Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I liked the walking on water joke. We've moved from smirk to chuckle. Still need a belly laugh though.
Probably no more posting until Saturday or Sunday--possibly not until Monday. Have a Blessed Thanksgiving, and please remember those whose holidays will not seem very blessed in your prayers.
Can I make a suggestion to Harvard Law School? (Which raises the age old zen question: If a non HLS grad raises his voice in Cambridge, and no one at Harvard is listening, does it make any difference?)

Instead of a "free speech policy," why not try a "caritas" policy?

Requiring people not to give offense is an impossible task at any place with such a policy. The sense of grievance too many people arrive at colleges and graduate schools with these days is only encouraged by such nonsense. "You are right to feel aggrieved, and here is how we shall punish the malefactors as soon as you report them to us" is not a statement calculated to calm an ardent spirit.

But a "caritas" policy (so named because few people realize that "charity" means more than dumping a couple of quarters in the Salvation Army bucket while avoiding eye contact with the bell ringer at all costs) would encode into law something Harvard grads all seem to believe they possess by divine right: virtue. Require students to construe charitably everything they hear; require them to find the least offensive way of understanding what is said to them. Require them to suppose that a person who speaks even ignorantly might not in fact be willfully ignorant, might indeed be at Harvard in order to overcome his ignorance. In return, require speakers to construe complaints against themselves charitably. Require them to apologize for offense given even when it resulted from a misunderstanding. Require them to listen quietly when the specific nature of the offense is explained.

The paradox of a "free speech policy" is that it requires students to *be* virtuous but still can punish them. A "caritas" policy only requires students to *act* virtuous, whatever their private feelings may be.
If you haven't clicked on the "make a donation" link on the right, now would be a good time. Lazarus House has 5 of the 55 emergency housing rooms in Massachusetts, and they are full up right now. They are also desparately collecting Turkeys and other food for their food pantry to distribute tonight.
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Sam G and his family. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For the pastor of my church, who celebrated 24 years of priestly ministry this week. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

I have been quiet about my archdiocese for a while now, because so many voices have been complaining about it, and it annoyed me. But today I have a complaint. Every Church I have looked at offers Confession during the same 45 minute window on Saturday afternoon: 3-3:45. This happens to be a uniquely inconvenient time, inasmuch as most of my family's weekend productivity happens after lunch on Saturday, and I do try (though often don't succeed thanks to laundry) to make Sunday a day of at least some rest. There are Masses available within 5 miles of me at almost any hour of the Day from 3 Saturday until 10pm Sunday, which is great. But why is Confession not offered with the same reckless abandon??
Please add Sam Gale to your intentions. He is a friend of Dave Pawlak's, and not likely to see another sun rise.
A reader says...

(and he probably doesn't want the credit/blame for this, so I'll leave him anonymous) that "The Fighting Papists of St. Blog's" are in a fight for the division title with the "Mitered Clowns of USC-CB" and the "OCP Demon Liturgists."

I agree. But that will still leave a battle for the conference championship with the Aggressive Agnostics and the Unitarian Unicorns. Sadly, the Jesuit Jumping Arguments are on probation after being caught using sophistry, then trying to prove that they weren't.
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For the pastor of my church, who celebrated 24 years of priestly ministry this week. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
O Holy Night

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.


Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend!


Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!


Monday, November 25, 2002

The Fighting Papists of St. Blog's

I've just spent some time looking in the comments boxes on Amy Welborn's and a few other blogs. I have had a realization. St. Blog's has become a sports talk radio station, where the "sport" is the Church.

Ugh. I used to enjoy Rod Dreher, even when I disagreed with him. But now when I see his name I just cuh-ringe. But he's like "Larry on the car phone" on the show. Every time the host says "Let's go to Rod from Brooklyn," you just know that the volume level is going to go up.

At least I've thought of a team nickname, for the sports radio types to use: The Fighting Papists of St. Blog's. Go, Papists!

Now, what colors will the uniforms be?
Make me laugh. Please.
Once in Royal David’s City

Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in Heav’n above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in Heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.
Wow. Commenting committed suicide within five minutes of my adding it. Bummer.
I've added commenting again. It may stay, it may go. Haven't really decided.
Why do I have a thing for quirky, funky TV shows that flit along, perpetually on the edges of cancellation? First, "Due South," now "Firefly". Oh, Lord, please make me happy with the standard pap the networks serve up, rather than continuing to taunt me with shows I like that don't last.
Church has two hickeys!

I don't know why I find this funny, but I do. The Archbishop of Washington DC for many years was James Hickey, who became Cardinal Hickey in 1988 (the day after giving me the Archbishop's award at my high school graduation; I was also a member of the Chess club for a while, in case you were wondering.). Cardinal Hickey retired a couple of years ago.

In 1991 the diocese of Perth in Australia received as its Archbishop...James Hickey. This means that, for about 10 years, the Roman Catholic Church had two Hickeys. I find this amusing, even if you don't.

Friday, November 22, 2002 Iran

How is anyone in the State Department going to know to help the people of Iran if the Washington Post's coverage is so lame as to virtually ignore what is going on there? I realize that student protests in a foreign country aren't as sexy as getting ready to bomb the bejeebers out of someone, but dammit, THIS IS IMPORTANT.

So what do we get?

A picture of a staged rally 9 months old, with the following caption:
"Iranian clerics look at Iranian youths holding up an effigy of US President George W. Bush at an anti-US demonstration during held in Tehran to mark the 23rd anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution. (Atta Kenare - AFP)"

Folks, here's the deal: The people of Iran are trying to liberate themselves. The State Department meanwhile has cut off funding for the Farsi version of the Voice of America, and is replacing it with a pop music channel with "light news" (or something) scattered in. And the Washington Post chooses to show us mullah-sponsored propaganda as the face of Iran. They need our help, and we are not giving it.
Stephen Chapman: Did Bush Blaspheme?

In my view, when the state takes on messianic significance, it ceases to be justly authorized (e.g., Romans 13 describes this kind of state) and becomes essentially demonic (e.g., Revelation 13 describes this kind of state). The only possible response for Christians then becomes one of civil disobedience.

Um, or maybe first we could write a few letters, you know? Let him know we're concerned, give him a chance to explain himself, amend or retract what he said?

What is it with college professors, where their first instinct is always to stage a protest or an act of civil disobedience? Howsabout we try civility, first???
Here's my question, now

This question is directed at me, and at you, and at anyone who argues with Church teachings in any area:

What wouldn't you give up for Christ?

That is, if you knew for sure that Christ wanted you to give up something, is there anything about yourself that you would say "Sorry, Lord. No can do!"? The story of the rich young man who comes to Jesus and asks what he must do is not principally about money. Christ looked into the young man's heart and saw the attachment--the undue attachement--the man had to his wealth and his belongings and said "This you must let go of."

So, what wouldn't you give up?

I ask it this way, because so many arguments about whether "Rome" is right about something (including those I engage in) really seem to me to be about what I do not want to give up, rather than what Christ is asking. If you can answer "Nothing" then all conversations can get much more civil and much less heated, because they then become an argument about facts--the facts in question being, "Do we indeed know that Christ does indeed want us to do or not do the particular thing in question"--rather than about the putative motives of "Rome."

So, next time you get worked up about your sexuality, or your wealth, or birth control, or women clergy, or married clergy, or anything else, put your conscience in the appropriate frame of mind, by asking "Would I give this up if I were sure I had to?"

Because, for me, the really awful thing is, I don't always know the answer to that question, and so I argue and I argue hoping that the facts will make the question irrelevant.
Every day, the man becomes a sadder cartoon of himself

Teddy, Teddy. How many other people will now lose their jobs in a department that doesn't affect your personal convenience?
A reader asked me an excellent question yesterday

Are we "Advent People" or "Easter People"? We are, after all, waiting for the Savior who has already come. I'll give my own answer another time, to let you think about your own, unpolluted by my bloviations.
Friday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For the pastor of my church, who celebrated 24 years of priestly ministry this week. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
A note on hymns

Well, Mom told me not to do it anymore, so no more background music. (At least, until she's senile and won't care anymore.) Also, it's pretty much Christmas music from here until Twelfth Night, so just deal. And if anyone has any linkages to Advent Chants that they especially like, send them my way...
O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;


O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
Lo, He shuns not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created;


Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;


See how the shepherds, summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps;


Lo! star led chieftains, Magi, Christ adoring,
Offer Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
We to the Christ Child bring our hearts’ oblations.


Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?


Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.


Thursday, November 21, 2002

If you have a strong opinion about my having the "hymn of the day" playing in the background (pro or con) please let me know. Now that I've figured out how to do it, it is very tempting....

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I find I don't make enough time for simple contemplation in my life. I’m not actually the sort of person to turn on music to drown out the voices in my head, or to have the TV on simply for the sake of not having to think. (Though I do watch a lot of TV, I am as apt to leave it off as not when I am home alone.) But I am fairly likely, when things get quiet, to pick up a book, rather than close my eyes and think.

This may be at least in part why I so dearly love to stand in the shower long after I have finished my ablutions, and why I so resent anyone coming in to the bathroom during this time. It is practically the only 10 or 15 minutes during the day when the background noise serves only to help me concentrate, when no book, phone, computer or television takes up just enough of my attention to keep me from noticing anything about myself or my world.

Sometimes, during that quiet time, I find myself really, truly on the edge of understanding something of tremendous importance. Indeed, I think there have been times not only at “the edge of understanding” but that actual, genuine understanding has penetrated my smirking self-satisfaction. At every one of those times, though, turning off the water and reentering society sends the understanding skittering away like the vestiges of a dream—the kind where you know you have discovered the secret of flight, if only you could remember it when the dawn comes.

I hope with the change in my life in a month or two, that I will be able to begin practicing the self-discipline I have long vowed, where there will always be within reach a notebook wherein to write a handful of words, to retain the important things that enter my consciousness triumphantly but slink away as a thief in the night. Too, perhaps I can impose upon myself the discipline of making time beyond my morning toilet to open myself to the mysteries that always stand in my peripheral vision, awaiting only a quiet moment when nothing else competes for my notice.
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For the pastor of my church, who celebrated 24 years of priestly ministry this week. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
Joy to the World

Among the hymns posted here, the largest plurality have been by the English Noncomformist Isaac Watts, including today's (by which I take a hint from Emily Stimpson and anticipate advent a wee smidge early).

Joy to the World

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

"Grabbing them is always preferable to blowing them up. But if it's a choice between losing them or blowing them up, you blow them up."

--Intelligence source, New York Daily News
Now that Ashley Bambi (or whatever her name on fox news is) no longer braves the Afghan Winter to bring us the latest update from the assault by the Northern Alliance on the gates of some city that no one ever heard of but that appeared to have strategic signficance;

Now that Geraldo no longer stands in front of a blue screen pretending to be on a battlefield;

Now that the Taliban is non-existant;

What on earth is going on in Afghanistan? Has anyone else noticed an almost total lack of news from there? Are we doing what we are obliged to, helping rebuild it, that the Taliban might never rise again? Were our promises to the people of Afghanistan well-meant, but no longer binding, or are we doing it and the reporters just don't care?

We did a necessary thing, in our own and the Afghans interest, in destroying the Taliban. But if we do not honor our promises, if we abandon the people of Afghanistan to the tribalism and warfare that has plagued it since 1980, it will be a horrid stain on our honor.
Proverbs 3

1 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
11 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:
12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

This if fun. But you will get carpal tunnel syndrome. Don't say I didn't warn you.
I didn't post a hymn today, but here's something just as good. Bach.
Public Service Photo of the Day

For some reason, I think the capybara the coolest land mammal.

The Conclusion of Life…at Conception

None of what I propose is going to bring about instantaneous change in abortion or our society’s attitudes towards it. What I hope to do is provide a thoughtful way to move beyond the pointless “Life begins at conception!” “No, it doesn’t!” “Yes, it does!” “No, it doesn’t!” conversations that make up much of the “dialogue” between sides. I also hope that changing this conversation may help undermine some of the softer political support for abortion, and make possible passage of laws that at a minimum limit it in ways that are not now feasible.

The single most important thing is to challenge anyone who says she “supports a woman’s right to choose.” Always, always, always insist on an object for that verb. “Choose what? I support a woman’s right to make choices, of course, but let’s be specific. The right to choose what?” In my experience (YMMV) many people who support this vague amorphous ideal of choice are extremely uncomfortable actually uttering the word abortion. The reason to call their attention to this is not to be mean, rude, or superior, but to call their own native revulsion to abortion to their attention.

Insisting on an object also has a secondary effect among some of separating “choice” from the agenda of equality. That is, by leaving the words “right to choose” to stand on their own, you allow all the vague notions of women’s rights that Steinem et al. have associated with abortion to be the unconscious image in a “pro-choice” speaker’s mind.

The next step is to ask why they favor a women’s right to choose abortion. Do not stop at “because I have a right to control what happens to my own body.” First, because if you linger here long you will soon be into the “Does, too!” “Does not!” squabble in an irreversible downward slide. Note your disagreement with that premise, but then allow it for a moment, if only the speaker will consent to describe reasons why it is important to a woman to control fertility in this particular way. This is where the discussion of “glass ceilings” and the like usually come in.

(One argument never, ever to use: “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Eve Tushnet wrote very compellingly on this some months ago; I will not reiterate her argument in detail, but suffice it to say, having a child is not a punishment for your sins, and this statement seems to imply that it is. That particular position is the anti-life position, not the pro-life one.)

The point, in the end, is first to get those who consider themselves “pro-choice” to acknowledge what particular choice they are pro, then to ask whether that particular position is in fact pro-woman or not, which is usually the implied agenda, particularly for the soft middle. (By this I mean, those who favor keeping abortion legal but who would support a great deal of restriction on it after the first trimester; when I look at polls in aggregate I find that this is probably a majority of pro-choice voters.)

There are additional arguments that can be brought in: abortion even in a hospital is not always safe, and it often has lasting health consequences for a woman that she may not know about when she leaves the doctor’s office. Such studies as there are (it is hard to get funding or reporting on a study that shows the adverse consequences of abortion, at least according to those who have tried) indicate significant increases in difficulty conceiving later, along with possibly increased risks of certain cancers. (These studies, as I say, should be treated gently; they do not have large samples with which to work, or to speak authoritatively so far as I have been able to learn.) The eugenicist roots of Planned Parenthood and its white supremacist founder Margaret Sanger may or may not be worth mentioning, depending on your opponent.

Finally, don’t get bogged down in the exceptions. In 2000, there were roughly 1.2 million abortions in the US. According to Planned Parenthood, approximately 14,000 abortions annually are performed after the pregnancy results from rape or incest. This works out to less than 1.2%. (Numbers that show abortions alleging to protect the life or health of the mother are harder to assess, as they are often lumped together and protecting the mother’s health is a somewhat subjective criteria.) If we ever get to a point where the only argument about abortion is in cases of rape and incest, we will have accomplished a tremendous good. Meanwhile, let’s deal with the overwhelming majority of abortions that are elective and in no way medically necessary.

I wish I had a panacea for this. I also wish I had more courage, to engage in this conversation more regularly with people I know. None of this will alter the opinions of the people who would quite happily choose an abortion for themselves and go right back to work that afternoon. But most people are not that morally numb, and these talking points are intended to help you move beyond the intractable question, and to encourage discussion of the actual value of abortion as a choice. If anyone out there has comments, additions, corrections or other things to add, please email me and I will try to take them into account in a future post.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Maybe it's just me...

A year ago, Muslim governments around the world were calling on the US to suspend its airstrikes in the cause of liberating Afghanistan for the duration of the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan. This week, al-Qaeda threatened new attacks, and many commentators indicated that such attacks could be deliberately timed to coincide with Ramadan. I eagerly await Saudi Arabia and Egypt's statements, calling on al-Qaeda not to conduct any terrorist operations during this sacred time for Muslims. I also eagerly await the arrival of my deed to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Wronged Side of the Tracks?

This is the story of a sad, subtle way in which evil removes simple pleasures from our lives. I know a guy who has a detailed log of every commercial plane he's ever been around: "N" number, aircraft type, livery, destination, duration. I suspect he's a lot more careful about when he records info in it. And I used to take aeronautical charts with me once in a while, and estimate course, speed, time of arrival, etc--practice navigation, in other words. It used to attract the interest of small kids in the area of my seat, and I got to teach them a little of a skill they didn't know about. I haven't dared since 9/11.
This is such simple advice, but it always bears remembering. The point of Christianity is not that we stop sinning. The point is that we become the sort of people for whom sinning would be alien. Ultimately, "not sinning" is the effect of becoming such a person, not the cause. All the rules, all the dogmas and doctrines are aimed at this one goal, and irrelevant if they don't help us get there.
I write this with some serious reservations. Some readers will no doubt think me a heartless churl, while others will think even worse of me. I hesitate to speak, because part of what I say falls very far outside my own knowledge. But it is a thought I need to share.

The adults who were victims of abuse at the hands of clergy, when they appear on television and in the newspapers, refer to themselves and are referred to by the reporters quite often as “survivors.” This is true, I have noticed of people who have at one time or another been victims of many crimes—though most often sexual ones.

I am concerned that this is difficult to reconcile with being a Christian. My fear is that permanently identifying oneself as a survivor sounds better than saying “victim” (and may help with psychological healing) but still leaves the focus on what was done to a person. In the end, we are called to forgive our enemies, and I can’t reconcile all this “survivor” talk with any sort of forgiveness in the heart.

It is perfectly true that I have never undergone what these poor people have, and I don’t want anyone to think for one moment that I hate the actions of the abusers any less than you do. The criminals must be punished, and the victims must be helped to the point where they have healed as fully as is possible. But none of that changes the obligation that the victims must ultimately forgive the Paul Shanleys and John Geoghans—and even Cardinal Laws—of the world. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” contains no subordinate clause exempting those who suffered something really terrible. These are the only terms on which we are offered forgiveness.

I would very much like to be shown why my discomfort is not well-founded.
Why Doth the Lord Stand Off So Far?

Why doth the Lord stand off so far?
And why conceal His face,
When great calamities appear,
And times of deep distress?

Lord, shall the wicked still deride
Thy justice and Thy power?
Shall they advance their heads in pride,
And still Thy saints devour?

They put Thy judgments from their sight,
And then insult the poor;
They boast in their exalted height,
That they shall fall no more.

Arise, O God, lift up Thine hand,
Attend our humble cry;
No enemy shall dare to stand
When God ascends on high.

Why do the men of malice rage,
And say, with foolish pride,
“The God of Heav’n will ne’er engage
To fight on Zion’s side?”

But Thou forever art our Lord;
And powerful is Thine hand,
As when the heathens felt Thy sword,
And perished from Thy land.

Thou wilt prepare our hearts to pray,
And cause Thine ear to hear;
He hearkens what His children say,
And puts the world in fear.

Proud tyrants shall no more oppress,
No more despise the just;
And mighty sinners shall confess
They are but earth and dust.
Friday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Tom Daschle is an odious weasel

All right, I'll rephrase: Tom Daschle says things that make him sound like an odious weasel. But this kind of shameless crap makes me really mad. Where was he on this a week ago, when we were holding an election? Now that he's on his way out he's suddenly found the courage to speak out?

Daschle Doubts Terror War's Progress ( "We can't find bin Laden, we haven't made real progress" in finding key elements of al-Qaeda," the South Dakotan said. "They continue to be as great a threat today as they were one and a half years ago. So by what measure can we claim to be successful so far?"

Well, gee, Tom, let's see? There have been half a dozen plots disrupted. There's a guy named Jose Padilla in a cage somewhere who would possibly have blown up some Cesium or spent Uranium a couple months back. Bin Laden is at the very best weak enough and sick enough that he dursen't appear on video. A number of major players in al-Qaeda are dead or in custody. Afghanistan, though not finished and in need of mega financial help from (hmm? can't seem to remember which branch of government appropriates money...) us, is no longer a wholly-owned subsidiary of al-Qaeda. The terrorists have spent a lot more time playing defense in the past 12 months than in the previous 8 years.

Now, how's that Homeland Security Bill coming along? You get approval from AFL-CIO headquarters yet to sign off on it?
Mea Culpa

I seem to be doing an extraordinarily good job this week of annoying people in the extreme with what I intend to be funny/light-hearted/or at least clever remarks. I promise I'm not trying to be mean, but it does seem that I am succeeding at it nevertheless. If you have been victimized by my apparent lack of a sensible filter recently, I'm sorry for that. Please email me to let me know, so that I may apologize personally as well.
Part III of Life…at Conception

Well, again, which is it? Is abortion a safeguard against sexism, and a tool for empowering women and increasing their earning power (and, presumably, the consequent political power), or is it a failure?

If legal abortion is responsible for improving the position of women in society, advances should be celebrated by abortion advocates. If it is not, then abortion advocates should be honest enough to admit that an improvement of $0.10 on the dollar does not compare favorably to thirty pieces of silver, and look for alternatives.

So, what do we see? An improvement in the political, economic and social lot of women that began decades before legalized abortion. And a curious silence—actually, more of an active hostility—to data that a neutral observer might suspect is favorable to the women’s case. Something else is clearly going on.

“Abortion” (the issue, not the act) has given a select group of women a great deal of political power, out of all proportion to their numbers or ideas. The have sold a bill of goods to women, insisting ever more loudly not only that women can have it all, but that they must. “You can be wife, mother, business owner, political leader and host of your own talk show, all at the same time, and if you aren’t, well, you’ll be deeply unsatisfied, and will have let down your ‘sisters.’”

Why? Well, it may be true that a woman can’t yet be elected President (though I think the right woman probably could be; but whoever she is, she is probably off doing more important things than amassing a political base for herself, since politics seems to attract a disproportionate share of silly people). But there are precious few other positions in government or business that a woman can’t achieve. It used to be said that a woman has to be twice as good as a man to get paid half as much. Now, you can be just as dumb and venal as any man, so long as Patricia Ireland and Gloria Steinem sign off on your candidacy and extract promises in return.

In many ways, the feminists have won, and good on them for much of it. But to call attention to their victory is to make them irrelevant. When you stand for “change” where do you go when you have gotten it? Where do you go when you have acquired a taste for the power you no longer need? So the curious paradox of denying victory while promising to safeguard it, all managed with the judicious use of the ultimate trump card: the coat hanger.

Tomorrow: the conclusion.
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
All Creatures of Our God and King

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!


O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!


Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.


Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.


And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!


And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.


Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!


Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Miss Manners, whose entire body of work is a national treasure, may be right on the etiquette point in this case, but the letter writer was correct in his assessment of his own behavior.
Is it just me, or is Saddam seeming a little, ahem, light in the loafers these days?

Normally, when I post, I make a lot of mistakes, discover them, and fix them fairly quickly. Last week I made a few that got by my re-read, and managed to get noticed by nihil obstat. If he/she/it had an email address, comments, or some other means of communicating, I'd send him/her/it a thank you note, and fix the errors. But since he/she/it sees fit to make juvenille jokes on people's names, and lacks the self-esteem to receive criticism (not to mention the courage to call himself/herself/itself out on his/her/its mistakes), I'm going to leave the errors intact.
Part II of Life…at Conception

So, what do we do then with this information? How do we defeat the voices who hate life?

The ultimate goal here is to attack the illogical syllogism that underlies the “a woman’s right to choose” rhetoric. The thinking goes like this: “If I cannot choose to have an abortion, then I have no power over my own body. If I have no power over my own body, then I am a mere slave. Men want me to be a slave, so they want to ban abortion. Ergo, no abortions = slavery for women.” Vague notions about “the glass ceiling” and “women earn $0.62 for every $1 that a man earns” and “if men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” usually get tossed in here, along with derisive references to “barefoot and pregnant and chained to the stove”.

At its root, abortion can thus be seen to be about a victim mentality. Just as so many other groups (indeed, nearly every group including straight, white males) seek to define themselves by victim status, so too do women collectively, even if individual pro-abortion women do not, or say they do not.

The easiest argument to defeat is the polemical “if men got pregnant…” remark. If “men got pregnant” they would not be men; they would be women, and we would be right back where we are, having learned absolutely nothing. If my grandmother had wheels, she would be a wagon. But if she were a wagon, she would not be my grandmother, and we would be in the same boat. Never, ever let this statement passed unchallenged, because it is foolish in the extreme, and while it plays nicely to the home crowd, it is ultimately proof that its reciter has not thought very clearly in quite some time.

Of the other arguments I have listed, some are easier to explode than others. But they need to be separated from the issue of abortion, to which they are not really germane. They are held to be proof that women are oppressed, and it is taken for granted that, if abortion is suppressed, then women will be right back…where?

Well, the first thing to note is that women have never really been quite so powerless as these rhetorical gibes suggest. We must note the contradiction inherent in much of the “feminist agenda.” Colleges are full of “Women’s Studies” programs, that teach special classes showing not that women have failed to contribute to history, but claiming to show that women’s contributions have been ignored. Well, which is it? Have women been put down to the point where they were so frail that they could not achieve anything, or have their contributions been minimized in favor of “the dominant paradigm”? If the former, then the women’s studies classes are all or at least substantially lies; if the latter, then things were not quite so dire as the bra burners would have had us believe. I agree that it would be a bad thing to show that male historians had suppressed, presumably in the name of their own self-esteem, the contributions of women to history. But it is not quite nearly so bad as suggesting that the women themselves had been suppressed. Too, if women were quite the victims Women’s Studies professors suggest—if the vast male conspiracy were as effective as alleged—we would have a much harder time calling to mind the names of women who overcame it: Cleopatra, Elizabeth, Victoria, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jeannette Rankin.

This hardly should suggest to you that I think it has all been wine and roses for women. Women only achieved full property rights very recently in history, and lack them still in some parts of the world. But note, they achieved them long before unfettered access to abortion, and achieved the right to vote seven decades before Roe v. Wade. Certainly, women have had to overcome things that men have not, and men certainly have stacked the deck in specific ways at specific times. I mean merely to point out that things aren’t quite as bad as the Women’s Studies professors would have it, nor are those professors any freer of an agenda than those they propose to correct.

Now, how about “the glass ceiling” and “women get paid less for the same work”? The $0.60-to-the-dollar figure has been floating around for a long time, and here again there is a contradiction. Every few years, some think tank of left or right will put out a study indicating that the so-called “wage gap” has or has not narrowed. (Some right-leaning think tanks have even in recent years suggested that is has largely evaporated, if it ever existed.) There are a couple of things to consider here. If abortion was supposed to lead to an improvement in the professional lot of women, one would expect pro-abortion advocates to extoll any narrowing of “the wage” gap. But what do we see in real life?

Well, here we see a straightforward comparison of median incomes over time, that doesn’t control for profession, education, work experience, or hours worked (“full-time” varies widely in actual amount of work done). It shows a pretty steady lack of change from 1963 to 1982, starting at 60.7% and ending at 61.7%, with a high of 61.7% and a low of 56.6% during that period. Curiously, the lowest number came in 1973, the year Roe v. Wade was decided. Starting in 1983, a generally upward trend began, ending in 2000 at 10.3% higher, or 73%. An accompanying press release complains that the changes were flat during the 1990s, hovering between 70% and 74%. One would expect these numbers to make it into the general conversation, and be offered as proof that “abortion is working.” Instead, the numbers most often thrown at me range from 60% to 65%, and often with the complaint that it really isn’t getting better.

Meanwhile, the National Center for Policy Analysis (the sort of think tank that the papers always feel compelled to describe as “right-wing”—though for some reason they always call Brooking “non-partisan”) publishes a policy analysis showing that the gap is largely gone when you make a meaningful comparison, and it is at best ignored and otherwise declared to be flawed, wrong, or agenda-driven.

Well, again, which is it? Is abortion a safeguard against sexism, and a tool for empowering women and increasing their earning power (and, presumably, the consequent political power), or is it a failure? If it is successful, why isn't "" relasing the study, and NCPA saying, "No, no, you've got it all wrong. Abortion is a failure!"

I have to stop here, in the middle of the argument, for want of time. More later.
Seeking the Lost (Buchanan)

Will you go and speak to the lost ones here
To the ones who have gone astray?
Will you lead them back to the Shepherd’s fold
From their wand’rings in sin’s dark way?


Will you seek them now,
Will you seek them now?
Will you show them the way?
Will you show them the way?
Some one may be lost,
That you might lead home,
To that bright land of perfect day.

Will you go and speak to the sinners blind
And who walk in the midnight gloom?
Will you bear some light to their darkened mind?
Will you tell them their coming doom?


Will you tell them all if they will believe
That their souls will be truly blest?
For the Savior said that they shall receive
Precious blessings of peace and rest.


Will you go and tell them the Savior died
And provided for them the way?
If they fully trust in the Crucified
He will pardon their sins today.

Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Life doesn’t begin at conception (Part I)

Okay, that’s not really true. So far as I can tell, so far as my reason allows me to understand these things, it would appear that life does in fact begin at conception. But it’s time to stop arguing that it does. (Bear with me here, and keep your finger off the “flame this SOB” key until you finish reading.)

First, it is the settled law of the land that life does not begin at conception. Roe v. Wade, as bad and muddled a decision as it is (and please, don’t argue about it with me or anyone else if you haven’t read at least the 4-5 page summary part of the decision) is clear on this much. And Roe has achieved the kind of status in law that is extraordinarily hard to dislodge. “Stare decisis” has been invoked around it in too many cases for it to have much probability of being overturned. Short of a constitutional amendment, I don’t think the United States Code or Constitution will ever directly afford legal protection to a nonviable fetus.

Second, it’s not a good argument to make, when those who make it are almost all religious people, and many of those who oppose it are not. For, obviously, it is a matter of faith that life begins at conception. And while it is equally true that it is a matter of faith for people who favor abortion that life does not begin at conception, you will never get them to admit this, any more than they admit atheism has become a faith unto itself. You can’t win an argument with an opponent who is not honest about his premises.

If we cannot expect, then, to change the law of the land to respect life at its earliest stages, and we cannot hope to persuade abortion proponents that life begins very early indeed, how can we possibly hope to fulfill our duty to protect life?

The answer lies in the rhetoric of the opposition, at the heart of their argument, in the very words “a woman’s right to choose.” I must admit a candid admiration for the Madison Avenue fellow who crafted this phrase: no corporate slogan has ever resonated so clearly and fully with its intended argument. Whoever it was clearly served the Devil, of course, but those who profess to be on the side of the Light, were we to serve God half as well, would surely have triumphed long ago.

It is clever for what it seems to say, and what it omits. It implies without ever actually saying something that all right-thinking people ought to favor: a woman’s right to make choices. What serious Christian would ever argue that a woman ought not make choices? Free will, after all, is an essential component of all serious Christian thought. I will return to this point in a moment.

Its omissions are equally devious. A binary infinitive that lacks an object is really an excellent choice for obfuscation. When you say you are going “to choose” you are generally choosing among a finite list of possibilities, most often between two (hence, the “binary” aspect). That is, however many possibilities you begin with, when you make a final decision it almost always comes down only to this or that, as reason pares away improbable choices well in advance of the ultimate one.

By omitting the object of the choice, one strengthens the idea, first, that it is really the absolute power ever to decide anything for oneself that is at stake, and, second, it avoids an unpleasant discussion of the particular act that is under consideration. Since nearly everyone alive (except certain totalitarians and Peter Singer) would rule at least a few possible choices out of bounds a priori--and would candidly acknowledge that no one’s choices are completely unfettered—this is a really remarkable sleight of hand.

Part II will tomorrow take up what to do with this information.
The Quiet Hour

Speak, Lord, in the stillness
While I wait on Thee;
Hushed my heart to listen,
In expectancy.

Speak, O blessèd Master,
In this quiet hour,
Let me see Thy face, Lord,
Feel Thy touch of power.

For the words Thou speakest,
“They are life” indeed;
Living Bread from heaven,
Now my spirit feed!

All to Thee is yielded,
I am not my own;
Blissful, glad surrender,
I am Thine alone.
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Monday, November 11, 2002

A note to Greg Popcak (whom I really do like in spite of how much I yell at him)


I can't tell you how much comments like today's about my archdiocese grate. Imagine if I said "Tell me, does anything good come out of the Popcak family?" and then went on to list the failings of several members, and you'll understand where I'm coming from. I certainly wouldn't want my family to be judged by my own actions. The fact that Rod Dreher can't stop railing against his Bishop--in effect, complaining about his own family--may make it seem okay, but I assure you it is not.

The Archdiocese of Boston is a place where a lot of evil has happened, but that is true of every diocese in the world. But an awful lot of good happens here. For one thing, we still celebrate the Eucharist every day. For another, people still go to confession in about the same proportion as your archdiocese. People in hospitals still receive extreme unction. Men and women are joined in Holy Matrimony. Children are baptised (even, I am led to understand, the children of sinners).

Cardinal Law may be a broken, imperfect man, but the last time I checked, he was still the Cardinal, still my Bishop. (I'm fairly certain the Boston Globe would run at least a classified ad to announce the change.) My father is a man with many failings, too, and if they made the papers, I rather expect you'd be sending me a note saying "So sorry to hear about your Dad," instead of praising God that he isn't *your* father.

I condone not one iota of the protection of abusers and mismanagement of the archdiocese of Boston by Law, McCormick or any of the others. But I'll thank you in future for not confusing their sins for the nature of my particular neighborhood in the Church.
I can't believe I didn't include LCDR Michael Scott Speicher, USN, (MIA) in my particular list of military people below. Please keep him and his family in your prayers today as well.
Thank You

Thank you to those who sent me notes in response to my request for help on Friday. Opinion was about as divided as I was myself: split, but biased on the side of not holding the presence of so many anti-life politicians against a charity whose work is feeding the poor. That is where I was headed, before my post, and where I wound up.

I opened the invitation on Friday, started getting interested, then saw the names and swore. My first reaction was to say, "Forget about them. It's about people who are hungry. Go." But then I got worried that I was too easily giving in, taking the path of little resistance, to make myself feel better about doing something for those in need, but ignoring others in the process. Once I get myself worked up into one of these "how righteous will I be?" conversations, the only thing left to do is to seek opinions from others who are less apt to be a three-, four-, or five-handed Tevye than I.

I am not usually one for "ritual purity." I find that when I want to be that way, it is usually a distaste for certain people, people I would rather not be around, masquerading as righteousness. In this case, I have a long-running dislike for the two Senators, coupled with a strong distaste for the Congressman since I lived in his district, that is partially but not entirely owing to their absolute, categorical refusal to acknowledge the nature of their stances on abortion. (For one thing, if you have a last name starting with "O'" as I do, you tend to have very, very strong opinions about the Hyannis Irish, many of them uncharitable in the extreme).

I have not yet decided whether to go to the event at all, but the decision is now entirely about the merits of attending (versus making a donation and not attending) and financial grounds (did I mention I've quit my job?), and not about eating dinner with tax collectors and prostitutes. So thank you for helping me work through it.
I don't honestly care whether you are "pro war" or "anti-war" today. Take a moment, and thank God you live in a country where young men and women voluntarily surrender part of their liberty, that yours might never been taken from you by force. Thank God that, caricatures of some on the extremes of left and right notwithstanding, the most powerful military the world has ever known is firmly under the control of democratically chosen leaders. Thank God that the nation had the stomach and the wherewithal in 1861 to fight and persevere in a war that led to the destruction of slavery, and that people who prefered peace to fighting nevertheless destroyed European totalitarianism and Japanese imperialism.

Say a prayer, then, for those today under arms, that they may not need to fight. But should a battle come, that they will be ready, and victorious. In particular, please keep in your prayers Maj. Chris Holmes, USAF, LT (jg) David Collins, USN, LT Doug Atkins, USCG, and LT Oliver Grant, USA.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Here's my submission to the "Not in Our Name" petition. Some days I just can't help but undermine things I find asinine.

"Tuttle Jonathan S. US Army, Capt., 4077 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital"

(I don't, by the way, find all opposition to war with Iraq asinine. I don't agree with it, but this petition does not rest on any of the solid grounds for such opposition. Personally, I find the thought of this war repugnant, but I find the thought of failing to act worse.)
Is there any doubt that Denzel Washington will be playing him in the movie? (Or that there will be a movie?)

A Public Service Announcement

Your dog, no matter how cute, well-mannered, or "just like a person" he is, does not belong in the workplace.

Thank you.
A little help please

There is a Catholic charity that my wife and I support that does very good work in a place where not enough good happens. Aside from the Church, it is really the only charity to which we give time and money and other things with any regularity. In the mail today was an invitation to their annual dinner and auction. (Those who object to such events need to understand that they reach a segment of the population that don't normally give very much, and--properly run--increase the net giving for an organization whose fundraising efforts are fairly young. So pipe down, and just write your check if you think they are wasteful.)

The honorary chairs of this event, unfortunately, are the bloviated Senator of Irish ancestry, the fake-medal-tossing, billionaire-marrying other Senator of Irish ancestry, the September 11-Why-do-they-hate-us?-Congressman from that district of Irish ancestry, and a state Senator whose ancestry I don't know. The first three profess to be Roman Catholic; I don't know about the state senator. All four of these folks score a big fat goose egg on pro-life issues, with the groups who track voting records. (Among other things, this means that the three who go to Washington voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion.)

Here then is my probelm: This charity has nothing to do with family planning or anything like it. It is a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, and food pantry for poor people in one of the poorest parts of Massachusetts. It does good, Christian work.

At the same time, it is run by Catholics, has the pastor of my former parish on its board, and yet it is borrowing the prestige (if that is the word) of three Catholic national legislators who actively work against an issue our Church rightly proclaims to be one of the most significant moral issues of our time. On the other hand, it has simply snagged the state and federal legislative delegations to draw attention to its work. But (if I may have a Tevye moment) on the other hand, these men and this woman may now borrow on the prestige of the charity to bolster their own Catholic credentials.

What is a boy to do? Overlook it? Stop supporting the charity, whose work as I say is not at all connected to abortion? Protest to the people in charge, but keep supporting? Simply skip the event? I am fairly up against a lee shore on this, and would appreciate hearing from you.
Be Firm and Be Faithful

Be firm and be faithful; desert not the right;
The brave become bolder the darker the night.
Then up and be doing, though cowards may fail;
Thy duty pursuing, dare all and prevail.

If scorn be thy portion, if hatred and loss,
If stripes or a prison, remember the cross.
God watches above thee, and He will requite;
Forsake those that love thee, but never the right.
Friday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather. For the repose of the soul of Kathy's mother. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

A few post-election thoughts

I don’t know if anyone really comes here for my political thoughts, though it hardly seems likely. Nevertheless, since my political thoughts this time around are strongly colored by my religious ones, here goes:

1. All elections are a mixed bag, morally speaking. Since broken people elect equally or even more broken people, they cannot help but be mixed. It is perhaps the biggest tautology ever to appear on Kairos, but I will say it anyway: I am a politically conservative person. Nonetheless, the general trend towards the Republican party (to which I have never belonged)** is hardly unqualified good news. For one thing, though I truly believe the free market is a surer way of reducing poverty than government handouts, and though I loathe the class warfare the Democrats constantly wage as Institutionalized Coveting, I do think that the reputation of many republicans as mean-spirited or hard-hearted is, shall we say, not entirely unmerited.

2. In spite of this, I don’t think of voting for Republicans as “the lesser of two evils” in most cases, but the opportunity to do more good. The only sense in which they are the “less evil” choice, in general and allowing for particular exceptions, is in that all candidates are human (except of course the extraterrestrials controlled by the CIA and/or the UN--but I digress). Cast in those terms, it is a choice of who can effect the most good.

3. President Bush really needs to resubmit Charles Pickering’s name to the Senate. Today.

4. I sincerely hope that the defeat of the Democrats will lead to a resurgence of that party. But, for that to happen, Terry McAuliffe’s odious style of “Clinton minus the charm” will have to be tossed over the transom. The Permanent Campaign needs to become a thing of the past, and WJC needs to be fully and finally repudiated. This will only happen when the Democratic Party understands that he was unique, and the things he got away with will not work for others. Gary Condit should have alerted them to this fact, but did not. Perhaps a crushing defeat in places where the battle should not have even been close will do so. This will be a good thing, both for Democrats and Republicans.

5. If Sandra Day O’Connor or William Rehnquist really is considering retirement, please do it quickly, before Susan Collins or Olympia Snow or any other Democrat-in-Republican-Clothing goes all Jeffords.

6. Send help to Suzie Terrell in Lousianna. Mary Landrieu, the Democrat who got 46% of the vote, identifies herself as a Roman Catholic, and is not entirely hopeless on the life issue, but she is pretty far gone. A runoff election is to be held in a few weeks, and Republicans got the majority of the vote the first-time around. This race is very much up-for-grabs.

7. Note to Trent Lott: If Democrats threaten to filibuster anything, make them. Seriously. Make them stage a filibuster. Make them bring in cots, and sleep in the aisles. Let C-Span and CNN and Dan Rather broadcast hour after hour of coverage of Democrats reading from cookbooks and novels, halting the government in wartime in order to score points with a vanishing base. A filibuster is a no-cost threat with a high return for them right now. See how much stamina Teddy Kennedy and Frank Lautenberg have.

8. If Republicans are going to ask for a recount in South Dakota, that’s fine. But stop at that request. If the Democrats can plausibly be shown to have engaged in fraud, then seek criminal prosecutions of those who did so. But don’t refight the battle of Florida in South Dakota. Democrats are better at that kind of nastiness, and it won’t work for you.

**In fact, the only parties I have ever been a member of are the Democratic Party, and, for literally about 10 minutes, the Communist Party. When I first registered to vote during a Registration Drive in High School, I checked “Communist” as a joke. At lunch a few minutes later, a friend whose father worked for the FBI or some other federal law enforcement agency pointed out that this fact, noted by the County, would almost surely result in the opening of a permanent file with my name on it. So, I returned to the desk, tore up my original form because of a mistake on it, and registered as a Democrat, which lasted until my sophomore year of college, at which point I became an independent, permanently, in all likelihood. (Though the One-Party + Governor system here in Taxachusetts makes me consider annually whether I should change my registration so as to vote in the primary, the only election that counts for most races.)
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For all those newly elected or reelected, of whatever party. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather. For the repose of the soul of Kathy's mother. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

This is not surprising to me in any way, shape, or form.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Quando omni flunkus moritati. The new motto of Kairos.
I just accidentally got my necktie caught in the office shredder. I just thought you should know that.
"They're not baaaaad, just different."

[Sorry, can't help revelling in word play sometimes.]

Gay Sheep May Help Explain Biology of Homosexuals

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gay sheep that mate only with other rams have different brain structures from "straight" sheep, a finding that may shed light on human sexuality, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

I'm sure it's just my narrow mind, but I can't help but wonder whether the choice of the word "gay" to describe a sheep is really especially useful, except for political reasons. And how come Reuters, the news service that won't call al Qaeda "terrorists" without the scare quotes, can describe a sheep as being "gay" with a (ahem) straight face?

I also wonder (and you have to read the whole article to understand this) whether, if someone comes up with a pill to increase aromatase in human brains, this will be viewed as good news by large segments of the news media. But I'm pretty sure a heavy investment in the stock of a pharmaceutical company that did so would pay off fairly significantly.

These findings, no doubt, will be held up as "proof" that "being gay" is "natural." But I wonder if it doesn't instead indicate that the statement "intrinsically disordered" becomes more literally true. For myself, I'm actually somewhat ambivalent about that statement--I can't quite square it with many of the gay friends I have had over the years. But finding a malfunction in the brain--and possibly seeing a medical treatment for it--would probably lead me out of ambivalence. (Though there's much too much subjunctive mood in the last couple of sentences for anyone to need to bother about them as yet.)

But consider: accept for a moment the 10% number asserted by some gay advocates as accurate. (There are all kinds of reasons to doubt it, and to think the actual number is between 1 and 4%, but forget that for now.) That would mean that 90% of the population is not gay. An incidence of a medical condition in only 10% of the population (never mind in only 1 to 4%) would have to be considered an "abnormality" (and was until the DSM changed its mind a few years ago).

Now, in March the Mayo clinic estimated the incidence of ADHD in children at 7.5%. Other studies have put the number at as little as 1% and as high as 20%. (In other words, statistically the same as or higher than the reported incidence of homosexuality.) As it happens, Ritalin is one of the most widely consumed pharmaceuticals in the country. There is wide disagreement about the actual meaning of a diagnosis of ADHD, and the appropriate course of treament. But no one who has studied the issue (or who has taught in a classroom) doubts that there is in fact a group of students who have different brain chemistry, that this is an abnormality, and that they need treatment ranging from behavior modification training to medication.

Call me crazy, but I'm guessing that the debate won't be quite so settled around homosexuality.
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather. For the repose of the soul of Kathy's mother. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
A few days ago, I complained about the tendency of Catholics to see the rules as the religion. An epigram in front of one chapter in “Miracles” by CS Lewis (which I don’t have at hand) says something like “Those who make religion their god, won’t have God in their religion.” It is frustrating, not because the rules are in themselves bad, or even wrong, but because their value is actually very limited, and merely following them in a rote manner has very little to do with attaining Salvation.

Simply put, you must arrive at the point where you pay no attention to the rules. This will sound shocking (though not to those who know me; I often disregard rules, though rarely for the right reason), but only until you understand what it means.

Quick: recite the Our Father!

That’s the sort of thing I mean. If you did what I said, you did it without thinking about the words. There was no method actor moment: “Our Father, who art in…LINE!” You uttered the words without regarding them. This is both good and bad. Good, because it shows you that you have so absorbed the Lord’s prayer that you need not dwell on it to say it, but bad, because the Lord’s prayer is a source of endless comfort and wisdom, and in 60-odd words conveys more wisdom than one lifetime can digest.

So it is with the rules. To “pay no attention” to them, in the sense I meant it above, is to have transcended them, literally. To become at one with them (that is, to atone) so completely that you are no longer worried about breaking this one or that one, or even particularly know the individual rules at all. I find it hardest to recite the Our Father when I am trying to teach it to my son, when the words are the focus, rather than the prayer.

I freely admit that this is no easy thing, and that few people in their lifetimes ever submit themselves so fully to the Divine Will that they achieve this. Heaven knows I am very, very far from achieving it myself. But as with all things in Christianity, failure to accede to the truth does not obviate it. (Once in a while, I overwrite in the style of the rules just because I am a difficult person.) Or, more intelligently put, we are all sinners, but the Law is still the Law.

The error of mistaking the rules for the Law, or for God, is significant. It is not enough to say “but following the rules is the best we can do.” Because the error lies in a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of religion and the nature of God, and opens the door to all sorts of errors, heresy, and apostasy. It must be quashed.

God is not a traffic cop, and the rules are not arbitrary constraints laid down by Him to trip people up. But that is precisely the only image allowed by a legalistic, Lidless Eye interpretation. I say again, that is the only possible understanding of God allowed by religious legalism.

For instance, I do not have to repent before God will forgive me, because God likes to see the two-legged creatures squirm. I have sinned because I have abused my free will. And to repent of that abuse of free will is not comfortable, anymore than quitting substance abuse is comfortable. In fact, the analogy is almost precise, almost ceases to be analogy at all. God has not said “This is My requirement for you,” and ordered the rule writers to make it so. Instead, he has said, “To undo what you have done will hurt, and it would be best if the rules acknowledged the truth of it, and led you to understand that getting clean involves painful scrubbing, where the stain is deepest.”

We are addicted to our sinful nature. The rules of the Church are mere descriptions of what it will take to overcome our addiction. It’s no good watching an alcoholic enter AA, and looking for him to trip up. Of course he will fail. He will, if statistics are to be believed, fail numerous times before achieving “clean and sober.” And even then, his chances of relapsing are high. The Lidless Eye types focus on the 12 steps: have you made enough amends? To the right people? Attended enough meetings? Not, Are you in danger of a relapse? Can I help prevent it?

But the purpose of the steps is not the steps themselves, anymore than the purpose of the ten commandments is the governance of a good society. What kind of a man watches an alcoholic solely for the purpose of seeing him relapse? What kind of a god would do so?
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!

Alleluia! sing to Jesus! His the scepter, His the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone.
Hark! the songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood.
Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by His blood.

Alleluia! not as orphans are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluia! He is near us, faith believes, nor questions how;
Though the cloud from sight received Him when the forty days were o’er
Shall our hearts forget His promise, “I am with you evermore”?

Alleluia! bread of angels, Thou on earth our food, our stay;
Alleluia! here the sinful flee to Thee from day to day:
Intercessor, Friend of sinners, Earth’s Redeemer, plead for me,
Where the songs of all the sinless sweep across the crystal sea.

Alleluia! King eternal, Thee the Lord of lords we own;
Alleluia! born of Mary, Earth Thy footstool, heav’n Thy throne:
Thou within the veil hast entered, robed in flesh our great High Priest;
Thou on earth both priest and victim in the Eucharistic feast.
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather. For the repose of the soul of Kathy's mother. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Updates coming Tuesday. Really.