Sunday, May 20, 2007

Numbers game?

WaPo piece on the "art" of counting denominational membership:
Next month, Ascol [a Southern Baptist pastor] plans to bring a resolution to the denomination's annual meeting in San Antonio calling for "integrity in the way we regard our membership rolls in our churches and also in the way we report statistics."
Integrity? As in picking out who are the real Baptists? I always thought that was a job for the Great Thresher of Heaven. Everyone knows there is a big number gap between those who claim Catholicism as demographic identity marker and those who claim it as their personal all-encompassing faith. That seems to give Protestants cause to shake their heads at the way we inflate our numbers way beyond actual "practicing" Catholics. But what defines membership? The individuals who have privately marked the Church as their own or the Church's mark (or to be more accurate, seal) on the individual as one of its own? I'd say the latter is a far more fair and consistent measurement, both demographically and ecclesiologically.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


LA Times has the story on Cdl. Mahony's sale of the diocesan HQ building Apparently, if you sell parishes off, you're evil. If you avoid selling parishes and instead put chancery office space up on the auction block, you're still evil.
"The cardinal has instructed his attorneys to pull out every weapon to try to deny victims a single nickel," said plaintiffs attorney John Manly. He said the church has enough insurance coverage and other assets to settle the cases without unloading real estate. "The notion that the cardinal would have to sell buildings to pay settlements is just laughable," Manly said.
Mary Grant, Western regional director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said Tuesday's announcement was "probably the first of several shrewd moves Mahony will make to claim poverty."
Everyone knows the LA Archdiocese is wealthy, as are all the metropolitan archdioceses; that's why no archdiocese has yet declared bankruptcy. Even if I think Mahony's scum, he's not crying poverty here; hopefully he's just privileging worship space over office space. Of course, the Catholic Church is very used to a secular society that refuses to see anything but evil in the Church. Plaintiffs should be aware that their attorneys' strategies are not helping their class in the long run. If bishops will always be publicly imputed the worst motives for everything they do, they're not getting much incentive to do the right thing. I just hope the bishops' awareness of this lose-lose situation doesn't disorient them and cause them to lose sight of the real Prize.

Excommunicate them anyway

From The Hill, through the Religion Clause blog on the 18 Catholic House members who are shameless enough to strut their skills at casting pebbles at the Pope for show:
“I’ve always thought also that those bishops and archbishops who for decades hid pederasts and are now being protected by the Vatican should be indicted,” said Catholic Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who spoke to reporters last week.
Since that has been tried by a bunch of state attorneys general and found legally unsupportable, Sen. Leahy must be advocating for a special law that ensures indictment, custom-fit for bishops who won't shut up about abortion. But as far as I know, he hasn't sought any new legislation (which would invariably be struck down as a bill of attainder). So he's just ranting for political theater. I happen to agree that there should be some way of exacting legal punishment for the bishops' negligence. But Leahy's cheap shots are just despicable.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Obviously, Liberation Theology's social science has changed over the years. No more Marxist analysis. This is obviously a good thing, but I don't think jettisoning Marxist frameworks fundamentally changes the substance or significance of Liberation Theology. Marxism was never really essential to Liberation Theology, conservative critics notwithstanding. Liberation Theology is fundamentally a methodology: doing theology in light of concrete work with and on behalf of the poor. As long as theologians continue to engage in this reflection in light of liberating praxis, they will continue to produce theology that challenges the priorities of the institutional Church, which is committed to (and organized around) a fundamentally different model. This will inevitably lead to tension, and at times even conflict. But this tension can be a positive thing, and, at the end of the day, I think there's room for both models.
Prof. Penalver just doesn't get it. Christianity is not about the free flow of theological models. Models packaged as "alternative" or anything separate from orthodoxy are always doomed from the getgo because their foundation is not Christ of the Apostles but some imagined Christ of the philosophers, in this case, those who believe the world to be ontologically divided between rich and poor. They insist that orthodoxy conservatively privileges the rich. But Christianity has never reduced poverty and injustice to materialist categories (which is the Marxist and capitalist sine qua non, so sorry, liberation theology is still Marxist at its core).

It's always telling to me when dissenters simply skip over orthodoxy and glom onto some hip new "prophetic" "model." Because if Catholic orthodoxy does not stand for a true justice and liberation, distinct from but encompassing secular categories, why bother with Catholicism at all? Here's the simplest example of liberation theology's folly: to its advocates, if you reject liberation theology, you're automatically anti-poor. It's neat and simple, but ridiculous. It never enters their mind that orthodoxy might be more pro-poor and that it might have something precious to say about our failures and sins against the poor, just not the way liberation theology childishly may want it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

No more, no less

You Are 63% American

Most times you are proud to be an American.
Though sometimes the good ole US of A makes you cringe
Still, you know there's no place better suited to be your home.
You love your freedom and no one's going to take it away from you!
Nationalism is an abstraction created by the modern State to supplant true religion and thereby monopolize control of bodies and souls.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Christian like Coldplay

Ok, I just discovered Mat Kearney has been claimed as a "Christian artist" with full coverage on Christianity Today and other evie outlets. I like his sound even though he is basically a Coldplay clone that can rap (sometimes I just want pure WB-soundtrack pap). But I needed Google to tell me that he's Christian. I've been listening to him a little more closely and I stil cannot for the life of me tell how his music is any more Christian than, well, Coldplay. So why do I get the feeling that there are "churches" that play his music during their Sunday "worship"?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Affirmative duties & abortion

Prof. Penlaver (liberal Catholic) responding to Prof. Brennan (quite orthodox) on Prof. Kaveny (kinda liberal Catholic) over at Mirror of Justice
I read her argument as making a narrower point by comparing a woman who carries a child to term at risk to her own health or life to someone who risks his own life to save another. I do not see her actually offering a judgment about whether there is a moral obligation so to act (in either case). The law does not compel a person to act in the latter instance, and the question is why it ought to in the former.

Since all pregnancy involves a degree of risk, Patrick has a point in questioning whether the analogy she makes can be cabined. But I think meaningful distinctions about risk can be drawn here, and I think the analogy is an interesting one. Even if one agrees with the Church's position that a woman is in fact obligated to carry the child to term, does the gap between what is moral and what portion of that category it is wise to try to enforce by law provide room to disagree about whether the state ought to insert itself into a woman's decision in this narrow category of cases?
Am I missing something? True, the law does not impose an affirmative duty to rescue a third party. But it's misleading to suggest that creating a legal prohibition against abortion is analogous to imposing an affirmative duty to rescue the fetus. The current law that says you don't have to save another's life is categorically different from our abortion laws which say not only do we not have to save the fetus' life, but that we have a right to affirmatively and intentionally destroy it. So how is the right to abortion anything like the right to not have to rescue each other? But what do I know? I'm not an Ivy League law professor.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I'll tell you who really won tonight's GOP debate: the Democrats. I'm not sure if GOP planners considered how MSNBC & the DNC might conspire against their candidates by letting Chris "Hardball" Matthews moderate their debate, but that was probably the worst moderating job I've ever seen. Matthews lazily made up his own questions extemporaneously and then exerted only the thinnest semblance of order over the candidates. It made all the candidates look very edgy, confused, off-balance, and even more frumpy than they already looked. And the most ridiculous questions, like "which of you don't believe in evolution?" and "should Bill Clinton be back in the White House?" I thought I misheard the question. If I were the GOP, I'd be screaming for Matthews' head.

Insulted by facts?

I don't have a dog in this race, but I love Mr. Hitchens' implicit hat tip to MacIntyre's critique of emotivism, that insipid belief that one's dignity/self-esteem is only respected when the individual's gut feelings are accorded synonymity with reason and conscience.
1. "Dear Mr Hitchens, I feel utterly insulted by your gratuitous claim that there is no such thing as ADHD'. You are obviously an ignorant moron. You should do some research on this, and then you would know that it was a real problem."

A. An insult can only be offered to a person, directly, and concern his personal failings or faults. It is not possible to be 'insulted' by a statement of fact, or by an argument you disagree with. If the statement isn't true, then you are well placed to prove that. If you disagree with the argument, then you can say so. To say that you have been 'insulted' is to refuse to accept that there may be some truth in what I say, possibly because you have some doubts about the matter yourself. In fact I often find that angry, personal vehemence in an argument is a sign that the person involved has serious doubts about his or her position. Let us begin as we mean to go on, and treat this as a matter of facts and logic. Also, as it so happens, I have done a great deal of research on this matter, not least as a result of dealing with several waves of correspondence on the subject. And the more research I have done, the more alarmed I have become at the great numbers of children and teenagers being drugged because they are supposed to be suffering from a complaint for which there is no established, objective test.