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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Cutting Loose Baby

"Fetus Cut From Slain Woman's Body" the headlines screamed, as schizophrenia became the order of the day. Virtually every article on the latest incident of in vivo tissue-knapping vacillated on correct terminology. Should they refer to the contents of the uterus as a fetus or a baby? Was Bobbi Jo Stinnett, the murdered woman, a mother or a mother-to-be? The Amber Alert, an emergency response developed to help find missing children, was issued "for the missing fetus." But, within a day, the little one had become a "baby… named Victoria Jo." Fox News showed the most wildly inventive mix of terms in a single sentence, "Montgomery was in possession of the infant believed to be the stolen fetus when police found the baby on Friday, ending a day of frantic searching. DNA tests will confirm whether the girl is Stinnett's."

Whew. You’ve got to wonder how many editors threw their two cents in on that sentence.

Unfortunately, however, given all the hoopla, none of the news agencies took the opportunity to clarify exactly when the child transmogrified from fetus to baby. It clearly didn’t happen when Bobbi Jo Stinnet’s belly was sliced open, as the Amber Alert testified. It didn’t happen when the umbilical cord was cut. It didn’t happen when the child was carried away. Perhaps it happened when the little girl was named Victoria Jo, but that’s open to debate.

The number of issues inadvertently raised in this case are legion. The news media seems to be in a consensus on at least one issue: a fetus clearly doesn’t become a child upon taking first breath, despite what the unconstitutionally clear federal law on partial-birth abortion says. Fair enough.

After all, we are supposed to have a separation of church and state in this country. The rule that a child only exists at first breath is based in Jewish belief. Thus, for the secular media, the idea that the fetus becomes a child simply because it is breathing outside the womb is ridiculously Jewish, just as the idea that a child exists at the moment of conception is ridiculously Christian. Christianity and Judaism, gutter and ghetto faiths respectively, must be kept out of the discussion.

But once the fetus becomes a child, the issues keep coming. For instance, it gives a whole new dimension to the "every child a wanted child" conversation. After all, Victoria Jo was wanted very much, and by multiple people: Mr & Mrs. Stinnett, the Stinnett grandparents, Lisa Montgomery, the police – the list is rather longer than usual. Oddly enough, even though she was arguably the most wanted baby in the nation, that quality doesn’t seemed to have worked out well for any of the people involved. Montgomery killed a mother and aborted the wanted child (fetus?) precisely because she wanted the little one. Wantedness doesn't seem to reduce the incidence of abortion after all.

And that’s the most interesting part. The charge against Montgomery is not illegal abortion – although that is clearly her crime – the charge is kidnapping with a death involved, which makes a lot less sense. How can you kidnap something that isn’t a kid until after it is taken? Why issue an Amber Alert for a child who isn’t a child? And where is Planned Parenthood on all of this? They grumbled, albeit quietly, over the Laci Peterson case, but they seem to have gone completely silent on this most newsworthy event. It reminds one of the Columbine Public High School massacre, when the ACLU famously refused to utter as much as a peep of protest against all the government-sponsored prayer that public school teachers and students engaged in (on government property, no less) during the school day. It is deeply saddening to see such stalwart institutions fail to fight for the important issues.

One can only hazard general guesses as to why Montgomery is not being charged with illegal abortion. We might begin by noting that with this abortion, the mother died, not the baby. But this is not all that unusual. If only Montgomery had been an abortionist puncturing a uterus or sucking out a woman’s intestines at her clinic, none of this would have hit the front page. But the terrible tragedy resides in her lack of medical credentials, which just goes to show how important college degrees are.

We could also hazard the guess that a forced illegal abortion is not a crime. After all, the US Supreme Court ruled in Buck vs. Bell (1927) that the nation had a right to forcibly sterilize its own citizens, and that ruling was never overturned. On January 23rd, 2004, the United States’ Eleventh Circuit Court ruled that an abortionist could forcibly abort a woman as long as he felt medically justified in doing so. The refusal to prosecute Lisa Montgomery for performing an illegal abortion is, in a certain sense, merely an extension of that principle. Montgomery is not being prosecuted for murder or abortion, but only for kidnapping. If she had simply left the child (fetus?) to die after performing the abortion, if she had only been a doctor, she would presumably be in a much better legal position. She certainly wouldn't have made front-page news.

Of course, the greatest irony lies not in the event itself, but in the juxtaposition of another news story with this one. Just five days after the Bobbi Jo Stinnett’s forced abortion, readers were treated to the gushing December 21st headline from CNN about the birth of a premature twin at Loyola Medical Center in Chicago, "Smallest baby a 'great blessing', says mom."

The 8.6 ounce premature twin was never once called a fetus in all the news articles that appeared, and it is again only with greatest difficulty that we can hazard guesses as to why the differences occurred. One might display enormous cultural insensitivity by pointing out that the Amber Alert fetus was torn from the body of a Christian, while the "smallest baby… a blessing" was born to a Muslim couple, so we won’t mention that little irrelevancy. Still, the mystery appears impenetrable unless we conclude that Christian women only carry fetuses, while Muslim women carry children.

Hmmm.... Science can be quite confusing, it seems.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Enlightened Heresies

"Muslims need … a new Enlightenment, a movement away from brutality." This remark came from a friend of mine as we were discussing the problem of faith in the public square. My friend is by his own description, "a militantly agnostic Jew", a philosophy professor who loves to debate anything that comes to hand.

His remark was in response to a discussion of Islamic law. While I acknowledge Muslims are to be admired for their rigorous prayer life, their marvelous emphasis on almsgiving and their belief in Jesus’ virgin birth and consequent great respect for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Islamic system of law is another matter. Sharia is brutal and cannot be permitted to exist.

My friend did not disagree, but he did point out something worth considering. Islamic sharia is not substantially different from the Mosaic criminal code in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Both permit polygamy. Both require the stoning of adulterers, blasphemers and those who lead others away from the faith, although for adultery, Hebrew law required the death of both parties, not just the woman. Both permit the death penalty for children – Hebrew children could be stoned to death for disobeying their parents. The similarities are really rather striking.

However, there are differences. The most obvious? One faith still insists on following a brutal law. The other does not. Why is that? My friend insists on the need for a new Enlightenment, but it was not the Enlightenment that caused Jews to stop stoning disobedient children.

The Real Enlightenment

It may not be politically correct to say this, but the primary reason the law code in the Torah is no longer followed is simple: from the late 300’s AD through the 1900's, Jews lived entirely under the dominion of Christian rulers who forbad the enforcement of Hebraic criminal laws. While the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D. thereby destroying the entire Hebraic system of animal sacrifice, it was Christianity that weaned Jews away from the sharia-like aspects of the Hebraic law.

To this day, polygamy is not illegal in Judaism – rabbis simply forbad the practice in the Middle Ages because it brought undue attention from Christian authorities. Similarly, while many of the Jewish rights to execute were taken from them by pagan Rome, the pagans had not removed all rights of execution. Both Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, for instance, attest that Jewish authorities could execute anyone who defiled the Temple, even a Roman citizen.

But, since 391 A.D., when Theodosius I made Christian Faith the official religion of Rome, that same Christian Faith has influenced the creation and application of law ever since. Because of the Christian dominance, Jews lost the ability to implement any part of their criminal law code. They retained only the right to continue the ritual worship aspects, such as circumcision and the observance of holy days like Yom Kippur and Passover. The Christian enlightenment which began in 391 fundamentally changed Jewish faith practices. No one talks about this, but it is the case. Instead, everyone talks about the Enlightenment and its civilizing influence on the world.

The French Enlightenment

Did the French Enlightenment bring a civilizing influence to the world? There is scant evidence for it. Like my professorial friend, many people suffer from a misunderstanding of what the movement was about. Despite its protestations to the contrary, it was not about human freedom, sweetness and light, liberty, equality or fraternity. The French Enlightenment was about manipulating blood-thirsty mobs in order to commit outrageous barbarities: nothing more.

The French Revolution, the child of the Enlightenment, produced the first totalitarian state. As revolutionaries seized power, mass slaughter became the rule of the day. Like Lenin’s grab for power in Russia over a century later, the French Revolution was primarily an urban phenomenon, in fact, primarily a Parisian event. Indeed, Marx, Lenin and the butchers who followed their logic consciously modeled their work on the French. For this reason, the atheistic appeals to reason and the barbarously violent attempts to crush all religious sentiment are different only in degrees of horrific magnitude.

In France, enlightened revolutionaries required neighbor to inform on neighbor and children to inform on their parents. Parisian jails were emptied, everyone within being mercilessly torn apart by bloodthirsty crowds who paraded through the streets with human heads on pikes as their banners. Priests, nuns and other religious were tortured to death, beheaded, burned alive, or tied together on rafts that were then sunk in the river. The decapitated corpses of men and women were joined in obscene ways and displayed for public amusement while still living men and women were stripped of their clothes, bound together naked and thrown alive into the river in a "republican wedding."

When the Vendee region fought the obscenities of Parisian revolutionaries to the extent of raising an army to repel Parisian soldiers, they were ruthlessly put down and a campaign to exterminate every man, woman and child in the region was begun.

Pregnant women were sliced open and left to bleed to death as their children, with umbilical cords still uniting them to their mothers, were stomped into bloody mush before their eyes or sliced to pieces. Women and girls were repeatedly raped, used again and again until they died, but though many died during the course of the brutalities, this did not stop the violations of their bodies. Corpses littered the streets; in some areas the dead were so numerous they formed pyramids. The enlightened revolutionaries also enjoyed roasting women and children alive – maximal pleasure was gotten by placing the victims in a cold oven that was then heated. Alternatively, children were thrown out of windows and caught on bayonets.

The revolution not only beheaded nearly every one of its own original leaders, it also ended by producing Napolean, the short Corsican whose war upon the continent of Europe would be emulated by atheists like Stalin and Hitler. Of course, these would in turn be emulated by other atheists, mass murderers like Pol Pot and Fidel Castro.

This is the Enlightenment. To insist on enlightenment rather than sharia seems hardly worth the effort.


It is a commonplace to point to the hundreds of Christians throughout history who have launched barbarities similar to those sanctioned by the criminal law codes of Islam, the Torah, or the Enlightenment. However, a further fact is not so often noted. Only the Christian faith has been powerful enough to stop those who launched such barbarities. Whether Christian or Jew, Muslim or enlightened atheist, the only law that forces each human being to respect the dignity of every other is Christian law. If Islam is still barbarously cruel, if Islam has never been enlightened, that is due to the fact that Islam has never fully been brought under Christian dominion.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Wonders of Science

A few weeks ago, I attended a philosophical debate on the merits of abortion. Shortly after the discussion began, I pointed out that this act destroyed a human person.

"Do you have proof of that?" asked several members of the panel simultaneously.
"Of course," I replied, "proof that cannot be controverted."
"What proof would that be?"
"The declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception," I replied.
"That's not proof!" they shouted.
"Oh, but it is," said I, and proceeded to demonstrate how.

In 1931, a Czech mathematician named Kurt Godel demonstrated that any logical system as advanced as arithmetic is built on foundational premises which can neither be proved true nor false within the system. That is, every logical system as advanced as addition and subtraction is a faith-based system. The impact of Godel's observations have yet to be felt in blue-state America. It is rarely put this way, but the physical laws of the universe are testable only in the sense that a tautology is testable, for all of physics, chemistry, indeed any science, is but an exercise in tautology. Any good physicist can demonstrate how the chain on one side of the equation makes that quantity identical to what lies on the other, but that's all he can do. "Testability" means only the ability to observe that black crows are black.

Remember this the next time someone with a blue-state mindset tosses aside a statement of religious faith with a sneer and the exclamation, "That's not science!". Religion is exactly as much a science as particle physics or chemistry in terms of the ability of each to logically demonstrate the truth of the propositions contained within the respective disciplines. Every one of these disciplines is faith-based.

What is Faith?
But what is faith? Faith is not a blind leap. Faith is based in facts. For instance, if I enter a McDonald's and order a hamburger, I have made an act of faith. I do not know that they have hamburger (they may just have run out). I do not know that their hamburgers are edible (perhaps they were yesterday, but the cook is drunk or sick or gone today). However, I have lots of evidence that they can give me a hamburger. There is a sign out front saying they serve hamburgers, a menu instead that lists hamburgers, tables for dining on hamburgers, accoutrements for eating hamburgers (napkins, ketchup, etc.), and people behind a counter who look for all the world as if they wanted to serve me hamburgers and profess that they do when I ask them. Faith is not a blind leap. It is always fact-based. In that sense, it is testable.

Blind faith, on the other hand, is a contradiction in terms. A man who operates on blind faith would enter a hardware store, see the bins of nuts, bolts and various tools, hear the man behind the counter explain how to install a kitchen sink, and then ask that clerk to supply a hamburger. That's blind faith.

If he gets the hamburger, that's a miracle. Religious faith is based in facts. Just as particle physics is based in the historical events of superconducters and the overwhelming witness of people to the events these superconductors produced, so religion is based in the historical events of miracles and the overwhelming historical testimony to the existence of these miraculous events.

Science IS Religion
This has no small bearing on our lives today. Those who would manipulate human life at the most basic level, at the embryonic level, argue that humans now have the information and most probably the technology to 'create life'. This is hardly news. We have possessed the technology for millenia. The necessary tools are called are called "the penis" and "the womb." This is the delivery system designed to unite two gametes together so that a new human person might be formed.

Unfortunately, the blue state mindset that insists on teaching every child the mechanics of using those tools does not understand their purpose. Blue staters are mere technicians. You see, God will create and infuse a human soul no matter how we decide to go about uniting the gametes. We can use the original method (which I find delightful), we can use IVF or similar present-day technologies, or we can do the futuristic things the starry-eyed priests of science dream of. It doesn't matter. From the perspective of life creation, the mechanics won't stop the process. God will infuse a human soul whether we unite gametes using the original method or some new method we thought up ourselves.

The capability to do a thing one way rather than another is really a trivial mechanical question. The only difference reason one might use one method instead of another is the morality involved, a question upon which science is silent. For instance, science gives me a wide range of things to do with a piece of lead: I can make a tin soldier, a pipe or a bullet. Similarly, science allows me to place that lead wherever I want: on a table, in a sink, or force it at high velocity through someone's skull. However, science is unable to comment on the morality of the different actions. Religion, on the other hand, was designed to comment on the morality of these actions. It lays out a perfectly obvious rule: just because we can do something doesn't mean we ought to.

An Attack of Hubris
"But human beings are on the verge of being able to create life, something the morbidly religious assert is reserved to God!" cry the blue-states. Well, it is true that some say this. But those who do betray an extremely basic misunderstanding of how reality works.

Start with the basic fact: God created everything good and He holds all things in existence from moment to moment. Thus, if I were to pick up a chair and beat you to death with it, God would be holding that chair in existence during my entire violent interaction with you. If He - at any point - decided to allow that chair to drop out of existence, I would have no tool with which to beat you. But He doesn't do that. He respects my decision to kill you violently with that chair, even though that decision is completely at odds with what He desires for both of us. Now change the chair to an embryo and watch: the argument doesn't change.

Anyone who says only God can create life makes a true statement, but tells only half the story. We are co-creators with God. That is how reality is supposed to work - that is why reality doesn't warp in and out of existence as we attempt to abuse it. He holds it in existence for us, no matter how bad our temper when we arose this morning. He desires us to act as He does - in perfect love. But we can act in a perfectly beastly manner if we wish. He gave us the honor of being co-creators and He isn't going to withdraw the gift.

So, sure, only God can make a human life, but He will do this only through our agency. We must first do something, we must first choose to participate in the creation of an immortal human being. We do our part by providing the body - the union of gametes. When we do that, no matter how we choose to do that, He will infuse a human soul. In the same way, He will allow me to die if you expressed a very strong desire that I do by firing a bullet through my skull. But firing that bullet with scientific skill does not make it moral. Whether we are manipulating very small children or very small pieces of lead, we will create unhappy and unforeseen consequences that will tear at our society, both the smaller and the larger society, of which we are a part.

Back to the Beginning
This brings us back to the problem of the human person and the human embryo. It is important to remember that the word "person" is a religious term. It was taken over from the Greek word for the mask worn by a stage actor during the Greek plays. Tertullian used it first in a religious sense in the late 2nd century in order to describe how God exists in himself. Boethius defined it in the sixth century and Aquinas explained the ramifications of the definition in the twelfth century.

If modern society is serious about separating church from state, then the state must surrender its use of the word "person." It has no more or less a place in the secular vocabulary than does the God whom it is meant to describe. But all of this does not answer the first question. How do we know a person exists at conception?

Simple. We know that human persons begin at the moment of conception because Mary has always been understood to have been immaculately conceived. Now, the Immaculate Conception means only that she had no stain of original sin upon her at the moment she came into existence. Only persons can sin. Chairs, stones, trees, dogs none of these can sin because none of them are persons. So, if we say Mary was free from sin at the moment of conception, we are simultaneously saying Mary was a person at the moment of conception. Since she is only a human person and no different from the rest of us (apart from this lack of original sin), whatever we can say about her we can say about us.

If she is a person at the moment of conception, so is each one of us. Contrary to popular Massachusetts opinion, we know for a fact that the human person begins at conception because the science of theology tells us so, and we have two millenia of witnesses to back it up.

Isn't science wonderful?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Life in a Graveyard

It has literally been nearly twenty years since last I sat down to intentionally watch a broadcast television event. The occasion? Mitch Albom’s book-turned-movie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It may become for the pagans what It’s a Wonderful Life has been for Christians – a ritual holiday event.

Christians in general, and Catholics in particular, have been raging for years about the Hollywood elite and their stranglehold on the culture. Nearly 20 books have been written on the slanders propagated by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code alone (and I must say, I contributed to that particular double-digit assault). We complain, and rightly so, about "art" like Piss Christ and the dung-smeared "portrait" of the Blessed Virgin, we wail about the Kinsey movie, we defend the Passion of the Christ against scurrilous attacks, in short, we get so defensive that we see demons behind every door.

It is an unfortunate mind-set. Why?

When something good comes along, we should trumpet it to the heavens. Instead, tired from our defense of Christianity and culture, we tend to collapse into the nearest soft chair and exclaim quietly to ourselves, "Finally! Something nice!"

This is likewise unfortunate. We should spend as much time, more time, applauding the good than we do excoriating the bad. But it is a sign of original sin that we do the reverse.

So, today I again fight against my own nature to point out this fact. The Five People You Meet in Heaven may have been written by a non-Christian, it may even have certain New Age tendencies, but it is an essentially Christian work. For those who have been exposed to neither the movie nor the book, the story is relatively simple. Eddie, a maintenance man at an amusement park dies and goes to heaven, where he meets five people who help him understand his life, where it was right and how it went wrong. The premise of the movie corresponds almost exactly to the Catholic understanding: nothing unclean can enter heaven, so we need to be cleansed of our imperfections before we meet God. This can happen on earth (though few of us spend enough time doing it) or in heaven’s mud-room, Purgatory.

Christian symbolism and references abound in the book, and to a lesser extent, in the movie. Four of the five encounters have implicit baptismal references (seashells, driving rain, ankle-deep snow and a river), while the fifth revolves around weddings. In each encounter, the person Eddie meets explains how some vice kept him from realizing a virtue. The story never uses the words "vice" and "virtue," of course, nor are the discussions even obviously a dialogue about these concepts, but that is what lies at the center of each discussion.
Though God’s name is only mentioned twice, and almost in passing, each mention turns out to be pivotal to understanding Eddie’s situation. Scripture references to both the Old and the New Testament are rich and tightly woven into the story line, written in with such enormous skill that most strike us only on a subliminal level.

While this would be enough to recommend the book to any Christian heart, the central importance of the book/movie is much deeper. Precisely because it discusses the virtues and vices in the context of pain, suffering and death, the book allows us to begin a discussion about death itself, a topic frequently and deliberately ignored in this culture.

You may think it odd to say death is ignored here and, to be sure, the cinematic depictions of explosions and corpses, mutilations and dismemberments are too numerous to count. Hollywood loves shows about coroners and suicides, murders and mayhem. But death, the contemplation of death that strikes any thinking person who walks through a cemetery, who tries to imagine each marker a coffin, each coffin a body, each body centered within a somber circle of family and friends, and the flesh encased in the dark earth, this is not encouraged. Understandably so. Nothing quite strikes the soul as the silence of the graveyard when a light breeze blows, caressing the cheek and waving the grass gently over the insensible dead. If your mind is racing, this will quiet it. The time spent there does not lend itself to fueling a shopping spree.

"As you are, I once was/As I am, you will be" – these are lines that could only be found in a graveyard. The reality is hard, especially hard for those who do not know God or do not trust what they know of Him. It is, for this reason, quite a remarkable thing that Mitch Albom’s book has been so popular. Our culture knows that it lacks, but it knows not how to answer that lack. For those who avoid Scripture like the plague, this story fills a void that cannot be filled. In short, like all good stories, it is para-Scriptural.

Tolkien used to describe Beowulf as a Christian story deliberately paganized in order to make it more palatable to a profane culture. Coming from a professor of medieval literature who used the same technique in his wildly successful Lord of the Rings novels, he clearly understood what we need today. A post-Christian culture won’t read Scripture because its members think they already know what is in it. They reject religious writings as childish baubles, religious faith as a relic of the unwashed savage. So, the savage culture their attitudes engender can only be returned to Christian virtue by deliberately masquerade.

Now, those who believe in evolution must necessarily also believe in devolution – the fact that some organisms will become extinct, cast aside by evolutionary process as useless. It never strikes the post-Christian savage that he may be numbered in that group. However, devolution, degeneracy, also called original sin - this is, of course, the central Christian doctrine describing man. Christians too often forget this. We treat with our opponents as if they had power when they, powerless, have really only a child’s crying need for God. Like a parent who delivers the necessary bitter medicine in a sweet ice cream treat, we might consider following the lead of Tolkien and Albom, deliberately paganizing the message so that the savage pagan children around us more easily accept the instruction.

To that end, there is a book that can help. Effective Habits of the Five People You Meet in Heaven, available through Bridegroom Press ( highlights the Scriptural and theological aspects of Albom’s story, helping Christians discuss it with their pagan friends. Once you see the references to Habbakuk and Genesis, to James and John, you can better discuss the power of the story that surrounds them. Pagans always seek out power, and that is the lever which will turn their hearts. We can teach them what they yearn to know. They would discover why Albom’s story is so powerful: well and good. We can show them the Cross that empowers it.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Coulter Wars

"[Since 9/11] I am often asked if I still think we should invade their
countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity. The answer is:
Now more than ever!" - Ann Coulter

Over three weeks ago, I added Ann Coulter’s famous remark to my e-mail signature file, thereby placing it in front of several hundred people a week. To date, Mrs. Coulter’s remarks has generated three comments, all negative, and all instructive, though in different ways.

The first remark came from an employee of Library Services Centre of Ontario, Canada. Now librarians (especially Canadian librarians) are notoriously "open-minded," loathe to install anti-pornography filters, always complaining about banned books. But this particular librarian found Ann’s remark to be "offensive and grossly out of line." So, she put me on her banned e-mail list. The irony was absolutely delicious.

The remaining two complaints came from subscribers to Through the Father’s Eyes, a free once-a-week e-mail list that provides early Christian commentary on the Sunday Gospel readings. Two men were upset with the quote.

The first asserted: "As a Catholic living in a Muslim Country , I have to say I take offence immediately … you shouldn't go around killing peoples leaders just because you think their religion is wrong. Jesus NEVER intented any of us to do so. Right and left have no bearing in Christianity, Jesus never asked us to kill leaders, let's leave political comments where they should be. Statements like that not only serve in widening the gap between the Muslim world and the west, but also between the Liberal and Conservatives of America (a country already deeply divided). (sic)"

The statements embody a lot of the muddied thinking popular today when it comes to Islam. I will leave the comment on politics to another essay and begin instead by pointing out that no one advocates killing Muslim leaders simply because Muslim faith is erroneous. After all, Hindu, Buddhist, pantheist and most Christian faiths are each wrong to some degree too. Rather, killing Muslim leaders becomes palatable precisely because of how the Muslims are wrong.

Now, it is immediately necessary to make a distinction. What kind of Muslims are we talking about here? There are essentially two kinds: good Muslims who do their best to be orthodox and follow all the precepts of their faith (whether Sunni, Shiite, etc.), and bad Muslims who do not follow all Muslim precepts, but who instead seek some kind of accommodation with the larger world. No one has a quarrel with bad Muslims. It is the good Muslims that pose the problems.

Good Muslims
Like Communism, Catholicism and democracy, good Muslims have a consistent world-view. Like Communists, Catholics and Americans, good Muslims intend their version of the law to be the standard of law throughout the world and they work towards imposing it upon the world.

Unfortunately, sharia, Muslim religious law, is not acceptable to Christian democracy. Sharia allows children to be whipped to death for breaking Ramadan fast, women to be beaten to death by their husbands for the smallest infraction, marriage by the age of six is alright, sex with a child of nine is fine, adoption is illegal, prostitution to service soldiers is legal, polygamy is acceptable, a husband can invoke divorce by simply by repeating the word "divorce" three times. A woman’s testimony in court is not equal to a man’s, she can be stoned to death for being raped, she can be raped in order to punish her relatives for their infractions. Slavery is legal (the very word "Islam" means "submit"), slave armies were and are common under Islam, and male slaves are not uncommonly completely castrated, with every vestige of external genitalia cut away. Women, slave or free, are likewise often subjected to partial or complete removal of external genitalia.

These are just some of the highlights. There are more. Any group who intends to impose that kind of law on the rest of the world has to be stopped.

While it is true that right and left have no bearing on Christianity, right and wrong most certainly do. Jesus did not cry out for the deaths of any religious leaders, but neither did He condemn the crucifixions that occurred regularly under Roman rule. That is, He apparently saw nothing wrong when the state took necessary steps to protect itself from outside attack. Islam is precisely an outside attack on both democracy and Christianity. Unfortunately, this makes good Muslims the threat: criminals who must either be converted from their worldview or be removed.

The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice. The Mormons practiced polygamy. Muslims practice sharia. Contrary to popular opinion, the U.S. Government cannot and does not allow every form of religious expression to exist. Aztec worship has never been practiced here, Mormons had to seriously modify their religious views to survive as a religion, and the Muslim faith cannot be practiced here either.

Now, at this point, one might interpose an objection. On what grounds would we call Osama bin Laden a "good Muslim" who is attempting to follow the precepts of Islam faithfully, while calling others "bad Muslims" or accomodationists? The question is a fair one.

Jesus vs. Mohammed
In Christianity, every Christian believer models his life on Christ. In Islam, every Muslim models his life on Mohammed. On that, all are agreed. Mohammed was the first ruler and interpreter of Islam. He is the one who married a six year old, had sex with her when she was nine, advocated beating wives, allowed his henchmen to beat their own wives to death and rewarded them with more wives after. Subsequently, his role of interpretation and rule over Islam fell to the caliphs. So, just as we must look at historical Christendom to help us understand what Christian Faith teaches, so we must look at historical Islam to determine what Islam is.

The first thirty leaders of Christendom, the popes, were all martyred for the Faith. The first dozen caliphs were all assassinated. Indeed, the word "assassin" was invented by the Muslims. This is informative. Christianity spread through the Roman Empire through proclamation and martyrdom. Islam spread through North Africa and Spain primarily through the sword. While we can point to many historical instances of Christians who committed crimes against both God and man, we can also demonstrate that these crimes were in contravention to Christian teaching. With Islam, the reverse is true.

Indeed, history shows us this much: when Christians disobey Christian teaching, people suffer and die. When Muslims disobey Muslim teaching, people live.

Today, the office of caliph is empty and there is no one to fill it. Thus, anyone who says that Osama bin Laden is not following true Islam is saying this on his own authority, which is to say, on no authority at all. Osama is as authentically Muslim as any number of his predecessors in jihad. Whatever one may wish to say of him, this cannot be denied.

So, the divide between liberal and conservative, between Muslims and the rest of the world, is not a divide that can be bridged. There can be no accommodation between a faith that models itself on adoption and monogamy (Christianity) and a faith that models itself on slavery and polygamy.

The Second Objection
And this is the beginning of the answer to the second man’s objection. When a priest from Uraguay asserted that conversion cannot be forced, that it must be based on love and not war, he was partially correct.
It is true that conversion cannot be forced. Catholic Faith, for instance, has always held a forced baptism to be no baptism at all. However, the proposed dichotomy between love and war is simply false.

"God chastises those whom He loves" says the letter to the Hebrews, and it makes for some interesting conclusions. The Christ who wielded a bullwhip in the Temple, who called Jewish leaders "blind guides," "den of vipers," and "hypocrites," the Christ who said to them, "Who told YOU that you could escape from the coming destruction?" and who predicted the total destruction of both the Temple and Jerusalem, this is not someone who seems averse to war. Indeed, He asserted that He would bring a war like no other, that because of Him father and son would oppose one another, mother and daughter combat one another, He said He came into the world to bring not peace, but the sword.

When Christ whipped those men, He did it because He loved them. One could easily argue that He loved the Jewish leaders more than He did the Jewish population precisely because He chastised them more than anyone else. Similarly, He loved the Jewish population more than the Gentiles because that population was more thoroughly chastised than any Gentile.

When war is waged in order to protect the innocent and turn the wicked from their ways, it is an expression of love. That is why St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, could demand a sinner be turned out of the community, turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his soul might be saved on the last day. This kind of language is precisely the kind of language the earliest Christians used constantly in explaining the Gospels. They understood that war is necessary because love sometimes requires it.

That understanding has never left Catholic Faith. G. K. Chesterton quotes St. Louis, who followed St. Paul one thousand years later, as saying, "I must either convince the pagan (Muslim) of the rightness of Catholic Faith or thrust my sword through his body as far as it will go." St. Louis was just paraphrasing St. Paul. Ann Coulter simply repeats the wisdom of both. History demonstrates the problem: while Islam and Christendom are both in the world, there will be war.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Economics 101

Killing your customer is generally not good for business. It is amazing how many people don’t understand this.

Take, for instance, the French. The November 24th issue of Medical News Today reports on French abortion advocates who argue that French women encounter many obstacles when seeking an abortion. Abortion units have closed in 40% of private clinics in Paris for financial reasons and the number of doctors willing to do abortions is decreasing. According to certain lights, this is a Bad Thing. What Medical News Today failed to point out was the obvious: France has a total fertility rate of 1.9. Nations require a TFR of 2.1 just to keep from depopulating itself through natural death. It apparently has not occurred to them that this may have some small bearing on the availability of abortion.

It is, perhaps, picayune to point out niggling details, but medical experts agree it is extremely difficult to abort a fetus that has never been conceived. Given that the French are barely conceiving any children at all, it is hardly surprising to discover that the demand for abortion services is not what it once was.

Similarly, leading scientists have, through rigourous double-blind studies, almost conclusively demonstrated that it is impossible to perform an abortion on a woman who doesn’t exist. Put another way, every successful abortion kills a potential client – either a man who might otherwise impregnate a woman or a woman who might otherwise be impregnated. The problem reminds one of the old joke from the popular television show M*A*S*H. When an officer remarked he could do anything in the line of duty, up to and including committing suicide, his opponent replied, "If there were more people like you, there would be less people like you."

Contraception and abortion work with exactly that mindset. If either is widely available, its use is eventually self-limiting. That little boy who was never conceived will likewise never use a condom. That little girl who was never birthed will never grow up to ask for an abortion. Thus, as the abortion clinics decimate their way through the population – not quite a fair word, since clinics kill one in three, not one in ten – they eventually find their client base drops. Now, in order to stay in business, they need to drum up more business. If they are successful in drumming up more business, they will depress their own business even further. The process is simply ravenous.

But it is actually worse than that. Contracepters and abortionists are, in this sense, like a slow-release neutron bomb. They not only destroy their own business, they destroy every business near their own. After all, when someone is contracepted or aborted out of existence, it isn’t just the abortionist who permanently loses a potential customer. Every other business in the country permanently loses that customer as well. Do this often enough and it likely will erode the bottom line.

It is, of course, well-known that Democrats and Republicans hold wildly different positions on this issue. Few people stop to consider why. The contemplation is instructive.

Clearly, capitalists with a long-term view of wealth accumulation like neither contraception nor abortion. Annihilating customers is bad for business. But, from a socialist perspective, there is no particular downside to death. Killing customers cannot hurt the socialist state because the socialist state has no customers. It has only citizens, who each live in order to serve the whole, to serve the state. So, in a state that finds it difficult to feed and clothe people under even the best of conditions, the annihilation of citizens is actually a positive good. The remaining citizens will fare better. Only capitalist societies would be harmed by these practices, since contraception and abortion would reduce the number of workers the capitalists can exploit.

That is why Russia, on November 18, 1920, became the first country to legalize abortion. Lenin saw it as a tool to keep the kulaks down. Japan legalized abortion in 1948 as the Cold War began, while the occupied countries of Eastern Europe did so in the 1950s as the USSR tightened its death grip on those states.

Only with the spreading of socialism and the intensification of the Cold War through the 1960’s and 70’s did Europe and America legalize the practice, and it was largely through an imposition by idealogues. When we look at the major proponents of legal abortion in the United States, we find a roll call of prominent socialists. Betty Friedan joined the Communist party in 1948, Gloria Steinem served as honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, Patricia Ireland’s autobiography, What Women Want, details her support for the Communist party and her participation in Miami’s pro-Communist rallies. Conversely, when we look at the major proponents of capitalism, men like Ronald Reagan, John Wayne and George Bush, we find them all opposed.

When two Muslims killed civilians with a high-powered rifle from the trunk of a car in the Washington D.C. area a few years ago, the nation was aghast. It was clearly seen as a terrorist attack, an attack on our way of life. However, if they had been employed as abortionists, they would have been able to kill a lot more Americans and they would have had an exponentially more negative effect on the American way of life. Best of all, they would have been immune from prosecution, as our courts and media protect their right to kill future producers, consumers and the American economy entire.

It is said that we need to separate Church and state, that arguments based in religion have no basis in American politics. Fine. Let us enter the debate from a purely secular political perspective. Abortion attacks the basis of capitalism, it attempts to impose a socialist world-view upon Americans. It is advocated by the socialists precisely because the socialists understand that big business cannot continue in business if enough of its customers are killed. The socialists may have lost the Cold War, but as the world population inexorably ages, they are clearly winning the Demographic War.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Condi Rice and the Democrats

Selective memories produce odd takes on reality. Consider people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or Barack Obama, for instance. When we hear from these leaders and leaders like them, we hear them insist that blacks are held down by prejudice. Their evidence? Well, they personally remember prejudice when they were growing up in the 1950’s or 1960’s. And they will go back even farther, pointing to the history of black slavery common in America for the first century of our history. They will even point to the founding of the country, recalling the fact that many of the Founding Fathers, men of the Enlightenment like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, kept slaves.

But, while they remember these things, they fail to remember other things. The Republicans, for instance, were founded in part on the abolition of slavery while the Democrat Party was the party that supported the ‘peculiar institution.’ How many times did we hear about that in the recent campaign? In the last thirty years?
Similarly, consider the Enlightenment slave-owner, Thomas Jefferson, the man who came up with the idea of the separation of Church and State. It is interesting that the slave-holding party cleaves fiercely to this exercise of his rationalism.

What provokes this line of thought is the recent outpouring of silence from black leaders concerning Condoleezza Rice. They are not happy that she succeeds Colin Powell. Why not? Well, that isn’t entirely clear. They insist it isn’t because of her politics. Rather, it is something else, but they can’t agree on what. She is too willing to support Bush policies. She is an Aunt Jemimah, an Oreo. She doesn’t support the real interests and values of the black community, you see.

Interesting charges. But in order to see if this is true, we must first discover what the values of the black community are, right? So, let’s consider the values of the black community.

53% of the black community opposes gay marriage, 60% support school vouchers. 56% of blacks oppose abortion, 20% oppose abortion under any circumstances – a much higher percentage than the white community.

Once we compare the actual values of the black community with the values of black leaders, we see America’s black "leaders" are diametrically opposed to the values of the larger black community. However, these same black leaders do hold values that are in perfect accord with white Democrats.

After all, white Democrats support abortion and gay marriage while opposing school vouchers. Nearly 80% of abortion clinics (almost all run by white Democrats) are located in black communities. Due to the assiduous attention white Democrats give to the black community, blacks account for 36% of all abortions while making up only 14% of the maternal population. Roughly 15 million blacks, two out of every three black babies, have been killed through abortion since 1973.

White Democrats consistently support a style of welfare that destroys the black family while opposing any attempt to restore family integrity. Their recent, rabid support of gay marriage and civil union merely polishes the apple. Likewise, they consistently oppose any attempt to help blacks achieve a decent education through school vouchers. Private schools are fine for the (white) children of party leaders, but definitely not acceptable for the children of the blacks who vote these leaders into power.

Barack Obama, whose father is not an American black, is a perfect example of this discord between black leader and black community. A pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, anti-voucher Democrat whose own children are sent to private schools, he matches the interests of the white Democrat much more completely than he does the American black community.

The conclusion is obvious: individual black leaders sold out their communities in order to amass personal power. This is the real source of opposition to Condi Rice. White Democrats fear that she's not thrilled about being a water-girl for functionally racist Democrats. Colin Powell, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Barack Obama and the rest are demonstrably fine with the idea. Condi cannot be trusted to "do the right thing. "

Years ago, historians used to talk about "self-hating Jews." Now that the Jewish population has essentially aborted itself out of existence, the focus has moved to "self-hating blacks." Since blacks are aborting themselves out of existence, the label will eventually shift to some other minority that follows white Democrat ideas, as long as that minority exterminates itself so that its putative leadership can maintain a foot in the doors of white Democrat power.

Like American Indians (the vast majority of whom are sterilized), Protestants and Jews, the American black population are being swept away by the demographics. It is a great pity. The black community was once a vibrant contributor to American society. It has squandered its inheritance in a wild attempt to purchase respectability from the white Democrats on Democrat terms.

This is, perhaps, why the Democrats are such fervent supporters of Yassir Arafat and the larger Palestinian leadership community. While very rarely noted in the press, diligent researchers will discover the Palestinians express no particular love for Jews. Indeed, the Palestinian leadership has consistently maintained that Israel and all its Jews must be annihilated. Palestinians are, perhaps, less subtle than the Democrats, but we must focus on the goals here. Democrats recognize a kindred spirit in Arafat and company.
In both cases, it is considered good form for the opposition leadership to sell out their communities in exchange for money and an increase in personal power. But, unlike most of the American black leadership, Israeli politicians seem unwilling to do this. Thus, American Democrats feel towards the Israelis what they feel towards Condi Rice. Any politician that shows any reluctance in exterminating the community he or she represents in exchange for personal perquisites cannot be trusted. The world must be made safe for Democrats.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Let's Talk About Sex

Many Christians have taken offense at Hollywood’s newest movie, Kinsey: Let’s Talk About Sex. It is, they say, yet another sign of West Coast degeneracy, immorality and basic, well… yuckiness. Oddly, few Christians have considered another way to interpret the facts: Christians are the single biggest reason movies like Kinsey get released.

That may seem an odd statement, but it isn’t – it is simply a statement of the facts. In order to see why this is true, we have to remember a few things about both God and man. God didn’t need to create mankind. We are extraneous to God, unnecessary, we are not needed. If we exist at all, it is only because God chose to bring us into existence for our own sake: "The key of love opened the hand of God and creation sprang forth," as Aquinas once said.

What We Need But this also tells us something about mankind. We are not able to exist apart from God. We need Him, we need to know Him, or we are not complete. "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord," said Augustine, and he was very much understating the case. Because we are made for God, anything less than God in our lives creates a dissonance that is nearly impossible to bear. If you have ever seen an injured or ill person thrash uncontrollably upon his sickbed, you have seen an image of how human persons react to the inability to perceive or understand God’s presence in their lives.

Sexuality lies at the heart of the human person, it is in many ways the defining characteristic of each person, and God intended it to be so. "God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female He created them." Mankind is defined first by maleness and femaleness – sexual identity. The first divine command strikes at the heart of sexuality, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it." The first lack in Adam’s life was the lack of Eve. Upon meeting her, the first thing said about the couple was that a man cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh.

Human sexuality permeates the creation accounts. Why? Because God is the source of all life, and we image Him. Our ability to participate in the creation of immortal persons, that is, our ability to pro-create, is the pre-eminent natural way through which we image God. We are like God because He allows us to participate in doing what He does: create immortal persons.

Sex - a misdemeanor: the more you miss, da’ meaner you get Now, for a variety of reasons, very few Christians spend a lot of time meditating on human sexuality. Why that's true is an essay in itself, but we shall leave that aside for the moment and simply concentrate on the result. Because Christians do not think about sex, do not discuss sex, most Christians do not clearly understand the role of human sexuality in God’s plan. But Scripture itself recognizes the centrality of human sexuality to understanding God and His purpose in our lives. This creates an immediate dissonance.

We need to understand human sexuality. We don’t. Thus, secular or Christian, we thrash.

You see, adults need an adult understanding of themselves and of God in order to make it through the day. Secular atheists don’t have it. Unfortunately, too many Christians do not have more than a child’s grasp either, so they aren’t much better off than the atheists.

Now, why is that? Well, children have neither the context nor the capabilities to discuss human sexuality in adult terms. Understandable. Adult terminology and concepts should not be forced upon them. Christians understand this, so they respond by avoiding the topic entirely when educating children in the Faith.

Unfortunately, most children never receive adult instruction in the Faith. As a result, they enter adulthood under the mistaken impression that they are fully prepared to live adult lives when, in fact, they are not. Very few businesses would hire an adult with eighth-grade math skills to be their accountant, yet most adults are perfectly willing to try to live an adult life with eighth-grade Faith skills. Whether we are talking about the national economy or the divine economy, a population with only an eighth-grade level of mastery guarantees nothing but failure.

So Christians, who are supposed to proclaim the Gospel, are not able to do so in an adult way. We can’t address the leading adult concern, we cannot provide sensible adult reasons that explain why we should live out our own sexuality one way as opposed to another.

Don’t Make Them Angry Secular society needs to understand human sexuality. They know in their hearts that Christians should be able to explain it. When we can’t, they get angry with us. Very angry. Again, it is understandable.

Precisely because Christians are inarticulate when it comes to sex, we become extremely dangerous elements in secular society. We are actually stumbling blocks to the proclamation of the Gospel precisely because our incompetence in discussing sex in an adult way makes us the worst possible role models.

In that sense, the Kinsey movie just highlights a pre-existing problem. Look at the five most popular novels in the last five years. What's the big name on the list? Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Now, Mr. Brown’s historical research was terribly, viciously wrong, but nobody cared. It was making sense of sex. Virtually none of his Christian opponents seem to understand what he did in that book.

All of us attacked Dan Brown for his numerous historical inaccuracies, but those inaccuracies were throw-away lines for him. His lousy history was just the delivery system for an articulate philosophy. Throughout his book, Brown insists on three things: (1) marriage is holy, (2) sex is holy and (3) women are to be treated as images of God. The whole book is spent emphasizing and re-emphasizing those three points.

He mis-represented Christ’s sex life so he could talk about adult sex lives. Like most of secular society, he does not believe Christians have anything useful to say about sex. So, he simply substituted pagan terms for three Christian concepts. He didn't speak of the sacredness of marriage, he used an Egyptian pagan term, Hieros Gamos. He extolled pagan goddess worship (ritualized sex), he insisted Jesus was married all in order to prove sex is holy. Instead of saying women are made in the image and likeness of God, he used pagan terminology: they are goddesses. He insisted that 'Christians think sex is dirty' to justify this paganized wording.

These three facts - holy sex, holy marriage, women are to be treated as holy - made his book tremendously popular because these three facts are true. They are, in fact, the only true things the secular culture has said about sex in the last forty years.

But how many Christians used The Da Vinci Code to talk about sex and Christianity? None of us did. Instead, we spent all our time on debunking Mr. Brown’s atrocious historical research. We attacked his arguments and completely ignored his point, we won the battles and lost the war. We missed the chance to discuss what everyone wants to know: how do I correctly use my sexuality?

Yet Another Chance With the Kinsey movie, God in His goodness has given us another chance. We have the same opportunity here that we had with Dan Brown. It's even the same story line - the secular world omits and distorts the actual history in order to drive a secular philosophical discussion of sexuality. This discussion is framed in an anti-Christian context because, as everyone knows, Christians are immature idiots on sexual matters.

As long as the adult Christian message on sex is not proclaimed, we will keep getting Dan Brown in our bookstores and Alfred Kinsey in our movie theatres. If we don't talk about sex, someone else will. Sex is vitally important to adults. It has got to make sense. The secular culture can't make sense of it - everyone knows that. But the secular culture is going to keep trying, and keep getting it wrong, until they hear a sensible Christian rendition of the message. Christianity has focused for far too long on teaching children. We have lost the ability to talk about adult issues to adults. If we don't regain that ability, we will not break the back of this sex-drenched culture.

So, how do we get that ability? The best way to prepare to discuss sexuality from a Christian perspective is to study what is popularly called the ‘Theology of the Body.’ It is an analysis of Scripture, of Genesis 1 and 2, of the Song of Songs and similar passages, from the perspective of two millenia of Christian experts and mystics, people like Augustine, John Chrysostom, John of the Cross and others. Every Christian who studies Scripture and sexuality in the light of these great teachers, any Christian who begins to understand the basics of the ‘Theology of the Body’ finds their relationship with God transformed. Christians find themselves able to talk about human sexuality in an extraordinarily powerful way, a way that converts the pagan to the Gospel message.

Our culture is awash in sexual imagery and sex as a commodity. This culture abuses who we are as persons. But precisely because sin is so rampant, precisely because the world is so jaded, precisely because the thrashing is so great, the healing balm of grace is even more incredibly powerful. That’s what St. Paul meant when he said, ‘where sin abounds, grace abounds more.’ We have to make people aware of the God’s positive vision of sexuality so that they can implement that divine vision in their own lives. The Da Vinci Code, the Kinsey movie, these are marvelous opportunities for us. We shouldn’t waste them.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Lesson Plans

Political pundits, take note. The USCCB is meeting in just a few days and the participants will have several new items on their agenda. Two items of note include the approval of a first-ever national catechism for adults and the decision to join a new national ecumenical association called Christian Churches Together. When these two items are considered together with another item that does not seem to be on the agenda, we will catch a glimpse of the serious problems the USCCB has. How these items are handled will directly affect American politics.

This news, you see, does not come to us in a vacuum. The Catholic Church in America is a church in schism. As most people know, a few U.S. bishops deny pro-abortion politicians the Eucharist. A larger group warns pro-abortion politicians to avoid approaching the Eucharist. A still larger group sees no problems with giving the Eucharist to politicians who support abortion.

But this should be no surprise. The lay review board, a board which has no standing in canon law, but which is meant to oversee the bishops’ sexual abuse policies, was not only constituted into existence with three pro-abortion members (Leon Panetta, Robert Bennett and Pamela Hayes), but at least one of those members is apparently being retained.

Now, to be fair, the promotion to the panel of pro-abortion figures is not entirely the fault of the bishops. Even a bishop as marvelously staunch a pro-life advocate as Archbishop Burke, formerly of La Crosse, Wisconsin, apparently entertained a pro-abortion lawyer on his staff unawares. This embarrassing revelation became clear only in the last few weeks, as the diocese of La Crosse became one of the few US dioceses that prohibited the Catholic Answers voting guide into its parishes, on the advice of that self-same pro-abortion lawyer. Similarly, over the summer, at least one employee of the USCCB spent his free time running a website that contained explicit support for abortion.

It is a bishop’s prerogative to handle personnel matters as he sees fit. For instance, when Marc Balistrieri, the canon lawyer and Los Angeles chancery official, began his heresy lawsuit against Senator Kerry, Cardinal Mahoney fired him. Similarly, the pro-abortion USCCB official found himself a new job within a few weeks of the revelations about him. And, though Archbishop Burke did not have the opportunity to demonstrate how he would deal with a pro-abortion figure on the La Crosse diocesan staff, it seems unlikely that he would have kept him in employment.

In each of these cases, the bishops in question were initially unaware of their employee’s activities. Once these activities were discovered, the employees were let go. So, we know that canon lawyers have no business exercising their rights as Catholics in Los Angeles, and we also know supporters of abortion at the USCCB eventually find themselves unemployed.

But here is the puzzling thing. Leon Panetta’s pro-abortion record was not exactly hidden under a bushel basket, yet he was appointed and kept on for over a year. Now that Pamela Hayes has revealed her pro-abortion bias, and essentially taunted the Catholic bishops about it, what will the bishops do? Balistrieri got fired because his lawsuit undermined and underlined his bishop’s indifference to pro-abortion politicians. Generally speaking, bishops do not take well to being taunted. Pamela Hayes is the agenda item that is not on the agenda, and the answer to the problem she poses will say quite a bit more than meets the eye.

You see, the USCCB is split between post-Vatican II bishops who are material heretics versus bishops who are still fully orthodox. The heretical bishops are the ones who aren’t particularly interested in promoting priestly vocations. They see the role of the priesthood fading away as the laity take over essentially all leadership roles in the Church. In other words, they see the Catholic Church in America devolving into Protestant anarchy as a positive good, an empowerment long overdue. Further, they agree with the Protestant idea that religion is something private, something apart from politics.

The orthodox bishops, on the other hand, still hew to the hierarchy of the Kingdom, the idea that the King has stewards He ordained. They understand that faith cannot be separated from politics.

The establishment of the lay review board was essentially the triumph of the heretics over the orthodox. The sexual abuse crisis played into the hands of the heretics, "forcing" the fence-sitter bishops into supporting the creation of the lay review board, the triumph of laity over episcopacy. Now, ironically, the heretics had created the sex abuse crisis through their inaction. Because their understanding of both sin and human sexuality is radically impoverished, these bishops have no problem with abortion and were quite willing to allow pro-abortion figures to sit on the self-same lay review board that their own failures had "forced" into existence. Hayes' comments are a stick in the eye of orthodox bishops, and the heretics know it.
But this conference will lay everyone’s cards on the table. The Holy Father has already pointed out that only those Christian communities with valid apostolic succession can properly be called "churches." If the communities do not have valid apostolic succession, they are not churches. They are – at most – ecclesial communities.

Thus the decision on Christian Churches Together is of pivotal importance. If the USCCB chooses to join the group, it will do so at the expense of properly recognizing apostolic succession. That is, it will be a win for the heretics, a win of roughly the same magnitude as the establishment of the pro-abortion lay review board on sexual abuse. Similarly, the content of the adult catechism will be a strong indicator of who has the upper hand – the heterodox or the orthodox.

Political pundits who want to predict how the Catholic vote will break four years from now need to understand the importance of these three issues at the November meeting. If Pamela Hayes is gone from the lay review board in six months, the orthodox bishops are growing stronger. If the American catechism is orthodox, if the USCCB decides not to officially join Christian Churches Together, the orthodox bishops are growing stronger. The more orthodox the bishops, the more energized and the more enlarged the orthodox Catholic base will be.

Now, some might point to the recent book on Catholic political participation in America and conclude that the entire premise of this essay is founded on a canard. After all, it can be shown that Catholic political participation as a whole is essentially indistinguishable from the rest of the general population and always has been.

True. But that is largely because American Catholic bishops have, since the founding of this country, never done their job. Their job is to form adults in the Faith. This has never happened. Instead, American bishops spent the last century attempting to form children and largely ignored the adults. Indeed, the very first catechism Catholics ever saw from American bishops was the Baltimore Catechism, written for children, not adults.

That is precisely why this adult catechism – the first this country has ever seen - is, in many ways, as tremendous an event for American Catholics as the publication of the 1987 Roman Catechism was for the universal Church. As long as the content is not openly heretical, the existence of an adult catechism for Americans is earth-shattering. American bishops are finally figuring out what their job is. Once Catholic adults are consistently formed in the Faith, the Democrat party will either become pro-life, or it will cease to exist. Forming adult Catholics will take more than four years, but political pundits need to understand what is at stake this November. We may soon begin forming the Catholic voting bloc that we have talked about for two centuries.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The New Prohibition

Contrary to predictions I made earlier this year, all eleven states considering a constitutional amendment on gay marriage passed their bans, including Oregon, a state heavily targeted by gay activists. It appears I was wrong on the connection between the contraceptive mentality and the acceptance of homosexual behaviour.

Or was I?

You see, while Americans in general opposed same-sex marriage 61% to 34%, the 18-29 age bracket supported gay marriage or civil unions 56 to 40%.

Why is this important? Two reasons.

College: The Fountain of Knowledge Where Students Go to Drink
First, the 18-29 bracket tends to be the dog that doesn’t bark in the election process. We have thirty years of experience demonstrating that young people tend not to vote. It doesn’t matter how many young people are registered to do so, they simply can’t be bothered, and it’s hard to blame them.

After all, it takes time out of their day and they have no particular stake in the outcome of any election. College students don’t have much in the way of bank accounts nor do they own much private property, so taxes aren’t an enormous concern. They aren’t raising children, so they aren’t concerned about the quality of their neighborhood or the quality of any school, apart from the one they attend. They aren’t being actively drafted and –at least in America - terrorists don’t tend to blow up university libraries or fast food joints, so young people aren’t particularly concerned about international affairs. Whoever is in office today will be up for election again or retired by the time they get settled in their own job and start building their life in such a way that they might be seriously impacted by the political process. They have no compelling reason to vote.
Second, we know that college radicalizes people. 72% of high school students say abortion is morally wrong. Of women who do not go on to college, 37% support abortion. But college changes attitudes. 73% of women with a college education support abortion.

So, the ones who most supported gay marriage were also the ones least likely to vote.

The Factors to Victory
We have won eleven victories (nine in states that voted for George Bush), but how long will it last? Remember Prohibition. It was successfully passed as well, and not just at the state level. It was repealed only when Americans decided the social unrest it caused was not worth the price of having the law.

This is useful to keep in mind. After all, this campaign had a higher level of vituperation and violence than any in recent memory. America is not just at war with terrorism, she is at war with herself.

We could point to several facts and trends in an attempt to divine the future. One fact: that same age cohort, the 18-29 group, is more pro-life than ever. A decade ago, 67% of people aged 18-29 were pro-abortion. Now it’s 54% - still a majority, but also the lowest majority since 1979.

A second fact: This nation will not be majority Protestant at the next election. Mainline Protestant sects are rapidly shrinking while atheism and agnosticism is at historic highs and on the rise. Church attendance has been dropping since 1992 among both men and women and churches are more expensive to operate than ever, while the population of pastors is also aging. This matters deeply. This year, forty-two percent of the population attends church regularly. Sixty-one percent of that population voted for George Bush. Fourteen percent of the population never attends church. Sixty-two percent of that population went for John Kerry.

A third fact: red states tend to grow in population, blue states tend to decline. There are several reasons for this. Blue states tend to support abortion and supporters of legal abortion tend to have smaller families. Red states tend to have more favorable economic conditions, so more people emigrate to them to find jobs and housing.

A fourth fact: The Hispanic population is increasing and may well be the largest minority in America by the next election. Most Latinos want bans on gay marriage and this population is increasingly pro-life. The massive illegal immigration into the country has historically been a Democratic advantage, but the gay marriage issue and other cultural issues could very easily become the fulcrum upon which the Republican party levers that population to their side.

The question teeters on precisely how these competing waves interact, which parts crest during the elections two years, four years, eight years from now. Will rising atheism swamp cultural Christianity? Or will the influx of Hispanics dampen or totally eradicate atheism’s growing popularity? But the best predictor to victory this year was church attendance and Hispanics are less likely to attend church services than either blacks or whites. Can the decline in church attendance be reversed?

The Future
Possibly. The percentage of the population attending church services today is a dramatic decline from 1992, but it matches the percentage that attended during the early 1980s. The 1980’s saw a dramatic increase in church attendance, the 1990’s saw a dramatic decrease.

So, how will it play out? Will those in support of the Democrat agenda of legal homosexual marriage and legal abortion attempt to emulate the Prohibition reversal by attempting to instigate large-scale social upheaval? Those who remember groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers in the 1970’s will also remember that Hillary Clinton and other leaders in today’s Democrat party were instrumental in defending them. Certainly, these leaders will not repeat the mistakes of their youth – they have grown older and wiser. They have also grown more calculating. Colder.

How will the population respond? We clearly no longer live in the America of the 1970’s. The theological anarchism of protestant thought is slowly receding from the scene. Their insistence on conserving a specific culture has saved this day, but how much longer can that grasp be maintained? Protestants passed the Comstock laws outlawing contraception in the 1890’s, but Protestants embraced contraception so fervently in the mid-1900’s that the Comstock laws were overturned by 1973 and abortion legalized. With that break, homosexual rights began to make itself a public force.

We won today, but how long will the victory last? How many churches will still be transmitting the culture in four years? Who will take the place of the Protestant majority?

The fight is not over. It is barely begun.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Doors, the Doors!

In the Catholic Byzantine rite, immediately before the priest consecrates the offering, the deacon proclaims, "The doors, the doors! Let us attend in wisdom!" With those words, the doors of the iconostasis are shut. The closing of the doors not only transforms the altar area into an image of Mary’s virginal womb, so that the presence of Jesus might enter into the Bride of the Christ as He did two millenia ago, it also serves a rather practical purpose. It keeps the riff-raff out.

Riff-raff are always trying to get in, as any good bishop knows. Take St. Ambrose, for instance. Though Emperor Theodosious and St. Ambrose, the great bishop who taught St. Augustine, were on close terms, St. Ambrose had strict standards. Now, keep in mind that Theodosius was a good Catholic. He had called the second council of Constantinople in order to solve the problem Arian heresy. He was responsible for obliterating the last traces of pagan worship, destroying pagan temples and holy places with such fervor that the pagans themselves resorted to the sword. He took to the field of battle and resoundingly defeated these Italian troops, thus finally making the Roman empire a Christian empire. Yet, when, in 390, the Emperor Theodosius slaughtered 7000 Thessalonicans in revenge for a riot they had instigated, St. Ambrose refused to allow the ruler of the whole Roman empire, the ruler of the entire known civilized world, to step foot into a church until he had confessed his sin and performed eight months penance. It didn’t matter how staunch a supporter of Christian Faith the Emperor might be. He had sinned. He could not profane the holy places by his presence until his sins were forgiven.

Keeping the riff-raff out is just good practice. Even today, tourists are denied entrance to the great basilicas of Rome if they are clothed in an all too unconcerned fashion. There are standards.

Thus, it is somewhat puzzling to read Cardinal George’s latest missive to the people of Illinois.
"Should Catholic ’pro-choice’ politicians receive Holy Communion? Objectively, no; but subjectively a politician may have convinced himself he is in good conscience. The burden of helping politicians form their consciences falls back upon their pastors. Such a conversation about personal conversion is hard to have in the midst of the pressures of electioneering. As the conversations, both public and private, go on, however, "pro-choice" politicians will inevitably find themselves ever more estranged from their own community of faith. This is tragic, not only for politicians, most of whom went into public service for generous motives, but for the faith community itself.

Should a minister of Holy Communion give a ‘pro-choice’ politician the Body of the Lord? If a voting record is evidence of ‘manifest and obstinate’ sin, no. The objection is raised that voting for abortion isn’t the only political sin, even though abortion and euthanasia are the moral bottom line. Nevertheless, a firm case can be made that refusing Communion, after pastoral counseling and discussion, is a necessary response to the present scandal. Some bishops have made that case. If I haven’t made it in this Archdiocese, it’s primarily because I believe it would turn the reception of Holy Communion into a circus here. Who should be excluded? Is a special list to be published or will the Communion minister make the determination, supposing that a particular politician is even recognized by the minister. Will the media be invited in to watch a confused or disobedient minister give the Eucharist to a politician making a point? What happens next?"

The answer is obvious. Every Catholic Church has men who volunteer to be ushers. In America, the usher holds a largely ceremonial post with few duties. American ushers do, however, have one distinctly odd habit, a distorted throw-back to the original function of the usher, or door-warden.

For obscure reasons, American ushers in some churches think they have a right to tell people when they can walk up to receive the Eucharist. That is, they position themselves at the rear of the communion line in such a way that the faithful are deterred from standing up and approaching the Eucharist until such time as the usher deems that they may approach.

Now, from a sacramental point of view, it is not at all obvious why this would be the case. What amazing spiritual insight do ushers possess that tells them the people in the front of the congregation will always be prepared to come forward to meet God well before anyone in the back of the congregation is ready to receive? Clearly the European-style rush of uninhibited congregants towards the altar offends the American sense of assembly-line order, so ushers take it upon themselves to transform this most intimate encounter with Christ into something less spontaneous and more… well… strait-jacketed. Though the ushers thereby violate the sacramental rights of the people to come forward when they are ready, it accords with everyone's over-inflated sense of social decorum, so the practice is well-tolerated, even actively encouraged.

But, though the current practice is rather a violation of the congregants' rights, the ushers' instincts are right. The door-wardens of the early Church did something very much akin to what ushers do now, the difference being that the door-wardens would not let anyone into the physical building unless they were known to and approved by the wardens. If you were unknown to the wardens, you had to present a letter from your priest or bishop testifying to the fact that you were a Catholic in good standing with the Church. Only then could you enter and prepare yourself for attendance at the sacred duties of the Mass. When the deacon cried out, "The doors, the doors!", the altar servers would swing the doors of the iconostasis shut, while at the same time, the door wardens would swing the outer doors of the Church shut. God was coming. "Holy things for the holy!" the priest cried, for only holy congregants could stand the presence of the living God. Penitents and pagans had to remain outside.

Cardinal George can solve his problem right now, today, simply by re-constituting the ancient office of door warden. He acknowledges that no one who supports abortion should receive the Eucharist. He acknowledges that every minister of the Eucharist has the duty to refuse such individuals the Body and Blood of Christ. He has only to solve the problem of how to prevent a circus during Mass.

Simple. Don’t let the riff-raff in. Keep pro-abortion politicians and the media on the street. They can film and demonstrate all they want out there. By this very action, we remind the world that human beings are a sacramental people – that means that external created reality always reflects the internal spiritual disposition. A pagan or sinner who approaches to profane the holy now encounters the reality. The doors that lead to holiness are closed. The only thing that will open those doors is a penitent heart.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Power of Grace

In years gone by, anarchists held strong sway in the political tradition. They held that no law was just, no law should be imposed. There are few who still hold to this. Or, rather, there are few who hold to it in an obvious way. But anarchism is alive and well, and in a most surprising place.

Luther, the man who started the Reformation, famously denied that reason was anything except the whore of the devil. Not only is faith alone all we need to deal with the world, everything else is a positive enemy to faith. Unfortunately, in order to reach this conclusion, Luther had to twist Scripture. He could not do it within the apostolic tradition, so he had to leave that tradition behind and declare it also an enemy to faith. Thus was born the doctrine of "sola scriptura" - Scripture is all we need.

As even Protestants themselves admit, Protestant insistence on "sola scriptura" makes everyone their own Pope. What they fail to realize is this: sola scriptura also renders moral relativism an absolute necessity. After all, Scripture defines moral existence, moral reality. What better definition of relativism could be devised than saying that everyone creates their own "spirit-led" interpretation of reality? As history has shown, "sola scriptura" is nothing but a series of practical experiments in relativism. It could not last long unchallenged.

Sinful man, in the form of those who denied God's existence, soon began defining their own reality within the confines of Protestant dialogue. The atheists responded by embracing the Protestant ethic of moral relativism, but they were thereby forced to argue that the Protestants got part of the argument backwards. Faith is the opiate of the masses - reason alone is the thing.

If we accept the moral relativism of sola scriptura, the atheists' conclusion is hard to avoid. Atheism's insistence on reason alone is simply an attempt to systematize the experiments in relativism according to the only measure that sola scriptura allows: the human mind. But here is the irony. This sole standard of measurement is, as we saw above, also denied by Protestants - reason is the whore of the devil, remember?

Here's the remarkable conclusion. Oddly enough, the atheist version of moral relativism is a wild attempt to retain and return to at least some absolute standard. Secular atheists recognize that you can't throw away Scripture and rationality simultaneously or all you have left is anarchy. Put another way, if you embrace both Protestant positions, you must necessarily enter into Luther's wars of the Reformation. Luther and the other reformers were too stupid to realize that.

It's hard to believe, but there it is. Secular atheism is actually a kind of conservative movement, in one sense at least - it attempts to conserve some absolute, some last court of appeal. The evangelicals who oppose them do so not out of logical consistency (the hobgoblin of little minds, according to them), but out of a wild chaos, a howling wilderness in which nothing is absolute except the culture their fathers came from.

The evangelical/fundamentalist/Protestant ethos is not based in logic, for it specifically denies logic. It is not based in moral absolutes, because anyone can interpret Scripture as they wish, and who can deny the correctness of a sola scriptura interpretation? Rather, their ethos is based in the remnants of Catholic culture they have managed to maintain and hand down from generation to generation, a dwindling store of cultural imperatives which cannot be justified in Scripture and which they refuse to acknowledge as Tradition.

Thus, we have the trinity of positions we see today. Those of the Protestant tradition essentially claim culture as their absolute standard, the gold standard against which everything is measured. Those of the secular atheist tradition claim faulty human reason as their absolute. Those of the Catholic tradition claim the fullness of divine revelation, both spoken and written, as the only True Absolute.

If you want to understand the power of grace, think on this. You might assume that reason alone is better than anarchy under any conditions. You would be wrong. Today's secular atheists show us exactly the kind of depths unaided human reason attains. Homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, the drug culture - it's not a pretty sight. Protestantism shows us what grace-fueled anarchy looks like, and it's a darned sight better, though still not perfect. They embrace contraception but condemn its daughter, abortion. They embrace divorce but condemn its daughter, euthanasia, the deliberate killing of the lonely and despondent. They embrace the Ten Commandments but make no mention of the Sermon on the Mount.

So, we are in a fight between the anarchists and the rationalists. As a Catholic, I am in the distinctly odd position of backing the anarchists. But, as a Catholic I have no choice. I have to support the Spirit, wherever grace is poured out.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Vatican Rag

It all seems oddly familiar: a statement from the Vatican, a source who insists that the words of the statement should be published far and wide, and then a sudden retraction. Cast your mind back ten months and you will recall this exact chain of events, but the famous name involved was Mel Gibson’s, not Senator John Kerry.

In that instance, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the National Catholic Reporter all reported the same thing. They had been told the Holy Father had seen Gibson’s Passion and had said, "It is as it was." While Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service (CNS) became the first journalist to report otherwise, the New York Times quickly weighed in, confirming that the words had been said. But Wooden reported the very next day with a quote from the same archbishop interviewed by the NYT, that the words had NOT been said.

The incredible mix-up lasted for weeks, ending only with a Vatican official lamely making statements that implied his e-mails had been spoofed, the words fabricated. When questioned on how this was possible, the door closed. No more statements issued forth.

Now, we are faced with a similar controversy, but this time the stakes are much higher. Marc Balistrieri, the canon lawyer who started the heresy lawsuit against John Kerry, asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith two questions. Father Augustine DiNoia, formerly the head theological advisor for the USCCB and a frequent lecturer at Franciscan University’s summer conferences, directed a Washington D.C. theologian to answer the questions. While neither the questions nor the answers mentioned Senator John Kerry by name, the answers clearly indicated that people who held Senator John Kerry’s position on abortion were material heretics subject to automatic excommunication. Worse, if such people had been formally instructed by their bishops without recanting, they were formal heretics.

When Balistrieri asked for permission to make the answers public, he was granted this permission by both the CDF and the theologian in question. He subsequently made the document public on EWTN and dozens of news outlets picked the story up from there. Remarkably, it was again Cindy Wooden of CNS who was the first to trumpet bad news: Fr. DiNoia suddenly claimed he had never been in contact with Balistrieri.

This was rather a remarkable turn-around, given that the answers – the contents of which the CDF has never questioned – explicitly says Fr. DiNoia was the man who asked that Balistrieri’s questions be answered. Given the alacrity with which Balistrieri’s questions were answered, a speed virtually unknown to Rome, and given the explicit reference to the good priest in the answer itself, Fr. DiNoia's position seems even less believable then the "e-mail fabrication" position taken with Noonan ten months ago.

What’s going on?

The answer might be found in the personalities involved. Fr. DiNoia is a very orthodox priest with very orthodox opinions, but he was also the head theological advisor for the USCCB from July 1993 to February 2001 . That means he lived in Washington DC for nearly a decade and was intimately acquainted with all the bishops in the New York to DC corridor, including the head of the Boston archdiocese. It is, perhaps, an indication of his attachment to that region to recall that the man he commissioned to answer the questions was not a Roman theologian, but a citizen of Washington DC – that is, he was undoubtedly a friend whom Fr. DiNoia could count on to provide a profoundly orthodox answer.

The friend provided precisely the answer Fr. DiNoia expected. Unfortunately, Fr. DiNoia has lived in Rome since 2001. Rome is not exactly up-to-date on the latest news. He was unaccountably unaware of the Kerry heresy lawsuit. The theologian he commissioned may or may not have been unaware of the lawsuit – if he was, he must have assumed Fr. DiNoia was informed. In any case, when the answer became public (after Balistrieri cleared publication with both the CDF and the theologian), it is unquestionable that stuff hit the fan and Boston’s archbishop hit the phone.

Fr. DiNoia’s answer could be seen as meddling with the internal affairs of the archdiocese of Boston. That’s the kind of thing that can get a priest in extremely hot water, even if he is a high muckety-muck in the CDF. If the archbishop chose to paint the CDF response that way, he would certainly have generated the kind of response we’ve seen from Fr. DiNoia – backpedaling that would do a circus clown proud.

Not to harp on a subject, but this gets tiresome after awhile. As has been noted before, Fr. DiNoia is a tremendously orthodox priest. Unfortunately, he is caught in a battle of bishops, and this is the kind of thing that will grind nearly any priest to shreds.

Now that the CDF is officially backing off the correct position, it may be worthwhile to recall the last time bishops got involved in US politics when an intrinsically evil agenda was being promoted. We have only to read the testimony of Joseph Califano Jr., LBJ’s representative to the USCCB. When LBJ wanted to promote birth control in 1965, the USCCB agreed to allow him to do it, as long as he used a different phrase. Birth control is intrinsically evil, after all. They agreed on the phrase, "the population problem."

Now, that phrase is essentially heresy. After all, what is a population problem but too many people? And what are people but images of God? So what were the bishops saying, "It is permissible to talk about the problem of having too many images of God in the world. It is permissible to work on reducing that problem." Very nice sentiment. Not exactly Mother Theresa’s sentiment, is it? "Children are like flowers. How can you say we have too many flowers?"

Thus, as a result of this agreement, we were treated to the June 22, 1965 spectacle of Boston’s Cardinal John Cushing, "I could not in conscience approve the legislation [supporting legalization of contraception, but] I will make no effort to impose my opinion upon others… I do not see where I have an obligation to impose my religious beliefs on people who just do not accept the same faith as I do." This statement is rank material heresy. No one uttered a peep. Now we know why.

But, of course, it is all of a piece. This was the same set of bishops who allowed their liturgy directors to get rid of statues and images of saints. The proliferation of sacred images is confusing to the people, just as the proliferation of images of God is problematic to US foreign policy. They allowed the tabernacle to be moved away from the center of worship, they introduced the experiment of a children’s liturgy. Dumbing down the Faith is easier when the shepherds who guard the Faith have already been dumbed down by the culture they live in.

As Califano says, "Those were the days when you could sit down with the bishops; they were sensitive to the separation of church and state in the wake of the cliffhanger election of the first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. The bishops and the laity accepted the assertion of the Jesuit theologian Gustave Weigel, in his widely reported 1960 lecture at Catholic University, that 'the Roman Catholic Church would not attempt to interfere in the political activities of a Catholic president, nor would a Catholic president be bound by Catholic morality in deciding public issues.' "

Now, Gustave Weigel was himself proclaiming a heretical position, but the USCCB sat still for it because the USCCB was… what? The charitable explanation is that the bishops of the USCCB were not well-formed in the Faith. That is the best one can say.

And what is the best one can say about this situation? Well, we now have part of the answer from Boston. This suit is viewed in certain circles as an action that has to be quashed in any way possible. Lay people cannot be permitted to make bishops look bad (as if they needed the help). If Balistrieri is not stopped, this kind of thing will proliferate beyond all bounds. As I've noted here before, there are certain circles who are deathly afraid of this.

Rome is not monolithic. Pressure is being brought to bear at the highest levels. Kerry and the bishops that are not opposed to him barely escaped checkmate this time, but the mills of God are grinding. Let’s see how much longer he and his companions can escape the wheels.