Friday, February 28, 2003

As is usually the case, the pro-cloning blogosphere is all over Charles's Murtagh's deconstruction of Sen. Bronwback's piece arguing for a total ban on cloning.

Justin Katz has already taken this on, but there's a couple sections of it I want to address...

There are arguments against embryo cloning, all of which boil down to the pro-life claim that embryos deserve legal protection similar to newborns

I'll say this again, the only "legal protection" pro-lifers believe that embryos "deserve" is the right not to be killed. That's it. The most basic of human rights, upon which all others are based.

so is cloning bad because it creates life, or because it destroys it? This is the least of my objections, though, since this sort of contradiction is par for the course among pro-life anti-cloners.

Yes and yes, and there is no contradiction. We oppose thereaputic cloning because, like abortion or embryonic stem cell research, it destroys embryonic life.

But theraputic cloning takes an extra dimension in that it creates embryonic life for the very purpose of destroying it.

I will say that Brownback's arguments, that use reproductive cloning to argue against theraputic cloning aren't the best we can do either. Our argument isn't, "theraputic cloning is just like reproductive cloning, and reproductive cloning is icky." That may be tempting, given the public's discomfort with reproductive cloning, but it's won't hold up.

No, we oppose theraputic cloning because, like reproductive cloning, it creates a new life form, but then it destroys it. Thus, theraputic cloning is much more troubling to me than reproductive cloning.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Andrew Sullivan passes this on:

ONE GAY MARRIAGE DISSOLVED: "In Binghamton, N.Y., Supreme Court Justice Andrew J. McNaught granted a divorce to Catherine Koppe from Lillian Beaumont on the ground that, since the partners were both female, the marriage was void. In March 1927, wearing a clown costume, a man's wig and a van dyke beard, Lillian ("William") Beaumont appeared with Catherine Koppe before the Rev. Francis T. Cooke, saying they had just come from a masquerade, wanted to be married. He obliged." - from Time magazine, October 24, 1932. You see? This is hardly a new demand. For other examples of same-sex marriages throughout history, check out my anthology.

That may be evidence that gay marriage is a long standing issue, but it damages Sullivan's frequent dismissals of conservatives' concerns that allowing gays to marry would harm the institution of marriage.

Yes, I know that there are heterosexual weddings that take place under strange circumstances. But Sullivan chose this instance involving clown costumes to support gay marriage. If this is the best he can do, it doesn't do much to raise my confidence that gay marriage would be a positive development for marriage.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Mark Shea passes on the suggestion that pro-life groups should try hard to win the auction. That sounds great. Or the school could have insisted that the head of the pro-life group went along with this luncheon, which Granholm might have refused, making her the one to look "intolerant."

Here's my big problem with the obsession over this -- a lot of people seem to think that Catholics are called to distance themselves from, rather than end abortion. That's not what the Works of Mercy are about -- we must be engaged.

If we applied half the anguish and urgency to any number of real problems as what's being applied to this luncheon, the world would be a much better place.

We might feel better about ourselves by turning our noses up at "pro-abort" politicians, but it doesn't do anything to end the scourge of abortion, distracts us from our real mission, and makes us look foolish.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Glad to know we're being enlisted into a 20 year old personal vendetta.

We're so anxious to bury our politicial adversaries that we convince ourselves that they mean more than they do. IT'S A FREAKING LUNCHEON!! Meanwhile, 3000 unborn children will be killed today. I find it bery difficult to believe that the best thing I can do to help them is to stop this luncheon.
Stop praying for peace and serving the hungry and counseling those considering abortion. Drop everything you're doing now and call to bully the principal of a faraway Catholic high school to prevent a luncheon with a pro-choice Catholic governor! It's the most important work Catholics today can do, according to Gregory Popcak.

Come on! We all must do our part to ensure that the Church and the pro-life movement remain an echo chamber of self-righteous name calling, completely disengaged and marginalized from the predominant culture. There's no hope in convinving pro-choicers of the error of their ways, or preventing high school students from being seduced by their powerful arguments. What, you think God will help us? Ha!

I wish that the biggest problem facing us was the possibility that a couple of high school girls would have lunch with a pro-choice governor. But it's not. And I'd be the first one to oppose this if someone could show me how this will do one thing to save an unborn child. But it won't. It seems to me little more than an oppurtunity for us to beat our chests and look down on people.

Maybe it's a result of the string of defeats the pro-life movement has suffered these past 30 years. We're so desperate to claim victory for something, anything, that we'll convince ourselves that bullying a high school principal into preventing a lunch is a "victory," even if it hurts the pro-life movement in the long run. When we raise the ire of the husband of a pro-choice politician, we call it "results". Sorry, I have a different measure of results, and it involves the 3,000 unborn children who are killed every day, whether this luncheon goes on or not.

I think it's interesting that the HMS blog was so fired up in its disregard for Granholm that nobody responded to a request to make this Friday a day of prayer and fasting for peace. We're all too busy calling Jennifer Granhom names. This is what happens -- we convince oursleves that little battles are big battles, and we forget about the big battles.

Bullying a principal is relatively easy. Making fun of pro-choice politicians is also easy; what's difficult is changing hearts, but we believe that with God's help, we can do it. By wasting our time on these meaningless gestures, we're delaying in doing the real, hard work we need to be doing. Some might be happy if Granholm never sets foot in a Catholic Church again and maintains her pro-choice views. I would much prefer that she reconcile her views with those of the Catholic Church. I prefer it so much that I will not settle for the former. As those against the luncheon are fond of saying, on an issue as important as abortion, there can be no compromise.

If preventing this luncheon is really as important as everyone says it is, it would be nice if a pro-life politician would offer him or herself as a substute.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Mark Shea also picked up the Graholm luncheon column, urging us to talk back. I voiced similar concerens to the ones I voiced below, and you can read that discussion here.

One theme of the responses is that abortion is such a serious matter that Catholics cannot compromise. I agree. Which is why I think it's puzzling that so many Catholics seem to think it's sufficient just to distance ourselves as much as possible from abortion and those who support it rather than trying to engage them and change their hearts.

Why settle for this ritualistic purity, when, with the Holy Spirit on our side, we can change hearts?
The sexuality teachings get all the attention, but I think the Church's teaching that stands most against the prevailing culture is that Fridays are a day reserved for fasting, prayer, and repentance.

In the US, Fridays are the day when people go out for lunch. After work, people head out to happy-hours with all you can eat buffets. People bring boxes of donuts to the office, and various celebrations are planned.

The Catholic who seriously makes Friday a day of fasting and prayer is probably capable of overcoming almost any temptation. I pray that I'll do a better job.
Greg Popcak wants us to let Detroit Free Press columnist feel our wrath for critcizing a Catholic Girls' High School's decision to remove a lunch with pro-choice Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm from a silent auction list because of her pro-choice views.

I actually agree with the columnist, though. I think the pro-life movement wastes too much time and energy on these self-rightoeous grandstands that don't do a damn thing to save an unborn child. I've noted this before.

Didn't Jesus eat with prostitutes and tax collectors? Was that seen as an endorsement of their lifestyle? Do we really think He would be instructing us not to dine with those who vote pro-choice?

The message the public gets from stunts like this isn't, "Boy, those Catholics are firmly behind their views;" it's "Boy, those Catholics are controlled by a few self-righteous prigs that deserve to be marginalized."

I don't like Granholm's pro-choice views any more than the next guy, but I don't think the best way to change her mind is to refuse to dine with her.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

A lot of people seem upset that this play runs at Catholic colleges, but I'm kind of blah about it.

I saw some of this performance on HBO, and it had a very 9/10/2001 feel about it. Don't we have more important things to worry about than how we refer to women's genitalia?

My feeling is that rather than withholding contributions, why not offer something better? Why not do something about the life of St. Valentine?

Seems to me that if the Church is losing people to things like this performance, we're doing something wrong that isn't going to be fixed by witholding contributions.
The Holy Father's words have given me pause. Have I been to quick to give up on praying and working for a peaceful resolution. Is there more I can be doing? (absolutely!) Is the threat so dire and immediate that killing is the only solution? I'm not so sure...

Riding around during lunch yesterday, I was listening to Rush Limbaugh, and he was saying that we can't stay in this heightened alert state indefinitely (I agree). He went on to say that these threats don't just end without decisive action, and that's where I'm not so sure. Thus, we must kill those who are developing weapons that threaten us. Again, I'm not so sure...

The last great threat, the Cold War, did just sort of end. Yes, there was a large military buldup, and battles on the frontiers of Communism, but there was no great military action that brought down the Soviet Union -- it crumbled from within, with the help of a million individual acts of courage that didn't all involve killing people.

I understand that weapons of mass destruction put a great strain on the proportionality plank of the just war doctrine. The cost of not taking out Saddam could be infinite. I'm just not convinced that we've exhausted all means short of war, and that the consequences are as dire as those pushing for war say they are.

The foolishness of the anti-war movement makes it even more difficult, sometimes. It's fun to see them refuted when they assign false motives to the Bush Administration, or say that Saddam really is cooperating. I have to guard carefully against letting my own self-righteosness take over. I was glad to see Powell present convincing evidence, but I'm also happy when I see the the Saddameter go down.

What can I do? The only thing I can think is pray more. Pray that our leaders will make wise decisions. Pray that Saddam's heart will be turned, or that he will be overthrown with minimal violence. Pray so God will show me what needs to be done, so I can support or oppose the war rather than remain mired in paralysis. I will also be adopting a fast each Friday, eating breakfast and dinner and nothing more.

That's where I am right now, deeply conflicted.
That said, I was able to forget about the warning levels and all my other concersn (including my first home purchase) while wathcing SLU's stirring upset of #2 Louisville last night. The Billikens haven't had a great year, but have played hard every night under new coach Brad Soderbergh. It was great to see them have something to celebrate, especially since they didn't quit on any of the several occasions it looked like Louisville had the game wrapped up. It was two hours of fun.

Mizzou, on the other hand...

I'll be at the Blues hockey game tonight, despite it being a "large public gathering" during this high alert time. Whatever happens in the next week, the games need to go on, and we need to keep enjoying them. It was one of the saddest things to see kids' soccer games cancelled last year during the sniper problems.

Sports aren't a soluition to our problems, but they do help us forget for a couple hours, and release some of our tension. I was glad to have that game to watch last night, and I'm glad to have another tonight. I hope that whatever happens in the next couple weeks, the games go on.
I went out and bought some extra water and canned food last night, but I'm not bothering with the plastic sheeting and duct tape.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

When I see certain words in Catholic blogs, my blood pressure jumps a beat or two. I should note here that I'm sure that most writers who use these terms don't mean to use them in this way, but this is the association I have with them. Here we go:
  • "The Situation:" This one drives me nuts becuase it's a cutesy way of regerring to a horrible scandal. Writers who use this term seem to be winking and saying, "I know the hip, cool way to refer to the current scandals. I know the secret password."
    A scandal involving the sexual abuse of minors seems to me to be strange thing to form a self-congratulatory club around.
  • "St. Blog's": I've written about this before, but the implication I see here is that the author finds his real home parish wanting, and prefers the company of the internet "parish." There's nothing wrong with finding community online, but it's important to remember that our first responsibility is to our real parish where we receive the sacraments and meet each other. "St. Blog's" isn't going to administer any sacraments, and you're probably not going to encounter a poor or needy member of "St. Blog's."
  • "AmChurch": Usually used to refer to all American Catholics except the writer and those like the writer. This is probably my least favorite one of all. It reveals a contempt and disgust and utter lack of connection with one's fellow Catholics. Can't we do better than coming up with derisive name? Did Jesus have cutesy name for the Pharisees?
  • "Lavendar Mafia": This one I really don't care for, since it posits a connection between homosexuality and organized crime. I'm all for contronting evil and corruption, but do we have to do it with an anti-gay slur.

Keep using these terms if you want. I just wanted to get my feelings about them off my chest.
Via Mark Shea, Amy Welborn writes on the struggles of a laicized priest, and his family.

It's a moving piece, but I don't really agree with her conclusions.

First, she compares the treatment of laicized priests to those who were guilty of abuse, which, as I've written before, I think is a bit of a dirty trick.

Second, Welborn unwittingly makes a strong case for keeping celibaby.

She laments that a priest who chooses to laicize doesn't face a strong labor market for his skill set, especially since he is limited in what ministries he can peform in the Church. Then, she writes about how the current scandals were caused by clericalism -- priests and bishops who were desperate to hold on to their positions.

It seems to me that removing bad priests would be more difficult if that bad priest had a wife and children to support. The priest would be even more desperate to hang on to his position, and the chancery would be even more strongly tempted to look the other way to avoid punishing the wife and children with financial hardship.

It seems that if clericalism is the problem (and I agree that it is), it seems that adding family members who are financially dependent upon a priest would make the situation worse.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Kathryn Jean Lopez reports that a bill to legalize theraputic cloning in my childhood state of New Jersey will not be considered.

This bill was backed by Christopher Reeve, which reminds me of one of my pet peeves about the pro-cloning movement. They're all about saying that pro-lifers are "against science" and that their arguments rely on aesthetics rather than logic -- e.g. Leon Kass's "wisdom of revulsion."

But how do they make their case? By bringing out celebrities, and hoping that legislatures will be too star-struck to say "no" to them.