Saturday, April 30, 2005

Bill Kristol on the filibuster

The article, Break the Filibuster is available for everyone to read at the Daily Standard Web site. I'd like to quote the entire thing here, of course, but I'll refrain and quote with moderation.

On the Constitution and the Federalist Papers:

Suddenly, too, European liberals are discovering the virtues of the Founding Fathers. On the same day that Durbin was confessing his faith in the Constitution, the editors of the Financial Times were urging Bill Frist to "cease and desist" his efforts to break the filibuster, imploring him to "reread the wisdom of the Federalist Papers." The trouble is, the filibuster is nowhere mentioned, or even implied, in the Federalist Papers.
On the separation of powers in the Constitution and the filibuster:

As David A. Crockett of Trinity University in San Antonio has explained, the legislative filibuster makes perfect sense. Article 1 of the Constitution gives each house of Congress the power to determine its own rules. Senate Rule XXII establishes the necessity of 60 votes to close off debate. With this rule, the Senate has chosen to allow 40-plus percent of its members to block legislative action, out of respect for the view that delaying, even preventing, hasty action, or action that has only the support of a narrow majority, can be a good thing. As Crockett puts it, "Congress is the active agent in lawmaking, and if it wants to make that process more difficult, it can." One might add that legislative filibusters can often be overcome by offering the minority compromises--revising the underlying legislation with amendments and the like.

There is no rationale for a filibuster, however, when the Senate is acting under Article 2 in advising and consenting to presidential nominations. As Crockett points out, here the president is "the originator and prime mover. If he wants to make the process more burdensome, perhaps through lengthy interviews or extraordinary background checks, he can." The Senate's role is to accept or reject the president's nominees, just as the president has a responsibility to accept or reject a bill approved by both houses of Congress. There he does not have the option of delay. Nor should Congress have the option of delay in what is fundamentally an executive function of filling the nonelected positions in the federal government. In other words--to quote Crockett once more--"it is inappropriate for the Senate to employ a delaying tactic normally used in internal business--the construction of legislation--in a nonlegislative procedure that originates in a coequal branch of government."

Common sense can be a beautiful thing in times like these.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Golden Calf

A very worthwhile article confirming the theme of liturgical reform in Benedict XVI's papacy. An excerpt:

ROMA, April 28, 2005 – On Sunday, April 24, Benedict XVI inaugurated his “Petrine ministry as bishop of Rome” in the sunlight of a Saint Peter’s Square overflowing with crowds.

But his first intention was different. He had wanted to celebrate his first solemn mass as pope, not in the square, but inside the basilica of Saint Peter. “Because there the architecture better directs the attention toward Christ, instead of the pope,” he told the masters of ceremonies on Wednesday, April 20, his first full day as the elected pope. Only the immense number of faithful who were coming induced him to change his mind and celebrate the mass outdoors. . . .

For him, the form and the substance of liturgical celebrations are intimately connected. And their disarray is expressed in a passage of the startling meditations that he wrote, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, for the Stations of the Cross last Good Friday: “How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that He is there!” Here “He” refers to Jesus Christ crucified and risen, the great missing person of so many new liturgies, which have become “meaningless dances around the golden calf that is ourselves.” . . .

With his extraordinary passion for the liturgy, Benedict XVI is unquestionably a pope of the great tradition of liturgical texts, rituals, art, and music. Vatican Council II also began from this point: the most memorable mark it has left is that of liturgical reform.

But from the very beginning Ratzinger saw and denounced the distortions of this reform. He went so far as to write: “They are the dead burying the dead, and they call it reform.”

The last complete book that he wrote – not a collection of essays – was published in 2001 under the title “An Introduction to the Spirit of the Liturgy,” and it outlines a “reform of the reform.”

Homeschooling Anyone?

Lexington school calls cops on dad irate over gay book

By Laura Crimaldi

Thursday, April 28, 2005 - Updated: 02:39 AM EST

Police arrested a Lexington father who refused to leave the Joseph Estabrook School yesterday after school officials rejected his demands that his 6-year-old son be shielded from any discussions about gay households.

David Parker, 42, confronted officials after his son brought home ``Who's in a Family,'' a storybook that includes characters who are gay parents.

Yesterday, Parker refused to leave a meeting after Lexington Superintendent Bill Hurley rejected his demand that he be notified when his son is exposed to any discussion about same-sex households as part of classroom instruction.

``Our parental requests for our own child were flat-out denied,'' Parker said in a statement.

Parker also asked that the boy be pulled from similar discussions that arise spontaneously, said Brian Camenker, director of the Article 8 Alliance, which supports the ouster of four pro-gay marriage judges on the state's Supreme Judicial Court.

School officials could not be reached for comment.

Any time I wonder whether the culture wars are necessary, I read something like this and wonder no more.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Who rules?

I have noticed a spate of articles on the topic of women and wealth such as the following article which claims Women to be wealthier than men in 20 years (n.b., women in Britian). Another article on the same topic, Move over boys, the money is on the women, by Sarah Womack, makes the following suggestion:

Women are increasingly using their business wiles to gain financial rewards from their private lives. In America they are classified as Boomers (those who have inherited their husband's wealth) and Sarahs (Single And Rich And Happy) who have made their cash through the divorce courts.

Of all the articles, Womack's article is the only one (afaik) that explicitly mentions the acquisition of wealth through divorce and is also the only article to relate divorce to happiness. If there was ever a time when divorce was experienced as a dreadful remedy, well, that time seems to have passed according to Womack. Whether it's believeable that divorce is a necessary or even a likely condition for happiness is another matter. In terms of the civil laws that deal with divorce, we may observe that such laws only presuppose the incompatibility of husband and wife and proceed from that perspective. The civil laws presuppose incompatibility in the fact that they do not require reasons for the divorce, and in fact it is this presupposition that turns out to be the reason and the right for divorce. Are signs of incompatibility and mutual aversion happy facts? Or perhaps they are only happy facts when seen in terms of the division of money and property? At any rate, I'm persuaded that this rash of articles on rich women is just the tip of an iceberg, and worth paying attention to in the near future.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Man vs. Leviathan

A worthy article in a recent National Review concerning Pope John Paul II. There are several good anecdotes here, including these:

Having spent three decades battling a Communist regime, this pope also knew the power of symbolic gestures. If you don’t have any divisions to send in, solidarity with the victims may be the best weapon. The candles that simultaneously burned in the windows of his Vatican study, and of Ronald Reagan’s White House, to grieve for Solidarity’s suppression in December 1981, carried a more powerful message to the Kremlin than dozens of new missile silos. The few million dollars sent via Vatican accounts to Solidarity’s underground cells were hardly significant as material support, but shored up the freedom fighters’ morale. As we now know from the Mitrokhin archive and other sources, the Soviets were terrified of him.

He was also an early master of applying “people power.” In the 1950s, Polish Stalinists had built an ideal Communist town called Nowa Huta. The healthy influence of a working-class town was supposed to dilute the conservatism of the ancient city of Kraków nearby. As a model Communist development, it was designed without a church, but the planners had not reckoned with Bishop Wojtyla. He supported crowds in guarding a wooden cross around which they prayed under open skies until the authorities gave in and allowed a church to be built. It was ready to be consecrated just as he arrived on his first pilgrimage as Pope.

The Pope’s Polish experience — of rule by two godless ideologies, of war, of genocide, of poverty and revolution — chimed with the experience of most of the world’s Catholics. They do not, after all, live in the pampered West. It was his experience of the transitory nature of regimes, power, and wealth in his native land that reinforced his insistence on the personal, rather than collective or state-directed, pursuit of goodness. . . .

Ukraine’s Christians had recognized Rome in the 16th century at the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which included most of today’s Ukraine. Centuries of persecution under both czarist and Communist Russia followed. Now a Polish pope was consorting with a Polish foreign minister on how a papal comeback could return Ukraine to the Western fold.

The Ukrainian trip, in June 2001, was a smashing success and three years later Ukraine had its own democratic revolution. Most of Victor Yushchenko’s support came from John Paul II’s flock in Western Ukraine. It was no coincidence. What the Pope’s critics don’t seem to comprehend is that before people demand democracy and social rights, they have to gain faith in their own human dignity. John Paul II’s confidence in the inalienability of certain rights was a spiritual rock on which whole peoples rebuilt that faith.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Constitutional Principles

They just confuse some people. Case in point (from the Louisville Courier-Journal):

More than 700 people joined religious leaders and Democratic politicians at two rallies yesterday to denounce Christian conservatives' use of a Louisville church as a platform to advocate prohibiting filibusters against judicial nominees.

Speakers called both the assault on filibusters and the injection of religion into politics "un-American" threats to religious freedom and to constitutional checks and balances.

The larger of the two rallies, designed to counter a telecast from Highview Baptist Church last night, took place at Central Presbyterian Church near downtown Louisville.

I don't know which is smarter: decrying free exercise as a threat to religious freedom, or protesting the supposed menace by practicing the sincerest form of flattery.

Hat tip: James Taranto


For those of you who don't regularly read David Warren, I'll perform my usual task of pointing you to another of his fine columns, this one on Benedict XVI. These samples do not do the whole piece justice:

Pope Benedict's reputation as a "disciplinarian" has not been fully earned. As Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (successors to the Holy Office of the Inquisition), he only ever excommunicated one crazy priest in Sri Lanka -- who persistently preached that Mary wasn't a virgin, and that Christ wasn't divine. And then let that gentleman back in, when he recanted. If one's standard for discipline is the Spanish Inquisition, one can't help being a little disappointed.

Such openly heretical theologians as the Swiss, Hans Kung, or the Belgian, Edward Schillebeeckx, were denied the right to claim the authority of the Catholic Church for their teachings. They were hardly denied the right to teach, or even denied communion. We look to the legacies of Stalin and Pol Pot, and must declare our new Supreme Pontiff a pussycat. . . .

Of all the many remarks made by the former Cardinal Ratzinger which I have read or re-read in the last few days, I am most arrested by this one: "The Catholicism of the Bavaria in which I grew up was joyful, colourful, human. I miss a sense of purism. This must be because, since my childhood, I have breathed the air of the Baroque."

This was followed by another, that theologians who "do not love art, poetry, music, nature ... can be dangerous." . . .

This is all of a piece with what any reader will find in his fine book, The Spirit of the Liturgy; or in the three long interview-books for which he was subject. He shows that doctrine and liturgy do not come down to words, alone. They must be shown, made exemplary. And there is a chastity, for instance in Mozart, that is lost in the heaviness and ugliness of most of the church as it is today. . . .

And this is not irrelevant to the cause of evangelism. We must come to the world as bearers of light. We must express the life-wish in a culture of death; and that is a job well suited to Mozart.

More on the 'Filibuster'

By Rich Lowry on NRO:

The filibuster, which requires 60 votes to be broken, is a useful brake on Senate action. But the paeans to it emanating from the left today are unmatched since Southern editorialists fired up their typewriters in defense of Eastland and fellow obstructionists in the 1960s. It's as if democracy will end if Bush-nominated judges pass with the support of 51 senators instead of 60.

Democrats call the Republican proposal to block their ability to filibuster judicial nominations, the so-called nuclear option, "unprecedented." Well, it is. Since prior to Bush's election the filibuster was never used to routinely block judicial nominations, of course no one ever thought before of ending the possibility of using it for that purpose.

Former Democratic Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell has been trotted out to make the case against the proposed Republican rules change. "Neither I nor any other senator," he said the other day, recalling his time as majority leader in the early 1990s, "ever dreamed of taking the kind of drastic action now being proposed." This is laughable. Not only have various proposals to curtail the filibuster been kicked around for years, including one sponsored by Democrats in 1995, but Mitchell himself said of filibusters on CNN in 1994, "We should limit the opportunities for their use much more than is now the case."

Typical partisan hypocrisy is at play here, of course. Whichever party is in the minority will love the filibuster most. But something deeper is at work too. When you have little positive to offer and the tide of history seems to be moving against you, obstruction — whether through opportunistic federalism or the filibuster — becomes not just a tactic, but a kind of sacred cause. Just ask Senator Eastland.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Year of the Eucharist

It's starting to have its effect already . . . (Thanks to Ut Unum Sint for this link):

On Saturday, April 16, as Notre Dame's students lounged and studied on green lawns, their sunny spring afternoon was interrupted by God. For the first time in four decades, the University was the setting for a campus-wide Eucharistic procession.

After a special mass in the crypt of the university's Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a cortege of white-robed seminarians, altar boys bearing smoking censers, priests, religious and over two hundred laypeople escorted the Blessed Sacrament in a winding path across campus. The monstrance was further honored by the shade of an embroidered brocade canopy borne aloft by four students and flanked by four torchbearers. Undergraduates predominated among the votaries following in the wake of the Sacrament, but grad students, young families and residents of South Bend also were present. Benediction was held at four outdoor stations sponsored and decorated by campus religious and cultural organizations. The ceremony concluded two and a half hours later at an altar erected on the porch of the Main Building. A celebratory barbecue was held afterwards on the university's South Quad in front of the Knights of Columbus hall. . . .

While generous assistance was received from university Campus Ministry and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the event was organized almost wholly by the students. . . .

Filipino and Spanish songs were sung at two stations by student choirs and contemporary hymns at a third. At the final altar, St. Thomas Aquinas's ageless hymn Tantum Ergo Sacramentum was chanted in Latin by the crowd of two hundred standing in the shadow of the campus's famed Golden Dome. . . .

While the university has drawn fire over concerns of creeping secularism, the strong support given to the event by campus officials, clergy and especially by students, suggests that in the future these attitudes may require revision. It is hoped that the procession will become a yearly event.


From an Acton Institute article:

On November 6, 1992, at the ceremony where Ratzinger was inducted into the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences of the Institute of France, he explained that a free society can only subsist where people share basic moral convictions and high moral standards. He further argued that these convictions need not be “imposed or even arbitrarily defined by external coercion.”

Ratzinger found part of the answer in the work of Tocqueville. “Democracy in America has always made a strong impression on me,” the cardinal said. He added that to make possible, “an order of liberties in freedom lived in community, the great political thinker [Tocqueville] saw as an essential condition the fact that a basic moral conviction was alive in America, one which, nourished by Protestant Christianity, supplied the foundations for institutions and democratic mechanisms.”

And from Pope Benedict's Inaugural Sermon:

God’s yoke is God’s will, which we accept. And this will does not weigh down on us, oppressing us and taking away our freedom. To know what God wants, to know where the path of life is found – this was Israel’s joy, this was her great privilege. It is also our joy: God’s will does not alienate us, it purifies us – even if this can be painful – and so it leads us to ourselves.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A few notes on the senate & the filibuster.

Regarding this blog entry on filibustering and the Constitution, the blogger, Frogsdong, claims to show "why saving the filibuster is not only important to preserving our democracy, but is in keeping with the original intent of the Constitution." A remarkable task no doubt. After all if one establishes the Constitutionality of filibustering, or at least in principle (or spirit), one has showed that filibustering is a legitimate action rather than, say, an ad hoc justification of party or faction to willfully obstruct judicial nominees. So, the thought that the filibuster might be used in the latter arbitrary sense may not be a concern since it is clear that its use, however particularly judged, is fundamentally consistant with democracy and the highest laws of the land. Were we to judge a particular use of it badly, how could we turn to the Constitution to support our judgement? Isn't such a judgement open to the same accusation of being an ad hoc justification of party? And in what way does a people and their representatives, respectful of the laws, respond to a bad use of a legal activity? Perhaps it is best to keep one's mind on what is lawful; and to show that actions understood as within the laws are fundamentally sound, whereas actions understood as not within the laws fundamentally unsound. A fair judgement it seems. But there are perhaps a couple of difficulties that arise just within the confines of the principles themselves. In the first place, Frogsdong argues that the filibuster is consistant with Madison's statement of the problem of the tyranny of the majority, which he notes occurs in Federalist 10 & 51 respectively. Federalist 10 deals primarily with the problem of a tyrannical majority in the principle of big government (nationalism), and Federalist 51 deals with the same issue in the structuring of the branches of government, i.e., what every school child should know as "checks and balances." It is in Fed. 51 that he identifies the principle in which filibustering is a legitimate use of power. It is this agreement between the use of the filibuster and Fed. 51 that leads Frogsdong to suggest the following:

It is sometimes thought that the filibuster is an abused rule, and the famous instance of Strom Thurmond filibustering for over 24 hours to prevent the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 is pointed to as an example. That is simply wrong. In fact, Strom Thurmond used the filibuster for exactly the reason it was first developed. That is not an endorsement of Strom Thurmond's opposition to civil rights, but an acknowledgement that the filibuster is intended to prevent the passage of something so unacceptable as to be positively abhorrent to the constituencies of those who invoke it. I do not argue that the civil rights of black Americans should have been denied, but that the recognition of those rights was abhorrent to Thurmond's consituency and it was his duty to prevent it.

We would be lacking in dicernment if we could not observe the placement of "constituency" as the principle of action; a representative's duty to support his constituency however one judges the soundness of the constituency. In fact, if we follow this argument we are left with the idea that there is no higher principle of action for a representative than responsiveness to constituency, and that responsiveness is what reveals and clarifies the use of filibustering itself. Apparently there is more at stake here than respect for the laws!

There are two points that deserve brief mention here. The first concerning Fed. 71 in which Hamilton describes an intent behind the Constutiton's structuring of institutions:

When occasions present themselves, in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of the persons whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests, to withstand the temporary delusion, in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection.

Far from being a duty at all times to follow one's constituency, it is a duty to frustrate it when it becomes foolish. And far from being antithetical to democracy, it is democracy's attempt to support prudence.

The second point pertains to the checks and balances, the secondary basis Frogsdong justifies the use of the filibuster. Checks and balances understood both as a structural solution to the problem of tyranny of the majority, and also a division of political power among the three branches to prevent the tendency of power to accumulate in one place. What are we to understand by this, by a "structural" solution? How do we account for the human activity within it if our only source of reference is the structure itself? Is it flexible, or rigid? I daresay the lack of very specific procedural points in the Constitution, Senate rules for example, leaves one to consider that however consistant a Senate rule is with certain ideas in the founding it is not a priori necessary when one thinks about the particular uses of it. The Constitution tells us only that the executive makes appointments, and the Senate confirms executive appointments. One might say that the filibuster is something of an avoidance tactic used by members of the senate to avoid its duty to confirm nominees, and it certainly bears little resemblence to debate and deliberation! It is indeed an extraordinary measure of blocking appointments by preventing a vote from happening, and as with any extraordinary measure ought to be considered with a sober mind. The issue is in part that a structural solution to the problem of majority tyranny is not itself a roadmap for statesmanship, nor does it relieve us from the questions of whether, for example, a senate rule may be used well or badly. But in order to understand the necessity of such a question, it is necessary to have an opinion about justice and a prudent questioning that leads us from the general principles of the founding to the particular circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Incidentally, how does it come to be that a minority of senators can represent a majority of Americans, say, on the question of abortion? That is quite extraordinary, I'd say.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Dialogue, Benedict Style

[Then-Cardinal Ratzinger] was asked by a very skeptical and agnostic journalist, Peter Seewald for a book-length interview. The cardinal, generous as always, agreed to this and made himself available to answer all his questions, even the most hostile ones. After that experience – the results of which were published as The Salt of the Earth – Peter Seewald became a Catholic! Later he did another book-length interview which became God and the World. The man sarcastically called God’s rotweiler or the panzer kardinal is a man who in real life can touch the hearts of the most hardened skeptics. He has given his life and all his gifts to the service of the Lord and the Church. And when he speaks he speaks with a power that comes from beyond him but that works marvelously through him.

Father Fessio

Friday, April 22, 2005


It will come as no revelation that St. Thomas is a hard nut to crack. I am inching along with my translation and commentary, not surprisingly rendered difficult by my ignorance of the whole of his work and of the Scriptures and of Aristotle, etc. etc. . . . . Still, I will post my musings in the hopes that someone more capable will have mercy on me and offer helpful corrections. We are still at the very beginning:

First Part (ST)

Question One


And so that our intention may be comprehended within some certain limits, it is first necessary to investigate of the same sacred doctrine what sort it is, and to what it extends. About this there are ten inquiries. First, the necessity of this doctrine. Second, whether it be a science. Third, whether it be one or many. Fourth, whether it be speculative or practical. Fifth, how it compares to other sciences. Sixth, whether it be wisdom. Seventh, what its subject is. Eighth, whether it is a matter for argument. Ninth, whether it ought to employ metaphors or figures of speech. Tenth, whether the Sacred Scripture belonging to this doctrine may be expounded according to multiple senses.

[Commentary: St. Thomas is addressing this volume to Christians, and in this sense we can say he follows St. Paul in putting faith didactically before reason. (Summa Contra Gentiles is another matter, about which I am qualified to say nothing.) His subject matter is “sacred doctrine”, or what we can know about God and salvation as revealed by Christianity. This summary shows that he is going to treat Christian dogma as a discipline in the Aristotelian sense – he is going to define it in an Aristotelian way and fit it into the Aristotelian framework of sciences. Although it has what subjectively appears to be an entirely different source (revelation, not reason) he treats sacred doctrine as fully congruent with the philosophic disciplines. As the letter of St. Paul cited before indicates, one cannot assume from either revelation or reason that this is a valid procedure. It is therefore necessary for St. Thomas to begin by questioning his whole project and justifying it. This seems to mean that Christianity and Aristotelianism will be engaged in a real dialogue: each will have to pass the bar of the other, even if one must be modified in the end for the sake of reconciliation with the other. Certainly, Thomas will not accept philosophic arguments that cut against Christianity (though he is bound to argue that such only seem to be but are not philosophic). But over the course of the work he will subject sacred doctrine to intensive probing and make it prove its compatibility with sound philosophy. So much so that Thomas does not even assume the validity of sacred doctrine but makes it explain itself before the court of philosophy (in the first article).]

Thursday, April 21, 2005

More Benedict on the Liturgy

The Catechism of the Catholic Church . . . emphasiz[es] that "even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the Liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the Liturgy". (CCC No. 1125, p. 258). . .

It seems to me most important that the Catechism, in mentioning the limitation of the powers of the supreme authority in the Church with regard to reform, recalls to mind what is the essence of the primacy as outlined by the First and Second Vatican Councils: The pope is not an absolute monarch whose will is law, but is the guardian of the authentic Tradition, and thereby the premier guarantor of obedience. He cannot do as he likes, and is thereby able to oppose those people who for their part want to do what has come into their head. His rule is not that of arbitrary power, but that of obedience in faith. That is why, with respect to the Liturgy, he has the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile. The "rite", that form of celebration and prayer which has ripened in the faith and the life of the Church, is a condensed form of living tradition in which the sphere which uses that rite expresses the whole of its faith and its prayer, and thus at the same time the fellowship of generations one with another becomes something we can experience, fellowship with the people who pray before us and after us. Thus the rite is something of benefit which is given to the Church, a living form of paradosis -- the handing-on of tradition. . . .

The Liturgy is not about us, but about God. Forgetting about God is the most imminent danger of our age. As against this, the Liturgy should be setting up a sign of God's presence. Yet what is happening, if the habit of forgetting about God makes itself at home in the Liturgy itself, and if in the Liturgy we are only thinking of ourselves? In any and every liturgical reform, and every liturgical celebration, the primacy of God should be kept in view first and foremost.

From a review of The Organic Development of the Liturgy

The Pope's Plans

Now's the time to start making educated guesses about what our new Holy Father will be up to during his (I pray) long and prosperous reign. His first address as Pope is now out, and one thing we can say is that the man is politic. He's managed to give some people the impression that he won't be such a hard-liner as is feared by the softies. In some respects this may be plausible, but more careful attention to his words gives me a somewhat different impression.

First, he invokes the spirit of John Paul II, a fitting thing that reassures us of the basic continuity he will preserve in his pontificate. Next, he turns to the nature of his authority:

In choosing me as Bishop of Rome, the Lord has desired me to be his Vicar, he has desired me to be the "rock" on which all can lean with security. I ask him to make up for the poverty of my strength, so that I will be a courageous and faithful Shepherd of his flock, always docile to the inspirations of his Spirit. . . .

To you, Lord Cardinals, with a grateful spirit for the trust shown to me, I ask that you support me with prayer and with constant, active and wise collaboration. I ask also all brothers in the episcopate to be by my side with prayer and counsel, so that I can truly be "Servus servorum Dei." As Peter and the other apostles constituted, by the will of the Lord, a unique Apostolic College, in the same way the Successor of Peter and the bishops, successors of the apostles, must be very closely united among themselves, as the Council confirmed forcefully (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 22).

He is aware of the challenge of his authority and his need for support, but also of the strength and importance of that authority and the responsibility of the Bishops to unite under him. Expect him to expect that of them.

Now, what is his top priority in wielding authority?

I have before me, in particular, the testimony of Pope John Paul II. He has left a more courageous, free and young Church. A Church that, according to his teaching and example, looks with serenity to the past and has no fear of the future. She was led into the new millennium with the Great Jubilee, carrying in her hands the Gospel, applied to the present world through the authoritative rereading of the Second Vatican Council. Pope John Paul II indicated the Council precisely as a "compass" with which to orient oneself in the vast ocean of the third millennium (cf. apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," Nos. 57-58). In his spiritual testament he noted: "I am convinced that the new generations will still be able to draw for a long time from the riches that this council of the 20th century has lavished on us" (17.III.2000).

Apparently, the status of Vatican II is primary for him. How does he read this issue?

Therefore, in preparing myself also for the service that is proper to the Successor of Peter, I wish to affirm strongly my determination to continue the commitment to implement the Second Vatican Council, in the footsteps of my Predecessors and in faithful continuity with the 2,000-year tradition of the Church.

Here I think subtleties are very important. For John Paul II, on this account, the Council was something still being worked out and to be worked out into the unforseeable future. This showed his discontent with the liberal distortions of it that have plagued the Church since the 60s, but also left things relatively open-ended.

Benedict is aiming at greater precision. He is going to execute (literal translation of the Latin) Vatican II, and while he does not fail to refer (somewhat vaguely) to the execution of his predecessors, he lays the stress on Tradition as the key to -- perhaps finally? -- deciding what the Council entails. I guarantee this will be nothing like what most of its loudest proponents think the Council said (or should have said) . . . .

Like what, for instance?

How very significant it is that my pontificate begins while the Church is living the special Year dedicated to the Eucharist. How can one not perceive in this providential coincidence an element that must characterize the ministry to which I have been called? The Eucharist, heart of Christian life and source of the evangelizing mission of the Church, cannot but constitute the permanent center and the source of the Petrine service that has been entrusted to me. . . .

In this year, therefore, the solemnity of Corpus Domini must be celebrated with particular prominence. The Eucharist will be at the center, in August, of the World Youth Day in Cologne and, in October, of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the theme: "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church." I ask all to intensify over the next months their love and devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist and to express in a courageous and clear way their faith in the Lord's real presence, above all through the solemnity and correctness of the celebrations.

I ask this in a special way of priests, whom I am thinking of at this moment with great affection. . . .

Ha! At leaast no one can tell us the Pope doesn't have a sense of humor!

Clearly, the Eucharist will be a top priority for him, not just this year but for years to come. And that means liturgical reform, to recapture "the solemnity and correctness of the celebrations". How beautiful, and this is his first order of business! I can almost convince myself that his repeated use of the word "center" foreshadows some shifting of the Tabernacles to come . . . ;)

Finally, there is another huge issue dangling from Vatican II, ecuminism:

Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel stimulated to tend to that full unity that Christ so ardently desired in the Cenacle. The Successor of Peter knows that he must take charge in an altogether particular way, of this supreme longing of the divine Teacher. To him in fact has been entrusted the task of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32).

Fully conscious, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome, which Peter bathed with his blood, his present Successor aims, as a primary commitment, to work without sparing energies for the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all the followers of Christ. This is his ambition, this is his imperative duty. He is aware that for this, manifestations of good sentiments are not enough. There must be concrete gestures that penetrate spirits and move consciences, leading each one to that interior conversion that is the presupposition of all progress on the path of ecumenism.

There is a very obvious implication here of the supremacy and pastoral duty the Pope possesses not only over Catholics, but over all Christians. While speaking in a relatively gentle way about this, notice the emphasis on the word "conversion". Not your usual ecumenical lingo, eh?

The Church of today must revive in herself consciousness of the task to propose again to the world the voice of him who said: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). In undertaking his ministry, the new Pope knows that his task is to make the light of Christ shine before the men and women of today, not his own light but that of Christ.

This tone is consistent in all his words: he will set an example for all men of all faiths and those without faith of fidelity to Christ and obedience to His will, not his own. That will be the unifying theme of Papacy, both internally (reform toward orthodoxy) and externally (a light to the world, not a handkerchief).

As others have noted, this does not put him at odds with John Paul II -- in fact, I suspect it is what our late Holy Father wanted in his successor -- but it continues the latter's legacy with a distinct focus of energy.

The Future of the Liturgy

Today I came accross these remarks of then Cardinal Ratzinger regarding the divine liturgy, which seem to outline a certain vision that, God willing, he may seek to advance as Pope:

First, the [Second Vatican] Council did not itself reform the liturgical books; it ordered their revision and, to that end, set forth certain fundamental rules. Above all, the Council gave a definition of what the liturgy is, and this definition gives a criterion which holds for every liturgical celebration. If one wished to hold these essential rules in disdain and if one wished to set to one side the "normae generales" found in paragraphs 34-36 of the Constitution De Sacra Liturgia -- then yes, one would be violating the obedience due to the Council. It is therefore in accordance with these criteria that one must judge liturgical celebrations, whether they be according to the old books or according to the new. . . .

Moreover, this must be said: the freedom that the new Ordo Missae allows to be creative, has often gone too far; there is often a greater difference between liturgies celebrated in different places according to the new books, than there is between an old liturgy and a new liturgy when both are celebrated as they ought to be, in accordance with the prescribed liturgical texts. . . .

The Constitution on the Liturgy itself does not say a word about celebrating Mass facing the altar or facing the people. And on the subject of language, it says Latin ought to be preserved while giving greater space to the vernacular "especially in the readings and directives, and in some of the prayers and chants" (36, 2). As for the participation of laypeople, the Council insists first in general that the liturgy concerns the entire Body of Christ, Head and members, and that for this reason, it belongs to the entire Body of the Church "and consequently the liturgy is to be celebrated in community with the active participation of the faithful." And the text specifies: "In the liturgical celebrations, each person, whether as a minister or as one of the faithful, should perform his role by doing solely and totally what the nature of things and liturgical norms require of him." (28) "By way of promoting active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamation, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures and bodily attitudes. And at the proper time all should observe a reverent silence." (30) These are the directives of the Council: they can provide matter for reflection to all.

A number of modern liturgists, however, have unfortunately shown a tendency to develop the ideas of the Council in only one direction. If one does this, one ends up reversing the intentions of the Council. . . .

Moreover, it must be admitted that the celebration of the old liturgy had slipped too much into the domain of the individual and the private, and that the communion between priests and faithful was insufficient. I have a great respect for our ancestors, who recited during low Masses the "Prayers During the Mass" contained in their book of prayers. But certainly one cannot regard that as the ideal for the liturgical celebration. Perhaps these reduced forms of celebration are the profound reason why the disappearance of the old liturgical books had no importance whatsoever in many countries and caused no sorrow. People had never been in contact with the liturgy itself

On the other hand, in those places where the liturgical Movement had created a certain love for the liturgy -- in those places where this movement anticipated the essential ideas of the Council, as for example the praying participation of all in the liturgical action -- in those places there was greater suffering in the face of a liturgical reform undertaken in too much haste and limiting itself often to the exterior aspect. Where the liturgical Movement never existed, the reform did not at first pose any problem. The problems arose only in a sporadic way in those places where a wild creativity caused the disappearance of the sacred mystery.. . . .

When, several years ago, someone proposed "a new liturgical movement" to ensure that the two forms of liturgy did not diverge too much and to show their inner convergence, several friends of the old liturgy expressed the fear that this was nothing other than a stratagem or ruse to eliminate the old liturgy entirely.

Such anxieties and fears must cease! If, in the two forms of celebration, the unity of the faith and the unicity of the mystery should appear clearly, that could only be a reason to rejoice and thank the Good Lord. In the measure to which all of us believers live and act according to these motivations, we can also persuade the bishops that the presence of the old liturgy does not trouble or harm the unity of their diocese, but is rather a gift destined to build up the Body of Christ, of which we are all the servants.

So, dear friends, I would like to encourage you not to lose patience -- to keep trusting --and to find in the liturgy the force needed to give our witness to the Lord for our time.

Keep your eye out for "inner convergence"!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Holy Spirit at Work

"Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, one of the most progressive U.S. prelates", comes to the defense of Pope Benedict XVI in this LA Times article. The Cardinal has this to say about the election process:

Throughout the two-day conclave, Mahony said, he and other cardinals were moved by the fact that they were participating in a historic event in the dramatic setting of the Sistine Chapel, adorned with paintings of damnation and salvation by Michelangelo, including the "Last Judgment."

"I kept looking up at all the paintings, at Michelangelo's works, and thought, the only thing that stayed the same in this room is everything that Michelangelo painted here."

He said that as he and others studied the artworks, it occurred to them that the message of the paintings was timeless and as relevant in the 21st century as they were when they were made in the 16th century.

"You could fit modern history into some of those scenes that go back centuries," Mahony said. "It was a very humbling, grace-filled type of time."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Reaching Inward

David Warren, as usual, has some wise words for us, these on the new Pope. A small selection, but I recommend the whole:

Benedict XVI will, with God's grace, turn his energies towards the reconstruction of the Church, the recovery from what I would call "the false heritage of Vatican II" -- by which I don't mean that the Council of 1962-65 was itself false. It has often been interpreted falsely, as if it had offered to water down the Catholic faith to suit the times. The new Pope will be, in many ways, the final interpreter of Vatican II (from which he was the most eminent surviving peritus), and will stress its continuity with Scripture and Tradition. I expect less "outreach" and much more "inreach". . . .

I especially pray for restorations of the spirit of Catholic liturgy, which this Pope is likely to make a special cause. As he wrote of the rites a few years ago:

"Unspontaneity is of their essence. In these rites I discover that something is approaching me here that I did not produce myself, that I am entering into something greater than myself, which ultimately derives from divine revelation. This is why the Christian East calls the liturgy the 'Divine Liturgy', expressing thereby the liturgy's independence from human control."

The Name

From a post over at Ignatius Insight Scoop:

His [the Holy Father's] choice of St. Benedict's name no doubt indicates something of the direction of his pontificate.  The choice of the name of the patron saint of Europe is certainly appropriate during this time of the secularization and de-Christianization of European society.  Additionally, St. Benedict's great promotion of and love for the dignified celebration of the Sacred Liturgy will not go unheeded by our new Holy Father.


From The Economist:

The members of the [European Union] constitutional convention, after some debate, omitted any reference to God in the preamble. They might now be regretting that decision, as it looks like the constitution may need a miracle.

Habemus Papam!

19 April 2005

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;habemus Papam:

Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum Josephum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI

Urbi et Orbi Blessing

Dear brothers and sisters,

After our great Pope, John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in God's vineyard.

I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and how to act, even with insufficient tools, and I especially trust in your prayers.

In the joy of the resurrected Lord, trustful of his permanent help, we go ahead, sure that God will help. And Mary, his most beloved Mother, stands on our side. Thank you.

All I can say is: God is merciful!

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Winds of Teaching

From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's Preconclave Homily

Let us dwell on just two points. The first is the journey towards "the full stature of Christ" or, according to the Greek text, "the measure of Christ's fullness", which we are called to in order to be truly mature in faith. We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. What does it mean to remain infants in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means being "tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching..." (Eph 4:14). A very topical description!

How many winds of teaching we have known in these last decades, how many ideologies, how many ways of thinking...The little vessel of thought of many Christians has often been rocked by these waves -- hurled from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, to the point of libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. New sects are born every day and we see what Saint Paul says in terms of human trickery and cunning that tends to lead to error (cf Eph 4:14). To have a clear faith, according to the Creed of the Church, is often labelled as fundamentalism. While relativism, i.e. letting oneself be "swept along by any wind of doctrine", seems to be the only up-to-date way to behave. A dictatorship of relativism is taking shape which recognizes nothing as definite and for the ultimate measure is simply one's own self and its desires.

We, instead, have another measure: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. "Mature" is not a faith that follows the waves of fashion and the latest novelty; of full stature and mature is a faith profoundly rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us to all that is good and gives us the criteria for discerning between true and false, between trickery and truth. We must bring to maturity this adult faith, and we must guide Christ's flock to this faith. And it is this faith -- only faith -- that creates unity and is achieved in love. Saint Paul offers in this regard -- in contrast with the continuous vagaries of those who are like infants tossed by waves -- beautiful words: do the truth in love, as the fundamental formula of Christian existence. Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we get closer to Christ, even in our life, truth and love will merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a clashing cymbal." (1 Cor:13-1).

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Tradition and Politics

Friday, April 15, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

The Papa, the Papa! Tradition!
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition!

--"Fiddler on the Roof"     

The seven straight days that Pope John Paul II held the world stage in death has left many impressions, but none stronger, perhaps, than the idea of, the splendor of . . . tradition!

That long and intense immersion in ritualistic Catholicism on a Roman piazza may have seemed far off in many ways, but our own oh-so-worldly politics might profit by rediscovering the attractions of . . . tradition.

. . . The liturgy of that grand final Mass for the departed pontiff was likely not much different than what in 1549 sent Pope Paul III to his Father's house. And yet as the cameras caught faces in the crowd, one had to notice how uniformly young they were. Despite the liturgy's great length, the young congregants kept still. Their eyes were fixed on the ancient rites, and their minds held to the idea of spiritual faith. This was the old idea that John Paul had retranslated for them in the modern world. What we saw that day is called a living tradition. One did not have to sign on the dotted line to feel that something about the atmosphere in St. Peter's looked attractive, comfortable and worth having.

There is something more important to be had from this event, though, than being hooked on a feeling. Because John Paul kept intact the idea of a commonly held tradition, the Catholic Church as a whole--not just its disaffected parts in the U.S. and Europe--will surely move on to confront the by-now-familiar claims being made on it to "change" and adjust to the modern world. The name for this process of ecclesiastical adjustment is--as it has been from time immemorial--politics. What the cardinals will do in that conclave is no less politics than the politics practiced by politicians in America's smoke-free rooms. The difference is that the college of cardinals, still sharing a tradition, will get something done. By contrast, the arguably even more mysterious conclave we call the U.S. Senate increasingly gets little or nothing done. Somehow in the U.S., the waters parted in recent years, and now Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, are wholly on opposite shores. This divide has a lot to do with the decline of any shared idea about what constitutes an appropriate American social order. While it drives Democrats crazy to hear this, the burden for the decline falls on them.

Some of them know it, and like characters in a Flannery O'Connor story, are seeking re-immersion in the post-2004 election waters of "values." . . . But how can Democrats on one day make claims for recovering values and on the next stand in the well of the Senate bellowing that the Bush judicial nominees are a mortal threat to unfettered "privacy"? Some among them must see this doesn't compute.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Rock Star Attraction

A word about those millions of people, mainly young people, who came to the funeral last Friday. I have seen several accounts, and heard worldly wise reporters, describing the "rock star" attraction of John Paul. In fact, the crowds, stretching more than three miles beyond St. Peter's, were wondrously solemn and prayerful. The Legionaries of Christ and other religious orders posted priests all along the way and there was a brisk business in confessions around the clock. One Legionary priest tells of his non-stop hearing of confessions--from five o'clock in the afternoon until six o'clock the next morning. The mayor of Rome said that not one serious crime was reported in the city during the days when millions were waiting up to 26 hours to view the body. That is hard to believe, but that is what he said.

John Paul went to the world and the world came to him, and they knew why they had come.

Fr. Neuhaus

Living Wills, the Will to Death

Someone who ought to make his presence more frequently felt on the net just asked me, "what was your take on the Schiavo case, and the public response to it? For example, what do you make of the rush to have living wills made out?"

Well, on the blog I reflected on America's constitutional soul so to speak -- the political response seems to be based on a darkened and dulled vestige of adherence to constitutional principles. But the rushing to make living wills is also interesting.

Tocqueville reflects that wills point to the human soul, inasmuch as they suggest a concern for what happens to our own after we die -- i.e., they point to our interest in eternity. A society that respects wills (France did not in his day) has a higher view of the human being (one that respects our sublime instincts as he puts it).

Today we are confused about the nature of human dignity. We tend to connect it to arbitrary choice -- dignity = autonomy = arbitrary self-rule -- rather than our connection to anything outside ourselves. This was clear in the language people used to defend Terri's killing: she would have wanted it; it maintains her dignity.

This reminds me of Adam Smith's mockery of the way people dread corpses: we imagine ourselves being buried in the ground (alive) and shudder, not reflecting that a corpse is not aware of what happens to it. If Terri were truly "brain dead" as they said, her will would not have mattered. (If she were not "brain dead", how could we condemn her to death by slow starvation?)

The people rushing to get living wills (to die) seem to be imagining themselves in situations of embarrassment, being a burden to others, etc. They project themselves outward enough to fear situations to which they will (ostensibly) be oblivious. They do not reflect that if their selves matter after such events, it can only be in light of their being ordered to a future state -- the real source of their dignity -- in which case self-satisfaction (avoiding awkwardness) is not the appropriate course to take.

To put it another way, a society that treats the dying as burdens cannot claim to believe in a meaningful afterlife or a cosmos to which we are objectively connected. If dignity is autonomy, it dies as soon as we become incapacitated (and does not begin until teenage rebellion, at the earliest). Thus our disposition to kill babies, ignore and/or knock off the elderly and the sick, and worship adolescence.

Still, it is interesting that the dignity-as-autonomy people were couching their arguments in religious garb -- like the attorney with his wacky beliefs. Also the husband (or should I call him anti-husband?), Michael, insisted on cremating her. Some thought it was to cover up misdeeds, but he had an autopsy done to banish that thought. Her parents wanted her buried in accordance with the Catholic faith; what faith motivated her husband to care about how her lifeless remains were disposed of?

The "secular" view of human dignity seems no less "spiritual" than the religious view, only that it insists we control the meaning of the beyond by our own whimsy. The idea that we invent the gods used to be an argument discrediting religion altogether (or a Christian argument discrediting paganism); as a serious proposition it is quite another thing, and shows to my mind the strange fruit the Enlightenment has borne. Namely, a willful and unwilling nihilism.

The Rock

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE -- President Bush yesterday expressed awe at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, calling the ceremony a high point of his presidency that helped strengthen his faith in God.

Mr. Bush, the first American president to attend a papal funeral, said what struck him "most intensely was the final scene of the plain-looking casket ... being carried and held up for the seal to be seen, and then the sun pouring out.

"This will be one of the highlights of my presidency, to have been at this great ceremony," he told reporters afterward. "And it helped strengthen my faith."

Mr. Bush, who is sometimes accused of seeing the world in black and white, praised the pope's "moral clarity."
"I would define Pope John Paul II as a clear thinker who was like a rock," he said aboard Air Force One. "And tides of moral relativism kind of washed around him, but he stood strong as a rock."

Cf. Matthew 16, 17-18: "Jesus answering said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona . . . I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church."

What is Bush thinking? It may be just a press moment, but who knows:

"I knew the ceremony today would be majestic, but I didn't realize how moved I would be by the service itself, by the beautiful music," he marveled. . . .

Mr. Bush said his relationship with the pope "will strengthen my faith and my belief." . . .

"A walk in faith constantly confronts doubt, as faith becomes more mature and you constantly confront, you know, questions," he said. "My faith is strong. The Bible talks about, you've got to constantly stay in touch with the Word of God in order to help you on the walk."

But the Bible also speaks of the need to turn to the Church founded on the rock of Peter (Luke 22, 31-32): "And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren."

Could this be a catechetical moment? Oremus.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Unbridled Appetites

I can't resist re-posting this zinger by Father Neuhaus concerning the Anglican Church. He is speaking of the media coverage of the Holy Father's death:

There was the small distraction of the death of Prince Ranier of Monaco, and the much larger distraction of the tawdry "royal wedding" of Prince Charles to his mistress of many years, a wedding postponed for one day so Charles could attend the papal funeral. It appears the monarchy will survive as a national embarrassment, along with a national church that continues, almost 500 years later, to cater to the unbridled royal appetites to which it owes it existence.

A Call to Arms

Check out Bill Vallicella, "reducing to absurdity the whole ACLU project of eliminating any vestige of religion from public life". Also, Catholics and those even moderately respectful of Catholicism will want to know about the sacrilege being defended by EBay.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Some amusing, but scary, musings from Mark Steyn:

Even before the latest budget-bloating ''reforms,'' the U.S. government was spending $30 billion annually on intelligence, and in return its intelligence agencies got everything wrong. British and French intelligence also get a lot of things wrong, but they get them wrong on far smaller budgets. One of the great sub-plots of the post-9/11 world is the uselessness of ''experts,'' the guys who get unlimited budgets to run 24/7 agencies devoted to their areas of expertise. What's startling about the glimpses we get of CIA operations -- that red-hot presidential briefing from August 2001, Joseph C. Wilson IV's non-fact-finding mission to Niger -- is how generalized it all is: Anybody who watches cable news or reads an occasional foreign paper would know as much.

How about if that $30 billion was allocated to, say, a program for subsidized bicycling helmets for grade-schoolers or some other federal boondoggle, and they bulldozed Langley, and gave the CIA director 20,000 bucks to put all his agency's global ''analysis'' up on a blog -- -- and invite comments from readers around the world? It couldn't possibly be less informed than the CIA's decades-long record of incompetence in the Middle East.

For half that amount I'd agree to host it right here! What do you say, g-men?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

John Paul II

I won't say much about the passing of this phenomenal (and phenomenological!) man. I was barely getting acquainted with his virtues when his day came. I have to agree with the Concerned Catholic, however, that the time and manner of his death -- coming on the heels of a "death with dignity" case in the States -- is highly intstructive. To get an idea of why this Pope impressed so many people, one would have to be better versed in his writings than I am. (Russell Hittinger, whom I am currently reading, argues that the Holy Father is a significant figure in the recovery of natural law in the full sense.) David Warren notes and responds very sensibly to some legitimate criticisms of the man:

Many Catholics have inwardly sneered at all the showy "outreach", not only to non-Catholics, but within the fold, to the "Papal Youth", or others whose comprehension of the faith may sometimes seem sentimental and shallow. And many continue to bitterly regret the continued degradation of the liturgy, and closely associated with that, the collapse of educational standards and discipline among the clergy; indeed, any and every accommodation with what is "post-modern". They resented Pope John Paul II because for all his achievements in the broad brush of the spirit, he did not adequately crack the whip against "the money-changers within the Temple".

Some of this criticism will finally prove valid: the late Pope himself made the charge against himself. It was not in his gift to be a tough administrator, a consolidator. We may need such a man as his successor.

His gift was the opposite: to take the world by surprise, by the "surprise of love". And thanks be to God, that is what we really needed.

What does he mean by the surprise of love? I have to say I was very moved in reading this piece by Peggy Noonan, who beautifully captures an event I've heard passing reference to many times, but never before appreciated in full: John Paul II's 1979 visit to Poland. Read the piece, which speaks for itself.

My overall sense is that the Church needs a somewhat different sort of man to lead her into the early 21st century -- someone prepared to purge her of a great deal of cancerous growth. But as we prepare for the Holy Father's funeral tomorrow I think we can thank the Holy Spirit for loving us enough to send us such a magnificent soul and inspiring him to stay with us for so long. John Paul II, R.I.P.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Judicial Murder

It's worth reading Mark Steyn's thoughts on "the longest slow-motion public execution in American history", the "judicial murder" of Terri Shiavo. Everything he says is spot-on, especially regarding the Orwellian nature of the justifications for this atrocity. He also speculates as to why the American public seems to prefer stopping its ears in these kinds of situations (as they did during Clinton's impeachment).

Whether or not there’s anything in the various dubious polls claiming to show people opposed to Congressional efforts to reinsert Mrs Schiavo’s feeding tube, it seems clear that many of us would rather she’d been like Robert Wendland — a faraway local story of which they know little. A lot of Americans have paced hospital corridors while gran’ma’s medical taxi-meter goes ticking upward and, if my mailbag’s anything to go by, they’d rather this sort of stuff stayed in the shadows. Nobody likes to see how the sausage is made, or in this case the vegetable, if that indeed is what Terri Schiavo is. Many people seem to be unusually anxious to pretend that this judicial murder is merely a very belated equivalent of a discreet doctor putting a hopeless case out of her misery, or to take refuge in the idea that some magisterial disinterested ‘due process’ is being played out — or as a reader wrote to me the other day: ‘Why are you fundamentalists so clueless? It’s the law, dickbrain. Michael Schiavo isn’t acting for himself; he’s been legally recognised as the person qualified to act for Terri in expressing her wishes based on her own oral declarations.’

Which sounds fine and dandy, until you uncover your ears and a lot of the genteel euphemisms and legalisms and medicalisms — ‘right to die’, ‘guardian ad litem’, ‘PVS’ — start to sound downright Orwellian. PVS means ‘persistent vegetative state’, and because it’s a grand official-sounding term it’s been accepted mostly without question by the mainstream media, even though the probate judge declared Mrs Schiavo in a persistent vegetative state without troubling to visit her and without requiring any of the routine tests, such as an MRI scan. Indeed, her husband hasn’t permitted her to be tested for anything since 1993. Think about that: this woman is being put to death without any serious medical evaluation more recent than 12 years ago.

Our biggest danger is, after all, the Last Man (even if the overman is a very bad idea). Steyn has some things to say about what that will look like, aimed especially at Europe but not irrelevant this side of the lake:

the Schiavo debate provides a glimpse of the Western world the day after tomorrow — a world of nonagenarian baby boomers who’ve conquered most of the common-or-garden diseases and instead get stricken by freaky protracted colossally expensive chronic illnesses; a world of more and more dependants, with fewer and fewer people to depend on. In Europe, where demographic reality means that in a generation or so all the dependants will be elderly European Christians and most of the fellows they’re dependent on will be young North African or Arab Muslims, the social consensus for government health care is unlikely to survive. Terri Schiavo failed to demonstrate conclusively why she should be permitted by the state to continue living. As Western nations evolve rapidly into the oldest societies in human history, many more of us will be found similarly wanting.

Also, in a perhaps providential parallell, the Holy Father is now on a feeding tube, and it seems he is very close to the end. Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, that the Lord preserve him and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not to the will of his enemies. Amen.
Site Feed