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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Knowing the Anencephalic God

While Boethius famously defined the person as "an individual substance of a rational nature," this definition turns out to be more a hindrance than a help today. The problem is not in the definition, but in our modern understanding of it. Because Catholic adults know more biology than they do theology, they do not entirely understand the definition, and they therefore tend to misunderstand everything associated with the relationship between God and man.

That is, we accept the definition without considering the theological context in which it was given. We see and understand the individual words, we find the distinguishing characteristic of man’s definition in the word "rational," and we associate the ability to be "rational" with a specific stage of brain development. This has far-reaching consequences. It results, for instance, in the spectacle of Catholics who attempt to defend abortion as something that assaults human beings but not human persons, because they incorrectly believe rationality to be a function of a physiological brain process when it is actually a quality of man’s spiritual soul.

Men and women who would never think to argue that God is anencephalic and therefore cannot be as much as one Person, much less three, are happy to draw that exact conclusion concerning human beings. In fact, the possession of a rational nature is independent of brain development. The brain is merely the tool through which rationality expresses itself. The rational nature of the human soul exists even when the tool through which it is meant to express itself is damaged or not present. Thus, it would be as absurd to say Michelangelo is only an artist while he uses his brush as it is to say a child is only a person if he has a fully-developed brain.

The Heart of the Problem
This misunderstanding outlines the heart of the problem uneducated Catholics face. We are persons because God calls us into relationship with Himself. The Boethian definition tells us the "what" in a superlative and explicit fashion, but the theological context of the "why" has been lost. We know the Three Persons of the Godhead are distinguished only by their relations: nothing else distinguishes the Three. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are therefore likewise persons only because of our relations. Specifically, we are persons only because God calls us into relationship with Himself, into relationship with His own divine Personhoods.

If He did not call us, we would be human animals, not human persons. Our personhood depends on His call to us, not on something innate to ourselves. If it were otherwise, Christ would indeed be two persons: one human and one divine. He is not. Thus, the rational nature that Boethius refers to is the gift God gives us so that we can participate in the call He makes to us. That is, the Boethian definition is the result of a relationship already established with, for and by God, it is not the cause of that relationship.

But this leads to another realization. Since we are given rationality in order to be persons, this rationality must have substance on which to work. That is, we must have knowledge of God (revelation) and knowledge of how to derive more knowledge of Him (logic). Because He calls us into personal relationship with Himself, He must reveal Himself to us, and we must turn all that we are towards knowing Him. In short, God made us to know Him.

Three Ways to Know
Thus, it is no surprise to find the three theological virtues - faith, hope and love – are all just different ways of knowing. Faith is our response to who a person is, hope tells us about the person’s message, and love is intimate knowledge of that person.

Faith is the sure knowledge that someone can be trusted. When we are speaking of God, faith is two things at once: it is the ability or power to know one fact about God: He can be trusted. It is also the daily choice to act on that fact. God sends us the power as a free, unmerited gift, but it is never a blind leap. It requires evidence, facts.

Accurately predicting what someone will do based on what we know of him: this is an act of faith. For human relations, our knowledge is founded in other people’s testimony. We don’t know whether the banker is honest or the mechanic reliable. Someone told us. We trusted that person to know. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen" (Heb 11:1).

Likewise, prophecy, or "unseen" knowledge, only works if the universe is orderly and consistent. The universe’s order implies design (Rom 1:19-20). Thus, the gift of God’s power lifts our reason to a larger Truth: He exists, He made the universe, and He is perfectly reliable. I have faith in God because God lifts me up to see more than I normally could. The old saw is true: knowledge (faith) is power.

But, while Faith looks at the messenger’s reliability, Hope looks at message content. Good words from someone I trust: this breathes hope.

God’s message is simple: through His Church and sacraments, He gives Himself entirely to me so that I may have eternal joy. This promise, joyful communion with divinity, breathes hope. Unlike any hope we have in man, the source of our hope is the very Word of the absolutely trustworthy God. The Scripture, the Word of God, tells us about the Logos, the Word of God. But the knowledge of God’s message penetrates even more deeply.

The Kisses of Your Mouth
"Adam knew Eve..." The fullest form of knowledge is complete intimacy, the intimacy of Bridegroom and Bride. It is one person giving self entirely to another. God says He gives Himself entirely to me.

Unlike Faith, which looks at "the evidence of things not seen" (Heb 11:1), Love stands naked before the beloved and is not ashamed (Gen 2:25). Faith is knowledge without sight, Love is knowledge through full sight, but not just sight. Love is palpable, He can be touched. Love is the gift of self to another, with no wall, no barrier, nothing to impede full, total, intimate, penetrating knowledge.

Paul describes heaven, "At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known." (1 Cor 13:12). Moses describes one foretaste of heaven, "Adam knew Eve and she bore Cain" (Gen 4:1).

Man needs these three forms of knowledge. This culture understands that need. It does not understand it fully, but it does understand. The culture has become permeated with sex because it is not permeated with doctrine.

You see, sex between husband and wife is a pale foretaste God provides us in order to help us understand how He intends to live with us in heaven - He gives Himself entirely to us, we give ourselves entirely to Him. We are made to know God. Since we have not received the doctrines we need to know Him, we pursue the only other avenue of knowledge available: "Adam knew Eve." Put another way, when we lack Him, we pursue His images.

Every human person is an image of the uncreated eternal Persons within the Godhead. We need to know Him to the fullest extent of our being. Adults need to know Him at an adult level. When the Church, the primary means of knowing God, has marginalized herself by focussing most of her energies on children, adults will blindly seek out what they need on their own, wherever they can.

But those same adults know in their gut that the Church’s refusal to engage them as adults is unjust at best, cowardice at worst. They will respond to entreaties to return to her with derision and scorn. In America, the problems in the Catholic Church are problems she created for herself. She will not solve them until she decides to engage adults as her primary mission instead of leaving them the dregs of her attention.

Friday, August 27, 2004

The Shibboleth

"When a mother can kill her own child, what is left of the West to save?" -Blessed Mother Teresa
When Judge Tim A. Duket, Marinette County Circuit Court became aware of this quote, he responded:
"With your cite to Mother Teresa 'what is left of the West to save?' you are starting to sound like Osama bin Ladden. I'm sure if you look hard you can find some good things worth saving 'of the West' ".

Residual Culture
The good judge appears to miss the point. There is such a thing as residual culture. That is, some good things can continue to happen in a culture even though the rationale for the good thing no longer exists because all the support has been cut away. For instance, men are still compelled to pay child support in this country even though it is logically absurd, given the logic put forward and the laws passed and interpreted on abortion.

There is absolutely no logical, and really very little lawful reason, for holding a man responsible for child support anymore. He didn't create the child (the mother did - no child at conception, right?),. he didn't want the child (the decision to have sex is not a decision to have a child), he bears no responsibility for the child's existence (he didn't grow it - she did) yet we still act as if the man is somehow responsible for the child's existence even though we can no longer provide a rationale reason for drawing this conclusion. The fact that we understand the man is responsible is good. Our ability to continue to understand this as a culture probably won't last too much longer, however. We have deliberately blinded ourselves to it by pretending it is otherwise in order to allow mothers to kill their children.

So this "good thing" in our culture is residual. It is an anachronistic throw-back to the time when men were actually supposed to act responsibly and be held responsible for the existence of children. Most of the "good things" in American culture are anachronistic throwbacks at this point. Like buggy whips in a Model T, we insist on having certain things because they make us feel comfortable, not because they make sense. Unfortunately, they can't last because they aren't logically consistent with our attempt to redefine reality (not that we can successfully redefine reality, but we can fool ourselves into thinking we can).

Mother Teresa recognizes this in her comment about the bond between mother and child. If that bond is severable without remorse or repudiation, then the entirety of Western culture is a shibboleth waiting to collapse. After all, Western culture is built on the relationship between the Madonna and the Child. He died to save her. So, when the Moslems say Western culture is decaying, they are right.

Now, this is not to say that Moslems are any better off. Any culture which permits you to beat your wife to death, to marry and have sex with a nine-year old, any culture which denies that adoption can exist and sees polygamy as a good thing, is at least as decadent as an abortion-driven culture. So, it's just a case of the blind killing the blind.

The problem is precisely that Christian culture is dead or dying in most places around the world. Everything that attempts to replace it is pure dreck - useless if not actively harmful. Christian culture is the only rationale way to approach the world, and the world is attempting to slough it off. It works by attacking the root - the love between mother and child. To the extent that it succeeds in that attack, Christian culture is destroyed, and the whole of the culture it supports will die with it.

Anti-Americanism
And this explains the entire anti-American attitude of the intellectual elite. You see, they really, truly, finally understand this link between Western culture and the Madonna and Child - they understand it in their gut to an extent we simply don't realize. The absolutely accept the logic of the relationship, they simply deny the premise. They have never believed in the Madonna and Child. Thus, they can't believe in Western culture either. If Mary and Jesus didn't really have that divine relationship, then of course Western culture is built on a lie and worthy only of destruction. The logic is flawless and strikes at the very heart of the matter.

Anarchism has a long and sordid history in Euro-American affairs. Anarchists are always atheists, and they have tried all kinds of assaults on Western culture, assaults meant to demonstrate that Western culture is a facade, a Potemkin village on the verge of collapse. None of the assaults ever worked, until they finally hit on what the heart of Western culture really is: the relationship between mother and child. Destroy that relationship, destroy the divine image of that relationship, and Western culture must inevitably collapse. You know what? They are right. They instinctively understand Christianity better than most Christians.

The abortionists, the Moslems - these people are the new anarchists.
As I said, anarchism has a long and sordid history in Euro-American affairs.
Most of the time, they lose.
This time, they are winning.


Monday, August 23, 2004

Family Values

The Doha International Conference for the Family follows upon the celebration of the International Year of the Family and will be a two-day conference in Doha, Qatar on November 29 and 30, 2004, under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Misned, Consort of His Highness the Emir of Qatar, and President of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, State of Qatar.

The Conference represents an international assemblage bringing together international VIPs, governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scholars, academicians and civil society leaders who will be invited by the State of Qatar to participate for the purpose to call upon all nations of the world to restate the principles related to family life embodied in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and to adhere to values and endeavor to promote the role of the family as it is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and state.

That’s the press release. And it’s not a bad idea, as ideas go. But it is hard to believe it will go well. While Moslems and Christians both agree on the importance of the family, there are serious differences in what the word "family" means.

Marriage
Marriage is the first issue. While it is true that Moslems and Christians share equal antipathy for attempts at homosexual marriage, it is not the case that we share a similar view of marriage. Moslem societies, for instance, allow polygamy. Christian societies (apart from Martin Luther’s attempt to introduce it for German nobility) do not.

You see, the major difference between Moslems and Christians lies in their respective role models. Christians attempt to model their lives after that of Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom who gave His life up for His Bride (singular), the Church. Moslems, on the other hand, model their lives on Mohammed, who had numerous wives, concubines and sexual slaves.

After the death of his first wife, with whom he had four daughters, he married dozens of times – between 30 and 45 wives in all. That doesn’t count concubines or slaves that he used for sex. Just the wives. According to Ebn Abbas, "The highest member of Moslems who is the Prophet Mohammed has also the highest appetite for women." This is the man all Muslim men emulate. Think on this.

Adoption
In his endless quest for the perfect marriage, he took notice of the wife of his adopted son, Zaid Ebn Hares. He commanded Zaid to divorce her so he could marry her. Zaid was willing to do so, but there was one problem. Arabic custom and law forbad a man from marrying his daughter-in-law. Mohammed could not marry her. More fool Zaid. Mohammed had visions from God telling him that Zaid’s wife was not really his daughter-in-law.

How could that be? Well, God pointed out that adoption is not possible. You can’t make a blood relative out of someone who isn’t blood. At best, such a person is a foster child, but certainly not a true relative in any binding sense. So, since adoption was not possible, Zaid was not his adopted son, but only a foundling he brought up. Since Zaid was not his son, Zaid’s wife was not his daughter-in-law. Who can contradict the prophet of God? Zaid divorced his wife and Mohammed had a new playmate, at the very small price of destroying the concept of adoption in all Arab countries.

To this day, it is not possible to adopt a child in a Moslem country. Adoption is not illegal. It simply doesn’t exist. At all. In contrast, Christian faith is built almost entirely on the concept of adoption. We are adopted sons and daughters of God. That's how we are saved.

Pedophilia
But Mohammed was not done. His appetite for women was so strong that he essentially legislated heterosexual pedophilia into Islamic law. The fifty-six year old man expressed his desire to marry a six-year old girl, the daughter of one of his first followers, Abu Bakr. Mohammed made his case by pointing out that he had had several dreams in which God commanded him to marry the girl-child. Abu Bakr agreed to the marriage on the condition that the marriage not be consummated until the girl was nine years old. That suited Mohammed. Thus, girls nine years of age (and sometimes younger) are able to be given in marriage under Islamic law and in all Moslem societies.

Sex with a nine-year old. Christians may do it, but it’s a sin and we know it. Muslims do it because God and His Prophet said it was virtuous.

Proper treatment of wives
Now, it should be noted that Mohammed was not entirely ungrateful. Once he had betrothed his six-year old bride, he gave his own daughter in marriage to Abu Bakr. Unfortunately, she was a rather disobedient wife. Islamic law permits men to beat their wives. Abu Bakr beat his wife, beat Mohammed’s daughter, to death for her disobedience. Mohammed responded by giving him another daughter. Thus, severe wife beatings, even beatings unto death, are sanctioned and blessed by the Prophet.

This lesson has not been lost on followers of Islam. Death is the penalty for both fornication and for apostasy from Islam. Certainly any woman who marries a non-Moslem is at great risk of apostasy. She is supposed to follow her husband in all things, after all, be totally obedient to him. That is the Moslem way. And any woman who marries without the permission of her father or brothers is a fornicator. So when a young girl marries outside of Islam and against the wishes of her male relatives, it is not uncommon for her father or brothers to kill her. It’s necessary, you see, for the honor of the family and to keep her from leaving Islam.

Now it is true that Christians have shotgun weddings, but we shoot the man if he reneges, not the woman. Some may see this as an insignificant difference, but Christians find it rather telling.

Likewise telling is the concept of "temporary marriage" or Muta. Any man engaged in jihad and away from his wife/wives can make a temporary marriage – three or four days – with any woman he meets as long as he pays her dowry price, a price which the man sets. The dowry can be as low as a handful of barley or dates, or a piece of cloth. Most cultures call this prostitution. Some call it rape. Mohammed calls it family time.

So, the Doha conference is a good idea, in the sense that it emphasizes the importance of family. But when Muslims and Christians have such a difference in their respective understandings of family, it may be worthwhile to ask one question. Are we supposed to accept the Muslim understanding of family? It seems rather unlikely that they will accept ours.

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Real Explanation

Many people have puzzled over the USCCB ruling that bishops can make up their own minds about whether to administer the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians like Senator John Kerry. How can it be correct to receive in one diocese but sinful in another? Does this mean Catholic dioceses are not entirely in communion with one another anymore?

Of course not. The problem with interpreting this ruling lies in our failure to appreciate the importance of canon law, Christian charity and subtle nuance. When all these facts are taken together, the USCCB ruling is perfectly understandable.

Applying these principles, we quickly see what happened. The bishops are split into three groups. The first, very small group of bishops believe pro-abortion politicians and their ordinaries are essentially capable people. The second, rather larger group of bishops believe pro-abortion politicians are essentially capable people, but that many of their fellow bishops are simply incompetent to hold office. The third and largest group of bishops either believes pro-abortion politicians have IQs slightly below that of green jello or that their brother bishops are profoundly incompetent or both.

Group One
You see, everyone has been talking about canon 915 (those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion”), but no one has taken the time to consider how canon 386 and 843 affect the application of canon 915. Canon 843’s application is obvious: “The sacred ministers cannot refuse the sacraments to those who ask for them at the appropriate times, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.” Canon 386 is a little more subtle, but it is the interpretive key to the USCCB ruling: “The diocesan bishop is bound to present and explain to the faithful the truths of the Faith which are to be believed and applied to moral issues, frequently preaching in person…”

Six consecrated men - Archbishop Burke (St. Louis), Bishop Bruskewitz (Lincoln), Bishop Vasa (Baker), Archbishop Donohue (Atlanta), Bishop Baker (Charleston), and Bishop Jugis (Charlotte) – make up the group of bishops who believe both pro-abortion politicians and their ordinaries are competent men capable of understanding simple English and doing their duty, respectively.

Take Senator Kerry’s situation, for instance. Senator Kerry publicly and strenuously advocates a heresy: the idea that the gravely sinful act of child-murder is morally acceptable as long as the mother commissions it prior to birth. The six bishops above know that Archbishop O’Malley has, by now, certainly told Senator Kerry that this position is absolutely insupportable and must be publicly denied, since the archbishop must do this to be in accord with canon 386. Senator Kerry is a grown man and capable of obeying his archbishop. Since he clearly hasn’t obeyed, he is violating Archbishop O’Malley’s clear teaching and is therefore anathema.

Group Two
The second group of bishops is not so sure. They seem to believe pro-abortion politicians are ultimately capable of being taught, but they either aren’t sure the ordinaries (mostly archbishops and cardinals) who have such people in their dioceses are mentally competent to understand their duties under canon 386, or they don’t think them capable of carrying those duties out. So, the bishops in this second group publicly tell everyone to be sure to examine their consciences in the light of Church teaching and voluntarily refuse to come forward for the Eucharist. That is, the bishops in the second group are unobtrusively stepping in to relieve the confused situations that arise when unfit ordinaries dither. They have chosen to publicly teach pro-abort men and women because their incompetent brother bishops can’t.

Group Three
The third group of bishops, the largest group, apparently believe that any politician who supports abortion does not have the use of reason. Such people cannot be taught, no matter how good a teacher the bishop is. They are incapable of sin because they lack any sign of intelligence: mental infants cannot sin. Their admittance to First Communion was probably a mistake, but it’s too late to remedy that now, so these bishops will continue to hand out communion to the ambulatory human vegetables we elect to office, and they will pray for the miraculous infusion of a seven-year old’s intellect into these adult bodies.

This largest group of bishops, many of whom are bishops over pro-abortion politicians themselves, may very well also agree with the second group about their own incompetence to hold office. After all, if the ordinary is incompetent in his ability to provide moral teachings to others (maybe because his sheep are absolute idiots or because his teaching is just profoundly inadequate), he would know the sin lies with him for not teaching. It would not lie with his sheep, since they are only inadvertently failing to heed teachings his ineptitude had never clarified. In such a case, the bishop in question would continue to distribute the Eucharist to his pro-abort sheep because they cannot be held responsible for his sinful worthlessness as a teacher. Such inept leaders don't resign only out of charity towards the Pope. Given his health, they don't want to put on him the extra burden that would be required to replace all of them.

Clear as a Bell
So there you have it. This is, I believe, the only way to explain how all the American bishops are fully in line with canon law while also explaining how a public abortion supporter can be denied the Eucharist in one diocese and given the Eucharist in another, all without changing one letter of his public support for abortion. As I said, we must read and apply all the canons with Christian charity and a feel for nuance in order to understand what the bishops have already, in their wisdom, grasped. This kind situational assessment is a rare skill, but the bishops have it in spades. God bless them, and let’s continue to pray for them.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The Brilliance of the Iraq War

Many people seem upset with the waging of war upon Iraq. Indeed, I must confess that I was long of two minds about it. Not that Saddam Hussein did not deserve overthrow - it is a wonderful thing to see him gone. I simply wasn't sure how this contributed to fighting a war on terror. There are many thugs in the world - why did we pick Hussein?

Now, three years after 9/11, the brilliance of the Bush strategy is clear.

We were attacked by Muslim Arabs who took the war into our country. Bush responded by taking the war into the geographical heart of the Arab world. Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia - each were arguably as good or better places to attack from an immediate geo-political perspective. Each is headed by Muslim thugs whose anti-Christian laws constantly violate the rights of the human person. But even more than Saudi Arabia, the heart of the Moslem faith, Iraq is the heart from which the Arab self-vision springs. It is the land of our common forefather, Abraham, the land Arabs hearkened to before Mohammed was a gleam in his father's eye. It is the Arab land surrounded by Arab nations, it is the center.

Muslim Arabs struck at what they perceived to be the heart of our identity - the towering symbols of our economic and military might. Bush struck at what we perceived to be the heart of their identity: the fertile crescent of the Tigris and Euphrates, the rivers of Genesis, the book of Abraham.

They guessed wrong about the heart of our identity. We guessed right about theirs.

Now, say what you want about the success of increased security and the brilliance of our intelligence gathering. Certainly these have decreased and denied attacks that might otherwise have gone forward. But we all know it is not that difficult to enter this country. It is not difficult to sabotage and destroy targets or terrorize Americans. There are too many of us, too little security, too many targets. No town, certainly no city, in the nation can be secured in any real way. Yet, despite these facts, we have had but two even remotely successful attempts at terror since 9/11 - the anthrax scare (still unsolved) and the Beltway shootings, which turned out to be the work of two American Moslems with no ties to external terror organizations.

Nothing else has happened here. It's almost as if the terrorists are otherwise occupied and can't be bothered to take the easy pickings our society affords an anarchist.

The absence of terror is easily explained. When faced with the choice - attack America or defend the land of Abraham's birth - Moslem Arabs who wish to engage in war have overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Bush's war strategy successfully shifted their focus.

Instead of blowing up targets in America, they are blowing up targets in Iraq. Instead of killing American civilians, they have the much more difficult task of killing American soldiers. Instead of killing on American soil, they must kill on Iraqi soil. America has so thoroughly infected Iraq that Arab Moslem terrorists are often not even killing Americans anymore - they are killing fellow Arab Moslems, widening the cracks of dissension within not only their own country, but within what might otherwise be a much more cohesive Arab Moslem front.

They are still waging a war of terror, but now they wage it on their own cousins.

Now, one might argue that this paints an overly rosy picture. What of the successful terror attempt to sway the Spanish elections? What of the American casualties? What of the civilian hostages from nations throughout the world?

Yes, the war on terror has not stopped every thrust our opponents have made. But the fact remains: apart from the casualties inflicted on Spain, the terrorist kill-zone has become very small indeed, confined within the borders of their own ancient homeland, and they are dying within that zone at a much higher rate than their enemies.

In World War II, the Battle of the Bulge caused immeasurable consternation, but it was the last offensive Germany was able to launch on the Western Front. Within weeks of the nearly-successful assault, German soldiers were forced back and trapped within the confines of their own homeland, fighting desperately to stay alive. It would appear the terrorists now find themselves in a similar situation.

Whatever motivated George W. Bush to take the war into Iraq, it was an inspired choice.

Friday, August 13, 2004

A Nation of Rapists

"I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land which the LORD swore he would give..." Deuteronomy 30:19-20

For years, the abortion lobby has used a very pointed argument to push their agenda: rape. They keep insisting that abortion must be kept legal because of rape. "Would you force a raped woman to carry that fetus in her womb?" The question carries a tremendous resonance, a resonance so great that most of us cannot figure out how to answer the question without sounding like someone who has sympathies for the rapist. There’s a reason for that.

The Culture of Use
Years ago, Pope John Paul II noted that the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is use. This is true precisely because we are each made in the image and likeness of God.

As you know, the only thing that distinguishes the three Persons of the Trinity is the relationship of love between them. Father begets Son, Son is begotten. Father and Son breathe forth Spirit, Spirit is breathed. Each of the three Persons of the Godhead gives Himself away as gift to each of the other two Persons. Each Person cherishes, treasures, cares for the Divine Persons who give Himself. Now, just as the persons of the Godhead are distinguished only by their relations, it is only our relationship to God that make us persons. Nothing more.

This is very important. It is God who makes us persons. His call to each of us, His invitation to communion with Him – this is what makes us persons. As part of the invitation, He gives us everything we need to participate in His communion: He gives us our intellects, our wills, and the capacity to love as He loves. As Boethius said, a person is an individual substance of a rational nature. That definition explains the "what," but it doesn’t explain the "why." Why is a rational nature important to being a person? Because rationality is necessary to do what God calls us to do: be in communion with Him, be a person. That is, our rational nature defines us as persons, but it is a consequence of something prior. That "something prior" is His call to us to be in communion with Him. Our personhood is really a response to His call, a response only made possible through the gift of intellect and will, the gift of rational nature, the gift of personhood. Our persons are responses to His Persons, our rational nature is the instrument through which we respond.

The Virtue of Justice
Now, justice means making sure another person receives his due. The only reason someone has something due him is precisely because he images God. Thus, justice is part of each person’s being. It is an innate recognition of every relationship: you to me, me to you, each of us to God. Because I am in the image of God, I must necessarily recognize God’s image wherever I find it, and I must give His image proper reverence.

And this is why use is the opposite of love. Someone who loves another person, reverences another person, thereby acknowledges that person’s relationship to God. But, oddly enough, someone who hates another person also acknowledges the other person’s relationship with God: he simply despises both that person and God for having such a relationship. Hatred at least has eyes for the truth. Hatred sees the relationships and acknowledges them, even if it is a negative acknowledgement. But with use, it is different.

When we treat others as mere objects to be used, we pretend that they have no relationship with God: God does not call them to Himself. Since personhood depends on relationship, we are actually pretending they are not persons at all. Deliberate use of another denies the intrinsic worth and beauty of the relationships between Persons and persons. But denying God’s call denies divine relationships and divine relationships are precisely what define the Trinitarian Persons. So, when we deny anyone’s personhood, we deny the very existence of the Trinity.

The Application
And this is why the connection between abortion and rape is so hard for us to talk about. You see, we have all forgotten these facts. We live in a culture of death which is to say, we live in a culture of use. Using people as objects is so basic to our lives that it is bred in our bones, it is part of the sea we swim.

Let me illustrate with an example. I know two young women. Both were raped in their teens, one raped on her sixteenth birthday, the other when she was eighteen. Both became pregnant as a result of the rape. Both had abortions. One repented of the abortion. The other did not.

In both cases, the young women had formed a relationship with the rapist: their rapists were a friend made at a party and a boyfriend, respectively. In both cases, the young men in question were called by God to reverence these young women as gifts. In each case, God gave an image of Himself, the woman, to the young man. If the men had treated them with respect, these men would have been gifted with the marvelous joy of counting these women as friends, possibly the young men were even called to lead a long life of loving care and service to these young women.

But instead, in both cases, the young men decided to treat the women as objects. They brutally attacked the divine images God had given unto them. Like the iconoclasts before them, these young men shattered the images of God so that they might worship their own human power instead.

Now, in both cases, God replied to the outrage perpetrated by the rapists by turning to the victimized woman and breathing forth in her the gift of life. He alone has the power to grant life, to breathe forth life in the womb. If He did not desire to grant this gift, the rape would have been sterile, as so many rapes are.

But instead, He gave unto each woman another image of Himself, a source of life and of healing implanted within her being. Just as He had called the young men to respect and revere the young women He had entrusted to their care, so He called the young women to respect and revere the young children He had entrusted to their care.

In the Image of the Rapist
In both cases, each woman, shattered by the violence of the sin visited upon her, turned and visited the same violence she had experienced upon one much weaker than herself. She focused the same level of violence upon not just an acquaintance or friend, but her own child. In each case, the child, being not so strong as her mother, died from this level of violence.

So, in each case, the rapist had made the woman into an image of himself. He had brutally attacked an innocent image of God; as a consequence of his evil, she had likewise brutally attacked an innocent image of God.

When these correspondences were pointed out to the first woman, she repented. She saw the truth, embraced it, and turned from this path.

When these correspondences were pointed out to the second woman, she did not repent. Instead, she said, "You have no right to pass judgement, it is not your place to do so… As I stated previously it is between God and myself…. You are being hypocritical in the fact that you want to quote God, but yet you wish to pass judgement… I believe I did the right thing and if you don't like it, you don't have to because you don't know me and you don't know what it is like to be mutilated on the inside like I was."

You see, the culture of use calls us to pass judgement on the rapist (the other), but not on the one who acts in the image of the rapist (me). Likewise, we can put God in the dock, accuse Him of all the evil we want, but I who am made in His image and likeness – I am innocent. As certain men said at trial in Germany years ago, "I was only doing what was expected. I am innocent of the blood of these people." The rapist made me do it. The devil made me do it. The Fuehrer made me do it.

Abortion is iconoclasm. Rapists are iconoclasts. That’s why the question resonates. That’s why we can’t figure out how to answer it. Abortion and iconoclasm are both very closely linked to rape. Famously Protestant America is built on famously Protestant iconoclasm.

Today, we shatter God’s image, destroy every reference to Him in the public sphere, destroy every image of Him we can find in the culture. Put another way, we rape the public sphere, we watch women get raped, then we insist they rape themselves because rape is an inalienable right found in the shadowy penumbra of the Constitution itself. More than a right: abortion/rape is a duty required to maintain the iconoclastic culture.

The choice is before us: we can be Deathocrats, whether Rockefeller Republicans, Clinton disciples or libertarian lurkers. Or we can oppose the iconoclastic heresy and fight for life. But we must choose a side. One thing is sure: as long as we tolerate abortion, we are all inexorably become a nation of rapists.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

And Now for Something Completely Different

For the last few days, you undoubtedly noticed my blog was being redirected to a sparclinux.org site. It took me awhile to find out what was going on. Apparently a host provider for comments went belly-up, so I had to rip out some code to make things work again. My apologies for the inconvenience. We now return you to our irregularly scheduled blog.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Therese

I just got back from the Wichita Family Conference and have a bit of news to report. As many of you many already know, Leonardo de Filippis is just about to release a new movie on the life of St. Therese of Liseaux.

Now, I must admit, I have long had grave doubts concerning this movie. While deFilippis has created a series of marvelous one-man shows, a movie is a different animal and it wasn't clear that he would be able to make the transition. I have seen several relatively obscure Catholics attempt deservedly obscure movie-length works in recent years. Thus, I was more than a little concerned that the Therese movie would be an obviously low-budget, low-production quality piece of work.

At Wichita, deFilippis showed several out-takes from the movie and gave a basic overview of the production. The movie's star, Margaret Manzy, gave her one-act performance and was on hand for Q&A.

I can say this about Therese: if the movie is as good as the out-takes, it will be favorably compared with Gibson's Passion of the Christ. Indeed, one could argue that we will see in Therese the Passion of the Virgin. I was simply stunned by how good the clips were. The visuals have the rich sensuality of a European production while the characters have a Catholic depth you can happily drown in.

This is easily one of the finest movies of 2004. I didn't think I would say this to anyone, but Therese releases in five weeks - start tapping your movie theater owners to get it in. You won't regret it.


Thursday, August 05, 2004

Chicago Racists

I used to think that the the large liberal corporate media conglomerates hated political diversity. I must now eat my words. The Chicago Tribune has a most amazing racist on its editorial staff and for that, the ACLU will undoubtedly hand out high honors. Mr. Eric Zorn baldly states that he knows very little about Alan Keyes, but then goes on to charge that Keyes was only nominated as a Republican party candidate for the Senate based on his skin color.

So, Mr. Zorn calls Dr. Keyes a "token" black simply because he has not managed to impinge on Mr. Zorn's consciousness? Mr. Zorn's racism is made all the more prominent by the facts: Dr. Keyes has a Ph.D. in government from Harvard, was a United States representative to the UN, a successful talk show host, and campaigned twice for the office of Maryland Senator and twice for president. If a man with that kind of education, that kind of public prominence and that kind of experience is a "token" black man then what passes for a REAL black man?

Dr. Keyes would be contesting with a man who holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Columbia University and a law degree (magna cum laude) from Harvard. Barack Obama's main claim to fame is as a lawyer and Illinois state senator. Yet, despite the very similar qualifications, Mr. Zorn would certainly not call Barack Obama a token black Democrat candidate.

Why not? Well, that's not clear. Obama is certainly as much or as little a token black as Keyes, but because his politics conform to Mr. Zorn's politics, Mr. Zorn is unwilling to point out the possibility that Obama is just another liberal Oreo. Yet, when we consider that African-Americans overwhelmingly oppose things like abortion and gay marriage and overwhelmingly support things like school vouchers, we find that Keyes' politics are in line with these sentiments while Obama's positions are not. In fact, Obama's positions are much more in accord with white-run power establishments like Mr. Zorn's employer, the Chicago Tribune.

Who's the token black? Isn't it odd that a white man who admits his ignorance of the black man under discussion takes it upon himself to answer that question?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Why Catholics Don't Often Witness

The May 24th issue of America contains an article by Fr. John C. Haughey, professor of theology at Loyola University in Chicago, who laments the Catholic unwillingness to talk about their personal relationship with Jesus. Whether it be a theology student or a theology professor, Catholics don't talk much about themselves and Christ. Instead, Catholics, even Catholic professors, talk about books: “these seasoned Catholic scholars could hardly be described as lacking a personal relationship with Christ. What is it about Catholicism that makes personal sharing about one’s relationship with Jesus less likely?”

John Paul II has already answered this question. How many men and women begin a conversation by talking about their love for their spouse? Most married people, especially men, simply don't engage in that kind of conversation. We don't start a conversation with "Good heavens, I love my wife! And I just wanted to come before you to say that she's the best little woman in the world."

Evangelicals emphasize the Lordship of Christ or the fact that Jesus is their friend. But you never hear them talk about Jesus as their lover. For Catholics, that is all there IS to talk about.

We can talk about how we got married to our Spouse, Jesus Christ, in baptism. We can talk about God grows how our marriage relationship from baptismal newlywed status to full maturity in Confirmation. We can talk about how He establishes His Son within our spiritual family through Holy Orders. We can talk about how we we cheated on our Spouse but repented and renewed our marriage vows in Reconciliation. We can talk about the Flesh of the Bridegroom entering the Flesh of the Bride at the Nuptial Feast in Eucharist and the Mass. We can talk about all the sweet nothings we whisper into our Lover's ear through sacramentals and the sacramental life. We can talk about how the Bridegroom takes us home to the Father's House after our honeymoon here on earth.

But we don't. We don't talk about it much because spouses don't tend to talk about these things in public. Good spouses don't thrust their private married life on strangers. Married life is about intimacy. It is something that only our family sees, that only spouses really share and understand. I cannot speak for wives, but I can say this: two husbands may talk about this very quietly in the backyard over a beer when the rest of the family is otherwise occupied, but even then, they speak in hushed tones and indirect comments, and even those are kept to a bare minimum. This is the nature of married life. It is the entrance into the sanctuary. It is the holiness of the tabernacle. Men recognize this holiness by doing all that a man can do: he falls silent before it in order to witness to it the better, in order to see it more clearly.

There is good Scriptural precedent for this. Mary, the first person to proclaim the full Gospel, did so in absolute silence, as her spouse, Joseph, silently stood guard over her and the Child. She and Joseph remained silent, leaving to the angels the task of telling the shepherds of the event. If Fr. Haughey had bothered to read John Paul II's Theology of the Body, or even bothered with one of the popular summaries (of which my Sex and the Sacred City is but one example), if he had spent some time absorbing this teaching and making it his own, he would know this.

Evangelicals are the chipper young lads and lasses out on their first or second or twenty-first date, ready to talk about their relationship with anyone who has a ready ear. Like anyone who is not fully committed, they are not entirely sure of themselves, so they constantly bring forward their relationship for others to examine and advise them. "Is this the one?" they ask. "I really love her. I think she is the one. Is she? Am I doing the right thing? I think I am. I can't imagine being happier. What do you think? I think she's GREAT! Oh, if you only had the chance to meet her, if you only had the chance to know her like I do, you would think she is great too! She is you know. Don't you think so? Come with me, I'll introduce you. You'll really like her." How many times have we who are older had this conversation with an eager young adult?

But Catholic life is different.

Catholic life is about being married to Jesus.

Not dating.

Not friends.

Married.

And Fr. Haughey, that's a whole different level of conversation.