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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.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Update to Kerry's Heresy

I was recently asked this question:

So as I understand it Kerry has already excommunicated HIMSELF by his vocal, public and longstanding support and pledges of future support for abortion rights.

What remains is an public acknowledgment of that fact. So if a reporter asks Bishop O'Mally the right question such as, "Has John Kerry excommunicated himself according to canon law?" All the bishop has to do is answer "YES".


That's how I read it. If O'Malley says ANYTHING else, he is admitting that neither he nor his predecessor ever had formal interview with Senator Kerry to apprise him of his danger. Thus, O'Malley would be publicly admitting to being in violation of canon 386 himself, since canon 386 requires him to teach the faithful under his care the morals of the faith, frequently and in person. I don't know if O'Malley is a canon lawyer (most bishops are), but he would be a real foolish man not to be talking to one right now.

O'Malley has GOT to be sweating bullets, hoping no one asks that question for a couple of reasons. First, the answer places him squarely under the judgement of canon 386. Second, the only reason any other bishop has leeway on giving Kerry the Eucharist right now is that Kerry's own bishop hasn't publicly pronounced on the matter, so they may entertain doubt as to whether or not O'Malley has done his job. Those who think he has must deny Kerry, those who think O'Malley hasn't done his job might give the Eucharist on the grounds that Kerry's archbishop is incompetent and Kerry is too ignorant to figure it out on his own.

But once O'Malley publicly answers that question with a "yes," EVERY OTHER BISHOP MUST DENY KERRY THE EUCHARIST.

If any bishops refuse to follow that judgment, they are now at odds with the presiding bishop and arguably in formal schism.

These next few days are absolutely ticklish for O'Malley and for Kerry's presidential bid. This news is, no lie, the October surprise that kills Kerry's bid. All that needs happen now is for local news media to be apprised of the situation.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Kerry Heresy

"Consequently, if a Catholic publicly and obstinately supports the civil right to abortion, knowing that the Church teaches officially against that legislation, he or she commits that heresy envisioned by Can. 751 of the Code. Provided that the presumptions of knowledge of the law and penalty (Can. 15, s. 2) and imputability (Can. 1321, s. 3) are not rebutted in the external forum, one is automatically excommunicated according to Can. 1364, s. 1."

Rome has spoken, the matter is nearly closed. As those who obtain their news from sources other than the MSM know, Marc Balestrieri, a lay canon lawyer, initiated a formal charge of heresy against Senator Kerry in the spring of this year. For having the hubris to do so, he was fired from his job by Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles, who is apparently not averse to profaning the Eucharist as long as the political situation is not disturbed. In August, the lawyer in question took his case to Rome, proposing two formal dubiums (questions). The paragraph above is Rome's official response.

With that response, there is now no question that Senator Kerry is a material heretic, as this forum and dozens of others have pointed out for quite some time. All that now needs to be demonstrated is that Senator Kerry was formally made aware of the gravity of his stance on abortion and he refused the instruction. With that demonstration, Senator Kerry is formally a heretic.

Now, keep in mind that this was not rocket science. A lay person was forced to bring this suit (something only possible with the 1983 update to canon law) precisely because American bishops have been largely too lazy and too ignorant to take it upon themselves to touch the matter. But much more needs to be pointed out.

With Rome's pronouncement in hand, the canonical trial under Archbishop O'Malley is pretty much pro forma. After all, it is Archbishop O'Malley's duty as bishop to teach the Faith, especially public unrepentant sinners like Senator Kerry. So, either O'Malley admits malfeasance by pointing out that he failed to instruct Senator Kerry or he admits that he informed Kerry and is forced, by the canonical trial, to formally declare Senator Kerry a heretic and an excommunicate.

Now, one wonders why something so obvious to Rome (it only took 11 days for Rome to rule on the matter, which is equivalent to less than five minutes in American time), was so obscure to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)? Of course, there can be but one explanation - the USCCB has been dancing around the problem of schism so hard that it felt it couldn't deal with the doctrinal issue at all. They permitted the Eucharist to be profaned by a heretic because they feared schism. They didn't have the guts to teach the Faith. That's one explanation. The other is that the vast majority of American bishops are as stupid as rocks and/or as ignorant as the unwashed savage, because they couldn't figure out in months what it took Rome only days to pronounce on.

It's hard to know which explanation is more charitable. Is it better to assume most of America's bishops are mental incompetents or spiritual cowards? Given the speed of the Roman response, it's hard to see what other alternatives are available.

In any case, Rome has probably headed off formal schism for the moment. If the USCCB has demonstrated anything, it is precisely that only a handful of bishops have any backbone. Thankfully, the bishops with backbone are the orthodox ones who have already cut Kerry off from communion. The rest are jellyfish. Now that Rome has provided the blueprints for how the case under O'Malley is to proceed, the good archbishop would have to be enormously incompetent to hand down any verdict other than "heretic;" indeed, he would be proclaiming himself incompetent on a number of fronts. Thus, within scant weeks, all the bishops, all the Catholics in the United States, will be back in full communion. The possibility that an orthodox bishop would pronounce someone like Cardinal Mahoney out of communion with the Church is very likely closed, barring acts of the greatest stupidity on the part of the Los Angeles bishop and his kind.

Kerry can't afford to change his stance - it would kill what little hope he has for the Presidency. Thus, Kerry is as good as condemned. Cardinal Mahoney, Father Greeley and the rest have had all their normal avenues for confusing the issue cut off. Archbishop O'Malley must either proclaim himself an incompetent shepherd or Senator Kerry a heretic. Senator Kennedy and company will follow on immediately, with Frances Kissling and her ilk undoubtedly waiting in the wings.

There's a lesson in all of this. Like God Himself, Rome will not intrude into our lives unless we petition. She respects the principle of subsidiarity, the exercise of free will. Even though John Paul II reformed canon law so that lay people could do an end-run around heretical bishops, he did not force anyone's hand. Like God in the Garden of Eden, he made sure everyone knew the rules, then sat back and waited for us to decide what we wanted to do. He's had to wait 20 years for anyone to pick up on the hint.

We lay people are slow and stupid, but we have finally got the message, Holy Father.

Now, let's clean house.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Knife Fight

Jared Olar just returned this to my attention, so it's time to analyze it. An article in the September 28th edition of The Australian indicates that Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, are suing Dan Brown for copyright infringement. They accuse Danny Boy of having stolen their whole jigsaw puzzle plot. It should be an absolutely easy case for them to win. But that’s not the funny part of this whole escapade. The lawsuit is hilarious primarily because their greed has forced everyone involved in this farce to show their hands.

You see, while fiction is subject to copyright law, facts are not. If I wrote a novel based on the James Bond character created by Ian Fleming, for instance, I would be violating Ian Fleming’s copyright, and his estate could sue me for copyright infringement. However, if I wrote a story about the life of William Jefferson Clinton, former President Clinton could not sue me for copyright infringement. I might get sued for libel (the written version of slander) if I mis-stated the facts, but that is about it. He cannot copyright the facts concerning his own life.

Now, let’s say you took existing information or discovered new factual evidence and provided a totally novel interpretation of the facts of his life, thereby completely explaining why Slick Willy has women problems and feels our pain. You wrote an outstanding article or book concerning this idea, but it failed to gain wide circulation. I saw your theory and based my biography of Clinton on your interpretation without giving you any credit. Have I violated your copyright?

Not at all. I am a plagiarist, but I haven’t violated your copyright because you have no copyright on facts
either. All you’ve done is come up with a new theory that covers the facts – and I stole it without accreditation. But I don’t need to accredit you. After all, I could have looked at the facts myself and independently arrived at the same conclusion through simple logical analysis, and you would have a hard time proving otherwise.

In any case, while I may be dead guilty of plagiarism, and you may well be able to prove it, the most you can do is (justifiably) ruin my sterling reputation by proving I’m a plagiarist. You can’t recover monetary damages from me for plagiarism because plagiarism is only a crime when I’m stealing fictional material or lifting direct and lengthy quotes from your factual material without in any way acknowledging that you wrote it. Plagiarism is not a crime if I’m stealing facts. It may not be wise, but it isn’t a crime. That’s why journalists get fired for plagiarism, but they rarely get sued for it, while novelists and playwrights sue for plagiarism but only as the basis for proving copyright infringement.

But Baigent isn’t suing for plagiarism. He’s suing for copyright infringement. He's not alleging that Brown lifted whole passages of his book verbatim. Instead, he's suing on the bases that that Brown stole his "jigsaw puzzle," his plot. By the very fact that both sides are gearing up for litigation, both sides implicitly acknowledge that they wrote works of pure fiction. Baigent is suing because Brown stole his fictional plot-line and used it in his own work of fiction. Ah, how the worm turns! Brown amassed a reputed 140 billion English pounds by repeating over and over, "Why are you upset at my book? It’s just fiction." All those quotes will now come back to him and render his bank account like unto the vast sandy expanses of the Sahara.

But it's hard to feel any sympathy. After all, ultimately, these guys all still won. You can’t un-buy the book. Now it’s just a question of how the thieves divvy up the swag. Ah, well. The book was amusing. The knife-fight will be too.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The Village Idiot

Research is moving forward to create cloned children out of left-over body parts from aborted babies and 'spare' IVF embryos according to a recent article from the National Post. To those who have been following the reproductive technologies, this is not news.

Chimeras, human-animal hybrids, have been created in the lab for years. Human DNA has been injected into cow, pig and monkey ova and allowed to grow into embryos before being destroyed. Ova have been harvested from the ovaries of aborted girls, artificially brought to maturity and inseminated. While some countries outlaw this, others (Canada, for instance) permit it as part of what is known as "therapeutic cloning." The phrase seems something of a misnomer, given no known therapy uses the cells these techniques generate.

Meanwhile, we see Senator Kerry insist "that some of the most pioneering cures and treatments are right at our fingertips, but because of the stem cell ban, they remain beyond our reach." Now, we could write many different essays with the kind of breath-taking assertion Senator Kerry brings forward. We could point out that stem cell research actually began under the current adminstration, that private funding is doing just fine, or that embryonic stem cell research shows embryonic stem cells don’t work. We could even talk about the fact that adult stem cells, cells which generate no moral objections from anyone, are actually the only useful kind of stem cell, something no one in the press or on Senator Kerry’s staff seems willing to admit.

But let’s ignore all that and study a different aspect of this issue. Specifically, there was in Senator Kerry’s remarks a certain resonance that almost sounded pro-life. Think about it. "The most pioneering cures and treatments [could be ours]…" Where have you heard that before? Pro-life supporters have been using that argument for thirty years, but in an entirely different context.

"Perhaps we have aborted the person who will cure [AIDS, cancer, muscular dystrophy, heart disease]." Remember that phrase? The argument is so old, and so roundly ignored by abortion supporters, that it seems quaint to even bring it up. But the force of the argument was not ignored. Our wily opponents were taking notes. Look what they are willing to do instead.

Today, instead of saving the child in the womb, they will abort that child, culture the ova they harvest from the dead child’s sexual organs, mature that ova in the laboratory, combine it with DNA from someone else’s skin cells, mix them together in the lab, grow it into an embryo, implant the embryo into a surrogate mother or an artificial womb and then bring that child out into the world, so that child can save the world from cancer. Or perhaps they plan on using the resulting embryonic stem cells to culture the tissue that they use to incubate the anti-virus cure that solves AIDS. It’s hard to know, really. The advances of science quite take one’s breath away.

Now, unenlightened savages such as myself look at all of this and think, "That seems an awful lot of work. Couldn’t we just help the mother of that child give birth to her instead of aborting her? Couldn’t we give her the support she needs to raise that girl, help her grow to womanhood, let her conceive a child with her husband and let the couple raise that child themselves? If you wanted the child’s stem cells, you could get them from the umbilical cord at birth, from the skin at two years of age, a small bit of fat in the adolescent years, a nasal cell biopsy from the young adult as part of the vaccination regimen prior to that summer youth hostel vacation in Europe. You get your cells, everyone gets to live. Wouldn’t that be simpler?"

Of course it would be simpler. But it wouldn’t be right. You see, it’s not that these people want to get into our bedrooms. Rather, they want to take over our job in the bedroom, relieve us of the responsibility, control the ultimate means of production, as it were. If we can’t be convinced that we have to get licenses from the government before we can receive permission to have children, then it is the duty of the leadership in this country to find a way to make children without involving parents at all. "Let the citizens disport themselves however they please in the bedroom, but for God’s sake, leave the baby-making to us!" cry our most advanced scientists and social progressives.

That’s why I read with enormous delight Katha Politt’s incoherent racisms on We can’t vote for Bush. He might appoint an Hispanic to the Supreme Court… A Catholic Hispanic… An orthodox Catholic Hispanic... "I can hear it now: How can we deny Torquemada the American dream?"

Now, we will ignore the fact that cloning is against Catholic principles, so the re-emergence of Torquemada as a contemporary justice of the peace would be entirely due not to JP II, who abhors such biological manipulations, but to people very much like Katha Politt. There is no little irony in the fact that Senator Kerry’s supporters are much more likely to bring Torquemada back from the grave than are the men and women surrounding George W. Bush. The irony is in no way mitigated when one considers that Kerry purports to be the Catholic in the group. Given the evidence, there are undoubtedly some who suspect the Kerry candidacy is but a devious papal scheme to clone the original Spanish inquisition back into existence.

If so, we need only consider way in which children will soon be made, and know that Hillary Rodham Clinton, the smartest woman in the world, had long since warned us of the possibility. Once we consider the surgical equipment, the medical training, the personnel, the money, the resources involved in all the complex steps required to do things the right way instead of the old way, we can see that she was absolutely right.

It takes a village to make a child.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Meet My Wives

In A Deafening Silence I discussed the unusually low amount of support rank-and-file Christians seem to have for outlawing homosexual marriages. While state initiatives in Missouri and Louisiana have overwhelmingly trounced the idea, US Congressmen are not hearing much from their constituents on the matter.

Now, USA Today has weighed in on the subject, or at least, weighed in on one aspect of the subject. The October 4, 2004 issue saw an article by Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington Law School, in which he defended the idea that polygamy, polyandry and group marriage would soon have to be legalized.

Now, this is not news for anyone following the subject. His opinion precisely matches that of Justice Scalia in his dissent from the majority in Lawrence vs. Stenburg, the case that legalized sodomy in Texas. Numerous others have commented on the logical silliness of allowing sodomy while outlawing polygamy. But that isn’t the point I want to drive home here. The point that should be made now is precisely the same point made in "Silence." From a logical perspective, it is unlikely that this drive towards polygamy can be stopped. After all, who is left to oppose it?

Clearly, Mormons have a vested interest in remaining silent on the issue. While their faith now outlaws polygamy, this doctrinal position was taken up only after immense political, and even military, pressure was placed upon Mormon communities to conform to the larger Christian community. But Mormons are not the only ones who have no interest in fighting polygamy.

Muslims won’t lift a hand to stop its legalization – legal polygamy is part of sharia law, after all. Orthodox Jews are not opposed to polygamy either. "In the Middle Ages, Rabbenu Gershom of Mainz, known as the Light of the Diaspora, pronounced a herem (ban) on polygamy and, incidetnally, also on divorce without the wife’s consent… but this does not alter the fundamental fact that [Talmudic] laws of marriage and divorce recognize the validity of polygamy" (Adin Steinsaltz, The Essential Talmud, p. 133). The historical evidence seems to indicate that, like American Mormons, medieval Jews faced the same pressure from the surrounding Christian community to renounce their polygamous ways and resolved the issue in a very similar way.

But what of Christians themselves? When Philip of Hesse asked Martin Luther for advice concerning how to deal with his mistress, Luther advised Philip to marry her. Philip objected – he was already married. Luther replied that this was no obstacle. Nothing in Scripture expressly required a lay person to have only one wife.
"I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter."
However, Luther recommended that Philip should keep his second marriage a secret to avoid public scandal. Five other Lutheran theologians signed the letter advocating polygamy, including Melancthon and Bucer. Some groups of early Anabaptists, such as those in Munster, practiced polygamy.

Henry VIII almost certainly practiced polygamy. Historians agree that Henry had secretly married Ann Boleyn in 1532, well before he decreed his own marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled in 1533. At least two American Anglican ministers defended the practice as well, Reverend Mr. Michael Smith, an 18th century rector of Prince Frederick’s Parish in South Carolina, and Reverend Mr Martin Madan, an Anglican priest associated with the Methodist Revival. Both argued, like Luther, that it was better to enter into polygamy then to divorce the first wife and throw her into an uncaring world. All three appealed to the example of the Old Testament patriarchs and the fact that Scripture only restricts bishops to one wife, it is silent in regards to the laity. (1 Timothy 3:2). Even as recently as 1998, Wisconsin Lutheran Synod scholars have noted that the insistence on monogamy was questionable both on Scriptural grounds and on the difficulties it caused to missionary efforts in polygamous societies, which comprise about 70% of the world’s population.

It is impossible cultures that embraced homosexual marriage. It is easy to find cultures that permit polygamy. The silence from the viewers’ gallery will again be deafening. This will all weigh in the coming arguments and the court decisions which will soon follow.

The irony is rich. Despite their pretended insistence on Scripture alone, the Protestant "reformers" took with them much that Catholic Faith taught. Whether Protestant, evangelical or fundamentalist, every Christian today owes the core of his belief to Catholic Faith, a Catholicism that is unpolished and poorly ordered, but Catholic nonetheless. The opposition to polygamy in this country is unquestionably a vestige of Catholic belief, carried - unquestioned - by Protestants for generations, but now coming under scrutiny by secular atheists.

Protestants will discover, to their horror, that they hold to monogamy for no particular Scriptural reason. Like the fight over gay marriage, which consists largely of non-Catholic Christians saying, "It will harm marriage – we can’t really explain how, but it will!" the fight over monogamy will demonstrate just how poor a faith without reason is. Catholics can appeal not only to Scripture, but also to the natural law, to millennia of divine tradition, to the divine authority of the Magisterium, the teaching office of the Church. Non-Catholic Christians have nothing to appeal to but Scripture, and Scripture says nothing in particular in opposition to polygamy.

Appeals to "faith alone" no longer work in this culture, a culture that holds there is but one God and Materialistic Reason is His Name. The atheists of the Enlightenment are playing on their home court, while "faith alone" Christians have thrown away their defense with their opening statement of belief. Only an understanding of the world that embraces both Fides et Ratio, faith and reason together, can hope to defeat the atheist scourge. In short, unless America becomes Catholic, the laws against polygamy cannot hope to stand.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Do YOU Believe in Miracles?

I have on this blog excoriated the bishops in general and the USCCB in particular for their lack of backbone when it comes to various doctrinal issues.

Today, I am happy to report that the USCCB has actually taught Catholic doctrine, and done so in opposition to the position of a major Catholic university and hospital.

As Jill Stanek has reported, at least two Catholic hospitals have a policy of inducing early labor when a child is found to be anencephalic. They erroneously claimed this was not an abortion, just early labor, done in order to prevent mental suffering to the mother.

This position is, of course, stupid and the purest barnyard excrement, but it is endorsed by several well-known pagan ethicists who also happen to be ordained Catholic priests. These priests claimed they were acting in full accord with USCCB directives.

They lie, of course.

The USCCB statement on anencephaly can be found at EWTN.
Jill Stanek's commentary on Loyola's attempt to spin the issue can be found here.

Man, just when you think the bishops are past all hope, grace shines forth and they demonstrate they are not yet all theologically insane. God bless the USCCB for this accuracy. Some may say that, like the faithful steward of last week's Gospel, they should not expect praise for doing that which they are supposed to do anyway, yet it's nice to get an "attaboy!" even so.

Attaboy, USCCB. See? Teaching doctrine ain't that hard, is it? Do some more - you may grow to like it.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Muslim Problem

In 1967 and 1968, Japan, Europe and America were aflame with violence. From the London School of Economics, to the Sorbonne, from Japan to Rome and in dozens of cities across the United States, tens of thousands of students staged protests and sit-ins throughout the countries of the First World. While dozens of books with varying theories concerning the causes of this conflagration have been written, most agree implicitly or explicitly on one thing: post-war fecundity, the unusually high world-wide population of young people following World War II, was the fuel for the fire. The irony is rather interesting.

In the mid to late 1800’s, Darwin and Galton together created the science of eugenics. Darwin’s evolution theory was popular for essentially one reason: it was developed against the backdrop of an English industrial revolution that itself had created soaring urban population densities, population densities with resulting problems of crime, housing and sanitation never before seen in the modern area. Darwin and Galton seemed to be describing the roots of a problem that no one knew how to address. Darwin described how dense populations worked, Galton came up with the term "eugenics" to describe a theoretical solution to the problem dense populations posed, and the American, Margaret Sanger, provided the practical solution: contraception.

Though nearly two millenia of Christian opposed contraception, socialist fear-mongers used the threat of overpopulation as a bogeyman to argue against the capitalist state. They eventually won out. Fueled by two world wars and the capitulation of the Anglican Church in 1930, contraception quickly gained social acceptance across all strata of European and American society. As several Catholic popes predicted, this destroyed Christian culture.

You see, increasingly affluent adults began to realize that they need not ever take on the responsibility and discomfort of raising children, so they stopped doing so. Today, every First World country is experiencing a birth dearth. There are no longer enough native births in any First World country to maintain national economies, much less national social support systems. The only thing that will keep the social support systems in these countries from melting down is immigration: massive immigration. European immigrants arrive primarily from Muslim North Africa. This does not bode well for the maintenance of European culture.

This short history just goes to show that there is no one so parochial, so provincial in outlook, as an urban intellectual. Industrialization always brings high urban populations, which populations in turn bring the urban intelligentsia to the (shocking) realization that their intellects are not up to the task of solving the problems high populations pose. "If we can’t solve these problems, no one can," they conclude. Thus, their local problem is soon described, by common agreement among urban intellectuals, as a world-threatening problem.

It would be comical if their solution were not so blood-thirsty. They always eventually solve their difficulties by getting rid of people. They haven’t the imagination to come up with anything else. It is no wonder that the intellectual’s favorite thought experiment involves seven people stranded at sea in a lifeboat built for six. They will happily spend weeks discussing who shall be thrown off (hint: it’s never them).

"This little jaunt through history is all well and good," you may be thinking, "but the article is entitled, ‘The Muslim Problem’ and so far, not a word has been said about Muslims." So, let’s say a word or two.

Many people, including myself, have been concerned about the massive Moslem immigration into Europe. America is beginning to face the consequences of European Islamicization as she finds fewer and fewer allies there for Middle East adventures. America needs to get used to that. France, Germany, even England, will become less and less amenable to American policy if only because their politicians will become more and more interested in placating the Muslim vote – at least for the short period of time remaining before the major political figures of Europe are themselves Muslim. Many people have been describing this problem, but few see any solution. While I do not pose a solution, I do pose a relevant series of questions.

Are Muslim intellectuals capable of avoiding the intellectual hubris that post-Christian atheist intellectuals have repeatedly fallen into? To what extent will the Muslims hollow themselves out, following the example of the European Christians? It’s too early to tell, but there are signs of hope.

Iraq is, of course, fighting for its cultural life. If democracy and its woes is successfully introduced, traditional Islam in the land of Abraham will be rendered untenable. Neighboring Iran is on the very brink of revolution, as mobs of young people stage violent riots that are violently put down across the breadth of that nation. To the southwest, the House of Saud has never been particularly stable and nothing seems likely to increase its stability in the near future. It is doubtful they would have survived this long without American and European assistance.

Christianity created the science that led to the Industrial Revolution. That revolution created the carrot of affluence and the stick of "overpopulation" that drives the contraceptive philosophy, a philosophy that destroys the ability to live the Christian life. Christian bishops, by and large, were not up to the task of removing the love of affluence or the fear that large populations would take the affluence money away.

So, we in the West need to answer one question. What is inherent to Islam that will create the same kind of carrot and stick for Moslems? The varying flavors of Islam and the complete lack of central authority already guarantees that, when the right levers are found, the mullahs will be completely unable to pull their adherents back into line. Christian bishops may not be particularly competent, but the history of Islam demonstrates the mullahs are rarely any more competent. After all, if they were, there would not be so many variants of Islam. Whatever one may say about Christianity, we didn’t invent the term "assassin," nor does the act figure so prominently in Christian history as it does in the history of Islam.

Just as Jerusalem was once the land of the Jews and the Christians, but will soon be the land of the Muslims (the demographics are inexorable), so Mecca and Medina may well find itself in the hands of secular atheists within a few generations, even as Europe and Indonesia become hotbeds of militant Islam. As recent events demonstrate, Islam is a tinderbox quite ready to eat itself up if only the right match can be found. It’s time we begin looking for the match.