Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How to write about Africa

...or, how to spot degenerate Western liberals when they bloviate over the Church's murder of Africans by teaching abstinence.
Throughout the book, adopt a sotto voice, in conspiracy with the reader, and a sad I-expected-so-much tone. Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can't live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this. If you are a man, thrust yourself into her warm virgin forests. If you are a woman, treat Africa as a man who wears a bush jacket and disappears off into the sunset. Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated. Whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.
Liberals aren't too different when it comes to Asia, or for that matter, anyone different from them. Be sure to read the whole article. Delicious satire.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Redeemer's redemption

I gotta hand it to Tim Keller. He's doing a helluva job...for a Protestant. Harharhar. Seriously, Keller has proven himself to be no charlatan preacher so he's got my hat tip. NY Times has a relatively sophisticated portrayal of "Manhattan's leading evangelist."

But I too question with the Times whether a church can or should be built on a singular personality, other than Christ himself alive and ever-present (which is and can only be the Eucharist):
A looming question for Redeemer, though, is how much of what Dr. Keller and his team have built can be maintained when he ultimately exits the stage. When he was out for several months in the summer of 2002 while undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, attendance dipped noticeably.
The conventional Protestant reply is that it doesn't really matter. Churches come and go. So long as Christ uses Keller to transform lives and save the lost, then he's doing more than good, even if it all dies away in the long run. All our works are rags to God anyway. The problem with this answer is that besides being trite, it reinforces the "next big thing" mentality where Christians are trained to always look either to be or to consume the next hot Christian fad. Then believers are no longer seeking Christ, but chasing after their own desires and aspirations. This is the essence of a hyper-capitalist, not Christian, culture. Redeemer-type churches do nothing to liberate believers from the iron cage of American solipsism.

In essence, Keller is a good pastor in need of a even better Church.

Renaissance & Haugenmusik

NY Times article on the L'Homme Arme family of Renaissance masses. It frolicks through the winding turns of Renaissance musical arcana before finally arriving at its ideological destination:
Faced with such examples, Mr. Blachly says, "The best I can offer is that sacred and secular were not such separate categories as they have come to be for us."
That may be true, but as much as the sacred and secular have been polarized, so has our typically dualistic culture been guilty of the other extreme, of anointing everything secular as sacred. The defenders of Marty Haugen, et al, tend to argue that throughout church history, liturgical music has always drawn from popular genres, therefore Marty's music is sacred. But the issue for traditionalist contrarians has never been over identifying a purely sacred genre. Pop music is not per se an evil...but most of it IS and Haugenmusik IS. The test is in the Tradition which does impose theological standards, which Von Balthasar's theological aesthetics has helped us to discern. A single melody without any lyrics has a "form" that must be tested for its seaworthiness and longevity on the waters of divine worship. A Josquin Mass though five hundred years old remains remarkably fresh, capacious, and ergonomically well-designed in terms of its musical structure to contain the unfathomable doctrines and prayers of the Credo or Agnus Dei. As today's Mass reading instructs:
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; if he does, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine, fresh skins!’ Mark 2:18 - 22
Pop music tends to keep us caged within the prevailing secular Zeitgeist. Haugenmusik is all about naked "spirituality," an individualistic emotionalism incapable of representing any Christological substance. And that's why it and most pop is evil, not because it's pop. May Haugenmusik be an Augenblick on the stage of liturgical history.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wieseltier on Scientism

Huhoo. This is just too delicious. Opening salvo:
THE question of the place of science in human life is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical question. Scientism, the view that science can explain all human conditions and expressions, mental as well as physical, is a superstition, one of the dominant superstitions of our day; and it is not an insult to science to say so. For a sorry instance of present-day scientism, it would be hard to improve on Daniel C. Dennett's book. "Breaking the Spell" is a work of considerable historical interest, because it is a merry anthology of contemporary superstitions.
...feast on the rest here. And I thought only Christians found Dennett to be full of crap.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Thoughtful, heart-warming words from the Ignatius Press Blog's fan mail bag:
I have to say that the Catholic Church and the DaVinci Code Hoax book are full of s***!! The Catholic Church is one the the biggest liars and responsible for the biggest cover-ups in the History of the planet. Christianity has killed more people than any other group in History. This is History!!!! Throughout History, the Catholic Church has alienated, imprisoned, and killed individuals who who were/are free thinkers (scientists, philosophers, scholars, etc...) and came up with ideas and knowledge that went against what the church stated and/or preached, and than later the church accepted these ideas and knowledge as "truth". What about these innocent people who were alienated, imprisoned, and killed for no reason?!!! The church has killed far more people deamed "witches" and/or heretics than you claim in you bulls*** books!!! Why are you so scared?!!! Why are you so stupid and ignorant?!!!!

The Catholic Church is the richest entity on the planet. If the Catholic Church is supposedly into helping people, how can you live with yourselves making and having so much money when people are struggling to live day to day. You make me sick!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Hoasca tea & Judicial Activism

Very nicely put by the amici to the hoasca tea-religion case that SCOTUS just ruled on yesterday:
The Government's suggestion that carving out a RFRA exemption from the drug laws would represent judicial activism is entirely backward. This case does not involve courts ordering an exception to an Act of Congress based on general language in the Constitution. It involves an exception to the Controlled Substances Act based on another Act of Congress that expressly calls for exceptions to federal statutes. The case involves two federal statutes, and each must be taken seriously. It is not judicial activism to read the two together and rely on one to create an exception to theother. Judicial activism would be refusing to enforce RFRA.
Chief Justice Roberts and all 8 of his merry justices bought it. And of course, Mirror of Justice has it covered.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

You can't handle Religious Freedom

Steve Shiffrin has these conventional thoughts at Mirror of Justice on the Vagina Monologues at Catholic U's.
Freedom is freedom for truth. Error has no rights. This was the perspective of the Church for many centuries. It was used to support censorship and persecution in many countries. The same perspective was employed by Protestant countries for the same purposes and by non-religious dictatorships. The freedom was the same; the truth was different.

At least with respect to the actions of government, Vatican II changed the perspective of the Church. Vatican II respects the dignity of the individual and his or her freedom to make religious choices. It respects the right of individuals to choose error, but hopes to lead them toward truth. As I understand it, liberal Catholics believe that individuals should enjoy the same freedom with respect to Church teaching. They should, for example, have been free publicly to maintain that religious freedom was demanded by appropriate conceptions of human dignity when Church teaching was to the contrary.
First of all, Church teaching cannot be contrary to human dignity, and if you think it does, then you don't get Catholic teaching. The doctrine that "error has no rights" has not been overturned and is still correct, even after Dignitatis Humanae. Persons, however, do have inalienable rights. But I would hold on to the principle that there is no unconditional "right" to spread error, especially harmful error. This does not grant a right to religious institutions to actively suppress error outside its borders. The Vagina Monologues is not a person; it's a play. A university can ban a play from campus. A university can limit what a speaker may or may not speak on if she's invited on the university's dime. To assume that the principle inexorably leads to bloody persecution and repression borders on paranoia. So let's get off the pre-Vatican II Church's back -- it's getting old.

What is almost always overlooked is that the erroneous viewpoints being pushed onto Catholic campuses are not just at variance or at odds with Catholic teaching; they're utter nonsense that do not deserve the respect of university-level discourse. Just because a lot of university-educated people love it doesn't magically transubstantiate bad milk into good meat. VM is not about expanding the debate; it's about pure mockery of any other viewpoint but its own. If it affirms anyone, it does so by way of incitement to hate everything that differs from it. That kind of material belongs on Jerry Springer, not a university campus.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Martyrs of the other drug war

Rob Vischer, law prof at the Univ. of St. Thomas, at AEI Online, makes a fine point in the war over pharmacists' conscience rights:
Hopefully, our elected officials will step back from the rhetoric that has dominated both sides of the debate. They can do so by keeping in mind three fundamental—but frequently overlooked—truths about our society. First, if pressed by pro-life advocacy groups for a conscience clause, legislators should remember that supporting freedom of conscience does not mean that individuals must be legally empowered to act on the dictates of conscience without any possible negative consequence. An individual’s conscience should not be snuffed out by state edict, but neither should it be elevated as an absolute trump over the similarly conscience-driven convictions of employers and customers.
True Christian martyrs have never demanded that the law of the State give them free pass when they stood up for their faith. Christian discipleship entailed saying to oneself, "This is what I believe, and let the chips fall where they may, even to the death if necessary." None of this whining about violation of our conscience rights. When Christians lobby the state to respect human rights, it's on behalf of others who are oppressed and of the State which also needs redemption. But when conservatives expect the state to protect their faith and morality from all the slings and arrows of the world, they fall into the same victimization mentality canonized by the Left and begotten by all our rights-obsessed identity politics. The Cross was never meant be greased and made comfy by the law.

What about the Rights of the Born?

I keep confusing Anne Lamott and Annie Dillard. Both are of this breed of literary "soul sisters" and count Kathleen Norris among their numbers. The former is Protestant and the latter Catholic. Lamott, not surprisingly, had this to say recently in a LA Times op-ed with the silly title, "The Rights of the Born."

I am so confused about why we are still having to argue with patriarchal sentimentality about teeny weenie so-called babies — some microscopic, some no bigger than the sea monkeys we used to send away for — when real, live, already born women, many of them desperately poor, get such short shrift from the current administration.

Most women like me would much rather use our time and energy fighting to make the world safe and just and fair for the children we do have, and do love — and for the children of New Orleans and the children of Darfur. I am old and tired and menopausal and would mostly like to be left alone: I have had my abortions, and I have had a child.

But as a Christian and a feminist, the most important message I can carry and fight for is the sacredness of each human life, and reproductive rights for all women is a crucial part of that: It is a moral necessity that we not be forced to bring children into the world for whom we cannot be responsible and adoring and present. We must not inflict life on children who will be resented; we must not inflict unwanted children on society.
The self-contradictions are dizzying.

What a blowhard

Once upon a time, I admired Christopher Hitchens. It's been so long since then that I can't even remember why. But I think it had something to do with his precise, hard-hitting prose and his love of Orwell. Then his shark-jumping moment came with his "expose" on Mother Teresa's grand scam to keep the Third World mired in destitution with all her nonsense about embracing poverty. How do you top smearing an old lady? Well, you don't. Since then, Hitchen's navel has sucked Hitchen's head so far into itself, I think his brain is losing circulation. Just look at two recent articles he wrote for Slate.com.

1) On Garrisson Keillor's NY Times review of Bernard Henri-Levy's new book on America:
"As always with French writers," says Keillor, "Lévy is short on the facts, long on conclusions." I would give about, oh, five cents to know which ones Keillor has in mind. Perhaps he has been boning up on his Foucault or Balibar or Derrida, in which case he modestly makes no show of his own learning. He cannot mean Albert Camus or Olivier Todd or Michel Houllebecq. Nor can he have read BHL's last book, which was a very detailed investigation of the murder of an American reporter named Daniel Pearl. I think BHL did a service to America there, as he did when he warned years ago of the dangers of the Taliban and Slobodan Milosevic, at a time when America was sleeping. But of course, guarded as it is by stout commonsensical fellows like Keillor, who think we should tend to bidness right here and stay out of them furrin places, our culture has little to fear except fear itself.
Hitchens' reading abilities are at the level of a high school thrasher if he couldn't catch Keillor's irony in the quote he posted. I read the Keillor review and the guy was being coy when he said "As always with French writers" -- a dash of wit that completely flew over Hitchens' head, which isn't hard if it's stuck in your navel or your arse. Keillor had just quipped that Lévy is quite comfortable with phrases like "as always in America." So he threw a right-backatcha with his "As always with French writers." Hitchens read it simply on its face as a serious declaratory statement, silly wabbit. The guy really does need to calm down. Every time I see him on TV, he's looking more and more disheveled and jittery -- a product of his ever-growing churlishness towards all things not Hitchens. All anyone has to do is peep "Religion!" and he'll bark like a feral alley mutt. At least Levy is having fun mocking America and its religiosity.

2) On the cartoons of Mohammed:
It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger. But these same principles of mine also prevent me from wreaking random violence on the nearest church, or kidnapping a Muslim at random and holding him hostage, or violating diplomatic immunity by attacking the embassy or the envoys of even the most despotic Islamic state, or making a moronic spectacle of myself threatening blood and fire to faraway individuals who may have hurt my feelings. The babyish rumor-fueled tantrums that erupt all the time, especially in the Islamic world, show yet again that faith belongs to the spoiled and selfish childhood of our species.
As Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross would have responded to Hitchens, "Oh, what a big man you are! Hey, let me buy you a pack of gum. I'll show you how to chew it. Whoof. You're pal closes, and all that comes out of your mouth is bile. Ooh, how f----d-up you are!"

Monday, February 13, 2006

DePaul in Denial

University President Dennis H. Holtschneider is a Vincentian priest and said that he will not interfere with curriculum decisions.
That's like the Pope saying he will not interfere in doctrinal decisions. St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

CUA says no to the Talking Vaginas

When performance of the "The Vagina Monologues" at a university becomes a touchstone for determining what is or is not academic freedom, you just have to throw the millennarian doomsayers an extra quarter. Fr. James O'Connell won't have any of it while he's at the helm of America's only pontifical university. The drama queens aren't happy about it.

The same article linked above notes that at the Georgetown Hoya a columnnist was removed from the staff for writing a review that sharply criticized a performance of VM there and his review was never published. But noooo, that's not suppression of free thought. Only those damn papists are capable of infringing on intellectual freedom.

Crescat Sententia wonders whether this issue indicates an intrinsic limitation to greatness for any Catholic university. (HT: Mirror of Justice) I have a soft spot for my fellow Maroons, particularly those who are much smarter than I, but on this is one philosophical point I part ways with the UChicago model of a liberal education. Chicago just never went far enough during its honeymoon dalliance with Thomism back in the day. At any rate, what it would perhaps admit if it did, is that a modern liberal paideia at schools like Chicago cannot tolerate morality or revelation as having any standards accessible to reason. This is its primary intellectual blindspot. Liberal ed holds its students and professors to lofty standards of academic form and content in all its departments, except when it comes to morality, ethics, or religion. There the only standard is tolerance subjectivized and privatized, which is of course a dishonest double standard. Catholic universities, by their very existence and relationship to a Magisterial Church, have always challenged this glaring lacuna at the heart of post-Enlightenment learning in the West.

Fr. O'Connell has simply made it plain and firm that at the Catholic University of America, right reason advises against sponsorship of a play that is of such low quality in terms of its contribution to moral or political discourse as to disqualify it from admission to the school's resources. As a function of intellectual freedom, do grad students have a "right" to put on a performance of The Wiggles? I'd argue no, even though the Wiggles are well known to stand for "family values" (to a fault IMO). They may be great for the family living room but at a university, it's just not up to snuff. Rather than moralizing over the VM problem, I'd argue that this is a "clinical" matter of intellectual and moral standard-setting. Granted, there are no hard and fast rules in excluding the performance of a particular play at a university, but universities can and do make these discretionary calls all the time. To accuse a Catholic university for violating intellectual freedom on these grounds is thus a red herring.

If by "greatness" Crecat Sententia meant the apotheosis of Enlightenment ideals, then I say, let the secularist schools have it. Catholic schools should not be intimidated by these alluring suggestions that they need to sponsor a play of dubious quality to be great. So long as we as a society remain mired in a culture that measures artistic greatness in terms of the amount mud one can splatter on traditions and conventions alone, it will be the Catholic universities that history will hold to be great. Unfortunately, most Catholic universities haven't yet found the cahones to buck the pressure to conform their minds to the world's worst stupidity.

Friday, February 10, 2006

I'm reconsidering it...

I'm about as pigheaded as they come, so in my book Peggy Noonan gets big props for making me reconsider my previous scorn for the behavior of the soapbox egomaniacs at the Coretta Scott King funeral. No one makes me feel better for dropping my own opinions than Ms. Noonan.
A moment for a distinction that must be made. Some have compared Mrs. King's funeral to the Paul Wellstone memorial. It was not like the Wellstone memorial, and you'd have to be as dim and false as Al Franken to say it was. The Wellstone memorial was marked not by joy but anger. It was at moments sour, even dark. There was famous booing.

The King funeral was nothing like this. It was gracious, full of applause and cheers and amens. It was loving even when it was political. It had spirit, not rage. That's part of why it was beautiful.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fetal Perichoresis

Fascinating medical discovery: fetal cells remain in the mother's body for years, sometimes decades! Though not scientifically verified, an even more fascinating medical thesis: it's possible those fetal cells may serve to protect the mother from disease and who knows what else.

You can add that to the list of reasons why contraception is way overrated.

And you can add that to the list of biological metaphors for the theological relationship between Christ and his Mother and the Church.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Catholic Free-Speech-niks

I really don't understand how politically "conservative" American Catholics will defend the Vatican when it preaches the general Catholic principle that freedom apart from virtue is no freedom at all, but then openly criticize the Vatican when it criticizes American or Western pets like "freedom of speech."
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, a retired diplomat of the Holy See, said: "Freedom is a great virtue but it must be shared and it must not be unilateral. Freedom of satire that offends the feelings of others becomes an abuse, and here we are talking about nothing less than the feelings of entire peoples who have seen their supreme symbols affected." Source
But Prof. Bainbridge is "disappointed" by the Vatican's rebuke to the Western press for printing the Danish cartoon as evidencing a "deplorable moral relativism." And surprisingly, so have several conservative Catholic commentators noted that Catholics should stand for freedom of expression above the principle of respect for sacred things of other people. They're obviously in the moral universe of Rudy Giuliani where the example of Islamic extremism serves as nice wash bowl in which we Western Christians never have to take moral responsibility for our own conduct towards non-Westerners.

But the Holy See was on the mark. Maybe American neocons will one day realize that the Holy See actually has some moral and diplomatic wisdom when it comes to dealing with non-Americans. What it said simply was that the incitement to violence was wrong but so was printing the offensive cartoons. No moral equivalence was made and it's not relativistic to condemn two different things in the same sentence.

American Catholics would do well to remember that if any mofo desecrated the Eucharist in public, there should be hell to pay in this life and the next. I mentioned this last night to a Protestant former div school friend of mine who leans left and he retorted that such a response would violate what the Eucharist stands for, invoking the good ol' turn the other cheek principle as a justification for pansy-ass roll-over doormat-ism. But this is classic Protestant denial of the human, try as they may to reduce the Beatitudes to a "Make Love Not War" bumper sticker.

Reverence for sacred things is a basic human instinct. I guess modernity has obliterated that sense in us Westerners so thoroughly that when Muslims react so strongly for their holy things, we're not so much offended by their contempt for our "values" as we are subconsciously shamed by the implicit fact that we as a society have no regard for the sacred anymore.

As Catholics, we should be far more sympathetic to the desecration of anyone's sacred objects, especially if they're cherished by tens of millions of people as sacred. Over the millennia, Catholics have been through waves of persecution by iconoclasts who have mocked us for idolatry, spit on our holy relics, violently torn down our altars and statues, and disfigured our icons. If this is starting to sound like a pro-Osama statement, then you're not getting it. Sacred things are to be respected, even if they're of the "enemy." Terrorists who seek to spill innocent blood, on the other hand, are not. But if you callously or maliciously desecrate sacred objects, well, you're not so innocent anymore. I don't think death is a proportionate punishment, but still, you're not innocent anymore. You're a certifiable asshole deserving zero support from Catholics. Instead, the Danish cartoonist, his editors and publishers are now considered martyrs for the cause of free speech.

Dinesh D'Souza has an intriguing take that I find to be far more reasonable than what I'm hearing from Western Christians.

Fr. Jim Tucker too.

Fr. Robert Araujo on the Mirror of Justice blog provides a helpful perspective on geopolitical role of the Holy See in these matters.

Lone hero file: Nat Hentoff

He's still living in "the abortion capital of the world;" he's still a liberal, civil libertarian, nonreligious veteran journalist and jazz critic....And he's still pro-life. God bless him.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Half.com guilt

I've been selling a lot of my old div school books on Half.com. One guy just bought a classic of liberal Protestantism -- Paul Tillich's Systematic Theology. And I feel like a scumbag for giving that dreck posing as theology additional life. I fear I'm corrupting the youth. Is the sale of used heretical theology books a mortal or venial sin?

Can religion have sacred cows?

Short answer: No, according to the O Most Profane Primates of the West. Indeed, nothing is sacred to the West anymore, except my freedom to have sex, to kill myself, and for that matter, anyone else we agree shouldn't live.

I love how the Western Liberal Cultural Imperialists are patting themselves on the back for their magnanimous response to the Danish Mohammed cartoon mess. All this chatter about freedom of speech and press in the global marketplace is a lot of bunk and totally fails to grasp the Muslim world, at least the part that's pissed off about the cartoons. As if mention of legitimate suppression of Neo-Nazis and child porn advocates weren't enough to reveal the double-standards, it must be noted that Western elites have totally forgotten how religion actually can be a matter of life and death to many people and that it's not "primitive" or "fundamentalist" to take religion that seriously. Sorry, Mr. West, but just because you've privatized religion into a narrow pidgeon-hole of subjective, individual taste, where religion is accorded the same reverence as my favorite flavor of ice cream, doesn't mean everyone else has to buy it. Isn't that simply what diversity, pluralism, and multiculturalism are all about? But no, we're relativists only when it's over our ability to scratch our latest sexual itches; absolutists when it comes to our contempt for serious religion that isn't at our beck and call.

Islam has never had a chance to really respond freely to modernity, much less postmodernity. And so long as the West continues to patronizingly instruct religions older than itself to "get with the program" and require that they turn their age-old beliefs into porridge, it will only further inflame the rage of "true believers." Islam is indeed responsible for its extremists, but the West has got to stop serving as the ignorant accomplice to the radicalization of Islamic orthodoxy, first by being honest about its own relationship to Christianity.

That means recognizing that religion is legitimately about the highest values and therefore it's naturally about life and death if it's worthy to be called a religion at all. By "highest," I don't mean what most moderns mean by it, ie. the ethereal, intangible, subjective, transcendentalist definition. I mean that which is most deserving of our utmost respect, deference, and reverence both publicly and privately, whether you're religious or spiritual or nothing. The West still loves talking about "spirituality" as the negation of institutional and historic religion, or the evolution beyond Christianity, or as some advancement in human progress. But that's just one "myth" about religion, about as scientifically rigorous as my love of fried potato products, about as advanced as the ancient paganisms.

So when the modernists cry foul when Muslims express public and murderous outrage over the mocking of one of their sacred prophets, the modernist has two realistic options: either treat Islam with respect and not impose its baggage over Christianity onto it, or just shut up. Maybe if we respected Islam enough as a true Other (which is not the same thing as tolerating violent extremists), Muslims would find enough space to grapple with modernity and make some workable peace with it to lay down the weapons. Satirizing religion comes after the horse.

Traditional Christianity has always distinguished between religion worth dying for and evil acts worth killing for. The repeated shaming of Islam by the West has pressured it to conflate the two. That does not justify the terrorists one iota. If you're insistent in seeking the deaths of innocent people, there's nothing in Christian faith that keeps us from seeking your destruction if that's what it takes to stop you. But Islam itself - the Quran, her most blessed prophets, her temples and sanctuaries, ie. her intrinsic sacred cows - they must be respected by the West. Forget the theories; it's simple politeness. And in my family, rudeness was a punishable offense; but you can't even suggest that to the fascist freedom-of-speech-niks.

Personally, I think the appropriate punishment for the cartoonist and his editor should be a public spanking. No blood, just a little public humiliation which always does the soul good.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Senate honors Catholic schools

What a church! Take note of the $19 billion savings figure - now there's earning your tax-exempt status fer ya.


Mr. VITTER (for himself and Ms. LANDRIEU) submitted the following resolution; which was considered and agreed to:

S. RES. 364 - February 1, 2006

Whereas Catholic schools in the United States have received international acclaim for academic excellence while providing students with lessons that extend far beyond the classroom;

Whereas Catholic schools present a broad curriculum that emphasizes the lifelong development of moral, intellectual, physical, and social values in the young people of the United States;

Whereas Catholic schools in the United States today educate 2,420,590 students and maintain a student-to-teacher ratio of 15 to 1;

Whereas the faculty members of Catholic schools teach a highly diverse body of students;

Whereas more than 27.1 percent of school children enrolled in Catholic schools are minorities, and more than 13.6 percent are non-Catholics;

Whereas Catholic schools saved the United States $19,000,000,000 in educational funding during fiscal year 2005;

Whereas Catholic schools produce students strongly dedicated to their faith, values, families, and communities by providing an intellectually stimulating environment rich in spiritual, character, and moral development; and

Whereas in the 1972 pastoral message concerning Catholic education, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops stated, “Education is one of the most important ways by which the Church fulfills its commitment to the dignity of the person and building of community. Community is central to education ministry, both as a necessary condition and an ardently desired goal. The educational efforts of the Church, therefore, must be directed to forming persons-in-community; for the education of the individual Christian is important not only to his solitary destiny, but also the destinies of the many communities in which he lives.”: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) recognizes the goals of Catholic Schools Week, an event cosponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that recognizes the vital contributions of thousands of Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the United States; and

(2) congratulates Catholic schools, students, parents, and teachers across the United States for their ongoing contributions to education, and for the vital role they play in promoting and ensuring a brighter, stronger future for this Nation.
Thanks to Religion Clause Blog for the flag.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Are ultrasounds pornographic?

Only in a Culture of Death can images of fetuses be regarded as "too graphic" for public viewing, while quasi-nude women are just about everywhere and regarded as "freedom of speech."

Brownback on the death penalty

Sen. Brownback (R-Kansas) is the shining example of non-ideological, trans-partisan Catholic conscience at work in Congress today. I might disagree with him on particular policy positions, but unlike the overwhelming majority of Catholic politicians on both sides of the aisle, he clearly and earnestly thinks with the mind of a Catholic, beholden to "the King" but to God first. See here how on the death penalty issue, he is apeing neither the arbitrary preferences of his constituency nor those of the puppetmasters of his party, but grappling with the reality of the issue itself.

Against "liberal" Catholics, a distinctive and authentic Catholic position will not extrapolate from abortion to death penalty without distinguishing privately-authorized killing of innocents from state-authorized killing of persons guilty of committing heinous, dastardly crimes against the innocent. In other words, it will not rule out capital punishment categorically under some loosely-knit banner of "Pro-Life." It will not ignore the demands of retributive justice, which, though out of fashion, remains a standard element in the Catholic definition of justice.

At the same time, it will uphold the dignity of all persons, including criminals, and seek their redemption (which does not exclude capital punishment either). It will also regard the state's ability to inerrantly discern guilt beyond reasonable doubt in capital cases with some skepticism. Finally, JPII's advocacy against exercise of the death penalty must also be taken seriously and cannot be dismissed with that favorite overused tool of ideologically conservative Catholics - "prudential judgment." Catholics can test how ideologically-driven they are to the extent they brush off or ignore any of these Catholic concerns.