesn't mean that having them die now is preferable to having them die after they've accomplished all they set out to do.
CONSERVATISM AND CATHOLICISM
Interesting discussion over at HMS blog about how political conservatism aligns with Catholic social teaching.

I've always found the notion that liberal differences with the Church (e.g. women's ordination, sexual teachings, etc.) are always considered diffrences on matters of faith and thus illicit, while conservative differences (on capital punishment, war on Iraq, social justice) are considered differences on prudential judgements and thus licit a bit too tidy and convenient for conservatives. I have some more research to do on this, but I suspect it's not nearly so cut and dry.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

BARRETT ROBBINS
I'll take a break from definding the Vatican's anti-war position to deal with other matters for a change.

There's something that's been bothering me about the coverage of Barrett Robbins, the Raiders' center who was unable to play in the Super Bowl because he was dealing with a bout of depression stemming from his bipolar disorder.

It is unquestionable that he let his team down. His team was about to play the biggest game of the year, and he couldn't answer the bell. Since the Raiders got blown out, and the backup center didn't allow any sacks or blow any snaps, most think they wouldn't have won anyway, and that may be true.

But at the minimum, this created a distraction, and it may have totally disrupted their game plan. Offensive line play in football, more than anything else in sports, relies on cohesion, on several men working together as a unit. While the center wasn't a particular vulnerability during that game, the Bucs' defensive line had a dominant game. I recall one particular two point conversion play where the left tackle blocked inside, allowing Simeon Rice to run free for the sack. Would that have happened if Robbins was in the game? I don't know.

But those who criticize Robbins asre chided for their ignorace and lack of understanding. Dr. Jerry Punch writes:

The last thing Robbins needs is additional pressure from his teammates. Once they understand the whole story, those teammates likely will regret their critical statements. The last thing he needs is for people to walk away from him right now. Indeed, now Robbins needs his teammates, friends and family the most.

I agree that, as people and friends, Robbins's teammates ought to be supportive. But as teammates and an employer, the Raiders ought to hold him accountable for his actions.

The alternative is to blame the disorder, and thus taint everyone else who suffers from it. Dr. Punch writes elsewhere:

In fact, the stress of a Super Bowl would be the ultimate challenge for someone with bipolar disorder, especially if he wasn't taking his medication. It's important for a bipolar patient to regulate the pressure in his life and and, if possible, to avoid prolonged periods of stress. When there's added stress, combined with lack of sleep and mental/emotional fatigue, and then if alcohol is stirred in -- that's a potent and potentially dangerous mixture.

Fine, but dealing with Super Bowl pressure is part of Robbins's job. Surely, Dr. Punch wouldn't suggest that it's OK to discriminate against those with bipolar disorder on this basis. That's illegal.

Maybe I'm thinking about this the wrong way. Maybe nobody needs to be accountable. We shouldn't blame Robbins or the disease, we should just accept the unreliability of people with this disorder as part of the price of living in a discimination-free society. And ao, when the bipolar person in our lives goes AWOL, we should cheerfully pick up the slack or take the hit and be grateful to live in a country that doesn't discriminate.

I'd be curious to see how such a theory would be received in the Raiders' locker room on Super Bowl Sunday.

Barrett Robbins let his team down in the biggest game of the year. It seems like there should be some accounting for that, and it seems unfair to me to spread that accountabulity to every bipolar person in the country who shows up to work each day, and doesn't let his fellow workers down.

But I allow that I may be writing from some ignorance.

Monday, March 10, 2003

DREHER WRITES A RESPONSE
Mark Shea passes on some of Mr. Dreher's reponse to the criticism:

Anyway, one point of my Journal column was to draw attention to the fact that the Church has pissed away a great deal of its moral authority by its mishandling of the sex-abuse crisis.

I can accept this, but I have to ask whether writing such a column in the Wall Street Journal would help build up or tear down the Church's moral authority. To whom was it neccesary to point this out? Dissenting Catholics? Church leaders?

What good comes from pointing this out?
APOLOGIES
I've decided that "consistency week" pobably wouldn't be the best use of the time God has given me, so I've deleted that post.

Also, I should note that Justin Katz was right -- Glenn Reynolds has not parlayed his anti-Semitic smear against the Vatican into other criticisms of the Church. So I was wrong.
LET'S SEE
Action: Rod Dreher takes a cheap shot at the Church
Reaction: You go, Rod! That needed to be be said! Thanks so much! Your critics are morons! etc.

Action: Victor Lams takes a cheap shot at National Review
Reaction: Hey, not so fast!

Who's our God again?

Sunday, March 09, 2003

ONE MORE THING ON THE ROD DREHER PIECE
As I mentioned below, Mr. Dreher has long been putting forth the notion that "dissent" in the Church contributed to the scandals, and any effort in dealing with the scandals would be incomplete without "rooting out" this dissent.

But then, Mr. Dreher pretty much lays out a blueprint for dissenting from the Church in the post-scandal Church:

One cannot help wondering, though, how much more seriously American Catholics would take church leaders if not for the sex-abuse scandal, which is still very much with us.

This type of argument could be applied to anything:

  • "Church Anuls Homosexual Marriage; Defrocks Presiding Priest": It's interesting that the Vatican feels the need to move so swiftly to prevent two consenting adults from committing to each other, when it was so slow to prevent the sexual abuse of children.
  • "Church Excommunicates Bishop Who Ordained Women": Is it any surpries that the all-male Church hierarchy places a higher priority on keeping women out of thier circle of power than in preventing girls from being raped by priests?
  • "Bishop Speaks Out Against Pro-Choice Politicians: Why is the Church more concerned about a politician allowing women to choose abortion than it is about protecting chidren in its care?

All of these arguments are, of course, nonsense. But people who cheerlead arguments like Mr. Dreher's would have a hard time dismissing them (especially since they say they're looking for consistency. ) And the people inclined to make and be persuaded by arguments like the above aren't likely to be versed in the differences between purdential judgements and matters of faith; they'll just know that an orthodox Catholic commentator used a similar argument, and won much approval for it.

One might say that the Church itself has opened itself up to this, so it's not Mr. Dreher's fault for using it. But Mr. Dreher professes to love the Church. When you're in disagreement with a loved one, you don't exploit vulnerabilities so that you can win the argument. You make your case strongly, yes, but also with compassion and charity. Nobody wins if you win by scoring a cheap shot.
RITE OF ELECTION
I should have blogged this earlier, but anyone who thinks the Church in America is dying, be it because of the sexual abuse scandals, lack of orthodoxy, or being "out of touch" with the popular culture, should get themselves to a cathedral this weekend, and see how many people want to join our Church, warts and all.

Let's say some special prayers for them, and that their hope and faith in the Church might spread to us.
WHY STUFF LIKE THIS BOTHERS ME SO MUCH
Warning: This is more of a reflection on my feelings than a logical argument.

I work very hard to align my conscience with that of the Church. I am inclined to think that the Church ought to open ordination to women, I have not seen a convincing argument otherwise. Yet, I keep quiet about this as much as possible, in part because orthodox Cathoics like Mr. Dreher tell me that such "dissent" is harmful to the Church, and at the root cause of the sexual abuse scandals. So I try to keep quiet about it.

I am deeply troubled by the way our Church treates homosexuals. I think that many are puzzled and confused and feel unloved by the Church, and given few options about how to live their lives. But I am told that even the Church's current stance towards gays and lesbians is too tolerant, and this tolerance is part of the root cause of the sexual abuse scandals, so I keep quiet.

I am not sure about the Vatican's position on the war in Iraq, yet I have spent the past week in this blog defending the Church's position against smears from non Catholic commentators. Then, when I look to support from some of these orthodox commentators who have been shouting me and others like me down, I see them undermining the Church's position by comparing it to its response to the sexual abuse scandals.

Commentators like Mr. Dreher rightfully point out that dissenting from the Vatican's position on war is not the same as dissenting on issues like birth control and abortion since the former is a prudential judgement by the Holy Father, and the latter is a matter of faith. But then they feel free to compare the position on war to the response to the abuse scandals, and these seem to me to be even further apart. If comparing dissent on matters of faith to dissent on prudential judgement is comparing apples to oranges, then comparing prudential judgements on current issues to response to scandals is comparing oranges to steak.

It is very disappointing to me that commentators like Dreher who have been so quick to blame those with a hint of daylight between their own position and the Church's on sexual issues for every problem under the sun, now feel free to slam the Vatican because they don't agree with its position on war with Iraq.

As someone who is working hard (albeit not perfectly) to align his conscience and public statements with the Church, I wonder why I bother. It would be nice to feel like I was joined in this struggle with those who find themselves in disagreement with the Church on other things. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

Friday, March 07, 2003

LAST POST ON THE CATHOLIC WAR POSTION, AND ANTI-CATHOLOCISM
Regular readers(if there are any) have probably noticed that this blog is built around fits of activity when I get good and pissed about something, followed by a few days of inactivity.

Anyway, Tony Adragna has some posts about the things I've taken on, and he's mostly right. In particular, I went overboard with this post where I called on Prof. Reynolds to deal with his own anti-Catholicism. I could backpedal, and say it was an ironic unsubstantiated charge of anti-Catholocism in response to an unsubstantiated charge of anti-Semitism, but that would be dishonest. So, I apologize.

Anyway, my main point is that folks seem desperate to sting the Church with charges of anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, with little evidence to support it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

A FEW MORE LOBS
The more I read stuff like this, as well as the InstaPundit Vatican anti-Semitic stuff below, the more I think the Vatican is really on to something, and it's troubling people's consicences, and they're reacting to it by doing everything they can to kill the messenger.

You can read my response to that here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

JOINING ME ON THE DARK SIDE
Justin Katz has joined me in agreeing that InstaPundit's smear is unfair.

Remember Prof. Reynolds statement was, ""This is absolutely pathetic, but no great surprise given the antisemitism we've already seen emanating from the Vatican lately." Now we're talking about crosses on graves at Auschwitz, and the Vatican being slow to recognize Israel. Sounds to me like desperation to change the subject.

Monday, March 03, 2003

AND THIS
Prof. Reynolds writes

I think that this stuff generates such a response because, well, it's true. And sometimes the truth hurts.

By that logic, the idiocy put out at anti-war protests must be true, since it generates such a large response on the blogosphere.

It seems we'res scraping the bottom of the barrell of self-justification. "I've gotten a lot of response from this; it must be true!" Please; I thought we were all smarter than that.
ONE MORE THING
It's easy for Prof. Reynolds (or me, for that matter) to pooh-pooh concerns the Vatican has about Christians in the Arab world. After all, if I come out strongly against Israel, nobody will die.

But the Holy Father and the Vatican's words can result in much death or suffering, and I don't think it's unreasonable that they take that into consideration.

You can say that they should be more courageous, and if it were just their own hides on the line, I might agree. But I'm not sure courage demands that the Holy Father endanger the lives of millions of others in order that Prof. Reynolds might find the Vatican's position "admirable."

And I would also like Proof. Reynolds or someone else to produce where the Vatican cheerleads for the Arabs against Israel. For all the talk there's been about it, you'd think someone would have some solid evidence by now. But all I keep seeing is that picture. Maybe if we wave that around enough and shout "the Vatican is anti-Semitic!" people will believe it.