Monday, June 30, 2008

Quote of the Day Redux

From another work-related conversation, one that touched on the presidential race and health-care related red tape:

"If bureaucracy was a watermelon, I'd vote for Gallagher."

And I may as well throw this one out there, while I'm at it. This is my typical response whenever a Microsoft application freezes up:

"Bill Gates' technology has more bugs in it than a hippie commune."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Gun Control...It's The "Control" Part That Disturbs Me

This was a thought that occurred to me the other day. I've long believed that the political left has been obsessed with the idea of government exerting ever-increasing amounts of control over our lives. Their efforts to undermine parents as the primary educators of their children (in favor of the largely NEA-controlled public school system), their obsession with this mythical wall between Church and state (which they claim should prevent even religious ideals from influencing the function of government, even though they conveniently look the other way whenever government intrudes upon Church matters, such as when the abominable Supreme Court of California forced Catholic Charities to provide coverage for contraceptives for its employees), and their constant efforts to force their views on us via judicial fiat - such as the aforementioned Catholic Charities example - when they can't succeed in promoting their agenda via the ballot box serve as only a few of the many disturbing signs that they see government oversight as necessary to "save us from ourselves."

I've never been a vocal participant in the gun control debate, as other issues have always held a higher priority for me. Still, I have my opinions on the second amendment, and to me it would take a tremendous leap in logic to assert that the constitutional right to bear arms applies only to militia and not to private citizens - especially given the fact that many of the framers of the Constitution were themselves private gun owners. With that in mind, I started to think about how the left's obsession with preventing law-abiding citizens from owning guns played into their overall agenda. They have to know that their efforts to promote gun control legislation will do absolutely nothing to prevent criminals from using guns to commit crimes, since a considerable number of crimes are already being committed with firearms that were obtained illegally. So if gun control legislation does nothing to curb the use of guns in crimes, then the law can only be harmful to those law-abiding citizens that criminals have an annoying tendency to target.

Now, I can't help but think that if such a law was passed by the likes of Castro (pick one), Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, or Hugo Chavez, then it could only be a means of suppressing resistance among citizens against unpopular measures (such as, ironically, depriving them of the right to bear arms). Given the left's repeated admiration for such dictators and their proven track record of passing unpopular measures despite the will of the voters, one is left to wonder if the detrimental effect of gun control legislation (namely, that of preventing law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves against those who would deprive them of their rights, whether the oppressor is a criminal - after all, when was the last time an armed robber walked into a bank with a search warrant? - or the government itself) is by chance or by design.

Having posed this question, let me just state that I would welcome anyone who can convince me that there aren't ulterior motives to pushing gun control legislation, because I find this entire thought process very disturbing and would just as soon have some of peace of mind on this issue. God bless!

In Jesus and Mary,

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

ACLU Strikes Another Blow for the Culture of Death

I'm not really in a mood to wax poetic tonight, so I'll just be blunt and say that the ACLU is a demonic organization. This article from describes yet another successful ACLU lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood. Never one to leave an open wound unsalted, this blight on morality turned around and forced the state of Idaho - which lost the lawsuit in court - to pay its legal expenses.

So not only was the state of Idaho embroiled in a lawsuit it did not instigate, it is now forced to subsidize the ACLU's unprovoked legal assault upon the will of Idaho's voters, who also happen to be the taxpayers that will be forced to bear the brunt of the bill.

American Civil Liberties Union? "ACLU" might stand for a lot of things, but "America" and "civil liberties" are not among them.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On the Hierarchy of Values

It is no small source of frustration for me that I seem to get ideas for blog posts like these - where I could literally write for hours on end - just before my bedtime every night. As such, I rarely touch on all the subjects I want to address, and this is no exception.

I want to do this topic justice, so I'll start with a bit of an intro and hopefully develop the topic further in related posts in the coming days and weeks.

To begin simply, our sense of right and wrong is largely governed by the priority we assign to values. For instance, the devout Catholic places a great value on human life in all its stages, and regards the taking of human life at any stage as a great tragedy. The only thing the Catholic faith calls us to value more highly than the dignity of the human person and his right to live is the Triune God Himself. This explains why choosing martyrdom before denying God or the true faith by which we express our devotion to Him is considered an act of heroic virtue, while sacrificing one's life for the sake of something less valuable - like, say, a tree - is considered a waste of a human life.

Or take, for instance, the value we place on the safety and well-being of the people we love. Ordinarily, it would be wrong to cause harm to another human being; but when acting in the defense of a loved one who has come under assault, the use of force against the assailant can be justified, even if the force exerted harms the assailant in the process (taking care, of course, that the harm caused is not disproportionate to the harm intended or feared. It is not right to kill someone who was trying to slap your sister in the face, though it might be justifiable to use lethal force against someone who was trying to attack your sister with a knife, as the latter case clearly requires a greater use of force than the former case).

Understanding the proper hierarchy of values plays a large role in understanding the basic principles of right and wrong in moral theology and philosophical ethics. This is a topic that has been in my heart of late because I have seen first hand how a relativistic mindset can severely warp how a person views right and wrong actions. The relativist is inclined to deny the concept of a hierarchy of values, believing in principle that all values are equal (even if the relativist does not truly believe this in practice). This warped view of the hierarchy of values explains, for instance, how a group like PETA can consider animals to have the same intrinsic worth as human beings. It also plays a large role in explaining how a pro-abortionist can argue that a "woman's right to choose" can take precedence over the life of the unborn child.

Just a snippet for starters. I really want to develop this topic more. In the meantime, feel free to comment or even to offer suggestions on how to get this started. God bless!

In Jesus and Mary,

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Liberal's 10 Commandments

Back in print after four years, this was something I wrote back in 2004 during one of my more cynical moments, which tend to happen with inordinate frequency anytime I ponder political, philosophical, and pseudo-religious tenets of liberalism.

I'd tell liberals not to be offended, but that would be as pointless as telling feminists to love their fellow man. Enjoy!

The Liberal’s 10 Commandments

1. I am the feminist Abortion Goddess; thou shalt have no other deities before me. Thou may pay lip service to worshiping the Christian deity in the time leading up to an election; however, thou shalt mean none of it.

2. Thou shalt not take the name(s) of Margaret Sanger, Alfred Kinsey, Roe vs. Wade, the ACLU, the AFL-CIO, the NEA, or Al Gore in vain.

3. Keep no day as holy unless:
1) It is January 22;
2) It makes for a good photo-op;
3) It is specifically requested by a leftist fringe group; or
4) It is a testament to the evil done by white Christian males.

4. Mother and father are archaic expressions designed to accentuate the inequality of the genders. They also promote the offensive stereotype that only male/female pairings can legitimately be considered parents. Thou shalt henceforth replace them with the generic phrase parent(s)/legal guardian(s). Thou may honor thy parent(s)/legal guardian(s) unless:
1) They are “anti-choice;”
2) Thou art being home-schooled; or
3) Thou art a minor attempting to cross state lines to procure an abortion without their consent.

5. Thou shalt not kill animals (especially if “endangered”), trees (especially if part of a “rain forest), terrorists, or convicted murderers. I make no provisions, however, for Israelis, persons living under terrorist regimes, or unborn children (unless a trial lawyer sees the potential to make millions of dollars by suing a doctor, thereby driving up health care costs).

6. Adultery is an archaic expression meant to protect archaic modes of male/female union. Thou may doeth whatever feels good. Actions need not have consequences. However, this rule is to be suspended in cases where a Catholic priest is accused of child molestation (the credibility of the allegations being irrelevant). It is also to be suspended in the event that a liberal is embroiled in a sex scandal that could destroy the credibility of liberals everywhere. Such a person must be sacrificed for the good of the cause.

7. The following things may be stolen:
1) United States military secrets;
2) Good ideas that might otherwise be attributed to a conservative;
3) The wealth of “rich conservatives” (an intentionally ambiguous phrase that shall be arbitrarily defined by an incumbent liberal president or trial lawyer)
4) Close elections (through court rulings by liberal-appointed judges)

8. Thou shalt not bear false witness, unless:
1) Thou art employed by the “mainstream media;”
2) Thou art a liberal running for high office;
3) Thou art speaking about observant Christians; or
4) Thou art a liberal whose credibility has been called into question and need to shift the focus onto your accuser.

In addition, thou shalt never, ever, bear true witness against a liberal politician who has been deemed “electable” (so long as a liberal politician holdeth the exalted “electable” status, he/she/it shalt likewise be protected under the 2nd Commandment).

9. Wife is an archaic term pertaining to an archaic definition of male/female union. It, as well as the equally archaic term husband, shalt henceforth be replaced by the term significant other(s). Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s significant other(s) unless:
1) Thou art the leader or the offspring of a leader of a terrorist regime
2) Thou hath been blessed with the surname Kennedy
3) The significant other(s) in question reciprocate(s) thy interest.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods unless:
1) Thy neighbor is a wealthy widow;
2) Thou art a liberal-minded currency speculator; or
3) Thou worketh for the IRS

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Happy Feast of St. Thomas!

I just realized I neglected to post on this, but since I recently decided to take on St. Thomas More as the patron of this blog, it would be really poor form on my part to neglect to wish each of you a happy feast of St. Thomas More (and of his contemporary, St. John Fisher). SS Thomas and John, ora pro nobis!

Holocaust-Surviving Jews Thank Pope

This is taken from a June 18th article in the Catholic League's website. The article can be found here.

There is no more unfairly maligned figure of the 20th century than Eugenio Pacelli, who entered into the minds and hearts of Catholics in 1939 as Pope Pius XII. In an age where too many prelates succumb to moral cowardice and allow enemies of the faith to run rampant in their undermining of the truth, the example of a man who saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews despite having no standing army and spending several years under siege from Nazi Panzer tanks is an example that deserves nothing but praise. Instead, he is widely derided as "Hitler's Pope." It's funny how people like the Maureen Dowds and Garry Wills of the world are quick to see anti-Semitism in the actions of Pius XII (and in The Passion of Christ), yet seem unwilling to denounce people like Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadenijad and former Palestinian terrorist Yasser Arafat, both of whom have expressed a desire for the elimination of the Israeli state.

Maybe it's just easier to pick on targets that won't send suicide bombers after you in retaliation...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

St. Francis of Assisi in Film

A few months ago, I purchased on DVD the 1989 movie Francesco, starring Mickey Rourke as St. Francis of Assisi and Helena Bonham Carter as St. Clare. Despite this, I didn't see the movie for the first time until tonight. Although Rourke especially seemed an odd fit to me in the role of St. Francis (I still have difficulty shaking my image of him as the star of such sexually explicit films as Wild Orchid and 9 1/2 Weeks, to say nothing of his little foray into professional boxing), I was always interested in knowing how this movie compared to the better-known depiction of St. Francis in Franco Zefirelli's 1972 film Brother Sun, Sister Moon. The following few paragraphs contain some spoilers; but if anyone reading this is relying on film depictions to educate themselves on the life of St. Francis, then I daresay that my spoiling the ending for you should be the very least of your concerns. At any rate, this will be short, because it's getting late and I don't want to sleepwalk through Mass tomorrow morning.

The two movies are drastically different, as each has a particular focus. Brother Sun, Sister Moon is what you might expect of a film from the early 70s period, focusing mainly on St. Francis' social justice work and sounding like a "Flower Power" rendition of the saint's life. It isn't necessarily unfaithful to the person of St. Francis (though lines such as "Brother Sun has illuminated me!" occasionally make St. Francis sound more like he's on a New Age inspired acid trip than he is experiencing a radical call to imitate the life of Christ), but the movie certainly does gloss over many aspects of the saint's life, most notably the aspect of physical suffering and the emotional tribulations that St. Francis endures during the course of his life and ministry. There are a few scenes here and there to remind us that St. Francis is Catholic (such as a scene where he gives his blessing to a follower who wishes to leave because he can't handle a life of celibacy, while exhorting the man to be fruitful and multiply, "but with a wife"), but for the most part, those who know nothing about St. Francis going in are left to assume that - were he alive at the time of filming - he would have been wearing a "Hell no, we won't go!" T-shirt and blowing kisses to warriors and pacifists alike. There is one scene towards the end were the viewer is treated to a show of humility from Pope Innocent III - played by the incomparable Sir Alec Guiness - as he formally approves of St. Francis' order. No mention is made of St. Francis' stigmata, which is just as well because I would spare the world images of St. Francis frolicking through a field of flowers and singing 60s folk songs while bleeding from his hands and feet.

Francesco, on the other hand, focuses much more on the tribulations of St. Francis. I found there were a number of unsuitable scenes for a PG-13 movie - including a scene where one of St. Francis' followers runs naked into a Church during Mass and another where St. Francis flings himself naked into a snow bank and we are given some frontal glimpses of Rourke that even viewers of his more "erotic" movies were spared - but for the most part the movie does strike a better balance than Brother Sun, Sister Moon between St. Francis' radical love for God and his fellow man and his immense suffering stemming from a variety of sources. The beginning of the movie does not really go into detail about what prompts St. Francis onto the path of sanctification, but does show moments where Francis is dissatisfied with his life of luxury and is obviously restless in his desire for something more fulfilling. The viewer is expected to know that this longing is for God, as Francis rather abruptly renounces his life as a noble and begins a life of austerity, going door to door begging for food and suddenly embracing the lepers that he had violently been chasing off five minutes before.

What makes Francesco a more faithful rendition of the life of St. Francis, though, is that the portrayal of the saint is much more humanizing. We see his radical selflessness, his desire to embrace the (literal) Cross, and his challenge to his contemporaries to live a less materialistic life; but 60s relics who fondly recall their "make love, not war" days may be disappointed to find that St. Francis is here portrayed not as a model of civil disobedience, but rather as unambiguously Catholic and devoted to a life of austerity devoid of the romantic idealism that runs rampant in Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Francesco is not a man who lives from one magical moment to the next; rather, he is a man who has to deal with the practical realities of sexual temptation (hence the scene where he flings himself into the snow), the consequences of his followers taking his words too literally (hence the need to come to the rescue of the poor young man who suddenly finds himself standing naked in the sanctuary of a cathedral during Mass), and the antagonism of those who are drawn to his order by his idealism but who are unwilling to abide by his requirement that they imitate his life of austerity and radical poverty. Thankfully, the stigmata is also not portrayed as some wonderful mark of holiness to be marveled at by others for the benefit of the bearer, but rather as a sign that the saint's call to love as Jesus loved was genuine and that, as St. Clare puts it, his love for Christ had caused his body to bear the marks of his Beloved. The wounds of Christ are the culmination of St. Francis' mission on earth (again, in imitation of his Beloved), for he dies shortly thereafter.

There is much more that can be said here; but as I mentioned before, my time for the night is short. If I have to recommend one movie over the other, I would pick Francesco, though not without caution. Of course, I recommend it only as a way to help bring the saint to life for the visually oriented, for we should be looking to other sources to educate ourselves (I would most especially recommend G.K. Chesterton's "St. Francis of Assisi;" and if that surprises you, I have some waterfront property in New Orleans overlooking some nice levees that I'd like to sell you :-). That is all for tonight. I pray all's well. God bless!

In Jesus and Mary,

Thursday, June 19, 2008

On St. Isidore of Seville

A great meditation from our Holy Father on the contributions of St. Isidore of Seville, one of the 33 Doctors of the Church.

The address is reprinted in its entirety below. The original article can be found here.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I wish to speak of St. Isidore of Seville, younger brother of Leander, bishop of Seville, and great friend of Pope Gregory the Great. This relation is important because it leads us to keep in mind a cultural and spiritual approach that is indispensable to understanding Isidore's personality. In fact, he owed much to Leander, a very exacting, studious and austere person, who had created around his younger brother a family context characterized by ascetic demands proper of a monk and the rhythms of work required by serious dedication to study.

In addition, Leander was attentive to prepare in advance what was necessary to address the political-social situation of the moment: In those decades, in fact, the Visigoths, barbarians and Arians, had invaded the Iberian Peninsula and taken over territories belonging to the Roman empire. It was necessary to win them over to Romanism and Catholicism. Leander and Isidore's home had quite a rich library of classical, pagan and Christian works. Isidore, who felt attracted simultaneously to both one and the other, was taught, therefore, to develop, under the watchfulness of his elder brother, a very strong discipline in dedicating himself to their study with discretion and discernment.

In the bishop's residence in Seville one lived, therefore, in a serene and open climate. We can deduce this from Isidore's cultural and spiritual interests, as they emerge from his works themselves, which contain an encyclopedic knowledge of the pagan classical culture and in-depth knowledge of Christian culture. Thus can be explained the eclecticism that characterizes Isidore's literary output, which extends with great ease from Marcial to Augustine, and from Cicero to Gregory the Great.

Indeed, the interior struggle that the young Isidore had to endure, having become his brother Leander's successor in the episcopal chair of Seville in 599, was not light. Perhaps the impression of excessive voluntarism that one detects when reading the works of this great author -- regarded as the last of the Christian fathers of antiquity -- is due precisely to this constant struggle with himself. A few years after his death, which occurred in 636, the Council of Toledo of 653 described him as: "Illustrious teacher of our time and glory of the Catholic Church."

Isidore was without a doubt a man of accentuated dialectical oppositions. And, also in his personal life, he experienced a permanent interior conflict, rather like that which St. Gregory the Great and St. Augustine had already noted, between the desire for solitude, to dedicate themselves solely to meditation on the word of God, and the exigencies of charity toward his neighbors, for whose salvation, as bishop, he felt responsible.

He wrote, for example, in connection with persons responsible for the Churches: "The person responsible for a Church -- "vir ecclesiasticus" -- must on one hand allow himself to be crucified to the world with the mortification of the flesh and, on the other, accept the decision of the ecclesiastical order, when it stems from the will of God, to dedicate himself to governance with humility, even if he does not wish to do it" (Sententiarum liber III, 33, 1: PL 83, col 705 B).

He then adds just another paragraph: "The men of God -- "sancti viri" -- do not in fact desire to dedicate themselves to worldly things and lament when, by a mysterious plan of God, they are entrusted with certain responsibilities. They do anything to avoid it, but accept that which they wish to flee, and do that which they would have wished to avoid. In fact, they enter into the secret of the heart and therein try to understand what the mysterious will of God requests. And when they realize that they must submit to God's plans, they humble their hearts under the yoke of the divine decision" (Sementarium liber III, 33, 3: PL 83, coll. 705-706).

To better understand Isidore, we must recall, first of all, the complexity of the political situations of his time, to which I have already made reference: During the years of his childhood he had experienced the bitterness of exile. Despite this, he was permeated with apostolic enthusiasm: He experienced the rapture of contributing to the formation of a people who were finally rediscovering their unity, whether on the political or the religious plane, with the providential conversion of Erminigild, the heir to the Visigothic throne, from Arianism to the Catholic faith.

However, we must not underestimate the enormous difficulties he faced in adequately addressing very grave problems such as those of relations with the heretics and the Jews -- a whole series of problems that appear very concretely also today, above all, if we consider what happens in certain regions in which it seems that situations somewhat similar to those of the Iberian Peninsula of the 6th century have reappeared. The wealth of cultural knowledge that Isidore possessed allowed him to constantly confront the Christian novelty with the Greco-Roman classical heritage, even if, beyond the precious gift of synthesis, it seems he also had that of "collatio," namely, of compilation, which was expressed in an extraordinary personal erudition, not always ordered as might have been desired.

To be admired, in any case, is his persistent desire not to neglect anything of that which human experience had produced in the history of his homeland and of the whole world. Isidore did not wish to lose anything that was acquired by man in ancient times, whether pagan, Jewish or Christian. We should not be surprised, therefore, if, in pursuing this purpose, at times he was not successful in passing on adequately, as he would have wished, the knowledge he possessed through the purifying waters of the Christian faith.

In fact, however, in Isidore's intentions, the proposals he makes are always in harmony with the Catholic faith, which he firmly upheld. In the discussion of several theological problems, he shows perception of their complexity and often suggests with acuity solutions that take up and express the complete Christian truth. This enabled believers through the course of the centuries and up to our times to benefit with gratitude from his definitions. A significant example of this matter is offered to us by Isidore's teaching on the relationships between the active and contemplative life.

He writes: "Those who seek to attain the repose of contemplation must first train themselves in the stage of the active life; and thus, freed from the dross of sins, will be able to exhibit that pure heart which, alone, allows one to see God" (Differentiarum Lib II, 34, 133: PL 83, col 91A).

The realism of a true pastor convinces him however of the risk that the faithful run of reducing themselves to being one-dimensional men. Hence, he adds: "The middle way, composed of both ways of life, is generally more useful to resolve those tensions that often are acute by the choice of only one kind of life and are better tempered by an alternation of the two ways" (o.c., 134: ivi, col 91B).

Isidore looks for the definitive confirmation of a correct orientation of life in the example of Christ and says: "Jesus the Savior offers us the example of the active life when, during the day he dedicated himself to offer signs and miracles in the city, but he showed the contemplative life when he withdrew to the mountain at night and dedicated himself to prayer" (o.c. 134: ivi).

In the light of the example of the divine Teacher, Isidore could conclude with this precise moral teaching: "Therefore, the servant of God, imitating Christ, must dedicate himself to contemplation without denying himself the active life. To behave otherwise would not be right. In fact, as we must love God with contemplation, so we must love our neighbor with action. It is impossible, therefore, to live without the presence of one and the other way of life, nor is it possible to love if one has no experience of one or the other" (o.c., 135: ivi, col 91C).

I hold that this is the synthesis of a life that seeks the contemplation of God, dialogue with God in prayer and the reading of sacred Scripture, as well as action in the service of the human community and of one's neighbor. This synthesis is the lesson that the great bishop of Seville leaves us, Christians of today, called to witness to Christ at the beginning of a new millennium.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today's catechesis we turn to Saint Isidore of Seville, the brother of Saint Leander and a contemporary and friend of Saint Gregory the Great. Isidore lived during the Visigothic invasions of Spain, and he devoted much energy to converting the barbarian tribes from heresy and preserving the best fruits of classical and Christian culture. His encyclopedic, albeit somewhat eclectic, learning is reflected in his many writings, including the Etymologies, which were widely read throughout the Middle Ages. Isidore worked to bring the richness of pagan, Jewish and Christian learning to the rapidly changing political, social and religious situations in which he lived. Throughout his life, he was torn between his devotion to study and contemplation, and the demands made by his responsibilities as a Bishop, especially towards the poor and those in need. He found his model in Christ, who joined both the active and contemplative life, and sought to "love God in contemplation and one's neighbor in action" (Differentiarum Liber, 135). This is a lesson which is as valid today as it was in the life of the great Bishop of Seville.

I am pleased to welcome the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles gathered in Rome for their General Chapter, and the participants in the Rome Seminar of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. I also warmly greet a group of survivors of the Holocaust who are present at today's Audience. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, South Africa, Australia, Vietnam and the United States, I cordially invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Shepherd Must Fend Off The Wolves, Not Compromise With Them

After the unfortunate series of events that recently took place during a USCCB meeting in Orlando, FL - events that, I am saddened to say, were instigated by the Bishop of my home diocese, a man generally praised for his orthodoxy - I went back and read a 1995 article by the noted Catholic scholar James Hitchcock. The text of that article can be found here, and I strongly encourage you to take a look at it.

The main thrust of the article is the fact that a great many Bishops who are known for their personal orthodoxy and piety have failed miserably over the years in passing that orthodoxy and piety on to their constituents due to an unwillingness to confront even the most overtly heretical elements within their diocese in the name of some false kind of unity. Hitchcock never actually comes out and says it, but he is strongly implying that this failure is one of moral courage.

I've lost track of the number of times I have experienced the hope that a newly appointed bishop reputed to have orthodox leanings might clean up the liturgical, moral, and spiritual mess that exists in the diocese he inherits from his heterodox predecessor, only to have those hopes dashed when, after several years have passed, I come to the realization that the Bishop's orthodox rhetoric has not been accompanied by any action whatsoever (to say nothing of sufficient action) to root out the chief causes of heterodoxy in his diocese. If I was satisfied that lip service was enough to cure all of society's ills, I'd be voting for Barack Obama (and if, after reading all the posts on my blog, you still hold out hope that I might do so, then please click here).

There's really no nice way to say this: if you are a priest or bishop who has been tasked with rebuilding a parish or diocese left in spiritual tatters by your predecessor, no amount of orthodoxy or personal piety will benefit your flock unless you have the moral courage to face temporal ridicule or persecution at the hands of those who would oppose your efforts to restore the orthodox identity of your charge. And if you're waiting for some layman or group of laymen to take the initiative so you can be assured of some support, I have some news for you: you're the Shepherd! Be a man and stop relying on the sheep to do your tending for you! That's how we found ourselves in this mess in the first place.

To the Bishop of my home diocese: there are still many of us who hope that you will be the Bishop who will lead us into the New Springtime. We pledge to help you if you are sincerely interested in restoring belief in the true faith to your flock. But it was given to you to lead, and for us to follow; and there is nothing we can do unless you are willing to take the first step. We need to know that we have your support, because if we don't, there remain forces opposed to promoting the true faith that will move with ruthless efficiency to neutralize us. These are the wolves, both spiritual and temporal, from which we need the protection of a successor to the Apostles. God bless!

In Jesus and Mary,
Gerald Lamb

Barack Obama on Social Security

It never ceases to amaze me how so many people - even conservatives - can praise Barack Obama's oratorical skills when so much of what he says is incoherent babble. Of course, every now and then something Obama says inadvertently comes through loud and clear; and it should make the blood of any morally upright, freedom loving human being freeze. This guy is a hard-core Marxist. Look for more blog posts over the course of the next few months to further illustrate this point.

For now, I leave you with this disturbing glimpse into Obama's redistributionist economic agenda, courtesy of Powerline.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

From a conversation I had at work today:

"How can you expect a bureaucracy to properly malfunction if everyone knows exactly what they're doing?"

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Semantics of "Choice"

A few months before I left Gainesville, FL for Steubenville back in 2003, the University of Florida chapter of NOW decided to stage a "protest" at the University plaza in support of "reproductive rights." They announced this several weeks in advance in order to increase their numbers, not realizing that all their hard-core supporters - who could be counted on the fingers of Major League Baseball pitcher Antonio Alfonseca's hands with digits to spare - had already joined the group and pledged to show up at the protest.

The day before, a friend of mine placed a handful of phone calls to some friends to see if anyone was interested in going to the plaza to peacefully counter-demonstrate. With that modest effort, he managed to round up more than twice as many people as the feminists could muster despite all their efforts.

When the feminists saw that their unwelcome detractors were attracting more attention from passersby than they were and that people were receiving greater exposure to the pro-life view as a result (in short, that their eagerly anticipated event had not only been a miserable failure, but counterproductive to boot), the main organizer of the pro-abort protest apparently forgot herself and began screaming, "What about my right to f**k?! What about my right to f**k?!"

To answer her question, it's not a right; it's a privilege, and it requires the consent of another person of legal age acting without compulsion (and a lot more besides in order to do more good than harm). But more on that another time.

One can't help but wonder, given the glaring inconsistencies in the pro-aborts' point of view, what exactly they mean when they say they support "a woman's right to choose." They insist that they are "pro-choice" rather than "pro-abortion," but I can't recall the last time they held rallies to support women who actually chose to keep their babies.

They claim women should have a right to choose what kind of life they want to lead, but scorn women who choose to embrace their roles as wives and mothers, saying that such women "set the women's liberation movement back."

They claim that government has no right to tell a woman "what to do with her body," but I can't recall the last time they denounced China's demonic one-child policy, by which the Chinese regime forces women to abort pregnancies of which they do not approve.

So while they claim to be "pro-choice," it really seems as though you have to make the "choice" they would make in order to win their approval.

Let's set that hypocrisy aside for a moment, though, along with the obvious fact that a genuine right to choose does not extend to taking the life of another human being for the sake of one's own convenience, and let's look at the semantics behind their application of the word "choice."

By "choice," of course, they ostensibly mean the choice of whether or not to have a child or to voluntary terminate a pregnancy. And this choice applies only to women. Men don't get pregnant, so the reasoning goes, so they don't get a say in the matter (this scornful view of the complementarity of the sexes in the act of parenting is yet another common bond the abortion rights movement shares with the gay rights movement, by the way).

But let's look at this matter a bit more closely. Is this really a choice? If a woman truly has the power to choose not to have children, then it would stand to reason that she would have the power not to become pregnant in the first place. Planned Parenthood exploited the lust for this type of power (itself inspired by a different kind of lust) beautifully, making artificial contraception its centerpiece in the decades prior to Roe v. Wade, and then using the (Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, Estelle) Griswold v. Connecticut decision - which made it illegal for the government to ban the sale of over-the-counter contraceptives and also created the previously non-existent right to privacy - as a stepping stone and legal precedent for the Roe v. Wade decision. Women who wanted absolute control over their fertility looked to artificial contraception as the means to prevent pregnancy while still being able to engage in sexual activity. Since that time, the "sex-without-consequences" mentality has been the calling card of the culture of death.

The problem was, the pill did not give women nearly as much control over their fertility as its supporters promised (and dishonestly continue to promise). No matter how hard they tried, they simply could not stop conception at will. Herein lies the first fatal weakness in the "pregnancy is a choice" argument. If pregnancy were truly a choice, there would be no need for contraceptives. Likewise, there would be no need for abortion. Because women who did not want to become pregnant simply would not become pregnant.

By the same token, just as no sexually active fertile woman can prevent conception at will, neither can she choose to become pregnant at will. No amount of fertility methods can help a woman conceive at will; and even when such methods do work, women have no control over the number of children that are conceived. Just as it is not possible to prevent pregnancy, it is not possible to dictate when pregnancy is to occur. This is hardly a characteristic of something that can legitimately be called a choice.

So if pregnancy isn't a choice, then what is it? It is a possible outcome of a choice. It is a (here comes a word the abortion rights movement and hedonists in general have come to dread) consequence of a choice, and therefore not really something that women have control over. Unless, of course, women (and men, for that matter) choose not to engage in the activity that leads to the potential consequence of pregnancy. Again, we come to a word that strikes fear into the hearts of the hedonist culture of death: abstinence. The very notion that sexual activity is a choice is antithethical to those who have become slaves to their own passions. Because they can't (or won't) control their own impulses, they naturally assume that no one else can either (the parallels with the gay rights movement continue to pile up here). Therefore, they refuse to acknowledge that sexual activity is a choice, pretending instead that it is a biological necessity that no human being can do without and which no human being can choose to avoid (if that idea was followed to its logical extreme, we'd have to overturn every rape and child molestation conviction in our nation's history on the grounds that the perpetrators were only satisfying what was for them a biological necessity and were therefore not responsible for their actions). Hence the refusal to address what is truly a choice and the need to pretend that it is the consequence (or rather, whether or not to run away from the responsibility that the consequence entails) that is the real choice. Kinda puts the vulgar rant of the unhinged feminist at the beginning of this post into perspective, doesn't it?

You'll hear many pro-lifers say that the abortion rights movement is about the right to engage in sexual activity without consequences. To a large extent, they are correct. But they're only scratching part of the surface. It is, at its core, a movement obsessed with control. Control not only over the whole range of choices they make, but also complete control over the consequences of those choices and - lest anyone serve as a living reminder that what they are doing is morally wrong - control over how others perceive those choices (here we see more common ground with the gay rights movement). It is no coincidence that fraudulent "Catholic" groups such as Call to Action and the atrociously-named Catholics for a Free Choice embrace the views of the culture of death: their constant rantings about not being included in the decision making of the Church screams lust for power, as does the advocacy of such groups for women's ordination (when was the last time you heard an advocate of women's ordination talk about anything other than what kind of power access to the sacramental priesthood would bring? You certainly don't hear them talk about the humbling, self-sacrificial aspect of the priestly ministry, because they want no part of that aspect of the cloth).

Why this ravenous need for control? For the same reason that they are incapable of true Christian charity: namely, the fact that they reject the One who orders all things, the One at whose name every knee shall bend. To reject God is to reject the need to submit ourselves to the authority of One who is greater than ourselves. In the absence of such a One whose authority liberates us, the need for power and control over every aspects of one's own life becomes paramount.

All for the sake of a "right to choose." It hardly seems worth it. God bless!

In Jesus and Mary,

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Careful What Change You Hope For

Hello, my name is Gerald Lamb. I have absolutely no political or legal experience. I regard hope as a theological virtue that is a movement of the human appetite towards a difficult but not impossible to obtain good (chief among the things to be desired being reconciliation with God in the Beatific Vision). More generally, I regard hope as the expectation of obtaining something that is desired. I generally regard change as something that is good when something is broken and in genuine need of changing, and as something bad when the thing being changed doesn't really need fixing and the change is being sought for the sake of novelty. My qualifications for being President of the United States are close to nil. Nevertheless, today I announce that I want to be your next President of the United States.

Actually, I don't really want to be the next President of the United States. It seems to require more time than I'm ready to devote, and the number of temptations associated with the job have proven detrimental effects on the human soul. Despite these risks, I am still running for President of the United States.

Actually, I'm not really running for President of the United States. I'm only 31 years old (which according to the Constitution means I can't run for another 4 years). But hey, I just mentioned the words "hope" and "change," and I hereby mention the word "unity." I am now officially every bit as qualified to be President of the United States as Barack Obama.

Actually, that's not true either. Unlike Barack Obama, I have actually identified what is meant by hope and change. I acknowledge that a thing cannot really be hoped for unless it is known and desired (and what specific hope has Barack Obama offered in his campaign aside from the promise of four years' worth of flowery, empty platitudes and hints at the same tired leftist policies that have represented the Democrat party platform for the better part of 3 decades?), and that the pursuit of change for the sake of novelty is an unworthy pursuit. Already I have provided more substance for my ideas than Barack Obama has ever offered for his, and unless you know me personally you've only gotten the briefest of glimpses into my mindset (with more to follow). Nevertheless, in the space of a few short blog posts I have provided more context for my views and have offered a more substantial reason for being taken seriously as a Presidential contender than Barack Obama has done in the decade plus he has spent riding the color of his skin, his penchant for empty rhetoric, and the coattails of his chief benefactors to unimaginable heights. We now find ourselves with the prospect of electing to the most powerful position in the secular free world a man with no proven track record of leadership and a mountain of "off-limits" questions about his past buried under a sandhill jealously guarded by the media and the PC thought police. All he's really shown is that he will bring the same tired liberal ideas in bright, shiny new packaging.

Actually, the packaging isn't all that new, nor bright. There is nothing new under the sun, only what appears new to those with an attention span that rivals that of a goldfish. There are shades of JFK, LBJ, Jimmy Carter, and (believe it or not) Bill Clinton in the person of Barack Obama (go back and read histories of the 1992 presidential campaign, and tell me you don't see eerie similarities between the campaigns of "Clinton the new Democrat" and "Obama the new breed of politician"). And that's just within living memory. As far as bright,'d think that would have been proven with a little substance to back up the rhetoric by now. But I'll give you shiny. He's definitely shiny. He relies on the glare to keep prying eyes at bay.

In 2002, when Bill McBride unsuccessfully opposed Jeb Bush's reelection bid as governor of Florida, I spoke with a gentleman who said he was voting for McBride for no other reason than that he disliked Bush. I then asked him for one concrete example of what Bill McBride stood for as a politician (other than the tiresome "decreased classroom sizes" amendment that served as the only major plank holding up his shaky campaign platform). The gentleman admitted he could think of none, but defended his support for McBride saying that McBride was the lesser of two evils. To which I replied: "How can you call one man the lesser of two evils when, by your own admission, you have absolutely no idea what level of evil that man could potentially represent?"

I now pose that same question to all the Obama supporters who can't explain their support for Obama beyond the assertion that he is the candidate of "change," "hope," and "unity."

The last time a major party Presidential candidate successfully sold himself as a candidate of change, we were rewarded for our gullibility with eight years of Bill Clinton (I'm telling you, the similarities are eerie). Judging by the way the Democrats treated Hillary this election cycle, I think it's safe to say that that was the kind of change they'd just as soon forget.

Careful what you wish for, folks. Your choice as it stands is between a stubborn question mark in Barack Obama and a proven commodity in John McCain.

Actually, I wouldn't call McCain a proven commodity...

Friday, June 6, 2008

To further illustrate the point...

That "gay rights" activists have to overhype every perceived criticism and turn it into a case of out-and-out persecution.

An usher at a Seattle Mariners home game against the Boston Red Sox tells a lesbian couple to stop making out because a woman a few rows over, who was attending the game with several children, found the behavior inappropriate (kudos to her for speaking up!) and did not want to explain to the children why two women were kissing.

Note the absolute condescension in the tone of the "gay rights" spokesman who rushed to the lesbians' defense:

"'Certain individuals have not yet caught up. Those people see a gay or lesbian couple and they stare or say something,' said Josh Friedes of Equal Rights Washington. 'This is one of the challenges of being gay. Everyday things can become sources of trauma.'"

So apparently telling someone to stop making out in front of impressionable young children is now a source of trauma? You know that if it was a homosexual being offended by heterosexual behavior, there would be a major outcry about the perceived "insensitivity" of heterosexuals.

I'd tell them to suck it up and act like adults, but I'm pretty sure someone, somewhere would find an excuse to construe that as a homophobic remark (the word "homophobia" and its variants being misnomers, but that can keep for another time).

As Mark Shea frequently mentions in his blog, it's not enough to merely tolerate homosexual behavior. As he often puts it: "YOU. MUST. APPROVE."

The article can be found here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

On the True Meaning of Charity

"So faith, hope, charity abide, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

To what exactly does St. Paul refer in his famous discourse of 1 Corinthians 13 when he speaks of charity? In many translations the word love is substituted for charity, but one can get a mistaken notion of what the passage means without a proper understanding of the context. Paragraph 2093 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Christian obligation to charity in the following manner:

"Faith in God's love encompasses the call and the obligation to respond with sincere love to divine charity. The first commandment enjoins us to love God above everything and all creatures for him and because of him."

Note that the definition goes well beyond the mere act of being nice to others or engaging in corporal works of mercy. Behaving in a charitable manner presupposes that one's actions are motivated by and directed toward a love of God above all things and for His own sake. There are many implications to this definition of charity that are often lost on the modern-day secular world, which in its reductionism has sadly reduced the meaning of charity to the mere act described above.

The first and most obvious, not to mention the most dire, consequence of attempting to separate the meaning of charity from its proper context of loving God above all else is that the failure to love God leads to the failure to love those who are created in the image and likeness of God: namely, man. As mentioned in a previous post, it is no coincidence that the supporters of the culture of death are, without exception, comprised entirely of individuals who do not believe in God (despite frequent pretensions to the contrary on the part of many of them) or, as is more likely the case with those who engage in so-called "militant atheism," devout haters of the One who is Love. Jesus Himself directed us in the proper ordering of love when he gave us the greatest commandment - namely, to love the Lord our God with all of our heart and all of our soul - and the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbor as ourself. Without the former, it is not possible to properly perform the latter. Our modern society has largely decided to ignore the greatest commandment; the results, I think, speak for themselves.

A secondary consequence of the loss of the true meaning of charity is that acts of nicety and other good works lose their primary focus and moral efficacy. Without the desire to please God as their goal, such acts begin to be performed for ulterior motives, and more often than not become ordered towards the personal gain of those who perform the actions. When what appear to be good works are performed primarily for the benefit of the performer, these works are deprived of the selflessness without which charity cannot exist. A person who feels the need to announce his every good work or invite a cameraman along every time he wants to help others is not a charitable person, no matter how much the media chooses to fawn over him.

A loss of the true sense of charity also leads to the very modern notion of "tolerance" - namely, that we must not only be accepting of who others are, but also accepting of what they do. This, of course, means no worshiping One who overturned tables and lashed out at those who turned His Father's house into a den of thieves, for such a person is the very antithesis of what it means to be "tolerant." Modern "tolerance" is very much a product of the moral relativism that rejects truth and the One who came into the world to testify to the truth. G. K. Chesterton once wrote that tolerance was the virtue of the man who lacked convictions. And it is a fact that one who is convinced of nothing must necessarily be accepting of everything, whether the thing in question is good or evil. But the one who has not rejected Christ and understands the true meaning of charity will also understand what is truly called for when it comes to tolerance. In his essay, "The Limits of Dialogue," Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of the Diocese of Lincoln, NE describes it thus:

"Speaking now about toleration. It is my view that this word, and this attitude and procedure must also be treated as desirable in some instances, but can be perilous in others. The scholastic definition of toleration is "Toleratio est permissio negativa mali." Literally, it means that tolerance is a negative permission of evil, a patient forbearance in the face of evil, either real or imaginary. Tolerance and toleration do not really concern human beings. We are not allowed to tolerate human beings; we are required by our religion to love all human beings. Also, we are not allowed to tolerate the good. That which is good must be approved, accepted, and promoted as well as fostered. Tolerance always refers to some kind of evil, physical, moral, intellectual, whether real or imagined."

He goes on to say:

If we truly love our neighbor we must be impatient with the evil, physical, moral, or intellectual, under which our neighbor suffers, and to the extent we are able or responsible, we are obliged to relieve the suffering that comes from this evil."

We must, of course, be vigilant about understanding the extent of that responsibility, and must pray as Blessed Mother Teresa prayed (and continues to pray on our behalf) for the strength to endure that which we cannot change, the courage to change what we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

With God, all things are possible. Without God - or the love for Him that orders all good things - the only thing we can count on are the seeds of chaos sown by the evil one who, as the chief enemy of the One who is Love, is the source of that vice which is the greatest assault upon the virtue of charity. God bless!

In Jesus and Mary,

5 Questions Concerning So-called "Hate Crimes" Legislation

1) Is there such a thing as a "love crime"?

2) What is the definition of such a crime, if it exists?

3) Do such crimes, if they exist, deserve lighter penalties?

4) Can it be proven that such crimes, if they exist, are committed almost exclusively (or even predominantly) against white, heterosexual Christians?

5) Can any supporter of so-called "hate crimes" legislation who is incapable of answering the above questions in the affirmative (or, more disturbingly, if they can) be considered capable of rational discourse?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"Being," "Doing," and the Intrinsic Worth of the Human Person

A common fallacy in modern ideologies is the tendency to associate the worth of a human being with his actions. In my experience, at least, this tendency has been particularly prevalent in two ideologies: the movement for so-called "gay rights" and the movement of eugenics.

In the case of gay rights activists, it becomes clear that their claims to being persecuted and devalued as human beings in today's society rests largely on the fact that most people still do not accept homosexual relations as moral, much less equal to heterosexual relations. To hear them tell the story, anyone who fails to throw a parade in their honor is an intolerant bigot. Of course, the Catholic Church views things differently. Paragraph 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states:
"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."

This is hardly a mandate to relegate those with homosexual inclinations to second-class status; and yet, the Pope is constantly derided as a persecutor of homosexuals and often compared to Hitler in his treatment of them.

Gay rights activists, in order to achieve their goal of forcing acceptance of their lifestyle upon the rest of society, must necessarily identify their being with their actions. By convincing others that their person is defined by their actions, they succeed in creating the impression that in order to love and accept them like genuine human beings, their chosen lifestyle must be likewise be accepted in its entirety as equal in validity and dignity to heterosexual behavior (that they do not reciprocate this acceptance towards those who do not subscribe to their view of things is irrelevant; political correctness is notorious for such blatant double standards).

This is wrong, of course. That we are referred to as human beings instead of humans doing is not a semantic accident. Our humanness, and our intrinsic and inestimable worth as human persons, is defined not by our words and actions, but by the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God. Our actions may enhance or diminish the perception of that worth, but perception and reality are two very different creatures.

The movement of eugenics employs a similar "doing is being" approach in defining the worth of the person, albeit for a different though no less disturbing reason. The hallmark of eugenics is the belief that "less desirable" elements of human society (which has now been extended to include unborn children conceived by unwilling parents) should be systemically eliminated for the "greater good" of mankind. To speak of anyone as "less desirable" or "less valuable" is to inherently deny that man is created in the image and likeness of God, for in this created nature we are given equal value before God; and He equally desires each of us to be reconciled to Him (this desire to reconcile all things to Himself is why He exhorts us to "hate the sin but love the sinner," a sentiment beautifully exclaimed in regards to homosexual persons in CCC 2358, quoted above). The extent to which the eugenicist mindset has taken root in modern society has been made disturbingly clear to us in several ways, most notably in how organizations like Planned Parenthood have gained widespread acceptance and more recently in the shamefully callous and inhumane treatment of Terri Schiavo by her faithless husband and his unfeeling accomplices on the grounds that she was "no longer alive" despite clear and conclusive evidence to the contrary.

I was present as a pro-life witness during the so-called "March for Women's Lives" that occurred in Washington D.C. in April 2004. It came as no surprise to me that a large number of gay rights activists, already in town for a separate demonstration, joined their pro-abortion comrades in the march. It also came as no surprise that they employed remarkably similar anti-life and anti-Christian rhetoric (I will spare you from the worst of this, but I can say that in the four years since this event and in my twenty-seven years prior I never encountered more vulgar or more vitriolic language than what I and other peaceful pro-life demonstrators were subjected to that day). Because they so vehemently denied Christ, they denied that they or anyone else could be created in His image and likeness; and in so doing, they denied the very thing that gives a human being his true worth. It is no wonder that they campaigned so vehemently for the demise of those whose presence in this world presented such an inconvenience to them.

As an aside, do not be fooled by the phenomenon of so-called "militant atheism." This phrase is inherently oxymoronic. The true unbeliever is apathetic to whether or not others choose to believe that which he rejects. It is only the person who hates God who seeks to erase all mention or memory of His existence from the world in which he lives. Such hatred can only come from one source, and that source prefers to remain anonymous.

I bid thee all a good night, and (whether or not you choose to believe) God bless!

In Jesus and Mary,