Wednesday, May 25, 2005

McCain's Compromise.

I see that the blog is becoming a bit like a stale bread, but I suppose that's better than saying it's becoming like a stale "centrist", eh? And just what the hell is moderate, I wonder, about giving away one's political advantages in an unnecessary compromise? (Not to mention the vague justification for the filibustering of judicial nominees as well as the rather hysterical interpretation of Article 2, Sec. II of the Constitution.) Yes, I'm referring to the bloodless document, the "Memorandum of Understanding of Judicial Nominations." (Better yet, how about "Moratorium on Understanding....") Does anyone with half a scruple honestly believe McCain's analysis, that the Senate was on the edge of a crisis, on the edge of an abyss from which it might never have recovered -- and here I thought I took rules and regulations seriously -- apparently not enough! Changing a Senate rule is a deadly serious business, evidently. That said, McCain's compromise is simply foolish and harmful. If the problem was rightly understood as eliminating a particular use of the filibuster then McCain has evidently done his best to preserve that use. And here I thought that the Republicans had a majority, that the Republicans were (are) the stronger party. When in politics is it necessary (or even likely) that a stronger party will need to compromise with a weaker party! Only when "moderates" abound, I suppose.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Apostolic Authority

Nice to see it exercised, if only in a "snub":

Archbishop Alfred Hughes announced Thursday he will not attend commencement ceremonies at Loyola University next week because of the Catholic university's decision to award the Landrieu family an honorary degree in part for their exemplary public Catholicism. . . .

Mitch Landrieu has said he believes abortion is immoral but should not be criminalized in all circumstances. Mary Landrieu opposes [only] a controversial type of late-term abortion.

Hughes said he decided he could not attend commencement ceremonies May 13 and 14 "lest my presence confuse the faithful and give the impression that it is appropriate to include in an honor anyone who dissents publicly from church teaching." . . .

The Rev. William Maestri, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, said Thursday that Wildes [the school president] informed Hughes of the decision some time ago. In the following days, Hughes and Wildes had two conversations about the decision, and Maestri and Wildes had two conversations.

Maestri said the archdiocese asked the university for a written statement explaining its decision to honor the Landrieus in light of an agreement among U.S. bishops last summer that Catholic universities should not bestow honorary degrees on Catholics who pursue abortion rights in their public policy

Loyola submitted two drafts, but the archdiocese found neither persuasive, Maestri said

Loyola University was founded by the Jesuits in 1912, and is administered by an independent board that includes 12 Jesuits. The other board members are business and civic leaders. Mitch Landrieu is a member, according to Loyola's Web site. . . .

In 2002 under the presidency of the Rev. Bernard Knoth, the law school honored Kim Gandy, an alumna who, as the president of the National Organization for Women, was one of the nation's foremost abortion-rights advocates.

This is a snub that has the effect of supporting the faithful and teaching everyone what the Church really stands for. Kudos to Archbishop Hughes.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Chair of Peter

I saw a few funny articles trying to understand what Pope Benedict had said in his "MASS OF POSSESSION OF THE CHAIR OF THE BISHOP OF ROME". Now that the English text is available online, I can say the implications of his words are clear and the same as those I pointed out in prior analyses.

This sermon continued to deal with the theme of the authority invested in him by God to lead the Church.

When we read the saints' names we can see how often they have been - and continue to be - first and foremost simple people from whom shone - and shines - a radiant light that can lead others to Christ.

But this chorus of witnesses is also endowed with a clearly defined structure: the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops, who are publicly responsible for ensuring that the network of these witnesses survives. The power and grace required for this service are conferred upon Bishops through the sacrament of Episcopal Ordination. In this network of witnesses, the Successor of Peter has a special task. It was Peter who, on the Apostles' behalf, made the first profession of faith: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16: 16).

This is the task of all Peter's Successors: to be the guide in the profession of faith in Christ, Son of the living God. The Chair of Rome is above all the Seat of this belief. From high up on this Chair the Bishop of Rome is constantly bound to repeat: Dominus Iesus - "Jesus is Lord", as Paul wrote in his Letters to the Romans (10: 9) and to the Corin-thians (I Cor 12: 3). To the Corinthians he stressed: "Even though there are so-called gods in the heavens and on the earth... for us there is one God, the Father... and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom everything was made and through whom we live" (I Cor 8: 5).

Note how he synthesizes the vocations of all Christians with his own authority, the reaching out to all men (including ecumenism) with fidelity to the Lord over "so-called gods". He goes on to combine the virtues of liberty with the necessity for obeidience to Church authority:

The Bishop of Rome sits upon the Chair to bear witness to Christ. Thus, the Chair is the symbol of the potestas docendi, the power to teach that is an essential part of the mandate of binding and loosing which the Lord conferred on Peter, and after him, on the Twelve. . . . This power of teaching frightens many people in and outside the Church. They wonder whether freedom of conscience is threatened or whether it is a presumption opposed to freedom of thought. It is not like this. The power that Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors is, in an absolute sense, a mandate to serve. The power of teaching in the Church involves a commitment to the service of obedience to the faith. The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope's ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.

N.B. the way humility and authority combine here. He is the servant of God and of man, but he must obey (and make obeyed) God rather than man, when man turns against God. In particular, he must oppose all attempts to water down the faith . . .

His next move is politic in a way I have seen few people comment on, though it is becoming a pattern for this pope:

Pope John Paul II did this when, in front of all attempts, apparently benevolent to the human person, and in the face of erroneous interpretations of freedom, he unequivocally stressed the inviolability of the human being and of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. The freedom to kill is not true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces the human being to slavery.

He mentions John Paul II to invoke and admire his legacy, but also to set up a subtle but forceful contrast to his own plans for the Church. Whereas JPII was focused more on matters external to the Church itself, as some have noted, Benedict is likely to be more focused on internal matters. And this means for him a "conservative" or Traditional program:

The Pope knows that in his important decisions, he is bound to the great community of faith of all times, to the binding interpretations that have developed throughout the Church's pilgrimage. Thus, his power is not being above, but at the service of, the Word of God. It is incumbent upon him to ensure that this Word continues to be present in its greatness and to resound in its purity, so that it is not torn to pieces by continuous changes in usage.

The Chair is - let us say it again - a symbol of the power of teaching, which is a power of obedience and service, so that the Word of God- the truth! - may shine out among us and show us the way of life.

And what in particular takes top priority?

Ignatius, for his part, while remaining Bishop of Antioch, was also heading for the martyrdom that he was to suffer in Rome. In his Letter to the Romans, he refers to the Church of Rome as "She who presides in love", a deeply meaningful phrase. We do not know with any certainty what Ignatius may have had in mind when he used these words. But for the ancient Church, the word love, agape, referred to the mystery of the Eucharist. In this mystery, Christ's love becomes permanently tangible among us. Here, again and again he gives himself. Here, again and again his heart is pierced; here he keeps his promise, the promise which, from the Cross, was to attract all things to himself.

In the Eucharist, we ourselves learn Christ's love. It was thanks to this centre and heart, thanks to the Eucharist, that the saints lived, bringing to the world God's love in ever new ways and forms. Thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew! The Church is none other than that network - the Eucharistic community! - within which all of us, receiving the same Lord, become one body and embrace all the world.

Presiding in doctrine and presiding in love must in the end be one and the same: the whole of the Church's teaching leads ultimately to love. And the Eucharist, as the love of Jesus Christ present, is the criterion for all teaching. On love the whole law is based, and the prophets as well, the Lord says (cf. Mt 22: 40). Love is the fulfilment of the law, St Paul wrote to the Romans (cf. 13: 10).

The Eucharist is "the criterion for all teaching". The return of the Blessed Sacrament to its proper and central place in Catholic worship is clearly foremost in the Holy Father's mind, I venture to say. And that means a reform of liturgy and of catechesis, whose declines were simultaneous and whose repair must be simultaneous. For as Tocqueville said, "[in] Roman Catholicism . . . the doctrine and the form are frequently so closely united as to form but one point of belief".

Monday, May 09, 2005

Biblical Illiteracy

James Taranto cites a Washington Post report "that a federal judge has issued an injunction against a public-school sex education program on the ground that it improperly brings religion into the classroom." While I don't agree with banning God from the classroom, I do agree that it was done improperly here -- incompetently, that is. This is an actual quotation from the program:

Myth: Homosexuality is a sin.

Facts: The Bible contains six passages which condemn homosexual behavior. The Bible also contains numerous passages condemning heterosexual behavior. Theologians and Biblical scholars continue to differ on many Biblical interpretations. They agree on one thing, however. Jesus said absolutely nothing at all about homosexuality. Among the many things deemed an abomination are adultery, incest, wearing clothing made from more than one kind of fiber, and earing [sic] shellfish, like shrimp and lobster.

Religion has often been misused to justify hatred and oppression. Less than a half a century ago, Baptist churches (among others) in this country defended racial segregation on the basis that it was condoned by the Bible. Early Christians were not hostile to homosexuals. Intolerance became the dominant attitude only after the Twelfth Century. Today, many people no longer tolerate generalizations about homosexuality as pathology or sin. Few would condemn heterosexuality as immoral--despite the high incidence of rape, incest, child abuse, adultery, family violence, promiscuity, and venereal disease among heterosexuals. Fortunately, many within organized religions are beginning to address the homophobia of the church. The Nation Council of Churches of Christ, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Society of Friends (Quakers), and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches support full civil rights for gay men and lesbians, as they do for everyone else.

You see, according to the Bible, wearing mixed fiber is just as evil as buggering people -- which makes them both OK according to the Bible . . . or something.

And don't forget racism. Yeah.

Gliberals are enraged at the judge for raining on their pride parade.

"It looks like we're in Kansas after all. I'm appalled. I'm appalled," said Charlotte Fremaux, a parent leader at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, one of six campuses that was to be a pilot site for the sex-ed lessons. "Next, they'll be challenging evolution."

You can tell she thinks the opposition are drooling idiots. What does that make those who are appalled, appalled to find that biblical exegesis is going on in earnest, and not according to the lesson plan they painstakingly crafted one afternoon while flipping through the library's Good News edition?

The worst part of it all is the judge's admission that, even though he was stopping the biased program, he found its "claims about Scriptural interpretation" to be "not implausible". !

How long before the likes of me are blogging from prison?

The Church and Tradition

The Church, and the Papacy, are bastions of tradition. But David S. Oderberg asks whether certain recent developments in Church teaching aren't drifting away from traditional morality. I found this via Ignatius Insight Scoop, which also points to a good analysis of it all -- the comments section is worth looking at here, too.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


From an interivew with Peter Falk, star of Columbo:

Having been rejected by the armed services, [Falk] joined the Merchant Marine. . . .

After he was assigned to a ship, Falk walked into the sleeping quarters, which were empty, "except for a big fat guy named Joe, who was sitting in the upper bunk across from mine. I don't know what got into me, but for some reason I decided to play a joke on him. So when he asked me how come a young kid like myself was in the Merchant Marine, I told him I had a slight physical problem. With that, I sat down in my bunk and took out my two front teeth--at that time I had a bridge on my upper front teeth. Anyway, I took it out and laid it on the bench in front of my bunk. Then I reached in and took out my eye and dropped it on the bench next to my teeth. It made a nice sound effect. As Joe was doing a double take, I then bent over and with both of my hands pretended to be twisting my leg, as if I had a false leg, which I was unscrewing to take off. Suddenly Joe's face went white, and he leaped off his bunk and said, 'I'm going out on deck for a while.' "

I may well start a thread on Columbo soon . . .

Cleaning the Stables

A few interesting posts over at Concerned Catholic's site, regarding a recent move by Rome to pressure the dissenting editor of the Jesuit journal America out of his job. As might have been expected, the usual suspects are screaming bloody murder, and pretending there is no justification.

The Rev. Richard P. McBrien of Notre Dame University said Reese is in the mainstream of Catholic thought and the magazine is "very objective."

Satan was aslo quoted as saying about Reese, "We go way back, and I swear to God he's the holiest of holies!"

Of more concern to me was this line:

McBrien noted that Christiansen [Reese's replacement] also holds centrist views.

As the cleaning of the stables (I pray) continues, there will be many moments when we wonder whether it's all worth the fuss, given how numerous these heresiarchs are. It's important to bear in mind what this fight will be about.

Recently I read about a dissident nun who was asked why she remains in the Church (nominally). "Because the Church has the xerox machines", she said (I paraphrase). In other words it is all about power, and hybris on the grandest scale (even if its subject possesses no other symptoms of greatness). Rather than merely disagreeing with the Church, today's heretic must make the Church bow to his petty will. He must pervert the Church from within in the name of a parasitical ideology whose emptiness would be fully revealed if it ever succeeded (per impossible) in accomplishing its goal, and leaving itself nothing further to prey upon.

Is it unjustified to say that victory will come when these people finally give up on the notion of changing the Church and just pack their bags, as Reese has kindly done?


Thanks to Michael J. Stickings for this comment on my latest Schall post:

Of course, Schall is a Straussian. Which proves once again that not all Straussians are neoconservatives (or even conservative at all). I'm a liberal Straussian at the Univ. of Toronto, and I continue to make the case that there is astonishing diversity among Straussians: Democrats, neoconservatives, Thomists, etc. Needless to say, Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) is NOT a Straussian. But it's easy, I know, for the left-wing to try to lump all conservatives (that is, anyone who doesn't agree with them) under a single conspiratorial banner. For now, that banner is "Straussian".

For my take on what it means to be a Straussian, from a more liberal perspective, see my blog:

Strauss Part I

Strauss Part II

A couple of fine posts indeed. I especially enjoyed part II, which gets into the liberating aspects of Straussian thought. Michael says,

For all the talk among anti-Straussians (of both left and right) about elitism, the noble lie, and world domination, this is truly what Straussianism is about, the liberation of men and women from the confines of their particular horizons, or orthodoxies, through a revitalized conception of liberal education. In short, it is about liberalism properly understood. . . .

This is not about being "liberal" or "conservative" in current political terms, but about being liberal in the highest and most noble sense of that term. It is about encouraging a truly enlightening education to liberty, education for the sake of liberty. And it is about replacing conformity with a healthy diversity of thought that considers the full range of options open to human beings.

What really irks people about Strauss, I think, is precisely this simultaneously unpretentious and exquisitely ambitious theme: he forces the question of the truth of our way of life. This is nothing other than the Socratic question, which one way or another most people are trying to avoid -- and often as not for reasons that are understandable (not to say necessary), and which themselves form the subject of political philosophy from Plato on down the line. Like Socrates and Christ, Strauss insists that only truth sets us free, and is reviled by those who would rather shuffle along unthinkingly -- never a small group in any society, and one that in ours includes the vast majority of the "elite".

I strongly agree with Michael's account of the results of a Straussian education. The way I would put it is that Straussianism is defined more than anything else by an awareness of the fundamental issues or alternatives facing man, and the dogged pursuit of the truth thereon, chiefly aided by the art of reading the great books that map out this territory. (In other words, what is most important about Strauss is nothing unique to him at all, but just a recovery of liberal education which has always been what it is.) This is an education that liberates one from the shackles of one's day and age and opens up the realm of possibilities facing man as man. It is a chance, if any chance may be had, to reach for true self-knowledge and knowledge of what is.

I hasten to add that liberation from the confines of orthodoxy, in this context, need not imply its rejection, but to the contrary might be a precondition for its intelligent appropriation. Everyone destined to think about how they live needs the experience of this liberal education. In The Closing Bloom remarks that all of his students were relativists, even the conservatives and believers. How is this possible? Interestingly, there is a strong convergence of a certain kind of skepticism and a certain kind of dogmatism: namely, that both are unthinking. It is typical of modern man to believe deep down that truth cannot be known and that its pursuit is futile. Some respond by asserting a self-contradictory relativism (through which they want to force upon everyone a certain conformity which in our case is left-wing); some take this as permission to cling mindlessly to whatever they grew up with or happen to like today. So the latter will defend even seemingly robust beliefs on a nihilistic basis! This was explained by Tocqueville in the 1830s, but today Strauss has easily been one of if not simply the most illuminating of those trying to explain our peculiar condition.

With regard to political conservatism/liberalism: yes, Strauss (though Plato, and in a certain harmony with St. Augustine I might add) is very clear about the limits of politics. This does not prevent Strauss from having a profound effect on politics and political men, one that is bound to be above the heads of those prone to thinking in narrowly political and truth-less terms. I would not hesistate to call this influence conservative, with the requisite qualifications and complications. In particular, I mean that to see the limits of politics through the eyes of the ancients (as Strauss brilliantly does) is to question the soundness of Enlightenment, which has caused the darkening of the cave itself ("the cave within the cave"). At the same time, Straussians are better positioned to appreciate the genius of the most profound minds behind what became the Enlightenment, and some Straussians seem to be more modern while others are more classical. None, however, could embrace simplisitc notions of progress and earthly salvation, the rejection of which is almost certain to brand one as a conservative in the context of modernity, is it not?

Thanks again to Michael for his fascinating comments, and to anyone who endured my ramblings in response.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Mozart effect.

Janos Gereben, a contributing writer to San Fransisco Classical Voice apparently believes the "Mozart effect" is so much bunk. But rather than play the part of a humorless debunker of myths, he raises an interesting question to which he offers an hilarious response:

The question,
"... one wonders that if playing Mozart sonatas for little Hillary or Jason could boost their intelligence, what would happen if other composers were played in their developmental time?"

The response,

  • Liszt Effect: Child speaks rapidly and extravagantly, but never really says anything important.
  • Bruckner Effect: Child speaks very slowly and repeats himself frequently. Gains reputation for profundity.
  • Wagner Effect: Child becomes a megalomaniac. May eventually marry his sister.
  • Mahler Effect: Child continually screams — at great length and volume — that he’s dying.
  • Schoenberg Effect: Child never repeats a word until he’s used all the other words in his vocabulary. Sometimes talks backwards. Eventually, people stop listening to him. Child blames them for their inability to understand him.
  • Babbitt Effect: Child gibbers nonsense all the time. Eventually, people stop listening to him. Child doesn’t care because all his playmates think he’s cool.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Speaking of Conservatives . . .

This just in: Pope Benedict XVI may be a Straussian! Expect to see Wolfowitz as Prefect for the CDF soon . . .

Neither Liberal nor Conservative

Another fine essay by Fr. James V. Schall, S. J., "On Being Neither Liberal nor Conservative". I recommend it all, but here are a few paragraphs:

When I am asked whether I am a "liberal" or a "conservative," I reply that I am a "Thomist." Needless to say, Thomas, who was once considered a liberal Whig, is now considered a hopeless conservative, even though what he actually held defies such simple categories. In Thomas’s own methodology, the first thing he did was precisely to define what is a liberal or what is a conservative. He then explained why both, while containing some point of truth, were inadequate.

Incidentally, does anyone know what Father Schall is referring to by "the first thing [St. Thomas] did" in his methodology?

Whether the notions of "liberal" or "conservative" themselves are, in content, stable and definite concepts or not is another–and not unimportant–matter. An economic liberal of the nineteenth century is a conservative economist today, but the ideas are roughly the same. The liberals of one age notoriously become the conservatives of the next. But without some criterion of judgment both notions may indicate mere change, not either decline or improvement. . . .

If we are what is classically called "orthodox," we are neither liberal nor conservative as these terms are used today. We are wildly radical and revolutionary. No one is radical as we are over against a culture that has embodied these practices [abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and so on] into its very soul. This is what Pope Ratzinger meant by observing that it is the world, not he, that has changed. When Benedict XVI is called a "conservative" or an "arch-conservative," he is in fact nothing of the sort. He is much more "radical" than the wildest theory on the left or the right, however it be designated.

The Ascension

And while they were beholding Him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments, who also said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come as you have seen Him going into heaven. (Acts 1)

Alleluia, alleluia. V.: Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, et Dominus in voce tubae. Alleluia. V.: Dominus in Sina in sancto, ascendens in altum captivam duxit captivitatem. Alleluia.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Crusading Against History
By Robert Spencer | May 3, 2005

"It's not like a stupid Hollywood movie," said French actress Eva Green about the English director Sir Ridley Scott's Crusades flick, Kingdom of Heaven.

That's true. It's, like, a stupid English movie.

The Crusades are hot, and Ridley Scott (director of Alien) is about to make them hotter. "Muslims," gushed the New York Times after an advance showing of the new blockbuster, "are portrayed as bent on coexistence until Christian extremists ruin everything. And even when the Christians are defeated, the Muslims give them safe conduct to return to Europe." Sir Ridley, according to the Times, "said he hoped to demonstrate that Christians, Muslims and Jews could live together in harmony — if only fanaticism were kept at bay." Or, as Green put it, the movie is intended to move people "to be more tolerant, more open towards the Arab people."

Bent on coexistence, eh? That's right: the Kingdom of Heaven script invents a group called the "Brotherhood of Muslims, Jews and Christians." A publicist for the film elaborated: "They were working together. It was a strong bond until the Knights Templar cause friction between them." Ah yes, everything was all right until those "Christian extremists" spoiled everything.

Kingdom of Heaven is designed to be a dream movie for those guilt-ridden creatures who believe that all the trouble between the Islamic world and the West has been caused by Western imperialism, racism, and colonialism, and that the glorious paradigm of Islamic tolerance, which was once a beacon to the world, could be reestablished if only the nasty white men of America and Europe would back off. A dream movie for the PC establishment, except for one little detail: it isn't true.

Read on.

No. 3 Captured

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Abu Farraj al-Libbi (search), believed by U.S. counterterrorism officials to be Usama bin Laden's No. 3 man, is being held in Pakistani custody. Officials hope he can lead them to the elusive Al Qaeda leader.

FOX News confirmed that al-Libbi, a Libyan-born terror suspect who was wanted in two attempts to assassinate President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was arrested earlier this week. A $1 million bounty was put on his capture.

U.S. officials told FOX News that al-Libbi was the most significant Al Qaeda get since Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (search) was arrested in March 2003, also in Pakistan.

Interesting how friendly an environment Pakistan still seems to be for top Al Qaeda men.

Al-Libbi's "arrest removes a dangerous enemy who was a direct threat to Americans and to those who love freedom," Bush said at a talk with Latino small business owners in Washington.

"I applaud Pakistan for their strong cooperation in the War on Terror, and I applaud the government of President Musharraf for acting on solid intelligence to bring this man to justice," Bush said.

In other words, we probably had to direct Musharraf to do this. At least it worked!


A thoughtful piece by David Warren questioning the wisdom of current Israeli maneuvers toward peace:

the spinelessness of the Palestinian Administration was put on display again yesterday, when they released three Hamas "activists" from prison. These gentleman had been caught after a gunfight, apparently fresh from firing off a few Qassam rockets in the general direction of the Israeli town of Sderot. They were paraded before the international media as examples of PA President Mahmoud Abbas's new "iron fist" stance against terrorism.

But Hamas, which claims to have been observing the ceasefire Mr. Abbas negotiated with them in March, threatened violence against the PA Monday afternoon. The "activists" were then quietly released Tuesday morning -- only the latest of several thousand serious malefactors who have passed through the revolving doors of Palestinian prisons.

The attitude among the anti-Israeli legions in the West seems to be, that since Mr. Abbas takes so much heat for giving lip-service to the security agreements he signs with Israel and the U.S., it would be outrageous to expect him to actually keep them. Surely we should be content with his nice words alone; and why can't the Israelis get used to all the rockets and suicide bombs?

Mr. Warren concludes that nothing but genuine Palestianian reform can solve this problem:

The Palestinians are supposed to be getting a democracy. This is not a single event, like the overturning of a public statue, but rather a long and even arduous process of societal reform. It involves big public things like constitutions and elections, but also little things -- such as eliminating roving bands of terrorist hitmen. And sometimes, the little things are the hardest to achieve.

These particular "little things" -- the foundations of political order -- only come about through a certain muscularity whose critics are legion, and whose true practitioners are rare.


From then-Cardinal Ratzinger's homily in St Peter's Basilica, Friday, 18 March 2005:

Classical theology, as we know, understands the virtue of justice as composed of two elements which for Christians cannot be separated; justice is the firm will to render to God what is owed to God, and to our neighbour what is owed to him; indeed, justice toward God is what we call the "virtue of religion"; justice toward other human beings is the fundamental attitude that respects the other as a person created by God.

We should not be surprised if the attitudes toward Jesus that we find in the Gospel continue today in attitudes toward his Church.

It is certainly true that today, when the Church commits herself to works of justice on a human level (and there are few institutions in the world which accomplish what the Catholic Church accomplishes for the poor and disadvantaged), the world praises the Church.

But when the Church's work for justice touches on issues and problems which the world no longer sees as bound up with human dignity, like protecting the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death, or when the Church confesses that justice also includes our responsibilities toward God himself, then the world not infrequently reaches for the stones mentioned in our Gospel today.

As Christians we must constantly be reminded that the call of justice is not something which can be reduced to the categories of this world. And this is the beauty of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, evident in the very structure of the Council's text; only when we Christians grasp our vocation, as having been created in the image of God and believing that "the form of this world is passing away... [and] that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth, in which justice dwells" (Gaudium et Spes n. 39), can we address the urgent social problems of our time from a truly Christian perspective.

"Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectation of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, prefiguring in some way the world that is to come" (ibid., n. 39).

And so, to be workers of this true justice, we must be workers who are being made just by contact with him who is justice itself:  Jesus of Nazareth. The place of this encounter is the Church, nowhere more powerfully present than in her sacraments and liturgy.


Via Against the Grain, a report from titusonenine

on the news that "THE new Pope has established links with a faction of discontented Anglican traditionalists seeking to form their own church affiliated to the Vatican." The Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) represents some "400,000 Anglicans around the world who have either left their church or are protesting against its liberal policies. It is estimated that 400-500 Church of England parishes may support the group in the long term."

Apparently such a thing has been in the works, and nixed by (among others) namby-pamby 'Catholic' ecumenists in the Vatican who are afraid of alienating liberal Anglicans! It seems our Holy Father could deliver quite a blow to that fifth column by hauling in a net-full of souls. Oremus!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

France a Muslim Power?

This is the first I've heard of it, and I'm not sure how seriously to take this. Those in the know enlighten me if you will. From a book review in the May 9 National Review (link for subscribers):

For two centuries now French policymakers have spoken of France as “a Muslim power,” that is to say one with a grand imperial design for incorporating the Arab world and its resources. Not even widespread violence and wars of liberation could stifle the persistence of this fantasy. Originally inspired by General de Gaulle and backed by every subsequent French president, a policy program known as the Euro-Arab Dialogue acquired formal shape as from 1973, with the purpose of fitting the Arabs into the new imperial design of Europe.

Virtually nobody has ever heard of this Euro-Arab Dialogue. With no recognizable public profile, behind the scenes it nevertheless is changing the relationship between Europe and the Arab world, and the relationship of both to the U.S. It is a classic example of the invisibility and lack of accountability that are the hallmarks of the European Union’s method of proceeding.

EBay resolution?

According to this email received by Concerned Catholic, the EBay fiasco may finally be resolved. They appear to have amended their policies to forbid blatant sacrilege. Good for them.

Now perhaps as the Church contemplates liturgical reform something might be done about the abuse of taking Communion in the hand. Gazing upon these scenes from the Holy Father's Inaugural Mass, it is not hard to see how consecrated Hosts could end up for sale on the Internet (I refer to the right side of this picture):

Much better would be the abolition of such things and the return to a wise and venerable tradition of the Church, whose spirit is well illustrated here:

A major improvement would be what we saw at Pope Benedict's Mass, a little closer to the Holy Father himself (referring to the left side of this picture):

Just one of the ways the Church is making itself more vulnerable than it has to be in the modern age.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Reality TV

I highly recommend this article in the May 9 issue of National Review (link requires subscription). Richard Lowry explains "How the US began to quell the insurgency in Iraq". A taste:

The transfer put the Iraqis at the forefront of the information campaign against the insurgency. And they knew what would work. The single most effective tool against the insurgency, a TV program that features unflattering interviews with captured insurgents every night at 9 p.m., was an Iraqi inspiration. It is the most watched program in Lt. Gen. David Patreaus, who commanded the 101st Airborne during the assault on Baghdad and afterward and now is in charge of training Iraqis, says, “As an Iraqi told me the other day, ‘We have seen the face of the insurgency and it is ugly.’ There is nothing romantic or uplifting about the insurgents or what they are doing. They are just thugs and brutal criminals.”

Along with Peter Falk's Colombo, this is one of the few things that has ever made me happy TV exists.

A bit illustrating the importance of cultural sensitivity:

General Dempsey watched half of the National Guard and police he had trained walk away during Sadr’s first revolt in April 2004. “Something that I frankly missed is that it is a patronage culture,” Dempsey says. “For the last 3,500 years the sheik of the tribe is the person you go to to address your needs.” The training of Iraqi forces lacked that kind of local, tribal legitimacy, even though it seemed to be going swimmingly.

“We were paying them ourselves, out of CERP. I was pinning purple hearts on them. They loved us, truly, honestly,” Dempsey explains. But when it came time to confront Sadr’s uprising, the calculation changed entirely. “They asked, ‘Who is the Iraqi face who will empower me to take on fellow Iraqis?’ No one. The culture is built on patronage. No patron, off they go.”

Dempsey tried a different approach. He went to tribal leaders and to the political parties, and asked them to give him Iraqis for the military forces. These were people or bodies to whom the Iraqi recruits had a loyalty. “I would have loved to have had them have an allegiance to a nation called Iraq,” Dempsey says. “But in 2004 there was no nation called Iraq.”

And finally,

The performance of the U.S. forces [in taking Fallujah] was spectacular. Marines got shot and kept on fighting. When the battle ended, there was a rash of reports of previously ignored wounds. “Headquarters asked, ‘Why are you reporting 35 wounded so late?’” says Natonski. “We were reporting them so late because these kids didn’t report it when they were wounded. The Corpsmen bandaged themselves up and stayed in the fight. The Marines at Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, and Vietnam set the bar pretty high, and they lived up to the standard.”

The State of the Ship of State

I began this as a response to Mr. Eaton's recent post, but it got so large I decided to put it out here for all to see. It regards Republican attempts to stop the fillibustering of judicial nominees.

One important thing to keep in mind is that constitutional structures exist to channel aggression, so to speak, and therefore presume it will exist. In a perverse sort of way, second-guessing constitutional limits to one's actions is unconstitutional. In a higher sense, one could adopt the understanding of the constitution and see the common good effected by self-restraint. But while I'm sure that happens sometimes, it is rare due to the weakness of human nature. (It may have been less rare in a time when religious and civic education still existed, but the Supreme Court has trashed that and at least one generation has grown up bereft of these goods.) In this case, Republicans are dealing with an unconstitutional power grab by haughty courts and abusive measures by the courts' legislative partisans. It is not surprising that the threat of 'extreme' counter-measures would appeal to them. The constitution's integrity does not rest on "advise and consent" being interpreted as "veto", much less "minority veto"; it does rest on the restoration of judicial moderation. Without it, we won't have a constitution for much longer.

Presumably the Republicans are "checked" in what they do by the prospect of electoral backlash if they are perceived as having overreached. Unfortuantely, the leftist media will ensure that every effort is made to persuade the public that they have. If that is insufficient it could only be because of widespread ignorance and apathy about politics, which is the key phenomenon that has allowed things to fester to this point in the first place, and which necessarily spells the demise of our constitutional republic in any case. That is, our system of checks and balances works on the principle of popular sovereignty, and is incompatable with the reality of a comatose people.

For what it's worth, our founders agreed with Machiavelli when he criticized the ancient view that to found on the people is to found on mud. He and they rather thought that Aristotle had missed that in the long run the popular element always prevails, and that the truly strong stato will begin and end with the people (thus in effect divinizing them, as Tocqueville countered). From the get-go, this plan must contend with the problem that the people cannot actually rule themselves so what is needed is some form of representation, which preserves the idea of a higher authority but now subjects it to a lower principle (the people) rather than a higher (virtue, and later God). The question comes down to that of whether man is capable of living with reference only to himself as he is rather than as he ought to be, or whether this is not inherently degrading to him. I would say that the American version of modernity succeeded best because it was the most modest version of modernity, the one most accommodating to vestiges and pockets of pre-modern principles.

Our initial separation of church and state, for instance, was modest and accompanied by a general preference for (Protestant) Christianity. To this day we still have a "religious right", social conservatives (paleo-, neo-, and so forth), libertarians (who are amazingly engaged with one another and with their community at large, considering their philosophic individuaism), etc. They keep us from being totally degraded. With a bit of cleaning house, perhaps this ship could keep sailing for a while?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

At Long Last

Phil explains bleem and discusses a number of other hot topics.

The whole prompted me to wonder what St. Augustine would say about bleem. He probably engaged in some himself. Perhaps Phil should supplement his "random quote of the day" with a "random bleem of the day" taken from famous predecessors in the world of bleem? Just a thought, to show how much fun it has always been!
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